Book Releases: It Gets Easier As You Go [#AuthorToolboxBlogHop]

I’m back with another Author Toolbox Blog Hop post this month! This monthly blog hop gives advice by authors for authors. Today’s post is focuses on how doing book releases gets easier as you go, and why. Check out all the posts in this month’s hop!

When I released my debut full-length novel, Stolen, last year, I was daunted by the amount of work that had to be done prior to release day. There were eARCs to send out, book reviewers to reach out to, blog tours to organize, and in person signing events to schedule. I only had some idea of the workload it would take, and it was only when the wave passed by that I realized how much work it was and how well I handled it. I also realized how to do it better next time.

Now I’m prepping for the sequel for that book, Broken, to be released on April 7th. This book release is very different from my experience with Stolen, and I wanted to share what I think has improved this time around compared to last time.

  • Book signings are easier to book. Last year I went to a number of small and indie bookstores to do signings. It was an eye-opening experience. I had to find places that would take an indie author and a small publishing company. Not all bookstores do, and I was shocked to discover that. This time around, I already have locations that I’ve made connections with. Some of them, like Story on the Square and The Southern Pen, stock copies of my books already and are preparing to stock Broken as well. This takes a huge weight off my shoulders this time around.
  • Have readers to reach out to. If you’ve ever started going down the rabbit hole of trying to find ARC book reviewers, you know how helpful this is. Most times when I reach out cold to a blog site, I get crickets. And there are a ton of potential book bloggers. It’s just a lot of time spent with sometimes very little reward. This time around I have a group of ARC readers and reviewers to reach out to, people who loved my first book and are excited to read the second book. Not having to spend time organizing all this also takes a huge weight off of me.
  • I have local fans. I’ve been to enough local shows and events now that I have people who work hard to come out to my book signings and readings. It’s so flattering, but it also means there’s the pressure to create regularly and to constantly improve my craft. I enjoy this, so I don’t mind. It also means that I don’t setup a signing and don’t have anyone appear any longer. I usually at least have one person show up.

These are just a few of the areas that I think are easier this time around, but each one makes a big difference. Instead of gaining all of these contacts and experience, I can focus on new projects and organizing all of these events instead of trying to find them.

For those looking to publish multiple books, I hope this eases that feeling of being overwhelmed when faced with what to do on your first book publication. It will get easier as you go, even though it doesn’t seem like it will at first. The goal is to improve as you go, learn the ropes, make mistakes, and get better with each release.

Short Story Series 3: Finding Publishers [#AuthorToolboxBlogHop]

As part of the Author Toolbox Blog Hop this month, I’m picking up on my Short Story series. It fizzled out a while back, but it’s something I’ve wanted to get back to but just hadn’t found the time. Well this Blog Hop was the perfect excuse! Check out all the posts in this month’s hop!

This is Part 3 of a series on publishing Short Stories. If you find these helpful, please leave a comment or share with your friends!

So you’ve written your short story, had someone else look at it, and gotten it as good as you can make it. The next step is finding a publisher for it! There are plenty of free blog posts that authors work to keep up to date for interested authors, but there are some sites that work to compile these publishers. And a few that publishers seek out to ensure they’re listed as a potential option. Some of these require a monthly payment and others don’t. Some are for particular genres and others are for all types of writing. I’ve tried to keep this list short and to only mention ones that I’ve personally used.

  • Duotrope ($5/month or $50/year)
    • https://duotrope.com/
    • Years ago Duotrope was a free site. It was run by volunteers and it ran an annual donation drive. However over the years the donations just didn’t meet up with the server/data demands. So back in 2012 they went to pay.

      I would argue they’re one of the best places to find publishers and to get ideas for writing prompts for short stories. Check out their calendar of theme deadlines for plenty of ideas. They let you keep track of your acceptances & rejections for years and if you have to skip a few months and come back due to your budget, your data will still be waiting for you. I highly recommend them.
  • The Grinder (Free)
    • https://thegrinder.diabolicalplots.com
    • One of the very first submission tracker available for free for authors was The Grinder. You can dig all sorts of information out of their site. Going to the homepage you can see all the recent rejections and acceptances that have been reported to the system. While I don’t think it’s as fully featured as Duotrope is, I find that it’s frequently recommended when the budget isn’t available for Duotrope’s fancier user interface and designs. It’s also not as personalized, but the information is up to date and you may find publishers here that aren’t in Duotrope and vica versa.
    • The Grinder runs on donations through the Paypal Donate button on their page. If you rely on their services please consider donating either monthly or annually to them through their site.
      https://thegrinder.diabolicalplots.com/Home/Donate
  • The Horror Tree (Free – Horror/Dark Fantasy)
    • https://horrortree.com/
    • I’ve found a lot of unique calls for submissions and opportunities over at The Horror Tree. I can’t really say when they started out, but they’re fairly new, and their dedication to finding all sorts of horror and dark themed calls for submission are impressive. They also post occasional original shorts and do author interviews as well. (I did an interview with them last year, and will probably reach out to them again when The Seeking comes out!)
    • The Horror Tree runs on donations through their Patreon site. If you use this service, please consider becoming one of their Patrons!
      The Horror Tree Patreon
  • Facebook Groups for Writing Associations
    • Look for Facebook writing groups that will post up opportunities on a regular basis. For example, the Horror Writers Association Atlanta Chapter has a public group open to anyone with an interest in what’s going on with the Atlanta Chapter. Announcements happen there and so do discussions. Sometimes opportunities are posted too.
    • The Horror Writers Association also has a public group and it is super active. Sometimes opportunities get posted too.
  • Facebook Groups
    • There are a TON of Facebook groups available for finding publishers. I honestly can’t list them all, but a few searches will bring up several options. From fantasy to science fiction to horror, there are all sorts of areas where publishers get listed. Make friends with authors in real life, befriend them on Facebook, find out what groups they’re in, and check them out yourself. Not all groups are equal and not all publishers are the same.

With that said, regardless of what publishers you find, before you send off your precious story, make sure you vet them to ensure they aren’t trying to scam authors. Duotrope screens their publishers, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do the same. Look for warning signs:

  • Never pay to have your story published.
  • Never pay for editing services.
  • Never pay for publication services.
  • The money should always flow toward the author.
  • Look at other books they’ve had come out. How do their ratings look? How are their sales? Are there complaints about editing or quality?
  • Check out authors from their existing groups. Find their websites and see what kind of feedback you can find. Don’t be afraid to reach out, but don’t be surprised if you don’t hear back right away.
  • See if they’re listed on the Writer Beware website. These folks investigate claims of scamming and keep an active list of publishers and agents doing shady things.
  • Writer Beware has an excellent write-up of what to look for when evaluating a small press. Please don’t let this list intimidate you, but it’s good to do your research so you’re aware of what to look for in publishers, contracts, and how to speak up and negotiate for yourself. Usually short story contracts are pretty cut and dry and you don’t usually negotiate with those, but get used to evaluating them and reviewing them because you might one day want to read over one for a novel or collection of your short stories.

To find more useful tools, check out my page on Writing Resources. And make sure you check out the other posts this month on the Author Toolbox Blog Hop!

Writing a Trilogy: The Lessons I Have Learned [#AuthorToolboxBlogHop]

It’s a new year, a new decade, and here I am starting on book three of my Stolen trilogy, the first series of books I’ve written. As I ease back into the world and the characters that give this series so much life, I realize how very different it has been for me to write each book. I thought it might be helpful to share what I’ve learned in this month’s Author Toolbox Blog Hop.

AuthorToolboxBlogHop Title Image

This hop is made up of a bunch of authors all sharing advice and experiences to help out other authors. I’m always thrilled to be part of this, and I hope you’ll take the time to go check out some of the other author blogs!

Cover for Stolen, Book 1 of the Stolen series
Stolen, Book 1 of the Stolen series

Book one (Stolen – now available) had its own challenges, as I explained way back in 2013 when I struggled with drafting it. It sometimes baffles me when I look back on that post at how much I’ve learned since then, and how much more refined my writing has become. Somehow it was easy for me then to talk about how books ought to end, how stories ought to progress, and how characters ought to evolve. It’s really different when the blank page is staring at you and you realize that you’re the only one who can create those things and finish the story. When the stakes are higher you suddenly understand why writing series is so difficult.

Cover for Broken, Book 2 of the Stolen series
Broken, Book 2 of the Stolen series

Book two (Broken – coming April 7th) had its own set of problems. I thought I had handled all the loose ends in book one quite well. I thought the sequel would just continue the story, but then details came up during writing like they do, and I couldn’t remember a character’s eye color or the color of their hair. Where was that scar again? What was that background? I have the utmost respect for people who have written ten and twenty books in a series because I think I might need to write a reference book just for myself to keep track of all the details. Needless to say, it was a learning experience–though the end product was so very worth it.

Now here I am, finally on book three (Chosen – coming soon), and I have once again a whole new challenge. All those parts and pieces I dripped in those early books now have their calling. All those last minute scenes I want to include need to be written. And this is the last call for character development. It’s honestly daunting but also thrilling at the same time. As a pantser, I too want to see how these characters get to where I want them to be. I’m looking forward to wrapping up this series and preparing for new projects, but I’m also worried about the finality of this tale coming to a close. Of course I can write spin-offs and extended universes, but this will be the end of the main story for these characters that I’ve molded and directed for eight years. I want to do the right thing for them.

This will certainly not be the last series I write, I’ve already started gathering inspiration for the next one, but I’ve learned a lot during this time and wanted to share some of my takeaways with other authors who are starting their first series. Hopefully my experiences help you!

Lessons Learned from Writing 2/3 Books in my Trilogy

  • Use a comprehensive writing system like Scrivener if you can, or make really organized folders.
    • I know, I talk about Scrivener a lot, but being able to keep all of my writing in a single file has been so helpful to keep things straight.
  • Take the time to make those character sheets.
    • You’ll miss them so much if you forget to make one for your background character in book 2. Not that I’m speaking from experience or anything…
  • Know generally where each book should start and end.
    • I know, it’s hard to do for us pantsers, but having a general cut-off point will help in pacing. Especially for the middle child if you’re writing a trilogy.
  • When in doubt, make a map.
    • I’ve made maps for the inside of buildings so I can make sure I can describe it properly. Just draw it out and take a picture of it to put it into your writing system so you can reference it later.
  • If possible, take breaks in between books.
    • I know for a fact this just isn’t possible for so many authors. Taking time off from a project or a world or series means it’ll take longer to get back into it again. However getting away from the world (if you can) will help enrich it. Remember to replenish that creative well!

Experimentation is of course the best teacher with these things. I’ll have to report back in a few years on whether it got easier with the next series. I would love to write very long series, but I can’t quite do it yet. I think I need to “level up” my author skills a bit more first.

I’ll probably come back and add onto this list at some point. I’m sure I’m missing some things, but I hope this helps. There’s a seemingly endless supply of advice on how to write books out there, but not so much is focused specifically on series. Hopefully this helps bridge that gap.

Have you considered writing a series? Why or why not? Any advice for those who have completed one?

Happy writing, everyone!

Author Vending: How Many Books [#AuthorToolboxBlogHop]

Between shows and writing deadlines (and my full-time job), it’s been a busy few weeks since my last vending post! I was worried I wouldn’t have time to participate this month, but I know that folks really appreciate these posts, so here I am. If you find this useful, please consider sharing it with other authors you know!

I participate in the Author Toolbox Blog Hop just about every month. It’s a bunch of authors who help other authors, and it’s pretty cool to see how many topics get covered each month! This will be the last post for this blog hop for 2019 because they skip November and December — another reason I wanted to make sure I could participate.

One of the first questions I got when I started this series was how many books to bring to signings? Unfortunately there is no straightforward answer like ten or something like that. It really depends on a lot of factors, and I’ll discuss a few that I’ve encountered here!

How long is the event?

This may be answered in hours or days. If you’re doing a two-hour author signing at your favorite small, independent bookstore, then ten may be a good number to start with. However if it’s 2-day free outdoor event and each day lasts eight hours, then you’ll want to have more than ten books on hand. Depending on other factors, you may expect to sell 10-20 books a day for example, so take that into consideration.

How well known are your books?

Let’s say this is your first book. Awesome, congrats! However if you don’t have a well-known name, then you’ll want to focus on drumming up interest for the event ahead of time. Still most authors will admit that they only had friends and family at their first event, if that, and that’s perfectly fine! It’s about more than just selling your books, it’s getting your name out there and learning how to do these events.

If you are fairly well-known though, or you do enough marketing ahead of time, you may want to bring more than ten books to your two-hour book signing. Those may go really fast!

There is a lot of plantlife in the Stolen series.

Where are you selling?

So this is more than just the difference between a small, indie bookstore and a big two-day festival. With this question, I’m meaning who are the readers that your book targets? I write books where people are often in the woods. Therefore my books tend to appeal more to people who have also lived closer to nature. However people living in an urban metropolis may not have as much of a connection with the book aesthetic.

This of course isn’t always the case. Lots of people read widely and enjoy variety in their books, but you can expect an urban fantasy for example to sell better in urban areas than rural places.

I also write young adult books. I’m fortunate in that this appeals to a wide audience range, but remember that picture books probably wouldn’t sell as well at a horror convention. Keep your audience in mind when stocking and setting expectations for your sales.

The She-Wolf of Kanta – from my first indie bookstore signing!

Do you have a distributor?

This really applies to library signings, bookstore events, and book festivals. If you have a distributor, such as through Ingram, you may not need to worry about bringing your own copies. That means the host event can order copies on their own, and may request to stock a few as well after the event is over. A distributor means that if the books don’t sell, the host location can send the books back instead of being stuck with the additional copies. This can save you a lot of time and headache, but you are also relying on the host location to know how many copies to order.

If you don’t have a distributor, that means you are your own distributor. Usually the host location will take a percentage of sales at the event, and then you take any copies that didn’t sell back home with you. Some places will also allow you to put books on consignment with them. This means they stock your copies on their shelves, and when they sell you get a percentage. If they don’t sell and they don’t want to keep them stocked, then you pick them up. It’s a lot of additional work on the bookstore’s end, so many don’t permit consigned books for this reason. They also don’t want to be left with additional stock either because that’s storage space that could be used for books that are selling.

Will you be shipping books out?

This may seem like an odd question, but can you imagine how much it would cost to bring 50 books with you on a plane? Quite a bit! So it’s way easier just to ship them to a friend who lives close to the event you’re attending and pay the much cheaper media mail rates. That said, if you’re trying to save money, you may want to ship out fewer books and just deal with the risk of running out of copies.

Do you want to run out?

Again this one seems like a strange question, but if you flew out to a location for an event, and don’t want to ship your books back home your strategy may be to just run out! That saves on additional costs and also looks good if you sell out at the event. The drawback is that you may miss out on additional sales that you could have made and if you’re not careful you could sell out early!

I hope this helps! Again this is just from my experiences of doing this for a year and a half. In a few more years I may be adding more to this list. If you enjoyed this information, feel free to share or leave a comment below!

Author Vending: The Importance of Signage [#AuthorToolboxBlogHop]

Dang the last four weeks have been rough. Between three back-to-back shows, a week-long vacation, and getting sick (twice now!), it’s been a difficult time lately. However I knew I wanted to get a new post up for my second time participating in the Author Toolbox Blog Hop.

If you want posts from authors dedicated to helping other authors, then be sure to check out this series! Posts go up each month (though November and December get skipped). As an author, I love being able to give back, and having a deadline to keep me motivated!

One of the first decisions I had to make when I started vending as an author was finding where to sell books and where to do signings. Once I had that figured out, I had the difficult decision of figuring out what to bring. That was a lot harder than I expected it to be, but I knew that signage was important.

Signage Can Be Small

It doesn’t matter if it’s as simple as a chalkboard sign, or as elaborate as a self-sending vertical banner. Having signage with you instantly signals to a visitor that an event is going on, and they’re likely going to read it to learn more.

When I had my first author signing event, it lasted two hours at an independent bookstore, and it poured down rain through half of it. I didn’t have a huge turnout, but I did have family and friends that showed up, and that was a big inspiration for me. The only signage I had was a sign we had made out of a dollar store plate and chalkboard paint that my sister drew out for me. It was super cute, but didn’t draw in people like I wanted.

My sister, Kelley, did an amazing job with the chalk art on this! We were prepping for my first signing at Story On The Square!

Larger Signage Gets Attention

Flash forward to our first outdoor festival, where we didn’t know how to have proper airflow with our tent and it was super hot. What brought people in was a giant vertical sign we secured onto the outside of the tent. People saw horror author and were super excited to check it out.

Our first outdoor festival: Geranium Festival! We just got done setting up at dawn. Featuring Kelley in the back!

Fast forward again to the Next Chapter Con a couple weeks back. People walked up to the table and read my author sign behind me. “YA Fantasy and Horror”, they would mumble to themselves. Then they’d look down at me and smile before asking, “Where’s the horror?” I could point them in the direction and let them read the back copy to decide if they were interested, talking about the book as they checked it out.

Got to break out both banners at Next Chapter Con a couple weeks back!

Banners Help Regardless of Genre

It’s important to know how to describe your work, and while at first I was reluctant to have an author banner that would represent both the fantasy and the horror that I write, in the long run it’s been very helpful in drawing in people. I found a way to make my author representation capture both aspects of my work, which I talk more about when I revamped my business cards.

When the banner is posted outside of our tent, folks will stop to read it, talking about the blurbs and the covers. When I walk up and introduce myself as the author, they get so excited!

The banner allows people to stop and talk about your work without you having to be part of the conversation. Let them decide if your work is interesting or not. And let your banner do the talking so you don’t have to do all the work.

When you’re vending as an author, use all the help you can get to portray your words without relying on solely your books. I think of signage as a menu for your books. You want to portray taste and composition before eating the meal itself.