Writing Questions

I have so many resources, and they all start with studying craft.

Here are the writing craft books I’d recommend to any student. They start with your basic information and get progressively more advanced:

Everywhere! I find media that sticks with me–TV shows I adored, books I can’t put down, video games that give me goosebumps–and I look analytically at the content. What did the creator do to make me feel those things? Can I copy that technique in my own writing?

Ask it enough, and you’ll find common threads that stand out to you. Character types you adore, tropes you can’t watch enough. Start incorporating them into possible plot ideas, and you’ll be amazed at how a book starts taking shape!

Authors record book length by word count. (We’d use page count, but it’s inconsistent as shit due to the different styles of book formatting.) With that in mind, here are the word counts for my current novels:

  • THE SECRETS OF STAR WHALES: 53,000 words
  • A PIRATE’S LIFE FOR TEA: 88,000 words
    THIS GILDED ABYSS: 92,000 words

Please note that word count varies wildly by genre. Middle grade books are typically shorter, and cozy fantasy is shaping up to be a lower-count genre as well. A proper adult fantasy ranges anywhere from 90k – 140k, depending on worldbuilding and content. πŸ™‚

If you need more help finding an appropriate range for your books, visit this site and take a peek for your genre! But please remember that everything here is subjective–a truly amazing book can break just about any “rule.”

If you’re querying your novel, remember that agents are looking for reasons to say “no.” Try not to give them one here. πŸ˜‰ Indie books are definitely more flexible with these ranges.

Everything. Anything. I love hopping genres, so I won’t be limiting myself to one. It depends on the story I’m trying to tell and the setting that’ll be best to tell it. You can almost always expect the following, however:

  • Magic in some form
  • Dragons, if I can get away with it
  • A compelling love story (usually lesbians, but not always)
  • Deep, meaningful friendships
  • Hurt/Comfort in some capacity
  • Whump, nearly always
  • An action-packed writing style
  • Witty dialogue

Otherwise, it’s a gamble. I’m aware that my stories won’t appeal to everyone, so please read the content warnings carefully! If you’re worried about being triggered, I recommend my cozy fantasies. They’ll be a safe haven in a storm of chaos. πŸ˜›

Currently, the best place to buy my novels is Amazon; I make the most per novel off their royalties. However, since Amazon is evil and we all know it, I will never fault someone for consuming my books elsewhere. I recommend visiting your local indie bookstore! I offer great discounts for bookstores and libraries, so any indie store can order my novels via Ingram Spark.

Bookshop.org is also a great option, even though the majority of the profit there goes to indie stores instead of me. I still recommend it, since a lot of indie bookstores rely on their yearly bonuses!

No. I believe anyone should be able to enjoy my books, regardless of income level, country of origin, or ability to pay.

There are dozens of reasons people pirate books. Some people live in a country that bans LGBTQIA+ media. Some libraries cost yearly fees to join. In my opinion, the only way piracy is a black-and-white issue is when people fail to acknowledge the struggles of others.

If you have to pirate my novels, there is no way I can stop you. All I ask is that you leave a review in return. Tell your friends and family. If they have the means, maybe direct them to my Amazon page.

The world is a big place, and I’m an advocate of compassion and understanding. If you have the ability, I’ll appreciate any monetary support. If you don’t, you still deserve to read good books. How you secure them is up to you.

Publishing Questions

Traditional publishing (trad pub, or just “trad”) is the process of securing a literary agent in order to go “on submission” with publishers. The Big 5 publishers in NYC won’t accept unsolicited submissions; in order to be traditionally published, you need a literary agent to submit your novels to editors at those presses. It’s a long, complicated process, but have the added benefits of expansive distribution and a full team that makes your novel amazing.

Self-publishing, or “indie”, is the all done by you, the author. It involves commissioning or creating your own cover, editing your book, formatting it for publication, and uploading it to self-distribution sites like Amazon, Ingram Spark, Scribd, and many others. In indie, no one is reviewing your novel for quality–but that does NOT mean these novels aren’t incredible. It just means they were created and published by the author, without a professional team behind them.

I’m both! I’m what we call a “hybrid” author: someone who bounces between the two.

I had a literary agent for 4 years in my late 20s, and we sold my middle grade to a traditional publisher. Then I separated from that agent and went indie with my cozy fantasy in 2022. Now I firmly straddle the line. I have an agent who works on foreign rights deals (selling my book to publishers abroad), and I self-publish otherwise.

This approach offers me the freedom to design my novels as I want, from cover to content, while exploring the distribution benefits of a traditional publisher. It’s tougher to navigate because there isn’t one “set path” for publication. I’m figuring things as I go, so stay tuned for updates!

That’s a great question, and the answer is, “it depends.”

If you’re more interested in a fast publication with little oversight and total freedom, indie is your best bet. You’ll get to decide everything. Everything. But if you want your novel to sell, I’d still recommend you explore successful titles in your genre. See how they packaged their book, what platforms they distributed on, and how they market. Don’t ever forget that regardless of publication style, you’re writing for your reader. Audience is key.

If all that sounds intimidating or expensive, it’s because it is. And in that case, trad might be a better path for you. It takes time (I’m talking literal years), but it’s an incredible process. Start exploring “querying,” which is the process of securing a literary agent. And while you’re at it, make sure you find your author community. It can be on Twitter, Discord, TikTok, Facebook, or somewhere else, but having author friends who understand the querying trenches is essential.

Don’t forget that a lot of authors pivot between the two. You can start in trad and decide it’s not for you, or visa versa. That’s why we have so many hybrid authors! Just keep writing and learning, and you’ll do great. <3

The obvious answer is “write more.”

New writers hate hearing that. Writing a book takes ages, and the idea that “more” is necessary is tough to swallow. Trust me, I understand. But none of this happens overnight.

  • Here is my publishing journey, broken down by full-length novel:
    • Novel 1 – 8 (2002 – 2013): Written for fun, no intent to publish
    • Novel 9 + 10 (2014 – 2016): Queried 100 agents each, NO requests
    • Novel 11 (2017): 8 full requests, all rejections. Won RevPit, several more full request, signed with that literary agent. Book died on submission after multiple rewrites.
    • Novel 12 (2018): Sold to a publisher –> The Secrets of Star Whales, Jolly Fish Press
    • Novel 13 (2019 – 2020): Book died on submission
    • Novel 14 (2022): Agent didn’t believe she could sell it. I separated to pursue self-publishing.
    • Novel 15 (2022): First self-published book –> Can’t Spell Treason Without Tea
    • Novel 16 (2023): Second self-published book –> A Pirate’s Life for Tea
    • –Tomes & Tea series sold to a major publisher here, after gaining TikTok popularity and demonstrating solid book sales–
    • Novel 17 (2023): Third self-published book –> This Gilded Abyss
  • The point is, if you think you’re ready to be published, and agents don’t agree… there’s a good chance your writing just isn’t there yet. The only solution to that is practice. Read every craft book you can. Talk to people in the industry. And write your next novel.

    If this were easy, or took less time, everyone would do it. I’m sorry your first book isn’t working out. Go write more. (Or, hey. Self-publish. Then no one can tell you no. πŸ˜› )

    “A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.” – Richard Bach

    I followed Travis Baldree’s path almost identically. No joke. The only place I deviated is getting on TikTok, where he’s bigger on Twitter. I’m very lucky that Travis was so forthcoming with his self-publishing journey, or I’d never have made it!

    Here’s a write-up he did for Legends & Lattes, with step-by-step instructions.

    Keep in mind that Travis Baldree had a large following as an audiobook narrator, and his book was picked up for a casual read by a very well-known author. All of that contributed to his rapid success. In my case, I was completely new to indie and started my TikTok from scratch in early 2022, but my experience in traditional publishing gave me tons of resources to pull from.

    Ah, numbers. My favorite. πŸ˜‰ Here’s a breakdown of my initial costs for Can’t Spell Treason Without Tea.

    • $1000 – Cover Art (ALWAYS get commercial rights.)
    • $150 – Formatting Software (Atticus)
    • $275 – 10 ISBNs
    • $300 – Cover Typography + Promotional Art
    • $50 – Vinyl Stickers (for promotion)
    • $100 – Supplies for Book Boxes
    • $60 – Stamps
    • $50 – Mailing Supplies
    • $50 – Upload to Ingram Spark
    • $15 – Proof Copies from Amazon

    Total: $2150

    Keep in mind that several of those purchases were one-time things, or bought in bulk so I can keep using them into new releases. Future novels will be cheaper by default. However, I expect every novel I publish to cost me around $1500 regardless.

    Another important thing to note is that I didn’t use a professional editor. I’ve worked with enough that I know where the weak spots in my writing are, and how to fix issues as they arise. This is a learned skill, and not something an author can inherently know about their own work! If you’re new to publishing, please factor in another $400 – $1000 for a good editor.

    (My go-to is, and always will be, Carly Hayward. She’s fantastic at her job. But every editor is a bit different, so I recommend you explore many quotes before choosing your favorite!)

    I know. Hence why self-publishing is a risk, and why many authors decide to pursue traditional publication instead. There are authors who don’t make back their original investment for years, and many need what’s called a “backlist” (multiple books published) before they enter the green.

    I am a very unique case, and it had a lot to do with timing, luck, and my marketing ability. There is no right or wrong way to do this, and anyone copying me may not find this level of success.

    If publishing were easy, everyone would do it. Are you going to let that stop you? πŸ˜‰

    Here’s an introductory video on the steps needed to self-publish your novel. It’s a 3 minute rundown of every step needed to self-publish.

    If you’re looking for more in-depth information on each part, I created a TikTok playlist on every aspect of self-publishing. Check out the playlist here!

    Don’t be intimidated by all there is to do–just take it one step at a time.

    I pay attention to trends in the marketplace, and I recommend every author do the same. My success was largely luck–the right people read my books at the right time–but capitalizing on that success is a skill every author can hone. We don’t know when lightning will strike, but we can be in the field preparing for it.

    Finding Legends & Lattes was a lightning bolt moment for me. I stumbled on it in Barnes & Noble, and until that point, I didn’t realize indie books could be in B&N. That alone opened my mind to the growing possibilities of self-publishing. From there, I realized that after the pandemic, everyone was going to want quieter, low stakes fiction.

    The final moment snapped into place when I learned Tor had purchased L&L in March 2022. With my background in trad pub, I knew that in a few years, cozy fantasy would have its own section in Barnes & Noble. And after watching Twilight and the Hunger Games, we know how these trends go. The first good books to the table are the ones recommended in the same breath as the genre creator.

    I’m lucky I write fast. LOL.

    Tough to say. Traditional publishing takes about 2 years, so I think we’ll be seeing Barnes & Noble hit the trend hard in 2024 / 2025. However, that means editors are acquiring those novels right now. If you have a literary agent and can write fast, I wouldn’t wait to get a cozy fantasy in your agent’s hands.

    If you’re indie, you’ll have to be good. This space is already starting to fill up–you can see the recommendation list on Meg’s Tea Room, and how it’s growing. Your cozy fantasy will get traction on TikTok just because of its genre, but only the truly fantastic ones will stand out as we continue into 2023. So write fast, but take your time and make sure it’s amazing.

    Writing for trends is a tricky business, but sometimes it can pay off in a big way. If you enjoy cozy fantasy anyway, take a chance!

    Absolutely!! But with a caveat–many of these people are good friends of mine. They’re also excellent at their jobs, and would love to hear from you!


    Cover Design / Interior Formatting

    Cover Artists

    Business Questions

    If you have any business or publishing inquiries, please contact my literary agent, Taryn Fagerness, at her website. Taryn represents me in all deals, both domestic and foreign.

    Possibly! While I love doing signings and events, it’s very expensive on my end. If a store is willing to reimburse for a plane ticket, possible hotel accommodations (depending on location, and whether or not I can fly there and back in a day), and a rental car, I would love to take the time and visit. Reach out and let’s chat!

    But for most stores, that’s a lot, and I understand. I’m always happy to send signed bookplates to your store in lieu of a physical visit, or try to accommodate a virtual event.

    Right now, I have no planned “tour,” but that could change in the future.

    Um, YES.

    I’m a teacher at heart, and have an MFA in Popular Fiction Writing and Publishing. I offer special emphasis on weighing publishing paths–traditional vs indie–and helping authors choose the best one for their end goals. Long story short, I have plenty to say, and would be happy to speak on any topic relating to publishing or writing.

    If you’d like to reach out, please contact me via email, and let’s make a plan!

    On occasion, I’ll offer signed books… but it’s at the whim of my schedule. I don’t have any available for purchase on my website, and that’s simply due to the time constraints of supplying copies and mailing them out.

    You can always track my calendar and visit a bookstore hosting an event with me! They’ll have signed copies for a time.

    I wish I could say yes to this. You have no idea how badly I want to learn speed reading. Unfortunately, I read with the speed of a turtle carrying dynamite across a busy road. At any moment, I could be flattened, explode, or worse. It’s a miracle I finish books at all.

    So basically, no, and it’s a Big Sad for me.

    You got a Copy copy!

    By my estimation, there are 78 Copy copies of Can’t Spell Treason Without Tea, 97 Copy copies of A Pirate’s Life for Tea, 92 Copy copies of This Gilded Abyss, and 114 Copy copies of The Day Death Stopped. That means these are VERY rare special editions!

    The first one was a mistake, kindly pointed out by Danny on Twitter. Everything afterwards was intentional, because pranking my readers is one of my favorite pastimes. >.> The only way to get a Copy copy is by supporting me on Amazon in the first couple days of a book launch. πŸ˜€

    Congratulations on your Copy copy!!

    TikTok Marketing

    BookTok is a thriving community of readers, writers, and everyone in between. I emphasize community, because too many people approach the app as a way to sell books, rather than form connections. I’ve met incredible friends on TikTok, and I use it as a platform to discuss writing, publishing, and marketing–but also my dogs, my life, my hobbies and passions.

    Tip one: be a real person. If you try to curate yourself into an Instagram model, TikTok will not respond favorably. They want authenticity, not staged images of how great you are.

    Tip two: make friends. Do this by following others. Engage in their content. Ask questions, listen to the answers, and establish yourself as a pillar of a community. If people know you, when you finally have a book for sale, they’ll be tripping to support your novels–same as you supported them. That’s community.

    The basic answers are basic for a reason. Engage with TikTok on a higher level, and you’ll have higher results. If all you’re using it for is to shout “buy my book,” don’t be surprised when everyone scrolls past.

    There’s a goldmine community in BookTok. You just have to do a little digging.

    Good lighting. A tripod to stabilize the video. Quick, fast-paced clips of you speaking, trimmed to cut out the millennial pause. Trending music attached to every video, even if it’s muted. Clear, concise speech. A variety of video styles, including speaking videos, dance videos, acting videos, page flip videos, and everything in between.

    But the biggest tip I have is to be succinct. Don’t tell us that you look terrible, but here’s why you’re recording anyway. Don’t give us a lengthy backstory before diving into the meat of your topic. GET TO THE POINT. You have maybe 3 seconds to hook someone before they scroll to the next video. How will you use it?

    Unfortunately, I don’t have the time to explore everyone’s videos and offer feedback. I recommend you follow my TikTok and analyze the promotional videos I use. You can watch this video for suggestions on how to market your book.

    BookTok influencers make an author’s world go ’round. I literally would be nowhere without influencers picking up my novel and waving it on social media. My print sales are consistently higher than my ebook sales, which is highly abnormal for indie authors. I can literally pinpoint a correlation between a promotional video and my sales. There’s a reason BookTok tables take center stage in nearly every bookstore these days!

    I literally cannot thank influencers enough for what they do. They’re amazing.

    This goes back to that community I was talking about earlier. I try to help influencers however I can. Most of them just want engagement, followers, and books, so I promote them whenever possible, duet their videos, and set aside hundreds of ARCs just for them. Without their help, I’d be nowhere.

    I joined TikTok in February 2022 on the advice of my graduate marketing professor–a man who works very high up in the acquisition department of Disney’s press. He emphasized that TikTok is tossing publishing on its head, and advised us all to join.

    I spent a few months scrolling, then decided to start building a following in earnest. From about June 2022, I set a schedule to post at least once a day. I had a modest following of about 3,000 followers when I published Can’t Spell Treason Without Tea in September 2022. After that, I climbed to 6,000 by December. My first video went viral with 2.1 million views around Christmas 2022, and nearly doubled my followers in the coming weeks. Since then, it’s been growing steadily.

    It’s a long ride, but it’s definitely possible if you create solid, engaging content.

    Regretfully, this is a side of TikTok I’m unfamiliar with. There are a few accounts I’ve stumbled on with people who don’t show their faces, either by framing them out of the shot or using a unique mask. But it seems like a lot of effort, and it’s not something I was interested in pursuing.

    I’m sure it’s possible to become viral and successful without showing your face. I just don’t have any tips on it, since all of my experience has relied on presenting my truest self and letting people get to know me. If you can find a way to meld the two, let me know!

    Personal Questions

    The dragon’s name is Quill, and he loves mischief. He’s also tattooed on my right arm, because he’s adorable.

    Quill was designed by my friend Anna Oman! Her dragons are top-notch, and she’s working on a coloring book of them now. πŸ˜€ She also takes commissions if you want your own little dragon. Highly recommend her for all your dragon needs!

    Currently, Arizona! I was raised in the East Valley of Phoenix, AZ. (No, I’m not Mormon.) I have a deep appreciation for the desert, and try to hike at least once a week in the winter. In the summers, I love driving north and spending time in Flagstaff, Pinetop, and Payson.

    I do indeed! I’ve been a flight attendant for about a decade now. I’ve worked with two major US airlines and have no intention of quitting. While I’ve scaled back my hours to write more often, I still try to fly about 3 days a month. You may see me on your next Southwest flight!

    Yes! I earned my MFA in Popular Fiction Writing and Publishing from Emerson College in May 2023, and was selected as the School of the Arts commencement speaker. I have also completed graduate level coursework in Rhetoric, Writing, and Digital Media Studies with NAU.

    (Note: you do not need an MFA to be a successful writer, but you usually need one to teach in a higher education classroom.)

    If you work at a college and have an opportunity for me, feel free to reach out! I’m especially interested in guest lecture or writer-in-residence positions, to ensure I still have writing time.

    My specialties in the classroom will be centered around creative fiction, with a special emphasis on commercial publication. With my extensive experience in both self-publishing and traditional publishing, I’d be a great fit for teaching students how to make real money off their genre fiction, no matter their publishing goals.

    Yes. I identify as bisexual, but lean far closer to the lesbian side than anything straight-passing. I am also demisexual, and was asexual for many years before I found that special person. I support any and all gay agendas, and my books will always contain lesbians. πŸ˜‰

    No. Not my wheelhouse. They’ll be side characters, and that’s as close as you’ll ever see me get.

    My girlfriend said that I could be single if someone rich and hot comes knocking, provided they give us access to their bank accounts. So far, we’re still waiting. >.>

    Under no circumstances am I allowed to pursue a certain Canadian lumberjack.