Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Marching On (or Springing Back?)

Tip of the Day: Like zombie books and literary fiction? You must read THE DEAD-TOSSED WAVES by Carrie Ryan!

Is it that time again already? By gum, it is! Time to see how I'm doing on my March goals as written in January:

March -- Complete first draft of SS

Oi. OK, I am so off track from where I thought I'd be -- yet in a good way! Since the end of February, I've been deep in revisions for an editor who requested them. Spot-on revision suggestions that have been improving my middle-grade novel, BAKE, so much.

On top of that, I don't think I'll get back to SS until fall. This spring and summer, after I turn in these BAKE revisions to my agent, I'll be first drafting PforF, a new idea that I got the agent thumbs up on.

So it's all good stuff. And it is interesting to see the direction my writing life is going compared to the way I thought it would be a mere three months ago.

What fun surprises have come up in your writing world this month?

Deena, Miss Subbing for Pubbing

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Mystery Central: The Crime

Tip of the Day: happy soon-to-be spring everyone!

Continuing on about mystery novels, in addition to the mystery structure there's a few more things I like to know about my book before I get started writing.

The first one: The Crime

Now since we're talking about MG and YA novels, the crime probably isn't going to be anywhere near as bad as in an adult mystery novel (though never say never, I guess). So the saying that a mystery novel has to contain a dead body, doesn't always apply to mysteries for younger readers. Whatever your crime is, it has to fit the tone of your book.

Once you have a general idea of what your crime will be: kidnapping, theft, murder, etc. then there's a few things I like to figure out:

  1. Crime Scenario (Victim, weapon, scene of the crime, etc.)
  2. What appears to have happened
  3. What really happened
  4. Why this crime matters to the sleuth
With MG and YA mysteries the sleuth is often more invested in the crime, merely because they don't have jobs such as a police officer, private investigator, lawyer, or even bounty hunter. Sure you can have them pretend to be one of the above or aspire to be one when they become an adult, but there still has to be something linking the sleuth to this particular crime.

Knowing this ahead of time helps me a ton when writing.

--Emily, Miss Querylicious

Photo borrowed from:

Monday, March 29, 2010

Internet Discouragement

Tip of the Day: Well, I was going to let you all know why my driveway is covered in earthworms (yours too maybe?) but it turns out to be more complicated than I thought! Consensus is that it can get too wet underground for their non-lung breathing. There's your science-is-fun fact for the day.

On Friday, Lisa posted about maintaining a positive attitude online. She discussed our online personas and how we want people to see us on the internet. But I want to change the subject a bit.

Have you noticed lately that hanging out on the internet can be depressing?

I get discouraged as a writer. I guess everyone does sometimes. I get discouraged when I can't get a scene right, but I usually figure I can eventually revise it into submission. I get discouraged when I get form rejections, but I usually figure it's part of the business, and just one opinion on one story.

But reading too many blogs and message boards is much more dismal. I used to enjoy it, but now so much of it is on the state of the business. Libraries losing funding. Amazon commenters refusing to pay more than a few bucks for an e-book. Publishers bidding millions for the latest celebrity ghostwritten title while they slash acquisitions. Layoffs everywhere.

For a while, I kept reading, thinking it was a good idea to be informed. But I finally realized the problem. For many of us, our love of writing has turned into the skills we use at our day jobs. We're librarians, book sellers, editors, journalists, freelancers. And I've made so many writing friends over the years. Ack, what are we all going to do?

Oh, but look. I can stop reading about it. Problem solved. Well, not really, but honestly, I feel a lot better.

So now it's time for a poll.

-- Kate, Miss Perfecting the Pages

Friday, March 26, 2010

Keeping the seven dwarfs in mind

Tip of the Day: Great post by Nathan Bransford on things to ask yourself if you are considering self-publishing - go HERE to read.

Recently on Facebook, someone had one of those games where they answer a question about one of their friends. Her question was - which of the seven dwarfs is Lisa most like (or something like that).

I sort of panicked for a second. How would she answer that question? When I saw she answered the question with "Happy" I breathed a sigh of relief.

So, why am I blogging about this, you ask? It made me realize that I *want* to be Happy. The problem, however, is that being an author doesn't always make me happy. Some days, yes. But not always. I'll spare you the details. (cough, *low sales*, cough, *bad reviews*, cough, *rejections*, cough).

And more and more I understand that anything other than happy really shouldn't come through on-line. I want everyone who I meet as a part of my job as author to think of me as "Happy."

I've made some mistakes over the years - letting my frustration out in a blog post or a tweet. Bad Lisa, bad! Some days, it can be REALLY hard to keep it to myself. I want others to understand how hard it can be. But the thing is, generally, they won't. So I've learned I need to turn to my trusted writer friends in private for that support - not for the general public on-line. People will say they like seeing both sides of the business, and they like seeing that we are all human. But I've learned my lesson because I also know that to some people, it comes across as ungrateful or whiney or just plain GRUMPY.

So now, whenever I'm tempted to post something questionable, I'm going to make myself think of the Seven Dwarfs. AND, I'm going to get off the internet and go for a nice walk or something, because 90% of the time, the internet itself is what makes me less than happy in the first place!

Happily yours,
~Lisa, Miss Crafting a Career

Thursday, March 25, 2010

I Want to be Swagalicious Part 2: So Where Do I Get Stuff?

Tip of the Day: Printrunner has free shipping right now until 3/31/10.

Thanks for all of your suggestions last week-- I think I'm on my way to being swagalicious. This week I've been researching where to get stuff and I thought hey, share the info with everyone else looking for swag!


Why do I need them? Aside from sending them to absolutely every friend and family member and old teacher etc. that you know, send them to independent bookstores and teen librarians!

How do I get them? Vistaprint has some super awesome oversized postcards and here's the thing with Vistaprint-- they will send you e-mails numerous times a week offering you free stuff. LOTS of free stuff. Postcards are almost always on this list. You just pay the shipping. And if you're not in a hurry, choose the cheapest route. I just got some more free ones last week to send librarians-- aren't they cute?


I already wrote a completely brilliant ;) post on bookmarks and I still love them so read here.


Why do I need them? Cuz' they're cute. Really, they're completely optional giveaways. See the totally cute ones I got from Tera Lynn Childs:

How do I get them? Busy Beaver has totally reasonable prices. Check them out.


Why do I need them? Why not? ;-)

How do I get them? I am about to order 1000 cuuuuuute stickers for Espressologist for $57 at (and like the TOD says, free shipping!). Still contemplating a Fake Boyfriend sticker but I'll order those too when I come up with something. In the mean time, check out Carrie Ryan's cute sticker for her new book:

Temporary Tattoos

Why do I need them? Cuz they're swagalicious. And who doesn't love putting something on their skin that takes a good 3-4 baths to get off?

How do I get them? Check out Tattoosales or Branders for deals.

Gel Bracelets

Why do I need them? I actually don't think I do. But I see them a lot at events so I'll include the info!

How do I get them? Here's a really cute place!

Other Stuff

I'm going to add one more tip that I got from Mandy Hubbard. Check wedding favor sites! Mandy got super cute lip glosses with her book title Prada & Prejudice on it. Check out this site, Beau Coup. They have everything from fortune cookies to poker chips to mini candles. Cute!

Kristina, Miss See Me on the Shelves

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Phrase of the Day (or Big Buts)

Tip of the Day: To find out how many times you use a word in your manuscript, do a Find/Replace for the same word and see how many changes are made. Compare that number to the number of pages in your document. Is your word usage to heavy in your book?

There are some phrases I like, but I use them too much. There are other words I like, but I managed to cut down on their usage by maintaining my conscious awareness of them. "Just," "back," and "really" are examples of some of these overused words in my past, but now I have a new vice.

Can you tell what it is?


And not just any "but," but the but that follows a comma. In my 208 page manuscript, I found 155 instances of this phrase! ACK!

The scary thing is how long it took me to discover this crutch. This is the novel that captured the interest of my current agent. I revised it twice with her, and am now revising it again for an editor. And until now, on page 138 of the 208 page ms, I didn't realize how many times I used it. Holy macaroni! I can't believe this book has made it this far.

On the plus side, it shows that voice, character, and plot can take a book far. On the minus side, omg, how come no one told me I had toilet paper sticking out of the back of my pants for so long?

I have returned to page 23 of my ms and am diligently searching out and destroying as many ", but" phrases as humanly possible. The crutch must go!

What are your latest, newly discovered crutches?

Deena, Miss Subbing for Pubbing

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Mystery Structure

Tip of the Day: get out your sleuth hats and your magnifying glasses because it's mystery time!

Since I've been working on a middle-grade mystery book lately I've been studying up on how to write an effective mystery. I know not everyone out there reading this blog writes mysteries, but I thought someone might find this helpful. So for the next few weeks, Tuesday is going to be Mystery Central.

The first thing I wanted to share is basically my Mystery Bible. One of my writing friends passed this mystery structure along to me a few years ago. I have no idea where it came from originally (but I did find a more detailed list here), so I can't give credit where credit is due, but whoever compiled this thank you! This small piece of paper has been like a life saver and a very good starting point when I'm planning a mystery.

Because starting a mystery without having a plan, is somewhat pointless to me. Some books you can get away with without knowing where the book is going, but that is very difficult to do in a mystery. You kind of have to know "who did it" and "why" otherwise you can't lay the groundwork for the sleuth or the reader to solve the crime.

Classic Mystery Structure

An “act” is traditionally 3-5 chapters long (but can be as long or as short as it needs to be for the story.)

Introduce the crime

  • Disclose the crime/mystery to be solved.
  • Initial clues revealed.
  • Set the sleuth on the path toward solving the mystery.
  • Something should occur which makes the reader know that the crime is more complicated than initially suspected.

Direct the investigation toward a conclusion that later proves to be erroneous

  • Reveal facts about suspects
  • Flight or disappearance of one or more suspects
  • Investigation should broaden to put suspicion on other characters
  • Develop a sense of urgency.
  • Make clear the sleuth has a personal stake in the outcome (his own life may be in danger).
  • The sleuth comes to an erroneous conclusion about the crime

Change of focus and scope of the investigation. This is the pivotal point in the story as it becomes evident that the sleuth was on the wrong track

  • Something unexpected, such as the appearance of a second body, the death of a major suspect, or discovery of evidence that clears the most likely suspect. The story must take a new direction.
  • The sleuth reviews the facts of the investigation.
  • The solution seems to be impossible. Attempts to solve the crime have stymied the sleuth. Misinterpretation of clues or mistaken conclusions have lead her in t he wrong direction, and logic must be applied to force a new way of looking at the clues,
  • Review of chain of events that provoked the crime.
  • The crucial evidence is something overlooked in Act I, which appeared to have little consequence at the time it was first disclosed. That evidence takes on a new light with information disclosed in Act II. The solution remains undisclosed to the reader.

  • Based on what he or she now knows, the sleuth must seek positive proof of the as-yet undisclosed solution.
  • The climax: dramatic confrontation between the sleuth and the perpetrator: the sleuth prevails.
  • Resolution: Revelation of clues and deductive process that lead to the solution.

--Emily, Miss Querylicious

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Longstockings Workshop

Tip of the Day: You have until March 30 to enter to win a free workshop critique for April from the Longstockings at their blog!

The Longstockings are a group of MG/YA authors whose names will most likely be familiar to you: Coe Booth, Daphne Grab, Lisa Greenwald, Jenny Han, Caroline Hickey, and Siobhan Vivian. Every month, they run a workshop contest and one lucky writer wins a free critique of the first 25 pages of his/her manuscript.

Guess who was the February winner? Wheee!!

So how cool was this? (Did I mention that SHUG and TYRELL are two of my favorite novels? They are!) Basically I received the equivalent of an editorial letter from them. And I've never received an editorial letter. Now I understand what Lisa, Tina, and Deena mean by how these letters can be both overwhelming and rejuvenating.

At first I had to put the letter aside. I can't redo that first chapter again, can I? How can I add stuff and also make the chapter go faster? I've only rewritten it 17 times. That's all.

But the problem was that some of their suggestions rang a faint bell in my brain. You know, the little voice that says, "You were expecting them to say something about the pacing, weren't you? You suspected that it was a problem and you were avoiding it, hoping it was good enough. But there it is in the letter and you're not surprised. So maybe you should get to work?"

Other suggestions included one I had actually considered earlier and quickly discarded. Work avoidance or instinct? I guess I can only give it a try and find out. One suggestion they gave me I hadn't considered at all, but I love it! And it wouldn't be that hard to implement, either.

My critique parters helped me tremendously with this novel, but after Chapter One revision 17, they knew the characters too well. The first impression was dead. Having professionals look at the manuscript with fresh eyes was incredibly helpful. If you feel like your critiquers know too much about your plot and characters to look at your "final" new beginning, why not enter the Longstockings workshop contest?

But I still have to take this new information one step at a time. I'm feeling overwhelmed with the idea of a big rewrite. Very overwhelmed. Even with a map.

-- Kate, Miss Perfecting the Pages

Friday, March 19, 2010

A helpful tool for writers

Tip of the day: I was in PW's Children's Bookshelf yesterday! Scroll all the way down, and you'll see me.

When asked the question - are you a plotter or a panster, in the past I've mostly been a panster. I get a seed of an idea, or better yet, a few seeds, and a character to start with, and I jump in and write by the seat of my pants.

That's how I wrote I HEART YOU, YOU HAUNT ME.
That's how I wrote FAR FROM YOU.
That's how I wrote IT'S RAINING CUPCAKES.

Generally I have a rough idea of where I'm going, but not always. With CUPCAKES, I really didn't know. Things just came to me as I wrote, and fortunately, it all worked out in the end.

I have some drawer novels, however, that didn't work out so well in the end. And now that I'm trying this FT author thing on for size, I feel like I can't waste precious time on books that may or may not work out in the end. And yet, I really don't like outlining. It takes all the fun out of it for me. I want the characters to lead me where they may, and to whisper secrets in my ear as I'm telling their story. That just isn't going to happen in an outline.

So I was really happy to find THIS POST by C.J. Omololu, author of the YA novel DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS. Here, she takes us through the 9 steps for plotting fiction.

This has changed my writing life! It allows me to figure out the important parts of my book but still leaves lots of room for stuff to happen as I'm writing.

A little over two months ago, I mapped out a story using this method and as soon as I finished writing out my 9 boxes, I went to work on a new verse novel. Last week, I finished it! And I LOVE IT!! Even better? My agent does too!!!

I don't think you necessarily have to do it before you start, but definitely after you've written the first third of the book, because it can help you make sure you have all necessary elements planned out. Just like anything in life, it's much easier to get to where you're going when you KNOW where you're going.

Have you tried this method? If not, do you think it might be something that could work for you?

~Lisa, Miss Crafting a Career

Thursday, March 18, 2010

I Want to be Swagalicious

Tip of the Day: Check it out, Alice Pope has me as her debut author of the month!

I need good swag. I hadn't thought about general swag too much before last weekend. Sure I had fun stuff for my launch party and I always have bookmarks at each event. But I need some cute, fun swag. Let me tell you why I suddenly feel like this. Last weekend I went to an author fair in a nearby town. SO much fun! It was in a big library and there were tons of authors there. Each author had their own table to set up their display.


What display? I have one book out, I have a galley of the next, and bookmarks. Oh, and I had a few fliers on me too. But that's it. Uh-oh. I looked around and other authors had fancy matching table cloths and props and games and stickers and lots of general cute fun stuff to giveaway. Kristin Walker and I sized up the table and begged to sit together. Maybe our stuff together would look full enough.

And it turned out ok-- the fair was a blast and lots and lots of teens came through and stopped to chat. A number of them bought books but everyone wanted swag. So now I'm on a mission for next time. I need good swag! Does anyone have ideas? I want to get My Fake Boyfriend is Better Than Yours stuff. Aside from literally giving out fake boyfriends (could you imagine pulling that off?) I'm not sure what to do. What kind of swag have you picked up at author events that you liked? Remembered? Used?

Kristina, Miss See Me on the Shelves

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

2010 is a 10 (or The Luck 'O The 1/4 Irish)

Tip of the Day: Sometimes your fortune cookies say what you need them to say and are right!

Hi! How are you all doing? Me? I'm good, but, well, my head is spinning still so my post today will be a list of Good Things that have been happening since Labor Day (the time of year that feels like a New Year, as Emily stated back in September) and why I can't think straight to post something helpful instead of self-indulgent.*

*For some brilliant posts, please read Kate's and Em's posts from Monday and Tuesday, and most likely Tina's and Lisa's tomorrow and Friday. Check back with me next week.

Sept -- Vegas trip for sis's wedding
Sept -- signed with new agent
Oct -- agent revisions and editor subs
Nov -- Manpanion's CD release party
Jan -- NYC SCBWI conference with Em; met agent
Feb -- Caribbean trip and manpanion engagement
Feb -- Chicago trip and visit with Em and Tina
March -- editor revision request
March -- made an offer on a property that was accepted while I was at Writer's Group
**April -- send revisions to agent
**April -- bro's wedding in Austin
**May -- close on house and move
**June -- have my first real writing office

**Future projections based on my current brain functions

What Good Things have been happening since Labor Day to all of you? Happy St. Patty's Day!

Deena, Miss Subbing for Pubbing

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

"But What If..."

Tip of the Day: one of the best things you can do for yourself as a writer is believe in yourself and your work.

I don't know about you, but one of my least favorite things about writing is when I start to second guess my work. And the dreaded, "But what if..." words come out of my mouth.

"But what if..." changing my character from a boy to a girl will add more drama? Or maybe even a monkey?

"But what if..." changing the location from Southern California to Outer Space would be more interesting? Or even Alaska?

"But what if..." people don't find Balderdash interesting, maybe they should be playing Croquet instead? Battleship...? Pictureka...? Basketball...?

You get the picture.

Unlike real life, in fiction the story can go anyway you want it to and at anytime you can change that path and go in a completely different direction. And for me, personally, that can get sometimes, well, overwhelming. And then the second guessing starts.

Currently, I've spent the last week debating the pros and cons of changing the location of about five-seven chapters in my book. During this debate I've had to take into consideration what not only would be best for the story, but:
  • Which way would character motivations be clearer
  • What would benefit the plot more
  • Would the story flow better in another location
  • Which way would introduce the characters strongest
  • And which way would set up the book in the reader's mind better
That's a lot to consider. And I've tried working it both ways and I'm still at a complete loss as to which way would be better. People have often mentioned that if your gut instinct is giving you a red flag then usually there's a problem that you need to address. I agree with that...within reason.

But since I'm still working on the story, I also think when you start to second guess yourself, you're using it as a stall tactic. At least that's what happens to me: because in the last week, all I've done is rewrite scene after scene and my story has not moved forward at all. And some point (which is why I'm writing this blog), I need to suck it up, remember that my first draft always stinks, and decide to move on and readdress this debate after the entire book is written.

Because maybe both ways would work out just as well. The story wouldn't be better or worse. But just different...

--Emily, Miss Querylicious

Monday, March 15, 2010

Connected All the Time

Tip of the Day: Happy St. Patrick's Day! Remember, the corned beef has to cook for a long time, but the cabbage should only be cooked for about 10 minutes.

I read in this month's issue of Discover magazine that the average American spends 5 hours daily watching TV, 2 hours listening to radio, 2 hours of leisure time on the internet or a computer program, 1 hour gaming, 36 minutes reading and 27 minutes listening to recorded music. (The survey counted time doing two things at once towards both activities. So if you listen to the radio while you play a game for an hour, that's one hour gaming and one hour listening to the radio.)

These numbers are "one age, fits all" so I don't know where the average teen would fall. I suspect teens spend less time watching TV and more time reading and listening to music, but that's just a guess. Teens with their own TVs and computers probably spend more time on those devices than teens who have to share with the rest of the family.

Here's another statistic from Discover: last year, Americans sent 110 billion text messages. That's a lot of text messages! The population of the U.S. is about 300 million (308 million actually) and 110 billion divided by 300 million is about 366 text messages per person in 2009. And I don't think babies are texting that much.

My point isn't so much "these are the activities writers are competing against" as it is "how do your characters match up against these statistics?"

If you want your character to be isolated in a danger situation, for example, what happens to the phone, the computer, the iTouch, the Facebook page, the constant interaction between people even if they're not great friends? Maybe your character can't afford a phone or a family computer, but maybe it's more powerful to have all these things and still be isolated.

In one of the most memorable scenes in Gone With the Wind, Melanie may be dying in childbirth and Scarlett is trying to find her medical help. But when she runs to the hospital, the wounded soldiers are lying outside on stretchers for yard after yard after yard. Nobody can afford to care about Melanie. If Scarlett could've called, texted, and emailed the hospital, it wouldn't have changed a thing.

I'm thinking about this as I write my current WIP, which takes place in the future. I imagine people would be constantly connected. "No phone" wouldn't even be an option. I have to make sure my characters have nobody to go to for help instead. Well, I can add some physical isolation later on, but the emotional isolation has to come first.

We're all connected to so many people these days, and connected to the world in many different ways. How does that affect your characters?

-- Kate, Miss Perfecting the Pages

Friday, March 12, 2010

A new side to this author thing

Tip of the day: Librarians and teachers, you can win some adorable cupcake notecards plus a copy of my latest mid-grade release, IT'S RAINING CUPCAKES. Go HERE to enter.

Up to this point in my career, I've managed to do most of my promotion on-line or via snail mail, with the occasional appearance thrown in there. I like it this way. With on-line stuff, you have a chance to think before you send. A chance to mull over your words a bit. Although I have to admit, as I've gotten busier, I mull a lot less than I used to.

This week, however, I was forced to expand my horizons. On Wednesday, I had my first radio interview, due to the release of IT'S RAINING CUPCAKES and an event I'm doing this weekend at Powells. Don't be too impressed. It's an AM news station in town, and the interview will air Saturday morning, with a mention in the news of my book signing on Friday morning. I think the mention Friday morning might be heard by a few people. My husband said some people he works with like to listen during the week. But Saturday morning? On an AM station? Yeah, this made me feel much more confident going into it. No one will hear me! Yay, it doesn't matter if I goof up!

And still, I was terrified. I knew he'd ask about the book, which he did. I had typed the summary out so I basically read it. After that, he asked about my writing process. This is a question I need to work on. How does a person explain the process of writing? For me, it's like - I sit down and I stare at the computer screen and then I make myself type the words in my head. I didn't say this to him, of course. Don't ask me what I said to that question. I have no idea. I think I babbled on about how some people are outliners and some aren't, and I tend to be one of the non-outliners.

On top of just being nervous about the whole thing and wanting to sound somewhat intelligent, there were other outside factors that made the thing stressful. Twenty minutes before I was scheduled to call him, a big water treatment truck parked outside our house and started making lots of noise. And that made the dog bark. And bark. And bark. So, to keep her quiet, I went into my bedroom, put her on the bed, shut the door, and proceeded to RUB HER BELLY THE WHOLE TIME I TALKED TO THE GUY.

I have never been so glad to have something done in my life as that radio interview.

And then guess what happened. Today, I got a request to be on a local TV show in two weeks.

Lord help me.

~Lisa, Miss Crafting a Career

Thursday, March 11, 2010

When Does the Research Stop?

Tip of the Day: I'll be at Author Fair 2010 with a bunch of other authors this weekend in Joliet, IL. If you're in the area, stop by!

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I had a new book that I'm working on and so so excited about. And you'd think I would have 5 or 6 chapters nailed by now right? No. I'm still on chapter 1! Ugh. Page 7 to be exact. You know what's happening? I keep starting then stopping. Start and stop. Startstop. I begin writing and I'm so jazzed and then I think oh no! I need to research more! Would she say that? Do that? Must read lots and lots about ******* (I'm not telling yet) before I can write! Then I read for days and days and take notes and get really excited again and write about a paragraph or two and then hit the BRAKES. I missing something vital? Must get more books to read. Then it's more and more reading. And no writing. And I feel guilty because I should be writing. But it's like I'm afraid I'll write something wrong and portray a character the wrong way or not use the right words or setting. THIS NEVER HAPPENS TO ME! This is book #8 and I've always just sat down and written them out, no prob. I've never done loads of research before any book. Even with the Espressologist and all the coffee drinks and terms etc. that I needed to get familiar with I still didn't do a lot of research. I just wrote whatever I felt each time I sat down to write and learned all the coffee details as I went along.

Do you guys do a lot of research before you write? And when do you stop researching and start writing?

Kristina, Miss See Me on the Shelves

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

House Shopping v. Revising for an Editor (or Home is Where the Laptop Is)

Tip of the day: Check out this video of a book cover being designed -- really cool. I love the part under "revision."

Welcome, Readers, for an exciting episode of...
HOUSE SHOPPING V. REVISING FOR AN EDITOR: Scarily Similar! Don't see the similarities? Oh, read on!

Both require working closely with your agent.
Both require moving quickly when the market is ready for you so you don't miss out on a sale.
Both require internet research to see what is on the market already.
Both require patience.
Both require diligence.
Both require receiving feedback to see what might go wrong with the plan.

Guess what I've been working on lately? ;)

Anyone have any advice on either, I'm open to hearing it!

Deena, Miss Subbing for Pubbing

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Ireland's a Book Lover's Paradise

Tip of the Day: if planning a trip to Ireland, be sure to take in all the book-related items. And maybe even stop in at the Writer's Museum!

Just got back early this morning from a brief visit to Ireland. As most of the trips I make, I like to know as little about the destination as possible and prefer to wing it, since it seems more enjoyable to me. Before this trip, I had no idea Ireland was so proud of their literary heritage (almost as much as their Guinness!). About all of our tour guides had much to say about one of the great writers of Ireland from James Joyce, Jonathan Swift, Oscar Wilde, and many more. And even more people went on about tales of two of the biggest selling books of all time that both started in Ireland: Dracula and the Guinness Book of World Records (I had no idea this book started as a bar bet on what bird was the fastest).

Then there were visits to Marsh's Library where readers were locked in wire alcove's to prevent stealing of rare books, and the impressive Trinity College Library that not only houses the Book of Kells, which is over 1,100 years old, but has more than 200,000 old books that were all categorized based on book size (how would you like to find a book in there!) and no other way.

So with all the literary talk, I had to visit a contemporary bookstore to see not only what was happening, but to compare it to U.S. bookstores.

*Interestingly almost all the books also published in the U.S. had similar covers, or slightly varied covers with only a different font or slight differences in the book cover image.

* Paranormal books seem to be just as popular in Ireland. Though I'm not surprised, given how many people mentioned Dracula.

*I recognized almost all the books, only a few looked to be published only in Ireland or other parts of Europe.
* The bookstore layout was very similar to U.S. bookstores. One of the things I noticed though was that 99 percent of the books in the stores were paperback.

* Here's another bookstore, which had a slightly different look, but still loved the Twilight books.

--Emily, Miss Querylicious

Monday, March 8, 2010

My New Writing Hero: Wocka Wocka Wocka

Tip of the Day: My favorite hand cream to keep on my desk has always been Bath and Body Works antibacterial, but someone gave me Ulta hand cream and it's working a lot better for me than I would have imagined. Yay good hand cream.

Lately I've been feeling a little worn out about my writing, like I'm slogging through the swamp. That's why I have a new writing hero for inspiration.

Fozzie Bear! (Cue music: da da da DA da da DAAA!)

My kids have been watching old Muppet Show episodes. They're irresistible. Gonzo was my favorite growing up because I felt like a weird kid. But Fozzie, now, he won't stop working on his craft. No matter what! Everyone in the world can criticize him, he just keeps going.

Yeah, Statler and Waldorf, it's easy to criticize!

You'd think with all that heckling, Fozzie would stop asking for ways to improve, but no. He asks Kermit for a list of his good points and bad points.

Fozzie (reading list): Oh, no! You don't ... well, I guess I could see how you could think that. Okay, okay, I can improve this. Show me the good points now.

Kermit: Uh, those were the good points.

So when you're feeling heckled and wondering if anyone will ever get your jokes, when you feel like you've revised the "Good grief, the comedian's a bear!" sketch twenty times over and it's still not reading right, when you feel like giving up because what you thought was great just isn't and you're afraid to find out what people think of what you thought was merely good ... go watch the Muppet Show.

Aw, I think I want to buy a Fozzie teddy bear to hug now.

-- Kate, Miss Perfecting the Pages

Friday, March 5, 2010

My thoughts on book trailers

Tip of the day: Girl scout cookie time! I hope to get some this weekend from a troop selling at a local grocery store. My favorite are the Samoas. Mmmmm.

The problem with doing a week of "favorites" of something is that by the time we get to Friday, often all of my favorites have been mentioned.

So, I'm going to do something a little different. But first, my thoughts on book trailers. I was fortunate this time around in that my publisher decided to do one for CHASING BROOKLYN. They used a company that doesn't just *make* the video, but has a plan of distribution, and posts it to a ton of different sites. I really think that's key, but of course, you pay more for that kind of thing.

Is a book trailer necessary for a book to be successful? No. Does it help sell a book? That's the big question, isn't it? I think the verdict is still out. However, it's done well, and people decide to post your trailer around the internet, I do think it can bring some attention to your book it wouldn't have gotten otherwise. But if I had to rank things by importance, I'm not sure I would give a book trailer that high of a rating. I think there are lots of other things that are probably more effective for promoting your book.

Now I'll show you a couple of MY favorites. Here are a couple of trailers done by fans of I HEART YOU, YOU HAUNT ME. They read the book, and felt inspired to make a video.
How cool is THAT???

~Lisa, Miss Crafting a Career

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Book Trailers: I just can't decide!

Tip of the Day: If you haven't had the pleasure of watching Lara Zielin's Editing Letter music video, check it out now!

I keep struggling with whether or not book trailers are worth it. If you're savvy with moviemaker software and you're going to do it yourself and it's no biggie then sure, ok give it a chance. Every little bit helps. Or if you're a bestseller (or on your way to being a bestseller--like your publisher is throwing big giant piles of cash at promotion for your book) then ok, I can see putting some money behind a book trailer. Theory being that people may already be hearing the buzz on your book and want to find out more. Like the booktrailer for Hush, Hush that Em pointed out on Tuesday. Awesome book trailer, gets right to the drama, cool graphics, good music, and under a minute. But it had to cost a fortune. I looked at the price sheet for the company that made that video and to get moving graphics like she had put it easily in the $2000 range. Wise investment? For her I can see it. She's a NYT bestseller. The video has had over 42,000 hits. That's amazing! BUT, do I think that people stumbled upon her video and THEN went looking for the book? Nope. I think people heard the buzz either before the book came out or once it came out (and this book had loads of great buzz!), maybe even read it already, and THEN looked for the video. Of course, this is just what I think. Do you agree or disagree?

For me? I almost never look at booktrailers. I will look at my friend's booktrailers once I see them post on their blog that they are up but that's about it. And I was going to buy their book anyway so does that even count? Do teens really search youtube looking for booktrailers and then go buy the books? I'd LOVE to know this. I really think it's the buzz that comes first. And if you don't have the heavy promotion behind you creating a buzz then I think your trailer has to be super super creative & clever to create the buzz. Take Simone Elkeles's Perfect Chemistry. Everyone, and I mean everyone, was talking about her trailer when it came out. And it's super cute. I would totally go get the book after seeing this. It's not straight up GO BUY MY BOOK NOW as much as it is entertaining and fun. And take Lara Zielin. She is freaking hysterical! But her youtube videos aren't really booktrailers. They are more super funny entertaining videos that subtly show her book. Like this one. And, to take a look at another super creative book trailer, look at Jessica Brody's trailer for her book Karma Club coming out in April. It plays like a mini-movie and has already received loads of hits since it came out a week or so ago.

And let me throw out another question to our readers, what ages are book trailers really for anyway? Loads of YA authors make them so I assume that means the target audience is 12 and up. But are they popular with adult fiction too? I haven't heard of adults looking at booktrailers before making a purchase. And what about middle grade? I have a middle grade novel coming out in August and it targets ages 11-14. Would kids that age watch book trailers? (p.s.-- just got my ARCs! Peek at them on my blog.).

Kristina, Miss See Me on the Shelves

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

YouTubeage (or Video Killed the YA Book Star*)

*With apologies to The Buggles

Tip of the Day: Use the time you spent watching the Olympics to work on your writing project this week. Or to catch up on the programs you missed while watching the Olympics....

Overall, I enjoy some book trailers once I watch them, but my time is precious so I only click on a link to watch a book trailer if:
a) I know the author
b) it gets tons and tons of positive buzz online.

That doesn't mean I might not enjoy book trailers that I'm not compelled to watch; just that I don't often watch them. In order to find a book trailer to call one of my favorites for this blog entry, I went to YouTube, searched for "YA Book Trailer" and watched a bunch -- I wasn't even aware of most of these trailers until I did a search. As a YA Librarian, I'll add that I have never bought or recommended a book bc of a book trailer I'd seen. As an author, I think it'd be fun to have a book trailer. All this I only point out to say:

a) anyone who bothers to make a trailer for their book should look for creative ways to get them noticed (especially after all that hard work!)


b) librarians like to play online so finding ways to get their attention with book trailers could lead to more word of mouth views.

Of those that I do watch, there are some aspects that I enjoy more than others:
a) I prefer still shots with text to read over live action with vocals (perhaps bc I want to mimic a novel-reading experience instead of a movie-watching experience?)
a1) and the text needs to change quickly bc it doesn't take 5 seconds to read 5 words
b) I prefer 60 seconds or less to those over a minute (like with any commercial, it needs to get to the point quickly; the shorter the better though I know it's hard to find any book trailers 60 seconds or less)
c) I prefer powerful background music to background sound effects (voices, bells, sirens, etc.)

So, based on my own personal book trailer likes -- and based on the story being told as well, which can't be ignored -- here's one of my favorite YA book trailers. Enjoy!

What do you like or dislike about this trailer? Would you do one for your book?

Deena, Miss Subbing for Pubbing

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Be Creative with Book Trailers

Tip of the Day: if you want to make your own booktrailer, don't forget to get all the rights or permission to use any songs, images, etc.

I'm going to be completely honest in saying that I don't watch many book trailers. As a librarian, I find most of my books through other avenues, such as review journals, book review sites, friends, etc. But I think book trailers are an awesome idea, especially to appeal to teens and tweens. If you friend a teen on Facebook and post a video, they are likely to look!

In the book trailers I have seen, there are a few things that appeal to me the most:

  • Short
  • Too-the-point
  • Creativity
  • Not revealing too much information
  • Not showing too many images that I can't form my own when reading the book
  • And music (which Kate already touched on yesterday)
There's nothing that I hate more than watching a movie trailer, then going to the theater and realizing that every good part was shown in the trailer. In fact, I try to avoid a lot of movie trailers now as a result of this trend. When they come on during the previews, I get the basic information, then I close my eyes so I don't see too much. And when I do manage to peek through, I've gotten really good at determining which movies have revealed too much in the trailer and as a result, I'm probably not going to fork over $8 to see it in the theater.

Book trailers work the same way for me. I only want a teaser. I don't want all the information, or even that much information. Just basic info to get me interested.

Like this trailer for Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick. It doesn't give too much away, opens with a great image of someone falling, has great music to fit the theme, and it doesn't show a ton of images that I can't decide how I want the character to look myself or the town to look when I'm reading (which is one of the reasons I personally read over watching movies).

I also believe that everyone is capable of making a book trailer that works, so you don't have to spend tons of money by hiring a production company to make one if you don't want too or don't have the funds. There's lots of inexpensive and even free movie making software out there, and if you spend a few hours learning about the software, you can make one yourself. Or maybe you could find a local film school or even high school to make one for you. We are doing a short clip for a book at my library and the high school students are going to make it for us as a school project.

Basically get creative. They can still be really simple, though, such as this one for Sarah Dessen's Along for the Ride, which only uses animated text. Or this one from Meg Cabot in which she basically just talks about the book. They both do the job of telling you about the book. And really for me that's all I need.

--Emily, Miss Querylicious

Monday, March 1, 2010

Book Trailers: It's All in the Soundtrack

Tip of the Day: The deadline for materials to ARRIVE for the SCBWI work in progress grant in March 15.

More and more authors are making book trailers to promote their novels, and I think it's a good thing. A book trailer can make me more willing to pick up a book than I might have been before I watched it. I found this out when we did some Author2Author scoping out of book trailers for this week's post series on book trailers. The question we asked is: what works in a trailer and what doesn't?

After watching a few trailers, I found what really makes a trailer resonate with me is the music. The music should recreate the tone and mood of the novel.

What kind of novel is it? Emotional and haunting, like Lisa's CHASING BROOKLYN? Then the trailer features modern classical music that is also emotional and haunting. The trailer for BEAUTIFUL CREATURES by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl uses modern classical music that's straight up creepy. I like it!

So then I got curious as to what kind of music a light rom-com novel might use in a trailer. How about the trailer to PROM KINGS AND DRAMA QUEENS by Dorian Cirrone? This alt-pop music is totally upbeat and energetic, which fits the story. I've already read this novel and enjoyed it, but it seemed to me that the trailer gave away too much of the plot. I prefer trailers that convey the mood better.

Here's an example of a trailer for a humorous novel: INTO THE WILD NERD YONDER by Julie Halpern. This trailer is so different than the others. It uses animated drawings instead of still pictures, and the music is electronica! Cool! I've seen this novel in the library, but it has a very busy hot pink cover and didn't look appealing. But after seeing the trailer, I'm much more intrigued and plan to pick it up.

So if you're making a book trailer, think MUSIC! Whether it's pop, electronica, or haunting violins, that music will tell me what I can expect: high energy fun, modern tech, or a good scare. I'd love to know how people pick out the music for their trailers.

-- Kate, Miss Perfecting the Pages