Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

I need to take a moment to give props to JK Rowling on the entertainment front.  She’s literally dipped into every almost avenue possible: books, movies, amusement parks, and the stage.  (Pictured is my best friend, Courtney, standing outside the stage of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child in London England.)  Being an author is (sadly) about more than just writing good work.  You have to think about it as a business.  Not necessarily in the same way as Rowling.  But here’s the question I give you: how can I reach a wider audience?

Chapter 13: Shadows of Motivation

It really is something, writing a novel.  It’s your precious baby that takes months to finish.  One of the hardest parts?  You have no positive affirmation until several drafts in, when you finally feel it’s good enough to show to your beta reader.  Personally, I’m also a part-time author.  This means even the first draft takes me several months to write.  I worked on my last novel for six months before I gave it to the first of my beta readers.

What does that mean?  Any encouragement is most likely only coming to come from you.  Yes, you have a support group (I hope).  Personally I like to text both my sister and best friend different word count updates literally just to hear back that they’re excited about my progress.  I need to be reaffirmed.  Sue me.  But, is that enough?

Sometimes it doesn’t feel like it.  I’m a full-time student, and if you’re not in my boat I’m assuming most of you have a full-time job.  Either way, whenever I have free time my brain is simply too tired to write.  Instead I always take a nap, watch a show on Netflix (I just finished Parks and Rec in only two weeks), or even read.  Let’s not forget about the social life.  When is the time to write?? Well, it’s there.  For sure.  But I have to create it.

That’s easier said than done.  First, I have to find the motivation to even begin, and sometimes, I simply can’t find it.  I’ve kept track of my word count per day (which I of course plan to share upon this novel’s completion) and let me tell you: there are a lot of ‘0’ days.  I have random spikes where I exceed my word count, and some random days where I don’t even hit 1,000 words.

Now, I’ve always been the forgetful type.  This means that my google calendar is filled with every little thing that I have to do.  My phone reminds me and thank goodness, because otherwise I wouldn’t get anything done.  Then I thought about it.  Why am I not scheduling my writing?  I mean, up until now, I’ve always approached it as “once I finish this assignment, I’ll write.”

Screw that!

I went through my calendar and specifically allotted time to write.  It gives me the reliance that I’ve accounted for the time – instead of thinking “I should be studying” or “There’s still that assignment.”  I know that somewhere in my calendar I’ve allotted the appropriate amount of hours for that shit too!  So when I’m writing, I can be completely present.  It’s been such a simple decision.

But the results?  I’ve doubled my weekly word count.  I’m curious how you get yourself back on track when your motivation hides for a bit?

Chapter 6: Marketing Strategies

This chapter is dedicated to the part of my character that you’ve yet to read about: my inner businesswoman.  I foreshadowed this event in an earlier post when I mentioned my major in Finance.  The degree required marketing classes, and as such I’ve come up with a list of suggestions for authors who choose the self-publishing route.  I should note these items are in no way guaranteed to work.

~ If a multi-book series, publish books about three months apart. This is when big websites greatly lower their advertisements of your book unless sales have done remarkably well.  Although it may take you longer to finish a novel, simply wait to publish the first until you feel comfortable that you’d complete the second in time and so on.

~ Once Book #2 sales decline past your personal desired level, donate only the first book to libraries. This will force them to buy your other books once they’ve fallen in love with your series.
* Choose cities you donate to based on the population demographic (look for your books’ target group)
* You can add more books to the library once

~ Optimal dates to sell eBook by genre:
* January-April: Romance, Self-help, Business books, Cookery
* May-August: Adventure, Fantasy, Travel
* September-November: Academic, Horror, Paranormal
* December-January: Children, Cookery, Illustrated, Quiz, Dictionaries and quirky fun books [1]

~ Every three books, offer a deal for set.
* Example: You’re selling each book for $2.99. Sales are starting to steadily
decline for Book #3.  Offer Books #1-#3 for $4.99.
* Example: You’re selling each book for $2.99.  Sales are starting to steadily
decline for Book #6.  Offer Books #4-#6 for $4.99.

~ Use every avenue to promote Publishing Date. Examples:
* Twitter
^ use trending hashtags and relate to your story
^ create unique hashtag and try to get it trending
* Facebook
^groups
* Instagram

~ Reach out to freelance book reviewers. The standard is that you give them a free copy for an unbiased review.
* Continue going back to the same reviewers each book. Build a
professional relationship with them.  They might eventually let your books
“cut lines” when you reach out to them.

~ Listen to feedback.  If your readers tweet or ask a lot about a certain character or pairing, take note. Use that popularity and see if you can create a standalone about them.
* Do not sacrifice quality to try to force a sale. This will only anger your
readers, especially since it was one of their favorite characters you just
ruined, and you may lose loyal regular buyers.

~ Create and/or utilize website. Your author persona should already have one of these, so now use it.  Post about the books.  Ask your followers questions.  Give them something to interact with where possible.
* Subscribers List. Once they sign up, you’ve got them trapped for any news that you feel is relevant about the series!

~ Hold fan art contest about book’s characters. Offer appropriate monetary rewards for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd
     * Utilize social media to promote

~ Post a serial/short stories on your website in the same world/universe as your series. Again, do not sacrifice quality.

 

[1] Rooney, Mich. “Reaching Readers: Best Timing for Book Launches.”  SelfPublishing Advice Center.  N.p., 22 Nov. 2014. Web. 31 May 2017.

Chapter 4: Wandering with No Destination

We’ve grown up hearing the idiom repeated in our ear “Don’t judge a book by its over.”  When it comes to people, I wholeheartedly agree with what it stands for.  With books, however, I’ve always been guilty of falling into its temptations.  A distinct memory in my head is at SuperCon this past year deciding between two books (of the same author) to buy and choosing the one I did simply because the cover reminded me of a magical journal.  I had literally nothing else to go off of because the sales pitch from the author for each appealed to me equally.

We’re all guilty of it.  You walk through a bookstore or library, your finger dragging against the spines of books, until you see something – a picture, a font – that catches your eye.  It’d be a lie to claim you go through every single plot summary to make your choice; there’s simply not enough time.

The exception of this is when you have a specific author or series in mind.  You make a beeline for their spot on the shelf, buy what you went for, and possibly let yourself dally around that section for anything else that catches your eye.  Personally, I’m a user of Goodreads and have found it immensely helpful.

What does this mean for writers?  After we put our heart and soul into our imagined (yet so incredibly real) world, potential readers could pass it by on a whim based on our cover.  As previously stated, I’ve never published a book, so I have little insight on the workings of how a cover gets chosen.

There’s still a different market to consider, though.  In my first post I mentioned how my sister, Kristen, is an Indie author.  That term might’ve been new to some of you, so let me take the time now to explain: When someone is called an “Indie author,” it means that they decided to publish their book without going through the conventional processes.  Instead of querying to agents and publishing agencies, the author instead self-publishes via a large distributer such as Amazon.

It’s given authors a chance to get their books out there without anyone believing in them, which I think is just fantastic.  The trick, though, is that sometimes when a book is rejected, it’s because it’s not fine-tuned to its greatest potential yet.  So, before I go any further, I’d like to encourage you to let a book rest for a while after a few rejections.  Work on a different story – or possibly several – and you’ll naturally become a better writer.  That in itself is a simple concept; practice makes perfect.  However, patience is a struggle (at least for me).

The perseverance to let a loved novel sit on your computer untouched is a feat that I’m struggling with currently.  I’m almost done with writing a completely different novel, with my first novel seemingly neglected in one of my laptop’s many folders.  Why?  Because, I want to look at it unbiasedly.  My heart has been given a six month break of getting to know those characters day after day.  I can only hope that when I look back at it, I’ll be able to truly tell if it’s ready for the world to see.

As startup authors, the idea of an eBook provides us with an advantage when it comes to the idea of becoming Indie authors.  We only have to pay a freelance editor and book cover artist (mind you, those are several hundred dollars, so this isn’t a pain-free road) and then we can put our books out in the world no matter how many times an agent told us it was a “hard sell.”

Book covers and whatnot suddenly become less important, as a lot of the major buying platforms have a “based on recent purchases” tab where it suggests other books that you’ll probably love.  The cover is still important in that moment, of course, but at the very least our stories have the potential to be suggested by a different convention from us begging our family members for an extra sale.

This might sound silly, but I would suggest reading the poorly written stories with low stars that are sold for free (usually they’ll be the first in a series) by Indie authors, and then compare those to ones that have done well in the eBook world.  Why?  It’s easy to read a stranger’s book and go “okay, well they’re doing this wrong.”

It’s nice to then go and write notes about what you don’t like.  Then, go through your own story, and be honest about yourself with possible instances where you’re guilty of the same.  There are two sides to every coin, though!  You should also take note of authors who do something really well that you struggle with.  For example, I’m working on scene description.  I’m not quite an expert yet at setting the scene and depicting it in such a way that makes my readers feel as if they’re standing there, but yet not going on and on for paragraphs without losing the pace I want.

Personally, I’m a large fan of Erin Morgenstern’s book, The Night Circus (click here or below to purchase!).  It’s been my favorite stand-alone book for a while, and upon one of my recent reads (I’ve probably read it more than five times in the last three years alone) realized one of the reasons why I’m so drawn to it – the very same thing that I personally have not yet mastered.  Morgenstern is an expert at slipping in details throughout scenes – not just giving you descriptions to paint the picture with the correct colors, but also stringing together words in a way that grasp at your emotions.  Now, I’m about to read through it again with a specific focus towards those details.  How does she describe her characters?  Scenery?  Action scenes?  Magic?  Romantic tension?  These are talents of hers that I wish to possess, and plan to gain with her unintended assistance.

One helpful hint I heard once was to focus on the five senses: the flickering of the light that has your character on edge; the first taste of chocolate on his starved tongue; the air suddenly becoming hot with tension, your character sweating as she refuses to break; the buzz of bees becoming louder, or possibly everything becomes quiet as your character’s focus is consumed by anger; how her love interest strangely always smells of peppermint.

So, what’s the point of all this rambling?  Honestly, I don’t entirely have one, but here’s my final random thought.  Utilize multiple drafts.  Dedicate one entire draft to fixing your biggest weakness.  I literally am going through my current in-the-works and just adding small details here and there where I think it’s lacking.  It’s provoking new scenes altogether, because forcing myself to be this attentive to detail apparently stimulates my imagination.  Really, I think it’s just giving me a clearer lens to this paranormal universe.  Either way, it’s worth it.

Those beta readers that you hopefully found after reading my first blog post?  Ask them what your biggest weakness is.  Don’t be sensitive.  Use what they say constructively.  Denial won’t better your book.

Chapter 2: Master of Time or Victim of Patience?

Today I’ve been thinking over the biggest misconception of becoming an author: the post-writing stage.  There’s probably two possible reactions to hearing those words: (1) You’re confused.  You weren’t aware that there was much work to be done once the novel’s finished.   (2)  Your skin’s crawling, and you just completely lost your appetite.  Yes, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

I think it’s safe to say every author’s pet peeve is someone trying to read your first draft.  As my writing’s developed, my first drafts have gotten better relative to one another, but they’re still complete trash when compared to the final product.  Most of creating a book is actually rewriting.  Some aspiring authors come in with the misconception that they’ll write their book in one go and it’ll come out a masterpiece.

Personally, I go through at least four drafts before I even let my beta readers take a look.  (Quick side note: if you don’t have any beta readers to give you a fresh set of eyes, find one or more ASAP.)  I have three, so there adds even more drafts.  Then, I take a step back for a bit before delving into the story one last time.  The first novel I completed took roughly nine months to complete – appropriate since I considered it my baby.

Once you’re completely happy with your novel, you’re still far from the end of the road.  This is the part that all authors dread.  In the story of our lives, it’s the chapter we wish we could skip, but is sadly so terribly crucial.

I would always suggest to aspiring authors to first try the traditional route of publishing.  First and foremost, agents are a blessing.  Get one.  (I have to add in a disclaimer that you should check their legitimacy.  A good rule of thumb is that if they charge you money for submission, it’s a scam.)  You want someone who not only has shown strong success in the past, but also who shares the same vision.  Having an agent isn’t a guarantee of publishing, but it’s definitely a hugely beneficial asset to have.

Now the elephant in the room: how do you get an agent?  Here’s the word that’ll send dread to your very core: querying.  Writing a query is possibly the most annoying but important step when marketing your book.  I’ll go more into tips and suggestions in a later blog, but right now I just want to emphasize: don’t summarize your book.  That’s a rejection waiting to happen.  Think of the themes and emotions in your story, and use that to drive the query.

The final step that I’ve found myself at is the waiting period.  Agents already have clients and have a lot on their plate in addition to looking for new authors.  What does that mean for us?  We’re at the back of the list.  We have no “author resume,” so we have to prove ourselves entirely on quality of work.  I always waited about one hundred days, with some exceptions.

If you’re like me, you’re going to be checking your email on your phone every five minutes for the first couple weeks.  In order to not torture myself, I started putting a reminder in my phone around the time that the agent is known to respond on average.  Querytracker.net is an excellent source to plan out how you’re going to go about it.  I personally liked to send my queries out in clumps of 4 or 5 agents at a time.

Right now, though, here’s the message I want to really hit home.  I was heavily guilty of ranting in this post, and you know why?  Because, it’s a lengthy process.  Each step becomes its own monster on your To-Do List.  A lot of it involves sitting around with the jitters, impatiently waiting to hear back so that you know what you can do next.

So, here’s my advice: don’t rush.  Word count goals are fine; a common one is 2,000 words a day.  For me, that doesn’t work, but that’s not to say I don’t think it’s a good idea.  I have to schedule my oh-so-very-busy schedule around it, but you do have to make the time.  “Free time” is a nice idea, but so rarely exists in reality.  You have to account for it in your planner.   Don’t be afraid for your draft count to go into the double digits.  This might seem silly, but let the novel fully mature into the masterpiece that it has the potential to become.  Take time with your query; you want it to provoke emotion and curiosity when the agent reads it.  Finally, patience is a virtue you need to work on developing.  And, the best way to wait for a reply?  Write some more.