Tuesday, June 30, 2009

When to Query, that is the question...

Tip of the Day: want a nice summer drink while you are writing? Try this Orange Julius recipe.

All over the Internet, anytime anyone asks a question about querying agents or editors, it's almost always followed by: when do you query?

Simple answer: once your book is complete.

Better answer: once you've revised your book till you want to pull your hair out, wait a few months, continue with the hair-pulling revisions and then it might be ready.

Now some people are lucky and write better first drafts, and don't have to revise as much. Unfortunately, I'm not blessed with that gene. A fact, I like to remind myself of daily, because if I don't then I start getting querying fever.

What is Querying Fever you ask? if medical dictionaries (or even Urban Dictionary) were cool enough to recognize this disease, it would be described as the constant itch and desire to send query letters too early. Often accompanied with cramped hands resulting from too much typing, thoughts of "but what will trying this one agent out hurt, even if my manuscript is only partially finished?," more thoughts of "I could totally finish it in the time needed if they requested it," and doom-filled thoughts of "they can't possibly expect me to revise this five-hundred times BEFORE I get any money off of it, can they?"

Usually I smarten up and see the symptoms before they prove disastrous (and trust me Query Fever always proves disastrous), but occasionally I get too feverish for my own good and query too-soon. In fact, my entire first novel was probably queried too soon.

Live and learn.

Now, I've figured out the longer you can wait, the better. The better your chances. The better prepared you are. And most importantly the better your manuscript will be.

So the next time you get a case of Query Fever just relax, take a bath, go for a run, and then do something else to give you instant satisfaction: like the wonderful Orange Julius recipe I gave you or chocolate covered strawberries (yum yum). And your manuscript will thank you for giving it the much better shot it deserves!

--Emily, Miss Querylicious

Monday, June 29, 2009

Crit Groups: Face to Face, or Online, Which is Best?

Tip of the Day: Some friends and I were discussing challenges on Friday, so I challenged myself to find an hour a day for my writing (not necessarily in one sitting). But could I scrape up an hour a day for something I love? At least it inspired me to get work done on a summer weekend!

Most of us writers have a trusted few people who read our work in progress and offer us comments to keep us on track. Some people only like one beta reader; some people want as many different points of view as possible. Critique groups come in all shapes and sizes. Some people have different crit groups for their picture books and novels. I have two crit groups: one in person and one online. Which is better? Well, it depends.

For example, deadlines. My online crit group has a pre-planned schedule for submissions. My in person crit group is more casual: submit when you're ready. That disorganization actually works for us. If everybody submitted at once, we'd just decide on a way to stagger things. The definite deadline in my online crit group stops me from slacking off. I need fresh pages to submit every three weeks. The casualness of my in person group is great, though, when someone wants to send out a contest entry or manuscript quickly. We can e-mail each other pages right away.

Okay, what about the quality of the critiques? Do online crit partners feel a distance that allows them to be a little tougher? Eh, not really. My in person crit partners can soften the blow. "Your story isn't working. Oh, no, don't look so crushed. Here, have a chocolate chip cookie." On the other hand, when people are talking face-to-face, it's very easy to get off topic. "Wow, these cookies are good. Have you ever tried the peanut butter cookies here?"

Are in person groups more encouraging then? I don't know, I think my online group is very supportive. We follow each others careers and cheer each others successes. I've been with them for almost two years now, so we've built up a level of trust in each other.

So why do I have two groups? One, it keeps me writing! Deadlines, meetings, critiquing manuscripts ... it keeps me thinking about writing and inspiring me to write. My in person group helps me brainstorm and bounce around story ideas. My online group keeps me producing on a regular basis. Also, I can test drive two different versions of a story.

And I love the gossipy intimacy of an in person group. What's up in the industry? Didja hear about such-and-such? And I love the international, varied experiences of my online group to check that I'm not assuming Upstate New York is like the rest of the world. How could I give up either group?

Poll time! What's the perfect crit group mix for you?

-- Kate, Miss Perfecting the Pages

Friday, June 26, 2009

An incredible author moment

Tip of the day: When you get a web site, you really should put a picture of yourself on there!

Alas, my first draft is sitting in my computer, being completely ignored as I just returned from an awesome vacation at Disney World. So my head is all filled with visions of Mickey and Minnie instead of wonderful writing advice. So I thought, what do I blog about this week when writing is so far from my brain right now?

And then I remembered. I remembered the totally awesome authorly moment in the Houston airport and I thought, that’s what I can blog about.

You see, my boys and I were in a bookstore in the airport, and I had just finished buying them each a book, doing my part to help the industry as always. As I turned away from the register, a girl about 12 or 13 was standing there and she said, “Are you Lisa Schroeder?” I said, “Yes, I am. How did you know?” She looked a little unsure how to answer so I said, “Did you know from the picture on my web site?” She said yes, and then I asked her which book she had read, and she said, “Both of them!” Her dad, standing a bit to the side, piped in and said something about her being quite enthusiastic after reading my books.

We chatted a bit more about where she was going (Paris!) and where I was going (you already know that). I fortunately had a couple of bookmarks in my purse, so I offered her a signed one and she happily took it.

It was SO great to meet a real reader like that and since the folks at the register overhead the whole thing, I think they’ll be ordering my books for the store as well!

As a side note, we left for the airport at 4:30 am that day. Do you know how happy I am that I managed to make sure my hair was presentable and that I put on a little make up as well? If I’d been in a baseball cap and sunglasses, Crystal may not have even recognized me!

~Lisa, Miss Crafting a Career

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Journal Format: Dead or Alive and Kicking?

Tip of the Day: There's been a lot of talk this week amongst YA authors on to blog or not to blog (aka-- what kind of things should we blog about? Only the good? The bad too?) so I thought I'd share my philosophy with the world. As an author, when you don't know what to share and what not to share online-- think WWMCD (What would Meg Cabot do?) If Meg wouldn't blog xyz then you shouldn't either! :-)

Em's query sharing this week got me thinking about my first query. My first book was a sort of journal format (a notebook passed between four best friends at school). I queried the heck out of this book let me tell you and it did get me my agent (though we did not end up submitting that book to editors). While I was querying for agents (and stacking up loads of rejections) some of the responses I got were that the journal format was dated, not "fresh" etc. I think I just accepted that must be the case. This week, however, I picked up this book from the library:

OH MY GOD!! I'm LOVING it! It's the journal of a 16-year old girl watching the world basically fall apart. It starts with everyone chattering and being excited about an asteroid about to hit the moon. Teachers are assigning essays on the moon and people are planning parties to watch the asteroid hit (reminds me of when there was a solar eclipse and people got the boxes to watch it). The asteroid hits and it's bigger than anyone could have expected. The moon has shifted (now HUGE in the sky) and it's causing all kinds of catastrophes-- tsunamis, earthquakes, volcano eruptions etc. Entire states are being wiped out and families that are more inland (this MC is in Pennsylvania) are struggling to survive. Gas prices soar, grocery stores close, and electricity is almost non-existent. The book seriously gripped me from the very beginning and I'm only halfway through so I'm dying to know how it ends of course.

Okay, but back to the topic of journal formats. I LOVE how the author used the format to tell this story. It is so not dated! Well, maybe I'm just so swayed by the concept of the book. What do you think? Are there journal formatted books you love? Is the journal format dead or alive?

Kristina, Miss Delighted to Debut

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A Writerly Week (or Librarians Gone Wild!)

Tip of the Day: My interview on YA covers is up on talented author Melissa Walker's blog! Check it out and let us both know what you think about book cover art!

So some cool things happened in my writerly world since I last blogged:

1) I met the fabulous author Jody Feldman! She came to my library while in town and signed our copy of the puzzle-solving adventure that boys and girls will love, THE GOLLYWHOPPER GAMES (it wasn't on the shelf; our children's librarian had it checked out herself to read!). It was great to meet an agency sister, to talk shop, and to see what she's working on. I'd highly recommend chatting to an agency-mate if you ever have a chance, especially if you are subbing for pubbing for your first time like me. It can help you feel "normal" in the wide, varied world of agents and editors, and know that no two writing-related relationships are exactly alike. We'd only "met" before online through LiveJournal, but she has great energy and a gorgeous smile. Can't wait to meet again!

2) My new Dell laptop arrived! After a slow, painful life-failing, my first Dell lappy will be put into retirement. With my new one, I have regained the letters N, M, and L on my keyboard, as well as the ability to post on LiveJournal without acquiring the blue screen of death! There is something motivating about writing on a brand new keyboard. Hopefully this feeling will last through this weekend when I plan to motor through a "new" manuscript....

3) I went to Montreal for the first time! OK, that might not seem writerly, but my travel companions were two other librarians! And let me tell you, get three librarians together to plan a trip, you'll get tons of information on everything you plan to see. Here's me au Jardin Botanique de Montreal!

Now to get back to actually writing! (And, well, waiting to hear back on editor subs. :))

Deena, Miss Subbing for Pubbing

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Query Letters

Tip of the Day: want to win some cool prizes? Chances are your library has summer reading programs going on all summer, and adults can win fun stuff just for reading!

As promised, here is a sample query letter for one of my books:

Dear Mr. or Ms. Agent,

Because of your interest in teen fiction, I thought you might enjoy my contemporary YA novel DON’T ASK ALLY. Don’t Ask Ally is complete at 60,000 words, and should appeal to teen girls that love adventure and romance novels, such as those by Ally Carter or Meg Cabot.

When 16-year old Ally Harrison inadvertently gives relationship advice to one-half of The Couple of the Century in a Robertsville, Indiana theme park, her face appearing all over the national tabloids as the “new Dr. Phil” is the least of her problems. After her misinterpreted advice causes the reconciliation of rock star Jet Michaels and Nicole Porter, Ally’s Jr./Sr. High School classmates build her a homecoming float and her best friend starts an underground relationship counseling empire from the school bathroom.

However, when Nicole Porter goes missing, Ally learns quickly that sometimes it’s better to keep your mouth shut and your advice to yourself. But can Ally keep her mouth shut long enough to figure out where Jet Michael’s girlfriend really is? And can she keep her mouth far enough away from the moist lips of her prime suspect: Luke Porter, the brother of the missing girl?

My previous writing credits include newspaper and newsletter articles, media releases, press kits, and advertisements for universities and non-profit organizations. I have a B.S. in Journalism, a M.S. in Public Relation’s, and currently work as a young adult program planner in a library and teach creative writing classes.

I would be happy to send sample chapters or the entire manuscript upon request. Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.


Emily Marshall

Now, it's probably not the greatest query in the world, but it did help land agent requests. It has several things that do the trick: it's too the point; gives all relevant info--such as word count, genre, title, etc; reads similar to the back cover copy without giving away the entire story; gets across the tone of the novel itself; and tells briefly my writing credentials.

Also, depending on the agent, I always try to customize it letting them know why I'm querying them specifically.

--Emily, Miss Querylicious

Monday, June 22, 2009

Am I Any Good at This?

Tip of the Day: Has anyone used the new search engine Bing instead of Google? I'm a big Google fan, but PC World has an article online about why they prefer Bing (http://tinyurl.com/mxnujs). I think I'll try it out.

Last week, I wrote about how I started writing regularly about five years ago. How at first, I was motivated and determined. I began by writing a few scenes just for fun, not worried about word count or anything. The point was only to get my writing skills up to speed.

But once I had a few scenes with the same characters finished, I wanted more. I wanted to know if they were any good, or if I was wasting time better spent playing Guitar Hero. I didn't want to write for my own amusement--I wanted readers. Would anyone enjoy reading this?

The only way to find out was to actually have someone read my work. And the scary part for me was that to have someone read my work, I had to tell people I was writing it.

I majored in English in college so I wasn't all that scared by constructive criticism. I had creative writing classes where we shared each other's work. People usually liked my work because it was short. I hadn't come out as a young adult/middle grade writer yet, but the early warning signs were there. None of my stories took place in the fog while the characters struggled with internal decay without resolution and experimental prose, so my college writing groups thought I was a fun girl who could stand to be more serious about writing. I walked away thinking I should write more like them, but at least I walked away unafraid of being critiqued.

This was different. This was life outside of college. This was the people I knew--my in-laws, my librarians, my coworkers--knowing I was trying to pursue a dream. And they might laugh at me. A lot.

First, I asked my teenaged niece to read for me. This was a mistake because I didn't know how to get her feedback. So she read for me, but she didn't know how to tell Aunt Kate anything but "That was good."

Teenage readers weren't going to work for me. I needed a critique group, but not one like my college days. I needed people who wrote for young adults. And what I really needed, although I didn't know it yet, was someone who would be kind to my early efforts so I didn't give up and point me in the right direction.

Then a friend told me about the Rochester Teen Book Festival. I remember listening to Alex Sanchez tell us that his novels go through at least eight drafts apiece, and feeling so relieved. Wow, that's okay then? If it's not great on the first try, I'm not a failure!

I also ran into a coworker--our own Deena, Miss Subbing for Pubbing. I worked up the courage to tell her I was writing. Great, now everyone knows! I'd better be good at this or people are really going to laugh at me. But I now had my intro to other, local YA writers.

I was all set for the next level: finding out that I had a lot of work to do. What would make it worth doing?

So my two cents is that if you're starting out writing, and you've really been working on it and putting time into producing pages, you're eventually going to have to tell people. I guess some people can pour their hearts onto the page and never need beta readers to correct their course. I don't actually know any people like this. So tell people. It can open doors.

-- Kate, Miss Perfecting the Pages

Friday, June 19, 2009

Cover thoughts

Tip of the day: In the summer, keep an extra bottle of sunscreen in your car at all times. That way, you are ready for whatever fun you come across!

Pre-published writers often wonder how much say we get in our covers. They want to know if we're able to provide any input, or if we get it and we don't like it, will the publisher change it?

As with everything else in publishing, this varies from house to house, perhaps even author to author and book to book.

I haven't had any say in my covers. But my editor did ask me early on in the process of I HEART YOU, YOU HAUNT ME if I had any ideas for the cover. And at that point, I made it pretty clear that I don't really have an artistic mind. I don't think in terms of images. And I certainly have no idea what kind of covers sell books and what kinds don't.

So, I've left that part of making a book up to them. The difficult part for me is that I often see covers I LOVE and then everything else sorta pales in comparison. Covers that are fortunate enough to have photo shoots have that something special. One of my authorly dreams is to someday have a book that gets that special little bonus of a photo shoot. I don't know if it will ever happen, and maybe in the scheme of things, it doesn't really matter.

I have two books coming out next year. CHASING BROOKLYN is a chilling, romantic companion young adult novel to I HEART YOU, YOU HAUNT ME and will be released January, 2010. IT'S RAINING CUPCAKES is a mid-grade book about a girl who dreams of traveling but is stuck in Oregon helping her mother get a cupcake shop off the ground and will be released March, 2010.
Here are the covers - would love to hear what you think!

~Lisa, Miss Crafting a Career

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Line Edits: Book Two

Tip of the Day: *Freaking Cool Contest Alert!* Check out Michelle Zink's contest!

I got a very exciting package marked EXTREMELY URGENT via UPS this past week. Very exciting. It was my line edits for My Fake Boyfriend is Better Than Yours! Whoo Hoo!!

Okay, I don't know why this is thrilling me so much. When I got line edits for The Espressologist I think I mentioned crying. Hmm, oh yes-- here is where I talked about it. Line edits, at first, seem daunting. But not this time! This time they are wonderful!

I think I'm partly so excited because I didn't know what my book two was going to be for a REALLY long time. I mean, I sold it in May of 2007. Back then it was called Untitled Book Two. And I kept trying various ideas to see what would make the BEST second book for me. When I got this last idea for MFBIBTY and sent the first chaps and an outline to my editor and she said it was a go, I needed to write it very quickly. Like, in two months. I was so into this book though so that wasn't a problem at all. I guess it happened so fast that it still doesn't seem real to me. But seeing the line edits with a designated title page here and a dedication page there makes it all REAL. Which completely thrills me!

So whenever I find a spare moment, you'll find this happy little author with her laptop, notes, colored pencil, and iced mocha, busily working away at Starbucks.

Kristina, Miss Delighted to Debut

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

In the Weeds (or Discard Me Not!)

Tip of the Day: Stay tuned for my guest post on author Melissa Walker's blog on what YA covers/titles get teens to check them out. Meanwhile, read her entertaining new beach read, LOVESTRUCK SUMMER about love in the Austin music scene!

I'm out of room in the K-Ps in my YA Fiction shelves. What does that mean? Weeding time!

What is interesting to see is which authors who have inches and inches of shelf space (read: lots and lots of books) are still being read despite their beat up pages, outdated cover art, and "old" stories. In other words, books I can't/won't weed bc they are still being checked out.

The authors I've noticed this week who fit the bill?

1) Ursula LeGuin (probably comes as no surprise; her Earthsea books are still on school reading lists)
2) Madeleine L'Engel (is it her timeless fantasies that make her forever read?)
3) Robin McKinley (I've never read any of these books but many others certainly are)
4) John Marsden (really? I didn't know he'd even been around that long)
5) Joan Lowery Nixon (I read her thrillers in middle school)
6) Gary Paulsen (HATCHET readers seem to take to his other books as well)
7) Richard Peck (is it because he's an award winner?)

In other news, there are authors who USED to have always-read books, but who now are finally experiencing recent reading lags (no check-outs on some of their titles since 2006/2007 -- this doesn't mean ALL their titles, just more than ever before):

1) Lurlene McDaniel (are her baby-down-a-well-with-cancer tales finally too depressing for today's teens, or merely too realistic to handle?)
2) Cynthia Voigt (I think newer books that cover similar tales of teen angst are replacing her more dated stories -- though I still love me some CV)

What makes some MG/YA novels timeless/classic and others not-so-much? Is it word-of-mouth through the generations? School reading assignments? Or just great stories that have never been retold in quite as solid a way?

Deena, Miss Subbing for Pubbing

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

It's All About Queries

Tip of the Day: for more information about queries, make sure to check out our old query posts for tips, sample queries that worked, and more.

After the Query Challenge I issued last week, several of you wanted to know more about queries. So for the next few weeks, it will be Query Central here on Tuesdays.

Q1: What is a query?

Basically it's a one-page letter you write to an agent or editor telling them about the current book you are pitching and brief information about your writing history.

Q2: What isn't a query?

It's not a summary of the book, but merely a teaser for more. Think back cover copy that makes you want to fork over your hard-earned money to buy the book.

Q3: What does a query look like?

For those of you who skip over the pink text at the top, there's tons of info on our blog archives about queries. Including sample query letters from Deena, Tina, and Lisa (who could ask for more?). Just click here or on the "Queries" label on the side.

Next week, I'll share one of my own queries!

--Emily, Miss Querylicious

Monday, June 15, 2009

When I Got Serious About Writing

Tip of the Day: The Visual Bookshelf application in Facebook shows you what your friends are reading, makes book recommendations based on the titles you enter, and lets you read and write short reviews.

I tend to think that most people reading this blog do a lot of writing, but what if you're not? What if you're reading this because you'd like to find out how to get started in writing for teens and tweens? What if you're wondering how to make the transition from everyday life to being a writer? Well, by writing, sure. But where's the best place to start?

About five years ago, I was very sick with a disease that attacked my joints and nerves. The pain medication dried out my eyes severely, so I couldn't read much, or sew or watch TV or play computer games. I learned that I'm a very visual person and eyes are extremely important! I composed a lot of stories in my head to keep myself occupied without books or TV. I had always written stories, but I had written them when I was inspired. When I had free time. After I got sick, I realized that life was speeding by. With two children, free time and inspiration were never going to be dependable things. I knew that when I got well again, I'd get serious about my writing.

As my nervous system healed, I was able to sit in front of the computer after work again. I had interesting characters and tons of scenes in my head from the time when I couldn't do much else. It was plenty of material to write out five or six nights a week. In a blaze of determination, I struggled through scene after scene. I was serious. I was devoting time on a regular basis to my craft. There were just a few problems:

1. I was also surfing the web at work, doing some research, and it was beginning to dawn on me that my 8th grade characters fell in the crack between something called "Young Adult" and something else called "Middle Grade." In other words, I knew nothing about the market and what I was finding out was not encouraging.

2. My scenes didn't actually gel together. Oh, I could write a clumsy transition from one scene to the next, but there wasn't an actual narrative arc. I had problems figuring out what order they should go in, as I wrote them in the order I felt like it.

3. Blazing determination? It doesn't last as long as you think it will.

So I went from "I'm going to make this life-changing decision to write on a regular basis" to "what the heck am I doing this for?" Of course, it was a life-changing decision, and a good one. I needed to take it to the next level, though.

Even while I realized this, I kept writing. Because that was the most important part: I got into the habit of writing at least five hours a week. I've struggled for years to keep that going, sometimes successfully, sometimes not. But my first step was realizing that I couldn't only write when I had free time and inspiration. I had to write when I didn't feel like it.

Next week, I'll explain how I got past my first "what the heck am I doing this for" Marsh of Doom. Because, hey, I still visit that Marsh of Doom sometimes.

-- Kate, Miss Perfecting the Pages.

Friday, June 12, 2009

First draft tips

Tip of the day: Clear mailing labels make excellent book plates. When someone e-mails me wondering if she can send one of my books in the mail for me to sign, I offer to send a signed book plate instead. It saves on postage and when you peel it off and stick it in the book, you can hardly tell it’s a label and not an actual signature in the book.

Okay. Raise your hands. How many of you have been working on a first draft of a book? Please, tell me! I want to know I’m not alone!!

I’m working on the book I started, got to 20,000 words, and started over. And guess what? I’m back up to 20,000 words again. Yay! It feels great. And I’m really liking this book now, much more than I liked the first version. Here are some things I try to remember when I’m writing a first draft:

1) Don’t get too caught up in details. Details are easy to add in later. If they come easily to you while you’re writing, great. But if they don’t, it’s okay to put something like [need to describe the house better] and then keep going and come back to it later. I promise, it’s not cheating!

2) Make sure your characters sound different from each other. If they all sound the same, it’s not good! A boy should talk differently than a girl. And two girls should have something about them that differentiates one from the other. Maybe one is a talker and goes on and on while the other is more succinct with her language. Whatever it is, figure it out and try to be consistent throughout the book.

3) Try to end your chapters at a place where your reader will want to keep reading AND where you will want to keep writing (at this point). I really try to NOT leave off for the day at the end of the chapter. I’ve learned over the years it’s much easier to reenter a manuscript in the middle of a scene than coming in to a new one.

4) The first draft is not the time to worry much about theme or any of that heavy stuff. That comes later. For now, just try to tell an interesting story. Every chapter, ask yourself, am I keeping the story moving? Am I throwing enough conflict at my character? Conflict is what makes a story compelling. Remember, you have to put your character in a tree and throw rocks at her. I know it’s hard, but that’s our job!

5) Finally, trust your instincts with the first draft. Listen to your heart. And your main character! I believe thinking too much during the first draft might cause us problems. Don’t think, just go with it. Yes, it needs to make sense and yes you need to make sure you’re heading in a general direction. But don’t think too hard about it all at this stage. Just write. Have fun with it. And know that once the first draft is done, that’s when you can dig in and do the real work, to make the manuscript really shine.

I’m excited to do some writing this weekend. What about you!?

~Lisa, Miss Crafting a Career

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Panel Observation

Tip of the Day: I'm giving away a signed copy of Saundra Mitchell's SHADOWED SUMMER on my personal blog. Comment by midnight Friday for your chance to win!

I like to attend events that I may have to do in the future and study the people doing them for tips (anyone else do this?). So I'll go to loads of booksignings and take notes on how authors handle them. Do they read from their book and how much? Do they start or end with a Q&A? Do they talk about their publication journey or tell funny stories about how they came up with the idea for their book?

This past weekend I had the chance to see fellow Deb, Saundra Mitchell, on a panel at Printer's Row in Chicago. The panel was called Young and Restless and authors: Jacquelyn Mitchard, James Kennedy, and Sally Nemeth, participated alongside Saundra.

(Saundra is the blonde.)

The event lasted for about an hour and there was a moderator who kept things moving along-- posing questions to the authors and then giving each author a chance to answer. The authors talked about marketing to teens, pacing, and what they wish they had known then (totally great question for a panel! I love hearing what obstacles authors ran into so I can prepare) and ended with a Q&A from the audience.

When you're a debuting author, like myself, I highly advise going to the various events that you may be participating in in the future. They sound sort of scary when you just hear about the event (or maybe that's just me. Before seeing a panel the idea of being on one gave me a little shiver; but really it looked like a fun, relaxed time. It was more like being in on a conversation with a lot of knowledgeable people. Except they sat in a straight line behind a table and we sat in the audience. :-) ) but seeing other people do it first will definitely calm the nerves!

Kristina, Miss Delighted to Debut

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

YA May Days! (or Pass It On!)

Tip of the Day: Always advertise free food at any events you host that you want teens to attend.

It was YA May Days! time at my library last month. I bribed -- er, asked -- the teens to write a review of a book published in 2009 and got a good number of reviews! Some teens went ahead and did a review of a 2008 book. When June rolled around, what were the two most reviewed books?

And the number one reason why the books were picked up by these teen readers? Recommendations from their friends and siblings. Don't underestimate word of mouth advertising!

Other books reviewed were picked up because of their
1) interesting titles (Because I Am Furniture)
2) cool covers (Fragile Eternity)
3) good predecessors in the series (Forever Princess, Max: A Maximum Ride Novel)

Is word-of-mouth your number one way of deciding what to read?

Deena, Miss Subbing for Pubbing

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Query Challenge

Tip of the Day: haven't queried on any of your books in awhile? Sometimes the best medicine is just to get back in the game.

Despite having the pseudonym Miss Querylicious on this blog, I haven't been doing much querying at all lately. In a desperate attempt to reasure myself it hasn't been "that long," I searched my email and was shocked to find my last real query was sent in June of 2008.

A whole YEAR.

As is 52 weeks.

365 Days.

8760 Hours.

525600 Minutes.

OMG times 10. Not only can I not get the Rent song out of my head now, but I honestly can't believe it has been that long. My mind must have been playing tricks on me, because it's felt more like a few weeks since I last queried. The stings of the rejection letters seem fresh.

Moving on to new books does seem to lessen the querying process, because it takes awhile before you can query again. At least that's what I must have been telling myself, despite the fact since those queries were sent I've done extensive revisions on two of my last books for either editors or old query requests that had been coming in.

And even though my books had improved dramatically through those revisions, I still never queried them to more agents or editors, instead I was enticed by my new, shiny books that screamed, "work on me, don't query that old, warn out book. I'm pretty and new and much more fun." Now that those new books aren't as fresh, I've decided to look up some more agents and query on my last two books, which I still love and believe in.

So I'm issuing a query challenge to myself and to all the blog readers who'd like to participate. The challenge will be easy and in fact there are no rules. (Okay, well maybe one rule...which is to make your own rules to challenge yourself in regards to queries. Mine is going to be to query five agents by the end of the week. Your's might be to query someone new, send out more queries than you have been, or just to write your first query or write a query for the book you are working on.)

Let me know if you are up for the challenge...

--Emily, Miss Trying to be Querylicious Again

Monday, June 8, 2009

So What's Up With Procrastination?

Tip of the Day: Need a smile? Check out the awesome writer-focused cartoons at www.inkygirl.com, the talented Debbie Ridpath Ohi's Daily Diversions for Writers. The new site design looks great, Debbie!

Now that the worst is over, I can talk about it. I just emerged from a horrific case of writer's procrastination.

See, I came up with a great plan to revise my novel. I have a chapter-by-chapter map for revision, a spreadsheet, a timeline ... Anyway, I thought I had exactly what I needed to do laid down. And figuring out what to do is the hard part, right? It's like in cooking. Once you have the carrots peeled and the garlic minced and the pasta drained, once you have all the ingredients prepped and in place, the rest is fun and easy. That's what I thought.

So armed with my outline and timeline and storyline, I proceeded to clean the house. Switch out the summer clothers. Get some sewing done. Remember how to play Spider Solitaire. I had totally forgotten that.

I could not, to save my life, get myself to sit down and write! Soon I started stressing and feeling down about it. What was wrong with me?

Fortunately, Kristi Holl had a great blog post recently about procrastination at http://tinyurl.com/nkyzvf. She talked about procrastination as fear. Fear, me? Ha, I procrastinated by labeling all the fear I had:

1. Fear of Failure: By far my biggest problem. What if, even after making this revision, this novel still isn't good? What if it's basically unrevisable? What if I'm totally wasting my time because I'm not smart enough to write this story?

2. Fear of Success: When I finish this, I have to send it out again, don't I? Write query letters, check my email all the time even though I say I won't. Oh no.

3. Fear of Standing Still: What if this revision isn't enough? I've been revising this novel forever. What if I'm stuck in some kind of sick cycle where I'll be revising this novel over and over until I die? And my descendants will read it and think it would have been good if only I had edited it more?

Finally this weekend, my daughter went to a birthday party and my husband took my son out for haircuts. I realized that if I blew this chance to write in peace, I'd be so angry at myself I'd be impossible to live with. So I forced myself to open Chapter 1. And I revised two and a half chapters! Woo-hoo!

The fear is still there. I stopped because I hit a hard part (the end of chapter 3 needs an entire rewrite) and it will be hard. But you know what? The revision went a lot better than I thought it would. I came up with a great way to solve a problem in chapter 1, right there on the fly. Sure, it was one line at a time for a while (OK, she could say that, and then my MC could say that). But I'm happy with the work I did. Maybe it wasn't fear. Maybe I just needed a break before I could approach the novel with the right distance ...

Nah, it was fear. But we writers have to face our fears, don't we?

-- Kate, Miss Perfecting the Pages

Friday, June 5, 2009

When it comes to bookstores, I've hit the jackpot

Tip of the day: Powell's has 11 copies of FAR FROM YOU that are signed, by me! You can order them on-line by simply putting one in your shopping cart. Try reading it on a hot day this summer - it'll cool you off! Go here to order!

When people think of Portland, they think of this bookstore:

That's the downtown store, and I'm just not downtown very often. There's a Powell's store close to my house, though, that I do love, and that's where I've had my book signings.

But I also really love Annie Bloom's, a bookstore in this cute little neighborhood called Multnomah Village. It's convenient to my work, so sometimes I go there on my lunch hour and shop. When we have a baby shower at work, we often get some great books for the baby and mom, ones we've bought at Annie Bloom's.

But there's one place I go weekly to get books. The Beaverton City Library:

Isn't it beautiful? I love it!!! I actually have my 14 digit library number memorized, I reserve books on-line so often. I always have at least one book on CD in my car to listen to during my 30 minute commute to and from work. It allows me to get two more books read per month than I'd normally be able to.

Anyway, have you been to Powell's? If you ever come to Portland, let me know and we can meet up for coffee and books!! It's a fun place to take out-of-town guests!

~Lisa, Miss Crafting a Career

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Best. Indie. Ever.

Tip of the Day: When you're signing books don't use a black pen. Use blue or another color. The booksigning coordinator at the bookstore I'm talking about today gave me this tip and I'm passing it along.

This is Anderson's Bookshop in Naperville, IL (west suburb of Chicago).

I don't mean to brag...okay, I do. I live near the BEST. INDIE. EVER. There is no arguing-- it just is. Let me tell you why:

1) It's in a totally cute location. Really, downtown Naperville is one of the BEST places to spend an afternoon.

Lots of shopping, awesome dining, and a beautiful riverwalk to walk along. You can grab a latte, stop off for some cute candy at a specialty shop, feed the massive amount of ducks in the river, and then pick up some new books.

2) They love young adult books and love young adult authors! If you're a blog reader of authors you'll seriously see every author mention them at least once. Great place to visit.

3) Which bring me to the next one-- everyone comes here! For real! When ever you hear an author is about to start a tour I bet you see Anderson's as one of their very first stops. Here's me and Meg in 2007 (the week I got my publishing deal-- I was a bit delirious).

4) Book selection. Duh, I should have mentioned this earlier but they have EVERYTHING! And this is really a big deal. Let me tell you why. I walk into my local (hmm. Maybe I shouldn't say. It's a chain. We'll leave it at that. I'm sure you can guess. :) ) and I can't find half of what I'm looking for. (I'm not trying to bash this chain but they don't seem to get a lot of the new releases. They mostly just carry the Twilight, Harry Potter, best sellers.) For example, about a month ago I went in with a list of TEN new books that came out in 2009. I found TWO of the ten. Hmph.

5) They hook you up! Anderson's is awesome for hooking authors up with schools for visits.

6) They host an annual Children's Literary Breakfast every year! Very cool. Picture superstar big name authors speaking, 600 or so librarians and educators, 40 or 50 Illinois children's authors hopping from table to table meeting everyone, and yummy food. Oh, and did I mention schwag? I love schwag.

and last but not least

7) They make my social calendar happy. There are always GREAT authors coming to Anderson's . Check out just who is coming this month. Julianne Moore, Lauren Conrad (yeah, THE HILLS' Lauren!),

and Ally Carter. Next month Lauren Myracle, Laurie Halse Anderson, and Sarah Dessen! (note: they actually have a LOT more authors than this coming-- these are just the people that I want to see!).

So, see what I mean? Best Indie Ever right?

Kristina, Miss Delighted to Debut

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Raindrops on Roses (or Whiskers on Kittens)

Tip of the Day: Be an ergonomic reader -- keep paperbacks on hand for lightweight treadmill reading, and hardcovers on hand for stationary/bedtime reading.

Here in the Rochester, NY area, we have one -- count 'em ONE -- indy bookstore that carries new books. Lift Bridge Book Shop in my college town of Brockport! They have a fantastic assortment of children's, YA, and adult books, not to mention a basement full of college text books.

I have ordered books from Lift Bridge for my holiday shopping, and the guy who handles the orders is always friendly, fast, and communicative. You're not talking to a pre-recorded message! For out of town friends and family, Lift Bridge will giftwrap your books for free before shipping them! I've used this service a few times as well and they do a great job.

I love my old college town and hope this bookstore is a staple there for years to come! Yay for indies! Buy from them when you can! When my book sells, I would love to have an event there. Who will join me?

Deena, Miss Subbing for Pubbing

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Confessions of a Bargain Book Buyer

Tip of the Day: looking for good writing exercises? This Web site has tons.

Almost every weekend during High School, my friends and I would invade our local Borders for entertainment purposes.

We'd cosy up on a couch, scan through house floor plan books (those ones that show page-after-page of nothing but the blueprints to house plans--is it any wonder I'm now obsessed with HGTV?) and then dream of what type of houses we'd have when we grew up.

But we never bought a single book, and only occasionally splurged on a coffee or hot chocolate. Rebelious teenagers that we were.

In short, I was the type of customer bookstores hate. And I still am (sorry bookstores--I love you though, doesn't that count for anything?)

All these years later, I still love visiting bookstores. Being surrounded by nothing but pretty books to look at = awesome, not to mention the warm atmosphere that makes you want to stay longer than any other store. I love going into my local Barnes & Noble (like, Kate) to just browse book titles, see what's new, and add to my "must read" list.

But then...I leave.

Maybe it's the budget shopper in me, but knowing you can get a book cheaper online makes it nearly impossible for me to fork over my money in the store. Saving one or two dollars is like hitting the jackpot on a penny slot machine to me. It's a thrill just to win, no matter what it is. Not to mention working at a library, and knowing I can go in, have it ordered for the library, and then confiscate it as soon as the book comes in to get the first read. Penny-saving Emily likes to get the best deal.

So in short, I love book-and-mortar bookstores. I just love them to browse for books, get hot chocolates, and then get ideas for books to order on Amazon or for our library, depending on if I want it for my own collection or not.

If that makes me a horrible book buyer/reader, then so be it. Somethings you can change, but getting the "bargain" out of your brain seems to be a superhuman feat, and apparently I'm not ready for my purple and gold spandex suit yet.

--Emily, Miss Querylicious

Monday, June 1, 2009

Do You Have a Book on Russia? That's Red?

Tip of the Day: Are you reluctant to share your good writing news because you're not sure how your writing friends will feel about it? Hey, good news energizes me! I've heard some great news from people I know lately and I love it. I think it might be time for a celebration party! Let your crit partners know how you like to celebrate.

This week at A2A, we're talking about books, books, and more books. We heart books. And specifically, we're thinking about buying books. That's, you know, our patriotic duty to boost the economy. Sure, that sounds good.

Do you know, I've had the worst luck with independent book stores. I'm like a curse on them. I move into a town and they close down. This has to be coincidence because I know I'm spending too much money on books. (Although my husband is more concerned with space issues at this point.)

I tend to buy my books at Barnes and Noble because I'm a former employee. That gives me a familiarity with the layout of the place, how the peons get underpaid, etc. Not that I'm complaining about working there. I loved it! The employee discount was the bomb and the work was fun, fun, fun. I shelved books and talked to customers about books and got paid for it. It just didn't pay well.

I worked at the Barnes and Noble in Charlottesville, VA where our most famous customer was Sissy Spacek. She used to come in with her kids all the time. Howie Long was usually around, although you could've said that about any place in Charlottesville. John Grisham, Dave Matthews ... you could star spot at the Charlottesville B&N.

I used to get totally fueled up on that yummy Starbucks coffee and dash around the store, deciding which titles to face front and answering customer questions. I didn't get too many stupid questions; it was mostly people ordering books we didn't have in stock. My favorite questions were the cover-type questions. I guess a lot of people remember what book covers look like after they forget the title and author. So people would often describe covers to me and we'd play "Guess the Book." I never guessed any of these correctly. It's a hard game. How do you answer "I'm looking for a book I read a few years ago on Russia, and I remember that the cover is red. Do you know what it is?" Here's the thing about books on Russia--ALL their covers are red. Just not read. Ha. (Sorry.)

Eventually I needed a real career to pay the mortgage, so I left my bookstore clerk job. I'd definitely do it again someday. Sigh. Why do all the fun jobs pay so poorly?

-- Kate, Miss Perfecting the Pages