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Guest Blogger Natasha Sinel: Tips for Debut Authors

imagesMy debut YA novel, THE FIX, is in bookstores now. The official publication date is tomorrow, and I thought I’d share some of the things I’ve learned this past year, as I’ve gotten ready to become a published author.Fix-cover-final

Join a debut author group. Promote other authors’ works.

Do not underestimate the importance of connecting with others who are traveling the same road as you. You advise each other on tactics that work and don’t work, you vent and commiserate, you celebrate.

Also, read books by your fellow debuts. Compliment their books online if you liked them. Email the author and tell him/her the parts you loved. It doesn’t cost anything and it can make someone else’s day. Of course it’s a competitive business, but someone else’s success does not equal your failure. If you need more of a reason to do this, then you can consider it good karma.

Spending money to promote your book is inevitable.

You may have thought that you could collect your advance and put the whole thing in the bank. For a lucky few debut authors, that might be the case, however, for the rest of us, you’ll be spending some (or all) of that money on book-related things—professional author photos, marketing materials, an outside publicist, perhaps. You probably shouldn’t quit your day job just yet.

Know that you will become jaded.

There are many unexciting things that must be done for the launch of a book. Things you’d expect like revising, editing, copy-editing. But also so much more: social media, blog posts, self-promotion, postcards to libraries, bookmarks. ARCs. Planning launch parties. Media. Bookstores. So. Much. To. Do. Your list of things will be endless. It will be very easy to forget that publishing a book is actually the thing you’ve always wanted—a dream come true. Try to remember that every now and then. Also, write another book.

Friends and family will be excited and proud and they’ll say amazing things to you. Some people might also say insensitive things.

As jaded as you may be by the publishing process (see #3), your friends and family are not. They truly believe that what you’ve done is an amazing thing. Your book is going to be on shelves. And they know you. That’s pretty cool. When it comes to insensitive comments (and they will come), remember that people say dumb stuff all the time when they don’t know how something works—you do it too. Try not to get too upset with them—most of them are not hurt you intentionally (it’s possible that some are, but try to chalk that up to jealousy).

If your book is on a top ten list, featured at a major conference, or receives a starred review, you might feel pretty amazing, but you probably won’t. But if your book is not on a top ten list, not featured at a major conference, doesn’t receive a starred review (or receives a negative review), you will definitely feel horrible.

This phenomenon is something I’ve labeled the “numb overcoat.” It’s a big, puffy, toasty warm, comfy overcoat. It protects you from the bad stuff—the snarky, cruel reviews, the inferiority complex when you’re not included at the “cool table”—made up of authors on best-of lists or those have top-priority books at your publisher. However, if you keep the overcoat on all the time, you’ll miss out on feeling the wonderful moments—holding your hardcover book for the first time, the positive thoughtful review, the outpouring of pride from your friends and family. This is a tough thing to learn, but practice taking off your overcoat so you can feel the good stuff.

Most people won’t understand how much work it takes.

They may think that now that you have a book published, you’ve “made it.” Maybe you even thought that. But you haven’t made it. It’s true that you’re now a legit author. You don’t have to worry so much anymore that people think you’re just pretending to be a writer while you sit in your pjs watching TV. But legit isn’t the end game. You need to write the next book. And the next. And so on.

Separate writing from the publishing of writing.

You love writing. It makes you feel alive. Remember when you first started writing it was for you and only you? It still is. That publishing stuff is separate. Go back to writing.

Natasha SinelNatasha Sinel writes YA fiction from her home on a dirt road in Northern Westchester, NY. She drives her kids around all afternoon, but in her head, she’s still in high school, and hopes that no one near her can read minds. Her debut YA novel THE FIX comes out from Sky Pony Press tomorrow, September 1, 2015. You can buy one here.

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Guest Blogger Elaine Kiely Kearns: It Takes A Village To Be A Writer

bee-hive-clip-art-690775A few weeks ago I was having lunch with a friend who is a writer. Although she isn’t new to writing, she is new to the online writing community and is ready to begin the process of submitting to agents and editors. As we were chatting about submission how-to’s and query letters, I mentioned to her that she really needed to find a critique group.

“How do I find a critique group?” she asked.

Good question. And that question brings me to this post.

I am fortunate enough to belong to a fabulous online critique group, the Penguin Posse. We are a group of seven women kid lit writers from all over the world. We hail from New York, Virginia Beach, Massachusetts, Indiana, Texas, Italy, and Australia. I love these talented, brainiac women. And after a few years of working together, we are not only a fabulous critique group but also friends. And while you definitely need to study your craft and attend conferences, a critique group just may get your writing where it needs to be a little faster.

Writing is a solitary act. But time and time again, studies have shown that people need a support group in order to be successful. It’s the “Hive Mind” theory, and a critique group fills this need perfectly.

From Google:
hive mind
noun
noun: hive mind; plural noun: hive minds; noun: hivemind; plural noun: hiveminds
1. a notional entity consisting of a large number of people who share their knowledge or opinions with one another, regarded as producing either uncritical conformity or collective intelligence. "He has become one of those celebrities whose online presence has made him a favorite of the Internet hive mind.”

So let’s get back to the question. How do you find a critique group?

Find Your Community. The invention of the Internet is a blessed thing for writers. As introverts, we get to be alone (YAY!) and still connect with the outside world (double YAY!)—all from the privacy of our homes. Are you a kid lit writer? You can join the SCBWI and connect with peeps in person at conferences. Or, if you join one of the many online kid lit groups via Facebook, you can make online friends and form a critique group there. The key? Join groups, sign up for classes, participate in monthly challenges. All of these communities will lead you to hive-minded people who could potentially become critique partners. I found my group in an online kid lit forum through Facebook, and I know many other writers who have found successful groups that way too.

Get Involved. Don’t join a community and then never participate! Don’t be a lurker! Comment on posts, ask questions in forums. If you join without participating, you will never feel like you belong. Get involved! Force yourself, especially if it’s outside of your comfort zone.

Do A Trial Run. Not sure you want to commit to a group right away? Many communities have manuscript critique places on their sites. Julie Hedlund’s 12×12 (membership fee required) has a forum where you can post the first 250 words for open critique by her members. KidLit411.com has a Manuscript Swap Facebook group (free) where you can privately swap manuscripts without any critique group commitment. Ladies Who Critique is a free site where you can connect with other professional writers who are also looking for critique partners.

And there are many more. All you need is a quick Google search and you are on your way!

Happy critiquing!

 

unnamed-1ELAINE KIELY KEARNS is a kid lit writer of picture book and middle grade stories. She also scours the internet for golden nuggets of information about children’s writing for the website she founded, KidLit411.com.  She lives in New York with her husband, two beautiful daughters and a menagerie of animals. Find her online at elainekielykearns.com

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Guest Blogger Katherine Sparrow: On Writing What Sells

grant-writing (1)I’ve been thinking a lot lately about marketing, financial success, and sustainability in writing. Not necessarily in a “how to dominate everything” kind of way, but in the quieter way of thinking through what it means to be a writer and an artist working on her craft and telling the stories she thinks are important, and at the same time making a living at this kind of work.

On the one hand, I am and will always be a starry-eyed dreamer. I think stories can change how we live and view the world, and thus how we are in the world. And humans need to change, a lot. That’s my deepest truth about where my stories, and my drive to write and fling it out into the world, comes from.

On the other hand, I am a mom of two young kids, who is engaged in the hustle economy of trying to get the bills paid. I am a writer who has been working diligently on her craft for fifteen years, and if there’s a way I can do my writing and make money at it rather than get some other job, that would be amazing. But how do I write stories that are commercial and marketable and still write my kind of stories?

Some thoughts on how I can do that, and how you can do that, too.

  1. Be well read in your genre, so that you understand where your writing fits in, and where it doesn’t. For the past two years and counting I’ve been a juror on The Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy. Which means I’ve gotten to read many of the genre’s newest releases. Without this, I might not know that the multiverse is currently hot, while dystopias are not. I am not saying that one should only write toward the industry’s desires, but be educated about it. For example, in one of my (as yet unpublished) novels, there is a theme about gods living in San Francisco. I can name half a dozen other well-received young adult books recently published about gods living in the modern world. However, those are all Greek or Nordic gods, and mine has the God of the Earthquakes and the Goddess of Art, among others. So it fits in some ways and is unique in others, which I think is the sweet spot.
  1. Consider writing to a form. I love mysteries. People love mysteries. Lately I’ve been writing urban fantasy novellas that are mysteries. Now, besides them being mysteries, I also happen to be doing all kinds of other heart on my sleeve kinds of things in them, (the protagonist is a lefty who has a fondness for misunderstood monsters), but I think the fact that the stories are written within a mystery form helps the reader be grounded and take a chance on a new writer. Other forms that you might write to are: screwball comedy, romance, space opera, hero’s journey, or really any form of book that you personally love.
  1. You can love what you write, but you don’t always have to write what you love. Meaning, it is okay to not always be writing your magnum opus and to be writing something fun and/or more commercial, but never ever forget to love it. Never forget that you have a sacred pact with anyone who reads your words, and that they are giving you a piece of their finite life, so write things that are worth it.
  1. Consider writing a series. Or, write a book that starts and ends within itself, but if it’s possible, give it some extra world and breathing space so it could keep going. These days, so much of youth fiction is made up of series. I’m not sure if that holds true for adult fiction, but I figure many of the people reading this blog are YA and MG readers and writers.
  1. When all else fails, remember no one knows what the hell will sell. Does that help? Nope. But if you are bummed out and confused about how to make your way in the writerly world, throw away everything else and just write your thing, you strange little rabbit, and see what happens. For reals, all the advice above? At the bottom of it, just write.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAKatherine Sparrow writes speculative fiction for middle grade and young adult readers as well as (very) quirky picture books. She was nominated for a 2012 Nebula Award for her novelette The Migratory Pattern of Dancers. Her short stories have been published online and in various anthologies, and you can find her contemporary Arthurian novella series, The Fay Morgan Chronicles, for sale at Amazon. A graduate of the Clarion West Writers Workshop, Sparrow is also on the jury of the Norton Award for best young Science Fiction and Fantasy. Visit katherinesparrow.net and @Katie_H_Sparrow.

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