- Young Adult. What is it?
- FL: YA has burgeoned in the last decade. Books that have had younger protagonists and appealed to younger readers have always existed. The book was not different in the content or subject matter, but in the viewpoint of the character, and whether you are talking about something that is related at that time in life.
- AE: I start by thinking: YA is about a teenager going through teen experiences. But then I think that my protagonist is really advanced, and dealing with stuff that teens don’t normally deal with. If a book merely has a teen protagonist, that doesn’t make it YA.
- JR: middle-grade is targeted towards 8-12, and it’s a subject of children. YA is targeted for 13 and above, and it is really a subset of adult. The majority of YA readers are adults.
- WC: A 1e-year old experience is vastly different than just a 19-year-old’s experience. You can’t just say “teen” and group it all together.
- DM: it spans pre-pubescant to mature, sexually active adults.
- What is the purpose of the marketing? Is it for the parent? For the teen?
- WC: Kids at 10 know all about sex.
- FL: all sorts of violence are acceptable, but sex is not in a YA novel.
- Got pushback from editor: couldn’t do YA because the male’s love interest was an older woman.
- There is a line, but it’s really fuzzy.
- With respect to sex: that lines is drawn in a more conservative way.
- If the sexual experience is by two teenagers, then it can be a YA book.
- JR: We’ve had all sorts of sexually things in a YA book, but they can’t just be a backdrop…the way sexual violence is in Game of Thrones. They have to be in the foreground and dealt with.
- AE: My publisher pushed back more on my handling of violence. I had more explicit torture scenes, and then publisher wanted me to pull back and have those things off screen.
- If there’s sex or violence in YA, it can’t be gratuitous, it has to advance the characters and the story.
- WC: That should be true of all writing, not just YA.
- Do you approach YA differently then adult fiction?
- FL: No, I just write it. And if there is pushback later, I’ll deal with it.
- “Okay, give me the list: how many fucks and shits do I get to use?”
- FL: Kids reach up. An advanced MG reader is reading into YA. They aren’t going to get and/or be ready for everything in YA.
- More women writing YA, more women reading YA. But men winning more awards in YA, even though they are minority of writers and readers.
- School librarians
- Can be awesome, because they can get books into the hands of kids that wouldn’t otherwise get there.
- But sometimes strange rules:
- One library system: sex and torture is okay, but cussing of any kind is not allowed.
- Another system: any amount of violence is okay, but no swearing or sex.
- WC: I think you can tell any story without any fights, any sex, or any swearing, and still tell the same story. (I love fights scenes, but they aren’t necessary.)
- JR: A good fight scene should still illuminate character.
- FL: If you’re going to have violence, or sex, or swearing, it better serve the story, and you should put in just enough to do that.
- People who do teenage sex handled well in YA: Carrie Misrobian, Christina Ireland, Rae Carson.
- Q: How do you handle different reading levels? You can have a teenager who is mature and ready to deal with advanced topics, but not with adult reading level.
- FL: I don’t. I just write what I write. But there is an organization out there who helps filter YA books by all of these criteria.
- DM: Lexile rating helps categorize books for readers of certain abilities.
I glanced at my blog today and realized I’ve written very few posts lately. I’ve been working pretty hard on The Turing Exception. Between that work, my day job, and kids, I haven’t had a lot of time for blogging.
Most of January was spent working with my copyeditor. This is a bigger, more complex task that it might sound like. You might imagine that I turn my manuscript over to the copyeditor, and then get it back with a bunch of corrections, and it’s done.
In fact, what happens is closer to this:
- I send the manuscript.
- I get a bunch of questions in the beginning as my copyeditor goes to work.
- Then he goes radio-silent for two weeks as he gets deep into it.
- Then I get the manuscript back. This one contained about 4,000 changes.
- Some changes are easy to process: commas moved, spelling corrected, words replaced. I use Word’s change review, and it’s lots of clicking on “accept”. Still, it’s 4,000 changes, and it takes me several days of full-time work to review each change and accept it.
- Some changes are more difficult to handle. They might be a comment, like “you need more interior character dialogue here.” Then I need to go think about what the character is thinking about in that scene, and write a few paragraphs, keeping it consistent with everything going on around it.
- Some changes are widespread, like when I’ve described a single event several different ways over the course of a novel. Or used several different names to refer to one organization. I have to pick something, and then make sure it is consistent throughout.
- Some changes and comments I don’t understand, so I have to email back and forth with my copyeditor until I do, and then make the changes.
- When I’m done, I send the file back to the copyeditor, and now he can review my changes. There were about 300 on this last exchange.
- He accepts the ones that look good, but might have to make more corrections, which I then accept, and so on.
Eventually it’s done. The copyeditor and I are in agreement.
Then I get the manuscript to the proofreader. This is a second person who is focused on line-level items, like punctuation and spelling, although he’ll also catch some bigger issues. The manuscript came back from the proofreader with 800 changes. I basically go through all the same stuff as with the copyeditor. Some changes are straightforward, some are not.
If I make big changes, then it has to go back to the proofreader again for a second pass.
Along the way, I usually get feedback from beta readers who are getting back to me late. I hate to ignore feedback, so I do the best I can to address any issues they spotted, without breaking the copyediting / proofreading process.
Sometimes I’m trying to address beta reader feedback by changing only one or two words, to avoid having to do another round of proofreading. I remember this happening with The Last Firewall, where I think Brad Feld or Harper Reed said “I’m confused about what kind of vehicles exist in this world”. And so there’s a scene in the beginning of the book where Cat is crossing the street, and I had to get her to establish all the types of vehicles (ground cars, hover cars, and flying cars) in a single sentence, so that I didn’t make changes in multiple places.
I’m now one to three days away from finishing the proofreading cycle. When this is done, it will go to two different people for formatting: one person will generate the ebooks, and another will generate the PDF interior for the print book. Then I’ll need to carefully proofread both of those, to make sure nothing gets dropped, and no formatting errors or other mistakes are introduced.
It’s fairly intense work when the ball is in my court. But when it’s handed off to someone else, that’s my chance to do a little creative work. I’ve written about 15,000 words in Tomo, a new novel about privacy, social networks, and data profiling. No AI or robots…yet.
It’s been a while since my last post. I spent most of December working toward the final edits on The Turing Exception.
After two rounds of beta reader feedback and edits, I’m feeling pretty good about the way book four ended up. the manuscript is currently with my copy editor, and I should get it back in a few weeks. Then I’ll make a few more changes and send it for a round of proofreading. Finally, there will be interior layout for the print edition and formatting for the e-book. And hopefully all that will happen by sometime in February, leading to a release by late February if possible.
Also, if you’ve been paying close attention, you’ll notice the title changed slightly. My friend Mike suggested Turing’s Exception as an idea, and that was better than any of the dozens of ideas I’d considered. But then I tested three different variations (Turing’s Exception, The Turing Exception, and Turing Exception), and The Turing Exception was vastly preferred, by about 38 out of 40 people in a poll.
As I’ve mentioned before, Patreon supporters will receive their e-books before the public release, just as soon as I can make them available. Patreon supporters at the five dollar level and above will receive their signed paperback around the time of the public release. This is because the paperback books are just not available any earlier.
You might be wondering why I have a Patreon campaign. The economics of writing are such that I still have to hold a day job in addition to selling books. Except for a few bestsellers, most writers are unable to support themselves solely by writing books.
Have you heard of the Kevin Kelley essay 1000 True Fans? The core idea is that it’s possible for an artist, writer, creator to support themselves if they can create $100 worth of product per year, and have 1000 fans will buy that product. 1000 fans times $100 equals $100,000, and therefore approximately a full-time living.
The challenge is that it’s hard for a writer to create a hundred dollars worth of product per year. I net about $2.50 per book sold, and I can publish about one per year. Even with 10,000 or 20,000 fans, that’s not a full-time income. So the idea with Patreon is to have a closer relationship with a few people, share some more of what I’m creating and create some special rewards just for supporters and hopefully get to the point where writing can support me full-time enabling me to write more than I do today.
I hope that you had a wonderful holiday and happy new year. I wish you the best in 2015.
It releases in paperback and kindle on December 9th. If you or a friend read German, I hope you’ll check it out.
The success of this translation will be helpful in getting the rest of the series translated to German, and all of my books translated to other languages.
Last November, on a train ride to Seattle to see Ramez Naam and Greg Bear, I started book four of the Singularity series. Last Thursday, I finished the rough draft. I was very excited and did a little dance in my office. Of course, I’m not done. I’ve got to turn that draft into a cohesive story, polish that story into something that reads well, and get it edited, proofread, and then it goes into production (page layout, ebook conversion, cover design).
I’m excited to get it out, and I know other folks are excited to read it, but it’s still many months away from being available. I’m not sure exactly how long. It varies with each book, as I learn more, also depends on my work schedule. I’m making some small changes to my day job schedule that should give me more consecutive days of writing time, which will help me make steady progress.
For a few weeks though, I’ll be focused on other things: I’ve got to the second edition of Avogadro Corp fully out. I need to do some marketing work around my novel for kids ages 7 to 12, The Case of the Wilted Broccoli. I need to give a little attention to my Patreon campaign. And I’ve got blog posts I really want to write that I’ve put on the back burner while I worked on finishing the draft of book 4. At some point I also need to figure out a title for the fourth book.
But before the end of September, I should be back to work editing and revising.
Willow and her brothers, Elon and Linden, want to build the best science fair project ever, and their plan to build a quadcopter that can fly itself is sure to win. But they’re up against stiff competition, including Willow’s best friends.
The science fair takes an unexpected backseat when students at Mt. Hood Elementary start getting sick, including Willow. Everyone thinks it’s just a stomach flu, but Willow suspects there’s something wrong with the school lunches.
Willow, Elon, and Linden will have to work together, using their autonomous quadcopter and all their detective skills to trace their food back to its source to solveThe Case of the Wilted Broccoli.
I’m going to be mostly unavailable now through mid-May. I’m working to get through the final revisions to Avogadro Corp and managing the production of my kids book, while juggling my day job, a trip, a multi-day conference, and normal family life.
I’m still around and responding to email/twitter, but I may drop the ball on certain items. If it’s urgent, just remind me. If not, I’ll get back to you in late May.
Here’s the description I wrote for the never-started campaign:
I am asking for help to publish my novel Avogadro Corp. The manuscript is completed, and just needs a final round of copy-editing, cover design, and layout in order to be published.
David Ryan is a brilliant computer scientist, cherry-picked to lead a new project at Avogadro Corp, the world’s leading Internet company. The goal of the project, called ELOPe, is to create a next-generation feature for the company’s email product – one that can optimize the language of emails to make them more effective and persuasive.
With his chief architect, Mike Williams, and a team of programmers, the two have proven the feasibility of the concept and are hard at work trying to release the feature. When David gives a presentation to the executive leadership of the company, they are impressed by the project results and effectiveness. But David fails to disclose to the executives that the project is grossly inefficient, requiring thousands of times more servers than any other project.
The VP of Operations threatens to kick ELOPe off the servers if David and Mike don’t decrease the number of servers the project uses within two weeks. This would be a death blow for the project, in part because David has been deceptive from the start about how many resources the project has been using. David and Mike start scrambling to fix the performance of ELOPe.
When it becomes clear a few days before the deadline that they can’t fix ELOPe’s performance, David stays up late making subtle modifications to the software. Instead of fixing the performance problems, David embeds a directive in the software to maximize the project success. David’s modifications have ELOPe filtering company emails to secretly modify any email that mentions ELOPe to strive for a positive outcome.
The software is so good that at first, the effort seems successful – the project is allocated thousands of new servers and high performance computing experts are brought in to help optimize the code. Innocuous sounding emails convince people to grant more resources and develop new capabilities that make ELOPe more powerful. But soon ELOPe is social engineering people around the company to neutralize threats and strengthen itself.
When Mike is sent on a wild goose chase to Wisconsin, getting him off the grid as just the moment when David needs him, it dawns on Mike that something is wrong.
Simultaneously, Gene Keyes, a crotchety old auditor at Avogadro who is known for distrusting computers and using only paper records, begins to find evidence of financial oddities that all point in the same direction.
Amid background news stories hinting at ELOPe’s ever growing influence, even at the level of government policy, David, Mike and Gene take ever escalating action to shut ELOPe down. However ELOPe anticipates and blocks their every move.
As the humans prepare for a final showdown with ELOPe, Mike sees a pattern emerge in the news reports: the AI is actually helping humans by fostering peace agreements and stabilizing financial markets.
Can they win a final showdown with ELOPe — or should they even try?
“This is an alarming and jaw-dropping tale about how something as innocuous as email can subvert an entire organization. I found myself reading with a sense of awe, and read it way too late into the night.”– Gene Kim, founder of Tripwire, author of Visible Ops.
“Avogadro Corp builds a picture of how an AI could emerge, piece by piece, from technology available today. A fascinating, logical, and utterly believable scenario – I just hope nobody tries this at home.” — Nathan Rutman, Software Architect, Lustre High Performance Distributed Filesystem
Background for Avogadro Corp
Avogadro Corp evolved out of a lunchtime conversation. I was arguing that the development of human level artificial intelligence is an inevitable consequence of the increasing processing speeds of computers. My friend countered with the argument that mere people who would do the programming, and we weren’t smart enough to create an artificial intelligence as smart or smarter than us. He challenged me to describe a scenario in which an artificial intelligence could be born. So I described one based on plausible extrapolation from known programming techniques. And the idea for Avogadro Corp was born.
Avogadro Corp will be satisfying to technical readers who want realistic fiction, and enjoyable for casual readers who want easy-to-grasp explanations of how the science works.’
Project Timeline & Funds
I expect that the digital versions of Avogadro Corp will be ready within 30-45 days of completion of the kickstarter project. Printed books will take longer, due to printing and shipping times.
I’m William Hertling, and I live in Portland, Oregon. I’ve been a computer programmer, social media strategist, data analyst, program manager, web developer, and now writer. Avogadro Corp is my first novel, and I am currently working on a sequel.
On March 5th my first novel, Uncommon Stock debuted at #8 in its category on Amazon. Will is one of my favorite indie authors and his advice, codified in Indie and Small Press Book Marketing played a critical role in shaping my launch plan. He generously offered to let me share some of my lessons learned along the way. I hope you can use some of these strategies to help launch your own bestsellers! I look forward to reading them.
- Write a good book. Without one, none of this matters. It’s tempting to try to think up devious ways to growth hack your book but at the end of the day, it’s all a wasted effort if your content isn’t truly awesome. My perspective on successful titles is really simple: write a book good enough that people who don’t know you will recommend it to their friends. If you can do that, you can probably ignore the rest of this list anyway.
- Don’t ask people to buy your book. “Buy my book” sounds like a used-car-salesman. “Read my book” sounds like an author.
Influence influencers. If you already have a million Twitter followers and an oped in the New York Times then this won’t matter much to you. But if you’re a regular guy like me, then you’ll need help from people with platforms of their own to share your title. Brad Feld, a well known venture capitalist and tech blogger, shared Uncommon Stock via his blog and social channels and even temporarily switched his profile picture to the cover of the book. Why? Because I had been sending him drafts of the book since I finished writing Chapter 3. Will sums up the right approach to take with influencers of any kind (this includes media): give, give, give, give, ask. Do as many favors as you can think of for people and worry about the ROI later.
- Leverage your network. On/around launch day I sent ~200 individual personal emails, 2 email blasts to my list of ~600 members, published 3 blog posts, and flooded my social channels with content (you really only have an excuse to do this on Day 1). You need people to R3 your book: read, review, and recommend it. How can you inspire them to act? Create a sense of urgency (it’s launch day!) and tell them why their help is important (books that start strong snowball up Amazon’s algorithms).
- Cultivate gratitude and humility. Publishing is the path of 1000 favors. Every single person (including your mom) is doing you a solid by taking the time/money to purchase, read, and review your book. Think about how incredible it is that anyone at all is getting a kick out what reading what you write. Never stop telling people how much you appreciate their help, every little bit counts.
Do something cool. It’s easier to get coverage and social media amplification if there’s more to talk about than the simple fact that it’s launch day. I created a Twitter account for Uncommon Stock’s protagonist (@MaraWinkel) and incited a Twitter battle with a few people with large followings. Heck, we even built a website for Mara’s startup and a major venture capital firm announced an investment in the fictional company. This introduced new people to the story and was a talking point in itself.
- All format release. Make sure your book is available in digital and print formats on launch day. I didn’t do this because we were slow getting the print version through typesetting and I know it resulted in significant lost sales. I’ve also had a couple dozen people reach out to ask where they can get the print copy (so there must be many more that didn’t reach out). That sucks. I want to DELIGHT my readers in every possible interaction they have with me.
- Recruit a cadre of advance reviewers. The more reviews you can get on Amazon as soon as possible the better. I sent advance review copies out to ~50 people a couple of weeks before launch. Then I pinged those people shortly before launch day reminding them how useful an honest review from them would be. Then I reminded them on launch day that now was the time! We debuted with 28 reviews.
- Be strategic. Choose Amazon categories that are specific and not too competitive. Reach out to your alma mater and try to get in the alumni newsletter. Pitch low-lying bloggers or reporters with concise, compelling stories. Snag some endorsements from folks that have actually read your book. Etc.
- Write another good book. There’s nothing more important than building a backlist. It gives fans more of what they want. It gives prospective readers a new path to discovering you. Plus, writing books is why you’re doing all of this anyway!
For further reading, I highly recommend Will’s Indie and Small Press Book Marketing. He shares extensive detail on his various successes as an indie author and it’s the only book you need to read in order to prepare for your own release. I’m particularly impressed by how he’s applied growth hacking techniques like A/B testing to optimize his reader funnel. You should also check out the following three posts. I’ve found them insightful and actionable throughout the launch:
Brad Feld posts about why he writes for an hour each day:
Finally, after almost 20 years of writing, the light bulb went on for me.
I write to think.
Forcing myself to sit down and work through these ideas in a logical sequence for an audience of readers required me to refine my thinking on how I invest in startups. How could I make the financing process more efficient? What’s the best way to structure a deal? I learned a lot, both from my writing and my readers’ responses.
I also love this gem on Jeff Bezos from Brad’s post:
Consider Jeff Bezos’s approach to meetings. Whoever runs the meeting writes a memo no longer than six pages about the issue at hand. Then, for the first 15 to 30 minutes of the meeting, the group reads it. The rest of the meeting is spent discussing it. No PowerPoint allowed. Brilliant. (I’ve long felt that PowerPoint is a terrible substitute for critical thinking.)
This aligns nicely with what Edward Tufte says:
PowerPoint… usually weaken(s) verbal and spatial reasoning, and almost always corrupt(s) statistical analysis.