The Reading Sparrow Episode 7 | Release Day: Summer’s Revenge by Emma K.C. Couette

HAPPY RELEASE DAY, Emma and Summer’s Revenge! *throws confetti*

Summer’s Revenge is Emma’s third book and the first book in her new trilogy, The Fidalian Chronicles.

You can connect with her on Instagram and her website. You can buy it via her website, too!

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Support this podcast on Patreon.

For more from my podcast, browse the category right here on this website or listen with your favourite provider.

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 45| Creating and Selling Your Own Bookish Merchandise with Dana Fraedrich (+ GIVEAWAY)

Dana Fraedrich is back this week to talk us through how to create our own bookish merchandise, how to price it and where to sell it, and how to figure out what merch is right for your book. Oh, and we’re holding this podcast’s first ever giveaway 😉

To take part in our giveaway, simply share this episode on social media and tag both of us so we know you’re taking part – our handles are below. The final day to enter is July 25th 2021, and we’ll pick a winner on the 26th. You can win lots of cool stuff like signed paperbacks, a candle (from Dana’s merch!), and a tote bag (from my merch!), so share away and enter *high five*

To find out more about Dana, check out her website find her or Twitter , or follow her on Instagram.

And so you can easily tag me, too, this is me on Twitter and on Instagram.

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Support this podcast on Patreon.

For more from my podcast, browse the category right here on this website or listen with your favourite provider.

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 44 | Writing Routines: Beverley Lee

Once a month, I talk to another writer about their writing routine. We answer questions such as Are you a plotter, pantser, or somewhere in between? ,  Do you write every day? ,  Where does your inspiration come from?,  What’s your beverage of choice?, and many more! At the end of each episode, the writers recommend their favourite book on writing and share their advice for establishing the right writing routine for you.

This month, I talked to Beverley Lee, a horror author from England.

Her book recommendations are On Writing by Stephen King and Writing in the Dark by Tim Waggoner. Don’t forget to check out the all-new library on my website for all book recommendations from these routine chats!

To find out more about Beverley, check out her Instagramher Twitter, and her website.

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Support this podcast on Patreon.

For more from my podcast, browse the category right here on this website or listen with your favourite provider.

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 43 | Holding One Another Accountable: Sarina’s July-September 2021 Goals

As requested in my reader group on Facebook, I will be sharing quarterly writing updates and goals. If that’s not why you’re here, don’t worry – it’ll only happen four times a year. Hopefully, my process, goals, and achieved deadlines (as well as surprise challenges) will be interesting for you whether you’re here as a writer or as one of my readers!
 
Listen to find out what I’m working on, what progress I’ve made on my WIPs, and what I’m planning next. I’ll also talk about what’s coming up on my podcasts.
 
And if you’d like to share your goals with me, too, go right ahead! Let’s hold one another accountable *high five*

What happened to the podcast transcripts? Listen to find out.

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Support this podcast on Patreon.

For more from my podcast, browse the category right here on this website or listen with your favourite provider.

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 42 | Pen Names with T.L. Clark

For this week’s episode I had a chat with author T.L. Clark about pen names! We discussed what authors need to know when considering using a pen name, the legal side,  how to choose the right name for you, and more.

To find out more about T.L. Clark, you can find her on Instagram, her author page on FacebookTwitter, and her website.

Listen to the Episode


Support this podcast on Patreon.

For more from my podcast, browse the category right here on this website or listen with your favourite provider.

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 Reading Sparrow Episode 5 | Reading Nook: Jess

This month I discuss current and next reads with Jess. The books we talk about include A Curse of Roses by Diana Pinguicha, the Dark Hunter series by Sherrilyn Kenyon, Feather by Olivia Wildenstein, The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta, Livingston Girls by Briana Morgan, and more!

We’re also celebrating Pride Month in this episode by recommending our favourite LGBTQ+ books!

Listen to the Episode


Support this podcast on Patreon.

For more from my podcast, browse the category right here on this website or listen with your favourite provider.

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 Reading Sparrow Episode 4 | Release Day: Sacred by M.C. Beeler

HAPPY RELEASE DAY, M.C. Beeler and Sacred! *throws confetti*

Maggie has been working on Sacred for NINE years, and today’s the big day she more than deserves!

To celebrate with Maggie, check out her books or browse her website. You can also  follow her on Instagram.

Buy Sacred.
Sign up for her mailing list and get her novella for free
 (or buy it here).

Listen to the Podcast


Support this podcast on Patreon.

For more from my podcast, browse the category right here on this website or listen with your favourite provider.

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 41 | TikTok for Authors with G.R. Thomas

For this week’s episode, I had a chat with G.R. Thomas about how authors can use TikTok to reach new readers and sell more books.

You can find out more about Grace on her websitefind her on Instagram, or follow her on TikTok.

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Read the Transcript

[The Writing Sparrow theme]

Sarina: 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 sarinalanger.com. Let’s get started.

[music]

Sarina: Good morning and welcome back friends and sparrows. It’s the 21st of June 2021. This is Episode 41. Today, I’m talking to GR Thomas about TikTok and what it can do for authors. Welcome back, Grace.

Grace: Thanks, Sarina. Great to talk to you again.

Sarina: Always nice to see you. I’m quite curious about this, because everyone’s heard about TikTok, but I feel it’s probably too young for me. [laughs] But, yeah, we’ll see. [00:01:00] I feel it’s maybe not quite the right choice for me, but I’m really excited to see what you’ve got to say about it. We’ve got quite a few questions come in on social media as well, so we’ll get to those too. Yeah, very excited. Let’s dive straight in.

As I said, probably everyone knows of TikTok at this point. It’s somewhat blown up, but for those more technologically challenged among us, like me, could you explain what TikTok is and how you use it?

Grace: Okay, I am a technologically challenged human being and me simply being on TikTok is quite an anomaly. But basically, TikTok is a short video-sharing social media platform. The way it works is advertising is it’s driving force. When you put up a video, [00:02:00] the longer someone watches your video, the more likely your content, whatever that might be, is pushed along by the TikTok algorithms, and that helps you be seen. It’s a platform that has a lot of really interesting stuff, a lot of weird stuff, a lot of stupid stuff. But what I’ve discovered, it has a massive book community. Huge, very untapped.

Sarina: All right, okay, that was going to be one of my questions later on, so we can come back to that. That’s good to hear. So, how long have you been on TikTok now?

Grace: I think it’s around six weeks. That said though, I did look at it a couple of times in the past, and I found it a little overwhelming. I didn’t understand it, and I thought, “I’m an old bag. I don’t know what they’re doing. What are they talking about? I’m not getting on there and doing weird dances and strange things.” [00:03:00] I just didn’t understand it, so I looked away from it. It was only when I kept hearing it pop up in social media chatter that it was a really great platform for authors and readers, I went back and had a look, and I thought, “Oh, well, I’ll just give it a go.”

Sarina: Well, good on you. See, this is where I’m with it. It seems a very strange place. It seems very weird, and I feel like I’m way too old to be on that. I’m only 31, so. [chuckles]

Grace: Well, if I’m on there, you can most definitely be on there. There are people on there who are much, much, much, much, much older than me. There are people who are clearly obviously, much younger than me. But what I think the misunderstanding is, it’s actually not just a young person, teenagers’ platform. There is a lot of business on there. All kinds of businesses, a lot of informative tools [00:04:00] and accounts on there for all kinds of interests. So, it’s not just about teenagers doing stupid, crazy stunts. It’s actually got a much more vast content in there once you get looking around.

Sarina: Okay. Well, that’s news to me, but obviously I haven’t really been on it at all. I’ve tried to stay away from it partially because I’m already so overwhelmed with the few social media sites that I do have that I’m not sure that adding yet another one is the right choice. But I keep swerving between it sounding and looking really fun and very exciting and it just looking like way too much for me. [laughs]

Grace: No, it is fun. I found that it was fun pretty quickly, but it is time consuming. It’s very addictive, very addictive, and it does require you to post very regularly. The positive for me is, [00:05:00] as you know we’ve met through the Instagram community, I can actually share my TikToks onto Instagram and sort of meld those two together, which keeps me connected to that social media. So, at the moment, they’re my two platforms that I just put my time into.

Sarina: Okay, so you can cross post directly from TikTok to Instagram.

Grace: Yeah.

Sarina: Okay, well, I can see how that would make it easier. So, you can kind of post–

Grace: You can share it on Twitter as well. I sometimes share the posts to Twitter as well.

Sarina: Okay, well, that would save quite a bit of time, I imagine. There’s something just now that you’ve mentioned, that brings me to my next question, which is about having to post quite regularly, and you’ve mentioned something earlier as well about how the longer people watch your Toks– [laughs] I don’t know, the more the more pleased the algorithm is with you. I’ve heard from a few [00:06:00] author friends that TikTok has been quite detrimental for their mental health. I was wondering what your experience with this has been. Does it feel more stressful than, say, Instagram?

Grace: I don’t find Instagram stressful at all. Instagram’s always been a really friendly, positive place for me. TikTok, now, at the minute, I find it fun. But, yes, there is that urge that you must post. I usually put three or four videos a day, and I have to think about content that might be of interest, because the whole idea is to get noticed. The only reason I’ve actually stuck with it, Sarina, is because the reaction, the interaction has been enormous. I get almost instant reactions, I’ve had an uptick in sales, that was unexpected. I’ve already had someone [00:07:00] review my book on their account, they’re massive into paperback books. Paperback books is the jam. People review, review, review them.

There’s a massive indie author community on there, and a lot of support. So, that’s what sort of driven me to be more interested and more engaged. Like I’ve befriended you and others on Instagram, there’s already same names cropping up with me, who we chat often and we interact, and then they come over onto Instagram or Twitter, and follow. So, there’s already this really rich networking, I’m discovering. There’s also a lot of really experienced authors on there who put really great tips for writing, writers, and that’s just what’s driving me to keep engaged with it.

Sarina: All right, I’ve got to say, you’re selling it very well.

[laughter]

[00:08:00]

Sarina: As I mentioned earlier, we have quite a few questions that have come in from social media. I’ve got quite a few more after what you’ve just said, to be honest. But I don’t want to preempt any of those. I have a feeling we’re probably going to get to quite a bit of my new questions just from going over that. So, if we get into those, so all of today’s questions have come via Twitter. The first one is from @constantvoice. “How does the book community on TikTok differ from Instagram or Twitter?”

Grace: As I touched on before, it’s more reactive, and I am getting interest and followers and conversion to sales much more surprisingly and rapidly than I ever have on Instagram. So, that has been the big shock to me. I was actually literally just about to pull my books off Kindle Unlimited, [00:09:00] because I just don’t really get much luck on that. I’m suddenly getting all these page rates on Kindle Unlimited, since I joined TikTok. I’ve had people messaged me privately. “Where’s your book?” “I’d love a copy of your book.” As I said, it’s been featured. So, I find the reaction and instantaneousness of it much different to Instagram. I find I get lost in Instagram, I don’t often get shared or seen as much. But this one, I do get that, I suppose, fulfillment and feedback more readily from the BookTok community.

When you hashtag what you’re doing, the hashtags you’re using, there’re billions of views on these hashtags that the community is massive. [00:10:00] I don’t know what it’s like for Instagram, but it just seems a more instant reaction that you get to your posts, particularly if you post something that ticks someone’s box, if you get what I mean.

Sarina: All right. Obviously, on Instagram– Well, it depends who you talk to, I think. Some people will tell you that it doesn’t really matter how many hashtags you use, it’s all about the content. And then, others will tell you that you should probably use all of them, so up to 30 is what it allows you. What do you say that’s just as important on TikTok? How many hashtags would you normally include on–? [crosstalk]

Grace: I use pretty much the same couple of hashtags. Less hashtags is more for TikTok, it’s the content. Again, I have to just say I’m no expert, and I’m very new. What I’ve learned in the time I’ve been there is that people want short, interesting, quick videos. [00:11:00] I did a book review the other day of Becky Wright’s book. I said, “Quick book review,” da, da, da. I did it in less than 10 seconds. I showed the book, said what I loved about it, bang, #IndieAuthorBookTalk, and now my hashtags, and that’s sort of what I do. People want a quick view, an easy view, and you don’t have to put so many hashtags, just something that’s relevant to what you’re posting about. I think it’s a very visual thing. People are looking for something interesting to look at. If they see something interesting as they scroll, because you scroll quick, like you scroll quick, and may stop on something that visually like, “Oh, okay.” If it’s sounding quick and interesting, I’ll stop and watch the whole video. But if it’s something really boring and going so, “Okay, I’ll go past it.” You want something quick and snappy [00:12:00] and interesting, and people will stop, hopefully, and watch the whole video through and then the algorithm supposedly works in your favor.

Sarina: Okay, so what you said there about people generally wanting shorter videos, how long would a normal Tok be?

Grace: When you go on it, there’s 15 and 60 seconds. I follow a few people on there that are social media experts, and they all say, “Do it short and snappy, seven seconds and under, because people have narrow attention span.” That’s common in this day and age on social media. People want quick gratification. I do some that are a bit longer. But when I do longer ones, I do that when I tag in what are the viral like– TikTok is merged with music, so music and sounds are a big part of it. you add in sounds that are [00:13:00] the top sounds, the viral sounds, the up-and-coming sounds, whether they be funny statements, or actual music tracks. If I’m going to do something a bit longer, I’ll usually try and find one of the viral sounds and add that in and then that will usually keep people watching a little bit longer.

Sarina: Okay, so how exactly do you choose the music for– Do you get like a long list? Or, do you just put in whatever you want?

Grace: You can put in whatever you want. You can use your own voice, you can talk, like, there’s some where I talk– [crosstalk]

Sarina: [laughs]

Grace: I’m brave now. It took me a while before it actually put my voice and face on. When you make a video and you press on sounds, you can scroll down, and it actually there’s lists and it says viral, trending, up and coming, new. You can also add things to it. There’s a favorite section. If you watch someone else’s TikTok and they got a song that, or a sound that sounds really cool and fun, and you think, “I could do something with that,” [00:14:00] you can just add that to your favorites list and you can go back to it later when you thought of something that you might want to do, because you can pretty much make a book post out of most songs. I just don’t use songs with swearing and stuff like that, because I write YA. But, yeah, I have a favorites list, and yeah, I try. I didn’t realize at the beginning to go and look for the viral stuff because that’s what people go looking for. I’ve learned that on my way. Trust me, I’ve used my 12-year-old daughter to help me.

[laughter]

Grace: She’s, “Mommy [crosstalk] for this.” Anyone who’s got children or teenagers, they will probably put you on the straight and narrow and then be embarrassed by you.

Sarina: As is your job as parent I think to be embarrassing, that’s how you know you do well.

Grace: Yes.

Sarina: Sounds like TikTok actually makes it quite easy then really to choose good music, let’s call it, to put with your post. So, that’s really nice to see, I think. [00:15:00] Then to move on, our next question is from @VillimeyS. How difficult is it to process/market on TikTok compared to Twitter or Instagram? Now from what you’ve told me, it’s very easy.

Grace: It’s easy. I work the same as I do on Instagram. I don’t just put all the posts about my book, I talk about other things, too, because I think people get bored from people who only saturate their accounts with their own material. You’ve got to, again, support others, market other things, put interesting, different content. But then, it’s as simple as, “Hey, look what I wrote,” or, “I did a thing.” There’s a thing, when you reach 1000 followers on TikTok, the common thing which I discovered pretty quickly is you do a giveaway. So, I did a giveaway. That got a whole lot of interest and got me a whole lot more followers. [00:16:00] That’s actually another thing too with TikTok. I’ve been on Instagram for five years, and I’ve just ticked over 2400 followers. I’ve got nearly 2000 followers on TikTok in six weeks. So, yeah, the interest just seems quicker and easier to get. But, yeah, it’s free to be on, it’s free to market. Yeah, I just think it’s important, like with the other thing, just mix it up with other things and interact with the other authors. Like I said, I have already had someone else pick up my book and showcase my book.

Sarina: It’s very exciting.

Grace: It is. Yeah.

Sarina: I’ve just thought of something to ask– Oh, yeah, there we go. There it is. How much time a day do you spend on TikTok? Because I know with Instagram, for example, it’s recommended that when you post, you don’t hang around for at least 20 minutes and all that, which makes it quite time consuming. Would you say that’s just as important on TikTok? And how much time do you spend on there? [00:17:00]

Grace: Okay, so this is a bit of a loaded answer, because when I started and actually sometimes now, because I’m very camera shy, and I’m like a million years old, and I don’t really know all the clever little tricks, I might sometimes have to do 20 takes or something before I feel it’s not an embarrassing representation of myself. Sometimes, I spend a ridiculous time, making sure that my post looks okay, but that’s just me not wanting to humiliate myself. Like now, I can put up a post in– I mean, I did one just before we started. I literally said, “I’m doing a podcast shortly. Hey, readers out there, is there anything you want to add in that we could help people who are new to BookTok?” And that was it. That took me literally like [00:18:00] 30 seconds to do. If I’m trying to be more creative, it takes me a bit longer. But if it’s just something short and quick, it’ll take me 30 seconds, but I don’t hang around to look for responses or anything like that, because you can actually go in, they’ve got analytics in there, like they do Instagram. I’ve worked out that my biggest audiences in America. What I’ll do, I’ll post stuff, during the daytime, in Australia time, and then I’ll leave it, and then I check in the next morning, and that’s when I see all the interaction overnight when America has been awake, and then I’ll react and interact then.

Sarina: Okay, so it doesn’t punish you for posting and then leaving and coming back to when you know your audience is there. It will still show your posts to those people in other time zones.

Grace: You are not supposed to stays there so my posts get picked up. There’s another thing too so, you have [00:19:00] people you follow and followers, and then there’s this thing called the “for you” page. I’m not adept enough to explain what it is or what it means, but to be on the “for you” page, I suppose is to be on the biggest part of the platform, it’s where the most people see you. If your posts get on the “for you” page, more people have the ability to see you if the algorithm pushes you forward. In terms of going back a bit, hashtagging, when you put on a video, you’re always hashtag “for you” page to hope that your video gets put onto that page. Again, I go back in the analytics and mainly mine are getting on the “for you” page, which is good because then that means my videos are getting pushed out more diversely. That’s my understanding of it. [crosstalk] -I’m wrong, but that’s my understanding of it.

Sarina: Okay. What do you need to do to get pushed onto that “for you” page? Is it [00:20:00] just enough to include that hashtag for it, or is there anything that you can do to appease the algorithm as it were?

Grace: Like I said before, I think it is about people watching your video from beginning to end. If people look at you for a second and scroll by, the algorithm doesn’t like that. They need people to sit and watch that the whole time. It all comes back to money, because however it works, the longer people stay on their platform, the more advertising they can push to consumers. That’s a whole other person’s domain to talk about but yeah, the idea is to keep you on for longer as all social media does. But, yeah, you want people to watch from beginning to end. I was just reading something today where a social media expert said, “Likes and comments on your posts are less important than people watching your video from beginning to end.” That’s why I tend to try and follow the rule of keeping my [00:21:00] posts short and snappy, and either 7 to 15 seconds, but I tried to keep them less.

Sarina: Also, then makes it less effort for you to get the post, I heard if it’s shorter, which is good.

Grace: Yeah. In a way, it’s easier than Instagram. I suppose the Bookstagram community, we got a lot of effort to set up pictures of books and stuff like that. Where on this, you can just say something. You hold up a book and say, “Hey, this was great,” or, “Hey, I’m on page this.” It’s very different from Bookstagram in that, it’s not about holding up pretty pictures and setting up scenes. It’s about your interaction about book.

Sarina: If I grab up a random book off my shelf, Red Rising. Ah, perfect. If I just did this, “Heartbroken, y’all.” That will be great? Oh, my God, I’m doing it. [laughs] [crosstalk] Okay, well. [00:22:00]

Grace: I pick that one, and I would say, “Want your heartbroken? Read this.” Done.

Sarina: Okay, well, that does sound very easy. I think I expected it to be a lot more time consuming to put up a post on there.

Grace: I still do that, I go back and look at other authors and readers and I look at what they do, and just see trends and what seems to work for them and things that I’m actually brave enough to do, to be honest. [laughs]

Sarina: Well, I’m going to have to start stalking your Toks on Instagram to see exactly what you do and start taking notes. Maybe make a spreadsheet.

Grace: I’d probably embarrass myself, but, hey. [laughs]

Sarina: I mean, if it works. It’s all about transparency for me, anyway. So, which is why we’ve heard dogs barking in the background and children come and screaming– I mean, not come and screaming but thinking they were on TV.

Grace: Yes. [laughs]

Sarina: Leaving it all in [00:23:00] about being transparent. Anyway, our next question came from @TLClarkAuthor. Who was the main market on TikTok, and she feels it’s more YA?

Grace: Now, there is a red-hot 18-plus sexy content market on there. My goodness. There is a market for all kinds of books. It is not just YA. There is a huge emphasis at the minute on, the biggies like, A Court of Thorns and Roses, Sarah J. Maas, Leigh Bardugo. Particularly, because her books had been made into the Shadow and Bone series on Netflix. There’s a lot of emphasis on those big popular books. But no, there’s a particular Aussie guy I follow, and he’s just all about fantasy. I’ve actually just bought my first Brandon Sanderson book just because he said he’s the best and he did a rundown of where you should start first. I literally just yesterday got the first book that he recommended. [00:24:00] No, it’s absolutely not heavy YA. There’s everything. In fact, a lot of people who follow me, sexy, XXX kind of authors. So, no, I see a bit of everything there.

Sarina: Okay, that’s very encouraging to hear. I know on Twitter, for example, the horror community is massive. While I have found a few epic fantasy authors on there, who I can talk to about epic fantasy, I think I would find it a lot easier if I just wrote horror, like seemingly everybody else on Twitter. So, that’s encouraging to hear.

Grace: I actually just bought a gothic horror from someone I found on BookTok. It sounded amazing. So, that’s coming tomorrow, I think, so yeah.

Sarina: All right. Well, there we are. One last question from @gambit190. What types of TikToks do you find the most effective for authors? I don’t even understand the question because I didn’t know there were different types of TikToks, but I trust you. [00:25:00]

Grace: Effective as in sales, or getting followers or interest? Getting followers was doing a giveaway when I reached 1000 followers. I did a giveaway and got hundreds of followers within a couple of days. In terms of sales, I actually did a few posts where I didn’t say anything. I never said buy this book or it’s on Amazon or anything. I just did something as simple as put my book covers up and said, “Which is your favorite? Tell me your favorite book cover.” Like a couple days later, I had a sale and then someone messaged me, and suddenly, I had Kindle Unlimited raids. It’s just simple things like that. I suppose it depends on what your goal is. Do you want followers? Do you want sales? Or, do you want commentary?

Sarina: I can answer that for [00:26:00] him. Let’s just assume it’s all of them.

Grace: Okay.

[laughter]

Sarina: Well, that’s us done with the questions that I’ve had sent in. You said that you’ve also put up something on TikTok to mention that we were doing this interview. So, if you’ve had any questions come in.

Grace: Like I said, unfortunately, because I seem– well, hang on. I seem to get a lot of stuff from the States. Oh, hang on. Oh, no, that’s not it. I might not have had any answers yet.

Sarina: Okay.

Grace: Oh, hang on, there’s one here. Hang on. No, that’s not it. See, [crosstalk] I need to go back and have a look. I’ve had nothing come through at the minute.

Sarina: Okay, that’s fine. I just thought I should ask so that we don’t exclude anyone, that’d be annoying.

Grace: [crosstalk] -actually adding though, just as a fair warning, like with every social media, there is a negative side to it. There’s quite [00:27:00] a virulent and aggressive community on there about attacking what they call problematic authors. So, you just have to be prepared either, you want to hear that and be involved in that, you agree with that or not, or you just keep scrolling. I keep scrolling. I mean that’s people’s personal opinions, but some of it is a little bit confronting, so I just scroll past stuff like that. But it is out there like with all social media. There is a little bit of negativity. But, yeah, I just thought, you do see people, literally, “This author is problematic. I’m throwing all their books in the bin,” and that’s a little bit confronting.

Sarina: Yeah, that is quite aggressive, isn’t it? To be fair, I do see some of that on Instagram. You do see quite a lot of it on Twitter at the moment, I think. That’s everywhere, to be fair. [00:28:00]

Grace: Yeah.

Sarina: But yeah, it is worth pointing out. Do you have any last tips for authors so that they can make TikTok work for them?

Grace: I think maybe just do what I did. I signed up, and then I just scrolled through it for a bit. I just looked at people and I looked up authors, I looked up readers, and I followed a few accounts and thought okay, yeah, I see what you’re doing here. And then, when I decided it was time, I should have a go at doing something, I just did the most basic thing, again, with the help of the 12-year-old, and I just built from there. I’m learning as I go, like what views I get, what interactions I get, and funnily [00:29:00] enough, the most views I have got, I’ve got nearly 6000 views now, but it has nothing to do with my books because I have said I mix things up. The other day, my daughter found a poor little bee on a piece of wood, so she took it some sugar water on a spoon. So, I’ve videoed the bee drinking sugar water, 6000 views. [laughter] Who knew?

Sarina: Oh, damn. I rescued a bee yesterday from my bathroom. We put it outside and my–

Grace: [crosstalk]

Sarina: Yes. My partner put in a bit of honey for him on the log and we put him on there and he had– Damn it. I missed an opportunity there. [laughs]

Grace: [crosstalk] See, animals, they’re really popular, and I do see quite a few authors who put pictures of their cats on their keyboards or their dog, their book. You mix a few things up and then it ticks everyone’s box, books, dog, cat, whatever.

Sarina: Okay, [00:30:00] well do I have quite a few, just random videos of my cat, so I’m sure I can do something with that. [laughs]

Grace: Yeah, literally, I just learn from other people I see, and I’m just getting bit braver as I go, but I do it at the minute because I enjoy it. If I didn’t enjoy it, I wouldn’t bother, but I think it’s a bit of fun. It’s a bit of a time waster at times, but I get up generally, I get up before everyone else in the house, and I have my coffee quietly in the morning, and that’s generally when I do my posts as a rule. Then, I’m off doing whatever I do during the day.

Sarina: All right. It sounds a lot more relaxed and a lot faster to do than I expected. So, I’m very happy to be proven wrong about that.

Grace: Actually, Ash Oldfield, do you know Ash? She’s on Instagram, she just popped on it. She just followed me today. So, I have brought someone over to the dark side. [laughs]

Sarina: Okay, well, you may just be bringing someone [00:31:00] else over as well, but we’ll see. [laughs] You know, you’ll be the first, by the time this episode goes live, I may well already be on there. Who knows? We will see. To very quickly come back to something you said earlier about how at the moment you’re on there about three or four times a day, or posting three or four times a day. Would you say that’s necessary to really get a lot of traction going? Or, is it fine to just post like once a day?

Grace: I keep reading two to four times a day, that’s what I keep seeing.

Sarina: It seems like a lot to me.

Grace: It does. I would say a few weeks ago, I’m like, “Oh, God, this is hard.” But I was less brave then. But now, I’m a bit braver. I just put up something random today like I literally did. I was actually working on my current book. I just had my phone next to me, and I’m typing. I just literally did seven seconds of me looking at the thing. [00:32:00] And then it was done in seven seconds. I just wrote, “Me trying to write, while not looking at TikTok,” I just posted that. People do stupid things like that, and people love it. It shows I’m writing, it shows I’m doing something and lots of authors do these things. You know the big trend right now, it sounds ridiculous, but it’s amazing, everyone loves it. We all have to wear a crown. Every author wears a crown. [crosstalk]

Sarina: I don’t have any. I’ll have to get myself one.

Grace: Yeah. People are gifting each other crowns.

Sarina: Really?

Grace: And you put song to it. There’s a song, Watch Me Wear a Crown and everyone just puts their crown on or you wear a crown while you’re reading. It’s silly little things like this, but it gets people interested in you and then they want to flick through and, “Oh, you wrote all that. Oh, you wrote that.” That’s sort of how it works.

Sarina: Okay. Actually, it does sound like a lot of posting like two or four times a day, but it does sound quite fun. The way you’re describing it does anyway. I think because unlike on Instagram, you [00:33:00] don’t have to wait around for 20 minutes, half an hour every time. That does make it a lot easier, I think because even though, you possibly don’t end up posting a lot more, you ultimately still spend less time on social media and more time writing, which is the goal for everyone, isn’t it?

Grace: Yeah. Like I said before, you will have noticed on my Instagram, I save my TikTok videos, and then I share them onto the Reels on Instagram. Then, that gets them– I’ve actually got more followers on Instagram since I’ve shared some of my TikTok posts on to Instagram. [crosstalk]

Sarina: Well, you are selling it extremely well. And you know the dangerous thing is, I have just yesterday, at time of recording finished a first draft. Today, I thought, “Well, maybe I take it a bit easier today.” So, do not be surprised if by the end of the day I’ve started TikTok. [laughs]

Grace: I’ll be watching for you.

Sarina: You’ll be the first to hear. [00:34:00] I won’t be your first follower, but you will be the first person I follow.

Grace: Oh, one more thing, I just have to tell you. This is really cool. It’s actually great for sleuthing out things you don’t know. The other week, I had some people contact me saying, “I can’t find your paperback anywhere. Amazon is saying it’s not available.” I put up a video and I said, “Hey, everyone, I need you all to be my super sleuths.” I said, “For some reason, Amazon is showing my book isn’t available in paperback when [unintelligible [00:34:33] released. Can you all jump on and see if it’s available?” Oh my God, I got hits from everywhere in the world saying, “It’s available here.” “It’s not available there.” “It’s available here.” So, it actually was a great research marketing thing because everyone wanted to help. [crosstalk] I was really just put in my hashtag #CanYouHelp, and then on the actual video it said, “I need your help.” And people were like, “Well, what did you need help with?” And bang, bang. [00:35:00] I actually did that the other week, and I still keep getting hits on it. “It’s available in Denmark.” “Oh, no, it’s not available in Ireland.” And that actually led me to a bit of problem solving as to why. I now know why, it’s not available in paperback everywhere on Amazon and then discovered where it is actually available in paperback. So, that was really helpful.

Sarina: Oh, brilliant. That sounds really useful. I really want TikTok now, so damn you. [laughs]

Grace: Make sure you get a crown. You need a crown. [laughs]

Sarina: I may need to cut myself one out of paper, possibly but I have to see what I got.

Grace: [crosstalk]

Sarina: I think I already know the answer to my last question to you, would you recommend TikTok for authors?

Grace: I would. I think it’s fun, it’s free. You put what you want on. You can’t guarantee anything out of it. But I’m having fun, and I think if [00:36:00] you’re having fun, do it. If it’s not fun for you or it feels a chore, it’s not for you. But for me, I quite like it.

Sarina: All right. Well, I think that’s a great note to finish on. It’s fun and it’s free, so why not? [chuckles]

Grace: Yeah.

Sarina: I want to thank you so much for chatting to me about TikTok. I’ve learned an awful lot from you. I’m very tempted to start my own now.

Grace: [crosstalk]

Sarina: I hope all of our listeners have also learned a lot and that this has answered everyone’s questions. It’s certainly proved me wrong on a few points. So, thanks for that.

Grace: You’re welcome.

Sarina: Yeah, thank you so much for coming on, and have a wonderful day and have a great week everybody. Bye-bye.

Grace: Thanks, Sarina.

[music]

Sarina: 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, at Instagram [00:37:00] and Facebook @sarinalangerwriter. And of course, on my website, at sarinalanger.com. Until next time, bye.


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The Writing Sparrow Episode 40 | Writing Routines: Briana Morgan

Once a month, I talk to another writer about their writing routine. We answer questions such as Are you a plotter, pantser, or somewhere in between? ,  Do you write every day? ,  Where does your inspiration come from?,  What’s your beverage of choice?, and many more! At the end of each episode, the writers recommend their favourite book on writing and share their advice for establishing the right writing routine for you.

This month, I talked to Briana Morgan, a horror author from America.

Her book recommendations are On Writing by Stephen King and Save the Cat Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody. Don’t forget to check out the all-new library on my website for all book recommendations from these routine chats!

To find out more about Briana, check out her  website find her or Twitter follow her on Instagram, or support her on Patreon.

Listen to the Episode

Read the Transcript

[The Writing Sparrow theme]

Sarina: 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 sarinalanger.com. Let’s get started.

[music]

Sarina: Good morning and welcome back, friends and sparrows. It’s the 14th of June, 2021. This is Episode 40. Today, I have Briana Morgan back with me to talk about her writing routine. Welcome back. Bri.

Briana: Thank you. I’m so glad to be back.

Sarina: Well, how many times has it been now? [laughs]

Briana: I think third time, but they say third time’s the charm. So, I think we’re good.

Sarina: Oh, fantastic. So, basically after this, you can never come on again.

[laughter]

Briana: No. This is it. [00:01:00] I’ll never speak to you again.

Sarina: Well, that sucks. I guess I’m just going to have to find a new editor.

[laughter]

Briana: Oh, no.

Sarina: [unintelligible [00:01:10] worked, has it?

[laughter]

Sarina: It’s a shame, because I’m really excited for you to read Blood Wisp 2.

Briana: I really want to read it.

Sarina: In 10 years from now when I’m finally writing all the–

Briana: Also, how awkward would it be if we broke up right here after I did that episode about finding an editor and whatnot, that would be really uncomfortable.

[laughter]

Sarina: It will be. [laughs] Well, to be fair, we did start that one with you saying that you don’t technically edit anymore, so.

[laughter]

Briana: Yeah, it’s fine.

Sarina: It would kind of make sense, but still very awkward. Anyway, let’s talk about your writing routine.

Briana: Yes.

Sarina: Just before we break up just for fun, and then we don’t know how to get back together. Are you a plotter [00:02:00] or a pantser, or are you somewhere in between?

Briana: I like to think I’m a plotter, but I don’t always stick to my outlines. I frequently write myself into a corner because I will stray from the outline, which almost defeats the purpose of making the outline in the first place. But when I didn’t plot, I was much more confused and much more likely to run into a corner and get stuck. So, it does help a little bit.

Sarina: Yeah, and actually, I think the corner is quite an exciting place to be in in a way because you can then go, “Well, you got yourself into this, how are you going to get back out? Fix it.”

Briana: Right. It’s a bit of a challenge. It’s fun.

Sarina: Yeah, I always try to run with it, but obviously, sometimes it just doesn’t work. [giggles]

Briana: That’s how you learn. You have to try.

Sarina: Yeah, see, I could have sworn I saw you say somewhere on social media quite recently that you were a pantser.

Briana: I am a pantser [00:03:00] with short stories.

Sarina: Oh.

Briana: I usually have a theme and maybe a couple of lines, but I can’t plot a short story out because it’s too close to actually drafting that then I will not want to draft. It’s very strange.

Sarina: Yeah, I should really probably just try writing short stories again, but I may need to talk to you about that at some point, if you have any tips for me because I’m really struggling with short stories.

Briana: They’re hard.

Sarina: They’re really hard.

Briana: They’re still hard for me. But the only way I think I can manage to do them is because I had to do them all throughout college for my creative writing program. So, I got used to having to produce short fiction.

Sarina: So, you know exactly what to do with it.

Briana: Sometimes, I still can’t make every submission call that I would like to enter, but that happens.

Sarina: It’s fine. Pantser with short stories, mostly plotter– [00:04:00] [crosstalk]

Briana: Very loose plotter, I would say otherwise. I’m a loose plotter with everything else.

Sarina: Yeah, to be fair, I do think it’s quite a good way to do it. I plot my stuff at, but give yourself flexibility to stray from the outline– [crosstalk]

Briana: Exactly.

Sarina: Corner.

[laughter]

Briana: Have a little fun with it.

Sarina: Yeah, just see what your characters do, and if they can get themselves out of the mess that they’ve created, that’s definitely not your fault.

Briana: Yes.

[laughter]

Sarina: What does your writing routine look like?

Briana: It used to look like me getting up early and getting everything written before the day started. I really like waking up with my partner and also since the pandemic, I have realized I need more sleep than I thought I did before, so I sleep in a little bit. Usually, I write right [00:05:00] after work now, so 5:30 or 6:00-ish. I’m small now, I used to aim for 2000 words, but now I only go for 500 because my motivation has been shot. Even when I feel pretty bad, I can usually manage 500 words. I won’t say they’re all good words, but I can get something down.

Sarina: Well, that’s a first draft. So, it would be pretty impressive if they were all good words, and 500 words a day is still really good progress either way.

Briana: Yeah. One of my friends, Michael Goodwin, he is a fellow horror author. He shared his accountability spreadsheet with me. Basically, it’s just if you hit your word count that day, there’s a little bar on the side, changes to yes, and then it’s green, and if you didn’t hit it, it’s no, and it’s red. Something about seeing the red makes me [00:06:00] so angry, that I push myself harder to hit the word count. It’s so silly, but it works.

Sarina: I think that will work with me as well, actually. I’m very color motivated.

Briana: Yes. Then, on the weekends, or if I have a little more time, or I’m really trying to get something done, I will set a timer for 20 minutes and do a 20-minute sprint with a 5- or 10-minute break in between, and I’ll do as many of those as I feel like I can before I burn out.

Sarina: Oh, you don’t want that.

Briana: I agree. No, I don’t really do that anymore. That’s kind of why I’ve gone to the 500-word method. It’s more sustainable.

Sarina: I’m just so impressed that you get any writing done after work.

Briana: It’s very hard. Usually, I have to treat myself like a seven-year-old and say that I can’t play games until I get my words down.

Sarina: Oh, I do that. The other day, I said to myself, “Okay, I’m exhausted. [00:07:00] I don’t really want to go to work. But if I walk into work, I can have pie tonight for dessert.” I did walk in and I did have pie.

Briana: Unfortunately, one of the weirdest things about being an adult is sometimes you have to parent yourself. That’s how it is as a writer too. I read somewhere writing is like having homework every night for the rest of your life. [laughs]

Sarina: Oh, God, that’s depressing. I haven’t thought of it like that.

[laughter]

Briana: It’s so depressing, but it’s true. It’s funny in a way, because it’s like, why would anyone choose this? But a lot of us do.

Sarina: Well, the one difference there is that I never actually did my homework-

Briana: Oh.

Sarina: -if I do do the writing.

Briana: You do write. Yeah, I have your books now, I can prove it.

Sarina: [crosstalk] Well, I was a good student, I was a terrible pupil.

Briana: Oh.

Sarina: Big difference.

[laughter]

Briana: That’s okay. It’s over now. You made it.

Sarina: Yeah, it’s all good. [00:08:00] Do you set yourself specific goals? You said that you kind of aim for like 500 words a day, and then you get the little green tick, it’s say yes, it’s all good.

Briana: Yeah. I hit the 500 and I see how I feel. If I still feel pretty good, I’ll keep going. But lately, it’s just been maybe two or three words over the goal, and then I stop.

Sarina: But still it was over your goal.

Briana: Yes, and it’s still words that I wouldn’t have gotten done otherwise, so that helps a lot. If I’m revising, it’s a little trickier because I can’t do the word count. So, I’d revise in sprints, and I try to say, I’m going to go through two or three sprints today.

Sarina: How do you count it exactly when you do revising? Because that’s exactly where I am now with Blood Wisp. I’m trying to edit it for the umpteenth time. I’ve made myself a spreadsheet, because I really got into doing 100-day writing [00:09:00] sprints. I’m really into that. That’s my thing now.

Briana: I might try that, that sounds exciting.

Sarina: Yeah, well, I set the timer for at least 15 minutes a day, and I figured I can always write for just 15 minutes, that small commitment or at least get something done, but I have now finished a really big first draft. So, I’m rewriting rather than you’re just writing a first draft, and that is not the same thing and it does not fit into my 100-day writing sprint at all, which is awkward because I have like 20 days left and I’m putting myself down so hard, because I have no writing have to do, I’m just editing, and I’m finding it very difficult to track.

Briana: It’s hard. For me, before I start revising, I kind of have an idea already of what I’m going to need to fix, but I do a read through and then I make a list and I try to break the list down by phases. I’ll have a plot phase, I’ll have a character phase, I’ll have a description phase, and then I try to only [00:10:00] do one thing at a time, instead of doing it chapter by chapter. Because for me, if I know I’m going to change something in a later chapter, it’s hard, I have to trick myself basically. So, I have to look at tiny, tiny sections instead of going chronologically. For me, what works best is the sprints. Revision sprints rather than writing sprints, but it’s the same. It’s the same concept.

Sarina: Still for 20 minutes?

Briana: Yes.

Sarina: Yeah. I can see how that will work quite well, because it’s not a massive time commitment. You know afterwards that you have achieved something, even if it’s not a lot of progress.

Briana: Yeah. I used to sit down, and I would say, “I’m going to edit for five hours.” But then, I felt like I would never get anything done, and that just felt treacherous and the biggest chore. Then, once I started thinking about using sprints, it became a [00:11:00] lot easier for me.

Sarina: Editing is so hard on you anyway, because it takes so much brainpower and [crosstalk] I have done four or five hours of editing straight when I did line edits, and oh, my God, really it’s exhausting.

Briana: Yeah. I’ve done it for clients before. Doing it for your own work is a lot harder, I feel like, because I’m a perfectionist with my own stuff, especially.

Sarina: Yeah, but then you also don’t see your own mistakes as much.

Briana: That’s true.

Sarina: That makes it even harder. That just sounds exhausting.

Briana: Yeah, it is.

Sarina: You wouldn’t want to do that after work.

Briana: No. I don’t recommend making this giant chunk of time and saying you’re going to edit some nebulous amount. I think you need to set a concrete goal when you go into an editing session, and figure out a way to break it down so it’s as digestible as possible, [00:12:00] at least for me.

Sarina: That sounds like a good tactic. I think maybe I’m going to try to do a bit more of that. Once I figured out all the other issues that it has right now, and I come back to it again, maybe that’s how I’ll approach it.

Briana: I definitely recommend it. I feel it saved my sanity, as well as my time.

Sarina: I just really want to send the damn book to you, so I can stop thinking about it. [laughs]

Briana: I’ll take it, it’s just probably not ready yet.

Sarina: It’s really not ready. It’s beyond not ready. So, let’s not actually go there. Anyway, do you write every day?

Briana: During the week, yes. I tend to give myself the weekends off, I used to try to do every day, and then I would burn out. Usually, I get weekends off, unless I am really into a project and it’s coming along really well. Or, I’m under deadline.

Sarina: It does healthier to give yourself a break.

Briana: Definitely. I know you take weekends [00:13:00] off social media for similar reasons.

Sarina: Yeah, exactly for the same reasons, it just gets too much. I think when you do take the weekend off, and you’re really strict with yourself, you’re then more likely to look forward to coming back to it, which is really nice. I feel like I really mangled that. It’s nearly midnight here with me, by the way. So, if any of what I’m saying makes no sense, I’m really sorry. It’s quite a long– [crosstalk]

Briana: Everyone’s going to be so confused, because you said good morning.

Sarina: I know. Well, the episode goes live in the morning. It’s just that as we’re recording this, it’s nearly midnight where I am.

Briana: That’s fine.

Sarina: [laughs]

Briana: Time zones are wild.

Sarina: Yeah, they really are. Well, anything for you. I’m going to bed after this, we’ll see.

[laughter]

Sarina: Anyway, let’s bring it back to your writing routine. Has that changed at all over the years? And [00:14:00] if so, what have you changed and why?

Briana: Oh, God, I feel like it’s changed for every single book and every place I’ve lived. In college, it was a lot easier for me to get into a routine because I had regular assignments. I would have an essay do and two short stories a week, I think, something like that.

Sarina: Wow.

Briana: Yeah, it was a lot of work.

Sarina: Well, I’m tired just thinking about that.

Briana: That’s why I get angry when people say that a creative writing degree isn’t real, because I worked so hard. Yeah, but the regular deadlines really helped with that. And then, after college, it was just every man for himself. I didn’t really know what I was doing. I was trying to adjust to work as well as writing. When I was writing Blood and Water, I talked about this a little on Twitter the other day, but I would come home, I’d watch like an episode or two [00:15:00] of Friends, I think, and I would make some food, and then I would drink coffee, and write until like 2:00 AM.

Sarina: Oh, wow.

Briana: I don’t know what was wrong with– I mean, I know what was wrong with me now, there was a lot wrong but-

[laughter]

Briana: -I don’t write like that anymore. Yeah, I can’t do that.

Sarina: No, that’s fine. I’m exhausted just thinking about that.

Briana: Also, my doctor would get very angry with me if I do that. I have enough sleep problems.

Sarina: Yeah, let’s not add to that.

Briana: No. There was a period of time where I could write with the TV on. I can’t do that anymore. I don’t know what that was about. I’ve gone through phases where I can’t listen to music and phases where I can. I just feel like I’m all over the place. [00:16:00] I think a lot of authors probably find themselves in a similar spot, but they’re worried to change things up, because that’s what happens with me is I worry that if I change something up that I’ll never be able to get back to where I was, but nothing is permanent. So, it’s kind of silly to think that way. If something doesn’t work, you could just go back.

Sarina: I think I really used to struggle with that, but I have got a lot better. I think now if I do want to just try something new, I’ll just jump in. But I definitely see what you’re saying with possibly quite a lot of authors thinking that they can just try something different, I think especially when it comes to plotting or pantsing, people seem to be really kind of like set one way or another. It’s almost like they refuse to try the other way because they’re so sure that it just won’t work for them, but every project is different.

Briana: Yeah, honestly. I think I’ve used a different plotting method for every book I’ve written so far. [00:17:00] Oh, God, that’s six that I have out. So, I think you have six out too, I think we’re–

Sarina: I do. We’re twinning again.

Briana: Oh, we’re twinning.

[laughter]

Sarina: See, we’re always doing exactly the same stuff.

Briana: When I got your books, I was so excited. I was like, “Ah!”

Sarina: They look so good on the Instagram.

Briana: They do. They’re beautiful.

Sarina: I saved the picture.

Briana: Good. You can use it again if you want to.

Sarina: Even though I [crosstalk] like so is much bigger now because my formatter has gone over it and she has adjusted it to brighten shadows, and I couldn’t believe it when I saw the page. I was like, “That can’t possibly be the same book, why is it so very much longer.”

Briana: It looks great.

Sarina: It’s pretty formatting guy, it makes all the difference.

Briana: It does. Don’t look at, don’t look at touch. Don’t look at my play touch. The formatting is not good, I had to make it–

Sarina: I didn’t notice though.

Briana: It’s huge.

Sarina: Yeah, but I thought maybe that’s because [00:18:00] it is a really small book because it’s a play, and I thought maybe if she had done it any smaller, Amazon would have said, “It’s too small, we don’t publish it.”

Briana: That’s exactly what happened. That’s why I had to make it so big.

Sarina: Oh, there you go.

Briana: I’ve gotten some hate for it. People have said that it’s like too big and the spacing is all weird. I’m like, “Listen, doing the best I can. Amazon wouldn’t let me publish anything shorter.”

Sarina: Yeah. Amazon are really quite strict with that.

Briana: They are.

Sarina: Yeah, you may not really get much of a say in how long your book is really, because if it’s too long, they will not publish it.

Briana: If it’s too short, they won’t either.

Sarina: Right. It needs to be just sort of in the right gap? [laughs] So tired.

Briana: The right range.

Sarina: Yeah, that’s the one, but it is quite a big range to be fair, and it does change constantly, [00:19:00] they adjust it here and there, but something to just throw out there to bear in mind. [crosstalk]

Briana: Yeah, and obviously, all this applies to paperbacks. As far as like eBooks go, it doesn’t really matter.

Sarina: No.

Briana: There’s no spine consideration.

Sarina: Yeah, and more people buy eBooks, to be honest. So, if it is a tossup, just go eBook. [laughs]

Briana: Save yourself some time and money.

Sarina: Yeah, possibly a lot of it, and a lot of mess. Has the lockdown affected your routine at all?

Briana: Yes.

Sarina: Probably quite a lot.

Briana: Yeah. I feel like I couldn’t write for six or seven months, but that’s also I lost my job last February. No, not that early on. Last May, [00:20:00] somewhere in there. I was dealing with a lot of depression from that, and we moved, so there was quite a bit of change to deal with, but I just couldn’t write. I didn’t see the point in it and it felt like it was exhausting for me to just be alive. I’m sure I’m not the only one who felt that way because of the pandemic. But I honestly think telling myself that it was okay to not write is what helps me get back to it, taking the pressure off.

Sarina: There’s a lot of wisdom in that right there. It’s okay to not write if you don’t feel like you can write, seriously, if I had to just take a break.

Briana: Yeah. I try to write every day, but if it’s just not coming, like, last night, I was having a really bad flare, so I was in a lot of pain and I just didn’t write, but that’s okay.

Sarina: Yeah, I mean, you need to look after yourself first, anyway.

Briana: Right.

Sarina: [00:21:00] Last year has just been– I feel like I’m talking about this with everyone I’ve interviewed because, obviously at the time, you just automatically come back to the longest year in history.

Briana: Yeah, definitely.

Sarina: I seem to remember thinking that you were just going for such a roller coaster last year.

Briana: I was. And a lot of people were surprised that I put out three books last year.

Sarina: Yeah, I am.

Briana: But most of them were not written last year.

Sarina: Yeah, but still.

Briana: Just because they came out last year, they were written before.

Sarina: I think sometimes publishing a book can be more stressful than writing a book.

Briana: Sometimes. Except for Unboxed. Unboxed is the easiest time I’ve ever had publishing anything. It was so much fun to write. I just wish every book could be like Unboxed.

Sarina: That would be a dream because I read Unboxed and it’s amazing.

Briana: Thank you.

Sarina: I love it so much. [00:22:00]

Briana: I feel like you can tell I was having fun.

Sarina: I could. Well, I was going to say, I don’t normally read horror. I do read a little bit more now than I used to. I always make an exception for your books because they are so damn good.

Briana: Thank you.

Sarina: Unboxed was just so fun, because it’s another play. You can read it so fast either way, but it’s just so much fun. I loved it so much.

Briana: Yeah, fingers crossed, someone wants to produce that at some point this year, because I really want to see it staged.

Sarina: They will be made. I could see it as sort of like a found footage kind of film.

Briana: I would also be down for that. Either one of those.

Sarina: Putting it out there.

Briana: Mm-hmm.

Sarina: It certainly has this kind of vibe. I got almost like Blair Witch Project vibes from it-

Briana: Ooh.

Sarina: -at times.

Briana: That’s high praise.

Sarina: Hmm. Well, I think that was the first horror film I ever watched and it scared the life out of me. But not as bad as Blair Witch 2, [00:23:00] maybe that was the first one I saw. I don’t know. We did it in a weird order back then. We were young teenagers, we didn’t think do things for [reasons. What writing program do you use?

Briana: Oh, I’m very chaotic. I used to swear by Word and then I switched to Scrivener. Now, I’m all about Google Docs.

Sarina: Yeah, I can’t get on with Google Docs, I really wish I could.

Briana: Yeah, I don’t have any problems with it. I don’t. I don’t know. It’s always just worked for me. I like that I can just pull it up on my phone and write a line or two, if I want to.

Sarina: Maybe I’m the problem.

[laughter]

Briana: No.

Sarina: I just can’t make it work for me in a way that I am happy to use it. It makes me nervous because I don’t like it.

Briana: Well, Word gets onto me for swearing now. So, I don’t like using [00:24:00] Word at all. Yeah.

Sarina: Oh, really? What’s it do?

Briana: I will–

Sarina: Does it tell you to change it to something non-swearing?

Briana: It says– what is the phrasing? “Some readers might find this language offensive,” is what it says.

Sarina: Well, I don’t think those readers are your target audience.

Briana: Yeah. I’m also usually just like, “Well, her arm just got cut off, so she’s– I think this is warranted.”

Sarina: But then, she said, “Shit, that’s the problem. Really.”

[laughter]

[crosstalk]

Briana: She’s saying nothing of the bleeding or anything else and the rest of the story. It’s the bad language is really going to get people. I don’t understand.

Sarina: That’s really bizarre. I suppose it can’t quite analyze it to that extent but if you can’t analyze it to that extent, maybe don’t bother with the little things, because there’s going to be worse happening in the book.

Briana: Word also gets very angry with me when I’m trying to edit one of your books in it [00:25:00] because it’s the UK versus the US English.

Sarina: Oh, yeah.

Briana: It gets very angry and I’m like, “No, that’s correct. It’s just not correct here, but it’s right.”

Sarina: See, I change the language and put on there so that when I edit a book from someone who uses American English, I make sure it knows that for the foreseeable future, I will be using American English.

Briana: That’s good. I should probably do that instead of just getting angry. It’s definitely more productive to actually act on that.

Sarina: [laughs] I do sometimes forget to change it back, but I do tend to notice when it then tells me to take the U out of colours, I’m like, “No. Why would you say that? Ah, right, I forgot to switch it over.”

Briana: The U’s are dead giveaway, we don’t use U as much as much as you guys do.

Sarina: Yeah, I don’t know, language is weird.

Briana: Language is weird.

Sarina: Oh, well. [00:26:00] What are three important things you need to have when you’re writing?

Briana: Lately, for me, it is a snack, a drink, and noise-cancelling headphones.

Sarina: Hmm. That sounds like a good plan.

Briana: But you have to be careful with the snack. Usually, I do candy or something that’s like you can eat a piece at a time and not make a big mess. I wouldn’t eat pizza or something while you’re editing or writing, that’s not a good idea.

Sarina: [crosstalk] Pizza isn’t a snack. Pizza is dinner, or lunch or breakfast.

Briana: Yes. Also, my drink of choice is usually water. Unless it’s fairly early in the day or I need a boost, and then it’s tea or coffee.

Sarina: Or, sweet tea mixed with lemonade. [crosstalk]

Briana: Sometimes.

[laughter]

[00:27:00]

Briana: I didn’t invent it, so don’t put that on me.

Sarina: You’re encouraging it by buying it.

Briana: It is yummy.

Sarina: Yeah, I don’t know. I’ve never had it, but if I ever managed to get over there and actually visit you, you’re going to have to–

Briana: I’ll make you one.

Sarina: Thank you. [laughs] I might hate it, but I will try it.

Briana: [laughs] That’s okay.

Sarina: What do you do when writing gets difficult? We’ve already talked some about that. You said last year, you just reminded yourself that it’s okay to not write if you’re not feeling it.

Briana: Yeah. I feel like the more I write and the more books I put out, the more I’ve come to understand my own working rhythm, and when I need to take a break versus when I need to try to push through. I’ve notice I don’t really push through as much, I have accepted my limitations. So, I’ll step away if something’s not working, or I’ll [00:28:00] work on something else.

Sarina: That is really important, because I think if you don’t know when to step away, you’re so likely to just push yourself right into burnout. That can take a while to recover from, and it’s not pleasant, no matter how long it lasts.

Briana: Right. For me, if I get to that phase where I start to burn out, I just don’t like writing at all anymore. It’s not fun. Then, at that point, I start to resent it. I don’t want to get to that point. I don’t want to resent it, if I can help it.

Sarina: No, I don’t think anyone does.

Briana: No.

Sarina: So, coming back to just taking a break again, if you feel like you need a break. It’s fine, you don’t have to push for it. Just take a day off.

Briana: Yes.

Sarina: Or take a week off. I don’t know. We don’t judge.

Briana: Yes. Or a month off, I don’t know. It’s your life.

Sarina: Yeah, [crosstalk] take whatever you need until you feel that you can write again without hating everything.

Briana: Exactly. Especially right now, there’s so much other big picture stuff going on in [00:29:00] the world to worry about, if you can’t write for a day or two, it’s not going to ruin everything.

Sarina: No. But also, first drafts do tend to be a bit shit, so don’t mistake not liking your first draft for hating all writing because first drafts are just not great.

Briana: Yeah– [crosstalk]

Sarina: It’s a fact, it’s fine.

Briana: They’re terrible.

Sarina: Yeah, you’ve read the last thing I’ve written and pantsed so, yeah.

Briana: [laughs] I’ll send you something rough of mine sometime, and we can compare.

Sarina: That might make me feel a lot better actually. [laughs]

Briana: I just wrote a short story for an anthology and I sent it to a couple of beta readers, but really, I have barely done any revision on it. So, they’re mostly finding typos and things like that. I’m like, “See? I do make mistakes.” Everyone does. I do.

Sarina: [crosstalk] You’re perfect.

Briana: God, no. [00:30:00]

Sarina: All right. Well, where does the inspiration come from?

Briana: My inspiration comes from, I feel like it’s a cliched answer, but almost everywhere. Usually, other forms of art. If I watch a really good movie, I kind of spend the time in the movie. I’m also a film minor, so maybe that’s part of it. I like to deconstruct the plot of the film and figure out why it works while I’m watching the film. And then, afterwards, I’m like itching to write a good story. Books always feel like that’s an easy answer though. Any kind of art tends to inspire me or sometimes I’ll hear a really weird story on the internet, and I’ll want to write about that.

Sarina: There are a lot of really weird stories on the internet.

Briana: Yes. Like Unboxed was inspired by– I found a bunch of weird darkweb mystery box unboxing videos on YouTube, and I fell down that rabbit hole.

Sarina: Wait, that’s real? [00:31:00]

Briana: Yes.

Sarina: I had no idea. I thought you made that up.

Briana: No, I’ll send you the one that I based Greg’s character off of.

Sarina: God, I feel sonaïve.

Briana: No, it’s fine.

Sarina: Do I even know the internet? Clearly, not.

Briana: It’s fine. It was a big thing a few years ago, I think. But YouTube is like, “Here, you like weird shit. Just look at this.”

[laughter]

Sarina: But look, it’s inspired a play.

Briana: Yeah, there you go.

Sarina: It has inspired the play that you love more than any of your other book children. It’s just fine– [crosstalk]

Briana: Yes. Don’t tell them that.

Sarina: No.

Briana: It’s also my best selling, so I guess I did something right with that one.

Sarina: You’ve got a point.

Briana: Watch more weird shit on YouTube, that’s my advice.

Sarina: All right, well, I’m going to have to– if you forward that video to me, then that’s where I can get started, and I’ll just see where YouTube wants to take it from there. [laughs]

Briana: Yes.

Sarina: Which [00:32:00] could be a terrible idea, but we’ll see.

[chuckles]

Sarina: We’ve already talked a little bit about whether you snack while you write, and you said that you tend to drink water as your beverage of choice or, I don’t really know if water counts as a beverage to be honest.

Briana: It’s the beverage.

Sarina: All right, sorry. [laughs]

Briana: It sustains life. It’s kind of a big deal.

Sarina: Oh, well, I think beverage, I think of tea or hot chocolate.

Briana: Gotcha.

Sarina: Yeah, but I’m not sure if you really mentioned what kind of snacks you eat while you write. I think you mentioned candy, but candy to me feel quite vague.

Briana: I like gummy candy and I like sour stuff. Not so much chocolate.

Sarina: Oh, I do like some sour candy.

Briana: Like the sour gummy worms. Oh, those are my favorite.

Sarina: Oh, I haven’t had those in years. I’m going to have to get some.

Briana: Now [00:33:00] you’re going to want them.

Sarina: Yeah. We have to go to the [unintelligible [00:33:01] anyway to buy a few essentials, so I’ll see if they’ve got. I don’t think they will, [unintelligible [00:33:08] arereally small places. I don’t think they’ll have gummy worms, but I’ll make sure to get some.

Briana: The only gummy candy I ate when I was over across the pond that I remember was wine gums, and they weren’t good.

Sarina: I’ve had some vegan version I think of wine gums. That was not good.

Briana: That seems like it’s worse.

Sarina: Yeah. I’m not sure if maybe that’s what you tried. I don’t know, because I have tried vegan wine gums and, look, if you like that, that’s fine. But to me, they had this really weird consistency. It didn’t really feel like a sweet.

Briana: Yeah.

Sarina: Maybe that’s what you had.

Briana: Yeah, but I like candy that’s easier to– you can just take a piece out– I’ll take a couple pieces out and sort of set them aside, and [00:34:00] as I finish a page or something, I’ll just pick up a gummy worm and eat it. [laughs]

Sarina: Oh, it’s a reward.

Briana: Yes. That’s a good idea. I sound like a seven-year-old on this episode. I’m like, “Parent yourself, give yourself candy,” but it works.

Sarina: Well, shall we talk about the time that we both awarded ourselves star stickers for reaching workout? [laughs]

Briana: Yes. I still do that. I print out my outlines, so that I can put a star sticker next to a scene when I’ve written it.

Sarina: I need to do that again. I’ve still got a quite a lot of stickers left, but I keep forgetting.

Briana: It’s so easy and so good.

Sarina: And it’s really rewarding. It does work. It’s so satisfying.

Briana: Yeah. And then, if I don’t get to put the sticker down, I’m disappointed.

Sarina: Yeah, same. Look, we’re grownups, we can do anything we want.

Briana: That’s true.

Sarina: I’m pretty sure this is what people grow up for so [00:35:00] that they can do things like that without feeling guilty about it.

Briana: Yeah, like the idea that you can buy cake just because it doesn’t have to be your birthday or anything. You can just buy a cake if you want to.

Sarina: This is true. Did you know that? You can just buy cake just because you want cake, there doesn’t need to be a reason. Yeah.

Briana: I’ve never done that, but I sure would like to.

Sarina: When I was growing up, my parents were really against any kind of fast food, so I didn’t actually have a burger until I met Barry, my partner. And he took me to a burger van, I think, and oh my God, it was a revelation. Burgers are awesome, I love burgers now.

Briana: He corrupted you.

Sarina: He did. Yeah, but turns out you can eat whatever you want. It’s fine.

Briana: Yeah. Like I said, just maybe avoid messy things because you’re going to– I don’t know, you’re going to get shit in your keyboard.

Sarina: We were talking about things did while you write. [00:36:00] I wouldn’t eat a burger while I write. That’s just crazy.

Briana: Yes. Any kind of really cheesy thing that’s covered in cheese dust is probably also a bad idea.

Sarina: Yeah, you don’t want anything that can mess up a keyboard.

Briana: Mm-hmm.

Sarina: Where was I? Oh, yeah. I think we’ve kind of touched on that as well, but do you listen to music while you write?

Briana: I do. I listen to music with lyrics, which means I’m a monster.

Sarina: No. [crosstalk]

Briana: I have to go with songs that I’ve heard before, like a lot, then I just kind of tuned it out. But I do a playlist for each book I write usually.

Sarina: See, I was just talking about that this morning with Beverly for her writing routine chat, which is coming up next month.

Briana: Oh.

Sarina: I’m just confusing myself now. But hers is in July, yours is in June. We were saying [00:37:00] that we can’t write music and we don’t know how people can write with whole playlists.

Briana: So, you don’t listen to anything when you write?

Sarina: No. I might sometimes have– not even instrumental music, I might have like some nature sounds., maybe but generally, I need silence. Is that weird? I prefer silence when I write.

Briana: My thing is, I get easily distracted, so the music tunes out most of the background noise. It’s also like a visual cue to my partner and others that I’m working on something.

Sarina: Well, see, I get easily distracted, which is why I can’t write with music.

Briana: Yeah, it’s wild that brains can be so different, though. I know a lot of people who can’t write with music, and then I know people who can only do music without lyrics. And then, there are people like me who are animals who just listen to whatever.

Sarina: Well, actually, I always thought that I [00:38:00] couldn’t write or edit with music with lyrics. But on a recent book that I have edited for someone else, I did put on some music with lyrics, and I did find that, bizarrely enough, editing was much easier with that. I think it’s because it had lyrics because that helped me to not overthink what I was editing.

Briana: Yes.

Sarina: That was helpful.

Briana: I think that’s why it helps me with fast drafting, especially. I just kind of tune it out. Usually, I just kind of go with the pace of the song.

Sarina: Maybe I should try it again, we might be onto something.

Briana: I mean, it might have changed for you. That’s one of those things, like I said, I went through a period where I couldn’t write with anything, and it was just white noise and then music without lyrics. Now, I’m back at this. So, who knows? It might change.

Sarina: It might, but as you said earlier, if it doesn’t work, I can just stop doing it again.

Briana: Exactly. You’re not marrying anything you try. [00:39:00]

Sarina: Phew!

[laughter]

Sarina: Which book has inspired you the most? That’s any kind of fiction book or even nonfiction, I suppose.

Briana: In out of every book I’ve ever read?

Sarina: Uh-huh.

Briana: Oh, Jesus. God. I don’t know.

Sarina: You can list more than one, it’s fine.

Briana: Yeah, I don’t know. I feel like I go to The Great Gatsby a lot, that’s a big one because of the way Fitzgerald uses description and imagery and the language and just it’s almost musical. After I read that book, I was like, “Okay, you can make books that sound pretty without being too flowery. You don’t have to strip away all of the description. You can [00:40:00] put a little bit in there, as like a treat.” So, that one. And Dracula, because it’s told in– it’s letters. It’s found footage pretty much, the original found footage. [crosstalk]

Sarina: Yes, I haven’t thought of it like that, but you’re right.

Briana: And I am dying to write a book that’s either a diary or in letters or something like that. I have one that I’ve started, so we’ll see if I come back to it.

Sarina: Yeah. You know how we said earlier that we’re twinning again because we’re the same person?

Briana: Yeah. Are you doing that too?

Sarina: Yeah.

[laughter]

Briana: Just so everyone on the podcast knows, we did not discuss that with each other.

Sarina: It’s never even come up before. But to be fair, I haven’t started mine, but I have thought here and there, how cool would it be to just write a book that’s just letters? Or just someone’s diary? [crosstalk] 

Briana: Is yours about killer mermaids too? [00:41:00]

Sarina: I mean, I haven’t got that far in the process, but should we?

[laughter]

Sarina: I did say early on my reader group that I haven’t read that many books with mermaids in them. At the time, my motivation was that mermaids could be quite cool on my work in progress, because my main character can’t swim. So, I feel like there’s a lot of tension there immediately, because mermaids can swim pretty well, and my main character cannot.

Briana: Yes, that would be a problem.

Sarina: But, yeah, I have kind of thought about mermaids, just not in that respect. I’m going to make a note of it because I have so many works in progress on the go and planned next already, that I really shouldn’t add another one.

Briana: Yeah, I know what that’s like.

Sarina: It will go in my notebook of ideas.

Briana: I had a play idea the other day, and I’m like, “Oh, I want to work on this,” even knowing that plays don’t sell.

Sarina: Well, Unboxed is selling pretty well.

Briana: Unboxed is selling pretty well. I’m surprised a lot [00:42:00] of people have said that it is either the first play they’ve ever read, or the first play they’ve read outside of school. So, that’s incredibly flattering.

Sarina: Well, I don’t know really any other modern plays to be honest, apart from yours.

Briana: Self-publishing for plays is not really a thing. I would like to help destigmatize it and make it more of a thing, because it’s great. It’s just like any other book. I don’t know why there’s this weird discrepancy there.

Sarina: See, now I want to invite you back again so we can talk about how to write a play, but that would be a fourth one, and that’s the thing, that will split us up, so we can’t do it.

Briana: It’ll tear us apart.

Sarina: [laughs] In the most dramatic way.

Briana: [laughs]

Sarina: Whatever that will be, I guess we’ll find out when we do that episode.

Briana: Mm-hmm.

[chuckles]

Sarina: Okay, [00:43:00] so similar question. Do you have a favorite book on the craft of writing?

Briana: Ooh. I have a couple answers. Stephen King’s On Writing, even though I very much don’t write like he does. I really liked the way he lays out the idea that you sit down and you do the work, it’s like any other job, because I think a lot of people tend to over romanticize writing, and it is a lot of work and it is hard. So, I think the romanticization of it, is actually– it’s a curse sometimes, because then when you encounter anything hard, you’re like, “Oh, well, I must not be a writer because it’s not supposed to be hard,” which is ridiculous. I feel like writers are the ones who struggle the most with writing.

Sarina: Yeah, I completely agree.

Briana: Yeah, that one really helped with the idea of discipline, and then [00:44:00] I recommend this book, I feel like on every podcast, Save the Cat! Writes a Novel.

Sarina: Oh, yes. I second that. I mean, I also second On Writing by Stephen King, but I kid you not, everyone who comes on here recommends that one. I want a seconded that one a few times. Yes, Save the Cat! Writes a Novel specifically, because there is also a screenplay version, which is also good, but we’re writing books here, so why not go for the write a novel one.

Briana: I read the screenplay version first, because like I said, I honored in film in college. It was really helpful for me to think, “Oh, yeah, I can take the structure that I’m used to seeing in film and kind of rework it for a book.” Unboxed is actually the first thing that I fully plotted using that method and it seems to have worked.

Sarina: Yeah, clearly.

Briana: I’m sticking with it.

Sarina: Now, I think I first borrowed Save the Cat! from a library, the original one, the screenwriting one, and I liked it so much. It was possibly one of the first books I’ve read [00:45:00] on writing. Then, I liked it so much I bought it, and then some years later, I think it was possibly you where I first saw the novel version.

Briana: It was me. [laughs]

Sarina: Yeah. I was on the fence about buying it for the longest time, because I had already read the other one. I wasn’t sure if I would get the novel one, but it’s honestly so good. I’m so glad I’ve got it. I actually took a highlighter to it which I’ve never done before.

Briana: It’s so different. You wouldn’t think that there would be that much of a difference, but it has so many little structure tips and things like that, that don’t necessarily work if you’re trying to just pull from the screenwriting version.

Sarina: Yeah, completely agree. It is such a gem. I can’t second that recommendation enough. It’s such a good little book.

Briana: The author is also super nice. I’ve talked to her. I’ve emailed her before, and she’s a sweetheart, so definitely recommend it.

Sarina: All right. So, that’s nice to know. I feel like most authors [00:46:00] are really quite nice people.

Briana: Yes. Despite most of us not liking people.

Sarina: Yeah. It’s weird, isn’t it?

Briana: Yeah.

Sarina: I’m a massive introvert but look at me having a podcast and I’m planning a second one, so.

Briana: There you go. That’s why I started making myself do podcast interviews, because I’m also an introvert.

Sarina: But weirdly, I really enjoy talking to people on the podcast. Maybe it’s because I just close my laptop if I don’t like them.

[laughter]

Briana: Just goodbye, you’re out of here.

Sarina: Just run away. Not even a goodbye, just close the laptop and run away.

Briana: Oh, my God.

Sarina: Then just leave it long enough, so that they have time to decide that I’m not coming back and leave. [laughs]

Briana: Yeah.

Sarina: Wouldn’t want to then open my laptop, and they’re still going, “Oh, where’d she go?”

Briana: Oh, no. That’s a horror story right there.

Sarina: Someone should write that, but I don’t think I could pull it off. [laughs] Yeah, it’s a [00:47:00] story in like one paragraph and it’s over.

Briana: Flash fiction. It’s a thing.

Sarina: Yes. Very true. I have got a bit of flash fiction in a magazine next month that’s coming.

Briana: Ooh, I’m very bad at flash fiction. I just can’t stop. I can’t shut up. I just keep going.

Sarina: I think I have the opposite problem, maybe. I’m struggling to develop things into whole short stories. I think I’m much easier if I can just stick to like 100 words.

Briana: Yeah. I don’t know why not plotting short stories works for me, but it does. Then, there was one short story in Tricker-Treater that collection where I wrote it. I wrote most of it, and then there was kind of like a hole in the middle that I needed to fill in, and I had the last line. I basically worked backwards from the last line, like I would add the line before and then would add another line before and I wrote the ending of it [00:48:00] backwards.

Sarina: This is really weird. I talked to Bev about that earlier as well, and we don’t get how people can do that.

Briana: I don’t know how I did it. I’ve never done it for any other story, and I don’t do it for my books. That one was just like, “Write me backwards.” So, I did.

[laughter]

Briana: It’s the story about the men on the boat.

Sarina: Oh, I like that one.

Briana: Yeah, I had the last line of that one first.

Sarina: I really like that one.

Briana: I pretty much wrote it backwards. I’ve also gotten some weird pushback for that because people haven’t– they haven’t realized that it was British, because that’s the only story in the collection I think that’s British. They use a lot of English phrases and things like that and some people were mad at me about that for some reason. I don’t know, someone’s always mad at me. [crosstalk]

Sarina: I’m not mad I’m just very confused because I didn’t notice it. [00:49:00] This is the first time I’m hearing about this.

Briana: Also, the names are like George and– I don’t know. I picked really English names. You were probably just like, “Oh, it’s whatever.”

Sarina: Do you not have any Georges over there in Georgia?

Briana: No one younger than like 70.

Sarina: Well, to be fair, we probably don’t have many young people called George. We have a few, but it’s probably more often– I don’t want to say this in a rude way that makes any younger George listening feel like their names are too awful. I think it is [unintelligible [00:49:40] name here as well that you are less likely to find on younger people. I feel like I’m digging myself a grave.

[laughter]

Briana: That’s okay. I feel bad that you didn’t know that it was an English story.

Sarina: I didn’t notice it. It didn’t stand out to me in that way of, “Oh, what happened here? This doesn’t read like her other [00:50:00] stories,” because I think they’re all so different to each other anyway, I just didn’t think anything of it.

Briana: Oh, we have Clive and Harry. Those are very English.

Sarina: Are they really?

Briana: Yes.

Sarina: Do you notice that you don’t have any Harrys across over there?

Briana: I’ve never in my life met a Harry or a Clive.

Sarina: I mean neither I have, but. [chuckles]

Briana: Her name was Georgia. That was okay. Yeah, I had to explain that to the audiobook narrator too, I was like, “This one is British.” she’s like, “Why?” And I’m like, “I don’t know.”

[laughter]

Briana: It just is.

Sarina: Okay, well, same as with Unboxed, Very, very good little book– [crosstalk]

Briana: Oh, thank you.

Sarina: [crosstalk] -short stories, really loved it. Go buy it. [crosstalk]

Briana: Thank you. I feel like if you liked it, that’s a high praise too, because you don’t usually like horror, and there’s some yucky stuff in there.

Sarina: See, I didn’t think so. There was nothing in there where I [00:51:00] thought, “Oh, that’s grim.” But that might be more reflection on what’s wrong with me rather than what’s good about your horror. [laughs] I don’t know.

Briana: I don’t tend to go for super gory. I usually like the psychological, existential dread stuff better.

Sarina: Maybe that’s why it worked so well for me. I like that kind of stuff as well. If you’re listening, also like that kind of stuff, you really want to read the short story collection.

Briana: There’s like a little blood in it, but it’s not– I wouldn’t say it’s super gory. There’s body horror, so throwing out a trigger warning for that if you’re not into that. There’s people’s body parts move around and do things they shouldn’t.

Sarina: Oh, is that what that is? I didn’t know there was a word for that.

Briana: It’s that one story that I can’t name because then it’ll spoil the whole story.

Sarina: No, we won’t go into that. But anyway, final question before we run way over time. Do you have any [00:52:00] advice for establishing a writing routine?

Briana: I would say don’t be afraid to try a bunch of different things, and if something doesn’t work for you, it’s okay to abandon it. Even if it’s something that works for you feel like everyone else, but that doesn’t mean you have to stick with it.

Sarina: Yeah. I think especially with writing routines, they tend to change so much as you go on and just change as a writer. I mean, as you said earlier, you’ve written six books. You’ve published six books anyway and you’ve had a completely different approach with all of those.

Briana: Yes. And I feel that’s going to happen going forward too.

[chuckles]

Sarina: Whatever works. Just try things, it’s fine.

Briana: Yes. Don’t be afraid to try things.

Sarina: And if it doesn’t work, as you said earlier, you can just stop doing it.

Briana: Exactly.

Sarina: There’s no one right way to do it, which is great in a way, but also makes it harder in another.

Briana: Yes.

Sarina: Ah, such a joy. [00:53:00] All right. Well, I think that’s a good place to wrap this up. Thank you so much for coming back again.

Briana: Thank you for having me.

Sarina: Anytime. Maybe not any time, we’ll have to consider if dare a fourth interview.

Briana: Do we tempt the universe?

Sarina: I don’t know. The universe has been pretty good to me lately. I don’t want to piss it off.

Briana: Me neither.

Sarina: Maybe we shouldn’t. But as long as it gets [unintelligible [00:53:29], then it’s fine. All right. Thank you so much for coming back. As I said, have a wonderful week everybody. Have a great day. I’m going straight to bed. [laughs] Have a good rest of your day, Bri. Bye-bye.

Briana: Okay. Thank you.

[music]

Sarina: 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 [00:54:00] and Facebook @SarinaLangerWriter, and of course, on my website at sarinalanger.com. Until next time, bye.


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The Writing Sparrow Episode 39 | BookFunnel for Authors

In today’s episode, I talk about how authors can use BookFunnel to reach more readers faster without spending a fortune!

Your action step for today is to check out BookFunnel’s website and do a little research. Do they offer what you’re looking for?

Listen to the Episode

Read the Transcript

[Writing Sparrow]

Sarina: 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 sarinalanger.com. Let’s get started.

[music]


Good morning, friends and Sparrows! It’s the 7/6/21, this is Episode 39, and today I thought I’d tell you a little about BookFunnel!

Before we start, I just wanted to quickly mention that you can now support this podcast and my new podcast for readers, The Reading Sparrow, on Patreon. You get a lot of benefits in return, such as a suggestion box for future episodes and guests you’d like me to talk to, priority to come on as a guest yourself, the chance to submit questions for every episode which I will no longer do via social media, free books, tea, hugs, and lots of fun stuff like that. So, if you’d like to help me keep these podcasts running or even help shape them, check it out at patreon.com/sarinalanger. The link is now also in the show notes.

NOW, onto the topic of this week’s episode! What is BookFunnel? It’s not a publishing platform or a sales tool like Amazon Ads, for example, but rather a promotion tool. Having said that, some group promotions are sales focussed, so they’ll ask either for books in KU or for books that are discounted on a certain day or a date range. I’ve now also seen one that specifically asked for books that are wide, so available on other sites beyond Amazon. These don’t work as well in my experience because the offered books aren’t free, but this is the same everywhere you’ll promote just because free stuff is less of a risk for readers who don’t know you yet – but I’m getting ahead of myself!

BookFunnel isn’t free to use, but there are 3 options to choose from. Which one you use is entirely up to you. The cheapest option is $20 a year, and that’s perfectly fine if you just want to test it and see if it’s for you. You can also change plans or cancel anytime. I’m on the midlist author plan because it makes the most sense for what I want to get out of it, and that’s $100 a year. I’ve linked to BookFunnel in the show notes, so I recommend you click that and read up on what the different options can offer you; otherwise, we’ll be here a while, and I don’t imagine me just reading out three lists would be very thrilling.

One more note one the pricing though: I paid extra on my midlist author plan to get direct email integration. This means that when people subscribe to your mailing list via a BookFunnel promotion, you don’t get sent a list of names and email addresses that you then need to copy and paste onto your mailing list. Instead, new subscribers join directly via BookFunnel, which saves you the extra hassle and makes the process smoother for your new subscribers. For me, it was worth it for that, but it’s not necessary.

I started using BookFunnel for two reasons: I wanted to share my mailing list sign-up freebies in an easy and reliable way, and I wanted to get my books in front of as many people as possible. I wanted an extra advertising platform, basically. I used to use another platform to share my mailing list freebies, but that was a while ago and I don’t remember the name or why I swapped… it may have been cost-related. I don’t remember. When I swapped to BookFunnel, several subscribers got in touch with me to say that it’s much easier for them to use and they prefer the overall look of the landing pages as well, and I do too, because it’s clean, looks professional, and I have some control over the layout, colours, and wording, so I always match the colours to the freebie. It just makes it more consistent. BookFunnel also keeps track of how many people have downloaded what, and if you’re into stats, like me, you’ll appreciate that insight! Once you’ve created a landing page for your book or freebie—which is very quick to do, by the way—you get a link to share with your subscribers, and that’ll get them to the download page. It’s very easy to set up.

Joining group promotions is also very easy, although most of them will have requirements. For example, it’s not uncommon for them to not allow erotica at all–unless you’re joining an erotic romance promo, of course. Many allow some steam but not naked man chests on the cover. I think every promo I’ve joined so far has required me to share the promotion with my mailing list at least once, and in my experience, social media shares are appreciated but not necessary. When you apply for a promo, you can usually pick the date on which you’ll share it with your mailing list, but some need all participating authors to share on the same day. It’ll be clear when you join what they want you to do. BookFunnel keeps track of your shares, because it tells the next promo organiser how much average traffic you’ve contributed to previous promotions. If you have a reputation of not sharing the promos despite it being mandatory, for example, you likely won’t get into future ones because you don’t uphold your end. I’ve seen some promotions that require you to have a certain average, but most don’t, at least not in my sci-fi and fantasy category.

Now, the most common concern I see about sites like BookFunnel is that the people who subscribe to your list from those promos aren’t real subscribers, that you’re effectively going for quantity over quality. To some degree, this is true! But BookFunnel now allows you to make joining your list optional for anyone who downloads your book, and I do this with every promotion I join. That way, the readers who really aren’t interested aren’t forced into signing up, and the ones who do join did it because they saw the option and wanted to take it.  Of course, they might then read your book and hate it, but this is true with everyone who reads your book no matter where they got it from. BookFunnel just allows you to reach more people faster, so of course the numbers are higher. I’ve had subscribers from BookFunnel promotions who ended up reading all my books, some have joined my reader group on Facebook, and quite a few have left reviews too – a big thank you if that’s you! Without BookFunnel promotions, I might never have reached those readers. If some of those subscribers unsubscribe again instead, that’s fine too – your mailing list isn’t for people who don’t like your books, so you’re not really losing anything by them unsubscribing. I do recommend, though, that you keep your list clean, meaning you kick out those subscribers who never open your emails. Doing that keeps your list healthy – I’m with MailerLite and they make it super easy. But I’m getting off track.

The other common concern I’ve seen is that people will download your book but not read it. Again, this is true no matter where they get your book from. If you’re telling me that you don’t have at least one book you’ve had for years that you haven’t read yet, I don’t believe you. With e-readers it’s especially easy to download loads of books and then not read them for a while, and I think most readers are guilty of that. I’d be lying if I said that I immediately read every book I buy or download, but I do read them eventually and I think most of us do. I’ve had a hardback copy of Circe for years that I haven’t touched since I bought it, so the same applies to books you buy in a physical shop. It might just take a while. Also bear in mind that your book isn’t special to a new reader because they don’t know you yet. They have no reason to prioritise your book before others, so just be patient and write another book.

I had a question from @authorrhiannewilliams on Instagram before I set up Patreon, so I’ll allow it.  She asks ‘How is BookFunnel different to StoryOrigin?’ The boring answer is that I don’t know because I haven’t tried StoryOrigin. From a glance at their website, they sound pretty similar, but since I haven’t tried StoryOrigin, I’m afraid I have no first-hand experience to share. If you have used StoryOrigin and know it well, get in touch and maybe we can arrange a chat. So, erm, sorry @authorrhiannewilliams for that pointless answer. I don’t have a better one.

So, to summarise: is BookFunnel worth the investment? Well, it depends entirely on what you want to achieve. If you want as many sales as possible, this may not be the platform for you – but consider that if you promote a free book with them and have published several other books, then you might see readthrough. In fact, I have seen some readthrough. If you, however, want to reach as many readers as possible, then BookFunnel could be a fantastic way of doing that. You effectively pay once a year—or monthly, if you prefer—and then run as many group promotions as you want in that time, so how much you get out of it is up to you, and the cost is much lower compared to other sites. The downside to that is that sites like BargainBooksy, for example, have dedicated mailing lists full of readers in your genre, whereas you don’t really know where all those other included authors sent your books. If it’s a sci-fi and epic fantasy promo, for example, and you’re an epic fantasy author, then some authors will send the link to readers who love sci-fi but don’t care about fantasy. That’s not really a risk though, at least I don’t think it is, because you don’t pay anything extra for those readers. And, of course, which promotions you join is entirely up to you!

I’m worried I forgot something. If there’s anything else you wish I’d mentioned that I haven’t, please get in touch and I’ll answer your question then.

Thank you so much for listening, have a great day and a fantastic week. Bye.

[music]

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 sarinalanger.com. You can also support this podcast at Patreon on patreon.com/sarinalanger. Until next time, bye.


Support this podcast on Patreon.

This transcript was done by Sarina.

For more from my podcast, browse the category right here on this website or listen with your favourite provider.

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.