ARTICLE POST: The Indie Book Stigma

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There are two types of authors: self-published authors and traditionally published authors. But at the end of the day, both authors are still just writers who want to share their story to readers around the world. There are benefit and consequences to both methods of publishing. I haven’t been traditionally published (yet) and decided to go the self-publishing route for my first novel.

Why?

Main reason was that I’m insanely impatient. The second, I’m a do-it-yourself type of girl in the first place and I wanted to try my hand at it. From the moment I started writing my book, I had the cover drawn in my head. When I finally hired someone to create it was a surreal moment for me and I may have squealed once or twice. Formatting the book was a complete nightmare. There were nights that I wanted to tear my hair out because I was struggling to get the correct page numbering format on Word. But when it was all done and ready, the moment I held my book in my hands for the first time was guaranteed one of the best days of my life.

Sometimes I think I should have pursued traditional publishing with a little more kick in my step, but other days I’m happy about my decision to self-publish. Self-publishing is definitely NOT for the faint of heart. Luckily, I’m made of steel, or maybe I’m just stubborn and resilient. You have to be committed to the process and know that you’re in it alone and have to rely on your own resourcefulness with no guarantee of a return.

The biggest consequence for self-publishing that I have faced is EXPOSURE. It is near impossible to get an indie book into the hands of the readers. Print on Demand companies have made it a much user-friendly process compared to years before, but still it is near impossible to get it into brick-and-mortar aka Barnes and Noble (THE DREAM!…I’m still in the process of trying to get it on the shelves). There is a stigma in the book publishing industry about self-published books, and it is that the majority stinks; it is not as polished as traditionally published books and come off as amateurish. I agree to a certain extent. While there is a plethora of duds in the growing pile of slush, there are definitely hidden treasures mixed in.

How do I find these hidden gems, you ask?

Book reviewers and bloggers. Trust fellow readers. Especially if you have a book blogger you follow and find their reviews are similar to your own thoughts of the same books, then you’ll find that your reading taste is similar. It’s a chain reaction in the book world, so I guarantee that even if a book was absolutely trash but everyone was reading it, you would end up reading it too.

I’ve sent many copies of my books to book bloggers for a review and many of them enjoyed it very much. So, even though I’m not the most objective person on this topic, I do believe readers should give self-published authors a chance. They work just as hard as traditionally published authors to create stories for you to enjoy and even if you end up hating it, most authors are glad that you took the time to read it. I’ve been blessed with ten 5-star reviews on Amazon, and twelve on Goodreads (not necessarily from the same readers) for my first book KARNAGE (The Phoenix Ashes Trilogy Book 1). However, I wouldn’t mind an extra review that was even 1-star, why? Because at least someone took their time to read it and tell me what they didn’t like about it. I’m always curious to see what readers didn’t particularly like in my books, because it makes me take note of it for my next books.

PS. I’M RUNNING A GIVEAWAY FOR 15 EBOOK AND 15 PAPERBACK  ADVANCED READER COPIES (ARCs) OF KALCYON! Click the picture below to check out my instagram for more info!

kalcyon cover

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ARTICLE POST: Writing Convention

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So I recently went to my first writing convention this past Saturday. It was a one-day affair and about an hour away from my home, so I wasn’t forced to dish out an obscene amount of money to attend it. At the convention, they allowed writers to purchase 10-min pitch times with agents. I decided I would pitch a new trilogy I started writing to two agents, Nephele Tempest and Sara Sciuto.

Before attending, I had no idea what to expect and I was ridiculously nervous about the pitch. I memorized my 1-2 minute blurb and ran it through my head repeatedly the night before, on the drive there, and even during the event. Both my pitches were scheduled early in the day, so I wasn’t pacing throughout the event.

My first pitch was to Sara Sciuto. She represents a variety of works ranging from picture books to young adult books. Which is perfect, because I have a young adult fantasy and a middle grade idea that I’ve been tinkering around with. The beginning of my pitch sounded rehearsed, but it became a more colloquial toward the end (at least I hope it did). She asked me a few questions about it and I answered with more in-depth explanations of the different fantasy concepts woven into it and she said she was intrigued! She handed me her business card and asked me to send the first 50-pgs of my manuscript. I was downright giddy at this point, but I still had about 5 minutes left from my 10 minutes. I didn’t want to just get up and waste half my time, so instead I asked her questions (because from the articles I read about pitches at writing conventions, that’s what you’re supposed to do). I asked her what other fantasy books she’s representing and what style of writing she most particularly enjoyed so I could get to know her better. Overall it was a successful pitch and if she does like my manuscript, I know I would really enjoy working with her!

My second pitch was with Nephele Tempest. By this time, my head was still bobbling from my first pitch, so I was a bit more relaxed and natural. Since I got Sara’s card and interest, I didn’t have all my eggs in one basket. (Of course I wanted it to be a success, who wouldn’t want the interest of two agents instead of one?) My second pitch was more natural and conversational and Nephele made a few ooh’s and ahh’s during it that made me smile. She was also very intrigued by it and gave me her business card to send her the first 50pgs of my manuscript as well. I was ecstatic.

Honestly, I wasn’t sure if maybe the agents were just giving their cards to all the authors who pitched to them out of good measure since they went out of their way to pay for those short, precious 10 minutes, but it really didn’t matter to me. I felt that in a way, we skipped the first part of querying agents, the part that has them opening the initial email to read your query to ask for a longer sample. And to me, that’s worth every penny. Plus, now the agents are able to put a face to the query/manuscript, which humanizes the process. There’s no guarantee they’ll like my manuscript. They might have enjoyed the idea of it, but writing style is a whole other beast.

I’ve been working on finishing and refining my manuscript in order to send it to them. (Although, I did learn that an agent’s request for a longer sample has no deadline) Therefore, I’m trying not to rush myself because I really want to send my best work. But I have made a self-induced deadline of October 31 to get the first draft completed and the first 50-pgs refined to send out. I figure that I’ll have another 1-2 months after submitting the first 50-pgs to polish the rest of my manuscript while they read my longer sample.

I’m glad I registered for the Los Angeles Writing Workshop 2015 (#LAWW15). It was a very positive experience and I learned a lot. I think the only thing that I might have enjoyed would have been to connect with other writers more. Because the convention was so short, you didn’t really have much time to get to know that many people. I’m thinking it would be great to attend a writing retreat or even a longer writing convention in the future.

This is the first sentence of my new trilogy!

“A wish made was a price paid, and no power could undo it.”
-Death Life Taken

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ARTICLE POST: Connecting You to the Next Level

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It is becoming inherently apparent to me how important it is to treat others the way you would like to be treated. I am a Christian and the commandment has been a long standing reminder in following in the footsteps of God, but I’m imperfect and I lose my footing here and there. If you’re not Christian, please don’t be turned off or stop reading! This won’t be a sermon of any kind, it’s really an observation that I’ve learned as a person living in this crazy world.

First some background information. I’m a writer, but that doesn’t pay the bills. So, on the side I’m quite the entrepreneur. There’s something about building your own business from your own two hands, and it’s definitely not for the faint of heart! But it is one of the most rewarding experiences when things work out. Anyways, I run my own wedding videography business and volleyball club. (The combination is totally random, I know)

In all of my personal endeavors, it requires me to interact with many different types of people: stressed brides and grooms, athletic children, some not-so athletic children, overbearing parents, invisible parents, bibliophiles, etc. Your first thought would be that none of these people is like the other. Wrong. If there’s one thing about communities, it’s that no matter what there is some connection from one person to another, somehow someway.

Whether you run your own business or you’re running errands for a boss, it should be your number one priority to present yourself in the most professional manner and to treat people kindly no matter the situation, because I guarantee that one day later in your life there will come a time where you’ll meet that person from your past and you’ll wish that you hadn’t yelled at them for making you frustrated, or showed them mercy that one morning you woke up on the wrong side of the bed. And when I say “meet,” I mean either indirectly or directly, because remember everyone is connected. That person might just end up being a client’s best friend or the significant other of the boss in a company you would like to work at, or maybe even worse that person now IS the boss–if you leave a bad impression with them, you can bet they’ll remember; but it also works the other way around, if you treated them as a friend, then I guarantee they’ll do what they can to return the favor.

I’ll give you a personal example. For my volleyball club, I need to find gyms to rent out for volleyball practices (this is the hard part of my job). Over and over and over again, I have been screwed over by LAUSD and the experiences have been less than ideal. One day after another issue with a gym LAUSD matched us with, I got to talking with a parent of two boys we coach (his sons are delightful players to coach) and he shared the information that there’s a private school near his home that we should check out. We found out that it’s a school that we did use once in the past when we first started out (we LOVED that gym and were the best renters possible, but for some reason we weren’t able to get anymore dates and moved on to a new gym). Then, the parent told us that he actually knows someone who is well connected with the school and told us he would put in a good word for us. One short passing conversation and a good impression was all it took to get our foot back into the door of that gym.

Basically, you need to understand that even though the universe is endless, the world is a very small place. With social media and new avenues of communications constantly popping up like flowers, you can become friends with someone hundreds and thousands of miles away, and that’s just amazing. I’ve met so many new people on bookstagram (@AJLeighBooks, be my friend!) who share the same interests as me and it’s a wonderful experience sharing it with them. You never know how when you’ll meet that person again and how they may be able to help you when you’re in a tight spot. So, present your best self even on social media, because you can tell a lot about a person by the things he or she posts, but that’s a totally different article topic.

ARTICLE POST: Constructive Criticism Revisions

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The writing process can be a very daunting experience. Some writers will be blinded by the bright overbearing blank pages that are waiting to be filled with a string of seemingly common words woven into something profound and meaningful, while other writers wear goggles as they fill pages and pages of content, most of the time all rubbish. But like everything in life, you need to find the happy medium and be willing to make changes in your work. Adaptability means survival.

Recently, a new manuscript idea came to me and I got really excited and scribbled everything about it in my notebook. Upon returning home, I began compiling a complete series outline before starting to write (something I promised myself I would do from now on). I hadn’t thought about the smaller details of the book and as I wrote my outline I began filling them in where I could. What I ended up with was a goldmine! Or so I thought … I was wearing googly goggles. And I didn’t realize it until I went to my family and pitched the idea to them.

First, I pitched the story to my older sister (27 years old). She had questions but was overall interested in the concept and said it was an original idea that she would like to read. I could’ve stopped there, because validation is the only feedback you want to hear. WRONG, writers keep fishing! So, I went to my mother (55 years old) and I pitched the same story to her. However, she said that even though the idea was unique, it wasn’t grabbing her attention. I can argue that it’s because of her age difference, as this book is a young adult book, however she also read my first fantasy romance young adult novel and said it was very interesting, so it’s not really a valid argument. Then finally, I asked my little sister what she thought (19 years old). She’s the closest to my reading audience, so in a way, her opinion matters the most in this situation. She agreed that the idea was interesting, but admitted that it was a bit confusing for her to understand.

One approval. One denial. And one wishy-washy interest. Something was definitely wrong. For a pitch, I need three unquestionable approvals. So, I took a second look at the outline I had written and realized that each of them was right to a certain extent and that I needed to do some heavy duty revising, even if it meant scrapping chunks of my concepts. So this is what I observed:

First, the premise of the story is strong and original and I need to work out a few details, but they’re minor.

Second, I need to develop a more gripping pitch summary. This is really important since I’m planning on pitching this manuscript idea to two agents at a writing conference I’ll be attending in October.

Third, the series is in desperate need of some simplifying. Sometimes, more is not always more, less is. I realized that just because I make a story more complicated by adding more twists and turns, it doesn’t make it any more interesting; it actually takes away from the main idea because it gets lost under all that gunk, no matter how glittery and shiny said gunk may be.

As a writer, whether creative or academic you must be open to constructive criticism. Most of the time you’re so enraptured by your creation that you turn a blind eye to major problems that others see. So you need to ask a variety of people, revise, then ask again, revise, ask, revise, ask, and repeat until the answers are somewhat in the same ball park. Remember, you won’t be able to please everyone, but you shouldn’t be aiming for that as a writer–your job is to write something that remains true to yourself that hopefully others will enjoy as well.

ARTICLE POST: The Rippling Effect of Reading

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I’ve decided I’ll write articles once a week about bookish things, whether it’s trends, publishing information, or just things I’ve noticed through my own personal experiences. This is my first, so thanks for taking the time to read it and maybe it’ll help you somehow, someway. (Warning it is a bit lengthy!)

I’ve noticed the startling decline of young adults who read for pleasure. Most are too busy for reading because they’re out YOLO-ing (You Only Live Once). At the high school I work at, if you asked 10 students what they’re reading, only 1 would answer with a non-academic novel; that to me is extremely sad. I’ve been out of high school for 7 years, but I’m positive it hasn’t changed much. So I do understand that in high school you’re busy with academics, athletics, clubs, and trying to not make a fool out of yourself, but I was there at one point but I still made time for hobby reading. And I’m not saying they’re not out there, but these individuals are an endangered species.

The magic of the written word is dying out like a burning candle as generations pass. And the new light that’s taking its place: strobe lights, iPhone screens, video games on the computer, reality shows on television–all these artificial things that are making this generation of high school students grow up way faster than they should be, informing them of things that aren’t really of any importance. Seriously, why is it important what the Kardashians had for dinner on Wednesday?

It’s an epidemic.

I grew up with Harry Potter and am extremely grateful for J.K. Rowling’s amazing contribution to the literary world. It was an amazing experience to grow up reading one of the best fantasy book series out there. There is so much that books provide. They transport you to a magical place where no airplane, car, or boat can take you. I’m obsessed with fantasy books, have and always will be, no matter how old I get. Your mind is working, your imagination is growing, your knowledge is widening, and you’re experiencing life through a few cleverly, well-thought out plots and fanciful order of words. It’s as simple as that. Those who read are experiencing more of life than those who are not–I’m pro-traveling and to me reading a book is just as beneficial as going to a different country. Travel to a country and read a book and you’ll really be experiencing life. (I hope to do be able to do this one day)

When I was a child, I always read books. I’ve always loved it and it had a lot to do with the way I was raised and my elementary school experiences. First, my mother was and still is a third grade teacher, while I was attending elementary school. Yes, there were the not so fun parts of it–like getting workbooks and having assignments during summer breaks–but there was one thing that she did that I think that every parent should do: she took me to the public library once a week. We were told to borrow one book and would be expected to finish it and write a report on it before our next visit. (This could backfire on many children, but in my case it went well, because it was my favorite part of the summer assignments she gave me). To me, reading the book I chose was a nice break from all the workbooks pages I had to complete. Second, at my elementary school we had a school-wide program called Young Authors–each child was given a blank book and we would write a story and go through the manuscript/draft, editing, and illustrating process. It was fantastic and it was what I looked forward to every year. I still have the books I wrote and illustrated 14+ years ago. It really starts at home and at an early age. If parents are proactive in their child’s literary growth they may find themselves surprised later on.

Fast-forward to middle school, I continued to read and even entered a book poster contest. (I won 2nd place with my poster representation of Wild Magic by Tamora Pierce. I still remember what it looked like! It hung on the wall in the library for the entire year.)

Then, high school came along. I made the volleyball team and found a lot of my time devoted to practices and games and weekend tournaments, along with the homework that was becoming increasingly more difficult. But, that still didn’t stop me. I continued to read and would go to local bookstores to buy books instead of clothes. (Tell that to a high schooler now and they’d probably look at you as if there were marbles falling out of your ears). When volleyball was off-season and I was in 12th grade, I got released after 4th period, roughly around 12:30pm everyday. I had a car, but with a shallow wallet and friends still in school, there really wasn’t much to do, so I went home. I finished what little homework I had and found I had hours upon hours of free time–I watched the entire Bones series, then I read, read, and then read some more. Until something horrible happened, I ran out of books to read. I’m an avid fantasy romance genre reader. I’m not proud to say it, but I very rarely stray from this genre because it is my absolute favorite and I’ve never read a book outside of this genre that I ever truly loved and enjoyed (even to this day!)

So, what is a book lover to do when she runs out of all the fantasy romance books to read because she’s read every single one that interests her and has searched far and wide for more to read but came out empty handed?

She writes.

Yes, this is when I started to write. In my second semester of my senior year in high school, I wrote for fun. I tell this to my friends some times, because they ask me how I even wrote a book, and when I mention that I wrote because I was bored, they looked at me like I was crazy. I didn’t write intending to actually finish a book or to self-publish (a whole entirely different article entry). I just wrote because I wanted to write a story I could read, since I had run out of them. I didn’t have a special writing process; I just wrote what came into my head–most of these ideas are unfinished, juvenile ideas saved as a .doc on my laptop. Whenever I hit a writer’s block, I just moved on to a new .doc, a new story, a new start. No big deal because I didn’t have any emotional connection to the stories. I was just writing to pass time.

However, one day I started a story, a story about a girl named Selena with a special power to control electricity in a world where these people with special powers could get an egg, a physical extraction of a portion of their power, that could hatch into these fantastical creatures! This was the first story that I started that just kept on going and going and going. Before I knew it, I had written 500 pages. 500 pages of completely raw and terrible literature, but a story nonetheless. I still have this first manuscript that should be burned because of how bad it is, but I keep it as a reminder to see how far I’ve come and how far the story has developed. (I swore that I would never let anyone read it!) The entire plot since has been torn apart and rewritten, but the bones of the story and the characters still remained true, and that’s what I found important because it showed me how real the world and the characters were to me–their journey may have changed, but they still remained themselves.

Reading has a rippling effect on people. Yours may not be the same as mine. But, nobody can deny that reading will benefit you in someway or another, whether it’s in a couple years or a decade or two. It’s important for parents to encourage their children to read and show them how truly wonderful books are, because you never know, they may be the next J.K. Rowling!