Tag Archives: writer’s life

Query Advice & FREE Query Tracker Tool

So you’re preparing to query. Congratulations on finishing your novel and editing it until it polishes like a diamond. But if you haven’t done that yet, stop right now and get back to work, you’re not ready. If you have finished writing and editing, read on.

Free query tracker (1)

Querying can be an intense process for publishing hopefuls, because there is a lot to prepare, consider, and organize. First, you’ll obviously need to have your manuscript, and goodness knows how long writing, revising, and editing may take.

Next, you’ll need to write a query letter, which is a whole other beast in and of itself. I’ve noticed that many agents will now specify the outline they’d like to see your query letter use in their submission guidelines, and usually it follows something like this:

  • Dear _____,
  • Two-three paragraphs of a back-cover-like synopsis of your work, including genre, word count, and comparable titles
  • Brief author biography and any relevant publishing credits
  • Closing line and then your signature with contact information

That’s not all you’ll need to prepare, just in case, because many agents will also request a formal synopsis, which again, is a whole other thing. This is usually a 1-2 page synopsis of the entire book, including spoilers, in which you write any new character names in all caps the first time you mention them. This is the part I hate the most, because I’m boiling all of my work down to the bare essentials with a straightforward tone.

Some agents will ask that you include certain pages in your query submission as well. Some ask for the first five pages, some the first ten, some a certain number of chapters, and some–very few–the whole manuscript.

As you can probably tell from what I’ve written so far, especially if you haven’t started mulling around in the trenches of querying yet, every agent’s submission guidelines are different, and it can be trying to keep all of them straight, unless you’re focusing on one submission at a time.

If you’re not focusing on only one query and response at a time, which many authors don’t due to the long time frame some may take, it’s called simultaneous submissions; and it’s a good idea to disclose this to any agent who asks for additional work from you, which is called a “request”. Some ask for a partial manuscript, some ask for full, and this is sort of like a second round interview for your book.

Again… there’s a lot to keep track of, and I haven’t even begun to talk about researching which agents would be the best fits for your manuscript.

If you’d like the ease of having everything in one spot for this adventure–your research, your lists, your community input, etc–consider paying the $25 yearly subscription fee for Query Tracker. However, if you’d rather save the money and put in some leg work, then I have a spreadsheet for you, one that I use when I query.

I also have some advice on how to get started with all of your research, since you can’t just submit your manuscript to any agent. They’re all looking for different things.

My first piece of advice is to check out #mswl on Twitter. MSWL stands for “manuscript wish list” and it’s a hashtag meant for agents and editors to share what they are looking for in the submissions they receive. This should not be used prior to writing. Tastes and trends change so often, so I wouldn’t recommend looking at these threads to figure out what to write about in order to fit the mold. When you boil down all the specifics, agents and editors are looking for authentic voices (#ownvoices), especially in young adult fiction. They are looking for your story, not something generic you wrote because you thought it was publishable.

Checking out #mswl on Twitter can help you to find some agents who are looking for works like yours, but if you can’t find any, I would recommend checking out a more official source for agent and editor’s wish lists: The Official Manuscript Wish List site.

Once you search through the Official Manuscript Wish List and read agent profiles of what they are looking for, you can come up with a list of appropriate agents for you. The site will also tell you how to submit your work to them, so that you can set yourself up for the best outcome.

When I queried the first time, I had no way of organizing all of my submissions and keeping track of them, so I just looked back at the date I sent the emails and waited for responses.

The second time I wanted to be more organized, so I created a Google Sheet that I could update as I queried, submitted, and found agents that would possibly be a good fit for I am Deathless.

Querying Spreadsheet Example

With my six column spreadsheet, I was able to keep track of which agents I had already queried, so I wouldn’t pester them into never looking at my work again.

Most agencies don’t allow for simultaneous submissions to their agents, so keeping track of the agency is crucial. If you find two agents from the same agency who you think would be a good fit for your manuscript, it’s your job to figure out who would like your manuscript more.

The third column was probably the most helpful for me, because that allowed me to write the email address/website for submission as well as requirements. This is crucial, because agents ask for different things. Some only want your query letter, others want the query and first three chapters or a certain number of pages, while others want the query and a synopsis and a certain number of pages. You’re going to want to know exactly what each agent is asking for.

The fourth column is important for keeping track of the date when you sent your query, because some agents will say things like, “if you don’t hear anything in six weeks, consider it a pass.” You’ll need to know when your submission has gone cold.

In the fifth column, I’d write the date of when I heard back  from the agent or when I’d realized that the submission had gone cold. That date would be more important when I’d receive a manuscript request, because the clock would start again as they took a closer look at my work. I’d be able to keep track of when the agent received my manuscript so that I knew when to expect a response or to nudge them.

An agent nudge is a friendly email reminder that they have your material, which is in NO WAY your opportunity to be snarky with them about how long it’s taking. It takes long. When an agent says they will respond in 2-4 weeks, I’m astounded, because they receive so many manuscripts every day. You have to be patient and gracious. They have a lot of work to do, and until you’re their client, your work is not their priority.

The sixth column is where I wrote notes about when to consider a submission a pass or if they had any comments on my work. This, again, is not an agent’s priority or job to do, so if they pass but give you feedback, that’s amazing. Write it down. It means they liked your work enough to have some sort of investment in its eventual success with another agent.

Since my first draft of this chart, I spruced it up a bit for round 3 of querying I am Deathless and round 1 of querying Misfit Theater Company, and I’ve included it here for you in case you’d like to track your queries in the same way I do.

FREE Query Tracking Spreadsheet

If this organizer speaks to you, download my free Querying Spreadsheet and get to work!

If not, how do you organize your queries? Share in the comments!

Either way, best of luck to you and your project! Happy querying!

The Last Three Years

The past few years have been a little rough for my writing, and consequently, for my website as well.

It started in December of 2015 when my website was held hostage by our website host, Go Daddy. Even though I was able to get it back, all my content was lost. (Unsurprisingly, I do not recommend Go Daddy. Apparently this happens with them somewhat frequently.)

The prospect of starting over was too overwhelming for me to handle. I salvaged the articles I could from my Tumblr, but I lost a lot of them, some that I really loved and had worked really hard to write. I didn’t want to start all over, and yet, there I was, needing to.

Instead of getting back to work, I focused on a personal project my husband and I had been working on: buying a house. We had finally saved enough for a down payment, largely in part due to Wattpad and my opportunities to write commissioned content through my involvement in the Wattpad Stars program. We found a place we liked in our price range, and by May of 2016, we had the keys. In June, I was the maid of honor in my sister’s wedding, and in July, I spent a month working and teaching in a different part of the state. In August, my husband and I welcomed our first puppy to the family, and in November, we welcomed our second puppy. Needless to say, 2016 was a very busy year for me.

I continued to write, but by then, my Deathless trilogy had finished, leaving me in a sort of writer’s hangover. I missed the world I had created for the trilogy, I missed the characters, and I didn’t know what to do next. I was stuck. Not a whole lot of writing happened in 2016 except for the birth of a new idea during NaNoWriMo, which was promptly abandoned when the stresses of work and NaNoWriMo became too much.

By the time 2017 rolled around, I was ready to slowly get back into writing. I’m not sure if this happens to you, but when I don’t write, my anxiety gets pretty bad. I don’t write autobiographically or keep a diary anymore, but even writing about fictional people and places and situations provides a much needed release for me. Writing saves me by clearing my mind and giving me a creative outlet where I can put all the junk I’ve gotten out of my head. The problem was that I didn’t know what to write about. So, I just wrote. I continued in the universe I created with The Deathless Trilogy but with a new, fun twist taking place about twenty years after the trilogy ends. I called the book All the Space Between Us and just allowed myself to have fun with it. I played around with perspectives and layout and romance and suspense, and it helped me shake some of the cobwebs from between my fingers and get into my work again. But none of the writing was serious for me, just practice so I could get back into the work. Until the end of 2017, that is.

I had an idea for a while about a girl who had undiagnosed dyslexia and was placed into a theater class to help her cultivate a better sense of self as well as a better relationship with literacy. I wrote the first ten or so chapters with a main character who was entirely outside of who I am, and finally got stuck, because I couldn’t hear her voice anymore. I decided to go back to the beginning and rewrite it. As I did this toward the end of 2017 and the beginning of 2018, I began posting the chapters of a novel I called Misfit Theater Company on Wattpad.

Misfit Theater Company made me frightened, because it wasn’t science fiction, it was contemporary young adult, and it was close to my heart. I was deeply involved in theater growing up and I have loved ones with dyslexia and other similar learning disabilities. It felt very personal to me, as the characters and the story was very close to my experience. Each of the main characters reminded me of someone who had meant something to me growing up. Janie, the main character, reminded me of my loved ones with dyslexia and me at my most insecure. Thatcher reminded me of my high school boyfriend before I began dating my now husband. Moth reminded me of a combination between a boy I was in theater classes with and my husband. Patti reminded me of a close friend of mine in theater classes as well as every most serious girl in every theater program ever, haha.

But I put this personal, out-of-my-comfort-zone book out there. I changed bits of it as I went on, clarifying them through author’s notes. “Hey everyone, this character no longer exists, pretend like she was never there.” Stuff like that. It was not perfect, and it was also not a big hit at first. Few people read it, but the ones who did seemed to love it. One very kind superstar of Wattpad helped it, Darly Jamison who is an amazing author and who began reading, commenting, and voting on my new project, leading new readers toward it. When it was time for the 2018 Watty Awards to open, I entered Janie’s story.

Around the time the story concluded and was entered into the Watty’s, I suffered a personal loss that sent me into a ten month long depression. And then, after I had become so excited and renewed in the writing experience with this fun and new novel, I stopped writing again. I couldn’t. I was in too much pain to move. Not literally (thankfully), but emotionally. I knew that I needed to write to feel better, but I couldn’t think about anything but the loss I’d experienced. I became obsessed with trying to heal myself physically that I lost sight of how to heal myself emotionally or spiritually.

While I was stuck in my darkness, I won a Watty Award, I attended WattCon 2018 in New York City, and I started two novels that are still waiting for me to return to them. By April of 2019, I realized that the only times I felt any real joy in the past ten months had been when I was writing or immersed in Wattpad culture. As I said earlier, I started two other novels, but I decided that it was finally time to start working on a sequel to Misfit Theater Company. I committed to it, and those fun, lighthearted, nostalgic characters came back into my life to help me. The stage lights came on, and a little more brightness entered into my world, chapter by chapter.

Now it’s the end of May 2019 and the losses I experienced still hurt, the years I didn’t write still hurt, but I am back on the upswing. I’m fully committed to Misfit Theater Company 2 with a full outline I’m about 1/5 of the way through already, and I’m returning to my first love, The Deathless Trilogy, to revise with the hope that publication will come soon, either self-publication or traditional, I don’t mind at this point, I just want to share it. And I’ve finally written a new post on this site.

After the last three years, I’ve learned that sometimes it is difficult to write–because my stories have been lost, because I’m busy, because I’m depressed, because I’m stuck in a story, because I have no good ideas–but I have to keep going. I have to write something. Otherwise, I’ll slowly go mad, and whatever stopped me from writing will only get worse.

Elizabeth Gilbert wrote in her book Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, “Any motion whatsoever beats inertia, because inspiration will always be drawn to motion. So wave your arms around. Make something. Do something. Do anything.” So here I am, writing. Doing something. Trying to make something again, despite my losses, despite the fact no one has seen this website in the past three years and will likely not see this either.

I feel like I’m waking up after a long sleep. I’m waking up excited to write every day and utilizing whatever time I can to do so. And that’s exactly what I plan to do.

Lessons Learned from My 27 Years on Earth

Lessons Learned from my 27 Years on Earth // www.sarahperlmutter.com

-Original post published on September 20, 2015-

Today is my birthday.

Back in high school, I decided on scary ages, a.k.a. ages at which I would objectively be old, and my life would officially begin ending. 27 was the first of those ages, and today I have met it head on.

But I was an idiot in high school. I don’t feel any older, and I’m in no way scared.

26 was a year full of successes and excitement, and as you age, those exciting things don’t end, they multiply. I still have lots of excitement ahead of me. In fact, I would argue, most of the more exciting things I will experience as a human being on this earth are still ahead of me. 27 is going to be an even better year than the last.

I know this will be true, because each year I learn something new, something that will make me happier, healthier, better, and every year after, I live that lesson.

For some people, it takes living through mistakes to learn, but in case you are one of those people, like me, who enjoys listening and learning from advice others give you, listen up. As Mary Schmich wrote and Baz Luhrman made famous, “Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth.”

Indulge me as I do just that.

27 Pieces of Advice from my 27th Year

  1. Wake up early enough to see the sunrise. It’s a sight most people don’t get to see, and among the most beautiful sights available to us. From there, the day is yours.
  2. Learn to ask for help without shame. It’s not a sign of weakness. It’s actually a sign of strength.
  3. Be confident in yourself. In your life, you will have many cheerleaders on your side; however, you are the only cheerleader who will never quit your team. Treat yourself well, so you can keep your strength. Never stop cheering yourself on.
  4. Find something you’re passionate about and do it. Whether it is writing, singing, dancing, painting, playing an instrument, or reading… find something. Otherwise, you’ll waste half of your life bored, watching the same shows over and over again, and admiring “interesting people,” who are really just “passionate people.”
  5. Understand that learning never stops. If I had known this in high school, I would have tried a lot harder. Learning is not about getting a grade and moving on. It’s about questioning and applying, it’s about living. Learning never ever stops, embrace it.
  6. Let people know you appreciate them. You never know when someone will need to hear that, or even a simple “thank you,” and it takes little to no effort for you to do. You have no idea how many notes of appreciation I still have from people over the years, and I read them when I’ve had a bad day. If you can give someone that, why wouldn’t you?
  7. It’s okay to make mistakes. You learn faster when you make a mistake, because you create a memory with that information. Feel free to try and be wrong. Again, it’s not a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of strength.
  8. Just as you should be passionate about something, try to be a huge, unapologetic nerd about something too. Do you think I ever feel bad about loving The Hunger Games or YA lit? Nope. I take pride in it. It’s a badge I wear every time I put on my mockingjay pin, and I love it. Think I’m weird for it? Oh well, it makes me happy, and that’s more important than what you think. That should be your thought process every time you second guess your nerdiness. Who cares what anyone else thinks if it makes you happy.
  9. Admit to your parents that they were right all those years. Growing up, you’re learning everything as you go. Your parents have already lived it and learned from it. When they tell you you can’t do something, listen. Chances are there is a story behind those words, and if there isn’t, I guarantee they are said out of love, not anger (even if the tone suggests otherwise).
  10. Study abroad. It is likely going to be the last chance you will have to live outside of the U.S., unless you’re very lucky. The U.S. is great, but leaving your comfort zone and entering into unknown territory awakens aspects of your personality you would have never dreamed existed before. It may even awaken a passion, as it did for me.
  11. Try to understand people before you judge them. I didn’t give a lot of really amazing, interesting, brilliant people a chance when I was in middle or high school, because they weren’t in the same cliques as me. Ignore those social boundaries and get to know as many people as you can. You will learn something new from each of them.
  12. Put your phone down. Or better yet, leave your phone at home. Sometimes you need to disconnect (says the girl posting on her blog). When I was studying abroad, I didn’t have an international cellphone. I use home phones and Skype to contact my friends, I made plans in advance, I took the time to talk to people and look at everything around me. Some days I wish I could go back to that, like how it was when I was growing up. Some days I miss having only a home phone, books, and dial up.
  13. Tell people what you want. Being an advocate for yourself and your dreams is crucial. A lot of people don’t do it, because they see it as a sign of entitlement or selfishness or greed. It’s not. Just as you are your own cheerleader, you must also be your own spokesperson. Besides, it’s more than likely that people will want to help you achieve your goals, but they can’t if you never express them.
  14. Treat your body well. I’m still learning to do this in many ways. It’s one of the things I hope to work toward doing better in the future if I want my bones and joints to all work still in 50 years.
  15. Become part of a community. Whether it is with a religious organization, a sports team, a club, or even a writing group, it’s important to have a support system around you. The older you get, the more you’re going to want this in your life, trust me. Start building it now.
  16. Save your money. You will be thankful you did. It may not seem appealing now, but trust me, it will when you’re older.
  17. Keep a notebook. Jot down anything in its pages, even if you don’t consider yourself a writer. It’s important to document your thoughts and your life. How else will you remember how awesome you were when you’re memory starts to fade?
  18. Speak up for yourself when you’ve been given the raw end of a deal. I never used to speak up for myself, because I didn’t want people to think I was a “bitch” or needy or high maintenance. I feel like women especially are so easily branded with one of those adjectives, but you can’t let those labels stop you from being treated fairly. Let the waiter know politely that they got your order wrong. Tell someone when you have been overcharged for something. Chances are they made a mistake and they will want to fix it for you. Don’t let fear stop you from letting them.
  19. Learn how to do nothing. Sometimes you need time by yourself to meditate or just relax. We are so quick to grab our phones or turn on the TV… stop. Just don’t do anything. Just sit and be. Not all the time, but every once and a while, be still.
  20. Be patient. They say good things come to those who wait, and they are right. Not everything is going to happen overnight. Work for goals, work for people, work for yourself, and soon, you’ll be glad you did.
  21. Never give up on something you truly want. I gave up on wanting to be an actress, but I don’t regret it. In fact, I’m thankful I did, because what I truly wanted for my life was to one day have a cute little home, a small family, and a group of close friends. With acting, I knew I wouldn’t have the luxury of that sort of stability, because I would have to travel and I would have to work constantly to maintain my income and any benefits. I didn’t want that. I do want to be a great teacher and a published writer, and the more I work toward those dreams, the closer I get to reaching them.
  22. Learn self-discipline. You will accomplish more than you ever imagined was possible if you can only discipline yourself enough to stick to a plan or a schedule or a regimen. You may even find it energizes you, as it does for me.
  23. Help others. This can look different for everyone, but as long as you are spreading kindness, you’re repairing this earth and making it a better place to live. That’s what matters.
  24. Keep a clean house. It will reduce stress and allow you to do what you want in life, instead of furiously cleaning every time guests come over.
  25. Learn to work through anger by understanding its source. All anger comes from something else, something that you want from your life but aren’t getting, which makes you angry. You’re not really upset with your roommate about using your shampoo again without asking. You’re upset, because that action shows a lack of respect, and you want to be respected. Once you figure out that source, you can calm down, and have a real, productive conversation about it instead of an argument. It helps you realize what is most important in your life, so you can work toward it, and it helps strength your relationships with others. One of my friends taught me this one.
  26. Find a way to stay in touch with people, even if they are far away. I have loved many people in my life, and I have only been able to stay in contact with some of them. That is a huge regret of mine. We are able to remain so connected to each other nowadays, so find a way to use technology to your advantage. And don’t feel weird to be the one who reaches out after years… chances are if you’re reaching out, that people has missed you too.
  27. And finally, understand that you are on a journey that will last your whole life.Don’t feel upset if you’re not at the place you hoped you would be at your age, or if your journey took you on a detour. Everyone’s journey through life is different. Love yours. Be happy with the path you’ve chosen. There’s no turning back, so if you find yourself on a path you don’t like, cut through the forest to a different one, plant some flowers, find companions to join you on your journey. It is never too late to get to a station along your path, and it’s never too late to find a new path along the way. Just don’t stand there, looking back the way you came, and wishing you could start again. It won’t help. Move forward, make new goals, and find new adventures, appreciating everything around you on the way. Your journey is what you make it.

So there they are: my 27 pieces of advice, my 27 lessons learned.

Thank you for indulging me and for reading. You are among the many good things I have been blessed with in my 27 years. Your support has given me more strength than you can imagine.

Thank you.

-Sarah

Advice for Writers

The Viral Post from Tumblr!
The Viral Post from Tumblr!

-Original post published May of 2015-

Advice for Writers

One of my readers on Wattpad recently asked if I had any advice for writers, and while I feel unqualified to give advice on many aspects of writing, I can certainly relay advice I’ve taken to heart and add my two cents. So here goes…

1. You’re a writer starting right now. Own it.

I have tried writing before and could never get into it until a couple of years ago when I decided that I would share my journey as a writer with the world via social media. You don’t have to go crazy with it, you can begin slowly so as to ease yourself into the world of writing like I did with a few mild tweets, but you have to do this. This is step 1.

You have to own your title as a writer. The best piece of advice I got on this matter was to write an affirmation. Post it somewhere where you will see it every day. Mine is on my desk at work, and it says, “I am a writer. Writing is my art.” I look at it when I’m having a rough day or when I am feeling stressed about writing. It’s a kind reminder that I not only CAN write, but I can write beautifully.

2. After you label yourself as a writer and you receive your inevitable first few rejections, don’t beat yourself up.

For a while I wasn’t sure if I could really pull off calling myself a writer, because I hadn’t been published. I felt like I was writing good stories (and I still do), so I wasn’t sure why no one wanted them. I began to wonder if I was really a writer, and started asking myself, “Can I really call myself a writer if I don’t have any readers?”

The answer is YES. You can. One day you will have readers, but you won’t ever get there if you stop writing. And maybe not every story you write will be published, and that’s okay. It doesn’t make you any less of a writer, in fact, it’s more like a rite of passage.

I read once, and I really wish I remembered which author this was, that a famous author kept all of his (or her) rejection letters on a wall in his (or her) apartment. At first I thought, “Well, that’s depressing,” but then I got to thinking about it… If you have rejection letters, that means you’re trying. You’re writing and you’re putting your writing out there, which I think is incredibly courageous.

So don’t lose hope. Rejection happens to everyone. Keep writing.

3. All first drafts are crap.

One of the most freeing things I ever learned as a writer was that all first drafts are crap. Once I learned this, I felt free to just write and write and write. I wasn’t caught up in my own head, and I wasn’t getting down on myself for not being the most amazing writer in my first drafts.

My readers on Wattpad always ask me how I can be such an amazing writer, to which I tell them, “I’m not. I write my books and then I edit the crap out of them.” Literally.

I am currently writing the 3rd book of The Deathless Trilogy, and my readers are dying to read it. But there is still no way they are looking at my first draft. It’s a mess! But I allow it to be a mess. I allow myself to work through the story. Your first draft is never going to be the draft that’s published (nor should it be), and that’s okay.

4. Just write.

Stop waiting for the right time or the right idea. There’s no such thing. Just do it, and it will come to you, even if you’re just writing short stories in a journal each day. Writing is a muscle, and if you don’t work it, you lose it.

Don’t worry about what others will say or whether or not it’s good. Start writing just for you, and once you start to feel a little more confident, start considering your audience. But at first, write for yourself first.

Try keeping a diary. You can remember situations and feelings you can use later for characters WHILE you write for only yourself. I kept a diary all through middle and high school, and you know where I go to for inspiration now? You got it–my diary.

5. When writing any story, have an ending in mind.

Having an ending in mind allows you to insert some of those deeper, richer layers into your writing, like foreshadowing. It also helps you develop your character arc, and plot. An ending is a finish line, a goal, and having it in mind–even if you have nothing else planned–will be like an anchor, pulling you deeper into your story as you write it.

For my first book in The Deathless Trilogy, all I began writing with was a first scene image and a final scene image. With those in mind, I filled in the rest, but having my final scene in mind helped me figure out everything along the way.

6. Speaking of endings, finish your writing.

You have no idea how many unfinished manuscripts are posted on Wattpad right now, and many of them have fantastic concepts that were never carried through to an end. Think of all the potential!

Endings are hard, I get that, and writing takes some serious stamina, but you have to do it! You can’t start to understand storytelling without writing endings. Besides, once you type the period of that last sentence of your manuscript, you can sit back and marvel at what you just accomplished.

So seriously, finish your writing.

7. Protect your writing time from others and yourself.

Obviously you need to go to work or school, you need to have some sort of social life, and you need to have some time for yourself. But if you want to be a writer, you also need to carve out a time for yourself every day just for writing.

I remember hearing this piece of advice when I first started writing, and I thought, “Oh my goodness, every day? I’m not sure if I can do that.” Fast forward two years, and I can’t imagine a day without writing.

I go to work Monday through Friday, and come home and write after chores. Saturdays are my writing day. I fiercely protect my Saturdays and my time after work. I go away from everyone (sometimes this even includes my cat, because she is nonsense), and I write for all of that time.

You have to have that time for yourself to write, otherwise you’re not going to get anything done. And after a while, it will get to the point that not writing will make you feel anxious. When I can’t write for a while, I start to actually stress and just start jotting down notes in my phone or on scrap papers. It’s a little ridiculous, but it’s because I love writing so much. Even when it kills me, I love it. I have to do it otherwise I shut down. Force yourself to write every day until you feel like that (or perhaps until you feel something a little less melodramatic after a day of not writing).

8. Believe in your writing.

The piece you’re working on right now could be the piece that changes everything for you. Writing The Blast and The Deathless Trilogy has honestly changed my life. My characters have helped me understand myself better, as well as others in my life. I have learned what is most important in life, and I have come to find strength in myself.

If I didn’t believe in my writing and share it confidently, I wouldn’t have ever discovered those things. Believing in yourself and your books is key. You don’t have to be self-promoting or arrogant, in fact, please don’t do that. But you do have to love what you do, and love yourself for doing it.

www.sarahperlmutter.com

Are there any other pieces of advice about writing that have helped you?

Interacting with Readers on Instagram

Interacting with Readers on Instagram // www.sarahperlmutter.com

-Original post published September of 2015-

Interacting with Readers on Instagram

#1. First things first, make a username that is easy for your readers to find.

There are a lot of fake accounts out there, so you want to make sure that YOUR account is easy to find. My username, for example, is @thesarahperlmutter. Simple, easy.

#2. Again, because there are many fake accounts out there (maybe not for an indie author like me, but for others, definitely), you want to make sure that you are using the exact same headshot you use for all your other social media sites.

Not using the same one for all of them?

Originally posted by jimmyfungus

It’s important to use the same headshot across the board to make it clear for readers (and agents) that you are you, and you have a presence online.

You may recognize my old headshot from all of my accounts before, and you’ll see now they are all replaced with my new headshot.

Photo credit Shane Jordan
Photo credit Shane Jordan

The point is, before you even begin posting on Instagram, make sure you have an easily searchable username and a consistent headshot.

3. Take pictures of your writing space.

I don’t know about you, but I follow all my favorite authors. I LOVE seeing their writing spaces, their coffee mugs, their open laptops, and all the things surrounding them. It helps me realize that they are real people, and that’s really what’s at the heart of Instagram: Breaking down the barrier between you and your readers to showcase your commonalities and build relationships based on them.

Your readers are going to want to see your writing space to see what inspires you.

#4. Take pictures of you writing.  

Nothing excites me more than knowing that my favorite writer has something new up their sleeve for me. Give that excitement back to your fans. Writing seems to be this elusive, magical process that many people don’t understand, making writers seem like unflappable gods of words. We’re not. Our first drafts are likely all big messes. We’ve all worked long hours to make it so you read the best possible version of our mess.

Instagram helps make that clear to readers, which in turn inspires them to have the confidence to the same thing: Write without fear. Inspire your readers by showing them the heart of your process.

#5. Pose questions to your readers so they feel more inspired to comment.

I love having my voice heard and if a writer I admire asks for my input on something, you know I’m commenting! So pose questions or polls to your readers for them to respond to in the comments, and when they do, try to respond to as many as possible. I don’t know about you, but I freak out every time someone I admire responds to anything I post online (even if it’s just a favorite or retweet on Twitter).

Obviously authors like Sarah Dessan (who does a phenomenal job on Instagram, check her out! She is my social media use icon) cannot respond to all the comments, but interaction can be key to building your fan base, all of you writers like me who are just starting out or whose books don’t reach as wide a group as Dessan’s yet.

#6. Show love to your fans.

If you are lucky enough to have fans as amazing as mine, chances are they are going to Instagram pictures with your book, fan art, or even quotes from your book. When you see this, repost those pictures to show your fans some love.

Everyone loves to be recognized, so recognize those who are supporting you and your characters.

#7. Show that you are a reader and a supporter of other authors.

½ of being a writer is also being a reader, and ½ of being a writer on social media is supporting your fellow writers. Nothing is more satisfying that making a friend with another author and sharing your successes, challenges, and internet space. I learned this lesson through being active on Wattpad and from participating in events like #PitchWars.

Besides, people love to share what they’re reading, and when you see authors reading other authors’ works, it inspires you to read that much more.

I also really get a kick out of author friendships like Siobvan Vivian and Jenny Han have and what Wattpad authors Rebecca Sky and E. Latimer have. It inspires me to work with others and collaborate like they have. (Go SciKick!)

If you are lucky enough to have fans follow you on Instagram, share that love with other writers. They will do the same, but more importantly, they will be more inclined to reach out and become your writer friend.

A common misconception about writers is that all of us are competing with each other. We’re not. We can’t survive like that. We have to work together, and it starts online.

#8. Show that you are your own #1 fan as well.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: No one is going to be excited about your writing if you aren’t first. You are your own best cheerleader. So cheer on!

Instagram pictures that remind you of your books or would remind readers of your works. It will help you take more pride in the work you’re doing, and it will get your readers excited to see those little references to the books they love so much.

#9. Share your hobbies, pets, and anything else you feel comfortable with the world knowing.

By now, all of my Instagram followers should be familiar with my nonsense cat, Fluffhead. Recently I was asked about her in an interview, which, I think, showed that not only are readers connecting with me on a personal level now (through my nonsense cat) but also that my presence on Instagram is working. I’m sharing you I am with people, and they are taking notice and wanting to learn more. That’s huge, because that shows me I’ve made a connection with that reader as a person.

If I personally like an author, I’m way more inclined to purchase a book by them. There are so many authors who I either haven’t had the opportunity to read yet or haven’t necessarily loved their work, but I still buy their books every time they release a new one. Why? Because I like them as people, and because I want to see them succeed.

Make that connection with your readers. Obviously, don’t overshare or share anything too personal, because you don’t want to put yourself in a bad position. But your pets are fair game (I see SO many author pets on Instagram), your favorite food (any loyal follow of Sarah Dessan is familiar with Peccadillo Carrboro, am I right?), your favorite hobbies (how about Sarah Dessan and yoga? See, Sarah Dessan really is an Instagram Queen), and your favorite fandoms.

#10. Host giveaways and contests.

You have no idea how many times I see giveaways to celebrate X amount of followers, and you know what? I enter every single time. Why? Because I want free stuff! You know who else wants free stuff? EVERYONE.

Giveaways are a fantastic way to get your name out there and to get knew people to see your book. Word of mouth is the best form of marketing, and with the internet, things like giveaways can be megaphones for this. Why? Because you’re not just spamming people, you are offering them something in return for the simplest of gestures. Reposting the giveaway announcement, commenting something below a picture, posting a picture with a certain hashtag. You have so many options.

I haven’t done an Instagram specific giveaway, but I’ve done a Goodreads giveaway and a Wattpad giveaway. PLUS I actually WON an Instagram giveaway recently that I was totally stoked about! I won The Reluctant Sacrifice by Kerr-Ann Dempster (one of my new online writer friends), and so far, it’s SO GOOD. With the new school year, I’ve been busy the past couple of weeks, but I intend of finishing it soon because I need to know what happens! Would I have really known about this book without the giveaway? Maybe… because I follow her, but my followers now all know about it too, because I reposted her giveaway picture. Now she’s reaching a wider audience than before, and I got something out of it as well. Win-win.

#11. Reach out to Book Bloggers/Instagrammers.

There.are.so.many.book.bloggers.

And many of them have over 1K followers on Instagram. Think of all those book lovers just waiting to hear from their favorite Instragram book bloggers to tell them what they think of an up and coming book.

Follow them, see if they read your genre, and reach out to them. It’s not going to hurt you one little bit, but if they read and feature your book on their channel, feed, and/or blog, it could help you a lot. Plus now they have a free book to either keep or give out in a giveaway in the future, thereby continuing to spread your words around the world. I did this, and my book will be featured on Books and Mugs later this autumn!

#12. Promote your writing with updates and reviews.

When The Blast had its first book blog tour last April, I instagrammed pictures of some of the reviews. One of my high school friends contacted me on Facebook after years without hearing from her, and basically said that since seeing the reviews on Instagram, she purchased the book and couldn’t wait to read it.

Don’t spam your feed obviously, but reviews help a lot. Don’t be afraid to take clips from them and put them on Instagram.

There are also updates or quotes that I post from my books every now and then to generate interest or to alert my readers of a new chapter on Wattpad. Sometimes my readers will check Instagram before they check Wattpad, and I’ve had readers comment on a picture, “Just saw this, going to Wattpad now!” When you include a quote or a picture with the announcements, even people who aren’t reading along can enjoy reading a snippet of your work. And who knows? Maybe one of your quotes draws them in?

Recap:

  • Keep your Instagram feed visual by keeping words to a minimum.
  • Share your writer’s life. That includes writing space, writing process, and favorite writer’s tools (coffee is big on my list).
  • Make connections to your readers.
  • Use Instagram as a networking opportunity. No one ‘grams in a vaccuum.
  • Don’t spam.
  • Support fellow authors and support your readers.
  • Stay true to your brand.

Any other ways you’ve used Instagram or other ways you’d like to see me use Instagram?