Wednesday, May 20, 2015

You're the Star of Your Publishing Movie

Quick note! I guest posted over at Adventures in YA Publishing about Creative Stage vs. Analytical Stage. Come check it out and say Hi!

Now on with the regular post...

Imagine this: You're watching a movie. You yawn because everything is going the main character's way. She never experiences conflict. She doesn't encounter a villain or a personal obstacle. She never makes mistakes, and the ending is predictably happy.


Now, imagine this: You're watching a fabulous movie, gasping at the twists, biting your nails when the main character is in a pickle, laughing at the goofy choices she makes, and clapping as the final credits roll.

Better, right? Except when that movie is about our own publishing journey. We'd like to do without the twists, pickles, and goofy choices, thank you very much.

But what if you knew the ending to your publishing movie? What if you knew that the main character--YOU--would victoriously conquer the story goals? Would you have less anxiety? Would you worry less? Would you calmly move from one scene to the next, knowing it would be okay?

I'm here to tell you it'll be okay. How do I know? Because your story isn't over yet. When you encounter frustration in your own publishing movie, try this:

Embrace the Ups and Downs

Each rejection may seem like an obstacle, but it's really a stepping stone. Each request for a partial or full, or each yes from an editor or agent, is a stepping stone as well. Embrace them. They're all part of the journey.

Do What Your Character Would Do

Do you want your main character to snivel? Hide? Back down against the slightest push back? No! you want her to figure out a solution. You want her to fight back. You want her to conquer fears. You want her to learn from her mistakes and then get out there and make fresh mistakes.

Be a comeback kid

In movies, and in books, there's usually an "all is lost" moment. Perhaps you've had one or more of those moments in your own publishing journey. But remember this: usually that "all is lost" moment is right before the character triumphs. Get back up again. Come back strong. All is NOT lost. Your story is not yet over.

Movies with zero conflict are boring. Your publishing movie is not boring at all. When you reach the conclusion, you'll be satisfied because it didn't come easily. You fought against obstacles and internal villains, and wrote your own happy ending.

Have you ever considered your publishing journey as your own personal movie, with you as the main character? Are you the kick-bootie lead? Are you glad your movie is full of twists and turns, or do you wish your path was a little straighter?

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Changing Face of YA Literature

Last weekend I was so excited to see my good writer buddy, Lisa Gail Green--author of Soul Crossed, participate in an author panel at Vroman's Bookstore in Pasadena. That bookstore is such a blast! I could've spent the whole day in there.

Anyway, the topic of Lisa's panel was "The Changing Face of YA Literature." Other authors on the panel were Francesca Lia Block, Lissa Price, and Nicole Maggi. It was moderated by Erika Jelinek.

I took a few notes during the discussion. The authors gave really good answers to timely topics. Here's a short summary:

Research shows that about 50% of YA books are read by adults. The authors were asked, "Does this change the way you write?"

Lisa Gail Green--No, it doesn't change the way she writes (thank goodness!). She tells the story that needs to be told. YA writers can be fearless with their choices of topics.

The authors were asked why they think older readers like to read YA books?

Nicole Maggi--Voice. YA books are often about misunderstood teens. These stories take adult readers back to that tumultuous time. It reminds us of what it was like escape into our favorite books.

How do these authors tap in to an authentic teen voice?

Lisa Gail Green--she uses her acting background to insert herself into the role of her characters. She tackles the types of problems real teens face--problems that seem bigger than life, with high drama and strong emotions.

What makes YA books so appealing?

Nicole Maggi--many teens want to be normal, but wouldn't it be cool if they were called to be a super hero? Most people wish they were extraordinary in real life. But if we were called to do that, would we? YA books explore the possibilities.

Diversity in YA books...

Lissa Price--she pointed out that it would be great if the characters' faces in YA books better reflected the faces in the classroom.

(Leslie Rose, Lisa Gail Green, and yours truly)

There was so much great information packed in the short amount of time, and I only scratched the surface. Be sure to click on the author links above. They had some amazing books on display.

What do you think of this topic? What's your opinion on the changing face of YA literature? Or literature and publishing in general?

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Invest in What Really Matters #IWSG

Welcome, Insecure Writers! If you haven't yet joined this group, do it here. This group, created by Alex J. Cavanaugh, is such a valuable community.

As a mom of three teen sons--one a high school senior who's heading off to college this August *wipes tears*--I have a wistful perspective on family, writing, and publishing.

Invest in what really matters.

Yes, the written word matters. Yes, pursuing our publishing dream matters. But nothing, nothing, should take the place of time spent the people who matter most.

I used to pursue writing skills and the publishing path with a vigor and passion that sometimes bordered on unhealthy. I soon realized that writing, or publishing, or sales numbers don't matter much if my family isn't at the top of my priority list. I vowed to write and work on the business side of publishing only while my kids are at school or otherwise occupied. Manuscripts can shouldn't have to.

As my son prepares to graduate from high school, I'm especially nostalgic. One thing I know for sure: I won't have regrets about the amount of time I've spent with him.

Let's write, let's publish, and let's invest in what really matters: the people we love.

Have your priorities ever gone off kilter? If you have kids, how do you prioritize them while also scheduling writing time? If you've had teens leave for college, any advice you can offer this soon-to-be-crazy-sad mom?

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

How Penniless Writers Can Indie Publish

Indie publishing has become a lucrative business for many authors, and those authors mostly say the same thing--we must invest in our books in order to put the best product on the market. That initial investment can gobble up hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars.

What's a broke writer to do?

I have a few ideas. Before I get started, let's keep in mind that writers can throw unlimited dollars at marketing (swag, blog tours, ads, etc.), but I'm going to focus on the two areas where I think the initial investment is crucial: editing and cover design.

I also want to point out that publishing on all the ebook retailers is FREE. There is no cost at all to upload our manuscripts to Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Smashwords, Apple iTunes, and CreateSpace. Zilch. The main costs involved with indie publishing are related to getting your manuscript worthy of publication, in order to put your best foot forward in a crowded market. Let's focus on a polished manuscript with a striking cover.

Now that we've established all of that, here are some ideas for penniless writers who wish to indie publish:

Trade Manuscripts With Writers in the Same Position

We hear this all the time, right? That's because it's the best (and cheapest) way to improve your work. There is no sense in paying for a freelance editor before your manuscript has been vetted by other authors. You'd just be paying for work that should've been done before the professional editor put eyes to paper. So why not use multiple rounds of beta readers?

You may be thinking, "How can I beta read or edit when I need so much help myself?" or, "All the other authors out there are higher in their skill level than me." First of all, that's not true. And even if it were true, so what? You're a reader, aren't you? That means you know what to expect in a story. You know what does and doesn't look right when it comes to grammar.

Join a writer's group on Facebook, or join a forum, and inquire about exchanging beta reads. Read the other writer's work as if you've borrowed that book from a library. Make note of anything that stands out to you.

Offer Your Services to Freelance Editors or Cover Designers

We all have unique skills. Are you great at math? Does an editor's son or daughter need tutoring? Trade services. Are you a plumber, and a cover designer needs a new faucet installed? Trade services. Is there a local editor or cover designer who has small children and would do anything for a date night? Offer to babysit for a few nights. You do have something to offer. Think about how you can help someone else.

Contact Local High Schools and Colleges

Are there students who are looking to practice their intended vocation or expand on a hobby? Beauty schools and massage schools do this sort of thing...they practice their craft on people who are willing to give them a chance. Is there an English major who'd be willing to edit your manuscript? Or a would-be graphics designer who'd like to dabble in cover design, and needs a launch project?

Free Software is an excellent tool for free cover designs. There's also free manuscript editing software, such as I haven't used AutoCrit yet, but I plan on playing with it before sending my next manuscript off to the freelance editor.

If your low bank balance is what's keeping you from indie publishing, think creatively about how you can use your own time and skills to take that leap.

The help is out there...for free. The resources are out there...for free. Know what else is free? Determination. If you have the will, there's a way--even if you're broke.

Do you have other ideas for how penniless writers can move forward in their writing journeys? Please share!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Imperfect Action Trumps Perfect Inaction

Many of you have probably heard the Harry Truman quote, "Imperfect action is better than perfect inaction." I love this quote because it reminds us to do.

Sometimes we writers spend too much time on the sidelines, gathering information. That's great for building a strong background in writing and honing our skills, but at some point we need to stop thinking about what we should do and actually do it.

Does this sound familiar to you?

  • I'll read one more craft book before I actually start writing my book.
  • I can't move on to the next chapter of draft one until the opening fifty pages are perfect.
  • I must attend one more conference/workshop/schmooze before I'll submit my manuscript.
  • My manuscript is ready to go, but I'm waiting for the perfect time before I query.
  • I've queried 20 agents without an offer of representation, so I'm tabling this manuscript.
  • I'd like to indie publish, but I must sign up X number of people to my newsletter and X number of people to my Facebook page before I take that leap.
  • I can't write the next story until this manuscript is sold.
Sometimes we wait on the sidelines because of fear. Believe me, I get it. I'm fearful as heck. But if we wait around for the publishing/agent search/indie climate to be perfect, we'll be frozen with inaction. It's better to get out there, make mistakes, fall on our faces, and get back up. At least then we're doing something.

Let's not wait for perfect inaction. Let's take imperfect action.

Do you wait for the perfect climate before taking action? Are you sometimes frozen with fear? How do you press forward?

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Series? Stand Alone Books? What Should You Write? Guest Post by Alex J. Cavanaugh

Guys! Today we have a super star in our midst! Alex J. Cavanaugh, the Ninja Captain himself, is here to help us understand the differences between a series and standalone books. Don't forget to check out his latest release, Dragon of the Stars.

Take it away, Alex!

The Differences Between a Series and a Stand Alone Book

Thank you for having me today, Julie!

What is the difference between a series and a standalone book? Which is better? Now that I have written both, I can offer some tips. (Although technically, I have written two standalone books, as I never intended to write a sequel to my first book.) There is a distinct difference and advantages to both.

Let me show you advantages and disadvantages:

Series –


Making the following stories fresh and new
Keeping the timeline and details straight
Maintaining excitement throughout the series


Characters and world are familiar
Built in fan base
Can expand on the world and characters
Less research

Standalone –


Starting from scratch with world building
New characters to develop
More difficult to pitch, including to fans


Fresh start and no boundaries
Story wraps up with one book – no cliffhangers
Can pour everything into just one book

As you can see, they both have their good and bad points. Which one we write depends on what we are trying to accomplish. Do we want an expanding universe? Do we want the freedom of exploring new ideas? It’s all up to the writer.

It’s the difference between a movie versus a television show. A movie is (usually) self-contained. The storyline wraps up at the end and the character arc is complete. With a television series, the overall story is never-ending. The writers can continue for as long as fresh ideas come to them.

With my Cassa series, while I didn’t originally intend to continue past the first book, I was able to come up with fresh new stories that would stretch the main character, Byron. Each book concludes a character arc, but I was able to throw things at Byron that continued to force growth.

Dragon of the Stars was written as one contained story. The changes in the main character, Aden, are so profound that any further growth would be subtle. I could send him on more adventures, but the key moments in his life are held within this one story. Thus, it needs to stand on its own.

Which one is best for you? Well, how far do you want to take the story?

By Alex J. Cavanaugh
Science Fiction – Space Opera/Adventure/Military
Print ISBN 9781939844064 EBook ISBN 9781939844057
What Are the Kargrandes?

The ship of legends…

The future is set for Lt. Commander Aden Pendar, son of a Hyrathian Duke. Poised to secure his own command and marriage to the queen’s daughter, he’ll stop at nothing to achieve his goals.

But when the Alliance denies Hyrath’s claim on the planet of Kavil and declares war on their world, Aden finds his plans in disarray. Entrenched in battle and told he won’t make captain, Aden’s world begins to collapse. How will he salvage his career and future during Hyrath’s darkest hour?

One chance remains–the Dragon. Lost many years prior, the legendary ship’s unique weapon is Hyrath’s only hope. Can Aden find the Dragon, save his people, and prove he’s capable of commanding his own ship?

Alex J. Cavanaugh has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and works in web design, graphics, and technical editing. Online he is the Ninja Captain and founder of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. He’s the author of Amazon Best-Sellers CassaStar, CassaFire, and CassaStorm. Blog * Twitter * Insecure Writers Support Group 

Awesome, right? Thanks so much, Alex! Friends, have you written a series? A stand alone book? Which do you prefer?

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

What do YOU want? #IWSG

Welcome, Insecure Writers! If you haven't yet joined this amazing group, clicky clicky here. You'll be glad you did.

There comes a time in our writing journeys when we must ask this question: What do I want?

Do I want to become a bestseller?

Do I want awards?

Do I want a devoted fan base?

Do I simply want to be read?

Do I want to write in solitude and relinquish publishing?

Once we've answered the "What do I want?" question, we can then ask: How do I get there?

Do I go the traditional path?

Do I sign with an agent?

Do I sign with a small publisher?

Do I go indie?

Do I write, but keep the words to myself?

Sometimes knowing what you want, and knowing how to get there, are half the battle. I struggled with the What do I want? question for a long time before leaping into indie publishing.

Our paths are twisted, bumpy, and sometimes hazardous, but they're our own.
Do you know what you want? Have you decided how you'll get there? Please share!