3 S.R. Johannes: October 2010

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Blog hiatus

Hey guys -

I have to go on a serious blog hiatus through holidays and end of year.

I am doing some freelance work to bring in some extra money and have A LOT of work to do on a book for my agent and need to shut off the Internet to dive in.

I will still be doing the Bookanista posts on most Thursdays and probably pop in to do a few random interviews I already have scheduled. So don't delete me from your Google reader or blog roll. :)

But as far as daily posts, I will have to limit them as well as Twitter and other blog visits.

Thanks for understanding.

I'll miss you and hope to see you back at the beginning of the year.

Don't forget to help Braedyn get some books. She has 2 year of chemo so you can help at anytime!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

RIP Bud - The Best Dog-Gone Friend

A Dog's Prayer

To Those Who Love Me

When I am gone, release me, let me go-
I have so many things to see and do.
You must not tie yourself to me with tears,
Be happy that we had so many years.
I gave you my love, you can only guess
How much you gave me in happiness.
I thank you for the love you have each shown.
But now it is time I traveled alone.
So grieve awhile for me if grieve you must,
Then let your grief be comforted by trust,
It is only for a while that we must part,
So bless the memories within your heart,
I will not be far away, for life goes on,
So if you need me, call and I will come.
Though you can not see or touch me, I will be near.
And if you listen with your heart, you will hear
All my love around you soft and clear.
And then, when you must come this way alone,
I will greet you with a smile and "Welcome Home".
-author unknown

Dear Bud -

Thanks for the memories. For all the times you dried my tears. For the times you made me laugh. For the times you made sure I was not alone. Thank you for 16 years of happiness and loyal friendship. I will miss you sleeping by my feet, comforting me on rainy days.

When I had no one, I had you.

It's time for me to release you so you can go be free. Free without pain. Free to live a young life. Free to be with your best friend, Connor, again.

I love you and will never forget you.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Bookanistas - Middle Grade Marvels

We always seem to talk about the Young adult books coming out and forgetting Middle Grade.

Why is that?

I've seen and know of some great books targeting younger kids that have either just come out or are coming out:

McKenzie Blue - Friends Forever by Tina Wells (Harper Collins, Jun 2010)
This is a cute series with a spunky character that is told through diary entries, texts, instant messages and various lists.

Mackenzie, aka Zee, is the charismatic, fashionable, pop-culture savvy, down-to-earth star of this fresh new tween fiction series that chronicles the adventures of a diverse crew of friends who try to survive middle school at the prestigious Brookdale Academy in southern California. Fun and eco-conscious, Mackenzie Blue is an upbeat break from mean-girl culture.

School of Fear series by Gitty Daneshvari (Little Brown, Sept 2010)
The second in the series School of Dismissal just came out. I missed the first one. This is a cute series about kids who go to school to curb their fears.

For the first time--maybe ever--Madeleine, Theo, Lulu, and Garrison are not
looking forward to the start of summer, and three little words are to blame: School of Fear. In what they're sure will be the longest and most terrifying six weeks of their lives, the foursome must face their phobias head-on as students of the exclusive and elusive school. There's no homework or exams. But if they don't conquer their fears by the end of the summer, they'll find out just how frightening failing can be.

The Search for Wonderla by Tony DiTerlizzi (S&S, Sept 2010)
This is a modern day Alice and Wonderland. So magical and wonderful. The art throughout the book is amazing. I am really enjoying this one.

Eva Nine is being raised by Muthr, a pale blue robot who is loving and maternal (she speaks in the sweet, unflappable tones of a 1950s sit-com mom), in an underground home on the planet Orbona. When a marauder destroys her home, she leaves Sanctuary in a quest to find other humans like herself. Aboveground she finds a fantastic and frightening world populated by malevolent wandering trees, a giant beast who is pursuing her, nasty sand-snipers, and more. With the aid of Rovender, a lanky blue creature with backward-bending knees, and Otto, a giant water bear with whom she can communicate telepathically, Eva faces many dangers, including capture by a taxidermist who wants to skin her in order to create a living fossil for display. This first book in the series concludes with her arrival at her destination in the ancient city of ruins.

Nightshade City by Hilary Wagner (Holiday House, Oct 2010)
You can't go wrong with Rick Riordan endorses it! Its Ratatouille meets Watership Downs.

Presumed dead by his enemies, Juniper is an elder in a community of rats who, since being forced from their catacomb homes, have started to build a new democratic world, Nightshade City, and are preparing to overthrow the oppressive ruling rodent regime, headed by dictator Killdeer.

Selling Hope by Kristin Tubb (Feiwel and Friends, Nov 2010)
This book is wonderful and that's all I can say. The voice is so real.

It’s May 1910, and Halley’s Comet is due to pass thru the Earth’s atmosphere. And thirteen-year-old Hope McDaniels and her father are due to pass through their hometown of Chicago with their ragtag vaudeville troupe. Hope wants out of vaudeville, and longs for a “normal” life—or as normal as life can be without her mother, who died five years before. Hope sees an opportunity: She invents “anti-comet” pills to sell to the working-class customers desperate for protection. Soon, she’s joined by a fellow troupe member, young Buster Keaton, and the two of them start to make good money. And just when Hope thinks she has all the answers, she has to decide: What is family? Where is home?

Big Nate Strikes Again by Lincoln Peirce (Harper, Nov 2010)
This book is hilarious and silly. Kind of King Dork meets Whimpy Kid. And this is also the second in the series. The illustrations and doodles combined with the comic approach is so fun. The web site is so awesome and I heard it had millions of hits within the first year.

Nate is a sixth grader who has a problem with organization. Everything is going wrong, and he's piling up detention after detention. Finally, big Nate will surpass all others! But it wont be easy. He's stuck with Gina, his all time enemy, who just might ruin everything! Will Nate win or lose? Pass or fail? Or end up in detention . . . again?

The Jaguar Stones series - Book 2 by JP Voelkel (Egmont, Dec 2010)
Again another series I had not heard of until I got the ARC of book 2. But you still have time to catch up.

With the end of the Mayan calendar fast approaching, fourteen-year-old Max Murphy and his new friend Lola, the modern Maya girl who saved his life in the perilous jungle, are racing against time to outwit the twelve Lords of Death. Following the trail of the conquistadors, their quest takes them back to the wild heart of Spain - a forgotten land steeped in legend, superstition and ever more bizarre tourist festivals. With a pack of hellhounds on their heels and the cape-twirling Count Antonio de Landa in hot pursuit, the teens must face madness and betrayal, bluff and double-bluff, to uncover the terrible secrets of the long-lost Yellow Jaguar. But no matter where they run, all roads lead to Xibalba. There, in the cold and watery Maya underworld, we finally discover why only Max Murphy can save the world from the villainous Lords of Death.

Fantasy Baseball by Alan Gratz (Dial, March 2011)
I have not yet read this book. I dont even know if ARCs are out yet. But I heard about it at a conference from the editor and it sounds fun.

A flying monkey in the outfield. A toad at short. Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz on the mound. Alex Metcalf thinks he’s dreaming, but the Oz Cyclones exist here in Ever After, where storybook characters live on as long as kids in the real world believe in them.

But Alex isn't a storybook. To get home, he and the Cyclones will have to win the Ever After Baseball Tournament and earn wishes from the Wizard of Oz. Trouble is, the Big Bad Wolf wants a wish too. To win the tournament, Alex and the Cyclones will have to defeat the wolf, play the best baseball of their lives, and find the courage to believe in themselves. But what good is believing in yourself if the real world stops believing in you?
The Emily Strange Series - Dark Times by Rob Reger (Harper, Jan 2011)
This is also a great series - a couple books have already been released. I have loved Emily the Strange for a while, since before she was developed into novels. She is sarcastic and nerdy which you don't see much of in Middle grade. I believe this started out more as an artist's comic character and then once it got very popular on the Internet, Emily blossomed into books and other merchandise.

Meet Emily, the peculiar soul with long black hair, a wit of fire, and a posse of slightly sinister black cats. When Emily gets back to school, she goes way back, all the way to the 18th century.

Check out the other Bookanistas:

Elana Johnson Tells Us About TORMENT


Christine Fonseca Moons Over MATCHED

Shannon Messenger Fangirls THE FAMILIARS

Kirsten Hubbard Woos Us with WITHER

Myra McEntire Beholds the British Special Edition of the TWILIGHT SAGA


Carolina Valdez Miller Is Moved By MARBURY LENS

Megan Miranda Swoons Over STOLEN

What other Middle grade books have you heard of lately?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Books For Braedyn


My friend, Stephanie Blake, needs our help.

Over the weekend, her 7-year old niece, Braedyn, was diagnosed with ALL (Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia). It's been a terrible shock to her family.

She lives in Wichita, KS. The treatment protocol starts this Wednesday with vigorous schedule of chemotherapy. Little Braedyn will probably lose her hair almost immediately. She loves books and crafts of all kinds. Her favorite color is green. She's being very brave, but is scared of what is to come.

Im planning on donating everything that is Fancy Nancy :) Anything will brighten this little girl's day - maybe coloring, crafts, books. They can be old or new.

Brenda Reeves Sturgis, is organizing A Book For Braedyn. Brenda would like to get an author a week to donate a single book (new or used) to Braedyn, to help keep her mind off of chemo and all the yucky cancer stuff she's going through.

Brenda is starting off by sending the picture book, All the World. If you could participate, it would be most appreciated. To sign up to send something, please contact Brenda via BSturgis@metrocast.net or feel free to contact me at sjohannes@bilaninc.com. I'm happy to help gather your stuff for Brenda as well.

Thank you so much, in advance, for brightening the days for little Braedyn.

And please keep her in your prayers and thoughts.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Winners of the Agent Pitch Contest

The winner is of Susan Hawk's Agent Pitch Contest is...

Slippers of Pearl by Danyelle
(MG fantasy)

After his uncle—who has a bad habit of dying—is fatally poisoned, Faryn’s family packs him off to the King’s Seat to learn magic and find his place as his uncle’s heir. What he discovers instead is a knack for making magical shoes, that turning a girl into a goose is a bad way to make friends—and dying her bright blue only aggravates matters, sinister apples that enchant all the maidens at court, and a royal edict to undo the apples’ magic if he wants to keep his head.

Danyelle - congrads! Please email meat sjohannes@bilaninc.com for instructions on your critique with Susan.

Honorable mentions are:
  • The Tweed Coat Mystery by theartgirl
  • Wistful by Jenn
  • Not Your Average Fairy Tale by Chantele Sedgwick
  • Lock 19 by Bree
  • Futureless by Sandy Shin
Congrads to the mentions and thanks to all who entered. Hope this was a good exercise for you.

Don't forget, Josh Adams from Adams Literary will be here next month so keep working on your pitches :)

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Bookanistas: Cover Love of The Near Witch

My friend, Victoria Schwab, just got her cover for The Near Witch.

How exciting to get it! I'd thought I'd give her a congrads shout-out. And it's up for preorder! So go order it now!

The Near Witch is only an old story told to frighten children. If the wind calls at night, you must not listen. The wind is lonely, and always looking for company. There are no strangers in the town of Near. These are the truths that Lexi has heard all her life. But when an actual stranger—a boy who seems to fade like smoke—appears outside her home on the moor at night, she knows that at least one of these sayings is no longer true. The next night, the children of Near start disappearing from their beds, and the mysterious boy falls under suspicion. Still, he insists on helping Lexi search for them. Something tells her she can trust him. As the hunt for the children intensifies, so does Lexi’s need to know—about the witch that just might be more than a bedtime story, about the wind that seems to speak through the walls at night, and about the history of this nameless boy.

And here's her talking about all the deets around the cover. Check it out!

Don't forget to check out all the other Bookanista Specials:

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Things to do while waiting.....and waiting....and waiting

It seems in this business we are constantly waiting for something to happen. No matter what phase you are in - there is probably some sort of waiting going on:

waiting to finish
waiting for beta reader
waiting for feedback
waiting for agent
waiting for editors
waiting for emails
waiting for computer to be fixed
waiting for conferences

Sometimes the "waiting" gets to me. To where I just want to scream.

Here are all the things I do while waiting....

organize closets
go through kids old clothes and pack up small ones
surf (the internet though I guess surfing on the coast of CA would be nice too)
Talk on the phone
Make new "friends" on Facebook
organize closets...again
work on next book
catch up on TV
play with kids
check email
check other email
decide to cook a homemade meal
burn homemade meal
order meal
make picture albums (or at least 1/2 of one)
curse industry for being so dang slow
write another book
line edit past books
read old rejection letters
burn old rejection letters
Come up with 10 reasons why I still need to wait
organize closets
"research new book" - which really means surf Internet (hey - it adds 1 more thing to my list.)
mail out prizes that were won a month ago
catch up on Bookanistas posts
organize kitchen drawers
catch up on laundry
obsess over Publishers Marketplace
obsess over statcounter

and then.....

wait some more.

What do you do while you are waiting for something to happen?

Monday, October 11, 2010

A Gift from Your Marketing Muse

I thought today I would summarize some of my top posts on marketing.

If you have any questions on marketing, feel free to leave any questions in the comments and I will answer them this week.

Plan it in small chunks!
Each Monday morning (or Sunday evening, or whenever you do your weekly planning) write down 5 marketing activities you will accomplish during the coming week. Break each down into quick-to-do tasks and larger tasks. Then schedule them into your week — and do them.

Your Heart is where your Brand is
Here is a great class (Know Your Brand) Jenn Stark teaches if/when you want to learn how to brand yourself. Jenn Stark will be one of our Marketing interviewees coming soon. To find out more about your personal brand - this article talks about on how to begin your personal brand.

Who are you?
Define your Author Brand vs your Book Brand. Remember they are different things even though they link together. If you are pre-published start thinking about your author brand now!

Me and my Shadow
A Shadow brand is a brand every one of us gives off without knowing. What is your shadow brand. Is it fear? it is over confidence? Is it professional? Is it approachable? Find out what "vibe"you are giving off as an author. Make surethat is the brand you want to give off.

From the Marketers Mouth
Molli Nickell (who spoke at a Southern Breeze conference not the editor!). has an an editing service for writers. Great prices and I know she has great advice and insight. Check out her web site http://www.getpublishednow.biz/, then to the "Writers' Services" tab. For a limited time, she is offering a “Spring ahead” special: 1.5 hours of her assistance (editing, revising, rewriting, advising, or whatever you need) for the 1 hour fee of $75. This gives you an extra half hour at no additional cost—a 50% bonus. (Offer expires May 15, 2009).

Just because
Visit book reviewers and librarians sites. Comment on their blogs. get the name recognition. Ask yourself what can you do FOR THEM. When your books come out - they may remember you :)

Stressed Out?
Don't get stressed out about marketing. It's not worth it. It should just be something fun you do to get ready for the day that your book is picked up and put on the shelf. Have fun with it!

More Book Trailers
Here is a great interview with Sheila Clover English of COS Productions giving you some information on how Book Trailers Offer Excellent Branding Opportunity. Thanks to a blogger for suggesting this as a hot topic. More to come on this topic this week.

Speak up!
The other day, Sarah Davies from Greenhouse mentioned it was critical for every author to be sure they learn to speak well. The way you speak and present yourself in public is part of your brand. Are you funny? Engaging? How do you look? It is all a part of the brand image you are building. For example: for me when I speak, I try to be organized in though but flexible, informative but engaging, funny, yet relaxed. I usually wear jeans when I speak - not trashy ones but I don't wear a suit or business attire. I want to be approachable. That is all a part of my brand. Here are a few resources to begin learning speaking skills. Everyone can get a head start.
  • Toastmasters- International organization to help people overcome public speaking fears and speak more effectively.

  • SpeechSkills - help you achieve the impact you want to have on your audience.

  • SpeechMasteryTips to to speaking well: Be passionate; Be enthusiastic; Be natural; Let your body language and/or voice reflect your personality; Be there to genuinely teach the audience something; Dress your best
Don't Trail behind?
Authors can now create a video representation of their book, to show their market exactly what they are buying, before they buy. Book trailers are still few and far between, but their popularity is growing. In short order, everyone who writes a book will be creating a book trailer. Here are a couple of introductory articles: how to make your own Book trailer and the elements of a successful Book trailers

That's some Cool & Crazy Marketing
People do some really creative things to market their books. Check out what this author did to turn some heads while he was on a book tour. Hopefully it sold some books.

Study up on social media
Check out this study. Social Media Marketing: Time Trap or Opportunity Magnet? New Study Reveals the Answers To read about the study: http://tinyurl.com/c4ggux To download the free PDF report: http://tinyurl.com/dcz4ep

All Hands on Deck
Have you heard of "Tweet Deck"? It is an application that makesit easy to follow people on twitter. I love it. It organizes your tweets and if you want - you can put a tone so you know when a tweet comes in. INstead of going to twitter - you just view your Tweet Deck and can see everything from tweets, replies, to direct messages. Try it!

On the Road Again (Book Tour Tips)

  • While you ultimately want to increase your book sales, the purpose of a blog tour is to generate buzz about your book.
  • Don’t just announce your tour on your personal blog, announce it in your newsletters, in press releases, and through traditional media outlets like radio interviews.
  • While it can be rather costly to send out review copies of your books to every blogger in the blogosphere, especially if you’re not sure how popular a blog is, you can offer to hold a book drawing for every blogger who participates in your blog tour and then give away one to five books to whosoever name you pull out of a hat—at the end of the blog tour.
  • Ask if the blog host will post a link to the sales page of your book whether it’s on Amazon.com or another affiliated program.
  • Be sure to target blogs with target audiences that match your book’s target audience.
Eco-Friendly Marketing
These are the best ways to market with the earth in mind: Blog/Blog Tours, Website, Twitter
Social networking (Facebook, Myspace)

Podcasts are cool
Here is a podcast on how to best sell your book to libraries/schools by Dana Lynn Smith (author of "Selling your book to Libraries" and the Savvy Book Marketers Guide.)

Market Your Fiction
Check out these tips on how to market fiction!

Thursday, October 07, 2010

The Bookanistas: Paranormal Preview!

The Bookanistas have received a lot of wonderful ARCS lately and wanted to talk about them.

We haven't had a chance to read all of the ARCs yet because - to be frank - the Bookanistas are happily drowning in them. We plan to read all of them; it will just take some time. We are not complaining! We are so thankful! We just want everyone who is sending books to keep sending them but to give us some time to get through them all.

So I thought I'd give you a preview of some of the books we've received that will be coming out in 2011 (most seem to be coming in from Harper right now) that looks soooo good. That way, you can mark your book calendars.

AngelFire (debut author Courtney Allison Moulton), HarperTeen, Feb 2011
When seventeen-year-old Ellie starts seeing reapers, she finds herself on the front lines of a supernatural war between archangels and the Fallen and faced with the possible destruction of her soul. A mysterious boy named Will reveals she is the reincarnation of an ancient warrior, the only one capable of wielding swords of angelfire to fight the reapers, and he is an immortal sworn to protect her in battle. Now that Ellie's powers have been awakened, a powerful reaper called Bastian has come forward to challenge her. Now, she must face an army of Bastian's most frightening reapers, prevent the soul reaper from consuming her soul, and uncover the secrets of her past lives - including truths that may be too frightening to remember. First of a planned series.

A Touch Mortal (debut author Leah Clifford), GreenWillow, Feb 2011
Eden didn’t expect Az. Not his saunter down the beach toward her. Not his unbelievable pick up line. Not the instant, undeniable connection. And not his wings. Now trapped between life and death, cursed to spread chaos with her every touch, Eden could be the key in the eternal struggle between heaven and hell. All because she gave her heart to one of the Fallen, an angel cast out of heaven. She may lose everything she ever had. She may be betrayed by those she loves most. But Eden will not be a pawn in anyone else’s game. Her heart is her own. And that’s only the beginning of the end. First of a planned trilogy.

Fallen Angel (Heather Terrell), HarperTeen, Jan 2011
The first book in a dark, edgy new angel series about a girl who finds herself forced to choose sides in the battle between fallen angels, even if that means going against the boy she loves.
When Ellie Faneuil first sees Michael Chase she feels an instantaneous connection. But she does not realize how much they have in common, including the ability fly and to see what others are thinking - not to mention a taste for blood. Reveling in their new powers and their growing feelings for each other, Ellie and Michael are determined to uncover what they are, and how they got this way ... together. But the truth has repercussions neither could have imagined. Soon they find themselves center stage in an ancient conflict between fallen angels that threatens to destroy everything they love. And it is no longer clear whether Ellie and Michael will choose the same side.

Once in a Full Moon (Ellen Schreiber), Jan 2011, Harperteen
Celeste Parker is used to hearing scary stories about werewolves—Legend’s Run is famous for them. But when, after an unnerving visit with a psychic, she encounters a pack of wolves and gorgeous, enigmatic Brandon, she must discover whether his transformation is more than legend or just a trick of the shadows in the moonlight. Brandon may be Celeste’s hero, or he may be the most dangerous creature she could encounter in the woods of Legend’s Run.

Steel (Carrie Vaughn) Mar 2011, HarperTeen
When Jill, a competitive high school fencer, goes with her family on vacation to the Bahamas, she is magically transported to an early eighteenth century pirate ship in the middle of the ocean.

Teeth (Neil Gaiman, Melissa Marr, Cassandra Clare and Holly black), Mar 2011, HarperTeen
A collection of bite-sized tales exploring the intersections among the living, dead, and undead. The vampires in these stories range from romantic to chilling to gleeful—and touch on nearly every emotion in between. The one thing they have in common? Their desire for blood..

Tempestuous Book #3 (Lesley Livingston), Jan 2011 Harper Teen

Evidently this is #3 in a series. (Book 1 - Wonderous Strange, Book 2 - Darklight/Nov 2010
This is an urban fantasy that weaves elements of A Midsummer Night's Dream together with teen romance and chilling adventure that erupts when dangerous faeries invade the human world through a gate in Central Park.

Through Her Eyes (Jennifer Archer), April 2011 HarperTeen
Tansy soon finds that through the lens of her camera, she can become part of a surreal black-and-white world where her life is intertwined with that of mysterious, troubled Henry, who lived in the same house and died decades earlier. It seems their lives are linked by fate and the artifacts she found, but as Tansy begins spending more and more time in the past, her present world starts to fade away. Tansy must untangle herself from Henry's dangerous reality-- before she loses touch with her own life forever. When Tansy is forced to move, she moved into an old town and is immediately drawn to the turret of their rickety old house, a place she soon learns has a disturbing history. But its the strange artifacts she finds in the cellar--a pocket watch, a journal of poetry, and a tiny crystal--that have the most chilling impact on her.

UnEarthly (Cynthia Hand), Jan 2011 HarperTeen
Clara Gardner has recently learned that she's part angel. Her visions of a raging forest fire and an alluring stranger lead her to a new school in a new town. When she meets Christian and everything seems to fall into place. But there's also another guy, Tucker, who appeals to Clara's less angelic side. As Clara tries to find her way in a world she no longer understands, she encounters unseen dangers and choices she never thought she'd have to make--between honesty and deceit, love and duty, good and evil. When the fire from her vision finally ignites, will Clara be ready to face her destiny?

Vampire Crush (A.M. Robinson), HarperTeen, Jan 2011
First, six mysteriously pale new students show up at Sophie McGee’s high school. Then, Sophie’s childhood nemesis James reappears, still displaying a knack for making Sophie’s blood boil. When Sophie finds out that James has a connection to the new students, she decides to investigate...never expecting her life will quickly begin to resemble a campy horror movie, complete with budding crushes and bloodthirsty villains.

Some other paranormal titles to look for in 2011:
  • A Need So Beautiful by Susanne Young
  • Delirium by Lauren Oliver
  • Possession by Elana Johnson
  • Banished by Gretchen McNeil
  • Across the Universe (not paranormal but had to mention it! :)
  • Desires of the Dead (The Body Finder #2) by Kimberly Derting
  • Hex Hall 2 (Demonglass) by Rachel Hawkins
  • Dark and Hollow Places by Carrie Ryan
  • L.A. Weatherly's ANGEL
  • Kathleen Peacock's debut HEMLOCK
  • Tara Hudson's HEREAFTER
Don't forget to visit the other Bookanistas for some great book love:

Michelle Hodkin gives props to LIKE MANDARIN
Kirsten Hubbard gives props to Between Shades of Gray
Shannon Messenger brings us Cover Love and a Teaser for Desires of the Dead
Elana Johnson is a fan of HER AND ME AND YOU
Lisa and Laura Roecker love XVI
Christine Fonseca is enthralled by GIRL, STOLEN
Myra McEntire shares some Trailer Love
Carolina Valdez Miller adores NIGHTSHADE CITY
Jamie Harrington is awed by ACROSS THE UNIVERSE

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Agent Pitch Contest starts today!

It's time for our October agent pitch contest!

Today, the pitch is being judged by Susan Hawk from The Bent Agency.

Here are some other interviews to help you get to know her taste and style:
A Word From Susan
Agent Alert
Meet the Agent

Gets a query critique of the first 5 pages of your manuscript! (Thanks Susan!)

When: Begins today, Tuesday at 9AM EST and ends tomorrow Wed at midnight EST (I will close comments when it officially ends so if you get a comment in, you are counted.)

What: Leave your paragraph pitch in the comments on this post. Your pitch can be NO MORE than 2 sentences and MUST be something Susan is looking for.

  • If your manuscript is still in WIP - you may enter since this is a query critique
  • Your pitch must only be 2 sentences. Your entry must follow the rules to be counted.
  • This is for unagented/unpublished book writers only. (if you've published articles or essays - you can enter!)
  • You can only enter ONCE so choose wisely!
  • You must be a follower of my blog and promise to come back everyday this month to comment. (This last part is a joke guys :) Followers are eligible.
In the comments you MUST leave the following information to be considered:
  • title of book
  • genre
  • your paragraph pitch
  • your email
Winner(s) will be announced next week!

Monday, October 04, 2010

The Bent Agency - Susan Hawk (Literary Agent)

NEWSFLASH: Agent Pitch Contest starts tomorrow (Tuesday) morning at 9am EST!

Work on your 1-2 sentence pitch!

Here is our agent of the month - Susan Hawk with The Bent Agency

Who you are and tell us about yourself/your agency.

I’m the children’s book agent at The Bent Agency, where I’ve been working since the turn of the year. Before this, I worked for close to 20 years in marketing for children’s books. The last position I held before becoming an agent was as the Director of Marketing at Henry Holt Books for Young Readers, where I oversaw the marketing efforts geared towards teachers, librarians, booksellers, online and in publicity. Previous to that I was the Library Marketing Director at Penguin Young Readers.

With the birth of my second child, I decided to take some time off, but had been considering agenting as a next step. One day, I read a post on an online group that I belong to, asking for interns at a new agency. The post was from Jenny Bent, and we hit it off. Over the course of the next months, we began talking about me becoming an agent, I decided to take the plunge, and here I am!

It's amazing how kids can change everything and give you a new perspective. Especially on work. Whether we are moms or writers, we all have to deal with balance. How do you, as an agent, encourage your authors to market themselves?

There are lots of ways to go about marketing your books, but there are two key things to consider before doing anything:

What kinds of marketing are you suited for? Some authors love public speaking and would be happy to present to an audience of 100. Others shudder at the thought, but would jump at the chance to work with a small group of children. Some are excited to attend an industry conference, for others this is very draining. Creating a strong online presence can be very successful, but only if you welcome the time commitment, and understand the various tools out there used to build one. I work with authors to think through not only the various options available to them as marketers, but which of those options are best suited to them. I’ve always found that the most effective marketing comes from a genuine interest in not only the object marketed, but in the tool you’re using for marketing itself. Obviously, authors are enthusiastic about the book they are marketing. We talk together to pick a tool that allows them to share that enthusiasm best.

That said, I do think it’s important for authors to have some sort of online presence. How complex that is can depend, but it’s good to make sure that all the basic information about your books and who you are as a writer is out there.

The other key issue is to keep your publisher informed of your efforts; this way you don’t duplicate each other. Also, there are some things your publisher will prefer to do themselves (such as contact national publications). Others may be something that you can handle directly, but this differs from house to house, so you need to loop them in. Working with your publisher on marketing will net the best impact in the end, and as an agent, I work to make sure that this communication goes smoothly.

I think it's important to be genuine too or it can actually backfire. In your opinion, as budgets are cute, how have things changed with agencies promoting their author books? What things do agents/literary agencies do to help promote their author's books?

We all know that promotion continues to become a more central part of any book’s success, and as that has changed over time, agents’ focus on the marketing plans that publishing houses create has grown as well. For instance, when I started in publishing, it was unusual for an agent to request a marketing plan before the book was sold, less so now.

As I mentioned above, I work with my clients to think through what marketing efforts they might want to take on themselves, and help them plan that. I’ll be launching a blog soon, and that will be a way to promote my client’s work. A particular skill that I bring my clients is an understanding not only of some strong marketing tools, but of how the process works in a publishing house, when to ask questions about the marketing plan, and when we might be able to give some input.

Can't wait to read the blog! Speaking of online presence, how important is it when you are evaluating whether to take on an author or book?

I do look to see what might be out there, but I don’t feel that an author needs to have any particular web presence in advance of us working together. That can come later.

As an agent, what are you looking for in 2010?

I’m open to many different things. I’d love to find a great YA or middle grade mystery. I’m looking for boy books and humor. I’ve always loved fantasy and sci-fi. What really captures my interest is strong story-telling, a unique, sometimes slightly off-kilter voice and memorable characters that stick with me long after I finish reading.

Come back tomorrow for deets!

Friday, October 01, 2010

I admit: My son is processed

Now that things have slowed down. I promise to get back to my regular blogging schedule next week. A Marketing post on Monday's and the Round Up on Fridays. And a whole lot of crazy in between. I know you all are not coping with out them so never fear. :)

Today, I'm going to regress and talk about something personal.

My freaky eater.

My processed son.

(And don't let this picture fool you. He's a little devil:)

Now, I had no idea what a picky eater was until I birthed one. I used to watch SuperNanny and Nanny 911, laughing evilly at the parents who could not get their kids to eat. Mwwwhhhhaaaaaaa.

Then my son came. Wow! I had no idea how stressful it was. I don't care who you are when your kid doesn't eat, and is a little bony, and his Dr. is on your case to get him to gain weight - its' stressful.

My first child, my daughter is an amazing eater! I guess I did everything right. By the book. Introduced veggies before fruit. Let her try one at a time. Gradually added in stuff. No juice until she was 2. No eating in front o f the TV. Now, (thank goodness) she will eat anything, better than me. She will try anything once and she loves fruits and veggies.

Then there is my son - the Freaky Eater.

Now, first I have a disclaimer. I don't know if you've watched the new show on TLC called Freaky Eaters. If you have a bad eater, watch it. It will make you feel so much better about your own. I started watching it thinking "Great, other people are freaky eaters too. Maybe I can learn something from them."

Well, I was wrong.

Those people eat paper, raw meat, or out of date dairy all day every day. One person only eats beans - glad I didn't marry him! (am I right girls! :) Oh, come on what's a blog post without at least one fart joke!)

So knowing my son is not a goat or a t-rex, makes me feel a little better. Though I think a goat would at least not complain or might mow the grass. (note to self - get a goat!)

So my son is after all NOT a FREAKY Eater. Though I'm pretty positive he's 100% processed.


WARNING: If you do not believe in processed food or think it is the devil or even only serve organic foods, the rest of this post may give you a total heart attack!

That's all my son eats (and I don't want any comments about what I'm feeding him!!!! I'll be forced to delete it out of sheer guilt and embarrassment.) There are problems that led us here.

First - his weight was low, worse - his BMI. (Yeah, I barely knew what that was too until my son was processed) He's been at 90% height and 20% weight almost his whole freaky eater life, which also puts him in the bottom 3% for a low BMI.

To add to it - in the beginning, he had really bad reflux. That didn't help. Then he had tonsils the size of Mount Everest. Seriously like he used to choke on them when he ate. It was horrible. Problem was - Drs would not take them out b/c he was so underweight so he had to gain weight first. Then, we were told to do what it took to get him to eat. That's when the TV and the "what do you want to eat" policy was put in place. To top it off, my son also has a "sensitivity" (which means there is nothing we can do until he grows out of it) to wheat and dairy so we have to limit those things everyday. Of course - what do you think are the 2 things he loves most? You git it - cheese and bread. By minimizing dairy or bread - he gets hardly any fat unless its crap food. Hence low BMI.

Sigh - you see where I'm going?

That - my friends - was the beginning of the end for my son and his relationship to anything anything grown that is green, yellow, red or orange. (See this cookie is blue. Than again,don't be fooled. He's not eating the cookie, he's only picking off the sprinkles.)

His favorite food and lifeline seems to be crap. Not REAL Crap - of course or he would be on TLC. But crap food. (Hm, I wonder if they pay? Note to self - check into sublimenting income by exploiting sons bad eating habits)

So over the last 2 years, my son has lived off of chicken fingers, fish stix, meatballs, string cheese, snacks, and breakfast food. Makes it hard to figure out lunch and dinner.

Let me say here that when it comes down to forcing your kid to eat healthy or getting him to get on the weight curve. You do what it takes and hope you don't cause massive brain damage or watch him take the form of a large donut.

After ruling out anything mental or physical - we are told. He's just a picky eater.

Now in the last few months, all of this has really started to take a toll on me. I dreaded dinner, dreaded picking him up and emptying his lunch box, dreaded the nights where he cried about being hungry but wouldn't eat. Dinner is a war and trust me - I am NOT even WINNING a battle. I've become so guilt-ridden that I dream about him eating. Seriously, then I wake up and stay up researching. I would cry, beat myself up,and stress out anytime food was within his reach. Hiding behind corners, watching, praying he eats. Then I'd get mad at him, yell. Make him take a bite. Nothing was working. I'm positive Super nanny is going to come pounding on my door and tape me yelling at my kid over food or shoving it down his throat. Then, everyone in the world will see me and think - "man, she's crazy."

Just to give you a taste, here is a snippet of a conversation that seems to occur very frequently.

Him: "I dont want to eat."
ME: "Okay."
HIM: "But I want to eat."
ME: "Okay what do you want? chicken fingers?"
HIM: "No, I dont like chicken fingers!"
ME:"You love those."
HIM:"I want meatballs please."
MOM makes meatballs and serves them on a fun tommy the train plate. Because who doesnt want to eat more with thomas?
HIM:"Buuuuuut, I wanted chicken fingers."
ME (pulls hair out): "How about a donut?"
Him:"But i dont like donuts."
Daughter: I'll take a donut."
ME: No honey, you eat healthy. You don't need a donut. You and Gray have to eat different things.
Her: That's not fair.
ME: Tell me about it.
Him: No! Sissy doesn't get a donut. I get a donut.
ME: You said you didn't want a donut.
MOM hands him a donut.
HIM: I want an apple
EVERYONE in family looks at each other and scrambles around to find an apple, whispering about breakthroughs and miracles.
ME (in tears) - I'M out of apples. :(

So now - I cook something and that's it. If he doesn't eat it - he goes to bed hungry. Which is harder than it sounds esp. if he wakes up in middle of night hungry and crying. I know it's probably just a control thing. I know that intellectually. But emotionally, I see a kid who has an issue with food that I'm hoping he outgrows when he leaves the toddler phase.

And yes before you ask - I have tried every fruit veggie, fruit juice, veggie juice, and possible snack known to man. So no need to even suggest any. Trust me, we've tried...everything.

Now, just to be clear. I am not saying my son is just a regular picky eater who will only eat junk food, yogurt, chicken fingers, fries, and bagels.

I'm talking even worse - the kid who is a RANDOM SPORADIC PICKY EATER. Which means I can't depend on ONE food to make him happy. It changes with the wind, with the time, with the hour. So that means, NO DAY is good unless we get lucky even if I give him what I know he will eat. Because we never know.

My son is the one who loves chicken fingers one week - hates them the next. One who will eat waffles only if cream cheese is on it. One who REFUSES to eat donuts unless they are white. (Seriously who refuses a DONUT!) This picture? Him complains about ice cream! I know....crazy. Definitely MY kid!

I know - don't ask.

I've gotten every advice possible, read every book. I'm doing it all with very little progress.

Now this may surprise you, but I actually wasn't here today to talk about my picky eater. This post is actually a tribute (stay with me) to Traders Joes.


Because now I can get somewhat-healthy processed or canned food and not feel 100% guilty. (only 50%) Spaghettio's - check! all natural, low sodium. Chicken nuggets? Check! white meat with no hormones. YOU want meatballs? Check! Cheese crackers, check check check!

I still have the problem of "Will he eat it?" But at least if he does, it's healthier.

Not to mention, Traders Joe's is cheap. So thank goodness, I'm not spending much more money than I was on my cheap Kroger card brands (which BTW have so much high fructose corn syrup, it should be illegal. See I do know what's healthy).

Now, I don't stress out as much. I just pop in some natural multi -vitamins and some healthy processed food in - for my son (NOT) to eat. I also found a special apple juice with no sugar (he loves apple juice) that is combined with Carrot juice. He still drinks it. (SSSSShhhhhhhhhhhh don't' tell him or I will have to kill you.)

To all you moms who are horrified at the fact that my son's weekly intake of fruit and veggies consists of spinach pretzels at Barnes and Noble and yogurt raisins (no he won't eat the chocolate or plain ones). I'm so sorry. I am completely horrified too.

Thanks Trader Joes for having affordable healthy processed and canned food that does not cost me an extra house payment. (Don't get me wrong I love whole foods but I can only afford one apple there a week ).

TJ - Thanks for allowing a mom to find a healthIER option for my processed son.

Who yes, was born in a bag and stored in the freezer section.

Maybe even grew up in a cereal box.

Now, if he only came a prize.