Tuesday, May 31, 2022

The Young Writer: Society's Expectations vs Happiness

The topic this week: What Were We Supposed to Be: Vocational advice young writers get because writing doesn't Put Food on the Table.

Hehehehe. Zomg. 
Gather 'round, kiddies and fogies alike.
Once upon a time, in days of yore...

I'm very blessed. Growing up, my folks were firmly in the camp of "you can be whatever you want to be when you grow up...as long as it's a college graduate with an advanced degree." I went to college...to get away from high school. It was just a box of Expectations and Obligations that had to be ticked. That was it. That was in the days when the prevalent myth promised a six-figure job and corner office as a reward for graduating. (Ah, to be young and gullible again). Silly me started off as a business major with a second major in Japanese.

No, no. Don't be impressed. 
This is a tale of epic failure.

I'd never listened to, spoken, nor read Japanese before the Dean of Admissions said, "Sure, we'll let you in a year early if you sign up for this pilot program." I wanted out of high school, so I signed up. I was a good student. I could accomplish anything (cue superhero theme song). I hung in there for two years before academic probation made me surrender. I'd walk into the final exams for my business classes with an A and walk out with a C. Do you know what that means? That means I FAILED THE FINAL. (Looking at you, Decision Sciences and Advanced Accounting).  And let's not even discuss my language classes. Even with three tutors, I couldn't. My brain. It wouldn't. It noped right out of there. 

Not wanting to be expelled as an undergrad, I changed majors to the one that accepted most of my credits from The Epic Failure. Guess what it was.

No, no, guess...

ENGLISH with a focus in Creative Writing! It wasn't because I fancied myself as the next Great American Novelist. It was simply a matter of graduating before I was old enough to legally drink. Sorry. I'm not the author who Always Wanted to Be a Writer. I wanted to be an ACTOR. The STAGE. The LIGHTS. The LINES...I couldn't memorize. Remember that language failure I had during my freshman and sophomore years? Yep, I can't remember diddly-squat. Well, let me rephrase that, I can't remember the stuff I want to. I'm excellent at surprising myself with the random, useless tidbits rattling around my gray cells. 

Did finishing my undergrad degree convince me to pursue being an author? Oh hell no. It did the exact opposite. My lit professors assigned books I hated to the point I never wanted to pick up another book. Ever. My writing professors delighted in derision without an iota of constructive criticism. And the whole bagging on genre fiction because it's lowbrow? Yeah, it's a real thing in academia. No one taught a class on reader expectations by genre. Pfft. Ew. Worse? Not a single class was offered on the process of publication, how to write a query letter, or what the hell a synopsis was. Academic bubble vs real-world practical. This, my dear readers, is why I will never say getting a degree is important to being a writer. Admittedly, that was cough, cough decades ago and better programs exist today. Still, the absurdity and bitterness are real.

Now, what I did get during my final years as an undergrad was the rude awakening that a degree in English qualifies you to be...unemployed. I managed to snag a job as a temporary receptionist, then the company sent me out as temp secretary (yes, in those days, we were still called secretaries not admin assistants). Those dreams of being an actor? Fell to my innate desire to eat, have shelter, and--let's go crazy--wear clean clothes. Eventually, I was hired as a corporate wonk and worked my way through community management and product marketing. Yep, my company even paid for me to get my Masters in International Commerce & Policy. (Hello, business degree, I couldn't stay away from theeeeee.)

Man, that steady paycheck was sweet. 
Sweet enough to make me forget what actually made me happy.

How did I find my way to being a writer? Well, remember how I really, really, really wanted to be an actor? I've always loved make-believe. I enjoyed bringing others along on the journey of limitless imagination. Since I couldn't do it on the stage, I decided to do it on the page. Those lines I can't remember are now dialogues I spend days crafting. Those characters I pretended to be are now characters who come to life for me. Sets have become settings. I traded existing in someone else's world to build my own. 

Like Charissa, I was thirty when I had The Epiphany. Yep. The BIG 30. I'd fulfilled most of society's expectations for what a Young Lady should achieve, and I was done being defined by external pressures. My health had suffered greatly and for no great reward. That's when I decided to get real about my happiness. That's when I decided to take my love of the fantastical and turn it into something sharable. I joined a writers' group that taught me the basics of the craft and the business. I practiced. I failed. I practiced some more. I got better. I continue to practice, learn, and improve. I gleefully pursue this passion because it makes me happy. Even when I faceplant.

Happiness, dear readers, is often backburnered whilst in the throes of Putting Food on the Table™.  Once you're fortunate enough to stop scrabbling to simply exist, give yourself room to think about your happiness. Figure out the steps--the realistic steps--to get there. Give yourself permission to take that first step, no matter how scary it might be. Then, take another step. Then another. And another. There will be times when the steps are easy, and times when they feel impossible. Move forward anyway. If you stumble backward, it's okay. 

Keep trying. 
Your happiness is worth it.

Monday, May 30, 2022

What To Be And What Not To Be...That Is The Question

This week's topic at the SFF Seven is about vocational advice young writers receive because of the belief that writing doesn't put food on the table. 

I battled with this more than I care to talk about. I wanted to be a writer from the time I was so small, and the desire only grew the first time I went to a book signing, in high school. Both of my parents were musical and creative. Not writers, though. They also came from absolute poverty, born just after the Great Depression, hitting their twenties in the 1950's and early 1960's. Living just south of Nashville with musical sensations springing up in rural communities certainly had its effect on my dad. He played at the Grand Ole Opry and made it on several radio shows. But the stars didn't align, and though he gave up on that particular dream, he still played music until he passed at 81 years of age.

For me, when I would mention wanting to write a book and see where it took me, the advice was always that success that's enough to live off of just isn't realistic. My parents believed in me, but more so in my ability to sing than write novels. Our entire family is musical, and I love singing, but I am not a performer and never have been. They loved music, though, so that's where they wanted to focus when it came to me. But in reality, my talents funneled toward one path, and that was writing. 

Life happened, and by the time I faced college, I already felt the pressure to do something with the brains I inherited more so than my creativity. I was pre-med at first, but after clinicals, I quickly realized that I couldn't face dying people every day. Then I tried the teaching path--my mother was a teacher. But that didn't hold my interest in the least. I couldn't face five year olds everyday either ;)

So I tried nursing. Respiratory therapy. Psychology. I made it into different programs and went to college FOREVER and managed business and a physical therapy clinic, but nothing ever felt right. Yes, I loved the medical field, and I could easily be a perpetual student, but the bottom line was that I was trying so hard to please people who didn't believe in my creative ability because they stopped believing in their own.

In my thirties, I realized that you only live one life, and that it was time to start the journey toward the career I really wanted. It took a decade to get anywhere, though I wrote, edited, and learned constantly, stealing any time I could at my day job, at night, early in the morning, on weekends. I just didn't know how to balance the career I envisioned with my life: four teen and pre-teen daughters, a spouse who worked out of state and out of the country, and ailing parents who were ultimately my responsibility to care for.

But, now, here I am doing the thing I so wish I'd found a way to do twenty years ago. I wish my entire adult life could've been filled with writing stories. But I was the type of person who didn't believe in myself because others didn't. My husband and kids always believed in me, but self-doubt is a poison when it's programmed into you at a young age. It annihilates motivation and suffocates any thoughts of perseverance.

My youngest daughter is a creative. She sings, plays multiple instruments, can write EVERYTHING, from amazing magazine articles to screenplays to poetry to novels. She even draws and paints. She's in her last year of college for a degree in the recording industry with a minor in songwriting and plans to turn her most recent screenplay into a novel this summer. 

The one thing I swore I would never do was tell her to try another vocational path rather than focusing on her creativity. Right now, that's easier, because she's still at home. But now is the time for her to try all the things. To see where her creativity can take her before life gets expensive, and she has no choice but to settle for a road she doesn't want to take. I want to give her every opportunity to build the foundation for a full, creative life that pays the bills. It isn't impossible. It just isn't easy.

I realize not everyone has that kind of support. I didn't have it. And the truth is, most writers struggle to keep a consistent income, so sometimes, that advice given to young people against the creative career path is meant to protect them from financial difficulty. But steering someone away from what they are best at doing on a day to day basis points them in the wrong direction. 

Again...we get ONE life. And it goes by so very fast.

So here's my counter-advice to all the bad stuff that can cloud your mind: If you want to be a writer, not as a hobby, but to make it your full-time or even part-time career, try to believe in yourself. Realize that it will likely take time to get to the point where writing sustains you, and understand that it is constant work to maintain that income. Being a writer is like having homework forever.

But I believe in you, even if no one else does, and I hope you find a way to follow your heart, your dreams, but most of all, your ability.

 Happy Reading and Writing,

~ Charissa

Sale Begins June 1st

Saturday, May 28, 2022


 AKA, It Took Me Seven Years To Figure Out I Was Writing The Wrong Niche

I grew up on Robin McKinley and Patricia C. Wrede. Tad Williams and Terry Goodkind. David Eddings and Anne McCaffrey. Later I discovered my two favorite authors ever, Michelle Sagara West and Anne Bishop.

Inspired, I began my author career in 2015. . . and in 2018 I burned out.
Part of that was due to external life circumstances, but part of that was due, I now understand in hindsight, to a lack of alignment. See, I was writing shifter romance, then later alien romance. And my alien romance in particular was always slightly off market. It occurred to me in late 2021 why that was.

I kept trying to write my science fiction romance like it was fantasy romance.

I devour Grace Draven and Bec McMaster. Laura Thalassa and Sarah J Maas. In the last year I’ve discovered Katherine Ann Kingsley and Quinn Blackbird and T.A. White, and . . . you get it. See a trend?

These are all authors of fantasy romance, and they are just the tip of my FaRo library.
What I was not reading was science fiction and shifter romance.

Back to #writerlife, it was taking me four months to write a 60,000 word book. To put this in context, once I finally began to write in the niche that I read and most love, I was dictating 4,000 to 5,000 word days. And though I enjoyed writing my paranormal and science fiction romance, it was the fantasy romance that sparked joy.

Suddenly, my productivity went through the roof. The comments I received from alpha readers and editors was that they felt the joy and alignment oozing through my manuscript. Because, duh, I was finally writing the kind of stories I devour on a daily basis.

Why hadn't I started out in fantasy romance?

The short answer is because of a plethora of well-meaning advice to write to market. And when I came into the indie author space, writing to market meant bear shifters. And wolf shifters. And dragon shifters. And every other shifter galore . . . plus vampires. I let myself get talked into writing stories that were adjacent to what I love, but not quite hitting the bullseye.

My current fae fantasy romance series was completely unplanned. I snapped one day at the end of November in 2021 and sat down at my laptop and began dictating a story that had been floating around in my head for several weeks. It was so vivid, the characters coming alive in my head in ways characters had never done so before.

I'm writing faster than I ever have while maintaining the complexity of character arcs, romance arc, opposing force, subplots, and prose.
Now, all of this isn't to say that I've dropped everything else. I am fortunate that I also write in a small niche with a rabid reader base and that niche is helping to support my catalog while I get my fantasy romance profitable, which I project will happen around Book 3.

Being an indie author is a long game. “Write to market” is solid advice, but I would caveat that with, “write to market in a niche you naturally read and love and devour.” In the end your stories will be better aligned with the reader, you'll produce faster (whatever faster means to you) and you'll have more joy, which is absolutely required because we all know this is a grind. Without joy, eventually even the most determined author will break.

Because this is a long game, money will come in time (if caveat: You Did Your Job with Cover/Blurb/Story.) What I have learned, is that for the sake of my business, it's better for me in the long run to write what I love instead of writing what I know will make money faster. I could churn out six to seven sci-fi romance books in a year and make good money . . . but I can't sustain that long term, as I’ve already proven to myself.

When I write what I love, carefully aligned to the tropes of that niche, then I can look down the tunnel of a 5- to 20-year career and look forward to the daily hard work rather than approach my laptop with low-level dread.

So I would leave you with some questions. What do you love to read? Who do you devour? Is your writer self aligned with your reader self? And if not, what plan can you put in place to shift your business slowly, without sacrificing income, in a direction that is sustainable for you long term?

Emma Alysin is a 40 mumble mumble bi-racial American Muslim mom of five who writes SFR, PNR & Fantasy Romance.

Her dragons, fae, and bears will most interest readers who like their alphas strong, protective, and smokin’ hot; their heroines feisty, brainy, too grown to give a *uck, and over the age of 30.

Her stories feature men and women of diverse backgrounds.

Friday, May 27, 2022

Separation of Duties


Listen. Writing is one thing. Marketing is another thing. Taxes are yet a whole other thing. All of these things happen in different parts of our brains. I adhere to the Ghost Busters school of thought: Don't cross the streams. Trying to get those different modes of thinking to work together is a recipe for madness.

This brings us to my theme sooner than I usually get us to a theme of any kind: Separation of duties.

Functionally this means that when I'm writing, I'm writing. It's all I do. Not because that's the best way, only way, or preferred way to do anything - it's because that's how my brain works. Other folks can write for an hour or so then switch it off and go do another thing. I need more commitment than that. I seem to work best in four hour blocks. (Which, admittedly, are in crushingly short supply at the moment.) When I've done writing for the day, however, I can switch modes and shift into another brain space to do something else like marketing or administrative work. One this is sure, though. Unless there's a really compelling business or marketing deadline, writing happens first. Everything else falls after. About every other week or so, depending on how lazy I am, I pick a day to dedicate to errands. These can be business tasks or marketing copy or mailing out books or what have you. That dedicated day is a planned writing break and pre-Covid also served as my day for going to a museum or an art gallery. It seemed to work combining an official 'catch up on all the stuff' day with something fun that was meant to refill the creative well. 

If I'm in a position to need to format a book for indie release, say. I fold that into the writing schedule in my project plan. It doesn't get counted as 'business', in part, because formatting a book follows logically on the heels of editing for me. I have a background in tagging content, so book formatting makes programmatic sense to me. Mostly. But most other tasks for which I am not qualified - cover art leaps immediately to mind - I 100% advocate hiring out. I feel like there's a sliding scale for return on investment. What you can afford to pay to offload anything that's not writing pays you back in writing time. When you're a broke writer not yet pulling in $$$ on books, it's a very DIY business. So split it up and put on different hats. Write when your write. Market when you market. Be a shark, if that's your thing, when you're working business. Spend money on those things that will give you the biggest ROI - for me that's editors and covers. For someone else, the greatest ROI might come from hiring someone else to format a book because that's black magic. But eventually, the goal is to begin offloading the parts of the process you don't enjoy (and I'm sorry, but if you're imagining hiring ghost writers, maybe consider finding something else to fill your time and drain your bank account?) to vendors or an assistant.

I'll give you a rare glimpse into the author assistant interview process. Spoiler - I think she nailed this interview.

Thursday, May 26, 2022

Balance is Key: Juggling Author Demands


Blonde woman in dark green dress holding a notebook and pen in hand as she sits before a wooden desk holding a laptop, mosaic vase with large white and grey flowers behind her.
me after my Nebula panel: Writing Through the Pain

Wow is this topic timely. Last weekend was SFWA’s Nebula conference and I'd volunteered to be the sponsorship coordinator. It was a great weekend overall! Yes, there was a kerfuffle surrounding language used by a panelist, but SFWA has done a wonderful job of protecting its members and doing their best to ensure a safe space. 

Beyond the drama, there were some great panels I gleaned helpful tips and writing insight from. I’m thankful for all the volunteers who devoted so much of their time to make this online con happen…which brings me back to our topic: creativity on a deadline and how do we balance art with business demands?

I’ve volunteered for my kid’s various sports groups, so I was prepared—mostly—for the time suck. But the weeks leading up to the Nebulas were consumed by hours on my laptop. And I wasn’t writing. 

And that was okay.

I was prepared to devote time to the Nebulas and write when I could. So when my volunteer time crept into author time and took it hostage, I accepted it and moved forward. I didn’t dwell on ‘lost time’, a negative connotation I prefer not to use, and instead did little happy dances as each sponsorship was completed. I count this past month as a success!

Set realistic expectations (ex. a goal of 10,000 words/day stays in dreamland to keep me out of nightmare world)

Prioritize (the most pressing task gets done first, any energy leftover can be allotted secondary tasks)

Celebrate the wins (doesn’t matter how big or small—CHEER for the WINS)

Give yourself Grace (we’re not gods and we’re not built to accomplish everything in one day)

The Nebulas was fast and crazy and I’m very excited for the hybrid in-person/online conference planned for next year. But for now, I can get back to the word count! 

How do you juggle writing and author business?

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

To Achieve Balance, One Must Prioritize

How do I balance art with business demands?

It's all about prioritization. What is my goal? What do I need to do to achieve it? Rank those steps. Get 'em done and drop the ones at the bottom of the list that don't fit within the time constraint. 

Kind of a glib answer, eh? Lil' bit...but then again, not so much. I've been doing this writing gig for more than a decade. I've learned lots of stuff (as one would hope, no?). Among those things are what external demands can be declined/ignored, how long certain tasks take (time needed to write a book is not among that lessons, alas!!), what tasks can be done by others (and for what costs), and what stuff will bite me in the ass if I don't get it done by a specific date.

My goals change as I achieve them. Timelines shift as my skills improve or as new strategies develop. Plans blow up as life happens. Adjustments are made. The most important thing is to not sacrifice your mental or physical health. Set realistic goals. Push back when necessary. Ask for help when needed. 

Be motivated, not guilt-driven.

If you owe someone a deliverable and can't make the date, for gods' sakes, let them know as soon as possible. I know it's hard to admit you're not perfect, but it's always easier for everyone involved to make adjustments when given the time and space to do so.  Oh, and if you do need to request an extension, build a few extra days into that new estimated date. Don't short-shrift yourself out of shame! You're already taking the hit for one extension, and you don't want to relive the drama when asking for a second extension.

P.S.: This strategy applies to life in general too. 

Sunday, May 22, 2022

Creativity on a Deadline

This week's topic at the SFF Seven is Creativity on a Deadline: How do you balance art with business demands?

Talk about a perfectly-timed topic. I've been working long (looooong) days since The Witch Collector came out in November. I'm also horrible at balancing anything. I'm an overachiever, I'll work myself to the bone, and I have the mental stamina of...I don't know. I have a lot. If my physical energy matched my brain energy, I would be ridiculously fit.

And it's a good thing I'm like this.

We writers have to be writers first and foremost, but also marketers, graphic design specialists, website designers and managers, promotional gurus, executive assistants, top-notch planners, salespeople, publishers, formatters, editors, copy editors... I could go on. It takes a village, and much of the time that village is one lone person who is ready to run to the hills any moment.

Kidding aside, this gig can be a ton of work beyond the writing itself. There's so much to building a readership, cultivating it, and creating a brand that sells books. It's a lesson in patience, perseverance, and dedication, with many days spent traveling down different avenues that might lead nowhere.

I always knew my work style and work ethic was intense, but until The Witch Collector released in November, I didn't really know how it would translate to my author career.

Now I do. And after almost seven months of being ON for seven days a week, I'm taking a break.

This weekend, I announced a social media hiatus. I'm also training my daughter as an assistant and letting her pick up some slack over the summer so I can focus on final edits of City of Ruin and write some pages on the other stories in the series. She's also a creative writer, singer, artist, and musician and has one semester left in the recording industry program at Middle Tennessee State University. She gets this process, and she knows how I like things done ;) She lives with me and we get along because we are literally the same human, so communication is awesome.

In truth, I needed to unplug more than I realized. It's been a whole 24 hours, and I've gotten so much done while simultaneously feeling the stress leave my body. Having trustworthy hands to keep the social media going and the Etsy store functioning is a life saver. 

What I've learned is that, in the future, even if my current assistant leaves me for Hollywood, taking a break from the business side of things to just WRITE is good for balancing my author life. It's also good for my soul.

Because it's okay to unplug from the mainframe sometimes and just be a storyteller. 

Happy Reading and Writing,


Saturday, May 21, 2022

Top 5 Tips on Building Your Author Platform

As a debut author, I’ve been told that I NEED to establish an author platform now.

But what is an author platform? Well, it’s everything you’re doing online and offline to create awareness about YOU as an author. From the TikToks you’re sharing to the friendships you’ve made with local booksellers.

Anything you're doing to increase your visibility and make it easier for your target readers to discover and connect with you and your books is considered building your author platform.

So why is having an author platform so important? Because it’ll help you target and attract new readers on a regular basis. You’ll be able to engage those readers and, over time, convert them into raving fans that label you as an “auto-buy author” for them. And, most importantly, an author platform will help you build meaningful relationships so you can sell more books consistently.

TLDR; Your author platform will make it possible for you to build relationships with your readers, increase your readership, and boost your sales.

My Top 5 Tips on Building Your Author Platform

1. Define Your Brand

I think the easiest way to define your brand is to answer this question: What do you want to be known for?

Sweeping romances that hurt? Enemies to lovers with spice levels that sizzle? Happily ever afters guaranteed?

Whatever it is, you should know this pretty early on because this is what will help you stand out online.

Bonus List: 4 Simple Ways to Define Your Brand:

  • Are you going to use your real name or your pen name? Pick one and use it consistently.
  • Use one professional headshot that readers can instantly recognize.
  • Remember those little sentence examples I gave you above? Come up with a one-sentence tagline that communicates what makes your books unique.
  • Establish a brand palette that includes fonts and colors that fit with your desired aesthetic.

2. Get to Know Your Target Readers

One of the biggest parts of marketing is knowing WHO you are marketing to! Who is reading your books? Who do you want to read your books? A great way to get to the bottom of this is by knowing your target readers deeply.

Consider answering these questions to get to know your target readers:

  • Who are they? And what do they do for a living?
  • What’s their age, sex, marital status?
  • What books do they like to read? What authors do they love?
  • Where are they most likely to leave reviews?
  • What tropes do they love? What tropes do they hate?
  • Where do they spend their time online and offline?

3. Build and Nurture an Email List

Social media is fleeting in today’s age. You never know when one platform is going to vanish into oblivion for the next big thing… But you don’t have to have that fear with your email list!

While it may seem daunting, growing your email list the right way is one of the best things you can do! Simply choose an email service provider (e.g. MailChimp, ConvertKit, etc.) and add a sign-up form on your website. From there, you should create a reader magnet that incentivizes the reader to sign-up. It’s usually a digital download of some kind (think a novella, a collection of short stories, a bonus chapter from another character’s POV, etc.).

Once you’ve got everything set up and ready to go, decide how often you’re going to communicate to your list and nurture them with non-spammy emails. Remember: You don’t always have to sell!

4. Support Your Fellow Authors

I’m a firm believer of Community Over Competition! I will scream about my colleagues books from the rooftops. Because when you genuinely support each other, good things happen. And, from a marketing standpoint, you’re able to tap into other author’s communities and their readers without coming across as spammy. It's a win-win!

5. Take Advantage of Social Media

Social media can be exhausting. But it's a brilliant way to increase your brand visibility and get your books in front of a large number of people without even leaving the house. (As an introvert, it doesn’t get better than that!).

So how can you take advantage of social media? By creating a feasible marketing strategy that sees you using social media to your benefit, establishing time limits and capacities for content creation, and by hanging out on the platforms that YOUR TARGET AUDIENCE USES.

Think back to tip number two where I mentioned getting to know your target audience. Where do they hang out online? On Instagram? TikTok? What hashtags are they using? (Psst. A great way to reach new readers is through hashtags! Read all about them in this blog.)  

Wherever your audience is hanging out is where you should be.

Remember, building your author platform, growing your brand, and establishing a horde of ravenous readers does not happen overnight. So start now!

Lara Buckheit was born and raised on the Eastern Shore. Her debut novel A REALM OF ASH AND SHADOW releases in April 2023! She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications from Wilmington University, is a 2021 WriteMentor Mentee, an avid writer (and reader) of spice, and one time she met Taylor Swift’s dad. She started writing at a very young age, mostly fanfiction centered around women with swords and men with devilish grins. And she hasn’t stopped since. When not writing, Lara can be found drinking tea, hustling for her day job, reading from her endless TBR pile, or hanging out on her body confidence Instagram. Lara currently lives in Roanoke, VA, with her fiancé, dog, and thirteen house plants named after fictional characters. Connect with her here: https://bio.site/larabuckheit

Friday, May 20, 2022

The Secret to Author Platforms

 So you want to sell all the books. Me, too, my friend. Me, too. Heaven knows I've chased my fair share of strategies and secret sauces that led me to one conclusion:  You can spend your life chasing attention. 

You can spend all your time and all of your money on classes that promise to teach you The Secret to selling millions of books. Facebook ads! No! Amazon ads! Tik Tok! Newsletters! (Of surprise to no one - blogs never seem to be on the list of 'The Secret to Selling -- Anything.') But the truth is much harder than any of the 'experts' who can teach you to market your books for six easy payments of special for you today want you to believe. The truth is that platforms can be carefully created and nurtured, but they are also very much a function of how well your stories fulfill reader expectations and of luck. One you can control. The other you can't (but you can help it along slightly.)

Reader expectations are knowable and writers can opt to ignore them or make sure their stories hit them. If you're writing a sex scene in a romance novel, you'll write one kind of scene. If you're writing a sex scene in a horror novel, the sex scene will have a very different feel because it serves a very different function - and you're doing it that way because you know that a horror novel needs to read and sound and feel different than a romance novel.

As for helping luck along, I'd like to tell you to just see Jeffe's post because, yeah. What she said. The very best advertising for your current book is your next book. And the best advertising for your next book is your current book.

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

The One Thing an Author Must Do to Expand their Platform

GREY MAGIC is out in audiobook! All three Bonds of Magic books are now live on Audible for your glomming pleasure!
This week at the SFF Seven, we're offering tips for expanding your author platform.

"Platform" is one of those words I'm not terribly fond of, seeing as how it comes from the world of sales and legal wrangling. If you do a bit of digging (but please don't go down that rabbit hole!) you'll find that the term arose in the early 90s, along with the advent and burgeoning of the internet, and originally applied to nonfiction works and proposals. (Jane Friedman has a great write-up on it here.) Nowadays it seems like the term gets thrown about by all sorts of agent, editor, and marketing types in seeking the ideal author for them to make money off of. 

(Note: there's nothing wrong with trad-publishing folks making money off of authors. That's the business model and it can work for everyone involved. I just feel that the 'must have a great platform' folks are more interested in the generating moolah side of things than, you know, books.)

Anyway, as Jane succinctly defines it, an author platform is an ability to sell books because of who you are or who you can reach.

So... not all of us, right? Most authors of fiction sell books because of our voice and the stories we write, not who we are. However! What we write is what reaches people, so who we can reach is within reasonable grasp for a writer of fiction. 

Are you ready for this? The great secret??

Write more books!

Or short stories. Or create games or draw comics. Whatever medium is floating your creative boat at the moment, do more of that!

I know, I know - the answer is always the same. But that's because this is the very best advice out there. The most effective marketing for any author is to create more. The more stuff you have out there, the more people you can reach. 

Seriously, over the years I've seen SO MANY AUTHORS get sucked into focusing on flogging a single work or series to the exclusion of all other efforts. Sure, it can be easy to get focused on wanting a particular work to succeed, and yes, marketing can feel like a clearer path, with lots of vultures vendors out there waiting to take your money with glowing promises of high sales. Writing more stuff is hard.

But creating stuff is why you got into the gig in the first place, yes? So go do it, my friend. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

3 Tips to Build Your SpecFic Author Platform:

 Our topic this week: 5 Tips to Build Your Author Platform

To avoid TL;DR, I'll cut that back to 3 tips prefaced by definition `cause thar be confusion about what exactly is an author platform. If you do a Google search, you might believe it's simply your website, which...uhm, no. While having a website is an element of presenting your platform, an author platform is a marketing term for "sell me on you." In this case, you're not selling your book, you're selling your author persona. Author platforms are essential if you're writing non-fiction because you need to prove your expertise and credibility. In non-fiction, your author platform--at a minimum--will present your knowledge base, your bias, and your voice.  

IMHO, when it comes to genre fiction, an author platform is way less important. Exceptions exist; however, if you're having a discussion with a marketing professional and they ask about your author platform, don't panic. What they want to know is if there is anything uniquely marketable about you that can sell your book. For example: if you're a rocket scientist IRL who actively discusses aerospace engineering on your socials, and you're writing hard-science sci-fi, then that's a relevant differentiator about you versus other sci-fi authors. It can be used to package you and your books in sales pitches to buyers and in advertising to consumers. It's a bit of a mental gear shift for genre authors whose marketing typically revolves around selling the book (or series) not themselves. 

So, what if you're an SFF author who is also a recluse and who eschews social media in all forms? Is it possible to have an author platform? Sure, though without a public persona, you're unlikely to see returns on it. The bare minimum would be a statement in your author bio that establishes your "thing." 

Genre writers don't have to be experts in any field, we can be fans or enthusiasts. 

As long as we have a passion that presents in our public persona and in our writing, then we can build an author platform. It is very much okay to take time to build your author platform. Yes, new authors might feel pressured by a publisher to have one locked down before debuting, but push back on that. If they bought your book without you having a platform it means they're not relying on your platform to sell it. Author platforms are long-haul marketing investments. Other marketing tools have better yields short term, and professionals know it (so don't let them bully you). 

Here are 3 Tips to Build Your SpecFic Author Platform:

  1. Know Your Stories' Themes: This probably won't be obvious to you until you've drafted (not necessarily published, but at least drafted) a few books. Once you can discern your repeating theme, you've got your "thing" that you can leverage into a topic that you incorporate into your social presence. Is bodily autonomy a repeating theme? Where is the issue being raised in the news, in pop culture, in lesser-known niches? Discuss on your socials. Are there other artists whose works also address your theme? Promote them. 
  2. Share Your Inspirations: Playing fast and loose with mythology in your stories? Does the way of the Fey seep into your world-building? What about cats? Fetishes (of the idol or sexual kind)? What attracted you to those influences? Would you consider yourself a student of those inspirations? Do you continue to read about and/or discuss them? Great! Share your sources, discoveries, and thoughts. Solicit input from other enthusiasts or experts. Be a fan.
  3. Keep Learning, Keep Leading, Keep Current: Your platform is a living thing. Neglect it, and it loses its value. That includes your interests and themes, both should show your continuous engagement. Being static doesn't help you. It can, in fact, hurt your platform. It's fine if your interests change--personal and professional growth are good things! Make sure to bring your audience along with you on your journey by sharing what attracted you to the new shiny. Did you do a 180 on a formerly held belief because of new information? Great! Share what changed your mind and how it is/will be reflected in your work.

Saturday, May 14, 2022

Fan Mail is the Best Mail


I'm an ambivert so while I love spending time alone in my writing cave, I also get a lot of energy and joy from meeting with readers and other writers. The annual Passport to Romance event in Bellevue used to be the highlight of my year--even before I got published! But I have some high risk members of my family, so for the last couple of years I have been only attending virtual events like facebook parties and online writer cons. This focus on the virtual has led me to appreciate the ways we can interact and connect long distance. And during that time I have a few really touching, really meaningful reader interactions.

Over a year ago, a reader reached out to me through a note transcribed by her husband, expressing how much my books had meant to her and distracted her during her bed rest. She just wanted to let me know that she was looking forward to the next book, and how my words had given her something to enjoy during a difficult time.

It was a profoundly meaningful moment of connection, for all that was virtual. My words had reached someone who was struggling, and made that struggle a little lighter. As an author, I can think of no better complement, and no higher purpose for my books. To have a note like that land in my inbox, out of the blue, was such a gift.

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Have you been a fan of someone lately?

brown table top with a cup of coffee with a foam heart, around the cup is a pair of red Beats headphones and an iPhone resting next to them playing the audiobook The Mars Strain

Number one way to support your favorite author? Tell them you loved their book! Wait…maybe leaving a review for said book-love is the number one—hmm. 

Either way, this week we’re talking about our favorite reader interaction and I have to echo what my fellow SFF Seveners have already said this week: every positive reader interaction is my favorite!

The Mars Strain audiobook came out a year ago. It’s crazy to look back at that fact because it has flown by. It’s also hard to look back over the year and at all the promotion plans that my mental and physical energy held me back from executing. 

When 100% of your release’s promotion rests on your shoulders it can be daunting. Which makes those instances where people go out of their way to reach out, or text, and let you know how much they loved your story or how sucked in they got that they couldn’t stop. 

It’s those comments that lift you up and give a boost of writing energy. If you’re an author—you get it. These are life savers. If you’re not an author, which means you are a reader and we love you, then please never stop yourself from letting an author know or posting a review to shout about how awesome you think a book is. Trust me, when you think of doing it is the perfect time. 

Have you been a fan to someone lately?

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Converting the Reluctant Reader

 Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is our favorite reader interaction. 

Once we get past the fact that ANY AND ALL positive reader interactions are a balm to every writer, then we come to the inevitable truth that the more recent ones spring to mind first. I am so blessed to have each and every one of you out there sending me happy messages about my books. I treasure each and every one, I really do.

But I'm going to pick a recent one that really thrilled me because of the unusual source. You'll see what I mean when you read it, but I can preface by saying this was from a new friend, a guy my age(ish), who bought DARK WIZARD to be nice. He was in town visiting and bought a hard copy to support me and my local indie bookstore. I seriously never expected him to read it. 

Then I got this email:

I, at last, had time to read "Dark Wizard" over the weekend and I was so impressed! 

It's totally not my sub-genre, and would never consider reading the book if someone gave me a plot summary, but it is so well executed and such a page-turner - I was really sucked in. And, despite myself, I want to read the rest of the trilogy. What really amazes me, is that you have such an extensive bibliography - you must be writing very fast - but the quality is so high - no idea how you do it.

Is there anything better than converting a reluctant reader? Not in my book! (lol)

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

How Authors Are Like Venus Flytraps


What's my favorite reader interaction?

Uh, any that are positive? I'm not picky. I'm over the moon when they happen. I'm enough of a human (no, really) to enjoy having my ego fed. I sure as hell ain't gonna dictate how that goes down. Well, don't show up at my house uninvited, but beyond that I'm like a Venus flytrap, snatching up whatever little scrap of "it was good" or "liked it" I can get. I am always grateful when a reader takes the time to let me know. 

Now, if you want to see me tap my foot and howl with glee like a happy puppy...that'll be from fan art. I haven't received any yet, but I love, love, love seeing what fans draw for other authors/stories/characters. Those skills, man, I salute.

Sunday, May 8, 2022

Dear Reader

Happy Sunday all! This week's topic at the SFF Seven is: Your favorite reader interaction.

I've thought about this for a couple of days and found myself incapable of naming one reader interaction that is my fave, because I love them all. So far, anyway ;) I've said it before and I'll say it again: I feel extremely lucky when it comes to my readers. They're the most supportive group, shouting about The Witch Collector everywhere and always sending the most encouraging messages. Reader love is so motivating. It dims the glare of impostor syndrome and gives us authors reason to sit down and bleed our soul to craft another book. 

For an author to put themselves and their work in the world for people to freely judge isn't easy. But when we find our readers, they make the bumpy parts of the publishing path a little softer. A little easier to trudge through. Someone out there loves our writing. Someone out there loves our characters as much as we do. Someone out there is dying to read more.

I didn't think I'd have much more input other than the above for this post. But this afternoon, I received a message from a reader on Instagram. It read: "Happy Mother's Day to my favorite author!! Hope you have an amazing day!!" 

I sat there for a few minutes absorbing the fact that the quote in the picture above--a quote I've printed and posted in my office and inside my planners for years--had actually come true.

I am someone's favorite author. Honestly, I'm still reeling from that message hours later. If you ever wonder if authors want to hear bookish love from readers, know that YES! We do!

That said, it's still hard for me to pinpoint a single favorite interaction, though this one certainly ranks high on my list of amazing career moments. There will be many more wonderful moments ahead too, I have no doubt, and dear reader, I look forward to each one.

**If you've read The Witch Collector (or plan to) and would like to join my reader group on facebook, visit the link below. I'd love to meet you and chat about books!!

Happy Reading,

~ Charissa

Saturday, May 7, 2022

To Hook ‘Em or Sink ‘Em


How important is the first line? And what if what matters more is the first paragraph?


When writing Shadow of Eternal Flames, my debut fantasy romance novella, I wrote what I felt the story needed! I didn’t consider whether a hook was important or not. I don’t believe this “sank” my book, but I also don’t believe it “hooked” anyone in, either. My opening line is “The wooden floors creaked at the touch of the young woman’s feet as she tiptoed down the hallway towards her father’s study, struggling to hear the muffled voices.”

As I continue to grow as an author, I realize how much I can improve for the future. Although the first line is unlikely to cause a reader to close the book, it is still a good idea to make it fit well within the vibes of your story. Fantasy, as a genre, leans towards opening lines that describe the landscape of the scene. Fantasy Romance, however, often begins with the main character's thoughts or emotional state. Some great examples of opening lines that made me see the authors vision are:


“The forest had become a labyrinth of snow and ice.” -A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas.


“The morning had dawned clear and cold, with a crispness that hinted at the end of summer.” -A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin.


“The first note pierced the silence as the orchestra warmed up.” -Music of the Night by Angela J. Ford


And some opening lines that truly made me feel something:


“Everyone in my home had a death wish, and as time went on, I was becoming more and more likely to oblige them.” -Between Wrath and Mercy by Jess Wisecup.


“Cassia was always one maneuver away from her last breath.” -Blood Mercy by Vela Roth.


“The life of the Maiden is solitary.” -From Blood and Ash by Jennifer L. Armentrout.


I’ll be honest. I believe first lines should be as beautiful or epic as you want them to be, and I do believe they have weight. That being said, I think your last line is much more important, and that is something we don’t often discuss. Your last line is the last thing a reader reads or hears, it is your closing note. I can’t tell you many first lines. I can remember an author's first line being well done, but usually not the words themselves. Last lines, however, I have many engraved into my mind.


“And so Tamlin unwittingly led the High Lady of the Night Court into the heart of his territory.” -A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas.


“And follows him out into the dark.” -The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab.


I am very proud of my last line. Even now, it makes me smile. Very simple, “I remember.” Write what you love, write what makes you proud, and the first lines will come. If you’re a reader, consider your favorite lines and why you love them. Look back at your favorite books and read the first lines again with new eyes! Did you have any idea what you were getting yourself into when you opened it up and read those first few words?


Priscilla Rose is a first-time author of the fantasy romance novella SHADOW OF ETERNAL FLAMES. She currently resides in Central Florida with her husband and their cat KitKat. When she isn't writing or reading, Priscilla spends her time at Renaissance Festivals and Anime Conventions where she cosplays and socializes to her heart's content. She is looking forward to showing the world her fantastical romance stories full of hope, hear, and happily ever after!