Bird Face Wendy

Things relevant to reading, writing, publishing or marketing teen fiction.

How can I get my book published? 10 Points of Advice

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Perhaps every author who has one or more published books hears that question on occasion. Or the plaintive statement, “I need help getting my book published.”

My heart always hurts for the unpublished author in need because I remember being desperate for help and for answers myself.

The good news today, as opposed to when I was writing my first novel, is the Internet holds much of the information writers seek. The bad news is that a lot of time is still required to apply that information and get results.

My publisher is small and not associated with any of the big-name publishers or their imprints. And I know nothing about self-publishing or about writing and publishing non-fiction books. But I’ll share what I feel might be helpful in getting a first novel published.

  1. Read blogs by experienced people in the publishing industry. One I recommend is Jane Friedman. She shares her knowledge about getting published in fiction and non-fiction, traditionally (large or small) and through self-publishing. She even delves into fiction genres and sub-genres.
  2. Join one or more writers groups in your city or state. All the better if they are chapters of larger organizations like Romance Writers of America, Historical Fiction Society, American Christian Fiction Writers, or the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. If dues are not easy for you to pay, select only one group with a local chapter that has published authors as members. Don’t be afraid to ask if they do. You will learn from many of the members, but the published author will have even more to offer.
  3. Take advantage of critique groups available through the organizations you join. They may work in person or online only. The goal is to learn from one another and to share information from outside sources during critiques. In other words, why did something in a particular manuscript not work well? What would work? Critiques should not only tell you what is wrong with your writing or story but how to fix it. Leave the group if it doesn’t supply what you need, and find another one.
  4. Learn to write a good query letter and a short synopsis of your book. Look for information online (such as Jane Friedman’s blog) on how to do both. Practice. Ask for help from your critique group(s).
  5. Seek Facebook groups of writers and authors in your genre—and also groups labeled “indie” if you think you might want to self-publish. You’ll get the inside scoop on many aspects of writing and publishing your genre, and it won’t cost you a dime. (Note: Be sure you know which genre you are writing.)
  6. Read novels similar to yours. Know how to compare your story to those. What is it about your book that is similar to another one? What is different? Often, an agent or acquisitions editor asks for such comparables. If not in the initial query, in a full proposal if it is requested. (Proposals contain a lot more than can fit in a query letter. Research what to include in a proposal in case you must provide one.)
  7. Research the publishers of books similar to yours or those you enjoy reading in your work’s genre. (Check the books by authors in your favorite Facebook groups, too.) Visit the publishers’ websites, and look for their submission guidelines. Do those publishers accept queries directly from an author, or do they only work with agents? Sometimes you can learn an author’s agent by reading the acknowledgments in his or her book. Whom does the author thank? Sometimes you’ll see a whole name you can look up to see if that’s the agent.
  8. Before you query anyone, be sure your manuscript is finished. You must have a whole story—beginning, exciting middle, and ending. And not just the first rough draft. The whole manuscript might be in the second round of critiques and doesn’t need to be completely polished yet, but be sure the first few chapters are! What if you query a publisher or agent and receive a fast response requesting sample chapters? They’d better be as good as you can make them, or you won’t be asked for the whole manuscript.
  9. While in the query process, keep submitting chapters of your manuscript to your critique group(s). There’s always room for improvement. But don’t discard old versions of your manuscript. Rename new versions in case you want to return to an earlier one because you prefer the way a particular sentence or scene was originally written. (That happened to me.)
  10. If you receive any feedback from an agent or editor you’ve queried, seriously consider it. Take the advice and learn from it. The fact that they took the time to give you a personalized reply means your work might have potential. Then improve your work and query some more.

AND, especially if you are a young writer in your teens or twenties . . .

Keep reading advice on writing by your favorite author/agent/editor bloggers. Read books on the writing craft. Most libraries carry some on self-editing, story structure, dialogue, characterization, setting, description.  Purchase used books online that you can refer to again and again. One of my favorite authors of self-help books for writers is James Scott Bell. If you can afford a magazine subscription, you can’t go wrong with Writer’s Digest. If not, be sure to visit the website for helpful articles.

Many authors advise attending live writers’ conferences, which can be costly but often pay off when an author connects in person with an agent or publisher. I’ve attended only one conference, after I was published. I’d wanted to attend a number of them, but it just didn’t work out for me. Online conferences are available, too, at which you can pitch your project. Bottom line: It is possible to acquire a publisher or agent—or learn how to successfully self-publish—even if you cannot attend conferences.

 

 

 

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Cover Reveal! Book three of the Bird Face series

Coordinates well with the previous two, don’t you think? If the image appears pixilated, it also does to me. I’ve requested a higher-resolution image from my publisher. All part of the process of getting a new book ready for publication! The anticipated release date is December 6.

6-dates-to-disaster-fc  10 Steps to Girlfriend Status FC tiny  8-notes-to-a-nobody-fc-tiny

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Creating My First Book Trailer

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When it comes to marketing my books, I’m not typically a procrastinator. But until a week ago, I did not have a single book trailer video for any of my three published books (including the one out of print).

I’d written some copy for one.

I’d thought about the tone I wanted.

I’d searched for images.

I’d talked to my husband about producing one together.

I even had a YouTube channel set up and waiting.

But still, no trailer.

What lit a fire under me to move forward was the offer of a fellow author to post our author group’s video trailers on Instagram.

Excited by that prospect, I inquired from other authors which program they used. (Is program the correct word? I’m not sure.) I also researched a bit online.

I soon learned that many used Animoto or Vimeo to produce their own videos. However, my husband and I have Macs, and iMovies was already available to us.

We selected a pre-fab theme from among many free themes with built-in music. We weren’t quite happy with our first try, because not enough time was built in for the text frames unless we used only a handful of words. And the built-in background and text color made it harder to read. My husband could find no way to change the colors.

After I cut back on the text somewhat and my husband figured out how to add a second or so to those frames without the music ending too soon, we were pleased.

Until you produce your own book trailer video, you can’t imagine the planning and coordination it involves. We learned a lot that we’ll apply to our next production–a trailer for book two.

So, ladies and gentlemen, here’s my trailer for 8 Notes to a Nobody. I hope you enjoy it.

Do you have an experience to share about producing a book trailer ?

 

 

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Calling All Poets! Teach Fiction Writers a Thing or Two

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If you’ve followed this blog a while, you know I have great love and respect for poetry. To improve my fiction, I remind myself to tap into poetic description, and I encourage other prose writers to do the same.

In case you aren’t aware of it, April is National Poetry Month, and I’d like to honor all you poets out there.

Poets who write for their eyes only, to release their emotions and comfort themselves.

Poets who write to soothe or inspire readers like me.

Poets who address difficult subjects in a lovely way.

Poets who condense the world into a digestible, single-sitting format.

Poets who create verses and stanzas more memorable than prose.

Poets who write greeting cards.

Poets who write song lyrics.

Did I forget anyone?

If you are a poet, thank you.

If you are a classroom teacher, librarian, or bookstore owner, you can request (free) this year’s beautifully designed poster from the Academy of American Poets.

Let’s remind people we know–even those who claim to hate poetry–how it enriches our lives. Find your favorite poem and share it this month with someone you care about.

As a poet, what would you like to share with a prose writer? As a prose writer, what would you like to know about writing or appreciating poetry?

 

 

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30 Effective Twitter Hashtags for YA Authors

30 Effective Twitter Hashtags for YA Authors

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It’s hard to remember to use the most productive hashtags when I tweet about my books. I’ve found a few sources that list hashtags for authors in general but none specifically for those of teen or young adult novels. So I created my own list based on experience in tweeting about teen fiction over the past twelve months.

Most of these hashtags have gained attention for me and perhaps will work for you. Some are just now catching on. Genre hashtags cross over from adult to teen/YA in most cases, so I included a few. Capitalization is irrelevant.

#YA (ob-vi-ous-ly!)

#YAlit

#YAfiction

#YAloving

#YAbooknerd (or #booknerd)

#IReadYA

#teenlit

#teenfiction

#teenlife

#ChristianTeen (or other religion + teen)

#booksforgirls (or #booksforboys)

#CleanTeenRead

#adventure

#dystopian

#mystery

#scifi

#teenromance

#boyfriend

#bullying

#dating

#eatingdisorder

#firstlove

#friendship

#teensuicide

#socialissues

#parents (or #family or #stepfamily)

#schoolproblems

#highschool

#dance (or the other arts)

#sports (or a specific sport)

Those are my current favorites! What are your go-to hashtags when tweeting about your own writing?

 

 

 

 

 

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Celebrate Your Success and Enter to Win an E-book

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In the early months of the new year, good things have happened to me as an author.

The second book of the Bird Face series, 10 Steps to Girlfriend Status, is a semi-finalist in a book contest and a finalist in another. A Florida book fair company has acquired copies of both books of the series to sell to schools. I have sorted out some of the problems with my third manuscript and gotten back to writing it.

And I’m celebrating!

Don’t you think the small steps accomplished on any entrepreneurial journey should be celebrated? If you do, I invite you to celebrate yours–with me.

To expand the positive atmosphere I’m breathing, I’m offering a chance for a commenter on this blog post to win an electronic copy of either 8 Notes to a Nobody or 10 Steps to Girlfriend Status.

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All you need to do to enter for a chance to win:

  1. Share in the comments about an accomplishment in your particular endeavor (writing or other) that you celebrated or want to celebrate, and how (in a wholesome way–remember that young teens also read this blog).
  2. Subscribe to my monthly newsletter at cynthiattoney.com.

The names of all approved commenters who subscribe to the newsletter will be placed in a hat, and a winning name will be drawn. The prize will be a mobi file of your choice of either of my books, to be read on a Kindle or other device where you have a Kindle app.

After the end of March, I’ll notify the winner at the email address used to subscribe to the newsletter.

So, how about your entrepreneurial successes–in writing (prose, poetry, fiction, nonfiction) or an  altogether different endeavor? Was your poem or short story accepted for publication? Did you open a new online business? Sell your first painting? I’d love to hear about it.

Let’s celebrate those successes together!

 

 

 

 

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How Many Characters Are Too Many?

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I recently picked up a novel with a roster of characters listed in front. It seemed like a lot of characters even for a thriller, so I did some math.

Based on the number of pages, a new character would be introduced on average every 7.4 pages. That seemed like a lot of characters to keep track of.

So I discarded the book and moved on to another novel. Did I do the right thing?

Possibly. I began to wonder if all the characters named by the author played an important role in the story. What if some of them were mentioned only once and didn’t need a name? I suspected such when reading their descriptions. Or maybe they were necessary for only one chapter, to reveal something important about another character.

I can think of characters like that in my books. For one, the policeman who came to the classroom when Tookie collapsed. My first publisher had me give him a name; my second publisher probably would’ve preferred I delete the name. Now I wish I had.

I don’t believe I want to provide a character roster for any of my novels, and I suspect the thriller author may have done his story a disservice by having one. When reading a good story that is well-written, I haven’t found the need for knowing characters’ names in advance, unless they are foreign-language names I might easily confuse. And that has happened.

Does the proportion of characters to novel length matter to you? Do you prefer that an author list the character names and roles in the front of the book or not?

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A new novel for teen boys by Theresa Linden

It’s a trend long awaited–growing numbers of contemporary novels for boys in junior high and high school with a male protagonist 13 to 17 years old. Not to say that girls or adults can’t read and enjoy them too!

Watch for more posts in the coming weeks about novels being released for this audience. Today, please take a look at this one mixing realism and the supernatural–Roland West, Loner–by author Theresa Linden. It is one of my favorites.

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Description:
Roland West, Loner is a contemporary Christian story of a fourteen-year-old boy who finds himself friendless at a new school and the subject of cruel rumors. Despised by older twin brothers, he feels utterly alone but not without hope. If he can avoid his brothers while his father is away, he might have a solution to his problem. When his brothers lock him away, having a plan of their own, he gets rescued by an unlikely pair: a neighboring autistic boy and his brother. Struggling to trust his new friends, secrets, rumors, lies, and an unusual inheritance put him on a journey that just might have the power to change the life of this loner.

Roland West, Loner addresses loneliness, sibling relationships, facing fears, autism, and the Communion of the Saints. Susan Peek, highly popular author of saint stories for teens, including A Soldier Surrenders said, “Roland West, Loner is one of those books I couldn’t put down. Linden tells a delightful tale, weaving the supernatural with the ordinary in a way that left me breathless. You’ll never doubt the Communion of Saints after reading this wonderful novel. I can’t wait for the sequel.”  

Excerpt: 

Time stopped. In a moment of clarity, Roland knew what he had to do. Ignore him. The advice hung in his mind like a caption between scenes of a silent movie. Walk away.

A second later, something inside him snapped. He visualized the buttons popping off his shirt and sailing through the air, their threads like streamers. His sleeve ripping in slow motion, exposing his weakness. Jarret wanted to steal his trip to Italy, his salvation? No way.

Roland’s hands shot out and landed on Jarret’s chest. He shoved.

Jarret staggered back, shock in his eyes. Roland had never made the first move in a fight. He hardly ever defended himself.

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Author Bio: 
Theresa Linden, an avid reader and writer since grade school, grew up in a military family. Moving every few years left her with the impression that life is an adventure. Her Catholic faith inspires the belief that there is no greater adventure than the reality we can’t see, the spiritual side of life. She hopes that the richness, depth, and mystery of the Catholic faith arouse her readers’ imaginations to the invisible realities and the power of faith and grace. A member of the Catholic Writers’ Guild, Theresa lives in northeast Ohio with her husband, three boys, and one dog. Her other published books include Chasing Liberty and Testing Liberty, books one and two in a dystopian trilogy.

Connect with Theresa Linden:

Website: http://theresalinden.wix.com/theresalindenfiction

Author FB page: https://www.facebook.com/theresalindenauthor

Twitter handle: @LindenTheresa

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/TheresaALinden/catholic-teen-fiction

 

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The Teen Weather Report

This post first appeared on The Scriblerians blog, November 17, 2015.

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Weather plays a part in setting descriptions for most adult novels I read and for the teen novels I write. But there’s a difference.

In writing for teens, I have to keep in mind that they react to weather conditions differently from the way mature individuals do.

Most adults monitor the weather to take safety precautions or plan their essential business or family errands, keeping in mind those who depend on them. For teens, weather is much more personal than that.

For example, an adult with responsibilities looks at a hurricane tracked in the Gulf of Mexico and thinks, “I’d better stock up on supplies and board the windows.” A teen thinks, “I had a date for Saturday night!”

If a teen gave the daily weather report, it might go something like one of these:

  • “Windy today with temperatures dropping into the low fifties by this evening, perfect for wearing my new sweater to the football game.”
  • “Heavy snow is expected today, deep enough for my dad to make me shovel the driveway before he gets home from work.”
  • “Clear and sunny, with tulips and daffodils in bloom and a slow warming trend throughout the week. The best part is that I had my colors done, and I’m a ‘spring’!”
  • “Humidity this morning is high, with a likelihood of hair frizzing. By afternoon, we’re looking at an 80% chance of rain, so there goes my plan to lie out by the pool.”

Teens–gotta love the way God made them.

What is your favorite anecdote regarding a teen and his or her attitude toward the

 

 

 

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Seeking My Niche

This post was first published on The Scriblerians blog, October 6, 2015.

Niche.statue

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I have one of those in my house—a niche. It’s carved out of the wall at the end of a short hallway. Not much fits there, but I placed a tall pottery vase that is flattened from front to back so it nestles in the space just right.

And boy, is it showcased.

Isn’t that what we authors are supposed to do? Find a niche for our work? An audience where it’s showcased rather than one of many similar, cluttered objects where none stand out.

I suppose those are extreme examples, but books can’t yell for attention like humans can. How do I find the audience(s) where my novels might catch fire, so to speak?

I’m thinking out loud now. Thanks for sticking with me.

My YA novels in the Bird Face series use humor and hope to address serious issues facing teens today. Each novel addresses at least a few. It’s the way I like to write stories, with my protagonist facing multiple issues and crises that are intertwined.

So, how do I find a niche for those books?

Right now, I’m looking for teens with particular challenges or areas in teens’ lives where certain types of stories or characters are lacking. Stories featuring a teen that is hearing-impaired are hard to find, for example. So are those with Catholic teen characters.

I wrote my first book because I care about kids who are shy or bullied. It’s fiction that contains elements of Christian faith, and the half-Cajun Wendy naturally became Catholic because all the Cajuns I knew were Catholic.

I wrote my deaf teen character Sam in my second book because I care about hearing-impaired teens. A good friend in my twenties taught at a school for the deaf, and she shared her experiences.  I grew up not understanding much about the hearing-impaired children I met, but I later worked around hearing-impaired adults, who referred to themselves as deaf and who became my friends.

Like an ethnic group, both hearing-impaired and Catholic teens like to see characters similar to themselves occasionally depicted in the fiction they read.

I’ve decided to try target-marketing to both Catholic teens and hearing-impaired teens (as I continue to market to all teens, Christian and non-Christian). I know, I’ve selected two niches, but I’m still figuring this out.

Anyway, that’s my plan for today.

Are you an author struggling to find your niche? As a reader, are you attracted to specific religious aspects of story or social issues in story lines?

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