Next Friday, I will be appearing with some very cool writers (Rysa Walker, Gwenda Bond, Amy Bartol, and my separated at birth, much younger and much prettier twin, Alys Arden) at BookCon at New York Comic Con. The panel will be moderated by editor (and poet) Jason Kirk. Immediately following the panel (3:15 -4:15), I'll be available to sign books in the Autographing Area on the 6th floor. From New York Comic Con Schedule:
October 07, 2016, 2:00 PM - 3:00 PM
BookCon @ NYCC - 500 W 36th St
From hyper-drive star ships to swords and sorcery to lustful vampires, science fiction and fantasy novels imagine worlds with infinite possibilities. But frequently, these worlds are remarkably similar to our own. Come hear bestselling science-fiction and fantasy authors discuss their imagined worlds and the impact of the collective SFF brain on the “real” world. Authors Rysa Walker (The Delphi Effect, Timebound), Gwenda Bond (Girl In the Shadows), Amy A. Bartol (Kricket series, Secondborn series), J.D. Horn (Witching Savannah series), and Alys Arden (The Casquette Girls) will debate and discuss, led by Senior Editor Jason Kirk of 47North and Skyscape.
If you're an unpublished writer looking to build a following on Twitter, here's a chance for you to learn from my mistakes before you make the same ones. I got started trying to build a social media platform about six months before my publisher picked up my first book. Anyone who's trying to get their work published knows this is what you're supposed to do. Get out there. Build that platform. Pick up followers. Show people are interested in what you have to say. It struck me as putting the cart before the horse, but that was the advice I was given, so I did my best to make it happen. Not knowing a thing about social media, I turned to Professor Google to see what advice I could find on growing a platform. The fastest way, it turned out, for an unknown and unpublished writer to pick up followers was to join the #followback groups. So I did, and I did find a quick swell in my number of Twitter followers. But what I ended up creating was the illusion of a social media platform, rather than a place where I could interact with people who were truly interested in my work...and more importantly where I could connect with people in whose work I have a genuine interest. There were thousands of people I'd followed simply because they had agreed to boost my number, too. That meant I was being disingenuous with a whole crowd of people. So now I'm going back and doing the work I wish I'd done in the first place to build an organic following. I'm clearing out those with whom I've never had any interaction. Nothing personal. If someone chooses to unfollow, then I know they were part of the artificial base. So here're my Twitter tips:
Only follow those people in whose work you have a genuine interest.
Interact with those you follow. They may not follow you back, but you may get a chance to learn something from them, or share something you know with them.
Don't sacrifice quality for quick quantity.
If you've already made the same mistake I did, don't sit around grumbling for for years--like I have--before you do something about it. (This would count as my second big mistake.)
My new series, The Witches of New Orleans, is coming from 47North in 2018.
Wait? Witches in an enchanting Southern setting? Haven't we seen this from you before, Mr. Horn?
Well, yes. And no. The new series is entirely unrelated to the Witching Savannah series, and features a new cast of characters as well as a new mythology. (SPOILER ALERT: No evil aliens.) The Witches of New Orleans world exists on an entirely different plane from that of Witching Savannah. The new series will also have a different feel from Witching Savannah, and be written not in first person, single point of view like WS's first three books, but in multiple POV third person.
So this isn't just Witching New Orleans?
No, no, and definitely not. This series is the Witches of New Orleans, and the word "Witching" has been discarded for a few reasons, the most important reason being that I want to make it clear the two series are different and are in no way connected.
But I liked Witching Savannah, and now you're telling me this new series will be nothing like it?
Well, yes. And no. There will be magic, and atmosphere, all the twists and bendy turns, and big, I mean, BIG family drama. But the story will be grittier and, thanks largely to the multiple points of view, richer.
But no crossovers? We won't see Oliver making his way down Bourbon Street? Iris in the Garden District? Mercy in the Merigny?
No one--and I do mean no one--loves the Taylor/Wills/Poole family more than I do. They are my children. But I've spent many years with them now, and it's time for me to give some of the other voices in my head a chance to speak. (Yes. All writers are crazy. Some of us more than others.)
So there won't ever be another Witching Savannah book?
I didn't say that. If I'm ever struck by a compelling enough story to make it worth undoing the happy endings my kids got at the end of The Void, I'll see if the publisher of the series is interested. I would like to revisit that Beekeeper character and share the secret of her origin. So perhaps some point down the road, we'll spend more time with Mercy Taylor and family. (And, just in case anyone is worried, I've always been #TeamEmmet.)
Oh, all right. What is this new series about then?
Glad you asked! Here's the elevator pitch for the first book, The Final Days of Magic:
A young witch investigating a string of disappearances in New Orleans’s magical community must defeat the demon who claimed her mother’s soul, or be trapped herself in his nightmare realm.
But you all know me. It's gonna get all Southern Gothic twisty in about seven seconds flat with family secrets and betrayals. The mask will become a theme in the Witches of New Orleans in much the same way lying did in Witching Savannah.
But you get that 2018 is like a million years away, right?
I'm just getting started writing the first book, and can already feel a deadline breathing down my neck, so it feels more like seventeen minutes to me. My publisher wants to minimize readers' wait between books, so the plan is to debut the first book in January 2018, then summer for the second (The Book of the Unwinding) and fall/winter for the third (The Last King of Mardi Gras).
This post is the latest in a series of profiles featuring currently unpublished and self-published authors. These interviews focus on three areas where both those writers who are looking to find success in traditional publishing and those who are taking the self-publishing path must develop strength: pitching their work, pitching themselves, and creating quality, well-edited work. None of what is shared in these posts is intended to be prescriptive. Also, a profile is not to be viewed as an endorsement of the author or her/his work. If you'd like to be featured, email your responses to the following prompts to JackDouglasHorn@gmail.com. Sybil Ward www.sybilward.com (work in progress) Bio
Sybil Ward is a misplaced Tar Heel, hiding away in a small town in Georgia. She’s been (in order of appearance) a baseball player (a woman before her time), a seamstress, a soldier, an electronics instructor, a multimedia training developer, an IT manager, and now the owner of a web design company. She’s been with the same wonderful man for ages, mothered three lovely daughters, and is now elevating the art of spoiling with a brand new, glorious grandson.
And in the seconds between, she writes stories.
100 words or fewer, describe your book or story. This is your pitch. Make it enticing!
THE PAINTED TRUNK
Imagine a trunk – an old, decrepit box large enough to hold a body.
Now, imagine gaining the talent or abilities of anyone – author, actor, artist, athlete – just by putting something belonging to that person inside the trunk. Would you kill for that power?
When Cleopatra Gleason is murdered, Tabitha Spencer inherits the trunk with the request: “…use the trunk and figure out who killed me.” This puts Tabitha squarely in the crosshairs of the killer. If she’s going to stay alive long enough to solve Cleopatra’s murder, Tabitha must first learn to think inside the box.
Describe your editing (not writing) process. What steps have you taken to polish your story?
1. I draw a story map, which is actually an outline in pictures, so I can “see” the story. This isn’t a chapter-by-chapter map, this is more a plot point map. It lets me see holes in the story.
2. I read the story backward. Reading backward stops me from filling in the blanks instead of seeing the blanks.
3. One more read/polish from start to finish. Here I concentrate on strengthening the prose, improving the pace. I’m also mindful of the characters, their depth, personalities, etc.
4. Off to the critique group, a few chapters at the time, so I can revise as they critique.
5. If I'm lucky, the ms goes to beta readers.
6. One more serious revision for structure and word count. Here my wish list says professional editor. My piggy bank isn’t quite there yet.
What steps have you taken/are you considering taking to build a social platform to promote your work?
The premise of give-give-give-get – I like. I want to build a following by paying attention to and supporting others, sharing my love of paper crafting, reading good books and sharing that experience, sharing my short stories and the bits and pieces that support my novel-length stories. Social, after all, means making acquaintances, even friends. I believe that will translate into supporters, readers, and customers.