Tips for Attending Conventions

One of the exciting (and scary) things about being an author is promoting your book at signings and conventions. Some people thrive on it, while others find it quite daunting, depending on the size of the crowd. Whether you’re eagerly awaiting your next convention or dreading it, there are a few things that you can do to make your table (and yourself) desirable to your customers and ways that you can also take care of your mental and physical health.

Presentation

  • Table display: Take time when setting up your table display. You want it to be eye catching and connected with your book in some way. Don’t just scatter things about. Have a method and direct customers’ attention to your most important pieces, whether that be the book, swag, newsletter, etc.
  • Appearance: You want to be yourself, of course, but there are ways you can dress to help promote your work. Perhaps wear a shirt with your book’s cover art or characters on it. Choose a saying from your book and proudly display that. Or just wear something that’s comfortable but also appealing to the eye, something that welcomes people to your table. Whimsical can also attract attention!
  • Bookmarks/business cards: Make sure you have plenty of these with you whether you’re at your table or walking around. This is a great way to make connections and also show off that you have all your ducks in a row. If they can’t make it to your table, at least they have something to take with them to look at later.
  • Elevator Pitch: Have an elevator pitch prepared for your book when you present it. This should last maybe two sentences or 15 seconds, something to engage the customers but not bore them. You don’t want to tell them your whole story over a five minute interval, otherwise what’s the point of buying the book? Now, if they ask more questions about it, be sure to answer them and let your passion shine.
  • Greeting People: You can set up your own routine for greeting people, but make sure to be friendly, open, and honest with them. Even if you’re having a down day, try to put on a smile and engage with your customers. You’re more likely to attract their attention and get them interested in your book.  Consider standing, too, when you greet people. You seem more engaged that way.
  • Dealing With Time Monopolizers: It happens. Someone stops at your table and starts chatting with you about your book but then goes off onto tangents or starts rattling off conspiracy theories while you’re still trying to sell. Obviously you don’t want to chase a potential customer away, but there are ways to halt the conversation. If another person walks up, politely say, “Excuse me” to the monopolizer and put your full attention to the other person. It might help them realize that you still have work to do. Try to disengage by saying, “It’s been great talking to you. I’ve enjoyed talking to you, but,” and indicate you need to get back to selling. And if they still won’t step back, you have to remember that this is a job. Sometimes you have to be a bit blunt and more curtly excuse yourself from the conversation.

Saving Money

  • Bring Food: When you attend conventions, quite often food prices are jacked up so you’re paying an arm and a leg for it. If the convention allows it, consider bringing your own food (sandwiches, power bars, chips, pita, etc). You’ll save money eating your own stuff and have plenty of it available too. Likewise, bring plenty of water too, because water bottles cost a ridiculous amount of money (and kill the environment). I typically just fill mine up at the water fountain.
  • Set a Budget: Just like the rest of the convention goers, it’s hard not to get swept up in all of the amazing books and items around you. If you plan to buy a few things, set a budget for yourself so you don’t spend more than what you make.
  • Purchase a Cart: You’re likely going to have a lot of items to drag around with you to conventions. Instead of straining yourself, and possibly risking medical bills by breaking your back, get a cart or dolly that you can easily move around with your merchandise. It’ll make loading and unloading much easier as well.

Health

  • Stay hydrated: It’s easy to forget to drink something while you’re busy greeting people and selling books. But it’s vital to stay hydrated. You’re going to be working the convention for several long hours, possibly in the heat. I’ve gotten sick from not drinking enough. So fill up that water bottle!
  • Eat: Same with drinking, make sure you eat something. You might want to wait until there’s a lull in people walking around, but you can take 10 minutes to eat a power bar or a sandwich. It’ll keep you energized and fight off the dreaded “hanger.”
  • Take a Break: If at all possible, try to take a break if you feel like you’re getting too overwhelmed. Maybe have a friend come with you who can cover the table while you go sit in quiet for a few minutes. Or, befriend your neighbors who can keep an eye on your things while you run to the bathroom or take a walk. It’s hard to be “on” for so long. Give yourself chance a turn off.
  • Wet wipes: This was actually a great suggestion from my friend Brian K Morris. It’s easy to start feeling sweaty, dirty, and just uncomfortable when you’ve been working your table. Have some wipes with you to clean your face, neck, and hands to help refresh you.
  • Wear comfortable shoes/clothing: I know this can be hard if you’re cosplaying, but try to wear something comfortable, especially when it comes to shoes. You don’t want to be hating your feet an hour into the convention.
  • Know the Ins and Outs of the Convention Place: You can save yourself a lot of stress if you know 1. where you’re supposed to set up, 2. where the entrances and exits are, 3. where the bathrooms and water are located, etc before you actually attend the convention. I’ve gotten so busy setting up before that I just blanked out on some of these basic things.

What about you folks? What kind of tips can you offer when attending conventions or signings?

Pirating Books

Pirating books. You’ve probably seen this topic in the news over the past couple of weeks and heard the heated discussion revolving around it. In short, a website called OceanofPDF, known for hosting pirated books, was recently shut down. Publishers like Penguin, HarperCollins, and Random House issued tons of take down notices, and eventually the requests went through. You can read more about it here.

This should be a good thing, right? A site that’s allowing people to essentially steal an author’s work is no longer able to distribute the pdfs. Unfortunately, there’s been a lot of backlash in which authors are being called “Elitist” and selfish for wanting money for their work. Now granted, some of the people do have a good point. If they’ve already purchased the books and something happened to them, shouldn’t there be a way to get them back? Or what if they bought a paper version and want an e-book for the road that came out later?

First, if you lost the book, I’m sorry, but if you lost a DVD or music, you’d have to pay to get that back, too. If you want the e-copy, some authors will sell packages of e-books and the paper book, so you can just get it that way. Or just buy the e-book. Generally, e-books are priced a lot cheaper anyway. My paper book is $15, but my e-book is $3.99. I’m not asking you to pay full price for the e-book.

Some people have argued that 1. they don’t have the money for books or 2.  they can’t get them from the local library. Generally if you speak with a library about wanting a book, and there are enough requests, the library can buy the book or even loan it from another location. If you get the book around the time it launches, many authors put their novels on sale. Or they’ll do low sales or offer giveaways.

We’re not dragons stealing your money and cackling on top of our glistening hoard. Most of the money we actually make off of our books goes towards expenses in order to bring more books to you. Spend money to make money. So to have our work put on a site without our permission and to watch hundreds and thousands of people download it without us seeing a cent from it is…how is that fair?

I want to give you a look into how much it costs to actually publish a book. It’s different for traditional and self-published authors, but we all put money into it.

First, it starts with our time. I work a full-time job, and I spend most of my free time (what little I have), writing my novels. This is not just a casual hobby. This is something I want to turn into a profession, so I dedicate my time to it. I’ve taken courses in writing, storytelling, plot development, creative writing, (which costs money,) so I can create my books. It also causes a lot of emotional strain to do what I do. See Writing with Depression for clarification.

And then there are the other expenses once I’ve actually written the book. I have to pay for things like:

  • an editor
  • proofreaders
  • sensitivity readers
  • cover artist
  • promotional materials
  • book swag
  • programs like Scrivener and Adobe DC to format the books or a designer who can do it for me
  • buying the books themselves
  • tables at conventions to sell my books
  • hotels/gas/meals to travel and sell

It all adds up.

Most of the money that I’ve made from sales have gone back into my book or is being used to take care of costs for the next one. I’m not rolling in money, so yes, every dollar does help. Some people say, “Well, I’ll give you a review. That’s payment enough.” Look, any review is wonderful, and I’m grateful for it whether it’s good or bad. But the thing is, if everyone decided that’s how they were going to pay for the book, I’d have hundreds of reviews, but no revenue.

We pay money for movies, music, theater, etc, but when it comes to art and books, suddenly it’s just too expensive. I understand our economy is awful, and I’m drowning in debt as well. But it’s heartbreaking to realize that something I spent months or even years on is being handed out for free. If I want to give it away for free or drop the price, that’s my prerogative, and I would promote it so that people who are having trouble buying my book can get it for cheaper. Some say I get more readers if my book is given away for free. Hey, that’s great. I love getting more readers. But what about all the time and effort writers put into their craft? Does that mean nothing?

If it was just happening here and there, that would be one thing. But there are whole sites dedicated to this. I give books away. I reach out to libraries to see if I can get my books there so people who are low on cash can at least borrow the book. But that’s my decision and my right to do that.

I guess what I really want you to understand is that being a creator and doing something I love doesn’t mean that I don’t put a ton of work into it. I’m providing a service. Is it so bad that I would want compensation from it so I can keep creating and bring more stories to my readers?

I’d love to hear your opinions on it.

 

Self-Care for Writers

It seems fitting that I’m writing about self care after having to take time off of work due to a migraine. This is also why my post is coming out on a Wednesday. Normally I would have fought through it, kept working, and made it worse. The fact that I was going to write this post made me rethink my decision because, truthfully, if I’m going to tell you how to take care of yourselves, I need to listen to my own advice.

I’ve covered some of this in other posts, but I wanted to create a comprehensive list for anyone who feels burnt out or needs some support in regards to taking care of themselves. Many writers don’t know what kind of self care they should do when they feel low or if they need self care at all. Here are a few warning signs to start off.

  • Anxiety/depression
  • Exhaustion
  • Lack of desire to write or writer’s block
  • Irritability
  • Self-doubt or feeling hopeless
  • Overwhelmed

Some are you going to say, “Well, Erin, I feel this all the time!” I understand. I feel a lot of this as well, but when it’s starting to affect your everyday life, you need to step back and take care of yourselves so you can stay healthy. A healthy mind and body will lead to better writing.

  • Take a break/ Do something you love: If you’re feeling low and the depression is creeping in, try to take a break and do something you love. Even if you think it’s just “wasting time,” it’s not if it makes you happy. Play video games. Read a book. Go to a pet store and play with some critters. Host a movie night. Watch youtube videos. Or sleep! Basically do anything except write if writing itself is causing so much stress. Contrary to what others say, you don’t have to write everyday.
  • Sleep: Writers are pretty bad about getting enough sleep. Either we stay up too late or get up too early trying to get those words out. Consider adjusting your sleeping schedule so you’re getting more rest both for your brain and body. You’ll find you’ll become more productive and feel better.
  • Get off social media: If you’re struggling with self-doubt or comparing yourself to others, get off Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pintrest, etc. Shut technology down for a day and focus on you. Studies say that people often become more depressed after seeing all the accomplishments or exciting adventures their peers talk about on facebook. I know when I’m feeling overwhelmed, shutting down technology is my best route to recovery. It’ll still be there when you log on the next day.
  • Shower/Take a bath: If you’re stuck with writing, take a shower. Some of my best ideas come out there. And if you just want to get away from ideas and relax, take a shower or a bath for your body’s sake. I love how the water pounds across my ears and silences the world. For a moment, I just feel safe and like the world doesn’t need me. I’m doing this for me.
  • Take time for yourself: Make sure you’re taking enough time to rest and relax. If all you’re doing is overworking yourself to get that book done or meet social media standards, you’re going to burn out very quickly. Take time, again, to do something you love, or take care of yourself. Even setting aside a half hour a day to watch a favorite show or sit under happy lights is a great way to decompress.
  • Chores: This may seem like a strange thing to add in here if you’re stressed, but sometimes getting chores done helps me unwind. Cleaning, paying pills, making medical appointments, going shopping, etc.. Sure, it might be boring or frustrating at the time, but by the end of the day, you’ll have accomplished so much. Last Sunday I managed to get a bunch of chores done and that cleared my mind up to write for a little while.
  • Therapy: If you’re struggling with crippling self-doubt, depression, anxiety, or suicidal thoughts, consider talking with a therapist. I see one regularly to help me keep my head on straight. People will say, “Oh, others have it worse” but whatever you’re going through is valid. If something is making you upset or hurting your quality of life, then it’s important to get that treated. Seeking out therapy is not a weakness. It shows strength.
  • Listen to your body: If you’re getting sick a lot, or you just don’t feel well, listen to your body. It may be telling you that it’s time to slow down. We only have one body and one brain. If either goes out on us, we’re in trouble. So take care of yourselves. If you’d tell someone else to go to a doctor, take off of work, or rest if they feel like you do, then please take your own advice.
  • Support team: Build a support team so that, when you’re struggling, you know who you can turn to. Maybe you just need someone to listen to you as you struggle through your writing ideas. Maybe you need a hug or a reminder that you’re enough. Either way, reach out when you need support. You don’t have to go this alone. That’s what’s both so important and wonderful about having a writing community.
  • Write your feelings: We may all get writer’s block, but I guarantee we can all write about how we’re feeling. No one else has to see it or know that you’re writing it. Create angry poetry, construct short stories, write a blog post…do whatever feels right to help you acknowledge your emotions and work through them.
  • Hydrate: When we get wrapped up in writing, it’s easy to forget some basic needs like drinking water. And sometimes we can forget that tea is a diuretic. So make sure you’re hydrating your body (even if it does mean a lot of pee breaks away from your computer).

These are just a few tips to keep in mind when things feel rough. I’m sure you all have your own self-care methods, so feel free to share them below!

Just remember, you matter, what you feel is valid, and you are worthy of self care.

Prologues

To write a prologue or not to write a prologue? That is the question, and it’s one that’s been frequenting message boards and twitter. I thought I might as well throw in my two cents about this somewhat controversial topic.

The first, and most important, question to ask yourself is, what purpose does your prologue serve?

Prologues are generally used to introduce something important in the story that can’t happen in any other way.

  • Is a prophecy told?
  • Does something happen in the past that’s vital to the present?
  • Are there characters who need a brief introduction at the beginning so their presence makes sense later?
  • Are there Gods or Goddesses at work that demand their own part of the story lest they curse you with writer’s block?

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then you might consider writing the prologue.

However, if your prologue only serves to:

  • introduce information that can easily be told through flashbacks or exposition (ie info dump),
  • create an entire world that you completely obliterate at the end of the prologue because you want to start your story with more action,
  • make the story seem more epic,
  • prolong getting to the heart of the story,

then maybe it isn’t for you.

Keep in mind that readers tend to decide if they’re going to continue reading the book after the first chapter or the first few lines. You want to wow them. If you write a prologue that’s long, dry, and unimportant to the rest of the story, you’re going to lose your reader before they even reach the main plot line. It can also distract readers from your main story, leaving them to wonder why the prologue was put in place at all.

On the other hand, prologues are great for pulling readers into your world. It stands alone and can be used in many different capacities. Say you write the majority of your story in one character’s POV. Your prologue can serve to be another character’s POV. If an ancestor plays a big role in your main character’s life, the prologue might be the place to first introduce them. Is there an epic battle that takes place in the past that foreshadows the rest of your story? A prologue is a good place for it.

Every book is different, and so while a prologue might work for one book, it may fail for another. You, as the writer, have to judge for yourself what your book needs. If you give your book to beta readers and they indicate that the prologue doesn’t add anything, listen to them. If they say they feel like they’re missing something at the beginning, then you may very well need to include a prologue.

Prologues don’t have to be long either. They could be as short as a few sentences, imparting vital information to the readers before they step into the main part of the story. The prologue could be several pages, perhaps reminding readers what happened in previous books if you’re working on a series. Experiment with it. You might be surprised what you come up with.

In the end, while prologues may have fallen out of favor, they’re neither bad nor good. They exist for the sake of the book. If there’s a purpose to it, then that’s all that matters.

Pride

Today was a milestone in my life. I arrived home and found a package waiting for me in the mail.

It was the proof of my book.

Emotions flooded through me. Excitement. Fear. Anxiety. Pride. I’ve spent so many months writing, revising, and preparing this book for publication, I just didn’t know how it would turn out. I could open the box and find a beauty or a beast. What if I hated it? What if it didn’t live up to my expectations? What if I screwed up the formatting? What if…

I think the smile here says how I feel.

thebook

This has been quite the journey, and though it’s nowhere near over, getting this far has been an adventure in and of itself. I decided in June that I was going to publish The Purple District. I’d been posting it on Patreon for about 7 months at that point, and I realized that the book could actually go on the market.  I knew it would be a lot of work to edit, proofread, format, market, etc, but I didn’t realize just how crazy things would get, and how fast that time would fly. Nor did I realize how it would impact me mentally.

Most people don’t know what goes on behind the scenes when an author creates a book. You see their marketing strategies and the final products, but not the struggles along the way, or the self-doubt. I pride myself on being a pretty honest and open person, and I’m not lying when I say that there were several times I wanted to quit the book. I cried, I screamed, I threw my hands up in the air and said, “why bother? It’s never going to be good enough.” I went through the typical thing all authors do; I thought my work was trash and didn’t deserve to see the light of day. My editors and beta readers said otherwise, of course, and that gave me the courage to keep going.

But deep down, there was another fear. For the first time I was going to put a big part of myself out there to be read, reviewed, judged, enjoyed, hated, whatever the feelings might be. Part of me didn’t feel like I deserved the honor of having a published book. Part of me felt like I was ready to take on the responsibility. Today? I’m just proud to be able to hold the book in my hands and realize that made this. I didn’t do it alone, of course, but I had the strength and courage to see the book through.

It’s a surreal feeling. I almost don’t believe that I’m holding the book in my hands. Sure, there are flaws and there are things I need to fix, but I’m one step closer to being a published author. This opens the door to literary events, conventions, readings, and signings. I’m terrified to launch into this new world, but I crave it as well. Failure is always gnawing at the back of my mind. What if I mess up? What if I don’t do enough? What if I just…fail?

I guess in the end, it doesn’t matter because look how far I’ve come. Even if people hate it or it doesn’t sell well, I still did it. I still put in the time, effort, love, tears, and dedication to produce this piece of work, and that in itself is an accomplishment and something I should take pride in.

I guess I want people to remember to take a moment and feel pride in themselves and their work. Whether you’re just starting, you’ve created short stories, written full novels, or published your books, you’re all authors. You all have dedication to the craft. Be proud of that. Look at your work and realize, “I did this.” It doesn’t matter how big or how small it is. You still created it. Hold on to that feeling so that you can go back to it when you have moments of self doubt. And remember, you’re not alone. We all struggle with it and we all wonder, “Am I good enough?”

I think you are. Keep writing, keep creating, and keep shining. Be proud of yourself, because I’m proud of you.

And like I say on my dedication page, to anyone who feels alone or needs a community…welcome to the District.

 

You can pre-order the book here (paper will be available shortly): https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07K5JPRNM

 

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!

Engaging Your Readers

As an author prepping to publish a book, I’m starting to realize how important it is to find your readers. Between reading blog posts both by Alexa Bigwarfe at Write.Publish.Sell and Jenn Hanson-dePaula at Mixtus Media, plus learning from my own experiences, I’m starting to see that the main key to finding devoted readers is to engage with them.

When we think of marketing, it’s common for people to plaster their links everywhere online with a “Look at me, look at me” attitude. I do it too, though I’m trying to get better at it. You don’t like telemarketers calling you repeatedly promoting their stuff, so why would you want to see the constant posts about books, unless you’re getting something in return?

This is where engagement comes in. Jenn Hanson-dePaula notes in her article How Authors Can Amplify a Small Audience that it’s not the number that necessarily matters, it’s the interaction. With a smaller audience, you can ask them what they want. What kind of work are they looking for? What about swag? Are there particular items they’d like to see go along with the book? How do they find authors? What social media platforms attract their attention most? Get your readers involved and listen to the advice they have to offer. It can help you modify your marketing platform, especially if you think you’re getting all the attention from wattpad, only to find out that twitter actually gives you the best following. Go check out her article. She has a ton of fabulous advice.

Twitter is a really great place to meet and chat with your readers. I mentioned in a previous blog post that you can find your community there. Well, that’s the same if you’re looking for readers. Talk with people who have the same interests. Find hashtags that you both share. Heck, post up some of your favorite movies, animals, shows, books, or hangouts. It doesn’t all have to be about your book. Your readers want to see that you’re a person, too. And honestly, that helps them connect with you better because then they don’t feel like you’re on such a high pedestal. For example, I’m doing #pitchwars this year, and when I found out that one of the mentors I was submitting to was an avid Avatar The Last Airbender fan, the intimidation I felt fled because I could connect with her due to our shared interest in the show. We’re all people; we all want to be treated that way.

When readers send you reviews, compliment your work, or show intrigue in your pitch, there are a couple of things to remember. One, thank them. They took the time to let you know how they felt. They deserve your gratitude. Second, if they’re writing a book too, ask them about it. I’ve made a lot of friendships both on twitter and wattpad simply because we had a lot of books in common (both through reading and writing!). Communicate. Have a conversation. Let them know that they’re important, too. Granted, it might take time to get back to them all, but if they can take the time to thank you, you can do the same.

Writing a book is a big deal, and you might feel like you’re offering plenty to your readers by publishing it. But there are other things you can do, too. Write helpful blogs for your readers. Not only does this bring them into your world, they get a taste of your writing, and you might be able to help them with something they’re struggling with. Part of the reason I write writing tip blogs is because that’s how learned. I read online blogs. I ask questions of the writers. I chat with the people in the comments, because I like to engage and learn from the community. Providing workshops, helpful tips, or even inspirational memes can brighten your reader’s day and let them know you care.

Writers are often introverted people, I get it. And maybe these kinds of ideas won’t work for you. So then, ask yourself, what would make you comfortable to interact with your readers? What can you do to work your way into the community that’s not going to stress you out too much, but also will give you a chance to find the people who want to buy your book? If you have ideas, feel free to post them in the comments!

I hope that this helps a bit! A big thank you again to Alexa Bigwarfe and Jenn Hanson-dePaula for all their inspirational posts.

Happy Writing!

Wattpad: New Journey

I’ve been struggling to gain traction on my patreon account. So, I reached out to one of the many facebook writing groups I joined and asked what I can do to improve my process. 

Her suggestion? Wattpad. 

Gossamer

I’ve been struggling to gain traction on my patreon account. So, I reached out to one of the many facebook writing groups I joined and asked what I can do to improve my process.

Her suggestion? Wattpad.

For those of you who don’t know, Wattpad is basically a free writing site. Authors create stories that people can read, comment on, and vote for. Think of it like a fan fiction site, only a lot of the material on there is original.

That’s not to say you can’t write fan fiction though.

Authors can build an audience there by providing free writing. It’s an opportunity for you to meet other writers, modify and improve your writing, find beta readers, enter contests, etc.

Some people do have qualms about writing for “free,” and I completely respect that. You work really hard on your book. Why should you just give it away?

The thing is, if you’re interested in Indie publishing, Wattpad seems like a great way to get people interested in what you do. You can post things on the site, and if you decide you want to publish it, you can always leave a teaser chapter up for people and take the rest off. Just make sure you warn your readers, otherwise they may feel a little misguided.

Also, Wattpad has plans to introduce Wattpad Future where authors can insert ads between their chapters, and that will provide them revenue. It’s still in the beta testing period right now, but I hope it gets opened up to everyone soon. What a great way to support a writer without having to drop a dime!

I’ve only been on the site for about a week, but I have about 33 followers, and I’ve posted two stories. It gives me the opportunity to write little tales running around in my head and get feedback. I also get to play around with covers (like the Gossamer one above).

Keep in mind, though, that you have to work towards getting a following. You not only have to post material, you have to interact with the readers and other writers as well. As I get more used to Wattpad, I’ll write informational blog posts about it for anyone who is interested. You can seriously find just about anything on the website, so if you’re looking for good stories to read, take a look!

And feel free to follow me here: https://www.wattpad.com/user/erincasey09

Happy reading!

Tips: Writing Query Letters

A few months ago I decided that I wanted to try out for the Zebulon contest through the Pikes Peak Writing Convention in Colorado. The goal is to submit 2,500 words of your story, write a mock query letter, and create a synopsis. Up until that point, I hadn’t tried to write an official query letter. I had made a draft of one when I was a student at the Denver Publishing Institute, but that was more a trial and error attempt. It was very, very real for the Zebulon. They even created a mock agent that you had to address.

I don’t claim to be a perfect query letter writer, but after that experience, I do have some tips I would like to offer to those of you who are trying to get your novels published. You can try to go through a publishing company without an agent, but from what I’ve read, you’ll have a better shot if you have an agent at your back. So, here are just a few tips:

  • Research your agent: Know what he/she is looking for. You don’t want to send a fantasy query to a person who only accepts non-fiction stories. Look at some of the stories he/she has already chosen. That might help you decide if you have the right fit.
  • Include information about the agent in your query. This makes the letter more personal and lets the agent know that you’ve taken the time to research her. This may include mentioning the books she’s acquired, or the types of things she likes to read.
  • Understand the query guidelines for your agent. One mishap can cause your letter to get thrown in the garbage.
  • Make your query letter only a page long, or follow the word count guidelines on the agency site.
  • Be confident, but not cocky. Make the agent believe that you have confidence in yourself, but don’t be arrogant.
  • Be professional.
  • Sell your book. Create a strong attention getter that makes the agent want to keep reading your query letter. Depending on what resource you go through, you might include the hook at the beginning of the letter, or right when you discuss your story.
  • Don’t talk too much about yourself. If you’ve had work published, then include that, and the numbers too of how many books were sold. If you’re a beginning writer…don’t say it. Just show that you’re confident in your book.
  • Include word count in your query letter. Agents can often tell just how much revision you might need by the amount of words in your story (i.e. 300,000 words might be a red flag for a first time fantasy book).
  • Know your facts. If your book falls under a very popular genre that’s sold millions of books, say it. This means that your book might be easier to sell, and therefore the agent might be more inclined to look it over.
  • If the agent asks for money upfront, RUN AWAY. This is not a legitimate agent. An agent should not be paid until your book has sold, and she’ll take commission from that.
  • Spell check. I can’t emphasize this enough. One misspelling is a good way to get your query letter thrown out.

These are just a few things that I learned. If you want additional guidance, you can check out How to Write a Query Letter.

There are a lot of resources on the internet, but your best bet is to go through the agency website to see what they require. Good luck!

Collaborative Writing Part 1: AKA- Kill ALL the Plot Bunnies!

This entry is actually rather personal, dear to my heart, and also currently in process, so I have a feeling I’ll be writing several blogs about this topic, hence, Part 1. Sometimes two writers come together to create an intriguing story in which they share both the joys and pains of writing with another author. This is called collaborative writing. I’ve tried this method with people before, both professionally and fanfiction wise, and normally it falls apart after a couple of months (though we try to pick the book back up). I’m hoping that the project I’m working on now will last a little longer than that, provided my fellow author and I don’t fly out and, in her words, “stab each other in the eye” over literary frustrations.

I’m going to talk a little bit about our story and discuss some of the pros and cons of working with another writer. A lot of these come from personal experience but also from what I’ve heard other writers discuss. The writer I’m working with is A.E. MacKellar, whom is working on a series of her own.

Yes…we’re both trying to collab write and create our own series. I’ll discuss this as both a pro and a con because, really…there’s no better way to have your brain explode than to work on too many projects at once.

 

  • ALL the Ideas:

Pros: What could be better than having two writers together to share a mesh of ideas? Each person can bring something fresh to the table, and if one writer has a mental block, the other one may be able to break through that by fixing plot holes or taking over a chapter. This allows you to bring all of your own personal knowledge into the book and share it with your fellow writer. While I’m a little more inclined to write the “creative” aspect of the book, my friend prefers to do the research so she focuses on that while I help create our world. We have the ability to bounce ideas off of each other and make the story unique with our own personal experiences. Some of the ideas my fellow writers come up with just astound me, and I know that I could never think of them in a million years, or at least not in that night’s writing session. It’s invigorating and exciting to see what your friend has in store for the story and how it might change the actual direction of the book.

Cons:The cons? ALL the ideas. Not only do you have to endure the nonsensical rambling of the muses in your own head, you have to suffer through those in the other writer’s head as well. Ideas may clash, and when you bring something to the table that your fellow author completely shoots down either with logic or a negative reaction to the idea, that can cause rifts. Good writers can find a way to work through these problems and compromise, but sometimes a difference in opinion of ideas can really ruin a collaborative team’s creative abilities. In the case of what’s happening with my friend right now, we both have our own ideas of how the history of characters and worlds came about. This is perfectly fine because we’re working together to solve it. However, when you have several e-mail trains going at once with inquiries about how this would work over this and you’re trying to solve the issues with your own ideas…the process can become rather overwhelming. I’ve literally gotten a headache when I’ve tried to separate one idea from another, and when I’ve tried to sit down and write out character sheets, I’ve blanked out because I have way too many ideas in my head.

Advice: It’s good to have all of the ideas, but take baby steps. Don’t try to slap each other across the face with a fist of ideas. Focus on one idea and work your way up instead of trying to do everything at once. It’ll help keep you both sane. Also, remember to compromise. Not everyone is going to share your same views, which is a good thing. Other ideas will challenge you to make your own plots and plans better. Try not to take offense, and work calmly with your other writer because chances are you’re going to want to adjust her plans as well. Be kind and be considerate.

 

  • Distance:

Pros: Most collaborative writers don’t live in the same household, which can actually be a very good thing. If you don’t see each other everyday, you’re less likely to get annoyed with one other. It gives you some space to work on ideas by yourself and also gives you alone time so that you can get your section of the story done. Most importantly, if you manage to tick off your fellow writer (which I’ll discuss in further detail in the Plot Twists section), she can’t easily fly out to stab you in the eye with a fork…you know who you are.

Cons: Obviously it’s harder to keep in touch with a writer who lives far away, especially if she’s in a different time zone. You might get home one night and decide you really want to write, but either your writer friend isn’t available, or you just can’t work on the plot well enough without talking face-to-face. I miss the idea of having my collaborative friend come over and sit with me while we work through plot issues or world building. E-mail, texting, skyping, and calling work, of course, but there’s something really invigorating about having a fellow writer next to you. While my former roommate and I never wrote anything together, we were able to bounce ideas off of each other’s heads because we were sitting in the same room together, writing our own stories. She really helped me get through some of my blocks. Again, we can still do that over the phone or internet, but it doesn’t have the same feel. You’re a bit disconnected from the other person, especially if you’ve never actually met that person in real life.

Advice:  Try to find a way to work with each other in regards to the distance. Maybe set up a time to write so you both can make a stable schedule (in some cases, you may unintentionally do that anyway). Keep in contact and don’t be afraid to share ideas. However, try not to flood your fellow writer’s inbox, facebook, or phone with messages and ideas. For some people, that’s perfectly fine and enjoyable. For others, they may see that as an invasion of privacy, so work together to find a healthy balance.

 

  • Plot Twists:

Pros: I love those moments when I have no idea where the story is going and my friend throws a plot twist at me that knocks me off of my chair and into the next state. That feeling is so euphoric because your own story ends up surprising you, and if the twist can surprise the writer, it’s definitely going to surprise the reader. One of a writer’s biggest enemies is that dreaded writer’s block, so working with someone else helps lessen the blow of the block. If you can’t think of something, then likely your collaborative writer actually can. It keeps the story moving and keeps it fresh. It’s set in two views with plenty of ideas and twists to draw from.

Cons: While plot twists and startling new ideas are all good, sometimes they aren’t entirely what the other writer might have expected. Surprising plot twists can lead to “minor” frustration when the story doesn’t go in the same direction that the other writer expected. For example:

Friend: holy crap!

Friend: what the hell?

Me: lol

Me: had fun with that

Friend: *kills your bunnies*

Friend: Stab them all!

Me: THAT has been what has been lurking in my head this entire time

This is an actual conversation I had with my collaborative writer when I threw a twist into our story. She wasn’t pleased with me, and then she followed this up with a plot twist of her own which caused this reaction:

Me: (you suck lol)

Friend: (You started it!)

Yes, sometimes professional writers can turn into petty children squabbling over a new toy, and I say that with humor. Writers might try to ‘get back’ at one another by creating rather crazy ideas or new plot twists. This is all fine and good until it starts upsetting the actual story. When that happens, writers need to step back, take a breath, and try to regroup.

Advice: Plan different plot twists to keep the story interesting and alive. It’s fine to throw in surprising elements, but be considerate of your other writer’s feelings or plans as well. Remember, the story does come first, so if you plan a plot twist just to get back at a writer, reconsider your plan, especially if it’s going to ruin your plotline.

 

  • Character Sharing:

Pros: Character development can be different between sets of writers. For some collaborative teams, they may create a character together and both write about that person. For others, like my team, we create our own characters and mold them to our own liking. This is good in that we’re both extremely familiar with our own personal characters. When we share them, (maybe my friend has to write a chapter that includes my character), I can offer her advice on things my character may do. This gives you the opportunity too to write your book from different characters’ points-of-views. While my chapter might begin in “Sarah’s” view because she’s my character, my friend’s chapter might begin with “Taylor’s” view, because that’s her character. Sarah and Taylor appear in both chapters, but the focus is on one character over the other. It makes the story a little more interesting because you’re not just focusing on one person.

Cons: The downside to this is the fear of offending your fellow writer by making her character do something she doesn’t think is plausible. How you think the character may react to a situation may be completely different than what she would expect. This can cause clashing of opinion and some frustration on both sides. It can also cause a little anxiety for the person taking charge of the shared character because she’s afraid of doing something wrong.

Advice: My best advice is to just talk about the character. Share character sheets so that both writers know exactly what the character is like, his likes, dislikes, his appearance, etc. (I’ll be including a blog about character development in the coming weeks if you need suggestions.) Don’t be afraid to explore with the shared character, and if a writer doesn’t like what you did, just talk it through and adjust the story as it needs to be adjusted. The more you talk and work together, the more familiar you will be with a character. Also, discuss if you want to write chapters from a particular character’s point of view to make your life easier.

 

  • Multiple Projects:

Pros: When you start writing a story with someone, you have to realize that both of you may have your own private projects that you’re working on. In my case, I’m writing a separate series, as is my fellow writer. Doing something new can actually be very good for both writers. A new project allows your brain to rest and take a brief break from your usual series. Breaks are good because then you can go back to your own series with a clear head and hopefully with fresh new ideas. Also, when you work on your original project, it gives you a break from the one you’re doing with your collaborative writer. If my friend is responsible for writing the next chapter and I have to wait, that gives me plenty of time to work on my other series and not feel guilty about ‘abandoning’ our project.

Cons: There are actually a few serious cons when it comes to multiple projects. 1. Which story is more important to you? You want to make sure that you have your priorities figured out so that you’re not completely abandoning one story over the other. Make sure you don’t leave your writer hanging because you want to work on your series, but at the same time, don’t neglect your series too much because you want to work on the collaborative book. 2. Blending ideas: Make sure you can draw a fine line between both projects. Don’t take ideas from your series and put them into your collaborative story and vice versa. You might start to realize that you’re modeling a character in your series after one in the collaborative book. Also, don’t take elements from one book and throw it into the other. For example, in my series, I have “mages.” In the other series, we have magical folk as well, and I wanted to try to make them different so the two books weren’t so similar. In the end, we used a different term for our magical humans. Another problem I’ve run into is that when I have two projects going, I’ve actually taken scenarios and plotlines from one book and put them into the other by mistake. Honestly, I think I’ve just prevented myself from continuing the old series because of the similar plot lines. Make sure you have a clear path on how you want to write your book. 3. Confusing stories: We’ve had this happen where we’ve worked on our collaborative story and then got confused when we’ve gone back to other projects because plot lines started to blur. Or, in during the crazy idea we had, we took our current plot line that’s filled with magic and supernatural people….and we eliminated ALL of that. We made our characters human and then also rewrote some of their stories and relationships. So we had both that plot line and the original one going at the same time. Let’s just say we had several panic moments where we were like, “Wait! But isn’t he her son? Aren’t they related to these other people?!” only to realize we were thinking about the wrong project. I completely blame that on A.E. MacKellar…it was her idea.

Advice: Establish boundaries of all the projects you’re working on. If you notice similarities, put a stop to them immediately so you don’t have merging plot lines. Be sure to talk with your collaborative author so you both reach an understanding that you still need to focus on your own personal project along with the joint book. Try to do something to clear your mind before you shift from one project to another. This could mean taking a walk, watching a movie, or just surrounding yourself with research pertaining specifically to that book series. If you have too many ideas from both books yapping in your head, it’ll be that much harder to work on the other project.

 

  • Writing Styles:

Pros: As is expected, writers are going to have their own type of writing style. For me, I’m much more focused on detail and magic while my friend is very ingrained in scientific writing. I’m long-winded. I think she has a better balance of writing, but that’s just my opinion. It’s nice to incorporate  different writing styles in a novel. She can cut out some of my excessive writing and I can add more detail or flare to hers. We also have the ability to edit each others’ writing, which is always a plus. I learn a lot from my fellow writers, and I find that I adjust my style depending on who I’m writing with. It gives me the opportunity to hone my abilities, and it also forces me to edit more because I don’t want my partner to realize how error-filled my writing can be in the very beginning.

Cons: Unfortunately, having different styles may cause, as expected, problems while writing. Authors may argue about the language of the story, the pacing, the description, the length of chapters, and so on and so forth. Understanding of editing and grammar may vary, so a sentence I think sounds perfectly correct may sound like nails on a chalkboard to my partner. I have noticed too–and this may not necessarily be a con for the series you’re working on but rather for your own project–that sometimes your writing style might overall change to accommodate your collaborative writer. This change will make your joined project sound smoother, but it may also influence your other project in a negative way. .

Advice: As with most of the other topics, just talk with your fellow author. Learn about each others’ strengths and weaknesses in writing. Both of you should edit each others’ work, but be respectful and understanding that you may have a difference of opinion. Try to adjust your style a little so that you can match each other; you don’t want to make the story jarring for your readers after all. Most of all…just have fun.

 

Phew, that was a bit longer than I expected, and it’s only part 1! I hope that this helps some of you who are thinking of working together to produce a novel. If you have any other experiences in collaborative writing that you want to share or have me write about, let me know!
As always, if you think of any topics that you would like me to discuss, please post below.

 

Note: Art is provided by A.E. MacKellar. These are the first 1,000 pages in our series.