Sequel Struggles

It hasn't even been a month since I published The Purple Door District, and I'm already feeling the dreaded sequel struggle. You know the feeling. You finish book one in a trilogy or series. Ideas blossom in your head for the next story. Your characters weave their tales and are ready to continue their journeys. You sit down to write. 

Nothing. 

Yes, this is going to be one of those raw blog posts where I talk about my struggles and then still try to provide some advice thanks to the help of other incredible writers.

Right now, I'm trying not to throw my computer at the wall because I'm so frustrated with the book.  I managed to write part of the story during NaNo, but now I feel stuck. One reason is because I'm intimidated by book one! I've received a lot of really good feedback, and while I know I can still make changes, I don't want to write a sequel that's subpar. Not only that, I'm not working with the same exact cast. New characters are popping in left and right, and they're making the story that much more detailed and difficult. 

Don't get me wrong, the second book was meant to be more detailed and have bigger stakes, as it should, but I didn't think it would cause me quite this much stress and fear. 

I reached out to an incredible romance writer named Eliza David who sent me one of her blog posts about writing a sequel. You can check it out here. She provides some incredible tips such as taking notes of your characters from the first book, and also allowing characters (and conflict) to grow. Check it out!

As I've worked on my sequel, I've learned a few things that I thought I'd share as well. If you have tips, let me know! 

  • Character Bios: Make sure you have character bios and descriptions from the first book and keep adding to them for the second book so you don't have to keep researching and remembering who has what eyes or hair. 

  • Talk it Out: I spent part of the day talking to my co-creator about book two. She had a bunch of valuable advice, and you can do the same with a fellow writer, especially one who has read your book. Outline the next story for them to see if it makes sense and if your book is going to hold your readers' attention as much as the first. 

  • Read Your First Book: This might seem obvious, but I didn't really think about it when I started in on the sequel. I'd spent so much time editing PDD 1, I thought I wouldn't have to read it again. Boy, was I wrong. I think it'll help me stay in the groove of working with some of the same characters once I review it. 

  • Outline: Outline your sequel to see if it makes sense in the world of book one. And if you have another book after the sequel, try to outline that book as well so you know where number two needs to end. Granted, this is more for the plotters rather than the pantsers, but I think it's beneficial to both. 

  • Allow Yourself to Feel Frustrated: Seriously, writing a sequel is scary and hard, so if you get frustrated, it's completely normal. Allow yourself to feel (kick, scream, and cry if you need to), then get back to work. It's better than keeping it all in. 

  • Remember First Drafts Suck: Don't get intimidated by your edited writing in book one. It started off as rough and unpolished as the sequel. The most important thing is to get the words on paper. You can clean it up later. 

Believe me when I say you're not alone in your dread of writing a sequel. Do what feels right for you, and look up suggestions for how to get through blocks and over hurdles.

My biggest suggestion is try to find a way to embrace your book and not be afraid of it. Because if you're afraid what could happen, the only person who will ever know the story is you.

Write it.

You can do it! 

2018 Wrap Up and 2019 Goals

I can't believe that 2018 is finally over. It felt like the year that just would not die! I made resolutions last year, but most of them I don't even  remember, except for wanting to start querying Dragon Steal, which I did manage to accomplish. For this post, I'd like to go over some of the awesome (and not-so-awesome) things that happened this year and cover my goals for 2019. 

2018 in Review

  • Finished editing Dragon Steal and submitted it for publication.

    • I've received several rejection letters but recently got a full manuscript request. While the rejections have hurt, at least the book is out there! 

  • I created my own website and started developing a branded persona on twitter, facebook, instagram, etc. I have over 1,000 followers both on twitter and on instagram.

    • Even better, I've met a ton of amazing authors and creators through these sites who I can't wait to work with next year! 

  • Wrote, edited, and published The Purple Door District.  I can't believe I developed my own marketing and indiegogo campaigns, formatted the book, published it, and held a launch party all in the space of six months. The question is, can I do it for PDD2? 

  • Had "Latte with a Shot of Poltergeist" and "Frozen Heart" published in anthologies. 

  • Submitted more short stories and poetry than I ever have before. While I received a lot of rejections, I at least received a few publications. 

  • Officially launched The Writers' Rooms with my co-Director, Alexandra Penn. We also finished our Articles of Incorporation and got certified as a non-profit corporation. 

  • Helped develop the concierge anthology through The Writers' Rooms. 

  • Returned to my college and taught a few classes about publishing and NaNoWriMo.

  • Wrote 50k words for The Purple Door District: Wolf Pit

  • Lost about 45 lbs through exercise and healthy eating. 

  • Attended my first book signing event with other authors and signed up for even more in 2019. 

  • Hosted giveaways for my book and swag that was developed by local creators. 

  • Started my patreon account to help raise money for my writing career. 

  • Received honorable mention in Writers of the Future. 

  • Truly started my profession as an author. 

It's been a really big year for me writing wise. I still can't believe that six months ago I decided to publish The Purple Door District. It seems like ages since I made that decision. I've managed to publish a few pieces of work this year, including on wattpad and patreon. 

Next year, I hope to do even more, but also find a way to take care of myself at the same time. 

2019 Goals

  • Focus on my mental health and take better care of myself mentally and physically.

  • Find an agent and publisher for Dragon Steal.

  • Finish writing and publish The Purple Door District: Wolf Pit.

  • Work on Fates and Furies with my co-author, AE Kellar, and hopefully publish the first book, if not in 2019, then in early 2020. 

  • Submit more short stories and poetry for publication. 

  • Start working on The Purple Door District #3 and Dragon Steal #2

  • Return to working on Traitors of the Crown

  • Lose more weight for health reasons and get healthier. 

  • Attend multiple writing conventions to both sell my books and to meet other authors. 

  • Start my path to becoming a full-time author. 

These are pretty ambitious goals, but I think most of them are possible. I really do need to focus on my mental and physical health, though, because I managed to break myself a few times while working on PDD. If I can't hold myself together, I won't be able to accomplish any/all of this. 

I'm really proud of what I did this year. It's my biggest year as an author, and I can't wait to see what 2019 holds. I'm also a little scared. What if next year doesn't unfold as well? I guess that's all part of growing up and making plans as a writer, though. Some years you're going to make it big, and some years are going to be a lot slower. I hope 2019 is still a fantastic one. 

What are your goals for 2019? Feel free to share them below! Also, let me know what topics you'd like me to cover this year! 

Happy Writing!

Erin 

Creating a Book Launch: Reflection

It's been a week since I launched The Purple Door District. It's hard to believe that it's over already after so many months of work. I've had people ask what went well, what didn't, what would I like to change, and so on and so forth. After some reflection, I thought I'd share a few tidbits for anyone else who's preparing to launch their book. As I say in many of my posts, these are just ideas and not the true method. What works for me may not work for you, but it may give you a place to start. 

To make this a little easier, I'm going to divide this into three sections: what I did, what worked and didn't work, and what I'd do next time. 

Warning: This is going to be a long one! 

What I did: 

  • Indie Publishing: I gave myself 6 months to launch my book so I could build up an audience and get my social media platforms off the ground. Keep in mind, I was mostly starting from scratch. I had Facebook and Wattpad, and I had just started on patreon, but that was about it. I decided to go the indie publishing route, which meant I had to do all my marketing by myself, hence the six months of preparation. 

  • Cover reveal: I revealed the cover of the book about a month in so that it, and the title, could get out and attract attention.

  • Social Media: I started building up my social media. Twitter and Facebook brought the most people to my website (according to the analytics). I also created an Instagram account. I bounced back and forth between these three, and featured special topics on Instagram like my Book Love Tour, author interviews, and blog entries. I created a schedule for myself to write a blog post every week, which I've managed for a few months now. When I got closer to the book release, I created a Goodreads and Bookbub account, per the suggestions of other authors. Through all the social media sites, I worked to build my audience and find fellow writers who might be interested in the book, and who I could help. 

  • Website: I developed my own author website to host information about my books, author interviews, my literary projects, details about the community, my volunteer work, etc. Basically my website is a one-stop shop for anyone who wants to know about me and my work. You can find all my social media through it. 

  • Patreon: In December 2017, before I even decided to publish PDD, I started posting a chapter or two every month. This meant I had early readers and got a few people interested in the book. I intend to do the same thing with PDD 2. 

  • Interviews: Through Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, I found people willing to do interviews with me to help promote my book. I worked to space them out over the months so there was always something fresh for people to read. In the same vein, I interviewed other authors to show them support. It's been a lot of fun getting to meet so many different people. 

  • Libraries/bookstores: I started contacting libraries and bookstores who might be interested in carrying my book. In the end, I had three bookstores in the local area who wanted them, and another in the works. Libraries are a little more reluctant to take in indie-published books, but I did manage to get a couple to agree to carry the novel. 

  • Press: I wrote press releases for my book launch in hopes that it would help bring more people to the event and also share the news about the novel to more people. 

  • Swag: I developed some of my own swag and also brought on people to create art, necklaces, and sand bottles for my book. My intent was to give them support while also helping to promote PDD. It was a lot of money, but the results spoke volumes. 

  • Indiegogo Campaign: Indie publishing is not easy, as many of you probably already know. I started up an Indiegogo Campaign to try to offset some of the costs. I spread it out over a month, aiming to gain $4,000. 

  • Book Launch Location: I picked a special location for my book launch. The Makers' Loft seemed like a fitting place because it is all about representing indie artists. It has a great space, and it is still new and starting out, so I wanted to bring publicity there as well. Plus, their marketing team is really good. I'm really glad I chose it. 

  • Giveaways:  I did several giveaways over the course of the 6 months. In the beginning, I was just offering swag as gifts (necklaces, posters, etc) because the book wasn't done. Then I started giving away the e-book, and finally I offered up the published book in bigger contests that ended up helping me build my newsletter. 

  • Newsletter: I developed a newsletter to keep people updated on what I'm working on. It helped me keep people interested and connected me with my readers more. 

  • ARC: I gave out advanced reader copies to people I knew would finish the book and provide reviews on Goodreads, and later Amazon. I hoped that the numbers would get me closer to the 50 count which triggers Amazon to start promoting your book. 

  • Paid Ads: I spent a little money on ads for the newspaper, Facebook, Bookbub, and I think a couple of other places to garner attention. 

  • Connections: I worked with my author connections to gain more information about how to launch my book. I also got PDD out word-of-mouth and developed a street team to help me share information about the book around social media platforms. 

  • Signings: I set up two signings on the day of the book launch, as well as several others in the future so people would know right away where to find me if they couldn't make it to the actual launch. 

What Worked/ What Didn't 

  • Indie Publishing: I'm actually really glad I went this route. I've learned a lot about indie publishing over the past six months, and I now have a better idea of what I'd do in the future. It costs a lot, I'm not going to lie, but you have a lot of freedom that you may not have with publishers. 

  • Cover reveal: This was a great way to gain attention. I found an amazing artist who really hit the nail on the head. People loved the cover, and that kept bringing an audience back to me. Or at least made people pause when they scrolled through it. Cover reveals are great media pieces, especially if you have an incredible artist. Start it early, and get your name out there. 

  • Social Media: I probably made my social media life a lot harder than it needed to be. Facebook and Twitter both brought people over to my website. Whether that will lead to sales remains to be seen at this point. It's something you definitely need to do to keep up your audience, but the amount of social media presence is really up to you. I think Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram get me my best audience. Wattpad and patreon fall a bit more to the wayside. At the very least, this is a great way to gain connections and find out about other signings, and bond with writers and readers. Recently, my blog posts have started to gain more attention. 

  • Website: A must have. I spent more on this than I had anticipated, but it's worth the cost. I have a store where I can sell my books. And it's a one-stop-shop for everyone. If I only have one piece of social media to offer up, this is definitely the one I give. I update it every week, too, and that seems to keep the numbers up. 

  • Patreon: To be honest, Patreon is not one of my successes. It's gone well for other writers, but I've really struggled with gaining an audience. I'm hoping that now PDD 1 is out, that'll bring more people in for PDD 2. Part of me wants to give it up completely, but I still think there's worth in it. If anything, it keeps me on task because I have to post something every 15th of the month. 

  • Interviews: This was a big help. Interviews introduced me to new readers and audiences. They made people see that I'm very much a human, and they got to know me and my view of working as a community. I would say get as many interviews as possible, and research if there's a good response turn out for that interviewer's blog.  

  • Libraries/bookstores: I didn't have as much success as I would have liked, but I don't think I tried as hard as I could have. I'm still reaching out to bookstores and libraries, but I'm finding that they prefer to agree to carry your book once it's printed. That being said, I did just receive my first paycheck from one of the bookstores! 

  • Press: This was a dud, but that was my fault. I did reach out to newspapers, but I neglected to reach out to tv and radio stations. I think I just ran out of time, which was an issue. I sent press releases to four local papers and only had one respond. 

  • Swag: While this turned out to be a lot of money, the swag really caught people's attention. When I couldn't give out the book because it was still in progress, I could at least offer bookmarks, jewelry, and other items. They were all very eye catching, and they've served to help bolster the world of PDD alongside the book. 

  • Indiegogo Campaign: The campaign enabled me to pay for my first shipment of books, but it definitely didn't land where I expected. There are a lot of ways in which I would improve on it (more below). 

  • Book Launch Location: The location was really great. The only downside is the website has slightly confusing directions, so some people got lost, but they still managed to show up. I had at least 30 people stop by in a 2-hour time frame. 

  • Giveaways:  On one hand, not many people participated in the giveaways. It almost felt like, what was the point? On the other hand, the people who won were ecstatic and let me know about it, and that felt wonderful. 

  • Newsletter: I suck at newsletters, hah! This is still a work in progress! Now that I have about 250 people, I'm hoping that will lead to some sales.  

  • ARC: Definitely glad I did this. My ARC folks came through for me and helped me get several reviews both on amazon and goodreads. I'm talking with even more people about doing reviews, so I hope my #questto50 makes it on amazon. 

  • Paid Ads: Honestly, I don't think these were worth the money. Unless you're willing to spend $100s of dollars, I don't think they give you much turn out. 

  • Connections/Signings: Personal connections with people and in-person signings definitely were great successes. I've met so many incredible people over the last six months, and many also ended up buying my book to show their support. I did the same for their books as well. The biggest success came from working with the community. They always say you should build an audience, but I'd much rather build up true connections with people and have us help each other. Rising Tide, as Brian K Morris says. 

What I'd Do Differently

  • Press: I would reach out to more press outlets about my book. One suggestion an author made to me was to send formal invitations to newspapers, tv, and radio stations. If you can get a big star to come, that's something you can talk about and attract more people. I'd also write more press releases to introduce my book. 

  • Indiegogo Campaign: If I did this again, I'd give myself two months instead of one to raise the money. One month wasn't enough. I would also promote it more, and likely do that through press news. My tiers would be more reasonable as well. I wish I could have given out more stuff to people, but I was still in the early stages. 

  • Relevant Signings: I'm working on this now, but I would have set up a signing in Chicago right off the bat. The book is set in Chicago, after all. I should have reached out to Chicago bookstores and media as well. 

  • ARC: I would find more ARC readers for the book. I've received many incredible reviews (thank you, everyone!) But getting more reviews right away would be helpful. 

  • Time/Self-Care: Give myself more time to breathe. During the six months, I thought I was going to lose my mind. There were plenty of tears and nights where I felt like I couldn't do this, and that I'd turn into a failure. It was because I wasn't taking care of myself. I wasn't sleeping. I wasn't eating well. There were other factors that made self-care difficult, but the book launch was one of those major stresses in my life that I'm both happy and sad is over. I'd definitely give myself a day (at least) every week where I didn't work on anything. 

I told you, this was going to be a long one. Overall, I think the book launch was a big success. In 7 days, I sold about 70 books, and I have interviews and signings coming up over the next few months. I'm working to attend bigger conventions that might bring more attention to my book, and to me as an author. Maybe I'll even find an agent to represent me for the other stacks of books I have waiting in the wings. 

As a final note, I want to again thank everyone who has supported me through this journey. You all are incredible and I can't thank you enough. 

As always, if you have a topic you'd like me to discuss, post it below! 

Happy writing! 

The Joys and Woes of Writing

About a week ago, I reached out to #writingcommunity on twitter and asked people what was the best and worst thing about being a writer. The answers were mixed, but there was definitely a theme that I could relate with. (You can find the original thread here). 

Best Thing About Being a Writer

  • Getting lost in the world I've created

  • Watching my characters deal with the world and events I throw at them. 

  • Meeting other writers and hanging out with them

  • Creating worlds and characters and watching them develop

  • Living vicariously through a character

  • Writing is magic and creativity is joy 

  • Having people who "get" you

  • Feeling like this is exactly what I'm meant to do in life. 

Worst Thing About Being a Writer

  • Separating honest feedback from the trolls

  • Being asked, "How much do you earn from your writing" or "How many books have you published?" 

  • Having to do so much of the process alone

  • Writing is solitary 

  • Feeling I have no idea what I'm doing and wanting to give up

  • Fearing that my story is terrible

  • No immediate rewards, payments, or feedback

  • Feeling isolated and unmotivated 

  • Fearing Failure

  • Isolating

  • Fearing Failure

  • Isolating

I think you can notice a theme with the "worst" thing. For many, writing is an isolating craft. You create characters and a world from your head, put it all down on paper, huddle with a computer and a notepad to develop your story...it's hard not to feel alone. At the same time, we fear what happens when we offer our work to people through way of editing or publishing. Will they provide honest feedback? Will they hate it? Will they review it at all? How dare we bare our soul to the world? 

It's often said that we are our own worst critics, and I think we can see that in the list above. We're so afraid of failure and how our story isn't good enough. We beat ourselves down, thinking we can never amount to the other authors out there. It's a heartbreaking feeling, and it sometimes keeps writers from putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. Some people stop all together because of that insurmountable feeling that they're not good enough. 

But, on the flip side, look at all the amazing things that come out of writing. When you meet other creative minds, it's wonderful to develop a community where you can support each other. As I write this, I'm with The Rainbow Room of The Writers' Rooms, an LGBT writing group. I've met incredible people through the Rooms, through twitter, instagram, facebook, etc. There's a community out there for you, you just have to find the right one. If anything, start with #writingcommunity on twitter.  

Writing also allows you to let your creative juices flow into the creation of worlds, characters, magic systems, alien races, and more. How amazing is that? You get to develop this thing that you can call your very own! I often read books to escape reality and stresses of the day. Writing (usually) lets me do the same thing, provided I'm not ready to throw the book out the window. That's special, and you should feel proud of the things you develop. Yes, first drafts suck. Yes, we all need and editor. But in the end, you take nothing and make something incredible; be proud! 

Writing, as with all things, can have its drawbacks, but if we focus only on the negative, then we miss the good things that come with it. So to those of you struggling and wondering if you're good enough or if you're the only one who feels alone...there are others out there who feel exactly the same way. You aren't alone. And I hope you find the courage to pick up that pen or open up that laptop and share your story with the world. Because you deserve to be heard. 

Launch Week and What Comes Next

I can't believe it's finally here. After six months of planning, plotting, and procrastinating (we all do it), The Purple Door District is finally going to see the light of day. I've already sent a few copies out to ARC readers and to my indiegogo supporters, and the reviews thus far have been great. My favorite has to be: 

"Casey caught me hook, line, and sinker and I'm already impatient for the sequel!" -Rebecca Daniels. 

At this moment I'm putting the final pieces of the launch together. I dropped books off at Prairie Lights and M and M Bookstore. It's surreal to be handing them a paper copy of my book. My bookmarks at Haunted Bookshop are gone already, and a couple press releases should be appearing in the paper any day now. Everything is headed in the right direction. 

On Saturday, December 15th, the book will launch both on amazon and in stores. My first signing is at the North Liberty Community Library where there will be free cookies and pictures with Santa for the kids while parents do last-minute shopping. It's my first chance to sell my books beside other authors, and I can't wait. I've met so many incredible people over this past year, and it'll be such an honor to actually sell my book beside them. If you're in the North Liberty area, stop on by from 10am-1pm. You can find more information here

Saturday night will be the big event. From 6:30-8:30 pm, I'm holding a signing and reading event at The Makers' Loft in Iowa City. This is a fantastic new business that helps support local indie creators. They've agreed to sell my books there as well because they want to start a book section. People can come get their books, celebrate with dessert, and then listen to a reading at 8 pm. I'm also holding a raffle. Authors Shakyra Dunn, R.C. Davis, Alexandra Penn, Eliza David, and more, will donate their books to the prize pool. You might walk away with more than a couple of gifts! 

And speaking of gifts, Marion Mavis, author of The Supremacy Witch, and I are doing a giveaway on Instagram! Go check out our guidelines on how to win signed copies of both of our books! 

I really hope to have a great turn out to blog about. You can be sure I'll take pictures, and I'm planning to do a brief live recording as well. 

Then, on Sunday, I'll finally face plant my bed and get some rest.

This whole experience has been incredible, but it's also been draining. There have been more than a few times that I've wanted to throw up my hands and toss in the towel. Publishing a book is practically a second job. When I'm not doing my daily work and volunteer positions, I'm usually busy with writing, editing, or marketing. I'll admit I haven't taken quite enough time for myself since the whole process started, but I'm hoping to get some breathing room now that the book is going to be published.

What then, do you ask? What's the future of The Purple Door District

The answer is twofold. This will not be the only book. I started working on book 2, tentatively named Wolf Pit, and I'm already 50,000 words into it. My hope is that I can publish it in 2019. At the same time, my co-creator and I, AE Kellar, plan to work on our main series to get that ready for publication. We have a lot of work ahead of us, but with The Purple Door District finally taking flight, we think we're ready to crank the work out. 

The story doesn't end here, my friends.

The journey is just beginning.