Accepting Rejection

It’s bound to happen to all writers. You write a piece for a contest, anthology, or agent. You’re excited. You really feel it has what it takes to get published. You send that e-mail off along with your hopes and dreams. A few weeks later (sometimes just a day later) you get a one-word response that shatters all of that.

Rejection.

Okay, so maybe this sounds a little over dramatic, but, as writers, we’re all faced with rejection. Even the greats endure it (Rowling was passed up at least 7 times before a publishing company took on Harry Potter). That doesn’t make it sting any less. Here you presented your heart and soul to someone and they broke it with a single e-mail.

What are you supposed to do?

First, let’s address how you feel and what to do about shelf care.

  • Breathe: Take a breath and remind yourself that everyone gets rejected. Just because the contest or agent didn’t accept it doesn’t mean it’s bad.
  • Feel: Allow yourself to feel mad or sad if you need to. I know this may sound silly, but if you can get your emotions out, you can go back to the rejection, and your piece, with a clearer head.
  • Don’t take it personally: Easier said than done, I know. But don’t take this as a rejection of you or as a personal attack. As with every “contest” in life, some people win, and some don’t. This is NOT a reflection of you or your self worth. Keeping going forward and do what you love.
  • Step back: Step away from the piece for a while. You probably just spent a bunch of time working on it and it’s too fresh in your head. Take a few days to relax then get back to editing or submitting. You don’t want to rush in and send it to a contest that doesn’t quite fit the piece.
  • Get back to work: After you’ve had a moment to collect yourself, sit back down and get back to work on your piece or your other stories!

Second, let’s take a look at that rejection letter, because sometimes there’s something there you might not notice in the heat of the moment.

  • Generic Response: This is the auto-generated, “Thank you for the chance to read your piece. Unfortunately you were not selected.” If you get this kind of response without any additional information, then let it go and move on. Prep your piece for another contest.
  • Personal: Sometimes you may receive a more personal rejection letter. Someone may have seen something in your piece and decided to take the time to respond back to you. These e-mails or letters will be signed by the person you queried and likely contain more than the typical “you were not selected.” In this case, consider writing a very short thank you letter back. It’s a good way to keep connections open.
  • Personal Feedback: These are my favorites. The queried person not only responds with a personal letter, she also provides feedback. Use this as constructive criticism to revise your work, not as an offensive response. This means she’s taken the time to help you with your work. And if she mentions wanting to see your writing in the future, make sure you keep that person in mind! Definitely send a thank you letter back.

The final question is, what do you do with your rejected piece?

  • Submit again: In some cases, try again without revising. Maybe the piece wasn’t right for that particular contest. It doesn’t mean your work is bad! Go ahead and send it somewhere else. My rule of thumb is I wait for three rejections before I touch the piece again.
  • Consider Revising: If the contest provided some feedback, you may consider revising. Take another look at the story. Are there ways to revise it? Can you make it sound better or tighten up the language? Did you miss one of the contest requirements? It doesn’t hurt to look it over.
  • Blog it: Sometimes if you can’t get a piece published, it doesn’t hurt to either blog it or post it on Wattpad. There’s nothing wrong with sharing your work on another platform!

There’s nothing wrong with getting rejected. It helps you grow as an author and prepares you for sending out some of your larger pieces. Rejection is all part of the process, and the best thing to do is to learn, grow, and keep writing!

 

Marketing Vs Writing Time

I think the favorite motto of a writer is, “I hate marketing my book.” Most times when I ask someone about their marketing techniques, they talk about how much they despise it and would rather have someone else do it. Unfortunately, whether you’re traditionally published or self-published, you will have to do a fair bit of marketing if you want your book to succeed. The question is, how much time do you put into marketing vs your writing? Obviously you won’t have anything to market if you don’t write!

Here are a few tips and ideas I’ve learned about when to market vs when to write and how to divide your time.

  • Feeling inspired? Put the marketing aside and get those words down on paper. Don’t squander time if you’re feeling creative.
  • No Inclination to Write? Then focus on marketing. Sometimes putting together graphics or sending out tweets/building your reading and writing community can help you break out of that creative fog.
  • Deadlines for Books: If you have short stories due for contests, or a book due for printing, put the marketing aside and focus on getting that done. You want to make sure you meet those deadlines so you can market it later.
  • Deadlines for Interviews/Guest Spots: If a site or station is waiting on your interview or a guest blog, for example, then make that your priority. You might have to put your writing aside just to make sure you get that deadline done. Remember, this will give you traction and bring more people to your website.
  • Long Break: Do you have a few hours during the day where you can sit and focus on your book? You might consider writing. While marketing can take hours to do, it’s easier to get that done in shorter spurts of time than working on your novel.
  • Short Break: Are you waiting at a doctor’s appointment? Do you only have a few minutes to relax before a meeting? Spend that time marketing. Post a tweet. Share information about your book. Check your e-mail. It’s easier to do that than to get writing done.
  • Split time: Maybe you want to market and write in the same day. Create meetings for yourself. From 6-8, you’ll work on writing. From 8-9, you’ll work on marketing. Treat those like meetings that you can’t miss. That means you can get both done!
  • Author Events: When you have an author event coming up such as readings, signings, tours, you want to spend most of your time marketing. Share your event to the community you’ve built up. Focus your tweets and Instagram posts around what you’ll be doing. At the same time, post pictures while you’re at the events! Not only will you be preserving memories, you’ll also be sharing your experiences with your readers. This is a time to focus on the marketing and getting to know the crowd, not the writing.
  • Burnout: At some point you’re going to burn out from writing or marketing. When one fails, turn to the other. Usually if I’m too tired to write, I can still market my stuff. I might engage in a twitter thread or post a couple of pictures on Facebook and Instagram because it doesn’t take a lot of energy. Sometimes, trying to share yourself with the social world can be draining. When you feel worn out, settle in, turn off social media, and just focus on your book. And, if you hit a point that you can’t do either, take a break. Allow yourself to breathe and come back to it another day. If you keep pushing yourself, you won’t do well with either your marketing or writing.
  • Scheduling: Each week, create a schedule for yourself. Decide what’s most important (writing or marketing), and jot down the days you want to do one or the other, or both. Having this routine set up can make the whole process a lot easier and more friendly for yourself. Scheduling marketing posts is helpful too. You can take a day to schedule posts/blogs/interviews, and then while those launch, you can work on your writing.
  • Check in with yourself: Check in frequently to see how you’re feeling. If you’re starting to feel too overwhelmed with writing or marketing, it may be time to switch up your schedule. You are in control. You have the power to do as much or as little as you want. Make sure you’re being kind to yourself and taking it all one step at a time.
  • Create Shortcuts: Find ways to get multiple kinds of marketing done at the same time so you have more time to write. For example, use hoot suite or another platform that allows you to schedule and set up multiple posts at once. The site posts for you while you write. Or, schedule a blog post on a Tuesday and have that be your “marketing piece” that you share that day. By 9am, you may be done with your marketing. While views are rolling in on your blog, you can go back to writing.

A lot of this really depends on where you are mentally and what needs to get done. If you’re itching to write, then write. If you’re craving social media, focus on that. And if you find that you’re struggling in one of those areas, then make sure you set up time that you can sit down and focus on publicizing or writing your work.

It’s likely authors hate marketing because either 1. they aren’t sure how to do it productively, 2. they don’t like stealing away from their writing time, 3. they don’t like talking about themselves, 4. it’s just not their forte. If any of this is true for you, you may want to look into finding someone who can market your work for you. That way you can spend more time writing.

I hope this helps!

If you have any topics you’d like me to cover, please post them down below!

Creating an Indiegogo Campaign For Your Novel

Over the past few months, I have been working with a couple authors to create an Indiegogo Campaign to help launch my book, The Purple Door District. As of October 15th, my campaign is live here and receiving some nice attention thus far. Some people have asked how I created my campaign and its purpose, so I thought I’d share some of that information with you.

What is Indiegogo? 

Indiegogo is another kind of Kickstarter campaign that helps creative folks receive contributions to go towards the creation of a product. While Kickstarter tends to focus more on technological advances, Indiegogo is more author and liberal arts friendly. You can find many authors trying to promote their books and graphic novels on the site. Generally, people will run a campaign for 30 days in order to reach a set goal. Kickstarter is an all or nothing thing. If you raise the money, then you get it. If you don’t meet your goal, you get nothing. Indiegogo offers that too, but it also provides a “flexible” goal. You can set your campaign for 30 or 60 days, and even if you don’t reach your goal, you still get to keep whatever you made

Why not just do flexible goal then? Well, studies show that the urgency of trying to make a 30-day goal that’s all or nothing actually encourages people to donate more and right on the spot. The disadvantage is, if you don’t make it, you get nothing. Since I’m happy to accept whatever contributions people are willing to give, I’ve made mine flexible.

What Are You Raising Money For? 

People usually raise money to help create/sell a particular product. In my case, I’m using my campaign to help me publish The Purple Door District. Indie publishing is not cheap. You basically wear the hat of the editor, publisher, marketer, distributor, etc. All of that money adds up, and sometimes you might not have quite enough in your bank account. I’ve personally enlisted artists, editors, proofreaders, and jewelers to help create swag for my book, causing my cost to go up. At the same time, though, this allows me to support other members of the literary community. So, in a sense, I’m raising money both for my book and for fellow creative minds.

Comm44 - Bianca Highres.jpg
Art of my main character Bianca by Oni Algarra on deviant art: https://www.deviantart.com/onialgarra

Tips for Creating a Campaign

  • Know your product: You must have a solid product in mind that you’re trying to raise money to create. Whether it’s a book, a fidget cube, a graphic novel, make sure it’s clear to your audience.
  • Figure out your budget: You have to know how much to ask for when you set up your campaign. Go through every single thing you spend money on, (ie. printing, setting up the book, editor, proofreader, swag, etc). Don’t leave anything out, and make sure you round up rather than down. It’s better to ask for a little extra than not enough. Create a list with all of your expenses, and then be honest with the people contributing to you. Break down the costs on your Indiegogo page so people know what their money is going towards. It’s better to open and honest.
  • Create a Video: Indiegogo indicates that you’re much more likely to receive donations if you have a video at the beginning of your campaign. This can just be you explaining your book, or perhaps presenting a book trailer. Be genuine in it and let people know just how much their help means to you. The more people know about the product, the more willing they may be to back it.
  • Perks: Now, while some people may be willing to make a donation, others will want something in return. This is where perks come in. Similar to patreon, you create different tiers. If someone contributes a certain amount, they may get a shout out, or posters and stickers. The bigger the contribution, the larger the return. You must make certain that you can actually provide the perks to the contributor, however, and in a reasonable time. People feel more valued if you get the items to them in a timely fashion. They should also be of good quality.
Give away
Samples of bookmark, sticker, mini poster, and necklace from one of my Perk packages. 
  • Publicize/Create a Street Team: The best way to get donations is by having a marketing plan. Create a street team of people who you know will be willing to share the link to your information. Set up days/times when you’ll post about your campaign, and make sure it’s to the right people. Know your audience and your readers. You don’t want to post about urban fantasy material in a mystery group. Also, don’t be obnoxious about it. While it’s important to market, make sure you follow the rules of groups that you post it to, and don’t invade someone’s privacy (ie, PMing random people to beg them to donate to you). That’s a great way to get blocked.
  • Be Responsive: When someone donates to you, let them know how much you appreciate it. They’re taking their time and their hard-earned money to help you bring your project to life. The least you can do is thank them. Answer any questions they might have, and give frequent updates so people know how close you’re getting to reaching the goal.
  • Pictures! Provide lots of pictures of your product. It lends agency to what you’re doing, and it also helps people visualize exactly what they’re going to get, or what you’re trying to do. Pictures also make your campaign eye pleasing. People are more likely to donate if you can show them what you’re making rather than describing it in a wall of text.

These are just a few tips I’ve learned while creating my campaign. I have Brian K Morris and Brenna Deutchman to thank for helping me set this up. It’s always good to have someone look over your campaign in case you’re missing something before you make it live. I’m sure I’ll have some failures and struggles along the way, so I’ll post about those as well.

If you have any questions about Indiegogo, or any topics you’d like me to cover, feel free to post them below!

Happy writing!

Mental Health and Writing

I’m no stranger when it comes to depression and anxiety. I walk with them, hand in hand, everyday of my life, and sometimes I get dragged along, kicking, screaming, and crying. The US is notorious for looking down on those with mental health. We’re supposed to suck it up and be strong, but really, that creates more problems in the end. So when the world gets to be too much, I turn to therapy writing and reading.

Everyone uses writing in a different way to help themselves. Some write journal entries, spewing out their emotions so they don’t have to hold them so heavily in their hearts. I write violent scenes so I can feel something other than the pain inside of me. Poetry, short stories, novels…they can all help because they give you something else to focus on.

If you want to deal with the problem or emotions you’re going through, use therapeutic writing as a chance  to center on the issue. Write down how you feel and what events have led you to those negative emotions. As you do this, you might see patterns form. Maybe you’re not getting enough rest and that’s causing problems, or a new stress was added into your daily life. Whatever it is, remember, your feelings are valid. You’re allowed to be upset, and it’s good to take the time to work through your issues.

Poetry can be helpful, too. Splatter your page with the rushing thoughts in your head and see what you create. You can always go back to it later if you want to adjust the rhythm, rhyme, or form. There’s also nothing wrong with writing the poem for your eyes alone. Don’t worry about editing or how the words might sound. Let them flow and see if that helps alleviate some of the stress. Some of my best pieces have come out when I’ve been at the peak of depression.

Working on my novel can be very therapeutic too because it gives my brain something else to focus on. I have a huge issue with stress eating; I always have. So if I feel depressed or overwhelmed, I try to turn to my computer instead of grabbing a bag of chips or cookies. Does it always work? No, but more and more I find myself sitting down to my work instead of eating, and I consider that a success.

Right now, I’m in a hospital getting treated for cellulitis. Deep down, I’m scared, angry, and frustrated with myself, but I know those emotions aren’t going to help me heal. So I’m keeping my mind and hands busy by writing this blog to you. My body is resting and my brain is getting a break from fretting over the pain and stress.

I’ve said many times that it’s important to take care of yourself when you write. Writing can, at times, be the healer we need to get through stress, depression, grief, and more. Find what works for you. If you have any suggestions on how to use writing for healing, post them below! The best way to help each other is by sharing ideas.

Your feelings are valid. YOU are valid.

Happy writing.

Preparing for NaNoWriMo

October is finally here. The leaves are changing color. There’s a crisp chill in the air. Pumpkin spice lattes waft through cafes. And the countdown to NaNoWriMo has begun! Whatever will you do?

Let’s start with the basics. What is NaNoWriMo? This is the abbreviation for National Novel Writing Month, a challenge that writers around the world take on every November. The goal? Write 50,000 words (the length of a short novel or novella) in a single month. You track your words on the official NaNo site, and at the end of the month, you confirm that you reached the word count. If you win, you’re showered with all kinds of awards including discounts on writing programs, editing offers, NaNo swag, and more!

Sounds crazy, right? It’s a daunting task, to be sure, but thousands of people give it a shot each year. I personally have won NaNoWriMo about 8 times, but that’s usually because I prepped through October.

How can you get ready to write your novel during NaNoWriMo?

  • Pantser or Plotter? First, you have to decide whether you’re a pantser (someone who writes by the seat of their pants) or a plotter (someone who outlines a story). What you are will determine how you prep your story. A plotter is more likely to create an outline while a pantser might be more interested in character development or world building. Sometimes, a pantser doesn’t know what he’s writing until the strike of midnight on November 1st, and that’s completely okay. We all work to our own speed.
  • Outline: One of the best ways to prep is to create an outline. It can be a brief sketch of the chapters in the book, a paragraph about the story, or a 10-page long analysis. It’s completely up to you. Having something at the start of NaNo can help give you an edge and guide you when you inevitably get stuck.
  • Character Creation: Who are your characters? How will they act in the story? What do they look like? Knowing the information about your characters before you even get started can make the writing process much easier. You’ll spend less time hemming and hawing over small details and dive right in with your characters.
  • World Building: Whether you’re writing an urban fantasy, a science-fiction adventure in space, or a contemporary romance, your story is going to require world building. Gather that information in October so you know where to start in November. As with character creation, you’ll spend less time wondering what the world looks like and more time writing.
  • Research: If you know you’re going to need to research to create your book, do it in advance of NaNo. This can save you precious writing hours. Jot your notes down, and make certain your information is easily accessible so you’re not wasting time trying to find your research after you’ve already done it.
  • Create a Schedule: If you write 1,667 words everyday, you’ll succeed in completing NaNo. Realistically, though, real life can get in the way of that. Writer’s block, a bad day, sickness, a broken computer can all complicate your schedule and force you to play catch up. One way to prepare yourself is to set up “buffer days” where you’ll have more time to write than usual. Stick to your schedule, and you’ll have a better shot at winning.
  • Schedule Breaks: Not everyone will agree with me on this, but you should schedule breaks during NaNo. You’ll need time to recharge after writing furiously for days on end. It’s okay to take a night to hang out with friends, read, or, heaven forbid, sleep. You don’t want to burn out halfway through.
  • Find Your Region/Support Team: One of the cool features about NaNo is you can connect with people in your area! You don’t have to work on your novel alone. A Municipal Liaison (ML) will set up writing times for people to get together, and that includes October prep. Don’t be surprised if there’s a NaNo kick off right at midnight on November 1st. You can also communicate with one another over the NaNo website and encourage each other. Creating a support team can inspire you to finish your book even when you want to quit.
  • Pep Talk: Prepare pep talks to get you through the tough times, because there will be moments when you’ll want to hurl your book out the window. We face it every yearly, usually around the half-way mark. The NaNo site will provide inspirational speeches from authors, but it doesn’t hurt to have your own positive mantra.
  • Sleep: Seriously, make sure you set up a sleep schedule for yourself for November. And get plenty of sleep in October so you’re rested and prepared for writing. We usually joke about spending every waking moment writing in November, and that’s not too far from the truth. Make plans to take care of your mental and physical health so you don’t burn out or get sick.
  • No editing: NaNo is all about writing, so prepare yourself not to edit. There are no rules against going back and fixing mistakes, but the fun of NaNo is spewing out the story without worrying about grammar or showing vs telling. Editing comes later! Get used to taking off the editor gloves and go ahead and word vomit all over that page (a beautiful image, isn’t it?).
  • Playlists!: Create musical playlists that will keep you focused while you write in November. Maybe you work better with the tv on in the background, or you need a movie soundtrack to hold your attention. Whatever you need to do, October is the time to plan it! I have a playlist that’s nearly two hours long. Each song reminds me of certain characters in my book, thus creating an environment that encourages me to write.
  • NaNo Prep Page: Check out the NaNo Prep Page for more ideas to help you prepare your novel.

Keep in mind, these are all suggestions, and you can use what works for you. NaNo is supposed to be a fun (albeit stressful) event. If you don’t reach 50,000 words, that’s okay! The fact that you wrote anything is an accomplishment. You can do this! Happy NaNo prep to you!

If you have any topics you’d like me to cover (or any more NaNo advice you’d like to know) list them below! Feel free to share your NaNo prep ideas as well!