Path To Publication: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Launch of a Debut Novel with Jennifer Park, author of THE SHADOWS WE KNOW BY HEART

Jennifer Parks, THE SHADOWS WE KNOW BY HEART, young adult bookThe Shadows We Know By Heart:
Leah Roberts’s life hasn’t been the same since her brother died ten years ago. Her mother won’t stop drinking, her father can’t let go of his bitter anger, and Leah herself has a secret she’s told no one: Sasquatches are real, and she’s been watching a trio of them in the woods behind her house for years.

Everything changes when Leah discovers that among the sasquatches lives a teenager. This alluring, enigmatic boy has no memory of his past and can barely speak, but Leah can’t shake his magnetic pull. Gradually, Leah’s life entwines with his, providing her the escape from reality she never knew she needed.

But when Leah’s two worlds suddenly collide in a deadly showdown, she uncovers a shocking truth as big and extraordinary as the legends themselves, one that could change her life forever.

The Shadows We Know By Heart was published last March. We were so excited for Jennifer as she journeyed the path to publication! Now that frenzy of manuscript edits and book signings has slowed, we wanted to talk to Jennifer about the high points and unexpected bumps on her journey. Thanks for joining us, Jennifer!

I clearly remember the post you wrote on The Winged Pen’s private Facebook page when Mandy Hubbard was reading your manuscript and Tweeting about how much she liked it! You were one of the first writers in our group to get an offer of representation.

Jennifer: Yes, that day was definitely the highlight of my publishing journey. Jennifer Park, THE SHADOWS WE KNOW BY HEART, young adult fictionI had only been querying Shadows for a few weeks, and Mandy was the first to request it. That was on a Monday. I reread the book again in a panic, just to make sure I was good with it, and sent it to her on Tuesday. By Thursday, she was tweeting about a book that shouldn’t work but totally did! Friday was a series of tweets about how she loved the book and was emailing the author right now. I was stalking Twitter at the time (because what else would I be doing?), and went straight to my email. I saw her name in the inbox and pretty much died. We talked that night, and by Monday, my book was on sub. 

That’s amazing! But other parts of your path to publication were bumpier. Can you tell us a little about that?

Jennifer: Yes, my pub date was pushed, like so many others are, because my original editor left the imprint, and they felt that if I released in fall of 2016, my book would have been lost in the crowd. That slowed things down quite a bit, but once I got my new editor, signed a contract, and got my edit letter (the week before Christmas!), things began moving quickly again.

What did you learn by working with comments from an editor rather than critique partners?

Jennifer: Well, with critique partners, I think you can sometimes choose what you want to change, based on their opinions and yours, versus an editor, where I changed every single thing she suggested. Granted, if there was something that I didn’t agree with, we would discuss it (and I’m not sure if there was even one thing), but the comments were spot on.

My editor asked tons of questions in her notes, especially about character. If a character did or said something, there needed to be a reason for it, like it needed to be something she could see them doing or saying as a part of their personality. And everything had to have a purpose… it had to forward the plot, or something within the MC.

What will be the follow-up to The Shadows We Know By Heart?

Jennifer: That is a really great question! I thought I knew the answer to that once upon a time. I’ve got a book on sub now and another with my agent waiting for feedback. I’ve got several in various stages of revision and completion to choose from next, but it’s hard to choose and focus when others are still up in the air. I run ideas by my agent as well, just to see what she thinks will be marketable.

Oh! I wanted a career in publishing to be all rainbows and unicorns after your first book makes its splash in the world! But the waiting never ends! If you could travel back in time and talk to your newbie-writer self, what advice would you give based on all you’ve learned?

The truth: this thing only gets harder. Have your dreams, but realize that reality is usually different from your expectations. Publishing is a business, plain and simple. But you’ll get stronger with each rejection, your writing will improve with each critique, and you’ll reach the point where it doesn’t tear you down anymore because you realize you have to write. Period. Because there is no other option. You are a writer. It’s not a job, it’s your life. Don’t write for trends, because they change. Keep trying to find that unique story that only you can tell, and make sure it’s the best version it can be.

Great advice! But now…prepare yourself for the lightning round!

Coffee or tea?

Coffee most of the time.

Hardcover, paperback or eReader?

eReader lately.

Pantser or plotter?

Pantser who is starting to see the wisdom in plotting.

Thanks, Jennifer, for being on blog today! And for readers who’d like to find out more about The Shadows We Know By Heart, you can find it on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Indiebound!

And now, the GIVEAWAY! Jennifer is giving away a signed copy of The Shadows We Know By Heart to one lucky reader! To enter this giveaway, just leave a comment below mentioning the book giveaway before Monday January 15th at 4 pm EST. We will draw a name from the Tri-Wizard Cup to select a winner!

Good luck!

Jennifer Park grew up on the bayous of southeast Texas, daydreaming of fantastical worlds amid magnolia trees and Spanish moss. A former middle school art teacher and current Ocean Artist Society member, she now lives tucked within the East Texas pines she loves. When she’s not writing, she spends her time overloading on soy mochas, hoarding chocolate, and managing her herd of one husband, two daughters, numerous dogs, a shamefully large number of garden snails, and one tortoise named Turquoise.

REBECCA J. ALLEN writes young adult science fiction with heroines much braver than she is and middle grade stories that blend mystery and adventure. She reviews young adult books, is a judge for the CYBILS YA Speculative Fiction book award and fangirls all things bookish. Find her on Twitter and Instagram, or on her website, writerebeccawrite.wordpress.com.

5 More Great Reads from the CYBILS Young Adult Speculative Fiction Nominees

Rebecca J Allen, CYBILS, YA speculative fictionMy last post shone a spotlight on Five Must-Read books from the CYBILS 2017 Young Adult Speculative Fiction nominees. But there was too much awesome to fit in just one post. If you love fantasy, science fiction and magical realism as much as I do, you’ll love these books too!

The Last Magician by Lisa Maxwell – In the present day, magic is all but extinct and magicians are trapped in a Manhattan by the Brink, a dark energy barrier that strips them of their powers and often their lives, if they try to leave the city. Magicians are hunted by the Order, the group that created the Brink and is trying to rid the world of magicians. To find out how to defeat the Order and free her kind, Esta must use her unique ability to manipulate time to travel back to 1902 and steal an ancient book containing the secrets of the Order before it is destroyed, dooming modern-day magicians to a hopeless future. But when the Order closes in, Esta risks losing not only her magic but also her way back to her own time.
I loved the world – early 1900’s plus magic!, the action, and the fight for magic played out through time.
Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound

Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo – One of our favorite superheroes gets a new origin story. A ship is bombed just past the border hiding her home, the secret island of the Amazons, from the human world. Diana rescues a survivor, breaking the prohibition against bringing mortals to the island and risking her own exile. The survivor Aila is the Warbringer, a descendant of the infamous Helen of Troy, fated to bring about a world war. Diana and Aila are determined to keep that from happening. They battle enemies – both mortal and divine – as they try to stem the tide of war. I loved Diana as a female, kickass superhero, intense action scenes, surprising bad guys and the twisty plot.
Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound

All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater
Here is a thing everyone wants: a miracle. Here is a thing everyone fears: what it takes to get one.
– Amazon
The Sorias are the saints of Bicho Raro, a family who can bring darkness out of the pilgrims that come to them for help. But it takes more than just one miracle for pilgrims to overcome their darkness, and therein lies the challenge. The Sorias are a fascinating cast: a girl without feelings, a pirate radio D.J., and the saint who can perform miracles for everyone but himself. The pilgrims are equally fascinating, each struggling to overcome the surprising symptoms of the thing that haunts them. When a saint is forced to confront his own darkness, his life as well as the lives of his family are all suddenly on the line. I loved the strange and interesting cast of characters, the glimpses of pilgrims wrestling inner demons – struggles anyone can all relate to, and the author’s understated and dry humor .
Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound

Shadowhouse Falls by Daniel Jose Older – *This is Book 2 Shadowshaper series and contains spoilers for Book 1.* Graffiti comes to life,  animated by magic and the spirits of the dead in Shadowshaper, book 1 of the series. Shadowhouse Falls, takes the art-turned-magic up a notch by expanding the magical weapons to chalk drawings – if the bad guys are on your trail and there’s no time to paint – and rap music – if the bad guys arrive while there’s a mic in your hand and a good base guitar backing you up. Will someone please make this series into a movie? Sierra found her powers in Shadowshaper. But with ancient enemies trying to recruit Sierra or take her down if they can’t, and the police keeping a close eye on her and her friends, not the bad guys, the conflict is goes up a notch. Sierra needs to build the strength of her own magic as well as that of her team to meet the forces aligning against them.  I loved the art brought to life to do battle, the vivid portrayal of Sierra’s Brooklyn community and the fiercely loyal group of friends that teams up with the Sierra.
Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound

What Goes Up by Katie Kennedy – Strange gravity fluctuations in space near Earth have NASA searching for new teen members of their Interworlds Agency (IA) program. Candidates are tested not only on advanced math and astrophysics, but also on their reactions to behavioral problems where the “right” solutions are anything but clear. The competition for spots in the program is intense and some candidates are willing to play dirty.

The story follows Rosa, an astrophysics prodigy, and Eddie, a brilliant boy with a troubled past, as they undergo the rigors of the selection process and finally find out why the IA needs new recruits. I loved how these two very different teens approached NASA’s strange tests, the bond that developed between them, and the speculation about types of threats Earth could face in the future.
Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound

I’m still reading CYBILS speculative fiction nominees as speedily as I can and may hope to have one more post of recommendations. But until then, I wish you an magical, inter-galactic, revolutionary, adventure-filled holiday season! May the biggest challenges you face be those on the printed page, and may the tugs on your heart be the most genuine of the real world.

If you missed it, check out my first post on must-read CYBILS YA spec fic nominees.

REBECCA J. ALLEN writes young adult science fiction with heroines much braver than she is and middle grade stories that blend mystery and adventure. She reviews young adult books, is a judge for the CYBILS YA Speculative Fiction book award and fangirls all things bookish. Find her on Twitter and Instagram, or on her website, writerebeccawrite.wordpress.com.

The Call with Gita Trelease, Author of Enchantée

Gita Trelease, YA author, EnchanteeWe all love “the call” posts. When revisions needed in our work-in-progress seem endless or a rejected query has us ready to give up, they’re the reminder that the next step will happen. We’ll get an agent and sell a book…eventually!

Today’s post is very close to my heart. Gita Trelease’s Enchantée (Flatiron/Macmillan, 2019) is a gorgeously-written YA historical fantasy set in pre-revolutionary Paris. It’s full of magic and romance, struggles to get by, and the excesses of Versailles. Gita is too modest to tell you this herself, but when she queried Enchantée, she rocked it! She had an 80% request rate, got her first offer after 16 days, received one request from an agent who’d heard about her novel through the rumor mill, and ended up with offers from six agents. Gita’s querying was over in a month. A MONTH! Here’s the scoop.

First of all, how does it feel to be interviewed for The Winged Pen instead of writing a post?

Gita: Exciting! But unfamiliar, like moving from behind the camera to standing in front of it.

Tell us about your experience writing Enchantée.

Gita: It took me about 2 ½ years from inception to querying. At the outset, it seemed like a straight-forward story, but of course it turned into something with multiple threads, what felt at times like hundreds of characters, and tons of research. There were many dark days when I thought I wasn’t smart enough to write this book. My writing friends kept me going through those times with their love and encouragement. I think every writer faces doubts like that, but the important thing is not to let them set up shop in your head and derail you. It’s easier said than done, though. Sometimes you have to give yourself permission to step away, take a break, fill the well. Sometimes you need to find a new way to approach your writing; in my last big revision, Donald Maass’ The Emotional Craft of Fiction helped me do that. And if perfectionism demons (this is an ongoing battle for me) get in the way of your writing, I can recommend Hillary Rettig’s The 7 Secrets of the Prolific.

What kind of agent were you looking for?

Gita: Going into this, I had very high expectations! I hoped for an agent who was editorial, experienced, knew the publishing industry inside and out, had a strong track-record of excellent sales, and whose clients’ books were ones I loved. I hoped for an agent who was smart and well read, a good communicator, someone who truly “got” my book—and me.

Everyone dreams over having agents fight for their manuscript. What was it like to receive offers from several rock-star agents?

Gita: I hadn’t expected that to happen! It was both exhilarating and disorienting, because how do you choose? I loved chatting with the offering agents, hearing each one’s vision for my novel, emailing/talking with their clients (very important)—but after ten days of that, my head was spinning. In the end, I needed to let go of my tendency to overthink things, and trust my gut. I am so happy I did.

You chose to go with Molly Ker Hawn of The Bent Agency. What made Molly the one?

Gita Trelease, YA author, EnchanteeGita: Molly was the first agent to offer and I loved her from the start! She has everything I was looking for in an agent (see above), plus certain qualities I didn’t even know I was looking for: a great sense of humor, curiosity, enthusiasm, and a fierce commitment to her clients. I feel incredibly lucky that she offered to represent me.


You queried in July, had an agent in August, and Molly wanted to take Enchantée to the Frankfort Book Festival in October. What was editing with an agent like?

Gita: Molly had gone through the manuscript with a fine-toothed comb, giving me both line edits and bigger editorial notes. To get it done, I worked ten-hour days over the course of two weeks, but thanks to Molly’s comments, the process was exhilarating. Over and over, she saw how my story could be more nuanced, layered, sharper, bigger—and she pointed to ways I could get there. She also reminded me that all of her comments were suggestions—even if they didn’t sound that way—and encouraged me to argue back in the comments. I didn’t engage in too much back-talk, but knowing I could helped me get in the right frame of mind to do my best work. Two days after I turned it in to Molly, we went on sub!

Any advice for those querying?

Of course! Do your query research (see Alexa Donne’s great Wattpad piece), read a lot of books in your genre, and, on top of all the other advice you’ve already heard, make sure your query highlights what’s fresh about your story.

Congratulations, Gita! Everyone on The Winged Pen is so excited that Enchantée is headed for book store shelves!

Readers can follow Gita on Twitter and Instagram, and find her at www.gitatrelease.com. Enchantée is scheduled for publication in January, 2019. But you can check out some of Gita’s beautiful words sooner, right here on The Winged Pen:

Writing Historical Fiction, or, Notes from a Time Traveler
Creative Cross-Pollination
Master Your Craft: Research – Make Your Story Believable
Master Your Craft: Using Metaphor

GITA TRELEASE writes YA fantasy. In her former life as a college professor, she taught classes on fairy tales, monsters, and Victorian criminals. Her current project takes place during the French Revolution: hot-air balloons and gambling, decadence and dark magic. And wigs. She is represented by Molly Ker Hawn at The Bent Agency and her debut novel, ENCHANTÉE, comes out from Flatiron/Macmillan in January 2019. Connect with her on Twitter and Instagram.

REBECCA J. ALLEN writes young adult science fiction with heroines much braver than she is and middle grade stories that blend mystery and adventure. She reviews young adult books, is a judge for the CYBILS YA Speculative Fiction book award and fangirls all things bookish. Find her on Twitter and Instagram, or on her website, writerebeccawrite.wordpress.com.

Twitter 101 for Writers: Building Your Twitter Writing Community

Twitter 101 for writers, Building your writing communityBack in February, I wrote my first post in the Twitter 101 for Writers series. That post covered the Twitter Writing Community hashtags writers can use to find resources for every stage of the writing journey, from getting words on the page to finding a literary agent. At that point, I had the idea that Twitter 101 could be a series, but wasn’t sure what to cover next. Then I met Abby Matthews, who was new to Twitter but trying to get up to speed fast so she could publicize her new podcast Mom Writes, featured on this blog last week. Abby asked me questions about Twitter and as I answered them, I came up with material for several more posts. This first one will be about Building Your Twitter Writing Community.

Abby’s question:

“To me Twitter is a lot of it is SNIPPETS of stuff. That’s where it loses me. I always feel like I’m eavesdropping on someone else’s conversation and it makes me totally uncomfortable. Plus, the vast majority of people I follow on Twitter are total strangers. So I’m like, WHY? Why would I want to listen anyway? I’m great at Facebook, but I think because Facebook was initially geared towards people you actually know in real life, I always felt more comfortable there.  

How you turn the Twitter Writing Community from a bunch of strangers writing snippets to a group of friends who will help you along your writing journey is a complicated question. Some of my friends on Twitter I’ve met in real life and that certainly helps. Others, I’ve met through in-person or online writing conferences and we had that connection, but they would probably be gone from my life without Twitter. Then there are people who I really met through Twitter. And there’s the Winged Pen which is a whole other thing. I think the best way to show how I created my Twitter Writing Community is to give examples of how Twitter helped me build relationships of different types.

Twitter 101, Building Your Twitter Writing Community
Karin, Gita Trelease and I got books signed by Kwame Alexander at the NESCBWI conference!

Karin Lefranc is a writing partner I met through SCBWI critique groups when I was moving to the U.S. from the U.K. She lives in the next town over from me. I already had an online critique group, but I planned to attend the New England SCBWI conference for the first time and didn’t want to walk in without knowing a soul, so I joined her local critique group. We went to the conference and learned about the Twitter writing community, and both joined. Karin and I meet for lunch and email all the time but on Twitter, we do things like “like” and retweet each other’s tweets, forward each other links to posts on writing topics that will help with our writing, and cheer for each other when there are things to celebrate, like the launch of her picture book: I WANT TO EAT YOUR BOOKS.

Karin is busy and not on Twitter a ton. We would still be pals without a much different relationship without Twitter, but for getting the word about her book out there, it definitely helped that we were Twitter friends because you can only Tweet about your own book so much. It helps to have friends to boost you.

Marty Mayberry, on the other hand, I met via Twitter. We were both following Pitch Wars four years ago. I was querying my first book without success and really needed help trying to figure out what was wrong. We met chatting about sci fi on the Pitch Wars hashtag and exchanged queries and first chapters so we’d be ready to sub to the contest. Then we exchanged entire manuscripts because we liked each other’s work and critiques. Then we exchanged subsequent manuscripts, so really, this is a Twitter friend who turned into a critique partner.

Marty has since gotten an agent and become a pitch wars mentor. She’s writing more adult and romance and less sci fi so we don’t exchange manuscripts now, but she’s killer with synopses, so I asked her to help me with one recently. I support her on Twitter by letting Pitch Wars hopefuls know that she’s awesome, and boosting Tweets on other contests she mentors (Nightmare on Query Street is coming up soon!)

I’ve never met Marty in person and because our writing has drifted apart, we would probably not have kept up our relationship without occasionally seeing each other and waving or high-fiving with likes and retweets or conversations on Twitter. For us, it’s like the water cooler for people who work in different departments, a place to bump into each other occasionally and see how each other is doing so the relationship doesn’t die.

Then there are the people who I met at WriteonCon. Marty dragged me to WriteonCon, an online writing conference that is a whole lot of things, but that year it was mostly forums where you could post your query and/or first page and/or first five pages and let people critique them and go and critique theirs. It was both crazy and a whole lot of fun! You could tell the people who were “your people” b/c they overlapped in genre or category and b/c their words and critiques spoke to you. After WriteOnCon, Julie Artz, suggested we form a Facebook group, The Fellowship of the Winged Pen. Members of that group later started this blog.

Even though we all email each other manuscripts for critique and have a private Facebook group to chat behind the scenes, we all chat on Twitter too. We celebrate getting agents and book deals, we boost Tweets to get them noticed, we send out links to posts that are relevant to our writing, and we just chat about topics that are trending. Some of the folks are agented and mentors for Pitch Wars, so they need to be “out there” growing a following, and it’s easier to do that if you are not just pushing your own content, but by sharing stuff you think is interesting and have friends who boost your reach.

Then, there are people like Jennie Nash, the founder of Author Accelerator, a Book Coaching company, whose posts I’ve retweeted because I think they are well written and relevant to other writers on the journey to publication. I read Jennie’s newsletter, and one day she asked for people interested in helping to get the word out about a new podcast she was involved in, Mom Writes (bringing me full circle to how I met Abby!) I never expected my relationship with Jennie Nash to extend beyond Twitter, but it’s cool that it has.

The key thing is that if you are just Tweeting out into the universe, it will feel like a black hole where no one is listening. But if you tweet things you think are interesting or that will help your Twitter Writing Community (even when it is still small and “community” might feel like an exaggeration!), it helps all of you and helps you grow your community.

This takes time. Time reading posts and figuring out who knows what they are talking about. But taking this approach of building my Twitter Writing Community helped me meet the people who wanted to create this blog, which I could never have done on my own. And it gave me the base of 3000 Twitter followers (of Winged Pen, not me), so I could offer Jennie and Abby help getting the word out about their podcast and add some more cool folks to my Twitter Writing Community. So serendipitous? Or a natural outcome of finding your community on Twitter and being willing to help (and get a good story for your blog!)?

To sum up, here are my tips for Building Your Twitter Writing Community. Look for people who:

  • Write in the same category and/or genre who you might want to exchange manuscripts with,
  • Share advice that can help you get to the next level in your writing journey, and
  • You’ve met in person and might not otherwise be able to stay in touch with.

Keeping in touch with these people on Twitter and off will all add up to a writing community to help you get where you want to go, boost you when you get rejections, and celebrate when you get wins.

For more on leveraging Twitter as a writer, see other posts in this series:
Twitter 101 for Writers: The Basics
Twitter 101 for Writers: Etiquette

DO YOU HAVE OTHER SUGGESTIONS ON HOW TO BUILD A TWITTER WRITING COMMUNITY? OR QUESTIONS ON HOW TO MAKE THE MOST OF TWITTER AS A WRITER? If so, leave them in the comments below!

Photo by Pam Vaughan

REBECCA J. ALLEN writes young adult science fiction with heroines much braver than she is and middle grade stories that blend mystery and adventure. She on Twitter at @RebeccaJ_Allen and her website is writerebeccawrite.wordpress.com.

 

How to Sell to Libraries

You might believe that traditional publishing will give you access to bookstores and libraries. The problem is few publishers offer a sales team. As far as indie authors are concerned, they are left to approach libraries on their own.

In order to figure the details out, I meet with Tamar Kreke (Adult and Technical Services Coordinator) and Kay Webster (Youth Services Coordinator) from Greene County Library. First of all, I would like to say that Tamar has the most amazing collection of glass vases. They fill her office. And I am grateful to Kay for stopping by. They both graciously took the time to answer my questions and send me links. Librarians rock!

Tamar receives about 25 pitches per years, but Kay, who is in charge of children books, rarely gets any attention.They are happy to receive postcards with pitches from indie authors.

There is one thing to keep in mind. In order to approach librarians, you need to understand what they do.

Librarians’ job is to find the best book available to attract more patrons to the library because the more patrons visit the libraries, the more budget they get. You might not see them as such, but libraries are businesses.

No acquisition manager welcomes authors walking in because they feel on the spot.

Also, authors have just a few seconds to pitch their book. Librarians are very busy people.

Do the librarians want to hear how much your book is entertaining? No.

They want to know if your book serves the demand in their branch. They want reviews and third party recommendations to check if people are buying it.

They want to be able to check the book and order with ease. They want to know if your book is available at regular wholesalers like Ingram, Baker & Taylor or Bertram and a hard cover is a plus.

If you can throw in a marketing campaign, your approach might be even more effective. It could be an article in the newspapers or a local radio where you mention your book is available in the local libraries.

You do not need to pitch each library individually though. Reach for the main library’s administrative office, the acquisition staff, or the collection development staff. A postcard with your book, email, a link to Amazon, and tons of reviews are the only things you need for a first contact. The last thing they want is an author dropping off his book or mailing it to them.

 

RESOURCES:

Derek Doepkerd. <http://ebookbestsellersecrets.com/blog-articles/>

Amy Collins. <http://realfastlibrarymarketing.com/>

Marketing to Libraries. 
<http://www.ala.org/tools/libfactsheets/alalibraryfactsheet05>
 9 Profitable Reasons to Sell (or Rent) Your Book to Libraries. 
<https://publicityhound.com/blog/9-reasons-to-sell-to-libraries>

 “Six Strong Benefits of Supporting Your Local Author Community
 in Your Library.”
<http://self-e.libraryjournal.com/>

——————————————————-

Read Sussu’s articles at Novel Without Further Ado or Join me in August for my FREE writing challenge, at: http://sussuchallenge.weebly.com/

 

 

 

Book Marketing Part 2: Your Mailing List

Last month, I talked about how to build your platform: http://thewingedpen.com/book-marketing-p…re-your-best-bet/. This month, I will talk about how you can bait your readership further.

A sale funnel will turn an indifferent audience into a warm audience. Your audience is made out of readers and writers like you. Think of your future audience not as potential buyers, but as a group of people who love the same things as you, as people from your tribe and your community.

Be of service to them before you push a price tag into their hands.

Your readers are waiting to discover you. They are! They would love to discover the next best writer. They are waiting to read amazing novels. They are ready to invest in the series they love.

Your funnel sale will help readers not only discover your books,.but also know more about you and ultimately develop a trust.  

 

Think about it. Free books get downloaded 100 more than $0.99 books. You want your first book to be downloaded as many times as you can. The more downloads, the more chances people will read your stories and become your fans. 

Free books: You can give away a “reader magnet” that will be only 30 pages long. It could be a short story that will only take one day to write. It could be a prequel that will explain a lot about the series you are trying to sell.

It’s your hook.

Set their expectations.

Introduce them to your world.

You can also offer a permafree (permanently free) book, the first book in the series, or a novella in order to get people to subscribe to your mailing list and to give them a taste of what you write. It is a good idea to have a trilogy to start with.  You will leverage the free book by developing your fan club. But make sure you collect email addresses while doing so.

 

You need to collect email addresses in exchange for any free book.

Give one book for free to get people to buy the rest. Thousands of books are given for free every day, so readers do not expect to buy blindly or take chances.

They expect to sample.  

It might be hard to admit or hurtful, but it’s true. Readers want to sample your writing. They want to know if you’re a good fit.

Building your email pool is very important because it will tell people who you are and what you have to offer as well as what series you are planning to write in the future. Remember, shoot for the 1,000 true fans.

What to put in your emails:

First, register to an automatic delivery email service so that you do not have to keep track of your emails. Over a period of several weeks, you should have a series of emails with actionable steps.

This is what author, teacher, and coach  Bryan Cohen advise to do:

#1 email: Deliver your audience their freebie.

#2 email: Check-in about the freebie a week later, saying something like, “Did you have a chance to read my book?” Reintroduce your book.

#3 email: Ask to connect on social media.

#4 email: Pitch your next book/series.

#5: Finally, you can invite them to your VIP site or your Beta readers program. Tell them they will get your books for free. They will post reviews for you and cheer you on.

When talking to your audience, tell them about something interesting about you. Some writers show pictures of their families and how their families influenced their book. Some writers tell a story about the conception of their novel. Some authors include freebies from programs they have joined. Think of something new readers (not yet fans) would be interested in. Discuss what you care about, your values, and what part of yourself they will find in your books. Think of it as a first impression. Open a two-way communication route. Let them ask questions and answer them, let them be part of your tribe. And good luck.

 

Resources:

Buroker, Lindsay. “Newsletters 101: Email marketing for authors.” <http://lindsayburoker.com/book-marketing/newsletters-101-email-marketing-for-authors/>

Tim Grahl’s Book Marketing Resources.<https://booklaunch.com/resources/>

 BM075: How to Build a Powerful Author Platform to Be More Visible with Alinka Rutkowska. <http://bookmarketingmentors.com/author-platform/>

Bryan Cohen’s Selling For Authors (Bryan is an incredible and generous mentor). <http://bryancohen.com/>

 Kirsten Oliphant’s Create If Writing. <http://createifwriting.com/podcast-and-show-notes/>

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If you liked this article, consider reading Sussu’s articles: “Writers Get organized” at Novel Without Further ado: http://novelwithoutfurtherado.weebly.com/

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Book Marketing Part 1: Fans are Your Best Bet

Whether you are a traditionally published, or an Indie author, or a hybrid author, you will be in charge of marketing your novels.

Many authors do not realize that they must treat their writing as a business. As an entrepreneur, your job is to make sure you have a constant source of income.

Just to be clear, by a traditionally published author, I mean someone who probably hired an agent, signed a contract, and received a four to five-figure advance from their publisher.

By Indie author, I mean someone who decided to publish on their own, who mostly offers e-books, and who earns their income directly from what they sell, minus the cost of the platform where the books are launched.

By a hybrid author, I mean someone who does self-publishing on the side and is also traditionally published. Today, I will talk about building your platform.

 

Having a platform is essential for any writer.

It’s usually a website you use not only to present your work, but also to offer goodies. Your platform not only tells your reader what you have to offer and where to buy it, it helps you connect with your fans and develop fruitful relationships.

Because you are facing a lot of competition, you have to offer something better and connect more.

First, focus. Write in one genre, one age group, and write series. Change your pen name when you write for different audiences. Fans like to stay as long as possible in the worlds they love. They like to know more about the characters they have admired. They like you to write the same kind of books they have enjoyed so that they can keep coming back for more.

Second, build your platform. Publishers will not take another chance on you if they do not see progress in sales. Sales do not depend on them anymore. They depend on you and how you present yourself. You can also chose to invest time in social media. Focus your energy on Facebook. Forget about Twitter. Make yourself available online for school visits, library events, and website tours.

Third, build your fan club. Some authors’ websites just display their books and where to buy them, but others offer a wide range of experiences. Some websites offer board games or video games to entertain their visitors and keep them coming. Others have a forum. Most forums/chat rooms nowadays have moved to Facebook groups, which allow much more freedom such as the use of live events.

EXAMPLES:

Games/Movies/Artwork: 
Brandon Sanderson: https://brandonsanderson.com/
Kit for educators: 
Brandon Mull: http://brandonmull.com/

Art gallery:
Chronicles of Alsea: http://www.chroniclesofalsea.com/writing-whoops-the-silencer/

Q&A: 
Books of Ember: http://www.jeanneduprau.com/answers.shtml

Mysteries included in Books: Spirit Animals: http://spiritanimals.scholastic.com/

Videos/trivia: 
Percy Jackson: http://www.percyjacksonbooks.com/

Note that some of those links use the name of the series rather than the name of the author. 

What you might offer:
  • Something for educators (novel guide or deal). 
  • A VIP password-accessible for loyal fans. 
  • Cut scenes, novellas, prequels to your stories. 
  • Maps, genealogies, charts, symbols. 
  • Drawings of characters & their clothes and food.
  • Fan art gallery.
  • Free novels in exchange for beta readers.
  • Talk about your writing process, where you write.
  • Be creative…

Engage the dialogue with your fans and answer their questions. Some people say 1,000 true fans are better than 10,000 sales. True fans will allow you to make a living while occasional buyers will come and go. To get the best fanbase, prefer connection to income.

Many Indie authors admit that they developed their fan base only after the third book, and they still have to write four or five books a year to maintain this fanbase.

If you are a traditionally published author, you might have to wait for years before the next book gets published, so a website is even more important for you to stay connected with your readership.

As a hybrid author, you probably can afford to wait a few years to get your next novel released in the market while you are offering novellas on the side or give a gist of your next world to your readers while they wait.

No matter what you do, build a strong platform. The more (long term / right kind of) work you put into it, the more successful you will get.

Trust me.

 

RESOURCE:

What Do Publishers DO? 
http://www.press.uchicago.edu/Misc/Chicago/288447.html

Oliphant, Kirsten. What Is Platform and How Do You Build It?

What Is Platform and How Do You Build It?

If you liked this article, consider reading Sussu’s articles: “Writers Get organized” at Novel Without Further ado: http://novelwithoutfurtherado.weebly.com/

Follow me on Twitter or Pinterest.

Behind the Scenes: My Experience as a Cybils Judge

This winter, I was able to serve as a judge for the Cybils, an award for children’s and young adult authors and illustrators. Established by bloggers, the Cybils recognize work that combines literary merit with popular appeal.

I’d been following the Cybils for a few years, and knew that it was a well-respected award. I’m a book blogger, too, at Kid Book List, and when I saw the call for judges, I thought I’d give it a try. I hoped it would be a good opportunity to discover some great books and meet new people in the kid lit community.

It was both of those in spades. I was chosen to be a second-round judge in the Poetry category. Lucky me! I am a big fan of novels in verse and kid poetry anthologies.

Anyone can nominate books for consideration in any of the categories; the only requirements are that they have been published in the United States or Canada in the year under consideration. Each Cybils category has first round readers who go through all of the nominated books. They narrow the nominations to a group of five to seven finalists for the second-round readers, who then choose a winner.

That’s where the fun began for me. We had a fantastic and incredibly diverse set of finalists in the Poetry category, which made our task both exciting and difficult. Our finalists were:

BOOKED by Newbery Award winner Kwame Alexander, a middle grade novel in verse about a soccer-obsessed boy whose parents are separating;

FRESH DELICIOUS, written by Irene Latham and illustrated by Mique Moriuchi, an upbeat and colorful poetry anthology for the preschool and early elementary set, celebrating the joys of the farmer’s market;

GARVEY’S CHOICE by Nikki Grimes, a spare and lovely middle grade novel in verse told from the perspective of an overweight boy who struggles to win his athletic father’s approval;

GUESS WHO, HAIKU, written by Deanna Caswell and illustrated by Bob Shea, an adorable picture book in poem form centered on a barnyard;

THE LAST FIFTH GRADE OF EMERSON ELEMENTARY by Laura Shovan, a middle grade novel in verse told from a remarkable eighteen perspectives and in an array of poetic forms, about the last year of a school that will be torn down;

TO STAY ALIVE: MARY ANN GRAVES AND THE TRAGIC STORY OF THE DONNER PARTY by Skila Brown, a young adult historical in gorgeous and unflinching verse;

WHEN GREEN BECOMES TOMATOES: POEMS FOR ALL SEASONS, written by Julie Fogliano and illustrated by Julie Morstad, a beautiful anthology for early elementary readers that celebrates the garden through the seasons.

Once the finalists were in, we got to work. First we gathered the books from the library (or our bookshelves!), and a few that we couldn’t get in time were sent from the publisher. Our reading load was lighter than the first round’s, and I was able to get it done in the time we needed without too much trouble.

The great sweep of books in this category made it challenging to compare them, but after some email discussion, we decided that Laura Shovan’s THE LAST FIFTH GRADE OF EMERSON ELEMENTARY was “the most appealing in its diversity, its capturing of the emotional lives of children on the brink of adolescence, and its poetic acrobatics.” See here for our write-up about why we chose it, and to read about the winners in all of the categories.

You can find out more about the Cybils here. If you’re interested in nominating a book, the deadline is generally in October. And if you want to apply to be a judge, the application is due in September. Follow the Cybils account on Twitter to make sure not to miss any announcements.

I’m so glad I was able to participate in the Cybils process. I discovered some fantastic books, analyzed what makes for a successful book of poetry for children, and met other dedicated readers of poetry and novels in verse.

Katharine Manning is a middle grade writer who spends her lunch hours reading poetry. She blogs here and at From the Mixed-Up Files of Middle Grade Authors. You can also find her on her websiteTwitter, and Instagram

Creating Your Social Media Platform

Welcome to the third post in the Basic Marketing for Authors series. Diving into social media, or even dipping your toes in, can be terrifying! Especially if you’re like me and grew up when face and book were two separate words.

We know social media is a great resource for connecting with writers, industry professionals, and learning tips about our craft, but it’s also a great way to reach kidlit readers, or more specifically, their parents.

FACEBOOK:  This is an extremely popular site with adults. Having an author page gives you a shareable site that links to your other social media accounts. On this page you can push your tweets and blogs giving you Facebook content without having to create anything new.

GOODREADS:  What a great site – one specifically designed for readers! A Goodreads author profile allows users of this site to learn about you, the books you’ve written, and connect with you based on books you’ve read and are passionate about. Additionally, you can sync your blog with your profile, which Goodreads will email to members who like your profile. This site is also a good place for discussions in a few of the thousands of groups available. And don’t forget about the reviews. Positive comments about your book go a long way in drumming up interest in your work.

INSTAGRAM:  This is a site for pictures and short videos and is used by middle-grade and young-adult aged kids as well as adults. This media tool is another way to showcase your personality. Post pictures of your workspace (even if it’s messy), inspirations for your books, and sketches of characters and maps. And don’t forget the fun pictures of your animals, favorite hobbies, and yummy food!

PINTEREST:  As an author, this site can be used to display your interests and grab the attention of parents with similar ones to yours, or have kids who are like-minded readers. For example, you can show your favorite spooky middle grade reads or edge-of-your-seat young adult thrillers. Along with your interests, you can post vision boards and fan art for your books, both great extras for readers.

TWITTER:  Twitter is mainly used by adults and they tweet about everything! (Good and bad) This is probably the best social media tool for making connections, not just with parents of kidlit readers, but also people in the industry. (For more information on using Twitter to connect with the writing industry, read Twitter-101-For-Writers.)

As an author, you should connect with bloggers, parents, teachers,
librarians, and others who are interested in kidlit books and have the resources to help you get yours to readers. The best way to connect is to become part of big conversations. Seek out hashtags on subjects you enjoy – or hate! – comment on them, and engage with the people tweeting. Find hashtags parents and teachers use and get yourself known in those circles. This will also give you opportunities to talk about your book’s topic and begin discussion questions, possibly creating your own hashtag.

SOCIAL MEDIA TIPS:

  1. Schedule content. Social media can seem overwhelming and time-consuming, but it doesn’t have to be. Use tools like Buffer, TweetDeck, and Hootsuite to schedule daily and weekly social media content.
  1. Contests and giveaways. Have fans share a post or comment for a chance to win a signed copy of your book. Use giveaways to generate pre-release interest and reviews for your upcoming book.
  1. Promote events. Social media sites can be used to announce upcoming events like book signings, author appearances, and online discussions.
  1. Highlight important dates. Facebook and Twitter allow you to pin posts to the top of your profile pages, which will allow greater visibility. Use these for book releases, events, or contests.
  1. Use images. Tweets and posts with images are believed to generate more interest and more sharing. Show your book cover, a teaser quote, or even a stock photo or GIF video.
  1. Engage your audience. The more interaction you have with your fans, the more exposure you will have, as the conversations will be posted on your fans’ pages and seen by their friends.

I would love to hear how you use social media and about other sites not mentioned here. And if you haven’t read the previous posts in this series, you can check them out Creating Your Brand and Creating Your Website.

HALLI GOMEZ teaches martial arts and writes for children and young adults because those voices flow through her brain. She enjoys family, outdoors, reading, and is addicted to superhero movies. You can find her on Twitter.

 

 

DIY Infographics and other Cool Marketing Things

If you’ve spent any time online recently (which, yeah, maybe you’ve been avoiding it as much as we have!), you’ve probably seen these cool graphic communication tools known as infographics.

A practice infographic on how writers can use different social media platforms

Infographic is really just a fancy way of saying “a picture and a few words working together to communicate key information or important messaging.” They give people an easy, at-a-glance way of gathering info, and they’re a great nod to those people who grasp pictures faster than they do words.

I’m a non-visual thinker — give me words any day! — but even so, I’ve grown to appreciate their amazing ability to communicate big complex ideas in a flash. So I wondered if I could learn how to make them.

The short answer is YES — anyone can learn to make an infographic, and depending on how fast you can pull together the content, can do it in 15-20 minutes! The longer answer…well, that’s what this blog post is for!

The Tools

There are at least half a dozen platforms that can help you design your own infographics. Most of them are free for the basics, paying if you want to get really fancy and customized. I found a great rundown of the major players here.

I used Canva to create both the samples I’m posting here. You can scroll through dozens of templates — some free, some paid — and find one that gives you the general look you want. The designs can be changed with photos, colors, textures, etc. I have only just started to play around, and found it easy and fun to mess around.

You’ll also want to have your statistics, facts, sources, images and a general outline ready before you start. I just dove in for the first one I created, and while I wasn’t trying to really create something I would use again and again, it took a lot more time than it could have.

And there aren’t only infographic templates available. You can use these platforms to design anything from wedding invitations to brochures to social media graphics and more.

The Whys

Which brings me to all the reasons you might want to get familiar with infographics.

Marketing. One Penny used Canva to create marketing materials for her upcoming book, saying, “I just took a stab at it, and take this from someone who HATES, no, abhors all forms of fiddly technology– I made a cool pamphlet in half an hour!! It still needs some tweaking, but it looks so much more professional than my 1st attempt using a word doc.”

Reaching readers. Kids are geared to accept visual ways of communicating, and as kidlit writers, it’s to our benefit if we can reach them in the ways they like to be reached. If you have a message for your readers, see if you can put it in infographic form.

Another practice with more in-depth information and graphics

Blog posts. As a blog reader and a blog writer, it can be really refreshing to see information presented visually. Instead of writing 500 words on writing great dialogue, why not try a graphic that explains what makes dialogue great?

Presentations. I occasionally give talks in my professional life and to school-aged kids. Infographics are a fantastic way to underscore the information you’re presenting orally — and help you stay away from the curse of the three-bullet-point Powerpoint slide!

Play around with a couple of the platforms to see which one works best for you. Once I tried one, the ideas started coming fast and furious. I’m looking forward to creating more and finding more ways to use them!