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Happy Wednesday Everyone! I have a lot going on today. I'm excited to have author Dusti Bowling here to share about her experiences as a self-published author and now as a traditionally-published author of her MG INSIGNIFICANT EVENTS IN THE LIFE OF A CACTUS. I found her post really helpful as I wonder for myself if I have what it takes to market a book. And I love the title.

But first I have Follower News and my IWSG POST!

Follower News

I have two awesome pieces of news to share for followers. FYI I am sharing about any follower's book whatever age range or genre as long as it's not erotica. So when you're being published in an anthology, have a book published, get an agent, or get a book contract, I'm glad to shout out about your good news. I just don't do cover reveals because it would get to be too much. Please take advantage of it. I have a lot of people who read my posts without commenting. You just need to be a follower and need to comment somewhat regularly so I know who you are.

Elizabeth Varden has a new picture book that was just released , DRAGONELLA. Here's a blurb: "Dragonella is the only dragon at her new school, and her flames cause problemsBut when her flames save the day during a class party, the teacher and other students learn they shouldn't be quick to judge someone who is different."
And here are a few links:

And Carol Kilgore's adult mystery JALEPENO CUPCAKE WENCH also recently released. Here's a blurb: The Amazing Gracie Trilogy, Book 1: A hot and spicy taste of murder – and beyond. Set in the ♥ of San Antonio. 
And some links: 
Blog: https://www.underthetikihut.blogspot.com


Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Posting: The first Wednesday of the month is officially Insecure Writer's Support Group Day.
The co-hosts this month are Co-Hosts: Tonja Drecker, Diane Burton, MJ Fifield, and Rebecca Douglass!

Optional Question: Win or not, do you you usually finish your NaNo project? Have any of them gone on to be published?

No, I have never done NaNo at all. I was too busy working as a full-time attorney, taking care of my husband and daughter, and keeping up the blog and working at my daughter's fall swim meets to consider it. Even now, living alone with my contract writing job, this blog, and helping with my boyfriend's plays, I'm too busy to commit to that much writing. That doesn't include my mom moving here in the spring to live in independent living. Right now I'm starting to produce a play and working a lot, and it's frustrating that I don't have enough time of my own to write. I just end working too late in the day to have the concentration to write regularly.

But I am frustrated that I don't set aside more time to write. It's my insecurity. I am really trying though. I wrote some on Saturday so I could submit to my critique group again. And I'm trying to get on track on the blog so I have more time to write. And I'm hoping with some forced time off from work for the holidays to get into the habit of putting 15 to 30 minutes of time in my schedule a few week days to add to writing time. I'm worth it, right? And I know writing regularly is important.

What about you? What are your experiences with NaNo?

Now onto Dusti's guest post.

Here's a blurb of her book from Goodreads:

*“Aven is a perky, hilarious, and inspiring protagonist whose attitude and humor will linger even after the
last page has turned.” —School Library Journal (Starred review)

Aven Green loves to tell people that she lost her arms in an alligator wrestling match, or a wildfire in Tanzania, but the truth is she was born without them. And when her parents take a job running Stagecoach Pass, a rundown western theme park in Arizona, Aven moves with them across the country knowing that she’ll have to answer the question over and over again.

Her new life takes an unexpected turn when she bonds with Connor, a classmate who also feels isolated because of his own disability, and they discover a room at Stagecoach Pass that holds bigger secrets than Aven ever could have imagined. It’s hard to solve a mystery, help a friend, and face your worst fears. But Aven’s about to discover she can do it all . . . even without arms.

Now here's Dusti! Hope you enjoy her post as much as I did.

A lot of people may not realize that before I traditionally published Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus, I self-published three young adult novels online. I don’t talk about it much because those books are in a different genre from my current release, which is middle grade. I self-published my first novel, The Day We Met, in November of 2011. The manuscript had been sitting on my laptop for about two years. I knew I wouldn’t query literary agents with it. I had written it mostly just for myself, and besides, who would want to read a manuscript written by a stay-at-home mom with almost no writing credentials whatsoever? Then, one day, I saw someone promoting their new e-book online, and I remembered that old manuscript sitting on my laptop. On a whim, I asked my husband to please convert my Word document into e-book format, asked my friend to take a picture of my baby’s hand for the cover, and reached out to a handful of book bloggers to see if they would review my self-published book.

One month after I put my book online, I had sold a hundred copies. I was absolutely thrilled. I couldn’t believe it. On Christmas Eve, my sales skyrocketed, and they wouldn’t come back down again until I had sold far more copies than I ever expected—over twenty thousand to be exact.
I put out two more books in 2013. Those books have sold at most a thousand total copies combined in the years since. My first book also stopped selling around that time. I reached out to book bloggers again about reviewing my self-published books. Crickets. So what the heck happened in only two years?

I read just the other day that over a million books are now published every year. Out of those, a significant portion are self-published books. Within only a couple of years, I had become a needle in a haystack. I tried Goodreads giveaways, Facebook advertising, and Amazon promotions. Nothing made a dent. But that’s all I did, and I did it all wrong. I didn’t get active on social media while my first book was actively selling. I didn’t keep my website current. I didn’t do anything to build my fan base and promote my books. And most importantly, I waited far too long to release my next books.
I know people who are doing it right, and they are having great self-publishing success. However, they will be the first to say that they spend just as much time marketing their books as they do writing their books. Maybe even more. The most successful self-published authors I know also put out books steadily, usually multiple books every year. They gradually build their fan base over time. This is a long-term plan, not something that happens with one book. And if you want to turn self-publishing into a writing career, I think you have to view it as a full-time job, not just a hobby.

I decided to seek out a traditional publisher for Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus because I wanted this book to be read, and I knew if I self-published it, it was highly likely that it would end up like my last two self-published books—unread. Self-publishing can work extremely well for certain genres, especially romance, but I think the middle grade and younger market is a tough sell in the self-publishing world. These kids like to pick up a book in a store, in a library, or at school and check it out.

Finding a literary agent was just as tough as I thought it would be, but it wasn’t impossible like I expected it to be. I made several revisions to my manuscript and even completely rewrote it at one point in order to land a literary agent. Submitting to publishers was much less painful because I had already revised my manuscript so many times. It was in pretty good shape. Plus, for the first time ever, I had someone in the industry on my side.

Working with my publisher, Sterling Children’s Books, has been incredible. I don’t feel alone like I did when I self-published. I feel the support of my publisher every day. But I also know many traditionally-published authors who don’t feel supported by their publisher and are having to take on the bulk of the promotion themselves, just as they would if they self-published. I think this is a common reality today, and one I had fully anticipated. I was pleasantly surprised by the effort my publisher has put into promoting my book: giving out a substantial number of ARCs, sending me to several conferences, sending me on tour, and many other things.

Though I have tremendous support from my publisher, I’ve still done all I can to help with promoting my new book. Honestly, I’ve probably done a hundred times more than what I did with my self-published novels. But it’s not because I’ve had to necessarily. It’s because I want to. It’s because I want to give this book the very best chance I can give it. Perhaps if I had put this much effort into promoting my self-published novels from the beginning, I could have had greater, longer-lasting success.

When my book was picked up by Sterling, I still had almost no online presence, despite having sold so many self-published books. I immediately got active on my Twitter account, which has been incredibly helpful in connecting with teachers and librarians, the people who are going to spread the word about your book to kids. I gained followers by hosting several giveaways for signed ARCs and books by authors I admire. I then reached out to the teachers and librarians who followed me to see if they would like digital ARCs. This was how I got on a #bookjourney, which turned into a #bookexpedition and then about ten more of these ARC tours that book-loving teachers and librarians participate in. Their support of my book has been valuable beyond measure, and I’ve greatly enjoyed connecting with these passionate educators.

So no matter which route you choose, just know there’s no shortcut. If you self-publish, be prepared to go it alone. Be prepared to work at it like it’s a full-time job in order to gain visibility. Be prepared to be told no by bloggers, reviewers, book stores, and just about everyone else. If you want to traditionally-publish, be prepared again to be told no until you finally land a literary agent. And then be prepared to be told no some more. But if you manage to get there, you just might gain the support you need to get your book some visibility in a sea of millions of books.

In other words, if you want to somehow achieve success as an author, either self-published or traditionally-published, be prepared to work your butt off. Be prepared to hear the word no. And be prepared to keep fighting for it because you love your story. Because it’s important to you. And if it’s not, then why are you writing it?

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Dusti. You can find Dusti at her website www.dustibowling.com.

Dusti is generously offering a copy of INSIGNIFICANT EVENTS IN THE LIFE OF A CACTUS for a giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower (just click the follow button if you’re not a follower) and leave a comment through November 18th. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter either contest.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry. You must be 13 years old or older to enter. The book giveaway is U.S. and the critique giveaway is for U.S..

Here's what's coming up:

Monday, November 6th I have an interview with debut author Jodi Kendall and a giveaway of her MG contemporary THE UNLIKELY STORY OF A PIG IN THE CITY

Monday, November 13th I have an interview with debut author Heather Kaczynski and a giveaway of her YA science fiction DARE MIGHTY THINGS

Tuesday, November 14th I am participating in the Gratitude Giveaway Hop

Monday, November 27th I have an interview with author and follower Stephanie Faris and a giveaway of her MG chapter book PIPER MORGAN PLANS A PARTY

Wednesday, December 7th I have a guest post with debut author Amanda Searcy and a giveaway of her YA psychological thriller THE TRUTH BENEATH THE LIES

Hope to see you on Monday!


Donna K. Weaver said...

Congrats to Dusti!

Too bad about your own writing. Only you can decide what your priorities are. I hope when the time is right, you'll make time to write.

Julie Flanders said...

You have so much going on I am amazed you are able to find time to write at all. Good luck with your holiday plan. You're definitely worth it!
Lots of great advice from Dusti!

L. Diane Wolfe said...

That sounds like my life. I'm too busy with DLP and its authors, plus speaking and other stuff, to do much of my own writing. Something will have to give in order for me to write.

Pat Hatt said...

True indeed, one has to work their butt off and then some.

Fitting writing in with a lot going on in life can be tough, but it gets in there somewhere.

Nicola said...

Congrats to Dusti. Time seems to get faster as we get older, doesn't it. I can't believe November is here. Where did the past 10 months go? Wishing you all the best, Natalie.

Rachna Chhabria said...

Hi Natalie, nice to see Elizabeth and Carol's books here. Congrats to Dusti.

Like you I too have never done NaNo, but would like to do it some day.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Congratulations, Dusti. It does take effort to market on both sides.
Natalie, I hope the holidays give you that time to write.

Christine Rains said...

Congratulations to Dusti! Cute cover. Fantastic advice about working hard. I've worked with a publisher and I've self-published, and both have been hard in different ways.

Jennifer Hawes said...

What a great idea for a book! Congrats to Dusti. I like the fact that everyone is pushing to finish their rough draft this month. It helps me get back in the writing saddle.

Carol Kilgore said...

Thanks for sharing about my new book, Natalie. You have a lot going on!

I've never done NaNo either. October through New Year's is the busiest time of the year for me. Not only the holidays but almost a dozen family birthdays in those three months. I admire all who attempt it.

Tyrean said...

Thanks for sharing your writing and publishing journey, Dusti! I self-pubbed my YA Christian fantasy trilogy because I figured out quickly that most YA Christian books are written by authors with some serious credit behind their names in other genres, which I didn't have. Of course, now, I see more "newbie" Christian YA authors published by small presses and big publishers, so I know there's a market out there. I'm glad to hear of how you've journeyed in the self-pub market and the regular publishing market. I had a small novella published by a tiny press, but I hope to go through the query process with one of my current projects.

Natalie - I've done NaNo and both succeeded and failed (depending on the year). I like it because I like feeling like I'm part of a massive group of world-wide writers tackling a tough challenge. It's weird, and I wouldn't want to write like that all the time, but it's fun for a month.
As for your writing time, yes, make time for yourself!!! You are worth it! And, if your style is "weekend writing warrior" style and not daily, that's okay. Enjoy your strengths!

Tyrean Martinson said...

Oops. I commented from my "teaching" gmail account above. Sorry about that. I'm in the midst of writing feedback on papers.

S.A. Larsenッ said...

Wow, you're producing a play. Very, very cool!

Suzanne Furness said...

You're certainly worth it, Natalie. Any time you can set aside to do what you enjoy is important. I know what you mean though with time which is why I have never done NaNo.

Gwen Gardner said...

Dusti, self publishing middle grade is tough, because of the marketing. Glad you found your way to an agent. Congrats!

Natalie, time sure is hard to come by for us writers, but I hope you cut out a chunk of time for yourself!

J.L. Campbell said...

I feel your frustration and know what a valuable and scare commodity time can be. That book cover and title are very interesting.

Ruth C. said...

When I first heard about INSIGNIFICANT EVENTS IN THE LIFE OF A CACTUS, I thought, "Oh noooo!" because the manuscript I'm hoping to sell has something in common with it. But Dusti's story sounded so intriguing that I could hardly wait to read it myself. ASAP, I stopped by a little indie bookstore to buy a copy. They didn't carry it, so I asked them to check with their bigger, sister store. The fellow helping me was surprised to learn that the other store had 62 (!) CACTUS books in stock, and that 60 (!!) of them were reserved! (He guessed that they might have been ordered for a school assignment.) So congratulations to Dusti -- her hard work is paying off. Also, thank you to her for taking the time to write about her experiences with self-publishing. All very interesting and helpful. (NOTE: I've already bought this book so I don't need to be entered into the giveaway.)

Jemi Fraser said...

Dusti's book sounds awesome - as does Aven!

Time is so difficult to manage and to balance. I'm often drowning in my real world too. But that 15 minutes does make a difference to me. Good luck!

cleemckenzie said...

I love reading about authors who have published in different ways. That just highlights how different this business has become. Thanks for featuring Dusti and for posting about the other books now out. Congrats to all.

Chrys Fey said...

I need to set aside more time to write, too, but my editing get in the way of that.

That's something I say a lot...that an author has to be willing to put in the work. Otherwise, accept the outcome of not putting in the effort.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

Best of luck to Dusti.
I got tired just reading about all the balls you're juggling, Natalie. Please send me some of that energy.

Leslie S. Rose said...

My first graders are obsessed with dragons and unicorns, so I will be grabbing Dragonella for a read-aloud. Wow, what a ride, Dusti. Thanks for sharing it and congrats on the book. Double Wow, Natalie - you are a plate spinner extraordinaire.

S.P. Bowers said...

You are worth it! While I fully support finding you time and writing time, don't do it at the expense of your health. Life sounds busy for you. I did Nano once. I told myself I had to win so I never had to do it again. And I did.

Dusti, thanks for sharing your story and the different experiences you've had. It's so helpful to see all sides of the business. Congrats on the new book!

Cathy Keaton said...

NaNo is a tough thing to find time for, period. If you're working on a play, which is awesome, then you definitely don't have the time!

Angie Quantrell said...

Be prepared to hear no. Always! No truer words in the life of an author! Congratulations on finally hearing YES! Can't wait to read your book. : angelecolline@yahoo.com

Elizabeth Seckman said...

Natalie- I got Novlr (I said this in my comment on my blog too, but I'm a mom...repeating myself comes naturally). It lets me set daily goals and I can access the site from any computer, anywhere. It has helped me squeeze writing time into busy days.

Best of luck to all the new releases. Needles in a haystack. That about sums us up! But it sounds like Dusti will get to the top of the stack. Love the cover.

Danielle H. said...

Thanks for the discussion about marketing for even traditionally published books. It sounds like getting a book out into the world is just the beginning of a lot of work. I shared on tumblr: http://yesreaderwriterpoetmusician.tumblr.com/post/167053056492/dusti-bowling-guest-post-and-insignificant-events

Cherie Reich said...

I found using a timer and setting some minutes away quite helpful when I wanted to get back into writing. You're definitely worth it, Natalie!

Congrats to Dusti! And that's so true. No matter which path an author takes, it's a lot of hard work.

M Pax said...

Congrats to Elizabeth, Dusti, and Carol!

I find 'The 8 Min Writing Habit' very helpful when I need to adjust my schedule. Eight mins a day gets me back in the habit.

Lynda R Young as Elle Cardy said...

ok, fourth time lucky (blogger keeps losing my comment before I finish typing it for some reason). Congrats to Dusti. Yay for making that time to write. (That's the gist, anyway)

Rosi said...

I joined a couple of Shut Up and Write groups. I go twice a week and am being much more productive than before. Thanks for spot lighting the new books by your regulars.

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

I'm late reading this because Monday we were in the air, returning home, and Tuesday, sleeping off the long journey and time changes (9 hours difference) and Wednesday a beloved Nephew came to visit. Thanks for the shout out about my book, Natalie. I really appreciate it. Like others, I hope you will find more time for your writing. Your projects that keep you busy, though, sound fascinating. Producing a play! Wow! I have never done NaNo, either. It's way too intimidating to me. I enjoyed Dusti's advice, and her book sounds so quirky and original!

Greg Pattridge said...

I found Dusti's words both honest and helpful. Her new book also looks like a winner.

Cynthia said...

Congratulations to all the authors of the books mentioned here! I appreciate hearing Dusti's reflections on her journey to having her book published by a traditional publisher.

It is indeed hard to find time to write. I struggle with that sometimes too.

Crystal Collier said...

Natalie! You're producing a play? That's epic! I started with theater before moving on to publishing. The two are so closely related...

Thanks to Dusti for some excellent insight!

Elephant's Child said...

Third time lucky.
A fascinating post. Thank you.
Too many dragons would be barely enough. I will get Carol Kilgore's Gracie soon.
And I was intrigued by Dusti's story.

Nick Wilford said...

Hope you find time to keep working on your writing, Natalie. Interested to read Dusti's story. Just shows how much work is involved no matter what route you choose.

Nancy said...

Dusti, What a compelling MG book! And thank you for sharing your publishing stories!

Olga Godim said...

Thanks for inviting Dusti to your blog, Natalie. It was very interesting.
Good luck with your writing.

Loni Townsend said...

Grats to Dusti! And I totally hear you on the not enough time for writing. I hope you manage to get more time. Even if you don't, you do run a great blog.

♡♥♬ Carolsue ♡♥♬ said...

I think my son would enjoy this book!
I follow you on GFC as Carol Ezovski
digicats {at} sbcglobal {dot} net

♡♥♬ Carolsue ♡♥♬ said...

I posted this on Facebook
Carolsue Anderson
digicats {at} sbcglobal {dot} net

Unknown said...

Would love to win the giveaway. monicachess26(@)gmail(.)com

Elementary Redux said...

Would love to add a copy to our classroom

Lauri Meyers said...

Thank you for sharing your learnings from self-publishing and traditional publishing.

remarz said...

If I don’t work first thing in the morning, it doesn’t get done. So hard to find time.

Thanks Dusti for your insights.
Remarzullo11 at gmail