Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest, Quarterfinals

Last Tuesday, I found out that Screwing Up Time made it to the quarterfinals of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest. I was so excited that my hands shook, and I kept checking the page to make sure I wasn't misreading something. But it was real!

Now I am in the running for the semi-finals, which will be announced on April 24.

After the announcements were made, Amazon allowed writers to see the reviews that the experts gave to their novels. A lot of writer friends have asked to see mine, so I thought I'd post the two reviews that I received here. (I really like the second one.) And I want to encourage everyone who's interested to check not only my excerpt but the others as well. You can download the excerpts for free, and you can review them or "like" them.

Here are my expert reviews.

Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Reviews

ABNA Expert Reviewer

What is the strongest aspect of this excerpt?

I liked the dialogue and first person narration. Additionally, I liked Miranda's appearance early in the story. Mark makes a likeable, current, interesting hero-to-be.

What aspect needs the most work?

I thought, all in all, all aspects were above average. Plot, dialogue, narrative all brought color to the piece. Nothing spectacular, but nothing lacking.

What is your overall opinion of this excerpt?

I thought this had an interesting premise, one that had been explored in other books, usually the other way around. Someone from the present going to the past. Although this was not totally original, it made the plot interesting. I thought the pace was good, the characters realistic and the dialogue typical of young adults. From the pitch, it sounds like some fun adventures fold into the plot, so I would be interested in reading more. Good work.

ABNA Expert Reviewer

What is the strongest aspect of this excerpt?

To choose one strongest aspect of this book is difficult; I loved the entire excerpt. The dialogue between Miranda and the narrator, and thoughts of the protagonist were very funny. The high concept time-travel aspect of the story has me hooked.

What aspect needs the most work?

Don't change anything. Please. This has been by far my favorite of all the excerpts I've read to date for this year's contest. If I have to nitpick, I'd say get rid of the rectangular glasses comment. It doesn't add anything.

What is your overall opinion of this excerpt?

Without a doubt this has been my favorite excerpt to date. Overall, I think the storyline, dialogue, and pacing are excellent. My best wishes to the author on getting this published and picked up my a major house.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Green-Eyed Monster

When an author first publishes (whether traditionally or indie), he or she tells themselves that the most important thing is getting their story out. Finding readers who connect with their novel and its characters. Getting good reviews is more important than sales. I know I said it, and I meant it.

And then...we start to forget. Especially when we read about Author X who announces that they’ve sold ten gazillion copies of his (her) book. And he’s quit his day job, bought a villa in the south of France, and has workers who maintain a garden that inspires him to greater literary heights. At which point, the green-eyed monster of envy decides to visit. After all, we (newbie writers) would like a villa in the south of France, instead of an apartment/condo/house that has peeling linoleum and whose chief literary inspiration is the mold growing on the bathroom ceiling that resists X-14.

By the time we’re done cursing bathroom mold, peeling linoleum, and all villas located near the south of France, we’ve forgotten why we wrote. Then, everything starts to fall apart. Instead of taking joy in our work, we start checking those book sales every day. We desperately try this or that marketing strategy, which seem to make no difference. We become people our families don’t recognize.

So, here’s a little wake-up call. First of all, not everyone can or will be Author X with the twenty gazillion sales. (Yes, sales doubled in the twenty seconds it took you to read these paragraphs—that’s how fast Author X is selling books.) You can’t be Author X. Sorry. Cope. Author X is Author X. And you are you. And before you (or I) grouse any more, here’s the deal.

First of all, the numbers aren’t always the numbers. When a traditionally published author says he published Y number of books, it’s not always the truth. (I’m not talking about liars here, though there are those too.) For example, maybe 60K copies of his books were printed and shipped to bookstores. But those aren’t sales. And the author won’t know how many sales he’ll make until the bookstore sends the unsold books back for a refund. As for the indie publisher (BTW, according to Amazon’s contract you’re not supposed to release your sales numbers—read the contract fine print.), do the numbers that they release include returns, do they include books given away for free, etc.?  Until recently, Amazon’s author stats didn’t even include a way to separate promo books (free) from books where people spent money. All that to say, that the numbers aren’t always the numbers.

I could go on about the fact that the playing field isn’t level. If you have a full-time job or children, you don’t have the time that others do to invest in marketing. If you don’t have a lot of money, you can’t invest in your career. Now, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t do our best at marketing, I’m just saying that life isn’t fair. But I think you already knew that.

The answer is to remember why we first wrote—the joy of writing. We need to take joy in the good reviews and the people who say, “I loved your book.” And take joy in your sales, whatever they are—2 books or 20,000. Every book sold is one more reader who’s joined you in the world you created.

So celebrate your successes! Celebrate others’ successes!

Here’s a photo of my latest celebration—I hit a personal sales’ goal.

Pink champagne and a European fruit tart. YUM!
BTW, if I ever buy a villa in the south of France, you’re all welcome to visit.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Update on the Sequel

Finished! Okay, I’m not totally finished. But I’ve finished the second edit of the Screwing Up Time sequel. And my first betas should begin reading sometime today. So what does a writer do when she’s waiting to hear back on her book? Here’s what I’m doing.

1. Making a list of all the things I want to add or delete to the novel. I'm supposed to give my mind a break from the book, so I can come back with a fresh perspective. But the story still spins in my mind.

2. Looking into making a book trailer. I’ve gotten a lot of nudges to do this. This sounds hard, scary, and totally out of my league. But I've promised a fan that I'd look into it.

3. Printing up the SUT short story so I can begin to edit it. Maybe spinning that story in my mind will take my mind off the sequel.

4. Catching up with things in my real life. Weeding my gardens. Organizing my closet. Doing some spring cleaning. Yeah, writing sounds a lot more fun to me too. 

5. Daydreaming about book three. There's an amazing scene that I've seen in my mind. I'm feeling very tempted   to go there and explore. A new story is the ultimate writer's drug addiction.

Other exciting news. I should soon hit an important sales mark. I have a bottle of pink champagne chilling. Next week I hope to post photos of my celebration. 

Friday, March 9, 2012

Number One

I got an email this morning telling me that Screwing Up Time was number one in the Amazon young adult fiction tags/list. And sure enough, here it is. Yay!!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Spring Break Book Betas

In spite of the cold that has turned my body into a scum manufacturing center and a chapter so difficult that I'm sure it's from Gehenna, I’m now nearing the end of the second edit of my sequel to Screwing Up Time. And I have a decision to make. If I work hard, I can finish this edit by the end of the week. And my kids have spring break next week. So do I let them read it?

They’ve always been my alpha beta readers. But here’s the problem. You know how people say don’t trust your family, they’ll tell you how wonderful your book is even if it’s not because they love you? Yeah, my family’s not like that. Don’t get me wrong, they love me, but they’re not the kind to blow sunshine at me. They’re more like “Uh, you realize Mark would never say this, right?” or “This section is dumb/confusing/uber-lame.” or my all time favorite “I don’t like this word, you need to change it.”

And actually they are very helpful. But I know that the book isn’t polished yet. The character’s voices aren’t pitch perfect. That comes after nailing the plot when I go through and make sure that all the characters not only say the right things, but say them in the right way. And I’ve only done in a hit and miss way so far. I know there are sections when Mark sounds like Miranda/Granddad/Kate/Brian because I changed the attribution from M/G/K/B to something Mark said because it fit better for the pace or the plot or who knows what—sometimes I get confused about who knows what and when. I actually have notes listing each character’s knowledge about the events of the plot.

So what I’m saying is, “Am I prepared to have my hard work run through the nit-picking eyes of the Keller clan?” The answer, “Yes. Because I need the nit-pickers. They make my job easier.” So, I’ll give them each a highlighter and red pen. (Yes, I believe they delight in marking their teacher’s papers.) In the meantime, I’ll find my thick skin—elephant hide works best. And I’ll get my glasses—the kids’ penmanship deteriorates the further they get in the novel. But it’s all for a good cause. And if I’ve made it through the scum disease and the chapter from Gehenna, I can handle a few/a lot/solid pages of red corrections.