Stephanie Morrill is the creator of GoTeenWriters.com and the author of several young adult novels, including the historical mystery, The Lost Girl of Astor Street, which releases in February 2017. Despite loving cloche hats and drop-waist dresses, Stephanie would have been a terrible flapper because she can’t do the Charleston and looks awful with bobbed hair. She and her near-constant ponytail live in Kansas City with her husband and three kids. You can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and check out samples of her work on her author website.
School is coming to an end for my older two kids, which means I am frantically trying to wrap up whatever I need to work-wise before summer break. That means my normally very organized office looks like this:
Who could be mad at that guy?
Today I'm going to scroll through my inbox and address some of the events and questions sitting in there:
The Minneapolis Young Writers Workshop:
This was brought to our attention by the lovely Serena Chase. How great does this workshop look? Jay Asher! Ally Condie! Jennifer Nielsen! Jonathan Friesen! Jacqueline West! Serena Chase! (I can still pass for 19, right???)
I wanted to ask, what do you do when your characters are faced with a tough situation and they are in so deep...you have no idea how to get them out?
If you're feeling particularly feisty, you say, "Good! Now I have a chance to be really creative!"
How do you feel about lists, Lani? Because when I'm in this situation, I start making lists. My character could do this, this, this, or this. Or maybe your character doesn't need to do something, maybe something gets done to them.
If I'm really stuck, I reach out to my critique partner, Roseanna. She's able to give good advice because she isn't the one who has to deal with the work of it, if that makes sense. My brain goes for easy answers first because I'm the one who has to write it. Usually she starts throwing stuff like this at me: Could another character show up? Could you blow up something? Can you steal from a plot point later in the story? Can someone leave unexpectedly?
So start with a list, and if you have a Roseanna in your life, reach out to that person.
I researched publishers and found several that accept manuscripts from authors, rather than from agents. I read the guidelines for sending query letters to these publishers, and they said that the author must have a plan for how to advertise his/her novel. Do you have any tips on creating a platform? Are there any magazines that you know of that publish short stories by teen writers? What are some ways to increase my chances of selling a novel well?
I remember the first time I heard about this concept. I felt like I'd had the wind knocked out of me, honestly. But I'm the WRITER, I thought. I don't know how to do that stuff! This is one of the reasons why when teens ask me for recommendations for what to study in college, I always suggest marketing or at least taking marketing classes.
First I'll address developing a plan to advertise your novel.
Let's say your book is a historical mystery that takes place in the 1920s. Your ideas for marketing your novel might look like this:
- Throw a "jazz night" party at my local coffee house with jazz music, prizes, a reading, and more.
- Hold an online scavenger hunt with clues at each stop.
- Reach out to the historical society at the location where my book takes place and see if I can host an event there.
See? That kind of stuff. Now for those events to yield any kind of buzz or sales, you need what they call a "platform." Which is to say you need an audience. People who are listening when you speak. People who will want to buy your book when it comes out.
So your platform is a number. How many people are following you on your blog, Wattpad,Twitter, Tumblr, Goodreads, Instagram, YouTube, etc. We can debate the fairness of it all day long, but those are numbers that publishers care about because they represent people who are listening to you.
This isn't to say you have to be on every social media platform to get picked up by a publisher, but it's a good idea to pick one or two of those that are going to be Your Thing and concentrate on growing your numbers. Also, having a website that you can keep pushing people back to is a good idea because it's YOURS and not Facebook's, Twitter's, etc.
One other thing I'll say about growing your reach is that one of your goals should be to make connections. Not in a, "Hi, will you recommend me to your agent???" kind of way. But in a, "Hey, I read your book, and I think it's amazing. I'm an aspiring writer and I write blah blah blah, and your book really influenced me. Thank you for all your hard work on it. Sincerely, Your Name Goes Here." That brand of kindness—the brand that is genuine and isn't expecting anything in return—goes a long way in the industry.
Let me throw another link out there for you, Hannah, and any others who might be curious about this topic: Creating A Realistic Marketing Plan For Your Book Release
In regards to the short story questions, I would run a Google search for that topic because that's not something I know much about. And make sure to specify your genre. I believe most of those types of magazines are genre specific.
Have questions? You can write to me here, and I'll eventually respond!