3 S.R. Johannes: July 2010

Friday, July 30, 2010

LILA's Blog Takes Over (Guest Post)

LILA has taken over...

How much would you pay to be at SCBWI LA right now?

Laura: *Logs into bank account and cries a little bit* $25. But I think that’s part of the problem.

Lisa: Maybe we should open up some sort of business on the side like Shelli. I mean, she’s at the conference right now.

Laura: YES. I wonder if anyone would pay for celebrity-inspired poetry. I could start that back up.

Lisa: *searches Craigslist* What are you doing next Saturday? There’s a want-ad for a couple face painters for a kids’ birthday party. I can paint a mean unicorn.

Laura: I’m actually busy. Cash for Gold is at the downtown Marriot. I have a few broken necklaces and my class ring.

Lisa: Well, after the birthday party I’ll probably have some writer friends over. I’m gonna host a few SCBWI-inspired workshops here.

Laura: When were you planning on telling me?

Lisa: Um…I mean…I don’t know…I just figured you’d be busy.

Laura: Yeah, well, I am. I mean, Cash for Gold is a popular event. Have fun “honing your craft.”

Lisa: What?

Laura: It’s just…that’s what the SCBWI Conference description says. You’ll hone your craft and take your writing to the next level. Is that what you’re going to be doing in your living room?

Lisa: Probably. I’ll have some snacks too.

What will you be doing while instead of going to LA?

Thursday, July 29, 2010

A Writer's Guide to Leaving an Agent (By Georgia Mcbride)

Before I start, I suppose I should preface by saying never ever pay an agent to read your submission or in advance to represent you. Never sign an agreement to do so and if you have, you should definitely end that relationship. Legitimate agents abide by a code of ethics (though not all legitimate agents are members) set forth by the AAR. Here is a link to The Association of Authors Representatives.

In my experience, there are a few ways a writer-agent relationship can sour and it almost always begins in the mind of the writer. Below are some real-life examples of how things can go wrong quickly.

1. Writer has questions that agent either cannot or will not answer.

Usually a writer will have questions about submissions that the agent cannot or will not answer. Just because you did not receive an answer or did not like the answer you received, don’t automatically assume the worst. Your agent may have very good reasons why (s)he did not give you the answer you felt you should have received.

You should also consider that your agent’s time may be better spent working on your behalf than justifying her thought process for half-hour just to make your feel better about things. Sure, sometimes this is what may be needed, but at the end of the day, you either trust your agent or you don’t. Now, I’m not advocating blind faith and a closed mouth. This is a partnership. Your agent should NEVER talk down to you, belittle you or flat out ignore your concerns. If this is happening, you may be in a non-working relationship. However, before you do anything, talk to your agent and be sure to voice your concerns. Always act with professionalism, dignity and respect for both yourself and your agent. Never burn bridges.

2. Writer fails to understand (fully) details and or fine print of a contract and enters into this contract at the behest of the agent. Writer later learns it is not in her/his best interest.

It is your responsibility to make sure that you are working with someone who is not only professional and experienced as an agent but someone who can effectively negotiate and explain contracts. You are responsible for asking questions and making sure that you fully understand all of the clauses in your contract (representation and publishing contract).

If you don’t, you COULD end up with a new agent but still having to pay commission to your old agent who no longer represents you AND stuck in a crappy publishing agreement for years with no release date and unable to write for anyone else.

3. Writer is signed with agent for more than a year. Other clients of same agent are getting deals while this writer remains unpublished.

After several rounds of revisions and submissions sometimes a book fails to draw the attention of editors and you need to make a decision. At that point writer and agent must sit down and figure out whether it is best to continue on together or part ways. Of course, the HUGE caveat is this. You should always be working on new material/ideas. A new story or fresh perspective is always great to have considering how long the submissions process can sometimes take.

4. After several phone calls, emails or other attempts to communicate, your agent does not return your interest, enthusiasm, calls, emails, etc.

You and your agent should have an agreed upon method and frequency regarding communication. In today’s world of emails, texting, Facebook, twitter and the like; sometimes communication can range from a few harmless tweets back and forth, followed by an email that requires a phone call which leads to a post on Facebook that links to your Live Journal page which of course requires and obligatory comment and before you know it-- you’ve touched base 5-7 times that day! Was it necessary? Probably. Was it fun? Probably. Is it a valuable use of your agent’s time? Probably not.

When I managed music acts, I set aside time each week for a formal call with each client for a weekly update. I also made myself available via instant messenger, text and email for non-emergency questions. I would respond when available and most often before the end of the day. Some clients of course, pushed these boundaries daily and tried to skirt around them. There will always be someone who feels a sense of entitlement and who does not abide by what was agreed to.

Odds are, this is the person who will be unhappy in the writer-agent relationship and want to find fault with the agent who pushes back and demands respect for the agreement that was made.

However, if your agent is unresponsive, shows a complete lack of regard for or interest in your work, you should consider looking for alternate representation. Another indication is an agent who is condescending or disrespectful to you or writers in general. But don’t lose your cool. Remember to discuss your concerns with your agent. Consider why this may be happening and the ramifications of seeking new representation.

Remember, agents are people too.

They have good days and bad days. Most are supportive and great professionals who can help you achieve your publishing goals--some beyond your wildest dreams. But there are times when the writer-agent relationship just like any other will simply not work out. Consider what you are willing to sacrifice and what you are not. No agent is perfect and it not fair or realistic to expect perfection from your agent. Your agent will make mistakes, not always have the right answer and may even disappoint you once or twice. But, a good agent will rise above these challenges if you let them.

Think about yourself and what YOU can do to make the relationship work better.

Can you be less needy? Can you educate yourself about the business side of publishing more so that your agent has less explaining to do? Can you become a better self-editor and marketer? Can you learn more about contracts and foreign rights?

If you invest in yourself and your career a little bit more, you will see less of a strain on the writer-agent relationship. Your conversations will be less about learning and playing catch-up and more peer-to-peer.

Finally, no one wants to be in a situation where they are considering changing agents. But it all starts with a small seed of doubt brought about by something that was said or done by the agent that the writer didn’t like or understand. I promise you that if you let it go the first time without a conversation, there WILL be a second time. That small seed of doubt will develop into two seeds and then three and before you know it, animosity, mistrust and anger will have implanted deep in your heart. You will have done more to sabotage your relationship with your agent than any one agent could ever have done.

Sometimes the relationship is just not productive and its time to go. You may find the agent is just as eager to end things as you are.

Be honest. Don’t wait to long to say how you’re feeling and don’t make a mountain out of a molehill. Follow your gut if it’s screaming,”get out, run.” But don’t let a misunderstanding derail your career.

Good luck and I hope this has helped!

What others have to say on this topic:

Jennifer Laughran

Janet Reid


Adler Books

Other places you can find Georgia:

Her Blog
YALITCHAT membership site
YALITCHAT public site
teen-themed team blog
Georgia's PRAEFATIO book trailer

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Elana Johnson on LA (Guest post)

Elana Johnson has stopped by to give some tips on what you can do if you are not going to LA!

Since I’m not in LA at the frawesome SCBWI smashdown (next year, I swear…next year), I just know I’m going to miss out on all kinds of fabulousness.

Yeah, I know I’ll be able to get some great information from people like Shelli, who are going to the conference, but it just won’t be the same reading about it after the fact. Le sigh.

So what’s a girl to do so she doesn’t gouge her eyes out in a fit of SCBWI-induced jealousy?

1. Write. Okay, this is lamesauce, but hey, it’ll pass the time.

2. Critique. This could be worse than #1, but at least I’ll feel productive.

3. Read. Again, this doesn’t compare to being at a live conference with ultra-sweet agents and editors and writerly peeps, but there’s nothing like losing yourself in a story.

4. Go to the pool. Hey, we’re all living under the same sun. Maybe I’ll text my friends and tell them to go to the hotel pool and we can pretend we’re all there together…

5. Mope. Let’s face it, this is probably what I’ll do.

Because SCBWI-LA is the place to be this week. But hey, if you’re not going, feel free to stand outside in the sun with your mopey face on. I’m sure I’ll feel your vibes. *wink*

Let Elana know if you have any other ideas? :)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

LA Bound - Round 2

Ok I am off to LA this week...yay!

This year, I am much more confident than last year.

1) I know my roommate this time. Kimberly and I are roomies again. Last year, we took a chance and roomed together after only knowing each other through our blogs (weird right?) This time, I know she is not really a hairy man in skivvies. I also know she doesn't snore. So I cant wait to see my wonderful friend. (who i just found out put me in her acknowledgements! That's right - me. Im moving up!)

2) I have gotten over my fear of meeting bloggers in person. It was such an amazing experience last year, that I have nothing to lose.

3) I have plans this time. yes I am soooo popular these days that I have plans already lined up. Some for breakfast, some for drinks (water of course :) and some for dinner. Ok sat night doesnt count b/c its the SCBWI party so EVERYONE is invited. But so far Im meeting Robin Mellom, Gretchen McNeil, Daisey Whitney, Suzanne Young, Stephanie Perkins, Kiersten White, Lisa Schroder (which still freaks me out b/c she's like one of my fav authors!), Lindsey leavitt, Sherrie Petersen, Carolina Valdez Miller, and Casey McCormick (who Im especially excited about meeting b/c she and Corey schwartz were two of my first followers long ago so I have a special place in my heart for them :) and more.

4) I got into the YA Master class. OMG I had been wanting this so bad. But they said I was a few down on the waiting list. So the chances were like 0%. I cant wait to hear Krista Marino, Random House/Delacorte, and her brilliance. editor for THE ALCHEMYST, THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH, THE MAZE RUNNER, and KING DORK. See what I mean?

5) A weekend away. Though I love my kids dearly, I need a small break. A weekend where I am not talking about boo boos, poops, lack of poops, wants, needs. And if I have to watch Backyardigans's Robot one more time, I'll scream.

So even though I wont' be here blogging much - I will come back with some great notes I'll share. I also have some great guest posts coming this week, so give them some love.

See you on the other side. :)

Monday, July 26, 2010

Teen Panel - Part Two

Today is Part Two this quarter's Teen Panel. You can still view Part One.

  • Age: 15; State: NY
  • Age: 18; State: Ohio; Chelsea
  • Age: 18; Michigan; Tirza
Do you have a preference when it comes to reading about kids who are like you? Do you like reading about kids whose lives are much different than yours less? Different cultures, races, societies?

  • I enjoy reading more about people whose lives are different or whose settings are similar to mine, but they have an extraordinary set of circumstances that makes things very different from my life. Reading about other cultures, races and societies makes me think more and really wraps me into the story- it's just fascinating to see how different social settings can completely change a person's views and give their life a whole different direction.
  • I like both. I love being able to relate to a character, but I also want to be in someone else's shoes. It's nice when there's a combination of both in one book. Like having a character who hates reading (very unlike me), but who has an addiction to coffee (very like me). Or someone who's a spy (unlike me (or is it?)) but loves animals (like me). It's awesome to be transported to a new time period or society or culture, but it's also awesome to have a grounding in my own life that I can relate to.
  • Like I mentioned above, I would love to read historical fiction set in different countries, so I love learning about different cultures. Obviously there needs to be something in the story or the character that I can identify with, or that will motivate me to read the story, but I am always up for learning something new while reading. I adored the Girls of Many Lands series when I was young, and I wish there was a similar series of books for YA readers. And reading about people like me is also always nice. It's cool when I can put myself into the story I am reading.
Do you like a book written from the pov of 2 main characters? Do you prefer first person or third person?
  • I think it's difficult to write from the POV of multiple characters, but if it's done correctly, that can be one of my favorite styles of writing. The characters need to have distinct voices so they don't blend into each other. I mostly prefer first person literature because it tends to get you into the head of the main character better.
  • I prefer first person because it allows you to get into a character's head more. For that same reason, I prefer one-person POV novels. I really want to connect to a character, and depending on the length of a novel, it's hard to do that when you only get half of the face-time in a character's mind, which is what happens when a book is split into two POVs. But, if it's done the right way, it can be great. It all depends on the author, but if they nail both character's POVs, two thumbs up.
  • This is a bit of a subjective question...I've read books that alternate between points of view (and even between first and second and third person) that were well written and quite engrossing, and I loved it. However, I've also read books with 4+ points of view, and at that point, it felt like just too much. You only really brush the surface of each character, and don't really get into them and who they were. So, I guess what I am trying to say is...I don't mind either way, as long as the story flows well, the characters are developed, and the message is well conveyed.
How do teens felt about the whole vampire situation? Are you all “dead set” on the sparkling vampire shown in the Twilight saga? Or would you be interested in reading a book about more monstrous vampires like those from Anne Rice and Dracula? Or has it all been done!
  • Vampires have just been used so much by now that I'm worn out of them. Even if they're used in conjunction with other beasts/demons/beings or taken from a different angle, it's not as intriguing anymore. I'm sure there are plenty of teens out there who still love the vampire situation, but to me, it feels like one of those songs that they overplay on the radio and then you can't enjoy it until you havn't heard it for a few years.
  • I love creepy vamps. No sparkling for me. I mean, I enjoyed Twilight when I read it, but the sparkling thing was beyond ridiculous. I like books like the MorganvilleCaine, where the vampires are evil and scary and roar. But reading a book from the POV of a vampire is interesting, too, because they're older and have lived in different time periods and they just have the opportunity for a completely different perspective on humanity. That's why I want to read Thirst by Christopher Pike so bad - 5000yo vampire as the main character? I'm in. Despite what everyone says, I really don't think the whole vampire thing has been overdone. There are a lot of different sides and lores to vampires that have yet to be explored. That said, I would still love to see a different creature become more predominant, like ghouls or something. I'm all for creepy ancient lore.
  • Short answer - The always-good vampires like the Cullens seem boring, and we tend to find the not-always-good/not-always-bad vampires from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and The Vampire Diaries more entertaining. Long answer - A lot of eye-rolling goes on with my friends when vampires are mentioned. I think for the most part, vampires have become trite to us. We were all die-hard Twilight fans when it first came out when we were in eighth grade, but now as we are graduating and moving on, we've moved beyond sparkly vampires and tend to mock them more than rave about them. That being said, we don't completely hate them. Many of my friends saw the New Moon movie (we credit Taylor Lautner for this), and we are huge, huge fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Buffy could kick both Bella and Edward's butt, and Angel is far sexier than any guy in Twilight). I am also loving TV show version of The Vampire Diaries right now (Team Stefan!), much to my own surprise. However, when it comes to reading about vampires...I'm going to need an excellent hook and/or a bit of convincing to get me to read it.
Here is last quarter's teen panel:
Part 1
Part 2

Friday, July 23, 2010

Marketing Round Up (7/23)

Here are my favs for the week:

Georgia Mcbride (from YA litchat) on Platform Building - Georgia has a background as a marketer and manager in the music industry, and has been a part of the launch of several teen and tween music brands including N'SYNC and Fall Out Boy. She's no stranger to promotion and branding, and her expertise can help both new and established authors refine their web presence.

Book Decisions, signings and endorsements - A writer needs to understand the entire decision-making process at most publishing houses.

Drawbacks to pushing a book to market - Wanting to rush publication is a common problem, but many authors don’t realize how detrimental rushing can be to the success of the book. Not taking into account quality issues, there is the issue of distribution.

Connecting Book groups to Community - Here are twenty ideas for connecting an upcoming book group to the community.

The Write and wrong ways to promote your books - Did you know that if you’re marketing your book to sell books, you may be marketing for all the wrong reasons?

Superpower book proposal secrets - One of the most essential components of your book proposal is your marketing plan.

What you don't know about Book scan can hurt you. Nielsen BookScan tells the naked truth about how many copies a book sells. It produces weekly tallies via electronic links to thousands of cash registers across the country.

Create an engaging bio page - Your bio page, however, is arguably the most important page of your site. It’s where you define and contextualize yourself to an audience of strangers.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Bookanistas with a bit of "Majix"

Winner of the ebook lot is...Shalonda!

Congrads and email me for instructions.

Bookanista Book Review
Majix by Douglas Rees

What is it about?

Kestrel (don't call her Susan) Murphy is angry. Forced to leave her posh San Francisco Bay Area home by her father's illness, she's living in Jurupa (sounds like vomiting), Southern California. It's too hot. The people are stupid. And you have to chew the air to get the oxygen out of it. On the plus side, Kestrel is a witch. Well, a witch-in-training. And she's going acquire the magic she needs to get her life back to normal. At first, she barely notices the people around her-Aunt Ariel, who's taken her in and is herself a well-known white witch; Jose Iturrigaray, the quiet, talented young artist; Blake Cump, troublemaker extraordinaire; Laura Greenwood, who wants to be Kestrel's friend. But life has its own magic, and gradually Kestrel finds that much of one's success as a witch lies in being open to it.
What's a teen witch to do when she's stuck in the most unmagical high school in the universe? Create her own "majix." Take notes. And above all, avoid nasty classmates, heartless grown-ups and boys who may prove a little too distracting for a serious teen witch to handle….

Why I love this book?
It's nice to see a lighthearted paranormal - especially for younger teens/tweens- after all the dark books coming out. I love the snarky sense of humor and found myself rooting for Kestrel. I felt like I was reading a diary more than a book because she writes down her thoughts in what she calls a "grim-oire". :) Don't be fooled. Majix isn't just about magic. It touches on some real issues: a sick dad, a new school oddity, and the everyday teen struggles.

Cover Love
I love the pink and brown tones. I think the silhouette is a nice touch considering all the faces on most covers. It adds to the mystery a bit.

Here's a snippet (or read an excerpt)
My name is Kestrel Murphy.
Never call me Susan.
I mean, who ever heard of a witch named Susan?
Which is what I am. WITCH is what I am. I do magic, which is what a witch does. A year ago, I was on the white side.
Lately, I've been leaning toward the black...
I blame the universe. What's the point in being a nice little white witch in the universe I've got? If I could choose my own universe, I'd be a white witch in it. But black makes a lot more sense in this universe.
Not that I'm complaining. A witch never complains. But if I did, I'd have a lot to complain about. For instance: Richard Milhous Nixon High.

Harlequin Teen is getting out some great books in their first couple of years. Here are a few other HQ books you may want to check out:The Oracle of Dating
The Iron King
Inside and Out

Soul to Keep (series)

Also, if you missed it, you can also read a past interview with editor Natashya Wilson.

Other Bookanista Reviews!

What do you think would be the hardest thing about being a witch?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Pay it Forward - Awards

Comment today and win a few ebooks: You, Guys Read, The Ivy, and Paranormalcy.

First - I want to apologize that I am not able to visit everyone as much as I used to :( At almost 1,000 followers, you can imagine how hard it is.Though I cant help but feel like I'm missing out on catching up to all of you. Like the friends you don't see but want to. However, please know that I respond to everyone that comments on my blog and usually try and visit your blog as well . So if you want to be better blogger buddies, leave me a comment so I can come visit! :)

This post is long overdue and these people probably hate me because I never even publicly said thank you for the wonderful awards.

Over the last several months - Ive gotten some frawesome (freaking awesome) and very thoughtful awards that I never passed forward or even posted about. But I did keep them all in a folder so today is about you.

I'm spreading the love....if you guys are not following these blogs - you are truly missing out!

General Rules - pass on each award to 5 bloggers forward, link back to giver of the award, and let your awardees know you gave them an award.

The Susquehanna Writers - The Circle of Friends Award

I am awarding this to all 990 of my followers/friends/BFFs! Thanks for signing up for my blog and dropping by. It means alot to me. Plus I want to include everyone who has been so nice to me and who deserves an award.

Elizabeth Ash - The Lovely Blog Award
I'm giving this to some of my Bookanista Buddies.

Michelle Hodkin
Carolina Valdez Miller
Shannon Messenger
Christine Fonseca
Jamie Harrington

Rebecca Knight - The Silver Lining Award
This award is for those who are there online when I need to stay "hopeful".

Jen Hayley
Shana Silver
Gretchen McNeil
Natalie Whipple
Corey Schwartz

Catherine Denton and Danyelle Leafty - The Over the Top Award
Other blogs I love...

Christina Farley
Caroline by line
Christina Lee
Heidi Willis
Jessie Oliveros
Kelly Hy
Kelly Polark
Natalie Bahm

Jemi Fraser - From Me to You Award
This award I'm giving to a few bloggers who take time to comment all the time.

LJ Boldyrev
Dorothy Dreyer
Natalie Aguirre (who doesn't have a blog yet :(
Riv Re
Adventures in children's Publishing

Cheree - Honest Scrap Award
This award goes to some of the most honest people I know.

Little Ms J
Veronica Roth
Tess Hilmo
Kiersten White
Stephanie Perkins

Pamela - Humane Award
This award is to honor certain bloggers that are kindhearted individuals. I'm giving it to the 3 girls who ran Do It Write for Nashville and raised over $75,000 for flood victims.

Myra McEntire
Mandy Morgan
Victoria Schwab

Laurie - The Sunshine award.
This award is for blogs/people that always makes me smile.

Kristin Tubb
Jennifer Jabaley
Jess Jordon
Sherri Petersen

Ms J - Blogger Buddy award
To my bestest Blogger Buddies and people I lean on a little - ok a lot when things get tough! How I love you - I can count the ways.

Katie & SF

Joanne and Jessie - The Versatile Blog Award
For the blogs that cover a variety of different (great) topics.

Georgia McBride
Casey McCormick
Susan Mills

Thanks to everyone! :)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Agent Pitch Contest Winners!!!

The winner of the lot of boy's books is.....Erika Lynn!

The winner of Personal Demons (one of Suzie's clients books) is Throuthehaze!

please email your address to sjohannes@bilaninc.com

Agent Pitch Winners

Couple notes:
  • Thanks to everyone who entered!
  • I did check every entry for instructions and character count.
  • To those who were over 140 characters or did not include all the information requested, I sent your entries to Suzie (highlighted in red) and let her make the decision to judge since it was her contest.
  • There are a few who did not win but Suzie wants to see your manuscripts. Mention this contest when you query her.
Suzie's Comments:
These were so hard to judge because so many of them were so good! The secret to an amazing pitch is balancing specifics with just enough interest to have readers going - wait, what happens next?!?!?! And what separates the good pitches from the greats? Same thing that separates good manuscripts from great ones - VOICE.

Third Place - a query critique
Second Place - a query critique + 5 pages

First Place - query critique + 10 pages
  • send query and winning pages for critique first or they can just send everything (but mention you are a winner of my contest and that you get a critique)

    The three manuscripts she wants to see - send Suzie the ms straight away, but include the query in the body of the email and mention the contest.


    Great Pitch (but too long):
    • CL with GIRL WITH A TAIL
    Honorable Mentions:
    • Jamie with EVER
    • Danyelle with SLIPPERS OF PEARL
    • Morgan Dempsey with RUNNER
    • writerhailey with DIARY (um, I want to see this ms!)
    Best MG
    Jared Larson with I'M HERE TO SAVE YOUR DAY

    Third Place: Win QUERY CRITIQUE
    Jemi Fraser with STEAMED UP (I would love love love to see this ms when it's ready :)

    Second Place: Win QUERY CRITIQUE + 5 pages
    L.J. Boldyrev with GREYSKIN (I would love love love to see this ms when it's ready :)

    Winner! query critique + 10 pages to first place
    Candyland with 9:59 REWIND

    (I must read this! Really, I might die if I don't know what happens after rewind!)

    Candyland - email me for instructions on how to submit your query to Suzie.

    "At 9:58, Thursday Night Scum singer, C.J. Greyson is shot on stage by the man that killer her father, but at 9:59, she presses rewind."

    Thanks everyone. If you didn't win or get chosen, don't worry - Mary Kole will be here in August for another pitch contest so perfect your pitches!! :)

    Here's a little something to make you (and your hubby's) laugh...(trust me this is worth clicking)


Monday, July 19, 2010

Teen Panel - Part One

Today's giveaway is a lot of boy's books:
  • Guys Read by Jon Scieszka (Harper, ARC 10/10)
  • The Magnificent 12 (Harper, ARC 9/10)
  • Kick (Harper, ARC, 2/11)
  • 13th Reality by James Dashner (signed HB)
  • Vordak (Egmont, ARC 8/10)
Just comment on the post to be entered in drawing.

  • Age: 15; State: NY
  • Age: 18; State: Ohio; Chelsea
  • Age: 18; Michigan; Tirza

How many books do you read a month?

  • Usually about 1-2, depending on the month and how much work there is to get done.
  • It varies, depending on that pesky "life" thing. I'll usually always read at least 5 books a month, when I'm busy writing or vegitating in front of the TV, (because, holycrap am I addicted to Friday Night Lights / Buffy / Vampire Diaries / Merlin / everything) but it can get up to 15 if I'm hermiting.
  • Right now, I'm averaging about 12-15 per month.
Who pays for your books?
  • I've been blessed with the commodity of friends who are (some, at least) avid readers, so I normally just borrow books. However, when I want to buy a book, it's normally my own money that I use.
  • I usually pay myself, unless I can sucker my mom into it. She always used to pay for my books - she's a saint - but my addiction is costly and I've taken to IABs (Impulse Amazon Buy's) lately. Bookstores are very dangerous for this reason, because restraint isn't usually in my vocabulary. I'm all about impulse. When I'm in a Borders, my vocabulary usually consists of "!!!!!" and "!!!" and "!!!!", respectively.
  • The vast majority of my books are review copies I receive, though I do buy books out of my own pocket with money earned from my job. My parents very rarely buy me books anymore!
How much is price a factor in your book-buying decisions? Do you prefer hardback or paperback? Do you ever buy both?
  • Price is sometimes a factor. If the book is sort of expensive and I'm on a tight budget (which I find to be somewhat often), I'll look for the paperback edition. Personally, I prefer paperbacks because they're lighter and cheaper, but a hardcover would be nice from time to time.
  • Price is definitely a factor. I have a "no-hardcover-rule", but I break it a lot. I try and buy only paperbacks, since they're generally $10 cheaper, but if it's a book I'm dying to read, I can't help myself. Because of my addiction (which results in tons of unread books), by the time I eventually read the hardcover anyway, it'd be out in paperback. So, PBs unless I can't restrain myself.
  • Well, it certainly affects it to a certain extent. I do buy hardcovers, but usually only at reduced prices and only if it's a book I really want. Occasionally I will wait for a book to come out in paperback as well, but it just depends on how much I want to read it.
What would you like to see more of in teen fiction? What hasn’t been done yet?
  • For me, there's not enough books in teen fiction with extensive travels. I like reading about different places and the characters' travels through strange lands- whether they're real places or completely fictional!
  • Contemporary! I love paranormal (it's generally what I write myself, so I feel totally hypocritcal saying this), but I'd love to see more contemporary. I just finished The Sky is Everywhere and it was so refreshing and beautiful and real, it makes me hesitant to reach for my dystopian. But I know if I read contemporary after contemporary, I'd be DYING for a fantasy. I also love historical fiction, so it'd be awesome to see more of that. I'll refrain from the whole "what hasn't been done yet" thing, because if I ever think of something that's NEVER been done, I'll be writing it. :) But honestly, it's hard to create an incredibly unique idea. When one comes along, it's priceless, but there's usually always something slightly similar. But no two books are the same, so even if you take a simple idea (like boy meets girl), and add a different voice or a splash of this or that, it can't be replicated. But then there are books like HUNGER by Jackie Morse Kessler that seem to come out of nowhere and strike me as a completely original idea. I think if more YA authors look back into lore and history, and really dive deep into it, they can find something ancient and add a splash of color and have something "new".
  • Time travel! I read Marianne Curley's Guardians of Time series when I was in middle school, and fell in love. Since then, I've been looking for more good time travel reads. I think that it's slowly catching on, what with the release of The Time Traveler's Wife movie, and Heather Davis's new book The Clearing also has time travel in it. I've also heard whispers of time travel books coming out from debut authors in the next couple of years, and I am excited! I am also always a big fan of historical fiction that teaches you a bit about the history of a certain place, especially if it is set in a different country. Romance, adventure, a history lesson...the nerd in me loves it!
Stay tuned for Part 2.....

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Bookanistas - A "Matched" Made in Heaven (Ally Condie)

Today, I interviewed Ally Condie for her new book, Matched, coming this fall.

In honor of our Twitter Agent Pitch Contest, I did it a little different and kept Ally's answers in Twitter (short) form. Am I smart or what?

What I loved about Matched....
I loved the world Ally created and was impressed that even though the world is different from today, she did not get bogged down in details and make it too convoluted. It just seemed natural.

And hello - is the cover gorgeous or what? I love the green and it is so relevant when you read the book.

What could be wrong with this book? It's got a cool cover, 2 hot boys (yay!), adorable girl, cool new world, a little action, and great writing. Oh yeah, and I've met Ally and she is super sweet too!

Here's what Ally had to say...

Hey Ally, give us your author bio in a twitter post.
I'm an author, a mom to three boys, and a former high school English teacher.Love reading, running, and listening to my husband play guitar.

Tell us about Matched in a twitter pitch.
MATCHED is the story of Cassia-who, on her 17th birthday, finds out who her government (the Society) has selected as her perfect mate.

What inspired the story for Matched?
Several things came together to make me think of the idea for MATCHED: an experience I had chaperoning a prom back when I was a teacher, the computer match dances that were popular when I was young, and several conversations about the role of government in private life.

Can you explain how the process changed for you from earlier books until now? Maybe give us a glimpse into your progression as a writer.
I think the biggest change in my process has been allowing myself permission to write non-linearly. It used to be that I would write scenes in chronological order. Now I write whatever I want, when I want, and then go back and fix it. This has been really freeing and helpful for me as a writer.

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you first started writing?
I know now (and wish I'd known then) that it is okay to walk away. To step back from a book for hours, weeks, months, and let it rest. Sometimes I feel so driven to finish something that I can't see the big picture until I take a break. Giving myself permission to do that has made a big difference.

Was there ever a time when you felt like giving up? Why didn’t you?
I did. It was December of 2008. A book I had worked very hard on--a book the publisher had asked me to write--was scrapped. I had a super cute new baby and thought, "Maybe it's time to take a few years off from writing." But, as is the case with most writers, I couldn't do it. I had to keep writing a little each day because it is part of me.

What have you learned about promoting books in your publication journey? What worked well for you? What was a waste?

I have very little knowledge about promoting books. . In the end, all I can really control is writing the best story I can write. That's pretty much my focus. That's not to say I don't blog, facebook, twitter, etc. But thinking of creative marketing plans is something my brain just doesn't do very well. What does work well for me is paying attention to teenagers. Noticing what they read. Listening to what they say. In the end, I have to write something that is relevant and interesting to them so they will want to read it. And buy it.

What is one of your biggest fears?

I don't love flying on airplanes. But I'll do it. To promote my book. Hey! That's something I do to market my books! ;)

Thanks Ally!

Thanks Shelli
You can follow Ally's blog or on Twitter.

Here are the other reviews going on at the Bookanistas today:

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Agent Pitch Contest starts today!

Suzie Townsend is with FinePrint literary. You can read her interview from yesterday here. She is looking for the following:

"I'm representing everything from children’s books (chapter books to YA, both fiction and non-fiction) to adult fiction (speculative, fantasy, urban fantasy, science fiction, and romance, especially paranormal). I'm interested in strong characters and voice driven stories that will keep me up at night. I also gravitate towards strong female protagonists, complex plot lines with underlying political, moral, or philosophical issues, and stories which break out of the typical tropes of their genre, like Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel series."

Winner: Gets a query critique from Suzie!

When: Today, Wed July 14th. Begins at 9:30 EST, ends Thursday 15th at 9:30am EST (I will close comments when it ends and I go by the time stamp on blogger.)

What: Leave your 140 character book pitch (children's books ONLY - including CB, MG and YA) in the comments.

  • You cannot have an agent (obviously) or a book sold/published.
  • It must only be 140 characters (or less)
  • This is for unagented/unpublished writers only.
  • You can only enter once so choose wisely!
  • You must be a follower of my blog. If I were you I would follow Suzie's blog and Twitter too just b/c they are awesome and she does a lot of contests there.
Notes: It must NOT be longer than 140 characters. You can test this in Twitter or do a character count in Word.

In the comments leaves your, title, genre, your 140 character pitch, and your email. If your pitch is over 140 characters (not words!) it will NOT count. You can check this either on Word, on Twitter if you have an account, or here.

Example: YA Survival Suspense - Grace Under Fire

When her forest-ranger father disappears,Grace uses her survival skills to search the NC mtns & finds a secret group plotting against nature

Here are a few reference articles on writing one sentence pitches:

Nathan Bransford (agent)
Rachel Gardner (agent)
Query Tracker
Scribe Chat
140 character pitch

Good luck!

Friday, July 09, 2010

Agent Pitch Contest with Suzie Townsend!

General updates

All the books that have won through today will be mailed out by Friday. Sorry about the delay

Sorry about not stopping, we had a nasty bug run through the family. Yuk.

Also the winners of this last week's giveaways:
Today, Suzie Townsend stops by!

Agent Pitch Contest

Winner: Gets a query critique from Suzie!
When: Tomorrow, Wed July 14th. Begins at 91 EST, ends Thursday 15th at 9am EST
What: Leave your 140 character book pitch (children's books ONLY - including PBs, CB, MG and YA) in the comments.
Eligiblility: You cannot have an agent (obviously) or a book sold/published. This is for unagented/unpublished writers only.
Notes: It must NOT be longer than 140 characters. You can test this in Twitter or do a character count in Word.

Suzie Townsend, FinePrint Literary

*Comment on today's post and get an ARC of PERSONAL DEMONS by Lisa Desrochers.

Hey Suzie. Tell us a little about yourself and what made you want to be an agent.

When I first started exploring publishing, it was because my sister had working with McGraw Hill in the English textbook department. When she was working with them, she would tell me all about the job, and I found myself thinking about how much I would enjoy something similar. But getting into publishing itself was very difficult - and I wasn't sure which aspect of publishing I wanted to pursue.

I took an internship with FinePrint Literary, first thinking that it would be a stepping stone to getting a job in an editorial assistant position, but I just fell in love with FinePrint and every aspect of agenting. Luckily for me, everyone at FinePrint loved me too and offered me a job.

Tell us a little about your clients and their upcoming books.

I've sold six books now, which is very exciting, but I'll just name three of my clients' books which will be coming out in the next year.

PERSONAL DEMONS by Lisa Desrochers comes out 9/14 from Tor. It's the first book I sold, a YA paranormal romance about a girl who finds herself caught between an angel and a demon who are fighting over her soul - and her heart.

INVINCIBLE SUMMER by Hannah Moskowitz comes out April 2011 from Simon Pulse.

BELL JAR SUMMER by Arlaina Tibensky comes out summer 2011 from Simon Pulse.

In your opinion , what are some things authors should do to promote their books?

Having some kind of web presence is really important. A website with contact information, a blog, or a twitter account are all things I've seen that have worked well.

But people are different and what works for one person doesn't work for everyone so I think it's important for writers to try different things and find out what works best for them.

In terms of touring, it's really important for authors to make themselves available to their target audience. For instance, if someone is writing women's fiction that will be popular in book clubs, it's important for them to make themselves available to do talks with book clubs who are going to read the book.

In your experience, what are the top 3 query fails? Query success?

1. Sending presents. 2. Sending some kind of "I'm trying to stand out" query - like a Starbucks cup or something scented or an unusual package. 3. Claiming this is the next Harry Potter/Twilight/Da Vinci Code.

Successful queries tell what the book is about in a succinct and concise manner. It's so simple it's hard.

I spent time with you at BEA and shared your need for speed in getting the great galleys. When did you know you were a fellow Bibliomaniac? Bibliomania is an obsessive–compulsive disorder involving the collecting or hoarding of books to the point where social relations or health are damaged. One of several psychological disorders associated with books, bibliomania is characterized by the purchase of multiple copies of the same book and edition and the accumulation of books beyond possible capacity of use or enjoyment are frequent symptoms of bibliomania.

I hadn't considered there was a name for it until I read this question. But I've had symptoms since I was a little kid. Instead of picture books, my dad used to read my sister and I Lord of the Rings and as soon as I was old enough to realize there were different "editions" of the book, I tended to want each one. As anyone could tell from my TBR (to be read) room, I'm an avid book hoarder today.

If you could be a letter in the alphabet – what would it be and why?

Z. I'm not a hundred percent sure why. But it's always been my favorite letter. My parents actually spelled my name "Susie" when I was growing up, and I always wanted to change my name and spell it with a Z. And eventually I did.

If past lives really exist, what or who do you think you were in a past life?

I was a delivery girl in a past life. It is amazing how well I can go for a Starbucks run.
What is she looking for in children's books?
I'm representing everything from children’s books (chapter books to YA, both fiction and non-fiction) to adult fiction (speculative, fantasy, urban fantasy, science fiction, and romance, especially paranormal). I'm interested in strong characters and voice driven stories that will keep me up at night. I also gravitate towards strong female protagonists, complex plot lines with underlying political, moral, or philosophical issues, and stories which break out of the typical tropes of their genre, like Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel series.

You can follow Suzie at her blog or on Twitter.

See you back here tomorrow and good luck!

Thursday, July 08, 2010

The Bookanistas Book Review: Sarwat Chadda's Dark Goddess!

Today is the first launch day of the "the writers who are bloggers who think they are fashionable and who are also starting to post book reviews about great children's books"! Yes I know....we thought it was too long too. So we did what any respectable group would do, we came up with a name! Oh yeah and our very own logo! Even a short book review policy (wow now we are an official group!)

We are the: Bookanistas: Books are the New Black!
Who are the Bookanistas?
We are a group of writers - in various stages of the publishing process – who have decided to band together and review the special books of our peers. This fashionable badge represents our group (club/gang/posse/secret society/peeps/the cool table).

How and what do we review?
The Bookanistas review any children's books but focus mainly on YA and middle grade (yes middle grade too! shocker!) We – as fellow writers – have decided to only post positive reviews, therefore, only reviewing the book we LOVE. No negative reviews here!

Yes that's right! We Bookanistas give nothing but love!!!!

When do we post reviews?
Starting today, we will post reviews every Thursday on various book topics– upcoming ARCs, books we love, diamonds in the rough, classics, and even, cover reviews.

Come join us on Thursdays and you can be be fashionable too.
Because we think books are the best accessory!

Sarwat Chadda's Dark Goddess (sequel to Devil's Kiss!)

I chose this one first for many reasons:
1) I LOVED Devil's Kiss!
2) Sarwat sent me an early ARC - book comes out in Jan 2011 (contrary to belief, I can be bought! ;)
3) I love this character, premise, and especially Sarwat's writing.
4) This whole series is awesome. Like "stay up late and read by flashlight in the bathroom because your hubby is sleeping and book-lite is waking him at 3 am" awesome. To be honest, both books of Sarwat's I could not put down.

In fact, I'm giving this book a Haute Book! shout-out!

Why should you read Dark Goddess?
  • Do you want a badass protagonist instead of a wimpy one? CHECK!
  • Hot guy with sexy accent? CHECK!
  • Werewolves? CHECK!
  • Vampires? CHECK!
  • Awesome Setting? CHECK (London) and CHECK (Russia)
  • Great writing? CHECK CHECK!
  • A little history? CHECK!
  • Fast Pace? CHECK, CHECK, CHECK!
  • Nice author? CHECK!!!!
What's not to like? Oh yeah, and you can read a teaser just to get hooked!

Book Summary
Billi SanGreal is the first girl in the Knights Templar, and the most kick ass weapon-wielding heroine around. At fifteen, her life is a rigorous and brutal round of weapons practice, demon killing and occult lore – and a whole lot of bruises.

In this sequel to Devils' Kiss, Billi goes to Russia to rescue Vasilisa, a chosen child that encompasses the power to feel and control nature. To save her, Billi must defeat the werewolves that serve the witch Baba Yaga. Baba Yaga ( i just like saying the name!) is sickened by the destruction and corruption humanity and she wants to rid the planet of the pestilence of Man. Betrayed and alone, Billi is sent to stop her and faces a final mighty battle in the abandoned ruins of Chernobyl. Oh yeah and with a cute boy by her side! Along with a kick-ass coat and some weapons of choice. swords, knives, and a sharp tongue. :)
Check out our other Bookanista book reviews for this week, Thursday, July 8th:

Come follow us on twitter too for book updates and news.

Note: If you would like one of us to review a book or ARC, feel free to contact me at sjohannes@bilaninc.com (or any of us really) and we will add it to our list. Keep in mind we only review books we love.