Monday, October 31, 2016

Authors are Marketers, Too

I was talking to an acquaintance at a party recently who mentioned that she also wrote books. She said she was pursuing traditional publication so she could "just concentrate on the writing, not all that marketing stuff."

I said something polite, but internally I was thinking about all the traditionally published authors I know who are constantly working on their marketing. Some of it, like doing market research or coming up with a synopsis to sell the book to a publisher, isn't visible to people on the outside. But most authors I see are also hard at work on improving their social media presence, doing blog tours, and in person appearances like school visits and book signings.

(Agent Jessica Faust has an excellent blog post on this topic here.)

The writer's conferences I've attended have been eye-opening, too. Many authors sign up as faculty for these conferences, not because they get paid extremely well (they don't, trust me on this), but at least in part because it raises their visibility and gives them a chance to network with other industry professionals and aspiring writers.

The bottom line is that anyone who thinks they can just write a book and forget about it immediately in this day and age is probably in for a very rude awakening. Publishers and authors form a marketing team, and an author who's willing and eager to pull his or her weight is going to look far more attractive than the alternative.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Homecoming and Friday Night Lights

In Texas, there's a saying:  "Football is king." 

Now, that's not true everywhere, but still football season is a big deal and so is HOCO or homecoming.  In fact the HOCO and Friday Night Lights season is so huge that several books have been written about football (Friday Night Lights by HG Bissinger, Always A Catch by Peter Richmond, The Blind Side by Michael Lewis, Bleachers by John Grishman, and Concussion by Jean Marie Laskas to name a few) and so many movies have been written about dances like homecoming (Pretty in Pink, Never  Been Kissed, and of course Carrie). Thus, fall for high school students is both a busy and stressful time.

As a mom of a high school football player, I find this time of year to be so alien.  (I don't have brothers and was never into football). The lingo and the experience is lost on me, but I still try to rejoice in his excitement.  Try as I might I am really still just clueless when it comes to football, but the HOCO buzz I can follow and I do. Every year my son asks a girl to the dance and because I live in the south, every year I make a homecoming mum (which is fake flower glued to cardboard with bears, stickers, trinkets, and three feet of ribbon glued to the bottom of it).  People think they are tacky and pointless, but I think they are kind of fun and rather beautiful. 

Even though my son and I embrace the tradition, every year I listen to my son and his friends talk about girls at their school - nothing bad - it's just that they complain that girls always complain that no guys ask them out, but when the guys finally do ask the girls out, the girls tell them boys no.  Ah, yes.  That is high school as I remember it.  The people you want to ask you out never do and the ones you don't do. Sigh.  That's life.  Still it makes me really want to write a book about HOCO from the south's point of view and it has to have mums - lots and lots of mums.  

And OMG.  Have you seen how the poor guys have to ask girls out to the dance these days?  Yeah, that has to be in the book.  I know a boy who asked a girl to the dance by throwing a back of chips at her with note attached.  She said no.  It wasn't a very good way to ask.  He then went through three more girls before he finally gave up.  And sadly he isn't the only story I know like that.  Many other boys have been shot down because the girl didn't like the way the guy asked her to the dance - although that might have been a polite way for the girl to say no.  Whatever the case, that's a lot of pressure on these young men.  

And then of course what's HOCO without drama?  I can't even begin to tell you how much drama is involved in the dance and related activities.  Like did you know that not only do they go to eat (often in limos), and then to the dance, but then they have after parties?  Holy cow!  Really?  And then there is always someone who doesn't like someone and they then refuse to go somewhere if that person is there and then all the plans change.  Goodness!

Yes, if ever I have the time, I think it would be fun to write a book about a truly Southern HOCO experience.  I think it would be funny and enlightening to people from different parts of the country.  I often giggle whenever someone new moves to town and I have to show them pictures of mums off the they internet.  They are often just blown away.  I think it is funny.  Not sure if the kids find it so funny, but maybe someday, they will look back and laugh at the time when they did something like hit some girl in the face with a back of chips that has a scribbled note reading:  "Will you go to homecoming with me?"

Or perhaps it would be fun for Mitchell to write the boy's book - Friday Night Lights book and I can write the sister book from the girl's POV and it would center more around HOCO because while prom is all about the dress, HOCO is all about the mum.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Interview with ALL LACED UP author Erin Fletcher, plus a chance to win a signed copy and $10 Amazon giftcard!

Hi everyone! Please join me in welcoming author Erin Fletcher to Thinking to Inking. She's here to talk writing advice, current reads and of course her latest release, ALL LACED UP. Don't forget to scroll to the bottom of this post for a chance to win a signed copy of All Laced Up and a $10 Amazon giftcard!

Hi Erin! Thanks so much for coming to Thinking to Inking. We're so excited to have you here! Tell us a little bit about ALL LACED UP.

Thank you so much for having me! I appreciate it! ALL LACED UP is a contemporary YA romance novel about talented figure skater Lia Bailey and hockey superstar Pierce Miller. There are plenty of ice skating scenes, an online secret identity, and lots of romance.

How did your writing process for ALL LACED UP differ from other books you've written?

My writing process didn’t differ very much for this one. I have a good system worked out where I plot all of the major events, put them into Scrivener, and then fill in the scenes and chapters as I progress through those events. It works for me!

How do the ideas for your stories come to you? How did you come up with the idea for ALL LACED UP?

It depends on the book. Sometimes my ideas are random, like when I walked into my parents’ garage, sneezed, and that gave me the idea for my first book, WHERE YOU’LL FIND ME. For ALL LACED UP, I’ve always wanted to write a hockey player/figure skater romance. I was a figure skater most of my life, and therefore was around a ton of hockey players, too. It’s a natural match!

What (if anything) surprised you most about the publishing process for this book vs. your first book?

It happened really super quickly! My first book took more than three years to write, revise, submit, edit, and publish. This one took less than a year from the day I started working on it until the day it was released!

What advice would you give writers still working to make their publishing dreams a reality?

Don’t quit. My first published novel was the fourth manuscript I’d written. ALL LACED UP is my third published novel, but the eighth manuscript I’d written. Be willing to face rejection and keep going!

What are you reading now?

Right now I’m reading THE BAD BOY BARGAIN by Kendra C. Highley. I am loving Faith and Kyle’s story about a bad boy who might not be so bad after all! I’m also reading THE THOUSANDTH FLOOR by Katharine McGee. I don’t read a lot of sci fi, but the premise of this one sucked me in!

Who's your favorite character from All Laced Up?
My favorite character from ALL LACED UP is Pierce Miller’s younger brother, Carson. I’m slightly biased, but he’s an adorable little brother. He struggles with sensory processing disorder, and I love how good Pierce is with him.

If you could be one character from any book or movie, who would it be?

I would be A from David Levithan’s EVERY DAY. Jumping from one person’s life to the next every day would be so fascinating! I imagine you would learn a lot about the world and about yourself.

Congrats on the launch of your latest and greatest, and thanks so much for stopping by!

Great questions! Thank you for having me!

About All Laced Up by Erin Fletcher
Publication Date:  October 10, 2016
Publisher:  Entangled Teen Crush

Everyone loves hockey superstar Pierce Miller. Everyone except Lia Bailey.

When the two are forced to teach a skating class to save the rink, Lia’s not sure she’ll survive the pressure of Nationals and Pierce’s ego. Not only can’t he remember her name, he signed her bottle of water like she was one of his groupies. Ugh.

But if there’s one thing Lia knows better than figure skating, it’s hockey. Hoping to take his ego down a notch—or seven—she logs into his team website under an anonymous name to give him pointers on his less-than-stellar playing.

Turns out, Pierce isn’t arrogant at all. And they have a lot in common. Too bad he’s falling for the anonymous girl online. No matter how much fun they’re starting to have in real life, she’s afraid he’s going to choose fake-Lia over the real one…

Disclaimer: This book contains a swoony hockey player (and his equally swoony friends!), one-too-many social media accounts, kisses that’ll melt ice, and a secret identity that might not be so secret after all…

Goodreads Google Play | BAM | Chapters | Amazon | B&N | Kobo | iBooks

About Erin Fletcher

Erin is a young adult author from North Carolina. She is a morning person who does most of her writing before sunrise, while drinking excessive quantities of coffee. She believes flip-flops qualify as year-round footwear, and would spend every day at the beach if she could. She has a bachelor's degree in mathematics, which is almost never useful when writing books.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Young Politics

Youth Protest

There has never been a time in current history when the voices of young people have become so important. The minds of our future judges, politicians, teachers, corporate leaders and writers are being shaped by the political messages and actions we see today. 

There are voices who have helped us to rise high and those that teach us to act low. Sesame Street focused on "empathy" on a recent episode with Elmo and Mark Ruffalo. It's a term that requires learning and development that we don't often get. That's why its so important that we continue to give our children and students varied reading material from all walks of life.

Bernie Sanders will be coming out with the young adult version of his non-fiction book "Our Revolution" in the spring of next year. Even if you don't believe in his message, it's a great opportunity to expand the minds of our young ones and provide opportunities for open conversation and debate.

Here are a few other recommendations (new and old, fiction and non) to help our young minds grow. 

1. I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

2. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

3. The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

4. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

5. The Secret Side of Empty by Maria E. Andreu

Monday, October 17, 2016

Writing Exercise Inspired by Viet Thanh Nguyen's The Sympathizer

I am...

Last year's Pulitzer Prize winning novel, The Sympathizer, begins with the following paragraph: 

I am a spy, a sleeper, a spook, a man of two faces. Perhaps not surprisingly, I am a man of two minds. I am not some misunderstood mutant from a comic book or a horror movie, although some may have treated me as such. I am simply able to see any issue from both sides. Sometimes I flatter myself that this is a talent, and although it is admittedly one of a minor nature, it is perhaps also the sole talent I possess. At other times, when I reflect on how I cannot help but observe the world in such a fashion, I wonder if what I have should even be called talent. After all, a talent is something you use, not something that uses you. The talent you cannot not use, the talent that possesses you--that is a hazard, I must confess. But in the month when this confession begins, my way of seeing the world still seemed more of a virtue than a danger, which is how some dangers first appear. 

I love it when a novel begins with a confession about a personal trait in a way that we are forced to re-examine the virtue of the trait and question the narrator from the get-go (think Nick in The Great Gatsby). Today, I think I'm going to write one of these paragraphs for my mc in my WIP. It won't be the first paragraph, and I doubt it'll make it into the novel, but I'm excited to learn what secrets my mc will or will not reveal to me...

Feel free to join me and do the same on this lovely fall Monday. :)

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The "You Have to Know Someone" Myth

If you've been pursuing traditional publication for a while, you've probably heard it over and over again from well-meaning friends and family: you can't break into the publishing industry unless you're well connected, unless you "know someone."

While this may be true in other arenas (screenwriting, I'm looking at you), it's definitely not the case in publishing. I have many friends who have agents and book deals. About half of them got their agents by sending a query to an agent they'd never met, just like everyone else. A few more were signed through online contests—again, by agents they'd never met or interacted with.

The rest got their agents by attending conferences where they pitched something in person. While technically this means they knew their agent before signing, anyone can go to these conferences and pitch agents. There's no mystical connection, no mysterious foot in the door.

(For a more extensive survey, check out this great post from To the Shelves.)

If you're having trouble getting an agent or publisher interested in your fiction, I can say with 100% certainty that it isn't because of your lack of connections. It's far more likely that your writing or presentation aren't up to their standards, or the subject simply isn't one in which they have interest.

Debunking the myth that you have to be connected to get published is good news for aspiring authors. If you write a good book, craft a decent query letter, and do your research on agents who might be a good fit, you have just as much of a chance of getting published as everyone else.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

YA Book Pick - The Cursed Child

The second Monday of every month (or this month Tuesday) we feature a review of a published YA book.  The purpose of this feature is to spotlight books of interest to aspiring writers as well as promote some of our favorite books and authors.

This month, I've chosen something from the Harry Potter world since J.K. Rowling as influenced some many writers.

The book (or written script) was filled with nostalgic scenes, interesting premises, and promising new characters.  For me, the biggest enjoyment was the emotional pull towards the end of the play.  I cried and cried and really enjoyed the message which is full of hope.  So even though the script in book form may have had some holes that left me less than satisfied, the emotional impact and new twist was enough to make me enjoy the story.

Notes for writers:  Be aware of your target audience when writing a series or spin off series.  Fans will already have expectations on how the story should go.  Also avoid too much nostalgia - fans can always read the original story.  Finally, keep note of your pacing.  The pacing in this story was too fast.

Good read for: Harry Potter fans, those into fantasy, and tweens.