3 S.R. Johannes: September 2009

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

SCBWI Midsouth Conference (Part 2 of 2)

Cheryl Klein - Character Development (BTW she posts all of her talks on her web site.

"Your characters should literally change the world, especially the one you created."

Know the point of your book and who is your reader.

Once you know that - everything should support and not detract from that purpose and readership

Ask yourself "What am I trying to do here?"

  1. Figure out the facts of your character - age, gender, social status, marital status, where do they live.
  2. Know their Internal qualities - personality traits, ethics, values, morals, self awareness. Look for qualities that can be contradictory to cause conflict.
  3. Create external qualities - appearance, descriptions, how they see the world or other people. If you use first person - know what she sees in others. manner of speaking (mannerisms), set your character apart with a few characteristics (nose tapping, rub hair across lips when they think). Watch people around you.
  4. History or backstory - you need to know it even if you don't tell or show it. Only use the things that are relevant to the story. (is if it is a book about competitive nature, tell us her volleyball scores etc). You need to know backstory between characters too. If she has a best friend - how long, why, how are they together.
Every story should have a "tater tot" moment - where something happens to begin the sympathy.

  1. Desire - what a character wants. create double desire - a conflict between two wants where they have to choose one over the other. which one is more important and what is the consequence of going against the other one.
  2. Attitude/Energy - how do they relate to others, life, a situation, death, fights etc. are they an optimist or pessimist? Try journaling as the character to find voice. Must balance + and - energy -For example: the pessimist girl who is funny. The optimist who is annoying. Create a story conversation - a) what is said, b) what is unsaid, c) what can't be said.
  3. Action - Desire plus attitude. if a character has a desire there must be follow through that is relevant to book. plunk character down in different situations in your mind to decide what they would DO in that situation. Lack of action from a protagonist is one of the top 10 reason why she rejects manuscripts. either its impossible to accomplish or she wont do anything. There must be a reason for inaction.
You must increase the "action quotient" - the reader must see things happen. 1) character can act out against something 2) add in desire where she can take action. (lisa yee does a good job)

3 questions to answer:
1) what keeps him alive?
2) what is his pain?
3) what is his name?

Every character is a hero in their own story.

Secondary characters must not be over played. They must be relevant to the story and plot. If there is not a need - don't use them.

most important elements are - honesty (must be honest with what happens) and time (must be the proper pacing)

let characters words and actions speak for themselves. Try not to stop them. Wind your characters up and let them go. You are not your characters' mother. You are their observer. Allow them to make mistakes and suffer the appropriate consequence.

Cheryl loves characters that make mistakes and show pain.

Activity - character outlines
  • boy or girl
  • Male of female
  • age
  • what is the family like?
  • where do they live?
  • what is their name?
  • what are the internal qualities? external?
  • what keeps him alive?
  • How are they emotionally interesting?
  • what is their pain?
  • what do they want?
  • what is their attitude?

6 strategies
  1. make characters new
  2. give character a cause
  3. take action and show energy
  4. put them in anticipated pain
  5. surround with unlikeable characters
  6. be able to feel with and kill your character at any moment. don't get too attached so that you hold them back.

Caroline Cooney - write at full speed

writing activity - write without thinking.
  • use pen and paper - not computer. because you always have 10 minutes somewhere
  • fill out the character outline above....
  • write a line about setting
  • write a sentence about character
  • bring in another character
  • bring in conflict
  • change their location
  • what do they see?
  • write first sentence to 2nd chapter.
writing tips
  • Everyone can write a page a day
  • next day - reread what you wrote
  • write while you are in car waiting
  • answer who, what , where , when and why at everything to dig deeper into story
  • every sentence should give you another one
It was fabulous!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Marvelous Marketer: Jill Santopolo (Executive Editor, Philomel Books)

Hi Jill, Thanks for joining us today.

Can you tell me a little about yourself?

I'm a newly-minted executive editor at Philomel Books, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers Group. Before I came to Penguin, I worked at HarperCollins for seven years, starting as an editorial assistant at Laura Geringer Books and working my way up to a senior editor there. I held the same position for a year at Balzer + Bray after Laura Geringer left the company.

I'm also a writer and a writing teacher. My books The Nina, The Pinta and the Vanishing Treasure and The Ransom Note Blues were published by Scholastic, and I teach a children's novel writing class twice a year through Mediabistro. I have an undergraduate degree in English Lit from Columbia and an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. I also have a certificate in Intellectual Property Law from NYU, but only really use the info I learned there when I'm talking to in-house lawyers about contracts.

As an author and editor, what do you think are the top 3 things every author should and must do to promote their book?

1. I think all authors should have a website that they update as often as they can with new content to keep readers invested (I'm not particularly good at this, but I try).

2. I think all authors should try to coordinate appearances where they get to meet their readers face-to-face. I think middle grade writers especially should try to book as many school visits as possible.

3. I think all authors should do something special for the launch of each book they write--a big launch party in their home town, a contest online, a blog tour--basically anything that drums up excitement for the publication of the title.

How important is technology to an author’s marketing plan?

I think technology is especially important for authors writing for teens. It's a good way to get the word out to teachers and librarians about books for younger kids, but with books for teens, it's a way to get your book in front of the eyes of your target audience and allow them to connect with other fans to form a community around a certain book or a certain author.

As an author, did you think about marketing before your book was published? Did you start prior to getting an agent or selling your book? If so, when and what did you do?

I didn't start thinking about marketing prior to getting an agent or selling my book, but I did start prior to publication. I made a website, organized a publication party at a local independent bookstore along with my publisher, and organized an online blog tour/contest (also along with my publisher). I created tote bags with my book jacket on it to give out at the book launch and as part of the blog tour/contest, and I used my contacts in the educational world to arrange for school visits. I probably should have done more with stock signings at book stores, but I dropped the ball a bit on that one.

How do you feel about group promotion? Is it effective?

I do think it's beneficial for authors to team up and promote as a group. First, I think it's always good to pool brain power. One person may come up with an idea that another person would never have thought of and vice versa. With more people working together there will likely be more out-of-the-box, interesting ways to promote titles. Also, if a reader likes one particular author, he or she may show up for an event to see that person and then will be able to learn about other authors and other books and enjoy reading them too. I see group promotion as a way to merge fan bases and merge ideas so that all authors benefit and can expand their readership.

When evaluating whether to take on an author or book, do you ever google them to see if they already have a web presence or platform?

I usually don't Google an author unless the agent makes a mention in a pitch that the author is part of such-and-such blog or so-and-so website--or if the agent says that the author is already published. In both those cases I check out the blog or website mentioned or look to see what the author has done online for previously published books. I probably should Google everyone, though. I bet it would give me insight into authors' brains a bit.

What other advice do you have for authors/writers regarding marketing?

My biggest piece of advice is that as the author, you will be your book's biggest champion. Your agent and your editor and your publishing house will do the best they can because they want your book to succeed too, but the more you can do the better. One caveat: make sure to run everything by the publicist your publishing house assigns to your book, because you don't want to step on anyone's toes or make any enemies. But once you have a good relationship going, and you know what it's okay to do on your own, go for it! Your book is your baby, so do what you can to get the word out.

And finally, everyone wants to know,
what are you looking for? What are you interested in?

I'm looking for good books for middle grade girl readers. I'd love a contemporary, realistic, commercial series or two that focus on a core group of friends--something that would be today's equivalent of The Babysitters Club. I love well-plotted mysteries and kick-butt female protagonists. I'm also looking for standalone literary novels with a strong concept and strong character. But mostly all middle grade and all for girls.

Thank you for taking time out to answer these questions for us!

Thanks Shellli!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

SCBWI Midsouth Conference (Part 1 of 2)

This weekend, I am at the Midsouth conference. It is amazing as most conferences are. Here are some of the things I took away from today:

Caroline Cooney - tips on writing character and great stories

  • character has to be sympathetic
  • characters without friends - know that emotion takes over the plot line
  • adults have the habit of taking over action
  • must make the logical thing illogical to do
  • if you have a conflict - you must know what emotion it is attached to
  • every conflict you create takes away from something - be sure it does not take away from main plot line
  • If you are stalled - visualize a scene as if on stage as a film director - what do you see, where are you, who is with you
  • stay alert to ideas around you and how you can transform the into books
  • names matter - cannot have similar names
  • action story - needs to have a deadline in the story
  • speed counts - learn to write fast
  • first draft are always bad
  • 3rd person is always better than 3rd person and present tense
  • you can do anything for 15 minutes - force yourself to to write, set a time, take paper and pen with you so you utilize every minute. don't wait to get in front of your computer
  • books are like pottery - some come out misshaped, some cracked, luckily with books, you can always reshape them
Chris Richman (Upstart Crow Agency) - the agent relationship

A great agent:
  • shares your writing
  • are the gateway to editors - trust yours will do the right thing
  • control the money - editors pay agents who take their royalty and then pay you
  • should beleve in your work wholeheartedly
  • looks for more than just a sale, looks at your career, writing style
  • keeps in contact and keeps you up to date
  • know trends
  • knows what editors are looking for
  • buffer between writer and editor - good news comes from author, bad news comes from agent
  • tries to sell your work
  • should not charge a reading fee
Some agents don't like to tell writers where they are subbing until the book is out. they know the editors and have built relationships. If you take on an agent, you need to trust they are on same page as you and are doing the right thing

ask your agent...
  • what is your percentage?
  • do you revise? if so how much? what about for this book?
  • how many clients do you have?
  • Can you speak to any of their clients?
  • what genres do you rep?
  • who will you sub to?
  • where do you see my career?
The original excitement can wane. If things go bad, talk it out first. give your agent a chance to improve before you dump them.

  • you do not want more than one agent unless you need one for a different genre outside children's.
  • when i revise, i need to get the book to a point where I think it will sell. that does not necessarily mean perfect
  • some agents are becoming more promotional b/c money for marketing is dwindling
Tomorrow I will post some key takeways from the amazing Cheryl Klien and Caroline Cooney's writing activity.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Friday's Marketing Round up 9/25)

Book update
I have finished my last big round of edits for Alyssa. I must say she and Lyuba have bettered my book by at least 200%. Sometimes you don't realize how much more your book can improve until someone pushes you. One great thing about an agent. They are kinda like a personal trainer. Just when you are about to call it a day - they make you do another set that burns but shows results. (good analogy right!) They both have been amazing in helping me flush out the right things and I feel really good about the end result. I am currently waiting on some line edits which should be here this weekend and I plan to turn them around. We hope to go to sub the first or second week of Oct! Wish me luck!

Marketing Favs!
I am doing this today because I am heading to Midsouth tomorrow to speak on Marketing, hang out with my writer buds, and meet a great faculty team including Chris Richman (Upstart Crow), Cheryl Klien (Scholastic), Kaylan Adair (Candlewick) and more!

Here are my marketing favs for the week:

Questions about Book Trailers - Writer and Chicago Film maker, Daniel Kraus, discusses Book Trailers with Cynsations Cynthia Leitich Smith

Google Book Promotion - 5 EZ Ways - Here are five things Google offers that you should consider using to connect with readers and promote your books.

Self publishing isn't for everyone - The traditional media loves a good Cinderella story and, lately, so do folks who spread the gospel online of self-publishing.

How book publicist can be trust agents?
Getting mainstream coverage is more and more difficult. Budgets are tight. What’s a book publicist to do?

Tools of Change online conference - Join us on October 8th for this half-day online conference to explore the state of the art of electronic publishing. This single track and interactive event will dive deep into three areas of innovation and opportunity.

Guide to understanding replies, mentions and Direct messages on Twitter - The goal of this piece is to help well-meaning people from inadvertently annoying others on Twitter, or worse, accidentally sharing private information publicly.

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

I am no Super Mom!

My kids were stuck home today from school - for the flooding - and we went to the bookstore.
So did a ton of other moms.

A lot of them were talking about what they do with their kids and what they dont' do. Some of them i thought "I do that.". Some i thought "What? I would never do that!"

I realized there is a difference between Good moms and Super moms.
  • Super mom - helps her kids throw up when they are sick
  • Good mom - helps her kids throw up but..... in reality is gagging and about to throw up herself
  • Super mom - picks a paci (or food) off the floor and washes it off
  • Good mom - picks up a paci (or food) blows on it and shoves it back in kids mouth to build up immune system
  • Super mom - loves to play with her kids
  • Good mom - loves to play with her kids but... only for so long before she feels like she just cant be the dog anymore.
  • Super mom - never yells and is always calm
  • Good mom - yells at least once a week and then apologizes for "losing it"
  • Super mom - has kids who eat spinach and broccoli
  • Good mom - gets excited when a bad eater loves spinach pretzels at B&N and then happily counts that as one of the daily vegetables.
  • Super mom - is always dressed in super cute outfit (cape and all)
  • Good mom - is lucky if she gets to take a shower and throws on what is clean (or not)
  • Super mom - negotiate with kids in stores to avoid arguments and effectively uses time outs at the checkout
  • Good mom - lets kid fall on the floor and then asks others around if they want to "watch the show" (while waiting for fit to be over)
  • Super mom - packs a lunch for her kids everyday with love - keeping the four food groups in mind
  • Good mom - packs a lunch for her kids everyday with love- but some days throws in a lunchable and tells herself its a treat
  • Super mom - lays out the perfect outfit so her kid looks perfect for school
  • Good mom - lets kids pick out clothes and as long as they are wearing pants - lets the unmatched socks and contrasting stripe patterns pass inspection
  • Super mom - only gives kids TV if the American Pediatric Assoc recommends it
  • Good mom - commands "movie day" and sticks her kid in front of TV to get a break.
  • Super mom - volunteers to be the head of the PTA
  • Good mom - wants to be on the PTA and knows when the meetings are, but somehow even with best intentions never gets there on time
  • Super mom - loves to clean the grime in the toilets b/c "cleanliness is next to godliness".
  • Good mom - love to pay someone else to reach those places.
  • Super mom - loves to get up in the middle of the night with kids when they wake, go potty, or are in the bathroom
  • Good mom - does rock paper scissors with hubby to see who wins and gets to sleep in
  • Super mom - sings Elmo and Sesame Street songs in the car everyday, all day
  • Good mom - gets her kids to like Justin Timberlake and sing "I'm bringing sexy back"
  • Super mom - cooks homemade meals every night from scratch
  • Good mom - cooks hot meals from the four food groups even if three of them are processed and heated in microwave
  • Super mom - would rather be with their kids 24/7
  • Good moms - loves time with kids but sighs a breath of relief when kids are finally tucked in bed and a bottle of wine is already open.
  • Super mom - loves to share her food with her kids, giving them the last bite
  • Good mom - resents giving away the last bite b/c she loves sweets
  • Super mom - loves every bowel movement their child takes - 1 or 2
  • Good mom - cringes when she hears the words "Booty check!!!" coming from the bathroom (that also happens to be flawed in its flushing ability)
  • Super mom - loves being pregnant
  • Good mom - doesn't like being pregnant (really through the first 3 months of babyhood) but loves her kids unconditionally
  • Super mom - loves to talk about everything their kid does, all day, all the time
  • Good mom - loves to talk about her kids but only for so long then she likes to talk about herself.
  • Super mom - loves to play chase and run after her kids, up and down the playgyms
  • Good mom - loves to play "hide and seek" so she can hide in a corner and get at least 5 minutes of peace and quiet.
I have a confession: I am a Good mom. I will never be a Super mom. I'm Ok with that.

Anyone looking to buy a "never before used" cape?

Monday, September 21, 2009

Marvelous Marketer: Tammi Sauer (Author, Chicken Dance)

Hi Tammi. Thanks for stopping by today! We appreciate you taking time out of your Chicken Dancing. :) Before we dive into your marketing advice, can you tell us a little about yourself?

I’m the author of the picture books Cowboy Camp and Chicken Dance as well as the forthcoming titles Mostly Monsterly, Mr. Duck Means Business, Princess-in-Training, and Oh, Nuts! There are two additional titles I’d love to add to the list, but I’m still waiting to sign The Official Paperwork.

Although I thoroughly enjoy what I do, I never planned on being a children’s book writer. I had always assumed I’d grow up to be a third grade teacher, but two sentences from my favorite college professor at Kansas State University—Dr. Marjorie Hancock--changed my life: “Tammi, you have a gift with words. You should pursue publication.” Knowing she believed in me made me believe in myself. Marge, one of the chickens in Chicken Dance, is named in her honor.

I this it's amazing how some of us writers never actually set out to be a writer. We just followed a whim and a passion. How have you gotten yourself out into the writing world?

Online presence has been important. I have two websites and a blog.

The first website is my author site. This site is managed by me which consequently means it’s very basic.

The second website is a site devoted to Chicken Dance. Dan Santat, the book’s illustrator, did a remarkable job putting it together. I sometimes come up with content for that site, but Dan holds the well-deserved title Webmaster. He merits a crown. And maybe a cape.

I also maintain a blog pretty regularly.

I can see you think having an online presence is a good thing :). Given that, what three marketing channels - would you say - are most important to an author or illustrator?

1. A web presence is crucial. At the very minimum authors should have a website. It’s an easy way to let people know who you are, what you write, and how to contact you.

2. The idea of promotions shouldn’t make people want to curl up under their desks with a Dr. Pepper and some frozen Milky Ways. Even the most introverted authors can find ways to promote that fit within their comfort zone. Shrinking Violets offers a goldmine of suggestions that can help the shyest of authors navigate their way into well-maybe-I-can-do-that promotion.

3. Don’t evolve into such a shameless self-promoter that you turn people off. Yes, it’s great to get the word out. Yes, it’s exciting to share your news/joy/every-written-word with the world. But do it in doses people can swallow.

How do you feel about social networking as part of a marketing plan?

I'm on Facebook, LiveJournal, Twitter, Kidlit Book Trailers, and the Verla Kay Blueboards and greatly value these social networks. I’m involved in these networks not because I feel I need to be a Super Serious Promoter but because I enjoy connecting with other readers and writers. Being a children’s book writer can, at times, get a little lonely. It’s wonderful to have these online water coolers. Have I sold copies of my books because of social networking? Yes--and I am grateful for it!--but that is icing. Interacting with others who 'get it'? That’s the cake.

Besides being online as well as involved in social networking, what other advice do you have for authors/writers regarding marketing?

Strive to do something unique. Put a new spin on what others are doing. Make yourself stand out.

Keep your online content fresh. Give your readers a reason to go back to your website, Facebook Fan Page, etc. An easy-to-do example: add a What’s New? section to your website and regularly update it.

What creative things have you done to promote Chicken Dance?

Let’s see…I’ve been known to wear a chicken hat on occasion.

The Chicken Dance website offers freebies, dance lessons, and much, much more. The dance lessons portion is one of my favorites. Dan came up with the idea to post brief videos of us teaching new moves. Currently, Dan’s move “The Bellyache” is available. Every so often, we’ll be adding a new move to keep our readers (and dancers!) coming back for more.

Dan and I have a Chicken Dance Video Contest that offers faaaaabulous prizes. The link to the page and the commercial.

We also have a Chicken Dance Fan Page on Facebook that offers occasional contests, fun videos, and an "On the Road with Elvis Poultry" photo album.

In addition to my own Twitter account, I twitter from the perspective of Elvis Poultry. Always wanted to know about the life and times of a rock and roll rooster? What does he read? What does he eat? What goes on behind the scenes of the Final Doodle Doo Tour? Then follow Elvis Poultry. It’ll have you all shook up.

Did you market yourself to agents/editors before you got published?

I didn’t market myself to agents/editors before I got published. I was so new, it never occurred to me to try. Instead, I studied the craft. I readreadreadreadread. I wrote a really awful manuscript about a grandma and banana bread. But I pushed myself to get better. And better.

I joined SCBWI and attended conferences. I researched publishing houses. I researched agents. And I tried to find the perfect matches for me and for my work. Eventually, those efforts paid off. Not only am I working with some wonderful houses--Sterling, Simon & Schuster, Houghton Mifflin/Harcourt, and Bloomsbury--but I have the amazing Laura Rennert for an agent.

Thanks for sharing your marketing advice with us today!

Thanks for having me, Shelli. Thanks, too, for this wonderful site. I've learned so much from my pit stops at Market My Words!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Marvelous Marketer: Alyssa Eisner Henkin (Trident Media Group)

NOTE to all all my readers: I have a massive deadline to super agent this weekend so I may not be visiting or blogging much this week (except for my regularly scheduled Monday and Friday marketing posts) Please bear with me. I promise I'll catch up on your news next week. :)

Hi Alyssa, I know you are extremely bus
y, (especially helping me edit my book :) so thank you for taking the time to share your tips with us.

I know- just from talking with you - you are very conscious of how an author and a book needs
to be positioned in the marketplace.

So before we get started, tell us a little about yourself and Trident.

I graduated from the University of Pennsylvania and The Radcliffe Publishing Course. I worked as an editor for over seven years at Simon & Schuster’s Books for Young Readers imprint. In December of 2006, I joined Trident Media Group as an agent specializing in children’s books.

Trident Media Group was the number one in the world for sales of book contracts in 2008, according to Publisher's Market Place. Com. This is the eighth year in a row for Trident to retain the number one position in sales of all Literary Agencies.

Based on your publishing and agency experience, what are the top 3 things every author should and must do to promote their book?

In today’s climate, I definitely think it’s helpful for authors to maintain websites through which readers and fans and those seeking authors for speaking engagements can reach them.

For many authors writing for children and teens, I think blogging, Facebook, Twitter etc. are incredibly helpful in reaching one’s readership since kids and teens spend a lot of time online.

I also think a willingness to go to book festivals, signings, and other events where books are sold (as well as classroom visits) can be enormously helpful and definitely sends a message both to the publisher and to the readers that the author is doing everything in his or her power to connect with readers.

Of course sometimes all the promotion in the world cannot guarantee a book’s success in the marketplace, and it’s important that writers don’t get so caught up in the promotion that they in turn don’t have enough time or energy to write the next book! For that reason, I think Skype is a great and cost-effective invention, and one that enables authors to connect with a book club or a group of readers, without needing to leave the comforts of their own homes.

In your opinion, how important is social networking?

I think connecting with readers and other authors in all of the above ways can be instrumental in establishing an online presence and a reader fan base. I’ve had authors tell me that they love connecting with their readership in the less formal and more fun Facebook context because they get to know the way their readers talk and think and what makes them tick.

Some have even told me that this type of communication helps inspire their writing! And whereas when I was growing up it might have taken a very long time to hear back from an author whom I wrote a fan letter to, now technology can enable more direct communication that makes an author feel less like a fossil in a museum and more like a real person.

Some authors of course are a little more shy in nature and don’t necessarily feel as comfortable with sharing on Facebook or Myspace or through blogging, because they feel like they have to write a whole long entry, when they might simultaneously be on a tight deadline to finish their next book. Twitter, for this reason, I think is a fantastic invention. It has brevity that enables authors to multi-task and still stay connected, but in seemingly doable increments.

Do you feel it is beneficial for authors to team up and promote books as a group?

I’ve seen much good cross-promotion result from collaborative efforts. I’ve read very impressive blog interviews in which authors standing in more established shoes do everything to champion debut writers in whom they believe. And I’ve read several good news articles about authors that are linked for one reason or another (all debuts, all writing in the same genre, all in the same age range), and the newspapers or magazines might have been less likely to run those stories if they focused on just one author as opposed to three or four.

I’ve attended panels and heard of SCBWI weekends that were wonderfully successful because the authors who attended pitched themselves together to book the gig, and this nurtured a robust, funny, tag-teaming kind of Q&A presentation.

At the same time, it’s always important to consider the number of hours in the day, and I do think it’s similarly beneficial for authors to brand themselves as individuals, too. Even though Dorothy Parker used to hang out with the other authors at the famous Algonquin Round Table, we still remember her name alone.

What other advice do you have for authors/writers regarding marketing?

I advise authors to market in whatever style best suits their needs and their lifestyles while taking cues from their publishers about what is most beneficial and most appropriate at each juncture. Sometimes authors feel the need to start working on marketing over a year before a book’s publication. And while it can be highly useful to start thinking about and implementing website designs or book trailers, and establishing a blog or creating an e-mail contact list that far in advance, it’s not necessarily an ideal time to talk to local reporters.

Remember much marketing and publicity is geared towards getting consumers to buy the book itself, and for that the book must be available. Also, if you are a more private person or one who does not thrive on blogging or twittering or Facebook it doesn’t mean that your book is destined to be a friendless failure. Just as every writer work hard to perfect a voice that is all his or her very own, I encourage cultivating a marketing style that feels similarly authentic, comfortable, and unique.

When evaluating whether to take on an author or book, do you ever google them to see if they already have a web presence or platform?

Very often. When you spend all day sitting in front of a computer it’s easy and fun to Google the name at the bottom of a compelling query and see if you can find out anything intriguing about the person who wrote it. There have been times I’ve stumbled upon potential clients websites and been so impressed by the wit, the clarity of thinking, the online presence or other impressive skills that I think to myself, “wow this person’s got a really compelling package.”

Of course no matter how wonderful the website or the blog, the manuscript itself needs to entice and intrigue me, and make me certain there’s a sale potential there. I’ve also signed on several authors whom I’ve sold in successful deals who did not have websites or blogs or platforms to speak of at that time, but they had great manuscripts. And the fact that they did not have a web presence ahead of time really just created more of an air of mystery before we had that initial "get to know you" phone call.

What are you looking for? What are you interested in?

I’m always on the lookout for great, commercial novels. I would personally love to find more mystery for tweens and young adults—it’s one of those genres that sometimes authors shy away from because it’s often very plot-driven and meticulous to write and therefore not as “freeing” as more voice-driven pieces can be, but it’s an area that I love and many editors have told me it’s a genre with room to grow.

I’m also a big sucker for YA romance that is not paranormal, but contemporary set or even epic, in the vein of Nicolas Sparks and The Notebook. I also personally love manuscripts with a strong sense of place and a regional flavor about them—from Dairy Queen, to Peaches, to my newest fave, Kathryn Stockett’s women’s fiction masterpiece, The Help. I’m indeed a sucker for a strong sense of place.

Finally, finding a select number of author/illustrators to add to my list, both in the picture book and graphic novel-inspired vein, is something I’m on the watch for.

Thank you for stopping by!

Thanks Shelli! Now get back to work. :)

Friday, September 11, 2009

Friday Five/Marketing Round Up (9/11)

My heart goes out to all involved for 911.

Here are my fav marketing posts for the week:

Know your genre and market trends - The question on genre and trends comes down to this: as a first-time author, should I write based on what genres or styles are popular now, or should I create something original and hope it appeals to a large audience?

Are you/your book findable online? Consider that again: Smart consumers these days trust what they find -- or discover -- on their own first and foremost! These are the ways you should be found.

Make sure more people (than your mom) read your blog - A few examples of ways that you can do it - and in the process hopefully grow your readership beyond your immediate family (not that there’s anything wrong with Mom reading your blog).

Twitter's New terms of Service - these are the basic rules that go along with using Twitter.

13 things to do on twitter besides tweet
- Tired of delivering the typical stream of status updates on Twitter? Why not try some of the following ideas for other things you can do with the service?

54 blog posts to read about blogging before you blog
- This list includes beginner tips, making money through blogging, thoughts on Twitter, how to produce content – and many other subjects in the world of blogging.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Authors - Push it Real Good!

Gleeful Review

Who saw gLee last night? Was it not hilarious? I love those shows where you miss something as you are laughing. Thanks goodness for TIVO.

Favorite lines? (Most are from Sue :) and I laughed just writing these.
  • Sue: That was the most offensive thing I've seen in 20 years of teaching and that includes an elementary school production of Hair.
  • Sue: I took the liberty of highlighting some special ed classes. I'm sure you can find some recruits.
  • Mr Shu: Come up liven up - this is Disco!
  • Sue: You need 12 kids to qualify for Regionals. You have 5.5 including the cripple."
  • Sue - Hey buddy. I was just blasting my hammies. You want an iron tablet, it keeps your energy up while you're menstruating.
  • Principal Figgins: The toilets are broken again and they are being fixed. Let me warn you. We have zero tolerance for anyone soiling on school grounds.
  • Principal Figgins: I have not seen the student body this excited since Tiffany performed at the North Hills Mall!
  • Principal Figgins - I have provided a list of family friendly songs that reflect our community's values. Besides Jesus and balloons, there are also songs about the cirrus.
  • Principal Figgins: The dry cleaners here are just as good as the ones in Europe.
  • Sue: You remind me of a younger Sue Sylvester. Though you don't really have my bone structure.
In honor of Glee, I am going to do a post for authors on how they can....

Push it Real Good!

So I thought I would get back to doing some marketing posts besides my Marvelous Marketer series on Mondays and my Marketing Roundup on Fridays. I think I've been rambling too much about me lately.

Today, is for authors who has books out in the world or coming soon.

There are many things every author can do to PUSH their book out into the world.

1) The Gab factor-

  • Look for any place that you can reach kids or their parents. Bookstores, libraries, clubs, churches, chamber of commerce, schools, colleges, PTAs, writers clubs, workshops, seminars, conferences, book fairs, festivals, conventions, .
  • No matter what, provide an experience. Think about ways to get your audiences attention. For example: Christopher Paolini toured middle schools across the country dressed in medieval garbs as his character Eragon.
  • The More the merrier - Invite your customers or audience to your speaking engagements. Post them on your web site.
  • Do interviews on radio, TV, newspapers, and magazines.

2) The Write Way

  • Write an article for a group newsletter.
  • Write emails and letters to the media, bookstores, anyone who may be interested, about your book.
  • Create your own newsletter and send to people you meet (be sure to get permission and their emails!)
  • Write a series. Get a following.
  • Blog

3) You can't do it alone

  • Work with locals- they are generally happy to work with local authors. Especially libraries and independent bookstores. Personal connections always works.
  • Become a joiner. Join and be an active member in the appropriate trade and social associations. Help others.
  • Form alliances. Create a buddy system with another writer especially in different locations. Hook up for signings, tours. You can also promise to promote each other's work. For example, when you to a bookstore - you make sure your book and their book is in stock.
  • Do it for Charity - partner up with a charity you love and offer X% of profits in exchange for advertising, speaking engagements etc.
  • Be a teacher - teach a class at a college. teach a class to kids. Find a way to teach others about your subject.
  • Join groups like myspace, facebook, twitter where you can reach a lot of people fast.

4) And the winner is...

  • Submit your book to the appropriate contests for awards or honors.
  • Awards are listed in the Literary Marketplace and a book called The Writers Resource Handbook.
  • Nominations or honorable mentions are just as good as winning.
  • Run your own contests. Give away books to the winners.

5) Make it newsworthy

  • Get reviews. Not just from from major national book reviewers. Look for local or special interest media that do reviews. Free magazines in Atlanta can get up to 20,000 issues out.
  • Use galleys and any copies you buy in A SMART WAY.
  • Do not send out books or galleys until you have personally contacted the person and they are expecting it.
  • Have a press/media kit ready to send.

6) Repeat!

  • Make 5 contacts a day - mail a letter, make a call, send out a press release,
  • The rule of 7 - Did you know the average seller has to touch a consumer 7 times in 18months to get a sale. This means your buyer sees an ad, reads an interview, sees a review etc. Those are all touches.

To me, as a marketing professional, if your book is published and has not sold, you are either not marketing it right or not marketing it at all.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Paper or Plastic??? A life-threatening Labor Day!

What's in a cup??

This was the question of our Labor Day. Or should I say problem?

The Agonizing Labor of our Day.

No not pregnancy Labor.

Not hard labor.

Child Labor.

But not the kind you think.

No, I did NOT put any kids to work (though that's not a bad idea if you've seen my house lately!)

Our Labor Day started out quite normal and nice. Uneventful. Quiet.

The calm before the storm.

We decide to go to the zoo.

Great weather, animals, and family.

How could it get any better?

It can. Just throw in "Superhero weekend" at the zoo and you have it made.

A recipe for success?

You'd think so.

Problem #1: Instead of using our free membership, we spent an extra 40$ for Superhero tickets (money we did not budget this month).

Problem #2: Only to find out my son HATES superheros. Who knew? he loves wearing their costumes. But yes, he hates, loathes, despises men in tight uniforms. So 30 seconds in? Screams of terror.

Problem #3: Which separates the "family" for "family day" b/c hubby takes son out of show and waits outside while daughter cheers on Spiderman, Wolverine and Storm as they take out the evil Green Hornet. The show was about pollution and taking care of the environment. At the end, all kids are sworn in as "superheros of the earth." Cute right?

Problem #4: My daughter wants to wait and meet the "real" heros for a picture. In a Reaaaaaaaaaallllllly long line of screaming kids and bored parents in a hot tent. We wait in line for a long time.

Problem #5: Just before we finally reach the stage of superheros for the perfect photo op. Daughter decides she is scared and wants to leave. What a waste!

Not so bad you say. Just wait. I'm The leading up to it. Hang with me!

So family proceeds to walk around the zoo and check out more animals and get faces painted.

Problem #6: Hubby and I start to fight because I want to get food for kids b/c they are hungry but he wants to save money and rush home. Yet kids want to see more animals.

Problem # 7 - #12.5 : Meltdowns ensue. Lines to food are long. Temperatures are rising. The cute shirt I wore starts to feel like a straight jacket. I realize I forgot to use deodorant. I'm wearing my librarian glasses (BTW my contacts are on backorder - but I wont count that problem in this tally. No need to add more.) so sunglasses are not an option in the blazing sun.

Still with me? The doozey is coming. Trust me. I never disappoint my readers.

I decide (storm off) to go get food (anyway) while hubby takes kids to see Lions and Rhinos.

Problem #13: Of course, when I am not around, all hell breaks loose. (Side note: I think its b/c kids are hungry but what do I know? ah hem - maybe i was right. shhhhhhhh!)

Problem #14.333333: Son proceeds to throw a fit and throws big plastic water cup at my daughter's head, making a direct hit.

Problem #15: Evidently, the big sippy cup pummels her in the very spot you don't want it to. That's right, in the temple.

Crying begins.

can you see the escalation?? Don't worry I'm not done yet!!

Meanwhile I'm hot and mad and standing in a long line - behind someone who had 20 minutes to decide their order but now wants to change it when they get to the window - getting food and go to wait for family at designated meeting spot.

Problem #16 - #21: (b/c I am extra hot at this point, this deserves more than 1 problem) No one in my family unit shows up to meet me.

Then I get a call. On my cell. From my daughter (keep in mind she is 5!) telling me to come to the car?

Problem #22 - Hubby is in car in parking lot!??? Me? Still in hot zoo with bag of crappy expensive food after waiting for a long time!!! Now stuck alone in a huge crowd of stinky, hungry people.

I rush out of zoo to lot, even sweatier than before (did i mention food line was in the hot hot son by a hot hot grill.)

Problem #23 - argument ensues with hubby over failure to communicate over locale of meeting spot.

Problem #24 - Over my daughter's crying in the back seat, I'm filled in of my son's vicious cup attack (please keep in mind he's only 2 so during all of this drama - he's in the back seat happily singing "wheels on the bus". Totally oblivious to his offense.)

Problem #25 - Then I see my daughter's eye. A blood blister (about the size of a dime) is forming on her left temple. (Hm. That doesn't look good.)

Problem #26 - I try to lecture 2 year old about throwing cups as he is singing "no more monkeys jumping on the bed." He does not understand.

Problem #27 - ON way home, daughter says she feels tired and sick to her stomach. (wow this really doesn't sound good)

Problem #28- #30 - we get home and she won't eat. Anything. She just wants to sleep. She lays down and gets lethargic. I won't let her sleep. I think I saw that in a movie somewhere. She is not happy about that.

Problem #31 - I think she needs to go to emergency room. Hubby does not.

Problem #32 - a little later, when she perks up a bit, hubby says he is taking kids to park.(really?)

Problem #33 - #35: she throws up in car and then all over the bathroom. (I see lots of red stuff and start to freak out but hubby says it is jello?? But she only had 2 bites??)

We call the medical help line. They say, "OMG Bring her in!"

Yes I am serious? We are now scrambling wondering if she has a head injury from a random flying cup?

Problem #36. Hubby rushes daughter into car and to emergency room - which is only minutes from our house.

Problem #37-50 - I stay at home with son!!! Pacing! Freaking out. Now I am crying. What if she is really hurt? At the hand of my singing son?

Problem #51 - Just as they get in the door, daughter throws up in emergency room.

Problem #52. They are whisked away into another room and all the ER is forced to wear masks? (why? you guessed it - swine flu precaution??)

Problem #53: In the meantime, a trauma unit comes in with a kid in really bad shape from a car accident. So my daughter - who either has swine flu or massive brain hemorrhaging - waits and waits and waits. (And rightly so, b/c the trauma kid almost died but they saved him. That was definitely worth the wait. But the wait was agonizing.)

Problem 53.4 - Problem 61.3333 - Meanwhile - neurotic, worse-case scenario mom (AKA Me!) is freaking out at home. Calling family and best friend hoping to be talked out of visiting Panic-ville. (PS my family thinks I overreact so this calling drudges up family issues as well.)

Problem 61.4 - Problem 65 - Doctor does not come in to examine daughter for 2 hrs!!! Meanwhile, her brain is falling out of her head (at least to me)

Problem 65 - I am at home researching head trauma, CT scans, Natasha Richardson, and US statistics on "death by flying cups".

Problem 66 - Junior doctor checks out daughter and says she is fine. he wants to send her home.

Problem 67 - I tell (threaten) hubby. Don't leave until they scan her or I will come down there! (Do you blame me? The symptoms showed up with in 10 minutes of head impact.)

Problem 68 - Daughter has to go through scary CT scan.....without me! :(

Problem 69 - 99 - CT scan is 100% normal???? Daughter diagnosed with tummy bug!

Problem #100- My neurotic self once again looks like a hypochondriac, loony bird with entire family who I've been calling and putting on "emergency backup" notice for 2 hrs in case I have to go into hospital for brain surgery. (no not mine, hers!)


Blessing #1 - #100 - daughter is fine. family is fine.

Shout out #67 (don't ask about #1-#66) : to my daughter's guardian angel - you rock!!!!

Moral of the story?

We are switching to paper cups!!!!!!!!

Sunday, September 06, 2009

I am a GLeek!

OK guys. I finally got around to watch last week's episode on GLee. It is amazing.

There are so many things to love about this show!

Top 10 reasons GLEE gives me glee!

10) It's funny. I laughed in alot of places. Some of the comments made me shake my head b/c they are so true, yet so sad to hear. And yes I even got teary at the end when the kids were all on stage dancing and singing. I am a sucker!

9) Love how the show has the same ole stereotypes yet still seems fresh. Agents and editors are always saying "this is a stereotype!" but these types of people still exist and they still work if you do them right. You just have to tie in a little something different. A jock who likes to sing. A cheerleader who likes to pray. A geeky girl who is confident and knows she's talented. And, the teacher who wants to save the underdogs yet instead of a sports team or poor school, it is a glee club. Just goes to show you can still make it work!

8) Emma (the school counselor) is too cute. At first, I did not want to like her - she was all in skirts, heels and silky tops. But I love that she wears plastic gloves when she sits in the teachers lounge. She also draws hearts around Mr Shu's pictures in her school book. A counselor who's a bit nuts is always fun, yet so endearing you already want Mr Shu to dump his phony wife and hook up with Emma! And its only been one show.

7) Terri (Mr Shu's wife) sux! First off, I have never gravitated towards really "crafty people" so the crafty thing bugs me. She even complains about having a cheap glue gun! (sorry to all you crafty bloggers - I love you as long as you are cool about it!) Mostly, I have a HUGE bias against people who try to prevent others from living their dreams in total happiness just because they want more money or a different status.

6) Love the music! They covered many decades of music just in the first show. My fav - the 80s twist! The song matched with the mullet guy. "Don't stop believing" by Journey used to be my favorite song when I was 11. I was in 6th grade and at a private school where kids used to throw rocks at me. I was miserable but only there for a year. It was a traumatizing year for many reasons, but this song (along with Air Supply!) pulled me through. (BTW I love Steve Perry - how can you not? the acid wash jeans, the hair, the leopard shirt??)

5) Poor Artie (wheelchair kid) is adorable. When I was in high school, my best friend Lauren, had cystic fibrosis (excess mucus in her throat body) and she especially struggled when she sang in the Glee/chorus club. But she loved to sing more than anything and fought through it. She deteriorated after high school and died when I was away in college. Poor Lauren. It amazed me (even then) how people would be so mean when they had no idea what a person was really going through. While they were worried about their hair, Lauren was worried at what age she was going to die. Back then in the 80s - the life expectancy was only 18!

4) Rachel - OMG. She has an amazing voice. I mean the kind that gives you chills. It's so clear and effortless. I used to sing in a Jazz band and sometimes wonder if I should have continued onto be a singer. I had so many opportunities that I passed by. Rachel makes me miss singing. When I was in high school, I wanted nothing more than to be on Broadway.

3) Coach Sue - I love Jane Lynch - loved her in Mighty Wind and Best in Show. In Role Models - her best line was "Don't mess with me. I used to have cocaine for breakfast." She's just as funny in this show. She calls her cheerleading squad "the Cherrios", drinks Protein shakes, and is a real meany. But she makes me laugh. The funniest line so far? "You think this is hard? Living with hepatitis is hard!"

2) Mr Shu is Gleeky hottie. Do you know how you know when a man is hot? He's cute. He sings. He play guitar. He loves kids. He wears button down sweaters and gets away with it. Oh yeah - and he makes John Denver's "I'm leaving on a jet plane." sound like a cool song again. I miss my Denver albums: Rhymes and Reasons and Poems and Prayers (yes I said albums!) - used to play them all the time. Yay! All us old people can now be cool again because we know all the words!!!

1) OK confession time!!! The main reason I like this show the most because I was in the Glee Club/Chorus in my high school. (Now lets see how many people UNfollow my blog!!!) Yes I was a Gleek!! But I was also a cheerleader (Don't ask!) and so I was teased about it by football team/other sportzy people. But I loved it and didn't really care.(not b/c of a high self esteen b/c I hated to be told what to do!) I played Rizzo in our school Grease rendition and also one of the leads in "Little Whorehouse of Texas" (which probably was not appropriate for high school???? now that I think about it). So I totally relate to this show. Too much.

You can still watch the pilot episode and the new season begins on Sept 9th (this wed).

If you write for kids, you will love this show. It is a glimpse into high school.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

The Perfect Weekend for a Writer

The weekend has been awesome so far.

The Decatur Book Festival is an event where you can walk down the streets covered in poets and writers and illustrators. The energy is great and the brilliance is a bonus.

I could die happy right now. Ok so maybe I'd like to wait until I get a fabulous book deal before I die but you get the point.

1. An email of excellence. Yes I got a personal email from bestselling author Alyson Noel. (yes, it was addressed to "Shelli". I wont' say why, but just seeing her name in my box was a whole lot of awesomeness.

2. A breakfast of brilliance - met up with great fun bloggers (including Vania at Book Reverie) and had great conversation with David Levithan (Scholastic editor/author), Aimee Friedman (Scholastic editor/author), and Jennifer Jabaley (Lipstick Apology). The smoked salmon bagel was the cherry on top a sweet morning.

3. Three words - Decatur Book Festival!!!! For me - it was a festival of my favorite writers.

3. A surprise day with my thoughtful, brilliant, and hilarious writer buddies - I didn't know some of my friends were coming in for the Festival. Lindsey Leavitt (Princess For Hire, March 2010) emailed me Friday night at 10:30 pm letting me know she and Irene Latham (Jan 2010) were getting crazy and driving in last minute on sat. Then Jessica DeHart (founder of Brilliant Life Foundation) - another bestest buddy - decided to come over. what a day!

4. One word - Ally Carter (The Gallagher Girls) - OK so that's two words but does it matter? Not only was I in same room with one of my fav writers of all time but I got her to sign a book. Only crummy moment - when I went to take a picture, battery was dead. Am I kidding? i wish. :(

5. Watching and listening to tweens and teens ask questions, giggle, and dream of being writers. It was so sweet and made me so happy to think I might be talking to them one day.

6. Listening to Terra Elan McVoy (author of Pure) and Lauren Myracle (author of ttyl, ttfn) ask each other cute and funny questions. They discussed the sensitive topic of faith in their books and ended with a silly song. at the end.

7. Jackson Pearce (author of As You Wish) and Aimee Friedman (author of SeaChange) spoke together. Jackson is hilarious and Aimee is adorable.

8. Maggie Stiefvater (Shiver) and Richelle Mead (Vampire Academy) in a smackdown debating Werewolves vs Vampires. Who could take who? I'd say it was a draw.

9. Meeting fab bloggers Rachel Hawkins (Hex Hall, March 2010) and Jackie Dolamore (Magic Under the GLass, Dec 09) - they were so nice and I am looking forward to their books - coming real soon.

10. Spending the afternoon at the park with hubby, princess and prince. I love my family and it was the perfect ending to a perfect day.

Can't image tomorrow topping today :)

Friday, September 04, 2009

Friday's Marketing Round up (9/4)

Here are my marketing favs for the week: :)

How to Get Twitter - there's also no service that more people say they "don't get"--including some very smart, hip people. Maybe this will help!

Chris Richman's (UpStart Crow Literary) Thoughts on Social Networking. Writers out there are struggling with the same issues. What should be on your Facebook page, your blog, your Twitter updates? Will you hurt your chances by posting something seemingly innocuous that could offend the wrong person? Possibly.

How to promote on a teacher's salary? Ok so we are not teachers but writers are in the same range on salary category. This teacher/author shares ways (on blog talk radio) on how to do promotion on a budget.

Using hashtags on Twitter for business
- Hashtags are essentially a simple way to catalog and connect tweets about a specific topic. Find out how they can be used.

Book Trailers can be so much more!
Book trailers promote books like Movie trailers promote movies.

Preparing an author for an interview - Review the basics of interviewing.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, September 03, 2009

And the winner is.....

Congratulations to...

Jean Reidy!!!!

Jean - you can email me offline at sjohannes@bilaninc.com to schedule your consultation. :)