Monday, July 28, 2014

Wanna Win a Giant Box of Buzzed-About Books?

Oh. Holy. Yikes! My book releases in less than a month and today I'm super-excited to share the trailer for it. Of course, I figured I'd make it just as much fun for you as it is for me, by sweetening things with a giant giveaway. I'm giving away two big boxes of buzzed-about books--some are ARCs, some are published, some are even signed--enough to stock a classroom library. 

First things first: a little about my book:

A love letter to NYC full of insider dish, At Your Service tells the story of thirteen-year-old Chloe Turner, who lives at the uber-fancy St. Michele Hotel alongside her concierge father. Desperate to follow in Dad’s footsteps, Chloe earns the role of Junior Concierge, helping to ensure the hotel’s youngest guests have memorable trips to her favorite city. Her life is backstage passes and cupcake parties until the day Chloe loses a princess in the middle of New York City! Racing from tourist site to tourist site, can Chloe find the young royal before her mistake becomes international news?

And HERE'S the trailer:

So who wants to win a copy of At Your Service (PLUS the rest of these middle grade books, including the new Diary of a Wimpy Kid School Planner and a signed Big Nate) for the teacher/librarian/school classroom of your choice? Or perhaps a big box of YA books like Scott Westerfeld's Afterworlds and Meg Wolitzer's Belzhar is more your speed. Here are the two prize packages up for grabs:

Middle Grade Prize includes ALL these titles:

YA Prize Package includes ALL of these titles:

Enter using the Rafflecopter below to win either or both. A winner will be announced on August 8th.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
a Rafflecopter giveaway

*Update: this raffle has ended. Congratulations to Matt Little who won't the MG titles and to Deborah Udovic, who won the young adult titles. Two schools are very happy! If you participated, thank you!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

8 Things I Know About Being a Writer

Yesterday, I deposited my first ever advance check and it got me thinking about my journey up to this point. I've been seriously pursuing my writing for about five and half years now. I've been a newbie, an intern, a "publishing professional," a blogger, a vlogger - and now I'm a paid author. It's a weird place. Some see me as an "expert" and others still see me as a newbie. Some people seek out my advice and others dismiss it.

But here are some things I know for sure about this crazy process of trying to become an author:

1) You will doubt yourself.

Whether it's about which publishing path you're pursuing, or wondering if you should completely throw in the towel because you might not be cut out for it, or making a specific decision about a specific element of your work, you will doubt yourself.

The only thing you can do is know what you want and know what you're willing to go through to get it. Stop when you cross that line, but not before.

2) Not everyone is on your side.

There are jealous, petty, egotistical people out there, even in our wonderful industry. There are people who think there's not enough room in the industry for both of you to be successful. This is, of course, bullshit. Please don't waste your time or emotions on these people.

On the professional side, there are scam artists out there looking to take advantage of eager, unwitting writers. There are even those who mean well who simply don't have the experience and knowledge necessary to do what they promise. Educate yourself.

3) Not everyone is out to see you fail.

In fact, there are thousands of people in the industry willing to share their knowledge, to cheer you on, to encourage and inspire you. There are agents who want to help writers have successful careers. There are editors who want to see their authors' books hit bestseller lists. There are bloggers who will be your fans before your book even comes out. There are self-publishing advocates who truly want to help authors take this path. There are industry professionals who write blogs and answer writers' questions in their spare time when they are not being paid for it.

4) You will never know everything.

You can't. You have to accept this right now. "Type-A"s, I'm talking to you.

5) You need to know everything.

And it never stops. When you're writing, you need to learn as much about the craft as possible. It also doesn't hurt to know the market. When you're querying, you need to know which agents/editors are picking up what you're putting down and and you need to figure out how to convince them to read your work. If you self-publish, there is an infinite list of things you need to know about. And when you've published? That's where the real fun begins. Because creative types are generally not natural marketers and, to top it all off....

6) Nobody knows why some books go mega-blockbuster and others languish in the remainder bin.

If they tell you they know, they're trying to sell you something. There are a lot of guesses. There are even some guesses that turn out to be true. There are some things publishers can do to try to tip the scales, but they sometimes fail spectacularly anyway. Sometimes, a book that's thrown up on amazon with a cover slapped together in Paint hits the NYT.

The initial print run on Harry Potter was 500 books. Authors can get upper six figure advances for books you'll never hear about.

7) There is a good chance you will "fail."

Even if you learn everything. Even if you bust your ass and sacrifice dutifully. Even if you're an incredible writer. Even if you do everything right.

Your commercial publishing goals may not come true. But...

8) It's all worth it.

No matter what happens, there is nothing in the world like writing.

“We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.”
― Ana├»s Nin

“You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.”
― Ray Bradbury, Zen in the Art of Writing

“Tomorrow may be hell, but today was a good writing day, and on the good writing days nothing else matters.”
― Neil Gaiman

“let me live, love, and say it well in good sentences”
― Sylvia Plath

“I write to give myself strength. I write to be the characters that I am not. I write to explore all the things I'm afraid of. ”
― Joss Whedon

“A word after a word after a word is power.”
― Margaret Atwood

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

How To Diversify on Social Media

Handling social media is a huge topic for authors lately. It can be a powerful engine for your platform and a wonderful way to interact with new and established readers.

Some writers don't really like social media, or really only love one particular form of it, and that's fine. You only need to do as much as you can do well, and it's not worth it if it takes much time away from your writing.

However, a lot of writers love social media, and want to be more involved. Here's a few ideas for avoiding pitfalls and building a strong basic platform on social media.

  • Learn them one at a time. When you're confident and competent on Twitter, add Goodreads. Once you've got Goodreads figured out, go ahead and try Tumblr, if you like. It will probably take a long time, but building gradually is fine. In fact, it's preferred because it helps you not burn out and it gives you the time to sit back and watch how the site is used.
  • Be useful. Don't just post about yourself-- people ask themselves "why would the whole world want to hear about my lunch?" and it's a valid question. We care about the details of your life once we care about you, and one of the ways you can help us do that is by contributing meaningful content. But that doesn't mean you need to sit there forever thinking up a clever insight. Share links to articles about writing and books, share funny or interesting content about your favorite fandoms, and share blog posts from other authors, or agents, or publishing professionals. You can even share content about your passions-- TV, cake-baking, animal rescue, social justice issues, etc. Subscribing to the Shelf Awareness newsletter, the Publisher's Weekly newsletter, and your favorite blogs is a great way to get sharable content delivered to you. I click the ones I want to read in the morning and then share them throughout the day.
  • Diversify. This is one thing I really encourage writers to do if you're going to be on more than one form of social media. Limit and diversify your content. This is actually the bulk of this post because I think it's really important to keep yourself from burning out and wasting time with redundant content. Writers sometimes ask what's the point of having both a Facebook author page and a Twitter account if you post the same thing to the each account, and there's a good point there. (Of course, they're sometimes different audiences.) I've been slowly building the places I'm active online, and as an example, here's how I think about my different accounts:

Twitter: Twitter is practically a live-stream of my professional life. I try to share useful content, talk about editing for Month9Books and my freelance clients, and share bits about my own writing life, and do my #subtips and critique giveaways. Occasionally music, my husky, and my hobbies make it into the mix, too. I tweet a lot-- it's my most-used form of social media. (Those of you who unfollow me, I don't blame you.) I love interacting with my writing friends there, and it's a great way to make my day more social since I work from home.

Facebook: I have a personal account (mostly for family and college friends) and an author page. I try to post once a day, so much less frequently than on Twitter. I like to use it as a more static feed of what's going on with my writing. I occasionally share a cool bookish article, but it's mostly news and updates about my writing. That's the place to go if you want to keep up with me, but aren't a writer or don't work in publishing. All the industry chat is absent.

Goodreads: My book is on GR and I have an author account. I use this maybe once every few days-- add books I've read, keep up with friends' books, search for something new to read. Maybe a grand total of half an hour a week. It's easy, my blog posts to my author page, and it's a great way for me to keep track of what books caught my interest so I'm not just automatically buying the major hits and nothing else. I don't worry too much about adding friends or reading all of my feed; I let people find me if they want but mostly use it as a personal tool.

Pinterest: This is another easy platform I really love; the visuals are so inspiring. I don't use it often-- a few times a week I get on and scroll, or pin something to a board from research during the week. I love it as a tool for writers because I make an inspiration board for my WIPs and add quotes or scenes or photos that remind me of an element of my book, and it's a great way to get re-inspired to write when I'm not feeling it. I'm also making a much more involved board for my debut this fall (secret right now), with lines from the book, book art, teasers, and relevant images that will be released pretty shortly. Again, I use this as a low-pressure, occasional thing. You can customize what's in your feed (and limit the craft items and recipes if you want) by being choosy with who you follow, and that's brought me some really awesome finds-- think moonshining, art photography, fan art, classic movie content, etc.

My blog: The Bookshelf is my personal blog that I've had for years now. I post a few times a week and the content is mostly geared toward writers. I posted about finishing my first MS and starting the next (How We Fall!), through my querying process and signing my book deal, and now of course through editing and marketing strategies. I also do slush pile posts, blog about writing tips, etc. It's very much a blog from a writer for writers, and I don't really expect family or non-writing readers to be interested in it. It's a place for me to contribute (hopefully!) to the broader writing discussion and build some community, and it's a lot of fun to see readers commenting who have followed me since before that first manuscript was finished.

Tumblr: This is my newest social media venture, and I'm not entirely sure I'm doing it right, but I started it because I wanted a site that was reader-focused, and because so many younger people are on it. My blog is for writers, and readers likely won't find it interesting. I don't post writing or publishing advice on tumblr at all. It's really quick and easy to maintain, and I actually love having a place that's more about quick bits and pieces rather than long discussions or chunky concepts. I have an easy structure I follow (Music Mondays, Tuesday Ted-Talks, Wednesday Word-Love, Thursday Thoughts, Fangirl Friday, and Weekend Reads) where I post awesome general-audience book content, music videos from my book playlists, videos on creativity and inspiration, and shout-outs for things I fangirl over. It's very simple and easy to grab an item, schedule it to post, and have the site auto-post my content for the next two weeks. Plus, it's easy for readers to browse my past content since all the posts are so short. This site is full of things I love, and that means I love posting on it.

It's taken me a few years to add these and get the basics figured out, and I really only got a handle on it when I thought about the kind of content I wanted to be creating and the tools I wanted to use to interact with others over that content. I piled everything together on Twitter and my blog for a while, but what to post about and how much to share it and the struggle of keeping it useful, updated, personal, and fun was just too much. Diversifying content this way means my audience can find the content they want and skip the content they don't, and I have a place for everything I enjoy creating. And since it's limited and organized that way, it's less stressful, which means I post more often and don't see it nearly so much as a chore. It's an outlet, and a conversation, and a great way to get me out of my box.

Do you have any more advanced tips for using social media? Share in the comments!

Monday, July 21, 2014

DIY Blog Tours

Whether you are self publishing, an indie publisher, or a Big 5 publisher, when your book is released it's a really good idea to have a blog tour.

If you don't have a publicist (or sometimes even if you do), you will need to organise this yourself.

So here's some tips for DIY blog tours:

  1. Develop a media kit: You need to provide bloggers with some basic information including:
    • Author Bio
    • Author Pic
    • Author links (Twitter, FB, Goodreads, website/blog)
    • Book blurb
    • Cover pic
    • Book buy links...all of them (no-one will impulse buy if they don't know where to buy it from)
    • Competition link (Rafflecopter works well - and giveaways can be free copies of your book).
  2. Develop a post list:
    • Look for topics that support your storyline/author brand.
    • Leave room for interviews.
    • Make some quirky.
    • Make some for readers exclusively.
    • Make some for writers exclusively.
  3. Develop a calendar:
    • Don't start a blog tour unless your book is for sale or preorder.
    • Two-three weeks is a good length for blog tours. 
    • Include this online with a sign-up sheet so people can pick free dates.
  4. Ask your friends: 
    • Blogger friends (who you may blog with or know online)
    • Agency/publisher brothers and sisters (fellow authors can be so supportive).
    • Social media friends (put a call out on Twitter and Facebook)
  5. Research blogs & reach out:
    • Look for blogs that cover off on your category and genre.
    • Look for blogs that participate in cover reveals and blog tours. 
  6. Promote:
    • Promote the blog tour list prior and during blog tour. 
    • Promote each individual blog post in your tour. 
  7. Thank:
    • Put a thank you in the comments of each blog post in your tour.
    • Send a thank you email.
Hopefully that helps if you're getting ready for a book release or a book promo. If you have any other tips, please add them in the comments. 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

5 Mistakes Authors Make When Querying

Today, I'm handing over the blog to Jennifer Novotney, author of YA fantasy novel, Winter in the Soul. 

5 Mistakes Authors Make When Querying

1. Giving up. If the submission is not an exclusive, query widely. If it is and you get a rejection, 

submit again. Never ever, give up! Writing is a subjective field and just because one publisher 

or agent rejects your work, it doesn’t mean another will. Your work might just be exactly what 

another editor or agent is seeking, but if you give up, you’ll never find out. Most successful 

writers were rejected, some a lot, and if they gave up, they’d never have reached their goals of 


2. Being unprofessional. A query is a business letter. Whether you are querying an agent 

or publisher, always be courteous, succinct, and above all professional. Avoid overly friendly 

language and treat your correspondence as a business exchange because that’s exactly what it 

is. If you do happen to get a rejection, don’t reply with a rude reply. Stay professional and move 

on. Remember that the publishing world is not that large and your reputation will stay with you.

3. Not following guidelines. Time and time again, I’ve heard agents and editors complain 

about writers simply not following guidelines. When you are submitting your work, it can be a 

tedious process to search each and every submission guideline, but do it. It’s well worth the 

time and effort. Think of how disappointing it would be to be rejected simply because you failed 

to follow the submission guidelines. Editors and agents are busy people. Keep them happy and 

research their individual requests for submission. It’s one step closer to getting that acceptance.

4. Querying with inappropriate material. This ties in with number three in checking the 

guidelines. Don’t query with something a publisher doesn’t publish or an agent doesn’t 

represent. This can save you a lot of time and heartache simply by doing a little research. Do 

your homework, make a list, and submit to only those agents and editors who work with the 

type of manuscripts you have. For example, if you have a romance, don’t query an editor who is 

only looking for young adult. If you have a non-fiction proposal, don’t query an agent who only 

represents literary fiction.

5. Not waiting long enough to follow up. As writers, we are very impatient sometimes, 

especially when it comes to hearing back about our work. We imagine that our manuscript lands 

on that editor’s desk and they are just waiting to read it. We think, well, surely they are going 

to stay up all night reading my manuscript because it is that good (and it might be!), but editors 

and agents are people too. They have lives outside of work. They have responsibilities to signed 

authors. They have loads and loads of work. Check their website to find if they have a time 

frame for following up and whatever you do, follow this and don’t email or call too early. This 

could be the difference between a rejection simply because they didn’t have time to get to your 

work yet or an acceptance because you didn’t bug them every step of the way.

In a world divided by power and greed, seventeen-year-old Lilika harbors an intense desire to return to Winter in the Soul, the place her family left to escape the darkness that was manifesting from a coldness of the soul.

When she meets Talon, their connection is evident right from the start, and together they travel through the Black Kingdom to recover Lilika’s stolen locket. And in search of an answer to the mystery behind Winter in the Soul.

Lilika holds the key to stopping the darkness from spreading. The fate of their world lies in her hands. Will she stop the Black Kingdom before its darkness overtakes them all, or will they succumb to the darkness that is spreading across the land?

Jennifer Novotney was born in Burbank, California and lived in Los Angeles for most of her life until settling in North Eastern Pennsylvania with her husband and daughter. She attended California State University, earning a bachelors degree in journalism, and Northern Arizona University, earning a masters degree in English. After college, she spent several years writing and teaching, including at Pennsylvania State University.

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Monday, July 14, 2014

Divergent, Insurgent, & Allegiant – A Guy’s Review

Divergent, Insurgent, & Allegiant – A Guy’s Review

Originally I was going to make the argument that Game of Thrones could be considered a YA book, maybe next month. But I started reading Divergent, Insurgent, & Allegiant and decided to talk about that. Sadly I was hit by a kidney stone for the past 5 days. So this is going to be a short review of the series.

As a Teen Librarian, from time to time, I want to read what my patrons are reading be it good or bad. I did skip the Twilight Saga because I knew that wasn’t going to be my cup of tea at all. I did read the Hunger Game books and didn’t care for them too much, but thought they would make a great series of films, which somehow they failed at. I think they trailed too far away from the books when making them. I decided to try Veronica Roth Divergent Series. 

I found the series quite interesting. And worry not there are no spoilers here.

With Divergent I didn’t care for the writing style but the story really intrigued me. Authors all have 
 their own styles when it comes to writing and Roth’s style didn’t click with me, but that is okay. Not everyone is going to like an author’s style, but like I said there was something about the story and characters that kept me going. There was also a mystery in the story that I wanted the answer to – How did Chicago become the place it was now. It was always there in the background, but the author and characters never brought it to the forefront of the story because this was the world they knew and had only known.

Insurgent moved the characters, story and world forward. I will say at this point I had gotten use to the writing style and felt invested in the world and wanted to know what was going to happen next. I am not going to say what happened with in this chapter of the story was predicable but the story moved along the path, which the author set forward for it to travel. It was a middle, every much a middle.

Then Allegiant came along and took me by surprise. Roth drastically, I believe it was drastic, changed her method of telling the story of Tris and the Divergent world. The story was now being told by two different characters, which could now be seen as foreshadowing. As the book started I had to role my eyes because I felt like we were being told the same story all over again that was in Divergent and on some level we were. And I have talked to a lot of people that had a lot of issues with this book especially the first half of the book. I also talked to a lot of people that stopped reading this book or telling people just read the first two and forget the third. I think this is a mistake because Roth takes an incredible risk towards the end of the book. I am glad she did. I really liked it. I like it when the author takes risks and let the story goes where it needs to go; regardless how the readers or fans are going to feel.

After reading this series I found out about Four which is a series of short stories set in the world of Divergence. I am going to have to read them now, because I am intrigued to see where Roth takes us in these stories. I can’t wait to see when and where these stories are set before, after, during the events of these books.

I am might get yelled at for this, but I really did feel like this was Harry Potter meets a dystopian world. I am not saying Roth is as prolific as Rowling was in the Potterverse but there are similarities in Roth’s world.  The factions and houses. The “sorting” ceremonies. And little other things. I did like that no one was safe in Roth’s world; it made me care about the characters, once I realized this fact. Too many author’s love their characters so much that nothing bad can really happen to them. I guess there was a little bit of George R.R. Martin in these books.

I never saw Divergent in theaters but I am currently waiting for August when it comes to BLU Ray so I can see it. I hope the movie doesn’t stray far from the books and it takes the risks taken in the books. I don’t want to see the movies become Hollywoodize and make the movies all happy endings and sunshine and puppy dogs.

I would recommend this series to just about anyone looking for a good read.   

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Nodes of Conjunction

Hello everybody!  As you may have noticed, last month I was suspiciously absent from YA Topia, so for that you have my apologies.  I moved house into the wilderness (the mountains of Cyprus) and had to wait for the roads to be dug up so that I could have internet access, which means this month, I owe you a good post indeed!

This month, I would like to focus on Nodes of Conjunction in writing.  Some of you may already know what these are.  Others may be looking at me in a rather confused fashion.  In order to cover all of the bases, let's look at an explanation of what Nodes of Conjunction actually are.

Every great novel (and let's face it, most of us want to write great novels, not just good ones) have many layers that run throughout the book, which the author weaves together to form the intricate tapestry of the novel.  These plot layers give depth and richness to the world and characters created, thus making the novel live on in the mind of the reader.  Having added layers to your novel, the next step is to get them working together; that is, to connect them.

A node of conjunction is how you achieve this to best effect.  For example, you may have a secondary character facing a problem in a subplot, and this subplot may introduce a new complication to your main character (or, it may provide relief from a stressful point in the novel).  Alternatively, you may use a reoccurring setting in your story – can a certain setting underpin your theme?  Link two characters together?  Show a situation from two different perspectives based on who is at the setting each time?

You can use main or minor characters as a place to build nodes of conjunction.  They can be pulled into each others subplots, or they can conflict or contrast with the protagonist's or antagonist's goals and desires.

In short, a Node of Conjunction is the place where storylines cross.

So why should we use these?  And more importantly, how?

Nodes of Conjunction help to build credibility in the world you have created, as well as building up backdrop that fuels the tension and conflict in the book.  Many writes focus only on the major conflicts and settings, neglecting to look at the plot layers that each character has and how they can interweave, creating a network of emotion, goals, conflicts and obstacles.  Just as in real life, the ripple effect of actions and events can be felt by all.  Do this in your writing and you will create a truly realistic and memorable world.

So how do you go about getting your Nodes of Conjunction to work?  The process is fairly simple but will take some creative brainstorming and lateral thinking.  First of all, draw up three columns – one titled Characters, the next Narrative Lines (these are main problems, extra plot layers, subplots, etc.), and the final one Settings.  Fill in the lists for each character in your book.  Start to draw circles and lines from one column to another, from character to setting or narrative line to narrative line.  Think about how these areas can overlap.  Can one character's narrative line link with another character's setting?  Can this in turn link to another character or narrative line?  Think of it as the ripple effect.  Or better still, seven degrees of separation.  It doesn't just need to be people who are tied to the seven degrees of separation rule – settings, events and plot lines can be too.

Play around with this exercise and see what connections spark in your mind.  The idea is to see how different aspects of your novel can cross over to touch upon each other, thus building texture into your work, and truly bringing your world to life.

Good luck, and let me know how it goes!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Agentopia: Brittany Booker

Welcome to the July edition of Agentopia! For more information and to see other Agentopia posts, click here.

This month Brittany Booker from the Booker Albert Agency is in the spotlight.

Brittany Booker is a  Literary Agent and co-founder of The Booker Albert Literary Agency. She has worked with Marisa Corvisiero during her time at the Lori Perkins agency and the Corvisiero Literary Agency. She has a BA in English and a minor in journalism from The University of Arkansas at Monticello.

She is looking for novels that keep her  up at  night and transport her into the pages.In fiction she is looking for well-written contemporary romances, fantasies, YA and New Adult. She is specifically interested in time travel novels. As for YA, Brittany  is drawn to contemporary works; dramatic or funny romances; and urban fantasy.  She's especially interested in YA that is funny and quirky. The goofier the  heroine the better. Brittany is very interested in New Adult Contemporary Romances, anything dramatic, funny or with a demanding hero. She is a big sucker for happy endings. She also has a  passion for books set in the south. She has working knowledge of Japanese  and Spanish.Brittany is not looking for memoirs or paranormal works at the moment.

Brittany is now considering middle grade and erotica.

Email Brittany at
FollowBrittany on Twitter
Follow Brittany's Blog

Brittany was kind enough to answer a few questions for YAtopia's readers...

What are you looking for in YA submissions right now?

I’m always looking for contemporary romances in YA. But I would like to see more sci-fi with romantic elements in my inbox. I love the feeling of being pulled into a completely different world.

What's an immediate turn-off in a query, something guaranteed to get the author rejected?

To be honest, I don’t have a lot of turn-offs when it comes to queries. I try to give each one a fair chance. However, I do not read ‘Dear Agent’ queries and I only read queries that are sent to me alone. I personally like when authors let me know why they’re pitching to me, or how they stumbled across me.

What's the story got to have to make you want to represent it?

A killer voice. I’ve read so many queries that have amazing concepts, but when I read the sample pages the voice doesn’t draw me in. And it’s not something I can show you how to fix. Finding a voice that readers connect to can take time. I suggest reading other novels in your genre that you like, and try to understand why you like it so much. It’ll help your work tremendously.