Thursday, May 30, 2013


For the past few years, I have belonged to an amazing group of reader-bloggers known as The Bookanistas. Our collective includes librarians, writers (published and not-yet-published), parents, friends, travel enthusiasts, theater geeks, and people who are actually great at technology stuff (I'm not in that bunch but am grateful to know them). Foremost, however, we are all readers and lovers of stories. We are kids who grew up sneaking books into bed, reading by flashlight under covers, asking for books for Christmas and, as adults, having an embarrassing number of books to dust on those occasions when we clean house.

Today, we are re-launching our website with a bright new look.

We're sharing summer (reading) tips. Here are mine:
  • Read one book outside of your favorite genre this summer. An adult book, a sci-fi (if you're a contemp fan--or vice versa), or even a pile of picture books. And, reread an old childhood favorite (Nancy Drew, Little House, Judy Blume.) Ask yourself if you've become a different type of reader as an adult. Do you still love the oldie (and for the same or different reasons)? Can you appreciate the off-genre book (and how/why)?
  • Don't wear a binki if you don't want to. T-shirts rule. Especially if they're from Broadway shows or Buffy or make me look like I have an actual waistline (hey, I'm allowed to dream).
AND there are prizes if you enter!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Signed copies of these Bookanista-authored books…
LET THE SKY FALL by Shannon Messenger
BY BLOOD by Tracy Banghart
TOUCHING THE SURFACE by Kimberly Sabatini (plus a swag surprise)
BAD TASTE IN BOYS by Carrie Harris
AUDITION by Stasia Ward Kehoe
THE GIRL GUIDE by Christine Fonseca (plus sweet swag)
MILA 2.0 by Debra Driza
LEVEL ONE by Lenore Appelhans
AND A SECOND WINNER WILL GET A BOX FILLED WITH Bookanista-beloved reads including DITCHED by Robin Mellom, JELLICO ROAD by Melina Marchetta, TAKEN by Erin Bowman, CLOCKWORK ANGEL by Cassandra Clare, MONSTROUS BEAUTY by Elizabeth Fama and SPARROW ROAD by Sheila O’Connor.

Now, pop along to get advice from more Bookanistas and feel free to leave your own tips and recs anywhere along the way! Where? At the websites and blogs of...
Carolina Valdez Miller, Carrie Harris,  Christine Fonseca, Corrine Jackson, Debra Driza, Elana Johson, Jessica Love, Katy Upperman, Kimberly Sabatini, Lenore Appelhans,  Nikki Katz, Rebecca Behrens, Shannon Messenger , Shelli Johannes-WellsTracey Neithercott, and Tracy Banghart!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday: SISTERLAND by Curtis Sittenfeld

From the author of PREP and AMERICAN WIFE, comes a story of psychic twin sisters dealing with a disturbing premonition. Oooh!

I never stop enjoying BREAKING THE SPINE’s marvelous midweek meme. Click the link if you want to join the fun.  Or share your WoW in the comments below!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Back to Business: What is Pre-Publication Buzz?

Okay, you've done the brainstorming about read-alikes, your blog community, marketing outreach that suits your personality... But how does this all add up to an actual MARKETING PLAN? You know, a list of things you can actually do or strive to make happen to raise reader-awareness of your book.

Every week, when I start writing my Monday marketing post, I think, "this is the post where I'll sum it all up." But this is a huge topic and it's going to take a few more weeks to get there. I've been working in publishing for twenty years and seen this business from the perspective of an in-house library marketing staffer, a freelance writer of jacket copy and educational marketing materials, and as an author. There's just so much to say and the best marketing for a book should be carefully analyzed and title/author-specific. So, I'm going to steal a few more Mondays of your time to try to put together the pieces.

THE FIRST PART OF YOUR WRITTEN MARKETING PLAN should be the things you are going
to do BEFORE your book is published.

Note: If you're currently agent-hunting, on submission or writing a manuscript, you can take the brainstorming material and use it to refine your online presence. Connect to your live writing community by attending writing conferences, local writer group meetings, bookstore events (such as signings) and help out at your local or school library.

If you have a book in the pipeline--if you are between one year and six months out, the first part of your Marketing Plan document should be a list of PRE-PUBLICATION "to-do's" such as...

--Creating or updating your Amazon author page and making sure it is linked to your social media outlets of choice (e.g., blog, Twitter) so that your page has new content as frequently as possible.
--Doing goodwill outreach to local libraries, bookstores and schools, such as offering a book talk, writing workshop, or simply helping out the book people in that venue.
--Reaching out to any groups or organizations that might have a special interest or connection to your book (e.g., if you write about soccer or if your character is a painter, consider appropriate sports clubs or arts schools)
--Planning the timing of an arc give-away on Goodreads
--Planning a few pre-pub blog stops to discuss your upcoming book
--Developing any author-driven specialty opportunities for arc distribution and getting ready to discuss this with your editor or publicist (depends on house protocol)
--If budget allows, designing and producing a bookmark or other swag item

WHAT ELSE can you do (or have you done) to generate pre-publication buzz for your book?


Thursday, May 23, 2013

Bookanistas: GRAVE MERCY by Robin LaFevers

Plot without spoilers... Isme escapes a cruel destiny as the purchased wife of a village brute by being delivered to a mysterious and secret convent wherein girls are raised as "Handmaidens of Death." There she finds companionship and dark purpose. Then she is sent into the world of 15th century noble court on a mission to protect, Anne, the young heir to the throne of Brittany. Her guise? Mistress to Anne's illegitimate brother, Duval. Her challenge: Is Duval the traitor the convent leaders suspect him to be? Or is the guidance the nuns are receiving from Mortain, the saint of death, the thing that is not what it seems.

Of literary merit...I had the pleasure of hearing Robin LaFever's speak about PACING at the Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrator's Western Washington Chapter's annual conference last month. Her presentation was full of understanding, encouragement, precision and knowledge from both her research on craft and her own experience. After her talk, I ran to the conference bookstore and purchased Grave Mercy to "read her technique in action." Not only is the novel a lively and engrossing read, it is a lesson in exquisite pacing. From plots to subplots (the plight of Duchess Anne, the evolving relationship between Isme and Duval, the secrets of Isme's childhood), from character development (the charming Beast, the frail Isabeau) to the question of larger themes (can death be both a curse or a gift; how can be loyal to an oath in the face of love), the book artfully interweaves romance, mystery and adventure. Perhaps most impressive of all, LaFevers gives readers a richly satisfying conclusion along with a winsome invitation to the next book in her Fair Assasins series.

Finally, just gotta say... Here is an instance where the girl-in-the-red-dress cover totally works. It is arresting and, for me, captures the spirit of the novel. LaFevers joins Katherine Longshore on my list of "authors who are persuading me that historical fiction totally rocks"!

Click on for more Bookanista fun this fine Thursday.

Elana Johson is enthralled by CROWN OF EMBERS by Rae Carson

Christine Fonseca  adores DEAD SILENCE by Kimberly Derting

Corrine Jackson revels in ALONG FOR THE RIDE by Sara Dessen

Katy Upperman is charmed by QUINTANA OF CHARYN by Melina Marchetta

Kimberly Sabatini is touched by TARNISH by Katherine Longshore

Lenore Appelhans  loves The Originals by Cat Patrick 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday: BOY NOBODY by Allen Zadoff

I've been a huge Allen Zadoff fan for years and this book just looks amazing. If you don't believe me, check out this trailer...
Admit it. It sounds AWESOME...

Monday, May 20, 2013

An Awesome Author Evening at University Bookstore!

Just got home from a terrific Simon & Schuster author event. The Summer Lovin' Tour touched down at Seattle's University Bookstore this evening. Here are my TOP FIVE superlatives and one bad photo because I am probably the world's worst photographer.

Jessi Kirby & Morgan Matson
They are seriously so adorable (if I could only focus a camera)!
Coolest cover secret: The spine under the hardcover jacket of Jessi Kirby's GOLDEN is actually gold. (Also, ask about her new surfboard.)

 Most Revelatory Food Obsession: Morgan Matson's literary relationship with corn-on-the-cob
"Could it be coincidence" or was Adele's James Bond cover song inspired by Shannon Messenger? Ooh. Hmm. Think about it.
Best "Can You Imagine": Kimberly Derting as a trucker-lady?
(Don't you wish you'd been there to hear that story?!)

New Fan-Girl Dream: To see one of Sarah Ockler's writing spreadsheets.
Really. Seriously. And you should dream this dream, too!

Back to Business: Some (Counterintuitive) Advice about Book Promotion via Blogs

As we work toward the building of a marketing plan for your book, here's a QUESTION:
In seeking bloggers to participate in book launches, blog tours, etc., should you reach out to...

A - the bloggers with the largest follower numbers, or
B - the bloggers ones who most love your genre and/or book?


Of course, a blogger who loves your work and ALSO has a strong following is terrific. I follow several "power-blogs" run by people I adore--people who truly love their books and their work.  That said, the thing about the blogosphere right now is that it is ENORMOUS. It requires people to be selective and specific about their virtual travels. More followers does not always mean more return-traffic nor does the follower number quantify how many people genuinely use the blog's book recommendations as a resource. It takes one click to follow--but it's more of a commitment to stay connected to and continue to read and use a blog.

While some would say that all publicity is good publicity, my experience suggests that it is reader LOVE that helps books get traction. A blogger who appreciates your genre, writing style or even your other work (e-zine and paper magazine articles, publications in other genres, Twitter comments in #yalitchat, etc.) is more likely to give your novel a THOUGHTFUL read and, possibly, review. S/he is more likely to suggest your novel to other, like-minded people for whom YOURS is the truly the book they seek.

Bookstore people often talk about the power of the hand-sell. The joy they take in putting the perfect title into a reader's hands, and in sharing books they love with others. Bloggers have told me similar things. And it doesn't take a 1,000+ following to hand sell. Sometimes it's the smaller, independent blogger that can connect your books with more individual readers.

ONE TIP: Get over the numbers game...  Finding the right bloggers for your book via their stats is like submitting a manuscript to an agent simply because they list "YA" in their "represents" genre list (and not researching their client roster, interests or sales records). After a glance at the numbers, check out a blogger's own blogroll or link list. Does this blogger's taste in OTHER BLOGGERS resemble your own? Are they connected to a genre community in which you, also, read or write?

ANOTHER TIP: Put your money where your mouse is... If you discover an awesome blog, let the blogger know. Leave a comment. Share your thoughts about a book you both loved. Ask a question, if appropriate. CLICK, darn it!

A THIRD (AND FINAL) TIP: Speak up... If you are working with a blog tour service, take the time to share your list of favorite blogs, to discuss how the blogs are selected by the service, and what types of blogs you think will best connect you to your audience.

Not every blog lasts indefinitely. Not every blog gets traction. And neither does every book. But what does live on and, I believe, will always exist (even in the Amazon-buys-Goodreads ocean in through we writers currently doggie-paddle) is the passionate, vibrant, thoughtful community of online lovers of story. Find your people. Whether in cyberspace or library chairs, book lovers are people. And people are what matter.

Next Monday: After all this brainstorming, how to start actually writing your marketing plan.

Thursday, May 16, 2013


We've been busy reading and loving stuff in between helping our kids study for finals, celebrating graduations, and enjoying the tantalizing almost-summer weather. And we've been getting ready for some fun Bookanista news, coming May 30th. Meanwhile...

Lenore Appelhans  is blown away by REBOOT by Amy Tintera
Carrie Harris adores BEYOND DINOCALYPSE by Chuck Wendig -- with giveaway!
Tracy Banghart  joins THE GIRL GUIDE by Christine Fonseca book blitz!
 Corrine Jackson is stunned by BREAKING BEAUTIFUL by Jennifer Shaw Wolf
Nikki Katz  wonders at THE GRAVE WINNER by Lindsey Loucks
Gretchen McNeil talks TRUTH OR DARE by Jacqueline Green
Elana Johson admires INSOMNIA by Jenn Johannson
Tracey Neithercott celebrates THE YEAR JOF SECRET ASSIGNMENTS by Jacqueline Moriarty
Katy Upperman fawns over FINNIKIN OF THE ROCK by Melina Marchetta

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Happy Book Birthday to THE GIRL GUIDE by Christine Fonseca!

Christine Fonseca is the charming and versatile author of YA fiction as well as non-fiction for kids and parents.  And I was thrilled to have the opportunity to make a contribution to her latest book! THE GIRL GUIDE is getting some great blogger buzz at places like Enthralled by Books and the Prettiest of Views. Check it out if there's a tween or young teen girl in your world.  Here are the links to B&N and IndieBound.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

It's Children's Book Week!

And today the CBC will be announcing
the Children's and Teen's Choice Book Awards!
Ready, set...CLICK!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Back to Business: Identifying the Resources You Already Have (but maybe don't recognize) to Market Your Book

Sometimes the idea of guiding your book out into the world is simply terrifying. Likely you started in this business because you wanted to WRITE BOOKS, not because you wanted to generate character interviews and playlists, participate in giveaways and blog tours, bare your soul about the lonely and often highly-caloric life of one who sits at a keyboard waiting for the muse while ingesting chocolate or Pringles or whatever. IT IS SCARY. You feel powerless. Also, possibly annoyed and intimidated. But I HAVE SOME GOOD NEWS.


At many a conference, I have heard editors, publicists, agents and authors advise others that you should help market your book in ways that feel natural--ways you are comfortable. Don't start vlogging if you hate it. Don't create a blog if it's not your thing. Don't speak to school kids if it drives you to drink. But what they don't tell you is WHAT YOU SHOULD DO.  I'm gonna try.


1. Think of your FAVORITE thing to do when you're not in your author world. Do you hike? Draw? Go to rock concerts or community theater productions?  Who from that world is also interested in books? How do you connect those parts of your life (there may be no answer, but try)?

2. Think of times you have helped others get the word out about ANYTHING (your kid's school play, a political campaign, a new business). What kind of help did you lend them? What parts of the effort did you enjoy?

3. Where would you LOVE to visit? NOT HAWAII. I mean a lower-forty-states city, maybe a
landmark bookstore or your college alma mater. Make a list of at least five of these places and, if possible, people you know there (even FB friends are fine!).

4. Run through your LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter connections, as well as any professional organization or other group lists, and write down the names of people with whom you genuinely enjoy interacting, or whom you've always wanted to reach out to because they make interesting contributions to chats, write cool posts, talk about their local library, whatever.

5. Do you have a cousin who is the president of anything? Heehee! I don't. Wish I did.

#5 aside, you have before you the seeds of a promotional team, a list of potential tour stops, and the beginning of a brainstorm of ideas for the WAYS in which you would like to share your AMAZING ACCOMPLISHMENT. 

YOU WROTE A BOOK, BTW. Don't knock it!
NEXT WEEK, we'll start putting the pieces together into a MARKETING PLAN.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Bookanistas: THE FIFTH WAVE by Rick Yancey

Plot without spoilers...An alien invasion threatens to destroy humankind--and the humanity within those who remain alive. Can Cassie survive? And, if she does, who or what will be left of the girl she used to be before the coming of the Fifth Wave?

Of literary interest...Kudos to the book design team who created a look for the novel that matches its edgy structure. Beyond appreciating Cassie's impeccably-crafted apocalyptic world, and the thrill-a-minute plot that keeps you wondering who the good guys are right up to the final pages, readers will appreciate Yancey's deep, rich exploration of the meanings of words like "self," "other," "trust," and "hope."

Finally, just gotta say...I would never have picked up this arc if it had not been recommended to me by a very smart publishing biz gal. It's a big book (both long, page-wise, and highly promoted, marketing-budget wise). And the jealous-resentful-mid-list writer in me was initially resistant to spending hours reading these particular pages. But I am beyond glad that I did so because this novel is, simply, empirically and literarily a terrific read. Rick Yancey deserves the hype. So, uh, thanks Colleen!

Want more Bookanista book love this Thursday?

Christine Fonseca  marvels at MILA 2.0 by Debra Driza – with giveaway!
Corrine Jackson is blown away by BRUISED by Sarah Skilton
Elana Johson  buzzes about STUNG by Bethany Wiggins
Jessica Love raves about THE RULES FOR DISAPPEARING by Ashley Elton
Shannon Messenger  shares an exclusive excerpt from INSOMNIA
Tracy Banghart  swoons for THE NAME OF THE STAR by Maureen Johnson
Lenore Appelhans celebrates 17 AND GONE by Nova Ren Suma

And Thursday is not just Bookanista day but, all year, it's VerseDay (details at  This week's host is ONE A DAY YA. Click on over for reviews of ORCHARDS by Holly Thompson, MAY B. by Caroline Starr Rose, and DISPLACEMENT by Thalia Chaltas.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday: TARNISH by Katherine Longshore

Still having fun with BREAKING THE SPINE’s fabulous midweek meme.Here’s this week’s pick…

The gilded cover is SO pretty--sorry this pick doesn't do it justice.

Why?... Katherine has this amazing talent for making teens in historical settings feel achingly real and relatable. FYI, you don't need to read her debut novel, GILT, to enjoy TARNISH. They are both fantastic as standalones. But, if you're an anglophile like me (drat you Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie, W. Somerset Maugham, Noel Streatfield), you'l want to read them both. Then you'll want to go to England and visit some castles. In honesty, I'm not waiting for this book because I've already read the arc (read my review HERE) but I am excited that others will be able to read it soon!

Preorder at AMAZON.

What are you waiting on this week?


Monday, May 6, 2013

Back to Business: WHAT IS A MARKETING PLAN (and who is in charge of it)?


Ever wondered this? Sometimes it's easier to know what a marketing plan isn't.  A marketing plan is not a SALES plan. A sales plan is a plan for maximizing revenue and closing deals. Sales is what happens when a customer takes a book to the cash register of a local bookstore and hands over his or her credit card. Sales is getting said bookstore, novelty shop, big box chain, book club, etc., to stock/list your title.  Marketing is also not PUBLICITY efforts, which you might consider the attention-grabbing actions that require payment, such as placing ads in teen magazines (virtual or paper) and sometimes producing professional book trailers or other promo materials (note: publicists also arrange for radio/tv appearances but let's assume you're NOT Chris Coifer or Tyra Banks, 'kay?). YOU (the book author, exceptions noted in intro, above) can rarely impact point-of-sale. And, if you're like me, you have no personal publicity budget. BUT you can make a strong contribution to marketing, because...

MARKETING is a collection of "cost-free" (as in dollar cost, not time and effort) things done to connect with prospective book buyers. Marketing is reaching out, persuading, enticing...

This is merely a working definition because, as in many industries, children's and YA book publishers' trade marketing plans have significant overlap with publicity and educational marketing. 
For many titles, the marketing plan is a pro-forma document including such generic phrases as "online promotion & social media outreach" and "ARC distribution and blogger outreach." Sometimes, there's no actual written plan at all. You can ask (nicely) to see your in-house marketing plan but don't freak if one isn't forthcoming. This is nobody's fault. Big-name authors and highly anticipated novels will get the most attention in-house and everywhere else. But there's a bright lining to this cloud: The more bland your in-house marketing plan, the lower the sales expectations likely are for your novel. You have more opportunity for small victories and less risk of flaming out.  Embrace the very typical scenario that you're getting low-level marketing attention, and that much of the marketing effort will fall to you (e.g., that "blogger outreach"? - your job!).

But you can still help yourself along. Keep in mind that you are a WRITER, not a marketing professional (some exceptions surely apply) and that you probably have a limited amount of time to support your publisher's marketing efforts. Here are some ways to be efficient and a solid team player.  First...

Take a sober step back from your beloved manuscript and ask yourself: WHO WILL WANT TO
READ THIS BOOK? WHO WILL LIKE THIS BOOK? More specifically, answer these questions:

1. WHO are three other authors who I believe have similar readership? And how are their books marketed?
2. HOW might I draw the narrowest parameter around my "ideal" reader (e.g., age 7-9; girl; horse-lover; suburbanite - OR - age 16-20; girl; educated; sexually curious; child of divorce). And, are there magazines, websites, blogs, specialty stores, clubs, etc., that speak to this same reader?
3. DOES my book have more than one type of reader? If so, repeat exercises A & B. This may especially be the case with crossover titles.
4. WHO buys books for my ideal reader (parents, friends, readers themselves, online or in-store)?
5. DOES this book have CLASSROOM POTENTIAL (go learn about the Common Core Standards and write 2-3 bullet points showing any connections).

That's a lot of work, but it is important for a writer to answer these questions for him/herself. they are the equivalent of your "elevator pitch" for the next leg of the author journey. Whether or not you already have a virtual platform or other marketing springboard, you are now becoming a smart advocate for your book, ready to jump in and help your publisher draw eyes to your lovely cover. You are in a position to ask your publisher for help because you have done some serious work to identify your market and are not wasting time asking for broad, expensive help that will really only be given to proven superstars and lead titles.

WHEN SHOULD YOU ASK YOURSELF THESE QUESTIONS? As soon as possible after you've finished revising the ms (don't tweak the ms for marketing--very bad idea).

Keep your answers and get ready for next Monday's worksheet/questionnaire: Identifying the Resources You Already Have...

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Bookanista Book Love

I'm a bit buried under books right now but that's no reason you shouldn't have your Bookanista Book Love this beautiful Thursday (also, no idea why I'm workin' those B's)...

Jessica Love covets the cover of THE LOST PLANET by Rachel Searles
Tracey Neithercott is pepped about PIVOT POINT by Kasie West
Shari Arnold raves about THE MALCOM REECE LIST by Amy Spaulding
Nikki Katz delves into SOMETHING STRANGE AND DEADLY by Susan Dennard
Katy Upperman  raves about some recent reads


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday: DRONE PILOT by Conrad Wesselhoeft

Waiting on Wednesday is a great meme hosted by BREAKING THE SPINE. It's a great way to find new reads and bloggers who like books in your genre. I've been getting my feet wet with WoWs for awhile and having lots of fun.

My WoW this week is going to require a long wait. Maybe it's more of a "congrats and look out for this one next year." Anyhow, my esteemed former critique group colleague, Conrad Wesselhoeft's second book is due out from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt next year. I've read parts of this manuscript and the writing is A++++. Conrad is a writer's writer--the kind of guy who crafts sentences so amazing you almost want to sing them. I am beyond thrilled that HMH will be putting these awesome pages between covers in 2014. Here's the announcement from PM...

World rights to ADIOS, NIRVANA author Conrad Wesselhoeft's DRONE PILOT, in which a dirt-bike-riding daredevil catches the eye of the U.S. military with his 1st-place ranking on a drone warfare video game, and must reconcile the work they want him to do with the lingering brokenness of his own violence-touched family, again to Kate O'Sullivan at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children's, by Erin Murphy of Erin Murphy Literary Agency.

Go meet Conrad at his website. Or, better still, pick up a copy of his gorgeous debut novel, ADIOS  NIRVANA here.