Tips for Young Writers by Young Writers – Ch1Con 2015 Blog Tour!

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Hello readers!  Please enjoy today’s guest post from a member of the Ch1Con 2015 Team!  Feel free to share it with young writers that you know, or link to it.  ~Charlotte

Hi guys! My name’s Kira Budge and I’m the associate online admin for Ch1Con, a unique writing conference by young writers, for young writers. Today I’m here posting as part of the Ch1Con 2015 Blog Tour, which spans a number of writing-related blogs and includes a ton of original content from the Chapter One Young Writers Conference team.

Founded in 2012, the first Chapter One Young Writers Conference (Ch1Con) took place in Chicago with six teenagers in attendance in person and countless others attending via an online live stream. It was an experiment limited to members of the Scholastic’s Write It community and their friends: Could a group of teenagers from across North America really get together and run their own conference? The answer soon became apparent: Yes. And so the conference was born!

This year, the conference will take place on Saturday, August 8th in the suburbs of Chicago, IL, in Arlington Heights. 2015 registration is open on the Ch1Con website for writers from a middle school to undergraduate level and at an early bird discount price of $39.99. Three speakers have been confirmed so far: headliner Kat Zhang, the bestselling author of the Hybrid Chronicles, Taryn Albright, better known as the Girl with the Green Pen, and Ava Jae, debut author of BEYOND THE RED (YA sci-fi coming out in 2016). As a special bonus, Ava Jae’s agent, Louise Fury of the Bent Agency, will open to queries only from conference attendees for up to thirty days after the event.

Early bird registration is currently available at this link with adult registration for those 18+ and youth registration (with parental/guardian consent) for those under 18. This early bird discount ends May 31st and there are only thirty slots open, so register ASAP! For more information and to join in on our community, check out our website and social media platforms:

Website | Twitter | Tumblr | YouTube | Pinterest | Facebook

Conferences like ours are only one of the many great resources young writers can use to find information on establishing writing careers. Young writers have just as much capability as adults to do the work, if we’re dedicated to the craft. All kinds of writing blogs and communities and books can give you help on your way, just the same as they help adult writers. One collection of these can be found at this link.

To further help you guys out, I’m doing a Q+A today using questions provided by a young writer very close to Charlotte’s heart. J Enjoy! And please comment with your own resources and tips below.

Q: Where do young writers find agents for their books?

Once you’ve got a book written and polished and are ready to start querying, it’s time to seek out an agent. I generally use one of two resources to find agents: QueryTracker online or the annual Writer’s Digest Guide to Literary Agents. You can get the second from your library, which I recommend because there’s a new and updated edition every year.

When you’ve found agents, do your research: look at their websites to see what their requirements are for submitting and what genres they represent, read their blogs to see if their personalities mesh with yours, and do the same with their social media. I also recommend using Preditors & Editors to confirm that your chosen agents have a good record and are considered legitimate in the industry. It’s easy to get trapped in a scam!

As you begin to query, again, it’s vital that you read at the agent websites and do other research across blogs and books so you can follow the submission process properly. It’s important to show that you’re willing to do the work and follow the rules!

Q: Is there a place to self-publish if young writers don’t want to or can’t find an agent?

As for adults, there are many routes to publication. You can seek out small publishers that don’t require agented submissions (again, I’d check Preditors & Editors when looking into these) or you can go to the total self-publishing route with resources like CreateSpace on Amazon.com. Keep in mind that you should not pay for actual publishing services and if you are asked to, it’s probably a scam. However, there are certain fees for services related to publication that you will have to front if you’re going the full self-publishing route. These include a professional editor, proper layout, and a good cover design. You’ll want to have all of these things if you’re serious about publishing. Make your work the very best it can be!

Q: How do young writers or artists break into the comic book industry?

Again, you do it like any writer or artist! Big comic book companies like Marvel and DC don’t accept submissions, but you can work your way into the spotlight where they can see you by starting with small comic book companies. Do your research to track these down and submit to them. In the meantime, because of how strongly modern comics are based online, it’s recommended that you begin regularly posting your work on a blog or something similar. If you get a good digital following, you’re more likely to be picked up for print publication.

You can also go the graphic novel route, which would be closer in nature to that of regular novel publishing, though you would have to find specialized agents and publishers. Only a rare few choose to represent this art form!

Thanks so much for your questions. I hope my answers help both you and our readers today! J

The Chapter One Young Writers Conference. Every story needs a beginning. This is ours.

2015 Ch1Con

New Authors: Don’t Put all of Your Eggs in the Amazon Basket

ImageI’ve noticed that many new indie authors tend to run to Amazon and gauge their success by how well they do on this sales channel.  When I mention Amazon, I’m including their subsidiaries: CreateSpace and GoodReads.   Unfortunately, they are limiting their success and their potential audience when they do this.

Don’t get me wrong – there have been many successful authors who have focused most of their efforts on Amazon.  However, there is a much larger group that languishes for many of the following reasons:

  • The KDP program won’t work for you unless you have already built a strong following on social networks.  Amazon will not promote your work for you.
  • Your KDP free days will be wasted if you don’t have a planned promotion- either via social networking or an online book tour/regular book tour.
  • Once enrolled in the KDP program, you cannot publish that specific work anywhere else for 90 days, or as long as that book is enrolled in the program.
  • Even if you are not signed up for the KDP program, people are unlikely to find you unless you’ve built up your writer platform elsewhere.
  • If you publish your paperbacks on CreateSpace only, Barnes & Noble will not pick your book up because you are publishing through their competitor, Amazon.

It is unfortunate that many new indie authors decide whether to continue their writing career based on whether their first offering(s) are successful on Amazon.  They are missing out on many other ways to promote their work, and book sales that can be found elsewhere.

  • Do seek out virtual book tours, especially if you live in an area where there are few bookstores or libraries.  Many virtual book tours are inexpensive ($50 USD a week or less), and you may promote your book for a week or longer.  This will expose your book to a wider audience and often garner needed reviews on book-related websites.
  • Check out other book sale websites, such as Smashwords (not an endorsement, just an alternative idea), and in the process, gain more control over how you promote your book.  Alternate sites may allow you to price your book however you wish, including offering it for free as long as you wish.  Coupons, and a variety of distribution channels, are usually included.
  • Find book sale sites that allow you to distribute your book in a variety of formats.  Did you know that epub and mobi aren’t the only formats that readers prefer?  Other formats include lrf, pdf, pdb, rich text, and the option to read online.

Before you publish your next book, explore other sales options.  You may find that you can reach a larger audience if you don’t put all of your eggs in one basket.

Low Ebook Prices May Mean Shorter Books

Kindle FireI’ve watched with interest the introduction of eReaders since my former job as a library director some thirteen years ago.  They’ve changed quite a bit over the last decade and they have become useful, portable devices.  As the eReader has evolved, so has the ebook publishing business, though it seems very chaotic at the moment.  Some aspects of it, like pricing, doesn’t favor the author.

One popular ebook distributor is Amazon.  Amazon has extremely low-priced ebooks in order to drive sales of their ebook readers. Paperbacks are still at virtually the same prices they were five years ago (i.e. fiction paperbacks).  The price per download is also very low, usually less than 10 cents, yet distributors are asking for a huge slice of the royalty pie.  Currently Amazon grabs 65 percent of a book’s royalty if it is priced $2.99 or lower, and 30 percent on books priced higher than $2.99.

What does this mean for authors offering their books for these low prices?  Their take home after the distributor’s slice of the pie is about 35 to 55 cents.  Multiply this by 500 (the average number of books sold by lesser known authors) and an author’s final take is about $175 dollars before taxes.  Divide that by twelve months and the author makes about $15 per month – not enough to finance most author’s monthly coffee budget.

The problem:  Authors and publishers are urged to price a book in the $2.99 or less category as that is where the majority of eook readers tends to shop.  They are bargain hunters.

The solution:  Authors should write shorter books to account for the lower royalties.  Instead of the 50K to 75K word book, perhaps 30K word books would be a fair solution.

There are three reasons for writing shorter books:

  1. The low royalty amount for the work produced.
  2. The reader’s desire for subsequent books written by their favorite authors.  The demand is high for sequels and trilogies; if an author only publishes one book per year, they may lose their audience, not to mention starving on their royalty pittance.  If an author writes shorter books, they may be able to write more of them.
  3. Readers are looking for cheap ebooks and don’t want to pay a higher price for them.  They’ve been conditioned by ebook retailers to expect very low prices.  Price your books higher and your book may sink into oblivion on distributor sites like Amazon.

Of course all of this is my idea of fairness in the new ebook world.  No one is standing up for the authors, even though there is a writer’s union (in the US – NWU). There is no clamoring for fair wages for a book produced for public consumption. In fact, I’ve heard that writer’s should give away their efforts for the good of the their community.  However, I don’t hear those same people calling to financially support those writers who are supposed to give it away for free either.

If anyone out there has begun writing shorter novels because of the royalty/low price issue, I would appreciate hearing from you in the comments below.  How long are your shorter books?

 

Switching Gears – Writing Non-Fiction Book on Disability Issues

After some prompting, I’m starting a non-fiction book on the problems people with disabilities face. I, for one, am tired of the books in the marketplace that are written about the disabled from an able-bodied point of view. I want to share some experiences (mine, as well as others) that the disabled face in western society. While there is always pending legislation intended to create a level playing field, there isn’t a lot of acceptance within our society. There is a lot of push-back by businesses on accommodation issues, problems within the Social Security disability benefits system, and a great number of issues specific to the nursing home/rehabilitation facility industry.

I’m in the process of writing the outline. Any feedback on topics you think should be included in this book would be appreciated!

Some of the topics I intend to include are:

  • Employment
  • Accessibility
  • Medical Care
  • Institutional Care
  • Rehabilitation
  • Transportation

Bringing Characters Back to Life

For my followers, I apologize for being away for so long. I’ve been caring for a family member who has become disabled, but only temporarily so. She has gotten the go-ahead to start putting weight on her leg again, so it is only a matter of time before she is out and about, not needing assistance any more!

I’ve had to temporarily shelve some of my books in progress so that I didn’t spread myself too thin. Even those of us with A-type personalities need to take stock and prioritize what is truly important once in a while. With that being said, I’m easing myself back into writing my stories and reacquainting myself with all of my characters.

I recently read that if you only write a few times a week that your characters won’t seem as developed as they could be if you wrote every day. I think that may be true, as some of the characters I “abandoned” back in November aren’t as “alive” as they had been before. There is probably a lot of work for me to do over the next few months if I intend to have another book in print before Christmas 2013!

I would like to hear from others who have neglected characters and books for a period of time, as well as those who only write sporadically. How are your characters faring? Did you scrap them and start all over again, or were you able to bring them back to life?

Editing Your Work to Death

I’ve been spending a lot of time reading writer magazines, books and online forums about book publishing over the past two months. When you spend most of your time in hospitals and rehabs (I’m hanging out with my mom while she is recovering from an accident), you can almost drive yourself crazy reading self-help articles.

One of these articles was The 7 Deadly Sins of Self-Editing by Janice Gable Bashman and Kathryn Craft that appeared in the November/December 2012 issue of Writer’s Digest. What caught my eye was the following: Resist the temptation to convince yourself your first draft is “good enough.” If you find yourself rushing your editing process just to leap ahead to pursuing publication, look for deeper motivation to sustain you.

While I agree that no one’s first draft is ever good enough for publication, I do think some individuals need the motivation of publication to keep them moving along in the process. While not everyone wants to be a published author (or do they?), the possibility of belonging to the community of published authors is very alluring.

For example, once an author has published their first book in a series (or subsequent books), it is important to publish the next book within a reasonable period of time or risk losing your readers to the next intriguing author waiting in the wings to snag your fan base. Many series writers believe that the next installment should be available within six months to a year.

I don’t believe that the editing process should be totally abandoned, but with the “miracle” of grammar check and spell check, numerous errors can be corrected. In addition, new authors can employ the method of reading their stories out loud to help catch sentences or words that may make reading a passage difficult.

With the tablet revolution kicking into high gear, writers who wish to ruminate about their true motivation for writing may miss the boat altogether. If you wish to write for a living, understand that editing is part of the entire process, but don’t spend an inordinate amount of time worrying about it, especially if you aren’t an editor by trade. If you can’t do it yourself, hire someone who can, and then get started writing that next book or short story.

Setting a Price for eBooks – Writers Unite!

I’ve been reading the forums regarding the pricing on ebooks on various retail websites. Many indie authors price their books very low to be competitive, however, are they doing themselves a disservice? They don’t seem very happy about selling their books dirt cheap, but they feel they have no control over it. Or do they?

The pricing is favorable to those who are selling the ebook readers, not the authors. This may be obvious for some, not all. The free books, or extremely low-priced books, are an enticement to those who are considering buying the ebook readers (i.e. Kindle, Nook, iPad). Indie authors feel that they have to be competitive with other indie authors selling their books for 99 cents, so they low-ball their price, even though in their hearts they know they are getting screwed.

What is wrong with this picture? Why are talented authors giving their books away? In some cases, they really are giving their books away in “free promotions” that encourage them to give away their books in the hopes that it will spur future sales. They aren’t reimbursed for these giveaways, they aren’t even “promoted” in the true sense of the word. Most ebook authors I know spend hours submitting their “free book promotions” for consideration to dozens of freebie email lists; no one is doing this for them in exchange for giving their books away for free.

I suggest the following regarding pricing of ebooks: for each 10K words, charge a dollar. For example, if the book has 50K words, charge 4.99, 100K or more words, charge $9.99. Unless your book, or novella has 10K words or less, don’t sell it for 99 cents!

As writers we must stop the selling of our work for a mere pittance. If we continue to offer our novels that we have slaved over for months, and sometimes years, for 99 cents or in free giveaways, we’ll never be able to make a living off of our sweat. In the meantime we’re lumping ourselves in with individuals who jot off a 10-page list on how to score with a woman, or someone who submitted a 5 page document of their grandma’s cookie recipes. Crafting a novel is worth much, much more.

Before you get sucked into the promise of quick fame on the ebook sites, consider what I said. The novel writers of the world must unite and set prices that ensures they make a decent wage for the work they have done.