Reunion at Walnut Cherryville

Received Third Prize in the 2013 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards.

Eternal Feud: Reunion at Walnut Cherryville Johnny Cockit accidently murdered a man when he was ten years old, which is why he was sent to Sonoran Correctional High School, a gender-segregated boarding school located in Phoenix, Arizona. Two months before graduation, Johnny and his friends are drugged and abducted by Walnut Cherryville secret watchers during an afternoon counseling session. Making decisions about the future has never felt important until the students are forced to work in a remote produce factory owned by the vengeful Quinton family. Walnut Cherryville is no ordinary factory; it’s the Quintons’ futuristic desert village governed by the principle that people live better-quality lives when they don’t make their own decisions. To ease the burden of life’s basic yet complicated choices, the government limits misdirection by choosing every citizen’s career path and lifestyle. Johnny and his friends plot an escape but must avoid being recaptured because abandonment of the village is a crime punishable by death. In a scandalous turn of events narrated by Johnny and his delinquent friends Vincent, Laura, and Collins, they discover that the reason they were captured roots back to an ancient family feud between the Cockit and Quinton families.


Goodreads Quiz

Dec 24, 2013

How to Turn Your Novel into a Pitch for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards

Congratulations, fellow writer friend!  If you’re reading this, it must mean you finally finished drafting your novel and are wondering “how do I get this thing out into the world?”

Honey, I shrunk my book!
The first thing you’ll need is a great pitch, but that requires a dozen scientists who can operate a shrink ray machine that can reduce your book down to size, or about 300 words.  You could go the traditional route and send query letters to literary agents or you could see if the odds are in your favor at the 2014 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards (submission date soon to be announced…hopefully).  Either way, you’ll still need a pitch that can awaken an editor from drooling all over the slush pile.

For the purpose of this blog, I am gearing my advice towards those who are creating a pitch for ABNA by following their 2014 contest submission requirements and sharing from the knowledge I gained by making it into the Third Prize level in the 2013 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards with my novel pitch for Eternal Feud: Reunion at Walnut Cherryville.

Here are six things I suggest you do first before really cracking down on that pitch.

1. The Synopsis: An 80% Reduction
When I finish writing a chapter, I create a chapter summary, which is like writing a book report.  This involves rereading the chapter, taking note of details that are pivotal to the main plot, sub-plots or characters.  I also list unanswered questions posed in the chapter that will need to be addressed later because this will eventually reveal plot holes and other inconsistencies in the manuscript.  Creating chapter summaries was the first step I took towards making my pitch because they became my outline, or synopsis, for the entire book.  Through this process, I reduced a 400 page book into 20 pages.  Click here to see the chapter 1 summary below from Reunion at Walnut Cherryville to get tips and view the process in action.

2. Remember, math is not for novelists.
Since the synopsis had driven my book down to its most important points, I thought writing the pitch would be peachy…I guessed wrong.  I ended up rewriting my pitch five times until I developed the 180 word combo that won third prize in the 2013 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards.  If you’re keeping track of the math, I’ve just reduced 20 pages down to 1/3 of a page..ta-dah!  There is no exact formula for how to write the best pitch and I’ve seen it done in infinite ways.  After scouring the internet for examples, I found hidden details encrypted in clouds of creative fluff.

3. Express the originality of your book idea indirectly. 
Every book has its own identity, so I wouldn’t compare my book to another or say “it’s different because…”  I showed how my story was unique through my perspective, while allowing room for readers to make their own inferences and comparisons to other things they’ve read.  

4. Define your target audience.
When reading a pitch, you should be able to tell which audience it appeals to solely on the main character’s demographics, challenges and themes.  Without stating it, I targeted the young adult audience by making my main character a high school student who is tasked with making difficult decisions future.  It’s important to focus on discussing conflicts, challenges and life lessons that are relatable to your target audience.  

5. Imply your genre and theme.
Use descriptive language to suggest your book’s genre and a theme will emerge based on that language.  In Reunion at Walnut Cherryville, speaking about intolerable governments suggests the book is dystopian themed with a hint of western (due to roots of an ancient family feud) and general science fiction (futuristic produce factory located in a desert).    
6. Set the stage for the reader.
Introduce the main characters, plot, conflict, and “take home message.”  State or give an idea about where and when the book takes place.  Don’t reveal all your secrets, just enough to spark interest and curiosity about the book.  Click here to see the breakdown of my pitch as an example.

For those of you struggling to write your pitch for the first time, I hope you find these suggestions helpful.  Looking back at my own 2013 ABNA submission, I wish I had a more straightforward way of saying that the book was narrated from multiple perspectives, though I couldn’t think of how to fit that in gracefully without disrupting the flow of the pitch.  If you think you can solve that puzzle, let me know in the comments!

Keep in touch and let me know how your ABNA pitch is coming along on Facebook, Goodreads and Twitter @EternalFeud.

Oct 26, 2013

Lets Get Animated!

Eternal Feud: Reunion at Walnut Cherryville has been transformed into a fun and engaging comic strip by Bitstrips. Check it out and make sure to download your free ebook exclusively available on Amazon from October 27 to October 31. Happy Halloween!

Jul 28, 2013

Pivoting in the Self-Publishing Playground

The bookworms are almost done professionally editing Reunion at Walnut Cherryville, but they could sure use a refill of red ink in their pens.  Thanks for putting up with all those errors!  There is still time to get my novel for free before the new, edited version is released. Download the digital version of Reunion at Walnut Cherryville before August 17, 2013 from Amazon and receive a free update (fully edited) when the novel is sparkling clean!  Also, enter the Goodreads book giveaway for a chance to win a free (fully edited) print copy.

The Eternal Feud will be moving its quarrel to KDP Select for 90 days starting on or around August 17th.  During this period, ebooks will be exclusively sold on Kindle making them no longer available on Smashwords, Nook, iBooks, Kobo or any other retailer…we’re sorry.  Print books will remain available for purchase on Amazon.  KDP Select will allow Amazon Prime members to borrow Reunion at Walnut Cherryville from Kindle Owners' Lending Library.

Why Would A Self-Published Author Sell Through One Retailer? 
Well, let’s look at the analytics from the past four months…

Kindle Downloads vs Competitors
*This chart does not represent downloads from retailers that contributed less than 1% of Reunion at Walnut Cherryville downloads.

It’s no secret that Kindle dominates the industry, which is why most readers who downloaded my book got it from there.  In March 2013, the ebook was released and available for $3.99 at all the retailers listed above.  In my case, it didn’t seem to matter how many retailers my book was being sold through because it was only making sales through Amazon.  Since sales weren’t as great as I hoped they’d be during the first month, I tried out a new marketing strategy: giving it away for free.  This increased downloads by over 100 percent.

I have many friends, who are aspiring novelist, asking me for advice before they set their own books off to sail though the muck of publishing.  Whether the readers realize it or not, authors invest a year’s worth of time or more into writing, revising and preparing their books to be published.  It was a lot of work to willingly give away for free; though I learned the “free strategy” had its advantages for new self-published authors.

The Positive Ions of Free
1. It encouraged readers to take a chance on me because they weren’t going to lose any money by downloading my free book.

2. It’s boosted my chances of getting reviews and rating on Goodreads and retailer websites by getting my book in front of more readers.

3. The Amazon algorithm worked in my favor when my book was free vs. paid, since there was less competition in the free book categories.  Reunion at Walnut Cherryville is featured in two top 100 free Best Sellers lists: Teen & Young Adult Dystopian and Dystopian Science Fiction.  This was possible because I wasn’t competing against books from well-known authors, like The Hunger Games, on the same list.

4. This strategy helped me learn more about the market, my readers and what suggestions they had to improve my work.

The Free Pea
“Free” gave the book a great introduction to the world, though there is still room for improvement.  The biggest disadvantage of the “free strategy” was the fact that it’s free.  I didn’t make any money for four months, so I ate a pea every night for dinner.  That’s over-exaggerating a bit…I ended up getting a day job to earn some income.  Though I don’t expect to get rich being a novelist, KDP Select is another strategy to try.  If there is a way to turn peas into chickens, I will find out and let you know.

I apologize for the inconvenience to those who don’t like to buy their books from Amazon.  Always feel free to voice your opinions on Facebook, Goodreads and Twitter @EternalFeud.