The Spark Award and a Personal Announcement

I had a pretty exciting thing happen this past week. I actually found out on Friday the 13th, which was a good day also because I finally mapped out the rest of UGLIER, something I had been struggling with for months. But the best part was the email I got from SCBWI saying Ugly was the Honor book for the Spark Award in the Books for Older Readers category. They announced it this past Wednesday.

!!!!

For your edification, here is the Ugly cover:

Ugly book cover

SCBWI is the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and most people in the world of children’s publishing are members or interact with it to some degree. They give the annual Spark Award for non-traditionally published books, for either younger readers (board books through chapter books) and older readers (middle grade and young adult). There is always a winner, who receives $1000, but they also have the option of also naming an Honor book (optional in that they don’t always do this), so it’s basically second place or runner-up. No money for that one, but it’s still an amazing honor given that there are hundreds of entries of middle grade and YA books (fiction and nonfiction).

Those of you who know me will not be surprised that my brain went, “Well, you know they only picked it is because it’s LGBTQ-themed.” Fortunately, my brain then went, “You idiot, there’s no way yours was the only LGBTQ-themed book entered.” So then I felt good again.

Validated and Feelings

One side effect of this win is that it made me feel validated. I’ve felt like a fraud since writing Ugly because I know people would look at me and say that it couldn’t be authentic because I am not personally nonbinary, or out as gender nonconforming, or using they/them pronouns. Of course, I’ve been thinking about all that since writing it—in fact, when I applied for my MFA, I put my gender as gender nonconforming. Ugly was such a personal story and I really felt the process that Nic went through in exploring her gender because in writing the book, I went through the exact same exploration she did.

I’ve said since then that if I were young, like a teen or in my twenties, it would be a no-brainer—I’d come out as nonbinary. But as someone in my forties, it wasn’t so obvious. There are a lot of considerations and it would impact a lot of areas of my life. It would be difficult for my family and friends (even though I knew they would all be supportive). I’d have to decide if I should come out at work, and that would likely be awkward. It just sounded sort of exhausting—I’d be constantly correcting people. And one thing I’ve learned from reading LGBTQ books is that I would also be constantly coming out, basically every time I met new people and groups. This made me feel tired. So I never did anything about it.

A Real Fraud

But that made me feel like a fraud. One time, an agent responded to a query on Ugly with the question, “Is this Own Voices?” I answered that it was complicated, and I explained that I was not out as gender nonconforming or nonbinary because of my age, but that Ugly was still as authentic as a story could be. She didn’t respond. So I knew for sure that my book would not be respected in the publishing world or the LGBTQ community. And it was frustrating because Ugly was straight from the heart and incredibly realistic. Also, the Own Voices idea always frustrated me because it was itself a binary concept (which I think is one of the reasons many have moved away from using it). Real life is much more gray.

Back to the present. Even though the Spark judges didn’t know how I identified, they obviously felt like the story was authentic and believable, and that felt good to me. For some reason, this recognition emboldened me to finally make the leap.

Coming Out

I have decided that I am gender nonconforming and have started using they/them pronouns. I’ve already come out in some spaces and will be continuing to do that. I’m honestly not entirely sure exactly what this means. Although the terms ”nonbinary” and ”gender nonconforming“ are often used interchangeably, to me they are two different things, and I am still trying to figure out which term best fits me.

But however that ends up shaking out, they/them pronouns feel the most accurate. So I will be using these going forward.

An In-Person Event: Shoreline Holiday Market

Last weekend I attended my first book event as part of the Author Event Network, the Shoreline Holiday Market held on the ground floor of the Shoreline City Hall parking garage. The most notable thing was how cold it was basically outside without even the sun to warm us up. It reached the low forties by noon, but didn’t go much higher. I got there about 9 and didn’t leave until after 5, so I appreciated the decent coat I have and the portable propane heater I bought the day before. I actually didn’t appreciate the heater until the propane canister ran out, and then I realized it actually had been helping quite a bit, as it got noticeably colder.

Table Setup

There were six of us there, selling different kinds of books. We each had about 3 feet of table space, and I tried to make the most of it. I feel like my display was pretty good, honestly. Here’s what it looked like:

Shoreline Holiday Market 2022 table display

I’ve definitely got the blues and greens going on, with a splash of purple. Assuming I get the rights back on Finding Frances I’ll have to do a cover with those colors, too.

Before the Storm

I took a couple shots of the full event setup a little before it started, so you can see the scale:

Shoreline Holiday Market 2022

Nobody’s there yet—the quiet before the storm. The event was actually pretty well-attended and our table for a lot of traffic. Here’s my view from my chair:

Shoreline Holiday Market 2022 table back

Selling and Lessons

In the above picture, you can see a sample of the crowd. A lot of the authors did really well, selling upwards of 20 books. I did not do so well, but I learned a lot while I was there. One thing is I’m going to have to come up with better hooks for all of my book descriptions. It’s true that I am able to talk about my books more coherently than I could at the beginning of my author journey. I don’t ramble about plot details or anything, but there’s not much of a hard hook to it. So I’m going to work on that before going to additional events.

I also learned that you don’t want the end spot if you can help it. I saw many people stroll past my table only to stop at the next one when they finally noticed books (and not backtracking to mine). Only a few people took candy without looking at my stuff, but I learned that Starburst are not the best candy to bring when it’s freezing—they were hard as rocks.

Future Thoughts

It looks like none of the 2023 events are until summer, so the Starburst won’t be a problem and I’ve got time prepare some hookier pitches. I was originally hoping to have Uglier out by next summer, but I don’t think that is going to happen because I’ve reprioritized my nonfiction project at least until I can get the proposal done. But who knows; I might get a burst of productivity.

Thank You, Mr. Heater Friend

You were appreciated.

Shoreline Holiday Market 2022 heater

PNWA Conference 2022

I’d been looking forward to the first in-person writing conference since 2019, which finally happened last weekend. I’ve been going to PNWA’s conference for years and during the pandemic they and everyone else switched to online. Although that is very logical, I have gotten to the point where I am so, so sick of online conferences. I went to eight or so. So it was great to be back and to see people I hadn’t seen in a while, and just generally be amongst writers. My friends and I hung out and compared sessions like we used to do.

New People

I also met a few new people, including some agents I was able to spend a bit of time talking to. One of them even encouraged me to reach out about Ugly and my nonfiction project. I’ve emailed her but haven’t heard back yet, but I know she’s incredibly busy, so it probably doesn’t mean anything after just a week. Anyone who’s followed my blog will know I’m not holding my breath at this point, but I am not an idiot and am not going to pass up a possible opportunity. I have no idea what might come of it. 

Writing Conference Fatigue

One additional thing I realized while I was at the conference was that I am also really burnt out on workshops. I napped through several (in my room, don't worry) and went to a few that underwhelmed me, and I don’t think the problem was the sessions—I think I may have just hit my limit of writing workshops needed in my lifetime. 

A Win (for Someone Else, But Still)

One cool that happened is that my fellow YA-writer and friend Stacia Leigh won first place in the contest’s short story category. This was a(n adult) story she wrote about her father’s death, where he experienced some dementia at the end and she imagined what that might be like. I critiqued it I think twice and I already knew it was good, but it was cool that it won. She’s finaled I think seven other times and never made it in the top three before, so this was cool. 

Book Signing Event

Stacia and I also had a table at the book signing they had Friday night. There weren’t that many indie authors—I heard there were about twenty, but it didn’t look like that in the room to me, so I don’t know. But we had the best table by far:

PNWA 2022 full table

Stacia’s is on the left side and her setup is definitely better than mine, but I think mine looks good, too. (Stacia’s also an artist and is way more into crafts than me, so this is more in her wheelhouse than mine.) Here’s a closeup of my side:

PNWA 2022 my side of the table

I recently bought a new display for the books that staggers them vertically, so that will look better. It’s from Clear Solutions. I'm considering painting the wood parts blue or a bluish green, since that's sort of the theme of my display. But here's what it looks like: 

Book display shelf

Anyway, things went pretty much like I expected—virtually no sales for me (two to friends). No one signed up for my mailing list or entered my giveaway. Some people did take candy. Stacia did run into someone she knows from her daughters’ school who she didn’t know was also a writer, and this person bought all five of her books, so that was nice. My own book-purchasing friends paid in cash, but Stacia’s used my Square reader (we had set this up in advance) so now I know this works. 

More Events?

One other thing that came of the weekend is that I met a guy who runs a group called the Author Event Network, which I ended up joining. He works with local events to get tables/tents for the members of the group. The idea is that it’s better for each author when there are other authors around, and I think he can also get better rates since he’s representing multiple people (I’m not sure about this, however).

The annual fee is relatively low, and then you just pay a relatively small fee for any events you actually attend. He only started this in December 2021, and he’s planning on keeping the number of members limited to make sure there are good opportunities for everyone. The remaining events this year are all pretty far from me (out on the Olympic peninsula), but I think I’m still going to try to make at least one to try things out. He says he really does well at these events. I haven’t really tried this, but I know other authors find events worth going to, so I figure I should give it a try. Even if I did decide to quiet quit. 🤷

Kirkus Round 2

Unrelated to PNWA, I also broke my quiet quitting decision by paying for an Kirkus author profile on their website (where it will remain permanently so I can always point to it). They said I could talk about more than Finding Frances (the starred review for that is what inspired them to contact me because there’s a list of recommendations you can be added to if you buy some type of ad), so I also mentioned Ugly.

A journalist interviewed me this past Thursday for it, which was kind of an odd experience. I was reminded of how weird and awkward I am. The profile is going to run in November, and I paid for a package that includes ads in the print magazine on November 1st and 15th, as well. Hopefully this will do better than my last ads did. This one has both Finding Frances and Ugly in the ad. 

In Summary

That’s pretty much where things are right now. Full steam ahead, also known as puttering along. 

 

For more, follow my blog for reviews and more news about my writing, and consider signing up for my newsletter.

Quiet Quitting

I’ve decided to change things a bit with my fiction writing. It doesn’t make sense to keep putting my heart, soul, and pocket book so energetically into my fiction writing. So I’m quiet quitting. 

That doesn’t mean I’m not writing anymore, but it does means things are going to be different. 

A Great Idea

Thursday I went to office hours for a BookTok class, and they gave me some great ideas to try on TikTok. One of them was to look in the Kindle version of my books and find all the text that had been highlighted by readers in order to quote them in videos (overlayed over flipping pages). This is really a good idea, because while some of what gets highlighted is mundane, I also see stuff that is more interesting and profound show up. So I went and bought all of my YA books on Kindle. And I soon discovered that not a single person has highlighted anything in any of my books, including the one that came out in 2020.

This just says FAIL. It doesn’t matter that my first book won some small awards and the next two also did well in a national contest. It doesn’t matter that there are a handful of people who really believe in my work and me as a writer. Ten people does not make a writing career. Virtually no one reads my books, no one follows me or interacts with my posts on social media, and no one reads my blog posts. It’s hard to deny that I have completely failed as a writer. 

The Effort

At the beginning of my journey, I took lots of classes on writing as a craft, and even went and got the MFA. All that was great, and I improved dramatically. I know I am a good writer. But I’m not quite good enough for the publishing industry, and there is no way for me to get there without help from someone in that industry, but I have been denied access to those people (300 agent and editor rejections sends a clear message). I’m simply not good enough for real traditional publishing, despite having done everything you’re supposed to do to get there, and promises that if I just “keep trying” it’ll definitely happen. This from people who write “inspirational” posts about how they queried 35 agents before FINALLY landing one. Puke. 

Trying to Not Feel Sorry for Myself

Faced with this rejection reality last year, and a comment from my book coach that my work wasn’t quite publishable (this was a surprise to me—I thought what we’d been doing the whole time was making my work publishable, not just throwing my money away), I got depressed and even somewhat lost the ability to enjoy reading (which was probably the worst part). So earlier this year, I decided that instead of feeling sorry for myself, I’d just go ahead and put my work out there rather than sit on it forever, even though I knew they weren’t going to be the best books they could be if I’d been able to find a major publisher. I thought that I’d just need to focus on marketing. Self-published authors obviously have full responsibility for their own sales. 

Social Media

I threw myself into learning about marketing and especially learning how to step out of my comfort zone, as self-promotion is very unnatural for me. I did everything I could, even going all-in on TikTok/BookTok, which in retrospect is kind of crazy—I’m someone who generally won’t even have my picture taken, and here I am getting on camera several times a week. But I didn’t take off on TikTok, where I cap out at about 230 views on every video, with very little interaction, despite several months of posting nearly daily and interacting with other BookTokers (again, way outside my comfort zone, but I did it anyway).

On Twitter, I’ve been trying to post regular content three times a week, and there is literally only one person who ever likes my tweets (an old friend). On Instagram, where I also try to post three times a week, I usually get five to fifteen likes, mostly from people I know in real life. So my social media "strategy" is obviously not working. 

Blogging

My blogs are even worse. I made my first post on this blog in January of 2017 because I knew you were supposed to have a platform to be taken seriously by the industry, especially agents, and blogging seemed the least intimidating way to start. “Platform” was the buzzword. Even though my post views have always been in the low doubt digits (sometimes in the single digits, actually), I kept going because I believed that eventually I could turn the tide, and then I’d have all this content. For many of those years, I managed to post something every single week.

I’ve tried different things to pull in readers, with no success. I also have a blog for my romance pen name, and I actually get more views on there even though I almost never post. I have another blog about my art that I get similarly low views on. My blog efforts are obviously not working either. 

Forging Ahead

With all this mounting evidence that for whatever reason, I can’t make myself a successful writer (the most obvious reason is that maybe I’m just a bad writer, but I really don’t think that’s it), I thought I would give it one more full-effort shot and actually pay an expensive publicist for help with my release of Ugly in June. Although it’s hard to definitively quantify the results of that because a lot of it involves longer-term impact, it seems to have been a total bust (especially considering how much I spent—many thousands of dollars). I’ve made about twice as much on Always the New Girl, released four weeks before, than I have on Ugly. But the money is laughably low so it doesn’t really matter much, anyway. 

Income

Since my first book was released 2.5 years ago, I have made less than $550 on book royalties. Contrast this with how much I’ve spent on writing, and it’s clear that this is an irrational pursuit. Since 2018 alone, I’ve spent nearly $89,000 on writing related expenses, from tuition, to editors, to software. Last month I sold a total of ten copies of my five self-published books, totalling $19.80 in royalties. Here’s a chart showing lifetime cumulative sales for all my books:

Chart showing cumulative royalties

Clearly, staying the course is completely insane. 

The Change

Last year, with all the agent rejections, I went through a bit of an existential crisis with my writing and thought I might give it up. But I didn’t seem to be able to stop. Then, when I hired the publicist this year, I decided that if this doesn’t work, I should seriously evaluate whether I should keep going. It didn’t work. So as I concluded above, I shouldn’t keep going as is, but as I learned last year, I probably can’t just quit. So I am going to keep writing fiction, just at a much lower energy level. 

I am continuing to work on Uglier, and I also have a romance I’ve just sent to my editor and will do final edits on it, but that’s all I’m going to do. I’m considering submitting the romance to a publisher that does offer an advance, but I’m not decided on that. If not, I’ll publish in November. When Uglier is ready, I’ll send it to the line editor and then publish it, and then I’ll figure out if I should work on the third book in that series or the third romance, or something else. I still have a draft of Sadie Speaks floating around somewhere. It needs a full rewrite, but the story is pretty solid. 

What’s Different

But I’m not going to keep making pointless social media and blog posts, I’m not going to constantly look for small and cheap promotional opportunities, I’m not going to enter any more contests, I’m not going to do any more freebies, and I’m not going to check my sales every day. I’m basically dialing back the energy. I’ll stop setting myself up for failure after failure, and just deal with the one long-term failure of low sales. 

For now, I’ll be giving more attention to the nonfiction and the picture book writing and illustration. I think both may be a direction I could still have some success with. I don’t “believe it with all my heart” or anything stupidly naive again, but there is a nonnegative chance. The only way I can find out is by trying. I have a great idea for a nonfiction book for teen and college students that I’ve started working on (plus I’m working on short nonfiction for adults for real magazines). I’m also working more on my art (I actually decided to withdraw from the degree program I was in, so I have more time to focus on what I want) and will soon be starting to work on sketches for the two picture book manuscripts I have ready. 

Future State

So I don’t know where things will end up, but I do know I will never be a YA novelist published by a major publisher. I’ll keep putting my work out there, but I’ll always know it isn’t as good as it could be. And that is still hard for me to accept, but there you go. 

So if you are one of the handful of people who really like my work, thank you and don’t worry—there will still be more of it. Uglier is actually coming along quite nicely right now. You will love what Nic has done with herself and a new character just barged into the story, and she’s going to be fun.

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. 

For more, follow my blog for reviews and news about my writing, and consider signing up for my newsletter.

Some Early Writing

I didn’t really start taking writing seriously until 2013, but I’ve always enjoyed writing and would often do writing projects, all the way back to elementary school. My mom’s cleaning out her closet and stumbling across stuff from when my brother and I were kids, including some of my old writing. Middle school was a really terrible time for me, with friends betraying me and other crap, and one of the things I did to cope was to write for the school’s monthly newsletter. The way we worked back then (it was still the 1980s, after all), was I would handwrite it and turn it in so someone could type it up in newsletter format, and then they’d photocopy it and distribute. 

The Horoscope Debacle

I wrote a horoscope column every month and occasionally did other things. I did the horoscope because I thought astrology was stupid and illogical and I was actually mocking it by making crap up rather than pretending to consult the charts. Things like “Your parents have a party and Aerosmith plays at it.” Not super clever. But whatever. Being me and 13, I wasn’t always exactly on time with my column. One month I was a little late, but got it submitted at the last minute.

The next week, the woman who ran the newsletter was stressed out when she saw me, and I learned that the minister at the church across from the school had complained about my horoscope column so they decided to stop running it. But because I was late, they thought I wasn’t going to submit it at all, so it ran that month even though the asshole church dude told them not to. It still annoys the crap out of me. I was mocking it, you dipshit. It reminds me of when people get upset about articles from The Onion because they think they’re real. Idiots. 

I was so annoyed back then, but I was determined to figure something out. I knew I just needed something that split students up into a reasonable number of groups, 10-ish or so. We all had a homeroom, and while I don’t remember at all how those worked, I do remember I convinced the newsletter lady to let me run forecasts based on your homeroom. So that’s what I did. If you were in Mrs. Smith’s homeroom, you were going to have a surprise visit from a long-lost relative, for instance. So I got to stick it to the minister guy. Stay in your lane, jerk.

But anyway.

Unintentional Subversion

My favorite thing that came out of that body of writing is a memorable article called “Dogs of All Kinds.” Remember that somebody else typed this up. This is important, as even then I was pretty good with language and was careful. I’m just going to share an image of the article. Check out the first sentence of the third paragraph.

Dogs of All Kinds article
Some early subversive writing

Why yes, I suppose some people do. My friend concluded that I was subversive even back then. I think it’s so funny. 

But you can also see that I hadn’t yet been converted into a cat person at that point. Things have changed.

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. 

 

For more, follow my blog for book reviews and more news about my writing, and consider signing up for my newsletter.

Social Media Frenzy

Frenzy probably isn’t the right word, but I have decided to really commit to being more active on social media, because apparently that is the best way to get attention on your books (nothing else has worked, for sure). And apparently TikTok is the most important one for authors, because BookTok is a big thing and authors swear it brings them readers. So I’ve opened an account there, too. But there’s that old rule of making sure to not only do marketing. You’ve got to have real non-promo content, too. This is not easy for me as I never think anything I do is interesting, unless I’m making it up.

So I have a plan. I’m going to get back to doing those staged book quotes I’ve done on Instagram for a while. But I’m also going to post that content on Twitter, as well as links to my reviews posted here. And I’ll post the Medium essays I’ve started writing on Twitter, as well. Occasionally I’ll post pictures of my books and links to them, including the Vella stories while they’re up. For TikTok, I’ve started making these really dumb videos of me holding different books, with a quote from the book appearing over my head. And I’ll be posting content to Medium once a week, too. With the exception of Medium, I use all these accounts for everything I do, not just writing YA or art or whatever. And there will still be cats. I have this schedule I’m planning to follow: Twitter M/Th/Sa, Instagram Tu/F/Su, TikTok W/Sa, and Medium M only. I’m going to continue posting my reviews to the website here and adding those to my Pinterest boards. 

Anyway, if you are interested in following me on any of these platforms, here they are (and don’t ask me about the TikTok user name … grr):

I do also have a Facebook page you can follow if you feel like it: https://www.facebook.com/Kelly-Vincent-Young-Adult-Author-106808441724806. I don’t do much with it right now, but I needed it to run ads on Facebook, so it’s there now. Feel free to follow.

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.

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…

First Royalties

Not a lot to report at the moment. My MFA residency started Friday, so I’m busy with that.

I did make a post to Facebook post (my first ever) about Finding Frances a couple weeks ago, and a couple people bought it. But still, getting it in front of people is nearly impossible.

I got my first royalties check, which came as a pitifully small direct deposit. But it did come, and I’ve now made actual money from Finding Frances.

royalties payment direct deposit

The only other thing going on is I’ve decided to start drawing again, which means I’m practicing with books and an art teacher. A couple of the books I’m using are about drawing cats, so here are a couple of the ones I’ve copied from one of the books:

Kittens

Shakespeare… Or Not

So I was supposed to write a review this week, but I didn’t finish the book I’m reading, so it will have to wait until next week. Instead, I’m going to share with you something interesting I ran across on Goodreads. Goodreads has this feature called Similar authors. If you go to my author page, you can find the link Similar authors under my books. I was curious what they would say.

Apparently I am most similar to William Shakespeare.

Under him are a bunch of authors, including several award-winning ones.

Somehow, I feel like their conclusion is a bit questionable. What it probably means, most likely, is that Shakespeare’s works are the most commonly read among all my readers—so I guess my readers are a bit more highbrow than I am.

Wend f'rth and seeth what thee findeth.

Notes from Lockdown

Story Genius book coverThis won’t be a very exciting post. Not a lot to report. Like everyone else, I’m stuck in lockdown, going stir crazy. I usually do most of my writing at Starbucks, so it’s been a challenge to learn to work at home. Especially when I’m working from home for my day job, too. I just sit in the same chair from 7 am to 8 or 9 pm, swapping out computers at about 3:30. One nice thing that is helping me not go crazy is that some of my writing friends and I meet on Zoom every day and chat and do writing sprints. It helps to talk to other people.

What I’m most busy with is my thesis (specifically the 15-20 page paper about a craft element in novels). I had to totally rewrite (well, reorganize) it this weekend. It’s due a week from Friday so I’ve only got one weekend after this one to finish it. It isn’t the final final version, since I can still work on it during next semester, but I don’t want to have too much to do on it.

I’m also working on planning out the final-to-be-written Sarah story, which will be the second-to-last in the collection. I’m using a method outlined in the book Story Genius (pictured here), but I signed up for the Story Genius Workshop, which is a self-paced online class that walks you through everything step-by-step. There are videos explaining everything, and then long worksheets to fill out. They also have the option to pay extra for a coach, someone who will give you feedback on every step. I applied for that and am waiting to hear how much it costs. We’ll see if I do it. One interesting thing about this process is that it is going to require me to change some things in the earlier story, especially the long first one.

I’ve also got Ugly out with a bunch of agents, though nobody’s biting. I keep getting form letter rejections. The gatekeepers hate me.