Tag Archives: writing

Meet the Team

Meet Project Manager Alison Strumberger

alison-1How would you describe your role at Tellwell?

Multifaceted. As a project manager it is my job to educate and support authors through their self-publishing journey, assisting with everything from manuscript formatting and submission, to illustrations and editing and design, and finally to book distribution. In addition to working closely with authors to bring their books into the world, I manage the editing department here at Tellwell. In this part of my role I draw on a decade of editorial experience to focus on refining our services, recruiting the best talent around, maintaining quality assurance, and supporting a team of thirteen dedicated editors who are passionate about helping authors tell their stories well.

What does a typical day on the job look like for you?

My days almost always begin in my inbox as I make my way through emails, answering questions from my authors and acting as a liaison between them and our designers, illustrators and editors. Quite a bit of my time here is spent collaborating with the rest of the in-house team about ways to improve on our processes. Invariably in the afternoon, I will find myself embroiled in an intense game of foosball in the break room. I prefer to play defence.

What is the most common misconception when it comes to editing, in particular in the self-publishing industry?

There are a number of misconceptions about editing, I think because the results of professional editing are often intangible. I would say the biggest of these is “I don’t need editing.” Every author has an editor; it is an essential stage in the publishing process. David Foster Wallace had an editor. Michael Ondaatje has an editor. Editing is so much more than adding missing periods and removing comma splices. Editing is also about style and nuance, it’s about the big picture of a narrative, it’s about character and logic and removing embarrassing unintentional puns, it’s about a fresh set of eyes reading your work as a reader would: critically, looking for the meaning, and really working to draw it out.

It is true when self-publishing that deciding to have your book edited can add substantially to your initial costs, but the investment will increase the quality of your final product exponentially, thereby setting your book apart from the rest. As Mark Twain is famously quoted as saying, “The difference between the nearly right word and the right word is the same as the difference between lightning and the lightning bug.”

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Tips & Tricks

Should you consider joining a writer’s organization?

Much like running, writing has a tendency to be a lengthy independent exercise. The road can often get lonely and desolate, and it can certainly be reassuring to see some fellow runners, or in this case writers, alongside. Regardless of which publishing route you choose – traditional or self-published, there’s still a long journey of self-promotion that lies ahead.

As a self-published author, you’re essentially taking on a new profession, and if this is your first book, there can be a steep learning curve ahead. But, having an outlet to gain advice and support from other writers can help drive momentum and establish a solid foundation as a writer.

Many authors look to a writer’s organization as an opportunity to turn an independent effort into a team sport. Whether it be a national organization with smaller regional branches, a provincial organization, or a niche specific group, you may want to consider joining one as part of your marketing and promotion strategy.

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Here are some of the advantages of becoming a member of a writer’s organization:

  • Support from a community of writers – In any given writer’s group, you’re guaranteed to have the opportunity to connect and interact with other authors, many of whom will have unique insights to bring to the discussion based on their own publishing experiences. In essence, they’re a great forum to gain feedback from fellow members of your craft.
  • Networking opportunities – Most writer’s organizations arrange events and other interactive opportunities for you to meet with professionals in the publishing industry. Whether they be editors, reviewers, booksellers or other high-profile authors, writer’s organizations offer good settings to increase your author network.
  • “How-To” guides and instructional information – One of the greatest advantages of writer’s groups (particularly at a national level,) is the knowledge base they can provide, especially to newcomers. From contracts and legalities to marketing and promotion, writer’s organizations are a great preliminary source for best practices in publishing.
  • Access to readings programs – Some writer’s organizations provide their members with the opportunities to participate in pre-established events and speaking engagements. These can include subsidies to invite writers to perform at a school or public reading, which can act as a great gateway to showcase your book to appropriate markets.
  • Access to apply for awards – Many writer’s organizations offer awards to recognize contributions to the literary industry, but the committee’s considerations are often limited to members only. By joining one of these organizations, you’ll have the opportunity to submit your work for award consideration.
  • Writer’s Coalition Benefits – Many writer’s organizations include eligibility to participate in the group health and dental benefits plan through the Writer’s Coalition. If your principal profession is writing, it may be worth your while to have access to benefits, which aren’t usually available at a group rate in this trade.
  • Credibility – In the publishing realm, having a membership to a writer’s organization can enhance your status and clout as an author. As a self-published author in particular, this can be an extremely valuable confidence boost when you’re first starting out.
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Guest Post

Conversations from a Coffee Shop: Transforming my Personal Struggles into Success through Writing by Jason Lee

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“Why don’t you write a book about your life?” asked my ex-wife as she poured herself a cup of earl grey tea one summer afternoon.

We were sitting on the empty patio at Gallagher’s coffee shop in Port Moody, listening to the sounds of birds chirping in the background of our conversation.

“Nobody would want to read about my story,” I chuckled shaking my head. “No one cares about my childhood abuse, or how my anger destroyed so many relationships.”

She grimaced and coyly nodded in agreement about how my anger ripped apart our marriage over 15 years ago. She took a sip of her tea and smacked her lips. “You never know. I think you’re not the only person who’s struggled. And how you’ve turned things around for yourself can be uplifting to so many people and can bring hope.”

I looked up and stared into the bright blue sky. A gentle breeze brushed against my face as I paused for a moment in deep thought.

Later that evening in my apartment, I continued thinking about our conversation. Was she right? Do other people also struggle managing their emotions, namely anger? Does depression and anxiety affect others making them feel helpless and lost, just like how I felt? I picked up a pad and pen and began jotting down notes. Somewhere in there, I scribbled the words, “recovery…anger…abuse…mental health and living with the dragon.”

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Tips & Tricks

Pave the way to literary success with a pre-marketing strategy

Your phone rings; your best friend is calling. You answer and the congratulations and celebratory cheers pour in. The day has come, the daydreams have become reality. You’ve made the Globe and Mail’s bestseller list! The book you spent months crafting has gone viral and new readers are multiplying by the second! You’ve reached celebrity author status.

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It may seem far-fetched, but it’s certainly possible. The question is: how did you get to that unforgettable milestone?

As an author, whether you’re self-published or not, one of the most important things you’ll need to do to work towards that bestseller status is build an audience of readers who would be most interested in your book. But, growing a target market is no easy feat, and it definitely takes time and committed engagement.

And, if you want to hit the ground running when your book is launched, you’re going to need to get started sooner rather than later. Enter pre-marketing.

Having and executing a pre-marketing strategy is extremely important to build initial momentum – whether it’s your first book, or your sixth. Here are Tellwell’s top ten tips to consider when putting together your pre-marketing strategy:

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Author of the Month

YA author Rachael Bell-Irving uses pre-marketing to grow following, knowledge and experience for launch

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We’ve all heard the saying ‘practice makes perfect’ at one time or another, and book marketing is no exception. So when Tellwell author Rachael Bell-Irving decided she was going to publish her first book – Demons at the Doorstep, she immediately began exploring and experimenting with marketing in preparation for her book’s release.

First, she embellished her online author presence with a Facebook Page and website, and began to establish a voice through social media and a blog. While she knew it was important to be on multiple online platforms, Bell-Irving decided to focus on the tool she felt most comfortable with: Instagram.

She did her due-diligence researching effective hashtags and exploring community spaces like “Bookstagram.” As she began to post content, she started to pick up on some of the nuances. Beyond the importance of imagery, Bell-Irving discovered the value of allowing your personality to come through.

insta-post-4-personal“People like to know who you are behind the scenes and behind the screen,” she says.

Some of her most well-received content on Instagram has been posts of herself – whether they were related to the writing process or not. Even online, the reading community seems to appreciate a personable, humanistic approach to brand awareness.

Another advantage of the pre-marketing process for Bell-Irving was getting a better sense of her genre and her target audience. Prior to exploring the literary community on social media, she didn’t realize her writing is tailored to young adult readers.

Having learned that, she found her approach online shifted to accommodate the interests and habits of YA readers specifically. The most prominent thing she discovered was the strength of the community she had become a part of through her writing. Not only are YA readers and writers extremely interactive with one another, but being genuinely invested is quintessential to building support within the community.

The concept of “being a reader as much as a writer” goes a long way, Bell-Irving explains. So, she started to get back into reading again to really immerse herself with her audience.

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Author of the Month

Canadian author and songwriter Colleen Songs shares of caregiving to mental illness

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In light of Bell Let’s Talk and a growing conversation on mental illness, Canadian author and songwriter Colleen Songs offers her perspective as the caregiver and loved one to a partner who was mentally ill.

She shares with readers her escape from a significant other with a narcissistic personality disorder and mental illness, in her memoir INHALE.

 

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Through this book and her signing career, she aspires to ignite the voice of the caregiver – who suffers a great deal of abuse and heartbreak as the person they’ve grown to love disappears so suddenly.

“They can transition in a heartbeat,” says Songs. “The quickest thing could shut him off, and I could see it on his face,” she adds.

But, it’s equally important to the author to use her creative gifts of writing and music, to inspire those who are mentally ill to tap into their talents and passions.

“Witnessing the mentally ill exercise their gifts and talents confirmed their happiness and awakening desire to live,” explains Songs. “They can cope better.”

While this has been an extremely cathartic exercise for Songs, writing, and then publishing and promoting this book has brought forth a plethora of emotions, doubts, fears and hesitations about how the telling of her story will affect her loved ones.

Songs says she’s been especially concerned about her children, and how publishing her story will affect them.

“I was afraid of hurting them to the point of almost not publishing. But inside I kept having this feeling that it would release them too. And sure enough, it did!”

Songs says her son, who was 12 when she left home to care for her late ex-husband, felt the book gave him clarity and filled in the gaps he never understood about the relationship that took such a toll on their family.

Her daughter, who was in her late teens at the time, felt the book relieved her of the guilt she’d been carrying, having seen things in the relationship that at the time she didn’t know what to do about.

Beyond the opportunity to reflect and gain clarity, Songs needed to write to gain closure from the past, and talk about how her family got to where they are today.

“With every word I felt such a release of pressure off of my chest, heart, mind and conscience! I carried so much guilt, so much survival-fear for so long that I wasn’t even really trusting nor enjoying my current state of healthy-love and life,” she says.

And finally, she’s starting to let go. “I thought there was enough closure when I finally left. I thought there was enough closure when I heard he’d died. But I only gained a sense of closure through writing,” says Songs.

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Guest Post

Romance Writing 101 – Tips from Tellwell Author Victoria Grant

February.  Valentine’s Day.  Romance.  What images do these words conjure up for you?  If you’re like most of us, you’ll probably imagine a scene with two frosty champagne glasses sitting on a table in front of a roaring fire. Maybe a small silver tray of chocolate covered strawberries beside them. And a couple kissing on the bear skin rug in front of that blazing fire while the snow softly falls outside the panoramic window. (“Oh, Pamela, my darling, what did I ever do without you?”)  Ah, can’t you just feel the love?

image-for-back-coverBrutal snowstorm. Freezing cold. Romance author. What images do these phrases conjure up for you? Yeah, if you’re being honest, you haven’t bothered to give the lowly romance author a second thought, have you? Right now, as you read this, some of them are shivering to death wrapped tightly in a ratty old crocheted afghan, drinking a steaming mug of (insert favourite beverage here), huddled over a laptop, cursing the characters they’ve created because they just won’t cooperate. (Stop talking, get in that cab right now and follow her, you idiot!) Well, that’s me, anyway.

My vision of a romance novel, long before I took the plunge into writing one, was pretty much the scenario with the champagne, chocolates and lovers. And as I adore champagne and chocolates, I thought writing one would be such fun!  And what could be easier? All I had to do was create main characters who are forced to be together and hate each other on sight (or another well-loved trope that romance readers never seem to tire of), and then put them into unusual or unexpected situations where they have no choice but to work together. (“I will be yours for eternity, Humphrey, just as soon as we scale this jagged cliff and free dearest Aunt Letitia from the impenetrable fortress.”). They realize during their thrilling adventures that they’ve fallen totally in love with each other, the end. Simple, right?

Not quite. Just for a minute, think about all the major elements the romance author must include. The heroine must be flawed and vulnerable yet plucky and gorgeous and worthy of her hero, who is tenacious and virile, but ready to change his ways to have this amazing woman in his arms (“I shall give up my life as a frozen pea inspector to be with you, Edwina.”).  The story should be either adventurous or exotic or bodice-ripping or crazy fun, and include a considerable quantity of red hot, searing kisses that instantly liquify the main characters. (“Oh, Bernard, I’m all aflutter!”) And as the story unfolds, it has to sparkle with sensitivity, sizzle with steamy love scenes, and be witty and playful in all the right spots. And let’s not forget the must-have happily ever after ending (“As we all knew this would happen back on page three, we’re gathered here today to celebrate the union of Beauregard and Tamsin…”), or at the very least, a happy-for-now ending (“I love you, Gretchen, so I’ll overlook the fact that you just asked me to sign a pre-nuptial agreement.”).

As I wrote my first romance novel, I realized there was a whole heck of a lot more to it than just dropping the two main characters into a situation and hoping they’ll do all the work. (“Um, how do we get out of this hot air balloon, Mortimer?”) I discovered that while I have to include some level of action and/or adventure in my novels, to make them work my main focus must be on the feelings and thoughts of the main characters. This makes it easy for the readers to dive into the book and become that character. Even if the reader has been happily married for a decade or three, I want them to experience the excitement of that first look (“Dexter, who is that stunning, misty-eyed, raven-haired temptress with the heaving bosom staring at me from across this crowded room?”), the goose bumps from their first meeting, and all the blistering and passionate sensations from their first kiss. (“I’ll never wash these lips again.”)

And those five senses we take for granted are paramount when writing a romance novel. The touches, tastes, sounds, sights and scents (“What was that rumble?” Desmond asked, frowning. Yvette turned a sickly shade of chartreuse. “Forgive me, I had beans for lunch.”) – yes, all of them, granted some more than others, play a huge role in falling in love. Without them, a romance novel is just a travel brochure or a ladies shoe catalogue. The first love scene I ever wrote read like a WWE wrestling match. So not good! Why? Because I was focused more on body parts than on the main character’s feelings and sensations. (“That is your arm, isn’t it, Prudence?” “I thought it was your foot, Monty.”)  Yikes!

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Tips & Tricks

To Blog or Not to Blog

Once you’ve created an author website, you may be wondering what content to include and how to use it to gain more online traction. One of the best ways to do this is by starting your very own blog! A blog is a web page that is regularly updated with informally written articles, usually centered around a broad theme. Tellwell’s blog for example covers the publishing industry, with specific focus on self-publishing. Many blogs are in first-person and seem conversational.

You may be wondering how a blog will help to increase your book sales. Blogs are known to be one of the best tools to increase reader engagement and give readers a continuous reason to come revisit your site. Your blog is a preview of your writing style, so if readers enjoy the content you post online, they’re more likely to invest in your book. As with most online tools, blogs do have their own set of pros and cons. Keep reading to find out if blogging is a good option for you!

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Tips & Tricks

Five New Year’s Resolutions for Writers

1. Write every day

A study conducted by University College London claims that there is no definitive amount of days required for a habit to stick; it varies depending on the activity. However, most habits will become a part of your daily routine after several weeks. Once you have your flow going, it is easy to produce dozens of pages in a matter of hours. Unfortunately, the hardest part is getting started. Depending on your writing objective, your quota can be something like a blog post, diary entry, or a page towards your novel. What you write does not have to be Shakespearean quality. In fact, this resolution focuses more on the process of writing by encouraging you to incorporate this activity into your everyday routine. Here are a few tips to help you achieve this goal:

  • Schedule in time – Commit time in your agenda that is strictly dedicated to freewriting
  • Start small – Spend 10 minutes per day on writing for the first week but gradually add more time as this becomes a regular activity
  • Create projects – It might be difficult to write something if there is no purpose for the work. Write for a reason. Submit your pieces to a writing contest, start a blog, or send reviews to a media publication.

 

2. Read every day

Reading is just as important as writing when you are trying to perfect your craft. Similar to the tips mentioned in resolution one (see above), you are going to need to dedicate a bit of time out of your day to reading. Most people will choose to read for 15 minutes before hitting the hay to calm themselves before bed. Reading on a regular basis can help make you a better writer, since it will expose you to new words, writing styles, and perspectives. Additionally, reading makes you more intelligent, empathetic, and relaxed.

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Author of the Month

Sally Walls shares her ‘nightfall to daybreak’ in emotionally raw book on losing her son

sally-birthday_1-copyPrior to becoming a published author, Walls admits that she was always in love with writing. “I’ve grown up always being a writer of some sort,” she says. “I like people. And therefore, when you put the two together I like storytelling because they kind of go together. I like to write about people, what I hear, and what I see.”

Although Walls had written two manuscripts about the tragic event, she never felt that it was the right time to publish her work. About five years ago, Walls attended a writer’s conference in New Mexico and had her work critiqued.

“I met some American publishing groups and they were all sort of giving me the green light, ‘Go ahead. This is good,’” she explains. “And yet I came back and really felt I had to sit on it. I really felt like it was not my time to tell the story yet.” With 2017 marking the 10-year anniversary of her son’s death, the author admits she “found her voice” and felt that it was ultimately time to share her experience.

After her other son left for Berlin following New Year’s Day, Walls immersed herself in writing this book. From January to May, the difficult writing process forced her to recall the heartbreaking memories.

“I didn’t think it was possible to have so many tears,” she says. “After ten years of letting go of my son, I was actually amazed at how much emotion it evoked. There would be some days that I would be going deep into my memories to craft a story because I had written the book in a series of snapshot stories to tell his life. There were days where I would really have to lay my head on my desk and just sob until I let go of some of that pain that had found me.”

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