Dziękuję, Polska ! — & other things I never expected within a year of being published

Hey all! It’s been a while. A little less than nine months ago Juniper Lemon’s Happiness Index (aka my first book) came out in the United States, and I must admit my focus has been away from this blog since — but some excitement is happening abroad, and while I stopped by to share it, I thought I would interrupt my hiatus with a quick list of highlights and things I have learned as a debut author so far, starting with said news:

1. Juniper has been nominated for Book of the Year 2017 (young adult) on Lubimyczytać.pl, the Polish equivalent of Goodreads!

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I was so stunned to see this. Even if I don’t win — even if I come in last place — I might never get over seeing my book alongside John Green’s and Nicola Yoon’s! Have a Lubimyczytać.pl account or know someone who does? You can vote on best young adult book of 2017 here!

2. Readers are the best. This may not come as a surprise to anyone, but readers sure keep surprising *me* with their boundless kindness and honors! The above is an extreme example — it was a big deal even to see Juniper translated into Polish, let alone nominated for anything — but really, everything from a shoutout in a Tweet to a quick message, fan mail, or “bookstagram” photo is spectacularly uplifting, and really strikes the heart every time. I’ve made excellent use of that tears-streaming-down-the-face emoji the last few seasons.

3. I’m really glad I joined Instagram. Confession: I did not own a smart phone until last year. But I made an account a little before I got one at the recommendation of another debut author, who had observed how nice it was to be tagged in posts and see some of the love your book was getting without seeking it out. As someone with epic anxiety around reading reviews, that approach really works for me 🙂

4. Postcards = business cards for your books. Book swag can come in handy in any number of situations, but in my opinion, postcards are the absolute best. I always carry some with me on the go, and if the fact that I write books for a living happens to come up in conversation (as it often does), I have a visual + one-line summary and all the book’s details in one neat place — and whoever I’m talking to can take it home with them!

I especially recommend book postcards if, like me, you either loathe being a salesperson, feel flustered to discuss your book on cue, or both.

5. Yes, Book 2 really does suck…but you’ve got people in your corner. If you’re an author or aspiring novelist, you’ve likely heard about the notorious struggles of writing a second traditionally-published novel. Every situation is different, but I can tell you from where I stand: IT’S ALL TRUE. Mainly it’s just that circumstances have changed and there are any number of unique pressures that weren’t there for your first book — but they add up, and whether it’s coming up with an idea everyone likes, meeting parameters, deadlines, or turning in the ugliest first draft of your life, the stress is alive and well.

BUT: the same people who helped you sell, and possibly publish your first book remain your steady champions. As long and harrowing as your path to Book 2 might be, your people want to see you succeed — and in my experience, are excellent about working with you to make it happen.

6. I have a favorite business expense?? I knew online giveaways (***see below!***) were A Thing, but I never expected I’d be so dang happy making semi-regular runs to the post office! Readers really appreciate the chance to win a copy of your book via social media or Rafflecopter, and every winner I’ve interacted with has been so wonderfully gracious and ebullient, I can’t help but grin too when I get to play Bookmail Fairy.

7. Some things don’t change. A few: imposter syndrome. Bottomless TBRs (I am only just now starting to catch up on all the excellent debuts I purchased last year). The desire to to urge people to leave a review*, but want to be more Person than Salesperson and thus only occasionally vague-Tweet about how much authors love and appreciate reviews 🙂

*Reviews help authors. They are appreciated in any capacity — Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes & Noble, etc. — but especially on Amazon, where I am told that 50 is the magic number to start enjoying the benefits of their algorithms.

Anything to add? Comment below!

And while you’re here…

***CURRENT GIVEAWAYS***

As of this posting, I am hosting TWO ongoing Juniper giveaways: one on Instagram and one on Twitter. Check them out for details! Winners will be drawn February 21, 2018.

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What do you wish you’d known about writing as a teen?

Have you ever found something you wrote in high school and nearly died of simultaneous laughter and mortification? Spoiler alert: I HAVE!

Revisiting an old story of mine, last week I came up with some simple tips that could have vastly improved my writing as a teen and posted them in this Letter to my Teenage Self.

What was your writing like as a teen? What would have made it better?

What starter tips would you give teen or novice writers today?

Good Writing Advice: Submit Your Best

To paraphrase Pat Benatar, “Hit ‘Em With Your Best Plot.”

Today’s writing wisdom deals with the submissions process and comes from literary agent Marisa Corvisiero of the eponymous Corvisiero Literary Agency.

In a 2011 interview with Chiseled in Rock, when asked what essential advice she would give to authors seeking representation, Corvisiero said this:

“Do your research and always put your best foot forward. Learn about the industry, but don’t forget that in the end your writing speaks for itself.”

Itis important to make sure that any writing sent is as polished as possible: not just complete, but thoroughly revised and in a mature stage of development. Doing your homework– knowing who might be interested in your work, why the agent/agency would make a good match with it, their submission guidelines, etc.– is all important, but ultimately it is your writing that must withstand scrutiny and critical eyes. Corvisiero underlines the importance of this:

“Agents are incredibly busy and will unfortunately review your work looking for reasons not to represent you…So don’t give them any.”

The ships an aspiring author sets in water must be watertight.

Good Writing Advice: A New Segment

Hey gang. So as I’ve been discovering some great resources on agent-finding, query-writing, synopses, general craft, etc., I have been keeping a file. That file is a running Word document composed exclusively of advice cut and pasted from various literary agents, authors, book doctors, etc. in interviews, agency websites, and magazines, and is presently twenty pages. That’s twenty pages single-spaced, and growing.

Since it’s too much information to just pour into the ear and absorb, I’m thinking I’m going to break it down (not unlike a snazzy boy band) and share it here in portions. In doing so I’ll make a regular segment called Good Writing Advice. The segment, like the document, will cover a broad spectrum of topics but is generally aimed at helping authors, aspiring and otherwise.

So here you are– an appetizer. Today’s tip is on cultivating a successful author/reader relationship. It comes from author Matt Mikalatos in a Writer’s Digest article titled “4 Ways To Build Healthy Relationships With Your Readers“. And the tip is…

Be Accessible.

You can use any medium you like for communication, so long as your readers know how to contact you.

Makes sense, right? There are many ways to communicate these days: through social media, contact forms, email, or even good, old-fashioned letters. Find the medium(s) that work for you and tell readers, in an easily-found location (a website, a fan page, or even, as Mikalatos suggests, in the back of your book itself!), how you prefer to be contacted. This opens the line for impressions, feedback, and fun (not to mention valuable!) engagement with readers.

Writing Challenge, Day 3: The Inspiration Jar

30 Day Know Thyself Writing Challenge

Day 3: What’s the BEST writing advice you ever received?

“Good writing is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration.” That both reminds me my frustrations are worthwhile and encourages me to keep sweating because it means I’m going somewhere. It means that any writer can start with almost nothing, or something quite shoddy, and with continued hard work transform it into a shining masterpiece.

It also makes me feel a whoooole lot better about the short story that I’ve been working on for over a month 🙂

Another thought this ratio begets: the value of saving up ideas for a rainy day. Last year I started a running document of ideas. It contains plots, lines, images, metaphors, concepts. If I can reach into that document like a jar and start with a single idea—just one grain of inspiration—and with time and effort turn it into a castle of stars, that’s a very good reason to jot down the smallest of whims or details. Better yet, maybe I will keep an actual jar. I feel an art project coming on!

What writing advice do you hold sacred?