Read like your dream depends on it. Because it does. Read, read, read. Get a library card and read every book in your genre. You’ll pick up on subtle writing tips that you don’t even realize.
YA Author Cheyanne Young spent a decade working as a mechanical engineer before turning her attention to swoon-worthy love interests. We talk about how J.K. Rowling´s outlining method started her writing journey, the challenges of being a full-time author and her tips for slime-free book marketing.
Please give us a brief overview of yourself and your work.
Hi, I’m Cheyanne! I’m a Texan, a coffee addict, and I was that weird girl in school who would rather read than do just about anything else. I spent an agonizing decade working in mechanical engineering, and then finally took the plunge to be a writer. Being a full-time writer is hard, but this is where I’d much rather be! I write books for young adults (and the young adults at heart). My books are mostly contemporary, always include a swoony love interest, and I hope they’ll leave the reader with a smile.
What made you want to be a writer?
I think my lifelong love of books is what initially sparked the interest to write. I’ve always lived in my own fantasy world, making up stories in my mind pretty much all day, every day, largely because of all the books I read. I actually started writing after seeing J. K. Rowling’s famous novel outline on the internet. It was this piece of paper that was divided into grids with scenes and characters and plot lines. I thought it was fascinating. It prompted me to want to create my own book, and I actually did use her method of outlining to write my first book! I’ve since figured out different methods that work better for me.
Is there any particular incident that has happened along your writing journey that you’d like to share?
Yes! So, like many writers, I had written a book that had been rejected by a bunch of agents. And then I did it again, and again. I decided to give up on publishing and self-published my YA superhero series. One thing to note, is that before I self-published, I would often look at the Alloy Entertainment book submission website and think about submitting my book to them for publication. They were the people behind the Vampire Diaries, The 100, Gossip Girl and Pretty Little Liars. They were a big deal. But I’d been rejected so many times, it felt pointless to even try. So I gave up. I self-published.
One year later, I got an email from an editor at Alloy. They liked my superhero series and wanted to republish it under their imprint. WHAT? I was elated. I was blown away. I danced around the house and cried and called my mom. I’ll never forget that first phone call I had with my editor, when I told her that I’d actually considered submitting to them before but was too scared. She said, “You never know what you’ll get if you don’t try for it.” Those words have stuck with me ever since. Don’t give up. It isn’t worth it. It’s never worth it.
Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
Read like your dream depends on it. Because it does. Read, read, read. Get a library card and read every book in your genre. You’ll pick up on subtle writing tips that you don’t even realize. Also, study publishing online. There’s a vast wealth of knowledge online that can teach you everything you need to know from how to get an agent, to editing, book deals, and what to expect with publishing.
When it comes to the actual writing, I think the best advice is to set aside time for it. Turn off the TV. Make your writing a priority. If you want it badly enough, you’ll find the time.
What do you think is the biggest marketing challenge for new authors?
Ten years ago, Twitter wasn’t really a thing, Facebook was barely a thing, and Instagram, with its beautiful #bookstagram photos didn’t exist. Today, there are more debut authors than ever before. There are a ton of books being published in YA, and yet bookstores are closing down at an alarming rate. I think visibility is the biggest marketing challenge for new authors. You’re competing with big-name authors who will have their book cover emblazoned all over the internet and bookstores. There are so many books out there that it’s a reader’s market, not a writer’s market, and you’ll have to shout from the rooftops for anyone to even notice you, let alone realize you wrote a book. Visibility is key, and it’s very hard to attain.
What methods of book marketing do you find the most effective?
Be in this for the long haul. If you are not yet published, now is the perfect time to start marketing. Join online groups, join in on social media conversations, make a blog, make a website. Start a #Bookstagram account. Read and support other authors. Be genuine, and be yourself. Make friends. Make as many connections as you can now, because then when you have a book to sell, you’ll have bookish friends who will be happy to support you.
The best way to market your book is to be someone trustworthy. Someone nice. Don’t be that writer who appears out of nowhere, tweets a bunch of spam saying “Buy my book!” and then disappears. Be a real person.
How do you handle rejection as a writer?
Rejection doesn’t really bother me. I think it helps that from day one of my publishing journey I read many agent blogs and author blogs and learned that rejection is just part of the game. I tend to go into everything knowing that the odds are stacked against me, that way every no is just par for the course, and every yes is a blessing.
How do you deal with isolation?
I’m an introvert. I love isolation. I love writing alone. It’s so much better than being in a cubicle or a busy workspace. I’ve tried coffee shop writing, but I couldn’t get into it. Plus, I have a cat and a dog that spend every waking minute laying next to me, so I’m never really alone. :)
Is there anything else you’d like to share with aspiring writers?
I don’t remember where I heard this bit of advice, but it has saved me countless times: Don’t compare your rough draft with another author’s finished novel.