June 2022 Royalties Update

So in the past six weeks, I’ve released three self-published books and it’s been really interesting. I know a lot of people really don’t have any idea how many books writers really sell. It’s kind of like money and some people are probably reticent to speak about it. But I don’t really care, so I’m going to talk numbers a bit, because things have been really interesting with these releases (also the numbers are so low it doesn’t matter). 

First, for a reference point: Finding Frances. This book was published by The Wild Rose Press so my numbers come from them. They don’t get instantaneous records of sales and instead they come in in batches. With the exception of copies I bought directly from my publisher, I’ve made just under $100 in royalties over the lifetime of the book (over two years). Note that that does include royalties on copies of the books that I’ve purchased on Amazon myself (I’ve done this a few times, maybe 10-15 copies). In contrast, I made close to $150 in May alone from sales of Always the New Girl (Kindle and paperback). 

Charts

Because I am a nerd, I made a chart showing total royalties over time and another one just showing individual book royalties over time. The first is going to be far more interesting after another couple months go by because right now you can only see Finding Frances royalties. (Though it’s somewhat interesting since you can see how flat it is—they’re coming in pennies at a time.) This is through May, so it technically includes Always the New Girl numbers but not Ugly numbers. 

chart showing total royalties over time

There seems to be a tiny uptick in Finding Frances sales in April and May—this is just coincidence because of the delay in reporting, so it can’t be related to my new releases coming out. But if I see growth over the next few months, I may be able to attribute it to the exposure with the new ones. This next chart shows monthly royalties over time. 

Chart showing royalties over time

You can see quite a gap between July and December of last year—I literally did not sell a single copy of Finding Frances between August and November 2021. Fun times. You can also kind of see Always the New Girl and Ugly presale numbers on the far right of the chart—that blue dot in the upper right is Always the New Girl, and the green dot just above the yellow line is the the 2 copies of Ugly I sold in May. 

Ongoing Sales

Sales have continued on Always the New Girl in June and sales for Ugly have also been surprisingly good (again, for me). As of June 17th, I’ve sold 13 ebooks of Always the New Girl, 4 of Ugly, and 1 of Binding Off, and in paperback I’ve sold 4 of Always the New Girl and 23 of Ugly. These are not numbers that “real” authors would feel anything about (except shame), but for me they are amazing. Going four months without selling a single copy sets your standards pretty low, but I’m actually selling books. More than one a day. Of course I am curious what will happen over the long term, but I’m feeling good that at least I’m off to a good start. 

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When Lightning Strikes Twice, and It’s the Good Kind

I am not sure how this happened, but I finally had a stroke of luck this past month not once, but twice. If you are familiar with BookBub, you will know it’s popular among ebook lovers. It features books that are on sale (or normally priced low) in a daily email. Writers don’t sell through them, as they just link to the various stores where readers can download their books, but these emails go out to hundreds of thousands of subscribers. You can pay for ads with them, but the dream is to get a Featured Deal or one of their other features. I’ve applied for a Featured Deal for Finding Frances about six times and been turned down each time. 

BookBub also has a feature called New Release for Less, which obviously applies to new releases only, and the max price is $4.99. I applied for Finding Frances back in the day, and it didn’t get selected. I dutifully applied for one with both Always the New Girl and Ugly. To my amazement, they actually selected Always the New Girl for one. I was shocked. It goes out to 810,000 subscribers and only costs $110. I was obviously really happy about this, and mine is scheduled for this coming Tuesday, May 24th, two weeks after release. So I thought that was my good luck for the moment, and I was happy that one had been selected since I had hired the publicist for Ugly, so both books would be getting a boost. Then a couple weeks later I was even more shocked when BookBub also selected Ugly for the new release feature. I mean, this kind of massive good luck hardly ever happens to me. Ugly releases on June 7th and the BookBub feature is running on June 21st. So I’m really curious to see what kind of impact this has on my sales. And of course I’m also excited for the upcoming Ugly release because I have the publicist. 

So I had been not really working on any YA fiction at the moment, and focusing on trying to get these two adult romances out that I’ve had on my computer for a while and work on the YA nonfiction book. But my friend pointed out that with the issues dealt with in Ugly and all the awful anti-transgender/anti-queer laws horrible states are passing right now, it might make sense to start working on the sequel to Ugly. I have the basic story for that one, as well as ideas for two more after, so I think she is right. I’m finishing the first romance first (I’m a couple weeks away from having that ready for my editor), but then I’m diving into the sequel for Ugly. It will be the first new writing I’ve done in YA for a while, so it’s going to be a bumpy ride in the beginning. But I'm sure I'll get into the swing of things quickly enough. 

Ugly Cover Reveal and Plans

If you’d looked at the books section, or are on Instagram, you would have already seen it, but in case you haven’t, here is the new cover for Ugly, which will be out everywhere on June 7th:

Ugly book cover

Today, I have Always the New Girl, Binding Off, and Ugly all loaded into Ingram Spark (the distributor for paperback, B&N, Kobo, and Apple), and I’ve uploaded files to Amazon for Kindle and Google Play directly. Although I’m still waiting for everything to be finalized and pushed out, I’m basically ready to go. The only thing that will change anything is if I get nice reviews from Kirkus for Always the New Girl or Ugly (I should have those both back by early this week). If that happens and there’s a good quote I can pull out of them, I will add them to the book cover and resubmit those. 

My publicity campaign will begin in the last week of May, which I can’t believe is coming up so soon. The passage of time is relentless. But as soon as Ugly is released, I’ll have five books out (including one romance), which seems like a number that is easier to make some progress with. I’m actually not sure what I’m going to work on next in the YA fiction world. I’m actually focusing right now on my YA nonfiction book and on getting my two romances out, because they’re close to ready. Then I’m going to return to YA fiction and do something. Maybe work on Sadie Speaks, or maybe work on the sequel to Ugly, depending on how things go. 

Publicist and Always the New Girl Cover Reveal

I have been in this weird really bad reading slump, where I’m not just reading slow, but I’m actually not reading at all, except when required. It’s weird and I think it has me a little unbalanced, but when I’m lying in bed at night, the silly games I play on my phone seem easier than reading. I’m still hoping to get back to reading like normal. But we’ll see. In the meantime, I apologize to anyone who likes reading my reviews. 

I am still prepping for the upcoming releases. Always the New Girl and Binding Off (the prequel) are coming out May 10th, and Ugly June 7th. I have submitted both the novels for Kirkus reviews so I am hoping they are at least good enough to extract a quote from. If so, I will add them to the covers. I have final versions of the May book covers from my designer:

Always the New Girl book cover
Binding Off book cover

I love them, but I still need to finalize the paperbacks. I want to add the Kirkus quotes if possible (which aren’t due back to me until later this month), and I am getting help on the back cover book descriptions from a publicist I hired, so I need to update those. So I’m hoping that all comes together in time for the release. Worst case, the paperback versions are a little delayed.

My cover designer is also still working on the Ugly cover, but I should have that back well in time for release. More significantly, I’m going all in on this release, as I’ve hired a professional publicist this time. I’m spending quite a bit of money to see if I can find actual readers, something I’ve struggled so much with on Finding Frances. People seem to like that book, but I can’t get it in front of anybody. And I think it’s going to be even harder to find the audience for Ugly, since this one will appeal more to teens than adults (adults aren’t as interested in gender identity stories as (some) teens), which isn’t as true of all the others. So I’ve paid for extra marketing efforts, so the whole package includes reviews (obviously not guaranteed positive, but hopefully), BookBub ads, Amazon ads, some Amazon listing optimization, and other stuff I don’t remember. It may not work. I definitely won’t get my money back in earnings, but I’m hopeful I can at least reach more readers who will also be interested in my other books. 

Other than the releases, I’m not currently working on any YA right now, which feels a little weird, but there you go. I’m busy with art school and am working on finishing up a couple romances under my pen name, and once I’ve got those done and released, I plan to get back to Sadie Speaks, or possibly (if sales go better than I expect), the sequel to Ugly. Or maybe both. My crystal ball isn’t working right now. 

Finally, the social media strategy I talked about earlier is still going on, as I am posting pretty regularly on Instagram and TikTok (generally three times a week on both). I'm still locked out of Twitter, and I don’t see that ever resolving. My Medium article writing has suffered a bit was I definitely couldn’t keep up with my weekly plan, or even biweekly, but I’m doing the best I can given my pretty busy life at the moment.

February Ad Results

I planned to do a review this week, but I can’t seem to break out of this reading slump. I’m reading a book I really like, a YA biography of Vincent van Gogh and his brother Theo, but I didn’t finish it in time to review it this week. 

So instead, I’ll just give an update on my advertising efforts for Finding Frances that I focused on in February. I ran a Bargain Booksy ad on February 16th and I did sell a few books on that day. I started a Facebook ad campaign on the 25th and I have gotten some sales out of that, enough to move up in the top 100 of two of my categories. This is cool because it means anyone searching that category could feasibly see it on the first page of the results. 

Finding Frances category ranks

I also ran two Kirkus ads, one in their magazine on February 15th. I haven’t seen anything from that, but if I am lucky, that’s more likely to be paperbacks, I suspect, and there’s a major delay in reporting those so I won’t know for a while. The other ad I ran with them was on their website and started February 14th and ran for two weeks, and that one probably was a bit of a bust because I didn’t see any clear sales on Kindle books except on the Bargain Booksy day and right after the Facebook ad started. I also ran 10 separate targeted ads on BookBub for the book. It was so strange—I had a terrible click through rate, and my two Amazon ads that actually advertised the sale price never got a single click, even after being shown to nearly 1000 people each. I think BookBub does offer help with creating effective ads, but my guess is it’s not free. Anyway, I hope I get some more reviews out of all this advertising. 

I’m still working on prepping my new releases. I finally got both Always the New Girl and Ugly sent off to Kirkus for their reviews today, and I should have them back by May 2. This meant I pushed Always the New Girl’s release to May 10. Ugly is still June 7. The Always the New Girl cover is almost finalized. It looks really good. I’m actually planning to release all but the Kindle version through Ingram Spark instead of going to each distributor directly (except I will do Amazon Kindle myself). I also plan to put both of them on BookSprout, which is a site you can put ARCs (and older books) on to get reviews. I’m also probably going to do a review tour with Goddess Fish, which I did for Finding Frances, when I got 7 good reviews. I plan to submit both books to BookBub as New Release features. I doubt I’ll get that, but it’s free to try, so why not. I guess I’m going to do everything in my power to get some momentum at the beginning. I don’t have high expectations, but I figure I should give it the old college try. Rah.

Twitter Drama and Advertising

It’s kind of funny that my last post, 3 weeks ago, was all about social media and my plan to be all involved, because literally the next day Twitter locked my account without cause. I had posted a link to a Medium article I published that day that talked about a racist Zoom-bombing experience I had that was awful, and how I didn’t think that the way the presenters handled it (pretending it hadn’t happened after kicking him out of the meeting) was right. I talked about how  upsetting it was even for me (a lot) and how I wasn’t even a target. By ignoring it, the presenters kind of gave tacit approval of what had happened, or at least they didn’t convey how wrong it was. So that was my article. Not very salacious. Two hours after I linked to it, Twitter locked my account, claiming I had broken one of their rules. The email said I had broken “the following rule,” which was a blank line, so I had no idea what rule they thought I’d broken. But I read their rules, and I hadn’t broken any of them. I assumed that their automation picked up on the word “bombing” and flagged it automatically. So I filed an appeal (which was linked to from the original email), expecting a person to look at my tweet and realize it was the opposite of rule-breaking. However, a few hours later, I got an email stating that they had determined that a violation had happened, so they would not overturn their decision. Then they again tried to tell me which rule I’d broken, but again left it blank. How anyone could look at my tweet linking to basically an anti-racist article and call it a problem is beyond me. Maybe they haven’t heard of Zoom-bombing? Because I looked on Twitter before posting that tag, and it’s been used many times, sometimes by people bragging about doing it. And I’m a problem? It boggles the mind. I filed another report with customer service a couple days later, and after a week I still hadn’t heard back. When I go into Twitter there’s a screen with a message about my account being locked and a link to cancel the appeal and delete the email, which seemed the only way forward at this point since my appeal was denied and they weren’t responding to my followup. So I decided, what the hell, I’ll just delete it and repost without using the word “bombing” anywhere. I went in to do this, and in order to delete the tweet, you have to check this box admitting you did something wrong. I was like, I didn’t! So I didn’t click the box and went in and filed another ticket with customer support. It’s now been almost two weeks and I haven’t heard back. They indicate that you should hear a response within a few days but sometimes it takes longer. It’s infuriating to me that they won’t even tell me which rule I supposedly broke. How do they think that’s acceptable? 

Anyway, apparently I am no longer going to be on Twitter, because I refuse to admit to wrongdoing after doing nothing wrong. But I really sort of need that account for promoting my writing and having a social media presence, so this is really frustrating and unfair. And they’re denying me that for no reason at all. I’m so pissed.  

Other than that drama, the past week has been filled with an intense campaign of Finding Frances promotion and advertising. It’s been on sale for 99 cents (Kindle only) since February 4th, through the 24th. I started an ad campaign on BookBub on the 5th, but that actually didn’t go anywhere. BookBub emailed me to tell me to try something else because I was getting no clicks. Then early this past week, an ad went live in the Kirkus Reviews magazine that came out Tuesday, and I have an ad running on Kirk’s website for last and the coming week. Then on Thursday, I also ran a BargainBooksy ad, which did result in some sales. I don’t know how many yet, but it brought me up to a rank of about 65,000 in the Kindle store (normally I’m down around 1,600,000) and I got in the top 100 of one of my categories for a little while, which is great. But these are small wins, and my BookBub ads (I redid them and am now running 10 separate focused ads) are totally flopping. I really don’t know what to do with this book. I think I may just have to admit defeat after this month if I don’t see significant sales. This is a tough business. 

I am still in the process of preparing to publish Always the New Girl and the prequel, as well as Ugly. I’ve pulled all the Always the New Girl stories off Vella and they’ll be officially gone after 60 days. The Ugly Vella is still publishing, three episodes per week, so I figure I’ll let it finish (mid-March) and then pull it from Vella, too. I haven’t had a single read on that one, not even one free episode. But I almost have the covers for Always the New Girl and the prequel finalized with my cover designer. Once she finishes those, she’ll work on the one for Ugly. I’m figuring out my pre-publishing activities at this point. I’m still trying to decide if I’m going to go wide (publish everywhere) or focus on Amazon for a bit. I’m leaning toward wide. Always the New Girl will be available in ebook and paper and the prequel in ebook only. As soon as the cover is finalized, I’m submitting Always the New Girl to Kirkus for a review (I prepaid). Then I’ll release it (and the prequel) April 26th. I’m going to put some ARCs up on BookSprout to see if I can get some reviews soon after release. Once the Ugly cover is finalized, I’ll also submit that to Kirkus for a review. The release date for that is June 7th, and I’ll do BookSprout ARCs for it, too. I’m also looking into BookFunnel, which allows you to do promotions with other writers. I’m thinking I may do a FreeBooksy for both of the novels soon after release to see if I can get some traction. Not that I expect it to work, but I figure I should try. 

So even though it is all depressing and seems pointless, I’m moving forward. Maybe I’ll eventually catch a break some time. 

December 2021 Update

It has been a while since I’ve posted. I’m still not reading a ton, which is part of the reason there aren’t reviews being posted. But I’ve got a few things going on now. Thursday, I got news of a Kirkus Review of Finding Frances that was actually really good—I didn't realize it at first, but it is actually a starred review. You can find it here. I was pretty happy to see it. I still don’t know how to get people to read the book, but at least I can be comfortable that when they do, it’s not crap. 

I mentioned a couple months ago that I would be publishing Ugly on Kindle Vella. I did that, and you can find it here. The first 12 episodes are released now, and new episodes release every MWF. It will wrap up in March. It’s 807 tokens in total. I’d love it if you’d read it, thumbs-up any episodes you read, and fave it. I’m going to be getting a new cover image for it soon (more on that below). For Ugly, I added author notes on each episode because apparently readers like that. I am planning to go back and add them to all the Always the New Girl episodes soon.

I am already planning to publish Ugly next year in eBook and print, and also Always the New Girl as an eBook/print book plus an eBook prequel. So I got in touch with the cover artist who did my romance cover (which I loved), and she’s working on the three covers for me. These will be for the real book, but I’m going to license the image(s) she uses on the covers so I can reuse them without text on the Vella stories. So I’ll be redoing all those images soon. 

In other news, I am working on an exciting new project. It’s a book proposal for a YA nonfiction book on what I do for my day job. I’m pretty stoked about this because there actually isn’t a book for teens about it, and it’s recently been called the “sexiest job” all over the media. There are a lot of books for adults about it, but these make assumptions about the reader that wouldn’t work well for teenagers. I think I have a really good chance of getting this published, so I’m working away at the proposal and sample chapters. 

If I am lucky and this works out the way I want—as long I’m smart about it and choose well—I would have someone who would also look at my fiction. I’m going to also try to find someone who does picture books in addition to YA fiction and nonfiction. I may not be able to manage that, but I’m going to try. 

We will see how things go. It’s hard to imagine the future at this point. 

The only other thing I have going on soon is a pretty cool trip to Egypt (as long as omicron doesn’t ruin it).

Moving Forward, I Guess

So things are not going great. I’m pretty sure I posted earlier about my plan to give myself a real chance of getting an agent and getting published by a large press. My book coach told me that while she thinks my writing is good, it’s not quite at the publishing industry standards of quality. She said I was close, but just needed a little more to get my work all the way. Current wisdom says that agents won’t take on a project unless it’s publication-ready. No more do they take someone on and develop them. Or so it’s said. But I’ve heard plenty of stories about people being taken on by agents who then work with them on several revisions of their manuscript(s), so I don’t really believe it. Still, it does seem that I'm not going to be one of the lucky exceptions. I’ve done everything I possibly can to improve my craft to the point where my work is publication-ready, and I’m still falling short. Whatever the situation really is, I am not good enough to get an agent. 

So my book coach felt like with the right editor, who could make a deep dive into UGLY, maybe I could get it all the way to publication-ready. The trick was that this needs to be exactly the right editor. Someone who really knows the industry as it stands now, and would therefore know what I need to change to make it pass muster. She suggested one developmental editor, only to find out they weren’t taking on new work. I also got another recommendation from a Printz Honor author who is really good friends with a really good friend of mine, but she also wasn’t taking on new work. Then my book coach came up with another name she also felt confident would be able to help me with my specific needs. 

I sent the manuscript off in the first week of May. At first she was really helpful—she even looked at a query I had to send by the end of the month because of an opportunity I had to submit to Delacorte that month. I understood that it would take her about six weeks, which would mean that I’d have the manuscript back by the end of June. At that point, I followed up and got an answer that made it sound like I’d have it in less than two weeks, because she was just finishing up the second read and would then only have to transfer her comments to the document and write the edit letter. Two weeks passed and I followed up, and that is really where the nightmare began for me. Fast forward to October now, and I have had promise after promise that it would be delivered, and still don’t have it. The reason I let it go on this long is because she was having some really big and awful family and medical stuff going on. I don’t think she was lying. Though I’m not sure when it all started. But I would follow up about every two weeks, and every time I’d hear promises of an imminent delivery. At one point when I hadn’t heard back, I asked my book coach to follow up (they know each other), and then I heard back from the editor with more promises. She also claimed she loved the book and did have suggestions, but really believed in the book. Every time she was very credible, and I’ve become convinced that this was one of those things for her where you just get stuck on something, and can’t do it no matter how hard you try. But she still kept promising. By early September she was promising to refund me the first payment I’d made and still get me the feedback (earlier she had told me she wouldn’t be charging me the second half of the charge). I told her I didn’t want a refund, just the manuscript. I talked to a couple other writing friends who said I should just give up on the feedback and cut her loose. So I emailed a couple Saturdays ago telling her that if she couldn’t get it back to me by the following Sunday (last week), I just wanted a refund. As that date approached, an idea started forming in my head. Sunday came and went, and the next day, I got another email promising to get me the manuscript in what sounded like the same day. Didn’t happen. So Tuesday I finally officially gave up. I emailed her telling her I didn’t care about the feedback anymore and just wanted a refund. 

This whole thing has been hard for me because it has always been my dream to be agented and published by a major publisher. I have worked like crazy to get there. UGLY is my best work, and it still has collected over 100 agent rejections (adding to the mountain of rejections for Finding Frances, over 200). It just seems delusional to keep believing that me getting an agent is really possible. So telling the editor I don’t want the feedback anymore is giving up on a major dream I’ve been working toward for almost ten years.  

The editor did respond, saying she would be refunding me in a few days. She also said some nice things about the book and my writing—I know she did read the book—but I just think it’s not a good time to try to get an agent. It’s not going to happen. She again said she’s going to send me feedback. I believe that she will, but not necessarily this weekend like she promised. 

So, I have decided to publish UGLY on Kindle Vella, even though the Always the New Girl stories have completely bombed there. But supposedly your stories have a better chance of getting discovered if you are actively publishing episodes, so I will be publishing maybe two episodes a week. I have no idea how long it will take to get through the whole book, because I’ve got to break the manuscript down into episodes first. I am going to go the Vella route because I think if I publish it as a standard novel, I will never find readers. Most of the promotion things I know how to do target adult readers. And we all know that adult women do read YA, but this particular story is really going to appeal to teens more than adults. And supposedly Vella has teen readers. So that’s what I’m going to try. I do not anticipate success this time, either. I’m just not top-tier. But I have been wrong before, so maybe I’ll get lucky this time. If it doesn’t work out, when I finish publishing all the episodes on there, I can pull it off and publish it as a novel. So I was planning to send the manuscript as it is—and has been for over a year—to a line editor. She’d be able to get it back to me by the second week of November, and I’ll be able to make the necessary changes and split it into episodes hopefully by mid-November. But I’m thinking it might make more sense to wait until January to publish it, which means I have to time to see if the developmental editor really does send feedback, and attempt to incorporate it. Either way, between now and then, I need to get a really good book description written, a cover image ready, and figure out seven good tags to use. 

So I guess I’m forging ahead.

Stuck

This past week I tried my first advertising on Facebook and Instagram. I made an ad for “Now Would Be Good,” the first story in Always the New Girl as posted on Kindle Vella. I can’t say it’s working at all. People are clicking on it, but not a single episode from the series has been read this week. I have no idea how to get the message out. This writing thing is so hard. But I do think I’m going to go ahead and make an ad for Finding Frances. I suspect that one reason I’m not getting reads on “Now Would Be Good” is because people aren’t familiar with Kindle Vella.

I’m still waiting on the Ugly edits from the freelance editor, who’s having some (pretty awful) personal issues and can’t seem to finish the last step in getting it back to me. I’m just in limbo without it, though. I don’t want to start anything new. I want to wrap that up and start sending it out to agents again.

If it still fails to get me an agent, I don’t really know what I’ll do. Maybe I’ll just self-publish, even though I already know nobody would buy it. I just don’t seem to have the marketing chops to make it happen. But after that, I’m not sure if I’d start working on Sadie Speaks again. As much as I love YA, it doesn’t seem to feel the same about me. I do think I’m going to work on some of my romance projects and get those out there (self-published) to see if I can do any better in that genre (which is much more self-publishing-friendly). So most likely I will continue my break from YA for a bit.

On the other hand, if I do manage to land an agent, I will probably refocus and get back to Sadie Speaks. Or I might dive into the sequel to Ugly, for which I have the premise and main characters already worked out.

Anyway, time will tell.

May 2021 Update

So it’s been a couple months since my last post. Although my break has actually been kind of nice, I’m in a weird place. I haven’t been able to read YA lately (or anything other than picture books, really). Still, things have changed a little since then. I decided to send Ugly to a developmental editor my book coach recommended, as she thinks this editor could make the difference for me. So I’m going to give it one more shot. I should get it back from her soon, and then I’ll have to dive in. 

Additionally, I’ve decided to clean up the Sarah stories and publish them through Kindle Vella, which is a new serial platform that hasn’t been released yet, but is coming soon. This book is odd and was always going to be hard to sell. But it’s perfect for serialization, because it’s always been a novel in parts, where each part is a self-contained story, with all of them adding up to a larger story. So each novel part can be one “story” in Kindle Vella, with each chapter (or maybe a few chapters) making up an “episode”. Here’s an article if you’re interested in learning more about Kindle Vella. I’m in the process of finishing up the full draft (meeting with my critique partner today to go over the revised last story), and I’ll make any needed changes and send it to a developmental editor this week. Then, once I make any of her recommended changes, I’ve still got to send it to a copy editor (I could skip this step, but I probably shouldn’t—though I might be able to get away with it for the first one, since it’s been edited so heavily in preparation for going into my thesis). I’m still hoping to get the first story (I’m starting with “Now Would Be Good,” which is technically the second story chronologically, but I’m planning to do the actual first one at the end, as a prequel) published on Vella before it releases, but that probably won’t happen. But I can hope. 

I also found out that Finding Frances has won an indie award called the Next Generation Indie Book Award. There hasn’t been a press release yet, but I was notified earlier and you can see the list here. Once they’ve officially announced it, it will show up on this page. The book tied for first place in the First Novel (70k-90k) category. Now, this award isn’t exactly prestigious and there are a million categories, and I really would have rather placed in the YA category, but it’s still really nice to get some recognition. Somebody somewhere thinks it’s a good book, even if nobody is buying it. Also, the prize is $100, which I assume they’ll split in half since it was a tie. Which increases my income from this book by more than 50%. This book hasn’t exactly been a rousing success. 

Other than that, I haven’t been working on any other YA stories, instead focusing on my picture book venture. I’ve got two different drafts that are coming along nicely, and another new one I wrote a first draft of on Friday. I’m going to be starting drawing up thumbnails for the first one, even though it’s going to be a while before I can actually do the artwork. I’m taking Life Drawing this term, and let’s just say my ability to draw people… needs to develop a little. 

Here is a sketch I did in my Life Drawing class that doesn't suck.

 

A Change

So I’ve made a decision. Despite years of my best efforts, I can’t get anywhere with the gatekeepers in YA publishing. So I’ve decided to stop writing YA, as it’s not worth continuing to put this much energy into something when there’s no hope of getting what I want out of it. Ugly was supposed to be the one that got me an agent, because it’s exactly what they’re all claiming they want: something diverse and different. But despite over 115 queries to agents on it, fewer than five requested anything, and nobody’s giving me anything but form rejections (most don’t respond at all). I do still have one full out on it—my only thing out there, which she’s had since December—so maybe I’ll change my mind if she decides to take me on. But that is unlikely, given my track record so far. I’m 95% done with the Now Would Be Good stories, but that is virtually unsellable because it starts when the main character is 13 and ends the summer she’s 18. Nobody buys YA with protagonists that young, at least not without some serious convincing. I’ve always known this was a problem, but I thought I’d have a chance with it if I could get an agent on Ugly, which for so long I believed would happen. I’ve been working on Sadie Speaks, too, and my book coach thinks this one could make it, but from what I’ve been hearing at conferences, the YA suspense/thriller market’s saturated and it’s hard for new writers to break in. 

I’m still debating what to do about the romances I write under a pen name, because those I’ve long planned to self-publish, so I don’t need to convince anyone I’m worth looking at there. But I never cared about those as much as my YA, so I don’t know.

As you might have noticed from my blog here lately, I’ve already been sort of shifting my focus to my art and learning how to make picture books, so I’m just going to make that my only real focus. 

I’m not sure what this means for this site. I don’t plan to delete everything, but I’m not sure if it makes sense to switch to talking only about picture books when it’s been so focused on YA for so long. Do I start reviewing the picture books I’m reading here, or should I make a new site for that? I have no idea. I am planning to publish any picture books I make under my real name, so maybe I should just keep the site as it is and change what I blog about. It’s hard to know. 

I guess I’ll just figure it out later. 

Feeling bit lost at the moment…

I’d Love a Review

As I’ve mentioned, I’m on a quest for reviews for Finding Frances. I want to run a promotion on Book Bub, and the rumor is you need at least twenty reviews to have a chance. This past Tuesday, I ran a promotion on the book that resulted in at least some sales, so that’s cool (my rating on Amazon went from 1,702,055 on November 4 to 27,553 on November 10). Obviously that’s nowhere near great success, but it’s nice to not be in the millions for a few days. Maybe someone who bought it will review it… I can hope. I’m also still in the middle of a review tour where I’m supposed to get eleven more reviews. I did get my first review that was lower than four stars, so that was interesting. I’m not upset—it still counts toward my total reviews and I still have a fairly good average rating.

I did decide to do NaNoWriMo for sure this year, and I’m barreling ahead with it, way ahead on word count because I’m working off an existing draft that has some usable parts (i.e., I’m cheating). I’m rewriting one of my romances.

At the end of October, I revised the first five chapters of Ugly and wrote a new chapter that comes between chapters one and two. I’m hoping these changes will be enough to make the editors and agents like it (though I have the rest of the chapters yet to do—that will happen after I finish my NaNo draft).

I also got my feedback back from Lou on the revised Sadie Speaks (the first 20 pages, anyway). He was mostly positive but had some tips I can use. I have just one more submission for him, and one for my research class, and I’m totally done with the MFA. My thesis was accepted by the library for binding earlier this week, so I’m officially done with that.

Style

Not a lot has changed in the past few weeks. I got my thesis back from the second reader, so now I’m ready to finalize it and send it in. I finished my class about narrative distance and got some feedback from the teacher, so now I feel ready to tackle fixing Ugly. I’m pretty sure I’m going to try to do NaNoWriMo this year, after waffling about it for a while. I may not succeed—may, in fact, give up part way—but I’m going to start it and see how it goes. I’m going to be busy because I’m also taking two art classes. Being me, I decided to go for it, and I enrolled in a BFA program in Illustration. Crazy, I know. But I'll learn stuff.

I’ve still been working through a pen and ink techniques book, copying from the artist’s drawings. I’m getting better and learning some techniques, and developing my own style (slowly). I’ve included a few pictures below.

Drawing of trees on a hill

Drawing of small sailboat

Drawing of castle stairs

Writing and Education

I recently joined Sisters in Crime, a mystery/suspense/etc. writers’ group, just in time to attend there SinC Into Great Writing: Creating Authentic Characters webinar. I was excited about it because Lou Berney, the author I’m working with this semester for my suspense class in my MFA, was featured. But K. Tempest Bradford was also presenting about writing the other. I’ve heard of her but never seen her teach, which is a shame because she’s a great presenter. If you’re a writer wanting to learning about diverse representation and writing characters different from you, I highly recommend looking for her workshops. She’s very organized, clear, and deeply knowledgeable. She’s also a funny (not excessively so, but she kept it light despite the serious nature of the topic). She also talked about sensitivity readers. Apparently the going minimum is about $250/300, which isn’t bad to me. The next part of the webinar was a conversation about character with Walter Mosley and Lou Berney, which was also interesting. It really was just a conversation for the most part, with the moderator asking a few questions to get things going.

In MFA news, I sent my thesis to the second reader, which means there are no more changes to make. I also turned in the synopsis of rewritten Sadie Speaks to Lou last week and I’m looking forward to getting his feedback on it. If he doesn’t have recommendations for major changes, I’ll be able to submit two samples from the beginning of the book, which I’m hoping is two chapters each. Otherwise, I’ll have to revise the synopsis for the first submission. I just have one more submission to make in my research elective (though I do have half a book to read for it). So I’m really close to being done here.

Outside of that, I just started an online class called How Stories Get Told: Voice and Narrative Distance which I’m hoping is going to help me fix the narrative distance problem Ugly has. Because I think that’s the problem. We’re so buried in her head we can’t see the rest of the world.

I’m still internally debating doing NaNoWriMo this year. This is the month I need to do the planning if I want to make it work. I would be rewriting a romance of mine. I’m also trying to figure out if I’m going to cheat if I do decide to go for it. I already have some of the novel written (actually the whole thing, but only some of that is usable), so I could count the parts I pull in toward my word count. Normally, I’m a purist about it—I only start brand new projects and would never cheat. But it is 2020. So.

One issue is that I want to work on Ugly, too, so it will be hard to do both, which means I may not get to Ugly until December, when I told the agents I could get it to them by the end of the year. I’m also still actively working on the Now Would Be Good stories. I’m running it through my book coach 2500 words a week, with many weeks to go. On top of that, I’m taking another writing class on short stories that starts on October 13, so I’ll be trying to produce work for that. On top of that, I’m studying calculus to prepare for starting the statistics master’s again next fall. So really, if I were sensible, I would not do NaNo. But this is me, so who knows what I’ll decide.

An update on the expensive cat problem: my MacBook Air display died again, and this time they replaced it and two internal cables. So there really was something wrong with it that wasn’t from Maddox biting it. But I still installed a Maddox bite deterrent system:

Maddox Bite Deterrent System - cardboard taped to the corners of the screen

So far it’s working reasonably well. I’ve caught him biting the cardboard several times, but he hasn’t gotten past it yet.

Expensive Cat

There's really not much going on in my writing world. Still working away on the Sarah stories (Now Would Be Good). I worked up a new synopsis of Sadie Speaks to send to my mentor in a few weeks. I'm also really frustrated—I applied to a postgraduate semester in Writing for Children and Young Adults at the Vermont College of Fine Arts—I was hoping to work with a well-known YA author on Ugly—but they're taking a long time to get back to me. I think it's a rejection, which means I should get started revising Ugly again, but since I don't know, I'm stuck waiting. I'm kind of disappointed, though. I felt pretty confident in my application. But whatever.

I'm also trying to decide if I'm going to do NaNoWriMo this year. If I do, I'll be working on my second romance. It isn't totally planned out yet, which means I'll need to spend some of October prepping it. I haven't done NaNo since 2017, when I wrote Ugly.

I'm going to be running a sale (99 cents) on my book for a week in November and featuring it on Bargain Booksy again, on November 10th. I'm hoping to get a few more sales than I did when it was still $4.99.

Now for a little rant. This guy:

Maddox biting computer
Maddox trying to bite my work computer

Is in big trouble. I have a Macbook Air that I bought in July of 2019, and about four weeks ago the screen died. I fortunately have Apple Care, because they counted the chipped glass from Maddox's bites as accidental damage, so it didn't qualify for repair under the warranty (even though the tech at the Genius Bar agreed with me that it was unlikely to have actually caused the damage). That was $100. Within 3 hours of getting the repaired computer back, this monster bit the corner again, chipping it. Then, last Wednesday, the screen abruptly died. So, either his biting really is causing the damage, or I'm just really unlucky (no, I'm definitely unlucky, either way). I have an appointment at the Genius Bar Thursday. I'm hoping Apple Care will apply again and it will only be $100 again.

Sigh.