Within the LA Writers Critique Group, we members are always learning from each other, but sometimes we like to get expert advice from experienced authors, who are also known as our ‘special guest stars.’ This May, we asked author Veronica Scott to speak with us, and a good time was had by all.
Veronica Scott is a Science Fiction and Fantasy Romance author by trade. She retired early from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in 2015 (when she and I happened to meet; I was there as a contractor, whereas she had a ‘real job’) and transitioned into being a full-time author. Her talk revolved mostly on her journey to publishing her books.
As a child, she started writing because she couldn’t find the kinds of books she wanted to read. She felt that she had stories inside her that needed to come out, but answered the call of the Real World and got a day job. Years went by, and by 2010 she had an empty nest, which meant she finally had the time to investigate self-publishing.
With the help of an editor friend, she soon figured out her strengths (telling a good story) and weaknesses (craft issues that needed to be addressed). After much learning, revising, and rewriting, she submitted a story in 2011 and ‘got the call’ with an offer to publish it. This story was published in 2012.
At that point, Veronica had written a book that paralleled the 100th anniversary of the Titanic, but since the traditional publishing route would have caused a delay in getting the final product to market (therefore missing the Titanic centennial), she decided to publish it herself. She found that she likes the control, freedom, and flexibility that self-publishing allows her, and she’s self-published her work since then—24 books and counting!—and hasn’t looked back.
Veronica resides in Romancelandia, but says there is the same playing field for all genres. When it comes to writing and telling stories, “there’s no one way to do it.” As writers, we need to remember that what worked for other writers may not work for us.
Her advice to our room full of writers is provided below. We appreciate Ms. Scott’s willingness to help us along on the journey to publishing our books and memoirs!
1: Define your goal
There is no right or wrong answer, but be honest with yourself. What do you want out of the writing experience? It may be one or more of the following:
- To interact with readers
- To entertain friends and family
- To work as a part-time or full-time author
- To hold a book that you wrote in your hands
2: Don’t go it alone
“You don’t know what you don’t know,” she reminded us. Find your tribe… through Meetup.com, on Twitter or other social media sites, through libraries and coffee shops, through conferences, writers groups, and other places where writers meet. If you seek out a new group, whether it’s in person or online, be sure to notice how people interact. Only join groups that you are comfortable being a part of.
Experienced writers are likely to help you on your journey, and once you know more about the process, you can pay it forward to up-and-coming writers.
Veronica noted that she supports her fellow romance writers by reading their work, interviewing other authors, and writing a column in USA Today each month that tells readers about the best new Sci-Fi Romance books.
3: Remember: it’s a business
This means that people need to know what you do and how to find your books. Go where the readers are to communicate about the book(s) that you’ve written.
Every author needs some sort of platform. She emphasized that it should be “your own blog” instead of an Amazon or Book Bub author page so that it can be under your control. Sites like WordPress.com offer free and low-cost websites that anyone can use.
As for social media in general, she advised us to, “only do what you’re comfortable with.” Choose the sites that interest you, such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram; then, be yourself, or perhaps a polite version of yourself. Talk about what you want to talk about. Share some pictures of photogenic cats if you wish!
4: Get savvy about the production side of creating a book
There’s far more to writing a book than writing a book, although she did say, “Just finishing a book is a huge accomplishment.” But wait! There’s more. Such as:
- Editing: All writers can benefit from an editor. Maybe you need to foreshadow something or take some aspect of the story in another direction. A good editor can help you craft the best story you can tell. Copy editors can also be hugely helpful in making your prose flow.
- Cover design: Maybe you can’t judge a book by its cover, but you can rate how appealing it looks! The cover will show up as a tiny thumbnail on websites where books are sold, so you want it to look professional and pique readers’ interest. And this got a laugh: “The worst covers try to tell the whole story in one picture.” Yep.
- Blurb: Your book description should tell us about the lead characters, the challenges they face, and the stakes. You don’t want to tell too much in the blurb.
- Amazon’s Look Inside feature: This allows readers to read the first chapter of your book. Make sure what you write will hook readers so that they will want to read more.
5: Stay motivated
Veronica shared her personal rules for herself, which are:
- Get words on the page every day.
- Don’t edit as you go. The first draft gets to be ugly.
- Keep going forward. Write the next book! Readers of many genres, romance in particular, want to read a series and not just one book. Besides, it pays to keep going, because, “the next book is the best promo for the first book.”
She also shared these bits of wisdom:
- Do self-care: make your writing space ergonomic and take care of your health.
- It’s not a zero-sum game. You are not in competition with other writers. Indie publishing has changed the rules.
- Stay true to your voice, and put out books that you are proud to stand behind.
- Stay in the same genre whenever possible.
- Don’t compare yourself to others. It’s your journey, not theirs.
- Don’t get sucked into internet drama, and try to avoid rabbit holes.
- Don’t interact with reviewers online.
After she fielded some post-presentation questions, we wildly applauded Ms. Scott. Next, we got down to the usual business of giving and receiving critiques while letting all of her advice simmer, so that we will be better prepared as our writing projects develop. Thanks, Veronica!