Firstborn Beta Reader

europa space dot comA dream is coming true for me this month. I finished writing a middle grade sci-fi novel (Hooray!) and my first beta reader this time around is my firstborn son. When my boys were little, I wrote and illustrated a few pictures books for them and I loved it when they asked me to “read it again, Mom”. When they got a little older, I’d watch them reading a novel and  dream of them reading a book that I wrote. That dream is coming true because I printed out my novel, put it in a binder, and I’m watching my son read it.

I’ve had wonderful beta readers (mostly my parents, sister, and a few friends) for my other novels, but this is the first time one of my boys is reading one of my books. (They’ve all skim read the Sex Soup and Two Fisted Eating books looking for my cartoons, but this time there’s no pictures so it counts more.)

20180618_113306_HDRMy eldest son is 12 years old: he is my target audience and he’s painfully honest with me so I know I can trust his opinion. (Example: “No offense, Mom, but this dinner doesn’t taste good.” Any time my boys start a sentence with “No offense, Mom…”, I brace my ego.)

I might ask my son if I can reach out to some of his friends and get their feedback as well. Can you get in trouble for peddling unpublished novels? “Come on, kid, try it, you’ll like it.”

Here are a few things I ask my beta readers:

What did you like about the book?

What did you not like?

Did you like the protagonist? Why?

Were there any parts that confused you or knocked you out of the story?

Are there any story lines that I didn’t wrap up? Any promises made (hints of things to come, ideas planted, conflicts set up, etc) in the beginning that I didn’t follow through on?

I’m working on the sequel, so I’ll also ask a few questions about what they would like to see happen next.

 

Are you writing for someone special? Who are your beta readers and how did you find them?

 

Image courtesy of: space.com and myself (you guess which photo goes with which source 😉

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Publishing Victory: Racing Snails

Publishing is like racing snails.

An author writes as much as she can as fast as she can as best as she can. She works hard every day, striving to produce quality work in quantity, and she waits a loooooong time to see the results of her effort. It’s racing snails.

snail 1The slow pace of publishing can be discouraging. Writing takes time and writing well takes even more time. When you’ve been patient with yourself and your process and  finally have a snail ready for the racetrack, you release him, you cheer, and then you wait. You wait to get a response after a submission, you wait for accepted work to appear in print or online, and then you wait to see the response of the readers.  It’s racing snails.

It’s hard to wait, but when you see your snail cross the finish line, all the effort and slime trails are worth it.

Here’s a recent example. Two years ago I submitted an article to a magazine. My snail was on the track. For a year and a half I heard nothing. Not a peep, not even a rejection letter. I thought my snail had left the track. But after one and a half years, I received an email from the editor. She had stumbled upon my submission as she cleaned out her inbox and she wanted to publish the article, can I please send photos.  My snail was not dead after all! He had quietly sprinted across the finish line while I looked the other way.

snail 2Racing snails is not for the feint hearted; it’s a long term game. But victory is extra sweet when you’ve waited for it. Don’t give up. While you wait for one snail to finish his race, train another snail and place it on the track. Keep racing, keep writing, keep trying, and when your snail wins, savor your victory. Slimy victory is still sweet.

 

Images courtesy of: imgflip.com (snail cartoon), depositphotos.com halina_photo (racing snails)

 

Author Struggles

Agatha-Christie-quote1

I’ve always struggled with what my author blog should look like or, rather, read like. I read other author’s blogs and I have an idea of what it could be like, but it’s hard to narrow down a blog theme when I’m still figuring out who I am as an author. I’m all over the place: I write non-fiction and fiction, science fiction and romance, books for adults and middle grade and children. I think I’m multifaceted as a writer because I’m a motley mixer upper as a reader as well.

asimovTake my favorite authors, for example: Isaac Asimov, Jane Austen, and Agatha Christie. What do all three have in common? Humor and genius. (I’m more drawn to Asimov’s goofier stuff: Lucky Starr and Azazel, not Foundation.) Give me a great story and throw in a couple of laughs, and I’m yours.

I’ve swung back and forth like a pendulum on who I want to be as an author and I almost burned myself out trying to write what I “should” instead of what I love, so I’m going to stop trying to figure it all out TODAY and I’m going to flow with inspiration as it strikes and work diligently on whatever direction I’m pointed. I will aim for humor and genius and if I can hit one of those, I’ll be more than satisfied.

austinHave you struggled to find your identity or “brand” as an author? Ever been pulled in opposite directions at once? Did you ever figure it out? If so, how did it become clear to you?

 

 

In 2018 I’m going to try something new for this blog: organization. Each quarter I will post about a struggle, a victory, something I’ve learned, and an interview with an author. When I figure out exactly what kind of author I am, I’ll let you know. Until then, let’s keep writing!

Include Your Passion in Your Writing

Today I pulled out a picture book I created for health class back in middle school. I laughed out loud when I saw it because 25 years later, I am once again drawing body cells with cartoon eyes.

disease book 1I’m working on a series of blog posts for Sex, Soup, and Two Fisted Eating wherein I interview various organs whose body has recently been diagnosed with type two diabetes. Everyone’s blaming the disease on Pancreas, of course, but she claims it’s the fault of Muscle or the Kidney Twins.  In the illustrations, the organs sit in armchairs to chat with the hostess and I’m having fun adding silly mustaches to glucose and endoplasmic reticulum hair to exhausted cells.

disease book 2The blast from the past book got me thinking about where our interests and passions begin: some come naturally and some come from the influence of others. For example, my mother is a high school biology teacher who tries to make biology memorable for her students. To this day, my siblings and I can name the phases of cell reproduction because Mom invented a tale of lovers torn apart that made the phases fun. Just last month I spotted two giant stuffed sock ribosomes in the guest bedroom, ready for class. Mom is fascinated with biology, which led to my own fascination with how the body works. Mix in the conviction (and living proof) that learning can be fun, and voila! You get nerdy kidneys arguing about mustached glucose on a healthy living blog.

disease book 3What are some of your passions? Do you include them in your writing?

For a good time and a better understanding of type two diabetes, check out The Diabetes Debate: Whose Fault is it?

Writer-speak

coffee-bookLast week I had coffee with a friend I met at a writers conference and I had the best time. It wasn’t just our common interests, our common faith, or the fact that she’s really cool that made it great. It was our ability to communicate in Writer-speak.

I complained about the head hopping in the novel I’m reading, shared my hope that I’m adequately using deep POV in the novel I’m writing, and bemoaned platform building and she UNDERSTOOD. I didn’t have to explain the terms, didn’t have to explain the publishing process or my writerly struggles. Together we celebrated our seemingly-insignificant-to-the-outside-world-but-huge-for-a-writer-little-daily-victories we’d had.

I encourage you to find a writer friend (or friends) if you haven’t already. Conferences are great places to meet like-minded writers. They will share your passion for writing, they will “get you”, and they will encourage you in a way only a fellow writer speaking Writer-speak can.

 

So Boaz said, “Come aside, friend, sit down here.” So he came aside and sat down. Ruth 4:1b

Image courtesy of The Coffee Book Tag

 

Selling Your Book at Events and Fairs

img_3490I’ve had tables at four events in three months trying to promote and sell my book and here are a few things I’ve learned:

  1. Before you sign up for an event, check out the event’s promotion. If the event isn’t being promoted well, foot traffic will be light, and your sales will suffer. A well promoted event becomes a well attended event.
  2. Keep your expectations in check. That may sound pessimistic, but if you expect to sell 100 books an hour, you will be sorely disappointed. Focus on getting the word out: hand out business cards or bookmarks that promote your book and get people to sign up for your newsletter. Selling the book right on the spot is a bonus.
  3. Be bold! You can draw people to your table with nice displays and bowls of candy, but at some point you have to open your mouth, hold out a card or a bookmark and say “Hi, check out my blog/book. It’s funny/witty/useful/a great story/can change your life.” Be ready with your tagline, that one sentence catchy answer to “What’s your book about?”
  4. Do the math. How many books do you need to sell to make that table fee worth it? Line up as many free or cheap tables at events as you can.

What have been your experiences with selling books at events and fairs? Has it gone well? Have you sworn never to rent a table again? Any tips to add? I’m still learning!

My First Book Fair

hockessin-fair-posterThis weekend I will be participating in my first book fair, the Hockessin Art and Book Fair.  I’ve been collecting tips from friends, blogs, and YouTube, and here are my favorites:

  1. Do a practice run. Set up your table at home and take a picture of the finished product. You do your fiddling, forgetting, and fretting at home at your leisure, and on the day of the fair, you simply look at your photo and recreate it. Saves time on the day of and helps ensure a nice looking table.
  2. Use props and vary their elevation. Flat paper and flat books do not a thrilling visual make. Props related to your book help draw attention to your table and stacking or propping items and books at different levels helps keep your table looking interesting.
  3. Come prepared to be paid. Test your credit card app to make sure it works, bring small bills to make change, and make yourself a small sign saying what forms of payment you accept. Have prices listed clearly and consider offering a deal or two.
  4. Take pictures of your table and yourself at the fair to use later in blog posts, newsletters, or book promotions.
  5. Have something people can take with them to remind them of you such as a business card, bookmark, etc. They might not buy your book today, but if they have something to remember you by, they just might purchase later.

If you have any tips to add, please do so in the comments!

 

Thank you for some great tips:

Carli Milacci http://www.lensoflight.com/ Lens of Light Photography

Stefanie Newell https://www.youtube.com/user/thelifeofawriter Author and Consultant