Thursday, December 29, 2011

Bookanistas: GETTING PSYCHED FOR 2012

For my last Bookanista post for 2011 (can you believe it?), I present to you half a dozen titles that have me psyched for the new year to begin. These are books I HAVEN'T READ YET. Not included on this list are 2012 releases that I've already read as arcs, that I've already reviewed and/or that I'll be reviewing here on upcoming Thursdays. So, with no further ado, some covers, some titles, some reasons...

UNDER THE NEVER SKY by Veronica Rossi
With international pubs and movie options galore, this is gonna make January great. Plus Veronica is absolutely delightful, and a serious dog person!

TEAM HUMAN by Justine Larbalestier & Sarah Rees Brennan
Justine is just an amazing wordsmith (if you don't believe me, go read her book LIAR) and I'm pretty much up for anything she feels like writing.

THIS IS NOT A TEST by Courtney Summers
Loved SOME GIRLS ARE and FALL FOR ANYTHING. Here's an angsty pre-apocalyptic tale. I'm in!

MAY B Caroline Starr Rose
Like Caroline, I grew up loving the novels of Laura Ingalls Wilder so I'm beyond excited for a verse novel about a young girl and the struggles of prairie life.

I wrote a reading guide for Pete's GODLESS years ago and it became one of my favorite YA novels. This looks like the start to an amazing trilogy.

GILT by Katherine Longshore
My agent-buddy Katie's debut novel pubs this spring. She's an Anglophile extraordinaire and a gorgeous writer. I just can't wait to get my hands on what's certain to be the start to a great historical fiction trilogy. (Confession: I've heard an arc may be coming my way soon. Hurrah!)

Here's some more almost-New-Year's-Eve Bookanista goodness:

Elana Johnson is entranced by UNTRACEABLE
Shannon Messenger shouts about twelve 2012 releases she can't wait for--and a pre-order giveaway!
Megan Miranda marvels at UNDER THE NEVER SKY
Corinne Jackson gushes over THE MATCHMAKER AND THE GHOST

Have a safe and happy December 31.  I'll catch you on the flip side :)

Monday, December 26, 2011

Back-to-Business: BOOKSTORE SIGNINGS PART II - Some Statistics

In 2011, after almost two decades working in educational marketing for trade publishers, I moved to the "other side" as a debut author.  I also launched a group book tour project called Stages on Pages. While I benefitted from my experience supporting other authors' books, the learning curve was still steep. I want to share what I've learned in hopes that this helps other authors, as well as librarians and educators interested in working with authors.  Here's the first post if you want to catch up.  Today, I'm sharing some data from my informal survey on bookstore events (it's still open, so if you want to contribute (as a reader or writer) I'd BE THRILLED--just go here).

Preliminary Bookstore Event Survey Data

RESPONDENTS WERE: 75% YA authors; 25% MG an/dor picture book authors and,
OF THESE, 75% were debut authors and 25% multi-title and/or multi-genre authors (different breakdown)

NUMBER OF BOOKSTORE EVENTS RESPONDENTS ATTENDED THIS YEAR: 50% attended 4-6; 37.5 % attended 2-3; 12.5 % attended 7 or more.

Approximately 90% of respondents cited their launch or similar (e.g., hometown publishing celebration, etc.) as their most successful signing event, generally with turnouts around the 50 mark (1 author had over 100).

The most successful events respondents attended as audience members, were signings by Ellen Hopkins, Rick Riordan, Brandon Mull, and other authors with established careers and multiple titles on the shelves.

In terms of authors' opinion of what qualifies as "GOOD ATTENDANCE" for an event, the numbers divided evenly between 15-25 and 25-50. One anonymous respondent (not incorporated in stats) felt 5 people was a good showing for a newbie author. Sadly, over 60% of respondents have been to 2-3  bookstore events with fewer than 3 attendees.

75% of authors said BOOKSTORE EVENT ATTENDEES were primarily local friends and family.  Two respondents added that some blog and twitter followers also came. ONE author cited bookstore outreach & publicity as the main way attendees were drawn to an event (more on this later).

FACEBOOK INVITATIONS were the #1 vehicle for publicizing bookstore events, though some authors also used Twitter and/or personal emails/newsletters. Most authors expressed uncertainty as to a truly effective method for spreading the word.

Many authors commented that, to a greater or lesser degree, they felt a responsibility for bringing in attendees for their events... author has different marketing outlets than a bookstore. The author needs to do everything she can to promote the event. It's a lot of work, but is often the difference between 5 people showing up and 50. -- Beth Revis (ACROSS THE UNIVERSE and the upcoming A MILLION SUNS)

I think that bookstore signings CAN be successful, but I also think that you've got to put work into them if you want that to happen. The bodies aren't just going to show up (unless you're Ellen Freaking Hopkins). If I'm going to sign up for a bookstore event, I'm also committing to help get the word out. Good bookstores will do their part, but it's my event and (hopefully) my royalties, so it only makes sense for me to put some work in too. -- Carrie Harris (BAD TASTE IN BOYS and the upcoming BAD HAIR DAY)

So, do you agree with the statistics? Have something to add or another question to ask?  Next week, I'll post on some ways I think this data can be interpreted or used--and I'm happy to incorporate suggestions you leave in the comments, too.  Let's get thinking about this!

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Best Present...

This has been a funny year for Santa Claus-ing.  My two oldest sons, 17 and 15, are at the point where the things they really want (to score a winning touchdown, get the lead in the school play, kiss girls (arrrrgggghhh)) can't be found in stores.  The five-year-old will find his much-wished for Hot Wheels and Legos under the tree.  But, our eleven-year-old is at that tricky in-between spot: no longer a "believer" but still kind of wishing for that Christmas magic. Some years, as a parent, you get to deliver.

See, every Sunday, my 11-year-old listens to a Canadian radio show called The Vinyl Cafe hosted by the great storyteller Stuart McLean. He loves it.  He wants to BE Stuart McLean. Yep, my son's life's dream is to be a public radio storyteller.  About a year ago, he submitted a poem to Mr. McLean who kindly wrote an encouraging email reply (which I saved--this is important!).

At holiday time, Stuart tours Canada with a stage show just like the radio show: A bit of music but mostly a guy standing at a mic telling stories about family, pets, and small-town life.  It's poignant and wonderful and HE ONLY MAKES ONE U.S. STOP: Seattle. My husband bought three tickets.  When my son heard the ad on the radio, he immediately asked how many pairs of shoes he'd need to shine (that's how he earns his keep at our house!) to go to the show, he told him he was already going. His eyes lit up bright as a Christmas star.

Vinyl Cafe hat logo
Note that my son
is also a hat collector!
 December 13 was the big night.  We took our son our to the show. The theater was packed. My son laughed and sighed and clapped his palms red. But the best was yet to come. The week before, I'd dug through my emails and found the one from Stuart McLean. I wrote him, asking if he might meet my kid and he put us on the backstage list. After the show, a mystified son followed us not toward the exit but down to the stage, past two black-clad, important-looking security guys, up three flights of stairs to the dressing room.  Mr. McLean kindly remembered my son, greeting him with "here's my young poet friend." I've never seem my son's eyes so huge--he was barely able to speak.

It was the kind of night you can never repeat. The kind of magic for which you can only be grateful.  Yesterday, my son said to me, "I kind of don't need Christmas this year. For me, Christmas has already happened."

Enough said.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Corrine Jackson cover reveal!

The talented and delightful Corrine Jackson has an early Christmas present for YA-dom today: She's revealing the cover for her upcoming debut novel, IF I LIE. 

Here it is:

Go over to Corrine's website to read the flap copy and get to know her (she's also a rockin' YA Rebel, a beautiful Bookanista and, heck, just a lot of fun!).

Thursday, December 15, 2011


First, a quick request to published authors to take a moment to complete my Book Signing Survey for a future Back-to-Business post.

Now, on to the festivities...What am I doing putting books on my holiday wish list when I've got an office floor covered in arcs and a tbr list as long as Santa's "good 'n' bad" one?  As far as I'm concerned, there's no better way to spend Christmas night than curled up by the fire with a brand new book -- the old-fashioned paper-over-boards kind (sorry, Kindle) -- and a steaming cup of cocoa.  I asked the Twitterverse for some contemporary YA titles and, after looking through the many great suggestions (some of which were awesome but I'd already read them), I've chosen four that were brought to my attention by multiple tweeps, with rave reviews.  Now I just need to hope that Santa reads my blog!

by Leila Sales

by Hannah Harrington

by Anthony John

by Stephen Chbosky


Want some great suggestions for your holiday and/or future wish lists?  Here's what a few other Bookanistas are raving about this week:

Elana Johnson takes a shine to A MILLION SUNS
Jessi Kirby devours BITTERSWEET
Veronica Rossi is in a frenzy over FRACTURE
Katy Upperman ponders THE FUTURE OF US
Shannon Whitney Messenger adores UNDER THE NEVER SKY with preorder giveaway

Monday, December 12, 2011


Me siging.
Note the swag,
and candy!
 There's a two-word phrase that rattles the nerves of most authors: BOOKSTORE SIGNING.  Why? The notion seems thrilling.  You show up at a bookstore, read a bit, sell and sign copies, and meet readers. Easy-peasy, huh?  Ask a few published authors (and not Stephenie Meyer (no disrespect) and the thrill may morph into something like nausea.  Because, unless you're a MAJOR, best-selling, movie-deal type author with a massive fan base and tons of publisher-publicity support, the scenario very well may go something more like this:

  • Find an opportunity to sign your book at a bookstore.
  • Help bookstore publicize as much as you can (and tell all of your friends and relatives).
  • Show up and pray some folks are there to hear you.
  • Sell a few books.
  • Go home.
  • Drink wine.
I know, I know, it's holiday time. Why am I stomping on your jollies? Don't worry, some cheer will follow.  First, I want to explain WHY many book signings go like this. Note that I am not referring to the special case of book launch parties here but signings more generally.)

So...WHY do many book signings turn out as described above?

1. You are competing with nearly INFINITE OPTIONS for peoples' time. In the case of MG and YA readers, you've got homework, sports, extracurriculars, birthday parties, the commitments of the parents who'd need to drive them, favorite television programs, plans with friends... In sum, kids are oversubscribed.
2. You are inviting folks to something they don't necessarily understand all that well. This is a sad fact for folks like me but, face it, book signings are not mainstream entertainment. So, they require a LOT of explaining and incentivizing to get past barrier #1 above.  If you're a debut author on top of this, you've only got one title to offer, limiting the interest and incentives even further.

3. You may also be trying to invite a second population: the adult YA writer-reader community. They're often a more reliable crowd than tween/teen readers but are, again, over-committed (often with kids of their own). PLUS, targeting your event to two readership groups may mean your event isn't ideally structured and/or marketed to either.

4. Publicizing any book signing is very difficult. There are great indies with weekly events, a newsletter, a dynamic website--even if you're listed in all these venues, the events folks will tell you turnout is a roll of the dice. Listings in newspapers, radio, etc., are difficult to get and, again, yield major roll-of-the-dice results.

5. Book signings are often in competition with each other. Despite the end of Borders, the plights of the indies, etc., there are still many bookstores in some urban centers.  I did one group signing in LA on a Saturday when it turned out there were FIVE OTHER YA/MG book events happening in the city that afternoon.  I also did a signing at a bookstore that had hosted another event the previous night (burnout for the local crowd) that was also just an hour after another bookstore in that city had hosted an event for an AWESOME, NYT-bestselling YA author (I would have gone if I didn't have my own event that night!).

So, what's an author to do? First, don't worry. THERE ARE WAYS TO UP THE ODDS, CREATE GREAT EVENTS, and SPREAD THE WORD EFFECTIVELY. Plus, tune back on Wednesday when I'll be posting a survey where you can share your own information.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Bookanistas: DON'T BREATHE A WORD by Holly Cupala

Plot without spoilers...Joy Delamere runs away from a family trying to protect her and a boy who is trying to own her -- but can she find freedom or safety on the streets of Seattle?

Of literary interest... In her second novel, Tell Me a Secret author Holly Cupala again explores dark issues of teen life and relationships.  Joy has asthma, so the notion of "breathing a word" is both intensely literal and richly metaphoric. How long Joy can keep secret the truths of her abusive romance, her real identity, and even the dangers of her disease keeps the book racing forward.

Finally, just gotta say...I was fascinated by the way Cupala slowly reveals the details of what happened between desperate Joy and dark, angry Asher, adding a layer of mystery to this gritty, realistic tale. I also loved the way asthma works as a plot element and leitmotif throughout the novel. While I've seen several asthma-themed picture books, the incorporation of breathing issues into a work of YA fiction is unusual and it's been done wonderfully well here--exploring the medical and emotional issues associated with this Joy's life-threatening condition.  An intense, fascinating and important read.

And here's where you'll find more Bookanista book love this week...

Elana Johnson roars for FURY
Shannon Whitney Messenger marvels at A MILLION SUNS plus a preorder giveaway
Shelli Johannes-Wells swoons for UNDER THE NEVER SKY
Carolina Valdez Miller is all about HERE with giveaway
Gretchen McNeil twirls for AUDITION
Katy Upperman gets in the spirit with ELF ON A SHELF
Nikki Katz dishes on WHY WE BROKE UP

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Books for Thought

What is the fate of the paper book? I was asked this question by journalism student and blogger Rachel Chinapen, who created this terrific video for a research project.  What do you think about the future of books versus e-books?

Books for Thought from Rachel A. Chinapen on Vimeo.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Some thougts on Writing Workshops

I've recently had the pleasure of teaching writing workshops at libraries on both the east and west coast.  And I wanted to share a few things that, for me, make the writing workshops lively and satisfying.

  • Set a goal for your writing workshop. I say something like, "Our goal for today will be to explore where our stories come from and how we give them depth and rich details."
  • Make it clear that this is a safe space for sharing. Especially if this is the first time you've taught a given group, point out that today is about writing and sharing--it's not a critique group--and the feedback you offer will be about the things in the story that are working. STICK TO THE POSITIVE--don't shut down beginning writers!
  • Always do the writing assignments with the group.  I think this shows respect for the folks who have come to learn from you and your own dedication to your craft.
  • READ OUT LOUD. I think that teens are often asked to write about books but rarely shown how they can USE examples from novels to hone their own craft.  I use excerpts from THE BOOK THIEF by Markus Zusak, REVOLUTION by Jennifer Donnelly, and THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE by Jandy Nelson, among other texts, to model how NAMES/WORD CHOICE, DESCRIPTION/SETTING, and LITERARY FORMS can be explored to enhance your story. (Plus, I love hearing good work read aloud and I think lots of other people do, too!)
  • LISTEN.  Encourage writers to share and, when they do, stay focused, take a few notes, and give clear feedback on what is working. The MOST IMPORTANT goal for a writing instructor (I think) is to send students away wanting to write MORE.

We're all in a safe space here!

You're here writing--not home watching television.
Congratulations -- you're already a success tonight!

Ask folks to put down pencils when they're finished
so you know when the work is done.

Who says boys don't read--and write?!

If adults want to join the writing group,
I say YES - but they have to really JOIN
the improv and sharing time, too!

Leave time to chat, sign books, and generally hang out after the workshop.
And make sure to continue to encourage young writers
even though your "teacher hat" is off!

Monday, December 5, 2011

FLYAWAY author Helen Landalf's fang-tastic audition story

Helen Landalf is a fellow western Washington writer, a dance teacher, and an all around amazing person. I am so excited to have her guest posting here today--the first audition story to debut here at my blog (moving some of the other audition stories over next year).  Make sure to check out Helen's debut novel, FLYAWAY, on sale December 20th!

What a lot of people don't know about me is that before I became a writer, I was an actress. I starred in lots of shows at my high school, acted in community theatre in my hometown of San Diego, and even won a scholarship to study drama at San Diego State University. I dreamed of being a star, and that dream almost came true. The one thing that stopped me was my tooth.

See, I have this one pointy tooth at the front left side of my mouth that I've always called my fang. I was so self-conscious about it when I was younger that I developed a lopsided smile. It was this tooth which lost me a role and changed the course of my life.

When I was in my early 20s, I entered a contest called "Catch a Rising Star," hosted by the local TV station. As one of the finalists, I ended up with an agent, who sent me out on an audition for the lead female role in an independent movie being filmed at the prestigious American Film Institute in Los Angeles. It was the perfect part for me: a sweet small-town girl who wants to be a singer. I dressed in a skirt and heels and drove to L.A., where they had me read from the script and then sing a few bars of "You Light Up My Life." I wanted that part and I wanted it bad, so I opened my mouth wide and belted my heart out.

A few days later, my agent called to say that I'd come close but didn't get the part. What ultimately swayed the director's decision? My tooth. It didn't look good when I sang on camera. Naturally, I was devastated. My agent told me that if I seriously wanted a career in film, I needed to see a dentist and get that tooth capped. After many agonizing weeks of thought, I refused. I decided that if I had to change myself in order to make it as an actress, it wasn't what I truly wanted to do.

And so I embarked on the path of becoming a writer. And when my debut novel, FLYAWAY, releases in December, I can guarantee you that, fang or no fang, I'll be grinning from ear to ear.

Helen Landalf's debut YA novel, FLYAWAY, releases from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt this December. Visit her online at

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Bookanistas: Meet My Very UnFairy Tale Life author Anna Staniszewski

I was thrilled to cyber-meet the lovely Anna Staniszewski, author of MY VERY UNFAIRYTALE LIFE, and I just had to ask her this question: IF YOU COULD BE ANY MAGICAL CHARACTER, WHAT WOULD IT BE AND WHY?

Here's what she said:  One of my favorite fantasy characters is Miri from Princess Academy by Shannon Hale. She's a strong, determined girl who isn't afraid to speak her mind--she's certainly much braver than I am! While there's only a touch of magic in Miri's world, I love that it's rooted in her community; it gives people a way to connect with each other and with the land. I'm fascinated by the idea of magic that's tied to nature, and that people can tap into it if they have the ability. And finally, I must admit that my ten-year-old self would have killed to be sent off to learn how to be a princess! I wasn't a girlie-girl when I was younger, but I had a soft-spot for princesses. After all, who doesn't like a little sparkle?

Anna was born in Poland and raised in the United States.  Oh, and she is amazing! She was named the 2006-2007 Writer-in-Residence at the Boston Public Library and was a winner of the 2009 PEN New England Susan P. Bloom Discovery Award. Currently, Anna lives outside of Boston with her husband and their adopted black Labrador, Emma. When she's not writing, Anna spends her time teaching, reading, and challenging unicorns to games of hopscotch. Visit her online at

And for more Bookanista goodness, hop along to...

Lisa and Laura Roecker gush about HOW TO SAVE A LIFE

Shannon Messenger raves about CINDER--with an ARC Giveaway!

Megan Miranda spreads the love for UNTRACEABLE

Corrine Jackson falls for UNDER THE NEVER SKY

Debra Driza sings the praises of EVERYBODY SEES THE ANTS

Katy Upperman gets swept away by THE SCORPIO RACES