Tuesday, March 27, 2012


Overall, I find that movies rarely live up to the book *glares at Twilight*, though I loved the cinematic version of The Help. Along with most everyone else, I devoured THE HUNGER GAMES trilogy by Suzanne Collins and couldn't wait for the movie. I saw it last night with my nephew (who also loved the trilogy) and my sister-in-law (who didn't read the books and was hesitant about a story filled with teens killing each other.)

Did the movie live up to the hype? I thought the movie rocked. The casting was great--Katniss and Peeta were perfect, and Rue couldn't have been more adorable. And Lenny Kravitz as Cinna? One word: yum. Of course, a movie can't capture all the nuances of character and setting the way a book can (I wanted more of Haymitch in the movie), so if you haven't read the book, I highly recommend reading it before going to the movie. My nephew gave it a huge thumbs up as well. As for my non-YA reading sister-in-law, she was surprised by how much she liked it and said there wasn't nearly as much graphic killing as she thought there would be. We also voted on the method of death we would least prefer and "the evil mechanical dogs" was the unanimous winner.

Have you seen THE HUNGER GAMES yet? What did you think?

Also, just a quick note that we'll be posting a little less frequently here (once or twice a week) due to general life craziness. Hope everyone has a great Spring Break!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

How to Attain Your Writing Goals

One of the many hats I wear is that of a certified life coach where I assist clients in reaching certain goals (e.g. losing weight, changing careers, finding a partner). I've had several clients whose goals were to publish a book and thought I'd share how general coaching tips apply to this specific goal.

1) Break down your goal into smaller, manageable steps. I like to use the metaphor of mountain climbing--when you stare up at the top of the mountain from the bottom, it can seem like it will take forever to get there and you might be too intimidated to even try. If you focus instead of taking "x steps at a time," you will soon find yourself halfway up the mountain and feel more empowered and confident that you will reach the top. To relate this to writing, if your stated goal is only "Write a novel," you may not know where to start and feel overwhelmed, so the key is to break the large goal into smaller steps.
Better goal: Write 1,000 words per day (or one chapter per week, etc.)
The important thing is to make the goal manageable for you in order to set yourself up for success, and to always include a time frame to push you to reach the goal. When I'm doing a first draft, I set a minimum goal per day which helps me to crank it out.

2) Focus on what you can control. Say you have a goal of wanting to lose weight and your only stated goal is to lose 25 pounds. So many things can impact your daily weight that this goal leaves a lot out of your control, but if you focus on what is within your control, you might come up with a goal of exercising 5 times per week and cutting out refined sugar (NOTE: this goal also incorporates step 1). With writing, your goal might be to "Get an agent" or get published but that is also (sadly) not under your control. What is in your control is writing the best query and book you can, and then researching the industry.
Better goal: Submit 5 queries per week to agents that represent my genre.

3) Surround yourself with supportive people. I once worked with a client who was trying to lose weight, and she complained about a friend who kept pushing french fries at her. This "friend" was not supportive of her goals and frequently attempted to sabotage her. You are more likely to succeed in anything if you have a supportive person at your side. For writers, this might be your critique group, blog friends, spouse, family, etc. If someone is telling you that writing isn't a "real" job or puts down your goals, run away as fast as you can!

I'm also a motivational quote nut and hand out a sheet of my favorites to clients at their first session, so I'll leave you with one of my favorite quotes:

"Whether a man thinks he can, or thinks he cannot--he is right." - Henry Ford

Have you tried any of these yourself? Any other tips that you've found helpful with your writing goals?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

How Do You Count?

Recently I was talking to a fairly prolific writer friend and commented that while she had written two books and edited a third last year, I had only managed on 7k word short. She was horrified. She went on to say how many thousands of words she'd written and deleted in that time and estimated that just those alone would be another full-length novel. And that was when I realized that I count much differently than most writers.

I only count what I consider "finished" and "successful". And so while I revised my first book twice, throwing out the bulk of it and rewriting from scratch, and while I made several starts on my next book, and another 15k or so of figuring out my anthology short, filled a 100 page notebook with detailed plot and character info, not to mention all my Tangled Fiction stories, I only had one thing make it to its intended destination. My 7k anthology short, STILLWATER.

It honestly never occurred to me to consider all the things I wrote that have not yet become something as something I wrote, LOL. But now I'm starting to wonder if I'm not giving myself enough credit. I suppose if I were to put it all together, I actually did write over 100k in 2011. I just never thought of it that way. Maybe I should, since each word I write, makes me a better writer. And looking at it the way I have been makes me feel more like an underachiever.

So I ask you, how do you count? And does it matter to you how much writing you've done? No matter where it goes? (Or doesn't go?) I'm really curious!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Interview with Best-Selling Indie Author Shelli Johannes Wells

Today we welcome Shelli Johannes Wells of Market My Words to the blog. Shelli is the author of Untraceable, which has hit the Amazon bestseller lists in multiple categories including: Top 100 eBooks, Top Action and Adventure, and Movers & Shakers. To top it off, Shelli was recently nominated for the Crystal Kite Award (SCBWI award) and the Georgia Author of the Year in the Young Adult category! Shelli stopped by to discuss her self-publishing journey and graciously agreed to take questions in the comments section. First, a little about Untraceable:

Description from Goodreads:
16-year-old Grace has lived in the Smokies all her life, patrolling with her forest ranger father who taught her about wildlife, tracking, and wilderness survival.

When her dad goes missing on a routine patrol, Grace refuses to believe he’s dead and fights the town authorities, tribal officials, and nature to find him.

One day, while out tracking clues, Grace is rescued from danger by Mo, a hot guy with an intoxicating accent and a secret. As her feelings between him and her ex-boyfriend get muddled, Grace travels deep into the wilderness to escape and find her father.

Along the way, Grace learns terrible secrets that sever relationships and lives. Soon she’s enmeshed in a web of conspiracy, deception, and murder. And it’s going to take a lot more than a compass and a motorcycle (named Lucifer) for this kick-butting heroine to save everything she loves.

Interview with Shelli Johannes Wells

Hi Shelli—thanks so much for joining us today and congrats on all your amazing news! I'll start with some basic questions for you and then let people ask their own questions in the comments. Ready, set, go.

1) What factored into your decision to self-publish versus continue to pursue the traditional publishing route?

I was with an agent for 2 years and both of my books went on submission and even made it to acquisitions at several houses. After my agent and I separated last summer, I knew these books would not be picked up by another agent (or at least the chances were slim). So I decided to get them out as an experiment by playing around with marketing.

2) I'd imagine you have to wear many hats as an indie author. What did you find to be the most challenging part about indie-publishing?

Yes I do wear too many hats! And it is exhausting. I love it because I am good at marketing and own my marketing business anyway so I am used to running a business. I’m used to being an entrepreneur and that is not for everyone. But I had no idea how hard it would be to self publish. I guess I thought I would just edit, upload, and market but there is so much more I didn't know. Legal stuff, publishing stuff, distribution, blah blah. I did a post about all the hats I wear. http://www.srjohannes.com/2012/01/schizophrenic-indie-pubber.html

On the flip side - it's been fun and very rewarding. I have loved the process and am proud of what I have done in under 100 days.

3) 100 days seems so fast in the publishing world! Whether one pursues traditional or self-publishing, the first step is writing a great book which you’ve obviously done. After that comes the marketing of that book. You have a background in marketing (and a wonderful marketing-related blog), so what advice would you give to those interested in self-publishing who don't have that experience? I read somewhere that 80% of self-published books sell less than 100 copies, so the marketing piece becomes vital in self-publishing.

Marketing is vital with the success of ANY book. But traditional houses have the house name behind them which automatically opens doors and exposure. The hard thing with self-pubbing is that many doors are closed because you are not with a publishing house. That part is frustrating. With self-pubbing it is even more critical you stay in public's mind so being visible is critical.

Yes, 80% of self pubbed books sell less than 100 copies (JA Konrath said this). It's a tough market to stand out in so you have to find ways to set yourself apart.

4) To expand on the question, what promotional or marketing tools did you find to be most helpful in promoting Untraceable? What did you find to be least effective? How much time do you figure you spend marketing per day versus writing?

I spend 70% of my time on business and 30% on writing. Maybe that will change over time but that is what it is when I look back at last 6 months in launching these two books. Gosh, I hope it changes. I miss writing more. But I think I needed to spend more time up front getting my name out and - hopefully- with more books I won't have to do as much all the time. 

The most effective is posting ads on kindle ebook sites - especially if they have email subscribers that speak directly to kindle customers. Also, bloggers are essential as well in getting the word out. I would not be here without them. Least effective was a press release drop I did - waste of money and I was surprised at the lack of results. :(

5) One of the pros of self-publishing is the total artistic control you have over the book, such as the all-important book cover, but this sometimes requiring hiring outside people for things like the cover, formatting, editing etc. These costs could add up quickly. What would you estimate is the total cost to self-publish a book? Despite the out of pockets costs, where should you not cut costs (e.g. the cover)?

To get a book together and get it out (not including advertising expenses) I would say anywhere between $1000 and $2000 unless you go totally overboard. This includes cover design, editing, copyediting, loading fees on the ebook sites, and fees associated with paperback (if you do one.) Add in review copies, mailing, basic marketing swag. I think all these are essential - it is just a matter of where you can get better prices for covers or editing or swag. Personally, I don't see how you could do it right for under $1000 – I would question quality of editing and cover.

6) As a self-published author, you don't have to wait the traditional 18 months for your book to hit the shelves. Do you find you are more motivated to write knowing your book can hit the virtual bookshelves any time you want? Do you feel more pressure to get your sequels completed quickly?

I do feel more pressure to get books out. I think that is key to keep your audience. Luckily, I have always written very fast. While my friends write one book, I can write 2 or 3. I actually feel more pressure to put out something really good to prove myself. I find book reviewers are much harder on self pubber mistakes so you better put out high quality stuff if you don't want to get raked across the coals.

7) What's next for you?

Uncontrollable - the sequel to Untraceable - comes out late summer. That's about as far as I can see right now. :)

8) Is there anything I haven't asked that you'd like people to know about your journey or any final advice?

Just know that your dream may not look like the person next to you. The goal may be the same but the path may be different. Try to be open to that.

Thanks again, Shelli, and I wish you much continued success! 

Do you have questions for Shelli? Put your questions in the comments and Shelli will stop by throughout the day to answer them.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Exciting Contest From HarperTeen!

Back in January I announced that I was going to be published(!) alongside some of my MOST FAVORITE authors in the HarperTeen anthology DEFY THE DARK, edited by Saundra Mitchell but I couldn't tell you who they all were. Well today I can spill the beans. And what's more, I can also share with you the exciting contest that could make YOU the eighteenth author!

So, first things first, here are the authors appearing in DEFY THE DARK:

  • Sarah Rees Brennan
  • Tessa Gratton
  • Rachel Hawkins
  • Christine Johnson
  • Valerie Kemp (eee!)
  • Malinda Lo
  • Myra McEntire
  • Saundra Mitchell
  • Sarah Ockler
  • Jackson Pearce
  • Aprilynne Pike
  • Dia Reeves
  • Beth Revis
  • Carrie Ryan
  • Jon Skovron
  • Courtney Summers

So you see why my head basically exploded when I found out.

BUT that's not even the best part, because HarperTeen and Figment have teamed up to hold a contest to find one more story for the anthology. That's right. YOU could have YOUR STORY published alongside those AWESOME WRITERS! The details aren't all out yet on just how the contest will work, but you can sign up here at Figment to be notified the moment they're released.

You can also learn more about the DEFY THE DARK, the writers, and see sneak peeks of their stories at the newly launched DEFY THE DARK website. The sneak peek at my story, STILLWATER is here, you know, if you're interested.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...