Writing

WORDS FOR WRITERS: How do social media and writing/publishing work together?

WORDS FOR WRITERS: How do social media and writing/publishing work together?

Today’s topic suggestion comes from author Tina Chan. Thanks, Tina!


Okay, okay, so we’ve all heard it before – you need to get your social media in order if you’re going to be a writer in the 21st century. Here is something to keep in mind when you finish your book and start the process of querying (either to publishers or agents), or alternately begin the process of self-publishing your book: You Will Be Googled.

There’s lots of great articles out there about How To Win At Social Media (and how to make sure that when you are Googled, what potential publishing connections find leaves them with the best impression of you as a writer), so I’m not going to repeat that advice. Instead I’m going to dig down a bit and answer the WHY.

WHY must you Win At Social Media as a writer? Why must you use it at all?

What’s the point?

Why can’t we all just live in our little cabins in the woods and worry only about the writing part of writing, and let the publisher’s marketing team take care of everything else? Why must we be as accessible and as for sale as our books?

Well, partially because that’s how it’s always been. For as long as books have existed, the author has been held up as a selling point as much as the tale itself. This is part of being a published author, like it or not.

Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels sold well not only because it was an enchanting (and moralistic) tale suited for the children of the upper classes, but also because of his connection with his intensely private patroness, Henrietta Howard, and the gossip people loved to spread about them – and he didn’t quite deny. Beatrix Potter was unaware of her own early monetary success but was a consummate storyteller who entertained at parties, and who had family and friends clamoring to know what the next book was about and telling their friends. Charles Dickens did speaking tours, and was as known for his critiques and the weekly journal he edited for decades and his time in facinating prison as much as his novels. The Claudine books may never have done as well if they had originally been touted as being written by Colette instead of the scandalous, society-going, gossip-magnet Willy.

Each of these writers used their social influence to sell their work.

Writers always have; writers always will.

But we have an advantage that Jonathan, and Beatrix, and Charles, and Colette & Willy didn’t – we have social media to help us. And it’s free. (After factoring in the cost of devices, internet access, and software licences, of course).

Paid ads and print placements still exist, but while social media marketing can be fast-paced, exhausting, and sometimes frustrating, unless you elect to pay for digital ads, the only cost is in sweat equity.

And it comes with some distinct advantages that old school marketing doesn’t:

  • Social media is in people’s faces all the time. Our phones are always in our hands. More people scroll through social media on their commute to work than read the newspaper. Your marketing efforts – be they paid placed ads in a feed, or a conversation in comments, or an article you posted, or a call to action tweet – are literally right at their fingertips.
  • Again, it’s free. Unless you’re electing to purchase ads or specific software (and in the world of apps and startups, you can usually find something that does the equivalent of what you need – or at least close enough – without the high price tag. e.g. Canva vs Photoshop.)
  • It can be automated – thanks to Hootsuite, MailChimp, and other similar platforms.
    • You can spend a day setting everything up and let the automation handle posting at the right times, on the right dates.
    • There are now hundreds of low-cost promotion services as well, which will handle promoting your book to their feeds and newsletter subscribers, operating your sales and giveaways, arranging blog tours, etc. If you’re in the financial position for it, consider farming out the flogging. (Just check that they can actually do what they’re claiming, beware of extravagant promises, and review WriterBeware before you give any of them your money.)
  • Contrary to what common Social Media best practices teach us, the internet is a great place to provide long form advertisements and advertorials, as well as a place to provide whole or excerpts of short stories and books.
    • Lots of people are more inclined to buy a book if they have the chance to read some of it first, or at least get a sense of a writer by reading longform posts.
    • Most people only watch the first 5 mins of a video or read a 500 word blog post. But because there is actually no time limit on the internet, you can make your blog posts and videos as long as you personally want.
    • This also means you can post whole bundles of text as well – full chapters, long scenes, whole novellas and short stories. Obviously you can’t do it directly on social media, but you can link to places where the stories are hosted – Wattpad, Inkitt, Tapas, TappyToon, Archive of Our Own, Webnovel, RoyalRoad, Gravity Tales, etc. or even your own blog. It will be less discoverable on your own blog, but the links to the buying pages are right there on your own website.
  • Social media is a great place to build a rolling campaign or build groundswell – it’s much easier on social media than in traditional print/TV/radio marketing to start dropping hints every day of an upcoming project to build interest and speculation (for example, Taylor Swift’s lead up on Instagram to the drop of her music video “Me!” – though this may be a case where leaving room for too much speculation bit her in the nose. Some fans were very disappointed when they realized it was just a music video drop and not a clothing line, or that Swift was planning to come out as bi.)
  • It’s a great way to establish and reinforce your brand.
    • For me, that’s trope-challenging writing, academic-style engagement with fandom topics, and literary-style prose in a SF/F world. I carry that over into my social media and marketing by talking about those very things, yes, but also by engaging with other media that tackle those topics the same way – movie reviews, book reviews, current events, etc.
    • It gives you a place to do more than just shout about your books desperately (nobody wants to be around desperation), and instead provides you a subtler way to market your work by interacting with people. As my agent is fond of saying, Twitter is a Cocktail Party – keep it light. Talk to others. Engage, engage, engage. Build your audience organically.
    • It also provides you the ability to invite people to view (a curated) slice of your life. You can give people a peek into your wiring processes and behind the scenes.. You don’t have to TMI or share everything, but look, I follow Neil Gaiman as much for info about his books and series as I do for behind the scenes shots of David Tennant being a devilish goof, and Neil’s bees and dogs.
    • BRANDING. I keep the color palette of my social media sites, posts, headshots and website consistent so it’s obvious all of this combines to make the person who wrote those books.

Outside of the advantages that Social Media provides you in Marketing your work, it also straight up makes it easier for you to be a productive writer (if, you know, you can ignore the siren call – ironically – of social media). You can:

  • Find new writing software that works for you. I wrote Triptych, the first draft of The Skylark’s Song, and my first screenplay in Microsoft Word because that’s what came free on my computer when I bought my first laptop. And there was So. Much. Scrolling. UGH. I have since discovered Scrivener for novels (oh my god, I never write chronologically so the binder feature is so damn useful), and I have adopted CeltX and FinalDraft for comic and film scripts (intuitive formatting! Auto-fill production binders!) I know other authors who dislike Scrivener, and use something else, and screenwriters who hate FinalDraft. The point is, finding a software that works with the style of writing you do means that you’ll spend more time creating and less time futzing.
  • Collect media
    • Create an inspirational Pintrest board
    • Create writing playlists or inspirations playlists on Spotify, 8Track, etc.
    • Track articles and images on Tumblr
  • Find and contact festivals, events, and conventions. There’s something happening every weekend, all over the world, and you can find information about the events all over social media by following hashtags, groups, or simply asking.
  • Easily join social media contests (like #Pitchmad) that help you get your work in front of agents and editors.
  • Research and submit to festivals and writing contests.
  • Join writing motivation communities like NaNoWriMo or join in on impromptu or organized word sprints voa tracking hashtags or joining fan groups, writing groups, or lists.
  • Easily access research materials
    • GoogleMaps
    • Special Collections
    • Academic Articles
    • Book Excerpts
    • Blog posts and social media of subject experts like pediatricians, law enforcement officers, and historical textiles scholars (and the email addresses or DMs of said experts if you approach them politely).
  • Find or build your own writer’s community
    • Websites offering curated groups or circles
    • The ability to find and interact with beta readers and sensitivity readers
    • The ability to talk to other writers and ask questions, like at AbsoluteWrite, Duotrope, or WriterBeware but also by following hashtags like #writerscommunity or #amwriting
    • The ability to build organic groups of beta readers and critique partners through chatting with one another via social media.
  • Accountability – if you tell people about the book publically then you have to finish it, right?
  • Gives you the chance to build groundswell readership – publishing sites like the ones previously mentioned allow you to revise and rewrite a whole novel in real time based on reader feedback. (Pros and cons to that – I find it frustrating and stressful and disingenuous. Other writers find it stimulating, and exciting, and that it helps them produce their best work.)

And most importantly:

Social Media makes barriers of access permeable.

 

What do I mean by that?

I mean that Social Media has opened the lines of communication and access between authors and the people who buy their books. And authors and publishers. And writers and agents. And authors and reviewers. And authors and research materials. And authors and resources. And authors and their writing community. And, and and…

You can now talk and sell or pitch directly to readers, or book stores, or agents, or publishers. You can talk to other writers directly, or subject experts, or researchers.

It also means that people who traditionally blocked from this access (or had higher hurdles to overcome to gain access) due to their geographical location, disability, ethnicity or cultural background, income, etc. have more equitable opportunities and access to these same people and resources.

Social Media gives writers:

  • Direct access to publishers, editors and agents via
    • Organic conversations online, including the ability to ask clarifying questions regarding submissions or comment on articles or posts
    • Online Pitch competitions
    • Advice blogs and columns
  • The ability to share ARCS and review copies to a larger number of people, and  gives the actual audience and readership a platform to discuss a book, or trends in publishing, or tropes.
    • While there is immense value in trained critics and reviewers, there is also immense value in the audience speaking for itself. (Just look at how much Venom was panned by critics but embraced by the general audience. There can sometimes be a disconnect between what the critics hail as worth investing in, and what the audience does.)
    • This also has made the field more equitable in terms of which books get reviewed and what kind of buzz they garner. Selfpubbed or indie/small press publishers can’t always afford to (or even qualify to) submit to all of the big industry trades that require print copies to be mailed in, or require a fee. However, the rise in indie hobbiest book bloggers online means that a book can still be reviewed, making book review culture more of a meritocracy. Books with big financial marketing backing are now not the only ones that are being buzzed.
  • A megaphone and a platform for #OwnVoices
    • With direct communication with readers, agents, and publishers, those writers who have previously not had as much access to publishing opportunity or who were gatekept out of the community can speak up, and communicate directly with those who want their books.
  • Authors working with a disability – both physical or mental – can use social media platforms to have greater accesses to physical spaces (such as a library with lots of stairs but no elevators), or utilize software (like text-to-speech or screenreaders) to write, research, and pitch their novels. We can also use social media and new software technology to say, give a presentation to a school that our disability or mental health may keep us out of, or to read our book outloud to children on our behalf, or to take meetings without having to navigate travelling to the agent or publisher’s home base.
  • It also makes accessing research materials, locations, maps, images of places, and speaking face-to-face with agents/publishers/fellow writers without having to travel easier for authors at a financial disadvantage or from a low-income background.
  • Utilizing story sharing sites like Wattpad allows writers to tap into not only a community of fellow writers and their shared experience, but also have the advantage (dubious or not, as I mentioned above) of getting real-time feedback and critiques from the readers themselves. They provide the ability to workshop and live-edit a story as it’s being written.
  • As the resurgence of episodic storytelling like Game of Thrones has proven, humans love cliffhangers and ongoing stories and the joy of guessing what comes next. Social media allows writers to return to the early print publishing tradition of serializing a story – dolling out parts week to week, or month to month, without the increased costs of physically printing all those little chunks.
  • Allows authors to give things away to readers more easily – to find and reward those readers who like swag, prizes, letters, personalized emails, copies of their books, etc.
  • And it allows readers to give authors things (fanart, presents, feedback, thanks, letters, etc.) more easily as well.
  • Allows readers and fans easy access to author’s appearance schedule, and one that can be kept up to date more often and more swiftly as well.
  • Gives writers the ability to run a Fangroup or website for other people to discuss topics around your work with one another, like the fan groups and trade magazines / fan zines of old but more interactive, with a microphone for everyone.
  • And lastly, it connects writers directly with people who are willing to be sensitivity readers, and a much easier way to find them.

So while the lure of Tumblr is great when you’re in the middle of writing stall, and you may lose enough productive house to Instagram that you curse social media for ever being invented, remember that there are a lot more benefits to having it as a writer than not.

But don’t just take my word for it.

I asked my authorfriends way they used of social media, and they replied:

Alex White: Social media is how I got off the ground, making my contacts and creating an author brand. I use social media as a way to interact with fans, create community, and so on. And I’m pretty sure that’s despite my being terrible at it!

Alexandra Perchanidou: Asking opinions during research/drafting, research EVERYTHING that has to do with plot, depending on the world building. [Social media also provides you access to] Mentors: following the life/career of any author you aspire to emulate and learning from them without having a formal mentor/mentee relationship.

Wendy Lynn Clark: Co-workers: if you are full time writing, social media is listening around the water cooler to news, trends, etc. They will also celebrate your successes and empathize with your failures.

‘Nathan Smith: Social media allows networking from within marginalized identities on a much, much easier level than before—I can find other queer writers, readers, publishers, editors, cover artists, you-name-it, and bypass (some of) the frustrations of being queer in a non-queer environment. It also allows those voices an opportunity to have virtual meetings/discussions/dialogs that are so plentifully found in places like cons/festivals/events, but rarely inclusively.

Mike Perschon: Social media made my career, insofar as publishing and presentation opportunities. I’ve only once had to submit an article for publication. Every other publication I’ve made, and many events I’ve attended as a guest-of-honour or keynote came to me via Twitter or my blog.

Derwin Mak: Social media was helpful for me in that there are Facebook groups about anthology calls for submissions, and that’s how I found out about some markets. I’ve also seen writers develop a certain type of online personality to appeal to an audience, that is, selling the author as a personality/celebrity versus selling the book itself. However, I’m not convinced that going on social media to develop a reputation as a certain type of personality actually helps to sells books. Some writers aggressively pursue a left-wing persona, and some writers aggressively pursue a right-wing persona, and they get plenty of likes and followers (and dislikes and trolls), but how many of those followers actually buy their books?

A.J. Phoenix: Wow. Loaded question. There’s so many ways in which I know social media helped me. In fact, given that I go by a few nom de plume, I’m not sure I’d be an author if not for the internet. I was able to test out my original, unedited work with audiences over social media. I built my own community/brand, email list, and ARC team through social media. I met and learned from other authors in my genre because of social media. I learned how to advertise through the internet and social media. The list goes on. I’ve only touched upon the tip of the iceberg of what social media can do for an author.

*

Still have questions? Read more WORDS FOR WRITERS here or ASK ME HERE.

JM FreyWORDS FOR WRITERS: How do social media and writing/publishing work together?
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WORDS FOR WRITERS – From Signing to Signing

WORDS FOR WRITERS – From Signing to Signing

Congratulations! You’ve signed with your first literary agent, and they love your manuscript! Huzzah! Bravo! Cheers! Mazel Tov!

… now what?

What happens next?

Working with your Agent

After you’ve had “The Talk” with your agent, and agreed to sign on as a client, one of the first things you will likely discuss with them will be what revisions they would like to see done on your existing manuscript (unless you already revised the book as a condition of offer).

You will likely also have a conversation about what other manuscripts you currently either have already complete, or what ideas you may have for future books or – if the book you signed on has series potential – where to go with the next books.

Remember, your agent is your ally for your future career, and they are the ones with their eyes on the market.

Shopping your Manuscript

Once your manuscript edits are complete and your book is ready to be sent out to publishers and editors for consideration, your agent will work with your to build a Shopping or Pitch package. This is where those Back Cover Copy, 1-3-5 Page synopsis, Market Comparisons, Series Potential, etc. documents that you ought to have been writing while you were sending the books out to agents to consider come in.

When you’re both happy with what you have, your agent will start sending out letters of interest (these days, more like emails of interest) to the industry connections they have. Editors, publishers, etc. They’ll talk it up at conferences and list it in their available properties if that’s something they do. They’ll work with the agency’s foreign rights partners and dramatic adaptations partners to pitch the manuscript around those parts as well.

You’ll likely get some nos, some partial or full reads and a pass, or some interest. The ideal is to have several editors at multiple houses wanting to acquire the book, which would result in a bidding war.  

Once you have an offer, you and your agent will discuss the terms of the offer (it may include a book tour, it may not; it may include an advance, it may not; it may include an audio book, it may not, etc.), request any desired changes to the phrasing or clauses, and then sign it.

At this point, the work of turning your manuscript into a book passes out of your agent’s hands and into your acquiring editor’s.

Working with your Publishing House

Editing

Once all the paperwork is signed with your publisher, your acquiring agent will reach out to you with a formal Editing Letter. You will likely have been in contact with them already, talking about the book and what they loved about it, and where they see it fitting in their hourse’s roster and marketing plants. But this will be the first real notice that it’s Go Time.

The letter will outline the strengths of the manuscript, and discuss any changes they propose. You can always talk with your editor if something is unclear, doesn’t seem to sit right, or would impede future narrative plans. Always make sure you guys have a through understanding of what you’re each talking about and are completely on the same page before diving back into revisions.

Sometimes these revisions are substantial and include complete burn-and-rewrites, and sometimes they’re like, four little notes. It all depends on what serves the manuscript best to make it a strong book product.

Once you and your editor are satisfied with the rewrites, a timeline for publication will likely be set, and the great spinning wheel of turning this manuscript into a Book starts cranking into motion.

Copyediting

Next, your manuscript will be handed off to a proofreader and copyeditor. Their job is to hunt down and destroy all those typos, comma splices, and mistaken homonyms.

Depending on the size of the publishing house, this might be the same person as your acquiring editor, or a freelancer they hire, or an in-house copyeditor. Either way, these edits should all serve to strengthen your manuscript, so if at some point you’re reviewing them and something is clashing, or they’re stripping out the voice, talk to your acquiring editor about it.

You may have a few back and forths, depending on what you want to accept or reject in their proposed changes.

Cover

Likely, you’ll have already been discussing your ideas for the cover with your acquiring editor. Remember, you as the writer don’t actually have the power to dictate or veto the cover ideas, but of course as the person who knows the story best you will be asked your opinion. Different publishers include authors to different extents in this discussion process.

Usually a cover is completed far enough in advance of the book that it can be used as the jumping off point for the Buzz Building that will take place in the 3 -12 months prior to the book’s release date.

Discuss with your editor what their marketing department has planned for the cover release, and loop your agent into this discussion so all three of you can strategize together.

Interior Design & Galleys

The next time you see you manuscript, it will be book shaped! After everyone’s signed off on the edits, your manuscript is forwarded on to a typesetter/interior designer, who will lay it out in book format. This is the time when they’ll add things like illustrations, if your book comes with them, or specific fanciful scene separators, or the title page.

Any specific imagery or layout choices will have likely already been discussed with your acquiring editor before this time, so now is the moment to review the book and make sure that it was translated onto the page correctly.

A “galley” is basically a dress-rehearsal for your book. You’ll be asked to review it (and hopefully with at least a few weeks lead time so you’re not rushed), and make sure that not only are major mistakes (like two chapter 4s and no chapter 5 ) or small weird formatting concerns (like cut off lines, or things that are italic which should not be or vice versa), or something else is wonky.

Where I’m given the lead time, I prefer to be able to print this out and see it “book shaped” to get a sense of the whole product, not just the story.

You’ll be asked to send back your fixes and then, for really reals, the book will be out of your hands forever. That’s it! No more changes! All done!

Marketing and ARCs

A lot of this work will probably actually take place alongside your work on what was requested of you in your Editing Letter.

Once you have your cover (and it’s been released), you can start using it in your own marketing initiatives. Authors are usually the ones who must design and pay for the little in-hand things like lapel pins, bookmarks, postcards, library posters, and of course whatever graphics you use for your own social media and website.

Your publisher will work to get the book out to review sites, awards, industry publications, and if they have the pull and the money, premium placement on a shelf, or book tours or appearances.  You may or may not be paired up with a publicist in the house to help with this.

You may have very little marketing support, if they’re a very small house with a very small budget, so in this case you may want to consider hiring a publicist yourself, or a social media advertiser, or a virtual assistant, or paying a friend in wine to put out a newsletter every month for you (thank you, Karen!). Or you may wanna just buckle down and do it yourself.

Either way, do some research and make yourself a plan. I have lots of advice on marketing your work in my other Words for Writers articles.

When the book is done-done-done, the publisher will make ARCs – Advance Reader Copies. Basically, pre-publication books. This should be the final book in every way except that they are available before the book’s actual release date.

These are sometimes paper, sometimes e-only. Reviewing the ARC will be the Final Chance Ever to find mistakes, but should be pretty clean.

ARCs are then sent out by either you or your publisher’s marketing team, or both, to reviewers, media outlets, contests, and industry publications. This helps to generate the vitally important pre-publication buzz for the novel.

The Big Wait

(Sometimes I think this stage is added simply so you can take a breather from your book and stop despising it after having reread and rewritten it about seventy million times. I’m always grateful for it though because it’s nice to have the time to refill your well with excitement and joy for your story.)

This is where the marketing plans start whirring into motion and you’ll start sending the ARCs out for reviews. They’ll start coming in so you can use them to support your marketing, and add them to your website.

This is the perfect down time to do all those little To Do list things you’ve been missing – update your website, write thank-you notes, get your social media queued up, arrange your book launch party, etc.

Time to go have another chat with your agent! Get them up to speed with the marketing plans that your publishing house is enacting, and talk through what you think you can add on your end, and from the agency, to support or augment that push. Makes some checklists, start some buzz going, and then…

Step back.

Do nothing.

RELAX. Catch up on sleep. Do your taxes. Spend time with your kids. Meal prep. Whatever sparks your joy.

And, eventually, when you’re ready to jump back into the creative well, start the next project you and your agent earmarked as your follow up. This might be book #2 in your series, or something else entirely. Check in with your agent, and then have fun!

Release Day

Time to get back at it!

On the day your book is released, it will likely be All Hands On Deck. You, your publisher, your editor, and your agent will be working in tandem to execute all of your social media blasts and marketing pushes. Try to set up as much of it as possible to be automated on the day-of.

Some people have their book launch party coincide with the release date, some choose to do it after, and some choose not to have a party at all. Research what works best for you, and make sure you have enough lead time for you/the bookstore to actually receive your box of books in the mail!

The Aftermath

The book is out, the party is over, the cake is eaten and your hand is cramped from all the autographs you signed. Bravi!

Don’t forget to keep your social media and website up to date with any changes that might come with the book – new fantastic reviews worth sharing, the announcement of a foreign language edition acquisition, an audiobook adaptation, etc. etc.

At the same time. take some time to refresh, recharge, and revel in what you accomplished before jumping back to the other project you’re working on.

You deserve it!  You published a book!

*

Still have questions? Read more WORDS FOR WRITERS here or ASK ME HERE.

JM FreyWORDS FOR WRITERS – From Signing to Signing
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RELEASE DAY – The Skylark’s Song

RELEASE DAY – The Skylark’s Song

Strap on your goggles and buckle up your jetpack, THE SKYLARK’S SONG is finally here!

A Saskwyan flight mechanic with uncanny luck, seventeen-year-old Robin Arianhod grew up in the shadow of a decade-long war. But the skies are stalked by the Coyote—a ruthless Klonn pilot who picks off crippled airships and retreating soldiers. And as the only person to have survived an aerial dance with Saskwya’s greatest scourge, Robin has earned his attention.

As a Pilot, Robin is good. But the Coyote is better. When he shoots her down and takes her prisoner, Robin finds herself locked into a new kind of dance. The possibility of genuine affection from a man who should be her enemy has left her with a choice: accept the Coyote’s offer of freedom and romance in exchange for repairing a strange rocket pack that could spell Saskwya’s defeat, but become a traitor to her county. Or betray her own heart and escape. If she takes the rocket pack and flees, she could end the war from the inside.

All she has to do is fly.

Filled with intrigue, forbidden romance, and a touch of steampunk, The Skylark’s Song soars in this new duology from the award-winning author of The Accidental Turn Series.

Pick up your copy of The Skylark’s Song in eBook and Paperback today!

 

Happy author is happy! Photo by Adrienne Kress.

 

The Skylark’s journey from concept to published page has been a harrowing one. The third full novel I ever completed, and the first one I ever wrote specifically with the intention of showing to my agent for publication, this novel has left me crying on a street corner in New York City, laughing and dancing in a white wig at a steampunk festival, filled with me with hope for my career, and filled me with despair. There are about seventy labeled drafts of this book on my hard drive. In the time that I’ve been working on this novel, steampunk has seen a resurgence, and an ebbing away again. The novel inspired a beautiful song of the same name by french band Victor Sierra, which ended up coming out years before the novel. So, needless to say, this piece of work has been a real . . . piece of work.

Maybe I should have given up.

Maybe I should have trunked it and moved on to the next thing. (I half-did, many times). But then we wouldn’t be here, would we, in a time when discussions around religious freedom are so important in the real world, and the themes and aims of this novel have finally crystalized for me.

This novel was conceived at the first—and though we didn’t know it then, only—Canadian National Steampunk Exhibition, which was, to date, one of the most fun cons I’ve ever been to. Two wonderful things came out of that weekend for me. (Well, three, if you count Professor Elemental taking a nap on my shoulder in the Green Room, which was pretty cool, in and of itself).

First, I was put on a panel with Dr. Mike “The Steampunk Scholar” Perschon, where we sassed and snipped and laughed together as if we’d known each other for years, when we’d actually known each other mere moments. Mike’s friendship has lasted beyond that weekend, and I treasure it daily.

Secondly, I accepted a drunken dare.

The thing you have to understand about a bunch of theatre majors getting together to put on costumes and drink for a weekend is that, eventually, somebody’s gonna start making up stories. Or dare someone else to do it. And somebody is gonna be stupid enough to accept.

Steampunk costumes come in stereotypes, and what we had sitting in the circle that night was this: a biomechanical assassin, a devious airship piratess, an aviator in a white wig (me), and a wily spy-mistress-cum-madam and her secretly clever mountain of a bodyguard-slash-lover.

The first incarnation of The Skylark’s Song was born that night, as I pointed to each character in turn and declared how our backstories were connected, conjuring the Saskwyan-Klonnish war out of wine fumes.

Through edits and revisions, the biomechanical assassin eventually became an enemy aeroship ace. The piratess became a devious friend of the cause. And everyone swapped skin tones because, even if all of us were (mostly) white, there was no inherent reason why the protagonists of a book set in a pseudofantasy land had to be.

The Skylark’s Song was the first (and only) complete novel I presented to my first agent, and the one that taught me that there is such a thing as the right fit in this industry. It was the first novel I presented to my current agent, as well, but we put it to the side because by then, it had been so worked over that we had to take it back about twenty-five drafts and figure out where it had all gone wrong. In the meantime, I wrote The Untold Tale, which ended up ballooning (in a good way) into a series. And in that time, the Skylark circled in my brain, coasting on the updraft,  waiting her turn.

What followed after was five years of realigning, recasting, changing the motivations, the appearance, the beliefs, and the core traits of the characters. One character was removed entirely, only to return as the love interest when my first agent demanded that there be one—a love interest who has switched sides so many times that I don’t think even he remembers who he’s loyal to, and has switched names so often that I barely remember what it was to begin with.

But here it is.

Finally.

From drunken dare to the book you now hold, it’s been a heck of a journey.

And it’s only half done.

Art by Archia

JM FreyRELEASE DAY – The Skylark’s Song
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RELEASE DAY – The Accidental Collection

RELEASE DAY – The Accidental Collection

Something Magical happened today!

The forth and final book in The Accidental Turn series is now out in the world!

Happy book birthday to THE ACCIDENTAL COLLECTION

Forsyth Turn had no desire to be a hero, but that’s what he became. Bevel Dom has spent his whole life telling stories, never realizing that he was part of one of the most popular ones of all time. Kintyre Turn never thought he could be more than just a wandering hero with a sword, but he has reinvented himself as a compassionate Lord and a kind father. And Lucy Piper never believed that magic, adventure, or The Tales of Kintyre Turn ever really existed; but they do, and they have helped shape her life in ways she never expected.

Here now, for the first time in one collection, are all of additional stories set in the world of The Accidental Turn series – the shorts Home, Happiness, and Health, the novellas Ghosts and Arrivals, the prequel comic Ivy, and the exclusive new novella Magic, and short Pride.

As well, you’ll find all of the nursery rhymes and songs from the series, and the sheet music for Forsyth’s lullabye to Alis, For Calling Children In From Play, composed by the extremely talented Brigit O’Regan. And, er, performed by yours truly. Head here to check out the song on YouTube.

If you don’t have your copy of “The Untold Tale”, book one of the series, yet, you can also pop over to Voracious Readers Only, sign up for their newsletter and select “Fantasy” to get one.

Also, you can read my intro from and farewell to the collection right now over on my literary agency’s blog, Fuse News.

And of course, you can pick up your copy of The Accidental Collection in eBook today! (Paperback will be available at the end of the week!)


Art by Kelley Fesmire / Anotherwellkeptsecret

I’m sad to be saying goodbye to the world of Hain, and all of the lovely people I’ve had the pleasure of creating and getting to know in the last six years. What started as a vague idea and a monologue (see Pip’s Rant in chapter 11 of The Untold Tale), became a stand-alone novel. When Reuts Publications signed the book, it was with a request for a trilogy, and somehow opening the floodgates to the rest of this world and it’s characters created not just two more books, but a half dozen more stories.

And there are easily a dozen more that could be told in this world.

But (for now) I’m satisfied. This has been a wonderful adventure, completing my first series, and getting to dig my imagination into all sorts of different pies. But this also feels like a good stopping point.
I have enjoyed writing as Forsyth and Bevel immensely, had fun with Elgar though he was absolutely the most difficult voice to nail down, and getting to tell Pip’s tale has been an absolute privilege. I wrote my Master’s Thesis on Mary Sues and fan fiction, which I presented and made publicly available in 2009. Here we are nearly a full decade later, and I feel like the end of this series is that research come full circle.

As ever, thank you for being my Readers, for peering through the Veil of the Skies with me, and for trusting me to lead you through to the ending.

And hey, if you feel the need to write fanfic, cosplay, or create fan art or vids based on this series? Go for it. And let me know where I can find it when it’s done.

I think Forsyth would find it very appropriate.

JM FreyRELEASE DAY – The Accidental Collection
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WORDS FOR WRITERS: How Do I Get My Book Onto A Screen?

WORDS FOR WRITERS: How Do I Get My Book Onto A Screen?

This is a question I see a lot from new writers – “Yeah, sure, I want to write a book, but everyone knows that the real money is in screen adaptations. How do I get that?”

The answer (take it from someone who has had a few close calls) is “not easily.” It can happen, but it is a very long process, with a lot of fingers in a lot of pies, and nothing that you can control until you are already a multi-billionaire who can afford to pay other people to adapt your work as a vanity project. (And even then, you still have to convince a team that your property is going to make them money for them to make it and distribute it.)

So, first things first –if you’re writing a book solely on the hope that someone will turn it into a movie/TV show, I would encourage you to consider that maybe you should be expending your energy on screenwriting instead of novel writing. If that’s where your heart lies, then follow that!

If your heart is still set on the idea of writing a novel, then I’m happy to outline the steps that a book takes from page to screen.

  • Write a novel.
    1. No, seriously.
    2. Write it. Finish it. Edit it. Polish it.
    3. People don’t license adaptation rights for unfinished works/ideas unless you are very, very famous and a proven cash cow. You wanna sell a thing? It generally has to be a FINISHED thing.
  • From the minute you write that novel, you own the copyright on the Intellectual Property (IP) of the world, characters, individual and particular details of the novel. In Canada, you don’t need to register it, but I believe you may in the USA.
  • Publish the book.
    1. You can self-publish it, or go the traditional route.
    2. The book has to be published, or filmmakers will never know it exists. Again, you need to prove that you can finish a thing, and they need the whole story to know what they’re agreeing to. Usually the whole SERIES, if there’s more than one.
  • When you publish a book with a publisher, they will not be buying your book, but paying you in royalties (and maybe advanced royalties if you’re lucky) for the right to license your IP and create a product called “a book” out of it.
    1. There will be subclauses for “a print book” and “an ebook”.
    2. There may also be subclauses for an “audiobook” if the publisher has an attached audio production house and/or is willing to shell out to get it made.
    3. Most indie publishers do not have the money to make an audiobook, and won’t take the rights for that.
      1. In this case you can either pitch it to a house or produce or pay to/make it yourself.
  • HOWEVER, publishers are not production studios and 99.99% of the time will NOT ask for further rights.
    1. Though they may include a clause saying they get to participate in negotiations for those dramatic adaptation rights for your IP.
    2. If they do ask for more rights, consult your i) agent, ii) lawyer, or iii) a friend in the biz to make sure it’s all on the up-and-up.
    3. Again, most indie/small press publishers won’t even bother including a clause regarding dramatic adaptation because they have no connections and no intention to pitch it around for you.
  • Once the book is out in the world either:
    1. An interested party will contact you/your agent (acquisitions folks read review mags and sites all the time), or
    2. The Entertainment Lawyer/Agent at your literary agency will pitch the IP to production houses, or
    3. You the author will start pitching it to production houses/creators, or
    4. You the author will decide to write the screenplay and produce the whole production out of pocket. (In which case, skip down to the celebration part of the list).
  • If A, B, or C: in the event that you get a bite, the interested party (it could be an agent, an actor, a director, a producer, a screenwriter, etc.) will enter into negotiations with you/your agent for the rights to license your IP for a screen adaptation.
  • Like the publisher, the company/individual petitioning for the right to adapt your IP for the screen will arrange to pay you for the right to do so. Generally this comes in three segments – an Option, a Greenlighting Fee, and a Back End Deal.
    1. An Option is a set amount of money that the interested party agrees to pay you annually for exclusive access to your IP and your promise that you won’t sell it out from under them while they work to amass funding/interest/cast and crew to create the adaptation. Basically, they’re paying you to have exclusive right to use your IP, when they get around to it
      1. An option is not a guarantee that the production will be made – people lose interest, funding falls through, studios change hands, screenwriters quit, etc.
      2. But it’s a way for interested parties to ensure that you don’t go wandering away with the IP while they work to contract a screenwriter, audition actors, ask for funding money, and build sets/costumes, and basically revv up to make the thing.
      3. Not every creator gets an Optioning Fee, and sometimes there’s a statute of limitations – i.e. after 10 years, if it still isn’t made and you’ve collected 10 option fees, then you get to take your toys and go elsewhere with them. This is actually good for you, because it makes the interested parties be serious and not just buy your IP to sit on it.
    2. A Greenlighting Fee is a percentage of the budget as it stands when the production is ‘greenlit’ that is gifted to you as a thank you when the production begins.
      1. Not every creator gets a Greenlighting fee, and the percentage changes.
    3. A Backend Deal is a percentage of the box office/merch profits you receive as a royalty after the production has been paid off, and the cast/crew paid out.
      1. Not every creator gets a Backend Deal, and the percentage changes.
  • Once that contract is negotiated between you and the interested party, you can make additions like asking to be the screenwriter (can be a good thing, can be a not good thing), asking to be on set, asking to be in the writing room for a series, asking for input on casting, or to be the story consultant.
    1. Be aware that the interested party can say no. If you don’t like that, then you have to decide if you want to license it to them anyway and remain hands-off, or if you’d like to cancel the deal.
    2. They may ask you to compromise – if you have no prior experience in screenwriting, which is a very different beast, they may pair you with a pro. Or if you don’t know how productions are made, what an on-set script supervisor is or a writing room is, etc. then they may pair you with a teacher-buddy. It’s not an insult. It’s just to make sure you have a support system when new stuff gets tossed at you.
    3. They may say yes. Make sure you really, really, really know what you’re agreeing to.
  • Assuming everything goes well, and you/your agent ink a deal you’re happy with, then an announcement will be made that the screen adaptation is in the works!
    1. Yay!
    2. Productions falter or get trapped in pre-production hell. This is STILL not a guarantee that it will actually happen.
    3. But you have a greater chance now!
  • The production company/ interested party will then get onto the business of sourcing funding, hiring actors, hiring a screenwritier, etc.
    1. You may or may not be consulted in this.
      1. They may really want you there, and really want your involvement.
      2. They may really have a vision of their own and don’t want your input. You need to be ready to just take your money and butt out, if it comes to that.
  • In the meantime? Write something else.
    1. Seriously.
    2. Distract yourself. Making films/TV shows takes YEARS.
    3. Other people might reach out to you interested in what else you may have to license when your first deal is announced. Make sure you have something when opportunity comes to knock!
  • Okay – so, contract signed, production in full swing, adaptation gets made! Yay! Celebration time! Enjoy the premiere!
    1. Oh god, wear comfortable heels. Red carpets are long, and you tip all over the place in stilettos cause the carpets can be squashy.
    2. There’s a photo of me falling on my face. It exists and I cannot make it unexist.
  • You still own the IP.
    1. Unless you signed it away.
    2. Read everything you sign very thoroughly.
  • Start over!

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JM FreyWORDS FOR WRITERS: How Do I Get My Book Onto A Screen?
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