Jan 12, 2012

Talking with Tawdra and a critique giveaway

I first met Tawdra Kandle last summer, when she graciously invited me to participate in an online critique group. I quickly picked up on Tawdra's encouraging nature. She's also a brave, ambitious writer who's not afraid to put herself out there and try something new. Fearless is her debut fantasy YA ebook she's published via Amazon; it's to be the first of four in the King series.

Because she's a generous soul (and has a ton of experience critiquing) she's offering up a free, full MS critique to one lucky commentor! Just include your email address below so I can contact you if Melvin the Magic Sorting Hat coughs up your name Sunday night. A winner will be announced Monday...along with some REALLY exciting news!!! *hyperventilation followed by chocolate intake*

1. Your MC in Fearless can hear thoughts. Agents have said this characteristic is very common in their query box, so how does your MC stand out from the crowd?

 First of all, this ability is not really the point in the book; it is just one aspect of the main character, and it informs some of her decisions and choices. I think that may be part of what makes her stand out.  Also, Tasmyn was born with this particular gift; it's not a recent acquisition, as it is in some books, where the character has to adjust to a new and possibly frightening talent.  In some ways, her ability is representative of any of a thousand other traits that might serve to isolate a teenage girl.

2. How did you get this MS ready for publication? Did you hire an editor or just depend on your critique partners?

I re-tooled this work several times, based on advice from my critique group, from certain key agents and editors and from a few beta readers.  My most critical readers were my own three daughters, who are now 16, 20 and 23.  They are all discerning readers and were able to point out any weak or questionable areas of the story.

3. You mention the pros and cons of e-publishing in your blog. What made you decide the pros outweighed the cons?

 It wasn't an easy decision.  Of course, I think every writer dreams of a traditional publishing contract, of seeing her work in print and of having the backing of a publishing house.  That was certainly my hope and goal.  I began re-examining that goal after I attended a writers' conference.  I came away from the weekend with a renewed sense that the traditional publishing world is a state of major flux.  I also realized just how subjective the whole process is.  We were in a group setting, and we saw one group of agents in the morning and another in the afternoon.  Our entire group was astounded by how completely contrary one set of agents' advice was to the others.  Not long after, I had the opportunity to chat on-line with a few well-known published authors who told me that if they were selling their initial works today, they would go with independent publishing.  That really pushed me over the edge.  I like the idea of having more creative and financial control over my work and of being able to make it available to a larger audience. 

4. What kind of promotion are you going to try for Fearless? So far, what's your favorite option?

 Well, that can definitely be the down side of independent publishing--no publishing house to help an author with PR.  Of course, nowadays even traditional publishers have scaled back significantly on the promotion they offer first time authors.  I am open to any and all kind of promotion! I am doing a blog tour, several interviews and guest posts.  I am working hard on my author and series Facebook pages, Twitter and my author website. It is a steep learning curve, but I am blessed to have gifted people to help me at about every turn.  Social media is something I really enjoy, and I think the possibilities there are limitless.

5. What's your ultimate goal with the publication of this book?

I would definitely like to cultivate name recognition and a following, since I have a lot of other works in process.  But my main goal for writing this book was just the telling of the story, and it is definitely gratifying to hear from people who have read and loved it.

6. What advice would you give an author considering epublishing? Any must-know tips?

Find someone who knows their way around the process.  Put yourself in her hands and do whatever she advises! Seriously, there is so much more to epublishing than what is presented on most websites.  From book covers to blurbs to formatting. . .unless you are very well-versed in all of this, it's a good idea to solicit help from someone who is. The best way to find such a person, other than hiring her, is to spend a lot of time on good writing sites.  There are some wonderfully supportive groups out there, and women writers in particular (in my opinion!) tend to be very nurturing to each other. Most are willing to help each other with PR and some of the technical aspects of epublishing.  I know I have amazing fellow writers in my corner, and I am excited to be able to return the favor!

7. You also head up a monthly critique group over at A Writer's Block's Facebook page. Talk about guidelines for a good critique.

I've learned so much in my years with A Writer's Block!  I think the most important part of critiquing is knowing what the writer needs.  We frequently encounter writers who have amazing stories and yet their form, grammar and spelling are so lacking that it undermines that story. It can be hard to give them the advice they're seeking--the worthiness of the plot, development of characters--without addressing the more glaring flaws.  But we've found that pointing out repetitive errors can be discouraging.  So it's a balance.  Mention the issues once and then move on.  And we've also found that it's important to ask the writer what she wants from her critique and giving it to her. That doesn't mean only giving glowing reviews--that would be worthless--but it does mean being sensitive to where she is as a writer. I also think that it's vital to give a balanced critique; it's easier to accept the hard words when there are also some that are encouraging.

8. How has being the author of Fearless changed the way you draft other works? Do you write more quickly, have tighter plotting, etc.?

I definitely think my writing is tighter.  There are three other books in the King series, and they were far easier to write.  Some of that is because the characters were already established, but it was also just an easier process.  I don't know about the faster part!  When I wrote the first book, my life was in a much quieter place.  The other books have had to be written around editing Fearless, dealing with the query process, learning about publishing (both traditional and independent) and just plain life stuff. While I was able to write Fearless at home, late at night and in free afternoons, for the subsequent books I've had to get away on my own in order to get in some good solid days of writing.

9. Will you go for epublishing for your next book, or do you continue to query even as you branch out?

My plan is to independently publish the rest of the King series.  I would love to see the books in solid print as well, and that might happen, one way or another.  The next series I'm working on is very different from the King series, and so I'll probably query the initial book, but I won't spend as much time doing that as I did with Fearless.  I'd love to someday have at least one book go through the traditional publishing process, but it's not as important to me as it once was.

10. What's your next project?

My next project is an adult book with tremendous series potential; it's much lighter than the King books, and although it has a supernatural element, it's not an urban fantasy book per se. At the same time that I'm working on that, I'm mapping out two other books related to the King series.  One is a very pre prequel--it is the history of Gravis King, the founder of the town of King, and it tells the story of how he gathered his carnival together and eventually established King.  I love the relationship between Gravis and Sarah, a Romany witch he rescues from a burning stake in Europe. I'm looking forward to that one.  The other is Nell's story; what happens to her after Tas and Michael's story is over.  I'm excited about this one, as well.  Nell is one of my favorite characters!

Thanks for stopping by, Tawdra! She's always willing to answer questions so fire away - and don't forget to include your email address if you'd like a full MS critique!


Suzi said...

I've had a few people ask me if I have thought about e-publishing but I know very little about how it works. So I plan to do it the old fashioned way for now.

Two questions for Tawdra.

When you e-publish through Amazon, do they charge an up-front fee or do they take a percentage of what is sold? Or both?

Also, once you're ready to go, approximately how long does the process take, working with Amazon?

I would love a chance at a ms critique.


Cortney Pearson said...

Thanks for the interview! It's always great to hear a perspective from someone who's out there, published! I have a friend who also chose to e-publish and she has been more than satisfied with her decision. Best of luck to you!
And I'd love to win a ms critique!! ;)

Jess said...

What a great interview! Not only did I learn a few things about e-publishing, I pulled some writing tips out of this as well! Thanks Tawdra and Melodie!

I'd love to win a critique :)
Email: aycockj {at}gmail[dot]com

Emily R. King said...

Great interview! Tawdra's reasoning for why she chose to e-publish was interesting. She obviously put a lot of time and thought into the publication of her book, as well as the writing itself.
Tawdra, thank you for sharing your experiences. Best of luck with your publishing endeavors!

Christine said...

Melodie, I recently discovered your blog--thanks to Miss Snark/Authoress's mention--and have been reading it ever since. Really enjoying it!

Tawdra, thanks for sharing your experience with e-publishing. It's very interesting to learn more about that. Glad you got Fearless out there so people can read it--loved the new cover design on your website.

A manuscript critique would be wonderful!

tawdra said...

Thanks, everyone, for your comments and good wishes. Glad you enjoyed the interview.

Suzi, in response to your questions about e-publishing: Amazon does not charge an upfront fee to e-publish; they do take a percentage (at this point it is 30%, which I think is very reasonable considering the author percentage of most traditionally published books). I have found them to be very responsive to and enthusiastic about their indie authors. As far as timing. . .I highly recommend that you invest time in reading their instructions for formatting and preparation in advance of publishing your book. It's not difficult, per se, but it can be a steep learning curve if you're not fairly tech-savvy. I certainly didn't realize how much time it would take to have my cover designed and book formatted. I'm in the midst of the final edit of the first sequel to FEARLESS, and you can bet I am also working on the cover design at the same time! Once you submit it to Amazon, it's usually only takes a few hours before it is up on their site (although I think they tell you it can be up to 24 hours). I hope this helps; if you have any more questions, feel free to ask them here, or at my website, or on Facebook. Thanks!