Three Reasons Why I'm only Reading Self-Published Books in 2016

Can I be honest with you? I love books. All books. The fact that there are entire stores dedicated to housing these amazing word-holders kind of blows my mind. I mean, don't even get me started on libraries. 

But this year? My book-reading will take a narrowed focus. This year will be a year dedicated entirely to self-published books. Here's why.

1. TO SUPPORT INDEPENDENT AUTHORS

When I first created this blog, I had a very limited view of the publishing world. I thought that if I wanted to write books, I would need to spend hundreds of hours perfecting my query letter and spend years waiting for a literary agent. And getting a publishing deal? Might as well be decades. 

This reality was not exactly accurate for a couple of reasons: 

  • Traditional publishing doesn't necessarily take eons. It's part luck-of-the-draw, part talent-based. (I can only comment so much on this platform because *spoiler alert* I self-published.)

  • Self-publishing exists. And it's awesome. (You can find a list of resources on self-publishing here.)

This year, I self-published my first book called These Are the Moments. (You can read the first ten chapters fo' free over here. I need to stop having side conversations with parentheses.) I completely fell in love with the process and made incredible friends that were starting their writing journeys the same was that I was.

This year is a year I want to dedicate to my friends and their stories:

  • I want to help dispel some of the outlandish self-publishing myths.

  • I want to write reviews and cheer on the people who have come to mean so much to me, while making new friends along the way.

  • I want to drink coffee. (I think I lost my point here. I also forgot the stop the side conversations.)

2. TO CONNECT READERS TO NEW AUTHORS

Let's test a theory, shall we? Open a new tab and head on over to Pinterest. In the search bar, type in "best books to read." Now, scroll down until you see the same book twice.

I bet you didn't get very far, did you? I was halfway through my first scroll when I saw Gone Girl for the second time. What's wrong with this picture? In 2016, let's usher in a new wave of authors. Let's play matchmaker with little-known authors and bright-eyed readers.

This year, I'll be tracking my reading journey in a few places. You can keep up with me here:

  • Instagram. I love posting photos over here. This year, I'll promote these self-published books as I read them via pictures. And maybe a little bit of review, too.

  • Goodreads. I don't know how I read books before Goodreads. I love that I can track what I've read each year, while setting a goal for myself. Be my friend!

  • Twitter. Who am I kidding? I spend the majority of my life on Twitter. So you're bound to see updates over there.

3. TO SEE WHAT HAPPENS

If I only read self-published books in 2016, will the world dissolve into a book-less existence and I will be blamed for singly-handedly destroying the written language? Uhh, no. I don't expect anything drastic to come from this challenge, but I would like a few answers to questions I have:

  • What makes a book, well, a book? Do you need a movie deal in order to be considered successful? Do you have to sell 1,000,000 copies to be valid? (I know the answer to this, but only from personal experience. I want exposure to other people's journeys too, because I'm nosy.)

  • How do we encourage future writers? Is buying an author's book the best means of support? What does it take to be a true fan? (Again, I may know this answer.)

  • How many people can I get on board with this?

THIS IS WHERE YOU COME IN.

Reading challenges are fun, but they're way more fun when you have people to share in them.

Discussion Time: What books are on your to-be-read list for 2016? What are your thoughts on independent publishing?

15 Books You Probably Didn't Read in 2015

Can you believe that 2015 is almost over? If you're like me, you're trying to cram in as much book-reading as possible before the turn of the new year. I browse Pinterest for days, searching for the perfect books to read, and I discovered something quickly.

The same ten books keep showing up, over and over. Why not try a few different books for a change? Below, I've listed 15 books you probably didn't read in 2015, but absolutely should. If you have read these books, congratulations! We can be friends. (Links and details are below the infographic.)

 Books You Probably Didn't Read in 2015 | Blots & Plots

Books You Probably Didn't Read in 2015 | Blots & Plots

Read on for book details!

Sweet Girl

Author Rachel Hollis runs a lifestyle blog called The Chic Site, and I'm a big fan of her Instagram. Her book Sweet Girl is about Max Jennings, a girl with hopeful dreams of being a pastry chef. She gets an amazing opportunity to work with world-famous Avis Phillips, and fun and romance ensues.

Finding Lily

I'm happy to call Rachel Del a friend of mine. She, like Rachel Hollis, has a killer Instagram game, and her blog, Big City Quiet is a must-read. Speaking of must-reads, her novel Finding Lily is perfection. This book follows Lily Gardner in the midst of a divorce from her husband, Thomas. It celebrates the idea of second chances, as we watch Lily pick up the pieces of her life.

These Are the Moments

Oh, hey! This looks familiar. My debut novel, These Are the Moments, released in May, and it's been an amazing experience so far! (I expect it to stay amazing. Don't read too much into that "so far.") These Are the Moments follows Wendy Lake and her relationship with on-again, off-again boyfriend Simon. It spans ten years of their relationship, back-and-forth through their tumultuous, yet exciting love story.

The Light Guardian

Meet my new friend Katie Sciortino! We recently met at our high school alma mater's career day, and found out we had so much in common. For instance, we both write books. Her first book, The Light Guardian, is a beautiful story about a young painter named Simon who receives a very special mission. This book is also illustrated beautifully.

Perfectly Imperfect

I recently discovered author Harper Sloan—and her insanely cool purple hair—and can't wait to get my hands on this book. Perfectly Imperfect is a standalone novel about self-image. It follows the main character Willow Tate, who struggles with body issues, and her love interest, Kane Masters. Swoon time! Bonus: Harper is a New York Times bestselling author. And did I mention the purple hair?

Now and Again

Another writer friend on the list! Jennifer Ellision has several amazing books in her repertoire, and I'm incredibly excited about this one. Now and Again is a book about the messy side of love. Em has never forgotten about Cole, even though she pushed him away years ago. Can they repair what might have been? I don't know, but I can't wait to find out.

The Art of Work

Jeff Goins hardly needs an introduction, but allow me to try. Jeff is the author or four books, including this year's popular non-fiction guide, The Art of Work. He's an empowering source of wisdom for all authors and makers, and his latest book is an amazing resource. Bored with your job? Want to live a meaningful, creative life? This book is right up your alley.

The Badlings

It's no secret how much I love Ksenia Anske. She was my biggest inspiration to self-publish my own book, and I'm happy to put her book on this list. The Badlings is an amazing concept. It follows the story of a group of children known as—you guessed it— Badlings, who abandon books before they finish them. Their punishment? Getting sucked into unfinished stories!

A Magic Dark and Bright

How can you not fall in love with this cover? Jenny Perinovic is not only an amazing writer, but a super cool friend of mine with amazing design skills. I am excited to share her book, A Magic Dark and Bright, with you. This is the first book in the Asylum Saga, and deals with ghosts and curses and death, oh my! (Too much? So sorry.) I recommend reading this book with the lights on, people.

Blood and Water

Oh, Briana Morgan. She is fabulous in every way. From her writing advice to her debut novel, she gets an A+ for the year 2015. Blood and Water is set in a post-apocalyptic world where a deadly virus runs rampant. Seventeen-year-old Jay Harris must fight to save both his sister... and himself. If you're looking for a sitting-on-the-edge-of-your-seat novel, grab yourself a copy of this.

Silent Memories

Hattie C. Cooper is a rising star. Along with her first novel, The Anxious Girl's Guide to Dating, her 2015 release is a gem. Silent Memories is the first book in The Sawmill Cove trilogy, which follows a mysterious murder in a small town. It'll take a village to solve this one, and forensic artist Ryan Hart is on the case. Scared yet? I know I am!

The Assassin

Speaking of people I love, meet Laura Teagan! She's another incredible writing resource, sharing great advice over on her blog, Ginger & Co. I met her on Twitter through our mutual love of writing and I'm proud to call her a friend. Her debut novel, The Assassin, is a kick-butt FBI novel. Cassie Morgan is set to investigate a rogue agent, but when things go awry, she winds up on the run from a serial killer known as The Assassin. How will she escape? We'll find out!

Kindling Volume II

I first discovered Writer's Edit Press through Twitter. On a whim, I decided to submit a story to their debut anthology, and I can still remember how excited I was when I was accepted. I'm thrilled to support their second anthology, Kindling Volume II. This book is filled with works of fiction, poetry, and creative non-fiction. I'm a big fan of short stories, and if you want to support an amazing press, make sure to add this to your TBR list.

Risen Gods

You probably know Joanna Penn from her award-winning writing blog, The Creative Penn. She's a Twitter fiend and a podcaster, a writer and a speaker. Basically, she's Wonder Woman. In addition to her wildly popular non-fiction books, she also writes thrillers, including her latest novel, Rising Gods. The Amazon tag line reads, "Can Ben and Lucy battle the Risen Gods to find each other again and save the country from destruction?" Well, I'm officially interested.

Invasion

I can't rave about Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant enough. Along with David W. Wright, they form The Self-Publishing Podcast crew, an incredibly content-filled podcast to teach you how to self-publish books... and make money from them. They have several book series, and I'm incredibly excited to dive into this new book, Invasion. Do you think it's about alien invasions? Well, you couldn't be more correct.

So what do you think? Did I miss any? 

*note: there are affiliate links in this post*



2015 Holiday Gifts for Readers

Scenario: the holidays are coming up. You ask the bookworm in your life what he/she wants for Christmas. They respond, "Surprise me!" What do you do? Well, you keep reading this post, that's what you do!

This year, I decided to round up a few of my favorite holiday gifts for readers, all featured on Etsy. Mom and Dad, if you're reading this, please feel free to pass this list onto Santa. Everyone else? Break out your credit cards.

2015 Holiday Gifts for Readers | Blots & Plots
2015 Holiday Gifts for Readers | Blots & Plots

So you liked what you saw, didn't you? I'm not surprised. That's a pretty crave-worthy list. Now, the links to the sites are below for you!

  1. Jane Austen Gift Set: includes journal, pocket journal, and pencil set.
  2. Time Machine Necktie. For the H.G. Wells fan in your life, you can't go wrong with this snazzy tie.
  3. Book Quote Art. So many books, so little time. No truer words have been spoken.
  4. The Catcher in the Rye Gift Set: includes coin purse, ornament, bookmark, and print.
  5. The Marauder's Map Harry Potter Scarf. I solemnly swear that I am up to no good and will wear this scarf everywhere.
  6. Sparkle & Shine Engraved Pencils. In case you're feeling inspired!
  7. Christmas in the Great Hall Soy Candle. Again, for the Harry Potter fans. Noticing a trend here?
  8. Ampersand Print Wall Art. As you can tell by my blog name, I'm a big ampersand fan. This is lovely!

So there you have it! This year's guide to holiday gifts for readers. Of course, you can always give lots and lots of books, as well. What are your holiday plans this year? What gifts are you hoping to get/give under your tree?

Ten Reasons You Will Love These Are the Moments

Keeping up with all the #TATM news? We're only a week away from the These Are the Moments release on May 26th! 

Happy #TATM week! I have so many fun things to share with you this week from a Goodreads giveaway to a Twitter chat tomorrow night—join me at 8:30/7:30c to talk #TATM trivia. This weekend, I sat in my bed holding my book and I had a thought: "This is just the start."

If you're a writer or a reader or a dreamer in general, I hope you know how possible your hopes are. I wanted to share with you a few personal tidbits of my story, and why I think this is a book you'll love. These Are the Moments is a story for everyone. (But mostly cool, awesome people like you.)

Just for a refresher, here's the book blurb again:

You can't go back. You can't go back. You can't go back.

Ten years ago, Wendy Lake fell in love with Simon Guidry, who grew up and went away. Now, not much has changed. She's back at home, back from college, almost back to normal. Until Wendy's best friend gets engaged, sending Simon ricocheting back into her life, and leaving Wendy with the questions she's been struggling to ignore.

Do people ever really change? Do two people, who can never make it work, actually make it right? And most importantly, does she even want to?

And now, ten reasons why you'll love this book:

You'll love #TATM if you love love stories

How many times can I say that in one sentence, huh? If you enjoy a good tear-jerking, life-affirming love story, then this is the book for you. It's part young adult, part new adult, and all parts emotion. As a reviewer put, "[Jenny Bravo] created characters that not only rooted for each other, but had the reader really rooting for them."

You'll love #TATM if you have a best friend

You know your best friend? The one who doesn't judge you for not wearing pants? These Are the Moments features best friend trio Wendy, Vivian and Reese, who ask serious questions like, Do you feel engaged? and I have to think about weddings now? Like plan and shit? Trust me. You're gonna love 'em.

You'll love #TATM if you're a twenty-something

If you're in that what-am-I-doing-with-my-life stage where you're somewhere between a full-time job and taking a mid-day nap, then yeah, you'll love this book. Wendy works a dead-end job, lives at home, and eats a lunch that her mom packs for her. Feeling good about yourself yet?

You'll love #TATM if you're a teenager

Since These Are the Moments is a book told in dual timelines, you get to see the awkward high school years, and it's pretty fun. Get excited for prom pictures, first dates and house parties. Also kitten heels. Remember those?

You'll love #TATM if you've had your heart broken

Okay, no spoilers. But let's just say someone in the novel breaks someone's heart at some point in time. Heavy stuff, my friends.

You'll love #TATM if you like Rainbow Rowell

This is probably one of the biggest compliments I've received. A friend wrote, "Her writing style made the book really easy and enjoyable to read, and reminded me of Rainbow Rowell or John Green."

You'll love #TATM if you have a sibling

If you've been keeping up with the prequel, you already know Claudia is Wendy's sister. Six years apart, they don't have much in common . . . until they do. Well, you'll see.

You'll love #TATM if you've ever been in love

First love. Can't-get-over love. Forever love. If you've ever felt an inkling of love-like feeling, These are the Moments is up your alley. There's Wendy and Simon, Claudia and Casey, and Owen and Vivian. In other words, something for everyone.

You'll love #TATM if you like weddings

If you're weepy over I do's, then break out the tissues for Owen and Vivian's beach wedding. Add in some drama, some champagne, and we have what I call a book finale.

You'll love #TATM if you like me

Maybe you're my Twitter friend. Maybe you're my best friend from college. Maybe you are just meeting me for the first time. (In which case, hello there, you look lovely.) If you like me or the way I write on this blog, I feel pretty confident in saying that you'll like my book. *Fingers crossed.*

These Are the Moments Book Cover Reveal

The happiest of Mondays to you all! So, this week is a pretty big week for me, and I'm so happy to finally share with you the cover of my first novel, These Are the Moments. If you've been tuning into my Twitter/blog/newsletters for a while now, then this is a pretty exciting moment. Moment, get it? Let me take you back to when I first revealed the book title. Wow. It's finally real!

Since we're not going to have a "true" post today, I just wanted to take a breather and celebrate this incredible day with you. Let's get a little nostalgic. Let's break out the tissues:

On Ordering My First Proof

So this weekend, I finished making all of the proofreading edits from the lovely Miranda Martin and wrote my dedication and acknowledgments. Note: when reading the acknowledgments, picture me two glasses of champagne deep at 2:00 in the morning. Yep, that happened.

With Createspace, you have a 24 hour window that they take to approve your cover and your interior files before you can order the first copy. So naturally, I spent my Sunday refreshing my email on my phone. I got the email around noon and proceeded to jump up and down as I submitted my credit card info, for my book to arrive this Wednesday.

On Receiving My Book Cover Design

Let's flashback to Easter weekend. I knew that I would receive the four proofs for my book cover design on that Monday, so I couldn't sleep on Sunday. Around 5 in the morning, I checked my phone. Groggy. Barely awake. And there was the email. You know how sometimes you feel like your heart catches in your chest and you just need to lie on the floor? Yep, that was me.

I loved them all, but the one above struck me immediately. I thought, it's like Rainbow Rowell, and more than anything I could have ever thought up in my non-visual brain. I woke up my mom to make her look at them with me. This was it. I was an official author.

On Sharing My Journey With You

This blog has been such a gift. And maybe that's cheesy, and maybe that's okay. I never could have dreamed how valuable it is to have a place to visit every week, where I can share updates about my book journey, and hopefully help you a little with yours. I was so nervous when I shared the first scene. And now, I share scenes from the prequel every single week.

There are some of you who are regular readers, and I want to thank you for that. Your time is valuable and the fact that you pencil me in at all blows my mind. I've come to know some of you personally, and every week, I'll think, oh, Brett is going to love this scene or I can't wait to read Karah's comments! I am blessed beyond measure.

I can't wait until May 26th, when you get to hold the book in your hands. This journey is beautiful, and we're just starting.

Thank you, thank you, a million times thank you.