A Writerly Blog
It's not as easy as it seems. . .
People think an author sits and drinks lattes as words stream from her pen. Then off to submit to agents and editors. In a few weeks, voilá - a contract. Soon, royalties come streaming in, and the celebrated author is on the way to her villa in Santorini. Or maybe Tuscany.
Today, I will be interviewing a good friend and fellow author at Ambassador International, Mary E. Sandford about her debut middle-grade historical novel, Unwanted! She was my Word Weavers critique group leader a couple of years back, but moved to Texas recently, so we don't see each other often unless we connect at a conference.
When I visit a new city, I like to see it from a writer's point of view. Greenville, SC was no exception. I was here for a conference, book signing and a school visit, but more about that next time. Today, I want to share this burgeoning city to which people of all ages are flocking. It is one of the top ten cities to live in, a mecca for senior citizens, and a model for downtown rehab success -- other cities use the Greenville model when reviving a dead downtown district.
Whew! This week, I was involved in four events as an author -- each unique in its own way. Being a former teacher and school librarian, my very first school visit was a favorite! You can see me above, sharing my PowerPoint presentation.
As a writer, I can get caught up in FOMO: Fear Of Missing Out. Each time a new blogpost or newsletter alerts me of a webinar I must attend, a book I should be reading, or a social media task I need to engage in, I get panicky.
Which is the most important? What if I make the wrong choice?
There is too much to do in a limited timeframe. We authors have families, other jobs, people and pets we must care for, and places we'd like to go, just like anyone else. How do we fit it all in??
Can I make a suggestion?
We don't need to!
As far as I'm concerned, there are only seven things we authors MUST do . . .
I'm learning quite a bit as a debut author. And blog touring is one of these aspects. My MG historical fiction, The Heart Changer is going on tour May 20th to 24th — even if I can’t. I was hoping for some R&R, but that comes at the beginning of June. Here is the link: Just Read Blog & Review Tour if you are interested in those who expertly share your book with their readership. It’s not possible for debut authors to be at all places all the time so this essentially doubles their reach. I consider it a jump-start to our career. . .
Sometimes, there is a fee, usually it includes a giveaway — you supply the books, they give them away. Occasionally, you can choose to offer an e-book in place of a physical one. Many times, you are responsible to ship the autographed book to the winner.
So which companies offer this opportunity?
Ten days ago I returned exhausted from three whirlwind days of our regional SCBWI Conference. Wow. I couldn't take it all in -- there was so much to absorb! There were workshops and keynote addresses by seasoned authors, a bookstore to shop to our wallet's delight, and of course, a county fair to top all county fairs.
Topics from how to garner invites for author visits to social media marketing and what to look for in an agent. And the customary craft courses on voice, editing and character.
If you've been to a writer's conference, you know how daunting it can be. So what are the 5 things to remember? Let me outline them simply here:
1. BE COMFORTABLE
Wear comfortable shoes and clothing (with a sweater or jacket to ward off a chill in case the rooms are freezing). Bring snacks, a method to take notes, and a tote, small suitcase or large purse to hold all the conference goodies and handouts.
2. BE WILLING
If you live in the area, (but even if you don't) volunteer to help set up registration, drive speakers to and from the airport, or attend to the needs of the host for a workshop. I offered to pick up a well-known author after her flight, and ended up having a friendly and insightful conversation. I realized she has some of the same issues as we debut authors do!
3. BE FRIENDLY
Network with attendees, authors, agents and editors. Sit with them at a meal, chat in the lounge, or catch them at the end of a workshop. They are humans like you and me. No need to be intimidated! If you don't try, you'll never feel comfortable around them. And don't underestimate the importance of conversing with fellow writers, even if they haven't published yet. We all have valuable things to share. Bring business cards to pass out, and be sure to follow them on social media. Who knows where that will lead!
4. BE REALISTIC
Don't expect to land an agent or sign a contract at your very first conference. Yes, it has happened, but chances are slim. It doesn't mean you or the conference was a failure. It does mean you have accumulated tips and tricks for your writer's journey that will eventually lead to a contract. Put into practice all the things you are learning, and move forward. Good news may be around the next corner, whether that is next month or next year!
Remember those notes you took? Hopefully, while in the workshops, you highlighted or circled the items you needed to work on first. Maybe it's editing your latest manuscript, or submitting to that awesome agent you talked with -- just make sure you've perused their wishlist before submitting. Get to work immediately on those tasks. As I write this, I'm reminding myself I have not followed through on my own advice. Believe me, I will miss out if I don't move ahead. Don't be like me!
This is the first time I've attended a conference as a debut author. So I was honored to see my little MG historical fiction nestled among the great kid lit authors of the Midwest. Well, maybe a bit intimidating, too. And although I sold only one, I discovered another author had sold none. So, I didn't worry. We all need to begin somewhere. And I am firmly traveling down the path of marketing, writing and submitting.
Here I am below, ready to sign the one book purchased. But no one showed up. No worries, because two-thirds of the attendee authors didn't show, and the few that sat at their assigned place faithfully and waited, had no books to sign. But, we took photos of each other, then exchanged and signed our books. Win-win. Just not in the usual sense.
Can you think of other points to remember when attending a writer's conference? Which conferences have helped you the most on your writer's journey? Tell me in the comments below. . .
Speaking of debut authors -- The Heart Changer has 12 reviews right now. Can you help me reach 20? If you have read my story, please give me an honest review on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes and Noble and/or Bookbub. You can copy and paste the same review to all the online sites. Easy-peasy!
I'd sure appreciate it!
This week, I turn my focus away from my debut novel, The Heart Changer, and place it on a young author also publishing with Ambassador International. Her genre is fantasy — opposite end of the spectrum from historical fiction. But, there is still value in fantasy novels, as I’m sure many readers will agree.
I’m curious, Joanna — how your writing journey begin?
When I wrote my first story, it stemmed from a desire to write a good story. Back then, I was only ten-years-old. It became a hobby for me. I loved writing in my free time and I wrote books I wanted to read. Back then, I still read a lot, but as I grew older and matured, my writing grew with me. Eventually, in high school, I decided to try writing my first fantasy novel. That book was Hunter.
At the time, Star Wars inspired me to write my own epic franchise but I was like, “What is this franchise?” I had no idea. After Hunter came the other books in the Valiant Series. Years passed and I graduated high school and chose to make writing my career. I went to college online and there I was able to continue working on the Valiant Series and even created a few of them as ideas for some of my classes. I met my husband, whom I was dating at the time and together, we added more ideas to the Valiant Series and came up with the overall plotline. Little by little, we connected the books together, adding in snippets in the previous books I had written - such as Hunter and Shifter - to tie them to the current ones.
Then, we began to plan the final two books in the Valiant Series. I realized the entire series paralleled with the Bible and that each of the previous books had a Biblical theme to them that I had never noticed before. God had been with me this whole time, working on the series with me. The last two were meticulously planned out, because I wanted to do them right. Seven years and it was over. I finished it.
I love the way your husband came alongside you in your writing — now that’s a partnership! So where did you go from there?
That thought was constantly on my mind. I had graduated college, earned my degree and somehow had to turn writing into a career. I began freelancing, writing articles online for a website called Hirewriters.com. My husband and I married and started our life together.
We edited Hunter and self-published it. The problem with that was I had no idea what I was doing. I had no idea how to market it, so I joined a few Facebook groups and shared it there. I earned about ten dollars a month; not near enough for a person to live on.
In the meantime, I started writing full time on hirewriters and other sites. Every little bit I earned made me feel better, but it still wasn’t my dream. I kept writing books and was so focused on writing, I stopped reading. Instead, I wrote books I wanted to read. So I started another series but hit major block and stopped. I realized I’d been so focused on two series with no break that I’d never gotten to experience writing anything I wanted. So I started writing whatever projects I was inspired for, which was super fun.
During this time, I had stopped freelancing and had started working on traditionally publishing. Self-publishing wasn’t working out, but I kept getting rejections on the books I was sending in: Hunter, Shifter, Warrior, Samurai — books in the Valiant Series.
Until one day. . .
Let me guess — you received good news. No, great news. The news all authors wait for!
Yes! Ambassador International loved them and made contracts for both. The next year was spent working with them. I was able to write a short introduction to Hunter to help with marketing for its release. I decided it was best to re-read the Valiant Series and I did read the other ten books in the main series (17 total with 5 prequel novels) and edited them myself as I went on.
Now, the real work began: the book launch. . .
Hours of research ended with me learning and growing. I’m having so much fun with the entire process. It’s so exciting and it’s a dream come true!
This journey as a writer has been a hard one but it’s one I wouldn’t change. Being a writer has taught me to never give up on my dreams and it’s allowed me the chance to rely on God and put my faith and trust in Him as He takes this journey with me. I’ve matured with my writing and myself. Each of my books has seen me go from being a ten year-old-girl to the twenty-four-year-old married woman I am today.
Isnt it amazing to see how God takes us step by step towards the places He has designed for us? And, being a debut author myself, I certainly know the range of emotions an author experiences as she prepares her book launch — apprehension mixed with joy and a massive amount of hard work. That’s what I call a valiant effort!
Thanks so much for sharing your author’s journey, Joanna! I wish you God’s blessings.
Joanna White earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing for Entertainment at Full Sail University. The Valiant series is her first published work, which first started off being updated on a website called Wattpad. She lives in the country of Missouri with her husband, where she continues to work on her other upcoming books. Writing has been a passion since she was ten, when she wrote her first book. Ever since then, writing has become her life outside of her family, God, and being a nerd.
A reckless young woman named Averella does what no woman has ever done.
She disguises herself as a man and purposefully gets herself arrested and thrown into Zagerah. Her brother Gabriel was taken, and with his disease, he will not survive on his own. She has no idea what to expect inside the prison; all she knows is that once men get taken, they never come back.
The Hunters will find her.
Genetically altered to be faster and stronger than humans, the Hunters use their powers to find and kill every prisoner who enters Zagerah. The only ones who can defeat them, are in fact, themselves.
Jared is a Hunter. It’s all he’s known, all he remembers. He kills ruthlessly and without regret, one prisoner after another. When a new prisoner Dalex shows up, everything begins to change. Jared goes undercover to make Dalex and the other prisoners believe he is one of them, a prisoner himself.
No one knows the truth.
He will trick them.
Toy with them.
Then, he will kill them.
Little did I know this meme would be a self-prophetic reflection of my feelings at this time. I know we are not to rely on feelings, since they can lead us astray. They are as fleeting as wind.
I want to be honest here: I'm worried. About many things.
My book, The Heart Changer launches in two days - April 26th. Does anybody really care?
I've poured my heart and soul into my novel - based on a historical event. I want my young audience to fill with hope after reading it. Life is too short and full of hard times. We all need a bit of hope. But will my book reach those who need hope? Will it get into the right hands?
What about my writerly friends - and family. Do they care? Enough to pass the word about my debut novel? Am I being too pushy? Too 'in your face' with my social media posts? I have it on a good authority that followers expect you to push the envelope when it comes to posts in the few days before publication.
Have I done enough? Too little? In the best way possible to make my book seen? Will people find it on Amazon with such an obscure tag? I was hoping for a "juvenile historical fiction" category tag, but it wasn't to be.
Will I get 50 reviews within a month of publication or less, which brings my book up in ranking on Amazon? Or more troublesome - will I get any reviews?? What if my readers don't like it? I do understand there will always be a couple of reviewers who for some reason or another, give it a 1 or 2. I've heard those ratings can reveal some truth about my story. Read my post on reviews here.
On Friday, April 26th at 8pm CST, I am hosting my very first author's FB Live event on my Page (have you liked my Page yet?) Will anyone show up? Or will I be talking to crickets?
And my FB Page Chat Party on Saturday, April 27th from 2-2:30pm? Will anyone join in to ask questions? Or will I need to entertain myself for half an hour?
As you can see, I have many concerns. But I understand it's totally normal.
My word of the year is PERSEVERANCE, and boy, I will need plenty of it during these next few weeks! Perseverance to push through the gloom of insecurity and hopelessness, and move towards HOPE. Because this one thing I know for sure - I have a great God. He wrote my story, and therefore, I needn't worry. All those readers who need hope will read my story. I will get as many reviews as He sees fit. And I will have exactly the right friends to join me in my first author's FB LIVE and Chat Party events.
You, see - He is the Heart Changer!
My MG Biblical fiction "The Heart Changer" debuts Spring of 2019 with Ambassador International.