There And Draft Again

A Fellowship of Fantasy Writers

Social Media for Writers May 10, 2014

Filed under: Publishing,Writing — thereanddraftagain @ 5:43 pm
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By Sofiaperesoa via Wikimedia Commons

Hi everyone!

Whatever publishing path they’re on, writers are advised to have a “social media presence” and to create an “online platform”. Some are very successful at it, others find it more difficult. If you belong to the second category, I’d like to share a few ideas to help you make the most of your online presence.

Keyword #1: Content

This is the basic advice for social media beginners: if you want people to follow/like/suscribe to you, you have to offer them an information or an experience that they will value. The best way to do this is to ask yourself: “is this tweet/post/video/picture going to be of interest for my followers?”

Keyword #2: Consistency

Another good way of building a following is to post regularly, and often. I’m not suggesting a rigid posting schedule here (I certainly don’t have one!). But posting on your blog 2-3 times a week, tweeting 8-10 times a day or pinning pictures on Pinterest once a week can work wonders to help you become a familiar online presence.

Keyword #3: Focus

Pick a few topics that you’re passionate about. Pick a few social media services. Writers, if they want to write, can’t spread themselves too thin online. It’s important to choose a few ways to interact online, and to stick to them. It’ll help people understand your “profile”: who you are and what you’ve got to offer.

Keyword #4: Fun

Social media shouldn’t be a chore for writers. I set aside about half an hour every day to check/update my favourite sites, and it’s always a fun moment of my day. If you’re forcing yourself to build a platform and your heart isn’t in it, it’ll show and it’ll be a waste of your time.

Keyword #5: Network

Social media is about networking: it’s about doing online what people usually do in real life, i. e. chatting, sharing ideas, sharing good practice, sharing silly/funny things, sharing news, socialising. You find people who share your interests (readers, writers, etc.) and you interact with them in a friendly/polite way until you become friends or at least acquaintances. People are much more likely to buy your books or listen to what you have to say if they know and appreciate you.

Keyword #6: Etiquette

There have been numerous posts on the topic, but it’s important to be reminded of bad practices, in order to avoid them. Spamming, trolling, general bad behaviour online are a surefire way to burn bridges for writers. The best way to know if you’re “doing social media right” is to ask yourself: “would I do this to my neighbour in real life?”

What’s your favourite social media service, then? I’m a big fan of Twitter (to chat with people), Pinterest (to create boards for writing inspiration), Tumblr (to share visual content that I like). I don’t use Facebook very much anymore (do you still do?). And I’ve never tried Google+, Instagram or Youtube.

So tell us about you and social media in the comments!

EM Castellan

 

Judging Books By Their Covers March 15, 2014

Filed under: Publishing,Reading — thereanddraftagain @ 7:08 pm
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Covers are really on my mind right now as I try to figure out what I would want on the cover of my dystopian, which has led me to think about what makes a really great cover. I know what my personal tastes are, but I also know if I had judged some of my favorite books by cover alone instead of the blurb or hearsay, I would have missed out on some amazing stories. These are just a few that have beautiful covers and are amazing stories, but not the kind of cover that would draw my eye:

ImageImageImageImage

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with these covers, and they are some of my favorite books. In fact, after reading Faith of the Fallen, it became my favorite fantasy cover. If you’ve read the books, you know the impact the statues Richard made had on the story and on Nicci in particular, and I love that Richard stands so tall in front of their glory but looks so small in comparison. It is all very moving once you read the story, but wouldn’t have evoked the same reaction out of me if I had no idea what was going on.

I’m not sure why, but covers that look like paintings don’t draw me in. I prefer covers that have a cinematic, move poster-type feel to them, with the characters front and center and the action surrounding them.

ImageImageImage

And yet, some of the best fantasy series out there have covers that are more artistic and classic. If you look at the most well-known and best-selling names in fantasy (Robert Jordan, Brandon Sanderson, Mercedes Lackey, Robin Hobb, Neil Gaiman, etc) and you will find their covers match that description: artistic and classic (urban fantasy best sellers tend to be a different story with more cinematic and action-packed covers like Patricia Briggs and Kim Harrison). There are exceptions to every rule, of course, but these are the generalizations I’ve seen.

So what makes a great cover in your eyes? What draws you in? And what are some favorite books you would have missed out on if you had only judged the book by its cover?

 

YA Fantasy: what’s next? February 14, 2014

Filed under: Publishing — thereanddraftagain @ 9:27 pm
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Hi everyone!

It can be useful for Fantasy writers looking to get traditionally published to know what’s being aquired by editors right now. Indeed it gives us an idea of the so-called trends we are supposed to be aware of.

Today I’d like to share a few YA Fantasy titles that will come out in 2015 and see what editors are excited about these days…

Mortal (A Court of Thorns and Roses #1) by Sarah J. Maas

A retelling of ”Beauty and the Beast,” “Tam-Lin,” and ”East of the Sun, West of the Moon,” A Court of Thorns and Roses tells the story of a young woman growing into herself, learning to love, and understanding the true nature of sacrifice.

Becoming Jinn (Becoming Jinn #1) by Lori Goldstein

Wishing doesn’t make it so, Azra does. Turning sixteen opens the door to Azra’s Jinn ancestry and her new life as a genie. But receiving her powers isn’t exactly what Azra would call a gift. Her destiny is controlled by the powerful Afrit who rule over the Jinn world, and she must keep her true identity a secret.

The Orphan Queen by Jodi Meadows

The first in a new two-book series about an orphaned princess fighting to reclaim her kingdom while hiding her power from the masked vigilante hunting her, set in a world where magic is not just forbidden, but will soon destroy everything…

The Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

The Red Queen is set in a fantasy world where society is divided by the color of blood. It features a 17-year-old who, to save her family, must assume the role of a long-lost princess while secretly aiding a revolution. The novel was pitched as Graceling meets The Selection.

So what’s next in YA Fantasy? Fairytale retellings, magic, secret identities and powerful female main characters… Familiar topics with a twist, it seems.

What do you think? Have you heard of other YA Fantasy books coming out in 2015 or 2016? Which trends do you see emerging? Make sure to leave us a comment below!

EM Castellan

 

 

On Querying and Originality in Fantasy January 25, 2014

Filed under: Publishing — thereanddraftagain @ 7:08 pm
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Hi everyone!

If you’re a writer in the query trenches now or if you’re planning on looking for an agent and getting traditionally published in the future, you know that getting rejections is part of the process.

For the purpose of this post, we are going to assume the Querying Writer has done her research, finished and polished her manuscript, written a professional query letter and put together a list of relevant agents to contact, along with their submission guidelines.

There are many, many reasons for an agent to send the Querying Writer a rejection, and for nearly every single one of them there’s a solution. Sometimes, the agent will tell you what’s wrong with your submission: it’s called a personalized rejection. Other times, the agent won’t tell you why she’s rejecting your manuscript: it’s the infamous Form Rejection.

Thankfully, a few agents use Twitter to reveal the most common reasons why they reject a submission. They use the #10queriesin10tweets or #tenqueries hashtags. And one reason that keeps popping up when it comes to Fantasy manuscripts is this one:

Sara Megibow Tweet

The premise isn’t unique/original/inventive enough.

In a sea of submissions, agents and editors are looking for a Unique Concept. Or a Familiar Story With An Unexpected Twist. They want the Unfamiliar. They want to be Surprised. As we do, as readers.

So how do you avoid being rejected for lack of originality? Here are a few pointers:

  • Research the industry: find out what’s on the shelves right now or what will hit the shelves in the next 18 months. This will give an idea of what agents/editors have already seen and aren’t looking for.
  • Avoid tropes in your writing: I recommend this website to find out which writing devices have been overdone.
  • Read: writing a Fantasy book requires reading Fantasy book, to avoid the annoying predicament which consists in writing a book that already exists.

Are you worried about how original your manuscript is or isn’t? Have you had rejections stating your premise felt too familiar? What have you done to ensure your book was as original as possible? Make sure to leave us a comment below!

EM Castellan

 

Beyond Fanfiction: Publishing Your Book Online January 4, 2014

Filed under: Publishing — thereanddraftagain @ 7:16 pm
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Many writers have dabbled in fanfiction here and there, or maybe even been so hardcore that they tried to organize a fanfiction virtual season of their favorite vampire show that inexplicably got canceled after one season (ahem…not guilty). Writing fanfiction is a great stepping stone because you are using characters and worlds already created, so you can really play around and get to know your writing style. But writing fanfiction can also be great for the ego since the fan communities are so involved and vocal in telling you how awesome your story is. Which is understandably cool since you wouldn’t have written it unless you were just as obsessed thought it was awesome too.

From uthinkido.com

Which is something you don’t necessarily get when you start your own original work. Sure, you can try to find beta readers and see what they say, but there’s a certain thrill to publishing your writing online that is missing. Also, it is a bummer to not be able to transfer your readership from fanfiction to your actual books if you chose to use a different pen name.

 

But what many writers don’t know is there are plenty of online writing communities where you can publish your work for free. I don’t recommend posting everything you’ve ever written, but if you are just starting out, it can be a great way to build an audience. There are a few that I’ve come across like Figment and FictionPress, but Wattpad is by far my favorite. I mentioned it before when talking about my self-publishing journey, but I thought I’d give you guys some more detail as to why it is so awesome.

 

I discovered Wattpad through an article on Publisher’s Weekly (that I haven’t been able to find since, but you can check out Wattpad: A Way for Indie Authors to Build an Audience by PW) giving tips on how to build an audience when you are just starting out, especially if you are self-publishing. One of their suggestions was to post your book on Wattpad and get it featured.

“For self-published and hybrid authors, participating on Wattpad is all about the exposure. We have 16 million engaged readers every month — a captive audience looking for their next great read. For authors, it’s a way to build an audience directly on a reading social network. They do it because they see Wattpad as a way to promote their brand, test out new ideas, and find new customers. The writers who are the most successful are those who are engaged with their readers — they respond to every comment, update often, and share as much as they can.” -Maria Cootauca, Engagement Manager on Wattpad

I did this back in September for the first book in my fantasy series and have been astounded with the results. In four months, over 6000 people have finished reading my book, 1700 people follow me, and over 700 people have commented on it. Has that translated into sales yet? I don’t know. I’ll have to follow up on that when the second book is released in March. But people are excited about it, which is awesome.

 

Word of mouth can be everything for an author, and this site is a great way to get some buzz started about your book. And it’s not just new authors that agree. You can find authors who are already established and selling hundreds of thousands of books on Wattpad as well. Amanda Hocking, Melissa Foster, Margaret Atwood, and the week that I was featured, Brandon Sanderson was as well. Some of you might recognize his name since he finished out the Wheel of Time series after Robert Jordan passed away.

 

Wattpad Logo

Wattpad is not only a great marketing tool, it is also a wonderful community where you can truly connect one on one with readers. They can comment on each chapter, asking you questions, telling you things they liked, and you can reply directly to them. I’ve gotta say that it is pretty awesome to see people fangirl over my characters as much as I do. Even if it doesn’t leave me with 6000 guaranteed purchases, it will be worth it.

 

The only downside to publishing the first book in a series there is that you will break some hearts by not posting the second one. Wattpad is a worldwide community, touching countries you might not have even heard of, which means there will be some readers who are unable to purchase your second book because it just might not be available to them, regardless of how many distributors you use.

 

There are tons of success stories from Wattpad, such as 17 year old Beth Reekles who scored a deal with Random House after her book The Kissing Booth amassed a huge following on Wattpad. Harlequin has sponsored a contest to discover New Adult stories through the site, and I’m sure many other publishers will follow suit.

 

Don’t take my word for it, though. Hop on over to the site yourself and see how it works out for you. In my experience, getting featured was a great way to get a lot of readers fast, whereas just posting the book there was a bit of a slow burn for readership. It can happen without being featured, but you have to have patience. Then again, if you are trying to get published or publishing on your own, patience is probably your middle name by now. =D

 

Have you ever published online? What was your experience like?

maratadasig2

 

Most Anticipated Fantasy Books of 2014 December 29, 2013

Hi everyone !

This is our last post for this year and today I’ve decided to look forward and see which 2014 Fantasy books are the most anticipated… In order to compile the following list, I’ve used several Goodreads lists as well as forums such as this one.

Adult Books:

Bastards and the Knives

The Bastards and the Knives (Gentleman Bastard #0) by Scott Lynch (Expected publication: March 3rd 2014 by Gollancz)

Prince of Fools

Prince of Fools (The Red Queen’s War #1) by Mark Lawrence (Expected publication: June 3rd 2014 by Ace)

The Magician's Land

The Magician’s Land (The Magicians #3) by Lev Grossman (Expected publication: August 5th 2014 by Viking)

The Broken Eye

The Broken Eye (Lightbringer, #3) by Brent Weeks (Expected publication: August 26th 2014 by Orbit)

[NO COVER ART YET]

Shadows of Self (Mistborn #5) by Brandon Sanderson (Expected publication: 2014 by Tor Books)

Young Adult Books

Defy

Defy (Defy #1) by Sara B. Larson (Expected publication: January 7th 2014 by Scholastic Press)

Stolen Songbird

Stolen Songbird (The Malediction Trilogy #1) by Danielle L. Jensen (Expected publication: April 1st 2014 by Strange Chemistry)

Dreams of Gods and Monsters

Dreams of Gods & Monsters (Daughter of Smoke & Bone #3) by Laini Taylor (Expected publication: April 8th 2014 by Little, Brown & Company)

A shard of ice

A Shard of Ice (The Black Symphony Saga #1) by Alivia Anders (Expected publication: April 14th 2014 by Red Alice Press)

Ruin and Rising

Ruin and Rising (The Grisha #3) by Leigh Bardugo (Expected publication: June 3rd 2014 by Henry Holt and Co.)

What was your favorite Fantasy book in 2013? Which 2014 Fantasy book are you most anticipating? Make sure to leave us your answers below!

EM Castellan

 

Traveling the Hybrid Author Road…Backwards. December 18, 2013

Filed under: Publishing,Writing — thereanddraftagain @ 8:30 am
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In October of this year, I published the first book in my fantasy series, Heirs of War all by my onesy-savvy. Okay, not really, because I have an amazing team of supporters behind me, from my editor and cover artist, to my CPs and betas, and to my cohorts here and other writerly friends. Seriously, seriously awesome. But the road to hitting “publish” all on your own isn’t a smooth one, as Rachel O’Laughlin already talked about in her self-publishing story in August. In fact, a lot of people do it way too soon, before their manuscript is anywhere near ready.

I sincerely hope I am not one of those people.

My journey into the publishing world started last summer, though it feels like it has been much longer. I’d finished writing the first and second books of Heirs of War, and had started doing revisions on the latter. HoW1 had been rewritten at least a dozen times at that point, so I felt confident that it was ready.

It really, really wasn’t. Like shamefully far away from being ready.

Image: xAikaNoKurayami on deviantArt

But I didn’t realize that because I didn’t even know what a CP or beta was at that point. So I started researching querying and dove in head first. I queried everyone I could find who might be interested and even joined some query contests. I built wonderful connections that make me very happy that I did things all backwards like (like usual, for me) and got mostly form rejections from agents and small press publishers. Looking back on my query, I can see why. To be honest, I’m still not happy with my blurb, which as the writerly ones out there know, is typically part of your query letter. Well, until you get published. Then maybe you get a better blurb.

I digress. So, rejection after rejection led to a lot of disheartening thoughts. No one was telling me if I was doing anything wrong, and it was testing well with readers. So what was going on? I entered the Haunted Writing Clinic and Contest and wound up with not just one, but two mentors who taught me the error of my writerly ways. Head jumping, passive voice–the works. And I got a couple of requests after that, but only from people who wanted me to R&R (revise and resubmit) and the revisions were massive. Narrowing down POVs to just one or two characters would completely trash the story I have in mind, so I couldn’t do it. Granted, I found a way to narrow down my eleven (!!!!) POVs to five thanks to my amazing editor who knows exactly what to say to me, but still. Two was not doable.

But more than one person had requested these types of revisions, so it led me to some heavy thinking. Was I wasting my time trying to get this book published when it wasn’t going to appeal to the masses? Or did I trust the readers I already had and take a chance on it?

I chose the latter, and I’m really glad I did. Why? Because everything is a learning experience for me, and self-publishing has taught me so much. So much that I’ll have to save that for another post. The short list:

  1. I learned about myself as a writer. I can commit to deadlines, comply with rewrites, and I can strengthen my prose, which I view to be a weakness (I’m no Tolkien or Rowling–I’m a better storyteller than I am writer).
  2. I can build a fanbase. I’ve started doing this through Wattpad. HoW was featured there the month before it released (and in a previous version, not the version that was rewritten and published) and it is still ranked, which feels awesome. Almost 6,000 people have finished reading my book, which has connected me to a lot more readers in a more immediate fashion than I could have ever hoped for. Will this translate into sales for book two? I don’t know, but I’m not worried about it. The most important part for me has been sharing my book and thanks to Wattpad, I’ve done that.
  3. Giving away free stuff is fun! So is swag! Seriously, I could go broke doing this.

The book debuted October 13 and I have only sold 41 copies so far, but that’s about 30 more than I expected with little to no advertising or promotion. I ran a blog tour and have participated in giveaways, donating copies of the book and swag, but nothing over the top. No Facebook ads or anything like that. Just good, old fashioned word of mouth. We’ll see how that works out for me. =) All in all, even though I’m not selling thousands of books already, I feel like I’ve succeeded. People are reading my words, which is beyond awesome. But I’m not anti-traditional, pro-self-publishing by any means.

Image from memecenter.com

A long story to lead up to what I hope to be the next stage of my writing career: The Hybrid Author. Hybrid Authors are, put simply, authors who juggle self-publishing and traditionally publishing their books. Most of the time, from what I’ve seen, it is traditionally published authors branching out and deciding to self-publish their works for their own reasons. They already have a fanbase and already have books for sale out there. You don’t hear many stories of self-published authors getting a deal on another book series.

I’m not talking about self-published authors that get “discovered” like Amanda Hocking or EL James. I’m talking about a self-published author who maybe sold 41 copies of their book deciding to query their next series and actually succeeding. This is really rough and new territory. Last year, a lot of people in the publishing industry would have advised against this sort of move or told me to take my book off sale while I query the other one. To be clear, I just finished writing a YA dystopian that I plan to turn into a series. I don’t want to shop HoW around again. That’s my baby. No touchy.

But this dystopian has a wider audience, I think, and is just easier to market in general. It took me forever to figure out that HoW was New Adult, but this book is most definitely Young Adult. It’s also first person POV, which was odd for me but paid off in the end. Anyway, bottom line: Easier to market, and traditionally publishing still appeals to me. I think a publisher can do a lot more with this book than I have the power to right now.

But what will an agent say when they find out I have another book out that isn’t making any best seller lists? Will they care that I was featured on Wattpad or how many followers I have there? How can a self-published author move into traditional territory?

I guess we’ll see where this next year takes me and if I have any answers for those questions. Until then, tell me your thoughts. What do you think of the hybrid author model, and do you think it’s possible to work backwards from self-publishing? Or is it traditional all the way for you? There is no one right path, but I love hearing about yours!

~Mara Valderran