Tag Archives: Sherry Peters

My Peeps. My Tribe.

A guest post by Sherry Peters.

There is nothing like finding a group of people you can be yourself with. You know, the people with whom you can drop your filters, let out your weirdness and have those bizarre conversations that with anyone else would raise eyebrows—if not arrest warrants. They’re also the people who will support you at your readings, and sympathize when the rejections come. They understand what it means to be a writer, and what writing means to you. They are your peeps, your tribe.

I will never forget finding my tribe.

I’d been writing for several years, and I’d connected some with local writers, and while I felt more comfortable with them than I did with other people, I still wasn’t truly myself.

In the summer of 2005, I attended the Odyssey Writing Workshop. I’d been writing for years, but I’d only been writing fantasy for two years. I was still wary of the whole crowd. I expected to be on the outside, because I was always on the outside. What I found was a group of people who understood me like no one ever had. My weirdness fit with theirs. I knew I could be myself, and it was okay. It was the first time I had ever truly felt fully accepted for who I am.

But Odyssey was in New Hampshire and my classmates were from all over the U.S. Only a couple of us were from Canada. The internet is amazing, because thanks to e-mail we all stay in touch, and not just with my class, but all Odyssey alumni.

I grew my tribe when I attended Seton Hill University to get my M.A. in Writing Popular Fiction. Having my peeps from Odyssey helped me. I already felt more comfortable, and I instantly connected with more people who understood me, and whom I understood.

That was great, and e-mail and the internet is awesome, but once again, it was all long-distance.

I admit, it was difficult to find my tribe back home. In part, it might have been because I have my writing friends from Odyssey and Seton Hill. In part, it was because I am an introvert and tend to have difficulty going out and meeting new people. Mostly it was because I had not yet met any local writers I had anything in common with.

That all changed in May 2008. First it was one local writer, and soon it was another, and then another. And sometimes I met local writers through my friends in other cities who knew people in my home town that I didn’t.

I have ended up with a great group of writing friends, my own local writing community. My peeps. My tribe.

I have a group of writers I connect with at readings and at dinners. We talk about writing. We geek-out at the movies. We get together several times a year for writing retreats and at our homes, spending the weekend quietly writing and noisily talking about writing, our works-in-progress, and our struggles and triumphs in the publishing industry.

We share resources. Calls for submissions, but also research resources. We all have our own areas of expertise and we know we can contact any other person in the group if we need to tap into that expertise.

Without my local writing community, I would not continue to write and pursue this madness we call publishing.

Most importantly, at least for myself, I have found a place to belong. I am accepted for who I am. And that means everything to me.

sherry1Guest Writer Bio: Sherry Peters is a Certified Life Coach who works with writers at all stages of their writing careers looking to increase their productivity through pushing past the self-doubt holding them back. Sherry graduated from the Odyssey Writing Workshop and earned her M.A. in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University. Her debut novel, Mabel the Lovelorn Dwarf, placed 1st in the 2014 Writer’s Digest Self-Published e-Book Awards in the YA category. It has also been nominated for a 2015 Aurora Award. For more information on Sherry or her workshops, visit her website at www.sherrypeters.com.

Never Pitch to an Editor in the Bathroom

A guest post by Gerald Brandt.

I have been going to World Fantasy Conventions since 2008, when it was held in Calgary, Alberta. I had been “seriously” writing for a couple of years before that, alone in my office, churning out mediocre short stories, gathering rejections.

That year, I happened to go to a local convention, and met some other science fiction and fantasy writers. As a group, we decided that since the World Fantasy Convention was in Canada, we had to go.

Once there, I attended every panel I could, took copious notes, and got to bed early so I could start the next day fresh. I did manage to meet a few people, and made a couple of friends. All in all, a great convention.

I have learned how to do conventions better since then.

Out of our group of five that attended that convention, only two of us are still writing, and published. Of the people I met in Calgary, one became part of our little convention group, and we ended up hanging together at every convention we attended. This story is about Adria, Sherry, and me.

The 2010 World Fantasy Convention was held in Columbus, Ohio. All three of us were able to attend. We flew in at different times and met in the heart of every convention—the bar.

Columbus was beautifully set up, with the bar situated in an open area, right between the room the panels were held in and the hotel rooms. Everyone, no matter where you were going, walked through the bar to get there. Columbus is where I learned how to do conventions.

On Saturday night, the second day of the convention, two parties were held. There were probably more, but these were the ones the three of us were interested in. One was held by a small press out of Calgary: Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing was doing a reading and a book launch.

Across the hall from Edge was the Tor party. Tor parties always start out as private affairs. After a couple of hours, they open their doors to the general riffraff. People like me.

Adria, Sherry, and I went to the Edge party after a late dinner and listened to some of the readings. A bit later, the Edge party got into full swing and we chatted with the people we knew, introduced ourselves to the ones we didn’t, and generally had a good time.

At one point, we ducked out to the hallway and walked into the Tor party. It was a zoo. There were so many people milling around the two-room suite, we could barely breathe. After about ten minutes, we gave up and went back to the Edge party.

Sometime around 1:30 in the morning, we decided we’d had enough. We were exhausted and ready for our beds. The hallway was relatively quiet by then, and we chatted as we waited for the elevator.

Someone in our group, I’d like to think it was me, but I doubt it, decided our night shouldn’t be over yet. One of the reasons we were here was to meet editors and agents, and from what we’d heard, the Tor party was the place.

We left the elevator and went back to Tor’s room. It was still full, but not nearly with the same amount of people as earlier. Even with all the people, there was no one we knew.

Throwing caution to the wind, we ventured in deeper, eavesdropping on a conversation here and there. Eventually, someone approached us, a smile on his face and a drink in his hand. He had noticed we didn’t have any drinks, and he knew where they were. Did we want one?

Hell, yeah!

The drinks, as it turned out, were stored in melted ice in the bathtub. Our generous host plopped down on the toilet and reached into the cold water, asking us what we wanted. As he pulled out our bottles and tried to get them open, he asked what we did.

Me, being the shyest of the group, didn’t answer. Sherry stepped forward and made the introductions. We were authors, she said, from Canada. The next words out of her mouth were “And what do you do? Do you write as well?”

The response was a quick no. “My name is Paul Stevens,” he said. “I’m an editor for Tor. Do you have anything to pitch?”

After a second of embarrassed silence, Adria took over, calmly pitching her latest novel while Paul sat on the toilet looking up at us. Sherry was next. By the time it was my turn, Paul had already stood up, and we moved outside the bathroom where I finished my pitch (with some help from Sherry. Thanks!).

They always say never pitch to an agent or an editor in the bathroom. It’s rude. It’s uncouth. But what are you going to do when the editor asks? That’s easy. Pitch your heart out as he sits on the toilet.

We each got a full request that night, meaning Paul was either very kind-hearted, or we pitched pretty damn well.

 *          *          *

As a follow up on where to spend your time at a World Fantasy Convention, it’s obviously the bar. You’re not there to get hammered and make a fool of yourself, you’re there to meet and talk to as many people as you can. Don’t try to sell yourself or your book. Just relax. The people you meet there—agents, editors, other authors—will all remember you, though it may take a couple of conventions. They say it’s not who you know in this business, and they are right. But if these people see you, year after year, and put a face, a personality, to the submission that crosses their desk, it helps put a human element into what can be a very difficult process.

I’ll see you at World Fantasy 2014, in Washington, DC.

Gerald BrandtGuest Writer Bio:
Gerald Brandt has spent most of his life dealing with computers, from programming to administration. At other times, he has flown airplanes, climbed sheer rock faces, been a famous mascot, waitered, flipped burgers, sold flowers, and learned kung fu. Born in Berlin, he grew up in Canada and gladly calls it home with his two kids, beautiful wife, and a shedding cat. Gerald is a long-time member of the Backspace Writer’s organization, and a founding member of Poverty of Writers, a local critique group. He can be found on Facebook and Twitter as geraldbrandt. http://geraldbrandt.com

A Mountain of Goals, Part Two

A guest post by Sherry Peters.

Cover image BlackBe sure to read A Mountain of Goals, Part One, published yesterday right here on the Fictorians.

I always knew that if I were ever published, I would do everything I could to make my books succeed. The same is true for self-publishing. I’m not going to do what I did with my previous book, Silencing Your Inner Saboteur, which I gave very little promotion (though I may be stepping that up soon as well), because that book was a bit of an experiment and a useful tool.

Once I made the decision to publish Mabel, I began doing a lot of research on the self-publishing/indie industry. It is my responsibility to make my book succeed. I have no one else to blame. Some days I love it. Some days it is incredibly overwhelming. My to-do lists are pages long every week. I could probably make a book of those alone once they’re all compiled!

Aside from the obvious “write the best damn book possible” advice, building a platform is the main form of advice. Platform means building a mail list, blogging, sending out a regular newsletter, facebooking, tweeting… to paraphrase William Shatner, it should be “all Sherry all the time.” I’m supposed to be super interesting and fun and likeable, and apparently highly opinionated in a likeable fun way. Now, I think I am a likeable person. I’m not sure how interesting I am.

What’s interesting about me? What do readers want to know? I’m not really of the generation that wants to know everything about my favorite author. Just write another book; that’s all I want from them. I don’t follow celebrities, and the only authors I friend on Facebook are the ones I already know personally.

You can get a lot of advice on pricing and giveaways, including free books. I must say, I find this a touch on the offensive side. Not that I’m actually offended by the idea, maybe just hurt or disheartened. I can’t imagine a traditional publisher putting out a book on Amazon for free for a day, or even at $0.99 for a day in the hopes of driving up the sales numbers. It feels like I’m cheapening my work, my product. It may be to my detriment, but I’m not sure I’m going to do that.

I realize that I’m at a disadvantage, putting out Mabel this August. I haven’t finished Book 2 in the series yet (though I’m hard at work on it). And putting out a single book means I don’t have what is called a product “funnel,” where readers can get the first book at a discounted price to lure them into buying the second book. That’s why I’m giving away three Mabel Goldenaxe short stories prior to the release of the novel as an incentive/thank you for signing up for my newsletter.

Promotion doesn’t end there, of course. I printed beautiful postcards (through Vistaprint) with the cover on it, and a “call to action”—for people to go to my website, sign up for my newsletter, and get a story—which I put out at my local convention (Keycon). I’m having my book launch at When Words Collide this August, and I’m going to have one at McNally Robinson Booksellers in Winnipeg.

Promotion, then, is probably the biggest headache which all authors, traditional or indie, have to deal with. That is the reality of the business. Publishers have less and less money to give to it, so we’re doing a lot of the same things. The biggest difference is that traditionally published authors get distribution, and get reviewed by major newspapers (well, they can, if they’re a big enough name, or local, or a specialist). That is to say, most newspapers still won’t consider reviewing a self-published book.

What about the book production? I go for coffee every other week with a friend, usually to a Chapters, and half our time is spent looking at books. I’ve turned this into a great time for surveying what’s out there, what I like, what I don’t, what works and what doesn’t. It’s amazing how many crappy covers there are. And there are some spectacular ones. The artwork matters. It matters. It matters. It matters. So do the interior aesthetics. If the type is too small or too crowded, if it doesn’t feel good in my hand, I don’t pick it up. If the art looks like the pulp editors would have rejected it for being cheesy, I won’t pick it up. If I can’t read the title or the author’s name, I won’t look at it.

There are three main categories for YA covers. Take a look the next time you’re in a bookstore or on the Amazon/Chapters/Barnes & Noble websites. First we have the uber close-up of the face. Usually this means the focus is on the eyes or the lips. Sometimes this pulls out a little further to where we have more of the body, but part is cut out of the frame so it’s only half a face. Sometimes it’s just the torso to show off a plaid pleated skirt (a lot of pleated skirts on headless girls). These are usually in the genre of what used to be called “chick-lit.” I’m not sure what they would be called now.

Then we have the full body, most often with the back to the reader, the head in half-turn. This fits mainly into the urban fantasy or paranormal romance category. But not always. There are some like this that are much more pure romance, as evidenced by the character on the cover wearing a ball gown of some kind.

And finally, we have the symbol on the cover. I think this was made most popular by The Hunger Games. Divergent is another example of this. We see this much more often in the non-YA books, like the adult editions of the Harry Potter books, and the Game of Thrones books are going the same way.

Given the prose style and content of Mabel, I opted for the semi-close-up. I had intended to go with a symbol, but there were already a few books out there with axes on them and while it could be stunning and unique, I couldn’t picture it. So I did my research. I spent days researching fantasy artists, finding out about their work, their rates, etc. To be honest, once I saw Jordy Lakiere’s dwarves, I knew he was the one I wanted. I didn’t think I could afford him, or that he’d want to do a cover for me, but I took a deep breath and e-mailed. Needless to say, it worked out great. I love the Mabel he did for me.

Cover art, in some ways, is just the beginning. I wanted to put out the most professional book I could. And what do traditionally published authors have that indies don’t (besides distribution)? A copyeditor. So I did more research, and I happened to also know a good editor personally, Samantha Beiko. She posted on Facebook that she was looking for freelance editing right when I was looking. Budget, of course, was a consideration, but copyediting was an expense I was willing to pay for. She also did my cover design and the back cover copy.

While the production of the book is well underway (thanks to having done Silencing Your Inner Saboteur, I’m confident in doing the interior layout myself), the promotion is still my biggest mountain to climb. I’d call it a hurdle, but it’s more of a never-ending process. I hope that at some point down the road, I’ll reach a plateau of sorts where, as the gurus keep telling me, promotion will generate itself.

I was going to conclude by saying that I’m off to go learn more about building my platform, but I think I’m going to go work on Mabel, Book 2. That’s one of the working titles. The others are Mabel the Misguided Dwarf—or my personal favorite, Mabel the Mafioso Dwarf. But for now, let’s just call it Mabel, Book 2.

sherry1Guest Writer Bio:
Hailing from Winnipeg, Sherry Peters is a writer and a certified Success Coach for writers specializing in the areas of goal-setting and eliminating writer’s block. She has taught her “Silencing Your Inner Saboteur” workshop online through Savvy Authors, and several Romance Writers of America chapters, and in person at When Words Collide in Calgary and Word on the Water in Kenora. Her book, Silencing Your Inner Saboteur, has sold internationally and has been recommended to graduate students at the University of North Carolina and the University of Winnipeg. Her first novel, a YA fantasy, Mabel the Lovelorn Dwarf, will be available August 2014. She attended the Odyssey Writing Workshop and earned her M.A. in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University. For more information on Sherry, her workshops, and her coaching, visit her coaching website or her author website.

A Mountain of Goals, Part One

A guest post by Sherry Peters.

Mabel coverThis was not my plan. A part of me still wants to be rescued from this and put back on the track that was supposed to be. But the more I learn about the business of self-publishing, the more I realize that even authors on the track-that-was-supposed-to-be have to go through much of the same. And I’m a bit of a control freak at times, so being in control of every aspect of publishing my book is fabulous and terrifying at the same time.

Making the decision to self-publish Mabel the Lovelorn Dwarf (arriving August 9, 2014) wasn’t an easy one. I waffled on it for months. A number of factors played into my decision, most of them personal. I’d first seriously considered the self-publishing route at When Words Collide in 2013. I was chatting with my friends Adria Laycraft and Gerald Brandt, discussing the industry, when I declared that I would be launching Mabel at When Words Collide 2014. I didn’t finalize that decision until the end of February 2014.

What were the decisions? Most of them were personal, and I firmly believe that everyone needs to decide for themselves whether it’s the right route for them, and their particular book. But here’s what went into my decision-making process:

  1. At When Words Collide, I had taken a workshop with one of the Acquisitions Editors from Penguin Canada. She was very clear in saying that a lot of publishers now look at what is rising on the indie publishing bestseller charts. Those are the manuscripts they’re picking up, not necessarily agented ones. Why? Because the writer already has a readership—a platform—that has been proven. Guaranteed sales.
  1. I had an agent who doesn’t represent YA. I’d seriously considered revising the novel and giving her first dibs on representing it or allowing me to find a YA agent. That process is glacial, but I was willing to consider it. Until I remembered the seventy-five or so agents who had already rejected it (it is a much better novel now than when they read it), and most of those were YA agents, so what was the point? Of the agents who bothered to respond to my query, even asking for partials, fulls, and revisions, it seemed to come down to “it isn’t marketable.” This was before The Hobbit movie had come out. Perhaps I should have mentioned that Peter Jackson was working on making the movie in my query letter. Ooops.
  1. In March, due to serious health issues, my agent had to let me go. Yes, I’d already decided to self-pub at this point, but I was concerned about the six-month window to put out Book 2. As sad as it was for me to lose my agent, and I continue to hope and pray that her health improves, it freed me up to work on Book 2 rather than try and fail to get another manuscript to her. (She had another one, unrelated to Mabel, that she was shopping around).
  1. The Hugh Howey reports on Author Earnings were somewhat eye-opening. Sure, they aren’t perfect reports, and there are probably a million ways to question the data—people have done so on Facebook—but the bottom line is this: self-published books sell. It takes a whole lot of work, but they sell. It isn’t like the old days when you had to print a thousand copies and have boxes in your apartment taking up room and wondering why you weren’t on the bestsellers list or on Oprah’s Book Club.
  1. I have a decent-paying day job, and income from my coaching business. Printing books on demand is inexpensive, creating e-books is free, and I could afford a decent artist and a copyeditor without having to mortgage my home. I am by no means well off, but I do need to be economical in my grocery shopping, and I don’t have as much money for extras like going to a movie, but I’m easily willing to make that sacrifice for a beautiful, professional product that I can be proud of.
  1. This is probably the most personal part of the decision. I was tired of waiting. I can be really impatient about a lot of things, but when it comes to the publishing industry, as frustrating as it is, I accept the glaciality. Mabel has been a character in my head for almost nine years (as of the time of writing). She started as a joke, but she wouldn’t let go. I wrote stories about her. She became my Master’s Thesis, becoming a novel. Since grad school, I’ve had former classmates of mine ask about Mabel, wondering what was happening with the novel. I’d put it in cryogenics, likely to never see the light of day again. But I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t let her go. And neither, apparently, could my classmates. So I had some of them read it. I also contacted a few teens to read it, to see if it was worth putting out there, if it was, indeed, marketable. Their feedback was phenomenal, and a resounding “Yes.”

Between August 2013 and February 2014, I wrote a first draft of another novel, editing Mabel from what had been my M.A. Thesis at Seton Hill University, and researched self-publishing—not a lot, but enough to make the decision and feel that it was the right one.

Publishing has always been a career choice for me. That is to say, I have always wanted a career as a published novelist and I strive daily to be as knowledgeable and professional about it as I can. That’s why I attended Odyssey and Seton Hill. Have I made missteps? Absolutely. For one, I really wish I’d learned how to write short stories better. But that was a somewhat conscious decision on my part, not to focus on short stories.

I have always done my best to be disciplined in my writing, because I truly believe that while I can take all the time I want to write my first book, once I sign that contract, I don’t have the same freedom, and all my excuses for not writing won’t play with an editor and a deadline. The sooner I eliminate those excuses, the better shape I’ll be in when that contract comes along. But that contract isn’t coming, and so I’m self-publishing.

Now I need to be more disciplined than ever.

Come back tomorrow and join Sherry as she dives headlong into the myriad everyday goals and decisions she now faces as a self-published author.

sherry1Guest Writer Bio:
Hailing from Winnipeg, Sherry Peters is a writer and a certified Success Coach for writers specializing in the areas of goal-setting and eliminating writer’s block. She has taught her “Silencing Your Inner Saboteur” workshop online through Savvy Authors, and several Romance Writers of America chapters, and in person at When Words Collide in Calgary and Word on the Water in Kenora. Her book, Silencing Your Inner Saboteur, has sold internationally and has been recommended to graduate students at the University of North Carolina and the University of Winnipeg. Her first novel, a YA fantasy, Mabel the Lovelorn Dwarf, will be available August 2014. She attended the Odyssey Writing Workshop and earned her M.A. in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University. For more information on Sherry, her workshops, and her coaching, visit her coaching website or her author website.