I’ve been working hard on revisions for a new middle grade book to get ready for submissions (and helping my 14-year-old get ready for Marching Band camp and high school –eek!), so I’ve neglected the ol’ blog for a bit. I’m back on topic today with a guest author sharing a revision story with us. Author Joy V. Smith visited back in May with a Mother’s Day post about her scifi novel Strike Three. Now she will tell us about how an insightful editor kept her on track when getting her novel ready for publishing. Enjoy!
Joy V. Smith:
My editor for Strike Three is knowledgeable and has a military background. Thanks to her experience, she caught some mistakes in my manuscript that would have been embarrassing. Just thinking about them appearing in my book makes me cringe!
Since I knew there was a seed storage facility in the Antarctic, I thought, “Wouldn't a line about it being guarded by polar bears be cool?” Well, my patient editor, whom I credit on the Acknowledgments page of Strike Three, reminded me that there are no polar bears in Antarctica. Drat. I had to change that to penguins; and later I discovered that the most famous seed bank is in the Arctic (Norway). It's the things you think you know that trip you up. (Though there are seed banks in Antarctica, they're very limited.)
When I wanted to name an Air Force base after a current president, my editor told me an interesting tidbit: "Problem is – I don’t believe there is any precedent for naming an Air Force Base after a president. Most Air Force Bases are named after someone who served in the military – normally someone who served in the Air Force." She went on to give me more background showing how that would be a bad idea and suggested that I name a sub after him instead. Okaaay. That's cool too.
She helped me with other mistakes--uh, things--too...
Get it at Amazon!
Joy V. Smith, a Wisconsin native and graduate of Oshkosh State U, writes fiction and non-fiction. Her non-fiction includes interviews and her house books, Building a Cool House for Hot Times without Scorching the Pocketbook and Remodeling: Buying and Updating a Foreclosure. Her fiction has appeared in various publications and anthologies, including Womanscapes and Magistria: The Realm of the Sorcerer. Her fiction books include Strike Three (a post-apocalyptic novel), Detour Trail (a western adventure) and The Doorway and Other Stories (a collection of reprints); and her SF has also been published in two audiobooks, including Sugar Time (time travel tales). Her e-books include Strike Three, Detour Trail, Hidebound (SF), Pretty Pink Planet, Hot Yellow Planet, The Doorway and Other Stories (14 SF/fantasy reprints), and Remodeling: Buying and Updating a Foreclosure. She lives in Florida with Blizzard the Snow Princess and Bryn the Flying Corgi.
As I’ve mentioned in the last two posts (and you’ve probably figured out from the title) I suffer with some social anxiety. I love to perform and do public speaking, but I’m not so great when it comes to talking to people socially. This poses a problem when it comes to special events like conferences and conventions. I’m happy as a lark when it’s my turn to be “on” but a scared little bunny when I have to walk around and network.
The third event I attended in June was LibertyCon, another fantasy scifi convention, in Chattanooga. I was really excited about attending. There was a terrific website for it. My books were listed on a page with buy links. My bio had my schedule beneath it with hyperlinks, so people could know exactly where I’d be and when. The schedule was decided months in advance. I spoke on several panels, had two signing table slots, and one reading slot. I was thrilled and eager to go. I even bought a ticket for my husband, and we kicked off our summer getaway with this trip south.
Of the three June events, this was the most pleasant for me for two reasons. One, I had a lot to do. I was onstage every 2-3 hours. Two, my husband was with me to keep me company during the breaks. I used him as a bit of a crutch so I wasn’t wandering around like a lonely stray, hoping someone would notice me.
The problem with this event was that it wasn’t well attended – by teens. There were a lot of folks my age and older there, but the only teens I saw were boys, and they were gamers not readers. I spoke on a panel about “Paranormal Romance” and another about “Creating Wonder in Young Adult Fiction”. There were people in attendance, but they were other authors or people just sitting for a spell to beat the heat. It was clear the target audience for my books was absent from this event. I had a great time discussing these themes with the other authors on the panel, and we got into lively conversations. Later in the day, I led the panel on “What’s New in Pirate Fiction”. No one was designated to run it, so I stepped up to the plate. I think it was the most enjoyable panel I attended that weekend (which was funny because before I got there, I really had no idea what I was going to talk about in that session).
The signings, however, were a bit bleak. No one in my demographic was within miles of that conference. I smiled at the people as they passed by with their manga posters, and chatted with the other authors at the table. One of these authors was Howard Taylor, a graphic novelist and illustrator. He had some fans and was the Master of Ceremonies for the whole event. He told me that he’d been doing these cons for years and had seen the teen population slowly decrease over the years. He said the reason the small cons attract mostly older audiences was because they cater to people who still collect books and posters in physical form. Young people now can see all that stuff easily online and don’t need to come to these events live. He told me the bigger events like Dragoncon still attract teens, but they don’t bring a lot of money with them and aren’t there to buy books. They are looking to meet the actors that do the voiceovers for their favorite anime or video games, or to get signed prints of their favorite manga artists. He said it’s been a few years since he came home from a con with more money than he spent to be there.
At my second signing I talked with an indie author that was a little older. She wrote short story collections and told me she hadn’t done a con in about ten years and was surprised at how they had changed. She said she used to sell lots of books at these events but hadn’t sold a single copy at this one and didn’t know if she’d do it again.
I patted myself on the back for engaging these authors in conversation and taking over the Pirate panel. This was pretty big for me. Even though the conference was a bit of a bust for my mermaids, pirates and ghosts, I had a great time there. Will I go back next year? Probably not. I don’t see the profit in it. What I learned from this event was that I could take a fairly unsuccessful event and learn from it. I got more practice in my presenting skills and made a step forward in my networking, socialization skills. That’s not bad for a shy girl like me.
Have you been to a publicity event that didn’t pan out? What did you do? I’d love to know your thoughts, so please feel free to leave a comment.
In June I participated in three separate events for the main purpose of promoting my book titles. In my last post I shared what it was like to be an introvert visiting for the first time at the high-estrogen-slumber-party event that some call UtopYA. This week I thought I’d share my experience with one of the two fantasy/science fiction conventions I attended.
The very same weekend as UtopYA, I was a “featured author” at a small Nashville convention called Hypericon. I had heard about this event through a couple other Nashville area indie fantasy authors and hadn’t planned on being part of it. However, back in February when I finished a fairly well-attended presentation about novel revision at Chattacon, a very nice man came up to me and told me I MUST do the same workshop at Hypericon. He said it was exactly the kind of panel the event needed, something truly focused on the craft of writing.
Well, getting asked by this nice man and actually getting on the list were two different things. There were a lot of unanswered emails to the organizers, and I honestly didn’t think I was going to be included until I got an invitation on Facebook to join the private guest panelist group page a month before the event. Okay, I was in. Cool.
I didn’t find out what panels I was speaking on until five days before the event. There were two. Neither of them were about novel revision. Or the craft of writing. I was told I’d get to have some time to sell books at a Guest Author Table, but even the night before the event, there wasn’t a schedule for that.
Now, here’s the thing. I love doing presentations. I like public speaking. I’m a Drama major. People think it’s crazy that a shy gal like me loves doing these things, but I have a simple explanation. When I’m doing a presentation, I’ve been asked to be there. People are expecting me to talk. So I have a good time. But when you invite me to talk at an event, put me on two panels that have nothing to do with my books, don’t give me any particular schedule, or make me feel a little like an afterthought, well… my shyness takes over.
I went to Hypericon on Friday evening, already shaken from a day at UtopYA. The only people in the room for the panel were the other panelists. I was polite, had a nice chat with them, and then I took off and headed home, not feeling a need to linger. On Saturday morning, my panel was again poorly attended. To be fair, the whole event was poorly attended – at least at that time of day. The other authors, who all knew each other, thought I was one of their few audience members. I shyly raised my hand like a schoolgirl and informed them I was also on the panel. One of the authors said, “There was a name on the list I didn’t recognize, I guess that’s you.” Yep. That makes sense, doesn’t it?
After that panel, I looked around for someone to tell me when I could set up at the Guest Author’s Table. I looked for a Guest Author’s Table. I didn’t find either. One friend talked to me for a minute, but she was busy doing her own thing. I had no idea what to do with myself or who to speak to. A bolder person might have just squatted at a table in the vendor room and set up shop until someone said to move or go away. An extrovert might have shook hands with every person at the event until they got the info they needed. I, however, feeling very insecure and oblivious, walked around for twenty minutes and then decided to chuck the whole event. I went home and did some writing instead, glad I hadn’t paid for a ticket.
Will I go to Hypericon again? Odds are against it. I’ll never know for sure if I made the right decision that day, but I felt pretty certain I wasn’t going to sell any mermaid books to the small handful of cosplayers and gamers that were in attendance. Plus, except for my one friend, no one followed up with me to find out where I'd gone or why I left. What do you guys think? If you were invited to be at an event and then ignored or overlooked once you got there, what would you do? Would you demand to be seen or leave?
My next post (on Saturday) will be about another fantasy convention. Please come back, and feel free to leave a comment.
June was a busy month for me. I finished up the rewrite of my Cry of the Sea sequel, Whisper of the Woods, and got it approved to be published by Fire and Ice Young Adult Books. (Tentative publishing date is in November.) Yay!!! Then I pulled out the rough draft of my middle grade dragon novel that I wrote during NaNoWriMo in 2013 to start cleaning it up. I’m still working on that but hope to have it done soon and ready for submitting to agents and publishers. But what really kept me busy last month were the three different events I attended to publicize my books.
First was UtopYA 2015. This is a conference that is specifically for Young Adult authors and bloggers. And it’s right here Nashville. How convenient! I had heard of it last year but didn’t go. Kind of at the last minute, I decided to get a ticket for this year. I also pooled in with group of authors based here in Nashville called Nashville Meetup to buy a table to display our books. I was super excited to attend this event, because the buzz about it on Facebook was intense and two favorite authors I’ve featured on this blog were going to be there. This was the 5th year of the conference. It was 99.9% women. Nearly all of them were indie authors. I thought I’d fit right in, learn lots, and come home with new friends, a million new ideas, and maybe sell a book or two.
Alas, this was not the case.
I am a shy gal, and I felt a lot like I was crashing the party. It seemed like everyone there already knew each other from years past. They were all super sweet. I didn’t meet a single person who wasn’t smiling. Only, I constantly found myself sitting to the side of someone’s conversation, awkwardly eavesdropping. (Oddly, my character Hayley does this very thing in the opening chapter of Whisper of the Woods). I even attended a session titled “Advice for Introverts” or something like that, where they said encouraging things like “everyone here is the same as you and we all want to like each other.”
Yeah. That’s what extroverts always say.
A couple of the workshops were great as far as getting me motivated to write more and try some new ideas in my marketing. Most of the sessions left me frustrated, though. They were led by these amazingly successful self-published authors, one of whom said a bad month for her was when she only sold 1,000 books. Sigh. There were great tips like ‘give away the first book free to attract readers to buy the rest of the series’ (can’t do that because I’m not self-published), and ‘spend lots of money on BookBub or Facebook ads’ (how do I find the money to pay for that????), and ‘get lots of books out there quickly’ (I’m trying but I have this job and a family and stuff). Oh, and the number-one piece of advice I heard over and over again? Quit the day job and dive in. Yeah, well…
Then I got in my car and drove back to my job for the rest of the afternoon.
And that was another thing. It seemed as if the main thrust of the conference wasn’t the workshops but the socialization in the evenings. One panelist at the “introvert” session said she doesn’t even go to the workshops. There was a dinner, a dance, a breakfast, and even a big awards show. I read on the social FB page that a couple of them were going out together to get tattoos. I didn’t attend those things. Remember the shy part? Plus, I live in Nashville. I wasn’t staying at the hotel with everyone. My family was at home and not super excited about me partying it up with a bunch of women I didn’t know. So, I kind of missed out on a lot of the bonding time.
The third big thing about the conference was the vendor room. That was pretty amazing. All these authors and publishers spent some serious bucks and had tables full of swag and copies of their books. So. Many. Books. I was overwhelmed by it. My little book on the local authors table looked so sad and wimpy next to these displays. I walked around but didn’t buy any books. I simply couldn’t choose. I was afraid to make eye contact with all the authors, because I didn’t want to talk to them and then not buy their books. It’s always awkward. I collected a lot of bookmarks. I’m not a book reviewer, so I didn’t feel comfortable asking for ARCs. I couldn’t help wondering if any of them earned back the money they spent to be there. (There was a huge signing event open to the public on Saturday. I didn’t go to that, but I assume that’s where the real sales were. Even so, I imagine most of the books sold were by the better known authors present.)
Will I go back next year? Haven’t decided. I’m thinking about asking some of the other Fire and Ice Young Adult Book authors to share a booth with me, make it really swanky looking, and basically man the table instead of doing the writing conference part. I know one thing. If I go back, I will need to be bold, brave, and try harder to make it count.
This isn’t even half the swag I collected at UtopYA. Funny thing about having so many bookmarks? I mostly read on my Kindle.
An author friend named Patricia Wiles gave me this pin at my first SCBWI Midsouth writing conference in 2004. I pimped it up a little for UtopYA with the plan of wearing it on my shirt as a conversation piece. When I got there, I felt super self-conscious about it and wound up pinning it to my tote bag where no one probably saw it. Do you see my problem?
I know I’m not the only introverted author out there. I’d love to know how you handle events like this? Any tips that work for you? Please leave a comment. Coming up in a couple days: Shy Girl at the Con, Part 2 – the fantasy/scifi conventions.
D. G. Driver
Author D. G. Driver's
Write and Rewrite Blog
“There are no bad stories, just ones that haven’t found their right words yet.”
A blog mostly about the process of revision with occasional guest posts, book reviews, and posts related to my books.