Social Life

Since I began to write as more than a hobby I’ve been told you have to ‘have a online presence’, ‘the days of the reclusive writer are over’, ‘Myspace is where it’s at’. Only some of that turned out to be true. To start my online presence I joined Myspace and every other social media I could type my name in. before long I had my name in everything and was coming up for plans on how to make each account different from the next.

Then reality set in.

There was clearly too much to do. We’re given 24 hours in a day and some of that time needs to be spent on writing. Like actually writing. Who could imagine such a thing? But how are you going to do that when you’re spreading yourself thin on multiple platforms?

Quotes_Creator_20180311_111630.png

In the past couple of weeks I’ve been seeing the mass exodus of Instagram users to a new platform called Vero. the familiar sensation to follow suit and not be left behind…then I thought better of it.

I’m not saying that I’m a hero, but when the call arose I stood up and said no.

I’ve learned that if something is the next best thing or the Facebook killer chances are it’s not. Remember Ello? How about Google+? Heck, even I don’t remember Peach. These things come and go. And by the time you learn how to build a brand on there it’s dead and you haven’t written a thing.

It’s true that the time of the reclusive writer is over and social media can have you connect with so many amazing people from across the world. If it weren’t for social media I wouldn’t be on this blog. But it has to be used responsibly.

As a writer it’s your job to, well, you know, write. If social media is hampering that then remove it. At the very least make your social media work for you. For myself my Facebook posts to my Twitter. My Instagram posts to my to my author page and my Tumblr. And my blog posts everywhere. That’s kind of it for me. Three main social media outlets that I use sparing throughout the day. With what few hours I have this works for me. What works for me won’t necessarily work for everyone but the issue is in finding your own balance. Whatever your social media outlets may be just remember to write, write, write! Also if you join a new site read the terms. This Vero thing keeps your posts as their own, along with some other very shady stuff.

Until next time have a writeous day!

_______________________

Matt Williams is an avid reader, a collector of many pens, an ever improving father of two, and an all-around fanboy. When he’s not wrestling with cats or building the inkslayer army you can find him hunkered down writing something imaginative. You can read his first book Beyond Here, a middle grade story involving a coma and a singing flower with a bent stem, along with a few projects with his other daughter. Follow him on Facebook and Instagram.

Life After Querying: Publication Insights from Authors

For writers who are interested in pursuing traditional publication, there are all kinds of tools and resources for drafting writers and revising writers and querying writers. There is hardly anything that then allows a writer on submission with publishing houses know what to expect. And if a writer publishes with one house — even a few times — and then doesn’t resign? It’s like trying to walk a maze in the dark with a blindfold on.

Life After Querying_Publication Insights from Authors.png

With this in mind, I put together a survey to see what the “typical” experience tended to be, how writers negotiated time expectations when writing and marketing, and asked for some advice. Over 50 authors jumped in to share their experiences. I’m going to get out of the way and let you peruse the results.

How many times have you been published?

Screen Shot 2018-01-19 at 2.33.01 PMWhen was your first book released?

1990s – 4
2006 – 2
2009 – 2
2011 – 5
2012 – 4
2013 – 6
2014 – 6
2015 – 8
2016 – 6
2017 – 4
2018 – 1

Did you publish the same book that you were querying when you signed with your agent?

Screen Shot 2018-01-19 at 2.57.25 PM

How many publishing house read your book before you signed? Screen Shot 2018-01-19 at 2.57.44 PM

How many books were included in your first contract?

42 authors signed a single book deal.
6 authors signed a two book deal.
5 authors signed a three book deal.
One author signed four books, and one author signed six (this one was direct author to publisher)

Has the entirety of your publishing career been with the same publishing house? Screen Shot 2018-01-19 at 3.03.02 PM

If you have changed publishing houses, which book was it with? screen-shot-2018-01-19-at-3-03-33-pm.png

Considering the amount of time you have available to write, what % is spent crafting and what % is for marketing?

(for reference, the 1st number is crafting/the 2nd is marketing)

7 – 90/10
1 – 85-15
10 – 80/20
3 – 75/25
6 – 70/30
1 – 65/35
5 – 60/40
14 – 50/50
4 – 40/60
3 – 30/70

What advice do you have for authors who just signed their first contract?

  • Don’t be shy about communicating with your editor and publicist when you have questions or ideas.
  • It’s never too soon to start working on your next book
  • Always be writing.
  • Enjoy the honeymoon
  • Don’t stop learning. Book 1 is part of the journey, but keep writing, keep honing your craft so future books can be even better.
  • Market a lot at first, keep writing too
  • Read and understand what you’ve really agreed to.
  • Don’t compare to other authors!!
  • Get an agent.
  • You’re not done waiting.
  • Enjoy the giddy, crispy delight of having done this amazing thing. Then take a deep breath, because there’s way more work than glory ahead. ??
  • Keep writing. Book one is just one piece of your career.
  • Make sure to read the contract before you signing you don’t understand it ask for help
  • Build a mailing list!
  • Keep your day job
  • Be clear on the expectations
  • Be careful and read the final print of the contract. Make sure you have an agent who has your back.
  • Start writing the next book! One book does not a career make.
  • Try not to fret social media
  • Connect with other authors who are in a similar situation. It really helps when questions come up.
  • Don’t be a jerk
  • Build relationships based on commonalities and a desire to support others–not on hoping people buy your book. Have your agent be ultra-involved in marketing plans with an aim toward getting you as much support as possible. Remember this is a long game, a marathon not a sprint, and focus on your next book, and your next, and…
  • You make your living writing, not waiting. At first, I was nearly frozen with fear as I waited for edits or notes from my editor (agent) but I’ve quickly learned that that time is golden. It is time to try new ideas, work on my craft, build the next book. Oh, and become friends with your cover artist! Getting to know her/him will be a HUGE help if you need additional art for swag etc. They will also LOVE to help spread the word for you on their social media channel because it is their work too.
  • Be patient and keep writing
  • Focus on the good parts and celebrate them
  • All your marketing efforts are a drop in the bucket. If I were going back, I’d focus on a few select things I like or really want to try and would just spend the rest of my time on the next book.
  • Don’t rush to sign a contract. Don’t rush to fire your agent.
  • Get marketing savvy. You still have to do a lot yourself.
  • Remember you have little control about what happens next. Focus on editing your book to the best it can be and let go of the rest.
  • Before you sign, don’t rush. Don’t settle. Read it twice. If you sign, be cautious. Be clear. They’re not doing you a favor. This is your career.
  • Begin your next manuscript as soon as possible. Do not stop writing.
  • Write your next book and consider going indie. 😉
  • Breathe. Ask questions. Advocate for your book and your career. Meet your deadlines.
  • Nothing is as big a deal as it seems. Things will happen that you’ll be sure are going to ruin the book, the events, your career. It won’t. Don’t sweat it. Just keep working.
  • Everything is going to be fine.
  • Lay strong marketing groundwork now. Build relationships with people.
  • The first contract is just the beginning, not the final milestone. Enjoy all the little successes, because there will be lots of things that don’t pan out the way you expect them to. Cultivate gratitude and try to keep your eyes on your own paper–envy is hard to avoid, but poisonous to creativity.
  • Enjoy it!
  • Treat the time between signing and actual release day as a learning experience.
    It depends on whether they signed via an agent or not. If it’s an experienced agent, let them handle it. Ask for twice the number of finished copies they offer. Ask for print ARCs. Remember that while your sights are on a single book your editor is juggling multiple titles. All are important to him or her; keep that in mind when emailing, etc.
  • Keep writing, keep making connections like you’re still trying to get published
  • Start networking!
  • Just keep swimming
  • Keep your head down and work on your craft. There is so much out of your control.
  • Try not to compare yourself to other writers. Everyone’s journey is different, but all are valid.
  • Expand your platform as much as you can now. Be gracious. Watch out for people who just want to take your money. Ask around before signing up for marketing/promo services.
  • Be prepared to do a LOT of marketing on your own, no matter how you are published.
  • Ask questions!
  • Be informed. Stand up for yourself. If you’re panicking, you’re in the majority.
  • Be willing to make your own magic happen– your publisher likely won’t do it for you.
  • Make sure you have a lawyer look over the contract. Watch out for contracts that want to claim all future works or who will force you to purchase your rights back.
  • Editorial feedback is not always direct, so trust your gut. “We need a bigger plot point here” may mean “you need to make us care more here.”
  • Have an attorney review it. Don’t get sucked into the hype of the moment.

What advice do you have for authors who have to go on submission after having worked with a publishing house?

  • Be patient and prepared for change
  • None. I’m about to do the same thing.
  • Understand this happens to everyone. Publishing houses make mistakes and editors get fired or hired away, all of which are to of your control. Switching publishing houses is not necessarily a bad thing.
  • Sometimes the journey is hard and ugly. But it’ll get good again eventually.
  • Be patient and start working on something else
  • Keep writing.Keep submitting.
  • You’ve got this.
  • Keep moving forward
  • Evaluate how your agent or publisher has performed for your book and don’t be afraid to jump ship.
  • If you have to start over trying to find a new agent or new publisher, I would say gird your loins! And never give up, and stay busy on a new project.
  • Keep your chin.
  • It’s not the end of the world. Many authors end up publishing different works with different publishers. You’ve got a leg up in the process since you have books out there in the world and a web presence already.
  • If you want to publish traditionally, don’t give up.
  • Don’t think about it. Write the next book instead.
  • Hang in there. You did it once, and it will happen again. Maybe even at a better house than your first turned out to be.
  • It takes time. Oh my goodness, so MUCH TIME! Before finding a publisher that was a fit for me, we went out on submission to at lease 20 different editors/houses. I piled up comments, collected them, then finally started writing something new.
  • Before we had even collected all of our responses I had a new book ready and THAT is the book that finally found a home. Did I mention it takes a long time?
  • Solidarity, friends.
  • Don’t take any contract if it means changing your manuscript in a way you don’t want to.
  • Good luck and keep writing.
  • Being on sub is the worst anticipation. Fill your time with non-related writing activities as much as possible.
  • All the eggs in one basket is not the norm. It’s okay to be at more than one house, and self-published at the same time.
  • Most of us do have to chAnge publishers from time to time. Don’t be discouraged
  • Consider going the indie route. 😉 My indie book makes more than my book with a publisher…and I get paid every month and can see all the numbers.
  • Take courage. Believe in yourself and your writing. Absolutely write the next book, and focus on the things you can control!
  • Keep your tribe close. There are no guarantees in this business. You’ll need them more than ever.
  • Submission sucks. Be kind to yourself. Remember that your worth is not tied up in your writing–and even your worth as an author isn’t solely dependent upon whether or not a publisher buys your books.
  • It’s brutal out there. Believe in yourself and enjoy the act of writing.
  • Keep trying. There’s a home out there for it somewhere.
  • Best advice: never get angry in publishing (agent, editor, copyeditor, PR folks). It’s not personal–though it certainly will feel like it is.
  • Patience, grasshopper, it only takes one YES
  • As much as possible, try and write the next book and forget about the one on sub. It can take a LONG time, but that is no reflection on the quality of your work.
  • My bias is toward finding an agent you trust and who believes in your work 100%. That might include telling you a particular book of yours doesn’t have a market right now. This is certainly harsh to hear but I really do believe agents know and understand the market better than most writers do.
  • It’s OK to feel bad. Submission isn’t fun. Stock up on junk food and binge watch your favorite shows when you need to.
  • Develop a nice, thick, shell. I’ll be “out there” again after book #2, and at least I know now not to take rejection personally!
  • Get writing on something new
  • Turn the MS over to your agent and forget about it. Do something else, write something else. That book, for the time being, is not in your hands.
  • Find other things that bring you joy, and focus on them.
  • Each house has its own business plan. Whether or not your project is a fit may have nothing to do with the quality of your manuscript. Reality is, if they don’t know how to sell it, they aren’t the publisher for you.
  • Persistence outweighs skill 10 times out of 10

How do these experiences align with what you’ve experienced or heard? Have any advice you’d like to add? 

_________________________________

Tasha Headshot Color

Tasha Seegmiller believes in the magic of love and hope, which she weaves into every story she creates. A co-founder of Thinking Through Our Fingers, she is the managing editor of the writing-focused website as well as a contributor to Writers in the Storm. She is passionate about helping women nourish their creativity and is a member of the Women’s Fiction Writers Association, where she serves as a board member. The former high school English teacher now assists in managing the award-winning project-based learning program (EDGE) at Southern Utah University. Tasha married a guy she’s known since she was seven and is the mom of three teens. She is represented by Annelise Robey of Jane Rotrosen Agency.

How to Maximize Your Critique Partner Experience

If there’s anything I’m an expert on in the literary world, it’s how to luck into amazing critique partners.

They are encouraging and supportive, and they kick my metaphorical butt when I need it. Like the time my friend Charlie threatened to have a box of live crickets delivered to me if I didn’t meet a specific deadline. They believe in me when I forget how, and they love my words when my brain is too fogged over by doubt to see them properly anymore. I need my critique partners desperately, and I think they need me too.

While I can’t give you my luck, maybe my thoughts about critique partnerships will help you build or strengthen a fantastic partnership of your own.

How to Maximize Your Critique Partner Experience.png

Be Thorough

What do you expect in a critique? And what does your critique partner expect of you? Here are three key aspects of critiquing that might make a good starting point for such a discussion:

  • Technical Editing.
  • Content Editing.
  • Validation.

Some partners are going to specialize in one of these areas. Some spread their skills across two or three. Make sure you know what kind of critiques you’ll be offering each other. If you only give general content feedback with a sprinkle of validation, make that clear. If you’re strictly a copy-editor with an eye out for technical issues, make that clear.

There are few things rougher than pouring loads of time into a critique and getting just a few lines back in return. Your partnership will be stronger if you give as good as you get. And some partnerships may develop even further to the point that you brainstorm together, vent to each other, and become dear friends.

To that end . . .

Be Kind

Take a little extra time to point out what’s working in your critique partner’s pages. Yes, it’s faster to just highlight what needs work, they’re praise is a vital component of any critique. If you have favorite lines in your CP’s work, tell them so! Someone else might be telling them otherwise. Plus? Warm-fuzzy feelings from being told you don’t suck can give you the strength to fix what does need work.

Most writers have a voice in the back of their head, pointing out all their inadequacies. Try to be louder than that voice. Of course, critiques that are only compliments aren’t really critiques at all, are they? A good balance of compliments and constructive criticism will help you build up your critique partner while giving them tools they can use to improve their work.

Be Genuine

Confrontation is hard. Telling your CP to kill their darlings? SO hard. Sometimes it’s easier to pat them on the head, avoid eye contact, and say, “Yeah . . . that’s good. Real good.”

Remember the heading of the previous section? Be Kind? Avoiding the truth isn’t kind when it comes to helping your partner improve.

When you do offer genuine criticism, make sure you give context. Simply saying “I don’t like this” isn’t helpful. Whenever possible, try to give context:

“Her reaction here doesn’t ring true for me because X.”

“The flow of this sentence is awkward. Maybe it would work better if you broke it into two?”

“The backstory in this scene is slowing the pace and I don’t feel like I’m really with your main character anymore.”

“The POV feels too distant here. Try to zoom in so we can get a sense of his emotional reaction.”

Your genuine opinion is far more likely to be helpful if you actually give it.

Be Prompt

I’m not saying you need to work at breakneck speeds and pull off a twenty-four hour turnaround every time. But if you say “I’ll have notes back to you next week” and your partner doesn’t hear from you for two months, that might be a problem.

If you only remember to critique after being reminded several times? That might be a problem.

If your partner has critiqued seventeen chapters for you and you’ve only critiqued two for them? That might be a problem.

I say “might be” because this is something you and your partner need to figure out between you. Communicate. Establish up front what your expectations of each other are.

Maybe your partner has four kids and works a graveyard shift at the local hospital, but their critiques are so amazing you don’t mind if they only do one for every five you do.

Maybe you have seventy kajillion things going on in your life and can only manage to critique a chapter a month for awhile. Or maybe there are times when you can only give general feedback and not line edits, or times when line edits ain’t no thang, because you’re swimming in spare time.

But if you don’t communicate, your partner might feel like they’re hanging off a cliff’s edge, dangling over the revision pit, with no clue if you’re ever going to help pull them up.

It’s okay not to have time sometimes. It’s even okay to get swamped and forget. But if you do? Apologize. Then establish more reasonable expectations of each other. Being human and being prompt are often mutually exclusive. Own up to your humanity, and accept your partner’s humanity*.

Quality critique partnerships aren’t born; they’re created. And creating, as we all know, requires effort.

*To a point, of course. If they’re being a jerk you’re allowed to say goodbye.

Be Grateful

Whether you’re starting a new partnership or enjoying the blissful comfort of an old one, SAY THANK YOU. Not just for the first critique, or the best critique, but ALL critiques. Whether they’re as helpful as you hoped or not. Whether they send you into a tailspin of despair or soaring to new heights where you can see the “possible” of your story better than ever before, express gratitude for the time that went into the critique.

No matter how effectively the time was spent, it was SPENT, and that deserves your thanks. If you constantly struggle to feel enough gratitude to put into words, it might be time to ask yourself whether that particular partnership is worth continuing.

Above all, keep in mind that the ideal critique partnership is worth searching for AND working for. It requires so many leaps of faith. I know. And there’s terror in that. Of course there is. But the best partners, the ones worth keeping? They catch you when you leap.

And you catch them back.

And your stories become more than words on a page. They become worlds you build and visit together. I hope you find that. And I hope you get to be to someone what my critique partners are to me.

It’s one of the best kinds of magic.

________________________

kimKimberly VanderHorst is a YA author who cherishes a love for all things quirky and strange. Claims to fame include running Prism Editing, co-hosting the annual Pitch Slam contest, and serving on the committees for the annual LDStorymakers Conference and The Whitney Awards program. Despite being a city girl with a tendency to cuss a lot, Kimberly is married to an LDS minister and lives in rural northern Canada. There, she helps raise their four lovely daughters while pretending not to be afraid of the neighbour’s chickens.

How to Be a Writing Conference Darling

I jokingly noted yesterday that I should do a blog post about how to get blacklisted from a conference. And the people of Facebook said, “YES DO THAT.”

Ha. That would be a short blog post, but I’ll give you the answer at the end. THIS IS A BLOG POST ABOUT HOW TO MAKE SURE YOU’RE EVERYONE’S CONFERENCE DARLING AND ALWAYS GET INVITED BACK.

 

FelizPáscoa (1)

So let’s focus on how to be a conference pro:

  1. Be responsive. Answer emails from organizers and comply with requests in a timely manner.
  2. Be gracious. You’re working with volunteers or poorly paid organizers who are putting these things together because they are passionate about helping people grow as writers.
  3. Bring your presentation “A” game. Attendees know when you’re phoning it in. Showing effort and preparation honors your listeners. Our best pros knock it out of the park with every single presentation and don’t say stuff like, “I was putting this together late last night.” They really organize their thoughts and it’s impressive every time.

Doing these things will make a positive impression on conference organizers. But if you really want to be a conference darling? Well….this is what our favorite pros do, and this is truest of all the biggest names who come to our conference:

  1. They make themselves available to attendees. Brandon Sanderson will plop down at a table of strangers at lunch and ask what people are working on. Jennifer Nielsen will look at you with real and honest delight when you tell her you love her books. James Dashner will smile and tell you with total sincerity to just stick with it, man. Dan Wells will engage in discussions on all-things-geeky over taco salad.
  2. They ask us to put them to work. They want to be busy all day long. Every class, every panel, every talk, every signing we can give them makes them happy. We don’t ask them. THEY ASK US. “Hey, put me to work.”
  3. They’re humble. Their demeanor is generally just sheer delight that we get to write as a job and isn’t it cool that we all love this?
  4. They so clearly care and want to give back. I don’t know if I can explain this one, exactly, but they just come across as so interested in each individual, so invested in trying to help people figure out how to reach their own level of success, how to tell really great stories and find some joy in it. But in a totally sincere, not-greeting-card-or-motivational-poster kind of way.
  5. They’re funny. (Not essential, but it sticks in people’s memory.)

As for how to get blacklisted . . . Fine. I’ll spill. As someone who has worked with visiting agents, keynote speakers, and faculty for several years, I can tell you there is only one thing that will absolutely insure I never bring someone back, and only one thing that will probably insure I don’t bring someone back.

The one person sure to end up on my “NEVER AGAIN” list is someone with a significant role who cancels their participation with relatively short notice for anything short of a medical emergency or death in the family. I will not—CAN NOT—risk including a known flake on my schedule.

The second thing that will probably keep you from getting asked back: being a diva. Interesting fact: our highest profile writers are the easiest to work with. They are gracious, accommodating, and responsive. How to avoid being high maintenance: just be gracious and flexible. That’s really it.

To sum up, be professional and prepared. And funny doesn’t hurt.
__________________________________

Melanie Bennett Jacobson is an avid reader, amateur cook, and shoe addict. She consumes astonishing amounts of chocolate, chick flicks, and novels. She lives in Southern California with her husband and three kids and a series of doomed houseplants. Her seventh novel, Southern Charmed, released in October. Melanie is pursuing a Masters degree in creative writing from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her contemporary YA novels are represented by Alyssa Henkin..

Author Websites 101

Screen Shot 2016-12-26 at 1.49.13 PM.png

You want to be published? You want to have a career as a writer? Here are a few things to keep in mind when you’re building your website. Because you NEED a website. And your website should show you’re a professional–even if you’re a goofy one.

INFORMATION:

YOU – A biography. On my site I have a brief bio on the front page, and a more in-depth one later on. You need an author photo that wasn’t taken by your child or by your phone held at arm’s length. Professionalism counts.

YOUR BOOKS – What they are and where to find them. I like to have one page with everything, and then individual pages for each novel so I can talk about inspiration or share bits of trade reviews – I LOVE it when other authors do this. If you write in different genres, separating by genres is smart. And just like a resume, put the most recent up first – you may argue w/ me if you’re writing a series, but otherwise? Most recent book gets top billing.

EVENTS OR APPEARANCES – Even release dates, or cover release dates… Sometimes it’s more about making yourself LOOK busy and/or important. Yes, I just said that. I’ve seen authors write up things like – attending launch party for XXX, which is promo for the both of you – WIN-WIN)

LINKS TO SOCIAL MEDIA – You don’t have to take on the whole world in social media. Choose what works for you and keep your audience in mind (Yes, this could be a post on its own. Maybe several).

LINKS TO BLOG – If you blog, if you group blog…

AN OFFER TO SIGN UP FOR A NEWSLETTER – If you have one. The pros and cons of this would be much better discussed by someone other than myself 😉

THE FEEL OF THE SITE:

You’re selling YOU. You need to have a website that reflects both you and what you write. Your website could/should follow the feel of your stories, but as more people branch out into more genres, the more important it is to have a website that encompasses YOU, and second, what you write.

A few examples:

I wanted to show Lindsey Leavitt’s site because she writes in several genres. Now, if she wanted to build a site specifically for a series, awesome! She can link to it from the site that is about HER.

screen-shot-2016-12-26-at-8-02-13-am

Her tagline, right at the top, tells you what you’re in for. Social media is easy to find, and her tabs help readers of different genres find what they’re looking for. The colors are bright and fun, and match the tone of her book covers. www.lindseyleavitt.com Just under her header – fab white space (I’ll show examples later on).

Maggie Stiefvater’s website is also fab. Her novels/series are all quite different, so her website is neutral. Want more info on a series? She has links for that. The rotating headers all involve MAGGIE and things she likes as a person rather than as an author. Just under the lovely headers is very simple with lots of white space.

Screen Shot 2016-12-26 at 8.21.48 AM.png

Screen Shot 2016-12-26 at 8.37.17 AM.png

OK. We’re not all Brandon Sanderson, but this is his sidebar:

All of his upcoming events are right on the landing page. No one needs to hunt around on his website to find his fan club or where he’s going to be next.

Simple and brilliant. AND the artwork falls in line with his books without taking over the site.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How beautiful is KATHRYN PURDIE’S SITE??? I know right away what she writes from the background, but it’s so subtle! I love it.

Screen Shot 2016-12-26 at 8.43.12 AM.png

And then it gets even better when you press ENTER:

All her links are interesting, and there’s some great info here without this feeling overwhelming.

Screen Shot 2016-12-26 at 8.44.06 AM.png

And now we’ll talk about – THE WHITESPACE. Cluttered sites are SO hard to navigate. Kathryn Purdie put this subtle background in instead of white space, which I think works SUPER well, but it’s so easy for a website to be so busy that visitors don’t know where to direct their attention.

Veronica Roth’s website does a brilliant job with clean white space:

screen-shot-2016-12-26-at-8-46-54-am

Jennifer Weiner’s site is gorgeous, simple, and you can see how effective white space can be – even at the bottom of her landing page (BELOW):

screen-shot-2016-12-26-at-1-31-24-pm

I will readily admit that I’m a sucker for simplicity, but ANDREW HARWELL’S site? Simple & interesting. He wears a lot of different hats, so simple is going to be better.

screen-shot-2016-12-26-at-1-38-08-pm

My best advice to you is this:

Go to a TON of websites of authors you admire. Authors who write what you do. Authors who write something completely different from what you write. Take note of what works. What doesn’t work. And then spend some time thinking about how you can tailor what works, to yourself. You may need to hire a designer. You definitely need more eyes than just your own.

My inspiration for today’s post came from the fact that I really want to re-work my own site. Something I’ll be tweaking over the holiday break 🙂

Happy designing!

~ J0

Jolene Perry has written young adult titles for Entangled/Macmillan, Albert Whitman Teen, and Simon Pulse. She is represented by Jane Dystel of Dystel and Goderich Literary Management. You can find her on her BLOG, her WEBSITE, or chillin’ with her family in Alaska (pun intended).

15 Pinterest Board Ideas for Writers

Are you a writer and a Pinterest junkie user? Are you addicted to Pinterest like you’re addicted to chocolate? Or do you fear you’ll get sucked into the vortex and therefore shy away from Pinterest like you do from decaffeinated coffee? I’m a Pinterest user that stands somewhere in the middle ground. I love it for inspiration and find it very useful as a resource, but I admit that I use the mobile app to skim and quickly post things so I don’t get sucked into it for hours and hours (because the potential of that happening is real).

Bottom line: Pinterest is a great way to find and share writing inspiration and useful information, connect with other writers and readers, and make your brand (i.e., YOU) more visible to others.

Here is a sample list of boards that you might find useful as a writer. I’ve included examples of boards for each of these categories (some of which I follow and others that are mine). If you’re not on Pinterest yet, this comprehensive list might appear overwhelming, but I suggest that you start with one or two boards that you find most helpful to you and slowly build up your boards with time. The key to successfully using Pinterest is to pin things that are useful, interesting, and aesthetically inspiring to you.

1. Character inspiration board

Models, fashion, hair, style, other pins to capture your characters’ personalities and voices (for each project or character)


2. World-building/scene inspiration board 
Scenery, locations, historical settings (for each project)

3. Writing resources & tips board
Favorite writing tips, how to’s, advice on writing craft

4. Favorite quotes board
Writing inspiration, general inspiration, writing prompts

5. Favorite reads board
Books you’ve loved, books on your TBR list, book teasers, book reviews

6. Favorite writing songs/bands board
YouTube videos, playlists, song quotes, lyrics that inspire you

7. Writing-inspired accessories/must haves board
Shirts, scarves, mugs, bookshelves, furniture, other decor for your writing space

8. Blogging board
Links to posts from your blog (include a custom graphic with a watermark from your website or with your name if possible; see tips at the end of this post)

9. Writing conferences/author events board
Links to events you’re attending, on your wish list to attend, and/or meet-up places that you recommend to other writers and readers

10. Writing opportunities/contests/competitions board
Writing contests, writing competitions, writing and publishing opportunities

11. Writing retreat locations board
Locations, destinations, settings for your dream writing retreat (also serving as inspiration)

12. Your books/WIPs & press board
Your own books, works-in-progress, book trailers, and any press-related items

13. Writing snacks board
Recipes to satisfy your writing munchies

14. Quick-prep meal board
Shopping lists and easy recipes for when you need more time to write and are sick of take-out

15. Easy kid crafts
If you have kids, easy crafts for them to do, possibly even while you’re writing

A few additional thoughts for pinning:

You can designate any of your boards as “secret” if you don’t want to share the content of your boards.

Like all social media, everything you post publicly will reflect upon you as a writer and will influence the types of followers you attract.

For your original pins/images, it’s always a good idea to create a watermark of your name or website on the pin. Re-pinned pins often lose original captions, and a watermark will maintain your name/brand’s visibility.

Do you use Pinterest to help you with your writing-related activities? Do you have any other suggestions for boards? If so, we would love it if you would share them with us!
_______________________________________________

Helen Boswell loved to get lost in the pages of a story from the time she could sound out the words. She credits her dad, an avid fiction reader, with encouraging her to read ALL OF THE BOOKS on his shelves from the time she was a teenager. An author of both urban fantasy and contemporary romance, she loves to read and write characters that come to life with their beauty, flaws, and all. She is the author of YA urban fantasies MYTHOLOGY, THE WICKED, THE ETERNAL, and NA contemporary romance LOSING ENOUGH. She is also one of the authors of the YA/NA crossover anthology LOSING IT. She is mostly on Pinterest when she needs to do book research or needs to find recipes.

What Makes You Stand Out?

I had a phone conversation with an author last week—a friend of mine insisted I call her sister (a writer with connections and a fabulous agent) for advice.  While I wasn’t familiar with her work (the call was a little spur-of-the-moment), I was familiar with her agent’s reputation and duly impressed. This sister was lovely, and completely kind to spend a few minutes of her day talking to me.  She advised me on general things, and on contracts, and when our conversation ended, she told me she’d be happy to look something over for me.  I agreed to send her the said something, but as we wrapped up our conversation and I hung up the phone, my spidey senses tingled with the knowledge that I would never hear from her again. [I got this same spidey-sense feeling the week before when a contractor told me over the phone that he would call me “later”…]

I’m not bitter.  At all.  Life is busy, and she really was kind just to talk to me. But our exchange got me thinking about why things ended the way they did, and what I could have done differently.
Hers wasn’t a rejection really, it was more of a,“You’re nice, but I don’t have time for you just now,” brush-off—much like a query letter rejection (or lack of response). The whole situation reminded me so much of querying, in fact, I wrote a list of things I could have done better.

1) [This is personal one] I could have contacted her a different way.  Conversing on the phone is not my strength; I am rubbish at it. I feel insecure when I can’t see faces and gauge reactions.  Is this an official phobia? [it is; I just looked it up: telephobia] because I have it.  Email, postcard, communication by carrier pigeon is better than phone for me.

Which makes me realize that as much as I hate writing query letters, I should be happy that at least we don’t have to speak our book ideas over the phone. [look at that: a query letter silver lining!]

2) I could have been familiar with her work (I should have done my homework).  I could have commented specifically on an aspect of it. Who isn’t thrilled, and more invested in a conversation, when someone is aware of your work?

3) I could have been more confident. I fill my silences (and sometimes my sentences) with silly “maybes, hems, and has, if you don’t mind, I think, er, possiblys” and they weaken what I say.  I don’t want to be aggressive. I don’t want to use people for their connections (I love what Erin Shakespear said about not trying to network). But I definitely could have been more confident and competent-sounding.

4) [This is the big one] I didn’t make myself desirable and/or memorable enough. Frankly, I didn’t stand out.

The funny thing is, I probably could have if I’d made less of an effort [here’s a funny truth about my voice]: I have a mild British accent, but on the phone with strangers, I put on an American one because I don’t want to bother with miscommunication/repeating myself.  My American accent feels fake to me, and sometimes I shudder, but try ordering a taco and water at a drive-in with a British accent [seriously—try it], and then imagine that every time you pick up the phone….

A friend told me he knew someone who got a highly-desired job because of a recommendation from a previous employer who said, “She would be better than a potted plant”.  Apparently, that statement was so memorable—intriguing even—that the applicant stood out among others enough for an interview. (After which I can only assume she wowed with more skills than stationary vegetative growth).

I understand this.  When I was at university, I had a job giving tours (on golf carts!) to people visiting campus. It was the best job ever. After I graduated, I got a full-time position. I was in charge of hiring student tour guides. Whenever we posted a job opening, even for just one day, we got hundreds of applicants.  It was impossible for me to interview them all.  I didn’t have the time to even feel badly about this.  I had to develop a method of selecting whom to interview.  I chose to interview the students who wrote extra comments on their applications (things like, “I ‘d love this job!” “I’ve always wanted to do this!”).  Just showing that extra bit of effort and enthusiasm got them out of my slush pile and into the interview chair. [It was still hard to find really fabulous tour guides—I’m sure I missed some great ones, simply because they didn’t grab my attention at that very first moment.]

I love the idea that we need to write the novel that only we can write.  I believe it. We all have our own experience and expertise. I know I could read Tolstoy for years, but I would never feel comfortable writing novels about 19th Century Russian society. I would, however, feel comfortable writing about places I have lived and experienced personally (Welsh villages, Utah cities, London boroughs, New England country….) or imagined (outer space and alternate universes are free game) as long as I felt passionate about it.

In summary: when querying, being aware of your strengths is important, as is being aware of your audience (doing your homework), having confidence, and sounding competent. Standing out enough to get an agent’s attention (but not in an insincere/gimmicky way) is a must [your voice should be distinct from the get-go].  But your own personal voice matters too.  If I was an agent, I’d like to read, “I got this idea from . . .” It would get me into your head for a second [which is about the amount of time they have to spend on your query letter]. If I liked what I saw, I’d want to read more.

—————————-

Emily Manwaring spent her childhood in Wales, her adolescence in Utah and the time since in England and New Hampshire respectively. She has a degree in English Literature from BYU and currently lives in Northern Utah with her husband and children.  She likes to sleep [mostly she just misses it], read, and write [this makes her sound very lazy].  She is currently working on a picture book series.