Q&A with featured writer Cheyanne Young
Cheyanne shares insights into traditional and self-publishing
Q&As are available to all subscribers, with early access granted to paid subscribers. Normally access is granted to free subscribers a few weeks later but, as a holiday gift, this Q&A is available to all subscribers at the same time!
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This month’s Q&A is with published author Cheyanne Young. A few years ago, while reading multiple books by publisher KCP Loft, I stumbled upon Cheyanne’s novel The Last Wish of Sasha Cade and bought a copy so I could read it. Earlier this year, when I saw her post on Instagram offering ARCs of Before You Wake, I pounced at the chance to read it—and loved it!
Cheyanne writes beautifully about friendship and feelings from the heart. It has a been a pleasure to work with her on this Q&A, which is filled with helpful writing advice and tips for traditional and self-publishing. Cheyanne is extremely approachable and kind about sharing her publishing journey and it is such a pleasure to feature her here!
Here’s Cheyanne’s bio: “Cheyanne Young is a native Texan with a fear of cold weather and a coffee addiction that probably needs an intervention. She loves books, sarcasm, and collecting nail polish. She works at the library and writes books for young adults (and the young adults at heart), often while covered in dog hair. You can visit her online at www.CheyanneYoung.com or follow her on Instagram or Twitter @NormalChey. And keep an eye out for the TV mini-series based on her book, The Last Wish of Sasha Cade. Filming starts in the summer of 2023!”
Marisa: When did you first know you wanted to write?
Cheyanne: It took me longer than I wish it would have to figure out I wanted to be a writer. I grew up with a love of reading, and devoured hundreds of books a year as a kid. It wasn't until I was in my early twenties when it suddenly dawned on me that maybe I could write a book too. Then it took me nearly 9 years to get good enough to get my first book published. I wish I had started sooner!
Marisa: Can you tell us about your writing process? For example, when do you do most of your writing, and how deeply do you plan or not plan as you write a new story?
Cheyanne: I work better in the mornings when I’m highly caffeinated, and although I spent a lot of time setting up a nice office space, I tend to do most of my writing hunched over the laptop while sitting on my bed.
I am a stickler for having an outline! I find that I write significantly faster when I’ve taken a week or two to fully plot out my story beforehand. Then my goal is to write 1 to 2 chapters a day, and I usually finish my first drafts in a month. The Last Wish of Sasha Cade took me 27 days to write using this method. I spent 4 days revising it (which I DO NOT always recommend!) and I had 3 agent offers within 2 weeks. I credit 99% of that to luck, but the other 1% is because I had a fully outlined story and plot before I ever started writing, therefore I didn't have much revising to do.
Marisa: When you’re done writing your first draft, what is your editing process?
Cheyanne: I like to let a manuscript rest for a bit before I dive back into it. Sometimes that's a few weeks, or a few days. Whatever it takes to let my brain settle and allow me to look at it with fresh eyes. Sometimes I already know there are things I want to revise and I've been thinking on them. Other times I just read through slowly, making notes as I go about what needs to be fixed. I don't usually change anything for the first readthrough. I just make a lot of notes. Then I organize the notes and get to work.
Revising is actually my favourite part of writing! It's so much easier, to me, to see the full story and where it needs to go when there are actually words on the page already. (Even if those words are poorly written and in desperate need of editing!)
Marisa: You have experience with traditional and self-publishing—congratulations! How do you choose between these two streams for your stories? And what are some considerations or factors you recommend others consider when choosing which to pursue?
Cheyanne: I spent years only knowing about traditional publishing, and then wayyyy back in 2012, people started talking about the Kindle and how it was going to be a revolutionary way to bring your eBooks to readers without the middle man. I'll be honest, I was curious. So I wrote a 20k-word novella in 2 days, with zero outline or planning, and slapped it up on Amazon under a pen name just to see how it worked. (I also do not recommend this now...that was back in the good ol' days of self pub.)
The novella took off, selling 1,000 copies in its third month, and people were leaving reviews on Amazon asking for a sequel. I was surprised, but encouraged, and wrote more books, then I gave my pen name a website and online presence, all while continuing to write and query as myself.
And then, because writers are stubborn, I somehow ended up with a writing career, quitting my job in engineering and tripling my former day job income with my self-published books. (That first novella turned into a 34+ book series with spin-offs.) The whole time, I kept this name secret, and kept querying under my real name, feeling like a total failure because I wasn't yet agented with a traditional book deal. But I wasn't! I was a full-time author! I was just self-published.
Eventually, I got 5 traditional book deals under my real name, and guess what? While it was finally a dream come true, it was mostly a disappointment. I now have a TV show coming out based on one of my books, and yet no agent because mine dumped me after not being able to sell another book for me. (Even with a TV show, your author success isn't guaranteed, folks!)
All of this success and failure has taught me several lessons, one of which is that self-publishing is completely legit and in fact, a better way to earn a living as a writer. You just need to do it well. I didn't always do it well, and I had a lot of luck by starting early. Now the competition is fierce and it's harder to break into self-publishing, but it's equally, if not even harder, to break into traditional publishing now. It's all hard, to be honest.
The self-pub world and the trad-pub world are two different worlds. The books that sell well in one would never sell in another. My pen name Amy Sparling is a USA Today Bestselling Author with books that would never, ever get a publishing contract from a trad publisher. That's just the way it is. It's impossible to explain all that nuance in an interview, but if you're deciding for yourself which route to take, please note that you can't take a book written for the traditional publishers and try to self-publish it. I've done it myself under my real name...it doesn't work.
Learn your market, decide what you want to do, and then make your choice.
Marisa: For writers who choose self-publishing, do you have advice on where they should start, tips for finding a reliable self-publishing company and/or editor to work with, and how much to expect it to cost?
Cheyanne: Sure thing! Fair warning though: these are my opinions, based on what works for me. Your journey may be different!
Write the book first! So many people try to learn everything they can about publishing before even having a finished book. I promise, the book part is the hardest part.
My personal opinion is to never, ever, ever, ever work with a self-publishing company. They charge you a ton of money for services you can easily do yourself or hire someone to do much cheaper.
Join reputable Facebook groups and read, read, read, read. There is absolutely EVERYTHING you could ever want to know about self-publishing laid out for you to learn on Facebook groups. Some groups I recommend: Wide for the Win & 20BooksTo50k.
DO NOT spend money on courses. The people claiming to be bestselling authors who are selling you courses to become a bestselling author are making their money selling courses, not books. All the information you could ever want is freely available online through forums, social media, author blogs, etc. If you're just dying to blow hundreds of dollars, give it to charity.
Do not design your own book cover unless you're a skilled graphic designer with a knowledge of book cover design. There are a ton of pre-made book cover sites with very affordable, genre-specific covers. I recommend buying one of these before looking into commissioning your own artwork for hundreds of dollars. Some of my favourites are Paper and Sage and Beetiful Book Covers.
I edit my own work, so I can't offer much on editors, except to find someone reputable with lots of clients online who you can ask about their experiences. And please don't spend too much money!
You are probably noticing a pattern here: DON'T SPEND TOO MUCH MONEY. I have seen, time and time again, newbie writers fall into the trap of thinking if they just throw money at their first book, they'll be successful. This isn't true. I promise. You can be just as successful with a cheap pre-made cover, a $25 formatting job from a freelancer, and a dozen friends reading your book for typos. The only thing that matters—above everything—is having a good book. And your first book probably won't be that good. It's okay! That happens to all of us. Work hard, figure it out, and let the money come to you. Otherwise, you're spending thousands of dollars to toss out a poorly written book that won't sell when you could have spent that money on tacos.
Marisa: What’s some advice that has helped you grow as a writer?
Cheyanne: The best writing advice is to read. It blows my mind how many people admit they rarely ever read books and yet they want to be a bestselling author. Please read books. Read widely, both in the genre you write and genres you don't write.
And, of course, never give up!
Thank you so much for the interview and for all of the inspiring and helpful information and advice, Cheyanne! I really appreciate that you help fellow authors by sharing your time and your publishing journey.
If you’d like to learn more about Cheyanne’s writing journey and her books, I recommend reading the news section of her website and following her on Instagram.
I also recommend her book The Last Wish of Sasha Cade. It tells the story of a beautiful friendship with a mystery. Cheyanne also shares a beautiful friendship in her book Before You Wake, which is a YA retelling inspired by one of my favourite movies, While You Were Sleeping. I absolutely loved reading it! I especially love how Cheyanne beautifully captures and celebrates the love that can come from a heartwarming friendship. I highly recommend this book!
Q&As are available to all subscribers, with early access granted to paid subscribers.
Normally access is granted to free subscribers a few weeks later but, as a holiday gift to this wonderful writing community, this Q&A is available to all subscribers at the same time!
I hope you enjoy and wish you happy writing!