Author Interviews, Blog

Author Interview: Matt Holmes, Non-Fiction

My name is Matt Holmes (Pen Name: Matthew J Holmes) and I write non-fiction books around the topic of advertising for self published authors. My most recent book is The 7 Day Authors Guide To Facebook Ads.

From Planning to Published

When did you start writing and why?

I have been writing blog posts about marketing and advertising for many years and have also written lots of scripts for all sorts of videos/short films as I used to run my own Video Production Company. However, when Covid-19 hit back in March 2020, my Video Production work came to an abrupt halt.

So although I have written a lot of words over the years, I didn’t start writing my first book until April 2020! And then, with new babies on the way, major house renovations we were doing and feeling the imposter syndrome that a lot of us do, it took me until January 2021 to go back to that first book, review it, rewrite it, edit it and finally publish it.

Since January, I have released 2 further books, so I guess you could say I caught the bug! I wrote these books because I had a lot of information in my head that I needed to get down onto paper and I felt could help other self published authors avoid the pitfalls and mistakes that I have been through with advertising and marketing.        

How long did it take you to finish your first book?

I started writing my first book in April 2020, but I didn’t get round to publishing it until January 2021! So, around 9 months in total! But in terms of the outlining, writing, editing, proof reading, book cover design and everything else that comes with publishing a book, the total amount of time I spent was around 2 months.   

Are you indie, traditional, hybrid, or vanity, and why?

I am indie author; I just love the control that being indie provides; we are in control of our own destiny and can change course if and when we need to, without having to go through lots of red tape or barriers that can come with traditional publishing.     

How did you determine your target audience?

My wife is a self published author and she is my perfect target audience avatar! There will be lots of self published authors, like my wife, who are overwhelmed and perhaps, intimidated about the advertising and marketing side of self publishing, so my books are written in such a way to make advertising more understandable and relatable. Advertising is simple, but it’s not easy. My aim with the books I write is to simplify advertising as much as I can, whilst at the same time, making sure that the reader actually implements and takes action on the content.      

What is your publishing process?

First, I determine where the reader is before they start reading my book. Then I determine where they want to be after reading my book. I then map out the process they need to take to reach their destination, step-by-step and create the chapters of the book from there.

The next stage is fleshing out the content and specifics for each chapter. From there, it’s a case of writing the first draft of the book. I use a lot of images in my books to visually explain what I’m talking about, so I add these images in as I’m writing.

I then go back through the book from beginning to end to flesh out and refine the content, making sure I’ve covered everything I need to. Finally, I run my books through Pro Writing Aid to help with structure, flow, consistency, etc. Pro Writing Aid is an amazing tool; so many powerful features and reports; I can’t recommend it enough to every single author!

What platforms do you use to publish your works?

I publish primarily on Amazon and put all my focus onto Amazon. However, because my books are permafree (i.e. always free) at this moment in time, I also publish them through Draft2Digital and then ask Amazon to price match my books to one of the platforms I’ve published to through Draft2Digital.

Ultimately though, 99.9% of the downloads for my books come from Amazon so that is where I focus all my advertising and marketing.     

How do you get critiques, betas, feedback, and edits?

I have an email list who are fantastic at providing feedback on the books, let me know of anything I’ve missed out on, spelling and grammar issues, etc.     


Marketing

Do you have a platform? What does it consist of?

I have an email list which I have built and continue to build by providing free resources to authors, such as tracking sheets, planning tools for advertising, as well as a free 3 part video series that shows authors, over my shoulder, how I plan, build, optimise and scale ads on The Big 3 advertising platforms for authors, Facebook Ads, Amazon Ads and BookBub Ads.

What is your launch plan for your works?

I’m relatively low-key with my launches! I just publish it to Amazon, tell my email list about the book and then start running Amazon Ads to it. That’s it! Nothing fancy at all.

However, I also run the advertising and marketing for my wife’s fiction novels and they are a different animal when it comes to launching. I start planning for the launches of her new books 3-4 months in advance! I use Kindle Countdown Deals for my wife’s books when launching and spend a lot of money ($2500+ during the 7 day Kindle Countdown Deal) on Facebook Ads, Amazon Ads and BookBub Ads, as well as promo sites, such as eReader News Today, Bargain Booksy, BookRunes, etc. And for the upcoming launch, we are also going to be trying out some PR tactics as well as influencer marketing, which is exciting.     

How do you get reviews for your books?

My email list are great for leaving reviews which is wonderful. And I also use BookSprout; readers receive a free advance copy of my book and in exchange they leave a review.     

How do you promote your content?

Primarily, I use Amazon Ads to promote/advertise my books. However, I have an Autorespinder sequence setup which introduces my email subscribers to books of mine that they may not have read.     

What do you think is the most critical marketing component or tactic for becoming successful?

Persistence, patience and testing. There is no right or wrong way to advertising/market a book. You just have to do what feels right to you. Yes, there will be tactics you try that don’t work and that’s ok. You just have to have the resolve to not throw in the towel and give up too soon.

Marketing/Advertising is something a lot of authors don’t enjoy; they just want to focus on writing because it’s what they love the most and that’s fantastic. However, as a self published author, you need to not only wear your writer’s hat, so to speak, you also need to wear your business hat, particularly if you want writing to become your full time career.

How do you define success as an author?

As a non-fiction author, success to me is when I receive an email from a reader who says that they have taken action on what I have written about in one of my books and they have seen great results from it, or my words have had an impact on the way they see advertising.

If I can impact just one person from my books, that to me, is a success.    

What made you want to learn about advertising?

I have always loved marketing and advertising and I initially learnt about the fundamental of it so that I could reach more potential clients for my video production business. However, when my wife released her first novel several years ago, I jumped at the opportunity to learn about advertising and marketing in an industry I hadn’t explored before. From then on, I’ve been hooked on advertising and marketing books!

Why did you select the platforms you did to study and really figure them out?

Facebook Ads, Amazon Ads and BookBub Ads are The Big 3 as they are sometimes known amongst authors, so this is where I thought I should start.

What do you think is the biggest obstacle when it comes to advertising?

Overcoming the fact that some ads just will not work and to be ok with that. Even the best advertisers in the world have ads that don’t work; it’s just part and parcel of the advertising game.

What is the main benefit for readers who pick up a copy of your book/website?  (What do you hope they get out of it?)

Ultimately, I hope readers of my books will be able to take action on what they read and learn. Paralysis by analysis can be very real when facing something new and daunting such as advertising. I want to help authors overcome this fear and take action. Once they do, and they start seeing results, they will hopefully be able to get out of the mindset that they can’t run ads or don’t know how to run ads and start to reach more readers, sell more books and ultimately, start building their author career.

How do you think our quickly advancing technological society will affect online advertising and its importance for authors?

This is a difficult one! Advertising platforms are changing and evolving every single day. Although the fundamentals of advertising remain consistent, it’s the intricacies of the individual platforms and the tactics we use on them that will change. As the likes of Facebook learn more and more about its users, they have millions upon millions of data points that help us, as advertisers, reach the right readers, which is an incredible tool to have in our toolkit.

However, some people aren’t comfortable with companies such as Facebook and Google knowing so much about them; where they live, their age, their interests, what websites they look at online, etc. Yes, it can be sort of scary when you think about it, almost like Big Brother!

But from my perspective, as both a consumer and an advertiser, I don’t want to see content online that I have absolutely no interest in. Time is our most precious resource and I want spend it on things that matter to me, whatever that may be. So if the likes of Facebook know a lot about me and that allows them to personalise what I see on their platforms, based on my own interests, then I am more than happy for them to do so.

Just think about watching TV and how we tend to ‘skip’ the adverts/commercials. Why do we do this? Because they aren’t relevant to us. If the adverts/commercials were about things that interested us, then we would be much more likely to pay attention to them and not ‘skip’ them. The advertisers would win because they would get more eyeballs on their products/services, the consumers wold win because they would be seeing products/services that can help them, and the advertising platform would win because they would be attracting advertisers who can reach their ideal audience, as well as showing their consumers/customers adverts/commercials that were relevant.

It’s a win-win. The technology to achieve this is almost here really and we are already seeing it a lot on Facebook, Instagram and Amazon. It all comes down to relevance and that’s exactly what Amazon and Facebook are all about and built upon; showing relevant ads/books to relevant readers. The more relevant we can be with our ads and our targeting, the cheaper our advertising costs and the better our conversion will be.


About Your Work

How many works have you published?

I so far have 3 books published, with several more ideas on the back burner! The 3 books are in my 7 Day Author Series:

Can you tell us a bit about your most recent publication?

My most recent publication is The 7 Day Authors Guide To Facebook Ads where I walk readers through how to plan, build, launch, optimize and scale their first Facebook Ads.

Facebook Ads can be pretty overwhelming and daunting the first time you lay eyes on it and as is my focus on all the books I write, I want to reduce this feeling of overwhelm and focus on the fundamentals of Facebook Ads and learn enough to start seeing some results quickly.

A quote I really like is: Action creates more action. Inaction creates more inaction. If you can start taking action, you will want to take even more action and it becomes almost addictive! Likewise, if you take no action, it can be very difficult to do anything more than take even less action.

Yes, there is a lot to learn with Facebook Ads, but what I focus on is not looking at everything you need to do and learn; instead, just focus on the next step, then the next step, then the next step. If you focus on every single thing you need to learn about Facebook Ads in one hit, you are likely to never take any action whatsoever, because you get caught up in paralysis by analysis.    

So that is a long winded way of saying that my most recent book is about making Facebook Ads accessible for authors who don’t (yet) enjoy or get excited about advertising, my breaking it all down in to a simple 7 day process, with actionable steps at the end of each Day to help them take action and keep moving forwards. At the end of the 7 days, my aim is for the reader to have launched their very first Facebook Ad and have the knowledge to know how to optimize and scale their ads as and when the time is right.

Do you have other supporting services like a podcast, blog, webinars, courses, video channel?

I write in-depth guides and case studies on my website all around the topic of advertising and I have recently launched a brand new podcast, The Author Ads Academy Podcast, where I will be sharing weekly content about advertising for self-published authors.     

Do you recommend any programs, courses, or websites?

I find that the Kindlepreneur website has a lot of great blog posts about self publishing and this was a fantastic resource when I was brand new to this industry. I do till go to the Kindlepreneur website today and see what interesting articles they have published.

Sometimes, we need to come out of our own little world and look around us to see what other people are doing in the industry. One thing that is so true with self publishing is that you never stop learning. There are new technologies, algorithm changes and a whole lot more that happen on a regular basis; we need to keep upto date with all of this, because although the fundamentals may remain the same, it’s the intricacies of advertising particularly that can change on a regular basis. The way I see it is if we don’t change and evolve, we get left behind. 

Have you always read in the genre you wanted to write in? Do you think that’s made it easier or harder to create new stories?

I have always read non-fiction books, mainly around the topics of business, marketing and personal development. I feel that this has given me a good understanding from a reader’s perspective about what makes a book enjoyable to read.

On top of this, however, I have found that some books go too deep into the weeds on theory and leave out the critical element of actually taking action on the content within the book. This is why I have written my books in such a way that I provide Action Steps throughout to encourage readers to implement what they are learning so that they can start seeing results.   

Where do you network most with other writers, authors, and creative types? LinkedIn? Wattpad? Twitter? Facebook? Somewhere else?

I primarily focus on networking with other authors inside Facebook Groups and helping out with struggles and problems other authors are having that I have been through or had experience in.    


Struggles

What has been the hardest thing to overcome on your journey to authorship?

I think my biggest struggle has been overcoming Imposter Syndrome. I felt that little voice in my head saying “who am I to…”, “why would people listen to me…”, “what have I got to say that would make people want to pay attention to me…”  

Once I got over those feelings and managed to quieten down that nagging little voice in my head (my inner bi*?h!) through a lot of personal development work, things became a lot easier.

Do you have any tips or recommendations for those who want to go the final step and become authors?

Focus on writing the best books you possibly can. You can’t advertising or market a poor quality product. If you can write a great book, it makes the advertising and marketing of that book so much easier and enjoyable. Also, don’t try and write for everyone. There are some people out there who just won’t enjoy your books and that’s ok. You are not writing your book for them. You are writing your books for those people who devour every word, who clamber over your next book, who get lost in your world and never want to come out. Those people are your readers. Write for them and no one else.      

If you could do it all over again, what would you change?

I would publish sooner. I would focus on overcoming the imposter syndrome and get my books out there into the world. You will never be 100% ready. So just do it. The best time to publish was yesterday. The next best time is right now.     

Are you a driven & self-advocating author, a gun-shy promoter, or a total marketing procrastinator?

I have worked for myself since leaving University back in 2010, so I have always been driven to achieve what I want to achieve. However, there are definitely days where I procrastinate on marketing and promoting myself, without a doubt. That little voice in my head crops up from time to time and temporarily stops me from taking action on some things that are important to me. But once I quieten down that little voice, I’m back on track.      

How do you keep yourself motivated?

Every single morning I read and look at my goals not only for this year, but for my life as a whole. I also practice visualisation every morning and envision the life my wife and I want to build for our family. After my morning routine, I make sure that everything I am doing is working towards achieving those goals and our vision.     

How do you combat writer’s block?

I step away from the computer and spend 10-15 minutes with my wife and our 2 babies. That is enough motivation for me to get back on the horse, as it were and start writing again. It also helps to just give myself a screen break and turn my mind to something else for a few minutes.     

  


Fun Stuff

What do you listen to while you write?

I listen to Brain.fm! This an App that plays sounds/music that affects the way your brain works, but not in a bad way! Within 5-10 minutes, I am completely focused on my writing and almost forget about the outside world! Brain.fm works best with headphones, so I put on my noise-cancelling headphones and I’m gone! It just helps me focus in a way that music from Spotify, for example, just doesn’t.

Where do you write your stories? A tiny office? A loft? The kitchen table? In the bushes while you secretly people-watch like a total creeper? Or a warm café with mocha in hand and feet up on an ottoman?

We have an office in the garden, so this is where I like to write. My desk is in here, but we also have a big couch that I sometimes lay down on to write too!      

What book are you reading at the moment?

I’m currently proof reading my wife’s book before it goes off to the editors, in preparation for her upcoming launch!    

What have you learned about yourself from the writing and/or authorship process?

That I have a lot of knowledge I didn’t realise I had!     

What is your favorite writing snack and drink?

Tea, raisins and cashew nuts. Yea, a little bit weird, but it works for me!     

Do you have a writing companion?

Sometimes, one of our dogs, Freya and Loki, will join me in the office. But I think that’s only because they want to finish my cup of tea!    

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

You don’t want to reach the end of your life and meet the ‘you’ that you could have been. You want to get to the end of your life with no regrets and know that you have made an impact on your family, your friends and the world as a whole. Live life to the full and enjoy every single moment.     

The best place to find me is on my website, www.matthewjholmes.com. From there you can see my books, the podcast, my blog/marketing guides, my free video training and much more.     

Author Interviews, Blog

Author Interview: Megan Lally, Psychological Thriller & Horror

Hi! I’m Megan Lally, I’m a young adult author who specializes in psychological thriller and horror— all the creepy things that go bump in the night. I’m represented by Mandy Hubbard, at ECLA, and we’re working on edits of my latest manuscript right now, actually. It’s a YA thriller about a girl who wakes up in a ditch, covered in blood with no idea who she is, only to be collected at the police station by her father and brought “home.” But it’s not home at all, and he’s definitely not her father.

From Planning to Published

When did you start writing and why?

Author:      I started writing in 2009? I think? Somewhere in there. My son was just born and someone gifted me the box set of Twilight for my first Mother’s Day and it was the first time I ever read YA fiction. After that, I started reading everything, and eventually I started picking apart characters and endings and wishing they’d done it differently, etc, until I eventually opened a fresh document and started writing a book of my own. It was terrible, haha, but I loved the process! I loved being creative in that way. And I just never stopped writing stories down. I’ve been writing for about 12 years now. Which makes me feel super old.

How long did it take you to finish your first book?

Author:      My first book probably took about a month, month and a half to draft. Haha. BUT, that’s because I knew nothing about writing a book, so it was 120k words of nonsensical word vomit. There was no plot, or character development, and the dialogue didn’t make any sense at all. People just wandered around being surprised about everything for 30 chapters.

I’ve found that the more I learned about writing the longer it took me to get the words down, because I’m constantly applying all that knowledge to every scene. So now it takes quite a bit longer to reach “The End.” If we’re talking about how long it took for me to finish the book that got me my agent, that’s closer to 5-6 months or so, and my latest book took closer to 8 months.

About Your Work

What type of content do you write and why? Fiction Novels? Poems? Songs? Screenplays? Short Stories? Epic?

Author:      All fiction, all the time. Couldn’t do a memoir, my life has been too boring. Haha. And I’m not made for short stories. They all end up being 40k words, because I’m long winded.

What genres and subgenres do you write in?

Author:      Thriller and horror mostly, though I do love to dabble with fantastical elements so I may try a horror fantasy combo in the future. I also have a long lasting love of historical/historical fantasy, so that may make an appearance some day too.

What is your author brand (genre, mood, image, theme, message, etc)? How did you decide on it?

Author:      This is still evolving a bit, as I work my way toward a debut, but I think my author brand is probably a collection of terrible, creepy things, happening to incredibly strong people. All things dark and terrifying, but with a twist of hope and a whole lot of spunk and sarcasm.

Name some common elements in your writing: villains, magic, red-herring twists, the unfortunate ensign, mysterious phenomena, asyndeton, sentence fragments etc.

Author:      I’m a big fan of red-herring twists, and almost every book I’ve ever written has had a thread of romance. Even in the midst of the creepy and terrifying, there’s always another connection there, and it’s kind of like a balance between the light and the dark, in a way. I’m also a huge fan of the em dash, snarky dialogue, and badass girls who overcome seemingly insurmountable odds.

What was your first goal when you started your journey to becoming an author? Has that changed?

Author:      My first goal probably goes back to me reading all those YA books and imagining them happening in different ways. There would always be books I’d read, and sigh, and hold tight, thinking, “I wouldn’t change a single thing about this one.” I wanted to be the one who wrote one of those for someone else to read and sigh and hold tightly with that same feeling. I still want that.

What do you want your readers to get out of your works?

Author:      That the darkness in the world doesn’t always win.

Which authors write similar books to yours? How did you find them?

Author:      Courtney Summers, Karen McManus, Kendare Blake, Barry Lyga, Maureen Johnson. I found most of them from the book store in the thriller/horror section, or on Goodreads. Also from recommendations from friends and fellow writers. LOVE them. Courtney Summers is like, my idol. I love her.

Have you always read in the genre you wanted to write in? Do you think that’s made it easier or harder to create new stories?

Author:      No, I started reading in romance and YA paranormal, and I actually started writing in that vein when I first started, before I discovered my love of creepy things and true crime. But I still read very widely. Romance, fantasy, science fiction, YA, MG, thrillers, contemporary, contemporary fantasy, urban fantasy, historical. They can all teach you different things.

I think it’s vastly important to know your genre really well and understand what kinds of tropes and trends are out there, but it’s equally important to read ALL the things. You can learn a lot from the types of books you write but being widely read will teach you things about world building, character development, romantic arcs, endings, twists, tension, opening pages, and prose that you can’t always get from reading the same types of books over and over.

What is your writing process, from idea to polished work? Pantster? Plotter? How long does that typically take you?

Author:      I’m a HUGE plotter. I can’t pants a book, it would give me anxiety. I can pants a chapter, sometimes? If I know what needs to be there, I don’t need all the details but I’m a tangent writer so if I tried to pants a whole novel I’d start off on chapter one, and end up writing a whole different book, and ghosts and dragons would show up in the middle, and it would be a mess. I need the structure of plotting to keep the story on track.

Typically I start with post-its. I’ll take my spark of a book idea and break it up into the major plot points I want to happen and I’ll write them all down on a separate post-it. Then arrange them in an order that makes sense on one of those foam presentation boards. Then I add more, to fill out the scenes in between. What starts out as 5 or 6 major plot twists, will turn into 30 or 40 scenes, all sketched out on the tiny squares. Then I group them into chapters. After that, I transfer all that information to a word document, broken up chapter by chapter in bullet points. Then I add more details, and sometimes snippets of information and dialogue. My outlines are typically about 5-10k words long. Sometimes longer. Once it feels like it has enough detail, I start with a fresh document and I start writing.

Where do you network most with other writers, authors, and creative types? LinkedIn? Wattpad? Twitter? Facebook? Somewhere else?

Author:      Twitter and Instagram mostly.

Do you sprint-write like a starving cheetah, or are you a totally chill turtle writer? Somewhere in between?

Author:      I sprint. A lot. I typically procrastinate with a lot of my writing time, and then I’ll get really into it and fast draft like a whole chapter in a couple hours, and then I need a nap. Haha. My creative energy has always come in bursts. I’ll never be a writer who can sit down and stay on task for 8 hours a day, but when the burst hits, I can draft quite a bit in a short amount of time, so I guess it all balances out?

Struggles

What has been the hardest thing to overcome on your journey to authorship?

Author:      The self-doubt. 100% the hardest, though I don’t think I’m alone there. Self-doubt is the enemy of so so many authors because being creative is hard! It takes such a long time to not only learn how to do this writing thing, but then to trust that we know what we’re doing. Every time I start a new book I somehow convince myself I’ve forgotten how to write, when the reality is, I’ve just been in editing mode on a much more polished draft, and a fresh manuscript and all it’s flaws is a very different beast.

Struggling with something doesn’t mean you’re incapable, or bad at it. Writing is hard, revising is hard, querying is hard, going out on sub is hard, and you can struggle through all of those things and still be damn good at what you do. That’s been the hardest to learn and internalize.

How has the writing and querying or publishing process affected you emotionally? Do you have any tips for budding writers?

Author:      It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster. A lot of excitement, a lot of waiting, and a lot of anxiety. Haha. It’s just really hard to take this thing you’ve poured your heart into and fling it out into the world for other people to read and have opinions about. I was a mess when I went out on sub for the first time, but it’s a whole process of growing that thick skin that authors need so badly.

So my advice is to remember that not everyone is going to like your books. Some people may hate them, and that’s fine. I’ve read some hugely popular books that I didn’t like either. Personal taste is a real thing, and it’s real when you’re querying, it’s real when you’re on sub with editors, and it’s real as a reader. It’s been a long process to learn how to not take that personally and step back enough to ask myself “Am I happy with what I made here?” and let that be enough, ups and downs be damned. Write for yourself. Write books that you love, and there will always be someone out there who will love it too.

Do you have any tips or recommendations for those who want to go the final step and become authors?

Author:      Grow that thick skin. Don’t shy away from feedback, every “problem” pointed out is an opportunity to make your book even better. Get yourself some quality critique partners, and swap pages. Get used to taking good and bad notes with stride. Learn the market. Read widely, and read critically— seeing how authors pull off difficult scenes, how they describe things in that “wow, I can really see this” way, how they engage you with the dialogue, how they keep the tension. Learn everything you can from the authors you love the most, and it’ll all morph together in your own writing style. And most importantly, keep going. Even when it’s hard— because it will be hard— don’t give up on yourself.

How do you combat writer’s block?

Author:      I try to write my way through it. Usually writer’s block is brought on by a sense that you’ve lost your way a bit in your story, so I’ll take a look at my outline again, and the scenes that came before I got stuck, as well as what I had planned for the next scenes. And then I’ll set a minimum amount of writing time a day (typically around 30 minutes) where I tinker with those scenes until something lights that bulb and I find my way through the problem. Talking things out with critique partners is also immensely helpful. If you look at “writers block” more as “I am lost” it becomes a mission to find your way back, rather than a wall you can’t break through.

Fun Stuff

What do you listen to while you write?

Author:      All the things. I have about a hundred Spotify playlists for various projects. I’m a big fan of writing to music with lyrics, which I know a lot of people hate doing, but I also have a bunch of classical lists, or ambient noise for when I’m struggling to focus. I love making playlists for fight scenes or kissing scenes, or super scary scenes (there are a ton of classic songs that have been slowed down and remade to sound SUPER creepy and I’m totally here for all of them.) The music is a big part of my writing process.

Is there a fun word or group of terms you like to put into your writing?

Author:      Not a specific word every time, but one of my best friends challenges me to throw random words into each manuscript. This latest one was “eggplant.” Haha.

Where do you write your stories? A tiny office? A loft? The kitchen table? In the bushes while you secretly people-watch like a total creeper? Or a warm café with mocha in hand and feet up on an ottoman?

Author:      Tiny office, for sure. My house is pretty old (1930’s) so I think it used to be like a micro bedroom or something, but it’s mostly just a desk, a loveseat, and piles of books everywhere. I also have a whiteboard on the wall for drafting or revision notes, and a big board hung up for my post-it plotting. It doubles as a guest room when we have company. But there’s a really cute coffee shop a couple blocks from my house that I love to write in too. It’s all bricks and mismatched furniture. They make an amazing lavender latte.

What is your favorite literary trope?

Author:      I’m a sucker for a good love triangle, and enemies to lovers!

What is your favorite writing snack and drink?

Author:      Coconut covered cashews from Trader Joes, and lavender lattes!

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Author:     “The first draft doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to exist.”

Or possibly, “Don’t compare published books to your first draft. Published books have been revised a hundred times, and you’re on draft 0, that’s not fair.”

Both have been immensely helpful to me, in really seeing how unfair the expectations I put on myself are sometimes. A first draft will NEVER be perfect, it’s just not going to happen. So if it’s a little messy and filled with notes and problems, that’s fine. That’s what revisions are for. But I can’t revise what doesn’t exist. And it can’t exist at all if I expect it to be as perfect as a twelve times polished published novel. That’s like cracking an egg into a bowl and wondering why it doesn’t look like the quiche I saw on Instagram.

I’m on Twitter! @Megan_Lally

And Instagram! @Megan_Lally_

Blog, Book Reviews, Steamy Romance Blog

Book Review: Falling Through the Weaving by Leia Talon

A fantastical romance where music is magic and the future can go any one of a million directions…

This book is sweet and steamy with a dreamy vibe that will suck you in. Talon is a master of eloquent narration and has tied together a blend of subgenres in a way that makes them feel like they belong together.

Like cowboys? How about Scottish Lords? Maybe you prefer Norsemen. Dragons? How about mages? Blend Outlander and Game of Thrones with a few cowboys and gods and you’ll almost capture the essence. Falling Through the Weaving has something for every romance reader.

Shelta is a relatable character put in an extraordinary life situation. Talon keeps the mystery of Shelta’s teleportations going until the very end. The tension eats at you, making you have to turn the page to see what Shelta will have to survive next. She is forgiving, full of love, a talented musician, and not afraid to wield a sword or live each day to the fullest. She accepts the challenge of being thrown through life at a whim and never lets it deter her from living in the present. It is inspiring to watch Shelta fight her way through an unpredictable journey in search of family, love, stability, and dragons.

This romance is like nothing I have ever read. The concept of the soul across dimensions and timelines in Falling Through the Weaving is magnificent and shows just how powerful love is—that it can transcend the human spirit.

I’ve had the luck and pleasure of reading book 2. If you read Falling Through the Weaving and enjoy it, you’re going to love Dragons in the Weaving. You can see all the World Tree Chronicles here: My Books – Leia Talon Books

Home – Leia Talon Books: https://leiatalon.com

Leia Talon ✨ (@LeiaTalon) / Twitter https://twitter.com/LeiaTalon

Also check out this phenomenal book of poetry:

Blog

Zedger’s Book Cover Animation

I want to give a special shout out and say thanks to Morgan Wright for animating Zedger’s cover. She is a stellar book cover animator and person. She’s also working on her own books and stories. (See more below)

I’m working on a short story prequel to the Hybrid Genesis series that will be out late this spring. It’s a dystopian cyberpunk novelette that follows main character, Marci, as she travels to the last known city of Tellurians, buried in the red zones. She’s searching for biotech parts to replenish her supply so she can continue to care for the soldiers dumped and left to die in her northern area of the Free Territories of Zion. It will be a permafree book available on this website when it’s ready.

Zedger: Edge of Zion (Book 1 of Hybrid Genesis)

They haven’t had a Crisper in months. When a man’s body is dumped in the basalt flow south of Marci’s mountain cabin, she knows something is off. Stealth vehicles patrol the area, preventing her from rescuing the newest victim of the Disconnect. Unless she wants to risk exposure.

In a post-war, irradiated, future Earth, Marci is the only one of the test subjects strong enough to escape the experiments of Project Zedger—the Astrals’ bioenhanced military designed to protect what’s left of humanity in the Free Territories of Zion. The six High cities that remain create all law and order, enforcing it upon the wildlands at the cost of all others. Zedger soldiers are their main weapons: mutated, spliced, and cybernetically restructured to do the most damage, without objection.

The Genesis hub controls everyone. Marci knows she must take it out if she is to free her people. But this Crisper is different. He was sent to her with a message. When Operational Cybernetic Corps Snipes come after them, Marci knows her time is up.
Zedger must fall.

Zedger’s Animated Cover:

It feels like I’m right there with Marci in the conditioning tank, getting Cerithymite injections…

Morgan gave me three animations to pick from which is just wonderful.


About Morgan Wright: the amazing animator behind the bubbles and flashing light:
On March 31, 2021, Morgan Wright is releasing a dark fantasy short story: When Black Roses Bleed.

Short Stories | Morgan Wright (morganwrightbooks.com)

If you’d like to have your book cover animated by her you can find her:

Website: Book Cover Animation Service | Morgan Wright (morganwrightbooks.com)

Twitter @byMorganWright

Facebook @byMorganWright

Goodreads “By Morgan Wright”

Author Interviews, Blog, Sci-Fi Fantasy Blog

Author Interview: Erin Simpson, YA Science Fiction Fantasy

  Erin is currently on submission with The Blood Farm and working on a new book called The Blinder.

From Planning to Published

When did you start writing and why?

Author:      Like many writers, I’ve been interested in stories since childhood, but I started “seriously” writing about eight years ago

How long did it take you to finish your first book?

Author:      My first completed manuscript, a Tower of Babel retelling, took several years (I’ve lost count of how many) but I never queried it. My second novel, The Blood Farm, took three years from conception to when I signed with my agent.

Are you indie, traditional, hybrid, or vanity, and why?

Author:      Traditional, all the way. I’m not gifted in the areas of graphic design or marketing; I would so much rather leave those projects to people better equipped to handle them and focus on the areas I am gifted in: writing.

How did you determine your target audience?

Author:      I write the kind of books I like to read and, for me, that means YA. Because I spend so much time in that age category, I think my writing naturally takes on the characteristics of that group.

What is your publishing process?

Author:      Because I have my eye trained on trad pub, I’m pretty much forced to follow the basic model: querying, submission, acquisitions, print.

How do you get critiques, betas, feedback, and edits?

Author:      I’ve been very fortunate to have found several wonderful critique partners by putting out calls on social media. Twitter, in particular, has a very vibrant #Writing Community filled with thousands of writers looking to connect. Sometimes it takes a while to find people who truly connect with you and your work, but when you find them, it’s magic.

After I’ve completed a manuscript and put it through rough edits, I send it out in batches of 2-3 readers at a time. I would strongly recommend multiple readers to anyone relying on beta feedback as it helps identify areas that are “issues” as opposed to what might be personal preference. As a rule, if more than one reader comments on something, I take an extra look at it.

With edits, each batch takes about a month. After two or three editing rounds, I send it on to my agent, who responds with her own list of edit suggestions.

Marketing

Do you have a platform? What does it consist of?

Author:      As an unpublished writer, I’m still working to develop my platform. Currently, I maintain a twitter account (@Ekaylasimpson) and an author website (eksimpson.com)

Struggles

What has been the hardest thing to overcome on your journey to authorship?

Author:      I think it’s very difficult to be objective about your own writing. You develop such an emotional attachment to what you’re writing that sometimes you’d blind to the problems within it or, vice-versa, overly harsh. This is why having beta readers is so important.

How has the writing and querying or publishing process affected you emotionally? Do you have any tips for budding writers?

Author:      The first time I submitted a story for critique I was emotionally unprepared for the feedback. Whether it’s a critique group, a literary agent, or an editor, you really have to develop a thick skin.

If you could do it all over again, what would you change?

Author:      I would have written more when I was younger. Plenty of writers put out books while juggling day jobs and families, but I regret all the free time I had in my early twenties that could have been used to hone the craft.

How do you keep yourself motivated?

Author:      Accountability partners. Having someone check in just to ask how things are going makes a huge difference.

How do you combat writer’s block?

Author:      Sometimes it’s about being patient. So often writers want to “push through” by sheer force of will and, while that can work, other times you need to give yourself time to consider the story from different angles.

What assumptions about writers and authors do you think are myths?

Author:      So many non-writers don’t realize how difficult it is to actually write a book. It’s one of those things that look straightforward on the surface, but only because you don’t see all the layers that are built up underneath; it’s those layers that make an engaging story.

Fun Stuff

What do you listen to while you write?

Author:      It depends on the story. The playlist for my current WIP is a mixture of Norwegian folk songs and Imagine Dragons.

Where do you write your stories? A tiny office? A loft? The kitchen table? In the bushes while you secretly people-watch like a total creeper? Or a warm café with mocha in hand and feet up on an ottoman?

Author:      Sitting in bed is my favorite place (we live in the country and there are windows on three walls so the views are fantastic) but we have three kids so more often than not I’m writing at the kitchen table or in the car while I wait for someone to finish piano lessons.

What book are you reading at the moment?

Author:      Sawkill Girls and The Ghost Bride

What is your favorite literary trope?

Author:      I love a good enemies-to-lovers plotline but I haven’t had the opportunity to use it myself.

How do you try to “break the mold” and be unique?

Author:      I read a lot of book blurbs and I’ve found there are a surprising number that have basically the same plot (oppressed magical people fight to overthrow non-magical ruling class etc). I’ve found that focusing in on day-to-day activities not only opens up unique stories (maybe the main character doesn’t care about overthrowing the government, she just wants to open a magical bakery), but makes character struggles more relatable. Not everyone wants to upend the monarchy, after all.

What have you learned about yourself from the writing and/or authorship process?

Author:      I’m a terrible procrastinator

What is your favorite writing snack and drink?

Author:      Coffee

Do you have a writing companion?

Author:    Usually at least one child, asking for a snack

Author Interviews, Blog, Sci-Fi Fantasy Blog

Author Interview: Milan Oodiah, Fantasy

My name is Milan and I write fantasy. I’m currently getting ready to query End of Oblivion, a story full of magic, spaceships, and confrontations with inner demons. Currently I’m trying to find the time to bring another idea to life called And Her Name Is Fury, where Fury has a kill list and the otherworldly wrath needed to cross out every name on her kill list.

From Planning to Published

When did you start writing and why?

Author:     I started some time when I was teenager, the exact starting point is a blur but I remember trying to write some really edgy dark stuff until I kinda grew out of it. Then I wrote my first full-length book. Mostly because I was bored. I loved a lot of things but really wanted to make something that would be wholly my own. Over time though the reasons for writing changed, but in the beginning I just wanted to do something new and different.

How long did it take you to finish your first book?

Author:      The very first one that I wrote when I was a teenager took about twenty months. I can’t recall the exact details but I think it took me about a year to draft and eight months to edit. It was a book my parents self-published so it was quite an experience to go through as a kid.

Are you indie, traditional, hybrid, or vanity, and why?

Author:     After that publication when I was a teenager, I kind of drew a line in the sand. Now I’m fully pursuing a traditional publishing path. I want to focus as much as possible on the writing. I know that I’ll inevitably need to deal with promo and other things but relatively speaking there’s more time spent on purely writing when going through the traditional route – at least that’s what it seems like.

How did you determine your target audience?

Author:      I didn’t. I started writing for myself and I’m still writing for myself. My reasons for writing shifted as I grew up and now, I write for myself and people like me. I think growing up allowed me to just break the pedestals of varying heights I put others and myself on. Everyone’s broken in one way or another, for one reason or another, and that’s who I write for.

How do you get critiques, betas, feedback, and edits?

Author:      I used twitter #’s to find CPs (Hi :D) and probably will in the future too. What I’ve started doing more recently is spending a lot of time on a writing discord. It’s super useful to have this dedicated space where you can find likeminded people in one place. One thing that makes me improve significantly faster is being able to edit other people’s work – which is nice because then I get to help someone else too.

Marketing

How do you define success as an author?

Author:      The thing that gets me is having a community. Seeing things like fan art or people getting to know each other through the fiction they love. Making an impact is how I gauge success. Impact leads to the rest.

About Your Work

What type of content do you write and why? Fiction Novels? Poems? Songs? Screenplays? Short Stories? Epic?

Author:      I focus on novels but for End of Oblivion I created a massive world full of possibilities and oddities and so to show all it has to offer I also write short stories. I also really love my ‘side’ characters and there’s just not enough pages in the books to give their full backstory and they’re actually all really cool so they have their own little short story series. Most of them are in outlines right now but some day I’ll finally have the time to write them all down.

Name some common elements in your writing: villains, magic, red-herring twists, the unfortunate ensign, mysterious phenomena, asyndeton, sentence fragments etc.

Author:      I have no idea why, but a recurring theme seems to be weird sad boys and angry resilient girls. I have a deep, deep love for Final Fantasy so crystals and summonable creatures, and non-traditional fantasy settings are my favorite. I want to create stories that push far beyond that classic medieval European setting.

What was your first goal when you started your journey to becoming an author? Has that changed?

Author:      I didn’t have a goal when I started really. It’s been a messy complicated journey and though I did start writing when I was a teenager, I put in the work towards becoming an author only in the last five years. There is no single reason for that really. The selfish reason is that I want to rise above leading a ‘normal’ life. I want something different and interesting and to leave a mark. The less-selfish reason, one that I think keeps me going when all other things seem to collapse is that I want to be a tiny little piece of that chorus of voices that help people along their way. Books, stories, art, music, all of those things have made rough patches in my life significantly easier to navigate. Being able to give back, to provide a little bit of relief, some modicum of solace for someone else is the thing that keeps me going through my own tough times.

What do you want your readers to get out of your works?

Author:      I started watching My Hero Academia after I had done most of the work on End of Oblivion. That show, that fucking show, gave me such immense boosts in serotonin that I can only hope to replicate. I write every moment that’s meant to blow people away with its soundtrack playing. I want my readers to have that same unmitigated boost in energy and hype that My Hero Academia gives me.

Struggles

What has been the hardest thing to overcome on your journey to authorship?

Author:      When I started following a writer I really loved on Twitter, she made it clear how much work and how much time it took to become an author. How uncertain and how fickle the industry can be. It took some time to digest. It was a hard thing to really understand, given the goals I’m pushing for, but once I internalized what she said and I felt even more determined, it was the sign I needed to know I could do it.

What assumptions about writers and authors do you think are myths?

Author:      You really don’t need to write every day, sure it will help build your skill level but writing every day just to say you write every day is not worth it. Writing also doesn’t just mean putting words on a page, it means outlining, research, reading craft books, etc.

Fun Stuff

What do you listen to while you write?

Author:      Some days I need songs that fit the theme of the scene, some days it’s one random song on repeat. YouTube has definitely learned the kind of stuff I need at the right time, strangely enough, and instead of being terrified I’ve come to appreciate my lord and savior, The Algorithm.

What book are you reading at the moment?

Author:      Riot Baby by Tochi Onyebuchi

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Author:      The best writing advice I ever got was that writing advice is not one-size-fits-all.

I tweet a little too much at @MilanMakes

Blog

SCi-Fi Indie Books of the Week

I like to promote my fellow indie authors however I can. It’s a struggle to make a living as a self-publisher, and there are a ton of great works in the digital ether that have yet to be “discovered.” It might be one of these! If you missed the last newsletter, you can still find most of the books below!

Please note: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases

Origin of Pietas

By Kayelle Allen
Teen & Young Adult Space Opera
Teen & Young Adult Science Fiction eBooks
Space Opera Science Fiction (Kindle Store)

With utter dismay, Pietas learns the only way he can escape is to trust a lowly human slave – a man he calls Six, a fearsome Ghost Corp special operations soldier trained to kill all Ultras on sight.  As the two enemies travel together in a tube designed to prevent the Immortal leader from using his psychic abilities, they form an uncomfortable and unlikely friendship for mutual benefit, despite their respective races’ 2,000 year history of oppression, war and imprisonment as slaves.

If you like character-based military science fiction set in humanity’s far future, the Bringer of Chaos science fiction series is for you. The epic saga begins with Origin of Pietas and continues with Forged in Fire.


Stunning Short Stories of Fantasy and Science Fiction

By Alethea Eason, Kris Neri, EJ Randolph, Kate Rauner
Science Fiction Anthologies (Kindle Store)
Nordic Myth & Legend Fantasy eBooks
Fiction Anthologies

Join four award winning authors in eight realms of fantasy and science fiction. Otherworldly adventures to touch your heart and thrill your imagination.

  • A deadly secret lurks in idyllic fields of flax
  • Chatting with the dead, even when you’re a fraud, can’t end well on Friday the 13th
  • A blue trunk-nosed alien sniffs out the truth behind a smuggler’s delivery
  • Mining Jupiter’s storms leads to an unexpected discovery
  • and more engaging stories

Mercury’s Shadow

By PJ Garcin
Hard Science Fiction (Kindle Store)
Hard Science Fiction (Books)
Space Opera Science Fiction (Kindle Store)

Imogen “Chim” Esper is thrust into the center of an interplanetary conflict when her father is injured on a spacewalk on a mining station. Haunted by guilt over her own role in the events leading to the accident and the cold indifference of the Kardashev corporation, Chim struggles to find her place in a society that is poised for revolutionary transformation.

The Kardashev Corporation dominates all commerce and politics in the solar system after coming to prominence in the great expansion led by space mining. Alton Neal, the CEO of Kardashev is hell bent on transforming society by capturing the full energy output of the sun.

Citizens of Earth and the stations throughout the system must band together to protect access to the lifeblood of the system or risk becoming permanently enslaved to the Kardashev Corporation.


Chrysalis and the Fire of the Forge

By Robbie Ballew
Children’s Dragon Stories
Religious Science Fiction & Fantasy (Kindle Store)
Children’s Sword & Sorcery Fantasy Books

Her true love was taken by bounty hunters, and she’ll travel to the heart of a volcano to get him back.

Their wedding was the first of its kind: A union between an Elf and a Faun. Their honeymoon will turn out to be just as unique.

Instead of a week of wedded bliss, Chrysalis finds herself racing across this kingdom and the next in pursuit of the thugs who took Chass from her.

Along the way she will encounter dinosaurs, dragons, and ancient spirits. She will even team up with an eclectic group of adventurers to do a little dungeon diving.

Ancient Dwarven temples are a strange place for a Faun, but these dusty old relics may just hold the key to bringing her husband home safe and sound.


Five Light-Years to the Firesnake

by Rayner Ye
Metaphysical Science Fiction eBooks
Time Travel Science Fiction (Kindle Store)
Time Travel Fiction

Aedre is a spiritual and heart-broken young woman. Grieving her mother’s death, she goes to another planet for a fresh start. Little does she know she’s headed into something much more threatening.

Faced with slavery and murder, she quickly becomes the mafia’s target.

But her spirit guardian keeps telling her about prophecies of Aedre becoming the savior of slaves. There’s unknown magic behind everything which is happening, and time travel which makes revenging the Godfather more urgent.

As the complete series unfolds, will Aedre smash interstellar slavery and stay alive?


If you’re looking for EL Strife Sci-Fi, please visit the ELS Store.

Author Interviews, Blog, Sci-Fi Fantasy Blog

Author Interview: Angela Amberden, YA Fantasy

   Hiya!  My name is Angela Amberden and I am currently knee deep in the editing mud of my first novel.  It is a story about two young women, separated by time but connected by so much more that discover that learning where you’re from, who you are and where you’re going can be magical.

From Planning to Published

When did you start writing and why?

I started this novel, which is the first in a series of three, in June of 2019.  I felt like there was this great story I had within me that i needed to tell for all the young women out there who think they’re ordinary or that their life can never be special.  I wanted it to be filled strong relationships and exciting adventure, but most importantly, authentic characters that readers, especially young girls could connect with and see themselves in. 

How long did it take you to finish your first book?

I challenged myself to write everyday for 100 straight days and shortly there after I completed the ~58K work manuscript.  So less than 6 months for the first draft.  I have been actively editing about 5 months and hope to finish and begin querying late this year.

How did you determine your target audience?

My target audience is pre-teen and teenaged girls.  I chose this audience as I feel like I wanted to bring a story that isn’t either repressively innocent nor scandalously mature to young women. I wanted to share an authentic adventure that any young woman could see herself in.

How do you define success as an author?

Success as an author is typically defined as a published work, and while I completely expect that to be the natural progress my book will take, I also have a certain amount of pride in just completing an entire book. 

About Your Work

What type of content do you write and why? Fiction Novels? Poems? Songs? Screenplays? Short Stories? Epic?

While I have been working on this book, I have also found it valuable to create other types of content.  I have written essays, poems, and in college I wrote an editorial advice column under a pseudonym.  I am also a contributing editor to a monthly online food magazine. I also have  a treatment for a comedic episodic rattling around in here…waiting for an opportunity to come out.   

What was your first goal when you started your journey to becoming an author? Has that changed?

When I began, my first goal was just to write a book, specifically I was writing a collection of essays, working full circle from being a daughter, all the way to being a mother with the specific focus on being a mother without a Mom.  It was too emotional and raw but as I was writing the idea for my novel came to me.  After completing this work I may retrace my steps to those essays, but we’ll have to see.  The goal is the same though…write and publish.

What do you want your readers to get out of your works?

For myself, the greatest achievement as an author would be for my readers to see themselves in my books.  To connect with the characters on the page.  That is what I strive for.

Do you recommend any programs, courses, or websites?

I don’t have any particular programs I use all the time, but I would suggest that any writer attend a writers conference.  I was lucky to participate in one before Covid and it supported, refreshed and taught me so many amazing lessons.  Things that I call back to time and time again when editing.    

Fun Stuff

Where do you write your stories? A tiny office? A loft? The kitchen table? In the bushes while you secretly people-watch like a total creeper? Or a warm café with mocha in hand and feet up on an ottoman?

Prior to covid I had two cafes that I frequented.  I felt a certain legitimization in writing outside of my house.  I don’t know if it just “kept me honest” since there were no distractions of home.  Now that we are in lockdown, and nothing is open, I have a home office, which is organized and quiet where I have the luxury of writing in my robe.

What book are you reading at the moment?

I just finished The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennet which I loved immensely.  I am going to try to mimic her pacing, as it was urgent without being frantic.  I just started A Promised Land by Barack Obama two days ago, and since i’m on page 26 of 760-something, I’m sure it’ll be with me for awhile.

Do you have a writing companion?

I have a black and white tuxedo cat, Ferdinand, who I’ve had to give his own space adjacent to my desk so that he can curl up and be at the ready.  He is a cat that senses stress or anxiety and won’t leave you alone until you calm down via petting him.  I usually know it’s been a rough writing day based on how often he’s interrupted me.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

If you want to be a successful and even prolific writer, there are two things you have to do.  Write…A LOT and Read…A LOT.

You can find Angela Amberden on Twitter at:

@AuthorAngelaA

Blog, Writer's Blog

Tips for Book Series Writing

My first book was never supposed to be a series. I’m now on my third series and starting a fourth soon. If you want to save yourself a lot of headache, check out these tips from what I’ve learned about writing series intentionally and unintentionally. Let me also clarify that these series I’ve written are in science fiction and romance, but I have several in YA Fantasy near completion as well.

Why should You write a series?

Series are great for gaining a consistent audience and sales. If you start with a book that interests readers, they’ll want to keep reading and buying your books. This is especially key if you hate advertising and don’t want to manage a ton of books. With a series, you’ll continue to advertise the first book in the series and (if the book is strong enough) you’ll get sales on further books in the series without doing any marketing for them.

Know Reader Expectations

The first question you need to ask yourself is does the genre I want to write a series in commonly have series? If so, how many books are typically in those series? How long are the books (word count)? What sorts of themes, settings, and characters do well? What twists, subplots, climaxes, and endings seem to be successful? If you can solidify what works, what doesn’t, and you feel you can align your story in a way that in some manner fits reader expectations (not necessarily all of the above because breaking the norms can also make your series successful if done thoughtfully) then you’re likely ready to start a series.

A Story Concept Big Enough

Seems simple, but truly having the expansive ideas to fill multiple books is critical to making a successful series. It’s common for book 2 to fall flat or sink into a reader-interest dip because so much of the excitement authors outline happens in the beginning with introductions and at the end with the finale. So you’ll want to setup the series plot and the individual book plots in a way that continually builds the whole series plot. Do this before you get started writing book 1 if you can.

That said, I wrote my first book with no plan to expand on it. But when I reached the end, I found that the climactic point wasn’t as intense or inspiring as I wanted it to be. I started changing details and adding subplots that in the end needed to be resolved later. So I started writing book 2. The same thing happened again with book 2, and I ended up publishing a third book. Now, I’m writing book 4 with the idea in mind of a much larger collection of three series with books written and in progress in each. But it has been chaos to organize after the first book was written. What’s worse is book 1 is from the middle series in the collection. Major face-palm…

Having an idea of the grand nature of the series going into your first book will help you pack enough detail and mystery in the subplots, and leave enough loose ends, to keep readers engaged and wanting to read book 2.

There must be enough left open-ended at the culmination of each book that leaves the reader with questions, concerns, and interest in the next book, while also balancing enough satisfaction that they don’t give you bad reviews for feeling like nothing was resolved at all.

I didn’t plan ahead initially, and book 1 isn’t as strong as it could be. Because of that, I struggle to get enough read-through of my series. So now I have to go back and edit and relaunch book 1. It’s a huge pain and takes away time that I could be spending working on new books.

Take a look at this quick plot series concept chart (it’s a PDF) I’ve designed. Maybe it will help you get started, or you’ll find a way to improve upon it for yourself.

It’s a good idea to spread out your details and the critical series plot events and character introductions throughout the series. With a standalone novel, it’s common to provide a ton of background information and character intros in the first act. With a series, you don’t have to do that, and you won’t want to. Save some of the good stuff for later. Tease your readers along a little with tidbits of what’s going on periodically throughout the story. Solve some things, leave others alone. You want the series to end strong, so save the best pieces for last.

A Story Concept like a Mother-in-Law

She’s going to live with you for awhile. You better like her or at least be able to tolerate her.

If you’re going to invest yourself in writing a series that could take you months to years (depending on the length, number of works, and the writing time you have) you have to want to invest that amount of effort into your project.

Series burnout is frustrating because you know you have a readership that wants to see how the ends will be tied up. They want resolution. They expect that next or last book. The farther you get in a series, the more series details you’re going to have to look back on to make sure they’re correct. The pressure and the effort to complete it will close in on you. All of your subplots will have to line up. It’s a ton of tedious, time-consuming scanning and checking your facts. You have to be committed.

Infinite Spark Series on Kindle and Kindle Unlimited. Book 4 coming 2021.
As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Characters worth Befriending for the Entire Series

I can’t say for sure how many times I’ve heard my husband complain about a TV series he was watching and, after the main character or the beloved secondary character died, he just couldn’t watch the series anymore. The same can be said for books.

Some writers can get away with keeping the scene/environment the same and changing characters in each book, usually by making the character related somehow in the book prior. There needs to be consistency of one kind or another in the series. But what engages readers most is a character with depth and identifiable personality, one with investment in the end of the series and struggles that are relatable or intriguing.

Create complex characters with important roles to play throughout the series. They don’t have to be the lead role in every book, though it’s best. They must be solid enough in design (with quality strengths, weaknesses, and challenges they must overcome) to be interesting throughout each book and the entire series.

How will it End?

You’re going to have to know the final goal of the series when you start it, and you’ll need to come up with strong mid-series resolutions for the end of each of your books. If you’ve started out not intending to do a series and now you’re thinking “Crap, I’m writing a series but I don’t know what I’m doing anymore,” figure out how you can expand or complicate the ending of book 1. For my book, it culminated with a soldier sacrificing herself to destroy an alien ship that was attacking earth. In book 2, the attack isn’t over, and more of the alien race are coming. They got the warning signal and the empire has been summoned. The series will finish with the ultimate end of a species (I won’t say which one just yet!)

Trilogies are easiest to start with. Like a dummy, I’m doing eight books in my first series, three books in the two series I’m working on/finishing and six in the series I’m starting next month. But if you can ensure there’s a strong progression of character learning or growing, or a change in the world that includes a climax and resolution in each story, you can make it as many or as few books as you want.

A triangle (trilogy) is one of the most stable shapes. Readers like this number of books unless they’re sci-fi space opera fans who often prefer ten or twelve book series. Some historical romance and other genres can get away with long series as well.

Have Series and Character Detail Charts.

I’m not kidding when I say to keep track of every single detail from strange words you make up for alien materials to the color of the most menial character’s hair. Write everything down. It’s especially important to get the spelling right and whether something is capitalized or uses a hyphen or other punctuation.

Make a note if a character always gets a term or a pronunciation wrong so that you can be consistent in even dialect and colloquialisms. Does a character have a drawl? Do they talk like a two-year old? What is the level of their intelligence, skill, or motivation? Write down everything you can about their personalities, what makes them tick, what their weaknesses are, common thoughts or feelings, and typical body language.

When you’re writing the next books, you’re going to be using these cheat sheets a lot. I often find that organizing them alphabetically helps, but sometimes I have to group certain terms together because they’re related concepts that I’ll want to refer to the collection when I’m writing a character working on an engine of a spacecraft or gathering their firefighting gear, etc. These will save you tons of time.

I often use Excel to print out a blank grid or keep a running list in Word. Just watch for auto-capitalization if a term isn’t supposed to be capitalized. That auto-anything you don’t notice happening when you type could end up making you have to go through every word and fix it in your manuscript if you referenced an incorrect term. Sometimes, I just keep the list in a notepad for simplicity’s sake. Then again, my handwriting sucks. So make sure if you use that method that you can read it!

Read the Earlier Books before You Edit

Yeah, this sucks, but it will help prevent you from screwing up something major that readers will likely pick up on. You have to remember that some of these readers will chain read your works back to back even if you don’t. They will catch consistency flaws and often let you know about them.

After you’ve written an outline or the rough draft, read your earlier books and make notes on what details you might’ve got wrong in your draft and ideas for how to intensify your work. Series and character cheat sheets are great, but they aren’t going to remind you of everything a character said, did, promised, broke, etc. in the earlier books. Trust me, if you think you remember everything, you don’t. Take the time to reread those books and check your work.

Book Titles and Cover Design

If you’re a traditional author, or agented, you’ll be talking with them about titling. They’ll likely look at what you come up with and decide for themselves. Cover designs will also be taken care of by them.

If you’re indie or planning to self-publish, start thinking about titles and covers early on. You’re going to need consistency in format, font, and theme for both titles and covers across the entire series. If you don’t create something recognizable, readers won’t necessarily know or assume those books belong together. I know this because, like an idiot, I designed covers and titles that fit my books individually. At the time, I didn’t have the skill to or the awareness of the importance of matching covers and titles.

Since redesigning the covers, my series books have had more read-through. I’ve now planned titles and cover designs earlier in the series writing process for future works and already feel more confident with how they will be received. (You can see examples of my book series covers and titles on this page.)

Writing and Publishing

Don’t be trigger happy on that publish button. Readers like series books that are published close together. I’ve been researching this and have noticed when I publish closer together that my books get more attention (sales and read-through). I’ve also read comments and questions on many sites from readers wondering why they have to wait so long for books to be finished.

Some readers will understand that we get burned out writing the same genre and the same story for years on end. I admit, I’m one of them. So I alternate what I write: one sci-fi, one romance, one fantasy. Then I start the cycle over, unless I’m on a deadline. I can focus when I have to. But it’s important to consider reader expectations for series availability and interest level in waiting. If people absolutely love your books, you can probably make them wait a bit because they’ll be willing to wait.  If the interest is mediocre, you best publish fast or risk losing those readers’ attention.

I recommend getting the series written first, then publishing each book two weeks to a month apart. It will build much more steady interest and sales than if you publish one book every year or two years. People forget about you and your book if there’s too much time between publications. You don’t want to lose them.

If you’re anxious about getting your series read by people, put it up on a review platform like Story Origin, Prolific Works, or Book Funnel. That way, you’ll likely get them on your email list and be able to ask for feedback or early reviews if you want. This will also help when it comes time to publish. The more of a readership you build up before you launch your series, the better the series is going to bring in royalties in the future.

Don’t Write a Dirty Penny

I’ve been following an online writer’s group of people who are financially successful writers. It’s every writer’s dream, right? They were cranking out a book or two a month…and made me cry from the pressure to be and do more than I was because I so wanted to be like them. I haven’t posted anything in the group, just always watching, reading, trying to learn their magic tricks.

I’ve noticed a few people recently mentioning they were slowing down their writing because they and their readers had been catching major flaws in consistency. Someone even used an incorrect name of a character for the first few chapters of a book, changing it half way through. It confused readers.

Reviews always tank when readers are unhappy or unsatisfied. Aim to create books that are more like shiny silver dollars instead of dirty pennies. I know it’s hard to be patient when you’ve worked so hard for so long on these books. But trust me, take your time to get your series ready, polish it, build up a marketing plan, and release the books close together.

Organizational Programs

I don’t personally use any of these because I’m the mind-map, sticky notes kind of gal. I am constantly moving pieces around and it’s easier for me to just move them than have to shift things on the computer. But it’s important to be organized when it comes to your series. A lot of writers like these programs. Maybe you’ll find one to help you as well.

Bibisco.com
Evernote.com
Finaldraft.com (Screenwriting)
Google Docs, Google Sheets
Hiveword.com
Novel Factory   novel-software.com
Scrivener (program download) Lots of people I know use this one.
Ulysses.app (Apple program)

A Marketing Tip for Series

Don’t waste money advertising the book two, three, etc. in a series. New readers won’t want to start a series in the middle if they encounter your ad. They’ll be forced to research earlier books and won’t likely be interested in putting out that effort. Some will, most won’t.

I did this in the beginning. I always get 20-30 sales on book 1 when I run an ad, and 3-5 sales on later books (which doesn’t return enough profit on the cost of the ad to be worthwhile.) It doesn’t matter how you structure or order or pair the books for ads. But it does matter if you run sales of the series books at the same time.

My recommendation: If you arrange a sale for book 1 and are going to run an ad on it, set up the later books in the series for the same or similar discount. This will encourage readers to buy all the books at once. The benefit here is that they won’t be as likely to forget about those books in their library if they snagged many or all of them. And they’ll be more likely to read them.

People in this modern era have very short attention spans. When you write a series, at the end of the books it’s important that you provide links to the next books in the series if you can and a way for those readers to review the book they’re in. If they see it the moment they’re done, they’re more likely to stay “in the series zone” and not get distracted by other ads, book recommendations, the dog wanting to go out, etc.

Final Thoughts

If you’re not getting engagement on a series, you’ll want to start a new one rather than invest your whole life into one series that might be a dud in the marketplace.

A series is a great way to get readers invested in your work and earn you sales with less marketing. It also shows your commitment to your genre and writing, but it is a commitment. Take the time to outline, plot, subplot, design your characters, and plan how you’ll publish.

Patience is important with a series. But if someone like me can do it without intending to the first time, you can do it too. Because you’re one major step ahead of where I was. You’re reading this and thinking ahead. Good for you!

Go get ‘em, writer!

-E

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Books that Inspired Zedger

I wrote Zedger’s first draft in two weeks I was that excited. I’ve never written a novel that fast. Until now, I’ve never written a book because it was inspired by another, but Zedger came to me after reading The Fifth Wave by Rick Yancey. It’s been deeply reworked since with influences from other works and desires of my fantastic critique partners. It has become so much more than it ever was in that first draft.

You can pick up Zedger: Edge of Zion here

(As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.)

The Fifth Wave
(YA, Scifi)

The movie was great, but the book was far more detailed. I was intrigued the way he presented the post-apocalyptic setting and how innocence doesn’t have to mean weakness in a violent environment. I read this book years ago and followed up with the second, but didn’t find nearly the excitement in book 2: The Infinite Sea. I haven’t read The Last Star, but have seen it had great reviews. I have book three on my to-be-read list.

As with all of my work, the female lead is much tougher, rough around the edges, and less romantically interested in other characters than the average YA, including this book. It’s one of the main reasons I don’t tend to write YA. But The Fifth Wave didn’t make romance a primary end goal, only a motivator, which is why I enjoyed this. Zedger originally had a romantic theme because I believed that was what readers wanted. But I struggled to write it and my first round of critique partners (Lenn, Samantha, and Erin) all concurred it was best to cut it out. Now I’m comfortable writing scifi without romance as a heavy focus.

If you like dystopian YA, aliens that are more relatable to humans than bugs, female-led stories, and suspense, this is a great book.

You can check out Rick Yancey’s The Fifth Wave here

A Star Curiously Singing
(Christian Scifi, Dystopian, Cyberpunk)

I read this book by Kerry Nietz years back and loved the biopunk and cyberpunk elements he presents in this unique realm where there is one supreme ruler and all religion otherwise has been banned. I loved every bit of this storyline and the character cast. It was a very different read from what I was used to, and made me truly fall in love with biopunk elements.

Super brief synopsis: A debugger, Sandfly, struggles under the control of his master and his embedded tech. He becomes the single person on a flight in space who can ultimately change the future beliefs of his people based on what he discovers.

This book has a bit of everything to include humor and odd dream sequences that when you read them, play out so naturally you can’t help but laugh at your own mind’s nightly insanity. A Star Curiously Singing has also inspired another series I hope to publish next year. (It’s a secret for now)

If you enjoy clean scifi (no cursing or intimacy), biopunk and cyberpunk subgenres, humor, and stories that challenge belief systems and travel to the stars, I definitely recommend checking this book out.

You can find Kerry Nietz’s A Star Curiously Singing here

Rise and Run
(Scifi, Genetic Engineering)

This book is hard to find online, often bringing up plant pictures or other books. But it is absolutely one of my favorites. The characters are crass and unique. R. J. Plant is a master of subtlety. Her book features twists and puzzles, with a sort of first-person-shooter RPG feel. It is intense in action and description. What hooked me the most was the concept of being two people in one, each fighting for dominance, and how the thought process worked.

The main character is designed to be a government weapon, but as with any person, they (Felix and Connor) want to be free, to understand their past, and to survive. Their accents and conversations make the read fun while the toxic landscape and edgy suspense keep you turning pages. I wanted to emulate a similar mood and found a lot of inspiration in Plant’s work.

If you like crass humor, tough characters, plots that screw with your mind, intense action and suspense, genetic engineering and government conspiracies, take a look at this book by R.J. Plant.

You can find R.J. Plant’s Rise and Run here

Shatter Me
(YA, Dystopian, Thriller)

When I read this, I found myself focused on the mental thought patterns of the main character as she struggles with her captivity. When you read Zedger, you’ll find Marci doing the same thing, as well as some of my other characters. I was searching for a book to compare my ideas to and found this to feel quite true to natural cognitive patterns. And it starts off with a heavy dose of it.

The very first chapter in Shatter Me is all about the thoughts circulating as the main character experiences the daily cycle of life in captivity. She talks about her symbol of hope, of the miserable conditions, and repeats her survival mantras. Mafi has dug deep into the thought processes when we are at our breaking points and presents them in a way that reflects the broken rhythm of the chaos as we would experience it.

While this is another YA novel, it featured more dark elements and themes than a typical YA in my experience. I think that’s why I connected with it, minus the “two men fighting for one girl” romance trope. Mafi, however, does implement the romance effectively and leaves the reader guessing at the end. She’s very good and keeping the stakes high throughout the story.

This is a popular YA series. If you’re interested in a blend of fantasy and dystopian genres, female led plots, romantic subplots, royalty and military themes, and high levels of mystery and suspense, look into Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi.

You can find Tahereh Mafi’s Shatter Me here

Red Rising
(Scifi, Dystopian)

One of my all time favorite authors is Pierce Brown. His Red Rising book series has inspired much of my writing. His narrative voice reflects the way I think, a style I was afraid to write in because I doubted its acceptance in society. I always read his work exceptionally slow, taking in every description. The details are so vivid and precise that it truly creates a raw sensation of being there in the story with the characters. Brown’s science fiction settings, cyberpunk feel, space battle choreography, and ability to build suspense make reading his work a thrill ride through another universe. I wanted to, and still do, aim for that level of reader engagement and to create a world as diverse and deadly as what he has.

I was always afraid to write what I truly envisioned in my mind for my books because I feared what others would think about an author that spends so much time dwelling on the violence of war, love, tech, and life in space. But I wanted my stories to feel real and true to what one would experience in any given situation. Brown has opened me up to the possibility that I can write from the heart, from fear and doubt and expectations of the future and people will enjoy it. Though I’m still a bit uneasy about some concepts, I read his work and remind myself it’s okay to be blunt. His book series has given me confidence I can be the author I want to be. I just wish I’d found his work far earlier in my career.

You know that feeling when you finally read work by an author you connect with? I literally cried before I reached the end of the first page. My brain felt like it was on fire. I was confused and relieved… and exhausted. I suddenly didn’t feel alone in the world anymore. This is big for me since I’m adopted. I have a wonderful family, but I’ve still spent my whole life trying to find connections between myself and the world of people around me. It’s a compulsion to understand that link between families built by blood. When I read this book, I realized someone else thought, or at least narrated, like I do in my own mindspace. I’d like to think in another life, we’d be friends. Stars knows I’d be too shy to ever even be a groupie or an obsessed fan in this life. (nervous laughter)

I just hope someone makes this book into a movie. I’ve never gone to a first-showing before. But I would do that for Red Rising.

This book is not for the faint of heart. It is gritty, and spares no action or gore or cursing. If you like futuristic dystopian scifi with heavy military plots, intense political agendas, and underground resistance, you’ll like this book. It’s the first book that’s ever been openly recommended to me without provocation. The narration alone will have you sucked in. If you like books that show people at their darkest moments, challenging life and hope to the last thread, you’ve got to pick up a copy.

You can get Pierce Brown’s Red Rising series here