Thursday, January 31, 2019

Dear O'Abby, I Hate My Cover...

Dear O'Abby,

My debut novel is about to be published and I've been super excited about it.  Then today, I got sent my cover art from my publisher and I hate it.  It's nothing like the way I imagined the book would look, and makes it look like it's something totally different to the book I wrote.

What do I do?  I don't want to ruin my relationship with the publisher, but I also really don't want my book going out in the world with that cover.

Best wishes,


Dear Uncovered,

I feel your pain.  I recently had exactly the same experience with my new book.

How you deal with this depends very much on who your publisher is.  If you're with a 'big-five' publisher, you will probably have less say in what the cover looks like than if you're with a small press.  But it's important you speak up.  Don't just roll with something you hate because you feel like it's rude to complain.

If you have an agent, speak to her in the first instance.  She is there to advocate for you and have those tricky conversations with the publisher on your behalf.  Outline your concerns and explain the reasons why you feel the cover is wrong.  It may even be helpful to send a few images of covers from books like yours that you do like as examples of the kind of look and feel you wanted for the cover.

If you are unagented, you will have to do this for yourself.  Reply to the publisher thanking them for sharing the artwork.  Then outline the problems you see with it, and again, maybe send some examples of covers you like that are on books similar to yours.

If you're lucky, the publisher will take this on board and try something different.  The first cover my publisher sent for my new book made it look like a historical novel, possible with some supernatural elements.  It was very pretty, but pretty wasn't right for my dark, dirty sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll novel.  So I did exactly the above, including examples, and ended up with a cover that I love and perfectly suits the novel.

So it's worth having that conversation.  Even if it is difficult.  Publishers don't always get things right.

Good luck!

And please share your cover when you get one you're happy with.  We'd love to see it.

X O'Abby

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Abhishek Behera's Debut Author Spotlight #NewBook #20Questions at Operation Awesome

Debut Author Spotlight from @JLenniDorner on @OpAwesome6

Pulitzer at 16 by Abhishek Behera

1- Any resolutions for the New Year?

To be a better person than I was in comparison to the last year & be more patient in each and every situation that I am faced with in the coming years.

2- Would you please, in 160 characters or less, give a #WriteTip ?

In my point of view I think writing is something that allows you to connect with yourself in the best possible manner because the process of writing is unique in itself as it lets you to give a shape to your process of imagination in the form of words.I think that is what a writer should realise while writing something because according to me each and every piece of writing is a masterpiece in its own terms and unique at the same time. I published my first book at the age of 16 and during my period of writing a book what I realised was that you need to realise your expressions & the motive of writing something because it adds a touch of liveliness into it which makes it more lively & inspiring and yes I'd like to quote a line from my book which I think is worth sharing, "An experience should always be well experienced."

3- What ignited your passion for writing?

Literature has been an integral part of my life in these many years. I always wanted to give a shape to my imaginary expressions and I think that feeling of extreme interest in giving a shape to my imagination is the thing that ignited the passion for writing in me.

4- What are your writing plans and goals for the next ten years?

Well, I'm working on my next book which I've planned to be sequel to my debut book and I think I'll work towards learning more new experiences in the years to come and I'll definitely try my best to achieve what I've planned of doing in the years to come.

5- What's your Twitter handle, and do you have two or three writer friends on there to shout-out to for #WriterWednesday ?

Yes, I do. Actually after I launched my first book I was introduced to a number of supportive twitter friends who would be ready to share valuable experiences when I require and I'm sure they would do the same also for #writerwednesday

6- Would you share a picture with us of your book at the Ekamra Kanan Botanical Gardens?

Yes, I'd love to do that.
Abhishek Behera's Debut Author Spotlight #NewBook #20Questions at Operation Awesome

7- What's your dream for the #CreativeAuthors website?

I had created the website #CreativeAuthors for the purpose of providing many young authors out there in the world who struggle to make their writing masterpieces be read by the people. I dream to take it further into the next stage of allowing the writer share & write blogspots in my website.

8- What most motivates you to read a new book?

As I quoted earlier that "Every experience should always be well experienced", I make sure that I keep having new experiences because I believe if you are able to read some 1000 pieces of writings then you'll be able to write a single piece of literature that there's no doubt that one piece of literature would be equal to the power of somewhat 100,000 pieces of literature and even more!

9- What is your favorite book by someone else, what's the author's Twitter handle, and what do you love most about that book? #FridayReads book recommendation time!

Author name:Ravinder Singh @_RavinderSingh_
Love because:I really admire the writings of Author Ravinder Singh who is a renowned & bestselling books which are mainly works on love. I admire him because he depicts a honest image of love which are really inspiring and heart-touching.
(Amazon Author Page)

10- Who is currently your biggest fan? What does that person love most (or "ship") about your debut novel?

Well at this stage, to be honest I'm actually the biggest fan of myself because everytime I read my book I struggle with accepting the fact that the writings are mine.

11- What emotions do you hope your book will evoke for the reader, and is there a particular scene you hope will resonate with readers?

I think my book will evoke the emotion of realising our real identity which we all knowingly keep under the dark shadows of fear & self-doubt. I think after reading my book ,my esteemed readers will believe that there's no word called "Impossible" because impossible itself stands for "I'm Possible."

12- Do you have a favorite #bookstagram image or account/ profile?

Actually I don't think I am active on that platform.

13- What is the best and worst part of living in India?

The best of living in India is I'd say there's no country like my country because irrespective of the cons of staying in India, i consider it to be a home of 1.3 billion creative minds who have something or else to share and learn from.

14- What is the most memorable trait or visual oddity of one of your characters?

Trembling while infront of his secret crush!!

15- #WeNeedDiverseBooks What's your favorite book with a diverse main character?

I don't remember any of those.

16- Who is your favorite book review blogger?

Leonard Tillerman

17- What was the deciding factor in your publication route?


18- Why do you think readers should write book reviews?

I think readers should write book reviews because these review really mean a lot to the people whose writings are being read. Irrespective of the reviews whether they are good or bad, they open a scope of getting better for the best.

19- What is one question or discussion topic which you would like the readers of this interview to answer or remark on in the comments?

Yes I'd like to have a discussion of which kind of writings are more appreciated by the readers irrespective of the age of the readers and what valuable suggestion would the readers would like to give to young teenage debut authors like me.

20- Anything else you would care to share about your book and yourself?

I'd like say one thing that ....... "Dream a lot... there is no service tax in it." That is the official tagline of my book #PulitzerAt16😃

Pulitzer at 16 by Abhishek Behera

Friday, January 25, 2019


It's that time again, everybody! Enter here for a chance to win a query critique by yours truly! Here's how to participate:

1. Comment on this post and at least one other post from this week by *SUNDAY 1/27 at 12 pm*.

2. Leave your email address in the comment or have it available on your Blogger profile. (Or else I can't find you!)

The winner will be announced in the comment section of this post on Sunday.

See this post for additional rules. Good luck!


Thursday, January 24, 2019

Dear O'Abby: I don't have time to write. Am I a writer?

Dear O'Abby,

I have always written.  Since I was a kid, and old enough to know how to hold a pencil and make it work.  But since finishing college, starting work and the demands of a young family, I just can't seem to find the time to write.  And it's driving me crazy.  I have so many story ideas squirreling around my head, but the most I can do is scribble them down in my notebook and hope they still sound good when - if - I ever have time to sit down in front of my computer and write.

Can I call myself a writer if I don't write anymore?



Dear Time-Challenged,

You are not alone.  I think most writers are in much the same boat.  I know I am!

I think the biggest thing to take on board is to be realistic.  Maybe before you had kids and a job you could knock out 3000 words a day without thinking too much about it.  Maybe you were even one of those people who could write an entire novel in a weekend.

Forget that.

If your time is limited, you need to make the most of what you do have.  Work out when you are at your most creative and see if you can carve out a few minutes at that time of day.  Or if that time doesn't suit, you may need to just force yourself to write at some other time.  Personally, I'm a night-owl naturally, but for many years I worked nights so I wasn't able to write at night.  I trained myself to get up at 5:30am so I could get an hour and a half of writing time in before my kids got up at 7.

And I still do that, even though I don't work nearly as many nights now.  It works for me because my day job is so crazy, I often don't have the energy or creative drive to write in the evening.  If I do, great.  I can do more.  But if I don't, I know I've had that time in the morning.
Maybe you're in a different situation and writing at night, after the kids go to bed, will work better for you.  Or you may be able to steal an hour or so while they're napping in the afternoon.

The point is to write.  I know writers who write on their phones while their kids are in swimming lessons.  Or who scribble in a notebook during their lunch breaks or on their commute.

You don't need a clear two hour block to write.  If you can steal a quarter hour here and a half hour there and use them productively, you will be able to write those stories.  It may take longer than before, but at least you can still call yourself a writer.

Good luck!


Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Laura Gia West's Operation Awesome Debut Author Spotlight #NewBook #20Questions

Debut Author Spotlight from @JLenniDorner on @OpAwesome6

Dead School by Laura Gia West

The first author in the spotlight this year has a live tour stop near my neck of the woods! Check out question four for details.

1- Your cover is amazing. What's your favorite part about it?

Laura Gia West's Operation Awesome Debut Author Spotlight #NewBook Dead School #mustread #20Questions
Thank you so much! My publisher/designer gave me the freedom to design my own cover. I mostly enjoyed playing with the fonts to evoke the mood of the book: fun, young, whimsical, yet dark. Fonts go a long way when complimenting an image (in this case, not making it so serious and keeping it bold/edgy)!

2- Would you please, in 160 characters or less, give a #WriteTip ?

#WriteTip : There is always time to write, forget "the time just isn't right". 1 hour a day = success. More? Winning! Keep the fire burning, and your mental muscles on a treadmill.

3- What ignited your passion for writing?

My father ignited my passion for writing. He forced me to write my first feature screenplay when I was thirteen years old. He taught me to play the piano, utilize the quick-wit of improvisation- creativity is all intertwined. I love imagining my own worlds, and haven’t stopped writing since then.

4- You're going to the B&N in Bethlehem, PA on Feb 9. Any plans to stop at Just Born for Valentine's Peep hearts, see the "PEDRO MEYER: TRUTH FROM FICTION" exhibit, or visit the Museum of Indian Culture?

Peeps are my husband’s favorite! Thanks for sharing! Will definitely be exploring Bethlehem after. If you’re around Easton, PA - come on by to B&N and say hello!
Bethlehem Easton map of B&N

5- What's your Twitter handle, and do you have two or three writer friends on there to shout-out to for #WriterWednesday ?

Yes! My twitter handle is: @LauraGWest For #WriterWednesday fellow authors of @brwpublisher : @RobertEKearns @KayMerkelBoruff @inktostone Hi guys! Check them out!

6- Would you share a picture with us of your book in an interesting setting?

Actually, I had my book launch for Dead School in a very old church, surrounded by an eerie cemetery …
Laura Gia West's Operation Awesome Debut Author Spotlight #NewBook Dead School #20Questions cemetary graveyard Laura Gia West's Operation Awesome Debut Author Spotlight #NewBook Dead School #20Questions cemetary graveyard

7- What's your favorite jazz song?

My father, Vlad West (Vladimir Sermakashev) is a well-known jazz musician in Russia. Naturally, I will say all of his songs are my favorite. In particular: “Never Too Late For Roses”. Also, I’m a fan of Thelonious Monk: “Round Midnight”.

8- What most motivates you to read a new book?

The desire to see what other authors are currently writing motivates me to read new books. Especially when I’m in a “break period” between projects. Grabbing a book then is like licking wasabi between sushi bites. It’s refreshing, cleanses the palate, and makes the flavors of my next project even tastier.

9- What is your favorite book by someone else, what's the author's Twitter handle, and what do you love most about that book? #FridayReads book recommendation time!

I have so many favorite books, it’s nearly impossible to just pick one! But, if I have to choose an author with a twitter handle... I adore and idolize Author name:R.L. Stine @RL_Stine
Title: #FridayReads any Goosebumps books. Love because:He knows it! A brilliant, quirky mind. A kind and honest man, who gives back to upcoming writers.

10- Who is currently your biggest fan? What does that person love most (or "ship") about your debut novel?

My biggest fan is my mother, Linda. Hands down. She has been the first to read all of my work since I was six years old and writing poetry about “ants in my pants”. Yes, she has read hundreds of those. She particularly loves my imagination in all of my writing, especially in Dead School. We enjoy similar stories. Fantasy, magic, and an escape to unique places... My father-in-law, Bob, might make the runner-up cut, since he must've been a heartfelt cheerleader in a past life. I should double check his "Blueprint" in the Dead School Hall of Records.

11- What emotions do you hope your book will evoke for the reader, and is there a particular scene you hope will resonate with readers?

I hope that readers laugh when they read Dead School. I hope that they can connect and see themselves in a cynical Tina Crocker. I also hope that readers take away a sense of wonder and have fun on this whimsical journey. On a more deeper note, it may inspire someone with a desire to say “I Love You” to those who matter most, because you never know when that last time will be.

12- Do you have a favorite #bookstagram image or account/ profile?

I love all #bookstagram images. Anything with coffee, baking, and the obvious: books. Fancy Harry Potter collections with gold lettering, don't mind if I do... It's great because it inspires you to want to read something new. What's better than that?

13- Have you ever been to, or performed in, a talent show like your MC Tina Crocker?

Oh, yes! I went to "The Fame School", otherwise known as LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts. We were always surrounded by concerts, talent shows, theatrical performances... As a Dramatic Writing college student in NYU Tisch School of the Arts, we constantly had classes where we had to perform in front of each other. Basically, I was performing on stage ever since I was a little girl. Growing up, my parents and I had one of those musical family acts. I would sing and dance with my mom, while my father accompanied us. We played in nursing homes, public libraries, and street festivals all over New York. I started young, and I know those nerves all too well!

14- What is the most memorable trait or visual oddity of one of your characters?

I would say there are quite a few memorable oddities in the characters of Dead School. After all, we are talking about these students retaining their grisly appearance after their demise (a waddling torso on its way to the elevator, while the other half struggles to catch up, etc.) Tina Crocker, though, has a big fat mole slapped onto her face, haunting her through her life, and through death. The memory of imperfection just doesn't go away.

15- In what ways are the main characters in your book diverse? #WeNeedDiverseBooks

I was blessed to have an upbringing in such an openly artistic community at LaGuardia High School. Everybody accepted each other's differences, and there really wasn't much of a hierarchy. It was really quite beautiful. In Tina Crocker's high school, before entering Dead School, she sees lesbians walking together hand-in-hand, just like any other male/female couple. The LGBT community is normal in her world, just like it was in mine growing up. Tina, herself, is very different from the others, and is on a journey to accept herself for the way she is, as well as help Anna's mission against bullying.

16- Who is your favorite book review blogger?

The Goodreads Blog is a favorite of mine. I also like The Book Smugglers and Looking Glass Review, to name a few.

17- What was the deciding factor in your publication route?

I knew I didn't want to self-publish my work, merely for the desire to experience the traditional route, as well as have the satisfaction of somebody else championing and believing in my writing. It's a great feeling to know Dead School resonates with somebody enough to put their time, effort, and resources into publishing it. Shout-out to Black Rose Writing! @brwpublisher

18- Why do you think readers should write book reviews?

It's a chance to share your opinion with other like-minded readers, to help navigate the world of stories. There's nothing better than finding your next favorite adventure. If the reader is also an aspiring writer, then that's even more important! It grows the skill set to understand what works and doesn't work about another writer's story, and it also helps the author by spreading the word!

19- What is one question or discussion topic which you would like the readers of this interview to answer or remark on in the comments?

If you were to die tomorrow and had to revisit your life, what would be the one thing you would change about it?

Laura Gia West's Operation Awesome Debut Author Spotlight #NewBook Dead School #20Questions cemetary graveyard

20- Anything else you would care to share about your book and yourself?

I love to hear from my readers! I welcome all questions, comments, conversations and emoticons! Feel free to check out my website and connect with me here:

You can find Dead School on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
If you're in the PA area, swing by the Barnes and Noble Bethlehem in Easton on February 9th, 12-2pm, would love to meet you!
Address: Southmont Center, 4445 Southmont Way, Easton, PA 18045

Dead School by Laura Gia West

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Introducing #FirstPageImpressions!

Please extend a big welcome to...

#FirstPageImpressions is a brand-new Operation Awesome event! It is a sister event to #QueryFriday, in that winners will get a critique of - you guessed it - their first page.

The first page of your manuscript is the first sample of your writing that an agent receives, so you want to make sure that it's the best, most polished version of your work. #FirstPageImpressions will provide fresh eyes on your first page so you know just what that first impression is, because as we all know, you only get one chance to make a first impression. Our critique will focus on identifying ways to make your writing pop, as well as cleaning up any loose ends. And if we don't have anything to fix, we'll let you know!

#FirstPageImpressions will take place every other Tuesday. If it gets popular enough, we might increase the frequency, but that's up to you!


1.) You must comment on the #FirstPageImpressions post in order to enter, as well as comment on one other Operation Awesome blog post from that week. This will be checked, and failure to comment on another blog post will result in your entry being invalidated.

2.) If you are the winner, please make it easy to contact you. If you are not comfortable with leaving your email in your comment, then please make sure that your blogging profile has your contact information listed.

3.) Entry comments will be accepted until Thursday, 12 Noon, EST. The winner will be selected by a random number generator and announced Thursday evening in the comments section.

4.) Your critiqued first page will be returned to you via email in an attached document with notes in the margins within 7 days.

5.) If you have won a first page critique, you will not be eligible to win another until 3 months have passed. Critiques will not be done multiple times on the same first page. If you enter again, it must be with a new story. (If you have won a query critique from #QueryFriday, you are still eligible to win a first page critique.)

6.) First page means first 250 words, regardless of spacing. If this cuts off a sentence, use the last sentence that will put you below 250 words. We use the word count checker in Microsoft Word to verify this. If your entry is over 250 words, you will not receive feedback.

We're very excited to get this event started, and we hope you are too! If you have any questions or comments, please let us know, either in the comments of this post or on Twitter @OpAwesome6.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Resetting the Goal Clock: 100 Rejections Again

My mother and I recently had a very eye-opening conversation. It involved my lifelong tendency to set gloriously unachievable goals for myself as well my recent mental health diagnosis from the doctor (bipolar II).

Phew. I haven't really shared that diagnosis with anyone before online — not officially, that is. But there it is. I wasn't keeping it a secret so much as waiting to see if it was true, because I've had so many diagnoses and the only ones I trust are depressed and anxious. I've been bipolar, I've been borderline, I've been OCD, I've been it all, and nothing has stuck. This new one felt real, though, but I wasn't about to go announcing it to the masses until I knew.

So this conversation with my mother, it was in mid-December, and it was about New Years' Resolutions, and it was about Bipolar II, which includes episodes of hypomania, which involves feeling invincible. Feeling like you can take on the world, no problem, easy peasy. Write a book a month? No freaking problem, buddy. Cause you're the king of the world. Conqueror. Hero. Borderline almighty.

Until all that energy fizzles out. You hit a roadblock. Someone says no. Your bottle of prescription meds is empty and the pharmacy is closed and the weather is cold so instead of getting a refill you crawl into bed and you sleep and it's been 24 hours since you took your meds and, well, shit. 

A whole nasty cycle begins, and now you're not on top of the world but being buried alive in the center of the Earth, and it takes every ounce of strength to claw your way out. Fingernails broken and covered in dirt and you can taste blood in your mouth but at least you're not buried anymore, right?

Until next time.

So what does that have to do with writing? What does that have to with getting 100 rejections in 2018? What does that have to do with anything related to Operation Awesome?

The thing is, so much of last year was coming in and out of Bipolar II cycles. From depression to slight hypomanic states to deep, incredibly deep depressive episodes. At the beginning of the year I set these lofty goals for myself and I was so disturbingly confident I would meet them all.

This did not happen. I met not a single one of them.

I wrote no new novels. I did not read 52 books. I did not meet any more of my literary heroes. I did go to book conferences. 

Finally, I had made a goal here on this blog that I'd seek 100 Rejections by Dec. 31, 2018.

I'm pretty sure I got to 10? Maybe. If that.

And not because people said yes. Because I didn't ask. I didn't write. I hardly could, it seemed.

But the thing that I did in 2018 is that I survived.

I don't know why last year was so hard for me. I've managed to work full-time, even longer hours, while writing and having a social life and watching TV/reading books. But for some reason, 2018 was the year where all I could do was work and maybe watch TV and read and then be depressed. And the watching TV and reading (I mean, except for the four months when I literally didn't crack the spine, electronic or physical, of a book) was the only way to not be depressed.

Y'all, I promise this is relevant. 

Here it is: sometimes you have to reset the clock. You make a goal. You surge forward. And you don't make it. For whatever reason. Maybe it's your fault — maybe you have been dropping the ball lately. Or maybe it's not even your fault. 

Life hits us with unexpected circumstances sometimes. It's out of our control. The thing that I remind my friends, even those who don't have mental illnesses, is that there's always going to be things that hit them out of the blue and, for periods whose length I truly cannot predict, and it'll knock the wind out of their sails.

And that. Is. Okay.

Life is unpredictable. Sometimes it's possible to speed along and do it all. And sometimes it's just about surviving. Putting one foot in front of the other and making do.

I've been in such a long, long, long extended period of making do. To be honest, I don't know when (or if, really), I'll snap back into vibrancy. 

All I know is that...I'm gonna keep trying. One foot in front of the other, yes, but also, goals.

When I fall, when I fail, I'll just reset.

Therefore, for 2019, one of my goals is as follows:

Score 100 Rejections Across All Writing Submissions 

Fingers crossed. Check in soon.

What are some of your goals you're working on in 2019 that you've had to reset, maybe even multiple times?

Friday, January 18, 2019


It's that time again, everybody! Enter here for a chance to win a query critique by yours truly! Here's how to participate:

1. Comment on this post and at least one other post from this week by *SUNDAY 1/20 at 12 pm*.

2. Leave your email address in the comment or have it available on your Blogger profile. (Or else I can't find you!)

The winner will be announced in the comment section of this post on Sunday.

See this post for additional rules. Good luck!


Thursday, January 17, 2019

Dear O'Abby: How do I Format My Manuscript?

Dear O’Abby,

I’m about to start sending my manuscript out to agents, but I’m not sure how it should be formatted. And Google-fu has not been of much help... Some articles say 3 inch margins on the left, others say 1 inch on both sides, some say to start each chapter halfway down the page.  Is there a standard manuscript format I ought to be following to give my book the best chance at being picked up?



Dear Stumped,

Agents are looking for great stories and great voices and if you have those things, how you present your manuscript is secondary. That said, presenting your MS well shows the agent receiving it that you’re careful, professional and thorough. And first impressions really do count.

Some agents ask for manuscripts to be formatted a specific way and failing to do this shows you are not great at following directions. So before sending anything, check that the requesting agent doesn’t have a preference in how she receives the pages.

If not, here are a few very simple guidelines for making your MS look professional.
  • Keep your margins standard – usually around 1-inch
  • Use a standard font like Times New Roman and keep it no smaller than 12pt
  • Start each chapter on a new page
  • Indicate breaks within chapters using either **** or ####
  • Number your pages starting from the first page of actual text (your title page should not be numbered)
  • Put the name of the novel and your name in the footer
Title Page
Your title page should be a separate page, unnumbered, with the title in a large font. Your name or pen-name goes under this, and in either the upper or lower right corner, the wordcount for the MS (rounded to the nearest 1,000 words) and your contact details (address, phone number, email).

Good luck with your submissions!

XX O'Abby

Friday, January 11, 2019


It's that time again, everybody! Enter here for a chance to win a query critique by yours truly! Here's how to participate:

1. Comment on this post and at least one other post from this week by *SUNDAY 1/13 at 12 pm*.

2. Leave your email address in the comment or have it available on your Blogger profile. (Or else I can't find you!)

The winner will be announced in the comment section of this post on Sunday.

See this post for additional rules. Good luck!


Thursday, January 10, 2019

Dear O'Abby, Do I Really Need Critique Partners and Beta Readers?

Dear O'Abby,

I've just finished a novel and I've read that at this point I should be sending it to critique partners and beta readers for feedback.  I don't know anyone to do this, and I am a very thorough editor, so feel like the book is as polished as it's going to get.  Is this feedback period really crucial to making my book a success?  And if it is, where do I find these readers?



Dear Critical,

Personally I believe this is probably the most important step in getting your book ready.  As the author, you know everything about your story and your characters so are unlikely to see gaps in logic or places where information might be missing.  Getting fresh eyes on the book is crucial for you to find out if everything is working the way you intended it to.

Critique partners and beta readers also fulfill different purposes.  A critique partner might read the book chapter by chapter as you write it and offer feedback as you go.  Or they might read it when you have finished a first or second full draft.  Their notes will include grammar and syntax errors, punctuation and suggestions about plotting, pacing and character development.  Finding other writers to be critique partners is usually a good idea because they will understand these things and be able to offer the right kind of feedback at this stage.

Beta readers are readers who will read the full manuscript once you have completed the revisions your notes from critique partners threw up.  These readers won't give you the detailed notes your CPs did, but will be able to identify how the book reads as a whole.  They will let you know if they believe and empathize with the characters, if the plot is engaging and if they feel the pacing works.  They will also let you know if the book is an enjoyable read, and may be able to tell you other books they've read that are similar.

In terms of finding people to act as CPs and beta readers, there are numerous options.  Join a writing group, in person if there is one in your local area, or online if there isn't (there are some very active critique groups at  Engage with other writers via their social media and blogs.  Whatever stage in your writing career you are at, there will be other writers out there at the same stage and many will be willing do a MS exchange.  Engage with readers who talk about books online and ask them to beta for you.  You won't always get a yes, but a lot of people are excited to read new books before they are published and will jump on the chance.

Good luck with the book!

X O'Abby

Friday, January 4, 2019


It's that time again, everybody! Enter here for a chance to win a query critique by yours truly! Here's how to participate:

1. Comment on this post and at least one other post from this week by *SUNDAY 1/6 at 12 pm*.

2. Leave your email address in the comment or have it available on your Blogger profile. (Or else I can't find you!)

The winner will be announced in the comment section of this post on Sunday.

See this post for additional rules. Good luck!


Thursday, January 3, 2019

Dear O'Abby: How Do I Create a Page Turner When My Story Is Quiet?

Dear O'Abby,

I'm writing a novel that I would call quiet.  There isn't a lot of external action, but the characters go through substantial change through the course of the book.  I was taught that every chapter needs to leave the reader with a reason to turn the page to the next one, but in a book where the conflict and the character journey are all driven internally, how do I create a cliff-hanger at the end of each chapter?



Dear Quiet-Writer,

Even a quiet novels without a large amount of external action can be filled with suspense.  The end of each chapter doesn't need to be a huge cliff-hanger like those old serials they showed at the movies where a hero would be left in an out-of-control railcar heading for a cliff and the end of an unfinished railway line at the end of that week's installment.  It just needs to end with something intriguing enough to make the reader want to continue reading.

Sometimes it helps to stop mid-scene.  Someone is about to say something that will be revelatory to your MC?  Don't let the scene continue until its conclusion, break it just before the speaker says whatever will change things for your MC and start a new chapter.

Other times you can finish the scene, but leave questions unanswered so the reader needs to read on to find them out.

I find it helpful sometimes to write without imposing chapter breaks when I'm drafting.  Just write the story all the way through, beginning to end.  When you're editing, find the places you feel are the most intriguing and put your chapter breaks in these places temporarily.  You may find they are far apart, or unevenly spaced which will also indicate you may need to edit for pacing and suspense. Sometimes this is as easy as moving a few scenes around to balance the tension, and other times it may require writing some new scenes to add more in places where things might have gone a little flat.

Even quiet books can be filled with suspense and tension.  People are unpredictable and often behave in unexpected or even irrational ways.  If you find the tension dropping at some point in your story, have a character do something unexpected.  The consequences of this single action can ripple through the entire book and add layers of suspense or tension for the other characters too.

Hope this helps.

X O'Abby

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Flash Fiction Friday #42 WINNER!

"I saw Mommy kissing Kra-a-mpus..."

Congratulations to Susan for winning this week's Flash Fiction Friday!

We encourage you to check out her humorous yet frightening tale of a smart-alecky little boy, his mother and the monster that haunts Christmas:

Thank you for participating and keep an eye out for the next Flash Fiction Friday!

Best Book Marketing Strategies from Debut Authors

In 2018, the Debut Authors were asked,

"What's the best book marketing strategy you've come across?"

Here's what they said:

In terms of my book, I’d have to say it was the ingenious decision of someone at Tor to attach tiny little keys to the WACR bookmarks. EVERYONE WANTS A TINY LITTLE KEY. People who would never otherwise notice those bookmarks just have to have one because of those keys. The moment when they realise that there are multiple different key designs is often rather beautiful.
In terms of all books, I’m tempted to say that Margaret Atwood’s THE HANDMAID’S TALE is being marketed stupendously well by reality. Otherwise, I’ve noticed that some of the best marketing comes from authors being themselves. My friend Debbie Ohi, who writes and illustrates picture books, is a fount of boundless creativity, which she pours out onto the Internet. People want to read her books because they know that when they do, they’ll get something as unexpected as one of her broken crayon drawings (in which she breaks a crayon and draws something emerging from the break) or her coffee-stain illustrations (in which an oddly shaped coffee stain provides the base shape of an imaginative drawing). Here she is finding the Grinch in a halved green pepper:

The best strategy will depend on your book and its target audience. Social media is an inexpensive method to get a massive global reach. On the flip side though, you’re competing with a lot of eyeballs and attention spans spread across a lot of other marketers doing the same.

If your novel deals with topical issues, then you have a much better chance of landing an interview with mainstream media as part of their coverage. That’s the route I’ll be taking in the new year. As powerful as social media is becoming, I still think people are more likely to make a purchase decision hearing about an author on mainstream media than they are through social media. It helps establish an extra trust factor.

Right now I'm really enjoying Instagram. I'm learning how to optimally share "stories" as well as how to post the most intriguing pictures. I am by no means a photographer, but I love trying to use lighting and design to put my book, and others, into a visually pleasing set-up.

Well, here's my two cents, and since my book isn't out yet, I can't really speak to its efficacy. One of my husband's favorite phrases is "Love the art in yourself and not yourself in the art" (pretty sure Constantin Stanislavski first said those words) and I think that sums up what little marketing philosophy I have. The truth is that I have no control over the market or how readers are going to respond to anything I write. The only thing I can do is write the best book of which I'm capable. So, I plan to write the next book and the next, developing my craft, and focusing on the art rather than myself in the art. In short, I'm just going to be the most genuine person I know how to be and write the best book I can write, and hope that leads to book sales in a roundabout way.

I learned that the author needs to contribute to the marketing process, even if s/he has a traditional publisher and a publicist. Authors don’t always get book tours, and it’s the nature of the beast for the publisher to sort of let you flutter to the ground after launch, as they have a publishing schedule with more new releases coming down the pike and you won’t always be the flavor of the month. I don’t know anything about marketing, but I care about my readers, and I care about connecting with them. I can tell when an author doesn’t care about me, but instead simply wants me to buy their book. It always feels a little forced and I don’t like that. I hope to always put my relationship with my readers before the sales of my book.

Live events. I have seen more growth in my email list, getting interviews, exposure, etc just from the few events I’ve experienced this year. I’ve networked with some amazing people and learned more from other authors than I feel I could online. It’s what pushed me into a movement of “Budgeting Social Media; Invest in Live Events”. Our readers are not behind a laptop, they’re out there working at Cracker Barrel, attending All-con, going to Book Festivals and asking questions at libraries. Don’t get me wrong. Social media is amazing for keeping in contact but it should never be used as a primary marketing tool. Reaching out and touching, even in email is worth more than just posting Amazon links on Facebook.

My publishers reached out to librarians; I reached out to parent and teacher bloggers, as well as child psychologists and those who do podcasts. One of the realities of publishing is that authors have to make themselves much more visible. We have to do our own homework to get interviews and articles published. This takes a lot of hours but is well worth it.

I have been so incredibly lucky to have a marketing team at Berkley that has worked overtime to get my little book on the radar. I'm not even sure how they work their magic but I've been so happy to have them on my team. I really do think that talking to as many people as possible about your book, in person, in media, on social media is the best way to spread the word. Opportunities like this to talk about my book are wonderful ways to get readers interested which leads to them reading it which hopefully leads to them recommending it to others which hopefully makes the cycle continue!

We’ve had a lot of success by engaging directly with fans, either on social media or at conventions and other events. Also, our publisher, 1984 Publishing, specializes in beautifully produced art books, and they turned Ghoulish into an event. For instance, they released two special 3D editions that came with branded 3D glasses and a limited edition 3D art print. (Both of those editions sold out!)

I believe social media has changed the landscape of book marketing. The best book marketing campaigns I have seen make aggressive and skillful use of Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

I’m still working on this.

Doing interviews about my latest release. It turns out that readers love to know more about the person behind the book.

I haven't found that yet. I'll let you know when I do though.

Infiltrate the White House, get the scoop, and then tell all? That wasn’t possible for this book, though. I think doing more of a pre-pub push to get preorders would be a good idea. I didn’t do that, but I think it makes sense.

I think word-of-mouth is very effective and I’ve always enjoyed book trailers, although I have no idea how well they work as a marketing strategy.

Most of my pre-orders came through people I connected with on Twitter.

I have got so much to learn about book marketing! I've found this to be one of the most challenging aspects of being an author, especially since I'm quite introverted and hate self-promotion. As a result, I don't think I've found a strategy that works yet, but I am experimenting with a few things. The most recent experiment is with Amazon ads. I don't plan on seriously advertising until I have at least three books in my series published and can leverage read-through from the first book. But I've been having fun playing around with marketing on Amazon in a limited way (less than five dollars invested) and have even sold a few books as a result.

I’m really enjoying focusing on Podcasts. They provide a great connection to very specific audiences.

I’m still figuring that out. My novel came out in June of 2018, and I just released another one on September 18. I’m still in the learning phase with marketing, but from what everyone has told me, generating content is the best thing you can do to improve your sales. Keep the books coming. Writing and publishing is a long game. Nothing happens quickly, so the key is to get yourself out there. Learn about marketing strategies and try different things.

Word of mouth is the best marketing strategy I know of. This includes using social media to get the word out there. Writing isn't a get rich quick business, and spreading the word by talking to random strangers, friends, family, doing interviews, and advertising on various social media sites, is the most affordable marketing tool. Once the money starts rolling in, other methods will help advance your progress.

The best book marketing strategy I’m finding is first actually writing a book and being super excited about the story. Everything stems from that excitement. After that, social media has been simply awesome to translate that excitement into sales. Then when parents are happy their kids love the novel, they’ll post about it, which encourages other kids to read it. So I would say anyway you can, promote your book via social media with excitement and true testimonies and you’ll find success.

I am still very new to the marketing aspect of this. I think I got very good exposure by doing give-aways on both blogs and Goodreads – whether that will translate into sales will have to be seen.

Bookstagramming rocks with its visual artistry evoking the book’s setting or the pleasure of reading. Contests—especially Rafflecopter-type ones whose prizes are the book plus a few cool, related items in exchange for a share+follow—often win me over because, seriously, I could always use a new [fill in the blank — who cares, it’s free AND new!].

Bookstore image from Unsplash

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Happy New Year! Now, About Those Resolutions...

Welcome to 2019! You made it!

Image result for celebration

2018 was...a crazy year. Now that it's over, and the new year has begun, a lot of us are probably making new year's resolutions that are writing-centered. Maybe you want to revise that novel you wrote during NaNoWriMo. Maybe you want to finally start writing that memoir. Maybe you've been wanting to read that book you bought three years ago and never got around to. Well, now's your chance!

Can't quite settle on a resolution? Here are some ideas to get you started:
  • Looking to write more?
    • Set a goal of how much you want to write, whether it's by number of words, pages, or hours - or manuscripts, if you're prolific!
    • Read more about writing craft.
    • Get rid of bad writing habits: being distracted by social media, not wanting to write because you're "writing badly," self-editing as you go. Identify what's holding you back and decide to make a change.
    • Make time for revision, whether it's your work or giving feedback on someone else's.
  • Looking to read more?
    • Get an e-reader - and use it.
    • Set a goal of how much you want to read, whether it's by number of books, pages, or hours. 
    • Make a list of the books you want to read this year. (Not sure what to read? Check out this Reddit post for a unique idea of filling out your list!)
  • Looking to become more engaged with the writing community?
    • Find writing groups on Twitter, Discord, Slack, and many other social media platforms - and be involved.
    • Find an in-person writing group in your community, or create one.
Jamie posted her new year's resolutions last year! Check these out if you're looking for more inspiration:
Remember, with craft-related resolutions, only you know your ability and your limitations. Make sure you're setting reasonable resolutions that work for you! Figure out whether you're a "set a lofty goal and be excited when you achieve it" person or a "set a moderate goal and be excited when you exceed it" person, and make your resolutions match. 

Let us know your resolutions, and have an amazing 2019!