5 Ways to Build Your Writing Community

5-ways-to-build-your-writing-communityThis past weekend I had the pleasure of going to a book launch party for Last Goodbye by Laurel Ostiguy.

I met Laurel at the Newburyport Maritime Days festival when she and her family stopped by the Newburyport Writers booth back in May.

You know that feeling when you instantly connect with someone you’ve just met? As if they’re a kindred spirit and you should get to know them because, in some weird way, you already do? That was how it felt meeting Laurel.

Last Goodbye

Look at this gorgeous cover!

In a lot of ways, it felt like I was looking back on a version of me twelve months prior, right after I had released Secret Hunger. She had just published her book and was excited to meet other local authors. We got to talking about all things books and writing. At the end of our conversation, I handed her a bookmark (to go with a copy of my book that she bought,) a business card, and urged her to keep in touch.

“Oh, I should get bookmarks and business cards, too.”

Boom, epiphany! That moment, seeing her realize she needed something she could hand out when meeting people, illuminated all the reasons why I like connecting with fellow authors. It gives us the opportunity to learn from one another, bounce ideas off each other, and support people who are traveling a similar path.

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And it works both ways. Just last week I received an e-mail from someone who had been a regular in my WriNoShores writing group. He had heard of this new website that was compiling a database of local authors in order to help spread the word and support them and he thought I might be interested.

He was right!

Hometown Reads is a new author platform that showcases books by location. It provides a way for local authors to network with each other and a database for readers to find hidden treasures from writers in their own community.

If you’re an author, it’s free to add a book to the database. (Only one now. In the future you can add more for a fee.) They currently have thirty-nine hometowns listed, with more planned for the future. In fact, the Boston hometown page has just opened up! You’ll find Secret Hunger is one of the first ten listed…all because I had someone reach out to me.

Which brings me back to my point. If you’re an author, or any creative for that matter, it’s important to make connections with your fellow writers. Not only because you get to meet and interact with amazing, interesting people, but because you’ll have the opportunity to help – and be helped – by your community.

Here’s a list of ideas on how you can find and build your community as an author.

  • Find a local writing group. – Not sure where to look? Start with your local libraries. Many libraries host author events and spotlight community talent, just ask the librarian or check the community events board.
  • Support your local bookstores. – There’s been a lot of talk about large chain bookstores going out of business. That just means independent bookstores are on the rise and many of them are holding author events and book signings. Search yours out today!
  • Connect on social media. – There are a ton of Facebook pages featuring indie authors and they’re free to join. Not only will you have access to some great advice, but you can also find authors from around your area, or in your genre.
  • Participate in NaNoWriMo.NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. It’s held throughout the month of November and the goal is to write 50K works in 30 days. When you join, you can select your region and find a group of writers from your area.
  • Take a writing class. – Many local colleges offer continuing education courses for creative writing. This creates a great environment to find writers who are trying to improve their craft and take it seriously.

The hardest part is just getting started. Trust me. As an introverted extrovert, I know taking the first step can be difficult. However, it’s also worth it. You’ll have the opportunity to be inspired, learn a lot, and make lasting friendships. Give it a try!

How about you? Are you an author who has a great community of writers? How did you find them and what have been some of the benefits?

Reader’s Favorite Finalist!

secrethungerreadersfavoriteI’m happy to announce Secret Hunger was a finalist in the “Romance – Sizzle” category of the 2016 Reader’s Favorite international book awards contest!

Reader’s Favorite is known to review some of the biggest names in the literary industry, as well as first time independent authors (like me.) They have earned the respect of renowned publishers like Random House, Simon & Schuster, and Harper Collins, and have received the “Best Websites for Authors” and “Honoring Excellence” awards from the Association of Independent Authors.

Every year they host a respected award contest which features entries from new authors to NYT best-sellers, as well as celebrities like Jim Carrey and Henry Winkler. Hundreds of books are entered per category. So you can imagine I’m honored to be included as a finalist. If you’d like to see the full list of contest winners, you can check out their page here: 2016 Award Contest Winners

You can also see the Reader’s Favorite five-star review for Secret Hunger here: Secret Hunger Book Review

 

Happy Indie Pride Day!

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Since 2014, July 1st is known as Indie Pride Day. It’s a day where Indie Authors shine a spotlight on the great books they’re producing and the entire community comes out to support each other. You can learn more about the movement and how it was started at their website, Indie Books Be Seen.

One of the things I love about the indie author community is how supportive and vibrant it is. The indie authors I’ve met are readers, writers, people who love the written word, interested in research and learning, full of imagination, wit and humor. It’s an incredible group, and I’m honored to count myself among them.

In fact, I got some very welcome and exciting news this morning that Secret Hunger was included on a list of recommended reads featured on the Huffington Post today! You can read the article, “Recommended Reading: #GoIndie with Jenny Bravo” and find my book listed as #10.

Obviously, that inspired me to put together a list of some of the books I’ve recently read featuring indie authors. Some of these authors are people I’ve gotten to know during my time as a writer, many others I have not actually had a chance to interact with. You’ll notice the books are a mix of science fiction, paranormal, dystopic, clean and steamy romance. There are zombies, spaceships, aliens, shifters, yearning, sexy moments, and more.

This is not a ranked list, I simply put the titles in alphabetical order. Most of the books included are a part of a larger series. These are the first book in that series. In some cases, there may be boxed sets available at a better price, so it pays to do a little digging on Amazon.

Hopefully this will help you find a new, great author you can support. I can personally vouch for all of these and have enjoyed them thoroughly! Happy Reading!

Sophomore Slump

SecretNeedRoughDraft

It’s been just shy of a year since I’ve written a blog post and a lot has happened in that time. Honestly, it’s probably too much to re-cap fully. Instead, I’d like to talk about one of the reasons I stopped posting as much.

After publishing my first book back in  April 2015, I was on an emotional high. Being able to see Secret Hunger go live was the culmination of two years of concentrated, highly motivated work.

The first year of this grand life experiment was spent saving, paying off credit cards, participating in NaNoWriMo, and copious amounts of research. There was a lot on my plate, especially because I was still working my 9-5 job as a stockbroker. I was doing everything I possibly could to make sure I was prepared for my first year as a full-time writer.

The second year was simply spent writing. I made it a point to write daily for 2-5 hours, and I actively participated in two local writing groups, both WriNoShores and Newburyport Writers. I’ve also just started getting to know a third group out of Boston called Write Nite, and look forward learning more about them.

This entire two year journey has been amazing so far. I’ve had the opportunity to meet intelligent, interesting, creative people. I’ve participated in some fun events, including the New England Author Expo, and I’ve learned a ton!

Added to that, Secret Hunger has gotten some very positive feedback. I feel incredibly lucky with how well it’s been received. Granted, it’s my first work and I’m hoping to improve as I go, but it’s a piece that I am proud of and can stand behind.

All that being said, working on my second book has been a huge challenge for me.

I feel like I’ve slogged through every step. The plotting, the story line, the character development…it’s all been one big push. Because it’s been so difficult, it feels like pulling teeth every time I sit down to write. Nothing sounds good. It’s all tripe. What the hell am I doing?

Ugh. The self-doubt is strong with this one.

I’ve been feeling pressure to make this book better than the last one. I received some incredibly helpful critiques about Secret Hunger and I’m anxious not to make the same mistakes again.

This fear, of not improving as a writer, has manifested itself in relentless self-editing as I’ve written the rough draft. I’ve felt hyper-aware of the fact that others were going to read what I’m producing and it’s reflected in the words. Everything is second guessed. As you can imagine, this has greatly hampered the flow – which makes my fear a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Despite all of this, I’m happy to say, I’ve finally finished my rough draft of Secret Need!  While Liz’s story still needs a lot of work, I can finally see a light at the end of this second tunnel.

Now, my next goals will be to finish editing this story and to post more often on the blog. If you’re reading this, thank you for being so patient.

 

Audio Interview with Aaron Hubble

SecretHungerAsh

Back at the beginning of May I participated in an online book fair hosted by Carol Davis called “Spring” into Reading. It was a lot of fun and I had a chance to meet many readers, as well as some fellow authors.

One of those authors was Aaron Hubble. As we talked online, we discovered that we both published our debut novels on the same day. We started to discuss some of the lessons we learned as new indie authors and various methods that we had come up with for producing, publishing, and marketing our books.

Aaron mentioned that he was wanting to do a series of audio interviews and asked if I would be interested. Which, of course, I was!

After a few scheduling missteps and technical difficulties, we managed to have a really great conversation. We talked a little about how I came to the decision to pursue my dream of becoming a writer and the importance of having goals. We also touched upon the topics of NaNoWriMo, my love of science fiction as a romance writer, social media and marketing, finding a community of local authors and how critical I think writing groups are, as well as what my current and future projects will be.

Well, I’m happy to say that interview has just been posted! I’d like to invite you all to go check it out on Aaron’s site and let him know what you think. If you leave a comment on his blog post, he’s going to enter you into a contest to win a free copy of my book, Secret Hunger.

Also, this is the start of what we’re hoping to turn into a new author talk series where we take some time to bounce ideas off each other, discuss what’s working (and what’s not,) and give a general idea of what it’s like to go through this process as a new author. Stay tuned!

Satin Russell – Author Interview

Book Launch Party Re-cap

IMG_1774As you probably know from previous posts, I threw my first book launch party for Secret Hunger over the weekend, and I’m happy to say I think it went very well!

I mentioned that I had two main fears going into the event. Either nobody showed up or too many people showed up and I planned poorly for the hor d’oeuvres. Thankfully, neither of those situations occurred. In fact, I planned for about thirty-five people to come by and that’s what happened – almost exactly!

Big thanks to Sean at Crave Bistro and Sara – the bartender extraordinaire. I thought it would be fun to hold the event in a venue other than a bookstore or library, and they really came through for me. The restaurant is beautiful, there was plenty of room to set up chairs, and it was large enough to encourage guests to get up and move around afterwards.

HUGE thanks to Lynne Favreau, my good friend and co-founder of the Wrinoshores writing group. She has not only helped me every step of the way for this party, but has been there since the first meeting of my very first NaNoWriMo.

I honestly don’t know what I would do without this fantastic woman. I had been to a recent book launch party the week before and loved the interview format that Edith Maxwell had done for her book, Farmed and Dangerous. So, one week before the party, I asked – well, kind of dumped the idea – into Lynne’s lap. She was gracious and agreed to step into the role of interviewer…and then came up with a set of really great questions!

There are a few things that I would do differently for next time. I read four excerpts and would probably cut it down to three, somewhat smaller ones. I got some valuable feedback that suggested I read a little slower next time (I was a bit nervous, especially for that first one.)

Also, I sent out a few press releases and submitted to local calendar events, but I don’t think it was enough. Next time, I’ll start my promoting earlier and try to create a bit more buzz. Even though the event wasn’t being held at a bookstore or library, I should have reached out to my local bookstores and seen if they could help spread the word for me.

At any rate, the most important thing is that I think people had a good time! Here’s some photos and a short video of a couple of questions from the interview. Lynne had just asked me if I would do anything differently while publishing my second book.

Book Launch Party and New England Author Expo

BookLaunchI know it’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve written a post and I wanted to take a moment to talk about a few events that are coming up.

First off, I’m holding a book launch party for Secret Hunger this weekend, Saturday June 13th from 12 – 3 PM. It’s going to be held at Crave Bistro in Amesbury, MA and is free and open to the public.

If you are reading this post and anywhere in the area, feel free to stop by! There will be hors d’oeurves, cocktails, door raffle prizes – including a $50 dinner gift certificate – and, of course signed books available for sale.

This is my first book launch party and I’m happy and nervous in equal measure. I keep thinking up worst case scenarios. What if no one comes? What if way too many people come and I haven’t planned enough food? What on earth am I going to say? Should I read excerpts from my book? Oh geez, what passages should I read?

Don’t worry, I’ll be sure to let you know how it goes. I’m also planning on writing a future post about how I planned my book launch party, different elements I was aiming for,  photos from the event, as well as any tips and tricks I learned along the way for next time.

2015 New England Authors Expo

I’m also excited to announce that I will be attending the 2015 New England Author Expo at the Danversport Yacht Club on Wednesday, July 29th. This event highlights authors, illustrators, and publishers from the New England region. It’s free to the public from 4 – 9 PM and the location is absolutely beautiful.

I’m really looking forward to this! It will be the first event I’ll be participating in as an author. It should be a great chance to network with fellow writers, as well as a way to connect with new readers.

Before signing up, I had an opportunity to talk with the founder and coordinator of the event, Christopher Obert. Not only did I find him warm and supportive, but he took the time to answer all my questions and allay some of my new author fears.

He also gave me a little bit of history of the author expo.  It all started very organically and is truly a “grassroots” affair. That’s not to imply it’s insubstantial, however. Their first book event was in 2006, and they’ve been hosting something annually ever since! They began using the name “Author Expo” back in 2012. Last year they actually sold out space with over a hundred authors represented!

ASHI’m also going to be doing an interview with science fiction author Aaron Hubble this Wednesday. I met Aaron while participating in a Facebook online book fair called “Spring” into Reading a couple of weeks ago. Through our conversations, we discovered that we had both published our debut novels on the same day. As we were comparing notes, he told me that he wanted to start a series of interviews featuring new authors and talking about various lessons they’d learned. It sounded like a great opportunity to review this past year and share perspectives with someone else who had been going through a similar process. I’ll be sure to let you know when it’s posted. In the meantime, if you are a fan of science fiction like me, you should go check out his new book, Ash: Farpointe Initiative Book One.

Lastly, I’ve also been planning a series of blog posts focusing on some of the lessons I’ve learned this past year as I’ve fumbled my way through my first book. My plan is to have them all written, and publish them once a week starting sometime mid-July. Some of the topics I plan on discussing are plotting vs. pantsing, how to craft a query e-mail to book bloggers, and what I would do differently for my second book. The series will be called BookBound: Lessons Learned While Writing My First Novel.

My plan going into this stage was to focus on promotion and marketing for the first month after my book was published, and then turning back to writing and focusing on my second book. I’ve read a lot of advice that cautions new authors not to spend so much time promoting that they lose sight of the fact that they’re an writer first and foremost. Now that it’s July, I’ve taken those words to heart and am once again spending hours at my local cafe plotting out Liz Harper’s story. Hopefully, the process will be a little smoother this next go-around. Or, barring that, hopefully I’ll find a whole bunch of new mistakes to make!

 

Secret Hunger Proof Copy!

I will probably write an actual post sometime later this week. But, for now – check it out! Okay, I’ll admit, I got a little shiver when I opened the box and saw the physical copy of my book for the first time. Hopefully, no matter how many books I end up writing, I’ll always get those goosebumps.

Secret Hunger’s First Week

AmazonScreenshotWow. Can you believe it’s already been a week since I published Secret Hunger?

This first week out of the gate I concentrated on uploading my print files to CreateSpace, reserved a place for my book launch party on June 13th, and wrote a few dozen book bloggers asking if they would consider reviewing my book.

I also participated in a Facebook online book fair and met a number of avid book lovers, as well as talented authors.

Incidentally, Hugh Howey just recently wrote a blog post in response to a fan asking him what the best way to support a favorite author was. If you’re a reader, it’s definitely worth taking a look.

Hugh helps illuminate the various factors that affect self-published authors. (Well, technically all authors, but I think the effects are most keenly felt by self-published authors.)

He says, “If you really want to support your favorite authors, my advice is simple: Read their books. Spread word-of-mouth. Write reviews. Email them and express your delight.”

I’ve been a voracious reader all my life but never fully understood just how much reviews meant to authors, and how leaving one impacts visibility for potential readers.

Now, having just published my own debut novel a week ago, I can absolutely attest to this. Reviews, word of mouth, and feedback are GOLD to an author.

I can’t say I’ve had a huge influx of sales, but so far they have maintained a steady drip. In total, I’ve sold 23 copies, and had 11 borrows through KU. I’m sure those numbers are modest compared to many other authors, but as it stands, I’m pretty happy with how my first week has gone.

Of course, there’s always room for improvement. For that reason, I’m also actively looking for book bloggers interested in reviewing my book. I’m happy to provide a free copy, and only ask for an honest review in return.

If you (or someone you know) are interested, please contact me. You can either leave a comment in this post, or email me at satinrussell [at] hotmail [dot] com. I’ll probably only keep this offer open until I reach an arbitrary number of reviews posted, so don’t wait!

Secret Hunger is Now Available!

Secret Hunger Cover - OFFICIALAaahhh! Can you believe it? Secret Hunger went live late yesterday afternoon and is now available for sale on Amazon. Which means I’m officially a published author! Holy cow, that’s cool. I feel like shouting it from the rooftops.

In a way, it’s hard for me to believe the culmination of this two year journey has arrived. I was such a huge ball of stress yesterday as I was trying to get the final files uploaded. I’ll have to talk about some of my mishaps in a later post. But for now, let’s just bask in the fact that Secret Hunger is published!

It’s AVAILABLE HERE if you’re interested. (There’s also a pretty substantial sample for anyone perusing.)

This is what a published author looks like.

This is what a published author looks like.