As writers and authors, learning new skills, keeping ahead of genre evolution, trope changes and writing methods is vital for our continued improvement as a wordsmith. With the industry changing so quickly, we need to be ahead of the game.
The best ways to do this are:
Join a writing group
Read articles on the book industry
Take courses and workshops
Attend writing conferences
Subscribe to industry newsletters
How do you keep current with the writing industry?
This past weekend, I virtually attended When Words Collide and attended as many sessions as I could, while also being a co-presenter and panelist. Although, there was information I already knew, there were also those little nuggets of wisdom, insights and knowledge that made each session a gem. My notes were prolific and my follow up to action each gem will take several weeks.
There is always something to learn, whether you are just starting out on your writing career or have years of experience. We can have tunnel vision and ease into a ‘comfort zone’ so easily, when there are so many other calls on our time.
Some things can be scheduled monthly, such as updating your website or blog with current information. We don’t want a visitor to read upcoming events from 2018! Modify your bio to include your latest book, current WIP progression and appearances etc. Don’t leave your blog stagnant – post content regularly. (This can be once weekly, bi-weekly, monthly or even quarterly – just a known routine, so followers will know when to expect you to post).
We all have several social media accounts, so make sure they reflect the latest news, images etc. so they are in line with your current activities. This makes your author platform current. Also check links to ensure they are working properly or direct to a new site, if a change occurred. Refresh content and images so your platform doesn’t look dated or tired. Renew your copyright dates for all content across platforms on 1st January each year – this is one that can be missed very easily.
Can you share tips on what you do to stay updated and improve your writing skills?
It is always exciting, as an author, to announce a book launch, an event or a new narrative idea. Today, I can elude to upcoming changes to my current novels.
There will be a new cover for Life in Slake Patch – watch this space for the reveal or subscribe to my newsletter for a special early reveal.
Also, all my current novels will have (if not present already) BOOK CLUB questions added. If you need copies of the questions for your book club, please message me and I am happy to send them to you. I am also available for virtual book club interviews via Zoom or in person locally. I can organize a giveaway to coincide with the event too. Let’s connect – message me on the contact form.
My narratives include feisty heroine’s, as well as great world building, romance, mystery and adventure. Immerse yourself in a time and place of my imagination – you will love it.
We met in 2007 on an online writing group where you share short stories, poetry and life experiences. We became fast friends.
2. When did you begin writing?
Cristal- I began writing in grade school. In 1976, in second grade, I won a writing contest. The prize was three silver dollars. I was hooked. I also published multiple special interest stories in the local newspaper. I typically wrote in journals growing up and started a couple novels, but they were never published.
Andy- I have always had a love for books and a vivid imagination. It wasn’t until later in life that I decided to put my imagination to work.
3. Where did this quote come from? It’s not about tolerance, it’s about acceptance.
We were both bullied as children and always felt we were not accepted the way we were. Tolerance is only allowing someone to be themselves and not genuinely loving them and encouraging them to never change. We prefer the be accepted.
4. How did this quote bring about your book series?
We created imperfect, quirky characters that are relatable to everyone. We threw them together because each one is unique, different or weird. It allowed us to show you can form friendships with all types and if you do, magical transformations can happen. We wanted to make readers think about their preconceptions of the deaf kid, the geek or even the bully. We want to show that digging deeper can produce an understanding and lifelong friendships by just being kind.
5. What age range are your books aimed at?
We consider the books to be young adult/adult paranormal mystery genre. However, we have had ten-year-old advanced readers love them. There are some intense and scary moments plus a little gore that could affect younger readers, so we ask parents to use their own discretion.
6. Can you give the readers an idea of the messages within Secret 8 and The Wandering?
We have found that our readers all relate differently to the books. What might resonate with one person may not with another. It might be easier if I give you key words to describe what our readers have experienced and relayed to us. Secret of 8- adventure, self-discovery, confidence, trust, courage and inclusion. The Wandering- grief, guilt, first love, teamwork, closure, second chances.
7. How many books will be in the series?
We are currently working on the third book in the series, “Freaks to the Left” which is to be released in the Fall 2021. We have plans for at least eight books.
8. What is the fundamental message you wish your books to convey?
Whether you are being bullied, went along with it so as not to be bullied yourself, or maybe you ARE the bully, there is always a choice to change that behavior. No one is perfect and we all make mistakes. You have a choice to look at the behavior and get to the root of why. By simply being kind, you can influence others to do the same.
9 What are the subjects you will cover in your books?
Our books hit on many aspects of growing up. Awkwardness, low self- esteem, love, loss, social class, racism, disabilities, sexuality, prejudice and addiction to name a few. So many books for young adults only skim over sensitive subjects. Our books approach them head on but tactfully and through the eyes of our character’s first-hand knowledge.
10. Has your own background contributed to the stories?
Yes, very much so. We both have life experiences that are sensitive and meaningful. By including these in our books, it makes our characters more realistic. They say to write about what you know. If you have never experienced it, how would you explain it? How would you capture the emotions? Sure, you can research it, but will it come off as authentic?
11. Where do you prefer to write?
We wrote the first book entirely through email. Andy lived in Pittsburgh and I lived in Erie. Once we married in 2016, we published the first book and built an office in our home. The office has shelves filled with everything that inspires us. Andy likes to write on the laptop there, but I tend to write chapters in paper notebooks whenever the urge hits.
12. Do you feel a writing group is an important tool for writers?
Absolutely! Chatting with fellow writers, reading their works, asking questions and encouraging one another is the best kind of support. Writers are unique in that they do not compete; they are fully supportive and celebrate with you.
13. What is your writing process – punster or planner?
We have never used outlines with our books. They have evolved as we wrote. We often wondered where it all comes from, but it seems to flow freely and eventually make sense in the end. The last chapter takes the longest though, as we tie up loose ends and make sure the climax is exciting.
14. Can you share your social media and book links
Bio: Cristal Underwood: Born and Raised in Erie Pennsylvania, She is the mother of one Daughter Megan Grace, and an extra Mom to Andy’s for children. She has always had a passion for writing and has been writing stories and poems since elementary school. Writing books that encourage inclusion, anti-bullying and acceptance is her life long goal. She enjoy’s baking custom decorated cakes and delicious cupcakes.
Andrew Underwood was born in Salem Utah, he is the father of four wonderful kids, and newly became a grandpa this last week. He is an avid paranormal investigator, loves to read, build things in his woodshop and daydream. He has always had an active imagination and a love for the outdoors. He always considered himself a geek and a little different which fits in well with his message in the books they write.
Once we transition from writer to published author, there are many things that change. No longer can we sit in isolation, hide from the world or pretend it’s a ‘hobby’. Words we created are available to the public and so begins the promotion bandwagon.
Our writing becomes a business – expenses and income need to be reported for tax purposes, we create a ‘store’ whether virtual or real, and we become a public entity. We are no longer completely anonymous.
Over the last nine years (since publishing my first book), I have gathered information, advice and ‘tricks’ on how to promote myself and my books. At first, it felt foreign to ‘be out there’. Now-a-days, I utilize all my social media and this blog to promote my books, events, interviews and my freelance writing business.
However, promotion does not come easy! It is a constant workhorse of creating posts, commenting, liking and linking. It is not enough to have two weeks of posts when your book first comes out. You need to continue promoting forever! Yep – that’s right – forever.
You can’t discard your previous creative efforts once a new novel comes out. It’s like ignoring your first born when another child arrives. They all need the same amount of love.
Look at each book – it’s concepts, genre, theme, topic and utilize any and all social media posts – far and wide – to mention that book. For example, I have a children’s picture book called Rumble’s First Scare. It is set at Halloween so I create posts before then to create awareness. And usually hold a colouring contest. I also use any ‘monster’ mentions as a link back to it.
You have to be creative and think how you can make a comment or post refer to your book(s). If it is set in a specific historical era – find similar posts, articles about that era etc. Join social groups on the many platforms that would be interested in your story’s genre.
Always assess what you can use for promotion. Yes, it is time consuming but so was writing your manuscript! Put the same amount of effort into the ‘business’ of selling your book. You wrote it to sell it didn’t you?
Create contests around your book – give prizes, such as a physical gift basket or a free/discount on your book.
Do you have any tips for other authors on promotion? Please share them, after all we are one big community.
With the restrictions on events and social gatherings, it is difficult to launch a new book in the traditional way. However, there are ways to promote your newest novel.
Make sure to announce the book title, it’s genre and date of publication and issue date on online sites. This can be through subscriber emails, on social media or local newspaper editorials. Or a combination of all three!
A great way to get your new novel out is a virtual book tour. You can utilize your social media platform and post dates you will be answering questions about the book. There are many options to choose from: Instagram Chat, Facebook chat, Zoom or your own YouTube channel.
If you have fellow authors willing to post your book announcement on their blogs that would be great too.
Offer blog subscribers and/or local book clubs a virtual book reading with a Q&A session afterwards.
Depending on your book’s genre (children/YA) you can create an interactive activity based on your narrative theme.
If you have a local bookstore – offer to have several signed copies available in store.
Be creative and think outside the box! What can you utilize from the story to showcase the book?
Have you launched a new book during COVID19 – how did you do it?
My own steampunk novel, The Commodore’s Gift is set for release 26th September, so I am planning a virtual launch. I have already shared steampunk images on my social media and a few teasers. I even created a steampunk bird, which was a lot of fun. Not sure if I keep him or include him in a gift basket. We will see. Of course there will be a book cover reveal as well.
Now I have to create the six week pre-launch campaign.