Tag Archives: author life

How Writing Conferences Can Surprise You

4 Nov

Today, I am attending a writing conference. (In case you’re wondering, I’m at the Middle of the Map Conference in Overland Park, Kansas.) While prepping last night, I began thinking about how much I love conferences—and about how many writers are on the fence about attending them.

I always tell writers to attend conferences if they can. Why? Because they might surprise you.

You see, I attended a different conference back in March with the wild hopes of snagging a literary agent.

Extra Tip: You don’t have to travel to attend conferences! There are now online conferences. But make sure to take a business card with you to in-person events.

When the conference was posted, I paid to attend. I also volunteered to help.

Here I was, thinking “volunteering” meant I’d hand out water bottles or get to chat in the early morning hours before arrivals…and then, they asked me to pick up agents and editors at the airport. FYI, I’m TERRIFIED of driving. Like, seriously, I’ve been in three major car wrecks. (None of which were my fault.) I had to go to therapy over it, but I’m much better now, and I wanted to stick to my word and help. So, I diligently practiced driving the route the day before. Later, one of the attending editors complimented me on my driving through the city in the rain. (This was a major accomplishment for me, who’d struggled for so many years with driving. I was really proud of myself for not backing down.) That was the first day.

To give you a better idea of my personal life and how this conference affected me, I work two jobs on a nightshift. I’m awake from 3 PM to 3 AM. On average, I get to bed about 7 AM. I had to attend this conference at 8 AM the very next day. I was exhausted and running on coffee-fueled adrenaline. Like many writers, I’m not wealthy, but I work my hardest, and I often work every day. Still, I paid $300 to attend and an additional $150 to pitch three different agents. It took me WEEKS to save up that money, and I don’t regret spending that money because something amazing happened.

After pitching three different agents, I walked away with three full manuscript requests and endless hope. Seven months later, one request resulted in a denial after we discussed a potential publisher who pushed it through acquisitions (a publisher that I LOVE, but who also didn’t work out in the end). One requested a R&R, and one request is still pending. Back in March, I naively thought I’d found the one, and though I’m still agent-less (and no longer actively querying), I still had a blast.

You see, while I waited for my turn to pitch, I began a conversation with another volunteer. She was a local writer, and we started talking about publishing/writing/reading/everything. She kept cheering me on, and I really appreciated how much she helped me keep my head up, especially since I was so bone-achingly exhausted. At one point, she mentioned her writer’s group, and I mentioned that I’d been struggling to find an in-person one. She invited me to attend hers later that month.

I couldn’t believe my luck. Here I was, an awkward/exhausted/out-of-money author, who’d been looking for a local writer’s group for MONTHS, only to be invited to one when I wasn’t actively searching. My hopes soared. I was so excited—and terrified.

What if they hated me? What if they hated my writing? What if I got a taste for an awesome group, only to be rejected when I asked if I could become a member? What if, what if, what if?

Later that month, I attended a meeting, not knowing what to expect, and now, I’m a regular part of the group. I look forward to our monthly meetings, and I’ve already grown a lot as a writer. Even better, I made friends.

I didn’t find an agent that day, but I did join an amazing writer’s group that changed my life for the better.

Publishing is an awkward, exciting, terrifying road, but more than that, it’s unpredictable.

So attend those conferences if you can. Those surprises can change everything.

~SAT

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Authors Who Give Up

14 Oct

As writers, we discuss lots of ups and downs. Writer’s block, in particular. But what about something stronger than writer’s block?

What about feeling like you want to give up?

“Giving up” is hard to define. Quite frankly, the definition will be different for every writer. One author might feel like giving up writing altogether, while another writer might only want to give up pursuing publication. These two versions of “giving up” are very different, but could appear similar to those on the outside.

This is why defining what you want to “give up” is important.

By considering what, exactly, you are giving up, you might realize what is actually making you so miserable.

For instance, I’ve talked to a lot of authors who feel like giving up because marketing is so difficult, or getting an agent feels impossible, or self-publishing is too expensive. But all of these issues have solutions that don’t involve giving up everything. If marketing is difficult, reevaluate what and where you’re marketing. Consider posting less. (Your readers will understand, trust me.) If querying agents/publishers is putting you down, slide that goal aside for a while. Write something new instead. If self-publishing is too expensive, save up or consider options like Patreon. This list goes on and on. Many writing issues that cause the “giving up” bug have solutions. Sometimes stepping away and taking a break will help clear your mind so you can sort things out.

But what about actually wanting to give up writing?

Who knows what caused it. Maybe it was one major disappointment that took place on one horrible afternoon. Maybe it was a million disappointments all compounded together over time. Either way, feeling like you want to give up is valid. It’s okay. And if you choose to give up, that’s okay, too. One of my recent writer friends actually took this path—not because they couldn’t handle the stress of a writing career, but because they no longer felt joy while writing their last two books. Until they get that joy back, they don’t want to write anymore. That is their choice.

I know I won’t give up. Not right now. Not any time soon. Hopefully, never. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t felt this way sometimes. It happens every now and then—more than I’d like to admit—but many authors have felt this way, and we either overcome it, or we move on to a new dream.

In the end, I will never judge an author for shelving their manuscripts. It’s their life. I will support their decision to leave, and I will welcome them back with open arms—both as a reader and a fellow writer—if they ever choose to return.

Just because a writer gives up on writing, doesn’t mean the community has to give up on the writer. 

But I hope no one gives up on their dreams,

~SAT

P.S. My first audiobook is going on tour! You can listen to free review copies and interview the narrator and me by signing up here.

The Difference Between a Fan and a Follower—and Why It’s Okay to Have Both

21 Aug

Marketing books can be difficult. And confusing.

When I talk to brand-new writers who venture out into the marketing side of things, one of the first discussions we have is the difference between a fan and a follower.

A fan = someone who reads and/or buys your books

A follower = someone who follows your social media, but doesn’t buy or read your books

Why do I separate these two types of people? Because many newcomers get confused when they send out a newsletter to 800 people and only get 100 buyers. (Or post to Twitter or Facebook or Instagram or so-on.)

Extra thought: A “follower” is also a fan. They are a “fan” of you. 🙂

Take my blog for instance. I currently have 21,000 followers. Did I sell 21,000 copies of my latest release? No. Because not every follower of mine is here to buy my books. They are here for my writing tips, my publishing insight, and (hopefully) my cat photos. And guess what? I’m perfectly okay with that.

There’s huge pressure to convert all your followers into fans, and I’m just not buying it. Don’t get me wrong. I would be ecstatic if 21,000 of you bought my book, but I also understand that my books aren’t for everyone.

What if all 21,000 of you bought my book, but it was only written for 10,000 of you? Well, that’s 11,000 1-star reviews just based on the work being inappropriate for that audience. My ratings would tank. Not that ratings are everything—but I’d rather have those who are genuinely interested in my books try them out. Attracting the right audience for the right things is more important to me than tricking the wrong audiences into buying something they probably won’t enjoy.

Granted, I get it. Sometimes it can hurt that thousands of people are following you for (insert # of reasons here) for years but won’t check out your books to show support, but, at the same time, aren’t they showing support by connecting with you? By cheering you up on Twitter? By reading your articles? By sharing your posts? By simply being there?

Don’t let the marketing world convince you that your work is only worth what is bought.

Your work connects you with others. It builds relationships. It allows you to reach out and be a part of the world. It gives you a way to express yourself.

You may have fans, you may have followers, and you may have both. But converting those into sales isn’t the most important thing in the world. (And those sales will come in time.)

What matters most are those connections you’ve made—and you’ve made those by chasing what you love.

Enjoy that,

~SAT

P.S. If you’re a follower who is considering becoming a fan, I have two free young adult books out right now on Amazon. 😉

Two free YA SFF books!

#MondayBlogs Dear Writers, 2017 Can Be Your Year!

21 Nov

This year, I had three writing goals.

1. I wanted to sign one of my books during a Barnes & Noble event.

2. I wanted to attend a book convention as an author (booth and all!)

3. I wanted—and this one I thought I’d never reach—to receive a full request from a literary agent.

I’m proud to say I reached all of these goals and more. In fact, I’m going to break my experiences down and explain, but trust me, there’s a reason for this article beyond just me and my goals, so stick with me for a bit.

First, Goal 1. Barnes & Noble! I hosted not one, not two, not three, but FOUR Barnes & Noble signings, including a Valentine’s Day Romance Author Event in Wichita, Kansas and BFest in Kansas City, Missouri and Overland Park, Kansas. There was nothing like signing in a Barnes & Noble my late mother took me to as a kid, where she used to tell me I could write a book one day. It was priceless.

How was this accomplished? To be honest, no one in my hometown ever returned my phone calls. Not once. I was terrified of calling Barnes & Noble after quite a few disinterested phone calls and e-mails and in-person meetings. Then, CTP author Tamara Grantham invited me to her local B&N during the VDay Event in Wichita, Kansas. This is a five-hour drive for me…and I work a night shift. But you know what? I jumped at the opportunity to attend. And that one event opened up all the other stores to me. Now, I have a great relationship with one right down the street from my new house. (And I write in there all the time.)

Barnes & Noble Events

Barnes & Noble Events

In regards to Goal 2, I attended not one, but TWO conventions as an author. The first one being Penned Con in St. Louis, where I shared a booth with the wonderful Natasha Hanova. The second convention was Wizard World Comic Con in Tulsa, Oklahoma…where I also had the AMAZING opportunity to be a panelist on Villains vs. Villains. On top of that, I have plans in the works to attend more next year. This was an opportunity I never planned nor saw coming, but I’m eternally grateful for it. I had a blast! (And now I’m the owner of a Pusheen plushie and a Sailor Moon blanket…and a cat T-shirt…and fudge…) I also attended a writer’s conference—The MWG annual conference—and I went to YALLFest in South Carolina as a reader.

How was this accomplished? Anyone who has ever attended a conference knows it takes planning. In fact, most conferences ask you to buy your booth a year in advance, which I did with Penned Con in St. Louis back in 2015 when I attended as a reader to see if I liked it or not. The person sharing my booth changed three times, but it all worked out in the end, and I had a blast! Out of the blue, I was invited to Wizard World Comic Con through Genese Davis, who knew…Tamara Grantham. (Tamara is the best, can’t you tell?) I never expected to be a speaker, and here I was, driving five hours to speak about what makes characters evil. Spoiler alert. Worth it. But more than half of these events weren’t planned, so keep your mind open!

Conventions and Conferences

Conventions and Conferences

So now, we come down to the agents. The reason I said I never thought a full would happen is because I haven’t traditionally queried since 2007…and a lot has changed since then. I set out to challenge myself by joining competitions and making connections. Much to my surprise (and shock), I received my first full almost right away—in the first week of February—and I’ve had the utmost joy of working with a few agents ever since on numerous fulls and even a few revise and resubmits.

How was this accomplished? I joined every online competition/opportunity I could to reach out to the writing community. Honestly, even if you’re not looking for an agent, these competitions are the bomb. (Does anyone say that anymore? No? Oh, well.) I love them, and I plan on joining more of them if I can in the future. That being said, most of my fulls (and even my revise and resubmits) came from the slush pile. Yes. The slush pile. Writing those query letters, getting feedback from writing friends, and sending off every e-mail one by one until someone gave me more feedback or took a bite actually works. I wish I could say more…but alas, this situation is pending. 😉 Don’t fear the slush.

On a side note, I also managed to complete two manuscripts and publish two YA novels with Clean Teen Publishing! …And I work a full-time day job. (Not going to lie, I’m totally exhausted. But it’s been a great year!)

Manuscripts and Books!

Manuscripts and Books!

Why am I sharing this with you?

Because creating and meeting goals as a writer is HARD…and often unpredictable. When I wrote down my three goals for 2016 on a little green Sticky Note that I kept on the back of my desk (it looks pretty torn up and ugly now), I never thought I would reach most of them (and more) within the first two months. I could attribute it all to luck (which of course comes into play), and I could definitely cite connections (thank you again, Tamara and Natasha and Genese and and and!), but I have to be kind to myself, too.

I jumped at every opportunity I could, even if that meant I would be up for 48 hours straight and driving for 5…and spend some extra money that, logically, I shouldn’t have. (But definitely don’t regret.) Right now, I work three jobs, including being an author, and I’m more exhausted than not. But I know following my dream is worth it. Somewhere in my gut I am always filled with excitement and hope and energy…and every now and then, all of this work leads me somewhere unpredictable and wonderful.

So what’s my tip?

Beyond basic goal setting advice, I am going to stick my neck out there and say something crazy.

For every “realistic” goal you set, set a crazy “unrealistic” one, too.

Why? Because maybe “unrealistic” isn’t so unrealistic once you get started, but setting it will force you to get started. Setting goals causes you to miracle jump over that hurdle you thought you couldn’t even climb on your best days. For me, I honestly believed most of the goals I set for 2016 were unreachable…or at least would take a very, very long time. Why? Because I had tried to accomplish them before and failed. 2016, for me, was the year of reaching failed goals. 2016, for me, became the year “unrealistic” became a reality.

2017 can be yours.

~SAT

 

#MondayBlogs Cartoons Make You a Better Writer

21 Sep

Intro:

I love cartoons, and I love comic books and manga, and I’m very open about my love for these things. That being said, cartoons and comic books and manga are often depicted as things for children…something I obviously disagree with. J There are many reasons to love cartoons, and today, author Grant Goodman gives us yet another reason to love them. It helps with your writing.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in guest articles are those of the author/s and do not necessarily reflect my own. To show authenticity of the featured writer, articles are posted as provided (a.k.a. I do not edit them). However, the format may have changed.

Cartoons Make You a Better Writer by Grant Goodman

When I sat down to write the first Agent Darcy and Ninja Steve novel, what really drove me was my love of cartoons. I wanted to create—in written form—the cartoon series I always wanted to see.

I grew up with the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I was glued to the sofa when they stormed the Technodrome to fight Shredder or when they teamed up with Casey Jones. Each episode had cool fight scenes, a sci-fi invention, and at least one funny line from Michelangelo. The turtles were my first obsession and they propelled me to join a martial arts school when I was in elementary school.

grant

My elementary school mornings and weekends were filled with Tom and Jerry Kids, Inspector Gadget, X-Men, Spiderman, and Batman: The Animated Series. While most of them were in short story format, the X-Men, Spiderman, and Batman series began to introduce me to the idea that 30 minute cartoons could build a larger story. Spiderman had “The Alien Costume” arc, which gave Venom’s origin story over the course of three episodes. But that wasn’t quite enough. I wanted a longer storyline.

The first episode of Dragonball Z aired when I was in 6th grade and when I saw it, my head nearly exploded. A series in which nearly every episode built off of the last. A cast of characters who did martial arts AND threw fireballs. An entire universe of heroes and villains, legends and lore.

DBZ led me into the wide, wild catalog of Japanese animation that revealed an entire cultural art form that offered a great deal of respect to storytelling in animated form. I watched Vash the Stampede try everything he could do to avoid taking lives in Trigun, I saw Miyazaki’s phenomenal Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, and I was completely swept away by Fullmetal Alchemist.

All of it—every episode of every series I ever watched—has somehow contributed to my abilities as a writer, and it will for you, too. You learn how to plot an action scene that matters, because you see plenty of them that don’t. You learn how to keep two characters pining for each other in order to build tension between them. You learn the importance of a cliffhanger to keep your audience hooked.

Most importantly, however, watching cartoons will teach you how to keep your imagination active, because without a strong imagination, you’re going to write something boring.

If you’re aspiring to write a MG or YA sci-fi/fantasy action series, my best advice to you is to watch cartoons. Lots of them. Go watch the first season of The Legend of Korra for a masterclass in serious-but-not-pitch-black YA storytelling. Seek out Samurai Jack for how to do fight scenes that flow.

This may be the only time anyone in your life tells you this: stop reading for a bit and start watching!

Grant GoodmanBio:

Grant Goodman is the author of the Agent Darcy and Ninja Steve novels, a series for readers anywhere between 9 and 900 years old. His YA lit blog, November Notebook, is for teens, adults, ghosts, robots, unicorns, dragons, and aliens. He teaches middle school English in Montgomery County, Maryland.

Want to be a guest blogger? Now is the time to submit. I will be stopping guest blog posts in November, but before then, I would love to have you on! I am accepting original posts that focus on reading and writing. Pictures, links, and a bio are encouraged. You do not have to be published. If you qualify, please email me at shannonathompson@aol.com.

~SAT

#WW Writing in Limbo

9 Sep

This may be personal in regards to my writing life, but I’d be surprised if it were unique to me. During and right after a book release, it’s difficult for me to write. Not because I don’t want to, but because I end up spending hours upon hours on Luna-P (a.k.a. my lappy toppy) for interviews, guest posts, and social media in general (all of which I love, but it results in some sore eyes). So, for a little while after releases, I’m in a limbo period.

What is a limbo period?

Well, for me, it’s just Dante’s way of saying I’m in wait. I’m not writing right now; I’m simply waiting for the right time to write again. I’m resting, so to speak.

I’ve seen a few people call this writer’s block, but I want to clarify that it isn’t writer’s block, because I could write. (And, as you’ll see below when I talk about what I’ve been doing, you’ll see, in fact, I do write sometimes.) But it’s more like a mental vacation to regain energy and focus.

Maybe I’m the only one who does this…but I doubt it. We all need rest, after all, and I’m still productive during this limbo time.

Coffee and chocolate helps limbo too!

Coffee and chocolate helps limbo too!

What do I do during the limbo?

I mainly analyze where I’m at and where I want to go. Ex. What novel do I want to release next? What about books after that? What do I want to do differently with that novel? Covers? Events? Local events? Traveling?

I set goals, and I try to make them realistic, and I tell myself it’s okay if I don’t make them (but how cool would it be if I do?)

I’m currently in this writing limbo phase. Since Minutes Before Sunset and Seconds Before Sunrise have released during the past two months—not to mention Death Before Daylight releasing on September 15—I’ve basically been in limbo for a little while now. And I’ve been enjoying it. While I did complete the rewrite of November Snow—See? You can write during limbo—I have focused a lot of my energy on where I’m going next. For instance, I want to release November Snow next. Then, I think I’ll return to The Tomo Trilogy (good news for you Take Me Tomorrow fans!) In fact, I was analyzing the sequel, Take Me Yesterday, just other night. I also want to try to get more swag for readers and hold two to three local events this fall for the paranormal season. I think it’d also be nice to offer signed box sets of The Timely Death Trilogy this October. So, look out for that. I’ve even taken some time to think over my blogging plan, and I might talk about this more in the future, but I’ll probably be ending guest posts in November (so now is the time to submit at shannonathompson@aol.com). I plan on using the Monday slot for old posts (we’re talking two-year-old blog posts) that were really popular, but are in need of a rewrite.

I’m planning and plotting—and not just books—and I’m having a great time.

Limbo doesn’t have to be a scary place, or an unproductive place, or a place of worry. It can be saved. In fact, it can be looked forward to. It can even take you places.

~SAT

Death Before Daylight, book 3 of The Timely Death Trilogy, releases in six days! That being said, the paperback has been moved to October 19, but I hope you all enjoy the last book of the trilogy! You can pre-order it here:  AmazonBarnes & NobleiBooks. (And, of course, the first book is free: AmazonBarnes & NobleiBooks.)

teaser2

The latest teaser released

In other news, the Seconds Before Sunrise blog tour is underway. Most recently, we were on Just Amy for a spotlight, but I’ll share more interviews and such soon. If you want to participate in the release day blast for Death Before Daylight, sign up here.

On September 18, Clean Teen Publishing will be hosting an event on Facebook from 7-9 p.m. (EDT) to celebrate the release. I’ll be there and giving away a TON of Dark prizes, so feel free to join us by clicking here.

rp But there are more events to come! Keep an eye out.

Stay Dark,

~SAT

#WW The Emotions of Listing A Book For Free

19 Aug

Let me start off by saying I am not an expert in this. In fact, I’ve never put up my book for free before. This is all new to me! (How exciting.) But, yes, the first novel in The Timely Death Trilogy, Minutes Before Sunset, is now up for free. My publisher, Clean Teen Publishing, did this to celebrate the upcoming release of the sequel, Seconds Before Sunrise, which releases August 25.

Whew. What a summary of events.

At first, I’m not going to lie, I felt like I failed. Like I failed my publisher, my readers, and myself. I’m not even sure why I felt this way, but if I could think about you in relation to my books, I thought, “Well, that’s it. My book didn’t sell, so my publisher dropped it to the big ol’ ZERO. I failed.” Cue my tiny and sad violin.

emotions

Emotions. So many emotions.

This was my initial reaction anyway. And it was a silly reaction. In fact, my publisher didn’t make Minutes Before Sunset free because it wasn’t selling. It was selling. Still is. They simply made it free to celebrate. That is it. My own crazy thoughts were just my own crazy thoughts, and I think it’s important, as an artist, to keep those emotional thoughts at bay until you have time to see what actually happens. Easier said than done, of course, but I’m only two days into this free-promo, and I’m loving it!

Within twelve hours, Minutes Before Sunset hit the bestseller category for young adult science fiction, and within 24 hours, Minutes Before Sunset became #5 in Science Fiction. #5! We also hit #7 in Paranormal/Urban Fiction and the top 500 Kindle books overall. It even appeared in the article The Top 100 Best Free Kindle Books On Amazon, and the downloads kept coming in as more and more readers shared, liked, and commented on my one Facebook post about it.

5&7

I was dumbfounded.

Here I was, thinking I was devalued, when—in reality—it connected me with additional readers who may not have found me otherwise. Lesson learned? I was too concentrated on MY value and not on the READERS’ value. I can admit that, can’t I? I’m only human, after all. A silly writer human (who really loves cats), and now, this silly cat-loving writer-human definitely suggests running a free-promo. You’ll never know how it’ll make you feel unless you try.

On a fun side note, someone attempted to hack my Instagram this week. I regained access, so expect more cat and coffee adventure pics soon. I also had the utmost pleasure of participating in fight research for a novel. I might write a post about that soon, but the trainer gave me a wooden spoon for a weapon. It was awesome.

#DontMessWithTheSpoon

~SAT

Now for FIVE giveaway announcements for hitting #5 in science fiction! 

Book 1 of The Timely Death Trilogy, Minutes Before Sunset, is now free everywhere! Here are the links to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo. I hope you check it out before the sequel, Seconds Before Sunrise, releases in less than a week. (Less than a week!) On that note, you can pre-order the sequel here: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo. The last installment releases September 15. (So almost no wait time. Yay!)

memoryjar

Jessica’s memory jar! I’m giving two away.

If you love Goodreads Giveaways, here is the link for winning a paperback of Seconds Before Sunrise, but don’t let that make you forget that you can win another Seconds Before Sunrise paperback (as well as many other paperbacks and prizes) during the CTP Find Your Next Read FB Party on August 28. The little jar on the right is a sneak peek of what you can win. It’s called a “memory jar,” but you have to read Minutes Before Sunset to know why Jessica needs one!

I’m not done either. (Told you there was a lot of giveaways going on.) You can still sign up to support the release day of Seconds Before Sunrise on August 25 to win a signed bookmark and a swag pack from me! Simply join the campaign and shoot me an email at shannonathompson@aol.com, letting me know you’ve joined. By following my newsletter, you’ll receive monthly opportunities like this.  

Last but definitely not least, the Minutes Before Sunset blog tour is giving away a $15 Amazon gift card, a bookmark swag pack, and a CTP eBook of your choice. Here are the latest places you can enter: If You Could Be Any of Your Characters (guest post on Black Words-White Pages), spotlight on Girls With Books, and a spotlight on The Bookie Monster.

I hope you win some prizes during this celebration! 

Stay Dark and Lovely,

~SAT

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