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Armed with your sword ( pencil) and shield (sketchbook) there maybe many of you who are soon to leave school education to venture forth into the big wide world. Although like a hero with your map and compass in hand, you now need to start to plot the path you want to take in lifeand especially if you want to pursue a creative career.
It’s a tough decision to make but there are lots of options out there for you if you’re driven and passionate enough to want to be creative. You could be an illustrator, graphic designer, photographer, fine artist, fashion designer, pattern designer, ceramist and much more. Although many people will assume that the career path as a creative can be a pennyless one, this isn’t the case if you’re determined and clever in the plans you’re making.
Though these options may differ slightly for each country, university, internships and apprenticeships are some ways in which you can pursue you’re creative aspirations. Each have their benefits and disadvantages, so its important you choose a path that’s best for you. For example university can be expensive but it gives you time, facilities and expertise to hone your creatice practice. Internships and apprenticeships give you hands on workplace experience, but you may not have lots of time to experiment creatively.
These aren’t the only paths to choose, but they’ll hopefully give you food for thought on what to do next. Remember though you can write your creative story however you wish. If you’re not happy with the decisions you make there’s always the option to change the course you’ve set moving towards your aspirations and creative success.
Featured image is by illustrator Arian Armstrong and you can find out more about her work here.
On some agency websites, the submission guidelines state that should an agent turn down a query, the author is allowed to re-query another agent at that same agency. What happens after a full or partial manuscript is requested? If the first agent turns you down after reading your full/partial, is it still okay to query another agent at that same agency?
There's no right or wrong answer to this since it depends on the individual agent and agency involved. My advice is always to Query Widely. That means if they don't say "don't do it" then go right ahead.
I'm always looking for good projects. If one of my colleagues was short-sighted enough to miss your brilliance, well you should have queried me first, but at least query me second.
Don't be afraid of offending agents. There's no blacklist, there's no such thing as the Query Police. There are couple ways to shoot yourself in the foot by querying stupidly but you're clearly not in that category.
If you spend a lot of time fretting about doing the right thing, you're going to miss out. Be bold. Query like you have the answer to my prayers. Add a Comment
BACKGROUND: Prince Marcel the Musical plans to win Marie’s affections in song. He is always singing. Yes, he does have a lovely voice, so it’s not the worst thing in the world to be a lute-playing singing Prince, but his battle skills are sorely lacking. He’s a singer not a fighter and as Claudette would say, “You can’t sing your enemy into submission.”
PRINCELY POWER: Prince Marcel can sing and chew gum at the same time, but whenever he does this, he always gets gum all over the strings of his lute. It’s not pretty. Or musical.
I’ve met very few writers who got excited over the idea of marketing and promotion–and those who did, were typically folks who did that for a living. Maybe it’s an aspect of a creative soul, but it’s not usually something that comes naturally to us. And the thought of pushing our work on others? -shudder-
I’ve always advocated that the best marketing strategies are the things we enjoy doing. Good marketing is all about making connections, and a great way to do that is by helping others. Volunteering is a fun, rewarding, and beneficial way to “promote” without promoting. For example, conferences need volunteers:
To pick up presenters from the airport and assist them during the conference
To help register attendees
To moderate panels and introduce speakers
To work book sale and refreshment tables
To help promote the conference through blog interviews or guest posts with presenters
All of these provide opportunities to meet and network with other local writers as well as industry professionals.
I’d belonged to various writers’ organization prior to selling my first novel, but it wasn’t until I joined my local chapter of SCBWI that I realized how valuable such groups could actually be. Up until then, I’d always been “on the outside,” paying my dues (literally) and attending the occasional conference, but never taking advantage of what the organizations had to offer. In fact, I was so clueless then I didn’t even know there were local chapters of the national groups.
Then I met a fellow author at one of my first book signings, and she encouraged me to check out Southern Breeze, which happened to be having their fall conference a few weeks later. I figured, why not? It was only a two-hour drive away, reasonably priced, and had a fun workshop schedule.
As I was registering, I noticed there was a box marked “want to volunteer?” Again I thought, why not? and checked it. Shortly thereafter someone contacted me, and I was signed up at the registration desk to help folks as they checked in. I spent the morning meeting and greeting other writers in my area and had a fantastic time. I was at that conference alone, but after that one hour I knew the names and faces of half the attendees (those in the M-Z section). What could have been a lonely conference was suddenly more welcoming, and guess what–a lot of those people went over and bought my brand-new book when they found out I was brand-new author.
That experience led me to volunteer to moderate the peer group critiques, then I helped out at the conference bookstore, then I became the bookstore liaison, and eventually the publicity coordinator for the region. Along the way, I’ve met some amazing people–from writers to editors to agents and other industry professionals I wouldn’t have been able to meet had I not be a volunteer. I’ve also had some wonderful opportunities offered to me. Best part of all of this–I had fun. Tons of it.
There lies the beauty of volunteering.
Obviously, volunteering for the sole purpose of promoting and shoving your work down everyone’s throat isn’t going to work (we can all spot a poser, right?); you honestly have to enjoy it. But ultimately, networking is what a professional conference or organization is for–to help the members of that organization advance their careers. You get out what you put into it.
Reasons to Volunteer: The Good Deed Side
Volunteering feels good, it’s helpful, and much appreciated. Many local events run on volunteers, and the more people who help out, the better the event is for everyone.
You’re supporting other writers
You’re sharing the task burden so those who run these events don’t burn out and get overwhelmed
You’re helping your organization raise money to educate writers
It’s a way to pay back any good fortune you’ve received
It’s a way to be part of the community you want to belong in
Reasons to Volunteer: The Business Side
Publishing is a business and these conferences are networking opportunities. The more connected you are, the better your chances of encountering something that can help your career.
Opportunities to meet and interact with authors, agents, editors, and publishers
Opportunities to speak or present workshops
A chance to be considered first (because they know you) when career opportunities present themselves–speaking engagements, awards, writing jobs, etc.
Opportunities to meet other authors who can team up with you to market and promote
Opportunities to promote your own work
Conferences take a lot of work by a lot of people, and they’re wonderful opportunities to connect with fellow writers and industry professionals. Volunteering can be an enormous benefit on both a professional, and a personal level.
Do you volunteer? Share your experiences!
And speaking of conferences…
Calling all kidlit writers and illustrators: Springmingle ’15 Writers’ and Illustrators’ Conference will take place on March 13-15, 2015 in Decatur, GA. Meet editors and agents from industry-leading agencies and publishing houses—and the friendliest, most supportive colleagues one could ever hope to find. Attendees will find nearly a dozen workshop sessions, including: 101+ Reasons for Rejection, Writing La Vida Loca, and Traditional Picture Books in a Digital Age. Visit their website for a complete listing of workshops: https://southern-breeze.scbwi.org/events/springmingle-15/. Presented by SCBWI/Southern Breeze Region.
Janice Hardy is the author of the teen fantasy trilogy The Healing Wars, where she tapped into her own dark side to create a world where healing was dangerous, and those with the best intentions often made the worst choices. Her novels include The Shifter, Blue Fire, and Darkfall from Balzer+Bray/Harper Collins. The first book in her Foundations of Fiction series, Planning Your Novel: Ideas and Structure is out now. She lives in Georgia with her husband, one yard zombie, three cats, and a very nervous freshwater eel. Find out more about writing at her site, Fiction University, or find her on Twitter @Janice_Hardy.
We are thrilled to welcome a very special guest today to Adventures in YA Publishing. NYT best-selling author Cynthia Leitich Smith hardly needs an introduction as her books are so popular with both children and YA readers and her presence online so strong, especially promoting diversity in literature. She joins us with an interview as well as a giveaway of a MG-YA first chapter critique! Thank you, Cynthia!
What was your inspiration for writing FERAL PRIDE?
All of my novels can stand alone, but FERAL PRIDE caps my FERAL trilogy and TANTALIZE series (both Candlewick), which are set in the same multi-creature universe and feature some overlapping characters.
The inspiration for the FERAL heroes was the prominent appearance of shape-shifters in my TANTALIZE series – most especially a Wolf named Kieren Morales and an Opossum named Clyde Gilbert.
YA readers were telling me that while they thought the heaven-hell battle had been fully realized by DIABOLICAL (Book 4 in the TANTALIZE series), there was still much to be said about the shifters. I’d left them in a perilous place, begging the question of what might happen next.
What scene was really hard for you to write and why, and is that the one of which you are most proud? Or is there another scene you particularly love?
Sensual expressions of romantic love are always challenging. Those scenes are tough to write – I have huge respect for genre romance writers.
Of the pairings in FERAL PRIDE, Yoshi and Kayla’s is the most physically charged. They’re both werecats – he’s a black-furred cougar-like Cat in animal form and she’s a dark-spotted, gold cheetah-like Cat.
They come armed animal-like instincts, against a life-and-death backdrop. The attraction is electric. But they’re also more complicated than that.
Kayla is only baby steps into recovering from the death of her first boyfriend and Yoshi, who has legendary experience with ladies, is suddenly faced with the first one with whom he could have a real relationship, a real future, if they both survive.
What book or books would most resonate with readers who love your book--or visa versa?
I’d recommend reading the TANTALIZE series (which is made up of TANTALIZE, ETERNAL, BLESSED and DIABOLICAL, plus two graphic novels TANTALIZE: KIEREN’S STORY and ETERNAL: ZACHARY’S STORY) as well as the previous books in the FERAL trilogy (FERAL NIGHTS and FERAL CURSE).
Protagonists (and fan favorite) from the TANTALIZE series return for FERAL PRIDE – Quincie Morris, Kieren Morales, the Archangel Zachary, and there’s even a mention of Miranda Shen McAllister in heaven.
There also are a few short stories set in the universe. “Cat Calls” and “Haunted Love” are available for free download from major etailers, and “Cupid’s Beaux” will appear in THINGS I’LL NEVER SAY: STORIES ABOUT OUR SECRET SELVES, edited by Ann Angel (Candlewick, 2015).
What do you hope readers will take away from FERAL PRIDE?
I hope they ask themselves what makes us human and what makes us humane. I hope they’ll be skeptical of media influences and think critically about what they believe and why.
What are you working on now?
I’m writing a YA realistic novel, HOW TO END A DATE (Candlewick). It’ll be my first novel with a Native American protagonist since my debut, RAIN IS NOT MY INDIAN NAME (HarperCollins). It’s feels both like a bit of a debut, after writing so much speculative fiction, but also like coming home again.
ABOUT THE BOOK
Feral Pride by Cynthia Leitich Smith Hardcover Candlewick Released 2/24/2015
The explosive finale to the Feral series by New York Times best-selling author Cynthia Leitich Smith.
Anti-shifter sentiment is at an all-time high when Kayla’s transformation to werecat is captured on video and uploaded for the world to see. Suddenly she becomes a symbol of the werebeast threat and—along with fellow cat Yoshi, lion-possum Clyde, and human Aimee—a hunted fugitive. Meanwhile, a self-proclaimed weresnake has kidnapped the governor of Texas and hit the airwaves with a message of war. In retaliation, werepeople are targeted by law enforcement, threatened with a shift-suppressing vaccine, terrorized by corporate conspiracy, and enslaved by a top-secret, intelligent Cryptid species. Can Clyde rally his inner lion king to lead his friends—new and old—into battle against ruthless, media-savvy foes? A rousing blend of suspense, paranormal romance, humor, and high action.
Cynthia Leitich Smith is the New York Times and Publishers Weekly best-selling author of the TANTALIZE series and FERAL series. Her award-winning books for younger children include JINGLE DANCER, INDIAN SHOES, RAIN IS NOT MY INDIAN NAME (all HarperCollins) and HOLLER LOUDLY (Dutton).
In my previous post, I offered that isn't it a wonder that using fictional techniques to relay the telling of facts and biography seems a natural fit? Monica Kulling is the master of biography. Monica’s poetic narrative – a hallmark of all her books – breathes life to her characters as she explores the thematic values of determination and persistence. Her Great Idea Series, published by Tundra Books, is one of my favorite nonfiction series for young readers.
Monica excels at taking a moment in history, oftentimes a forgotten moment, and fashioning a story that is both compelling and informative. The books showcase inventors, some more known than others, and how they were inspired to create their inventions that, in many ways, changed the course of history. Monica’s fascination with the late 19th and early 20th centuries confined her research to that particular period. When choosing who to write about, says Monica, “I need enough material to make an interesting narrative.” Monica researches extensively, using online and in print sources.
Inventors are clever, says Monica, and they are ingenious in finding ways to realize their dreams. She focuses on that ‘a-ha’ moment, when a great idea clicks in your brain and has you racing off in pursuit.
The picture book format allows Monica to bring depth and breadth to each inventor’s story.
Her book, It’s a Snap: George Eastman’s First Photograph (2009), illustrated by Bill Slavin, tells the story how Eastman invented the photograph, and thus ushered in the new age of documenting history as well as the advent of ‘selfies.
Another book in the series, Going Up: Elisha Otis’s Trip to the Top (2012), illustrated by David Parkins, depicts the founding of the elevator, allowing skyscrapers to literally touch the sky. And one of my favorites, the award-winning In the Bag: Margaret Knight Wraps It Up (2011), also illustrated by David Parkins, tells the story about the young inventor of the folded paper bag who eventually owned over twenty patents.
Says Monica, “I’ve always been more interested in the struggle than in the achievement. It’s the nail-biting will-they or won’t they, can-they or can’t-they, that engages a young reader most.”
Tundra Books chooses wonderful illustrators. Each of the four illustrators who have worked on the series has been able to depict the time period in all its glorious detail.
Illustration by Richard Rudnicki. Used with permission.
One of my favorites, Richard Rudnicki’s illustrations for Making Contact: Marconi Goes Wireless (2013) are full of the same energy as Monica’s characters. His sweeping landscapes, done in acrylics on watercolor paper, are particularly striking, depicting the Newfoundland coastline, with its cold grey colors, whirling storm clouds, and the bright dot of a kite flying in the wind make me shiver with awe.
Monica’s newest edition to the series is Spic-And-Span: Lillian Gilbreth’s Wonder Kitchen (2014).
This book follows the amazing story of Lillian Gilbreth, the inspiration for the matriarch in the movie and book, Cheaper By The Dozen. Her life is so much more amazing than a movie or a book, however. When her husband dies unexpectedly, Lillian forges ahead to raise her children alone. An efficiency expert, industrial engineer and psychologist, Lillian’s designs and inventions are still considered fundamental to contemporary kitchens eighty years later.
Thank you, Monica, for this neat activity from the Learning Activities for Spic-and-Span! Lillian Gilbreth’s Wonder Kitchen:
Talking about Clockwork: “The kitchen is the heart of the home. It should run like clockwork.” What does it mean to say that the kitchen should “run like clockwork”? Why was Lillian’s kitchen not running like clockwork? What was her solution?
Can you think about anything in your classroom or your home that needs to “run like clockwork”? What steps must be taken in order for this to happen?
As a class, walk around the classroom and make a list of any “inefficiencies.” Is there anything about the classroom’s design that could be improved on in order to save time and space?
Michael Paul Smith takes photos of his favorite town, called Elgin Park. The pictures look like snapshots from some midcentury utopian town.
Most of his photos involve some cars parked on the street and buildings and trees in the background. There are no people.
The photos are actually taken in the present day. There's no digital trickery involved. Everything is shot in-camera. The cars and street are miniatures, propped up at tabletop height.
Mr. Smith doesn't use a fancy camera, just a cheap point-and-shoot. These cameras work well, though, because the small apertures don't give away the trick with shallow depth of field. The great thing about this method is that you get all the lighting, reflections, and occlusion shadows for free, because the models are in the same light as the background.
Mr. Smith is an excellent modelmaker, and he has made hundreds of cars and dozens of buildings.
This video takes you behind the scenes, where he generously shares his process—and his backstory.
Use of foreground miniatures in "The Aviator"
The use of foreground miniatures is an old visual effects technique from early days of moviemaking. It's still used by low-budget filmmakers and the occasional big budget film. (here's more info on that from Vashi Visuals).
In this shot for "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," the ship was only 20 feet long, and the people were standing way back in the shot.
With our 3rd graders, we're spending a lot of time looking at how we understand characters' feelings through what authors write and illustrators draw. This helps students understand the layers of a story and connect to characters, but it also helps them develop empathy. Our kids loved reading a new book, My Three Best Friends and Me, Zulay, and really connected to the story. It's truly a special book about perseverance, friendship and blindness.
Adults might first notice the cane that Zulay is holding, but kids first noticed the braille alphabet on the back of the book. After they all felt the back cover, we talked about why Zulay might need to use this alphabet, so everyone started with a little background knowledge. Zulay has a huge smile on her face as she comes to school, arm in arm with her three best friends.
"We link our arms and skip our legs and sing like the stereo till Ms. Perkins, the hall lady, tells us to stop. 'You have a new perfume!' I say, and she says back, 'Zulay doesn't miss a thing.'"
Zulay loves her teacher, writing on her Brailler and helping her friend figure out a math problem. But when Ms. Turner, an aide, comes to help her practice using her "fold-ing hold-ing cold-ing" white cane, Zulay is reluctant. She doesn't want to be left behind or different from everyone else.
We talked about what it means, not wanting to "stick out", and why she might feel like this. I shared how hard it was for me to have to get extra help with my multiplication facts in 3rd grade. Kids talked about the illustration below, and how Zulay was feeling as she struggled learning to use her cane outside. We looked at Zulay's expression and thought about how it would feel.
"Then we practice together in the big outside with no walls or desks or friends."
Zulay's spirit shines as she decides that she wants to run in the Field Day race around the track. She practices and works hard, and--just like Zulay's friends--my students cheered when she ran the final race.
"'Run, Zulay, run!' my friends all shout, like I shouted for them."
My students could definitely relate to how hard Zulay worked, how worried and uncertain she felt when things were difficult, and how excited she was at the end. The only detail they were a little unclear about is whether Zulay ran with Ms. Turner, as you see above, or by herself as it shows her when she crosses the finish line.
There are very few picture books about showing contemporary kids who are blind, so it is especially refreshing to see one with such a positive character and inclusive message.
This week, kids will look at a big array of picture books finding examples of characters' expressions. We are excited to have a visit by Lisa Brown, picture book illustrator and author, who will talk with 3rd and 4th graders about the Art of the Picture Book. Lisa's characters are full of a wide range of expressions -- just take a look at her Tumblr, where she posts daily sketches.
The review copy was kindly sent by the publisher, Macmillan, and we have already purchased an additional copy for our school. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.
The I Hunt Killers series is the story of Jasper Dent, son of the infamous serial killer Billy Dent. It asks the question -- is the son condemned to follow in the footsteps of his father? If nature (the son of a killer) and nurture (raised by his father to hunt and kill) conspire to create a path for a child, will the child follow that path? And what is the cost of not doing so?
What I liked best about Blood of My Blood is that it showed the trilogy to not be three connected stories about Jazz solving crimes, using his first-hand knowledge of serial killers (though it is that) but one story, told in three volumes, about Jazz coming to terms with his past and figuring out what his future should be. And, yes -- solving murder mysteries.
Also -- and I almost hate to say it -- twists! That I didn't see coming! And that were so satisfying as a reader! (I hate to say it because sometimes saying a twist means one expects and looks for any twist so it no longer is a surprise twist.)
Amazon Affiliate. If you click from here to Amazon and buy something, I receive a percentage of the purchase price.
Yesterday's post sparked a few new questions and you know how much I love it when blog post take on a life of its own.
I have a question. When you begin the editing process are your notes and revision-suggestions based on a first read?
I'm thinking that if you have not read the entire book at least once you may make note of, or question something, which happens later on.
Copy edits pretty much jump right off the page but the other stuff, like plot holes filled, questions answered, twists and surprises may be further down the line because that's what the writer is intends, even though as a reader you may feel a little lost as the story builds.
Great post. I love learning how you guys actually do your job.
Typically my revisions are based on the first read. There is one exception and that's if the client is brand new and I just took her on. In that case, I read the manuscript first just to see if I love it and after the client agrees to become a client I read it for revisions.
Your question about what happens if later on I discover the author has done what I wanted is valid and it is definitely something that happens. However, in some cases I might think that it should have happened earlier. For example, if on page 25 I note that the heroine should have kissed the hero right here, but she does so on page 27 I might say, "ah, I see she does it here. That works." or I might say, "this works too, but I really do feel like you might want to consider moving this up a bit."
My feeling when making revisions/edits is that I want the author to see my thought process while I'm reading. If something seems off to me, tedious, over-written or lacking I want her to know. Maybe she cleared it up later or maybe she disagrees, but I think she'd rather hear it from me than reviewers later. Or at least I hope so.
If the writer intends for twists and turns to happen down the road that's fine, but if the reader feels lost as the story builds that's not a good thing. You never want your reader to feel lost because you only, typically, lose a reader once.
The first book in Mike’s series, Little Elliot, Big City, debuted on August 26th, 2014 and was the winner of the 2015 Ezra Jack Keats New Illustrator Honor. I had briefly met Mike a year ago in one of those … Continue reading →
One month is unlike another. Sometimes I receive many letters and many comments; then lean months may follow. February produced a good harvest (“February fill the dyke,” as they used to say), and I can glean a bagful. Perhaps I should choose a special title for my gleanings: “I Am All Ears” or something like it.
Sometimes we have to walk away from our own anger and hurt. We hold onto words from the past that were spoken to/over us or even by us. We allow those words to dictate our future.
The word forgive has been in my heart for quite a while now. It has stirred and churned through my veins. It's in my bloodstream. Holding on to a heart full of hurt is not going to produce anything positive or good in our lives. We must cleanse ourselves and allow that hurt to be buried (just as a sin committed and repented).
How can we claim we are Christians if we are embittered with the pain of twenty years ago and still holding on to that hurt somebody else caused? The Word speaks of forgiving in order to be forgiven. We are to be as giving with our hearts as Jesus was when He died on the cross. But sometimes we cannot do it alone.
Sometimes it takes confessing that hurt to a person we know is strong enough to hold us accountable. Speak out the pain in a way that will heal, instead of fuel the fire. And then let it go. If that does not work, then perhaps a counselor needs to be seen. Forgiveness is sometimes an instant action/reaction. But sometimes it is a process we have to go through.
Either way, though, we have to have a willing heart. Not just to mouth the words 'I forgive you'. But to truly allow the Holy Spirit to move in us and bring us to a true place of forgiveness. It isn't always easy, but all things are possible with God.
photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/85608594@N00/13659820903">Lama Surya Das Forgiveness means letting go of the hope for a better past</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/">(license)</a>
The New York Public will the “Spellbound: A Celebration of Spelling” exhibition.
This program celebrates the 200-year history of the English language. One of the items that will be displayed is the 1841 family edition of Noah Webster’sAn American Dictionary of the English Language.
Visitors will find this small exhibit at the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building. An opening date has been scheduled for March 6th and the closing date will follow on March 17th.
Book marketing is tough, especially when it comes to self-publishing. The good news is there is no shortage of experts, books and websites out there to advise authors on how to market. The bad news is that while some offer content brimming with strong, helpful advice, others impart ‘wisdom’ that belongs in a primer on what NOT to do. It takes time and the willingness to work hard to sort good ideas from bad and come up with a plan that is best for you.
But here’s a cold, unpopular truth about book marketing: you can do everything experts say to do, and still feel you are not getting a good ROI (Return on Investment).
There are a number of reasons for this. Here are some of the biggies:
It’s human nature to look around and compare one’s book to that of a similar one and weigh the success of each, but the reality is this is an unfair comparison. Every book is different, so how readers connect with the characters and story of each will also vary. And readers aside, each author will have a unique platform and marketing focus. So while outwardly two books rest in the same apple cart, they might not belong together, and authors should not expect them to perform the same.
Not only do readers’ tastes change as trends reach a saturation point (people grow tired of reading about X so change to Y), so does the online retail market. Going exclusive with Amazon used to be a golden ticket, but now? Not so much. Same thing with the power of free. In the early days, free was the fast track to downloads, exposure and shooting up Amazon lists. But technology is fickle. Algorithms shift. Subscription services enter the picture. And BAM, just like that, the playing field changes…what used to work no longer does, or the value of marketing a certain way lessens. So depending on when you release a book and what is happening in the online marketplace at that time can affect your ability to reach those big sale goals.
Anyone who says luck has had nothing to do with their success is either lying or naive. Luck is ALWAYS a factor – the right book, the right time, the author connecting with the right influencers to help boost their reach, and finally, being discovered by readers who will become super fans…this all requires an element of luck. Sometimes, people just can’t catch a break. But, that said, authors make their own luck by putting themselves out there. If you want to hear a knock at the door, you have to be close by.
Playing the game, but not getting why.
I know many writers who “do everything right” by pricing appropriately, paying for a professional cover, designing a website, blogging, getting on social media, running visibility events, book signings, speaking engagements…and they still don’t feel it’s working. A person can do every strategic thing right and still fail if they don’t understand and respect that their number one goal should be to connect genuinely with readers. Readers aren’t dollar signs, or Facebook likes, or book reviews…they’re people. It means treating them like people, caring about them like people, and enjoying that relationship without strings. It is about providing them with value when we can, and entertainment, a listening ear or whatever else is within our ability to give.
Being on social media is not the same as “getting” social media. Tweeting and blogging and posting to Facebook in ways that are strategic, not social, means one is not using the platform as it is meant to be used. And if you don’t come across as genuine and interested, if it feels like a job to tweet and share…people sense it. They will (maybe) friend you and (maybe) retweet because it is the polite thing to do, but the depth of the relationship will only ever go so far. They won’t really care about what’s happening with you. That level of connection won’t be there.
Marketing to the wrong audience, or focusing on only a niche.
If you are marketing your heart out trying to connect with people who love and need hammers by hanging out with golf enthusiasts, your efforts won’t yield much. Understanding who your exact audience is and what they need and want is key to improving your chances for success when it comes to finding readers. Think beyond genre. And in the same wheelhouse, if you are targeting the right audience, don’t focus on too small a group. A typical way authors do this is by concentrating marketing on other authors who write in the same genre. Yes, writers are readers, but at best, this is settling for a tiny slice of pie when the whole pie is available. At worst, you are damaging relationships with your fellow writers who may feel put off when you promote at them.
Simply stated, a lot of books are published that aren’t at the caliber they need to be to do well. Learning strong writing craft takes a lot of time and dedication. Some writers understand this and by applying savvy marketing to their quality book, they knock it out of the park. But with the ease of self-publishing comes a subset of writers who are hoping a quick upload to Amazon is their shortcut to success. Or they think quantity wins out over quality, and seek to get out as much product as possible to have a larger revenue funnel. But, if one is more focused on quantity than making each book better than the last, the saturated market offers a sobering reality: unless there is something special about a book, it generally doesn’t gain a foothold that lasts. There are just too many other good books to read.
So, does this mean we should all give up? That the cards are stacked against us? Not at all!
I’m no expert and have plenty to still learn. But I’ve picked up a thing or two, so here’s a few sound bites:
1) Write a book so good it fills you with pride. Never stop learning your craft. Always strive to do better with each new book.
2) Be genuine. Talk to people, start conversations. Build relationships and be present. This takes time and energy, but it’s worth it.
3) Only do what feels right via social networks. If you hate twitter, don’t use it. Remember to be social. Provide value in some way and be part of the community.
4) Figure out who your audience is, and find them online. Don’t just focus on other writers…unless that is your exact audience.
5) Learn to love what you do…not just the writing part, but the connecting with people part. Yes, even you introverts! The more you do it, the easier it gets, I promise. And when you connect with people, you find friends, supporters, and influencers, making your own luck!
6) Understand your personal strengths and what you have to offer, then offer it the best you can. Are you funny? Let it out. Have a knack for finding interesting content your audience will like? Share it! Be yourself, and be awesome.
7) Talk to other people about marketing. Ask for help. Offer help in return. Collaborate. We’re all in this together.
8) Try new things, take risks. Look at other industries and how they connect with their audiences. Don’t fear mistakes because they are simply opportunities to learn. Not everything will work and that’s okay.
9) Make it about your audience, not you. Put yourself in their shoes…shoes that are probably overworked, stressed, underpaid and over-promoted to. Do they need more spaghetti promotion thrown at them? Probably not. So how can you use social media to make a positive difference in their day to day lives? How can you provide content that entertains, supports or adds value? How can you make them feel valued?
10) When you give freely, it comes back to you. As self-publishers we have many hats to wear, and only so much time, which is why some authors struggle with the idea of doing something so labor intensive as “building relationships.” But taking the time is well spent, because when you form real connections with people and care about then, they care about you in return, and about your books and your success. Many end up helping in little ways, including telling others about your books. Word of Mouth is the most valuable marketing currency there is.
Have any tips to share? Please leave them in the comments.
If you've been with me since the beginning (7 years -- can you believe it?!) you'll know that I've been a huge fan of Nicole Baart since her very first book, After the Leaves Fall came out. It was the first in a trilogy and I absolutely loved it and gave it as gifts to all my girlfriends. Since then, Nicole has published several other books and I've loved them all, so when I had the chance to read an early copy of her latest book, The Beautiful Daughters, I jumped at the chance.
A story about family and best friends and first loves, and what it means to help mend the hearts of people you love. The characters were the shining star of the entire book and I felt connections with all of them -- despite also wanting to shake them sometimes. Adri had her moments of being incredibly frustrating with her consistently stoic behavior and Harper was just a hot mess, but understandably so. Trust me, pick up this book and you'll become invested in the lives of these women and the men in their lives. It was enthralling.
I'll add a finished copy to my shelves once the book is published (April!!), so I'd love to share my advanced reader copy with one of you. Whether it's your first Nicole Baart novel or you've been following her for years as I have, you should enter! Leave a comment on this post by Friday night and I'll pick a winner Saturday morning. It's definitely worth a read!
In the first part, a little girl discovers a strange beast stuck in a tree in the forest. She rescues it, takes it home, feeds it, dresses it, walks it, and shares it with her friends. The minute she opens the window, the beast runs away. Later that night, when the little girl is lying awake in her bed trying to figure out where she went wrong, the beast comes back.
In part two, a small furry forest animal (maybe a squirrel?) tells the story of being "ambushed by a terrible beast!" This beast ties him up and carries him away to her lair where he is subjected to any number of indignities. Finally, when she opens the window, he is able to escape. Later that night, when he is hanging upside down from a tree in the forest, he realizes that there might be a reason to go back.
Same story, two different points of view. Is there one beast in this story, or are there two? Depends how you look at it!
A fun book for children of any age who are working to understand point of view.
Janet Fox writes award-winning fiction and non-fiction for children of all ages. Her 2010 young adult debut novel, FAITHFUL, was an Amelia Bloomer List pick, and was followed in 2011 by a companion novel, FORGIVEN, a Junior Library Guild selection and WILLA Literary Award Finalist. Her newest YA novel, SIRENS launched in November 2012; the Kirkus reviewer said in part, “SIRENS is a celebration of girl power, sisterhood, and hope for the future.” Janet is a 2010 graduate of the MFA/Writing for Children and Young Adults program at Vermont College of Fine Arts and a former high school English teacher. Janet and her family live in Bozeman, Montana, where they enjoy the mountain vistas.
What typically comes first for you: a character? An era? A story idea? How do you proceed from there?
Most of my stories begin with a scene, but it’s more like a dream sequence. I often have no idea what’s going on in the scene and who the characters are, but if it resonates at a deep level, has some meaning for me that I can’t – yet – put into words, then that becomes my mission: put this emotion into words. For example, the opening scene of SIRENS was also the first thing that came to me as I began thinking about the book, and that image of a wharf over the Hudson River at night was important but I had no idea why Jo was throwing medals into the water or why she was there, or even who she really was. Water, of course, became a motif, and Jo’s gesture was a metaphor for her to let go of the past.
As soon as I decide to go forward from my key scene, I focus on the character. I spend a lot of time thinking about my protagonist and my antagonist, although I do so very organically, because a great deal of what I learn comes through the drafting, since I’m a pantser. I write a lot of stuff that changes or goes away but that helps me discover who my character is and what she needs. My protagonist – her attitudes, behavior, dreams, desires – always drives my stories, not the other way around. When I write historical fiction it doesn’t change the fact that readers want stories that help them reach into their buried dreams, and they do that by identifying with the character.
What kinds of sources do you use?
I use a number of sources, everything from primary on. I read novels written in the period because they tend to mimic the voice of their era, and contain details that I can use. I look for period costumes in pattern books and magazines of the times – which often reveal nice details like “hunting costumes” or the layers of undergarments. I do visit museums for visuals. And I try to find anything that will add nuance to the era I write about. In SIRENS, which is set in the 1920s, I wanted more than the usual flapper/gangster/Prohibition stuff, and while listening to the radio one night, I heard a discussion about the Spiritualism movement of the 1920s, and thought “that’s it.”
But my favorite resource, depending upon the era, is period newspapers. They are available on line, and I love perusing the society column and the ads, in particular. From those I can harvest a feeling for what people were dreaming about – what they wanted, aspired to acquire, and how much that might cost. And how the “society” behaved, which the lower classes might desire to emulate, or rebel against. Again, it comes down to individual desires and dreams.
At what point do you feel comfortable beginning to draft? How does your research continue once you begin writing?
I draft almost right away, because I start with that dream and character. I research as I go. That’s because I’m usually too impatient to start the story-telling to do research first! So I’ll write until I reach a point where I need to answer a question, like “what was the flu pandemic like?” or “what was happening in Chinatown then?” And then I’ll research, which is easy in this internet era. Other details – the sensory stuff that comes from place – I’ll either tap from memory and experience, or go to that place and soak it up. Or watch videos or comb through photographs, since I’m a very visual person.
I never spend much time researching in advance, because the story comes to me way before I know where and when to place it.
What’s your favorite thing about writing historical fiction?
I do love history. It was my favorite subject in high school. I like the echoes and resonant desires, I like especially the somewhat mythic historic elements – things like Robin Hood, or the Roman conquest, or the western expansion in America. I like taking history and turning over the rocks to discover the personal and small within historical times. I love the idea of having a character hear a famous speech or witness an historical event, and then interpret it at the scale of an individual lifetime.
Has your research ever affected the overall thrust of your book? How so?
Always, but in unexpected fashion. In researching FAITHFUL, I learned that in the early 1900s there were still highway robberies taking place in Yellowstone Park, and tourists were relieved of their possessions, but thought this was highly romantic and exciting, so I worked that experience into the novel – and it became crucial to both FAITHFUL and FORGIVEN. In researching FORGIVEN I learned of the importing of young – very young – Chinese girls who were sold into terrible slavery in San Francisco, and this became my protagonist’s larger goal, to free some of these girls. So while I have my core emotion and my character’s desire up front, I often find historical details that will bolster the story in unexpected ways.
Why is historical fiction important?
That old adage about being condemned to repeat the things we don’t learn the first time is true, and there are lots of historical moments I wouldn’t care to repeat. Historical fiction makes history more accessible, especially to young people. It personalizes history, and sheds a different spotlight on details, and can bring into focus comparisons between today’s events and historical events. Plus, well-written historical fiction is just plain fun to read.
One of my email subscribers asked me about Staged. It’s a social media engagement service that gets you Followers. But, unless you have the budget, it can get expensive since there’s a monthly fee.I’ll call the subscriber John Doe for this article.The other part of John’s question was that although the service did get him a lot of Followers on Twitter, how could he monetize them.The first thing
Georgia McBride is founder of Georgia McBride Media Group, home of Month9Books, Swoon Romance, and Tantrum Books. She develops content for film and TV, and is also a speculative fiction writer. Georgia founded the #YAlitchat hashtag and weekly chat on Twitter in 2009.
Georgia is one of Publishers Marketplace’s most prolific publishers and has spent most of 2014 atop the editors lists in Young Adult, Digital New Adult and Digital deals. She’s completed over 120 publishing deals on behalf of three imprints in the past 24 months.
Georgia McBride Media Group imprints publish debut authors as well as USA Today and NY Times bestselling author Diane Alberts, Bram Stoker Award nominated author Janice Gable Bashman, Amason #1 Dystopian authors Abi Ketner and Missy Kalicicki, Amazon US #1 erotica author Kenya Wright, Amazon #1 Children’s Fantasy author Nicole Conway, Amazon UK #1Teen Mythology and Legends author Jen McConnel, and renowned Young Adult authors such as Jackie Morse Kessler, Michelle Zink and Cindy Pon.
On the film and TV side, The Undertakers series has been optioned for film by Moderncine Films with the creator of the Final Destination films attached. Dead Jed: Adventures of a Middle School Zombie has been optioned to Nickelodeon, and Nameless has been optioned to Benderspink.
But wait, there’s more! Ms. McBride’s list of credits is extraordinarily impressive — she is no joke. And we are honoured to share her words here on The Brown Bookshelf.
As the effort to increase diversity in the book community grows with new initiatives such as We Need Diverse Books, Diversity in YA and of course, this very site, I am struck by how many “discussions” are being had about Diversity without anyone addressing the sweeping changes that need to happen in order for that dream to be fully realized.
Talking about the need is a fantastic first step. We have come a long way from ignoring the lack of diversity and refusing to admit there is a problem, to now to freely discussing the need for diversity and challenging those in a position of power to act upon it.
When I first started writing young adult material in 2008, I took a lot of heat from people for a statement I made on Twitter about being afraid my book would be stocked in the back of the bookstore because it is written by an African American writer and features a diverse cast of characters.
Many shouted from behind their screens about how if the book was “good enough,” it would certainly receive the same placement as any other book of its kind. It was a heated discussion that ensued and one that I will never forget. I wondered whether those same folks were naïve, blind, ignorant or just plain crazy. Where they living in the same publishing world I was living in?
I started writing around the time a major publisher took a hit for putting a white teen girl on the cover of a book about a black girl. Shortly thereafter, readers of the Hunger Games went crazy over the possibility that Katniss Everdeen may be cast as other than a white in the film adaptation, despite the author’s own description of the character as having olive-toned skin. Readers, fans and others took to social media to voice their concern, and some even said they would boycott the film if Katniss was not cast as white. Even the author refused to officially define the character’s ethnicity.
Flash forward to today. It’s 2015, and we have only just begun to accept the need for diversity in books for young readers. This is a major step in the right direction, but we need to do more. We need to make sure the images being put into the market are not the same tired stereotypes of non-white youths. We need to make sure that tokenism, in all its forms, is rejected as a response to the need for diversity, and dare I say, we need more people in a position to acquire and publish diverse books to make doing so a priority.
And finally, when we come across an amazing book with diverse characters, we need to simply call it an amazing book, not an amazing “diverse” book. Because by doing so, it is nearly the same as calling me a “black writer” or “black publisher.” After all, it’s not the color of my skin that defines me, but the content of my character. And if we want readers and trade to stop judging books by the color or ethnicity of the characters in them, we must stop calling attention to it ourselves. I would love to hear what you think. Please feel free to comment and I will do my best to respond. Thanks for allowing me to share my opinion and experience with you.
To celebrate World Book Day 2015 and to support the work of Book Aid International, I’ll be spending most of Thursday 5 March 2015 creating utter chaos in my home, using hundreds of our books to build the largest book den I can.
As a reader of this blog, you’ll know that I’m utterly passionate about children’s books and doing crazy things inspired by them. It’s what gets me up in the morning. But building a large scale book den out of books is wackiest thing I’ve yet tried to do. I haven’t done a recent book count, but I reckon I’ve got about 3000 to play with, so that gives you some sense of the scale of the challenge.
It’s going to be pretty disruptive, probably physically knackering and quite possible a challenge to the laws of gravity so please donate to Book Aid International to make it all worthwhile! You can donate securely online here:
In sub-Saharan Africa 151 million people are illiterate. 72 million children still do not got to school, and most people simply cannot afford books of their own. But without literacy people are not able to access education or healthcare, their work opportunities are limited as are their opportunities for participation in the social, economic and political decisions which affect their lives.
Each year Book Aid International sends 500,000 brand new and carefully selected books to libraries in communities, schools, universities, prisons, cities and refugee camps and more. They also provide grants for purchasing books locally (especially those in local languages), and training and advice to ensure that books are targeted to the right groups of people and are well used.
When it comes to donations…
£2 will send one book to sub-Saharan Africa
£10 could send five dictionaries to a university library in Tanzania
£24 could send 12 health books to a community library in rural Eritrea
£60 could send 30 books to a refugee camp in Kenya
£100 could help purchase 70 HIV/AIDS awareness books for children
£380 will send a starter collection of 200 books to a community library
I’m aiming to raise £500.
I’ll be tweeting my progress throughout the day on March 5 (@playbythebook), and will then blog about it once the den is built and habitable. You can donate any time (before, during or after the build).
What do opera singer Leontyne Price, activist Victoria Gray Adams, civil rights organizer Bayard Rustin, and Harvard sociologist William Julius Wilson have in common? They all attended or graduated from Wilberforce University. Located outside of Dayton, Ohio, Wilberforce was the first institution of higher education to be owned and operated by African Americans.