Learning By Doing

I’ve always been one who learned best through doing an activity. There’s nothing more educating than going through the actual experience. I have recently applied this thought to my writing career.

See, I want to know as much as possible about the industry. Learning about the writing process is just one step of the whole picture.

After having four picture books traditionally published, I once again stepped out of my comfort zone and wrote a tween novel. I finished the first draft in January. Just comprising the novel was a whole other process. Then I started paying attention to some indie publishing groups on Facebook. I’ve studied them for a few years- watching what they do, the questions they ask, the tips they suggest and I knew one thing: independently publishing was hard, back breaking work. Yet I wanted to try it.

Why? For one,the route allows you more creative control. You also earn out better royalties.

As my novel is finishing up the final editing stages, I decided to prepare for the next hurdle: the print run. Ideally, it is best to have enough funds for a decent first run – at least 1,000 books.

How do you come up with the money to fund such a project? This is when I learned another new thing about publishing independently. If you don’t have the funds to do this, you need to look into crowdfunding. Much like I stated before, I have been following authors who have been working on these crowdfunding campaigns and I have seen how much work they are.

But, I decided to go ahead and try it. I could still publish by way of Print on Demand if I didn’t raise enough for the print run. Before I committed to that, I did what I often do: educate, educate, educate myself.

I found a course that helped me strategically plan out my campaign. A friend of mine suggested I contact Lisa Ferland and check out her course. I am glad I did because even my small successes are due to her tips. (If you’re considering a Kickstarter or Indiegogo campaign, see if she can help you.)

As I am halfway through this campaign, I am learning so many lessons at once. I’ve learned that I love every bit of the creative process from creating the book to hiring my own hand selected artist.

I’ve learned the rest of it is hard work, but it is an interesting side to publishing that I haven’t experienced closely before. What I am finding tough is that it is taking away from my writing time. This is a huge drawback for a writer. Is independently publishing something I might do again in the future? It’s possible- I am still mid process right now, but I just don’t like how much time I haven’t been writing. So, we’ll see what my final thoughts on this are in a few weeks.

As for now, if this is something you are considering, definitely do your research. Join several writing communities on Facebook. Build your audience. I’ll say that again as this was a weaknesses for me. BUILD YOUR AUDIENCE. And if publishing independently is an option for you, definitely get a head start on your crowdfunding by checking out sites like Lisa’s.

A Writing Update

I want to thank all my family, friends and readers for all your support during my writing journey. You’ve been there while all four of my picture books have been traditionally published. There may be a fifth one on the way…time will tell.

If you’ve been following me, you know I also started a whole other writing project and wrote my first middle grade novel. As I transition from the writing phase to the publishing phase, I am tackling another first for me- I’m choosing to independently publish my novel.

There are many reasons for this such as gaining higher royalties and control over my content, but the biggest one so far is how much I enjoy being part of the whole process. I find it fascinating and I’m always learning something new.

As the book passes through its final edits, I will be preparing for the printing stage. In order to meet the costs, I will be running a pre-order campaign using the Kickstarter platform. I haven’t started it yet as I’m still planning all the fabulous rewards for you. For this to be successful I need all of your support and I want you to be the first to hear about when it goes live. Why? Because the first day will be a one day deal only for a super deal. Sign up here to get the updates (I also send freebies occasionally). Make sure you add me to your safe list. Just by joining my group ,you will be helping me while being the first to access updates and my freebies.(Psst a cover reveal is in the works!)

Once again I am so grateful for all of you. Signing up is the a sure fire way of showing your support and ensuring you have the latest information.

How Do I Get Published?

“How do I get published?”

If you have had experience in writing, you have probably heard this question before. As you may guess, there are several complicated factors that determine the answer. If you, like so many of us, are dealing with a recent “no,” you might be wondering what happened.

It was a great article.

You were careful to avoid spelling and grammar errors.

You have a social platform, sorta.

So what could be the problem? Other than the big trap of not fitting in with the market, there are other obvious problems. Yes, I said obvious. So why blog about them? Because I’ve seen them happen over and over again. Many pieces do not get published because the submission guidelines were not followed. It is simple to avoid that problem, yet many of us run into it.

Why are guidelines important?

The guidelines give you every possible tip to get published in that market. Publishers have space requirements, deadlines, content matter, concerns about rights, and several other necessitates to put together that publication. If a publisher makes one exception, they need to do that for other authors to be fair. And that will just turn into a slippery mess.

Will ignoring the guidelines (or worse – not reading them at all) effect my submission?

Absolutely! An editor can tell who has read the guidelines  and who has not just by the cover letter and the format of the submission itself. Did the author use the correct font and size? Did they attach the submission in the e-mail or did they paste it in the e-mail? Was the author supposed to send a bio? What about a bibliography? Did the subject line in the e-mail match the instructions from the guidelines so it would not get lost? These are just the beginning steps of opening a submission. However, if an editor sees the guidelines weren’t followed this far, they already may have a “no” on their mind. You could be the most experienced author, but if the guidelines are not followed, the odds are against you.

A Clear Example
For example, I recently accepted a submission for My Light Magazine from a new author. I already knew just by opening the e-mail that the author read the guidelines and did the research necessary to acquire publication.That spoke more to me than any cause the author could have made for their work. They showed respect for their work and my work by thoroughly following the correct avenues.

The guidelines are just that: guides. They are your guide to publication.

The World of Writing Distractions

I saw an awesome image by Zachary Petit about all the crazy distractions we writers delve into once we actually put that BIC (“butt in chair”). Head on over to view the infographic and see where you fall, after reading and commenting here, of course.

The graphic is amusing to most of us because it is something we can relate to. This got me to thinking: Why do we procrastinate so much as writers. We LOVE our craft and we love everything about the writing world. So what about it makes us get distracted?

To start, writing is tough work. We love it, but it is hard – even for those of us who are quite gifted in this area. It can take a while to get your brain working, which probably explains the massive amounts of caffeine we find irresistible.

Then there’s the writer’s block. No matter what we do, we’ve hit a wall. Really, the best thing we can do is to keep writing. Add another word. Take it one word at a time. Often though we tend to allow the distractions to enter:  “I’ll just take a small break while I check my e-mail, roam Facebook, tweet how horrible writer’s block is…”

But there may be a glimmer of hope to us procrastinating writers. For some, the distractions aid in the thought process. How many times has a plot twist or story idea hit you while you’re doing the dishes or taking a shower? How many times while playing a game with your child have you thought, “You know, if this happened and then that happened, I’d have a great picture book!”  How many times after googling about writing did you find one sentence that inspired you? This blog post alone was inspired by an image someone posted on Facebook. Something stirred in me and I dropped everything to get the post in. (Being a mom too, I had to pause here and there to feed the kids, but it got done. )

So, maybe there is a method to this madness and that is why we not only are able to laugh at ourselves, but also embrace our distracting habits.

Now, stop procrastinating and get back to work!

Happy Writing!

Jen’s Writing Tip #4: Watch Passive Voice

Jason ate the cookie.
The cookie was eaten by Jason.

Which sentence above do you find more interesting to read? Did one of them provide a better picture in your head of what was going on? Both sentences tell us about Jason eating a cookie, but the first one was more clear and you can easily visualize the action.

The first sentence is Active Voice. The second sentence was Passive. Active voice makes for more interesting reading and is likely to keep your reader interested. The readers will find themselves caring more about your character as well because it would be as if they were actually there.

There’s a bonus to using Active Voice – it helps when you are revising and cutting words. If you take a look at the two sentences above again, you’ll notice the first sentence (Active Voice) has four words. The second (Passive Voice) sentence has six. Imagine cutting two or more words from many sentences in your manuscript. You may find it easier to meet your word count requirement, which can only improve your chances of publication.