Make writing worth your time, says Jennifer Nielsen

Jennifer Nielsen

Jennifer Nielsen

“Writing is such a diverse field with so many options and possibilities, it’s easy to choose the route with the immediate payoff, or the one that best strokes your ego, but if they don’t get you closer to what you want most, then it’s not worth your time.” — author Jennifer Nielsen

I love this quote from author Jennifer Nielsen, whose The False Prince series I could read over and over and over again. Her books are filled with twists and emotion and deep characters that couldn’t possibly have just rolled off her fingers so perfectly in a first draft.

Writing is not easy. Or rather, I’ll say storytelling, because a lot of people think writing a novel is the same as a shopping list. But storytelling involves creating great characters that live and breathe as much as the reader, locations that feel like you could step right into them, and plots that are more complicated than a teen’s love life.

I’ve heard writers say they’re ready to be done with their manuscripts and to send them out into the world, either to agents or editors or through self-publishing. While I completely understand that feeling, I always urge them to hold off, put it in a drawer and work on something else for a while. Sometimes, our desire to give the story to someone else is because we’re not sure what more to do with it, but that doesn’t mean it’s ready and can be the best that it can be.

To put our best work out there, we have to go the hard route, the long route, the frustrating route. Because that’s the route with the most rewards: characters we never want to say goodbye to, settings we wish we could live in ourselves, and stories so complicated, we’d love to stay up late unraveling.

Jennifer Nielsen will be speaking and teaching at the Austin SCBWI conference in March. I can’t wait. Hope I see you there.

Self-Publishing Pros and Cons with Dotti Enderle

SeveredThe changing publishing industry is offering new opportunities to writers, but is self-publishing for you? My friend and great writer Dotti Enderle (aka Dax Varley) has been published traditionally and self-published. Her most recent release, SEVERED (A TALE OF SLEEPY HOLLOW), is a young adult novel that’s gives its own version of the Icabod/Katrina story. It’s a fun story with great characters, and I recommend it.

Dotti offers us a little insight into the pros and cons of doing it yourself…

Most of you know me. I’ve been writing since the 1900s, but my first book wasn’t published till 2002. I’ve published forty more since then and have six books coming out next year. These are my traditionally published books.

It so happens, this past spring, I found myself with a YA novel that wasn’t trending. Humor for girls. Check the shelves. Seriously. I think Louise Rennison is pretty much alone. But I loved my book. I had faith in my book. And there was only one person who’d publish it. That’s when my self-publishing adventure began.

But wait…Dotti…does that mean you’re now one of those 99 cent millionaires? Hahaha. How cute. I’m not even a 99 cent thousandaire…yet. I’m not going to bore you with all the details of my journey, but I will lay out the pros and cons and what I’ve learned in my mere five months of self-publishing…or indie publishing…or my new favorite, author publishing. Whatever you call it, it’s still you uploading your work to Amazon, B&N and Kobo.

Here we go.

PRO: DIY kicks butt. I’m the master. I’m in control. Me like.

CON: DIY kicks your butt. There’s definitely a learning curve.

PRO: The indie community is a group of fabulously supportive authors who are willing to hold your hand, give advice, and help you across that troll infested bridge.

CON: Your traditionally published friends now look at you funny. It’s like I’m back in high school and they’re the A List. Not all of them, of course. But some of my lunch buddies no longer invite me to lunch. This hurts my heart a little.

PRO: You can do all your promoting from the luxury of your couch.

CON: You have to be a social media maven. I’m not. But gosh darn, I’m giving it my best.

PRO: Swelling with pride when you see your sales numbers grow.

CON: Dying a little inside when one person returns your book for a refund.

PRO: Your finished (edited, copyedited and formatted) book can be published in a matter of days.

CON: All that stuff in parenthesis costs money.

PRO: Reinventing yourself.

CON: Sometimes the patent office is closed.

Maybe I’m just hardheaded, but in my case, the pros outnumber the cons…except for that whole not being a 99 cent millionaire. But here’s one important thing I’ve learned from the indie community: Your best promotion is you next book. I’m building a readership. And I intend to keep them happy. When you get down to it, isn’t that what it’s all about?

Thank you, Dotti. I wholeheartedly agree.

Anyone have any pros and cons they’d like to share?

Find out more about Dax Varley on Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr.

Upcoming Book Alert: Hidden by Megg Jensen

Hidden Book Blitz

While I’m still a huge fan of traditional publishing, I’m also all for the opportunities that are now available for those who want to go it alone. And as an editor, I’m impressed and admire those indie authors who go the extra mile to make their books professional.

Megg Jensen

Megg Jensen

Megg Jensen is one such author, which is why I’m happy and excited to talk about her new book, which is coming out in January.

Megg writes young adult fantasy, and if you haven’t tried it yet, you should check out her Cloud Prophet Trilogy. Anathema, the first book in the series, is great fun.

Her latest book, HIDDEN, is the first in the Dragonlands series. Here’s the synopsis:

HiddenThe mystery enshrouding Hutton’s Bridge is as impenetrable as the fog that descended at its borders eighty years ago. Each year, three villagers enter the mist searching for answers. No one ever returns.

Then a dragon falls from the sky to the town square, dead—the first glimpse of an outside world that has become nothing more than a fairy tale to Hutton’s Bridge. Except to Tressa.

Tressa grew up with Granna’s stories of the days before the fog fell. When Granna dies, leaving Tressa without any family, Tressa ventures into the fog herself, vowing to unravel the foul magic holding Hutton’s Bridge captive.

What she discovers beyond the fog endangers the lives of everyone she loves.

Sounds fun, huh?

If you want to win an eARC of Hidden and a swag pack, leave a comment on this post and one lucky reader will be chosen randomly. Add the book on Goodreads and tell me about it below for more chances to win. The winner will be decided on Dec. 13 and prizes will be sent out after Dec. 20.

Here’s where you’ll be able to find the book once it’s available: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and iBooks.

And catch up with Megg here: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Goodreads and on the web.

Eight Ways to Keep Up Your Writing Momentum with Anna Staniszewski

Today I’m thrilled to have a guest post by Anna Staniszewski, author of My Very Unfairy Tale Life and its sequels, My Epic Fairy Tale Fail and the latest, My Sort of Fairy Tale Ending (check out the trailer below). Anna’s got another series starting in January, The Dirt Diary. With all those words in print, she knows a thing or two about keeping up writing momentum — actually, she knows eight things — and I’m excited that she’s sharing her secrets here.

Welcome Anna!

Anna Staniszewski

Anna Staniszewski

In my experience, momentum is one of the hardest thing to maintain when you’re working on a novel. If you’re like me, you start a project with a million ideas buzzing around in your brain…and then you get fifty pages in and those ideas feel as flat as pancakes.

How do you keep the momentum going? Here are a few things that have helped me.

Write a synopsis. I’m not an outliner, but it helps me to have a 1-2 page synopsis of the story. Then I can refer back to it when I get stuck and (hopefully) get excited about the idea again.

Have a deadline. It’s unbelievably motivating if someone is expecting the manuscript by a certain date. So if you need a push to keep going, try promising the book to a friend, for example.

Just write. This advice might sound obvious, but sometimes I get so caught up in how a novel isn’t working that I forget to just sit down and write through it. You’d be surprised how many ideas work themselves out while you keep forging ahead.

My Sort of Fairy Tale EndingSet a timer. Don’t put pressure on yourself to write for hours. Set a timer for twenty minutes and really commit to your novel for that amount of time. You may just find a spark that will help you keep going.

Celebrate small victories. You finished that tricky scene? Yay! You finished a whole chapter? Double yay! Sometimes the only way you’ll get through the big stuff is to celebrate the small stuff.

Have a carrot. By “a carrot,” I mean a reward that keeps you going. For me, the carrot is the promise of working on a shiny new project once I finish the one I’m writing. Find whatever will motivate you (a fun outing, a chocolate cake, etc.) and use it to keep yourself on track.

The most important thing: Don’t get discouraged. You won’t love your book every day. Sometimes you might even hate it. Do whatever you can to keep writing because there is seriously no better feeling than typing “The End.”

The End.  (See? Small victories.)

Thank you, Anna!

Click to check out the awesome trailer for My Sort of Fairy Tale Ending.

Born in Poland and raised in the United States, Anna Stanszewski grew up loving stories in both Polish and English. She was named the 2006-2007 Writer-in-Residence at the Boston Public Library and a winner of the 2009 PEN New England Susan P. Bloom Discovery Award. Currently, Anna lives outside of Boston with her husband and their black Labrador, Emma.

When she’s not writing, Anna spends her time teaching, reading, and challenging unicorns to games of hopscotch. She is the author of My Very UnFairy Tale Life and its sequels, My Epic Fairy Tale Fail and My Sort of Fairy Tale Ending, all published by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky. Look for the first book in Anna’s next tween series, The Dirt Diary, in January 2014, and visit her at www.annastan.com.

2013 Debut Author Bash: Claire M Caterer

Debut Authors Bash at yareads.com There’s nothing more inspiring than debut authors, which is why I’m thrilled to be part of the 2013 Debut Author Bash, organized by YA Reads. Today I’ve got a wonderful guest post by Claire M. Caterer, whose debut book is the middle-grade adventure The Key & the Flame, published by Simon & Schuster imprint Margaret K. McElderry Books.

And Claire’s giving away a signed copy of the hardcover book. Leave a comment and you’ll be entered. One commenter will be randomly selected on Oct. 8.

Here’s the synopsis of The Key & the Flame, which is an American Booksellers for Children New Voices pick:

An ancient key grants three children passage to an amazing world where a ruthless king seeks to obliterate magic forever. If 11-year-old Holly can unlock the magic within herself, she just might find a way to get them all home—unless the king finds her first. The Key & the Flame is the first in a five-part fantasy adventure series for ages 8 and up.

Sounds wonderful! I can’t wait to read it.

Now I’ll turn it over to Claire, who’ll tell us: “What I Learned From My Debut Year.”

Claire M Caterer

Claire M Caterer

It was nearly two years ago that I got that wonderful, heart-stopping Call (“Guess what?! Someone wants to publish your book!”). And I’m nearing the end of the Year in Which I Was Published, when I finally got to hold a hardbound copy of The Key & the Flame in my very own hands (and yes, wept just a little). So what have I learned? Plenty. But I’ll limit it to Seven Very Important Things.

1. Structure Your Writing Time.

In my happy-go-lucky, pre-publication writing days, I wrote whenever I felt like it. I worked at home, so I could structure my own time. I tried to write for the first two hours of the workday, when I was at my most creative. But I thought that being flexible meant that I could chat on the phone instead of write, or do the laundry instead of write, or walk the dog instead of write.

Wrong.

Getting a publication contract meant that other people depended on my keeping a consistent working schedule. That meant—means—that voicemail handles the telephone. The laundry piles up. I walk the dog early in the morning. During my writing time, I write.

2. Make Time for Promotional Stuff.

Another good reason for writing first thing in the morning: It isn’t my only job. Promotional tasks took a lot more time this past year than I thought they would—on average, one to two hours a day. You all know that writers are responsible for that stuff, right? Stuff like:

  • blog posts and interviews
  • Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads updates
  • designing promotional items like bookmarks, stickers, author bookplates, signage
  • planning a book launch
  • setting up author events and presentations, including school visits

Make time for them. You will need it.

The Key & the Flame3. Be Patient. Really Patient.

Book publishing is a sloooowww process. Slothlike, in fact. You think it’s not moving, but oh! It just blinked an eyelid. Hang on, it might do something else after a month or two.

The steps toward publication seem to take forever: finalizing the contract (4 months), finishing the cover (4 months), the editorial process (4 months), the production phase of copyediting and proofreading (5 months). Many of them overlap, but still, the time period between the Call and my publication date was 17 months. That timeline is not only reasonable, it’s far longer for some people.

4. Make Friends with Other Writers.

There will come a time when Hubby, Wife, or Special Someone Else tires of listening to the whinings of the neurotic author. Best Friend, Sister, and Mom start to wonder why you’re always complaining when your lifelong dream is coming true. They mutter to each other and turn a deaf ear.

That’s why you have writer friends. They’re super easy to find online—the internet forum was basically invented for socially awkward, introverted people—and you will kiss your mouse every time you virtually chat with them. They get it, as no one else will.

5. Stop Reading About Your Writer Friends.

You’ll love your new writer friends. You’ll rejoice at their successes. You’ll be their number one cheerleader. You’ll be so selfless that you’ll think, Ha! I guess that nasty imp named Envy doesn’t live in my brain. Lucky me!

Until.

At some point, the envy imp will rise and attack. You’ll see all the starred reviews and movie deals and fan mail your colleagues are getting, and one day it will start to burn. That’s when you stop reading. Stop comparing. It sounds corny, but yes, everyone’s path is different. Chances are the people you envy are envying someone else—maybe even you. Don’t give that nasty imp any head space, because it will eat you alive from the inside out. If that sounds unpleasant, trust me: It is.

7. Write Down What Works.

If you want Year Two to go more smoothly than Year One, write down what works for you. Keep a journal, notebook, notes on the wall, whatever. Which do-it-yourself bookmark printer is easiest and cheapest? Was the blog tour a huge waste of time or did it result in a lot of good exposure? Who became your champions and fans? (Love them. Cherish them. Shower them with hugs and free stuff.) Which bookstores were enthusiastic and helpful? You’ll want those notes later, so keep them organized.

6. Keep Writing, No Matter What.

It’s the cure for all the angst: The how-many-books-am-I-selling angst; the everyone’s-better-than-I-am angst; the what-if-no-one-comes-to-my-launch angst. Stick to your writing schedule like a barnacle to a barge. Disappear into your head and talk to your imaginary friends. Not only will you get something done (because you want to write another book, right?), you will silence the noise of the insanity around you, and that will be a blessed relief. Writing is what this whole gig is about, anyway. Remember?

Find out more about Claire at her website, on Twitter, Facebook and Goodreads. And you can buy The Key & the Flame at IndieBound, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Books-a-Million.

Creating Brilliant Places to Write: The Writing Barn

The Writing Barn

The Writing Barn

There are many wonderful things about being a writer in the Austin, Texas, community, and one of the best is The Writing Barn. I admit I’m biased. The Barn was created by my brilliant friend and author Bethany Hegedus (Between Us Baxters). But no one can leave The Writing Barn without being just a little thrilled to know that a place like this exists and feeling that desire to want to come back.

Developing a great space to write and create is a skill, and I wanted to talk to Bethany about this dream space and what she’s doing to help writers everywhere.

Okay, Bethany, you know how much I love what you’ve done with this place. And to think that it’s a former horse stable! But it’s much more than a pretty space. What was your mission when you created The Writing Barn?

Our mission at The Writing Barn is summed up in our tag line: Retreat. Create. Celebrate. We offer writers, and others, a place to get away, clear their heads, read, write, and relax with private or group retreats. We offer classes and workshops to aid writers in the process and creation of their projects. And, we celebrate the journey along the way with visiting authors and illustrators autographing the “party porch.”  We also are available for book launch parties, book-themed baby showers, and even small weddings.

You have a lot of wonderful events there, including one I attended with your wonderful agent Alexandra Penfold. Tell us what you’ve got in the pipeline.

Author Lisa McMann signs the party porch at The Writing Barn

Author Lisa McMann signs the party porch at The Writing Barn

Oh, there is a ton going on at The Writing Barn this fall. Award-winning Latino author Francisco X. Stork (Marcelo and the Real World) is leading our last Advanced Writer Weekend Workshop for the 2013 season. The Advanced Writer Weekend events are a combination of lecture and workshop and the weekend is kicked off with a Cocktails & Conversation get together on the porch. Stork will be lecturing on “Thoughts, Gestures, and Dialogue” and we will discuss how to use reflection, imagination, and authorial technique to create and deepen our character’s complexities. The application deadline for the Nov. 8-10 workshop is Sept. 12. It’s a real treat to have Stork teach with us and I can’t wait to get many ah-ha moments for my own writing. You can apply here.

On Sept. 14, we have Triple Threat: Voice & Character with three amazing S&S authors: Newbery Honor author Kathi Appelt, Susan Fletcher, and Uma Krishnaswami. Our triple threat team will be co-presenting and writing exercises will be sprinkled throughout the workshop. Plus, included with the registration fee, each attendee will receive a hardcover copy of each author’s latest book: True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp by Appelt, Falcon Glass by Fletcher, and The Problem With Being Slightly Heroic by Krishnaswami. For more information see here and to register, email info@thewritingbarn.com.

Author Maggie Stiefvater at The Writing Barn

Author Maggie Stiefvater at The Writing Barn

The weekend of Sept. 21 and 22 is going to be a busy one. On Sept. 21, Michael B. Druxman, a veteran Hollywood screenwriter, will be teaching The Art of Storytelling, which will focus on screenwriting but has techniques for all writers to apply to their work. Then, in the afternoon, Michael Noll will present his Read to Write Workshop, where attendees examine scenes from novels and short stories and apply author techniques to their own works-in-progress. On Sept. 22, Dean Lofton, offers her popular Write Your Life as a Woman class. Attendees unplug, write by hand, and enter an inspirational and no-judgment zone.

For teens, in October, Yale grad and young-adult author Sara Kocek (Promise Me Something) leads College Essay Bootcamp, and I will be teaching Perfecting the Picture Book, one of our weekly class offerings, and agent Alexandra Penfold with Upstart Crow will be our agent guest, via Skype.

Told you it’s going to be a busy fall! But there is something for everyone. Writers in Texas, writers traveling to Texas. Austin is known as the Paris of Y,A and we’re thrilled to offer a diversity of programming. We hope to see many of your blog readers join us for these fantastic events.

How do you choose the people you bring to The Writing Barn to do workshops?

Sara Zarr fields questions at The Writing Barn

Sara Zarr fields questions at The Writing Barn

As a writer myself, I start with thinking about who I’d love to learn craft from. Then I approach The Writing Barn Brain Trust—writing friends from all over the country, mentors of mine, including Cynthia Leitich Smith and Kathi Appelt, and others—and generate a list of superb authors who not only write well but are tremendous teachers. Then I send out the invites. I was thrilled this launch season when Sara Zarr answered with a big ole’ YES before she even finished reading the invite email. She’d heard of The Writing Barn, had seen pictures of us online and was dying to come. Her sold-out event this April really took the work we do to a whole new level.

Locally, we have been and will be available for writers and others to rent and host their own classes and workshops.  NLP Austin is hosting a weekend workshop in late September and we’ve had interest from The Daring Way, facilitators who’ve trained with Dr. Brené Brown, author of the best-selling Daring Greatly and new O magazine contributor. It’s exciting to get inquiries and see what groups and types of events are interested in our space.

What do you hope people will take away from their time at The Writing Barn?

The Texas Book Festival party at The Writng Barn

The Texas Book Festival party at The Writng Barn

When writers come for retreat, I hope they leave feeling they spent their time well at the page, and they were able to do so without the distractions of daily life. I hope they leave renewed and fall in love again with the work.

With our classes and workshops, I hope writers leave armed with new tools for their toolboxes and plenty of ah-ha moments that they would not have had if they didn’t place themselves in a creative and safe learning environment.

And, with our parties, boy—I hope they’ve had a grand ole’ time, chatting under the trees, meeting new people, and if it’s a book launch, with a brand new autographed copy of someone’s dream tucked in their arms.

What are your future plans for The Writing Barn?

Lots! An expanded Advanced Writer Weekend Workshop series, some whole-novel retreats, perhaps some offerings for illustrators and in 2014, we will host a launch event for my new picture book, Grandfather Gandhi, co-written with Arun Gandhi and illustrated by Evan Turk. 2014 is going to be hopping!

Thanks, Bethany! Looks like I’m going to be spending a lot of time at The Writing Barn next year.

Check out Bethany talking about the Barn in this interview:

Interview with Kimberley G. Little, author of When the Butterflies Came

Summer Author Blitz buttonI’m always up for promoting wonderful authors, so when I heard about the Summer Author Blitz, I jumped on the chance to participate. The Summer Author Blitz is organized by Belle Whittington and Tabatha Perry of the Montgomery County Book Festival. Thanks, guys! And there will be a Twitter party for the #2013SummerAuthorBlitz on July 19 at 7pm and a Facebook event on July 26 at 3pm, so don’t miss them.

Kimberley G. Little

Kimberley G. Little

Today I’m featuring author Kimberley G. Little, author of the middle-grade mystery novel WHEN THE BUTTERFLIES CAME, who’s giving away a copy of her book and some swag (see below). Told you she was wonderful.

This book is her sixth for young readers, and it tells the story of young Tara Doucet dealing with love, loss, family and magic. Here’s the description:

Everybody thinks Tara Doucet has the perfect life. But Tara’s life is anything but perfect: Her dear Grammy Claire has just passed away, her mom is depressed and distant, and she and her sister, Riley, can’t agree on anything. But when mysterious and dazzling butterflies begin to follow her around after Grammy Claire’s funeral, Tara knows in her heart that her grandmother has left her one final mystery to solve.

Tara finds a stack of keys and detailed letters from Grammy Claire. Note by note, Tara learns unexpected truths about her grandmother’s life. As the letters grow more ominous and the clues harder to decipher, Tara realizes that the secrets she must uncover could lead to grave danger. And when Tara and Riley are swept away to the beautiful islands of Chuuk to hear their grandmother’s will, Tara discovers the most shocking truth of all, one that will change her life forever.

Sounds so enchanting! I can’t wait to read it.

I asked Kimberley four quick questions. Here’s what she said:

What inspired you to write WHEN THE BUTTERFLIES CAME?

When the Butterflies Came bookcoverSo many things! The magical world of butterflies . . . spooky Louisiana swamps . . . old plantation houses . . . treehouses on an island in the South Pacific . . . and a girl who is connected to all those things through her Grammy Claire.

I love mysteries and wanted to try my hand at writing a mystery that didn’t have ghosts or paranormal elements. I took the prettiest girl at school (also a character from my book, CIRCLE OF SECRETS), but gave her a brain along with her silky, waterfall hair.

Tara begins receiving secret letters and keys from her scientist grandmother whose sudden death was untimely, and who imparts her secrets from beyond the grave through these letters so Tara can figure out who/what is trying to destroy the unusual butterflies her grandmother was researching in Micronesia.

It was fun to write about a very smart and very cool grandmother because I never knew my own grandmothers — and I hope I can be a very cool grandma too someday!

What were your biggest challenges?

The biggest challenge was putting the pieces of the mystery together and having it all make sense. Plotting out a book often gets convoluted. I use 3×5 cards to help me piece it together. It’s helpful to spread them all out on a big table or the floor to make sure the puzzle *fits*.

Learning about the island of Chuuk in Micronesia was also a challenge — without spending my life-savings to travel there. After exhausting the Internet and books and YouTube, I came across two people who’d lived there and was able to interview them. I adore the cool tidbits you learn through research and incorporating them into the story.

Did anything surprise you about the process?

I *love* unexpected twists, and there is a marvelous twist at the end of this book that didn’t come to me until I was part way through the first draft.

Are you working on anything else now?

I just turned in the editorial revisions for my next novel to my editor at Scholastic for Summer, 2014. It’s called THE TIME OF THE FIREFLIES and is about a girl who lives in an antique store with a cursed doll.

I’m also doing final work on my YA debut with Harpercollins Fall 2014. It was pitched as the YA version of The Red Tent and sold in a huge deal to Harper. The story is about the roots of bellydance in the ancient Middle East, goddess temples, tribal warfare, and a delicious romance.

A firm title is still forthcoming so keep checking my website for details and keep up with me on Facebook and Twitter where I’m pretty active. 🙂

Thanks, Kimberley!

And active is right! You can find Kimberley online at all these places:

And here’s the trailer for WHEN THE BUTTERFLIES CAME:

Have a look at the rest of the Summer Author Blitz schedule.

Now, click the link below to enter for your chance to get a copy of Kimberley’s novel and swag:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Summer Author Blitz

Summer Author Blitz buttonIt’s a Summer Author Blitz! Yes, that’s right. A bunch of incredibly great authors, giving tips, answering questions and generally being awesome on a variety of blogs. What could be a better way to spend the summer than reading every one of them?

I’ll be participating on Monday, July 8, when I’ll have a great interview with Kimberley G. Little, author of WHEN THE BUTTERFLIES CAME. Kimberley also will be giving away a copy of her novel plus some swag. So make sure you come back for that.

Here’s the schedule for the full author events.

Plus, don’t miss the Summer Author Blitz Twitter party on July 19 at 7pm and a Facebook event on July 26 at 3pm.

The Summer Author Blitz also is having a scavenger hunt. Here’s my clue:

Summer Author Blitz Clue

The Summer Author Blitz is organized by Belle Whittington and Tabatha Perry of the Montgomery County Book Festival. Thanks, guys!

See you on Monday!

Cover Reveal! Riptide by Lindsey Schiebe

Lindsey Schiebe

Lindsey Schiebe

The launch of a new book is the greatest thing, but when it’s the debut book from a new author, it’s especially sweet. That’s why I’m THRILLED (yes, it deserves all caps) to be part of the cover reveal for author Lindsey Schiebe‘s first young adult novel Riptide.

Here’s the description of the book:

17-year-old Grace is fully aware her best friend Ford has a crush on her, but she refuses to acknowledge it. Surfing with him is the only time she forgets about her abusive father, stifling mother, and the pressure to be impossibly perfect. She’s not willing to risk their lifelong friendship to find out if it could be something more.

No matter how tempting it may be.

All Grace wants is to graduate, get out of the house, and make the UC San Diego surf team. The problem? She’s never had the guts to sign up for a competition, the only way she’ll ever get noticed by the UC scouts. Until that is, Ford does it for her.

Now she has one summer to train. One summer to prove she’s good enough– to the scouts, to her parents, and most of all, to herself. As the training grows more intense, the violence at home escalates, and the romance reaches a point of no return.

Grace is about to gain everything she’s ever wanted… or lose the only things that have ever mattered.

As the tagline says: One summer… Endless possibilities.

Sounds great, doesn’t it? But check it out this awesome cover:

Riptide

I love the eye-catching design, the vivid colors, and the way the image lets me imagine all kinds of stories for this surfing girl.

I can’t wait to read Riptide, which is scheduled for release in May, 2013, from Flux. Congratulations, Lindsey!

You can find Lindsey — who has tried surfing, bouldering and other outdoor sports but has since traded her hiking books for family dinners and theatrical bedtime stories — at her blog and on Twitter, @LindseyScheibe.

What do you think of the cover?

Jonathan Poku on the Ebook of Borlosanti

As printing and digital technology gets better, it’s easier than ever for writers to get their work to readers. I applaud writers who take the leap, perfecting their work, hiring editors and designers, publishing and promoting the story to readers. It’s a tough road as the writer wears so many more hats, but it can be very rewarding.

Jonathan PokuJonathan Poku decided to go the indie route with his book Borlosanti. He’s here today with a guest post about his journey…

The rise of the ebook has definitely revolutionised the publishing industry. Never before has it been so easy for a writer to publish his book and distribute it with the main, albeit online retailers or to sell it from his own website to a worldwide audience. In the past a writer who decided to publish his book independently had to go round all the different book shops and struggle to convince the manager to take their book or they had to get a distributor to do this task for them. Often the profit that the writer could make in these circumstances was very small because of the cut the other two parties took. I experienced this problem first hand when I published my book of poetry called Welcome Back to Paradise years before the rise of the ebook.

Many independent writers reached these stumbling blocks and faltered, however I managed to manoeuvre around them with persistence, hard work and adaptation of my approach. I soon learned that having a good book was not enough. I had to be innovative, thick skinned, good at marketing and most of all, I had to find my target audience and go directly to them, i.e., do poetry readings in universities and sell my books immediately afterwards.

My experience with publishing Welcome Back to Paradise was great training for publishing ebooks, because as an independent writer, although it is now much more easier to publish and distribute your work digitally with the help of services like SmashWords and Amazon KDP, you still have to take on the humongous task of marketing your book and creating a buzz.

Marketing a book can consist of blogging, liaising with bloggers to organise giveaways and reviews, tweeting, engaging with your possible audience on sites like Goodreads, Facebook and Twitter and taking part in Amazon Select.

As an independent author, you need to be able to wear many hats because you are responsible for doing the different jobs that a publisher usually has a team of people doing, i.e., commissioning art work, editing, marketing, finance, PR and so on. You do not have the luxury of focusing solely on your writing while others worry about the business side of things.

Borlosanti bookcover

After spending a year writing and rewriting Borlosanti many times, I finally sent it to a few editors and got a couple of people to read it. Once I received everyone’s feedback, I carefully assessed which criticisms were valid and which were not before I did a final rewrite taking the valid criticism into account. This was a very hard task because I couldn’t allow my emotional ties to my book to influence my decisions. I had to be objective for the good of the book. At this point, I gave a friend who was good at art my design for the cover and asked them to do it more professionally. Once I had a book and a cover that I was happy with, I sent my book to one of the people on the SmashWords formatting list. After it was formatted, I uploaded it to SmashWords so that they could distribute it to all of the major online retailers and then I uploaded it to Amazon’s KDP.


Borlosanti
was inspired by a role playing game I used to play with my friends in primary school. Writing and publishing it has been one of the most rewarding things I have ever done. However my journey with Borlosanti is not over because I have to continue to market it whilst working on its sequel.

Personally although self-publishing is far from easy, I absolutely love it because there are so many challenges and there is so much to learn. My advice for anybody who wants to embark on this journey is to:

  • Stay committed
  • Allocate an adequate amount of time for writing and marketing on a daily basis
  • Apply the same level if not more energy than the amount you put into writing your book into the marketing and promotion of it
  • Start marketing before you even finish writing the book
  • Base your marketing activities on tangible facts (do more of what works) and
  • Learn from others like Amanda Hocking, J.A Konrath, John Locke and so on.

At the moment, for a limited time only, the readers of this blog can receive a free ebook copy of Borlosanti all you need to do is email me at jonathanpoku@yahoo.co.uk with the subject “Free giveaway.” Please remember to inform me what format you would like it in.

Thanks, Jonathan. Great advice about staying committed. Good luck on your continued journey.

Read more from Jonathan on his blog.