Agented!

Oh! So that’s what a contract from a literary agent looks like. Though it looks a lot less blurred in person.

Some big things happened last week, and I’ve basically been exploding to tell the Internet all about it. I’ve signed a contract with Red Sofa Literary and will be working with literary agent Dawn Frederick. You can learn more about (the wonderful) Dawn on the agency’s website and via Publisher’s Marketplace. You should also follow her on Twitter.

Dawn is going to be pitching out the YA fantasy novel I’ve been toiling away with since the Fall of last year (I spent my vacation in Puerto Rico and Montreal working on it), and really, I’m just so excited. She’s got amazing ideas, and I’m already starting work on book #2 (what!) in the series. Read more

Five Years in Philadelphia, Five People That Helped Me Make It

So five years ago this month, I packed up a handful of things and moved to Philadelphia.

I found a horrible, filthy apartment on Craigslist in West Philadelphia. I only had one day to visit Philly before moving here and as crazy as this sounds, the apartment that had crack needles littering the stoop and a third roommate sleeping on a bare mattress in the living room was the best choice. It was a toss up between that one and living in a house in South Philly that regularly got raided by the FBI, as a past inhabitant was on some sort of wanted list. The tenants once had a raid happen in the middle of a party. They thought this was hilarious. I did not.

I didn’t have much. My entire life fit quite comfortably into the backseat of a 2006 Ford Focus. I had to sell two guitars, my entire DVD collection, all my video games, my soprano sax, and my beloved vintage tenor saxophone to afford to move here and have some funds to live off of until I found a job. I bought a futon on Craigslist the day I showed up, and thought I was going to get stabbed in a Chinese restaurant when a man demanded I give him a hug. One of my best friends, who had driven me to Philly in my parents’ car, was hesitant to leave me here.

I told him I’d be alright.

And five years later, I’m doing just fine.

However, these past five years wouldn’t have been nearly as successful and fulfilling without certain people. Whether they were pushing me forward career wise, encouraging me to be a better writer, or educating me culturally, these are the folks that, without them, I probably wouldn’t have gotten this far.

Five awesome people. Five awesome years.

Tim Quirino: I was trying to limit this list to solely people I’d met in Philly, but creating this sort of VIP list is impossible without mentioning Tim.

I’ve known Tim for nearly a decade, but we only became close friends these past five years. He did design work for bands, I took their pictures, and we ended up working together on some stuff. Fast forward to me moving to Philly, and he was living in a house in University City while wrapping up his undergrad at Drexel. I was attending grad school and knew no one in the city.

Let’s forget for a moment he’s one of my dearest friends and that he moved me from apartment to apartment over the course of several poor living choices. We launched Geekadelphia together, a site that, much to our surprise, changed our lives quite a bit. A majority of the people I spend my time with, I met directly and indirectly through the website. They came to our events, were friends of friends, local writers, etc.

Tim and I inadvertently helped build our own social circle together. Quite sure that my social life is the direct result of our friendship and the project we built.

He designed the cover of my book, built almost every iteration of this personal blog, and also, he pressured me to get the Master Chief suit built. And we all saw what happened as a result of that.

Brennen Lucas: When I moved to Philly, I had zero job prospects. I dished out my resume to dozens of retail shops, publications, etc. I was turned away constantly. On a whim, I applied for a blogging job on Craigslist. Despite the fact that I’d only been in Philadelphia for two months, Brennen gave me a chance, hiring me at my first “real” job at a non-profit called GPTMC. Philly folks know them better as the Visit Philly people.

I was working in Philly tourism, and at that point, I’d yet to go the Liberty Bell. Read more

When Writing, Remember to Treat Yourself

Some of the best advice Robin Black (go buy If I Loved You I Would Tell You This before continuing) ever gave me, was on the importance of “treating your inner writer.”

While I’m sure she said this in a far more elegant (and possibly award-winning) way, she made this fantastic point in one of our creative writing classes about how necessary it is to give yourself little rewards for doing… well, just about anything when it comes to your writing. It’s something I’ve carried with me ever since those graduate school days.

It’s a simple concept really, but an important one.

Writing is a pain. As much as I love it, sitting down and dedicating a solid few hours to working on my new book, drafting up another essay, or fiddling around with blogs on Geekadelphia… it takes a lot of effort. There are so many other things I would rather be doing. I live in an awesome city, full of amazing restaurants and cultural events. My friends are all social media addicts, and are easily accessible as distractions. There is always something more fun to engage in that isn’t the solitary act of slumping over my netbook and gazing at that intimidating, glowing screen.

As the weather gets cold and I just want to stay inside, treating myself has become a serious means of motivation, and Robin’s advice has been on my mind in a big way.

I find its easier to tear myself away from, say, a game of Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, when I’m promising myself a tall gingerbread spiced latte at Starbucks. The urge to order delivery and watch a movie is negated by treating myself to tortilla chips from El Fuego, a local burrito joint, and writing by the restaurant’s front window. I force myself out to the Green Line Cafe for a hot tea whenever new episodes of my favorite shows hit Hulu Plus, telling myself I can watch them after I finish at least an hour of writing there.

There’s this joke I like to bring up, from Family Guy, about writers having to write in public because OMG how else would people know they were writers. It’s hilarious and probably true for some people. For me, I’m out and about treating myself so I will write.

Shrug.

Like I said, the idea is simple. Whether you’re fussing over a book, an essay, a blog post, or a poem (or broem, sup Brian), remember to treat your inner writer. You’ll feel better about yourself, and get work done.

Treat. Yo. Self.

Master Grief: Essay on the Bygone Bureau

So I finally finished this essay about my Master Chief armor, my epic break-up last year and my reasons for getting the costume made. Kevin over at the Bygone Bureau liked it, worked on the piece with me, and published it yesterday morning.

The results were incredible.

Entitled Master Grief, the essay has since been mentioned on Kotaku, Geekosystem, Neatorama, The Daily What, Rip Ten, CNET, Digital Trends and was featured on the front page of Reddit pretty much all afternoon with over 1200 votes.

Update: It’s now appeared on Geekology, Device Mag, Ubergizmo, Buzzfeed, G4, Geekologie, Brides Magazine, Shortlist, DVice, the front page of Yahoo and the official website for Halo. Unreal.

At the end of the day, the essay was scoped out 105,000 times. I’m not sure how many of those individual people actually read it, or what the count is like right now, but man, what a crazy number.

I’d like to thank everyone who tweeted about the article, up-voted it on Reddit (both strangers and friends), shared it on Facebook and took the time to read my countless rough drafts, especially Mikey, Chris, Allie, Allison, Jess, McG and Tim for their invaluable notes. And of course, huge thank you to Kevin for giving me an outlet to share my story.

If you haven’t read it yet, take a look at it here.

One Year Later: Five Things I Learned About Self Publishing

Getting attractive ladies to read your book, helps!

Well, its been a full year since Textual Healing came out, my senior capstone project turned novel. Over the course of that year I learned a lot about the self publishing process. It was incredibly frustrating and cost me a hell of a lot of money, but in the end, I think it was all worth it, despite the rising anger in my chest every time I think of the self publisher I used.

When it came out, Textual Healing received a lot of nice press. Tons of book bloggers wrote about it and said glowing things. I even saw some print press, which is a really hard thing to get when it comes to a self published book. It has an average 4 star review on Goodreads, with nearly 70 ratings. It even sold enough copies to recoup nearly half of what I spent getting the book published in the first place.

All in all, a success as far as I’m concerned.

However, as more and more of my friends and folks I’ve met through the Internets talk about self publishing, I find myself concerned. Because really, while I’m happy with the result of my silly book, I know a lot of people would be epically disappointed if they had my results.

So, I’ve written this little list of key things I’ve learned about the process, to hopefully help folks that decide to do something similar. Because it is hard, it is frustrating, and ya’ll need to be prepared.

1. Have Low Expectations: You’re psyched. Your first book is coming out. You’re daydreaming about watching your Amazon rankings shoot up into the stratosphere, making best of lists, signing movies deals, and…

Yeah… please stop doing that. Please.

Yes, there are lots of awesome success stories when it comes to self publishing, but those are rare considering the sheer number of books that get churned out from these publishers. Don’t count on your book getting a ton of press, popping up in bookstores across the country or making you a ton of money. Press won’t want it, your self publishing company can’t get it in bookstores and even if your book does sell a thousand copies, you’ll probably just barely recoup your expenses.

If you are doing this for the money, you’re already #doingitwrong.

Me, I went in with pretty low expectations regarding my book. I was lucky. My silly book did get a lot of press, but really, most of that only happened because of Geekadelphia, my existing relationships with bloggers and my own toilsome marketing tactics (a podcast that failed, Goodreads giveaways that I spent lots of money on, etc) for the title.

If you go in with low expectations, everything great that happens, whether it is a press hit or a kind review on Amazon, will only feel 100% more fantastic. There is nothing wrong with daydreaming, but stay realistic.

2. Book Bloggers Seldom Review Self Published Books: Yes yes. You’ve written the next Great American Novel or whatever. You’re like Paul Giamatti in Sideways. Great book, no one wants it. So you go ahead and make things happen yourself, thinking everyone will want to read it.

Eh, not so much.

I took this review policy screenshot from Well Read Wife, a book blogger I ADORE working with when it comes to promoting Quirk titles. She doesn’t accept self-published books, and really, I can’t blame her. I’ve seen my fair share of self published author pitch emails sent to Geekadelphia, poorly written press releases, etc. It hurts, knowing that these folks are putting their baby out there without proper support (that’s why you get a publicist), and book bloggers simply don’t have the time to read through all that (to borrow an editorial term) slush. They have tons of quality stuff heading their way on a weekly basis. Read more