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Why Did I Indie Publish?

Since self-publishing The Purple Door District, I’ve received a lot of questions about why I decided to go that route. Well, I want it to be clear that I actually hope to become a hybrid author. My goal is to self-publish some books and traditional publish others.  I want to experience both worlds and see which one works the best for me. For all I know, indie publishing will win out.

The first answer to this question is easy. The Purple Door District is a component of a larger series called Fates and Furies that I write with my co-author, AE Kellar. We decided early on that when we published the books, we wanted to go the indie path. We’d have more freedom that way and we could keep all the important elements in the book without the fear of having a publisher take them out. We wanted control of the cover and the publishing schedule. We both have tight schedules and sometimes we just can’t write together. We didn’t want the pressure of a publishing house coming down on us, insisting we had to have work done at a certain time when it just wasn’t feasible.

Now, that being said, we still want to put work out consistently, but indie publishing is more flexible and more forgiving when it comes to time frames. If we have to push publication dates back to make the book better and stronger, then so be it. So, The Purple Door District was guaranteed to be self-published.

But what about my other books like Dragon Steal or Traitors of the Crown? Why not self-publish those?

Well, again, I want the experience, and I feel like those books might do better with publishing houses that focus on the same type of topic.

Indie publishing is an adventure, to be blunt. You have control of everything. Writing. Editing. Choosing editors/proofreaders. Finding the cover. Marketing. Formatting. Publishing. Distribution. You wear all of the hats, and while that can be daunting, it can also be extremely enjoyable and rewarding. I went from having this book I was just posting on patreon with a rough cover to a published copy in my hand and in bookstores. I spent six months doing my marketing and printing campaign, and I honestly couldn’t be happier.

I was relieved that I could choose my own cover. Often in traditional publishing, you don’t get a say in it. In my case, I found an artist, and she and I worked together to perfect the cover. She willingly listened to my suggestions and adjusted the art so it turned into the lovely piece it is today. Likewise, I found artists who could make character images for me, and I was the only one who could say if it matched my vision. I had the final approval. You don’t always get that in the traditional world.

I also was able to choose my own editors and proofreaders. I went with people I trusted, who had worked with me either for a long time or had demonstrated a passion for the craft and my book. Our relationships became harmonious, and we were able to message each other without having to worry about a publisher watching over us.

Indie publishing is no longer as taboo as it used to be. Authors are spending money to acquire editing services, and more freelance editors are appearing everyday. One of the biggest things I love about indie publishing is working with the community. I’m not the only one benefiting from publishing the book. Editors, proofreaders, artists, PA specialists all have a hand in the book and receive payment for their work. I’m proud to have met so many incredibly talented people and it brings me great joy to promote them on my website.

Indie publishing is a lot of work and a ton of money (depending on how you want to do it). You can indie publish and not spend a dime except for purchasing books. Or, you can put more of your cash into it to create a bigger marketing strategy. Again, the choice is yours. You have control over your own process. And you don’t have to worry about a publishing company folding and dropping the series you’ve been working on (it’s happened before).

I’m not waiting for anyone to promote my materials or set up book signings for me. I do it all myself and go where I think I’ll have the most success. Walking this path has turned me into a stronger and more knowledgeable writer that I’m not sure I would have received from traditional publishing alone. Yes, in traditional publishing you still have to help market, but not to the same extent as indie.

I give a lot of credit to those who have self-published before me, and those who will after me. I feel like may of us have become a close-nit community because we all know the struggle of creating and promoting our books. The writing community is incredible, and no matter if you choose to self publish or traditional publish, I hope you’re proud to be part of the community.

A Writer’s Therapy Pets

As I write this entry, I’m curled up on my couch with my parrot, Aladdin, fast asleep on my chest. Sometimes he grinds his beak happily, and I feel the vibrations, which help bring down my anxiety. On some of my worst nights, I know he’ll be willing to cuddle and slow my pounding heart.

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There are no words to describe the importance of therapy pets. For writers, I think having that constant furry, scaly, or feathery companion is extremely important. Writing can be a solitary project, and when you feel alone in the world, it’s nice to feel needed by a little critter.

I’m not shy when it comes to talking about depression and anxiety. I’ve mentioned in previous posts that I deal with both, and sometimes they make me hate my writing as well as myself. On the darkest nights, I’ve even had the thoughts of not wanting to wake up the next day. I can’t count how many times I’ve gone into the aviary and picked up Aladdin, or my other parrot, Orion, and just held them so I could feel their little bodies against my heart. Their warm presence reminds me that I’m needed, and even if, at times, I feel cut off from the world and alone, I’m really not. They need me. And I need them.

Now, having pets doesn’t come without it’s drawbacks. There are days when the anxiety gets so bad that even the slightest squawk or noise can set me off, in which case I know I need to walk away. My babies are pretty forgiving, though, and always welcome me back. I just hope they all understand just how much I love them.

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I see writers post pictures of themselves with their pets, and it makes me so happy. There’s nothing better than settling in to write and having your furry/feathery companion with you to keep you company. While Aladdin snoozes under a blanket on me, Orion likes to perch on my computer screen and fall asleep. I feel lucky to have them, as well as my doves, Luna, Apollo, and Nova, and my finches, Zeus and Venus.

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So if you’re a writer, and you’re feeling particularly alone (and you know you can take care of a pet), consider bringing a companion home. There are always animals available, especially those in the shelters, looking for homes.

Most of my babies are rescues of some sort. Nova, my dove, came from a bad home where she and her mate were used in videos. She was discarded because she was too much work after her mate died. I don’t think she even had the opportunity to fly around much because she grew exhausted quickly when she tried to fly at my home. It’s taken a few years, but my little girl is a happy bird who adores Orion and spends her days playing with him, warming her eggs, or hanging out with me at the computer. Without me, it’s likely she wouldn’t have found a home in time to save her. And without her…well, I don’t know what I’d do without my little honey bird.

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Luna came to me ill and I spent weeks nursing him back to health and making sure that Apollo didn’t come down with the same sickness. Zeus, Venus, and Athena (rip), were cast aside by their previous owner, so I brought them in. Aladdin was deemed a “mean bird” and no one wanted to buy him at the pet store. He was there for 10 months before I brought him home. While still bitey at times, he’s such a little lover, and I can’t imagine my life without him.

They’re part of the inspiration behind my writing. My main character in The Purple Door District is a werebird after all. Don’t be surprised if you see a little parrot show up in one of the stories. Besides helping my anxiety and depression, they act as my little muses too.

If you have pets at home that help inspire your writing, feel free to post them below. I’d love to see them!

Happy writing!

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Sequel Struggles

It hasn’t even been a month since I published The Purple Door District, and I’m already feeling the dreaded sequel struggle. You know the feeling. You finish book one in a trilogy or series. Ideas blossom in your head for the next story. Your characters weave their tales and are ready to continue their journeys. You sit down to write.

Nothing.

Yes, this is going to be one of those raw blog posts where I talk about my struggles and then still try to provide some advice thanks to the help of other incredible writers.

Right now, I’m trying not to throw my computer at the wall because I’m so frustrated with the book.  I managed to write part of the story during NaNo, but now I feel stuck. One reason is because I’m intimidated by book one! I’ve received a lot of really good feedback, and while I know I can still make changes, I don’t want to write a sequel that’s subpar. Not only that, I’m not working with the same exact cast. New characters are popping in left and right, and they’re making the story that much more detailed and difficult.

Don’t get me wrong, the second book was meant to be more detailed and have bigger stakes, as it should, but I didn’t think it would cause me quite this much stress and fear.

I reached out to an incredible romance writer named Eliza David who sent me one of her blog posts about writing a sequel. You can check it out here. She provides some incredible tips such as taking notes of your characters from the first book, and also allowing characters (and conflict) to grow. Check it out!

As I’ve worked on my sequel, I’ve learned a few things that I thought I’d share as well. If you have tips, let me know!

  • Character Bios: Make sure you have character bios and descriptions from the first book and keep adding to them for the second book so you don’t have to keep researching and remembering who has what eyes or hair.
  • Talk it Out: I spent part of the day talking to my co-creator about book two. She had a bunch of valuable advice, and you can do the same with a fellow writer, especially one who has read your book. Outline the next story for them to see if it makes sense and if your book is going to hold your readers’ attention as much as the first.
  • Read Your First Book: This might seem obvious, but I didn’t really think about it when I started in on the sequel. I’d spent so much time editing PDD 1, I thought I wouldn’t have to read it again. Boy, was I wrong. I think it’ll help me stay in the groove of working with some of the same characters once I review it.
  • Outline: Outline your sequel to see if it makes sense in the world of book one. And if you have another book after the sequel, try to outline that book as well so you know where number two needs to end. Granted, this is more for the plotters rather than the pantsers, but I think it’s beneficial to both.
  • Allow Yourself to Feel Frustrated: Seriously, writing a sequel is scary and hard, so if you get frustrated, it’s completely normal. Allow yourself to feel (kick, scream, and cry if you need to), then get back to work. It’s better than keeping it all in.
  • Remember First Drafts Suck: Don’t get intimidated by your edited writing in book one. It started off as rough and unpolished as the sequel. The most important thing is to get the words on paper. You can clean it up later.

Believe me when I say you’re not alone in your dread of writing a sequel. Do what feels right for you, and look up suggestions for how to get through blocks and over hurdles.

My biggest suggestion is try to find a way to embrace your book and not be afraid of it. Because if you’re afraid what could happen, the only person who will ever know the story is you.

Write it.

You can do it!

2018 Wrap Up and 2019 Goals

I can’t believe that 2018 is finally over. It felt like the year that just would not die! I made resolutions last year, but most of them I don’t even  remember, except for wanting to start querying Dragon Steal, which I did manage to accomplish. For this post, I’d like to go over some of the awesome (and not-so-awesome) things that happened this year and cover my goals for 2019.

2018 in Review

  • Finished editing Dragon Steal and submitted it for publication.
    • I’ve received several rejection letters but recently got a full manuscript request. While the rejections have hurt, at least the book is out there!
  • I created my own website and started developing a branded persona on twitter, facebook, instagram, etc. I have over 1,000 followers both on twitter and on instagram.
    • Even better, I’ve met a ton of amazing authors and creators through these sites who I can’t wait to work with next year!
  • Wrote, edited, and published The Purple Door District.  I can’t believe I developed my own marketing and indiegogo campaigns, formatted the book, published it, and held a launch party all in the space of six months. The question is, can I do it for PDD2?
  • Had “Latte with a Shot of Poltergeist” and “Frozen Heart” published in anthologies.
  • Submitted more short stories and poetry than I ever have before. While I received a lot of rejections, I at least received a few publications.
  • Officially launched The Writers’ Rooms with my co-Director, Alexandra Penn. We also finished our Articles of Incorporation and got certified as a non-profit corporation.
  • Helped develop the concierge anthology through The Writers’ Rooms.
  • Returned to my college and taught a few classes about publishing and NaNoWriMo.
  • Wrote 50k words for The Purple Door District: Wolf Pit.
  • Lost about 45 lbs through exercise and healthy eating.
  • Attended my first book signing event with other authors and signed up for even more in 2019.
  • Hosted giveaways for my book and swag that was developed by local creators.
  • Started my patreon account to help raise money for my writing career.
  • Received honorable mention in Writers of the Future.
  • Truly started my profession as an author.

It’s been a really big year for me writing wise. I still can’t believe that six months ago I decided to publish The Purple Door District. It seems like ages since I made that decision. I’ve managed to publish a few pieces of work this year, including on wattpad and patreon.

Next year, I hope to do even more, but also find a way to take care of myself at the same time.

2019 Goals

  • Focus on my mental health and take better care of myself mentally and physically.
  • Find an agent and publisher for Dragon Steal.
  • Finish writing and publish The Purple Door District: Wolf Pit.
  • Work on Fates and Furies with my co-author, AE Kellar, and hopefully publish the first book, if not in 2019, then in early 2020.
  • Submit more short stories and poetry for publication.
  • Start working on The Purple Door District #3 and Dragon Steal #2
  • Return to working on Traitors of the Crown.
  • Lose more weight for health reasons and get healthier.
  • Attend multiple writing conventions to both sell my books and to meet other authors.
  • Start my path to becoming a full-time author.

These are pretty ambitious goals, but I think most of them are possible. I really do need to focus on my mental and physical health, though, because I managed to break myself a few times while working on PDD. If I can’t hold myself together, I won’t be able to accomplish any/all of this.

I’m really proud of what I did this year. It’s my biggest year as an author, and I can’t wait to see what 2019 holds. I’m also a little scared. What if next year doesn’t unfold as well? I guess that’s all part of growing up and making plans as a writer, though. Some years you’re going to make it big, and some years are going to be a lot slower. I hope 2019 is still a fantastic one.

What are your goals for 2019? Feel free to share them below! Also, let me know what topics you’d like me to cover this year!

Happy Writing!

Erin

Creating a Book Launch: Reflection

It’s been a week since I launched The Purple Door District. It’s hard to believe that it’s over already after so many months of work. I’ve had people ask what went well, what didn’t, what would I like to change, and so on and so forth. After some reflection, I thought I’d share a few tidbits for anyone else who’s preparing to launch their book. As I say in many of my posts, these are just ideas and not the true method. What works for me may not work for you, but it may give you a place to start.

To make this a little easier, I’m going to divide this into three sections: what I did, what worked and didn’t work, and what I’d do next time.

Warning: This is going to be a long one!

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What I did: 

  • Indie Publishing: I gave myself 6 months to launch my book so I could build up an audience and get my social media platforms off the ground. Keep in mind, I was mostly starting from scratch. I had Facebook and Wattpad, and I had just started on patreon, but that was about it. I decided to go the indie publishing route, which meant I had to do all my marketing by myself, hence the six months of preparation.
  • Cover reveal: I revealed the cover of the book about a month in so that it, and the title, could get out and attract attention.
  • Social Media: I started building up my social media. Twitter and Facebook brought the most people to my website (according to the analytics). I also created an Instagram account. I bounced back and forth between these three, and featured special topics on Instagram like my Book Love Tour, author interviews, and blog entries. I created a schedule for myself to write a blog post every week, which I’ve managed for a few months now. When I got closer to the book release, I created a Goodreads and Bookbub account, per the suggestions of other authors. Through all the social media sites, I worked to build my audience and find fellow writers who might be interested in the book, and who I could help.
  • Website: I developed my own author website to host information about my books, author interviews, my literary projects, details about the community, my volunteer work, etc. Basically my website is a one-stop shop for anyone who wants to know about me and my work. You can find all my social media through it.
  • Patreon: In December 2017, before I even decided to publish PDD, I started posting a chapter or two every month. This meant I had early readers and got a few people interested in the book. I intend to do the same thing with PDD 2.
  • Interviews: Through Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, I found people willing to do interviews with me to help promote my book. I worked to space them out over the months so there was always something fresh for people to read. In the same vein, I interviewed other authors to show them support. It’s been a lot of fun getting to meet so many different people.
  • Libraries/bookstores: I started contacting libraries and bookstores who might be interested in carrying my book. In the end, I had three bookstores in the local area who wanted them, and another in the works. Libraries are a little more reluctant to take in indie-published books, but I did manage to get a couple to agree to carry the novel.
  • Press: I wrote press releases for my book launch in hopes that it would help bring more people to the event and also share the news about the novel to more people.
  • Swag: I developed some of my own swag and also brought on people to create art, necklaces, and sand bottles for my book. My intent was to give them support while also helping to promote PDD. It was a lot of money, but the results spoke volumes.
  • Indiegogo Campaign: Indie publishing is not easy, as many of you probably already know. I started up an Indiegogo Campaign to try to offset some of the costs. I spread it out over a month, aiming to gain $4,000.
  • Book Launch Location: I picked a special location for my book launch. The Makers’ Loft seemed like a fitting place because it is all about representing indie artists. It has a great space, and it is still new and starting out, so I wanted to bring publicity there as well. Plus, their marketing team is really good. I’m really glad I chose it.
  • Giveaways:  I did several giveaways over the course of the 6 months. In the beginning, I was just offering swag as gifts (necklaces, posters, etc) because the book wasn’t done. Then I started giving away the e-book, and finally I offered up the published book in bigger contests that ended up helping me build my newsletter.
  • Newsletter: I developed a newsletter to keep people updated on what I’m working on. It helped me keep people interested and connected me with my readers more.
  • ARC: I gave out advanced reader copies to people I knew would finish the book and provide reviews on Goodreads, and later Amazon. I hoped that the numbers would get me closer to the 50 count which triggers Amazon to start promoting your book.
  • Paid Ads: I spent a little money on ads for the newspaper, Facebook, Bookbub, and I think a couple of other places to garner attention.
  • Connections: I worked with my author connections to gain more information about how to launch my book. I also got PDD out word-of-mouth and developed a street team to help me share information about the book around social media platforms.
  • Signings: I set up two signings on the day of the book launch, as well as several others in the future so people would know right away where to find me if they couldn’t make it to the actual launch.

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What Worked/ What Didn’t 

  • Indie Publishing: I’m actually really glad I went this route. I’ve learned a lot about indie publishing over the past six months, and I now have a better idea of what I’d do in the future. It costs a lot, I’m not going to lie, but you have a lot of freedom that you may not have with publishers.
  • Cover reveal: This was a great way to gain attention. I found an amazing artist who really hit the nail on the head. People loved the cover, and that kept bringing an audience back to me. Or at least made people pause when they scrolled through it. Cover reveals are great media pieces, especially if you have an incredible artist. Start it early, and get your name out there.
  • Social Media: I probably made my social media life a lot harder than it needed to be. Facebook and Twitter both brought people over to my website. Whether that will lead to sales remains to be seen at this point. It’s something you definitely need to do to keep up your audience, but the amount of social media presence is really up to you. I think Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram get me my best audience. Wattpad and patreon fall a bit more to the wayside. At the very least, this is a great way to gain connections and find out about other signings, and bond with writers and readers. Recently, my blog posts have started to gain more attention.
  • Website: A must have. I spent more on this than I had anticipated, but it’s worth the cost. I have a store where I can sell my books. And it’s a one-stop-shop for everyone. If I only have one piece of social media to offer up, this is definitely the one I give. I update it every week, too, and that seems to keep the numbers up.
  • Patreon: To be honest, Patreon is not one of my successes. It’s gone well for other writers, but I’ve really struggled with gaining an audience. I’m hoping that now PDD 1 is out, that’ll bring more people in for PDD 2. Part of me wants to give it up completely, but I still think there’s worth in it. If anything, it keeps me on task because I have to post something every 15th of the month.
  • Interviews: This was a big help. Interviews introduced me to new readers and audiences. They made people see that I’m very much a human, and they got to know me and my view of working as a community. I would say get as many interviews as possible, and research if there’s a good response turn out for that interviewer’s blog.
  • Libraries/bookstores: I didn’t have as much success as I would have liked, but I don’t think I tried as hard as I could have. I’m still reaching out to bookstores and libraries, but I’m finding that they prefer to agree to carry your book once it’s printed. That being said, I did just receive my first paycheck from one of the bookstores!
  • Press: This was a dud, but that was my fault. I did reach out to newspapers, but I neglected to reach out to tv and radio stations. I think I just ran out of time, which was an issue. I sent press releases to four local papers and only had one respond.
  • Swag: While this turned out to be a lot of money, the swag really caught people’s attention. When I couldn’t give out the book because it was still in progress, I could at least offer bookmarks, jewelry, and other items. They were all very eye catching, and they’ve served to help bolster the world of PDD alongside the book.
  • Indiegogo Campaign: The campaign enabled me to pay for my first shipment of books, but it definitely didn’t land where I expected. There are a lot of ways in which I would improve on it (more below).
  • Book Launch Location: The location was really great. The only downside is the website has slightly confusing directions, so some people got lost, but they still managed to show up. I had at least 30 people stop by in a 2-hour time frame.
  • Giveaways:  On one hand, not many people participated in the giveaways. It almost felt like, what was the point? On the other hand, the people who won were ecstatic and let me know about it, and that felt wonderful.
  • Newsletter: I suck at newsletters, hah! This is still a work in progress! Now that I have about 250 people, I’m hoping that will lead to some sales.
  • ARC: Definitely glad I did this. My ARC folks came through for me and helped me get several reviews both on amazon and goodreads. I’m talking with even more people about doing reviews, so I hope my #questto50 makes it on amazon.
  • Paid Ads: Honestly, I don’t think these were worth the money. Unless you’re willing to spend $100s of dollars, I don’t think they give you much turn out.
  • Connections/Signings: Personal connections with people and in-person signings definitely were great successes. I’ve met so many incredible people over the last six months, and many also ended up buying my book to show their support. I did the same for their books as well. The biggest success came from working with the community. They always say you should build an audience, but I’d much rather build up true connections with people and have us help each other. Rising Tide, as Brian K Morris says.

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What I’d Do Differently

  • Press: I would reach out to more press outlets about my book. One suggestion an author made to me was to send formal invitations to newspapers, tv, and radio stations. If you can get a big star to come, that’s something you can talk about and attract more people. I’d also write more press releases to introduce my book.
  • Indiegogo Campaign: If I did this again, I’d give myself two months instead of one to raise the money. One month wasn’t enough. I would also promote it more, and likely do that through press news. My tiers would be more reasonable as well. I wish I could have given out more stuff to people, but I was still in the early stages.
  • Relevant Signings: I’m working on this now, but I would have set up a signing in Chicago right off the bat. The book is set in Chicago, after all. I should have reached out to Chicago bookstores and media as well.
  • ARC: I would find more ARC readers for the book. I’ve received many incredible reviews (thank you, everyone!) But getting more reviews right away would be helpful.
  • Time/Self-Care: Give myself more time to breathe. During the six months, I thought I was going to lose my mind. There were plenty of tears and nights where I felt like I couldn’t do this, and that I’d turn into a failure. It was because I wasn’t taking care of myself. I wasn’t sleeping. I wasn’t eating well. There were other factors that made self-care difficult, but the book launch was one of those major stresses in my life that I’m both happy and sad is over. I’d definitely give myself a day (at least) every week where I didn’t work on anything.

I told you, this was going to be a long one. Overall, I think the book launch was a big success. In 7 days, I sold about 70 books, and I have interviews and signings coming up over the next few months. I’m working to attend bigger conventions that might bring more attention to my book, and to me as an author. Maybe I’ll even find an agent to represent me for the other stacks of books I have waiting in the wings.

As a final note, I want to again thank everyone who has supported me through this journey. You all are incredible and I can’t thank you enough.

As always, if you have a topic you’d like me to discuss, post it below!

Happy writing!

The Joys and Woes of Writing

About a week ago, I reached out to #writingcommunity on twitter and asked people what was the best and worst thing about being a writer. The answers were mixed, but there was definitely a theme that I could relate with. (You can find the original thread here).

Best Thing About Being a Writer

  • Getting lost in the world I’ve created
  • Watching my characters deal with the world and events I throw at them.
  • Meeting other writers and hanging out with them
  • Creating worlds and characters and watching them develop
  • Living vicariously through a character
  • Writing is magic and creativity is joy
  • Having people who “get” you
  • Feeling like this is exactly what I’m meant to do in life.

Worst Thing About Being a Writer

  • Separating honest feedback from the trolls
  • Being asked, “How much do you earn from your writing” or “How many books have you published?”
  • Having to do so much of the process alone
  • Writing is solitary
  • Feeling I have no idea what I’m doing and wanting to give up
  • Fearing that my story is terrible
  • No immediate rewards, payments, or feedback
  • Feeling isolated and unmotivated
  • Fearing Failure
  • Isolating
  • Fearing Failure
  • Isolating

I think you can notice a theme with the “worst” thing. For many, writing is an isolating craft. You create characters and a world from your head, put it all down on paper, huddle with a computer and a notepad to develop your story…it’s hard not to feel alone. At the same time, we fear what happens when we offer our work to people through way of editing or publishing. Will they provide honest feedback? Will they hate it? Will they review it at all? How dare we bare our soul to the world?

It’s often said that we are our own worst critics, and I think we can see that in the list above. We’re so afraid of failure and how our story isn’t good enough. We beat ourselves down, thinking we can never amount to the other authors out there. It’s a heartbreaking feeling, and it sometimes keeps writers from putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. Some people stop all together because of that insurmountable feeling that they’re not good enough.

But, on the flip side, look at all the amazing things that come out of writing. When you meet other creative minds, it’s wonderful to develop a community where you can support each other. As I write this, I’m with The Rainbow Room of The Writers’ Rooms, an LGBT writing group. I’ve met incredible people through the Rooms, through twitter, instagram, facebook, etc. There’s a community out there for you, you just have to find the right one. If anything, start with #writingcommunity on twitter.

Writing also allows you to let your creative juices flow into the creation of worlds, characters, magic systems, alien races, and more. How amazing is that? You get to develop this thing that you can call your very own! I often read books to escape reality and stresses of the day. Writing (usually) lets me do the same thing, provided I’m not ready to throw the book out the window. That’s special, and you should feel proud of the things you develop. Yes, first drafts suck. Yes, we all need and editor. But in the end, you take nothing and make something incredible; be proud!

Writing, as with all things, can have its drawbacks, but if we focus only on the negative, then we miss the good things that come with it. So to those of you struggling and wondering if you’re good enough or if you’re the only one who feels alone…there are others out there who feel exactly the same way. You aren’t alone. And I hope you find the courage to pick up that pen or open up that laptop and share your story with the world. Because you deserve to be heard.

Book Launch Day

It finally happened.

The Purple Door District officially launched on Saturday, December 15th, 2018, and it was spectacular.

If you had told me at the beginning of 2018 that I would decide to publish one of my books, I probably would have laughed. Over the course of six months, I started my own marketing campaign (with the help of other brilliant writers like Alexandra Penn and Brian K Morris), and began furiously editing my book. My social media realm exploded, and I delved into the world of being an indie author. There was joy, and there were tears, but it all came together on Saturday in a way I never could have imagined.

I started my day out at the North Liberty Community Library where I sat with five other lovely authors: Jolene Buchheit, Mary Chalupsky, Alexandra Penn, M.L. Williams, and Jo Salemink. The whole event was set up by Jenn Thompson and IABE. It was my very first time officially setting up my table, and it came out beautifully.

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I was delighted by a visit from my college professor, Glenn Freeman who has published a few poetry books of his own! All of the authors were incredibly supportive, and it gave me the courage to put on the event that night.

At the same time, my co-creator, AE Kellar, received a gift package in the mail full of swag and the book. And I got to see her joy and excitement as she tore into it and realized that the world we’d created over the course of 6 years had finally come to life for everyone to see.

I hosted the official book launch at The Makers’ Loft in downtown Iowa City. It seemed like the perfect location for selling, reading, eating, and meeting other incredible people. And the table just dazzled, especially surrounded by my friends.

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Throughout the night, people joined us for the celebration. I met new fans and welcomed fellow Writers’ Rooms writers and former professors with open arms. We even got to celebrate with a delicious cake that welcomed everyone to the District.

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After a great evening of selling books and talking to people, I actually held a reading. This was the first time I read my book in public, and I was so nervous. But everyone was supportive and receptive. I couldn’t have asked for a better audience.

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Most of all, I can’t thank my friend Desiree enough for being with me to set things up, take them down, and just help me through the nerves. She even dressed to match my table! It made me realize just how lucky I am to have this community in my life. With you all, I’m never really alone.

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I had hoped at least a handful of people would come to help me celebrate, but you all more than came through for me. Thank you for making this a night and experience to remember.

When I first started writing, I ached with loneliness. I didn’t know any other writers and I didn’t really have many people to share my craft with who understood what I was trying to do. I was the oddball, and all I wanted was someone who got me and shared my passion.

I’ve found that literary family in Iowa City. The passion and excitement for writing is intoxicating and infectious. I felt it first through Cornell’s English Department, and then the Iowa Writers’ House, and now through The Writers’ Rooms. We all come from varied backgrounds and have different stories to tell, but in the end, we’re all writers. We all need companionship and people who understand where we’re coming from.

That’s why The Purple Door District is so special to me. It’s all about community coming together, and that’s what my friends and fellow writers did for me. So thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for making me feel like I have a place to call home. Thank you for welcoming a scared kid hoping to be a writer into the world of being an adult author. I hope that I’ve been able to give as much support and love back to you as I received last night.

And it’s not over. The Purple Door District is the first of many books to come, and I can’t wait to see what happens next on this journey.

Happy writing to you all!

Erin

You can purchase The Purple Door District at:

Amazon in kindle and paper!

My website for a signed copy.

Prairie Lights in Iowa City

M and M Bookstore in Cedar Rapids

The Maker’s Loft in Iowa City

 

Launch Week and What Comes Next

I can’t believe it’s finally here. After six months of planning, plotting, and procrastinating (we all do it), The Purple Door District is finally going to see the light of day. I’ve already sent a few copies out to ARC readers and to my indiegogo supporters, and the reviews thus far have been great. My favorite has to be:

“Casey caught me hook, line, and sinker and I’m already impatient for the sequel!” -Rebecca Daniels.

At this moment I’m putting the final pieces of the launch together. I dropped books off at Prairie Lights and M and M Bookstore. It’s surreal to be handing them a paper copy of my book. My bookmarks at Haunted Bookshop are gone already, and a couple press releases should be appearing in the paper any day now. Everything is headed in the right direction.

On Saturday, December 15th, the book will launch both on amazon and in stores. My first signing is at the North Liberty Community Library where there will be free cookies and pictures with Santa for the kids while parents do last-minute shopping. It’s my first chance to sell my books beside other authors, and I can’t wait. I’ve met so many incredible people over this past year, and it’ll be such an honor to actually sell my book beside them. If you’re in the North Liberty area, stop on by from 10am-1pm. You can find more information here.

Saturday night will be the big event. From 6:30-8:30 pm, I’m holding a signing and reading event at The Makers’ Loft in Iowa City. This is a fantastic new business that helps support local indie creators. They’ve agreed to sell my books there as well because they want to start a book section. People can come get their books, celebrate with dessert, and then listen to a reading at 8 pm. I’m also holding a raffle. Authors Shakyra Dunn, R.C. Davis, Alexandra Penn, Eliza David, and more, will donate their books to the prize pool. You might walk away with more than a couple of gifts!

And speaking of gifts, Marion Mavis, author of The Supremacy Witch, and I are doing a giveaway on Instagram! Go check out our guidelines on how to win signed copies of both of our books!

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I really hope to have a great turn out to blog about. You can be sure I’ll take pictures, and I’m planning to do a brief live recording as well.

Then, on Sunday, I’ll finally face plant my bed and get some rest.

This whole experience has been incredible, but it’s also been draining. There have been more than a few times that I’ve wanted to throw up my hands and toss in the towel. Publishing a book is practically a second job. When I’m not doing my daily work and volunteer positions, I’m usually busy with writing, editing, or marketing. I’ll admit I haven’t taken quite enough time for myself since the whole process started, but I’m hoping to get some breathing room now that the book is going to be published.

What then, do you ask? What’s the future of The Purple Door District?

The answer is twofold. This will not be the only book. I started working on book 2, tentatively named Wolf Pit, and I’m already 50,000 words into it. My hope is that I can publish it in 2019. At the same time, my co-creator and I, AE Kellar, plan to work on our main series to get that ready for publication. We have a lot of work ahead of us, but with The Purple Door District finally taking flight, we think we’re ready to crank the work out.

The story doesn’t end here, my friends.

The journey is just beginning.

Brace Yourselves: #Pitmad is Coming

That’s right all you literary hopefuls, #pitmad is just around the corner! But what exactly is #pitmad, and how do you participate? I thought I’d give you a run down and suggestions while I also furiously scribble out pitches for the event.

#Pitmad is a quarterly pitch party where writers tweet a 280-character pitch for their finished manuscripts. Agents and editors will be scouring twitter and liking/favoring tweeted pitches that catch their attention. If they like your tweet, that means they want you to query your book to them. Yes, this is a real thing. People have landed agents and editors this way!

Some things to keep in mind:

  • Make sure your manuscript is complete. This event is for people who are ready to query their books (query letter, manuscript, synopsis and all). If you can’t participate on December 6th (8am-8pm EST), don’t worry! The next one is March 7th.
  • Don’t favorite other friends’ tweets, because that’s how agents communicate with the authors. If you want to support your friend, retweet their post!
  • Include #pitmad and an age category to help the agents better find your work.
  • You can pitch more than one manuscript, but each manuscript only gets three pitches for the whole day, so space them out.
  • If an agent or editor likes your tweet, make sure to research them to ensure it’s someone you want to represent you.

For more information, check the official website.

But what is a pitch, you might ask? It’s basically a summary of your story in 280 characters. That’s right, that huge manuscript you wrote? You need to tell us the most important things about it in a sentence or two.

And you thought writing a synopsis was hard.

Writing the perfect pitch can seem impossible, which is why you should check out Amelie Zhao’s blog post How to Write a Killer Twitter Pitch. She gives excellent examples of pitches that caught an agent’s attention, including her own during #dvpitch.

A few tips to keep in mind are:

  • Introduce a protagonist and antagonist.
  • Explain what’s at stake.
  • Add in what makes your pitch/story unique.
  • Show your personality.
  • Think of comps, or books that are similar to yours to show you know what kind of audience your book will attract.
  • Test your pitch out on other people.

Amelie breaks this down into even more detail, but this list can help you get started. Also, don’t get discouraged if you don’t get chosen. Thousands of people are pitching at the same time, and agents have to sift through everyone. That’s why it’s so important to make your pitch unique and eye-catching (and I don’t mean by using images).

If you’re doing #pitmad, give a shout out below, and feel free to practice your pitch!

Good luck and happy writing!

Traditional Publishing 101

Ever since finishing two of my books, I’ve had to ask the tough question of whether I want to go indie or traditional with publishing. Well, I don’t like making decisions, so I decided to be a hybrid. While I’m indie publishing The Purple Door District in December, I’m also trying to go the traditional route with my other book Dragon Steal.

But what does it take to publish a book traditionally? I had a friend ask me this question recently, so I thought I’d toss up my own thoughts on the whole process. Keep in mind, this is just based on what I’ve learned through my own journey and studies. If you have advice about publishing, feel free to post it down below.

Warning! This is going to be a longer topic. I originally wrote this for The Writers’ Rooms, and I’ve expanded upon it for my readers here.

Pros and Cons of Traditional Publishing

  • They know their stuff. Traditional publishers are in the business, so they know how to get the job done. They have a team of people who can do all the little fiddly bits (covers, back matter, editing, marketing, legalese, rights, taxes…) so you don’t have to do it on your own. It saves you a huge headache. 
  • Legitimacy. Because of the gatekeepers, people know that if a book is good enough to be published traditionally there’s a certain expectation of quality–or at least of whatever quality the publishing house is known for. (Note: this does not mean that indie publishing is not legitimate. There’s still a stigma against self-publishing, but it’s dissipating day by day).  
  • Marketing. You don’t have to do your marketing alone! A team will help you, though you will still be expected to market your story somewhat.
  • But… They take whatever they think is marketable. This can mean a distinct lack of freedom for your writing, since they’re less likely to take “risky” work.
  • But… Publishers are ultimately in it for the money, and will drop writers for the slightest reasons. Even well-established, upper-mid-range authors will find themselves struggling sometimes. Or, a publishing house could drop an author partway through their series and battle over the legal rights of the original books. 
  • But…It takes FOREVER to publish your book. For YA, sometimes a book that’s acquired doesn’t come out for two years. By then, the hot market could have moved on and you’ll have missed your “hot topic” window. 

First Step: Query Letter, Pitch, and Synopsis

  • Query Letter: This is essentially a sales pitch to an agent to get them interested in your book. It’s a brief piece that describes the story, provides word count, relates the book to other familiar genres/books, and gives a little background about the author. This is often one of the hardest things to write asides from your story. Make sure you find a good guideline example to follow and adhere to anything an agent requests in the query letter. You can check out my blog post all about writing query letters here
  • Pitch: The pitch is your elevator speech. You want to wow the agent, editor, publisher with a 5-second pitch, 30-second pitch, or 1-minute pitch. Think of it as 1 sentence, 2 sentences, and a paragraph about your story. Throw in something unique that is going to catch the listener’s attention. A great way to get practice is by participating in pitmad on twitter, which happens quarterly. You put your pitch on twitter at the same time agents and publishers are looking for the “next best thing.” If they like your tweet (or contact you directly), it means they’re interested in your piece! The next one is on December 6th, so get those pitches ready! 
  • Synopsis: Your synopsis is basically a long summary of your story. In about two pages, double spaced, you have to introduce the agent to your protagonists, antagonists, your world, your plot, and everything that’s unique about the story. This includes (gasp) the ending! They want to hear it in your voice, not just a simple retelling. This piece is vital, because it may make your break your chance at getting to talk to an agent. If you’re interested, I can write a blog post about constructing a synopsis. Let me know below!

Additional Resources:  

Tactful Ways to Say Awkward Things in Your Query Letter, Medium.com

The 10 Dos and Don’ts of Writing a Query Letter, Writer’s Digest

7 Tips for Pitching to an Agent or Editor at a Conference, Writer’s Digest

Step Two: Finding an Agent/Publisher/Editor

  • Research: Look for Agents who are requesting your genre. One easy way to do this is to find out the agents of some of your favorite books that are similar to yours. Books like “Guide to Literary Agents 2018” can help you not only find agents, but develop your query letter too. Don’t just query to a random agent. They need to be looking for the thing you’re selling. You can also check out Query Tracker to see what agents are looking for. Once you do find an agent, model your sample chapters, query, and pitch to their standards. Also, by no means should an agent ask for money up front (but we’ll get into that in the red flags section). 
  • Response: Response time can take a very long time, even 6-months to a year. You can query to multiple agents, but if an agent accepts you, you’re responsible for letting other inquiring agents know that you’ve accepted an offer. Typically, if an agent is interested, they’ll request a few chapters or the full copy of your book. Query Tracker is great with indicating response time for agents as well. 
  • Rejection: Everyone is going to get rejected at least once. J.K. Rowling was rejected by multiple agents before she found one. If a rejection says something more than, “I’m not interested,” consider that a success, because it means the agent thought enough about the story to write you a longer response. If you want a better idea what it means to receive rejections, take a look at my blog post here. It might help you out a bit. 
  • Acceptance: When an agent accepts your piece, it’s up to the agent to take the book to an editor and a publisher. She will try to sell the book to a publisher through an act called acquiring. Once a publishing house accepts it, the agent, publishing house, and editors will work with you to perfect your book. Keep in mind, an editor may require heavy changes to your book, so be open minded.

Additional Resources:

Guide to Literary Agents, Writer’s Digest

Step Three: Contracts

  • Contracts: A book contract is a legal-binding agreement between the author and the book publisher that outlines rights, obligations, and money earned. In a traditional agreement, the author retains the copyright and the publisher purchases the right to distribute the book in many forms (paper/ebook/audio, etc). The contract is usually dictated by the the literary agent on behalf of the author. Make sure you get everything on paper and you retain the rights to your book.

Things to Consider About Contracts

  • Rights: How long do they keep rights to publish your book? Is it for a year or several? Will they relinquish the rights to your book if their company goes down?
  • Series: Is your contract for a single book? Is it for a series? Will they reprint your previous books when the new series comes out? Do they have the right to cancel the contract halfway through the series?
  • Non-Compete Clause: This clause says that the author can’t write another book with the same subject or name during the life of the contract. While this may not matter to you, it’s something to keep in mind.

Additional Resources:

What is a Book Contract?, The Balance

Five Publishing Contracts Red Flags, Alina Popescu Writer

Red Flags in Traditional Publishing

  • Contract Publisher Retains Rights: Sometimes when a publishing company likes the idea of your book, and has had a similar one already suggested, they may ask you to write the piece, but all rights remain with the publishing company. If you’re more interested in royalties than having your name credited to you, this is fine, but if you want to retain rights to the book, this is something to watch out for during the contract phase.
  • Publisher Requires Money to Publish Book: Back away. You should not have to pay the publisher to publish your book. You should receive royalties, and you will work with a literary agent to figure that out.
  • Literary Agent Who Charges Upfront: Literary agents do not receive payment until the book is published. They will receive a portion of the book sales.
  • Promised Publication: Some websites will promise to publish poetry, books, essays, etc. if they’re submitted to the site. These are generally not places you want to submit your work to. While they might, indeed, publish it, they will ask you to pay for a physical copy of the piece and will publish it to other locations.
  • Agent/Artist/Editor Problems: Sometimes the relationship between the author and the agent, artist, or editor does not work. Authors have pulled back from agents before because either the agent failed to uphold their end, or the relationship just was not positive. Some artists who design covers may not have the author’s best interest in mind and may produce work that does not jive with the book. On the flip side, an author may express distaste in a book cover that the artist created (I’m looking at you Terry Goodkind), but the publisher will print the book anyway. And sometimes authors and editors bump heads. Do what’s best for you and your book.

After that, you will work with the marketing team to get your book out in bookstores and in libraries. You’ll set up tour dates to do readings and signings. Interviews both online and on television will become your new best friends. But keep in mind, the marketing team won’t do all of the marketing. You’ll have to do some of it yourself. For more tips on marketing, check out my post here.

Like I said, this was going to be a long one. Hopefully it’ll help get you started on your path to publishing your book. And if you’re going to try out for pitmad, let me know! I’d love to cheer you on.

Happy writing!