Hey writer girl, you!
Did you know I’m the author of a young adult fiction thriller novel? Maybe you did, if you’ve been paying attention to some of my sly book references throughout my blog. If not, now you know! It’s officially been over a year since publishing Genesis Mortalis, Book 1 of the Take It Trilogy. So, I thought I’d do some reflecting as well as give you the inside scoop on Book 2 Siege. Oh yeah, and this breakdown will include tips to help you on your own fabulous author journey to book stardom.
Table of Contents
Born With The Writing Gene
This might sound a bit cliche, but I’m totally not lying when I say I was born a writer. No seriously, as a child, my parents were constantly buying me notebooks and pencils. I simply loved making up stories. Back then, I never knew a fun little hobby could lead into actually writing a young adult fiction novel someday. But it was a great means of escape for a girl who spent more time day-dreaming than living real life.
How The Take It Trilogy Came to Exist
I first knew I had a book series worth writing in middle school. Despite being a straight A student, my mind would often drift away to being a spy and going on missions. You could say I watched a little too much Totally Spies! as a kid… And also that my dad’s love for action movies exposed me pretty quickly to espionage (i.e. James Bond, Mission Impossible, and every badass Jason Statham movie like ever written). Little by little, I would write down each mission I could think of, filling an entire 70-page notebook.
Creating a Fictional, yet realistic World
As a writer, I’m quite adamant about avoiding science-fiction or “magical” worlds. So, the only way to open up every possibility imaginable while keeping this fictional world somewhat realistic was to give my characters a ton of money. Also, anyone who knows me knows I’m totally bougie and love anything luxury, particularly nice homes, cars, and clothes. That’s basically why I made the Montevega family into billionaires.
Plus, being billionaires allowed me to make their mother the owner of Rossi, a fictional English luxury sports car manufacturer and global automobile brand with over one hundred dealerships on six continents. If you can’t tell, Rossi was inspired by Rolls Royce. These luxury dealerships became my “hiding spots” for the secret underground locations of UCOCA, the Unorthodox Capitalists Organized Crime Association, which Madisyn & Marcie run together.
The Main Characters
I used myself as inspiration for the lead character and also turned that character into two… Twins that represented my double personalities (I am a Pisces, you know). One of them was sweet — a little passive — and liked to play by the rules. This one became Marcie. And the other twin… Well, you could say she’s more of the “dark” side of me — the little devil that sits on one’s shoulder. She became Madisyn.
And to shake the dynamic up, there just had to be a best friend. But I also wanted the potential for a love interest, so that became Robbie Ancens. I added the annoying big sister role of Mackenzie, inspired by my own sister (hahaha, jk Alex!! Well, sort of…love you though!) Mackenzie serves as a sort of antagonist that brinks on the edge of exposing the twins’ operation. Lastly, live-in tutor Valentina was my way of giving the twins and UCOCA a purpose for existing (which you’ll just have to read the book to understand).
Choosing Character Ethnicities
I knew I wanted to dive into British culture in one of my stories. I was super into British culture as a child. Maybe Harry Potter is to blame, but I also had an entire shrine dedicated to luxury British clothing brand Burberry in my teens. Plus, I was totally in love with Arctic Monkeys. So I made the Montevega’s into British billionaires who live in London. To make that decision somewhat relatable for myself still, I made the twins mixed-race having a black mother and a white father.
And I knew I wanted to have an extensive family trip/mission in Book 2 featured in South Korea early on. So, that’s when I decided Robbie would be Korean, his father only being half Korean and half Polish. Random? Yes. But I was totally adamant with making Robbie’s last name Ancens.
And as far as Valentina, I made her Russian because I was totally into the cliche wicked Russian bad guy you see in movies. Valentina isn’t bad herself, but I wanted to take UCOCA on their most dangerous mission yet to a secret rogue boarding school of spies in Russia to rescue her long lost brother.
The Script to Trump All Scripts
Fast forward to college. I discovered my writing “voice” by taking like, 90% of the creative writing classes at Columbia College by the end of Sophomore year. But I knew that my story was fit more for the big screen. And also, the thought of producing a full novel was super overwhelming. So I wrote the movie scripts.
Partially, I knew that writing a movie script would be much quicker (and considerably easier). That’s because a huge rule in screenwriting is not to add internal character thoughts. And I was right about how quick it took me. I produced both scripts before the end of Senior year in December 2018.
The Next Quentin Tarantino
Another reason I chose to do a movie script back then… I wanted full control of how my story would be portrayed on the big screen (boy was I naive). The true artist and musician in me — oh ya, did I mention I play violin & piano and compose music? — went so far as to add which songs I wanted for specific scenes. I even added the exact beats of the song that certain actions would fall on.
(Again, naive. But no lie, I swear I don’t usually toot my own horn but, toot toot. I am a f****** musical genius and you’d think so too if you read the scripts!! If only Hollywood made an exception for self-proclaimed musical geniuses to add music into screenplays…sigh).
I also went as far as taking up a last minute minor in Film Studies. I signed up for directing classes at the all-female liberal arts college down the street, and declared I would become a movie director and screenwriter. All so I could have full control of how the Take It Trilogy movie series would look.
Despite my control issues, my Hollywood directing dreams were all washed away with one technological screw-up that left me completely flustered, causing me to totally bomb my interview with the UCLA Film Directing Graduate Program. Tragic…but honestly, I see it as a blessing in disguise. And I’ve come to terms with leaving the filmmaking to the actual pros.
A Book is Born
Around Senior year, I used my movie scripts to turn the Take It Trilogy movie series into a book series. And it turns out, all that hard work I put into the scripts wasn’t for nothing.
Tip #1: When writing a book, make a super detailed outline with the order of events and dialogue. Or you can write a script since it’s basically the same thing!
I had no idea back then that writing the screenplays would be the hardest part of the writing process. But once I had those babies, I simply used it to fill in the internal dialogue that was left out. I produced two fully written 200-300 page young adult fiction novels in less than a year and a half. And it had never felt easier! AND I even found ways to keep in some of the songs I desperately wanted in certain scenes. Yes, I know, pure genius. But you’ll just have to read the book to see for yourself.
Getting Picked Up by a Publisher
Once I had my drafts ready for the first two books, I moved on to looking for publishers. Not knowing where to start, I looked up some of my favorite young adult fiction book series that were turned into movies. Like Harry Potter, The Hunger Games & To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before… I found their book publishers and reached out. Sure, the first two were definitely out of my league, but I submitted anyway. I even got a sweet rejection letter from the latter book’s publisher simply because she didn’t have the time with her current workload. Still flattered though!
I submitted to traditional publishers for severals months. And that’s when my best friend Yulia sent me a text about a program she saw on LinkedIn. It was called the Book Creators Program led by Georgetown professor & entrepreneur Eric Koester. The program helps writers with a book idea write it out from start to finish. That includes working with editors and attending weekly classes.
Since I already had my books written, I decided to just reach out to Professor Koester. I asked if it was possible for me to “skip” ahead and simply submit my drafts to their publishing company… A hybrid publisher called New Degree Press that specifically works with the top writers from the program. He had one of the program’s developmental editors look over my work to see if it was ready for publishing or if he recommended taking the course instead (since I originally applied and got accepted into the course).
The Moment Every Writer Dreams of
A couple weeks after submitting my first book’s draft, my young adult fiction book was green-lit for publication! I remember getting the email while driving. I literally had to pull over into a parking lot because I was so excited that I started crying. But I mean, this was the moment literally every writer dreams of…having their book picked up to be published.
But Wait…What’s a Hybrid-publisher anyway?
The only part of being accepted by NDP that freaked me out was that they weren’t a typical traditional publisher. Sure, I knew my writing was good… My big sister, who is a major bookworm and young adult fiction lover, had read my work and approved. And she is seriously brutally honest and has never sugarcoated anything in her life. But the process of only waiting a month and being green-lit made me nervous. Where was the blood, sweat, and tears? The long four-month wait? It seemed too good to be true.
What I found out is that a hybrid-publisher like this one allowed authors to keep the rights to their book. And instead of having to pay the publisher, they actually help you raise the money to have your book published. That includes the price of paying the editors you work with for four months straight. It also includes paying the graphic designers who design your cover. It helps pay the people who run the program. And lastly, it pays the layout team who put your book into its book format.
The Pricing Breakdown
It also includes what type of book format you want. So, for publishing an ebook and softcover only, you would raise $5,000. For publishing an ebook, softcover & hardcover, you raise $6,000. And to add an audiobook on top of all that, it’s $8,000.
Authors do have the option to pay out of pocket if they want. But most choose to do the campaign since NDP has a great method they walk authors through for 30 days. It is a lot of work. And you have to be willing to put yourself out there and do what they tell you to do. But it absolutely works. I ended up raising a couple hundred over my goal for a total of $6,660 to publish my young adult fiction book in three formats. So if you can’t afford to pay out of pocket, I highly suggest doing the campaign.
Tip #2: I highly recommend campaigning and raising money for a book over paying if you don’t have the money. There are tons of options nowadays for doing like using Kickstarter. Or you can work with a program like NDP and Book Creators Institute.
A quick word about Kickstarter. I heard about this from Anna David’s newsletter — a good reason to sign up! Apparently, it’s the new thing fiction authors are using, like this author who is now up to $41 million freaking dollars…WTF.
Publishing Support like no other
With a hybrid-publisher like NDP, you work with an editor each week on chapters of your book. You also attend a weekly class virtually. This is where they teach authors about different steps of the publishing process as we’re going through it. That includes editing, layout, designing covers, etc. The classes also teach super helpful marketing methods that you just won’t be taught with a traditional publisher — who may not even allow you to promote your book in the best way for sales (shocking right? More on this in the next section). They really empower you to go out, sell your book, and leverage it for getting events and press coverage.
The Truth about Traditional Publishing
Not long after starting with New Degree Press, I discovered the podcast Entrepreneur Publishing Academy. It’s hosted by best-selling author of 8 books, TEDX & TV speaker — who also later became my author mentor — Anna David. Binging the episodes during the start of my publishing journey was extremely eye-opening.
Tip #3: Listen to Entrepreneur Publishing Academy, which has incredible advice on publishing and launching a book. A lot of which I have used in my publishing journey, even with tips from my publisher. Also, check out my blog “One of the Best Podcasts for Writers (And How to Publish a Book)” to learn about the podcast and my relationship with Anna.
Anna completely busts publishing myths that many people think of when it comes to working with a traditional publisher. Like how they don’t pay for authors to go on book tours and get their books into bookstores… Unless you’re some of their top authors who will make them money. And that if they choose not to market your book, there’s literally nothing you can do about it… Because, duh, they own the rights to it.
I felt completely fortunate to be working with a hybrid publisher after discovering all of this. My publisher both allowed me to keep the rights to my book and taught me how to market it. Eventually my goal is to get my young adult fiction series made into a movie series for the big screen. And because I own the rights to my book, that process is totally in my hands.
Launching the Book
Mistakes & lessons from the Launch
Launching my young adult fiction novel back in 2021 wasn’t the most smooth process. This hiccup was due to a few factors. Mainly because my book was extra long and the editing process took longer than other authors publishing in my cohort. This left me without an official launch date since we needed more time to get done.
Also, perhaps I had been a little slow (mentally)… I hadn’t realized that uploading my book onto the backend of Amazon KDP meant my book was published LOL. This is definitely my fault for not listening attentively in my publisher’s final weekly class that explained this. (No seriously, after uploading the manuscript and seeing that it was on Amazon, I was like, “oh f***, it’s live?! LMAO.)
This was my first book so I hadn’t realized how important it is to plan for the launch. You’re supposed to do this like months ahead of time. But I will say, I was pretty overwhelmed with juggling the process along with my full-time and part-time jobs. And seriously though, it is no joke having to edit a 76,000-word book in your spare time.
And that’s another thing… After publishing my manuscript on Amazon and getting physical copies shipped to me, I found so many typos. And even a couple formatting errors. This is horrifying as a first-time author, but much more common than people think. Just know that it happens no matter how many times you proofread thoroughly. I had to proofread the 300-page manuscript for my young adult fiction book six freaking times in the span of a couple weeks prior to publishing. I was exhausted and got to the point were I was skimming in the last few rounds. So I was bound to miss something.
Preparing for My Next Launch
Just know there are ways to prepare in advance, like I will for the second book.
Tip #4: Before launching a book, sign up for Anna David’s newsletter. And check out her publishing company Legacy Launch Pad. She always puts out tons of resources, like how to run an Advanced Reader Team prior to launching. I have an entire folder on my MacBook now that is dedicated to her book launch materials. That includes step-by-step guides and templates (some of which you can also find in her podcast).
Also, Launch Pad is a hybrid, woman-led publishing company. Plus it’s ran by a best-selling author and 3x TEDx speaker (who is just lovely by the way). So I highly recommend them for publishing non-fiction. In fact, I plan to do so myself in the future because non-fiction is where all the money is anyway!
“Congratulations, You’re Published!”
Seeing my book published was so incredible that I even made a huge poster of the cover! But I didn’t have much planned as far as a book launch party. Besides signing all 159 copies that were bought in the pre-sale and shipping those out. To be fair, I live in Seattle and COVID restrictions were more strict here than anywhere else at the time… Also, planning a party seemed like a lot of work and not super fun after an exhausting four months. I mean, after campaigning, editing, and proofreading my book so many times, I was over it. Plus, I plan to have at least two more books in this young adult fiction series so there’s always time!
Marketing My Young Adult Fiction Novel
I have a ton to tell you on how I chose to market my young adult fiction novel, so I made this into a completely separate blog! Head over and read “Book Marketing Ideas to Use After Publishing” for my experience and tips on the following content:
- Hosting a Summer Internship
- Building an Author Website
- Doing an Unofficial Book Tour
- Selling Books to Bookstores
- Being Hosted for Book Signings
- Speaking on Podcasts & at Virtual Events
- Hosting Book Competitions
- How to Run a Giveaway
- Contest Mistakes to Avoid
- Getting Press & Being Interviewed
- Social Media Strategies
Getting Books Into A Celebrity Bookstore
As someone who dreams of having their book series made for the big screen, here’s one of my proudest moments from marketing my book….
During my trip to L.A., I got physical copies of my book into Book Soup, aka the celebrity bookstore in West Hollywood. Book Soup is located on the infamous Sunset Strip (also home to The Oppenheim Group, from the iconic Netflix real estate show Selling Sunset for those who live under a rock). I’m hoping someday one of their notable Hollywood visitors will pick up my book and strike a movie deal!
Of course I learned about this bookstore from the celebrity herself, Anna David, who has had numerous signings and events with them. Read more on them in my blog “Los Angeles Bookstores to Visit.”
Here are some other photos from getting my books into bookstores in Seattle & St. Louis:
The Financial Part
Let’s talk money for a second. The financial piece is often one authors and writers tend to forget about or neglect. And well, you shouldn’t. You may not realize this at first, but marketing your book can be quite expensive.
From buying social media ads to paying Bookstagrammers to do a book review, hosting giveaways, giving complimentary copies of your books to bookstores, paying to be in festivals, buying a website domain and paying for intern/manager email accounts, submitting to book competitions, investing in subscriptions for things like a newsletter platform or Stamps.com or IMDB, buying branded paraphernalia, investing in online courses to help my author career, and traveling to events or stores for promotion…
Eventually, it all adds up.
I wasn’t paying attention to any of that once my young adult fiction book came out. Mostly because I was so happy it was published that I’d do whatever it took to get it out there! Which sure, you make royalties and get a hefty chunk whenever a Barnes & Noble hosts you for a book signing and buys a bunch of copies… But it is super imperative to not go overboard and spend more than you’re bringing in from sales.
Guess how much I spent after my first book came out? Just over $10,000 in the span of six months.
I know this because my mom finally talked me to into keeping a spreadsheet to track my expenses. This might seem like a lot of money, but you definitely don’t need to spend like this. Granted, half of that is from online courses and classes, which were beneficial investments I don’t regret at all.
Track Your Expenses
Tip #5: Create an excel sheet that tracks expenses. And create a budget for each goal.
Categories you’ll want to include:
- Marketing expenses (like the ones listed above)
- Personal development
- Online courses
- Certification fees
- Website hosting and URL fees
- Meals and food on business trips
- Transportation to events/business trips
- Monthly cell phone and internet bill
- Miscellaneous expenses
How to Write Your Expenses Off
As Anna David likes to say, your book is a business and every author should consider themselves an entrepreneur. As a young adult fiction author, I never thought I’d own a business. Luckily for me, I learned from my aunt — who is a quilter and turned that into a business — that I could write off my expenses if I got a business license. So I applied online for state and city licenses and registered under a sole proprietorship and was approved pretty quickly.
Once tax season came around, I was able to write off most of those expenses and get a good chunk of money back!
Well, marketing your book — and the upcoming series for me — never stops. In fact, I recently learned in Anna David’s Entrepreneur article “Authorpreneurs: You Need to Do This Before You Write Your Book” that marketing starts before even writing a book. Much like this advice, there’s a lot of the above tips I plan on implementing for all of my future books, with probably less investment for marketing.
Book 2 of the Take It Trilogy
Also, I’m currently working on writing the second book in the Take It Trilogy! So far, it’s about 60,000 words and I plan on adding 10,000 more words which are going to be two more missions the twins go on. Spoiler alert: I kill off one of the main characters by the end of the book. Haha, but I won’t say which one! Take your guesses in the comments below though.
Without giving away too much, Book 2 — with the current title of Siege — shows two perspectives with twins Madisyn & Marcie being in different countries for most of the book.
Marcie and Robbie are away in South Korea on a mission to take down the Kkangpae Korean mafia. This is more a plot of revenge than it is a UCOCA (Unorthodox Capitalists Organized Crime Association) mission. As one of my favorite missions, it features a gruesome wedding massacre (I won’t tell you whose) and intercepting a pretty swanky gala full of criminals to hunt down a killer.
Meanwhile, Madisyn is back at home. She partners up with dreamy Luka, Valentina’s younger brother who they rescue in the first book. When her father is falsely accused and imprisoned by a business partner, she and Luka run off to track down the people responsible. That includes breaking into the deadly compound of a Middle Eastern bagillionaire in the oil industry.
A Sneak Peek of Siege
Here’s a small taste of an action scene from Book 2…
Staying close to the walls of the villa, Luka continues along the outside patio. He comes to stand under one of the archways and jumps, grabbing onto the bulging ledge to pull himself up to the second-floor patio. With a trained balance and the kind of confidence that only comes from being thrilled by heights more than just a tolerance for them, Luka scales the outside part of the railing with ease. He hears the voices of two nearby guards on the second floor and quickly hops onto the edge of the railing and pulls himself up another floor to the roof. Luka runs across the top floor, aiming his gun to the left to shoot the only guard on the top level before diving off the side of the villa closest to the cliff. Falling upside down with a flawless grace, he pulls out a second pistol and uses both to shoot the guards on the second floor before doing a perfect head-first dive into the ocean.
After a moment, Luka comes up from the water and swims over to a big rock sitting at the bottom of the cliff. He holds onto the rock with one arm – breathing fast with adrenaline, a pleased smile on his face – and looks at his watch, tapping it to make sure it’s on. “Security’s taken care of,” he says into the device. “Have fun.” Luka pushes off the rock to let himself fall back into the water, feeling higher than he had ever felt in his entire life.
Several hundred meters higher on the cliff and crouched behind some bushes nearby one of the villa’s many doors, Madisyn presses down on her own watch to respond. “Copy that.” Hunched over, she runs through the dense greenery and waits behind the closest tree for the perfect window of opportunity.
The Journey Continues…
I’ll keep you guys updated on publishing Book 2! Right now, my plan is to partner with my same publisher at the end of this year and publish next spring. And then I’ll have to start thinking about Book 3, which I haven’t even started!!! I also have a few more young adult fiction books in me. One is military war thriller called No Coming Home and the other is a fantasy drama about an orphaned cellist who joins a royal orchestra called The Rising of Samlan.
Have some ideas for what you want to see in the third book of the Take It Trilogy?! Let me know in the comments below.