Balancing Promotion & Creativity with Rory Power

Welcome to the SNOB (Second Novel Ominipresent Blues). Whether you’re under contract or trying to snag another deal, you’re a professional now, with the pressures of a published novelist compounded with the still-present nagging self-doubt of the noobie.

Today’s guest is Rory Power, who grew up in New England, where she lives and works as a crime fiction editor and story consultant for TV adaptation. She received a Masters in Prose Fiction from the University of East Anglia, and thinks fondly of her time there, partially because she learned a lot but mostly because there were a ton of bunnies on campus. Her debut, Wilder Girls, released this week!

Is it hard to leave behind the first novel and focus on the second?

I’ve actually found it to be something of a relief! By this point I’ve read my debut, Wilder Girls, so many times, and it’s refreshing to be diving into something new, where I can make as many mistakes as I like with the knowledge that I’ll fix them later. It is hard, though, to keep myself from comparing this new book to the first. I’ve found myself struggling with where to draw the line between keeping a consistent brand, so to speak, and covering too much of the same ground.

At what point do you start diverting your energies from promoting your debut and writing / polishing / editing your second?

I try to do these at the same time. They require very different parts of my brain, and for me particularly, it’s good to not let myself get too deeply entrenched in any one project. I can definitely go full tunnel vision if I allow myself to, so it’s nice to have two things to bounce back and forth between. The trick, I think, is making sure that you don’t let one distract too much from the other. I try to set aside some time at the beginning and end of every day to check in on social media, and keep the middle of the day for drafting, revision, and other work on my second book.

Your first book landed an agent and an editor, and hopefully some fans. Who are you writing the second one for? Them, or yourself?

The original kernel of the story is absolutely for me, but I find that some of the ways in which I’ve developed this second book have been more for the reader. Through editing my debut novel I learned that there are some things I don’t personally value all that highly in a story that in fact matter hugely to most readers. For instance, I don’t mind at all when books are ambiguous or not entirely clear, but especially in books with a mystery at the core, a lot of readers like solid answers. So while the original idea, or the question, so to speak, of this book is for me, the answers, and the clarity with which I express them, are for my readers.

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Is there a new balance of time management to address once you’re a professional author?

Absolutely. There are so many things you don’t quite realize will fall onto your plate - emails, so many emails - when you’re starting out, and dealing with them can absolutely sap your creativity. But there are so many ways to make your schedule work for you, whether it’s reserving different days for different tasks or dividing up your time into blocks. I’ve found that changing my location around really helps. I try to draft in one spot and do other work in another, which helps me keep my focus.

What did you do differently the second time around, with the perspective of a published author?

I outlined in much more detail this time. With my debut, I had all the time in the world to rip it apart and put it back together. Nobody was waiting on it. But this second book is on a deadline, and I don’t have the time to make as many mistakes. By outlining, and re-outlining, and outlining again, I’ve cut down on the rounds of revision I’ll have to make later. Or at least, hopefully I have.

Amber Lynn Natusch On Building Your Fan Base

I'm lucky (or cunning) enough to have lured yet another successful writer over to my blog for an SAT - Successful Author Talk. SAT authors have conquered the query, slain the synopsis and attained the pinnacle of published. How'd they do it? Let's ask 'em!

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Today's guest for the SAT (Successful Author Talk) is Amber Lynn Natusch author of the bestselling Caged series for adultsDare You to Lie is her debut YA novel with Tor Teen.

Are you a Planner or Pantster?

Pantser. Hands down. I couldn’t control my characters long enough to even begin plotting a story.

How long does it typically take you to write a novel, start to finish?

It’s taken as little as a month (with two young kids and a day job). It’s taken as long as a year. For me, it depends on the story and whether or not my characters are talking to me. Sometimes they bugger off 😉

Do you work on one project at a time, or are you a multi-tasker?

I try to but that generally doesn’t happen. At minimum, I’m writing one while editing another.

Did you have to overcome any fears that first time you sat down to write?

Nope. I was too ignorant to be afraid. If I knew then what I know now, I’m not sure I ever would have. Ignorance really CAN be bliss.

Have you ever quit on an ms, and how did you know it was time?

Never!!! I don’t do quitting. It’s a rule. I have had to completely overhaul novels before, but once I’m invested, there’s just no room for quitting.

Who is your agent and how did you get that "Yes!" out of them?

The amazing Jess Watterson from the Sandra Dijkstra Lit Agency is my agent. She reached out to me in 2013, and asked if we could discuss possibly working together. She’d read my women’s lit novel, Undertow, and loved it so much she knew she wanted to represent me, if I wanted to consider a traditional publishing career (which I did). It took about a year and an offer from another major agency before I decided on Jess. I just had a good feeling about her, and I’m a go-with-your-gut kinda girl. So far, it’s worked out.

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Any advice to aspiring writers out there on conquering query hell?

Oof. I don’t have much other than to research successful queries, have others read and critique yours, and do your best to sell what’s unique and special about your story.

How much input do you have on cover art?

Little to none. With my self-published works I have full control, so giving that up was a STRUGGLE for me. Thankfully, I have an editor who tries to keep me happy and make me see the strategy behind certain things.

What's something you learned from the process that surprised you?

How everything moves fast until it doesn’t, then it slams into you like a freight train and doesn’t relent.

How much of your own marketing do you? 

A LOT, but that’s the indie in me. I’m my own publishing house with a lot of my work, so I learned the value of grassroots marketing early on. It’s a huge reason why I was successful on my own. I think Instagram and Facebook are my favorites. I do still have a blog that I write on occasionally. My newsletter has also been a great way to reach fans. I shy away from videos—it’s really just better for everyone that I do.

When do you build your platform? After an agent? Or should you be working before?

I don’t know from personal experience, but I do know that friends of mine who debuted this year were working to build their platforms for quite a while. I think once agented is reasonable… possibly even before.

Do you think social media helps build your readership?

I do, though changes in algorithms can make it a challenge. I like to be conversational with my fans. I think that’s partially why I have a strong fan base.

Annie Sullivan On Social Media Helping Spread Awareness of Your Book

I'm lucky (or cunning) enough to have lured yet another successful writer over to my blog for an SAT - Successful Author Talk. SAT authors have conquered the query, slain the synopsis and attained the pinnacle of published. How'd they do it? Let's ask 'em!

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Today's guest for the SAT (Successful Author Talk) is Annie Sullivan who grew up in Indianapolis. She received her Masters degree in Creative Writing from Butler University. Her debut, A Touch of Gold, about the cursed daughter of King Midas, is available now.

Are you a Planner or Pantster?

I’m a total pantster. I like to have a general idea of who characters are, maybe a few major plot points, and possibly how things will end. But other than that, I make it all up as I go. I find if I plan too much it becomes restrictive; whereas, if I just let the characters and setting guide the plot, I come up with details and events that I wouldn’t have thought of otherwise.

How long does it typically take you to write a novel, start to finish?

My first novel took 2 years because I was working on my Masters degree in Creative Writing at the same time. Now, I can write a novel in about 3 months. Then, I like to take a few months to work with critique partners and revise.

Do you work on one project at a time, or are you a multi-tasker?

I work on one project at time; otherwise, I would start confusing characters! The only exception would be that I might be doing copy edits on one project and then actively writing another.

Did you have to overcome any fears that first time you sat down to write?

I think a lot of writers struggle with the feeling that they’re not good enough and that no one will want to read their story. But I tell myself now that it doesn’t matter what others think. As long as I’m happy and entertained by a story, the rest will take care of itself.

I also remember when I set out to write my first novel thinking, “I have no idea how to write a novel." I’d only written short stories up to that point, but I figured there was no better way to learn then to just give it a try.   

How many trunked books (if any) did you have before you were agented?

I was lucky and only had 1, but I’d still like to see that one come to light!

Have you ever quit on an ms, and how did you know it was time?

I have this rule about making it to Chapter 8. If I can make it to Chapter 8, then 95% of the time, I’ll finish the story. However, sometimes I get there and realize I have to start over. It’s about that point when I realize either a character or major plot element just isn’t working in a given story. And since I’m a pantster, that often requires a lot of rewriting. It may seem frustrating at times, but even realizing something isn’t working is valuable. It gives you the chance to go back and make something better.

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Who is your agent and how did you get that "Yes!" out of them?  

My agent is the amazing Christa Heschke of McIntosh & Otis. I had entered a competition on Christa’s blog where you posted the first 250 words of your novel. While the winner was picked randomly, Christa saw my 250 words and asked to read more! A few weeks later she offered to represent me! Fun fact: I was actually in Antarctica (I love to travel) when the offer came in, so I was little slow getting back to her and had to have my sister let her know I’d be in touch soon.

How long did you query before landing your agent?  

It took me about 9 months to get an agent, but during that time, I queried two different books because the first one wasn’t getting a strong response from agents. For that first book, I probably sent 100 queries, but for the next one that got me my agent, I probably only sent out 20 or so.

Any advice to aspiring writers out there on conquering query hell?

Don’t give up. So much of this business is just finding the right agent at the right time. Keep writing while you’re waiting to hear back from agents, and if the first book doesn’t work, move on to the second. You’ll just keep improving with every book you write, so keep going!

How much input do you have on cover art?

I got to give them some initial direction, and we had a few discussions about what direction we might go. Then, my publisher ran with it and created something beautiful!

What's something you learned from the process that surprised you?

I was surprised by how many people wanted to help support this book. People I hadn’t talked to in years were letting me know they’d bought multiple copies of the book. It was such a wonderful surprise every time someone would reach out letting me know they’d bought it and were looking forward to reading it.

How much of your own marketing do you do? 

My day job is in the publishing world, and so I have a background in publicity. Thus, I wanted to do as much to help my book succeed as I could. I reached out to bloggers every chance I had and brainstormed lots of marketing ideas myself. I also even paid for a few ads on sites like Facebook and Twitter.

I blog here, and can be found on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook

When do you build your platform? After an agent? Or should you be working before?

Start as early as you possibly can on building your platform. Your book will ultimately have to sell itself, but having a large platform can sway an agent or publisher who might be on the fence.

Do you think social media helps build your readership?

Definitely. I’ve had multiple people find out about my book through Facebook or Twitter. These sites allow you to reach people who you wouldn’t normally be able to. They can really help spread the word about your book.