Tip of the Week April 25

I can't think of one, so I pooled the editorial staff. They seem to be obsessed with pedophiles, and they aren't being helpful. Here's what I've decided to glean from the random discussion that seems to have developed.

Tip of the Week: The more unpleasant the main character, the more he/she has to grow during the course of the book.

There's nothing wrong with a character that is unlikable, unreliable, and just plain unpleasant. Even a character the reader doesn't really like can be okay. The thing is, you have to make the character grow. He/she has to learn something or at least make some progress. Now, this is true of all characters, but especially true of the unlikeable ones. And they have to grow gradually throughout the book, not just in a great leap at the end. Basically, you have to give the reader a reason to root for the character, hopefully through their growth.


Everyone needs an editor.

Thank you to all the folks who have looked through the site. I've had people making all sorts of helpful catches from misspelled words to David pointing out that I'd forgotten a link to the Books page on every page except the first. I love how this illustrates that we all need someone to look over our work. I don't see my own misspelled words, but I often find others. I was to close to the project to see the mistakes. And I'm very obliged to all of you for helping me find these glitches. Publishing, whether it's a book, a website, or a blog is very much a cooperative project - a lot like life. I'm appreciative to everyone that helps make these projects a success.

And now, like an Academy Award winning actress I will now ennumerate each and every one of these people.

I'm kidding. You folks know who you are, and if you don't, you should. You all already have my eternal thanks. :)


A Little Marketing on my Mind

I have marketing and promotions on the brain, so I'll be talking a little bit about them now. I'm starting to promote the books that my press will be putting out next year, and it recently occurred to me that in less than 365 days the book that I wrote will be released. So, I decided as an interesting case study to use myself to talk about promoting your book.

Now, since I'm aproximately a year out from release, there's not as much this moment that I need to do. I don't have cover art, so I can't make bookmarks or postcards or the like. What I can do though is go ahead and buy my book's domain name. I must take this opportunity to admit that I'm a bit of a domain name junkie. I think I'm up to 10 at this moment, but it is absolutely imperative that you have at least one domain name, possibly 2. The one you must have is your name or whatever domain you choose for your author site. If your name is something like, say Madeline Smoot, you won't have much trouble picking up However, if your name is Matt Smith (I know 3) or you happen to share the same name as Howard Stern (there are 2 of those), then you'll probably have some trouble. At that point, you'll need to just come up with an interesting domain name. Shannon Hale's Squeetus comes to mind. Now, I long ago bought You can see that it's shamefully our of date and that it serves as a sort of interactive brochure. Although kid-friendly, it's geared to adults and teachers.

The other site you might need to buy is your book's site. Now sometimes, the publisher does this for you. If so, be glad, and let them and their webmasters deal with it and do all the work. But if they don't, or if your publisher just devotes a page of their own website to the book, then you'll need to get your book it's own site. This is what I did last night. I had lots of options. I could have gone with the book's title. Since Fergus doesn't have a finalized title yet, this seemed like a bad plan. But for many books this is the way to go. I used when I picked a domain for David's Book of Nonsense, Book 1 of the Words of Power Trilogy. If my book had some interesting location or slogan, I could have chosen that. In the book Evil Genius the main character goes to a school called the Axis Institute. That book's site is Clever. Or you can go with the character's name. That's what I did. I'm now the proud owner of There' nothing to see there yet, but it's a start.


What are you writing?

For the first time in forever, I sat down and wrote something today. It's 400 words of . . . well, I'm not sure what. Maybe a picture book. It was nice to be creating something, to write something that wasn't comments on someone else's work. I like editing, but some days it gets depressing to read other people's ingenious writing and then have your cleverest thought of the day be, "does this sentence really need that adverb?" That's what it felt like yesterday when I spent 5, yes 5, hours plugging in copyedit changes into a layout. It took so long because it was a 300 page novel that had been reformatted so that the hardcopy that had been CEed didn't match the electronic copy I was trying to fix. I had to visually locate every sentence that needed changing. And there was one on nearly every page.

But writing today helped bring back my creative equilibrium. Still, even as I was typing away, I couldn't help but wonder to myself, what are you writing? I have that thesis I need to finish. I'm supposed to write a second Fergus picture book. I'm trying to develop a rhyming picture book about llamas for Regan. And instead I spend 45 minutes creating this quiet little 400 word picture book thing about a girl's search for the definition of a word and whether or not she wants to accept this word as a definition of herself. And I don't know what to do with it now. I couldn't even think of a title. If it were someone else, I would reccommend they take it to their critique group and then consider submitting to appropriate houses and/or agents. Perhaps someday I'll take my own advice.


Breaking Away

I took a nice break from all things editing, including this blog this week. It was nice and relaxing. I read some of the ARCs I got, I read the new Holly Black book, I enjoyed myself. But now I'm back and shall address the issue of editor stalking.

Editor stalking like author stalking or actor stalking is somehow contacting an editor at an inappropriate time or place. I will use for instance, the editor's other place of employment. I got back from TLA to discover that someone had gotten one of the other Barnes & Noble employees to leave me a note in my locker asking how their manuscript was. Now, I know this wasn't a free-lance job because I keep contracts on those. If it was someone's work I agreed to look at as a favor then I feel bad, but I didn't recognize the person's name. And if it was something through one of the presses, that wasn't the way to contact me. Sending me mail or email would be more appropriate.

Even though this person meant well, and the note was polite with no hostility, it was still just a little bit creepy.


TLA Day 4

The end is near. I present the last day of TLA. As I look over the 4 days that I just spent in San Antonio, I realize that there are several people who managed to not make it on my camera. They include Rick Riordan, Cynthia Leitich Smith, Avi, Stephenie Meyer, and my own friend Topher from Bookpeople. I don't know how I managed to miss them. Hmmm. I'll just have to catch them some other time. Until then, enjoy the last of the TLA series.

This also makes my 200th post. I have to say that I've thoroughly enjoyed blogging with all of you out here.

TLA Day 3

More exhibit wackiness.

TLA Day 2

The much awaited TLA Day 2. If it seems long and boring, then I have accurately portrayed the experience.

And Speaking of Picture Books

Kay's There's a Yak in My Bed reached #22 on Amazon's top selling children's books last weekend. Congratulations Kay!

I'm working on the video right now. But until then . . .

Did I ever mention I wrote a picture book that's coming out in 2008? Well, now, I have. And today I got the character sketch of the main character. It is so amazingly wonderful that I just had to post. Regan Johnson of Little Bunny Kung Fu and soon to be released graphic novels Letters from Camp Lizard fame is doing the illustrations. Boss originally commissioned this from me as a work for hire (she provided the character and plot, I wrote) but in the end I turned out to be such a brilliant writer in my own way, or really terrible at sticking to a provided plot (I suspect the latter) that it ended up being her character (a scottish ferret) and my completely new and original plot. So, my name will be on the book. So (drum roll please), introducing Fergus MacDougal Ferrettee:


I know you're still dying to see more of TLA.

But, I'm shirking my blogging duties to go to a small social gathering. I plan to partake of their beverages (even if all they have is beer) and celebrate surviving TLA by getting rip-roaring drunk. Since I've had almost nothing to eat today and I'm dead tired, I'm thinking this won't be much of an acomplishment. I have not shared this plan with Husband. I think I'll make it a surprise. Perhaps I'll drunk-blog later this evening.



I'm tired. Yesterday, I came home, showered, and got in bed. Today, I came home tried to take a nap, showered, and now I'm going to bed. What I'm trying to say is that Day 2 & 3 will have to wait. And let me tell you, days 2&3 are JUST as exciting. And Alan will be pleased. I talk more about food. Considering that I don't even like food that much, I seem to be rather obssessed with it at the conference. Huh. I never noticed before.


TLA Day 1

Here's my video from the first day of TLA. I warn you; it's rough. I couldn't get the effects I wanted, and I couldn't get the music work. It looks like I'll have to invest in real movie editing software (cheap software that is). Still, here it is.

And I did NOT think my shirt was that see-through when I left the house. I'm bummed. It's my official Blooming Tree 2007 TLA shirt.


TLA Here We Come . . .

I've been running frazzled all over the place trying to get all my last minute TLA stuff together. You know, badges, business cards, etc. But at the same time, I've been busy. Here's what I did this weekend. Neat isn't it? I'm especially proud of the buttons. But I need everyone's help. I've only had the chance to look at the site on one browser, so if while you're popping on through you notice the page doing something weird, please let me know what it's doing and what browser you use.

And thank you, guinea pigs, for being willing to help test market the site.


Holiday Humbug

Holidays seem to play havoc with my ability to post. You would think I'd have more time, but I don't have any less work, and then I have to add family obligations on top. I'm at my in-laws watching my 15 month-old nephew destroy the house. My 5 year-old nephew relunctantly went to church with his Nana. I'm enjoying adult conversation with my sister-in-law, and I'm attempting to get this post up. I have much to say, and I'm worried that this week I won't have time to say it all. You see we go to TLA this week. For those not up on industry conferences, TLA is the Texas Library Association. It's the only conference that Blooming Tree exhibits at. I'll also go to BEA and Frankfurt this year, but not as an exhibitor - more a lurker.

But I plan to try to post and even take some video from our booth. Also, if anyone is going to be attending, come by and say hi. We like to have folks to talk to. We'll be at booth 1940. And if you come by you'll get a free reader of Bad Girls Club, our debut YA novel. And that right there, should be incentive enough to visit.


Tip of the Week April 5, 2007

I was working under a deadline yesterday and missed posting my tip. Here goes. And it's a doozy.

Tip of the Week: If you're going to talk badly about someone behind their back, you'd better make sure they aren't a member of the list you are posting on.

I love when my tips are relevant in all sorts of facets of life. Flaming people online (posting hateful things) isn't anything new, but when you do it about people in your professional life you're just asking for trouble.

Here's the situation. An author with a story accepted in an upcoming anthology showed some concerns over a portion of his/her contract, specifically the handling of subrights. Author asked if his/her attorney could call Boss to discuss the contract. Boss said yes and waited for the call. Since the attorney was apparently out of town, Boss figured it would be a few days before this issue arose again. She was wrong. Author had taken the liberty on a writing group board of posting part of the contract with various negative comments and then solicited opinions of the (I think it was 2 sentences) quoted out of context. Now, I dare anyone to take any two sentences in any legal document and have them still sound flattering. I tried this with a CBAY contract. It couldn't be done. Even simple sentences like "The work shall be tentatively titled _____" sounds awful when put in legalese. Needless to say, the excerpt elicited negative comments some of which called into question the publisher's integrity.

Boss, who is a member of this list, got to read every single one of these posts. She got to see exactly what Author thought, in a way I'm sure Author never intended boss to know. Boss also got to see a very interesting side of Author. So did I.

There are so many problems with what Author did. He/She
  1. Posted parts of a confidential contract in a public forum. Never publish part of your contract online.
  2. Acted unprofessional. Having your lawyer talk to the publisher's representative is professional. Venting you spleen to close friends is professional. Venting your spleen to relative strangers in a public forum is not.
  3. Acted prematurely. The contract was still up for negotiation. Boss had already offered to make some concessions. However, posting that kind of thing during the negotiation phase will only sour the whole process.
  4. Was just plain stupid. I mean, really. Not even bothering to check the public member list to see who's going to be getting this? Even if Boss hadn't been a member, I could have been, or any of our staff, or any of our authors. How exactly did Author think this was going to be kept a secret?

So I beg all of you to keep this in mind when you get upset. We all do, and some times we do rash things. However, always try to keep things professional.

And if someone does tell Author about it, or if it Author stumbles upon it, good. I will happily discuss this with him/her over the privacy of email. I won't discuss the contract itself because that is best left to lawyers. I will happily discuss "the incident."

Oh, and for those of you who were in Mistletoe Madness or Summer Shorts, yes it was the exact same contract.

The Squeaky Wheel

I love how the books that need the least promotion get the most. I will use as an example, say Harry Potter 7. The book is eagerly awaited. There are fan sites, "what will happen next" books, and all sorts of private parties. The book is getting tons of hype from the amateurs. And still Scholastic and the big chains are spending a ton of money. There are all kinds of prizes being given out. Most stores are planning huge release parties. (My favorite so far is Bookpeople, here in Austin, that's going to have the entire Austin Symphony Orchestra out doing something.) Admittedly release parties happen for other books, my store's having one for Riordian's Titan's Curse in May, but they aren't at midnight (overtime hours) and they don't require most of the staff to attend as crowd control. And Amazon is now sponsoring a contest for the Harryest city in the country. Basically Amazon will donate $5000 to a charity of Amazon's choice in the city with more than 500 people that preorders the most books. When will the madness stop? I plan to read HP7 because book 6 ended in such a nice unresolved way. Would I have done it without the publicity blitz? Yes. And if the book ends up being awful (which I doubt) then won't all that money look like a waste. Preorders are great, but nothing can save a book if word-of-mouth says it's awful.

Still, if I was a midlist author watching all this money being spent on a book that's doomed to be a success, I think I would be, at the very least, depressed.


I'm Back

I'm not taking another 4 month leave of absence. I've been a little under the weather and then out of town with no internet. So, I apologize for being a little late posting these.

Winner for Yak Drawing Contest:
Zach H.

Winners of the Librarian/Bookseller Contest:
Diane Schrecker
Carole Brooks

I have learned something from these last 2 contests:
1. My demographic ain't librarians and booksellers
2. It ain't children
3. 4 contests is a little bit much even for me. I'm going to go for 2 in the future.

I'll be emailing the winners tomorrow to get their addresses. I have to run to the bookstore now. If I get a chance when I get home tonight, I'll tell you a little bit about some of the books I've been reading at the store. All I can say is Skulldugery Pleasant? Funny.