Louise Penny on Silencing the Writer’s Inner Critic

By Jennifer Shenouda

For some, what begins as a case of writer’s block can quickly evolve into full-on writer’s paralysis, the inability to move forward with a project due to an author’s crippling self-doubt.

Perhaps it’s a misguided form of self-protection to imagine the worst possible reaction to one’s work before it happens—if only to lessen the blow of not getting it right the first time (or second, or third, or fourth). Nevertheless, it is a feeling all too common for authors; an affliction affecting both the best-selling and the just beginning in surprisingly equal measures.

Yes, if anyone were able to successfully kick their own inner critic to the curb in favour of productivity, surely, one imagines, it would be writer Louise Penny, the best-selling author of the Chief Inspector Gamache series.

The+Long+Way+HomeBut Penny, who recently visited Kobo to talk about her latest novel, The Long Way Home, revealed that writing openly, from a space where she allows herself to make mistakes hasn’t always come easy for her.

Recalling the difficulty she faced writing the second book in her now famous series Penny highlighted the fear of wanting to make everyone happy,

“I wrote the entire first draft seeing the deadline coming and I wasn’t happy at all because I was writing from a place of terror, of wanting to please, and I realize how much the opinion of others has driven me in my life and it wasn’t serving me well.”

For the author, it was only when she sought professional help through a therapist that she was able to start silencing her own inner detractor, “The wrong person is writing the book” her therapist pointed out to her “your critic is writing the book.”

As Penny found, while you can appreciate and even honour your inner critic for what it’s worth, ultimately you have to show it the door so that your creative spirit can take over.

Indeed, the creative spirit is a theme that is closely echoed in her latest book. Clara, the novel’s heroine, a celebrated artist in the fictional town of Three Pines, has her work referred to by a friend as a “dog’s breakfast” in it’s early stages of creation, hinting that it isn’t always pretty.

Clara achieves her success not by following the rules but rather through experimentation and tapping into raw emotion, admitting even to herself that “her paintings start off as a real mess. The worst her paintings looked at first, the better they seemed to turn out.”

Similarly, Penny has remarked of her own writing process “by the time I come to the end of the first draft, I’m fairly sure what the gems are. I just have to go searching for them.”

It’s a lesson that can be of use to both the seasoned writer as well as those who are just starting out. To write from a place of acceptance rather than fear, to (in Penny’s words) ”give myself permission to not be perfect, to make mistakes.”

Louise Pennys Photo

Learn More and Visit Louise’s Web site

How often do we allow ourselves to truly write with abandon, to follow our gut first without worrying what the end result will be? To write for writing’s sake and then, as Penny does, mine for the gems in later drafts until one has finally arrived at something?

Even as I write this blog post, my own inner critic is worried that I haven’t captured the exact sentiment that Penny expressed in her interview. But maybe that’s the point she was trying to make, that in order to write from the creative spirit you have to be brave enough to risk getting it wrong.

A writer daydreams…

kobowritinglife:

A great look at the long term. Steve Vernon’s thoughts about a fascinating post by Dean Wesley Smith on long term strategy as opposed to worrying about selling everything today . . .

Originally posted on YOURS IN STORYTELLING...:

I love how this guy thinks!

This month I have sold at least one book a day. That’s a good start, I figure. By next year I’d like to be selling FIVE books a day.

I’m not in a hurry. My books are out there and new people find them every month.

It is one of the reasons that I really LOVE being an indie writer. I have got the world’s widest bookshelf. Anything I write is going to remain available for as long as I want it to stay.

This is also the reason I enjoy writing for a regional publisher. They’ve got my entire back-catalogue still available – and I sell copies every month.

Tick, tick, tick – like a steady driving clock on the wall.

A mile is nothing more than a whole lot of inches.

This is how a writer daydreams!

This is how a writer daydreams!

Yours in storytelling,

Steve Vernon

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How To Grab That Coveted Online Audience

By Adam Dreece

Adam Dreece twitter-back3

There’s nothing like finding readers live tweeting your book as they read it, or finding them promoting your book to their friends. It’s one of those things that a couple of months ago, I looked at other authors on Twitter and wondered just how they did it, and could I do it? Now I’m watching it happen and have cracked a 1000 Twitter followers of my own.

I created my twitter account in February, and when I released my first book, The Yellow Hoods: Along Came a Wolf (Book 1) at CalgaryExpo in April, I had maybe 50 followers. At my booth, I figured out how to connect with people, but online I was still a couple months away from that. In June, something clicked. By early August, as I approached 600 highly engaged followers, I realized I’d figured some things out.

Understand Brand

My books (Along Came a Wolf, Breadcrumb Trail) are my products. They are part of a series, The Yellow Hoods, which is my product line, and Adam Dreece is the brand. In my case, my Adam Dreece brand is about smart, young adult fiction that’s layered for adults, has strong female characters and sees people as complex and human. The Yellow Hoods is adventure fiction in a world that is undergoing the beginning of a Steampunk revolution. You’d expect book 3 to follow that pattern as it is in the same product line.

Online, everything you post or blog, defines your brand. You should be conscious of what you post and tweet and how you engage people, because it affects your brand.

When people engage with you, they come to know you but more importantly, they come to understand your brand. If they like that brand, they will want it to be a part of that. They could mean buying your book, but that could also be advocating your book, posting tweets about it, blogging about it. They don’t have to be buying it to be ultimately helping sales.

Starting Out

I didn’t The Yellow Hoods: Along Came a Wolf (Book 1)have my brand all figured out when I started. I needed to start engaging people first. I followed a couple of good hashtags (#amwriting, #amreading) and started replying to people’s tweets. I ended up getting a good group of people to chat with, and they followed me and I them.

I quickly learned not to follow everyone back, but rather to check and see if they actually engage with people. I did this by looking at their timelines and then tweeting to them, asking them a question. If they engaged with me, I followed. If they didn’t, I might try again later. Some people are just interested in broadcasting to followers, I’m not interested in being broadcast at. It doesn’t help me build a following and audience.

Through trial and error, I came to understand when people were online (very important to time your tweets so that they have a chance of seeing them), and what would engage them. I then thought about how this communicated who I was and thus how people would interpret my brand.

Providing Value

A core part of building the audience is understanding the value that you can bring to them. When you engage people, it should be about items where you are providing value, as oppose to “I know what you mean” or “Oh, I’ve been there.” There’s room for those type of social ‘chit-chat’ parts, but it won’t likely build you a following. Providing insight into your books, your author’s journey, will. No matter where you are on your author’s journey, there are thousands of people hoping to get to where you are, and thousands ahead of you. I had to get over the idea that I had nothing to say about what someone could go through.

Using your blog is a key item to provide additional value, allowing you to break out of your 140 character prison. I try to blog at least once a week, and while it’s a huge time commitment in addition to working my full time job, having a 3 kid family and trying to write my next book, I do it with my readers in mind because I want to continue to provide them value. If I can’t provide a new blog entry, then I tweet a previous one as some people either may have missed it, or opted not to read it the first time around.

Another way that I provide value is that I answer questions and help people on their author’s journey. This often helps me come up with blog articles, which I then tweet, which then gets me more questions, creating a virtuous circle.

The Traps

Twitter and other social media can quickly start filling the lonely hole in a person, and then become an addictive time sink. This can consume your valuable time,The Yellow Hoods: Breadcrumb Trail (Book 2) taking you away from writing and promotion, but it can also make you forget the boundary between who you are as a person, and who you are as a brand and author. It’s an important thing to not lose sight of.

Another trap is always socializing with the same group of people, which can alienate other followers. You are engaging as an author, not someone just looking to hang out with friends, so keep that in mind. You want to meet people, engage with them, answer their questions, and be mindful when you’re playing favorites.

Ultimately

There’s a lot of things that we have to do as indie authors, and one of those is owning and building the relationship with our audience. There are other social networks out there, like Facebook, however I’ve abandoned that as they algorithmically determine what people see and don’t see, even if they Liked my page.

It’s hard work, and takes time every day, but it is well worth it. If you have any questions, give me a shout on Twitter.

Adam DreeceAdam Dreece is a Calgary author of layered young adult fiction. His first series is The Yellow Hoods, which is emergent Steampunk laced with fairy tales for depth. His books are available on Kobo.

Click here to visit Adam’s website, or find him on Twitter or Google+.

One Horn to Rule Them All: The Story Behind the Purple Unicorn Anthology

When Kevin J. Anderson visited Kobo’s Toronto HQ, he told us about the origins and production behind ONE HORN TO RULE THEM ALL, an anthology published by Wordfire Press, which Kevin runs with his wife Rebecca Moesta. This story is part lesson in professionalism, part demonstration of how efficient the publishing process can be, and we’re excited to share details about how it all came together.

UnknownWhat makes this anthology especially great? First, the stories are wonderful—you can buy the collection on Kobo here. Second, all profits from sales go towards scholarships for the Superstars of Writing Seminars. So you get to buy a great anthology AND support a wonderful cause.

We sent some questions along to Kevin, Rebecca, and the anthology’s editor, Lisa Magnum, who were kind enough to share details about unicorns, editing, and more.

KWL: Where did the idea for the anthology come from?

Rebecca: [Kevin and I have] been giving a Writing Professionalism workshop together since at least 2004, where we tell the class that they always have to do their best work on any piece, even if it’s, say, a purple unicorn anthology. You have to do the best purple unicorn story you can possibly do. That became a joke, year after year, and people kept threatening to do a purple unicorn story for our imaginary anthology. And now we’ve finally done it.

Kevin: When we gave our lecture at last year’s Superstars Writing Seminar and told the story about the purple unicorns, one of the other instructors was Lisa Mangum, editor for Shadow Mountain Books. She was so captivated by the idea that she proposed making it happen for real, and she volunteered her services as editor. One of our other instructors, renowned artist and author James Artimus Owen, volunteered to do the cover, and we published it ourselves at WordFire Press.

KWL: How did you choose which stories to feature?

The WordFire Press table at DragonCon, where the team sold copies of ONE HORN TO RULE THEM ALL to raise money for a Superstars scholarship.

The WordFire Press table at DragonCon, where the team sold copies of ONE HORN TO RULE THEM ALL to raise money for a Superstars scholarship.

Lisa: I had one month to read them all, select the final contents, edit them all, and prepare the file for publication. I started reading right away. Each story was assigned to one of three folders: Yes, No, or Maybe. For that first cut, I didn’t worry about word counts or genre. I just picked the stories that I felt were the ones with the strongest voices, the most imaginative settings, and the most creative inclusion of a purple unicorn… Once I had identified the stories I wanted to include, and made sure I was okay on my word count, I started looking at the genres. I wanted a good variety between first and third person POVs as well as a wide sampling of genres: noir, sci-fi, fantasy, contemporary, humor, etc. I organized the stories so that there was a good mix between long stories and short stories as well as a balance to the genres.

KWL: This anthology progressed really quickly from concept to finished books in six months, with the bulk of the work happening within the span of four weeks this summer. Can you map out the timeline from story submission to publication?

Rebecca: Lisa set the deadline as July 1, and she chose her final stories by July 15. She asked for some rewrites and asked the contributors to complete revisions in a few days, and everyone did so. We gave the manuscript to our proofing team and then to our production team for formatting as both print and eBook. Meanwhile, James Owen was working on the cover—but he wanted to include a key image from every single story in his art, so he couldn’t even compose the piece until he knew what the stories were. We received some truly outstanding work from our people, especially Vivian Trask, Quincy Allen, Keith Olexa, Sam Knight, Peter Wacks, and David Boop.

Kevin: We really wanted to have this book ready for two big upcoming conventions—DragonCon in Atlanta and Salt Lake City Comic Con… James delivered his final artwork when our production team was ready to send the book to print and upload—and we sent the finished book to press by August 10, less than four weeks after Lisa selected the stories. We received our finished printed copies in hand by August 25, just in time to drive them out to Atlanta for Dragoncon.

KWL: Are there any drawbacks to such a quick turnaround?

Kevin: The traditional pace of publishing and distribution is glacial, usually taking a year or more to produce and release a book, and that’s how many of the traditional review outlets are set up, too. If you can’t send a book to a standard review publication 3-4 months in advance of release, then they won’t review it…but when WordFire has a book to that stage, we’re ready to put it on sale! So, we have to decide if we want to lose 3-4 months of sales in order to hope somebody might review it. Fortunately, a lot of other review platforms will review a book, even after it’s published. And we certainly didn’t want to lose all the sales on the table at those two big conventions! In those two weekends, we sold enough copies from our own table to fund an entire scholarship to Superstars.

We love this example of teamwork, which demonstrates how publishers and authors can work together (at super speed) towards a shared goal.  Do you have any great stories of collaboration, or unique approaches to publishing? Share them in the comments!

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To help fund additional Superstars Scholarships, buy ONE HORN TO RULE THEM ALL on Kobo. Interested in attending Superstars 2015? Registration for the conference, taking place Feb. 5-7, 2015, in Colorado Springs, is available here. This year’s special guests include Hugh Howey, Toni Weisskopf (Baen Books), and a representative from Kobo Writing Life.

Kobo Writing Life Podcast – Episode 021 with Diane Capri

In the latest episode of the Kobo Writing Life Podcast, we welcome NYT and USA Today bestselling author Diane Capri. KWL Content Manager Christina Potter and US Manager Christine Munroe speak with Diane – who offered jokingly to change her name to Christine for the purposes of this episode – about her daily writing life, the benefits of collaboration and mentorship, strategies for selling well on Kobo, and more.

Diane and Lee Child.

Diane and Lee Child, her friend and frequent collaborator, who says her work is “Full of thrills and tension, but smart and human, too.”

Tune in to hear about:

  • The value of being part of writing organizations. Diane has been a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, Romance Writers of America, and others, for many years. Diane talks about how she joined many groups when she began writing and how these groups of allowed her to receive feedback on writing and  upcoming projects. They are also a great place to connect with new writers and share information.
  • How to find a writing schedule that works for you. Diane’s advice? Try everything – it is the best way to refine your process.
  • The importance of working closely with retailers and taking advantage of different programs that they offer. She specifically discusses Kobo’s First Free in Series page as a strategy to find new readers. She also highlights that making her titles available through all retailers has been key to her success, and that exclusive programs have not worked for her. By their nature they exclude potential readers who find eBooks through other platforms.Hit+the+Road+Jack
  • Diane talks about collaboration and her author collective, The Twelve. This group worked together and released the incredibly successful DEADLY DOZEN boxed set. She discusses the process of putting the boxed set together, highlighting  pricing strategy and PR efforts to ensure the book was accessible to as many readers as possible. The ultimate goal of the group: do things that haven’t been done before. Read Joanna Penn’s blog post about DEADLY DOZEN’s success here!
  • There has never been a better time to be a reader and writer. One of things Diane enjoys the most is that readers who may not have been able to find her books in print can easily purchase them around the world as an eBook.
  • Diane’s relationship with her fans. Connecting with them is one of the most exciting and rewarding parts of being an author.
  • A sneak peek of what Diane is working on next!

DianeCapri_redjacket_lrgNYT and USA Today bestselling author Diane Capri writes mystery, thriller and suspense for the same reason she reads: for fun, excitement, to find out what happens, why people do what they do, and how to bring justice to an unjust world. Her books are translated in twenty territories. She comes to writing after a successful legal career and is married to her college sweetheart. She loves her snowbird existence preferring perpetual summer migrating from Florida to Michigan each year.

OTHER LINKS/RESOURCES:

Diane’s website, and her blog

Pre-order HIT THE ROAD JACK, coming out September 4, on Kobo!

Get LICENSED TO THRILL for free.

Twitter: @DianeCapri

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DianeCapriBooks

If you enjoy this podcast and would like to automatically capture episodes as they go live -even before the show notes are posted to the Kobo Writing Life blog – subscribe to the RSS feed via your favourite pod-capturing platform (such as iTunes) using the RSS feed link: RSS feed for Kobo Writing Life Podcast

Utilizing Self-Publishing to Thank Readers and Booksellers

By Beth Revis

I never thought I’d self-publish…but I’ve never been happier with the idea of doing it now. And the biggest reason for that is because I have been able to turn my words into a full novel of thanks to my readers.

"Because I am in control of THE BODY ELECTRIC, I’m able to make sure the book is special for the people I most want to thank—the readers and the bookstores that got me where I am today." -Beth Revis

“Because I am in control of THE BODY ELECTRIC, I’m able to make sure the book is special for the people I most want to thank—the readers and the bookstores that got me where I am today.” -Beth Revis

After years of going the traditional route, I had my dream come true: A great agent that got me a great book deal that landed me on bookshelves, the NYT Bestseller List, and more than twenty foreign language translations. But the next book I wrote didn’t quite fit my publisher’s list, and it was something that I feel needs to be on the market sooner rather than later, so after some careful thought, I decided to go hybrid.

It was an easy decision, honestly, and in the end the only logical one for me. This new book, THE BODY ELECTRIC, is loosely linked to my original series, ACROSS THE UNIVERSE, so time was a big factor in my decision. Also, curiosity—I’ve wanted to play in the indie waters for awhile now, and no time like the present to try. But my biggest motivating factor was a desire to show appreciation for my readers.

I decided to use THE BODY ELECTRIC in two specific ways to thank my biggest supporters. For my readers, I developed a special, limited edition of the book. For the local bookstore owners who championed my books, I made sure that the special features were easily available to readers through them—not the big box counterparts.

Malaprop's Bookstore/Cafe in Asheville, NC.

Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe in Asheville, NC.

I’m working closely with my local independent bookstore, Malaprop’s, to make a limited edition available. Each copy of the book will be signed and numbered in a limited print run and include special content inside and full-color art—and will only be available through Malaprop’s, which will be shipping the book internationally.

Of course, I wanted to make sure my eBook readers had access to the book, too, and not just through the elephant-in-the-room-online-bookseller. So in order to continue to help out local indie bookstores, who often use Kobo to sell eBooks directly, I’m selling the eBook version of the special edition of the book only through Kobo and iBooks. There are more than 30 pages of extra content, including a short story, a history of the world, an author interview, and more.

Because I am in control of THE BODY ELECTRIC, I’m able to make sure the book is special for the people I most want to thank—the readers and the bookstores that got me where I am today.

ADDITIONAL LINKS

Formal-LandscapeBeth Revis is the NYT bestselling author of the ACROSS THE UNIVERSE series. The complete trilogy is now available in more than 20 languages. A native of North Carolina, Beth is currently working on a new science fiction novel for teens, THE BODY ELECTRIC, which is coming out October 6. Connect with Beth on her WebsiteFacebookTumblr, and Twitter.

 

Taking The Leap: Zoe York on Series Plotting, Marketing Plans and Writing Full-Time

By Zoe York

In May, I made the exciting and scary decision to transition to writing full-time. I’ve always thought of myself as a professional writer, but for the first time I actually started to look at writing as my business. The first thing I did was a quick analysis of my book list and compare it to the book lists of authors with similar reader bases. One common element is that most authors I’d like to sit next to on the digital shelves have multiple series on the go. (And if you aren’t convinced that you should be writing series, we need to chat.)

That so many were writing two or more separate worlds surprised me, because I’ve often heard the advice, focus on one series. And I get it: sales really take off with the fifth title. But when I thought about it, multiple series written in the same or similar worlds allow readers multiple entry points to that author’s book list.

So that changed my plan in a big way.

What Once Was PerfectStarting with my first book, What Once Was Perfect, I’d crafted my Wardham books to be exactly the type of romance series I wanted to read: sexy, Canadian, and with characters that are a bit unexpected. They’re quiet books, tightly focused on the developing relationship, and I love reading them. Mission accomplished!

But after the success of our bestselling military romance superbundle, SEALs of Summer, I was reminded of the broad appeal of a high-concept hook. And I like to read those books too! Give me a billionaire who stumbles when he falls in love and I’m a goner.

It’s hard to look at books you love, books you are proud of writing, and realizing that they lack a certain accessibility. That’s what high-concept means: that readers will get what the book is about in the two seconds they give your book page. It starts with a succinct description: some call this an elevator pitch, a tagline, a log line. And many try to figure it out after the book is written.

That’s what I did with my Wardham books. I wrote them, then I tried to figure out how to market them.

Crafting a book from the beginning to be high-concept means starting with that tag line. “Six years. Two break-ups. One divorce. They should be over each other.” That in a nutshell is Love in a Small Town, and it was one of the first lines I wrote down when brainstorming my new series.

A successful high-concept book is going to deliver on that promise to the reader from the inside out. A well-branded cover can tell the reader everything they need to know about the story, hook them in an instant. My friend Cora Seton does this so well with her Cowboys of Chance Creek series.

Two self-publishing rules butt up against each other here: how can I stay committed to the Wardham series if I’ve taken a hard, business-minded look at it and found it lacking? (Hint: I haven’t … not all readers want high-concept books, and I’m happy to write different series for different audiences.)

While writing Beyond Love and Hate in May, I fell in love with the brother of the hero. Unlike Finn, Ryan Howard doesn’t live in Wardham.Beyond Love and Hate I sat in Starbucks for days, writing Finn’s story, the whole time growing more and more interested in Ryan’s story. So I pulled out my idea notebook and sketched out a bit of his story, and a new series was born.

Connected, but different. Higher-concept hooks. Wardham, but with choppier waves and craggier bluffs, I told a fan, and the description has stuck in my head ever since.

Pine Harbour is a fictitious town halfway up the Bruce Peninsula. It was named by my Facebook reader group, the Wardham Ambassadors.

It turned out that Ryan’s story wasn’t the first romance that needed to be told in Pine Harbour. As I plotted and wrote, two books popped up before Love on a Spring Morning, which will be Ryan’s story, coming next March. The first book, which I wrote in five weeks and I absolutely love, is called Love in a Small Town.

I love this book so much that I’ve done nothing but talk my writer friends’ ears off about it all summer. Rafe and Olivia Minelli are divorced, but they never fell out of love with each other. Now Olivia’s thinking hard about leaving her adopted town, and Rafe’s finally realizing that something—many things—will need to change if he’s going to convince his wife to give him another shot.

One writer I spoke to, Lexi Ryan, is a self-published author I greatly admire. She started in contemporary romance, and now writes very popular crossover New Adult/contemporary romances. With her latest series, Here and Now, Lexi used a marketing plan to show online book retailers how serious she was about launching her books with a bang. The term marketing plan sounds dense and daunting, but Lexi really helped me see that it’s not much more than we already know. “Writing a marketing plan isn’t as scary as it sounds. It shows vendors that you approach your book releases and promotion strategically,” Ryan explained. “That little bit of effort can go a long way, and most of us already have our strategy in mind. The official plan simply puts it in a form that can be shared with others.”

I was sold.

I put together a Love in a Small Town Marketing Plan and shared it with a few friends who pointed out obvious things that I had missed (see my complete list MarketingPlanKobo (2)below). Looking at the final document, I understood Lexi’s point: it was everything that I hoped for my series, objectively laid out. And it gave me confidence that I was approaching the launch of this new series in a logical and strategic manner.

Even for a brand new author, documenting a release plan like this can be a useful way to milestone your career. Compare marketing plans release to release to see growth in your social media platform and advertising reach—and if you’re not seeing any growth, figure out why.

Marketing Plan Must Haves:

  • book and series information; I broke this into two sections
  • promotional plan for pre-order and release week (blog tours, ad buys, social media plan)
  • author platform numbers, including newsletter and social media reach
  • author bio
  • upcoming release schedule for future books in the same series, and all upcoming author titles, including collaborative projects

Zoe YorkZoe York is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, a busy working mom of two young boys, wife to a very understanding soldier, and creator of modern, sexy, small town contemporary romances. She lives in London, Ontario and is currently chugging Americanos, wiping sticky fingers, and dreaming of heroes in and out of uniform. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and on her website.

 

 

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