Scott Keen and Scar of the Downers

scott keenAuthor Scott Keen is currently on a WOW! blog tour with his older Middle Grade/Young Adult novel, Scar of the Downers. And if you read my post yesterday at The Muffin, then you know I asked Scott to share something about his publishing journey and the company, WiDo. Scott very happily obliged and I appreciated his honest and informative post. I think you will, too.

Several years ago, when I first started pursuing the route to publication for my book Scar of the Downers, I did the usual thing that most aspiring authors do. I researched agents and sent them query letters and manuscript portions and synopses, all in the hopes of being able to one day get signed by one of the “Big Five” publishers.

This is a hard route, though, for someone who is unknown and has zero contacts in the industry, like myself. Also, self-publishing was not a possibility for me, mostly because I had no money to invest in it. Then, my laptop died and I lost the document where I was keeping track of all my agent submissions (and rejections). Fortuitously, I came across the QueryTracker website, which, for a small annual fee, will do the work of keeping track of all this stuff for you, with the added bonus of you being able to see reviews and ratings of agents and publishing houses from other budding authors like yourself. (And no, I am not compensated in any way, shape, or form by QueryTracker. These are just my honest feelings).

On QueryTracker, I found WiDo Publishing, a small traditional press. When I scoped out their website, I thought it looked professional. I also looked at the books they had published and I was impressed with them as well, both for their covers and their content. Another plus was that I didn’t need an agent to submit to them. I thought that WiDo might be a good match for me, so I sent them my query letter and synopsis and hoped for the best.

A few months later, I was signing the book contract and was mentally prepping myself for the editing process, which was foreign to me at this point. I was unsure of what to expect. It took several weeks for the editor to go through my manuscript. Her feedback wasn’t just a cursory glance kind of feedback – I could tell that she really thought about my book and the ways to improve it. It wasn’t an easy edit for me that first time around. I had to make some pretty ruthless cuts and changes, especially in the first few chapters. It was hard work, and it wasn’t fun. But, I can honestly say that these changes made the book better.

After several rounds of editing, there was just the cover that I was mostly stressed about. I know many people do judge a book by its cover, as I am one of them. So this was very important to me. I sent in a synopsis and an excerpt of the manuscript that I thought best fit the tone of the novel. With that, the designer went to work. In the end, I was very pleased, and I’ve had a lot of compliments on it as well.

Since I’m a first-time author, I’m sure I was slightly annoying to them with all the questions I had, but WiDo was good about emailing me and keeping me up-to-date about how things were coming along. All in all, I’m very pleased with my experience working with WiDo to publish Scar of the Downers. And, I am thankful that they gave me, an unknown author, a chance to break into the harrowing world of publishing!

And now, a few more particulars about Scott Keen and his debut book, Scar of the Downers:

Scott Keen grew up in Black River, NY, the youngest of three children. While in law school, he realized he didn’t want to be a lawyer. So he did the practical thing–he became a writer. Now, many years later with an MFA in script and screenwriting, he is married with four daughters, two of whom he homeschools. He blogs at www.scottkeenbooks.com.

9781937178635-200x300About Scar of the Downers:

Branded on the slaves in the Northern Reaches beyond Ungstah, the scar marks each one as a Downer. It is who they are. There is no escaping this world. Still, strange things are stirring.

Two foreigners ride through the Northern Reaches on a secret mission. An unknown cloaked figure wanders the streets of the dark city of Ungstah. What they want no one can be sure, but it all centers around a Downer named Crik.

Crik, too scared to seek freedom, spends his days working in his master’s store, avoiding the spirit-eating Ash Kings while scavenging food for himself and his best friend, Jak. Until he steals from the wrong person. When Jak is sold to satisfy the debt, Crik burns down his master’s house and is sentenced to death.

To survive, Crik and his friends must leave behind their life of slavery to do what no other Downer has ever done before–escape from the city of Ungstah.

Sounds like an interesting book, right? And I bet if you have questions, about his book or WiDo Publishing, Scott would be interested in answering them!

Tuesday’s Tip: IndieReCon

ImageFive years ago, I wouldn’t have stopped long enough at IndieReCon to even figure out what the abbreviated words meant. Heck, five years ago, IndieReCon may not have even existed. But indie publishing has come a long way in five years. And the group of writers/authors/bloggers behind this free online conference know quite a bit about how indie publishing has grown–and they’ve lined up quite a few folks to share their expertise as well.

So here’s my tip: If you have EVER thought, even for just a minute, that you might consider indie publishing for your picture book, your memoir, your novel, your chapbook, WHATEVER, go now and check out all the articles offered at IndieReCon. Or at the very least, bookmark this site and check it out later (the dates of the conference are February 19 through the 21st) because all the material will remain online and available.

And even if you think that you’ll never consider indie publishing, it’s worth a look just to see what’s going on in this rapidly changing business. The publishing business is not at all static. It’s like some kind of swirling whirlwind of words, business, and marketing, growing and evolving every day. 

The savvy writer will evolve along with it. (Reminds me of the book, Savvy, by Ingrid Law. It’s a really swell middle grade novel that fits in rather nicely–and metaphorically–with my post. Even if I do say so myself.)

Could Your Blog Turn You Into a Published Author? (Hint: YES!)

I am thrilled to have Nina Amir, author of How to Blog a Book, here as part of her WOW! book tour! And Nina’s stuff is so good, I think it best if I step aside and let her run the show. So here’s the scoop, straight from the author’s mouth. Er, pen.

If you balk at starting a blog because you think it will take you away from writing your book consider this: Your blog could change your status from “aspiring author” to “published author.”

Want some proof? Just consider some of the bloggers who didn’t even set out to become authors but who are now published, like Julie Powell (Julie & Julia), Christian Landers (Stuff White People Like), Jill Smokler (Confessions of a Scary Mommy), Jenny Lawson (Let’s Pretend This Never Happened), and Neil Pasricha (The Book of Awesome). They wrote some pretty amazing content on their blogs, garnered a ton of fans—potential book buyers and readers—and were found by agents or publishers. They then turned their existing blog content into a book or, in some cases, wrote a book based on the topic of their blog.

How can you repeat the success of these bloggers and use your blog as the path to publication? Let’s look at what these authors had in common that helped them land their book deals:

A Blog: This served as the hub of their promotion plan; even they weren’t conscious of this fact. From their blog they built out to social networks and found followers and fans. Their blogs served as their website, but it was dynamic, rather than static—filled with keywords and keyword phrases that helped them become discover-able by the search engines and by readers.

A Good Idea: These bloggers attracted so many readers because their ideas resonated with many people. The topic about which they wrote, and the angle from which they chose to cover that topic, solved a problem a lot of people had or answered a question in many people’s minds. It added benefit to people’s lives. It touched them emotionally.

A Large Fan Base:  Their blog attracted a large number of readers. This equates to an author platform, which is what most publishers require. It’s also necessary to create a successful self-published book—one that sells.

Great Content: They all wrote great content. Without great content, readers won’t stick around, come back or share your blog posts.

How can you create a successful blog and end up with a book deal? And, maybe more importantly, how can you blog and find time to write your book, too? Simple. Instead of re-purposing existing blog content, blog a book.

When you blog a book, you write it from scratch on your blog. That means you break your book down into post-sized bits and publish them, one by one on the internet. In the process, you create the first draft of your book. If you write consistently and often—2-7 days a week—and use your social networks to help promote your blog, you should begin to build a fan base. If it grows large enough, you may be found by an agent or publisher.

If you don’t get discovered in the process of blogging your book, you can send a query and a book proposal to agents and publishers. Or you can self-publish your book.

Here are some simple steps to help you blog your book:

  1. Choose a topic.
  2. Evaluate the topic’s marketability and competition.
  3. Re-angle your topic as necessary to make it unique in both the book store and the blogosphere.
  4. Create a content plan.
  5. Break your content plan down into post-sized bits (250-500 word pieces).
  6. Write and publish these post-sized bits on a schedule (2-7 times per week) on your blog.

Blogging a book is actually the quickest and easiest way to write your book and promote it at the same time. Whether you end up traditionally published or self-published, by using this method, you’ll find that your blog can help you realize your dream of becoming a published author—and a successful published author at that.

About the Author:

Nina Amir, Inspiration to Creation Coach, inspires people to combine their purpose and passion so they Achieve More Inspired Results. She motivates both writers and non-writers to create publishable and published products, careers as authors and to achieve their goals and fulfill their purpose. The author of How to Blog a Book, Write, Publish and Promote Your Work One Post at a Time (Writer’s Digest Books), Nina has also self-published 10 short books. A sought after editor, proposal consultant, book and author coach, and blog-to-book coach, Nina’s clients’ books have sold upwards of 230,000 copies and landed deals with top publishers. She is the founder of Write Nonfiction in November and writes four blogs, including Write Nonfiction NOW!, How to Blog a Book, and As the Spirit Moves Me. Sign up for a free author, book or blog-to-book coaching session with Nina or receive her 5-Day Published Author Training Series by visiting www.copywrightcommunications.com. Find out more about Nina at www.ninaamir.com.

And follow her here:

Twitter:www.twitter.com/#!/ninaamir

Facebook: www.facebook.com/InspirationToCreation and www.facebook.com/ninaamir

LinkedIn:www.linkedin.com/pub/dir/Nina/Amir

Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/ninaamir

Google+:  https://plus.google.com/107098776847894040162

YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/NinaAmir

 

I know dozens of bloggers (because I visit your blog) who are sitting on a book goldmine! Nina’s generously shared a ton of info here–and her book is packed with even more great advice and tips–to get you started, mining those nuggets. How to Blog A Book could be a golden writing opportunity for you!

Finding a Glossary of Children’s Publishing Keepers!

I’ve been zipping over to Twitter quite a bit the last few days to check out the Book Expo hashtag (#bea11 if you haven’t zipped over yourself yet). I like to feel in the book world know, even though I know there’s tons I’m missing.

And speaking of missing in-the-know information, Harold Underdown passed along this link of publishing terms so that we’ll all know what those BEA folks are talking about when they go on and on about books and such . But don’t wait till you sell your book. A smart writer is an informed writer. Know your publishing terms and jargon and be one step ahead!

The glossary, by the way, comes from Underdown’s The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Publishing Children’s Books. If you’re new to children’s writing, it’s a great read to start you on the right road to publication. And even if you’re an old pro, you’ll probably find something in the newest edition you didn’t know.

Who didn’t know SRO?  Or OSI and f & g’s? Besides me, I mean. 

See? I learned something new today, thanks to thoughtful Harold. And now I’m ready for #bea12. (Um, assuming they move it to the ATL. Because honestly, Twitter is as close as I get to New York.)

Keeping Sane on an Agent Quest

It’s SO easy to go a little crazy while searching for an agent, whether you write for children, adults, or zombies (maybe especially, if you’re writing for zombies). But there are a ton of wonderful resources to help you keep your sanity.

If you’re the tactile type,  you can try the very hefty Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors and Literary Agents or the Guide to Literary Agents, 2011. But you’ll want to supplement your search with the latest information. And for that, you’ll need to do a little surfing on the net.

You can zip over to AgentQuery, or try Query Tracker, where you’ll find buckets of swell statistics. But if you want to skip right to the nitty gritty of children’s, middle grade or young adult agents, you’ll want to check out Literary Rambles, where Casey McCormick interviews agents, and includes interesting stuff from all kinds of resources. And it goes without saying that you should check over at SCBWI’s Market Surveys (you’ll need a membership to see the goodies).

You can’t count on one single resource in your agent search. But you can find just about anything if you know where to look. As for finding the time you need to get it all done, you’re on your own with that. I’ve got enough trouble, keeping these zombie agents from going crazy.