Keep going. I think sometimes it can be easy to get stuck. I felt that way when I was revising and revising my first book. It helped to work on something new.
A third-generation native Arizonan, YA author Kelly deVos writes about strong, capable, feminist heroines. Following the success of her debut YA novel we catch up to talk about confidence, how she made the journey back to writing and making all the querying mistakes.
Please give us a brief overview of yourself and your work.
HI! I’m Kelly deVos and I’m a Young Adult writer from Gilbert, Arizona. My focus is on creating strong, capable, feminist heroines who are often trying to succeed in areas typically dominated by men. My debut novel, Fat Girl On a Plane is out now. It follows a teen fashion student across two timelines, before and after a major weight loss she falsely believes will solve all her problems.
What made you want to be a writer? How did you begin writing?
I wanted to be a writer at a very young age. I was really inspired by Trixie Belden, a series of middle-grade mysteries. I would write my own Trixie stories during recess. I originally studied creative writing in college but I lacked confidence that I could succeed as a writer. I developed a really fun career as a graphic designer but always felt something was missing. About five years ago, I went back to school and resumed writing.
What inspires you to write?
I love storytelling. I love the idea of giving someone an interesting narrative and hopefully entertaining them or making them feel a certain way. This is what motivates me to bust out my laptop.
Is there any particular incident that has happened along your writing journey that you’d like to share?
I made A LOT of mistakes when I first started querying. I queried my first book, an unpublished teen detective novel, when it was unedited and 140,000 words long. I wrote a query letter that compared it to Twilight and the movie Raiders of the Lost Ark. Eventually, I became part of an incredible community of writers and I learned the essentials of querying agents. But the point is, that it is okay to make mistakes along the way. It’s possible to bounce back.
Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
I personally feel like there are two important things. One is to keep up with your reading. For me, I learn so much from the work of other writers. The other thing is to Keep Going. I think sometimes it can be easy to get stuck. I felt that way for a while when I was revising and revising my first book. It helped to work on something new. I also think it’s great for writers, as much as we can, to engage in activities to hone our craft. Working with critique partners, attending workshops, etc. can all be ways of moving forward.
What do you think is the biggest marketing challenge for new authors?
The two main issues are typically the availability of time and money. Specifically, the cost of marketing initiatives that might be a major driver of sales can be way out of the reach of many authors. Authors can choose to save money by trying to self-manage some of their own marketing efforts, but this can take a lot of time.
What methods of book marketing do you find the most effective?
I feel really fortunate that my publisher has done a lot to help get the word out about my book and many of the things they did made the most noticeable impact. Of the things I’ve done personally, my marketing efforts via Instagram have been effective. I’ve done a couple of bookstagram tours and they had good results. I also joined a marketing group for debut authors, Class of 2K18, and for me that was really helpful. We were able to pool our money for marketing and advertising efforts that I would not have been able to afford myself.
Generally, I’ve tried to focus in on a couple of pieces of advice that I’ve received from authors I admire. One is to engage with marketing efforts that you actually enjoy. That way, whether or not the marketing is super effective, you still got a sense of fun or enjoyment for participating. The second is that the best thing you can do for your career is to write your next book. So, I try to do those things.
How do you make time for your book marketing?
I tend to manage my time so that I work on marketing-related tasks when I have small blocks of spare time (my lunch break, for example). I use my bigger blocks of time for drafting and revising. The key is to try to stay as organized as possible. I’m a big fan of the time management system put forward by David Allen in his book Getting Things Done.
Any advice for approaching publishers?
My best advice in dealing with both agents and editors is to always be polite and professional. Not only is the book community small and interconnected, you can never tell when your paths will cross with someone in the future.
How do you handle rejection as a writer?
Rejection is tough! I’m lucky in that I have a great support network. I think it’s really helpful to have a few people who can listen and commiserate. I basically try to give myself a set amount of time to wallow and then I have to move on. The thing about the pain of rejection as a writer is that it never really goes away. And honestly, I kind of assumed that it would. I thought if I had an agent, rejection wouldn’t sting. And then I thought after I sold a book, rejection wouldn’t hurt. But ultimately, a writer can be rejected by reviewers, by readers, media outlets and award committees, so I think developing a process to deal with the emotion is so important.
How do you deal with isolation?
I do try to write, in person, with a couple of writers in my area so that I am not alone all of the time. I also do a bit of writing at a few coffee shops in my area as a way to get out in the world. We also have a great networking group in my area so I feel like help is available if I need it.