Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Wordy Wednesday: WHAT...?

It's Wednesday already?  I'd swear it was Monday about two seconds ago.  This week is flying by and filled with driving (football, cross country, soccer, play practice, band practice...).  I'm in this strange nether-world between having sent off revisions to my editor and not having time to get back to revising my next ms which I am LONGING to do.  Oh, I've spent the occasional half-hour at the computer tranfering my pages of notes-jotted-down-while-waiting-at-red-lights into the new ms.  But real, solid, three or four hour chunks of time to do the big things I want and need to do have proven elusive. WHAT am I going to do?  Answers...please...?

Monday, September 27, 2010

Back-to-Business Monday: THE HONORARIUM QUESTION Part 3 - Promotions & Incentives

While connecting with potential readers (as well as with educators, librarians and others in the book community who are interested in you and your work) is an important benefit of the author or illustrator appearance, it is optimal to have your marketing efforts also get the most number of books into the hands of readers.  Here are a few ideas for moving copies.
  • Consider appearing for a discounted fee (or even just travel/hotel expenses) if there is a bulk book purchase.  This can be beneficial for newer and even more accomplished authors to show their support for such programs as a community book distribution or a One School-One Book event.
  • Ask your publisher if they offer a pricing discount to schools/libraries hosting their authors. If so, make sure that this discount information is provided to all hosts to encourage book purchases.  If you have a reading guide, link to a really good newspaper interview you've done, or other read-the-book enticements, make sure to provide this information to hosts along with book order details when you confirm an appearance.
  • Create a special appearance benefit for groups having read your book.  For example, if you're going to speak at a school, offer to have a special session with members of their book group if they've read your book.  Or, offer a special talk tied to particular curriculum areas and with special "author secrets revealed" material for appearances at which all students will have read your book and are ready for a special, in-depth workshop.
Beyond the fact that selling books is good for your career, the more members of your audience have copies of your book, the more engaged they are likely to be in your visit.  There's just something cool about having a copy of a book written by someone you have seen or even met!  Obviously, the more books there are to sign, the more fun and energized signings will be as well.  Which brings me to the topic for next Monday: School Appearances and Bookstore Signings.

I'll finish her by noting that, as always, these suggestions should be considered merely starting points to get you thinking about the how and why of promoting your book.  Have you had a particularly successful author appearance, gotten a great appearance marketing tip from a website or writer colleague, or thought of another author appearance idea to share?  Please leave a comment so we can all learn from each other!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Fiction Tuesday (?): Back-to-School Books

Okay, for some reason this went up today, instead of on fiction friday!

Teaching, learning, and the meaning of education are on everyone's mind this month. So much MG and YA fiction is set in--or comments on--school that it's tricky to define a "back-to-school" themed reading list.  And, of course, there are some educated wizards and summer-camp Olympians that are kind of their own NYT-best-selling genres.  That said, here are a few of my favorite boarding school tales (old and new):  

(Frances Hodgson Burnett's ultimate orphan-versus-mean-boarding-school-headmistress story)

(The first in Ally Carter's fun Gallagher Girls series about a secret boarding school for she-spies-in-training)

(Lauren Baratz-Logsted's historical fiction in which Bet disguises herself as a boy to get an education--with romance!)
What's on your back-to-school reading list?

Friday, September 17, 2010


Revisions are done.  Well, put it this way, I THINK they're done but I am taking Saturday off and will reread the manuscript on Sunday morning to see if I still like it :)

Meanwhile, I think this is an appropriate moment to thank the Starbucks near the field where my eighth-grader practices football and where I have spend countless blissful hours writing and revising.

Honestly, my book is partly MADE of grande, decaf, three-pump, light whip mochas -- as are my thighs!

I've never been much of a coffee connoisseur and I'm not going to launch into some massive commentary about fast food and chain restaurants but I've gotta give credit where credit is due.  And, for someone who spends most days sitting at a desk in the same house where she sleeps, works, cooks, reads, and does the laundry, there's a lot to be said for a clean table by a three-pronged outlet and a cup of something hot I didn't brew myself.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

WORDY WEDNESDAY: Drafts & Revisions

Working, working, working to meet my editor's September 20 deadline.  These are not the big-picture revisions of the first pass, but finer corrections (word choices, some cuts, etc.).  Still, being the plodder that I am, I read through the ms again and again, making sure that each change feels organic--that the characters are still true to themselves on every page.  Gotta say, while the first revision was bigger, this pass is harder going sometimes.  Maybe it's because this one feels more final. I start thinking to myself, "This is what my novel is going to say," and then I kind of (well, totally) panic.

One outcome of this panic's concurrency with the time crunch of back-to-school is that I have stopped drafting all of my blog posts in Word, revising them, and the copying them into Blogger.  Yup, I've started winging it. I mean, naturally I proofread before hitting "publish" but I do just start at the "new post" box and let it rip.  I'm wondering if this will affect the tone of what I write.  Or even the topics I choose.  Regardless, with one book nearing the revision finish-line and my fingers itching to get back to revising my NEXT novel, I just can't handle any more drafting in my life.  (Okay, truth, I've already written the next two HONORARIUM posts (Mondays) in Word but OTHERWISE...)

Do you draft and revise your posts?  Pre-write them?  Plan ahead?  Or are we winging it together?

Monday, September 13, 2010


First, a quick note: SEPTEMBER 12-18, 2010, is NATIONAL ARTS IN EDUCATION WEEK.   Arts education embraces disciplines from dance, drama, and design to music, media and literature. Does your novel feature an artistic element?  Might be worth visiting the NEA website to learn more.

Now, on to the question of DISCOUNTING honorarium fees.  In general, I think consistency is very important in setting prices for appearances.  That, said, there are certain situations in which a lower honorarium fee or other accommodation may be warranted.

  • It's local.  A lower fee (or waiver of travel/expense costs) can be offered to local or in-state schools and libraries as this is your "home turf" and requires less time on your part.  Some authors even consider offering single-presentations or part-day visits
  • You have a new book out.  To launch a new book into the world and maximize appearances without seeming cheap, consider offering a lower-priced, new-title focused program for a brief, specific duration around your pub date.
  • You're willing to go virtual.  To promote your book, consider Skype visits, online chats or other virtual type appearances which you can offer at a lower price. you present your fees to schools and libraries?  With budgets tighter than ever, it always helps to be flexible. So, whatever you decide to quote, you might finish with a phrase like "please let me know how this works with your budget" so that you leave the door open for them to give you feedback versus just never replying if the number seems too high to them. This is also gives you the opportunity to discuss their needs and suggest some of your lower-priced options if available. really want to get exposure for your first (or a new) book and/or experience with presentations, you may want to discount for some period of time.  Just remember there's a notable cost to you in terms of time (aka foregone writing or work time), preparation, travel, and logistics (babysitter for kids, sub for your classroom, etc.), so think it through carefully.  Do the math to make sure you're not actually incurring costs to do appearances.

All of these honorarium posts are meant to help you give thoughtful, thorough consideration to what it means to charge for appearances, just like you do to other elements of your marketing plans.  Taking the time to do this in advance makes answering questions along the way much easier.

NEXT WEEK: Promotions & Incentives

Friday, September 10, 2010

Fiction Friday: ADIOS, NIRVANA and Chicken Nuggets

Drawing my Random Acts of Publicity Week to a close, check out this great write-up of my critique group buddy Conrad Wesselhoeft's October debut novel ADIOS, NIRVANA.  Conrad is an absolutely wonderful writer.  He crafts every sentence, every paragraph, with such power and care.  It is a joy to hear him read during our critique group meetings.  I learn something every time.  Do make sure to add his terrific book to your to-read list.

I've got a September 20 deadline from my editor right now so I'm plugging through some line edits and trying to tighten up a few things in the ms.  Honestly, the pressure is starting to get to me, thus my children ate chicken nuggets tonight and it's Rice Krispies for breakfast. Wishing you a tastier weekend than we'll have at my house!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Wordy Wednesday: OF CABBAGES & TURTLES

Continuing my week of Random Acts of Publicity with a shout-out for the delightful David Elliott's Jeremy Cabbage and the Living Museum of Human Oddballs and Quadruped Delights--a wonderful middle-grade Orphan-Annie-meets-A-Series-of-Unfortunate-Events adventure that I discovered at my very favorite NH indie bookstore Main Street Bookends.  Now, in all honesty, I've never met David but have heard such wonderful things about his work in the writing community--especially his involvement creating the Warner NH Historical Society's Tory Hill Reader Series.  Which brings me to a NH author I have met several times (and one of my fourth-graders great idol's), the inimitable MacArthur Fellow and National Book Award Nominee David Carroll whose Self-Portrait with Turtles is a gorgeously illustrated must-read for nature-loving, art-inclined children of all ages.  A trip to his art studio is an absolute must when my family visits New Hampshire and, if we're lucky enough to catch David there, we leave serene and inspired.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Today's Random Act of Publicity

First, a quick thanks to the inspired Darci Pattison for launching Random Acts of Publicity.  I'm thrilled to be taking part. This morning, I recommended Deb Lund's MONSTERS ON MACHINES and Liz Mills' THE SPOOKY WHEELS ON THE BUS to my youngest son's preschool teacher.  They're perfect books for almost-Halloween time: one rich in monsters and rhyme with endpapers loaded with marvelous machines; and the other adding a holiday theme and explorations of counting and patterns to a familiar song.  I'll be working my way up from picture books to YA in my "Random Acts" posts all week.  Hope you'll join in or share a random publicity comment here!

Monday, September 6, 2010


As often happens around August through October, I've seen an uptick in author appearance requests. It's back-to-school time! Perhaps this is why a lot of authors have recently been asking me about setting and changing fees, particularly in light of the tough economic situation and the resulting financial difficulties for schools and libraries.  About a month ago, I began drafting a lengthy blog post about setting appearance fees to post this month.  But recently, I realized two things: (1) my posts are getting rather long and (2) I've got a September 20th revision deadline PLUS a slew of new freelance jobs. So, this month, all four Back-to-Business Mondays are going to be installments of THE HONORARIUM QUESTION. Hopefully, they'll be quick and useful!

THE HONORARIUM QUESTION #1: Coming up with a base number

First, please note that these numbers are are neither prescriptive nor absolute. They are based on both my experiences working for publishers and myriad conversations with individual authors and illustrators.  Setting your appearance fee involves many consideration and is, ultimately, a very individual decision and there are certainly folks whose numbers fall outside the ranges I'll note.  That said, in my opinion, a reasonable honorarium range for first-time and single-title authors and illustrators is between $500 and $1,000/day. Authors/Illustrators with greater numbers of in-print books, and titles with wide ranges of reading levels can consider going higher, say $1,200-$2,500/day. It is customary to quote appearance fees as a per-day honorarium PLUS travel and lodging expenses.

Select the range in which you fall, above, then consider:

  • Number of books in print (and availability of paperback versus hardcover titles - this can affect the number of books sold at a given appearance as hardcovers are more expensive)
  • Age range to whom you speak (Consider that authors of YA are often speaking directly to their book-buying readership while picture book creators write for young kids but their books are often purchased by adults)
  • Number (and variety or types) of presentations you are willing to give for your daily fee
Once you've got a rough sense of what you will charge, give consideration to the following and adjust your fee if you feel this is warranted:

  • What is the economic situation for your local area and school district (especially important if you have good relationships with local schools and appear fairly often locally)?
  • Do you want to maximize appearance opportunities to publicize your book (lower fee) OR are speaking engagements a critical revenue-generator for you (higher, profit-margin-required fee)?
  • Do you have a new book coming out this year or are there other time-sensitive factors that make your appearances (a) more in-demand or (b) more important for you?
  • Are you an experienced speaker (perhaps a former teacher) and/or do you offer presentations with curriculum ties or other academic supports that add value to your appearances?
Hopefully, these considerations will provide a fairly easy formula for coming up with a number with which you can be comfortable. Next Monday: Discounting - When, How, If?

Friday, September 3, 2010

Fiction Friday: FRIENDSHIP

This week I've been working on refining and nuancing the friendships between my main character and a couple of secondary characters which got me to thinking about fun and fascinating best friends from fiction...

Betsy & Tacy, through the years
Harry, Hermione & Ron
"Three the Hard Way" (read this one!)
Friendships in fiction can be inspirational, can turn into romances, can dissolve into cruelty... Friendships can be lasting and heartfelt, or insincere and manipulative.  As I refine AUDITION, I want to make sure readers understand the different types of friendships my mc has with various other characters in the story--and the impact each of these relationships has on her.

Who are your favorite fictional best friends?  What have their journeys taught you about your own writing?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


Winner #1: ERIKA LYNN. 
Congratulations!  You're the lucky winner of Lisa & Laura Roecker's LIAR SOCIETY Secret Swag!  Please click the "contact me" link above for information on where to email your address so the prize can sent your way!

Winner #2: ME!
As I look back over Augusts interviews and comments about Writing-in-Tandem, I realize I have learned so much and enjoyed corresponding with so many wonderful writers.  While a monthly blog theme may be a bit much, I do feel that taking time to focus on one particular literary notion has been both fun and enlightening.  Do you have any thoughts to share about blog themes -- or suggestions for future themes for Writer-on-the-Side?  I'd love to hear them!

Finally, do take a minute to scroll down to Monday's final "in-tandem" interview where Mary Nethery & Kirby Larson share amazing insights about teamwork, non-fiction, and writing in general.  Enjoy!