Creating Your Website

Welcome back to my series Basic Marketing for Authors. In the last blog post of this series, Creating Your Brand, I mentioned there are many uses for your brand including social media, promotion material, and websites.

Today we are focusing on websites. A scary, but necessary part of your platform and career-long marketing. (Who am I kidding? It’s all scary!) Okay, you have your brand. How do you use that to create a website?

Step one: take a deep breath. 

Step two: Buy a domain.

What is a domain? It is an easy to remember name that hides the technical IP address for web pages, and the easiest way for people to find you is by using your name. For example: halligomez.com. I am fortunate to have a unique name that was available (that’s the first time I’ve ever said that!) If your name is unavailable, try a similar variation such as gkbyrnebooks.com.

Step three: Decide on which company will host your site.

What is hosting? It is the business of housing, serving, and maintaining files for websites. You rent space on a host computer which assigns an address for files to your domain so anyone can find your website on the Internet.

There are many choices and most have similar features, so it may require a little research to find which products and services best suit you. Keep in mind some products are free and some cost money.

Step four: Choose a template and theme.

What are templates and themes? A template is the layout of your website, or where you put pictures and words (think of it as walls and furniture in a house). A theme is the design of your template/website, the specific colors, pictures, fonts, and words you choose (or paint and decorations).

Before choosing the template and theme, you must decide what your website will be used for. Marketing your books with cover reveals? A calendar of events? Blogging? All three?

All templates and themes have customization options, some offer basic changes while others allow you to be more creative. There are many companies, each offering a dizzying number of templates, so take your time and find the one right for you.

Step five: You have your template and theme, you’ve incorporated your brand, now you have to decide what to put on your website. This is a list for published and unpublished authors, although not everything will apply to both.

  1. Your bio including a professional headshot (Ugh! Painful.)
  2. Links to your social media profiles
  3. A contact form for readers to subscribe to your website and for you to collect emails to send notifications of those very important announcements like your publication date(s).
  4. Book cover images and brief descriptions of your book(s)
  5. Reviews of your book(s)
  6. Links to major online retailers selling your book(s)
  7. Contact information for agent or publicist

Obviously you want your website to be a place for readers to find your books, but until you have some to offer, or before your next one is published, what can you do to engage readers? A few suggestions are promotions, giveaways, writing tips, daily/weekly/monthly inspirational quotes, games, and blog posts.

Which brings us to the question I hear the most when writers are creating a website: to blog or not to blog?

The answer has been consistent throughout the industry. If you are going to blog, you need a new post at least once a month. Once a week is even better, but a lot of writers have other jobs, families, and necessary activities such as breathing and showering (not necessarily in that order). Keeping up with a weekly blog is difficult.

No matter what format you chose for your website, it is important to remember who your audience is and will be. Before you have published books, your audience may be other writers and agents (I’ve heard some agents look for your online presence, including a website, and others do not.) When you have book(s) published, your audience will include readers, parents, teachers, and librarians.

I love to check out writer websites! Please comment and provide a link to yours.

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.

Star in MG / YA Magazines

Although often not lucrative, magazine publications can offer you many benefits.

  • They help your name get out there and stand out from the crowd of writers;
  • they can give you a unique insight into the publication world;
  • they can help you be more productive and serve as experimental pieces;
  • they can help you connect with other authors;
  • you might attract the attention of an editor and get further and better offers such as writing for series;
  • finally but not least, short story credits will impress agents or editors because it tells them your work is worth both reading and paying for.

(NB: *CTS! Means “Closed To Submission.” Some magazines only accept submissions at specific times.)

 

Middle Grade Magazines:

CRICKET. Covers all ages. Have many different magazines: Babybugs, Clicks. Ladybug. Ask (arts and sciences). Spider. Cricket. Cobblestone (American history). Dig Into History. Faces (cultures). Muse (Fun science and tech). Cicada (YA). Welcome works by writers from underrepresented groups. <http://www.cricketmedia.com/submission-guidelines?_ga=1.139948403.1938444544.1485226635 >

EMBER. MG and YA. Age 10 to 18. Poetry, fiction, flash fiction, creative nonfiction. <http://emberjournal.org/submission-guidelines/>

 

 

 

FROSTFIRE WORLDS. Ages 8-18. Fantasy and science fiction stories up to 6000 words with strong world-building. Adventure stories, space opera, and magic opera. Also accept poems, art, articles, reviews, and interviews.<http://albanlake.com/guidelines-frostfire/>

NEW MOON. Girls 8 to 12. Fiction and non-fiction.
Show powerful women in charge of their lives. Show parents how to support girls “to express their voices, strengths, needs, problems, and dreams.” <http://newmoon.com/getting-published-daughters-com/>

SPACEPORTS & SPIDERSILK. Short stories, poems, art, brief essays on science and the environment, interviews, quizzes, fantasy, science fiction, and mild horror. Open to hard to sell stories. <http://nomadicdeliriumpress.com/spaceportsgl.htm>

 

WEE TALES. Magical, heart pounding tales, 2000 words maximum. <https://goldenfleecepress.com/submissions/>

 

 

YOUNG EXPLORER’S ADVENTURE GUIDE. Combine adventure, space, and science. Diverse characters, strong girls, and fun. <http://dreamingrobotpress.com/young-explorers-adventure-guide-submissions/>

 

 

YA Magazines:

 BALLOONS. 12 years-old and up. Looking for unconventional materials, “elements that could enlighten and amaze the young minds.” <http://www.balloons-lit-journal.com/submission.html>

CAST OF WONDERS. YA science fiction or high fantasy for podcasting. *CTS! <http://www.castofwonders.org/submissions/>

CBAY. Teens. Fantasy or science fiction. *CTS! <http://www.cbaybooks.com/submission-guidelines.html>

 

 

CRICKET. Covers all ages. Have many different magazines: Babybugs, Clicks. Ladybug. Ask (arts and sciences). Spider. Cricket. Cobblestone (American history). Dig Into History. Faces (cultures). Muse (Fun science and tech).

Cicada (YA). Welcome works by writers from underrepresented groups.   <http://www.cricketmedia.com/submission-guidelines?_ga=1.139948403.1938444544.1485226635>

 

EMBER. Ages 10 to 18. Poetry, fiction, flash fiction, creative nonfiction. <http://emberjournal.org/submission-guidelines/>

FOREST FOR THE TREES. Poetry, fiction and creative nonfiction up to 6,000 words. <https://ffttjournal.wordpress.com/contactsubmit/>

FROSTFIRE WORLDS. 8-18 and beyond. Fantasy and science fiction stories up to 6000 words with strong world-building. Adventure stories, space opera, and magic opera. Also accept poems, art, articles, reviews, and interviews. <http://albanlake.com/guidelines-frostfire/>

 

HUNGER MOUNTAIN. Short stories, poetry, novel/novella excerpts, and creative nonfiction. Follows themes. <http://hungermtn.org/submit/>

LUNCH TICKET. YA short stories and flash fiction up to 5,000 words. <https://lunchticket.submittable.com/submit/11940/young-adult-writing-for-young-people-13>

ONE TEEN STORY. Literary fiction between 3,000 and 8,000 words. <http://www.one-story.com/index.php?page=submit&pubcode=os>

 

 

REFRACTIONS. YA fantasy with a delicate, magical touch, 5000 words maximum. <https://goldenfleecepress.com/submissions/>

SPACEPORTS & SPIDERSILK. Short stories, poems, art, brief essays on science and the environment, interviews, quizzes, fantasy, science fiction, and mild horror. Opened to hard to sell stories. <http://nomadicdeliriumpress.com/spaceportsgl.htm>

SUCKER LITERARY. YA fiction up to 10,000 words. *CTS! <https://suckerliterarymagazine.wordpress.com/submission-guidelines/>

SUDDENLY LOST IN WORDS. Poetry, short stories, and memoirs up to 3000 words.
<http://writingcareer.com/suddenly-lost-in-words-re-opens-for-ya-short/>

YARN. Poetry, essays up to 3000 words, and fiction up to 6000 words. <http://yareview.net/how-to-submit/>

YOUTH IMAGINATION. Real issues facing teens, from 200 to 20K words. <http://youthimagination.silverpen.org/index.php/submission-guidelines>

 

 

CONCLUSION:

Think of making your stories crossover because it is difficult to find magazines looking for specific genres you might specialize in. You could make your YA stories reaching into adult realms. You could, for example, submit to TOR and CICADA at the same time.

Keep in mind that magazines pay little but expect the best.

Some magazines will only accept excerpts. Read guidelines carefully.

Have fun exploring and submitting!

 

Resource:

Duotrop Magazine List. < duotrope.com >

♥♥♥

 

Subscribe to The Winged Pen and never miss a post, including our monthly #FourOn400 writing contest for middle grade and young adult. Click to SUBSCRIBE!

If you liked this article, visit Sussu’s blogs, at Novel Without Further Ado and Book Riders for MG readers. Connect with her on Twitter and Pinterest.

Thanks for reading

 

 

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Twitter 101 for Writers

Over the holidays, my father-in-law mentioned that a friend had just written a book, his memoirs about the Vietnam War. Since my father-in-law knows I write, I felt like I should offer to help his friend, but I write middle grade and young adult stories. What useful advice would I have?

Then I asked if his friend was on Twitter. He wasn’t. That opened up a wealth of information and connections that could help him revise his manuscript, find an agent, or self-publish his story. I thought we might have a few Twitter newbies following the blog, or others who got the “my friend wrote a book” prompt over the holidays, so I decided it was worth a post.

The Twitter writing community is awesome, a great resource at all stages of the writing process. While you’re writing, it can be the water cooler, the place to chat for a few minutes between projects. It’s also a great source of craft advice. Once you’ve finished a manuscript, it’s a source of advice on revising your project to make it the best story it can be. You can also find critique partners to exchange your work with and get feedback from. When you’re ready to get your work out into the world, Twitter can help you learn about literary agents or participate in writing contests. Or if your plan is to self-publish, you can find out how and connect with professionals who specialize in packaging books. And it doesn’t take much time on Twitter to see that it’s an avenue for book promotion.

Where can a writer go on Twitter to dig into these topics?

Community

Writing is a solitary process. But Twitter can help you find like-minded folks who’ll inspire you to get your butt out of bed at 5:00 am to get some words written before work, or someone to chat with when taking a few minutes off from banging on your keyboard. Great hashtags for finding writing folks are:

#5amwritersclub
#AmWriting
#1linewed

Look for people writing in your age category or genre, or whose stories interest you. Follow them and over time you’ll carve out “your people” in the Twitter writing community.

Craft

There’s always more to learn – story structure, character development, how to write those darn kissing scenes. I don’t even know what aspects of craft might be important to a memoir…but I know someone on Twitter does. I frequent #kidlit, but found a bunch of hashtags for different genres in just a couple minutes.

#memoir
#TravelWriting
#HistFic (for historical)
#steampunk
#nonfiction

Writing hashtags will help you find experts who tweet about helpful topics, frequently with links to blog posts with even more info. I like:

@writerunboxed
@ayaplit (Adventures in Young Adult Publishing)
@nerdybookclub
And, of course, @WingedPen!

Revising

Once you’ve got a draft of your story, or at least the first few chapters, you need some critique partners to help you refine your story – identify what’s working well, what’s not clear and what’s just plain boring (erm…I mean…the pacing’s off). Find them through the community of writers you’re building or on critique partner match-ups hosted from-time-to-time by bloggers. #amrevising is a good hashtag for connecting with other writers trying to fix their words and for advice on wrangling your hot-mess of a first draft into something great.

Pitching

If you’ve chosen the traditional publishing route and are looking for a literary agent, many have an active presence on Twitter. You can follow them to get a sense of their personality and taste in books. Their Twitter profile should have a link to their website where you can find submissions guidelines. #askagent has querying tips, or try #10queries if you like advice without any sugar-coating.

You can also find writing contests and pitching opportunities on Twitter. The rules for writing contests vary. Some, like our 4 on 400 contest or Adventures in YA Publishing’s First Five Pages workshop, are focused on feedback. Others are selective and aim to refine your work and get it in front of agents. Selective contests include #sunvssnow, #pitchmad, #pitchwars, and many others.

Pitch contests allow you to pitch your story in a 140-word tweet. This is no easy feat! See our post here on writing a killer Twitter pitch. Pitch contests include #pitmad, #pitchmas and #sffpit.

Self-Publishing

If you’re going the self-publishing route, you’ll need things like cover art, a cover designer, and an editor to give your words a final polish. Tons of advice is available over on:

#selfpublish
#indiepublishing

Promotion

If you’ve checked out any of these hashtags, you probably found that there’s lots of book promotion happening on Twitter. #amreading is a good place to start.

 

The bottom line is there’s a mountain of information out there to help you no matter what point you’re at in your writing journey. But don’t forget to turn off your internet and get back to writing!

Want to know more about leveraging Twitter to support your writing? The Twitter 101 for Writers series continues with Building Your Writing Community.

What are your favorite spots for hanging out with the Twitter writing community and getting writerly questions answered? Let us know in the comments! And if you have any tips for my father-in-law’s friend writing memoir, please let me know that too!

For more on leveraging Twitter as a writer, see my prior posts:
Twitter 101 for Writers: Building Your Community
Twitter 101 for Writers: Etiquette

Photo by Pam Vaughan

REBECCA J. ALLEN writes middle grade stories that blend mystery and adventure and young adult thrillers with heroines much braver than she is. She’s on Twitter and her website is here.

Creating Your Brand

Welcome to “Creating Your Brand,” the first in a three-part series on basic marketing for authors.

BRANDING

If you are like me, a complete novice in the area of promoting yourself, this is the place for you.

In 2016, I made it a priority to learn all I could about this subject. I had one-on-one brainstorming session with a published author and marketing specialist, attended workshops with literary agents, and read A LOT! Now I am ready to share the basics. Let’s start with some easy questions.

What is a brand? It is an image, tagline, or look you present to your audience. In the case of writers, the audience is readers, parents, teachers, librarians, agents, and editors.

What is the purpose of a brand? It defines you and your work and makes you recognizable to your audience. Think about these easily recognizable examples (yes, they are on a much larger scale, but they may help clarify):

Coca-Cola
Apple

 

 

 

 

 

Where is your brand used? Your brand is used in all areas representing you. That includes social media, swag, book signings, school visits, presentations, and more.

What are the rules for creating a brand? There are no rules, but your brand should be focused, concise, and consistent. It should be clear that you understand your audience. Of course your focus will change throughout your career, so don’t be afraid to rebrand as necessary.

CREATING A BRAND

Now that we know what a brand is, it’s time to get to the good stuff. Creating one. But how does an author just starting out, without a huge advance to spend on a marketing team, create a brand? Excellent question. Before we get to that, let’s look at a few websites that clearly define the author:

Rob Sanders – His website is colorful and animated, with a banner in pastel colors of children walking in a line. It clearly shows he writes books for young children.

Kim Liggett – Kim’s website is dark with red, black, and gray, and gives you a spooky and creepy feeling. Kim is a young adult horror writer. In addition, the image on her website includes a black ribbon, which is a central theme in her first book, and clearly represents her work.

Ellie Terry – Ellie’s website is simple, yet whimsical and colorful, just the right feeling for middle grade readers. In addition, her background is consistent with her upcoming book cover and her bio picture.

Okay, so where do we start?

The first step is to decide what central idea you want to convey to your audience. Think about it like this, most writers have an alter ego. You may be an accountant by day and writer of humorous, laugh so hard you snort, stories for children by night. Will kids want to see you in a business suit with tax papers in front of you, or read your jokes that makes milk come out of their noses? I love numbers, but my vote is for squirting milk.

One tip to find your central idea is to list the types of stories you write. Do you stick with one particular age group or genre like the examples above? At first glance, your books may seem different, but if you dig deep, I’ll bet you find some similarities.

You believe you have an idea, now what?

Think of it in a visual way. Are you drawn to sleek, whimsical, black and white, color, photos, or something simple like just your name. Even a name or tagline is visual because you will want to decide on which font best represents it.

You’ve narrowed it down. You have a visual. Great! Now make it happen.

You want me to do what? How am I supposed to do that?

With a lot of researching to find what engages you, even more playing around with styles, and most of all, not being afraid to try.

At least that’s what I did.

I write for middle grade and young adult readers. Both are kids, but are far different in terms of likes, dislikes, ideas, goals, and interests. I wanted my brand to encompass both, so fun and moody at the same time.

I also write in different genres. My novels are all based in current times, but each have an element that makes them unique, such as science fiction, paranormal, mystery, own voices, and more. Based on that, I leaned toward a generic look.

The last thing I wanted to include was something about myself. An image that clearly showed what I loved best. Besides my family and superhero movies, that would be books.

So I took my ideas and sent them to my wonderful illustrator Eva Folks. She played around with a few sketches and color palettes to create my brand. And thanks to her incredible idea of listing the genres I write in the final product, whenever my audience sees my brand, they know what to expect from me. Here is the finished product:

You can see my entire website and more of Eva’s drawings at halligomez.com

Is creating your brand stressful? YES! You want to present yourself in the best possible way, but remember to play around and don’t be afraid to try.

Stay tuned for part two of the series “Your Website” coming in February. I would love to hear your tips on creating a brand. Please leave them in the comments.

 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.

The Call with Julie Artz

Hi, Julie. I’m so excited that you’ve signed with Jennie Dunham of Dunham Lit and are on your way to publishing success! I think The Call is one of the most desired/feared/nerve-wracking/exciting/elusive steps a writer works toward. You’ve nailed your query and finally garnered some interest, but now what?

Photo credit: Gail Werner
Photo credit: Gail Werner   

 

She sent me an email. I had received a similar email from her in the spring that ended up being a Revise & Resubmit on an older manuscript, but the wording on this one was different, so I was pretty sure it was going to be an offer. She didn’t mention a time, but she called me the next morning, so there was only one day of nail-biting.

How did you prepare for The Call? Any sites or blog posts that you felt were helpful in preparing?

I emailed my amazing Pitch Wars 2015 mentor, Juliana Brandt, who shared her list of questions and gave me an awesome pep-talk. And I emailed a couple of critique partners to freak out/ask for advice. I also did a little cyber stalking internet research on the agency and its clients. I read Janet Reid’s blog religiously and she talks a lot about how to maintain good agent-writer relationships. If you’re querying and not subscribed to her blog, go subscribe NOW!

I have to ask where you did the call? Were your kids and husband home?

I was home alone, thank goodness, because I was pacing all over the house with my phone and notebook. I was so nervous and had to keep moving (and reminding myself not to talk too much)! Once I got off the call, I was getting DMs, emails, text messages, and phone calls all at once. I didn’t even text my husband until later because I was on the phone with The Winged Pen’s own Jessica Vitalis, talking her ear off as she drove out of town!

How were you feeling when the call started? How did you feel once the conversations got going?

I had already had a really positive interaction with Jennie about the R&R on my previous manuscript, so I was feeling really good from the moment the call started. Even before it started, really. I sent her The Elephant Tree instead of the revision (with her permission) because I felt it was a stronger manuscript and she was enthusiastic about the project from the moment I pitched it to her. The call blew me away. By the time we had this call, she had read all three of my middle grades, so I knew she really got me as a writer. And she said all the right things. I was floating by the end.

What was the big deciding factor on deciding that this was the agent for you? Was there a moment in the call or something she said?

When she made me cry (in a good way), I just knew that she got me 100% and was going to be the perfect fit.

How has communication been since the call and what’s the next step for you?

I have been working on revisions on The Elephant Tree since we signed in October. So in addition to discussing revisions, we’ve also had a productive back-and-forth about my next story. The one I was plotting before I signed with Jennie is a totally different genre than The Elephant Tree (dark fantasy instead of contemporary with a sprinkle of magic), so it doesn’t make a very good follow-up.

 I came up with a character and pitched Jennie a story idea that, unfortunately, has been done in an upcoming MG. That’s why I’m so glad to have an industry insider to help me navigate this—can you imagine if I’d written the whole story before I found out someone else had done something similar? I was able to take that same character, who I’m sort of falling in love with, and put her into a new story that Jennie thought would make a great follow-up to The Elephant Tree. Now if I can just get these edits done, I can start writing the shiny new story!

Are there any questions you wish you had asked that you didn’t?

We got so busy talking about edits for my current manuscript and story ideas for my next one that we completely forgot to talk about what her contract looks like! She had to email me the contract after the fact. I actually thought of a ton of questions after I got off the phone with her, so we had another round of email back and forth during my nudge week.

Any advice for querying writers working toward The Call?

Don’t give up! This was the third middle-grade manuscript I’d queried (fourth manuscript total because there was that one awful chicklit novel I wrote in my twenties and was foolish enough to query) and I racked up over a hundred rejections on my Pitch Wars 2015 manuscript before I shelved it to focus on The Elephant Tree. The evening before I got the email from Jennie, I got a heart-breaking pass from another agent that had me so down in the dumps that I’d actually told my critique partners I was all done with this manuscript (even though I only sent a total of 48 queries on it!). The next day, I had an offer.

Julie, thanks so much for letting me pester you with all these questions and congrats on this giant leap forward. I can’t wait to see what’s next for you. Follow Julie on Twitter @julieartz. You can also find her at julieartz.com.

~Kristi Wientge is the author of KARMA KHULLAR’S MUSTACHE out August 2017 with Simon & Schuster BFYR and is repped by Patricia Nelson at Marsal Lyon Literary Agency.

Cover Reveal! Karma Khullar’s Mustache

We are excited to reveal the cover for Karma Khullar’s Mustache. The debut middle grade novel by The Winged Pen’s Kristi Wientge.

karma-khullars-mustache-comp-cover

Karma is entering middle school and is super nervous. Not just because it seems like her best friend has found a newer, blonder best friend, or the fact that her home life is shaken up by the death of dadima, or that her daddy is the new stay-at-home parent, leading her mom to spend most of her time at work. But because she’s realized she has seventeen hairs that have formed a mustache on her upper lip. With everyone preoccupied, Karma has no one to turn to, and must figure out what to make of her terrifyingly hairy surprise.

I LOVE this story! Such an original idea, yet an issue that affects a lot of young girls.

For aspiring writers out there, let’s look at the timeline of Karma Khullar’s Mustache from beginning to end. So from idea to date of publication.

The idea of this book has always been with me—seriously. As an avid reader from early on, I was always searching for a book about a hairy girl and knew I had to write one, one day. BUT, it was at the Asian Festival of Children’s Content in May 2011 that Karma’s character finally had a name and a story. I entered Pitch Madness & Sun Vs. Snow in March 2015 and agent Patricia Nelson set up a call (THE CALL!!!) and offered representation on the 12th of March 2015. We completed about three rounds of revisions and were officially on submission in June. We had two nibbles during the first round of sub, but in September we started the second round of submissions and immediately Liz Kossnar at Simon & Schuster showed interest. She took Karma to acquisition mid-October and we sold it! Then, it was April 2016 when we got the ball rolling with edits for Karma. After that initial edit letter, things went pretty quickly. There weren’t huge changes to make, so Liz and I swapped edits a few times and then I was shown the first pass pages in September and now my cover in October! All together about 4 years.

Wow! Things seem to happen quickly, unlike what we normally hear about the publishing process. How would you describe your journey to becoming a published author?

In one word, surreal.

Let’s talk about the amazing and fun cover. First, who is the illustrator? 

Serge Bloch

I have heard great and not-so-great stories about author’s feelings when they first see their book covers. What were your feelings when you first saw it? 

Well, if I’m honest, I was a bundle of feelings. It was exciting, but also not really what I expected, but I didn’t hate, but I didn’t know if I loved it… It’s so weird to see how other people interpret your story. I kept the PDF of the cover on my phone for several days and would find myself looking at it at random times. Now I can’t imagine any other cover for it!

Did the Karma on the cover look like what you imagined when you were writing?

I actually don’t have a strong visual of my characters when I write. There’s this foggy kind of blur of a person. Mostly, I’ve got about 3 or 4 versions of my character based on people I know or have seen and I kind of mash it up in my head, but not in a really concrete way. So, really, I think the illustrator did a fantastic job of sorting it all out!

How much input were you able to give during the illustrating process? 

None! Ha! I was shown a concept a few months back and I did tell Patricia my initial concerns. For example, I wondered if the whole concept looked too young—like it’d only catch the interest of younger kids. Was it too cartoonish? Basically, I was in the minority with those concerns. But, like I said, I really can’t imagine any other cover now.

I think the cover is fun. And for someone like me, who may or may not have had hair on her upper lip, it is a must read! Now before you go, I have a few really personal questions!

Plotter or panster? Plotter.

Coffee or tea? Coffee, unless it’s masala tea.

Sweet or salty? Salty.

Dog, cat, or goldfish? Robofish—I can’t take care of any more people or things that expect me to remember to feed them!

If you’re secret reading under the covers, what three books are worth the risk of getting caught? Keats! He’s always next to my bed as is my Bible and I’d definitely sneak in some David Sedaris for a good laugh after a crazy day.

Thank you so much for sharing the cover with us. Karma Khullar’s Mustache comes out August 15, 2017. But of course you can and SHOULD preorder on iTunes or Amazon.

Photo on 3-19-15 at 1.23 PM #2For more information about Kristi, check out her bio.

img_1701HALLI 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.

3 Ways to Find Out About Your Readers from the Frankfurt Book Fair 2016

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Usborne Books stand at the 2016 Frankfurt Book Fair.

At the Frankfurt Book Fair, readers are a big theme. It’s the biggest book fair in the world and heavily “rights” focused. The more readers a book has, the more valuable the foreign publishing rights are.

The main business of the Fair is to make deals: between publishers and literary agents, domestic and international publishers, and publishers and booksellers or libraries. There are little tables at every stand and most of them are full of people showing each other books. It’s an affirmation of all those hours we spend writing. What we do matters, people! 🙂

1. Andrew Rhomberg of Jellybooks gave an insightful presentation about the way we read. Amazon collects data about how the world reads, but their data isn’t shared with publishers or authors. Rhomberg described Jellybooks as “Google Analytics for books.” The new epub3 format includes a button at the end of each chapter and at the end of the book that lets Jellybooks figure out how and when people read the books and how much of them they actually finish. It works on iBooks (iOS), Adobe Digital Editions (Windows) and Ebook Reader (Android) platforms. The data isn’t anonymous so that the publisher can tailor the book offerings to the readers.

Publishers use the service to find out just how people read Advance Reader Copies. Readers sign up for free e-books in exchange for sharing their reading data. Three reading patterns caught my attention:

  • Gradual fizzling out. Some prize-winning literature had a high percentage of readers finishing the first chapter, or maybe the first three chapters, but not much more. Or a skipping ahead pattern to see if the book got more gripping later on.
  • Commuter readers. Some readers only read around 8 AM and around 5 PM. If this was your target audience, you’d probably do well marketing to the commuter crowd.
  • Pageturners. Then there are the books where readers who finish the first three chapters read to the end without pausing. As Rhomberg says, “Some readers have discipline. They go to bed. But the others can’t put it down.”
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Bookcovers that set up the story to come. Usborne Books.

Rhomberg also collects feedback about book covers to find the answers to two smart questions:

  • What’s the influence of the cover for choosing a book to read?
  • Was the promise of the cover fulfilled by the story?

Writer take-home: If your book’s cover and your opening chapters are the perfect set-up for the exciting chapters that follow, you’ve got a winner.

2. Fabian, an Indie author on the same panel, talked about a low-budget way to get feedback about your readers. He posts chapters of his book on his blog and uses Google Analytics to track reading time. He uses MailChimp’s analytics too. His 3,000-member e-mail list also puts him in a perfect position for a reader survey about new cover designs.

Both presenters agreed that the most helpful information to describe your readers is time of day, context, gender, and age. Rhomberg said that men and women give up on books at the same rate, but men read 50 pages before they stop and women read 100.

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A lovely book truck in the inner courtyard of the Frankfurt Book Fair.

3. Wattpad‘s Star author, Jenny Rosen, has a much more personal connection to her 17, 747 followers. Wattpad is ten-year-old Canadian company with its strongest audience in the Philippines. Most stories on Wattpad are early drafts, she says, and reader input is useful. She and her editor, Kristen Maglonzo, consider reader feedback as they decide on the story structure. At the same time, she stays true to her vision for her story, describing herself as “stubborn.”

This young, dynamic team inspired me to go out and write the stories that need to be written! And to learn how to write a cliffhanger. 🙂

It’s clear that building an audience this way works: Wattpad is offering writers the ability to include video ads relevant to their readers. As Jenny Rosen says, “This lets readers support authors for free.”

Wattpad looks like a great platform for YA fiction and may work for Middle Grade, even though there isn’t a dropdown category for it. According to Wattpad’s spokesperson, most readers don’t search for books by category, so they’ve stopped adding new categories.

Swanky Seventeen author, Julie C. Dao’s upper middle grade Pumpkin Patch Princess is also a successful example on Wattpad.

As a writer, seeing this data and hearing Jenny Rosen’s story was powerful confirmation that first chapters matter. They really do set the tone and make promises to the reader. And when the promises are fulfilled, readers really do read every single chapter that follows.

Writers build stories with set-ups and payoffs to satisfy their readers. This reader data is more confirmation that craft matters.

I hope you’re feeling empowered to write more stories!

For more of the 2016 Frankfurt Book Fair, try these podcasts.

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Spotlight Interview with Karin Lefranc

Alright, Karin, the grocery stores are filled with Halloween treats and decorations and it’s also your book’s birthday!

Happy Birthday, I WANT TO EAT YOUR BOOKS!

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Look at that cover! He’s the only zombie I’ve seen that I want to hug.

If you too are drooling over this book, check it out here and here or here. But, these spotlight interviews are to get to know you better, Karin. Our readers can take a look at your bio to find out about you, sure, but I’d like to know more.

Um…let me see. In addition to being a writer, I’m a certified children’s yoga teacher so I used to tell kids stories through yoga poses! Now when I’m not writing or running around with my four kids, I help high school seniors, as a college essay consultant, to write brilliant college application essays! I absolutely love it, as their topics are close to their hearts, and I get to channel them and see the world through their eyes for 650 words!

What’s the best thing about where you live and how does it inspire your writing?

I live smack bam between NYC and Boston outside Hartford in Simsbury, Connecticut. It’s hilly and woodsy so good for hikes, which is always good for inspiring stories or working out plot problems! Our town is proud to claim the largest tree in Connecticut, The Pinchot Sycamore Tree. It’s located on the same road that our first presidents took to Boston, including Washington, Jefferson and Adams, and it amazes me that the tree was alive when they were. Hey, that’s inspiring me right now to write a picture book!

Aww! I love tree books. Seriously, The Giving Tree…Please write this! Last book you read: The Loose Ends List by Carrie Firestone, who I also have the pleasure of knowing as she lives in the next town over from me! It’s a high concept YA about a girl whose grandmother tells them that she’s dying but wants the whole family to go on a death-with-dignity cruise. But trust me, it’s fun and cheeky and heartfelt.

Last song you listened to on repeat: Crazy by Gnarls Barkley—I enjoy riling up my kids while their crazy mom sings this to them!

Dinner is on the stove, but the best first line for your WIP pops in your head and if you don’t write it down NOW, you’ll lose it forever…. What do you do?

Burn dinner, of course!

That’s what cereal is for, right?! Your current WIP in five words: (bonus points if you can do it in less!)

Are you kidding? Hedda struggles to be brave like her ancestor Beowulf.

Try again… Hedda must save the troll girl (still six words!)

Girl, rainbow bridge, Beowulf, Norse goddesses (obviously very challenging for me!)

You’re packing a bag of books for a desert island, which 5 books make it in the bag? 

Anna Karenina (my favorite book!) War & Peace (also by Tolstoy and I’ve never read it– and it’s really long so it will keep me busy for a long time!) Lord of the Rings (ultimate escapism when I want to be transported from my island). The Little Prince (when I’m feeling alone and doomed). Immortality (Milan Kundera will keep my thinking about my existence long after I’ve finished the last page).

That’s an ambitious list! As if you’re not busy enough, what’s next for you?

My fabulous CPs, fellow pennies Gita and Rebecca, are urging me to finish my PB about a hoity-toity coyote who loves England so much, he decides to fly to London to visit the queen and her corgis!

Yes, please!!! I want to beta read this! It was so fun getting to know you better. Readers, if you like what you read here, follow Karin on Twitter @karinlefranc and you can check out the book trailer for I Want to Eat Your books here!

Photo on 3-19-15 at 1.23 PM #2Kristi Wientge is the author of KARMA KHULLAR’S MUSTACHE out Summer 2017 with Simon & Schuster BFYR.

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Secrets of a Great Author Photo: An Interview with Pam Vaughan

Jennifer Jacobson. Photo by Pam Vaughan.

I met Pam Vaughan at my first NESCBWI (New England Society of Children’s Book Authors and Illustrators) Conference in 2014. At the time, I was overwhelmed by the awesome authors all around me and my mind buzzed with all I was learning from the great workshops on craft and the publishing industry. I kept catching glimpses of Pam running around everywhere with her camera.  I soon realized she was the conference photographer and was trying to get a picture of each of the 600+ attendees!

After the conference, I checked out Pam’s photos on the NESCBWI Facebook page. (I’m not sure she got all 600, but it seemed like she was pretty close!)  Her pictures were awesome! They let me relive the weekend. I even came across a picture of myself sitting at breakfast with another author (who was trying to turn a query letter I’d written into something that might actually get a request). This reminded me that I’d heard several times at the conference that I needed to be on Twitter. I liked the picture and with a download and a crop, BAM, I had a photo to replace the egg on my newbie Twitter account.

Deb O’Brien. Photo by Pam Vaughan.

Fast forward to the 2016 conference – that picture was still on my twitter account as well as my blog, The Winged Pen blog, and my Google+ account. When I ran into Pam again, I asked her if she’d be willing to take an “official” author photo of me since I was ready for an upgrade. I was psyched when she said yes!

I asked Pam if she could share some of her photography insight.

Rebecca: Your pictures are fantastic! How long have you been taking pictures? What types are your favorites to take?

Pam: I’ve been taking photos for years. My father has taken photos since I was young so I’ve learned so much from him. I’m constantly picking his brain about everything photography. I take pictures at sporting events; it’s great when I can capture the action and emotion of the athletes. I love to photograph nature; birds, animals, landscapes, especially things around the ocean. I was asked to be the NESCBWI conference photographer for 2014 & 2015. It was a wonderful experience!

Rebecca: When we met to take my photo you brought another author also. That was great! I find it hard to smile naturally with a camera pointed at my face. But Deb was so funny, she made it easy to ignore the camera and just smile. What other secrets do you have for taking great author photos?

Pam: The secret to taking great photos is, “Take a lot!” With digital cameras it’s easy to

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Rebecca J. Allen. Photo by Pam Vaughan.

take a myriad of pictures. I like to move around and take shots from different angles, and sometimes vary the poses. I never know which ones will end up looking good. I also think people look their best when they are relaxed and comfortable. Having someone else there doing the same thing makes the session so much better. People talking and engaging with each other makes the interaction less awkward and more fun, so it’s easier to take more photos. Plus, everyone enjoys meeting people this way, and we all walk away with new connections!

Rebecca: You mentioned that you were “working on the photos” on your computer. What kind of magic do you do behind the scenes?

Pam: Well if it’s magic, I probably shouldn’t divulge! Joking aside, compared to outdoors, taking pictures indoors is much more challenging. The lighting can be difficult.  Also, in a large conference like NESCBWI it’s hard to get just the right subject in my frame. The editing I do involves adjusting the lighting, cropping and sometimes cloning. That means if I see something distracting, like a fire extinguisher next to someone’s head, I’ll take that out. I have a few other tricks, but I can’t tell you all of them!

Rebecca: I heard in a talk on school presentations that it’s important to have an updated picture on social media so that the students and teachers recognize you. Are there other benefits to having a good author picture?

Pam: People are using photos in so many places now. Blogs, Websites, Facebook, Twitter, just to name a few. Authors and illustrators are also using their photos on their book flaps, business cards, and promotional materials. You don’t always want the same photo in all places, so having a few options is helpful.

Rebecca: I didn’t realize when I downloaded and cropped that picture that I should have been giving you a photo credit all that time! Sorry! What should be included in a photo credit?

Pam: No problem. For me, you can simply say, Photo courtesy of Pam Vaughan or Picture taken by Pam Vaughan. Or even a simple thank you often works. I can’t speak for everyone. I think it depends on the photographer and his/her individual policies.

Rebecca: How can people contact you if they’d rather entrust their photos to you than take their own?

Pam:  They can email me at pamvau11@gmail.com. I’m also on twitter @pamvau. I live in central MA.

Rebecca: When you aren’t taking picture what else do you do?

Pam: I attend the NESCBWI conference because I write middle grade and picture books. I’m on the Board of Directors at The Writers’ Loft (www.thewritersloft.org) and I’m one of the co-directors of the SCBWI Whispering Pines Writers’ Retreat (We’re working on our website). I’m planning on taking some author photos at Whispering Pines next year. I also present workshops on Leadership, Mental Toughness and Team Building (www.pvteamconsulting.com).

Rebecca: Thanks Pam! Thanks also to Jennifer Jacobson and Deb O’Brien for allowing us to use their photos!

Photo by Pam Vaughan

REBECCA J. ALLEN writes middle grade and young adult stories that blend mystery and adventure. Her best story ideas come from her two crazy kids. She’s on Twitter and her website is here.

 

Write a KILLER KIDLIT PITCH!

So you’ve spent a bazillion hours writing the GREATEST NOVEL EVER. Every word is spelled correctly. Every comma has been checked. Every em dash is used appropriately. You’ve filtered for over-used words. And, of course, you’ve crafted a Killer First Line(click here for more info).

Your book is ready to sell! Congrats!!!

Pitch it to me!

If you’re like me, your tongue goes dry, you start to shake, and you suddenly remember you need to put the clothes in the dryer. (And that’s just me alone with my mirror. I may actually break out in hives if an agent was in the room.) I guess telling you now that you were supposed to write your pitch sometime between the time the idea floated into your brain and the beginning of your second draft wouldn’t help your confidence much, huh?

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Shake it off! And let’s get to work!

All you have to do is condense your GREATEST NOVEL EVER into the GREATEST PITCH EVER, preferably one bite-sized concise Killer Sentence, no more than 35 words, that makes us want to read your masterpiece.

 

Lets break this down, step-by-step. First, write down this information about your story.

  1. MAIN CHARACTER (not the name) + an adjective that describes him/her
  2. MC’s GOAL
  3. CONFLICT/WHAT STANDS IN HIS/HER WAY
  4. WHAT ARE THE STAKES if he/she fails
  5. INTERESTING ELEMENT THAT WILL MAKE YOUR SENTENCE STAND OUT
  6. SETTING (only use it in the pitch if it’s important)

I’ll use THE WIZARD OF OZ as an example.

  1. Dorothy—lonely farm girl
  2. Her goal––return home
  3. What stands in her way––needs the Wizard, battles a witch
  4. Interesting tidbit––flying monkey army, tin man, lion, scarecrow
  5. Stakes––she may be stuck in Oz 4ever!
  6. Setting––transported into a magical land after a twister hits her farm.

Now, let’s put that into a sentence.

After a twister transports a lonely farm girl to the magical land of Oz, she must battle an evil witch with a flying monkey army to find the wizard who can help her return home.

That pitch is 35 words, 177 characters including spaces.

Notice that the MC’s name isn’t used, because it really doesn’t tell us much. Of the many interesting tidbits I had to choose from, I picked the monkey army because it played well with the conflict. The lion, scarecrow, and tin man are more related to the theme, which shouldn’t be a part of your pitch unless you can use an expanded to a two-three sentence structure.

After a twister transports a lonely farm girl to the magical land of Oz, she finds herself face-to-face with an evil witch and her flying monkey army. She befriends a lion, a scarecrow, and a tin man to help her find the powerful wizard who can help her return home. If they fail, she may be stuck in Oz forever.

Add a few more details (like the Good Witch, poison poppies, sparkly ruby red shoes, her being an orphan, Kansas, Toto) to the three sentence example above, and you’ve got yourself a query hook.

What about Twitter Pitch Parties? This pitch is too long!

To condense this into a 140-character Twitter pitch, simply take the one-sentence pitch and get rid of whichever words you need the least.

When a twister transports a farm girl to a magical land, she battles a witch to find the wizard who can help her return home. #PitMad #MG

This looks easy, right? I kinda cheated, using a beloved, well-understood novel. Yours might be more complex. But even if it is, you’ll need to be able to boil it down the the essentials.

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Behind the scenes  at The Winged Pen, we regularly help each other with pitches. Here are some great pitch tips from others in our group that will be especially helpful if you choose to participate in a Twitter Pitch Party!

Julie.— Adding recent comparable titles (comps) to a pitch can convey a lot of information about style and tone in very few words. So if your story is a mashup between Pride and Prejudice and The Walking Dead, or Sherlock Holmes reimagined as MG, or Veronica Mars in space, include that in your pitch for extra oomph! 😀

Laurel — Here’s a handy post from super-agent Jennifer Laughran to help you find the sweet spot for your comp titles. And two fun tools for brainstorming books that are similar to your masterwork: Amazon Visualization Tool and Whichbook.

Rebecca. —Now, you’ve got your pitch ready to go! Time to move on to your next story, right? WRONG! Now, it’s time to get creative. Most Twitter pitch parties let you pitch each manuscript a few times over the course of a day. Even for live pitches, you might want to let your hair down and have some fun with a pitch that has a little more voice. A creative pitch 1) sheds light on a different aspect of your story, and 2) gives you a second chance at bat. The pitch that calls to one agent might not get pulled out of the slush by another. Changing up your pitches gives your story the best shot at a request.

Even for a “creative” pitch, there are some “tried and true” formulas. Let’s take a look.

1, 2, 3. It’s a simple formula, yet appealing.

1 lost girl, 2 witches, 3 new friends. Dorothy and friends must defeat the evil witch to earn the thing each can’t live without. #PitMad #MG

Mash-up of interesting stuff. Imagine you’re an agent scanning through thousands of pitches at a twitter party. It takes something really grabby to get you to click on one. What’s interesting enough to rise above the slush? 

Poison poppies, flying monkeys, a wicked witch willing to kill her for her shoes – Dorothy must fight them all to make it home. #PitMad #MG

When using creative pitches in a twitter pitch party, it’s a good idea to pin your basic pitch to the top of your twitter page. Creative pitches might catch an agents eye, but they’ll probably leave them with questions too. If they’re a click away from your basic pitch, they’ll get a more compete picture of your story.

Great info, friends! Thank you!!!

Speaking of Twitter Pitch Parties! There are soooo many great ones coming up soon. Here are a few dates to add to your calendar. Polish your pitches now, so you’ll be ready. Click the hashtags below for more info!

February 23, 2017 #PBPitch Only picture books!

Feb 24, 2017 — #PitMad All categories, four times per year!

April 5, 2017 — #KidPit All KidLit categories

May 18th, 2017 #PitDark Adult, Young Adult, and Middle Grade Horror

June 8th, 2017 #PitMad All categories

June 22nd, 2017 #SFFpit All age categories for fantasy and science fiction

June 22nd, 2017 #PBPitch Picture books only

June 28th, 2017 #FaithPitch All age categories for faith-based fiction

September 7th, 2017 #PitMad All categories

October 2nd and 3rd, 2017 #DVPit For marginalized authors/illustrators

October 26th, 2017 #PBPitch Only picture books!

October 26th, 2017  #PitDark Adult, Young Adult, and Middle Grade Horror

November 8th, 2017 #KidPit All KidLit categories

December 7, 2017 #PitMad All categories

December 2017 #SFFPit All age categories for fantasy and science fiction

 

Others Twitter Pitch Parties to check out: #Pit2Pub, #PitMatch

Here are more references for writing loglines/pitches:

http://thrillerfest.com/pitchfest/pitch-tips/

http://fictionwriting.about.com/od/thebusinessofwriting/a/How-To-Pitch-Your-Novel.htm

Tips on Twitter pitches

http://writersinthestormblog.com/2014/09/the-ultimate-writers-guide-to-twitter-pitch-contests/

http://diymfa.com/community/crafting-the-perfect-twitter-pitch

http://dankoboldt.com/twitter-pitching-guide/

http://dianaurban.com/how-pitmad-helped-me-get-a-literary-agent-and-tips-for-the-next-one

http://writersinthestormblog.com/2014/09/the-ultimate-writers-guide-to-twitter-pitch-contests/

Subscribe to The Winged Pen and never miss a post, including our monthly #FourOn400 writing contest for middle grade and young adult. 


MICHELLE LEONARD is a math and science nerd, a chocolate biscotti baker, and a SCBWI member who writes middle-grade and young adult fiction. Her young adult sci-fi short story IN A WHOLE NEW LIGHT will be published in the BRAVE NEW GIRLS ANTHOLOGY: STORIES OF GIRLS WHO SCIENCE AND SCHEME releasing August 2017. Connect with her on Twitter.

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