Kevin J. Anderson visits Kobo HQ!

Kevin J. Anderson sat down for a chat with KWL Director Mark Lefebvre at the Kobo officeAward-winning and #1 international bestselling author Kevin J. Anderson was in Toronto last week and stopped by to visit the Kobo head office. Kevin is the author of more than 125 books, more than fifty of which have been national or international bestsellers. In addition to this, as the publishers of WordFire Press, Kevin and his wife Rebecca Moesta have released more than a hundred eBooks from over 25 authors. He also hosts the annual Superstars Writing Seminars, which teaches writers the business of being successful in the publishing industry.

Kevin sat down with KWL Director Mark Lefebvre to be our Writer in Residence for the evening. In the audience were local KWL authors and Anderson fans. Over drinks and snacks Kevin shared with us the story of his success and how he got to where he is today. Here are some of the main points:

  • Always write – Kevin discovered a love for creating stories at a very young age, writing his first ‘novel’ at 8 years old. Growing up he was always stealing moments to write before dedicating himself to it full time.
  • Be persistent – rejections go hand in hand with writing and shouldn’t discourage you. Kevin received over 80 rejection letters before his first story was published, proving that persistence pays off.
  • Write about what you love – being passionate about what you write is very important. Kevin found success in the genre he loved, sci-fi. The success of his original works led to him writing several novels in the Star Wars, X-Files, and Dune universes. As a huge Rush fan, their music influenced his writing which later paved the way for collaborations with Neil Peart himself.
  • Be open to change – the publishing industry is changing more than ever before. Rather than shying away, Kevin embraced the change and found success self publishing his back catalogue and becoming a publisher himself with WordFire Press.

We’re very grateful to Kevin for stopping by and sharing his story with us.

You can find Kevin’s books on Kobo here and if you’d like to explore more WordFire Press titles, you can find them here.

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.

 

 

Kobo Writing Life Podcast – Episode 020 with Pamela Fagan Hutchins

In our latest podcast, KWL US Manager Christine Munroe interviews bestselling author and self-publishing expert Pamela Fagan Hutchins. Pamela has written the book on self-publishing, WHAT KIND OF LOSER INDIE PUBLISHES, AND HOW CAN I BE ONE, TOO? In the summer of 2013, she embarked on a 60-cities-in-60-days book tour, which she organized herself (with the help of her supportive family), so she has plenty of insights and advice for working successfully with bookstores.

Pamela and fans at a bookstore event.

Pamela and fans at a bookstore event.

Listen in to Episode 20 as Pamela shares her thoughts on:

  • Her mission to serve as an exemplary self-published author, in particular when working with bookstores, so they will open the door to fellow writers.
  • Stories from the road during her 60-cities-in-60-days book tour, including the day when a book club showed up to her Boston reading… despite tornado warnings!
  • Keeping it in the family – her husband, the five children between them, and her mom all joined her on the road to help support her work.
  • Looking at self-promotion with a long-term perspective. “I’m hoping for a 10-year return,” she says. Pamela recommends focusing on how to build your email list of people who welcome hearing what is next. Also, don’t abuse that list – send a maximum of 2-3 updates per year.
  • Promotion is 1/3 of the game in terms of your success. The other elements? Writing, of course, and giving back to the author community.What+Kind+of+Loser+Indie+Publishes,+and+How+Can+I+Be+One,+Too?
  • Pamela’s free strategy: giving away books is an amazing way to get those crucial reviews. Pricing the first book in your series for free is a great way to get started. Read her blog post on this topic here.
  • What she wishes she would have known when she started, including thoughts on exclusive programs, and why moving books in and out of various platforms hurt her more than the benefits of exclusive helped her.
  • Pseudonyms. Pamela believes, “I don’t want to make it hard for someone who discovers me, to discover other things about my writing that they might like.” However, that might not apply for writers who work in vastly different and contradictory genres, like erotica vs children’s picture books.
  • Hints about what’s to come in Pamela’s forthcoming novels.

PamelaPamela Fagan Hutchins writes award-winning and bestselling romantic mysteries and hilarious nonfiction, and moonlights as a workplace investigator and employment attorney. She is passionate about great writing, smart authorpreneurship, and her two household hunks, husband Eric and one-eyed Boston terrier Petey. She also leaps medium-tall buildings in a single bound, if she gets a good running start. 

OTHER LINKS/RESOURCES:

Pamela’s website, and her blog

Grab the first book in the KATIE & ANNELISE series for free on KOBO!

Don’t miss Pamela’s guide to indie publishing: WHAT KIND OF LOSER INDIE PUBLISHES, AND HOW CAN I BE ONE, TOO?

Twitter: @PamelotH

Facebook: http://facebook.com/pamela.fagan.hutchins.author

 

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

One Fictitious Moment: Writing a Series

By Angela Misri­, author of Jewel of the Thames

Writing in a series is very different than writing a stand-alone novel. A stand-alone has its own benefits and issues – like that you have a limited time to tell an entire story and getting people to fall in love with your characters over a mere 80k words. But when you’re writing a series there are definitely things to keep in mind – check out my latest video to find out more!

Watch for more writing videos on this blog, or you can subscribe to my Youtube channel One Fictitious Moment.

Amgela MisriAngela Misri is a Toronto journalist, writer and mom who has spent most of her working life making CBC Radio extraterrestrial through podcasts, live streams and websites. Her first book Jewel of the Thames, was published by Fierce Ink Press in March 2014 and is the first in a series called A Portia Adams Adventure. Check out Angela’s website to learn more about the Portia Adams series.

On Daydreaming: A Writer’s Perspective

By Shayna Krishnasamy

Remember when you used to be scolded for daydreaming? Dreaming rather than paying attention in class was a real no-no in my elementary school. Daydreaming the afternoon away was also frowned upon when there were chores or homework to be done. To this day, being labelled a “daydreamer” is similar to being called “special”—not exactly a compliment. We’re taught to view this activity as lazy and a waste of time, something with little value. “Stop daydreaming and help me bring in these groceries,” your spouse/roommate/parent might say, and you jump up and comply, duly chastened, fully complicit in this vast conspiracy that daydreaming is of no importance.

Well, I’m here to tell you that everything you’ve ever been told about daydreaming is a total LIE.

DaydreaminDaydreaming_(1)g is essential to being a writer. If there weren’t authors the world over walking around bumping into things because their minds were so fully immersed in their stories, there would be no novels. Have you ever been told that plotting is an important aspect of writing a book? Well, guess what plotting is: Daydreaming! Every plot and character, every line of dialogue and setting and description has to be dreamed up by the writer before it can appear on the page. As a writer I spent lots of time staring at a computer screen, but I spend an equal amount of time staring into space figuring out what I’m going to write next.

In this day and age it isn’t easy to get in some good daydreaming time, what with the naysaying masses on all sides and the demands of kids/job/family/friends/life. Here are some tips on how to be the best daydreamer you can be:

Disconnect

Do you have a smartphone within arm’s reach at every moment of the day? Do you bring your iPad into the bathroom? Is there a television set blaring through every meal, and a laptop glowing in every room of your house? Technology may make life a lot easier for us, but it also makes it pretty hard to have some quiet time with your thoughts. If you want to have some time to think up what’s going to happen in your next chapter, I suggest turning your phone off. (Yes, smartphones can be turned off. It’s a real thing.) Take back those quiet moments sitting in your backyard or on your deck just thinking, without a laptop to distract you. Tell your family you’re going out for a walk and don’t take your cell with you. Make the time to be quiet and think about your story, because a well thought out story is far easier to write than one you haven’t thought through at all.

Focus

Even whendaydreaming-300x198 you’re in thinking mode it’s easy to get distracted. I like to think about my book while I’m in the shower but, countless times, when drying off, I’ve realized I just spent twenty minutes re-playing an episode of The Good Wife in my head instead. That argument you just had with your sister might be at the forefront of your mind, but it’s important to learn how to make thinking about your book a priority. I’ve learned to keep reminding myself to re-direct my thoughts toward my characters and my plot when my mind wanders to easier topics. Usually I only have to do this a few times before my imagination gets hooked on one aspect of the plot or another and within a few minutes I’ve come up with new ideas, new sub-plots, a whole conversation full of witty dialogue. Sometimes your brain just needs a little reminding that it really does want to think about your book—and if your imagination isn’t piqued by your own story, maybe you should think about why. It’s possible you’ve taken your plot down the wrong path, or you haven’t made your characters interesting enough. If you can’t get yourself to pay attention to your own story, it might be hard to keep your reader interested.

Don’t Save The Best For Last

It can be tempting to leave all your daydreaming to the end of the day, when that comfy bed is just waiting for you to curl up on it and dream. Personally I like to lie in bed, stare out the window and contemplate my story, but I try to avoid doing this at the end of the day. This might seem obvious but it needs to be pointed out: daydreaming is not the same as dreaming. Daydreaming keeps your brain awake, it winds you up 4633972431_4d1e24ec0b_bwhen at the end of the day you should be winding down. You don’t want to keep yourself awake thinking about your plot when you should be getting some much-needed rest. It can also be difficult to shut your brain off when it really gets going, and the next thing you know you’re turning on the lights and getting out your notebook to write down your ideas, or even running to your computer to begin writing your next scene. Do you really want to be doing all this in the middle of the night? If you value your sleep, avoid daydreaming in bed. It’s for your own good.

 

My mother used to call me a scatter-brain because I was always forgetting to do my homework and misplacing things. I used to be ashamed of it. I used to try to force myself to stop being a silly little dreamer. But that was before I saw the value in my dreaming ways. I wouldn’t be the writer I am today if I’d stopped daydreaming. I wouldn’t be a writer at all. So, to all the distracted, zoned-out, lay-about daydreamers out there I say, good for you! Dream away! There’s no knowing where your dreams might take you.

my photoShayna Krishnasamy is a Montreal author of literary and young adult fiction by night and the merchandiser for Kobo Writing Life by day. Shayna’s books are available on Kobo.

Click here to visit Shayna’s website!

Joanna Penn visits Kobo HQ!

Last night, the Kobo Writing Life team was thrilled to welcome Joanna Penn to our Toronto office. Joanna is a bestselling author-entrepreneur and professional speaker, and she shares invaluable information with the self-publishing community on her blog and podcast, The Creative Penn.

Joanna Penn speaks to a crowd of local authors at Kobo's Toronto headquarters.

Joanna Penn speaks to local authors at Kobo’s Toronto headquarters.

A packed house of local authors chatted with Joanna over drinks and snacks, then she took the stage with KWL Director Mark Lefebvre to speak about self-publishing and answer questions from the audience. The advice she shared was incredibly helpful and inspiring, so we wanted to share a few key takeaways with you here.

  • Remember that this industry is global. You can build a platform from anywhere in the world and reach an audience in countries you may have never heard of before!
  • Book publishing and marketing are processes that take time. Set long-term goals—we’re talking years, not days. Don’t give up if you do not see a return on your investment immediately.

    Joanna signs Kobo's Author Wall of Fame.

    Joanna signs Kobo’s Author Wall of Fame.

  • It’s ok to fail. The Creative Penn is Joanna’s third blog effort.
  • Take your work and yourself seriously as a business.
  • Do a little bit every day.
  • Be true to yourself and what you love in terms of your writing and marketing.
  • Think about every opportunity for every book, including print on demand, audio, and translation. You can turn each book into multiple product streams, such that ten books multiply to become 50 potential income sources.
  • Publish directly wherever you can. Every platform—KWL, iBooks, KDP, Nook, etc.—is a potential business partnership and can bring you new opportunities for success.
  • The writing life does not have to be lonely. Get online and engage with other authors on social media, join ALLi, or go to a conference. Even if you’re introverted, don’t be afraid to join the author community.
Joanna with the KWL team, from left: Operations Manager Jodi White, Director Mark Lefebvre, Coordinator Tara Cremin, Content Specialist Christina Potter, and US Manager Christine Munroe.

Joanna with the KWL team, from left: Operations Manager Jodi White, Director Mark Lefebvre, Coordinator Tara Cremin, Content Specialist Christina Potter, and US Manager Christine Munroe.

We are so grateful to Joanna for sharing her time and knowledge with us.

 

ADDITIONAL LINKS

Grab J.F. Penn’s newest release, DELIRIUM!

If you haven’t listened in to our podcast interview with Joanna, you can do so here.

KWL is a proud sponsor of The Creative Penn Podcast, which we can’t recommend highly enough.

 

Joanna PennJoanna Penn is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of thrillers on the edge, as well as non-fiction for authors. She is also a professional speaker and entrepreneur, voted as one of The Guardian UK Top 100 creative professionals 2013.

Twitter: @thecreativepenn

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/JFPennAuthor and  http://www.facebook.com/TheCreativePenn

Write Away

By Kerrie L. Flanagan and Jenny Sundstedt

Write_Away_FrontCoverWRITE AWAY: A Year of Musings and Motivations for Writers combines monthly insightful and humorous stories with tips, tools and interactions that encourage writers to reflect on where they are and where they want to be. From “Writing Naked” to “Writing an Effective Query Letter,” these essays remind readers of the unique nuances in the life of a writer and provide practical advice for strengthening skills and knowledge. Each month opens with a place to record goals and action plans. A back section provides resources and tools to help readers stay on track and stay informed. Inspirational quotes, reflective questions, and short exercises keep motivation and energy flowing. Here are a few excerpts:

“Time to Get Rid of Excuses”

By Kerrie

One of the biggest issues I hear writers bring up is that they find it difficult to find time to write. The bottom line is that if you want to be a serious writer, then you must make the time to write. We all have 24 hours in a day, and we all have the power to decide how we are going to use those hours.

If all you can spare is 30 minutes a day, then commit to those 30 minutes. Don’t let anything get in your way. Think about it—a half hour a day, five days a week, is two and a half hours a week, which then equals 120 hours a year. That is definitely enough time to make a dent in your novel or write a dozen poems or a few stories or a picture book or two or a dozen articles . . . you get the idea.

Here are some quick tips to help you find success in organizing your time.

  • Make a daily/weekly goal for the number of hours you are going to write.
  • Schedule your writing times and mark those times on your calendar.
  • Stick to your commitment. If someone calls to try to schedule something during your writing time, nicely say to them, “That time won’t work for me, I have a prior commitment.” No further explanation is necessary.
  • Reward yourself after one month of sticking to your plan.

What is one way you can be better about honoring your writing time?

“Take A Leap”

By Jenny

Poor February. It’s the little brother of the calendar, never quite matching up to the longer months. But every four years, it puffs up its chest a bit with the addition of an extra day. I love the novelty of Leap Day, even though it occasionally gyps me out of a coveted Friday or Saturday birthday.

February 29 is a bonus day, but, as such, how should one choose to spend it? Is it a do whatever you want because nothing counts day (i.e., whatever happens on Leap Day stays on Leap Day), or is it a day to take a real shot at something meaningful? Or maybe a little bit of both.

We’re told how to celebrate most holidays, whether it’s with candy and flowers, fireworks, or green beer. But I say that Leap Day should be celebrator’s choice. So, writer friends, it’s up to you. If you’ve been working so hard on a manuscript that you’re revising it in your sleep, perhaps your Leap Day should be spent with crossword puzzles and a bottomless cup of tea, or a double feature of completely mindless entertainment at your local movieplex. Cheesecake for lunch is also a viable option.

But if your writerly self has lately been feeling hampered by self-doubts, intimidated by the prospect of success and/or failure, and generally reluctant to strike off in any direction, then perhaps February 29 is your day to take a leap of faith. Send a query. Enter a contest. Register for a conference or sign up for a pitch session. Write a first word, a first line, a first page, a first chapter. You may like it so much that you’ll want to treat every day like it’s Leap Day. Except for the cheesecake for lunch part.

My leap is sending off one of the short stories I’ve been sitting on for a while. What will your writer’s leap be?

For more helpful tips and motivations, get the WRITE AWAY eBook here!

About the authors

Authors Kerrie and Jenny at the WRITE AWAY book launch.

Authors Kerrie and Jenny at the WRITE AWAY book launch.

Kerrie Flanagan is the Director of Northern Colorado Writers (NCW), writing consultant, and freelance writer with articles in regional and national publications including Writers Digest and The Writer.

Jenny Sundstedt is a member of NCW and serves on the creative team for the annual NCW Writer’s Conference. She writes long and short fiction, essays, overly ambitious to-do lists, and since 2010, has been a regular contributor to the NCW blog, “The Writing Bug.”

 

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