Changes to My Blogging Schedule in 2021

Edit: Did I mean to schedule this post for January 4th? Yes. Yes, I did. Did I instead have a moment and post it on December 31st? Mmhmm. Apologies!

First of all, HAPPY NEW YEAR! *throws confetti*

I hope you had a great start to the new year <3

Last month, I realised I don’t enjoy blogging, so I’m making some changes to my schedule for this year. Under the old schedule, I would have shared my goals for the month and for the year today, but I decided to stop doing monthly goal posts as well as the monthly progress reports.

Instead, I will be doing quarterly updates with my progress from the last quarter and my goals for the coming quarter, and I will be doing them on my podcast The Writing Sparrow. I’ve already recorded the first one, and it will go live on my birthday, January 26th. If you prefer to read my updates, don’t worry – the transcripts will be available right here on this blog and via the podcast itself, so no matter where you choose to follow, you’ll see them. If you want to follow along via this blog, you’ll find the updates saved in two categories: The Writing Sparrow Podcast and Progress Updates.

I also won’t be doing any other monthly posts like the mini updates. Doing all those little posts every month took up a fair bit of time, and I believe I can better spend this time elsewhere.

So, what’s left on this blog?

There are the podcast transcripts of course, but I’ll also still share all bookish news, like new releases, new trailers, and things like that.

If you have any questions about this new schedule, be that about missing content or possible future content, ask away!

Now, let’s go make 2021 our year *high five*

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December Progress 2020

This’ll be a short update, because as usual, I took it a little easier this December. It’s a good time for reflection and self-care!

If you’d like something more in-depth, I’ve done a podcast episode about how this year has affected me and my WIPs. You can listen to it on your favourite site.

Blood Song

I’m nearly done with the first draft! I’ve continued my still-new habit of writing for 15 minutes every day (although I did take a break for Christmas, and there was one day where I just… forgot) and this draft is shaping up nicely. I’m excited to be nearly done with it though. It’s the first time I’ve written the whole trilogy before starting the edits on Book 1, and it’s taking its toll a little. I’ve spent a lot of time with these characters now, and I’m ready for something different.

Which is probably why:


I didn’t plan on doing the first read-through of this in December, but I needed a break from the BLOOD WISP trilogy and this tempted me. I had as much fun editing it for the first time as I did when I wrote the first draft! I’ve sent it to my editor for a manuscript critique so I can get her thoughts on it, and then we’ll take it from there.

And that’s it! I have a few plans for 2021, but I’ll cover those on Monday–in the new year, if you can believe this one will be over! Because I’m still struggling to understand that it’s December.

Sign up for my mailing list for updates on my books, excerpts, early cover reveals, and the exclusive freebies Shadow in Ar’Sanciond (the Relics of Ar’Zac prequel novella) and Pashros Kai Zo (a Relics of Ar’Zac short story, which isn’t available anywhere else).

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The Writing Sparrow Episode 15: Reflecting on One Tough Year

Listen to the Episode:

Read the Transcript:

Sarina Langer 0:08
Hello, and welcome to the Writing Sparrow podcast. I’m Sarina Langer, and this podcast is all about writing, publishing and marketing your book. You can find transcripts on my website at Let’s get started!

Sarina Langer 0:26
Welcome back friends and sparrows. It’s the 14th of December, this is Episode 15, and this is the first solo episode I’ve recorded in a while. It’s kind of weird to be alone with my script and my microphone. Talking to so many amazing people for this podcast is definitely one of my 2020 highlights. But more on that in a minute.

Sarina Langer 0:49
Just a quick note before we start: my little podcast and I will be taking a break over the holidays after this episode. We’ll be back on January 4 with an interview with Elisha Belden about setting goals and achieving dreams. But between now and then, I’m planning on sleeping and reading a lot.

Sarina Langer 1:09
Now, I don’t know about you, but end-of-year fatigue usually hits me around this time, all the more so when I’ve also done NaNoWriMo. And this year has been harder than any other in my short 30 years. I love December for the magic of the holidays and its pretty lights popping up everywhere so much, but I also love to take a moment to reflect on the year behind me around now. And this year, I think that’s more important than ever, but it might also be harder than usual for obvious reasons. As much as I want to focus on the positives only just to cheer myself up, it doesn’t serve anyone to pretend the low points didn’t happen at the best of times, and they kind of stand out this year. So it would be really hard to ignore all the bad things that have happened.

Sarina Langer 1:57
As I said, it’s been rough. And I’m sure you felt that too. Everyone’s been affected. So many families have lost loved ones, and if thats you I’m so sorry for your loss. Then there are other many redundancies, the businesses that closed hoping it would be temporary but haven’t been able to reopen their doors. Did you know that more couples than usual have split up this year? That’s a lot of strain on anyone, and if you’ve been affected by all of the above or even just one of those things, I have no words. I wish there was something I could say to you that would make it all better, but I’ve been luckier than most this year, so I have no right to tell you to focus on the positives. Grieve however you need to, and if you want to talk about it or just vent at me, my direct messages on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are open as always. It’s not much, but I’m happy to listen without judgement if it might help if only for a moment.

Sarina Langer 2:57
On a personal level, 2020 hasn’t gone as expected either. I’m actually used to this because I set goals in January that I don’t fully achieve. This is because I’m an excitable overachiever who gets carried away pretty much immediately, so I set my goals too high and then wonder what was wrong with me throughout the year. For example, this year, I wanted to finally publish the first book of my Blood Wisp trilogy. Did you know I got the covers for that done… I think I got the last one sent back to me in January or February last year, and I sat on the other two for even longer than that. So yeah, I kind of really thought I would make it happen this year.

Sarina Langer 3:44
On top of that, I wanted to work even harder than last year and keep my editing and authoring business up and make a profit. I wanted to publish my first box set before I turned 30 back in January, and I wanted to write The Silence of Magic. This was going to be my year, friends. What better time to make things happen than at the start of a new personal decade, right?

Sarina Langer 4:06
Well, I did publish my box set before I turned 30. Then I closed the virtual doors on my editing business and returned to the day job. So that didn’t go as I hoped. My first day back was one and a half weeks before we got shut down for the first lockdown, so I’m still not sure if I got incredibly lucky with that or… no actually that was really lucky. At the time, we were still telling students that we were hoping to reopen after Easter, which is obviously so hard to imagine now, but at the time we were hopeful, so I worked my butt off to hit self-imposed deadlines and hand in freelance jobs. And in doing so, I worked myself into one deep burnout that I needed two months to recover from. I was even in therapy briefly, and misophonia really kicked my butt for about, well, pretty much the entire time I was recovering from said burnout. I did start writing The Silence of Magic, but I’m not even 20,000 words into it. I’m actually doing okay on the Blood Wisp trilogy, but I haven’t even started book 3 yet, unless writing the outline counts? And remember what I just said about when I got the covers back for that? Yeah, either way, to think I wanted to have the first book published by now, and technically this time last year, is laughable now.

Sarina Langer 5:28
So. Yeah. This year, though, my year hasn’t gone into what I how I imagined. And I’m sure yours hasn’t either. Honestly, I was gutted. I felt like such a failure when I had to close my business again, and honestly, it didn’t help the burnout any either. I’m grateful that I and my boyfriend kept our jobs when so many people lost theirs, but most days, honestly, I still have mixed feelings because no job is perfect, right? I’m actually gearing up for self employment 2.0 as I’m recording this, but I don’t want to jinx that yet.

Sarina Langer 6:05
And it’s not all bad. I said I published my first box set before I turned 30, didn’t I? I felt pretty accomplished when that happened. I also stepped out of my comfort zone and did things that intimidated me. I’ve published my first audiobook this year, my thanks to FindawayVoices and my incredible narrator Leanne Yau for making the audiobook of Rise of the Sparrows happen. That I can just say that I have this alone is amazing. And the audiobook is also pretty amazing. You should go listen to it. I started a podcast, even though it terrified me, and I have listeners. I published Brightened Shadows, and with that I wrapped up the Darkened Light duology. So 2020 has still been tough, but I’ve also, you know, I’ve achieved a few things despite all that. But more than in any other year, I’ve also dealt with some personal challenges that were trying to break me and honestly, some got pretty close. But looking at the list of achievements I’ve just given you, I did fine.

Sarina Langer 7:08
I’m grateful for my new writing routine of writing for 15 minutes every day. That’s not something I ever thought I’d be able to do, because 15 minutes doesn’t sound like a lot. But honestly, it’s going great and I recommend it. I’m grateful that we both have jobs. I’m grateful that I’ve learned from the things that didn’t go to plan this year. My next attempt will be stronger, just you watch. I’m grateful that I’ve published a box set and an audiobook and finished my duology. I’m grateful, and honestly kind of surprised and taken aback a bit, that I defeated NaNoWriMo this year. I really didn’t think I would. If you look back over, for example, my blog posts around the time just before NaNo started, when I first decided I would do it, or if you listen to my episodes that I did on NaNo around that time, I think I stressed it quite clearly that I didn’t think I would get very far this year. But I did it. And I’m grateful that I was brave and stepped out of my comfort zone this year, because it got me my first audiobook and this podcast and you listening to it.

Sarina Langer 8:13
Your action step today is to be kind to yourself for the rest of December and celebrate your achievements. Oh, what the hell, be kind to yourself all of next year too, because we’ve all got some recovering to do in that department. Don’t think you have any achievements this year? Well, I bet you’re wrong. Your achievements don’t need to measure up to anyone else’s successes. They’re yours and completely unique to you.

Sarina Langer 8:37
It’s fine to celebrate that you managed to get out of bed as often as you did. It’s fine to celebrate publishing one book instead of five. It’s fine to celebrate finishing a first draft when you wanted to have the entire series wrapped up by now. Just look at how I’ve done with the Blood Wisp series. Honestly, this year was a beast. You did great. You deserve a break, and on that note, so does this podcast.

Sarina Langer 9:03
Happy Holidays friends, Merry Christmas, and blissful Yule. I will see you next year. Thanks for listening. Bye.

Sarina Langer 9:11
If you enjoyed today’s episode, maybe learn something along the way, hit the subscribe button. You can also connect with me on Twitter @sarina_langer, on Instagram and Facebook @sarinalangerwriter, and of course on my website at Until next time! Bye!

Transcribed by

Sign up for my mailing list for updates on my books, excerpts, early cover reveals, and the exclusive freebies Shadow in Ar’Sanciond (the Relics of Ar’Zac prequel novella) and Pashros Kai Zo (a Relics of Ar’Zac short story, which isn’t available anywhere else).

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The Writing Sparrow Episode 14: How to Write and Publish an Anthology with Your Friends with Jessica Reis

Listen to the Episode:

Read the Transcript:

Sarina Langer  00:08

Hello, and welcome to the Writing Sparrow podcast. I’m Sarina Langer, and this podcast is all about writing, publishing and marketing your book. You can find transcripts on my website at Let’s get started!

Sarina Langer  00:26

Welcome back, friends and Sparrows! It’s the seventh of December, and this is episode 14. Today, I have Jessica Reis with me via zoom, and we’ll be discussing how to write an anthology with your friends, something she has experience with, and I have none whatsoever. Welcome, Jess.

Jessica Reis  00:47


Sarina Langer  00:49

So good to have you here!

Jessica Reis  00:50

You did great with my name. Let me say that.

Sarina Langer  00:54

I’m so glad to hear that! It’s always a worry. So–

Jessica Reis  00:59

I know it can be tricky.

Sarina Langer  01:01

I’m glad to hear I did alright. Did you know I briefly learned Spanish, which is obviously not exactly the same as Portuguese, but I like to think I have some skill.

Jessica Reis  01:14

It can be similar. Maybe.

Sarina Langer  01:17

So you’ve written an anthology with your friends. That’s pretty amazing in itself, but you’ve also just shown me the book itself and that is so beautiful. So, how did this idea–

Jessica Reis  01:32


Sarina Langer  01:32

Sorry, you go.

Jessica Reis  01:33

No, no, no, I was going to say that it was a long but beautiful and hard journey.

Sarina Langer  01:43

I can imagine. So how did this idea come about for you and your friends to write a book together?

Jessica Reis  01:51

Well, it is all started with Tania. She’s the organiser of the project. And I only knew her and Gabriela because they have been written other books before. But she invited me for the project and she was like, Well, I have this project for an anthology of short stories related to fantasy. And there is a couple of twists that, if you want to join, I will explain. So it was basically like that. And she asked me to send a couple of my previous short stories, just so her, so she can, could see what I could write, because she, I had read her books, but she had never read something of mine. So it started like that. And then she had us all to a Facebook group, and we’re talking, and I got very excited because we were four authors. So she had this brilliant idea of having each sort, short story, which is almost like a novella length, having the one element. So mine was randomly, they are all were randomly picked. Mine was air. And then she had asked us to write one prompt, that would also be randomly picked. And we had to write the story based on the element and that prompt. So I got air, and I got a prompt that talks about pirates that have powers and that kidnap someone in the royal bloodline. So…

Sarina Langer  04:09

How exciting! You know what that reminds me of? I think when I was in, God, I don’t remember what year it was, I want to say, I don’t know, either primary school or high school. We did this thing where our teachers were trying to encourage us to do more creative writing. Sorry. And they, I think they just gave us basically like a hat with like lots of little prompts and then we had to pick three out of it at random. And then those were our story prompt basically. It reminds me of that. I loved doing that.

Jessica Reis  04:46

Yeah, it’s, it was fun to figure out out how to combine the elements with a prompt because if it, it was water, was like very more and, more a perfect match because pirates, water, but I thought that there is a lot we can do with the air, element air, and pirates. So I ended up with deciding to go to my roots in terms of writing, which is getting inspiration from mythology. So I always love the idea of flying, So I love dragons, angels, and of course harpies. So I decided to pick that. And the fact that they were, in some ways consider to be like, like guards, and like bounty hunters, so I decided to go with that. And write the idea that pirates are bad, the harpies are catching them. But of course, the universe and and society isn’t so black and white. And I decided to talk about corruption and the way that we view values and the way that we view what, what people teach us about religion and all the traditions, so I decided to go with that. And of course, I have pirates that have powers, that have imaginary powers.

Sarina Langer  06:47

That sounds really fun though. That sounds like such a fun story to read. So there were four of you, you said, and you, you all sort of organised everything via this Facebook group. That sounds like a really clever way to exchange ideas and see how everyone is getting on. So to what degree did you utilise the Facebook groups? Or did you just kind of like check in once a week to see how everyone is doing? Or did you exchange ideas and ask for help?

Jessica Reis  07:15

Well, I mostly exchanged ideas, like the brainstorming with Tania. Because at the beginning, it was the person I was more comfortable with, but by now I talked with all of them, we’re still texting each other. But at first it was the person that I knew more. I had been with her in the summer at a book fair. So I decided to go with her in the brainstorming, but we were constantly messaging one another in the chat. We were all checking in, saying where we are going on the things that we are having some difficulties with. And then of course, after we finished the first draft, we gave one another our drafts to be our betas. So that again, we started messaging one another saying, Well, I’m very enjoying your story. I have no idea what you’re going to do, so you’re already giving comments as we read, although we were commenting in the file as well. So we were like in touch every day of the week.

Sarina Langer  08:54

Honestly, that sounds like such a fun progress, erm, process. It sounds so fun, and also so good to just constantly give each other feedback on everything. That sounds like a really good way to grow and develop your story.

Jessica Reis  09:10

Yeah, because we were like, I got a Filipa’s story first if I’m not mistaken. And Tania got mine first, so we got each other, we change it like that. So then we passed on the file with all our comments to the next person. So Filipa’s file went to Tania, I read Tania’s next. So we were constantly doing that until all three of us has read the other ones, all four of us has we read all the ones, the all of the stories, and commenting on. Then we started doing this second draft where I added, like, I think I may have been the person that added a lot more than the, more than the other three girls. Because I have entire chapters that I wrote. And at some point, I went into the group and said, Well, I really am sorry, but I… Is it okay, if I, if I go a bit over the word count that we had planned?

Sarina Langer  10:34

How far over did you go?

Jessica Reis  10:38

Not much. Tania’s stories were the bigger. We did went over. So she was like, well, I, I went over already, so don’t worry. And I’m like, but I still have two chapters left to write completely. And I still have like, I still have like four or six chapters to correct. So I was already in a tight spot. But I did when… Our word count was between 25k and 30k, I went a bit over the 30, like 33.

Sarina Langer  11:26

That’s not too bad.

Jessica Reis  11:28

Yeah, it’s not too bad. But I was freaking out.

Sarina Langer  11:33

Yeah, I think that’s really interesting actually, because I think when most people hear anthology, we immediately think of short stories. We don’t necessarily think of novella length stories. So that’s really interesting.

Jessica Reis  11:48

Our point was really to write a novella length, because we wanted to explore more and not just write like a couple of pages and that’s it. So that’s why the book is very thick, like 500 pages, I believe?

Sarina Langer  12:12

Oh, not bad.

Jessica Reis  12:12

It’s really thick and heavy.

Sarina Langer  12:15

It looks really pretty.

Jessica Reis  12:18

But then again, we had, we didn’t pick a type of letter and space between sentences that were small, which we knew that since it was four stories, we wanted the readers to be comfortable with reading and spending a lot of time reading. And we wanted people, if they were older and has trouble reading, they didn’t like get tired of reading a couple of pages, because the letter was small, so it is very big. Not gigantic, but compared to most books you can see it.

Sarina Langer  13:05

Oh no, it looks fine, actually. It looks very well put together.

Jessica Reis  13:09

Yeah, but if I showed you some books in Portuguese, they are very, they are smaller than this. Not maybe, not the letter, but the spacing in between tend to be a bit smaller. That’s why at first we have like between 3– 304 something, 300 or 400 pages. But then when we did, we got the art first to see how it was all put together, if the cover was right. And then we had to change everything, and we end up with more pages. Because we did all ourselves. We didn’t add anyone to format our book. The cover was made by Gabriela.

Sarina Langer  14:06

Well, Gabriela, your cover is beautiful. Well done.

Jessica Reis  14:11

Yeah, she, erm, we all pick the title. But then Tania, Gabrielle were talking about cover ideas, and then they showed us the covers and we’re like, yeah, blue is, it’s perfect. And the dragon, it has a dragon, a skull, a boat. And you can see in the photo like me showing it, showing to you because of the reflection, but it has this glassy filter so you see the reflection of the title. And all of those elements are linked to our stories. So mine is about pirates–the boat. Tania’s story is about dragons, so she has a dragon. Filipa’s story is related to a mirror, so she has that reflection element. And Gabriela’s story is about… I can say as real as it gets, it’s like, very, very dark, but brilliant story, so this goal is related to the main character’s power.

Sarina Langer  15:48

The more you tell me about how this whole thing worked and came together for you, just makes me want to do it more. It sounds so exciting. And it sounds like such a great effort as well from your group. I mean, it just sounds like the best team work has gone into this.

Jessica Reis  16:05

Yeah, you really have like Tania’s idea was founded on the, on the values that she wanted to work with a group of people that she loved to work. So she already had working with Gabriela on one of her book’s covers because Gabriela is a designer. And she is, Tania knew Filipa already, and she, they had talked about stories, and they are brainstorming it and everything. And me and Tania had talked about writing when we met at the book fair. So she thought that all of us could work together. Okay, it wasn’t perfect. We still are four people with four different personalities, so of course there are tensions, and sometimes there are problems. But the fact that we went through them and figured out the solutions for that tells a lot. so we could work together.

Sarina Langer  17:31

I would agree with that. I mean, I know… I think everyone knows what it’s like when you have to work with people when you don’t necessarily all get along perfectly well all of the time, you know, tension can really make things difficult. So I think that you still managed to put out such a honestly beautiful book is a credit to all fout of you. I mean, when, say, when things got difficult, if you disagreed on something, how did you, how did you deal with that? How did you talk through that?

Jessica Reis  18:00

We talked.

Jessica Reis  18:01

Yeah, that was it. That was it. We said what we had to say. We were respectful of one another, because okay, okay, I might not agree with you, but I understand you and I will try better next time. It was like this kinds of things. And we, for example, in the beta reading process, we all have different kinds of ways of talking about the story. I’m a beta that focus on like, the, the essence of a story. And I sometimes don’t ask questions, a lot of questions. I got not going to say a lot of why’s. I will wait for later because I know sometimes the answer to the why certain characters act that way, will be answered later. Tania is from the field of science. She’s a biologist. She’s working on a thesis right now, so she has that questioning mind. So her beta reading process is more of questioning everything, like why they are doing that, wWhy are pirates doing that? Why are harpies doing that? Why Jessica, why Jessica? She was like that. Which is great, but shocking, but she did let us know. She was like that. So, we, when we are doing a project like this, we are being our beta readers of one another, we have to remind ourselves that it’s not personal. We are just trying to help. And think of the reason why certain someone is questioning us in that comment, or, or the ending commentary, because sometimes it’s just, you know so much about your own story that you forget that some information is not there. And they pick up on that.

Sarina Langer  18:01

There you go!

Sarina Langer  19:35

It’s very easily done.

Jessica Reis  20:49

Yeah, so it’s, it’s talking, talking with one another, explaining things before going into a project, and in the middle of a project, so people know how you are and so you know, all they are and how they act.

Sarina Langer  21:11

That’s such a wonderful, mature approach. I mean, again, you, you guys are such a creditor yourselves. I mean, I’m not surprised at all that you’ve managed to finish it, which is, you know, something that many new writers really struggle with is to just even finish the first draft. And not only have you guys finished your novellas, but you’ve also put out a seriously very beautiful looking book. I think I may have said that before, but your cover really is very pretty.

Sarina Langer  21:37

So I can see that you’ve obviously published it, you’ve shown me the book, is there any chance at all maybe of you getting it translated to English? Because you have me very curious, and I would really love to read it.

Jessica Reis  21:52

For now, we have no idea. We may do it in the future, I don’t know. It’s really up to us to decide in the future, if we might have the time to do it, or to get someone. But then again, it’s, it’s an investment.

Sarina Langer  22:21

It really is, yeah. I mean, I remember at one point, I was looking at getting my first trilogy translated to German, because my parents are German, and they… I mean, they are learning English a little bit, but ultimately, you know, it’s a foreign language to them. And they would really like to read my books, so I was looking into that. But as you said, it’s definitely an investment. And it’s a big decision either way, you know, because it’s, it’s quite a big thing, I think, when your book is just out in your own country to begin with, that’s, that’s such a huge achievement, but to then also be able to say that your book has been translated and is now available in another language. That’s, that, that seems like a whole next level thing. So, you know, definitely don’t rush into that, but if you did want to do it, I would read it.

Jessica Reis  23:11

Oh, good to know. But I do have the same problem that you have, because my family in my paternal family is French, my grandparents were immigrants in France, so most of my uncles and my dad and my cousins were born there. So I have a lot of family members that would like to read something that I wrote, but they can’t because they don’t know enough Portuguese to do it. They can understand it, some can talk, but they can’t fluently read Portuguese. Just the menu in a restaurant.

Sarina Langer  24:06

Well, I think as long as you can get food, you’re probably fine.

Jessica Reis  24:11


Sarina Langer  24:11

That’s always my priority. Can I get food if I went to another country? Would I be able to feed myself? And if the answer is yes, I’m probably happy for now. But it doesn’t help me read a book, does it? So, so in this instance, it’s not helpful.

Jessica Reis  24:27


Sarina Langer  24:28

How did you find the experience overall of writing the anthology with your friends?

Jessica Reis  24:36

I found it an experience that helped me grow. It was exciting but scary, but something that taught, taught me a lot. It taught me to be a beta reader more, a better beta reader. It taught me to understand my, the common mistakes I make and how to spot them more quickly. It helped me understand a bit of the writing process after writing a book. And it was really helpful in getting to know other authors in a more intimate way, because we were working very closely. And that was a very interesting idea, erm, concept and I, and experience for someone that is a first time publishing author, especially in an indie way and not with a publishing company. So it was very interesting and very exciting experience that really helped me learn a lot. So yeah, it was like that for me.

Sarina Langer  26:20

I mean, you’re really making me want to do this myself. If anyone, if anyone who’s listening would like to do an ontology with me, I am, I’m game. I’m there. Just say the word.

Jessica Reis  26:32

Ah, I’m here. I can do it with you.

Sarina Langer  26:35

Alright, there you go, we’ve already got two people. So just a few more, and we can absolutely get this started.

Sarina Langer  26:42

So do you have–ahem, on a completely unrelated note, ahem–do you have any tips for someone who might be interested in doing the same thing? Oh, smooth. Well done, me.

Jessica Reis  26:56

Well, get people that you, you believe in to work with you because you have to believe in them and they have to believe in you. So that at least if there are problems, they still believe in the project, they still believe in each other, and they believe that they can surpass the problems and the obstacles. Then, maybe get people that write in the same genre. If you are going to write fantasy, maybe it’s not the best to ask someone that doesn’t really enjoy writing fantasy. So okay, if it’s someone that likes to write in multiple genders, then that’s perfect.

Sarina Langer  27:48

That makes sense. You can probably adjust quite well that way.

Jessica Reis  27:53

And, and that, yeah, just someone that’s really is someone that you believe in, and then you know, you can work with someone you don’t hate.

Sarina Langer  28:07

That sounds helpful.

Jessica Reis  28:08

Hate, at some, at some times, okay, it’s okay to hate some bits of someone’s personality. I even hate some bits of my personality, so that’s fine. But if, if you believe in them, if they believe in you, everything is possible.

Sarina Langer  28:30

Thank you so much for that. I think we should probably leave it on that very inspiring note. And thank you so much for stopping by and having a chat with me about this. Thank you so much.

Jessica Reis  28:41

Thank you for inviting me.

Sarina Langer  28:43


Jessica Reis  28:44


Sarina Langer  28:46

If you enjoyed today’s episode, maybe learn something along the way, hit the subscribe button. You can also connect with me on Twitter @sarina_langer, on Instagram and Facebook @sarinalangerwriter, and of course on my website at Until next time! Bye!

Sign up for my mailing list for updates on my books, excerpts, early cover reveals, and the exclusive freebies Shadow in Ar’Sanciond (the Relics of Ar’Zac prequel novella) and Pashros Kai Zo (a Relics of Ar’Zac short story, which isn’t available anywhere else).

Take me to the Welcome page.

December Goals 2020 | Calm Down and Keep Writing

I hope it doesn’t bode badly for this month that I meant to do this post yesterday but forgot 😐

It’s been a tough year on too many fronts, so my December goals are simple:

  • keep writing for 15 minutes every day
  • make plenty of time for self-care
  • reflect on the year behind me
  • prepare for 2021
  • read all the things

It’s not quite my usual list, but sometimes, less is better *shrugs*

Whatever your goals for this month and whether you celebrate Christmas, Yule, something else, or nothing at all, I hope you get some time to yourself and to recharge <3 Be kind to yourself and to others, and take a breather. We all deserve it.

Sign up for my mailing list for updates on my books, excerpts, early cover reveals, and the exclusive freebies Shadow in Ar’Sanciond (the Relics of Ar’Zac prequel novella) and Pashros Kai Zo (a Relics of Ar’Zac short story, which isn’t available anywhere else).

Take me to the Welcome page.

The Writing Sparrow Episode 13: 5 Quick and Easy Formatting Tips with Becky Wright

Listen to the Episode:


Sarina Langer  00:08

Hello, and welcome to the Writing Sparrow podcast. I’m Sarina Langer, and this podcast is all about writing, publishing and marketing your book. You can find transcripts on my website at Let’s get started!

Sarina Langer  00:26

Hello, and welcome back, sparrows and friends. It’s the 30th of November, this is Episode 13, and Becky Wright is back.

Sarina Langer  00:40

If you remember I did the first ever interview of this podcast with Becky about formatting and generally about her incredible business for writers, PlatformHouse Publishing, and we maybe got a little bit carried away. Sorry. I’ve asked her back so that we, meaning Becky, can give you some quick and easy tips you can use for your own book right now. Pronunciation on quick.

Sarina Langer  01:10

But before we begin, I just wanted to quickly say a big thank you to all of you listening. I’ve had an email this week from Booksprout to congratulate me on my first 100 downloads. So, you guys, thank you so much, and how fitting is that for the return of my first ever interviewee, Becky! Welcome back, Becky.

Becky Wright  01:32

Hi, Sarina. It’s good to be back. And I will stay on track today.

Sarina Langer  01:36

No, I will, I will try, but I think a bit off… Who doesn’t love a bit of banter?

Becky Wright  01:44

Yeah it’s just normal. It’s a chat over a drink.

Sarina Langer  01:46

Yeah, we’re already doing it. I don’t think we can help ourselves.

Becky Wright  01:50

No! Right, right. Okay, on track.

Sarina Langer  01:52

Okay, what did I just say about doing this quick? So, today, um, as I’ve just said, I’ve asked you back to give our listeners a few quick and easy steps anyone can apply to format their own books right now that any of us can handle, even myself who really hates formatting and nearly lost her entire book because I pressed the wrong thing one time.

Becky Wright  02:14

Oh. Yeah.

Sarina Langer  02:15

Yeah. So, how many tips do you have for us today?

Becky Wright  02:18

I have five. Five really important… not one of them is more important than the other, but as a collective, they’re all important. So these are all the top five that I think everybody needs to remember.

Sarina Langer  02:31

Fantastic. Okay, let’s start with tip number one. What have you got?

Becky Wright  02:35

Tip Number One! I feel like I should have had like a countdown, sort of some sort of music tune there.

Becky Wright  02:39

Right, tip number one: style. Make sure that you know what genre your book format needs to look like. So obviously, if it’s a fantasy, you can have lots of embellishments and borders and really nice illustrations. And if it’s something like a thriller or a horror or something like that, you’re going to need to have plain or more strict on your illustrations. So I think, so I think style is, style is really important. And it’s the first place you’re going to need to start, so before you do anything else, you need to start on that.

Sarina Langer  03:19

See, I’m torn about that, because I really get what you’re saying with that and I couldn’t agree more that obviously style is so important. But I’m just having flashbacks to the first, to my first book ever when I tried to format that. And I think I just tried to even just move a sentence and suddenly everything had shifted, and my page numbers were suddenly gone, and I didn’t know what had happened to the paragraphs. So the idea of me doing any kind of fancy style formatting is making me break out in cold sweat right now.

Becky Wright  03:52

I mean, I think get your general layout in and worry about the fancy fiddly bits later, because you need to get the basic template done. So think about the style, the style needs… you need to have that in the back of your mind, although you don’t need to add anything at this point. You still need to think, what is it? What over- what sort of impression when you open that book, what are you looking for? What are you trying to portray for to the actual reader, because I think as much as your cover and your blurb, opening them pages that sets up the reader for knowing what they’re going into. That’s my top tip number one.

Sarina Langer  04:30

I think one thing that can possibly help with that if you’re not quite sure what might work well for your genre is to maybe have a look at other books in the genre and see what they’ve done.

Becky Wright  04:39

Oh, absolutely that, I would always do that. And if before I have a new client with, before I start anybody’s book, I will always look really in depth of what the genre is and go out and if it’s something I haven’t done, or a new client I haven’t worked with, I’ll go out and look, physically look on the interiors of books and have a look at formatting. So it’s a must. It’s a must. It’s really important.

Sarina Langer  05:03

And I think this might be a good moment to say that you have spent all week formatting my two books, and they are so beautiful! Honestly, I haven’t, I’ve had quite a, quite a stressful week, but you know how it goes, I’ve been quite busy. So I still haven’t been able to look through them properly. But from what I’ve seen, they’re absolutely stunning. And I can’t wait to have the proof copy in my hands so I can stroke it and adore it.

Becky Wright  05:03

Yeah, that’s always important to me. It’s not until you get that proof copy that you can actually see it for real. It’s all very well looking at it on a screen, but until you’ve actually got it in your hands, and then you can really see how it works.

Sarina Langer  05:45

Absolutely. Or, you know, on your Kindle when we’re talking about an ebook, but either way, you’ve done such a beautiful job. I can’t wait for people to see it. And I can’t wait to admire it some more at the weekend. All right, what’s your second tip?

Becky Wright  06:01

Right. Second one: front and back matter.

Sarina Langer  06:04

Oh, yes.

Becky Wright  06:05

It matters. It does matter.

Sarina Langer  06:08

It does! I kind of forgot mine this time around.

Becky Wright  06:12

But it was fine, because I was like, no, we got something missing, but it’s fine. The acknowledgement pages… So the front and the back matter, for anybody who’s starting out and not quite- because you use that term sometimes and people don’t understand what that is. And it just means your dedication, your copyright, your dedication, your acknowledgement, you’re about the author, and the contents page, all them things. Some of them definitely belong at the front obviously, obviously, the copyright page and your dedication, and depending on your preference, some people put the acknowledgement at the back and About the Author is- I would always put the About the Author at the back. And it also depends on ebook and paperback. Because we know, or some people may not know that you, the less you put at the front of your ebook… So as soon as, as soon as the reader gets into the story, the better. Because you’ve got the links and they can find all the extra bits, it doesn’t actually necessarily need to be in there, as long as the copyright and your dedication, anything that you need to have it in the front can go in, but anything that’s surplus needs to be in the book but doesn’t set up the story, put it at the back.

Sarina Langer  07:25

Completely agree. And again, I think a good thing, if you’re not quite sure what to put for the front and back matter in your book is to pull off a book off your shelf right now, something in your genre and just see what they’ve done. You know, it doesn’t need to be anything fancy, just–

Becky Wright  07:39

No, not at all. Not at all. So, I would always say pick two or three books off your bookshelf of different genres, and have a look at them all as an overall and then get a feel for what, where people put their pages. Not everybody has an About the Author page. If you’re a big mainstream author, you might have a real famous author, and they probably won’t have one or it may be just a paragraph on their back cover, cause they, they don’t need one, everyone tends to know who they are, but for us, and it’s important.

Becky Wright  08:11

And links in your ebook have to go to the right places, so you have links to all your social media and your website, and, and what other books that you’ve got. They need to be in there. I would- it depends on whether you put them at the front or the back. It’s, you know, it’s entirely up to you, depending on what it is. If it’s a paperback, I would always put Books By, Other Books By, and Books By Me at the front.

Sarina Langer  08:39

Yeah, I mean, I think unlike with the style, and you know maybe even adding an images and little things like that, just adding, you know, things like your dedication, for example, or writing your acknowledgments usually takes a bit of thought and time to write it all out, but it’s not a complicated thing to do, and you don’t need to overthink it. Because especially for your acknowledgments, you already know what the process was like for you. You already know who you’ve worked with, who your beta readers were, so–

Becky Wright  09:09

And when you’re trying to compose that, cause- Right, it’s like, Oh my God, I’ve got to write a bio, I’ve got to write- and that closure page, where do I start? Start at the beginning of your writing process. Who was it, the first person that saw your book other than you, and literally work your way down. So do it as a checkpoint, and you can vary that to each book. So, as long as you’ve got the basis of your acknowledgement page, you can just tweak that to different books, and your About the Author page can stay exactly the same, and it literally just goes in every single book. You may want to tweak it depending on circumstances, obviously, and add an extra book at the end of it, your other books by you, and you can add an extra book in, but otherwise generally they’re just templates and you can just add them in.

Sarina Langer  09:57

Exactly. I mean I know for my duology where the- well, actually by the time this interview goes live, my second book will already be out.

Becky Wright  10:06


Sarina Langer  10:07

But you know, in both of those, I have the same map, I have the same Pronunciation Guide. So don’t think that you have to start over again from scratch, even with every book, you know, because there’ll be some things that you can reuse over and over and over again, which will save you a lot of time and it will make it look all the more professional.

Becky Wright  10:24

Yep, absolutely. And it’s like, copyright page–lots of people have it quite long, comprehensive copyright pages. Some people literally will just have the title, and just ‘all rights reserved’ and the copyright, you know, it’s, it doesn’t matter. I’ve always had quite a comprehensive one, because when I first started out, I found what I wanted, sorted my wording out, and so I just have the same one.

Sarina Langer  10:48

I think it’s quite easy for us to panic when we hear the word copyright page, because  it’s something, it’s legal stuff, you know, we need to make sure we get it right. But honestly, as long as you have the copyright symbol in there and your name and the year, you are covered. That’s literally all you need.

Becky Wright  11:04

Yeah, copyright, copyright symbol, your name, I would always make sure, All Rights Reserved, and, and your website.

Sarina Langer  11:12

Yes, of course.

Becky Wright  11:13

As long as it really needs to be in there. And it is, it’s one of those personal preferences, I think. Some people like to keep them simple. So the front and the back matter, and as much- and it matters, so it needs to be in there.

Sarina Langer  11:29

The front and the back matter matters. There you go. If that’s not the catchy thing for you to remember, I don’t know what is.

Becky Wright  11:35

It’s a tongue twister, but yes, it does. So if you think it matters, it needs to be in there.

Sarina Langer  11:43

So, what is tip number three?

Becky Wright  11:44

Right, Tip Number three: font and chapter headings. Lots of people, and I did it in the early days, simple, simple font, and it would be one font throughout. And, and I think you don’t need to… don’t overdo it in the same respect, depending on your genre, depending on what the style you’re going for. And this will lead on from you thinking what style, what style your, this book is going to be, what style formatting. So, font. And I would, it’s a, it’s a preference to me. I’ve changed my preference over the years, I’ve gone from Times New Roman, and I’m now on Garamond at the minute, which is my favourite one personally. But there’s a whole array of them. And they’re as long as they are easy readable. And you can google this, you know, ‘best fonts for fiction’. And there’s so many, so many different websites and blogs, and everything that you can find that will give you a guidance into where you need to go. And there was one, one, I would always say: do not use Arial.

Sarina Langer  12:50

Oh, there you go. That’s a pro tip. Why not, Becky?

Becky Wright  12:54

I think it’s just not particularly easy reading and it won’t look professional. And I think if you… and it’s again, it’s one of those, go on your bookshelf and get a load of books, half a dozen books, open them all up and see what they look like.

Sarina Langer  13:08

And chances are there’ll be something very simple like Times New Roman, or Garamond as you’ve heard. I mean, if you’re still not sure what to use, then those two you can’t really go wrong with. That said, you can use something fancy, like something that looks a bit like handwriting if you have maybe like a short handwritten note in there. Or maybe–

Becky Wright  13:27

They are, they are really good. And if you’ve got like an article in the book, in storyline, perhaps it’s a newspaper cutting, and it needs to be in there. You could use one of the newspaper fonts, something that looks like it’s in print, in type. And that will just work because it will, it will make the reader realise that they are reading something like that within.

Sarina Langer  13:48

Yes. So some fonts like that are fantastic for small bits like that, but you don’t want them throughout the entire book.

Becky Wright  13:58

No, and I think on your chapter headings it’s important, it doesn’t need… I would always say vary it for the chapter headings, even if you’re going for something simple, a complimentary font, but never use more than three in your whole book. Otherwise, it’s just going to be, it’s just going to be a gallery of fonts and the readers won’t know what, what it’s looking, what they’re looking at. So fonts, think about them seriously, and look at what other people have done in your genre. So you’ve picked the right sort of font.

Sarina Langer  14:31

All right, tip number four. What have you got?

Becky Wright  14:33

Tip Number Four: widows and orphans.

Sarina Langer  14:36

Oh! Oh, I can’t tell you the headache I’ve got from this on my first book. You might remember: in our first interview, I said that I got this close to throwing my laptop out the window. This is why.

Becky Wright  14:51

Yeah, and it’s a button. It’s just a button.

Sarina Langer  14:54

Yeah, I didn’t realise that. I literally-

Becky Wright  14:59

What it basically does, it keeps bodies of text together. So if you’ve got, if you’ve got a scene break and you’re going into another body of text and it’s a different scene, rather than having at the bottom of the page one lonesome widow, and all, all of the rest of it up on the top of the next page, or you’ve got everything, it goes right the way down and then you’ve got one lonesome little line at the top of the next page, and then you’ve got the gap. It’s just, it’s a formatting… it’s having an eye for your formatting. So if it doesn’t look quite right…

Sarina Langer  15:36

Chances are it isn’t.

Becky Wright  15:38

So, and if you go into your… It’s in your formatting settings in Word, in Microsoft Word, it’s just a, a click. Click it, and it will do it for you.

Sarina Langer  15:49

Yes, I mean, the thing is that… I mean, we could sort of try to talk you through how to get there, but depending on what software you use, it will be different.

Becky Wright  15:59

Yeah, absolutely.

Sarina Langer  16:00

There are so many versions all the time, because it’s technology and nothing lasts very long in this world. So if you’re not sure where it is, or how to find it, just google it quickly.

Becky Wright  16:09

Yep. It’ll be in the Help programme, whatever programme you’re using. But it is important just to keep chapter sec- keep sections, scene sections together. So you don’t have stray little lines going off into the, into the nevernever and everyone’s like, what? So you didn’t- And it’s also looking over your, looking over your layout. And if it doesn’t, if it looks right- My eye works that way. So it’s, I know that’s easy for me to say, but as long as it looks right.

Sarina Langer  16:45

Do you want to hear a story that will make you cringe?

Becky Wright  16:48

Go on.

Sarina Langer  16:49

Okay. So with my first book, I think at the time I was still using OpenOffice–and I mean, don’t get me wrong, if OpenOffice is the programme for you, good for you. Personally, I have a very strong hate relationship with that thing now. So, so when with my first book, I for some reason… I think I’d read somewhere that you had to do all of your widows and orphans individually, and I just got it into my head that this is what I had to do. So I kid you not, I literally went through my entire book several times, doing all of them on a page per page basis, and then I eventually, I think I went downstairs afterwards, and I was so tired from just staring at it for honestly hours, and my partner went, you know you could just have select ed the whole document and done it literally with one click right? I was like, No, no, you can’t, I’m sure I’ve read that you can’t, I would have done it. I can’t do it. It can’t be that easy. And he did it. And oh, I’m still thinking about this now.

Becky Wright  17:54

That goes back to what we’ve had conversations with in the past, it’s we are forever learning and it’s a trial and error, and now it’s not that you’ve, you found a way not to do it. That’s what it is.

Sarina Langer  18:06

I think now looking back, that might just be why I started hating formatting so much. It’s the widows and orphans.

Becky Wright  18:16

It’s a common thing, this hatred for formatting. I’ve heard it many a time.

Sarina Langer  18:20

But you don’t understand it, do you, cuz you love it.

Becky Wright  18:22

I do love it. And it’s handy, it is, because my brain works that way. And I think… and I have. Yeah, I have, I have…

Arthur Wright  18:31


Sarina Langer  18:31


Becky Wright  18:31

… because I have this checklist… Oh, that’s my son. Oh, he’s a cheeky one. Um, but yeah, it is. All these things are important. But it’s only because you want the overall thing to look, the overall book to look as it should. And as long as you have this checklist, and I work by this checklist, I mean, it’s in my head. I don’t think about it now. It’s just automatic. So, um, but yeah, so that’s tip number four. Widows and orphans.

Sarina Langer  19:04

I think the one thing for us all to take away from that, maybe, is that it looks complicated, or it did to me anyway, and it looks really intimidating, but it’s literally just a matter of selecting your entire document and pressing a button. And then it’s done. And it looks so much cleaner, and it’s, it doesn’t need to take the hours that I put into it with my first ever attempt. And honestly, it’s as fast as 10 seconds and you’re done with it. It’s nothing to fear.

Becky Wright  19:35

That’s it. No, it isn’t. It is like you say, you just select all and you can just press a button, or press a button and put whole document and it, depending on what programme you’re using, it is just a click of a button effectively. Maybe two or three clicks but it is.

Sarina Langer  19:50

Not me, that’s for sure. Tip number five?

Becky Wright  19:54

Tip Number Five: your page numbers.

Sarina Langer  19:57

Oh yes. Again, such a headache for me.

Becky Wright  20:04

It’s a biggie. And it is, it can be really tricky to get it right if you don’t do it very often or if you’re not quite sure. And it is one of those things that I did where I’ve muddled my way through and I’ve learned, but it is, it can be quite easy once you know what you’re doing, and a lot of it is down to section breaks, your page breaks, and making sure you isolate it and follow it, lead it on to the next section. It sounds really complicated, but getting your page numbers correct is a must. I mean, the front and the back matter doesn’t need page numbers on, so it’s only the body of the story.

Sarina Langer  20:52

And that’s the start of all the complications in that.

Becky Wright  20:55

In parts, yeah. And I think once, I mean for indie publishing generally, I think there’s been times in our, in our industry where indie books have had a bad rep. And it’s because very early to early days, and there are a very small selection of books that people come across, and if they’re badly formatted or don’t look professional, badly edited, they are going to stick out like a sore thumb. But generally across the board, us indie authors are no different than our, than a mainstream traditionally published author. It’s just that we do the process ourselves.

Sarina Langer  21:36


Becky Wright  21:37

If you do the marketing right, they will sit on this bookshelf alongside all the mainstream publishers.

Sarina Langer  21:44

Well, exactly. And I mean, for me, the reason that I decided to be an indie author is that I just like the control over everything.

Becky Wright  21:53

Yeah, absolutely.

Sarina Langer  21:56

I mean, granted with the formatting, I handed the control entirely over to you, because I know that you know what you’re doing, and you enjoy it. And I know, it’ll come back looking stunning to me. But you know, if I didn’t like something that you did, I would then have the freedom to say actually, Becky, this isn’t working.

Becky Wright  22:12

Absolutely, and we’d try something else. Yeah, every time if I ever do anything and someone’s not happy, ike the other day, you said, Oh, could we just tweak this? Yeah, that’s not a problem. At the end of the day, it’s your book. And when I first start formatting, I’m just doing an interpretation of how I think it will look. But at the end of the day it’s your book baby. So if you’re thinking, Oh, that’s not quite how I imagined, can we do this? Of course we can. And we will keep doing it until you are 100% happy. Because it’s not my book. It’s yours. I’m just providing a service. That’s all I’m doing.

Sarina Langer  22:46

And you’re providing great service. My books are very pleased and so am I.

Becky Wright  22:52

Thank you.

Sarina Langer  22:53

Oh, has this been all five tips already?

Becky Wright  22:56

It has. They are the top five. There’s other things we could have discussed, but I think if you get them five right, and take consideration into them five, generally, overall, you’ll be doing a good job.

Sarina Langer  23:10

Yeah, I think so. I mean, it’s a thing for most writers, when we hear the word formatting, there is something in us that starts panicking. I know I certainly do.

Becky Wright  23:24

And I think it’s that word formatting, instantly–

Sarina Langer  23:27

It just fills us with dread, doesn’t it? I mean, for some people it’s the word editing. Or, and, you know, for some, it’s rewriting. And for me, it’s formatting. But it’s not, it’s not even that hard, though. That’s the thing. And I think-

Becky Wright  23:40

Well, exactly. I mean, that’s always how I argue. I could try to do it myself again, but Becky enjoys it, so I give it to Becky.

Becky Wright  23:40

I think people think it’s going to be harder. You can get a really basic format and do it yourself. You need to go back and tweak it, and you may need to go back into it. And it’s the, it’s the time consuming part of it that people get frustrated with, it’s because you’re, no, it’s gonna- I’m gonna take a whole day out because I’ve got to format this book. Because if you don’t do it on a regular basis, it’s going to take you a long time, and when you come across little issues you’re thinking, Oh, my goodness, how do I get over that? And then you think, okay, I’ve got to just Google this. And let me just ask somebody. So that’s where the time consuming. This is why I get the job, because I’m like, Well, okay, I can turn it around it really quick. And I love doing it. So I can get that done.

Becky Wright  24:35

And I turn it around really fast as well.

Sarina Langer  24:38

You do.

Becky Wright  24:38

Because you need it really quickly.

Sarina Langer  24:41

Yes. Sorry about that.

Becky Wright  24:43

No, it’s fine! You are not alone. You are not alone. There’s plenty there. And I’ll get the email and I’ll hear the urgency in the email. I’m just gonna get this to you. I’m now sorting this bit and this bit, and to me that says right, you need that back quickly.

Arthur Wright  24:59


Sarina Langer  25:03


Becky Wright  25:04

So yeah, really quickly, really quick turnaround.

Sarina Langer  25:07

And you know, I think with erm… Oh, what was I gonna say? Doesn’t matter. Well, I- No, I’ve got it, I’ve got it. I think with, with now with the five tips that you’ve just shared, it’ll make it a lot easier. And I would definitely urge everyone listening, if you haven’t done it before, if you haven’t tried it yet, just give it a go, see how you get on. Because you might actually find it really easy or even enjoy it somehow.

Becky Wright  25:34


Sarina Langer  25:37

You know, so just try it. Try it at least once. You’re an author, we both know you’re adventurous and you want to give it a shot. So, just try it.

Becky Wright  25:43

That’s it. And if they have any problem and you do get stuck, just hand it over to me, and then I’ll finish it. I’ll sort it out. I’ll get there at the end. And we can sort it, and I do have a lot of people who will be halfway through or they’ve done it and I will just get, get it to do the tweaks. I’ve done all this, but could you put the page numbers in? I’ve done all this, but I’m having a problem with headers and footers. Oh, that’s another one, but we’re not going to go there today. But it’s, and then people, then I get it, and then I just redo it, rejig it about and yeah. But there are lots of other things like we could have spoke about, but I will leave the uploading with bleed and all of those for another day.

Sarina Langer  26:30

Well, maybe one day next year, we can do another interview with your next five tips.

Becky Wright  26:35

Yes, yes.

Sarina Langer  26:36

And we can look into doing that.

Becky Wright  26:39

That’s it. I mean there’s plenty. There’s so much.

Sarina Langer  26:44

But for today, thank you very much for coming by.

Becky Wright  26:46

Thank you!

Sarina Langer  26:47

And for talking to me once again about formatting. And I think you have done very well this time of keeping it on point.

Becky Wright  26:54

We did. We did. Brilliant.

Sarina Langer  26:57

Well, thank you very much.

Becky Wright  26:58

Thank you.

Becky Wright  26:59

Bye Bye.

Arthur Wright  27:00

I’m gonna miss you so much!

Sarina Langer  27:03

Oh, you too. Bye.

Sarina Langer  27:10

If you enjoyed today’s episode, maybe learn something along the way, hit the subscribe button. You can also connect with me on Twitter @sarina_langer, on Instagram and Facebook @sarinalangerwriter, and of course on my website at Until next time! Bye!

Sign up for my mailing list for updates on my books, excerpts, early cover reveals, and the exclusive freebies Shadow in Ar’Sanciond (the Relics of Ar’Zac prequel novella) and Pashros Kai Zo (a Relics of Ar’Zac short story, which isn’t available anywhere else).

Take me to the Welcome page.

The Writing Sparrow Episode 12: How to Prevent Stress and Burnout with Kristina Naydonova

Listen to the Episode:


Sarina Langer  00:08

Hello, and welcome to the Writing Sparrow podcast. I’m Sarina Langer, and this podcast is all about writing, publishing and marketing your book. You can find transcripts on my website at Let’s get started!

Sarina Langer  00:29

Hello and welcome back, friends and Sparrows. It’s the 23rd of November 2020, and this is Episode 12. Today I have the great privilege of talking to Kristina Naydonova- I’m so sorry if I’ve just pronounced your name very badly.

Kristina Naydonova  00:45

No worries, you pronounced it great.

Sarina Langer  00:46

Thank you, thank God. She is the youngest author and most inspiring young lady I know. If you don’t know, Kristina has published her debut novel this year, The Black Sisterhood Files, when she was 12 years old, which proves that you’re never too young to start writing. Like me, she’s a big advocate of self care to prevent burnout and stress, and I can’t think of a better time to discuss these things given all the anxiety in the world right now. And also the fact that NaNoWriMo can easily drive a writer to exhaustion. So this is a really tough month for all of us, let alone the whole rest of the year. So welcome, Kristina, thank you so much for coming onto my podcast.

Kristina Naydonova  01:26

Thank you so much for having me. It’s great to be here today and get the opportunity to chat with you.

Sarina Langer  01:35

I’m very excited to have you because as I said just now, you were only 12 years old when you published your first book. That’s amazing.

Kristina Naydonova  01:42

Thank you so much, really appreciate that.

Sarina Langer  01:45

I mean, of course like, well pretty much everyone, I was at school at that time, as are you. And I don’t think I could have done anything like that at that age. I mean, I think around that time, I was sort of between schools, I was just moving on into high school, and that wasn’t an easy time for me at all, so that you still find the time to also write a book and publish it to me is just absolutely… You’re basically Superwoman to me.

Kristina Naydonova  02:13

Thank you, I really appreciate that.

Sarina Langer  02:16

So congratulations on publishing your first book this year.

Kristina Naydonova  02:21

Thank you.

Sarina Langer  02:21

 How are you finding the author life? How’s it been for you?

Kristina Naydonova  02:26

It’s honestly a lot more different than I expected. But what I would say the best aspect of it is having the ability to connect with other authors and other aspiring authors. Because I have also had the great chance to connect with some aspiring writers over Skype and over Zoom calls and give them some advice on what it takes to publish a book, to write a book, and to market a book. So I would say it is quite different than my expectations, but it’s been wonderful thus far.

Sarina Langer  02:54

Oh, that’s really good to hear. Because I think, I think especially with your first book, lots of authors have really high aspirations of becoming famous over night.

Kristina Naydonova  03:06

That’s not how it works, yeah.

Sarina Langer  03:07

No, not at all. And I think it’s really good and positive to see that you haven’t let that not happening put you off; although, you are probably a lot more successful already than most authors I know so early into your career.

Sarina Langer  03:21

I mean, you’ve been on different podcasts, and I think you’ve been on TV at some point as well.

Kristina Naydonova  03:21

Thank you.

Kristina Naydonova  03:27

Yeah, one time back in June.

Sarina Langer  03:30

That’s amazing. How did that come about?

Kristina Naydonova  03:32

Thank you. So I actually reached out to a local studio of CBS six, and they accepted my query to be on one of their programmes.

Sarina Langer  03:43

That must have been very exciting. I mean, I’ve never been on TV, so you’ve already done-

Kristina Naydonova  03:47

Really exciting. I must say it was like a dream come true.

Sarina Langer  03:51

I bet it was. I mean, I’ve published six or seven books now – enough to lose count, apparently – but you’ve already… I feel like you’ve already done more in your first short few months of being an author than I have done in my four years. So honestly, hats off to you.

Kristina Naydonova  04:11

Thank you so much. I mean, I spent almost every single day of the summer for hours working really hard on marketing and reaching out to podcasts and TV broadcasts. So yeah.

Sarina Langer  04:22

What would you say are you enjoying the most about your new author career?

Kristina Naydonova  04:28

I definitely would say as I mentioned before connecting with other authors and speaking on podcasts and different programmes, because I get to share my story and help others out in the meantime.

Sarina Langer  04:39

That’s always a really nice thing to do, and I find that social media like Instagram especially is so fantastic for meeting other like-minded writers and authors in your genre, but also in, well, pretty much every genre. So I think… well, I think I’ve seen you around on Instagram a few times, it’s where you’ve reached out to me to be on this podcast, and feel quite honoured that you reached out to me because of how much you’ve already done. I mean, to me, you’re such an inspirational young woman.

Kristina Naydonova  05:07

Thank you. That means so much to me, considering I love your podcast. And it’s so exciting to be here today.

Sarina Langer  05:13

You can’t see it, but I’m blushing. That’s so exciting to hear, thank you. I mean, you must still be going to school alongside as well. How are you juggling all that?

Kristina Naydonova  05:24

So I actually still have virtual school because of the pandemic. It’s definitely been difficult because the teacher, the teachers really just do not give us slack. And they continue to assign just as much homework and classwork as they would during regular school. So it’s been a difficult, so it’s been a bit difficult these past couple months to juggle schoolwork, social life and my book because during the summer, I was free to work as much as I wanted since there wasn’t school. So I would just say I’m trying to practice mindfulness and a healthy balance of all in my life.

Sarina Langer  05:54

That sounds great. I’m actually in a very similar boat there as you. I mean, I, I work in a university library, but I work term-time only, so I get the summers off as well. And possibly but longer than you because University terms are not the same at all as school terms, I fear. So I really get how nice it is to have that summer to just completely focus on your own things.

Kristina Naydonova  06:18

Yes, definitely.

Sarina Langer  06:18

I think it’s so good for mental health as well. But of course, not everyone has that option, so I’m really excited to talk to you a bit about self-care today because honestly, with how this whole year has gone down, I don’t think anyone could have seen that coming, and burnout is always a stressor for authors anyway. Because I think we tend to… I don’t know how you feel, but I always feel like I’m not doing enough, like I need to do more, like I need to write more words or publish more books, so that makes self care so important. So to get to the heart of our episodes, how are you looking after yourself?

Kristina Naydonova  07:03

So I’m trying to look after myself by doing just, you know, like the rudimentary things, getting, getting enough sleep, eating healthy meals, drinking enough water, but I think it also just goes beyond the physical measures, also mental measures. So I try to meditate every day and practice mindfulness, because I understand that, you know, stress can be very overwhelming sometimes. And things such as just sitting down to breathe for just a couple minutes in complete silence can be really, really advantageous.

Sarina Langer  07:32

That’s really great advice. I try to meditate more often these days and to take more time to just reflect on what I’ve done, because it’s- it’s such a good-

Kristina Naydonova  07:42

Yeah, also- I’m sorry. I would say also journaling helps just to journal out all your thoughts and feelings over the day, to get it all out on paper.

Sarina Langer  07:50

It’s funny you should say that, because I have, I have a journal specifically for writing progress. So I think the point of that was to sit down every day after I’ve written to just write down how it’s gone and how I’m feeling about what I’ve written. I’m not gonna lie, I keep forgetting I have the thing.

Kristina Naydonova  08:08

Yeah, yeah. So for journaling, I usually just every single day, at the end of the day, I try to journal my successes of the day, my failures and how I can reflect on them to make tomorrow better.

Sarina Langer  08:20

I think that’s really good advice. Because of course, as writers, we tend to, we tend to write a lot anyway. So I think for us, it’s maybe only natural to start journaling and write down our feelings. And of course, it’s private unlike our books, so no one will ever have to read what you put into that, you can be completely honest with yourself.

Kristina Naydonova  08:40

Yeah, definitely.

Sarina Langer  08:43

Um, if I may ask, what are your hobbies? Do you do anything besides writing something, maybe else that’s also story related? Or do you do anything that’s, that’s got nothing at all to do with books and stories?

Kristina Naydonova  08:56

Yeah, of course. So I’ve always thought that literature, music and art have some sort of a very deep connection between one another, so I actually play the piano regularly, every single day, as well as tennis and sometimes even indulge in painting even though I’m not the best at it. I also like to read.

Sarina Langer  09:14

I always wanted to pick up painting, but I am not very good at that or drawing.

Kristina Naydonova  09:22

But I guess it really depends on the style you practice. For example, for me, abstract art has always been the easiest, but like realistic art has always come very hard for me.

Sarina Langer  09:33

That sounds really fascinating. I mean, I know that art is incredibly good for therapy, but I don’t know, I weirdly always… I’m never sure where to start with painting. How do you… What would you tell me? How should I start if I wanted to paint something with honestly no experience whatsoever?

Kristina Naydonova  09:53

So I would just say harness your creativity into the painting, just I would say sort of painting whatever you want, but there’s just random blobs of colour on a canvas that will at least get your mind going and get you to a spot that will actually, you know, in the end create a substantial painting.

Sarina Langer  10:11

That sounds really interesting. I’m gonna have to try that at some point. When do you… When you paint… Sorry, more about painting. How do you approach it? Do you try… When you sit down to paint, do you try to paint something specific, or are you just seeing where the paintbrush takes you today?

Kristina Naydonova  10:34

I kind of just let my mind carry me away, to be honest, because I guess when I paint or actually think about what I’m painting is a reflection of my mentality and what I’m thinking at the moment. So it helps me understand myself better.

Sarina Langer  10:45

That makes a lot of sense to me, because I, that’s roughly how, how I approach writing, you know- sit down, I try to clear my mind, and I’m just trying to be there with the book. I know roughly where it needs to go, but, you know, I try not to overthink it. So the way you’re approaching painting to me sounds very relatable. But also for something I really struggled with. I always feel like I need to have a goal. But yeah, I will, I will, well, I will try that, and if I paint anything at all that doesn’t burn my eyes too much, I’ll have to send it to you.

Sarina Langer  11:25

So as we’ve already said, this year has been hard, which makes self-care a necessary priority, possibly more important than ever before, certainly in our lives. Do you have any tips for anyone who’s struggling right now or this year in general, or someone who feels like they don’t have the time for self care?

Kristina Naydonova  11:47

So I would say always put self care first if you ever feel if you don’t have the time, because if you feel that way, you’re not doing something correct, because your mental health should be a priority at all times. I actually really look up to Arianna Huffington CEO of Thrive Global Huffington Post, who says that a car cannot run without gas. She’s like, we cannot run without energy. And it’s important that we feel ourselves energy and energy, but also positive energy, because that’s what keeps us going. That’s what’s gonna get us the best results. So as I did say before, it lies in both physical and mental self care, physical in terms of, you know, exercise and getting yourself out in nature to take walks sometimes, eating healthy, drink a lot of water, getting enough sleep, and mental lives in terms of positive affirmations, meditation, maybe just journaling, taking a couple moments just to breathe and reflect on yourself and etc.

Sarina Langer  12:42

I couldn’t agree more with all of that. I started walking more now as a result of me going back to work. I started walking in and walking home, which takes roughly 50 minutes each way. And I can tell if I’ve had a stressful day at work, by the time, by the time I’m home, I’m in a much calmer headspace.

Kristina Naydonova  13:01

Yeah, I definitely agree. Yeah, I try to take walks out in nature at least once every day for at least 15 minutes, because I know how much it helps just stimulate and clear my mind.

Sarina Langer  13:12

God, I’m just so impressed by you. I’m sure you will keep this up very easily anyway cause you’re building those habits now. And I think really, it’s all about habits, isn’t it? Once you’re used to it, it’s much easier. It’s always starting something new that’s difficult.

Kristina Naydonova  13:26

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, I actually read this great book, it’s called Atomic Habits. I’m sure you’ve heard of the, I’m sure you’ve heard of it before. It’s a quite popular book. Yeah, it talks about you, you know, how you start developing habits, your age, and those just stick with you for the rest of your life as long as you uphold the practice of them.

Sarina Langer  13:44

That’s, well, it’s more great advice. I feel like I’m repeating myself now, but you’re full of wisdom. I think there’s this misconception as well about habits is that that you have to be young to start and that once you reach a certain age, it’s impossible for you to learn new things. But I don’t think that’s true.

Kristina Naydonova  14:03

That’s not true.

Sarina Langer  14:04

I mean, for you, you’re at a perfect age anyway to start new habits and really get into the, well, into the habit of them. But I’m 30 now and have… Two or three weeks ago, I started writing every day for just 15 minutes, which to me is a very new thing. And I never thought that would work for me, because 15 minutes is such a tiny amount, but I now feel weird when I don’t do it a day, so I got into that habit quite easily. And I’m getting so much more done. I’m so much more productive.

Kristina Naydonova  14:38

That’s good. It’s really good. Yeah, I would definitely say there is no actual like, you’re too young to start this or you’re too, you know, old to start this because, I mean, frankly, an 88 year old gymnast won a segment of the Olympics one time, and that just goes to show that you’re never too old, never too young to just go after your dreams and start building those hobbies and… I’m sorry, not hobbies but habits and practices.

Sarina Langer  15:03

Very well put, I think, possibly one of the more… well, no, I mean, clearly it works for you, and I think it works for me quite well as well, but I think meditation is a really good way to approach that, because it helps you slow down and gain a bit more perspective. And I know when I meditate first thing in the morning, I’m then in a much calmer headspace for the whole rest of the day and I get more done as a result. But when I first looked into it, I had no idea how to start. What would you recommend for people who might be interested in starting meditation, but like me, also have no idea where to begin?

Kristina Naydonova  15:45

So I would actually say start in the evening, because that’s going to help you improve your sleep, and you will be in a better headspace to do it again in the morning, and so on as repetition cycle. And I actually have a great app recommendation, it’s literally just called Meditate. It’s a great app, it has a lot of cycles for, you know, beginners, intermediate and advanced level meditators to help you get into that practice. So I’d highly recommend that. I used it when I first got into meditation.

Sarina Langer  16:11

Oh, I had an app called Meditate. I wonder if you use the same one?

Kristina Naydonova  16:15

Probably, yeah. But it’s a really great app. It’s helped me a lot.

Sarina Langer  16:18

Well, if that’s the one that I’ve had then I second that, it’s been incredibly helpful. And then, when you meditate, do you, do you use music to help you relax with that? Or do you have a guided meditation? Or do you prefer to just sit there with yourself and a bit of silence?

Kristina Naydonova  16:35

When I began to meditate a couple months ago, when I was first just starting to get into that habit, I used back meditation and like guided meditation. But now that I’ve kind of gotten the hang of how to do it by myself, I prefer to just have white noise. And it really varies for everyone. I know people who, you know, like to put on music on their phone or have a guided meditation, even if they know how to meditate individually. But for me, I just, white noise is the best way for me to actually gain tranquillity while meditating.

Sarina Langer  17:03

That’s a bery good idea. I tend to have, I have an app of various meditation tracks that are just music, there is no talking or any form of guided meditation. And I’m slowly working myself down the list. It’s called… it’s probably again just Meditate, because I feel like a lot of them are quite simply named, aren’t they?

Kristina Naydonova  17:28

Yeah, yeah.

Sarina Langer  17:30

Um, where is it? I could have had this ready. But to be honest, I didn’t think we’d talk so much about meditation. Okay, well, I can’t find it right now, but I’ll be sure to put it in the show notes. And then if you could send me the link to the one that you’ve mentioned as well, then we can get a list of self care tips going in the show notes, which I think would be very helpful.

Kristina Naydonova  17:53

That’d be great.

Sarina Langer  17:55

To wrap up, if you could give people one tip regarding burnout and stress prevention, what would it be?

Kristina Naydonova  18:05

Um, I would say just refer to what I said previously, to always put yourself first. And your body will tell you when you need a break, and it’s important that you listen to your body and to your mind, because it will not deceive you, it will not lie to you. If you need a break, it will make that explicit. You’ll be walking around all day just tired, unmotivated. And that’s when, you know, you have to take a break. And when you’re relaxed and you’re in that state of, you know, just ready to go back into the gist of things, your body will let you know that as well, so just listen to yourself and don’t deny if you really need a break.

Sarina Langer  18:38

That resonates with me a lot, actually. I know… mean by now I’ve burned out two or three times, so I know exactly how I feel when the next burnout is coming, but to start with, I always thought – God, I was so dumb – I always thought I could push myself and just try to work a little bit longer.

Kristina Naydonova  18:57

I thought that too. Yeah.

Sarina Langer  18:59

And you know, it just, it doesn’t work. Because as you’ve just said, your body will tell you when you need to stop.

Kristina Naydonova  19:06

It’s so wrong. I feel like we’re all deceived by this perception that the only way we’ll have success is by working like 12 hours a day without sleep. But that’s just not true. Because our body needs the fuel of positive energy in order to actually function properly.

Sarina Langer  19:21

Absolutely. I couldn’t agree more. And, yeah, thank you so much for coming on here and talking to me about self-care! Thank you very much.

Kristina Naydonova  19:29

Yeah, thank you. It’s been great to talk to you. And I really, really love your questions and how we delved into all these different, you know, like segments of self care.

Sarina Langer  19:38

Thank you so much. I’m glad to hear that. Hopefully, our listeners have enjoyed it too, and I’ve learned a lot. Thank you so much!

Kristina Naydonova  19:45

Thank you so much for listening.

Sarina Langer  19:48

If you enjoyed today’s episode, maybe learn something along the way, hit the subscribe button. You can also connect with me on Twitter @sarina_langer, on Instagram and Facebook @sarinalangerwriter, and of course on my website at Until next time! Bye!

Sign up for my mailing list for updates on my books, excerpts, early cover reveals, and the exclusive freebies Shadow in Ar’Sanciond (the Relics of Ar’Zac prequel novella) and Pashros Kai Zo (a Relics of Ar’Zac short story, which isn’t available anywhere else).

Take me to the Welcome page.

The Writing Sparrow Episode 11: Book Fairs for Authors with Dana Fraedrich

Listen to the Episode:


Sarina Langer 00:08
Hello, and welcome to the Writing Sparrow podcast. I’m Sarina Langer, and this podcast is all about writing, publishing and marketing your book. You can find transcripts on my website at Let’s get started!

Sarina Langer 00:26
Welcome back friends and Sparrows and hello! This is episode number 11, and this is the 16th of November 2020, and I have the wonderful Dana Fraedrich with me, who I’ve been very lucky to meet last year in Winchester before the world went to shit.

Dana Fraedrich 00:47
Thank you very much. I super appreciate you having me here.

Sarina Langer 00:51
Yeah, and I’m really appreciative that we’ve managed to meet up before everything turned a little bit weird.

Dana Fraedrich 01:01
But you know what, one day we’ll be able to meet back up again. So you know, one day we’ll travel again.

Sarina Langer 01:07
It’ll be amazing. What I would like to talk to you about is things like book fairs, because before COVID I swear you were doing a different kind of book fair every weekend. It felt like it to us anyway. Every now and again, when Bev and I met up in Winchester, we were saying, did you see she’s doing another book fair? How does she have the energy? It’s incredible. How many have you done?

Dana Fraedrich 01:33
Oh my goodness. Um, it’s a lot. Um, so I don’t even know how many I’ve done in total, but I do know that I was probably doing somewhere around like 20 or so a year.

Sarina Langer 01:51
That sounds about right.

Dana Fraedrich 01:52
Yeah, it was, it was a lot. Um, so yeah, like, and like, like, we were just saying, like, we will, we will travel again one day, book fairs and cons and things like that will be, will be a thing again, one day, once it’s safe, and all that kind of stuff. So this is going to be good. But yeah, I will say they are very labour intensive as far as… physically, emotionally, mentally. I personally really love it. But I’m very much a people person. I really like love talking to people. And I really enjoy being physical and getting out there and all that kind of stuff. So I always caution people if they’re thinking about doing anything like this to really consider like how much like mental and physical bandwidth they have, and emotional as well.

Dana Fraedrich 02:44
As far as like… okay, you’re in there, you are probably going to be working for like 10 to 12 hours a day from like set-up to tear-down and then all the talking in between. So I, yeah, like I said, I definitely recommend people really think about this before they try to jump in. But if you, if you are that kind of personality, it’s great.

Sarina Langer 03:04
Yeah, well, I am more of an introvert, and I found it very stressful. But I didn’t, I’ve only done the one. I have nothing like your very extensive experience. And it was a slightly strange experience for me because, well, it… The way it was advertised was that it was a family friendly thing with all kinds of genres welcome. So I thought great, I’ll do my first one, it’s kind of just down the road for me in Brighton. I’ll go do that. And my, my parents were there, they had flown in for it, and my partner came with me, and we all drove down there together. And they were able to have a look around the entire hall long before I did because I was just setting up and just trying to people in an adult way. And they came back around to my table after having a look around and my partner looks at me and just goes, did you know it’s all porn?

Sarina Langer 04:01
And I said, no, I was, no, I, no, this is interesting, no one told me that.

Dana Fraedrich 04:07
Yeah, erotica is a very popular genre. And a lot of like romance writers and erotica writers and things like that, these sort of events are really great places for them. And there’s a lot of really great networking and stuff. And a lot of them are family friendly. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that the books are family friendly. And that’s always something to think about and, like, kind of look into when you are preparing is look at the other authors attending, usually on the websites that are promoting this event, they’ll have a list of attending authors. And then you can go to their website and see kind of the, the various genres that are around, and this is something I learned the hard way.

Dana Fraedrich 04:48
Not all events are going to work for your book. So for those out there who don’t know, I write steampunk, and while there is usually like a romantic thread in the background, they’re not romance per se. And I’ve done some cons that were like, pretty firmly romance genre, and I didn’t do very well there. So that’s always a good thing, to do that research beforehand.

Sarina Langer 05:13
Yeah, no, I agree. That’s something I didn’t do. I was just really lucky that I got in, I think. One of our mutual friends, Grace, she said she was going to go originally, and then she had to cancel it. So she said to me, would you like my spot? So I was like, Yes, Yes, please.

Dana Fraedrich 05:30
That’s so cool!

Sarina Langer 05:31
I’m gonna have so much fun. I’m gonna be doing this. It’s gonna be great. And, um, I didn’t really look into it beyond that, because I figured if she would have done it, our books aren’t that different. I mean, she wrote more, you know, urban fantasy, so you know mine is more epic fantasy, but it’s still fantasy. So I figured it’d be fine. But I could definitely tell on the day that most of the readers who were there, they, they were there for the erotica. I think I, I had a few readers who came up to the table and just said, Does your book have any sex in it? And I said, No, not really. And they said, okay bye, I’m gonna, I’m gonna go over to the corsets and the penis-shaped biscuits.

Dana Fraedrich 06:15
Yeah, and that is, that is always um… That can be really disappointing. One thing I found, or rather something else I always tell people, is like, be prepared for disappointment, because there are going to be people who are not interested in your books for any number of reasons. Or if they are interested in hearing about them, then they hear the pitch and they’re like, no, I’m good. thanks anyway, bye. And that, that sucks. Like, that’s really disappointing. So it’s like I said, it’s very mentally and emotionally draining, especially when you have something like that going on. But honestly, it’s just, it’s kind of part of it. That’s just going to be your experience sometimes. And then there’s going to be events that are fantastic. I really always recommend, like, trying to find your niche. Sometimes that requires going to the event, especially if it’s like far away, but if you, if it’s like a local event, you can always kind of go one year beforehand and kind of check it out. That’s what I did with our local book festival. It’s called the Southern Festival of Books here in Nashville. And like, I went with a friend of mine, it’s actually my best friend, Sally, who you know,

Sarina Langer 07:26
Yeah, I’ve met her, she’s lovely. Hi, Sally.

Dana Fraedrich 07:31
You know what I’m going to, I’m going to make sure to send this to her. But she happened to be over during that, that week. So she and I went to the Southern Festival of Books together, had a wander, kind of got to like, see everything. And that was really, really helpful, because then I knew what to expect. And that was one of the bigger ones I do. It’s like, three days long, you have like, your own tent and whatnot, it was really cool, but it’s also outside, which has its own challenges. And, you know, it’s rained every year that I’ve done it, so you kind of have to be prepared for weather.

Sarina Langer 08:04
Lots of mud!

Dana Fraedrich 08:06
Yeah. So… and honestly, I live and die by my checklist. Um, you and I are both very similar really personality in that, like, we like our lists, we like our, all of our planning and stuff

Sarina Langer 08:18
And it needs to be colour-coded, thank you.

Dana Fraedrich 08:21
There you go. Exactly. I have, I have rainbow colours in my planner. It’s not, it’s not quite as pretty as your washi tape, but still.

Sarina Langer 08:30
What I found really surprising when I went to my one book fair, which in hindsight I really should have researched more – hindsight is a beautiful thing – is that so many of the readers… it’s almost like they kind of go on tour with them. So they kind of start at the top of the country, and then they go to all of the book fairs until they’ve made their way down. So they obviously, they have a certain budget, and they only have so much space in their cars and in the suitcases. So you need to consider that people don’t necessarily not buy your book because they’re not interested, it’s just that they do not have any more room. But I think a lot of them end up taking a note of authors. And also, you might end up creating a lot of merch for it like bookmarks, for example, or totebags or maps, and you might think that maybe you can make a tiny bit of money that way. People are just gonna take them off your table. These are not things that you’re going to be selling, they just expect them to be freebies.

Dana Fraedrich 09:28
Yeah. And any kind of like, uh, like swag like that, that you have, if you are going to give it away for free, I would always recommend things like bookmarks, paper products, stuff like that, because it, it can get very expensive very quickly to be like having all this cool swag and then giving it away for free. But one thing you can do with that is you can basically use them as like marketing. So you can have like, you can print a QR code for free from Google, and I actually print them on like little paper labels, and I stick them on my bookmarks for whatever it is I’m trying to promote at that time. So like, for instance, you mentioned the issue with people having space in their suitcases and stuff, and I know you’ve got an audiobook, you’ve got all your books in e-format and stuff, same here. So like, you can direct people with that QR code to either your Amazon site or a different place. So then I’ll be like, oh, it’s available in ebook, and it’s available in audio, and then you know, that’s not space that they have to take up in their suitcases or else.

Sarina Langer 10:31
That is so clever. I had never even considered that. This is why you’re clearly the professional and I am the very, very green newbie. The weird thing is, I remember when I was there, there was, there were two guys sitting opposite us. There was so many people in Brighton who’d come over from America.

Dana Fraedrich 10:49
Oh, wow.

Sarina Langer 10:49
Authors who must have, well, who clearly carried all of their books across the world, hoping to get rid of them in Brighton, so that, that was so amazing to me, because I was just glad that I could go somewhere so close to me. And they had literally travelled across the world just to be there. And I made, I was complaining because Manchester is too far away from my home, but one of them said to me, oh, I can’t believe this is your first one, you look like you really know what you’re doing. But actually, you know what? I think it must have been obvious that I had no idea. She was being nice to me.

Dana Fraedrich 11:28
I bet that you, you know, because we were talking earlier about this whole like professional voice thing. You know, the kind of like fake it till you make it. So even if you don’t know what you’re doing, like, if you kind of give that presence of like, yeah, no, I’m good, I know what I’m doing, it’s cool.

Sarina Langer 11:43
Yeah, just pretend. They don’t know.

Dana Fraedrich 11:45
Exactly, yeah, no, this is just your normal style, it’s cool.

Sarina Langer 11:49
We’re always this calm and confident. We totally know what we’re doing. I have a podcast now, don’t I? I must know what I’m doing.

Dana Fraedrich 11:57
Only professional people have podcasts!

Sarina Langer 11:59
Well, absolutely.

Dana Fraedrich 12:03
Um, but yeah, and then one thing I do want to make sure to mention, so you don’t forget is I have, as you know, a blog with helpful tips and things like that. And on there, I have a couple of different blog entries about doing shows, and I have a lot of information packed into those. So this, if this is something that people are interested in, I recommend going and looking those up. You can just go to my website, which is, and type in like live shows or anything like that. And those blog entries will come up from the search bar. And like I said, those are, those are really helpful. I packed a lot of information in about, like, display, because you want your space to look inviting. I talked about sales, I talked about marketing, I talked about… I’m trying to think what else… kind of like dealing with things like weather and networking and all that kind of stuff.

Sarina Langer 12:58
Well, I know from personal experience that your blog is incredibly helpful, I got so much out of it when I was first looking into how to do an audiobook. So I can only second that. And we will definitely be linking to your site in the shownotes as well, so you don’t have to go hunt it down. You can just click on a link and there it is. It’ll be nice and easy.

Dana Fraedrich 13:17
Yeah, that’s awesome. Thank you. And yeah, and shows are also a really great way to meet other authors. Author communities are, as you know, I know you know, so important and so encouraging to have because sometimes, you know, you get those feelings of like, I am the only one feeling this, I am the only one going through this. And it is in a way yay that it’s not true, but also in a way boo, it’s not true, because I hate that more of us are going through these sort of things.

Sarina Langer 13:45
We’ve picked a difficult industry, haven’t we? But also, let’s be honest, we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Dana Fraedrich 13:52
Exactly. Yeah. We can’t help living the author life. It’s true.

Sarina Langer 13:56
It’s chosen us. Yeah.

Dana Fraedrich 13:58
Yeah. But honestly, I’ve met some of some really great author friends through these events and stuff like that. My, my, honestly my biggest tip is just like to be friendly and be nice. You’re not going to get along with everyone at author events. I’ve also had a couple of situations where I was like, please get out of my space right now. But of course you can’t say that. So yeah, always be nice. Always be friendly. And you can meet some really cool people doing that.

Sarina Langer 14:25
I feel like that’s very good life advice in general. So one thing that, one thing I wasn’t really sure about when I was preparing for my first and so far only event was, how many books should I take with me? Because I had no idea like, is this, is 10 books a lot or is that way too many? What should I expect? How many books should a new author take with them to an event like that?

Dana Fraedrich 14:50
That is such a good question. And firstly, of course, this is totally dependent on your budget. Some people might only be able to afford to bring, you know, 10 or 15 or 20 books. It gets expensive fast, it gets really heavy fast, because books are very heavy. But I will say like no matter what your budget is, always bring probably twice as many of the first in your series if you do have a series, then the second and the third. I always sell way more copies of Out of the Shadows than any other, who starts the first in the series.

Sarina Langer 15:29
That’s very good advice, thank you. I just had another question I don’t know… ah no, I know. So you’ve probably done both of those things by now given your very extensive experience, but normally… Oh, hello! Sorry, I’ve just spotted a dog in the background. Hello. Oh, he’s adorable.

Dana Fraedrich 15:49
Bruin was hanging out with us. Hey baby!

Sarina Langer 15:51
I’m a bit disappointed because I promised that my cat would probably say hello sooner or later and so far I haven’t heard a single meow from her while I was recording, but I’ve seen your dog now. She’s extremely shy. Anyway, back to the question, back to, back to the point we’re here. So quite often, when you book one of these events, you get the choice between either booking half a table and sharing it with another author, or booking a whole table. I’m sure you’ve probably done both of those options by now, so what would you say are your pros and cons for both, and which one would you recommend if you have a favourite?

Dana Fraedrich 16:27
Well, again, a lot of this is going to be very budget dependent. Of course, budget is a huge part of book shows and travel and all that kind of stuff. So I personally like having a whole table, but I have a lot of stuff. Not only do I sell books, but I sell crocheted kind of things, dice bags, things like that. I sell– I’ve made handmade candles and I sell those. So I need a lot of space generally. But if you are doing a half table, that’s also really cool, and that can work really well in conjunction. So basically, if you’re going to do a half table, doing it with someone you know and have good communication with is always really helpful. For instance, I table-shared with an author by the name of Jeffrey Mandragora a couple years ago, and he also writes steampunk. But I always want to caution people that like, firstly, other authors are not your competition. And having that kind of vibe is really toxic. If authors are competing against each other, it gets ugly really fast, which is why I mentioned communication being key. But Jeffrey is really great. So like I said, he also writes steampunk, but he writes more like espionage and thriller kind of stuff. And my stuff is more, it’s young adult, and it’s a little bit more mystery, it’s a little bit more whimsical. And so what we would do is when someone would come over to our table, we would ask them, you know, what do you like to read? And if they were like, a financial thriller, I would be like, Jeffrey here has stuff for you. And then likewise, if they really liked YA, then he would point them to me. So yeah, like we were able to work in conjunction that weekend, and it was really great. So yeah, like I said, if you know the other author and can communicate well with them, that’s really, really helpful and, you know, help each other out, like, find out what, what readers want. I’ve been in situations where like, there was a whole table of us, I think there were like five or six of us, and again, same kind of thing. Like when we worked in conjunction with each other, it was awesome. You know, same kind of question, what do you like to read? Because, yes, I understand, we all want to like sell our book to every single person who comes along, but not every book is the right fit for every reader, and I’m a big advocate of getting the right book into the right reader’s hands. And so like I said, finding out what they like, engaging with them to really connect and build a, like, a little bit of a relationship during that short time that they’re there at your table is really, really, really helpful. And that, that way they can connect with you as the author as well. Like, you’re not just a salesperson, like you are representing yourself in that situation.

Sarina Langer 19:24
And I think what you’ve touched on there is really important, it’s that you will be talking to a lot of people and just one day on both events. But just as on social media, you’re not going to sell any books if you just say hi, this is my book, please buy it. Not interested? Please move on. That’s not gonna work. So you, you know, as you said you’re there to represent not just the book but also yourself. So making that connection is really important, but I think it’s also quite hard on those during these events because readers kind of really just want to move on and see what, what the next author is selling and what kind of cool freebies they have. I mean, we had people who I think they had made chocolates, handmade chocolates on their table. I mean, I had nothing like that. What really surprised me was that one of the first people who ever came up to my little table, I think she just came up to me and just expected to be able to take a picture with me for her scrapbook. Because a lot of readers who go to these things, at least in my tiny experience for whatever that’s worth, is they have scrapbooks of the events. So they will get every author to sign and have some goodies in there as a memory, which is a lovely idea. But that’s, that was something that I had no idea was a thing. So that was quite interesting. So they really just came up to me just like, can we just take a picture together? It’s like, Oh! Does this mean I’m famous now? Yes, we can take a picture together! Please, please.

Dana Fraedrich 20:50
You are famous. But ya know, a lot of, a lot of events and stuff like that, like they, it’s got a very friendly kind of vibe. We’re like, hey, we’re all friends here. We’re all hanging out together. It’s all very casual kind of thing.

Sarina Langer 21:04
I think the lovely thing about the bookworm community in general is that it’s, you know, as you know, it’s such a warm,

Bruin, Dana’s dog 21:11

Sarina Langer 21:11
… welcoming– Oh hello!

Dana Fraedrich 21:14
Yeah, give me just a second. I know, you’re gonna have to edit this. I apologise. I will get Bruin of my room.

Sarina Langer 21:20
Not at all! Nope, this is staying in. You cannot see this, but Dana has the fluffiest, most excited dog. Oh, he’s just dancing on the bed, he’s so cute.

Dana Fraedrich 21:33
He will probably make a noise again, and I apologise for that. I tried, I tried stuffing him into the bedroom with my husband this morning. My husband’s still sleeping. It’s early for us here. And that didn’t work, he started barking in there. So I apologise.

Sarina Langer 21:47
I think many readers and authors are also animal people, really, so I don’t think anyone will be insulted that we’ve just heard your lovely dog. But I’ve kind of completely forgotten what I was going to ask

Dana Fraedrich 21:59
You, you were talking about how the bookworm community is really tight knit, we’re all really friendly.

Sarina Langer 22:05
Yes. And I think those kinds of events also reflect that. So I, you know, even though I didn’t write porn, and maybe therefore didn’t fit in on the day, I still felt like, you know, I didn’t, I wasn’t made to feel like I shouldn’t have been there. You know, all the readers were still very friendly. And there were so many who came up to my little table and just said, hi, how are you doing? What’s the book about? Can I just quickly look inside it, can I just have a look at the first page? Your cover is great. Can I take a bookmark, please?

Dana Fraedrich 22:34
Hmm. Yeah. And I mean, and sometimes that is just going to be part of the learning process and figuring out like, which events are the right fit for your books and you as an author, but I love, I love that even though like your your genre didn’t match the genre that was predominantly represented at that event, like you still felt like, you weren’t being like shunned or anything.

Sarina Langer 22:58
No. And I should say that I did sell some books. So even though I think most readers were definitely there for the erotica, there were also some readers there who didn’t mind maybe reading something else, and maybe who was specifically looking for other things. I wasn’t the only author there who wasn’t writing erotica. There were a few others. Just not most of us. So I found one– No, you go.

Dana Fraedrich 23:22
No, you go ahead.

Sarina Langer 23:23
Okay. So I think one thing maybe that’s worth considering before you go to the event yourself is how you’re going to decorate your table. Because they don’t really give you anything at all in that regard. They literally just give you a table with white cloth and say this is your space, make it your own. Go.

Dana Fraedrich 23:43
Pretty much, yeah.

Sarina Langer 23:44
Do you have any tips for decorating it?

Dana Fraedrich 23:47
Absolutely. So I, this is something I love, I’m not actually that good at it. To be honest, a lot of my table setup has come from my older sister and my husband, who they’re both just better with like arranging space than I am. I am not very talented with the whole like spatial dimension stuff. So yeah, but you know, and I do want to, I do want to warn people, this is going to be a learning process. This is going to be an evolution. My table setup has changed a lot. And as you add more books or other products, it’s going to change again and again and again. So be patient with yourself. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different things. You might have to put items in different places to catch people’s eye more. It’s a learning process, but I always try to do a couple of different things with my table setup.

Dana Fraedrich 24:40
Number one, I try to make it inviting. It’s just, it’s just nice. I want to create a little bit like a warm space, so I have some fairy lights and stuff that I string up and they’re just pretty. I also try to have my, my table do double duty, just like with our words and our books, like we’re trying to give our words a lot of different jobs. So my table or my table decorations, rather, they tend to also communicate that I write steampunk. So like I… This is like two days of my life that was totally worth it, but I’m not getting it back. So I like stamped gear shape since I write steampunk over my big white tablecloth and it like I said, it took me like two days to do, but it looks really, really good. So like white tablecloth, gold gears are just all over this thing. And that, you know, it’s kind of just a quick indicator to people, oh, steampunk gears! Because people who know the steampunk genre know that gears are kind of, you know, the symbol of that. Just like with dark fantasy or like if you have vampires like fangs might be a thing. Or I’m trying to think of another example. Oh, obviously romance, you might have hearts.

Sarina Langer 25:52
And that’s, that’s very good advice. Thank you. What kind, like in your experience, what kind of merchandise and freebies do you think readers most likely to be interested in on those events? Obviously, for your genre, there’s going to be some things that maybe a horror writer wouldn’t really be able to include so much. But is there anything maybe a bit more generic that you would recommend people definitely pack for the day?

Dana Fraedrich 26:19
I find bookmarks really helpful. I printed bookmarks, uh, I had business cards printed for myself. Nobody cared about my business cards, everyone wanted the bookmarks. So I think those are great. And for whatever reason, bookmarks just disappear. Readers always need more of them. So I always recommend those. Generally, anything like I said that you’re going to give away for free, they, they shouldn’t cost you a lot of money. Because that’s, that’s an investment on your part. And things like bookmarks are probably going to get you the biggest return on that investment.

Sarina Langer 26:55
Bookmarks are so handy to use as well, because obviously they might actually buy your book, and then they can also put your bookmark in there. But even if they don’t buy your book, they still have the free bookmark. So if they like the design of that, and then they keep end up using that a lot then they will still see all your information on there. Maybe one day they’ll go, maybe I should check out this lovely lady called Dana, see what she’s writing because the bookmark was pretty, I thought I remember meeting her once.

Dana Fraedrich 27:20
Hmm, yeah. Um, so yeah, and definitely when you, when you do give away free stuff, make sure it has the information on it that you want people to see, like, don’t trust that, oh, maybe they’ll like go to my website and see my name or see my books or something. Like, in some cases, you’re only going to have one shot at, like, maybe getting that person’s attention. So like I said, I think the path of least resistance was probably your best bet. So like, put your name on there. Do, like, a picture of your books or something like that on there or a tagline for like what your books are about. And this is, this is honestly one of the hardest parts, I think, is figuring out a quick pitch or tagline for your book. Like this is why there are professional marketers of which I am not one of them.

Sarina Langer 28:10
And yet you’re doing so well.

Dana Fraedrich 28:12
Well, it’s been a long road.

Sarina Langer 28:16
Just goes to show what perseverance really can do for you in this business. Because there’s a lot of that, isn’t there?

Dana Fraedrich 28:23
There’s like so much perseverance.

Sarina Langer 28:25
I think we’ve talked about this ahead of time, this may go horribly wrong. I apologise if it does. Do you have an action step prepared for our listeners today?

Dana Fraedrich 28:36
I do. Yes. Okay. So basically, um, I know right now with COVID these live events are just kind of out, unfortunately. But like I said, they will be back one day

Sarina Langer 28:48
They’ll be back.

Dana Fraedrich 28:50
Exactly. But so what I recommend is taking this time that we have now to do a little bit of research. Google events in your area, whether it’s book fairs, like I said, our big one here in Nashville is the Southern Festival of Books, like that’s our statewide book fair. And those sort of events are fantastic. So Google what your state book fairs are or your county book fair, I don’t really know how it works there in England.

Sarina Langer 29:13
We certainly don’t have anywhere near as much choice as you guys have. But then we’re a much smaller place. Now I know there is this massive book fair, that’s happening every year in London. I’m sure if you are from Britain listening to this right now you know this. And you know the one that I did, that was in Brighton, but that’s in a different city every year. So it’s worth looking into that.

Dana Fraedrich 29:33
Yeah. So and it may not be a book fair, it might be for instance, I do a lot of comic conventions as well. So there might be a comic convention that happens near you. So like I said, take advantage of this time that you have right now and do some research on the events that are near you, like about what time of the year they occur because you’re wanting to, you’re going to want to do some planning, and maybe make plans for next year like if they have their dates to figure out, okay, which, which event do I want to go visit first? Like I said, I visited this other festival of books before I actually was a vendor there, and it was a very educational experience. So maybe make plans and you know, start thinking about events that you’d want to go check out as possible sites for you to try and sell your stuff and see what, what vendors are there, see what people are selling at those events. And again, that’ll be a really good indicator for if that event might be a good fit for your books, or whatever it is that you’re selling.

Sarina Langer 30:33
I would add to that as well that, if you are thinking about joining one yourself as an author, try to book it early. Because in my experience, they get booked, they get booked up very fast. And you might get in, I mean, you might not get in right away, but you might still get on the waiting list, which you might think probably means that you won’t be able to participate. But actually, for many different reasons, lots of authors might end up dropping out. And then you might, you know, still get in after all. So it’s worth letting them put you on the waiting list, even if you can’t get in right away. But just see if you can maybe get in there right away. Maybe you can set up a notification or something that alerts you when one that you really want to be part of is looking for authors again.

Dana Fraedrich 31:16
Yeah, and I actually, that’s, that’s a great tip, because that is something I do when I want to apply for an event. But maybe applications aren’t open yet. I’ll put a calendar reminder in for either to check on it if there’s no date for when applications are going to open, or if there is a date, then putting that into your calendar, like apply today or whatever. I’ve actually got something like that for Worldcon which you may have, may or may not have heard of. It happens in like a different place somewhere in the world every year, and next year it is near where I grew up in Washington, DC. So–

Sarina Langer 31:54
Oh, wow. How nostalgic for you!

Dana Fraedrich 31:57
Well, we’ll see what happens.

Sarina Langer 32:00
Thank you very much. I think if we leave it on that, that’s a really good spot to finish on I think. Thank you very much for sharing your wisdom with us, Dana. And thank you so much for being here with me.

Dana Fraedrich 32:11
Absolutely thrilled, and Bruin is saying goodbye to all you good people, so say goodbye to Bruin.

Sarina Langer 32:16

Dana Fraedrich 32:18

Sarina Langer 32:23
If you enjoyed today’s episode, maybe learn something along the way, hit the subscribe button. You can also connect with me on Twitter @sarina_langer, on Instagram and Facebook @sarinalangerwriter, and of course on my website at Until next time! Bye!

Sign up for my mailing list for updates on my books, excerpts, early cover reveals, and the exclusive freebies Shadow in Ar’Sanciond (the Relics of Ar’Zac prequel novella) and Pashros Kai Zo (a Relics of Ar’Zac short story, which isn’t available anywhere else).

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November Progress 2020 | Unexpected NaNoWriMo SUCCESS and a Finished Duology

Happy almost-December, friends!

November has been BUSY! I have owned NaNoWriMo, I have published a book, and I feel like plenty of other things must have happened, too, because I’m tired. NaNo always takes it out of me, but I can’t imagine not doing it.

Here are the specifics:


I’m 4k away from winning, and honestly? I can’t believe I’m going to make it! I was so sure I had no chance of reaching 50k this month since I had to juggle NaNo around working at the library, but I did it.

(Or nearly, anyway)

And I couldn’t be prouder of myself <3

Most of those 50,000 words have gone into Blood Song. There’ve been a few developments I did not see coming, so it’s been an exciting discovery journey.

Some of these words went into two separate short stories, one I wrote just because and one I wrote for the collection that will one day accompany the Darkened Light duology.

So, all in all, November was a massive success *high five* I had to set some other things aside (like regular blogging – the podcast transcripts are also available via Buzzsprout and I only read one book this month, so my mini review would have been somewhat bare), and while I don’t want to make excuses, here’s an explanation if you’d care for it:

I have extreme tunnel vision during NaNo *shrugs*

Brightened Shadows


*applauds self*

I’m still waiting on the paperback proof (I’ve had one but it wasn’t right), but it’s nearly there *knocks on wood* *throws salt over shoulder* *crosses fingers*

Despite that delay, the launch was my most successful one to date. Thank you so much to everyone who pre-ordered and bought on the day! Hopefully, this is a sign of things to come in the duology’s future.

These few points may not look like much, but I’m knackered. I’m planning on finishing NaNo either today or tomorrow, and then I’m hoping to sleep the rest of the weekend.

Until next time <3

Sign up for my mailing list for updates on my books, excerpts, early cover reveals, and the exclusive freebies Shadow in Ar’Sanciond (the Relics of Ar’Zac prequel novella) and Pashros Kai Zo (a Relics of Ar’Zac short story, which isn’t available anywhere else).

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Happy release day, Brightened Shadows!

My youngest is out in the world!

*throws confetti*

Today is the day: Brightened Shadows is out, and I couldn’t be happier <3 It’s had the largest number of pre-orders out of all my books, which bodes well for its future.

The price is in the process of going up to $2.99, but if you’re quick, you might be able to still get it for 99p 😉

Just like Darkened LightBrightened Shadows will also be available on Kindle Unlimited. Unfortunately, there’s been a delay with the paperback, but such is life. 

Thank you SO MUCH if you were amongst those who pre-ordered. Seeing the numbers go up higher than my previous books has made my month <3 And if you didn’t pre-order but would like to support me on release day:

Buy Brightened Shadows

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll go eat my weight in chocolate and gingerbread 😉

Sign up for my mailing list for updates on my books, excerpts, early cover reveals, and the exclusive freebies Shadow in Ar’Sanciond (the Relics of Ar’Zac prequel novella) and Pashros Kai Zo (a Relics of Ar’Zac short story, which isn’t available anywhere else).

Take me to the Welcome page.