Friday, December 17, 2010

So long, farewell - it's been a great three years!!

Tip of the Day: Although the Author2Author blog will be dark for the next two weeks so the holidays can be fully enjoyed, make sure you come back and visit on January 3rd, where the blog will have some exciting new changes and a fun giveaway to kick the new year off right!

It's been THREE years since Tina, Emily, Kate and Deena invited me to be a part of this blog. Can you believe it? At that time, I was looking forward to my debut novel, I HEART YOU, YOU HAUNT ME releasing in January.

Since then, I've published three more novels, with two more coming out next year. I've quit my day job and, for the time being, am making a go at being a full-time author. I don't know how long it will last, but I'm enjoying it while I can.

It's been wonderful sharing the last three years with my friends here at Author2Author and all of YOU! In some ways, it feels like just yesterday when I was looking forward to my debut novel releasing and in other ways, it feels like a lifetime ago. Some things I've learned these past few years:
  • The waiting never stops. There is ALWAYS waiting - waiting for revisions, waiting to see the cover, waiting for the advance check, waiting to hear on a new project, waiting, waiting, waiting. If you can do one thing, figure out how to deal with the endless amount of waiting there is in this business. 
  •  There will always be people who have it better than you. Don't waste time and energy comparing yourself to others, wishing someone else's story could be your story. Trust that you are on the right path for YOU, and that things happen for a reason. It's hard to imagine, but we often become grateful for the disappointments we experience today, even if it's because they make us stronger.
  • Have people you can talk to privately about your frustrations. This is a hard business. Brutal at times. Have friends you can e-mail or call when you want to scream or cry, because most of the time, it's not a good idea to do it on-line for the world to see. And remember to have a life outside of your writing life too. That way, I think it's easier to swallow the disappointment because you have other happy things going on in your life to focus on. As Sara Zarr so eloquently said one time in an interview with Cynthia Leitich Smith, "A book is a wonderful, miraculous thing. But in some sense, it's also just a book."
  • When it comes to social networking, do what you love and what you have time for. I don't think you should do so much that you sacrifice other things, like writing time or family time. After all, there's no real proof that shows social networking makes any significant difference in sales. Do it because you enjoy it and anything beyond that is icing on the cupcake. If it starts to feel like it's too much, it's perfectly okay to step back, evaluate priorities, and make changes as necessary.
And on that note, I want to let you know I have done exactly that, and as a result, this is my last blog post here at Author2Author. With a blog of my own, an agent who asks me to participate from time to time on her blog, and The Contemps blog that I am heavily involved with, I have to figure out how to free up some time because writing books must remain my number one priority. So it is with some sadness that I'm stepping down from the Author2Author blog. 

But before I go, I want to say thank you to Kate, Emily, Deena and Tina for letting me be a part of this blog for the past three years. It's been a WONDERFUL experience, and I'm so glad to have gotten to know you not just as writers, but as people. I consider each of you my friends, and you better stay in touch!!!

As for you, dear blog readers, I'm sure I'll see you around the web. It is a small internet world, after all. Keep reading. Keep writing. Keep believing!!

Signing off and wishing you the happiest of holidays,

Lisa, Miss Crafting a Career

Thursday, December 16, 2010

I Wish You a Yummy Coffee Drink

Tip of the Day: My super cool husband made me a book trailer for The Espressologist! Check it out.

I love this time of year! All of the decorating, shopping, cookie making, AND yummy coffee drinks! I’m going to share a fave around my house: Egg Nog Lattes!

Kristina’s YUMMY Egg Nog Latte

1) Combine ½ cup of egg nog with ¼ cup of milk in a steaming pitcher.

2) Pour the steamed egg nog/milk into a mug.

3) Make two shots of espresso.

4) Pour the shots of espresso into the mug of milk.

5) Stir.

6) Garnish drink with a pinch of nutmeg.

It’s soooooo good! Here’s a picture of one I made my hubby.

You’ve gotta try it!

I hope you and your families have a WONDEFUL holiday! And, keep an eye out for THE ESPRESSOLOGIST. It should be in paperback in stores on January 4th, 2011!

Kristina, Miss See Me on the Shelves

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Revision Version 5.9 Complete (or "Every Day I Wrote the Book*)

*with apologies to Elvis Costello

Tip of the Day: Eat lunch BEFORE baking holiday cookies.

Just in time to prepare for holiday goodness, I finished my revisions on PF and sent the ms off to my agent!

Some of you may recall this post where I figured out how to fix a bunch of stuff with a few "easy" steps.

After that revision, I sent the ms to fresh eyes for another read and received excellent feedback and suggestions from that reader as well. I incorporated those needed changes into the ms, and voila! Done with this round.

Will it be enough? Stay tuned to find out -- and cross your fingers for me. :)

Deena, Miss Subbing for Pubbing

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Best of Em--MG vs. YA

For the next few weeks, I'll be re-posting some old posts, as I take a break during my move, for the holidays, and to recharge.

Happy Holidays, everyone!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

MG vs. YA

Tip of the Day: try to enjoy the nice weather, while it lasts!

Most of us at A2A have dabbled in writing both Middle Grade fiction and Young Adult. They seem so similar, but yet so far apart. The reading level for an average 9-year old versus a 13-year old is vastly different, and at the same time much of their interests differ as well.

Trying to write my first MG novel, I've found I'm enjoying discovering the differences between the two writing styles and getting into the head of a younger character.

So far, here's where I've found these two writing styles differ (at least in my own writing):

  • MG has to be a bit speedier. With shorter chapters and a quicker plot. Most 9-year olds get distracted very easily and if you don't keep them constantly entertained they might put the book down. At the same time, 9-year olds tend to have slightly more energy and your characters need to reflect that as well.
  • You can have more fun with strange characters. I think younger readers are more forgiving of the unusual and quirky characters and tend to enjoy them.
  • You're plots can be even more far-fetched. This is the case with YA too (as are all these bullet points), but I think you can go even further and push the limits with MG fiction. The crazier the plot, the more enjoyable and fun the book could be.
  • Friendship is really important at this age.
  • Parents play a bigger role in MG fiction than YA fiction.
  • The romance definitely has to be light if there is one.

These are ever changing points and things I'm picking up, but what do you all notice in the differences in MG and YA? With so many cross-over genre books for these age-ranges, there's so many different types of books out there. There's definitely something for everyone to read and write.

--Emily, Miss Querylicious

Monday, December 13, 2010

Sneaking Around to Write?

Tip of the Day: They say if you wear your pajamas inside out, the next day will be a snow day. Yay no school before Christmas!

So here I am at the day job and I'm blogging. Shhh, don't tell anyone.

It gets quiet here in December, though, as everyone goes on vacation. Other people are reading news on the internet and Christmas shopping online, and I usually use this time to catch up on writers' blogs and message boards. But then I figure, hey, there's no moral difference between that and catching up on critiques, right? And then it's down the slippery slope to actually writing at work.

Of course I've always brought a notebook to meetings. I get invited to some large group meetings where working on a synopsis instead of paying attention to things that don't affect my job is definitely the better use of my time. I feel no guilt there.

I know people who check their emails at work for query responses. Most people would find that acceptable. What about emailing queries and researching agents? Maybe that's strictly a lunchtime activity.

Where do you draw the line? What's okay to do at work and what isn't?

-- Kate, Miss Perfecting the Pages

Friday, December 10, 2010

A Christmas miracle - sales numbers easily available!

Tip of the day: Trader Joe's eggnog cookies are delicious - you should try them even if you don't care for eggnog. 

So, if you were on twitter yesterday, you may have heard agents and authors talking about the new deal between BookScan and Amazon. (You can read the article that announced it HERE). If an author participates in the Amazon Author program, he/she can access BookScan sales numbers for books he/she wrote and see sales figures for four weeks time.

Up until now, BookScan numbers were too expensive for most authors to get. Subscribing to BookScan costs thousands and thousands of dollars, from what I understand. Editors have the numbers, but they generally don't give authors those numbers unless they ask. And even then, information is usually handed out with an explanation of what it means for YOUR books and a reminder that BookScan is known for being highly inaccurate. Plus it doesn't include library sales and sales through places like Walmart, Target, etc. Apparently numbers on your statement will vary anywhere from 15-75% from BookScan numbers.

I sort of have mixed feelings about all of this. On the one hand, we get SO little information about how our books are selling. Royalty statements only come out twice a year and they often don't tell the whole story because returns can take a long time to show up. So, it's nice to have something that says - your books are selling, and here's how many in a week.

On the other hand, how many authors are going to know what that particular number means? I mean, pick a number. Is it good or bad? Is 500 copies a week good? 100? 50? 25? I've heard that it takes probably 4,000 - 5,000 books sold to hit the NYT list on any given week, so in that context, 500 doesn't seem that good. But then, I think - 500!? That's pretty good. I'd be happy with that! Other things that come into play - how long has the book been out? How many books were printed in the first place? Is it hardcover or paperback?

And let's say your book is down there in the 25/week range. And you get a stomach ache and go UGH! Now you have a stomach ache, but what can you do about it? Most of us do as much as we can already when it comes to promotion. So how does knowing really help us?

One person on twitter did suggest that when you tried something new promo-wise, or did some signings in a particular week, you could watch your numbers and see if it had an affect on the sales that week and take note.

My guess is that Amazon got tired of the questions - what does the Amazon ranking mean? Can't you give us more information about it? So, somehow they struck a deal with BookScan and here we are. One author on twitter asked, how long before they make us pay for this information? Good point. Give it to us free for a while, suck us in, and then start charging. It'll be interesting to see if that happens.

So... what do you think? Do you like the idea of having access to these numbers or not?

~Lisa, Miss Crafting a Career

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Dating Your Books

Tip of the Day: According to, you look 7 years younger if you have the person taking your photo turn off the flash and instead turn on a lamp in the room. Coolness.

So, they were right, I was wrong. Pop culture references do date your books. I love using them though! But yeah, not a good practice. And I'm going to try to stop right now. My editor has mentioned this to me before and often I get stubborn and want to keep such and such name in the book, thinking nah, this person will always be famous. But then, you know, the next thing hits and they're not famous anymore. Like Snooki. When she hit the Jersey Shore she tanked the career of the kids on The Hills.

"We thought The Hills was going to be like 90210 and we'd have another five to 10 years," Spencer says. "The ratings were consistent. But we never sawJersey Shore coming. Before, TV audiences were fine with seeing us all argue, but now they want you to punch one another in the face and hook up with three different people. Our cast was a bit boring and snoozeworthy in comparison. No wonder we got canceled."

Yeah. I was recently revising a book that I wrote a couple of years ago and guess what? I mention The Hills. Hmm. Instantly makes the book seem old. And Snooki will be on her way out eventually (let's hope) so I wouldn't want to mention her show either. So from now on I'm going to try to make it a rule to only use made-up famous people/shows etc.

Kristina, Miss See Me on the Shelves

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Band Books (or Musical Treats!)

Tip of the Day: Get your snow tires on now if you haven't already. (Um, yeah, note to self.)

Since my manpanion is in a band, I know a lot about being on the girlfriend/audience member side of bandship and have been waiting to channel this into a YA novel. The dank bars, the hardcore groupies, the hot shows, the rank acoustics, the possibilities for settings and characters are endless!

But often when I read novels that TALK about music and songs, I can't get into them. I mean, I can LISTEN TO music, but I don't like listening to someone TALK ABOUT how music sounds.

Does that make sense?

Some examples of YAs with musical contexts that I've enjoyed are:

HARMONIC FEEDBACK (great novel about a girl with Asperger's who is a musician)
THE HALF-LIFE OF PLANETS (dual pov of a girl with a rep and a boy with Asperger's who is a musician)
AUDREY, WAIT (hilarious novel about a girl whose ex writes a hit song about her)
FREEFALL (guy drops out of his bro's band but plays a solid bass)

Others probably love the music talk in these books, but for me I liked the musical ELEMENTS and could relate the characters' musical interests, but I skimmed over the details of the SONGS.

Does that mean I shouldn't write a band book? Or that I should skip the music TALK and just get on with the dynamics, settings, and characters?
Do others have problems "hearing" music when it's talked about in books? Could music "aps" for ebooks create a whole new reading-of-music-based-novels experience?

Deena, Miss Subbing for Pubbing

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Best of Em: When to stop querying a project


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

When to stop querying a project

Tip of the Day: Capri Suns aren't just for kids!

So we've gone through all the aspects of querying, except for when to give up. Our mother's all raised us to "never give up," but when it comes to writing I think you have to be smart about this. Most of us have limited time to pursue this dream, because we are also working full-time jobs, raising families, and have other dreams we are chasing.

So just because one book doesn't sell, doesn't mean you have to give up on writing. Or that this book won't eventually sell when the market changes and "puppet-loving girls from Louisiana" become the new "vampires" just when you happen to be shelving your book about a small-town girl from Bonita, LA that makes children's puppets out of Capri Sun juice bags to raise money to pursue her dream as a professional ventriloquist (which we all know is clearly where the YA market is moving).

Don't be afraid to move on if one book isn't working. Take it as a sign to focus your attention on that other book that's screaming "write me."

By no means, does this mean you have to shelve the book completely, but maybe step away from it for a few months, go back to it later, and see if you can pick up on why people were having issues with it.

Next week, I'll try to talk more specifically about how to figure out when is the right time to move on.

--Emily, Miss Querylicious

Monday, December 6, 2010

When You Can't Write--What Do You Do?

Tip of the Day: I was touched by this blog post from Tara Kelly on how you only get one debut author experience.

I've been struggling with carpal tunnel problems so I've been trying to lay off the keyboard. Typing, especially with my left hand, has been extremely painful. I haven't been doing much writing.

You know what I discovered? I get very grouchy when I can't write.

It's not like I've never discovered this before. Not writing makes me out of sorts. Writing for me is like work. It's not a hobby; I don't always enjoy it. I'm beginning to think of it like someone who puts aside part of their yard for extensive landscaping. It's work, but it's productive and positive, and everyone needs a productive and positive way to spend some time out of work, or else the day job is all you have. Like my husband pulls moulding off the walls and sands it and stains it and puts it back on. It's not really a hobby. But he feels like a better person for having done it.

So when I don't write, I feel like a worse person. Like a lazy person letting time slip away from me.

I know I could be reading, but I'm in one of those moods where YA seems too young and adult books seem too cliche and generic. I'm out of good nonfiction around the house. So basically I just snap at everyone about how much my hands hurt. Good times.

How do you cope when you can't write?

-- Kate, Miss Perfecting the Pages

Friday, December 3, 2010

Writing and the Crazy Month of December

Tip of the day: Powell's has NEW copies of CHASING BROOKLYN on sale for only $6.98! What a deal! In case you have any teen girls on your shopping list. :)

I think December is a hard month to be a writer. The publishing business pretty much shuts down for the month. The chance of hearing back on a submission now is pretty much slim to none. Everyone is just so busy.

And we, the writers, feel pulled in a million directions, which means the ability to sit down and write and keep the distractions at bay is very, VERY hard.

I also tend to feel really blue with the shorter days and all of the focus on STUFF and SHOP and BUY, BUY, BUY. My checkbook doesn't *want* to buy, thank you very much. But I try to keep up with my exercise, my sleep, my vitamin D, and tell myself this too shall pass.

My plan is to try and finish the draft of this book I've been working on by Sunday. I have a lot of words left to go, so not sure I can do it. But I really want to get it done so it can rest for the month of December and I can get on with my holiday to-do list! If I leave it unfinished, I'm afraid I'll come back and be unable to get back into it. Right now I'm in the groove of writing everyday. I have a pretty good sense of what needs to happen. I just need to get the words written down!

But... I may not finish. And that's okay. One thing I've learned over the years, since I've been doing this a long time now, is this: writing should never trump life. Well, the good part of life anyway. Laundry, absolutely!!!!

Yes, I love writing (most of the time). Yes, I'd love to have more books published. Yes it's important to write regularly. BUT, it's also important to enjoy life. To step away and say, okay, enough work for a while, it's time to do something else. Decorate the house. Spend time with loved ones. Bake cookies. Eat cookies!! Writing may be fun, but it's still work. And as they say, I won't be on my deathbed wishing I'd worked more.

It's time to finish up the work and put it away. It may be a completed draft, but it might not be. And whatever it is will have to be okay. It'll be there come January either way. But the cookies? They'll be long gone.

Happy Holidays!

~Lisa, Miss Crafting a Career

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Gimme the Cheese!

Tip of the Day: Check out debsaidno's top ten Christmas movies list.

Em and I have a true love of Cheesy Christmas Movies. Every year we talk about them and we get practically giddy whenever there is a new one. Hallmark, ABC Family, Lifetime. The Town Christmas Forgot, The National Tree, Silver Bells, Finding John Christmas. Every weekend in December is a marathon of awesome, predictable, red & green, oooey gooey, slap you upside the head with the lovey dovey goodness. If I didn't have four little ones making me do stuff on Sunday I could literally just sit on the couch and watch them all freaking day. Happy sigh.

So why do we love them so much? I mean really, they are just retelling the same story over and over and over again. How many different ways can rich lonely girl conk her head and wake up in a different life with a family and hate it at first but then love it and whoops, bump her head again and it all goes away and she misses it. A ton of times! Jo from Facts of Life did it in one movie, that baywatch chick (you know, the one who just lost all the weight on one of the reality shows) in another and that redhead from Clueless did in a movie this past weekend. There's no mystery. About two sentences in we all know where the movie is headed. And we love it! And what about all the Christmas Carol retellings? I could watch them all flippin day. Susan Lucci as Scrooge, Frasier, Tori Spelling, Vanessa Williams, heck, I even love it when the muppets do it!

So we have to pinpoint why we love when some movies (and books too) are completely predictable and why we rant and get mad and post nasty stuff online when other movies (and of course again, books) are. Hmmmmm.


Kristina, Miss See Me on the Shelves

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

For YA Publishers: Covers (or Librarians Have It Covered)

Tip of the Day: The next YALSA Symposium is in St. Louis in 2012!

This is my second post on advice for YA publishers based on my experience as a YA librarian inspired by my recent YALSA Symposium attendance. (Click here for the first.)

I have never worked for a YA publishing imprint, so I'm not exactly sure how things go in their marketing/art department meetings, but I HAVE attended many YA Librarian conferences, meetings, chat sessions, etc., and I know we share some very similar frustrations, one of which is The Inaccurate/Unappealing/Unfortunate Book Cover. The ones that no matter how awesome the books are, even if put face out, patrons will not check them out because of the terrible covers.

Some problems with bad covers from the pov of librarians:
1) inaccurate ones can contradict readers advisory interactions (e.g., a skinny cover model when the MC is fat; a strange symbol on a cover that has nothing to do with the story)
2) inaccurate ones can limit audiences (e.g., a white cover model when the MC is Asian)
3) unfortunate ones can make books look old even if they are brand new (e.g. a drawn cover model instead of a photograph when photos are popular now)
4) unappealing ones can make books stagnate on the shelf, no matter how hard they are pushed, which wastes library money when they are eventually weeded for lack of circs (e.g. strange artsy covers that say nothing/confuse readers)

I know that people who do work for YA imprints attend events like ALA -- so why don't they gather some thoughts while there on what covers go out? Or if they do (do they?), why don't they take that advice? Because as much as places like B&N and Borders can have "control" over the cover decisions and are probably often correct in their assessment about what will or will not sell, publishers should not underestimate the power of librarians to spread book love that teens will spread from there.

To end on a note of love, YA librarians like covers that:
1) depict real teens (of all colors, shapes, sizes, and sexes)
2) accurately reflect the tone of the book (and not try to copy another successful book's look if the actual book is nothing like the other one)
3) are simple yet striking (so they catch a teen's attention as they pass by a display)
4) make sense (don't throw an icon on the cover bc "icon covers" happen to be selling well now unless the icon actually makes sense with the book)
5) accurately reflect the characters/setting in the book (and not just pick the first stock photo that B&N will carry if the characters are the opposite appearance of how they are written)

There are so many FABULOUS YA covers out there -- there are not-so-good books with awesome covers that go out all the time just bc of them! -- that I think a better job could be done, and YA librarians would be happy to guide art departments in viewing cover options.

What do others out there think of the power of YA librarians? :)
Deena, Miss Subbing for Pubbing