Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Author Success Story: Beth Revis

This week I'm bringing in the big guns: People who've traveled down this long and winding road toward publication. Some of them already have book deals. Some have agents. Some have both. They've "made" it.

I want to spotlight someone each day this week to hopefully inspire you, provide a beam of hope along your way, and really prove that you CAN succeed in this crazy business.

But I'm not the only one on-board this positivity wagon. Join us this week for 75 (yes 75!) success stories! Then dream big. Go forth and query. Conquer.

Click here for more inspiration: Lisa and Laura Roecker, Beth Revis, Leah Clifford, Victoria Schwab, Kirsten Hubbard, Susan Adrian, Dawn Metcalf, Kim Harrington, Carrie Harris, Amy Holder, Kathy McCullough, Suzette Saxton and Bethany Wiggins, Gretchen McNeil and Tiffany Schmidt.

I will be featured on Lisa and Laura Roecker's blog this Friday (and just so you know, I asked LiLa to do an interview and they had the idea to spread it across the Interwebz. They are genius personified. So yeah). Please go check out all the posts this week, because you never know who's going to say exactly what you need to hear to keep moving forward.

Today I've got the majorly-impressive Beth Revis.

ACROSS THE UNIVERSE in a tweet: Agatha Christie meets Orson Scott Card in a murder mystery…set in space!!

Was there ever a time you felt like giving up? Why didn't you?

Yeah. YEAH. Actually…with this book. I’ve written other novels. I have more trunk novels than I really care to own up to. I mean…a LOT. But I was also aware that they weren’t my level best. A few of them I only queried a few times before not bothering any more; I knew they weren’t good enough.

But when I finished Across the Universe, I looked at it and thought: I can’t do better than this. I hesitated to send it out—something I had never done before—because the thought of rejections on this one hurt more than the others. I thought if I couldn’t get anywhere with this one, I might as well give up because I couldn’t do better than this.

What has been the hardest part of your road to publication so far? And why?

Dealing with rejection, hands down. It was so frustrating. [Elana interrupts to say that Beth had multiple offers and signed with Merrilee Heifetz of Writer's House. And have you heard her book deal news? Elana's sure you have, but if here.] I’m not afraid to work—but the rejections were so empty. I would look at a form rejection and say, “Why?” Learning to write well was a lot of trial and error—starting with doing everything wrong before I could do anything right.

What's your best advice to aspiring authors?

Practice. Oh, I have 25 words? Then: practice x 25. [Elana interrupts to say she gave her people 25 words to dispel wisdom.]

Super Secret: If you could meet anyone, alive or dead, who would it be?

Martin Luther. (Not the civil right’s leader, though he’s cool—I mean the Protestant Reformer of the Middle Ages.)

Find Beth online:
Her blog, writing it out
Beth tweets!
Beth's website
Read how Beth's journey went on Sherrie Peterson's blog.
Read Beth's success story--with her query letter--on QT.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Author Success Story: Jamie Harrington

This week I'm bringing in the big guns: People who've traveled down this long and winding road toward publication. Some of them already have book deals. Some have agents. Some have both. They've "made" it.

I want to spotlight someone each day this week to hopefully inspire you, provide a beam of hope along your way, and really prove that you CAN succeed in this crazy business.

But I'm not the only one on-board this positivity wagon. Join us this week for 75 (yes 75!) success stories! Then dream big. Go forth and query. Conquer.

Click here for more inspiration: Lisa and Laura Roecker, Beth Revis, Leah Clifford, Victoria Schwab, Kirsten Hubbard, Susan Adrian, Dawn Metcalf, Kim Harrington, Carrie Harris, Amy Holder, Kathy McCullough, Suzette Saxton and Bethany Wiggins, Gretchen McNeil and Tiffany Schmidt.

I will be featured on Lisa and Laura Roecker's blog this Friday (and just so you know, I asked LiLa to do an interview and they had the idea to spread it across the Interwebz. They are genius personified. So yeah). Please go check out all the posts this week, because you never know who's going to say exactly what you need to hear to keep moving forward.

Today? The amazing Jamie Harrington.

SKETCH MCGEE in a tweet: Sketch McGee's a 16yo SuperVillain that changes the future w/ her drawings. But, she's also a band geek in love. Watch those worlds collide.

(And, I may or may not have spent extra time getting that to equal exactly 140 characters just to prove I am the ultimate twitter queen, but whatevs.)

Was there ever a time you felt like giving up? Why didn't you?

So many, many times Elana. In fact, let me illustrate this with a handy dandy little time line:

Yeah, it’s pretty much like that. The thing is, I kind of feel like if there weren’t times I wanted to give up, then the wins and successes wouldn’t matter as much, ya know? [Elana interrupts to say that Jamie received like, five offers from agents. She is repped by Victoria Horn at Liza Dawson Associates.]

What has been the hardest part of your road to publication so far? And why?

I don’t even have to think about this one. It’s the waiting. That’s hands down, without a doubt the hardest part. It’s worse than rejection, it’s worse than wrestling with a difficult chapter, it’s worse than running out of snacks mid-edit, it’s the WORST.

What's your best advice to aspiring authors?

I wordled them for you! (ALWAYS put your book through wordle--it’s the bomb!)

Super Secret: If you could meet anyone, alive or dead, who would it be?

I want to say something profound here, really I do—but I think I’m going with the Ask A Ninja Guy:

Find Jamie online:
Jamie's blog
Jamie tweets!
Read Jamie's journey--and her query letter--on QT.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Author Success Story: Natalie Whipple

This week I'm bringing in the big guns: People who've traveled down this long and winding road toward publication. Some of them already have book deals. Some have agents. Some have both. They've "made" it.

I want to spotlight someone each day this week to hopefully inspire you, provide a beam of hope along your way, and really prove that you CAN succeed in this crazy business. You CAN go from slush-pile-nothing to agented to published author. Yes, I'm looking at you. YOU.

But I'm not the only one on-board this positivity wagon. Join us this week for 75 (yes 75!) success stories! Then dream big. Go forth and query. Conquer.

Click here for more inspiration: Lisa and Laura Roecker, Beth Revis, Leah Clifford, Victoria Schwab, Kirsten Hubbard, Susan Adrian, Dawn Metcalf, Kim Harrington, Carrie Harris, Amy Holder, Kathy McCullough, Suzette Saxton and Bethany Wiggins, Gretchen McNeil and Tiffany Schmidt.

I will be featured on Lisa and Laura Roecker's blog this Friday (and just so you know, I asked LiLa to do an interview and they had the idea to spread it across the Interwebz. They are genius personified. So yeah). Please go check out all the posts this week, because you never know who's going to say exactly what you need to hear to keep moving forward.

First up! The loverly Natalie Whipple.

RELAX I'M A NINJA in a tweet: Tosh--nerd/ninja--must figure out who's behind a string of murders and discovers he's more involved than he thought.

Was there ever a time you felt like giving up? Why didn't you?

If I'm being honest, I feel like giving up almost every week lately. And I've almost given up probably about four hundred times in the past four or so years. The business is hard to get into. And slow moving. And sometimes you're just going to feel like banging your head against the wall is the better option.

Why don't I give up? The answer changes. Sometimes it's because I want this--I want it so bad it aches that I'm not quite there yet. Sometimes it's because I've already gotten this far [Elana interrupts to say that Natalie's agent is Nathan Bransford, so she has made it quite far], and it would be really lame to give up now. Sometimes it's just the fact that I'm freaking stubborn, and I refuse to let this beat me.

Whatever the reason is on a particular day, I grab onto it and don't let go.

What has been the hardest part of your road to publication so far? And why?

Not knowing where or when the road will "end," so to speak. The wondering, the waiting--that's what has been the most difficult trial through every stage. Is this the day my dreams will be reality? Or is it the day they'll be set back another six weeks?

You can only live in hypotheticals for so long before you start to lose it, before you begin to question everything you do as a writer. And at that point you have to find the inner strength to move forward. You have to make the choice to live as presently as possible, and be okay with things not happening when you hope they will.

What's your best advice to aspiring authors?

I would say not to be so hard on yourself. There are enough people out there waiting to tear you down, don't be one of them.

Super Secret: If you could meet anyone, alive or dead, who would it be?

Hmm, I'm so not good at picking. I want to meet too many people. Today I guess I'll say Tolkien, because he was a linguist and I majored in English linguistics. I'd love to take a class from him or something.

Find Natalie online:
Her blog, Between Fact and Fiction
Natalie tweets!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Okay, So Dude, I Know

I know, I know. I said I wasn't going to blog today. And I'm not. I just wanted to give you all a heads-up about something going on over on the QueryTracker blog on Monday.

Jason Yarn at Paradigm Literary Agency is hosting our next contest!

The contest will open on Monday, March 29 at 12 Noon EST. When? MONDAY. Not today. MONDAY.

You’ll be submitting a one-line pitch and the first paragraph of your manuscript. The contest is open to all genres except short stories and romance. Mr. Yarn is accepting 100 entries.

Some advice from Mr. Yarn as you prepare your submission for Monday:

  • Be careful if you make your one-line pitch a question. It’s not verboten, but asking me something I can answer ‘No’ to is always a dangerous thing.
  • Don’t be flabby – be concrete. Meaning, your pitch line shouldn’t be full of generic clich├ęs like ‘Fate’ and ‘Doom’ without being tied to a concrete story element or character.
  • Your pitch should drive me to read your first paragraph and your first paragraph should make me feel like I’ll die if I don’t see more – you don’t need to tell your entire story in either part, just addict me to wanting to find out what happens next. Good luck!

Mr. Yarn will review the entries and choose up to five winners. He’ll be critiquing your query letter and the first 10 pages of your manuscript! We anticipate announcing the winners on Friday, April 9 on the QueryTracker blog.

Dude, guys! All of this is happening MONDAY on the QUERYTRACKER BLOG. So go follow us over there!

But I'm sort of in charge of the contest and wanted you to know so you could, you know, get your pitches and paragraphs ready. *wink*

Have a lovely!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Now Take Your Functioning Blog And...

...Make it something people want to read. Every day. They'll want to come back and comment. They'll have your blog address memorized so they don't have to be reminded by their Google reader or sidebar or dashboard that your blog exists.

Easy, peasy, right?


Okay, so you've set a goal. You've chosen a schedule. You're posting meaningful content.

Now what?

Bring more readers to your blog.

Sounds pretty simple, doesn't it?

I mean, that's what we want. We want readers to come, enjoy themselves (and not just cuz we're droning on about biting ducks), feel inspired to leave a comment, and then -- COME BACK tomorrow.

I'm going to share a couple of dirty little secrets with you (and hope you don't feel badly toward me because of them) that have helped me increase my blog traffic, make my blog followers swell and hopefully turned my name into one people recognize.

DLS #1: Follow blogs like there's no tomorrow. See how I have like 965 followers or whatever? *whispers* I probably follow twice that many blogs. Or at least 1200.

No seriously. I don't read them all every day, but I follow A LOT of blogs. Following is almost reciprocal. You follow me, I'll follow you.

Now, I'm not quite getting 950 hits on my blog every day. So not everyone is coming to read. But you know what? It sure makes me look popular, doesn't it? *insert snarfing here*

DLS #2: Comment. I've found that commenting is almost always reciprocal. I comment on your blog, you'll come comment on mine. I try really really (REALLY) hard to do this for all of you who comment here. Sometimes I make it. Sometimes I fall short. But I try.

We've discussed commenting to death here and here, but if you want more comments, you must comment more yourself.

Major tip: Right now, all you've got is your name. It's free. Spread it far and wide, wide and far by leaving your name everywhere you go. In the future, when you've got your name on a book, people will go, "Oh, yeah. I know that girl. She's scared of ducks." Or something.

Which leads me to...

DLS #3: Use your name as your blogger handle. It's name recognition, which is how you start to brand yourself. I've started meeting quite a few writers in real life. What's the number one thing they say to me after I say, "I'm Elana Johnson." They go, "Oh, you comment on my blog."

Me: *nodding* "Yes, yes I do." (See DLS #2)

It's like we already know each other, except they still can't pronounce my name right. But as I told someone over the weekend, I'll answer to almost anything!

DLS #4: Breed authenticity. Okay, this is the hardest one, I think. But I gave up a long time ago trying to be someone I'm not. You can't force humor. You can't force your voice. You just have to sit down and let yourself flow from you.

You are the only you out there. You're the only one with your name. You're the only one who can write your blog the way it should be written. So you must listen to yourself and be yourself and build a name for yourself that is different from everyone else.

Super easy, right?

I could go into a personal story here, but I'm worried this post is already freakishly long. So I'm going to torture you with more waiting. Hey! This is publishing. Get used to waiting.

I'll come back to this topic of breeding authenticity in a week or two. Next week I've already got something super exciting planned. And I'm taking tomorrow off the blogosphere unless, like a meteor hits the earth or something equally shocking.

But what do you think of my dirty little secrets? These specific ones are designed to increase your blog readership. I have more that relate to other areas of my goal. Many more. I'll spill them another time. In the meantime, start following, keep commenting, get your name out there and search yourself for who you really are.



Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Just Admit It

Okay, this is a hard thing for some of us, I think. I know it was for me. And it is for a few other people I know. So I thought it worthy to blog about.

I submit: The first step toward getting what you want is admitting that you want it. Really really really bad. So bad it aches. So bad you think your chest might cave in if you don't get it. You want it so much that the world could stop spinning and you'd still want it.

So have you done that? Do you feel that ache? That shortness of breath when you think, "My book will never be published."? Or that crushing weight when you hear, "You won't be a mother."? Or whatever it is that you desperately want.

Why is it so hard for us to admit to ourselves that we want something? Are we trying to avoid selfishness? Do we think we don't deserve it?

I know for me, it's probably a combination of both. I am happy (very much so) and content with my life. So admitting that I want something more feels like I'm ungrateful and selfish.

But dude, I so want to hold my book in my hands. I want it to be published.

I want it so bad, I ache inside. I can't breathe when I think it might not happen.

There. I admitted it. Whew. I feel better. And I can move forward with my other writing. Sometimes it's this fear of admitting that we want something that holds us back the most. And yeah, I've sort of been floundering for a while. But no more!

I want it, and I don't care who knows!

So what do you need to admit today? Anything to get off your chest so you can breathe properly again? What do you want so bad you ache? Why haven't you admitted it before?

ETA: I did a little interview about writing YA on Valerie's blog today. If you have a couple of extra minutes (ha ha!) go check it out.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Where to Spend Your Blogging Time

Ah, time. My fickle friend. I want you to slow when I sleep. And speed up when I'm at work. And pause when I write. But accelerate when I clean.

There is never enough of you.

Today, I'm going to opinionate on where you should spend your time to build your online presence. I'm going to do the author branding thing on Thursday.

I think you should have a goal for your social networking. What are you using Facebook for? Twitter? Your blog?

Once you know that, then you know how much time to devote to each one. Let me break it down. This is all for me, so you'll have to adjust your goals accordingly.

1. Facebook. Mine is a mish-mash of writing friends, family, publishing professionals and old friends from high school. Therefore, my goal is not to make every post about writing. This is the place I live my life.

I virtually farm. I virtually cook. I post about movies and going to dinner and yes, writing. It's the "real Elana." I don't update my status very often, but that doesn't bother me. It's not my main platform for networking. It's more for pleasure. More personalized.

Therefore, I probably spend about 15 minutes/day reading through status updates and liking and commented. That's it.

2. Twitter. This is all writing, all the time. I connect to writing pals here. I don't have friends on twitter. Well, I do, but not like real-life-I-went-to-high-school friends. I keep my posts about my WiP or my writing or reading life.

I don't spend much time on twitter because, well, I don't like it. (Remember that post?) I probably spend 15 - 30/minutes each night on twitter. When there are chats, I spend about an hour (Tuesday and Wednesday night).

The end. So I'm up to 45 minutes/day on social networking.

Which leads me to blogging.

3. Blogging. You have to decide where to spend your bloggy time. When I first entered the publishing world, I read literary agent and publishing blogs like they were crack. I couldn't get enough. I'd skip meals and arrive late to work, just soaking up everything I could from the pros.

Once I realized I'd read most of what they were saying, and knew most of it, I gravitated away from those blogs. And now? Dirty little secret... I don't read them at all anymore. Every once in a while, when big news breaks, like the eBook thing with Amazon. That's it.

That's not where I spend my time.

I spend it with other aspiring authors. Rarely do I read a blog of a published author. I know that sounds bad, but it's usually just about their signing schedule or if their novel sold in Spain. Which I like to hear, but yeah. Not really the best bang for my blogging minute, you know?

So I spend all of my time reading and commenting on the blogs of those who are like me. So I think you have to evaluate where you are in your progression, and spend your time in the right places.

Just starting out authors might spend more time on GLA and QT and Nathan Bransford. Further along, you might switch to agented/sold authors with books that aren't quite out (to make online connections), and book bloggers and craft blogs (like The Blood Red Pencil or QT or YA Highway).

Once you're agented/presold/sold, you might continue your friendships with other pre-agented, pre-pubbed authors, or you might move more into book bloggers (who will be reviewing your book--squee!), other debut authors, or get this: READERS.

So I think where you spend your time blogging depends on where you are in the publishing journey. Right now, I'm frequenting book blogs, aspiring authors both agented/sold-but-not-out, agented/pre-sold, and pre-agented.


To make friends, author connections, and bring like-minded people back to my blog.
(And believe me when I say that I read and commented on 90+ blogs on Friday. And that's on the low end of what I do each weekday. I refuse to read and comment on blogs on the weekend. That's how I preserve my sanity.)

I go to a very few publishing/agent blogs and even fewer already-published author blogs. It's just not where I am at the moment.

So you must decide first where you are, and what you need to learn. That will help you establish your goal, which will help you spend your bloggy minutes in the right places.

So you tell me: Where are you right now? What kind of blogs are you reading? Are you learning what you need to to advance to the next level? If not, maybe you should be reading different blogs...


Monday, March 22, 2010

What Comes First?

And I don't mean the chicken or the egg. But that would be a great discussion, right? *snarf*

No, today, I want to talk about what comes first for you when you go to put on your hats. We've been having some interesting discussions about commenting and whatnot. So today, I'm interested to find out where blogging falls on your list.

I don't want blogging to consume the time I have to spend on my other writing. I want to have a (mostly) clean house. And clean clothes to wear. And friendships. And relationships with my family. And there's nothing better than going out to dinner. I also work outside the home.

So where does blogging fit into that? How in the world do we find time to blog?

I've been thinking about this for a few days. In fact, tomorrow, I'm going to talk a bit more about how much time you could devote to blogging and the rewards you'd reap. But today, I'm going to say this:

I want to live.

In real life.

With other people.

So that comes first.

Watching Survivor with my DH comes first.
Going to dinner comes first.
Pushing my kids on the swings comes first.
My writing comes first.
Keeping my house in order comes first.

And I will not feel guilty for living before blogging.

What comes first for you? Do you sometimes feel guilty (like I do) if you can't get to every blog on your list? Why do we do that to ourselves?

Friday, March 19, 2010

What I've Learned Re: Comments

Okay, so last week I asked you what prompted you to leave a comment. The results were so so interesting to me. I'm going to list the top three that came up and my response to them. And I may be revealing more about myself here than I intend, but I only expected one of these to be an issue.

So here we go.

1. Time

Dudes, I so feel this. Many many of you said you might not leave a comment if you don't have time. I get this. I was expecting it. Here's a tip for those of you who want your blog to be easy to comment on. Go to SETTINGS, and COMMENTS. And make your comments a pop-up window. That way your word verification doesn't have to load AFTER I've made my comment and want to post it. That's what I find the most annoying about leaving comments. Just when I think I'm done -- bam! I'm not. And it just takes so. much. more time the other way.

2. Google Reader

I have Google reader, but I don't use it to read blogs. I got several comments from people saying they read the blogs in the reader, and to actually leave a comment is several more clicks.

Guys! I had no idea.

But I get it. It's faster, which relates to time. It's also sometimes the only way to view the blogs if you're say, reading at work or something. I just wasn't expecting it. I didn't know Google reader can actually affect commenting. But it can.

I feel ya. No problemo.

3. Large Numbers of Comments

This one shocked me the most. There were a kazillion of you who said you actually wouldn't comment if a post already had a large number of comments. There were a couple of reasons for this:

A) You figured someone had already said what you would've said.
B) There's no way the blog author can get to every comment if there are a lot.

Dude, you guys. I don't get this. And here's why: FOR ME, the reason I leave a comment is to make a personal connection with the blog author. I don't care if 5 or 50 or 500 other people have said the same thing. If I don't say it, the blog author won't know how I feel, and we won't have that connection. We won't have that starting point to get to know one another.

So FOR ME, I leave a comment on every blog I read. For a few reasons, but the biggest by far is the fact that I want to build a relationship with that blog author. And if I don't comment, that will never happen.

So maybe I just have a big head and expect people to want to read what I have to say? I don't know. But I do know that the number of comments has never deterred me from leaving my words behind.

Secondly, I respond to every single comment because I want that personal connection. I want you to know that I've read your comment and hey, maybe we have something in common. I've started using my email to do this, because it's much faster and I think, more personal. I mean, how many of you come back and read through my comments AGAIN to see if I've talked to you? Yeah, I don't do that on other blogs. Takes too much time.

But here's the thing: You have to set your blogger profile to show your email, or I can't respond to you. So go to EDIT PROFILE and click the box next to SHOW MY EMAIL ADDRESS. That way, when you comment, you'll get a reply from me in your inbox. I'm still trying to get to the blogs of every person who comments on my blog, but let's face it. Sometimes that doesn't happen.

And there you have it. My thoughts on some of the reasons people don't leave comments. I hope you read something eye-opening. Your comments from last week were awesomesauce, and I wouldn't expect anything less of you guys! You rawk!

I guess it comes down to one thing: What are you trying to accomplish when you leave a comment? For me, I want the blog author to know I was there, and open a door for a relationship to grow. If I don't comment, that will never happen.

So...what are you trying to accomplish when you leave a comment? Are you like me, trying to get to know other bloggers? Or...what? I hope I learn a plethora of new things today too!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

What Defines Success?

This can go anywhere, don't you think? Are you dying to see where I'm going with this? Ha ha! I bet you are. *snarf*

Success: the achievement of something desired, planned or attempted.

That's a pretty good definition.

So in publishing what defines success?

Getting an agent?

A book deal?

Making the NYT bestseller list?

Where do you aim? Some of my best friends, Suzette and Bethany, have this on their blog. It inspires me greatly.

"Reach high, for stars lie hidden in your soul. Dream deep, for every dream precedes the goal." ~Pamela Vaull Starr

So combining my life and writing worlds together, this is how I define success:

  • Not eating that girl scout cookie. Okay, not eating the whole box.
  • Writing THE END. Finally.
  • Reading good books. Lotsa good books.
  • Curling up with a blanket and the DVR.
  • Walking in the park. With sun, please.
  • Feeding the ducks. Even with all the crazy-quacking and my heart pounding with the fear that I'm going to have to kick them off my kid and wondering how bad it might hurt to be bitten by a freaking duck.
  • Arriving on time.
  • Signing that agency contract.
  • Reading amazing blogs.
  • Emailing good friends for epic lunch dates.
  • Phone conversations with my DH on the way home.
  • Saying "I love you" and meaning it.
  • Saying "I'm sorry" and meaning it.
  • Not answering the phone when I don't recognize the number. Or even when I do.
  • Listening to my favorite song (Nothing from Chorus Line) on Pandora. And then turning it up real loud.
  • Hearing someone playing the piano in my house.
  • Meeting authors.
  • Merely walking through Barnes & Noble, with that smell of pages and pages of wonder.
  • Sharing this blog with all of you.

And yes, getting that book deal. Landing that agent. Running my fingers over my name on the cover of my book.

Do you think there's an end to success? And you tell me: In your world, what defines success?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

How to Build Your Blog

Let it be known: I love blogging. I like reading and commenting on blogs. I enjoy the friendships I've made in the blogosphere.

With that disclaimer in mind, I'm going to give you some tips for how I've built my blog into something I like maintaining. You might apply these tips to your blogging and see if you can expand your blogging horizons.

Why am I doing this? I've received some emails from people that say things like, "I can only hope to get my blog to where yours is someday."

And I'm here to say: wrong!

I didn't hope for this and then one day it came true.

Like most things in life, it took a freaking lotta work. So dispel that myth that I haven't done anything to increase my readership.

Disclaimer #2: I'm not bragging. I'm simply saying what's worked for me, and what I think you might try to turn your dysfunctional beginning blog into a functional one.

Now that we've got all that out of the way, let's recap.

I started blogging in February 2008. Under an anonymous name. Even though my name was the name of the blog. Yeah, I'm not the sharpest crayon in the box. But whatev.

I didn't tell anyone I was blogging. I didn't read any other blogs (besides literary agents). I didn't comment on blogs.

No one read my blog. No one commented. Why would they?

Fast-forward a few months. I joined a blog chain. It was mandatory for the members of the chain to comment on the blog chain posts.

Yay! Comments.

I blogged irregularly, but at least (a very few) people knew about my blog now. Which leads me to my first two tips:

1. Tell people about your blog. Use a forum, your signature line in your emails, whatever.
2. Choose a regular blog schedule and stick to it. I blog daily now. And when I'm going to be gone, I tell my readers. Even once a week is fine. Set a schedule and stick to it.

When I started blogging for QueryTracker, I got smart. I started blogging daily.

My readership didn't do much though. I didn't have many followers. How to get more? How to get people to come back? How to get more comments than just my blog chain buddies?

I had a blog, but it wasn't

Which leads me to:

3. Set goals. What do you want from your blog? 10 comments? 30? 100 visitors a day? New friendships? What's important to you? My goal was to increase my readership and get repeat readers. I didn't set specific numbers. I just knew I wanted people to come read and keep coming back.

Question: How in the world do you do that?

So I had a schedule. My blog was out of the bag. I knew what I wanted. Now, to do it.

Here's the greatest secret of all...

Are you ready?

4. Post meaningful content that relates to your goal. (Remember I blogged about how it's not all about you? It's really true.)

That's it. That's the key to turning your non-functioning blog into a functioning blog. Posting meaningful content that relates to your goal. Before, I was posting, well, weird stuff. Since I figured out what people want to read, my readership and comments increased.

Success, right?

Sort of.

But this post is getting long, so I'm going to save what I did next for later. I just wanted to say that just because I started posting meaningful content doesn't mean my blog became popular. I had to work to make it so. And I'll spill how I did that next time. I think these four things are a great place to start if you're considering how you can make your blog more functional.

What do you think? Have you announced your blog? Are you scheduled? Do you have a goal for your blog? Are you posting meaningful content for your readers? What would you add to this list?

And remember these are general guidelines for beginning bloggers. Building and maintaining a blog readership is not something you
hope for. It's something you work for. And there's a big difference.

So start with these few steps and join me next week for how to build your
now-functioning blog into an author brand.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Tell the Truth Tuesday

First, dude, you guys! Did you see Beth Revis's amazing news?! No? Okay, skip my lame blog today and get over to hers! She sold her book -- or should I say bookSSSS!!

Truth: This is the most amazing news, like, ever!

Truth: Beth is amazing.

Truth: This was not going to be my post today. But my other post was uber-lame.

Truth: This post is about my, uh, unconventional email habits. Try not to fall asleep.

Truth: I email myself stuff. Links for my newsletter. Blog posts I need to come back to when the firewall at work isn't blocking them. Whatever.

Truth: I usually can't find those emails later.

Truth: So I created a folder for them.

Truth: I almost never come back to the blog posts with videos once I get home. Or anything else I've emailed, really.

Truth: I'm still emailing them to myself.

Truth: I'm a bit disappointed that sometimes the only email I have is from myself. It's not like, "Ooh! Email!" or anything. It's just lame. Because it's from my-freaking-self.

What's your truth today? I'd like some email that isn't from myself, please. *grins*

Monday, March 15, 2010

Book Giveaway Winners!

Wow!! Tons of entries. New friends. So glad you're all here!

Onto the winners:

Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick -- Jamie Burch!
Prophecy of the Sisters by Michelle Zink -- T. Anne Adams!
Bleeding Violet by Dia Reeves -- Tracy Loewer!
The Naughty List by Suzanne Young -- Dahla Herrera!
Gone by Lisa McMann -- Carolina Valdez Miller!
Captivate by Carrie Jones -- Alyssa Kirk!
The Secret Year by Jennifer R. Hubbard -- Jaime Theler!

Email me (elanajohnson(at)gmail(dot)com) with your mailing address!

Congrats everyone!!


And I just wanted to thank everyone who weighed in on why you decide to comment last Friday. Look for a post this Friday and what I learned from you on this topic. I was fascinated by the responses, and I think you will be too!

And how many exclamation points did I use today? Freak! I'm just way excited, all right? Sheesh. All right. Happy Monday!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Fantabulous Followers Giveaway

Okay, here's another amazing Monday. Now Monday isn't usually that great of a day. But today, in celebration of my fantabulous followers, I'm having a book giveaway. (I was going to do this for reaching 500 followers, but now there's over 700 of you! So SEVEN books will be offered!)

And not just any book giveaway. These books will be signed by their authors. Personalized, even. Here are the books you can win:

The Naughty List by Suzanne Young

Bleeding Violet by Dia Reeves

Prophecy of the Sisters by Michelle Zink

Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick

Gone by Lisa McMann (won't be personalized)

Captivate by Carrie Jones

The Secret Year by Jennifer R. Hubbard

It's super easy to enter. Simply do these three things:
1. Follow my blog. (Widget right over there... -->)
2. Follow Suzette Saxton and Bethany Wiggins' blog - they have a wicked contest going on today too! Agent critiques and stuff. Check it out!
3. Fill out the form below.

My twitter. My facebook. Contest is open until Sunday, March 14 at 10 PM MST. Good luck!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Poll, Opinion, Whatever

Hey everyone!

Okay, so I'm sort of addicted to StatCounter like it's crack. I didn't used to get this phenom, but now it's all I can do to only check it once a day.

And it got me thinking.

I get quite a few hits on my blog. Lots of you are coming to read. I don't know if your finger is accidentally slipping or what. Some of you leave comments, which I appreciate very much. I try to respond to every person, whether through email (which, BTW, if you don't allow blogger to know your email, I can't respond to you. It makes it go to -- and that's lame) or in the comments section.

But here's the thing. There are many (many many) more people reading than leaving comments.

So here's the question for today.

What makes you decide to leave a comment? Why don't you leave one? I saw this great article because Danyelle posted it on Facebook. It's old - from like, 2006 - but I really liked it. And now I'm wondering why some of you come, but don't leave a comment. Not that I expect every person who reads to have something to say. It's just something that's been bouncing around in my head this week.

So what about a blog post or a blog or a blog author inspires you to leave your mark?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The "Dream Agent"

I've heard this a lot out there on the Interwebz. "I just queried my dream agent." Or, "I don't want to query my dream agent yet." Or whatever whatever "dream agent."

And I'd like to submit something to you today. So bear with me. No doubt some of you will agree, and some of you won't. I'd love to hear your thoughts on it, though, so don't hold back.

Let's go back to my time in the query trenches. Of course I researched and I had agents I thought would be a good match for me. I queried them. And there's nothing like the rush of a request, no matter who it's from.

When I researched Michelle Andelman, I didn't find much. She doesn't run a popular blog. Lynn C. Franklin doesn't have a website (besides PM). She's not giving out query advice on twitter.

I saw that she used to be at Andrea Brown and that she was looking for YA. I added her to my list. Now since I'm a tad on the OCD side (just a tad), I dug deeper. I found interviews she'd given. I may or may not have searched for a picture. I looked up titles she'd sold. I thought, "Yeah, we'd make a good match."

And then I sent her a generic query.

She requested my full, but so did a lot of people that week.

When she emailed me to ask about my other writing, I sat up straighter. I may or may not have searched again for any information about her. I may or may not have friended her on Facebook and Twitter.

When she accepted my requests for friendship, my heart beat a little faster. (That whole first date thing, you know. We were walking in the park.)

I may or may not have stalked her FB and twitter posts. I may or may not have randomly pulled up her picture just to get a feel for the human behind the emails. I cannot confirm nor deny these claims.

But I do know one thing.

Are you ready?

She was not my "dream agent" when I queried her.

She became my dream agent when I read the words, "I love CONTROL ISSUES."

So I submit to you today: Your dream agent is the one who LOVES YOUR BOOK.

Michelle is my absolute dream agent. Not because she listens to funky music (although that is a bonus). Not because the text in her emails is pink (but dude! Pink emails? Love that). Not because in one of our recent convo's I yelled, "Shut. Up!" and she laughed and told me to keep telling her that. (I'm actually a bit embarrassed that I told my agent to shut up, but you know. Seinfeld moment.)

No. None of those things are available on the web. Michelle is my dream agent because she LOVES MY BOOK.

And I didn't know that until 4 months into our relationship.

So I think it's a bit dangerous and damaging (to your psyche) to label agents as "dream" simply because they're out there on the Interwebz and you can see them more prominently. You don't know them. You don't know what their client list is like. You don't know what the editors they've lunched with recently have said. There is absolutely no way for you to know if you'll be a good team until you've had a lot of correspondence with them.

So I think we should drop the term "dream agent."

I do think you should research your brains out and try to find people you think would be a good match for you. But I don't think we should attach a label to people we don't--can't--really know.

What do you think about this? I'm sure you (used to) have a "dream agent." Do you think this is a healthy label to put on someone? Does it hurt more when they reject you? I'm interested to know your thoughts.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Great Is Great

Okay, you knew it was coming. Well, maybe some of you didn't, but whatever. Let it be known that I'm a huge fan of American Idol. Many of my posts come from inspiration I get whilst watching that show.

So here's my first blog post that came from AI this year. So I was watching last week, and Randy said something along the lines of "Great is great, you just need to sing it greatly."

And dude!

That's writing right there.

Great is great. You just need to write it greatly.

I'm so going with that for my motto.

Stop the violins.
Write it greatly.

What's your motto? Do you have anything to add to mine? Something good happen to you? Someone you know? Lay it on me. I'm feeling the positivity today.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Stop the Violins

I saw this as a bumper sticker on a car. It was awesomesauce

And so today, I vow to stop the violins. No one cares that I have to do my dishes, clean my three toilets or walk through snow to my car. *whine, whine, whine* No one cares that my legs are throbbing because I've recently heaved myself off the couch and onto the treadmill. *whine, whine, whine*

I will not whine about what I cannot change -- or what I can for that matter. Not today.

I will not give in to those pesky violins!

Who's with me? *insert battle cry*

Today, toss all your violin-worthy whines in the comments. And then walk away. I'll shoulder the load.

Walk. Away.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Friday Night Confessions

Okay, it's come to my attention that I start every blog post with the word "okay."

Okay, that's not my confession.

But I have one today. And it's sort of like that song in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat where the narrator says, "In his bed, Pharaoh had an uneasy night. He had, had a dream that pinned him to his sheets with fright."

Yeah, that's me. Not so much a dream that's got me all freaked, but something else.

I'm going to confess, because a dear friend and I do Friday Night Confessions every week. FNC we call it. We also have RTC's, but that's another blog post. (But mucho points if you can figure out what RTC stands for!)

Anyway, I'm going to confess something. But you must all remember that I'm not fishing for compliments or anything. That's one of the rules of FNC. We get to say our confession and the other one doesn't try to make us feel better or anything. (Okay, that's not a rule, but I just made it up so it's gonna be from now on.)

Are you ready?

My confession: I have this paralyzing fear that I won't be able to live up to what people think of me.

There. I said it. And not just in writing. In life. In work. In everything.

And I don't want you to tell me how awesome I am. That's what's making me feel all freaked out!

No. Instead, tell me your confession. I mean, your deepest, darkest fear. And not dogs. I mean, that's so not fair. I gave you the fear buried under my heart (although I am terrified of dogs).

So I ask: What are you afraid of? Like, really terrified of?

It's Friday. Confess. FNC, yo.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Wearing Many Hats

This past week I've been preparing for the presentations I'll be doing at a conference in April. Spending so much time and energy on this made me realize something.

I'm wearing more than just the writer hat. So I decided to keep track of what I do in a given week. Now, don't freak out (Jonathan) because I didn't do any math. I just took a good, hard look at my writing time and wrote down how I spent it.

Because I wasn't writing. I wasn't working on my MS. (We're having issues again. We need literary therapy.)

I've hung up my "Writer/Reviser" hat.

Instead I've been wearing my Critique Partner hat. My Friend hat. Query Ninja. PowerPoint Presentation Maker. Reader. Outliner (shudder). Copier. Google Image Searcher. Blogger. Commenter. Social Networker.

And that doesn't even go into my personal life hats. That's just what I did during my alloted writing time.

How many hats do you have? Which one are you wearing the most right now? I really need to get back to the Writer one. I'm the happiest in that hat. I miss that hat.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Queries and Kisses

Okay, so we've gone over how to write a killer query letter.

Now comes the really scary part, people.

Sending it out.

I happen to know for a fact that some of you are terrified of that. And you should be, cuz it's not fun out there in the query trenches. Not fun at all.

So why do we do it?

It's hard. Horrifying. Depressing. You're going to get rejected. Maybe a lot. Maybe a little. Maybe, maybe, maybe.

There's nothing worse than maybe -- which is why people (I'm looking at YOU) don't send out their query.

But if you never send your query letter out, you'll never get a full request. If you never send your query letter out, you'll never get published. If you never send your query letter out, you'll never progress past the point of where you are right this second.

It's sort of like getting that first kiss.

No, really.

If you never go out on a date, you'll never get kissed.

If you never ask someone out, you'll never go on a date.

And that's all the querying process is. It's asking an agent/editor out. Sometimes they say yes. Sometimes they say no. And if they say yes, you're on a little date. You know, a walk in the park. Lunch or something. And if they offer, then it's like the kiss goodnight.

If you've never been "kissed" that doesn't mean you won't be. It doesn't mean you're unkissable. It just means you've got to find that one perfect date. Sometimes it takes a lot of little dates to get to the front porch.

But you'll never see the front porch if you don't send your query letter out.

I know some of you are querying. I know some of you are close. I know some of you aren't querying or close to it. But how do you feel about querying? Are your insides like Jell-O right now? Or have you invested in steel and been coating your nerves in it for a few months? Why do you think you feel that way?

And I'm issuing a challenge to those of you clinging to the query letter fence and not sending it out. SEND IT OUT! Today. This week. At least by the 15th. Get off that fence. Ask that question. Make it to the porch.

**Disclaimer: No literary agents were actually kissed during my time in the query trenches. It's an analogy, people. *wink*

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Sometimes Your Best Isn't Enough

Okay, today is tell the truth Tuesday.

Here's a tough one for you: Sometimes your best isn't good enough.

It really isn't. Sometimes you try really hard to do/change/fix something, and it's not enough. This was brought to my attention as I was reading a book over the weekend. In the dedication, the author said "To XXX who kept saying, "This is good, but not good enough."

And so today, I'd like to submit that it's okay to not be good enough.

Right now.

Once you've accepted this Truth, find and surround yourself with the people who will demand more from you. More than you think you have. More than your best. Because then you'll rise to a new level of "best."

Thoughts? Who have you found that forces you to dig deeper, try harder, do better? I have many--including a lot of you who demand I think of semi-interesting things to post here every day--but I won't name them because I'm pretty sure they know who they are.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Blog Book Discussion - Beautiful Creatures

This month's book: Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl.

So settle yourselves in, grab your beverage of choice and feel free to voice your opinion. Remember that I'm all about positivity, so we're going over what we loved and then what we wish was different.

Things I Loved:

1. The setting. Set in the south, the setting actually became a character all its own. I found it charming and well-done, if not a little slow-paced at times (see #1 below).

2. The MC, Ethan Waite. Told from a male POV, this YA novel gave a different side to a heavily populated female genre. He was likable. He didn't do stupid things. He wasn't a complete geekazoid. He wasn't mean, rude, brash, or in your face. He was average. Likable. Willing to take risks. I really liked him. (Sheesh, should I use "like" some more? Word choice, Elana, word choice.)

3. The secondary characters. The caretaker. The girlfriend. The best friend. The aunts. They were all well-rounded, well-done, and not cliche. Since I'm a pretty character-driven reader, I enjoyed this.

What I Wish Were Different:

1. The length. Holy loooooong, my friends. I devoured the first 250 - 300 pages, and then I was ready for the climax. The problem? It didn't come for another 250 pages. I mean, I like characters, but I like things to happen to them even more.

2. Which brings me to the climax. I was a tiny bit disappointed. Because it didn't really end. And I'd read 557 pages and it didn't really end!

So yeah. That annoys me a little bit, but then I have to remember that I'm more of a stand-alone reader/writer and I want my books to be complete stories all by themselves. But this wasn't that story. It's painfully obvious that there's another book (or four).

Overall Rating: 3.5 stars

Have you read Beautiful Creatures? What did you think? If you haven't, I would recommend it as a standard YA paranormal novel.

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