Tuesday

Free Web Graphics

Now, every blog and website needs a little color and graphics every now and then. A good source for images would be http://www.1clipart.com. Here you can find all sorts of free images like this one:



And the cool thing about this site is that you can edit the images first. Would you rather have the image in grayscale? It can fix that for you. Want it in an oval? It'll do that to.

And of course, best of all, it's free.

Monday

Favicon, Get Yer Favicons

When typing a domain name, like say cbaybooks.com, have you ever noticed that some sites have little icons next to the name? These are called FavIcons. They are a very small (16 x 16 pixel) image that you can set to appear in the address bar of most browsers. How do you set it? Well, I haven't quite figured out how you code it yet. I'm still looking. But I have found a place where you can take your normal logo (in a jpg or gif format) and translate into the special .ico format you need to make this work.

The site is http://www.htmlkit.com/services/favicon/. Here you upload an image, they convert it, and then you download it back to your computer. Pretty simple. Pretty snazzy. I used it to make a little favicon for the Buried in the Slushpile Forum, but if you can figure out how to code it, you can use it on any webpage -- including your blog.

Of course with those of you with webmasters, you can have them do it. But for all the rest of us, converting the file on this site is, you guessed it, free.

UPDATE: I found a site, http://www.thesitewizard.com/archive/favicon.shtml, that tells you how to do it. As you may have noticed, I have now added my own little favicon to the address bar of the site.

Friday

Big Day for Book of Knowledge

Yesterday was a big day for the Book of Knowledge. It was mentioned in both the PW Religion Line (enewsletter) and the PW Children's Bookshelf (enewsletter). You can see the PW Children's Bookshelf one here. Look at that mention in the headlines at the top and that beautiful cover art below.

I'm so excited I could cry. However, I decided a more productive thing to do would be to offer the books for sale. It's also a way for me to debut the new Blooming Tree store. I had hoped to have all the site links working by the time I did this, but alas, I've been sick. So, for now, ignore all the beautiful drop-down java menus at the top. They don't go anywhere yet. But instead, enjoy the new look and feel of the Blooming Tree store.

And even better, enjoy the CBAY books that I've put on sale. Curious to see what all the controversy is about in David's books? You can buy both of them as a set for only $20. And to be fair, you can also get both of the The Forgotten Worlds books in a set for only $20. That's for the science fiction enthusiasts. Or perhaps you would rather have paperbacks? Well, you can get The Secrets of the Cheese Syndicate and our newest book, The Amulet of Amon-Ra, together for $10. There are bargains to be had for all.

So, check out the new store. I hear books make great gifts.

More Free Stuff

I had meant to have all sorts of posts about free stuff this week, but I've been sick. Sleep all day, only wake up to take cold medicine, kind of sick. So, I'm going to have extend my free stuff posts through next week too. Think of it as a Christmas present of freeness.

Today's free web stuff comes to us from the pretty cool website Widgetbox.com. Here you can get all sorts of widgets for your site and blog, and most of them are free. As an example I made a slideshow of the Sacred Book Series covers:



You too could make a slideshow with your covers (if you have multiple books), artwork from the book (but only if you get permission) or photos from events or promotional art.

Another option is to make your very own widget for your blog/website. I made the free example below:



With this, you can put it pretty much anywhere on the web, and even better, other people can too. Of course, for a small fee you can make a much nicer looking one, but this is free. And today, we are all about the free.

There are also a bunch of other widgets to play with and customize. Browse the site and have a looksee. At the very least it will help you put off that revision you've been meaning to do.

Sunday

Newsletters

Since I'm working on websites this week, naturally I find that I have the internet on the brain.

Specifically, I have been thinking about free stuff that you can do with the internet. And so, I thought I'd share the great e-newsletter manager I found called MailChimp.com. As long as you don't send more than 6 emails to 500 users a month, the thing is free. It comes with free templates, free subscriber collection, and free management. Yes, I said free.

Blooming Tree will soon be starting a newsletter, and you can guess who we plan to use in the beginning.

So, if you want to test out an enewsletter, now you can start for free.

Thursday

We made PW's Children's Bookshelf

They discovered we exist! True, CBAY is never mentioned by name, and it's not the profile that will later be in the Religion Bookline, but the article about David Michael Slater that's been kicking up all this dust is mentioned in Publishers Weekly!

I'm doing little fancy dances around the room.

You can see the link here. It's under the "In the Media" heading. Yeah!

Could a review at some point be next? We can only hope . . .

So much to do, so little time

I am swamped. There's no other way to say it. I am bogged down with a thousand things to do, and that doesn't even include my personal life. (Oh that's cute. I pretended to have a personal life.)

What all this means is that I have a ton to talk about, and no time to talk about it in. For instance, someone is trying to hack my author, David Michael Slater's, website. Yup. Apparently the forum on the Oregonian article is not enough for someone. They would like to use David's own website as a forum against him. Crazy. (I suppose the hackings could just be coincidence, but the timing is just a little too suspicious.)

Then, I've been trying to get the new BTP and CBAY sites up and going. I've got a whole new shopping cart for BTP that I am tres excited about. Only, I can't get the shipping information to show. At the moment, it just tells me it doesn't ship to whatever area I've chosen. Grumble. I'm communicating with the developer on that.

And finally, I have to edit David's third book. The whole thing. Today. Ack! What am I still doing on the internet?

Sunday

One Page Summary Winners

At long last, I am announcing the one page summary winners. Admittedly, I notified them a while back, but this is the first chance I've had to fully discuss them again.

The Top Five (in the order they happen to be in my email) are:
  • Kelly Lyman, The Watcher
  • Lori Calabrese, Playing Hardball
  • Tiffany Harrison, Shades of Gray
  • Buffy Andrews, Brain Invaders
  • Susan James, Beneath the Trees

Congratulations to you all, and thank you to all of those who entered. We had a tough time narrowing it down to those five.

All five of these did an excellent job of fully representing their story but still staying within the word limit. They all gave me an excellent idea of their entire plot, introduced me to the key characters, and were straightforward and well written. What they did not do was have teaser questions, hint at a plot point but then not tell it, or play coy.

Now, when we went to choose the two overall winners, we did not judge solely on the summary. You have to recall that manuscript request was the prize, so the Blooming Tree folk and I had to consider what would be a good fit for our overall list. One of the summaries was for an adult novel (the rules didn't exclude them), but neither CBAY (which doesn't do adult) nor BTP (which does but isn't acquiring for right now) are reading adult ms at the moment. So obviously, this summary couldn't be an overall winner right now.

So (drumroll please) the overall winner for Blooming Tree Press was Playing Hardball, a midgrade boy's book with baseball and injustice.

The overall winner for CBAY was Beneath the Trees, a YA high fantasy complete with love, loss, and good and bad fairies.

Congratulations again to the winners and to everyone who entered. There wasn't a single summary I read that made me think, "Ick. What a horrible idea for a book." (I have read some query letters before that have made me think that.)

Saturday

A Banning in the Making?

So, I had planned to use this post to announce the one-page summary winners, and to discuss them, but I'm going to have to bump them one more day.

*** SPOILER ALERT *** I will be mentioning the climax of The Book of Knowledge, which just sold out on Amazon. However, there are more on the way.

It seems there is a storm a-brewing in the ultra-conservative, hot bed of fundamentalism, Portland, OR. Yes, that's right. I typed Portland, OR. It seems that even in that green, progressive city, people still want to burn and ban books.

It all started a few weeks ago when my author, David Michael Slater, got interviewed for his local paper. Then this week the state paper, The Oregonian, ran the following article:

Beaverton teacher's teen adventure series is stirring up a storm

You should really read the comments on it. Add to them if you've read the book. Or for that matter even if you haven't. Reading the book never seems to be a requirement for engaging in a banned book discussion. My personal favorite is the one that called David a satanist. I'm assuming the person hasn't read the book, although of course I could be wrong. It's just that there aren't any witches, wizards, black cats, black masses, inverted crosses or other things associated with satanism in the book. There are just books (and a reinterpretation of the first part of Genesis. It's not even the whole book.) But I suppose to some, books (or perhaps reinterpretations) are satanic.

It's been snowballing from there.

Now don't get me wrong. I'm not complaining. If anything I'm running around giggling with glee. I want my books to get banned -- it's my whole slogan and all. And if anything, I kind of expected this one would. You can't really publish a book where ***SPOILER*** one of the characters is biblical Adam trying to rid the world of free will in an effort to coax God to return to Earth. There's a good chance you'll get some flack.

However, I must point out that I can't imagine a child reading this and going, "Wow, the Torah (or Bible) is wrong on this. It says Adam and Eve had children and died, but Slater in his fictitious book says Adam really is still alive today trying to trick kids into using a magic book to destroy free will. And then God will come back. Yeah!" I mean this is no DaVinci Code that was based on suppossed historical facts that supposedly proved the whole mortal, married Jesus thing. I'm pretty sure no one's claiming an insane thousands-of-years-old Adam is running around. But of course, Pullman's Dark Materials and Lewis' Narnia aren't exactly paragons of realism and they have been censored for their religious overtones.

So, if anyone decides to stage a public burning, as David says, buy them first. But then let me know because I a)want the pictures and b)will plant a tree to offset the carbon footprint of the bonfire. It seems like an Oregonesque (and Earth friendly) thing to do.
I have not internet for the past few days, and now Publishers Weekly, yes PW, wants to interview one of my authors and I have to get them all of the press stuff.

So, blog oh blog, you're going to have to wait a little longer for your post.

Wednesday

Tip of the Week 12/2/09, Part II

All right, now I have an addendum for the tip I posted earlier: If an editor (or agent) asks for your full manuscript, send them the entire thing. Do not just send the chapters they haven't seen yet, unless they specifically ask you to.

Previously in the contest, the entrants submitted the first 3 chapters as part of their book proposal. I just got an email for chapters 4-10. Now, I was not on the initial reading committee, so I have never seen chapters 1-3. Even if I had, I wouldn't remember them since it's been several months since the initial reads. I now can't read this one until someone at BTP gets me the rest.

And as an FYI, these are blind readings I'm doing. I have no idea who the people are that are doing these things. But if it does happen to be you, remember these tips the next time you are asked to submit a full. It just makes the editor's life easier. And since I'm typing this with one hand while the other holds a sick, but fortunately sleeping, baby, I could use as much easy as I can get.

Tip of the Week 12/2/09

Tip of the Week: When an editor (or agent -- this applies to them too) asks for your complete manuscript via email, do not send each chapter in it's own separate attachment. Send the entire work in one document.

This is not a joke. I really did get a full manuscript from the Bloom Award sent to me with every chapter in a document. I threatened to refuse to read it on principle, but I was told I had too. Remember you don't want to alienate the editor before you even get started, and having to combine 17 documents into 1 so I can load it on my reader definitely puts me in a foul mood.

Tip of the Week 11/18/09

Tip of the Week: Always read all of the directions, and then follow them.

Now before all of the people who entered the contest worry that I'm talking about them, calm down. I'm not. In fact every single person who entered my contest had a perfect entry -- just the way I wanted it.

However, I thought of this tip because I've been reading submissions for The Bloom Award over at Blooming Tree Press, and there people have not always been as successful. Remember when it says double-spaced, it means double-spaced. Not 1 1/2 spaced, not triple spaced. Double spaced.

Sunday

One Page Summary Contest Information

This year, I'm running a one page summary contest. All entries should be a one page plot summary of a manuscript you have written. The top 5 entries will be posted and discussed on this blog (pending author approval of course). The top fantasy/sci fi/adventure/mystery summary will have its full manuscript requested for consideration for publication by CBAY Books. The top summary in any genre will have its full manuscript requested for consideration for publication by Blooming Tree Press. Since neither press is taking unsolicited manuscripts, this is a great chance to potentially have your work looked at.

To enter, email your summary to onepagesummary@gmail.com by 11:59PM (PST) Tuesday, November 17. Obviously this is a special email that I have set up specifically for this contest, so you don't have to worry about your entry being lost amongst my normal email chatter. Also, that means that you should title your email the title of your work. Please then place your summary in the body of your email. Do not attach anything. If you submit your summary as an attachment, I will delete it without opening and reading it. Also in your email, please before your summary include a one sentence line telling me the genre and age group (chapter book, midgrade, or YA) that the book is intended for.

And finally, here are the rules. Please read them all:
  1. This contest is open to any one page summary written for a fiction chapter book, midgrade, or YA novel.
  2. No non-fiction.
  3. Your summary must be for a work that you have already completed. If you win and I ask for your manuscript, you must be able to supply it immediately.
  4. Your summary must be a plot summary. Do not include teasers.
  5. Plot summaries must not exceed 300 words.
  6. I know I said this above, but NO attachments. I'm serious.
  7. All entries are due by 11:59 PM (PST) Tuesday, November 17. No exceptions.
I hope to be able to notify the top 5 by this Friday, and then run one summary a day next week. The top two winners will be announced on the Sunday after Thanksgiving.

Any questions? Put them in the comment section here, or message my profile over at Get Me Out of the Slushpile!.

Saturday

Book of Nonsense Audio

The Book of Nonsense has been made into an audio book (and not by me)!

A while back, I sold the Colonial Radio Theatre on the Air the audio rights for this work, and now, the long awaited (by me and the author) audio book is now available for pre-release download. Technically, the audio book hasn't been released yet so you won't find it on itunes or amazon or the like for now. But, if you are as impatient as me, you'll be glad to know that it is up on lulu.com.

And if you would like to hear a preview in all its coolness, click here. When I did it just automatically played on quicktime. I had nothing to do with it, so I don't know if that's just because my computer already had it or if it requires it.

Wednesday

Tip of the Week 11/11/09

Tip of the Week: To get your one page summary started, try writing a single sentence for each chapter that highlights the main event.

Trying to write a summary for your own work can sometimes be a daunting task. This is a simple way to get yourself started if you hit a roadblock. It can also help you determine if you've missed something in your plot.

Tuesday

More One Page Summaries

Like I said yesterday, a one page summary divulges the entire plot of your novel. Another word for it would be a plot summary. So, to help people understand what I mean by plot summaries, I went and found a few good ones on the web.

The first one is the plot summary for Madeleine L'Engle's A Swiftly Tilting Planet. You can find it on wikipedia here. Just look at the part of the page labeled "Plot Summary," not all the other things on the page.

This summary does a good job of detailing out every major plot point in an interesting manner. Granted, it contains lots of spoilers, but that's exactly what an agent or editor wants in a plot summary. They want to see the entire plot arc.

Now because this book is one in a series, the plot summary does not have to introduce the main characters. It's assumed that the reader, in this case random wikipedia readers, are already familiar with the characters in question. If you are pitching another book in a series to an editor who is familiar with your characters, then you can also be as brief about your characters. Otherwise, you would want to tell a sentence about each major character.

Another great source of plot summaries are any of the study guides designed for students. As an example, I've linked to SparkNotes plot summary for Treasure Island. You can see the page here.

These plot summaries are designed for students who do not have time (or desire) to read the assigned books. In a short summary, SparkNotes, Cliff Notes, and the like tell the reader about key characters and all major plot and subplot points. These are the same things an editor or an agent needs to see when they are trying to determine if they would like to read a certain work.

So, keep practicing on those summaries. Remember, the best will have their manuscripts requested.

Sunday

One page summaries

One of the key parts of a query letter is the one page summary or synopsis of your work. This is literally what it sounds like -- a one page, single spaced summary of your novel from beginning, middle to end. Unlike your query letter, cover letter, or pitch, you do want to give away the whole story. You want the editor or agent to be able to tell what is going on. They key is to also entice them.

I have found that the best one page summaries are the ones that almost read like a micro-story with no scenes. Obviously it's impossible to retell a thirty thousand word novel in three hundred words and leave in things like scenes or descriptions. This is pretty much the only time you should be doing all telling and no showing. But that doesn't mean your writing skills should disappear. This is still a writing sample. After all if you can't entice the editor/agent with your synopsis, then you probably aren't going to be able to get them to read the entire work.

So that leads me to the writing pompt for this week. Take your finished novel and write a one page summary. And you might want to consider participating in the prompt this week. Over at Get Me Out of the Slushpile! you can post your summary and recieve feedback from me and other people. Please do not post your summary as an attachment. To make it easier for everyone, just paste it into the body of a post.

Then after everyone has had a week to receive comments and revise, I'm going to run a small one page summary contest. The top 5 I'll post and discuss in 2 weeks, and the top general one (chapter book, mid-grade, YA -- any genre/topic) and the top midgrade or YA -- SF, fantasy, mystery, or adventure novel will have their full manuscript requested (the general for Blooming Tree, the more specific genred one for CBAY). More details and rules will be posted next week. But just FYI, all entries will be due Tues. Nov. 17. But like I said, I'll post all the details next Sunday. This week is devoted to practice.

- Posted via iphone

Friday

Weekend Discussion

So far I've mentioned what I don't like to see in a mystery story, but what exactly goes into making a good mystery? Here are my ideas for a fun, exciting mystery:
  1. Logic
    In the end, the mystery has to make sense. As part of this, the characters have to be consistent, the timeline should be linear, and all relevant information must have been presented. When the detective explains at the end how he figured it out, the reader should feel a little surprised that they weren't able to figure it out too. After all, the solution should make sense.
  2. Red Herrings
    Of course, one of the reasons the reader didn't figure it out is by the liberal use of red herrings. This is where the author gives great literary weight to inconsequential things but pays only a passing glance to relevant, important information. Agatha Christie is great at hiding the obvious amongst a plethora of random facts. In almost all of her mysteries the most obvious solution is the correct one -- the husband kills the wife, the wife kills the husband, etc. In fact, these people are almost always suspected in some way or other before initially being exonerated. She confuses the issue with so many false (but plausible) trails that everyone gets taken in. In fact, if someone is serious about writing a mystery, even one without murder, I would recommend reading Christie's The Mysterious Affair at Styles and The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. Quite a bit can be learned about mystery plotting by studying these books.
  3. Protagonist Solves the Mystery Him/Herself
    This is the problem I come across the most when reading mystery manuscripts. The piece will be proceeding in a normal mystery fashion and then instead of the kid solving the mystery, a helpful (normally adult) person steps in and explains it all. This is the big difference between Harry Potter 1 & 2 and Harry Potter 3-7. In the first 2, Harry and friends figure everything out on there own each time. They discover what's being hidden in Hogwarts or the location of the Chamber of Secrets and the type of beast within all by themselves. In the rest of the books, Dumbledore tells Harry everything. This doesn't make them bad books but it just makes them mysterious instead of actual mysteries.
Those are some of the things that I think make a great mystery. What do you think makes one? Join the discussion at Get Me Out of the Slushpile!

Thursday

Review of the Week

Enola Holmes Series
By Nancy Springer
By far, this is one of my favorite mystery series being written for kids right now. The series begins with Mycroft and Sherlock Holmes's eccentric mother disappearing, leaving behind a significantly younger sister. In their usual lack of tact, the men decide to pack 14-year-old independent minded Enola off to boarding school. Enola has other ideas. Thus begins her adventures in dodging her brothers and running her own rival detective agency.

These books are classic mysteries with clues, red herrings, and lots of deductive reasoning. Enola has to decipher codes in various mediums, use disguises, spy out the land, and practice self-defense. For kids who want a classic mystery, these books are some of the best out there. And for those authors who are looking to write mysteries, studying the way Springer arranges her plots would be most instructive.

I cannot recommend these highly enough.

Wednesday

Tip of the Week 11/4/09

Tip of the Week: When writing a genre book, especially a mystery, be sure to research, research, research.

Now obviously you don't want to read so many books in your genre so many times that you start subcounciously plagarising them, but you do want to be familiar with your genre's conventions. As an editor (and as a reader), there is nothing more frustrating than reading a book that you expect to work out one way, only to have it somehow mess up out of ignorance. It's one thing to have a book conciously flaunt its genre's conventions and work. It's quite another to accidentally omit hallmarks of the genre and have the piece not work out.

Monday

Well, my Twitter/Facebook update experiment is over. I generally let everyone see what one of my week's was like. Of course, it wasn't entirely accurate because I got too stressed on Friday to try to do posts. I also worked a little Saturday and a lot Sunday. It was one of those weeks where I don't get a day off. Sigh. The joys of being your own boss.

However, now we're back to the normal editorial fare for this blog. And this week, I though we'd talk about my favorite genre of all: the mystery.

I think there is a sad lack of pure mysteries in the midgrade and YA age ranges. You find lots of mystery chapter book series and hundreds of adult mysteries, but not that many midgrades and YAs. And of the midgrades and YA mysteries you do find, they almost always cheat.

For example, in Chasing Vemeer when the painting uses supernatural means to tell the children where it is, that's not solving a mystery. It's cheating. Or in Getting the Girl when the author withholds crucial information that would have solved the mystery early on, but the mystery isn't solvable without it, that's not a great mystery. It's cheating.

So, this week instead of a writing prompt, I thought we could have an extra discussion. I am interested in knowing what are some of the great midgrade and YA mysteries that you've read. Go to the forum for Buried in the Slushpile to join the discussion I started there.

Tuesday

The Acquisition Process

While I was meeting with Future Intern today, she asked what our acquisition process was like here at CBAY Books. As I sat there telling her how we did it here in Texas-Small-Press-Land, it occurred to me that others might also want to see our process.

So, in an effort to be very clear (and as an excuse to play with Microsoft Vissio), I created a flowchart of the acquisition process. You can view the PDF here.

It's all color-coded, so you can see that there is a lot that the editor does (green) and very little the author (orange) can do. There are also eleven different times you can be rejected, a minimum of five times you can be asked to rewrite -- after all that process could easily turn into an endless feedback look -- but you have to follow all the little arrows, and in order, if you want to get published.

Now, of course, this is more the Blooming Tree way than CBAY. Since it's pretty much just me, I get to be editor, editorial board, marketing and publisher all in one. But I do make P&Ls, run market analysis, and consider a manuscript's merit. On the other hand, it's just me, not several committees. If I like the manuscript, the market's promising, the numbers work, you complement my house's list, and the money's there, you're probably going to get published. Of course, it's still pretty rare that all those things align. (Particularly getting those numbers to work. Tricky little numbers.)

And these are just the steps at a small press with only 7 people. Imagine what it's like at the large houses. Hopefully, this will help you put any rejection you may have ever gotten in your writing career in perspective.

It also demonstrates just how miraculous it is that anything ever gets published.

Sunday

This Week's Plan

Often in my professional life I get asked what exactly I do. So, this week, I thought I'd let everyone have a voyeuristic glimpse into an average week of a small press editor/publisher.

Here's the plan. For the rest of the week, I will generally make hourly posts updating the world of my professional activities. (I will not be informing everyone every time I hold the baby or eat or change rooms. I have not yet sunk to that level of twittering.) There will be two places that you can follow this:

or at my Twitter account, Buried Editor.

Then, I'll still do articles about editing and publishing on this site.

Friday

Weekend Discussion 10/23/09

For this week, I thought we could all brainstorm and share interesting, different, and creative ideas for release parties. Whether your book is soon to be published or you're still working on the first draft, at some point your book will come out. It's never too early to start planning for its release.

Here are some interesting things some of my authors have done:

PJ Hoover - At both of her release parties, Tricia gave away backpack tags for the kids. More unique than bookmarks, these little laminated cards clip on a kid's bag. When the kid takes the bag to school, other kids learn about the book. Sneaky.

David Michael Slater - is sending kids on a literary treasure hunt around town this year for the release of Book of Knowledge.

What are some successful things you've done at book releases? What good ideas do you have for future parties?

If you are willing to share, join us on Get Me Out of the Slushpile! for our discussion.

Thursday

Tip of the Week 10/22/09

I completely forgot to post this yesterday. It seems to be true that after pregnancy your brain is never the same again. Sigh. But in keeping with this week's party theme, here's the Tip:

Tip of the Week: Practice reading your book excerpt aloud.

Although not a mandatory part of release parties, many authors choose to read a passage from their book. This is a wonderful way to expose people to your book. However, if you read in a flat monotone, your book, no matter how exciting, is going to sound flat. I have worked in the kid section through to many boring adult events where the author spoke as if his/her voice had no inflection. They could be reading about the funniest or the most tragic thing, and it all sounded the same. This is not going to encourage the random book customer who stumbles upon your event to buy your book.

I once read (I don't remember where - if anyone knows let us know in the comments) that authors should consider taking acting classes. I don't know if I'd go quite that far, but definitely practice. And if you can practice in front of kids, even better. If nothing else, you'll learn if your excerpt is too long if it can't hold the child's attention.

Tuesday

A Little Party Planning

I've been futzing with my camera, trying to get the video onto my computer. Since I don't have a video link here, obviously I've been unsuccessful. I fear I may have to actually read the directions. I know. Horrible.

In the meantime though, I've been thinking of some general advice when planning a release party. Here's what I've come up with:

Do:
Hold your event at your home, a bookstore, a church, or some place similar.

Don't:
Hold your party at a conference center, a park, a bowling alley, or a convention center.

When you have your party, you want you and your book to be center stage. Holding your party at a very public place like a bowling alley or park can be distracting. On the other hand, if you pick a really large venue, then your party is going to look small no matter how many people come. Even with a couple hundred people at a party, it'll look tiny if the place seats thousands.

Do:
Have party favors for everyone who comes. People like to get free stuff.

Don't:
Give away your book to everyone there.

It's one thing to give a copy or two as a door prize, but resist the urge to hand a free copy of your book to everyone you meet. The whole point of a release party is to give everyone you know the opportunity to purchase your book and get it signed. Besides, if you give everyone a free book, the expense is going to add up fast. And as you all know, here at Buried in the Slush Pile, we are all about doing stuff as frugally as possible. Having bookmarks, backpack tags, small posters, reading guides, etc. are great freebies. Your book or even readers of your book are not so good.

Sunday

Party

Today is party day, so I don't have time to do a long post. Hopefully I'll have some video of the party to post tonight, but I don't have anything right now.

But I do have a writing prompt for everyone. At most book release parties, there is a question and answer period, and the following question is almost always asked. So consider your own answer:

What inspired you to write your book?

Friday

Review of the Week

Normally I talk about other children's books, but this week I thought I'd tell you about a book specifically written for adults. I know. It's shocking. I've read a book for adults. But this specific book nicely works with this week's topic. I present:

A Survival Guide to Social Media and Web 2.0 Optimization
By Deltina Hay

This book covers everything from blogging to social networks and bookmarking sites. If it can be done to market your book online, this book tells you how to do it. There are all sorts of tips and techniques in this book that you can easily use to quickly enhance your web presence. And of course most of the things are free and only take minutes to create.

Another good thing about this book is that it is accessible to multiple skill levels. Whether you're a beginner that struggles with Facebook or an old pro that does your own coding, this book has something to offer. Personally, I refer to the book all the time.

Wednesday

Tip of the Week 10/14/09

Tip of the Week: Integrate as much of your social media as possible to save time and headaches.

Thanks to all those badges and widgets that I mentioned yesterday, you can now interconnect your blogs, websites, and various social media pages. This can save you all sorts of time.

For instance, when I push the publish button on this post, thanks to the modern miracle of widgets, this post will appear on my profile page and on the sidebar of Get Me Out of the Slush Pile!. It will also show up on my Facebook profile and on the Buried in the Slush Pile Page and on JacketFlap. And finally (if I ever get it to work) it will show up on my redesigned webpage.

Then, after I post this, I will go over to the Buried in the Slush Pile Page and add a status update. This will automatically show up on my Twitter account which will then show up on the sidebar here and on my homepage.

Neat, huh?

With minimal effort I will have created dynamic content for several sites, but I will only have to log on to two. And one of the good things about all this is (with the exception of my website) none of this integration required any knowledge of coding or html. It's all point and click. Anyone can do it.

So, go ahead and try. Save yourself the hassle of trying to post the same content multiple times. Just do it once and be done.

Tuesday

The Beauty of Badges

One of the nice things about social networking sites is that they all seem to come with free badges and widgets. You can use these badges to promote your site. Some of them even let you customize what you place on them or choose the colors so that your badge will coordinate with the rest of your site.

However, with so many badges and widgets from different sites to chose from, there is always the chance that you can place so many badges on your site that they become overwhelming. You don't want to clutter the sidebars of your site or blog. Too many badges are overwhelming for the reader and often leads him/her to not click on any at all. You have to be selective in the ones you choose to permanently display.

For example, on Facebook alone I have the ability to create 7 different badges -- 1 for my profile, 1 for this blog's page, 1 for CBAY Books' page, and 1 for each of CBAY's different books' pages. Now if I place all 7 of those badges on my sidebar, they would just get lost. Instead, I just placed the most relevant Facebook badge -- the one for Buried in the Slush Pile's page.

The only other widgets I have on this page's sidebar all relate directly to this blog. Remember to place your own badges sparingly as well.

Paperback Pages

In case you were wondering, I had planned on making face book pages for the CBAY paperback books too. So (insert triumphant trumpet intro here), I present the Facebook pages for The Amulet of Amon-Ra and The Secrets of the Cheese Syndicate:


Monday

Face-booking

Yesterday we talked about writing keyword rich text and practiced writing keyword rich bios. Today we'll discuss one of those places you can use those bios.

Now, I realize that most people are acquainted with Facebook, and that the majority of you already have profiles there. But have you considered how useful the place is for book marketing?

For starters, you can set up a page devoted to your book. I set up the following 4 pages this morning. To do all 4 pages, it took me less than 1 hour. You can see them by clicking on their badges below:






Admittedly, I just set them up this morning, so they don't have a ton of content on them yet. But you can see all the different places content can be added. And there are some great things you can do:
  1. Add your blog using the Networked Blogs app.
    Then, when you update your blog, it automatically updates on your page.
  2. Upload photos.
    You can add book covers, interior artwork, photos from events, fan art, etc.
  3. Upload video -- like book trailers.
  4. Post events.
    Let people know about release parties, contests, or other activities related to your book.
  5. Have discussions about your book.
    Fans can ask you questions about the character or possible sequels or embarrassing personal questions you can then choose to ignore.

The possibilities are almost literally endless. And once you add the badge to your blog and/or website (like I did on the right hand side), people will join the site as fans. For once, you don't have to find them, they'll find you.

And of course, the best part about all of it is that it's free.

Sunday

Tell Me A Little About Yourself . . .

For the past few weeks we've been discussing tips, techniques and writing trends in children's books. But a writer's job doesn't end with the completion of the novel. Oh no. There is so much promotional writing that authors do -- especially on the internet. There's blogging, Facebook, My Space, twittering, and so many other ways to connect with your readers and other authors on the Net. This week we are going to focus on a few of these. But before we jump into the world of internet opportunities, let's discuss how to write for the web.

Now many of you may already know this, but for the internet newbies, we should discuss the importance of keywords. These are the terms people use when searching the internet. (They are also what spyders use when categorizing pages on the internet.) They are incredibly important. So, you want to write text that is "rich" in keywords. An example of a keyword would be the term "children's book."

Of course, writing rich keyword text is good, but also using the right keywords is better. Some keywords are searched more often than others. For example, the term "children's literature" was searched on Google 110,000 times last month. Not bad. But the term "children's books" was searched 450,000 times. So, in the very first sentence of this post I had a choice of using the term children's literature or children's books. Both made sense in the context of the sentence. You can see which one I chose.

Now how do you know which terms are searched the most? The easiest (and free-est) tool is Google's Adwords Keyword Tool. Type in a potential keyword, and the tool will give you the number of times it was searched as well as the rankings of other similiar terms.

And that leads us to the writing prompt for this week:

One of the great places to place rich keywords is in the biography that you fill out for all those different profile pages. So, write a 25 word and a 50 word keyword rich biography. Remember to write it in 3rd person and to make sure you mention the title of your novel if it has been published or soon to be published. Otherwise, try to pack it as full of keywords as possible. You want your name to come up on search engines even when people don't specifically search for you.

If you would like feedback on your bio, post it at Get Me Out of the Slushpile!.

Friday

Weekend Discussion 10/9/09

The discussion on the comment section of Tuesday's post about authorial intrusion got me thinking about writing trends that have gone out of style but that might deserve a resurgence.

For instance, I would love to see the return of the frame story. You know, books like the Cantebury Tales or Arabian Nights. I belive the recent adult book Hakawati does this, but I can't think of any recent children's books that do the same. I love short story collections, but stories woven together in a frame story are even better.

What bygone fictional trope would you like to see make a comeback?

Join the discussion at Get Me Out of the Slush Pile!.

Wednesday

Tip of the Week 10/7/09

Tip of the Week: Write the novel that's in you. Don't try to force yourself into a genre that isn't for you.

I realize that on this blog, I constantly tell people what things to write. I talk about genres that are popular and trends in publishing. We discuss different techniques and the different ways they can be used. And this is useful information to use when revising or trying to decide where to send your manuscript when you are ready to look for publishers or agents.

But, and this is a big but, none of this is remotely important when you are writing that very first draft. Then you need to write the story that is in you -- the one you need to tell. When you first sit down to that computer, typewriter, or piece of paper, you need to forget that editors want Egyptian fantasy, especially if you can't stop thinking about that teen problem novel.

After all, two of the biggest kid series in recent times -- Harry Potter & Percy Jackson -- were not written with the market in mind. In fact, when Harry Potter came out, kid fantasy was considered dead. Just think, you too might be responsible for the revival of a genre.

Remember, what's written for the heart is almost always better than what's written for the market.

Monday

Not Everything Comes Back in Style

Yesterday I wrote about the resurgence of episodic fiction in children's literature. Books like The Penderwicks and even The Graveyard Book exemplify this trend. Both books contain stand alone episodes. However they don't include some other traits found in classic kiddie lit. It turns out that not everything found in those works of bygone days is making a comeback.

For instance, omniscient narrators still don't make appearances in modern children's books. The POV these days is almost very close to the main character. Occasionally, there will be multiple points of view, but those are tricky to do well. Instead, most books use a limited narration that is so close to one character's view point, that it almost can be written in first person.

Another thing you won't find in a modern kid's book is author intrusion (or interruption if you prefer that term). In my favorite of the Narnia books, The Horse and His Boy, CS Lewis makes the following statement (badly paraphrased from memory by me): "In Calormen the children were taught to tell stories much the way English children are taught to write essays. But while people want to hear the stories, I've never met anyone who wants to read the essays."

Now, that is probably my favorite example of all time of author intrusion. It's funny, witty, charming, and horribly true. However, it has no place in a modern children's book. For one thing, it breaks the fictional dream and pulls the reader out of the story. For another, it takes the story off into a tangent. Modern books are written in a more concise, straight narrative form. Author intrusions these days just seem to stick out. I've yet to see one in a manuscript I've worked on that hasn't needed to be cut.

And finally, the various -isms -- sexism, racism, ageism, etc -- are completely unacceptable in modern literature. Gone (mercifully) are the days of perfectly PC books, but blatant or even subtle -isms that aren't in a book to specifically show how bad they are are unacceptable. And you wouldn't want to read them anyway. Reading the sexism in the original Tom Swift or the racism in the original Nancy Drew made me want to gag. Although instructive from a historical perspective of how bad it used to be, there is no need to duplicate those kinds of stereotypes today.

So remember, regardless of the type or style of book you are writing, try to avoid weird omniscient narrators, author intrusions, and -isms. The editor that has to work on your manuscript will appreciate it.

Sunday

Everything Old is New Again

Now everyone knows that good writing never goes out of style. And the recent resurgence of classic writing styles and techniques would be a great example of this.

It seems that in all sorts of books these days you encounter the kind of writing that you used to only find in books like Little Women or Anne of Green Gables. I am of course referring to the return of episodic children's fiction. You know the kinds of books I'm talking about -- the ones where each chapter has its own plot structure as part of the overall plot. In these chapters the protagonist has his/her own adventure that can also act as its own stand-alone story. Sometimes the book has multiple protagonists and different chapters are devoted to his/her own individual adventures separate from the group.

Now in some ways this type of book is harder to write than the standard novel. There is the overall story arc for the book, but each episode has its own arc. And just like the overall plot, these subplots have to be satisfactorily concluded. If you have the episodes running concurrently, this can leave you with a lot of loose ends to type up in the end.

On the other hand, this kind of book can be great for those people who like to write in bursts. Each episode should generally be able to stand alone. Yes, it's part of the overall plot, but it also is complete on its own. So, the different episodes can be written at different times. In fact they can even be written as short stories. During the revision stage the stories (if they are not to different or separate in time) can be combined into an overall plot.

And so that leads us to the writing prompt for the week:
Write a 500-1000 word chapter that could be a stand alone excerpt. (In other words something that works both as a short story and as a chapter.)

Remember if you choose to participate, post your chapter directly on the site at http://buriedintheslushpile.ning.com/forum/topics/episodic-exercise.

Friday

Weekend Discussion 10/2/09

All of the CBAY books coming out this year are based on some sort of mythology. In a weird (unintentional) symmetry both paperback books -- The Amulet of Amon-Ra and The Secrets of the Cheese Syndicate -- are based on what I call inactive mythologies while the two hardcover -- The Navel of the World and The Book of Knowledge -- use active mythologies. I consider an active mythology to be the stories that modern, mainstream religions base their beliefs on.

Obviously, using an active mythology makes your book more controversial since you are working with (and often contradicting) some people's religious beliefs. What do you think about using an active mythology in a fantasy?

Go to the Buried in the Slush Pile Forum to weigh in.

Thursday

Review of the Week

I took a "sick" day yesterday, so I didn't get the Tip of the Week posted. However, it was less than stellar. I occasionally lack inspiration, and this tip was a great example of that. It was "Don't limit yourself to Greco-Roman Mythology." So, instead of talking about that, I'm just going to go ahead and skip to my Review of the Week. (Insert dramatic trumpet intro here.)

The Night Tourist
By Katherine Marsh

This book is one of my favorite books to handsell. I give it to the older kids who have finished the Percy books and still want to read books based on Greek mythology. Still, I'm still surprised by the number of people who are unfamiliar with the book.

The book is an inventive retelling of the Orpheus myth set in modern New York City. Most of the Greek characters aren't mentioned by name, but the astute child reader (and pretty much every adult) picks up on them. And that's what I like about this work. All the books that I've mentioned previously this week blatantly use the mythology. In this book, it's generally more subtle. (Although one of the characters does call herself Eury - which is an abbreviation of the female in the Orpheus myth. However, the average child is not so familiar with the Orpheus myth that they can name every character. It doesn't give away as much as it does to an adult reader.)

I think writers should read both types of works - those that use the mythological characters and those that hint at mythology or use a theme or story arc without screaming, "Mythology!" Supposedly there are no new story ideas, and if that really is true, then learning to rework traditional literature, whether it's a myth or a fairy tale or a classic work of public domain literature, is one of the greatest skills an author can master.

Sunday

Resurgence of Myths

The past few years have seen a resurgence of ancient mythologies, especially Greek mythology, in children's books. Most of this can almost certainly be credited to the popularity of the Percy Jackson series. In many ways Percy has done for mythology the same thing Harry Potter did for magic -- create a huge interest in books in this area. Granted, there were books with Greek and Roman mythological characters before Percy, but there are a whole lot more of them now.

And now, the desire for mythological books is spreading into other pantheons as well. Last year the Norse were represented in the book Runemarks and Pinkwater has a couple of books (The Neddiad and the Yggyssey) based on North American indigenous religions. But it looks like the next big round of mythological books will be Egyptian based.

Just like zombie is the new vampire over in the teen section, Ra is the new Zeus over in the midgrades. According to gossip I've been hearing all sorts of publishers are looking for Eyptian-themed books for all sorts of age ranges. There is definitely an opportunity out there for those of you who happen to have an Egyptian mythology manuscript lying around.

I am (coincidentally -- I do not pretend that I forecasted this trend several years back -- I'm good but not that good) participating in this trend by putting out my own Egyptian-based book in October. Although the book is more of a historical fantasy rather than a mythological fantasy, the god Amon-Ra does make an appearance.

And all this talk about mythologies leads me to my writing prompt for this week: Google an unfamiliar mythology. Using some aspect of the mythology that interests you (character, place, idea, etc.), write something. Go to http://buriedintheslushpile.ning.com/forum/topics/mythological-fiction to post what the prompt inspires.

Friday

Weekend Discussion

Today should be question of the week, but I haven't had any questions, and frankly I'm not feeling creative enough to think up one of my own. So, I thought we could have a weekend discussion instead. Here is the topic:

In recent years, adult religious fiction, specifically Christian fiction, has been a growing trend in main-stream bookstores like Borders and Barnes & Noble with more sales floor square footage being devoted to this genre. On the other hand Children's religious fiction has not been participating in this trend. At the most religion generally gets a single bookshelf, with almost all of those books being non-fiction or biblical retellings. Why do you think this is?

Discuss this on the Buried in the Slushpile forum at http://buriedintheslushpile.ning.com/forum/topics/lack-of-childrens-religious.

Thursday

Review of the Week 9/24/09 -- Religious Fiction Topic

Patron Saint of Butterflies
By Cecilia Galante
Bloomsbury USA

Fourteen-year-old Agnes and Honey have spent their entire lives on the grounds of a religious cult. Although the girls are best friends, they are polar opposites. Agnes yearns for sainthood and mortifies her body in a variety of ways to achieve it. Honey rebels at the limitations imposed on them and wishes to run away. She gets her chance when Agnes’ younger brother is injured, and the cult’s leader refuses to allow medical aid or anything other than faith healing and some poorly performed stitches. Agnes’ grandmother effectively kidnaps Honey, Agnes, and Agnes’ brother in an effort to get him to the hospital. Once outside the compound, the girls discover that the world is not what either had imagined. Each experiences a crisis of faith and must learn to trust themselves, each other, and their faith in order to cope with the outside world.

The author does a lot of things right in this well-written book. She manages to tell an extremely complex story with a dual point of view in a clear and compelling manner. The two protagonists, Honey and Agnes, alternate their stories in two first person points of view. It can be hard enough to create a distinctive voice for one interesting character, but with two you often run the risk of having the characters not be differentiated enough in tone. That was not a problem in this book. Any writer interested in multiple points of view, especially first person ones, must read this book to see how well she handled this particular writing issue.

Another thing that works for the story is the religion. The charismatic leader preaches and enforces his own particular brand of spirituality that seems to be based on Judeo-Christian thought. Although never explicitly stated, I assumed the saints in Agnes' saint book were traditional Christian saints. Agnes' religious convictions, even when undergoing a crisis of faith, are realistic to the character and thoughtfully portrayed. Religious fiction writers can be inspired by reading the seamless way the spirituality of Agnes fits into the plot. True, the book wouldn't work without it, but she still manages to keep Agnes' character consistent.

Finally, I applaud Galante for not making easy and obvious choices when writing this book. Specifically, I'm referring to the fact that no one in the book is sexually abused. When we think of cults, we tend to think of abuse, incest, and child brides. None of that is present in this book, and for that I was thankful. I admit I kept waiting for the sex-scandal revelation, but it never came. Mercifully. I feel that as obvious as sexual abuse would have been as a problem for the novel to deal with, I feel that sex would have overpowered the book and detracted from the issues already being handled.

Overall, this is a good well-written book that I would encourage writers to read.

Wednesday

Tip of the Week 9/23/09

Tip of the Week: When considering where to submit your religious fiction, don't limit yourself exclusively to that religion's market.

Although you always want to start focussed when submitting, remember that many religious fiction books can work for the mass market as well. Like submitting any kind of fiction, the key is to do research into the publishers and agents you want to submit to. Obviously you are not going to submit Christian fiction to Llewellyn, publisher of such Wiccan works like Blue is for Nightmares or A Withch's Spell-A-Day Almanac. That would just be a waste of everyone's time and stamps. But depending on your story, you might be able to send it to a general editor at house like Simon & Schuster. Just research, research, research. Try to make sure you get your manuscript into the hands of someone who is predisposed to liking it.

Monday

Redefining good Christian historical midgrade novels


A while back, oh years and years ago, I worked on a midgrade historical novel for the Christian market. I like to describe the book, One-eyed Jack, as a boy’s Little House on the Prairie with a Christian spiritual base. I mention this book now because it’s an excellent example of what I was talking about yesterday.

When I got the first draft of the book it was a so-so historical fiction with these random moments where the Christianity broke through. The Christianity was so jarring that I couldn’t understand why the author seemed to be just throwing the moments in. So, I got some historical fiction midgrades from a Christian bookstore. To my horror, I discovered that so-so historical fiction with random moments of Christianity (I call them God-quotes) was the norm for the genre. And at that moment I experienced my own epiphany on why Christian historical fiction isn’t more popular with culturally Christian kids. I found that I couldn’t fault the author because if this was all she’d been reading, of course she would produce a similar product.

So, I went back to the author and gave her some recommendations on how to make the book a good, not so-so, historical fiction, and then I wrote her a long bit of my editorial letter on the integration of Christianity into her work. I explained that each of the religious characters needed to be consistently Christian that they couldn’t just have God-quotes thrown in haphazardly.

The author took my advice to heart and produced one of the best midgrade historical Christian fiction novels I’ve ever read. She’s gone through 2 print runs now and has had phenomenal success in the home-school market. I have to say that of all the books I’ve ever edited, this is the one I’m most proud of. The author came the farthest and showed the most growth in her own writing over the course of the rewrites of this novel. Brava Paula on a great book.

Sunday

Holy Writing, Batman!

Yesterday the Blooming Tree folks and I spoke at the monthly meeting of the CenTex chapter of the ACFW, a Christian writing group. This got me thinking about the subject of religion in writing, not something I think I've discussed on this site before. So, this week is going to be devoted to the more spiritual types of fiction writing.

Most of the time when people think of religous writing, they think of Christian Fiction or Inspirational Fiction or Jewish Fiction or some other niche market. But you can find religion in regular main stream, traditional market books. Off the top of my head, there's Patron Saint of Butterflies and Blue is for Nightmares. In both of these books, religion is an integrated part of the story.

And that I think is the key, regardless of whether you are writing for the main stream or one of the niche markets. The religion must be an integrated, fundamental part of your story. A secular story with random Bible quotes dropped in doth not a Christian Fiction story make. If you have an extremely devout character, then their religion should permeate every aspect of their life. On the other hand, a character that only attends temple on the high holy days every other year probably is not going to be quoting the Torah or Talmud on a regular basis. You want the religious aspect of your story to seamlessly integrate with the rest of the work, not pop out at random places.

So, this leads us to the writing prompt for this week:
Write a one page scene in which the religion is an integrated part of the story, not just a random reference every now and then.

If you would like to post your response to this prompt and receive feedback, go to the Forum section of http://buriedintheslushpile.ning.com and join the discussion for this prompt. Be sure to read the rules and how to discussions before posting. See you there!

Saturday

Question of the Week

Question of the Week:
Dear Buried Editor,
Do you plan to come back this decade or did the baby drain away all chances of you ever blogging again?

Ah, excellent question. I realize that my blogging has been sporadic (at best) over my interminable pregnancy and non-existent since the baby was born. However, all that is about to change. I know I've promised this before, but this time I'm serious. I've already planned out in detail my next 4 weeks of blogging. Every week has a theme, so to speak, and all of the writing and books that I'll discuss that week will be related. I'm also going to follow an editorial calendar so you'll know what to expect. For example, every Weds. will have the Tip of the Week and Fridays will be devoted to questions.

But, what I'm most excited about is the new forum Get Me Out of the Slushpile! that I've started. Every Monday I'll post a writing prompt here and on the forum. Then, the rest of the week you and I can post the work the prompt inspires and critique one another. I have been so impressed with the quality (and kindness) that people have shown when critiquing on this site, that I wanted to have more opportunities for all of us to help each other with our writing. The prompts I've developed so far are integrated with each week's theme, and they are not all story starters. Some deal with marketing and publicity, others with thinking out an entire book or series. I wanted us to be able to practice all areas of the author's world on that site.

Finally, since this is a site devoted to writing and editing, I will refrain from posting a half dozen sickeningly cute pictures of my baby. It's hard, but I shall persevere.

Oh, well, maybe just one.

Wednesday

Learning a Little Lemurian

In the excerpt on Monday, the kids found a record in Ancient Lemurian. As part of my all things Lemurian this week, I thought I'd share with the world what Lemurian looks like and how you too can type phrases in Lemurian.

At this link here, you can see examples of actual Lemurian texts and download a font that lets you type in Lemurian. Now I realize that most of you who read my blog are a little old for this kind of thing, but it's really popular with kids. They like to give each other messages in code.

This would be an example of a relatively easy marketing tool. Since I already had Adobe Illustrator, I merely had to get a fairly inexpensive font creator. What's even better is that now I can make all sorts of fonts for all sorts of projects.

Once the font is made, it's then really easy (and free) to distribute. You just stick it on your website. And like I had mentioned before, kids (and some adults) love these kinds of playthings. It's another way to link people to your book.

Another way to use this font as a marketing tool, is to use as part of a contest. In October, we'll be giving away book sets based on kids' abilities to decode messages posted around the web.

Monday

A Promised Preview

Last week I promised to provide everyone with a preview of some of the books coming out this year. This week, because it's the one I've been working on, I'm going to show off The Navel of the World and all things Lemurian.

To read the first chapter, click here.

Intrigued by what you read? The Navel of the Worldcomes out in October.

And if you aren't already acquainted with Benjamin and his friends, look them up in the first book of the series, The Emerald Tablet.

Friday

Something else I've been doing

One of my goals for this year is to relaunch my personal website Madeline Smoot.com. As you probably saw if you just clicked over, it's horrendously out of date and awfully childish. I want a more mature, adult look for the site I present to the world.

So, I'm thinking of going with something more like this.

Now that page is just a test. The links go nowhere at the moment (except for my blog), and I still haven't gotten my posted excerpts from my blog to show up. Oh, and you might have noticed that there isn't any actual information in the text block for the middle. However, it is something of visual interest to look at.

I would love to get feedback on the new look, especially if it does something wonky in your browser. Of course I've tested it in my browser at different screen resolutions, but I don't have every browser ever made. If you do comment, please let me know your browser type and screen resolution (if you know it). My stat tracker can tell me the number of people who use what, but they won't link it to an individual comment.

I appreciate any and all comments. And since I'm doing this myself, I can directly incorporate the stuff you give me to think about without having to involve a designer. -- One of the few benefits of doing everything yourself.

Thursday

Things I've Been Up To

I said in my earlier post that I'd been busy working on stuff, and I didn't lie. One of the things I've been doing is working on covers for the fall books. A while back I showed you the cover for the Secrets of the Cheese Syndicate. Here are the new covers for the sequels to the 2 books from last year.

For The Book of Nonsense, the sequel's cover:

The Book of Knowledge


For The Emerald Tablet

The Navel of the World


I still have one cover to go, but I'm going to leave it as a surprise.

Monday

Conference Report

I have had a busy past few months. So busy, that I was unable to even pretend to try to keep up with blogging. There were book covers to design, interiors to layout, text to edit, text to have copyedited, and a NBN transition team to head. And all with only half a brain available.

(There is a horrifying rumor that my brain will never return to pre-pregnancy efficiency. I'm trying to chalk this up to urban myth told to new soon-to-be-mothers to scare them. Kind of like a hazing ritual. At least I'm hoping this is what is going on.)

And one of the other things I've been doing has been preparing for the conference held by Blooming Tree Press and the local Austin SCBWI. I spoke at two different break out sessions, one on online marketing, one on critiquing. So, like always, I'm now making the handouts from the conference available.

For the handout from the online marketing session, click here.

For the critiquing session, I haven't posted the handout. Instead I've put up the little article I wrote a few years back that the session was based on. The checklist for critiquers is at the very end of the article. To view it, click here.

And in the next few days I'll start posting some of the stuff I've been working on these last two months -- this includes excerpts from some of the upcoming books.

Saturday

What Kind of Marketing Does an Author Do?

Yesterday, I mentioned some of the kinds of things that publishers do on the marketing end of the publishing process. Today seems a logical day to discuss the kinds of things that you can (and often should) do to help market your book.

Many first time authors erroneously believe that they shouldn't have to do anything. They figure that they did the work of writing the book, now the publisher can do everything else.

Personally, I think this is flat out daft. Publishing a book is a business. You enter into a partnership with the publisher when you sign your contract. In no other business partnership would a sane person then just hand over all control and power and then hope for the best.

Besides, your book will never be as important to your publisher as it is to you, especially with your first book. Your book is most likely the only one you have coming out that year. Even at the smallest of presses, this is unlikely to be the case. With the big houses, you could be literally one book out of dozens being produced that month, much less over the year. And even at the small houses where your editor may have read the manuscript dozens of times, he/she still has not put in the kind of time, effort, or love that you have. And the house publicist may not have read the book at all. You are the best advocate for your book. You should take this responsibility seriously.

So, here are some things you can do to market your book:
  • Participate in your publisher's marketing efforts.
    If your publisher arranges an interview for you, a book tour, etc. participate if humanly possible. Granted, if they want you to go on an international 9-month book tour for your debut chapter book two weeks after your triplets are born, feel free to say no (after you recover from the shock of the extravagance your publisher had been willing to go to.) But for reasonable requests, try to be accessible. In the past I have worked with at least one author who I later heard from other staffers was completely unwilling to participate in any marketing efforts. The marketing person offered to help set up booksignings, send the author in question postcards to mail out, and other marketing assistance. The author said it would be a waste of time and money because he/she would rather die than have anything to do with the public. This and similar sentiments were not exactly the response we had been hoping for.
  • Build your brand.
    This is the number one thing you should be working towards. You need to create your public persona -- your author brand, if you will. One of the easiest way to build interest in your books is to already have people interested in you. The cheapest way (as in free) to do this is to blog. Since you are reading this, and therefore most likely also blog, congratulations, you are on your way to brand building. This is an excellent venue for telling people all about your book. Other good places are websites, joint blogs, newsletters, and enewsletters, speaking engagements (which can actually generate additional income), panels, and any writing you do for magazines, journals, or their electronic counterparts.
  • Build your mailing list.
    Regardless of where you are in the publishing process, you should be working towards building the most comprehensive mailing list of your life. This should make that wedding invitation list or holiday card mailing (the one you thought impossibly massive) look like a quickly jotted grocery list. Every person you know, your parents know, your spouse knows, or your children know should be on that list. Every business card you receive should be added to it. No one, not your dentist or your kid's preschool teacher, should escape. By the time your first book comes out you should have a list that would make a junkmailer jealous.
  • If your publisher doesn't do it, produce some of your own marketing materials.
    Bookmarks are more likely to be kept if the person receives it directly from the author rather than a random publisher representative. Also, tshirts that authors and their families wear are great advertising. With no design experience at all, you can upload your cover to places like Cafe Press and have a tshirt printed for the same price as a store-bought branded tshirt. On the other hand, as a publisher, printing up several dozen or more tshirts for giveaways is very expensive and does nothing if the people they're given to never wear them. And there's no way to force people to wear them.
This is becoming a phenomenally long post, so I'll stop here. This is a good, brief overview of stuff you can do. If you have questions, let me know, and we can always devote future posts going into greater detail.

And if you're going to be in Austin April 25, one of the break out sessions at the conference I mentioned in earlier posts will specifically deal with online marketing and blogging. I personally believe that these two things are the most important weapons in the marketing arsenal, so I'll be telling you all about them for that hour or so.

Friday

What Kind of Marketing Does a Publisher Do?

The other day I was indirectly asked by an author what kind of promotion does Blooming Tree do vs. what was expected from the author. Now, I am not in charge of the marketing and promotional work over at Blooming Tree and never have been. I can only answer with 100% confidence for CBAY Books. However, what I do at CBAY is similar to what is done at Blooming Tree which is similar to what is done at most other presses (big or small) for a mid-list book.

(The marketing done for a blockbuster or potential blockbuster book is radically different. Most authors never see the kind of marketing dollars that books like the later Harry Potters, Brisingr, Twilight sequels, or even Audrey, Wait! get. So, we're going to discuss the marketing done for normal books with normal authors.)

What the Publisher does:
  • Pitch the books to chains, independent bookstores, and libraries.
    This doesn't guarantee sales to the end consumer, but availability always helps. (In the case of CBAY and Blooming Tree, this will soon be done by our new distributor, National Book Network. However, I can't say with absolute certainty when this transition will take place since the whole process is taking 6-9 times longer than I expected. I will freely admit to feeling frustration over it all.)
  • Produce advance readers for most hardcover books and some paperbacks.
    These readers can then be given to the sales force to be given to potential buyers, sent to reviewers, handed out at trade shows and generally create buzz over a book.
  • Send books to reviewers and award programs.
  • Produce marketing material.
    This can include, but isn't limited to: posters, bookmarks, TIP sheets for the sales force, stickers, postcards, websites, dumps, storytime kits, and any other random promo type item you can think of (pens, tshirts, etc.) I personally think that pretty much all of these items except for TIP sheets and websites are a waste of money, mostly because most promotional items end up in the trash.
  • Have or hire a publicist.
    Most of the large houses have staff publicist. How much time or effort they'll spend on your book depends on the book's budget, the publicist, and your relationship with him/her. Most small presses have to hire a publicist by the project. At CBAY, I will (and have) subsidize a publicist on a book by book basis.
  • Physical book tours for your book.
    First off, these are rare for first time authors unless its a book the publisher is really standing behind. Even then, the tour is going to consist more of trade show dinners and talks rather than bookstore signings. I have never subsidized a book tour, partly because I have never been given a proposal for one, and partly because I know how depressing a poorly attended book event can be. However, I would consider helping an author do one that was geared more around school visits and places where the author possessed truly masterful mailing lists.
These are some of the main highlights of what a publisher plans to do with its marketing dollars. Tomorrow, I'll discuss what the publisher expects the author to be doing.

Wednesday

Interesting New Blog to Look At

I recently found out about a new blog devoted to all you fantasy and science fiction writers. At The Spectacle authors of midgrade and teen speculative fiction chat about their genre. Definitely worth a peek.

Sunday

April Conference in Austin

The official announcements have been made, and the registration has opened up. The conference I am speaking at in Austin can now be signed up for. It is being sponsored through the local Austin SCBWI on April 25, 2009.

I will be speaking at both breakout sessions and doing critiques. Apparently the critique spots are already starting to fill up quickly so if for some reason you are deadset on working with me, you'll want to go ahead and get your registration in. A downloadable copy of the registration packet is available here.

See you all in April!

Friday

Getting by With a Little Help from Your Friends

One of the many things I love about Austin is our strong, active children's writing community.

I'm very lucky to live in a city where we have a concentration of social children's authors. Whether it's panels or meetings hosted by our local SCBWI or the Texas Writer's League, we have many opportunities to get together and share writing war stories.

Just last night I attended a panel on first drafts -- I wasn't on it, I just went to listen to other people discuss the craft. After the panel, the Leitich Smiths (one of the most social writing couples I think I've ever met) rounded up all the children's writers and herded us out for drinks.

(And before I'm bombarded with emails on the evils of drinking and pregnancy, rest assured, I had three glasses of water and chicken nachos. I have witnesses.)

While out, I had the chance to catch up on industry and local gossip, and I was able to meet some newer (to me) members of the writing community. I had a wonderful time just sitting and talking books with all of these people. I'm greatful for the adult, non-baby related conversations I was able to participate in. It was nice to get out of the house and away from the computer, even for a few moments.

I would like to encourage everyone to get out and mingle with your fellow authors. Writing can be a very solitary pursuit -- just you and your keyboard or pad of paper. Interactions like these help you maintain perspective. Having trouble with a first draft? Get Cynthia to tell you all about how she deletes every first draft she ever writes. And I don't mean throws away the hardcopy. No, no. She makes every copy, paper or electronic, disappear. Forever. When your hear the tale, it's both liberating and heartbreaking at the same time.

And best of all, hanging out with your fellow authors is the best networking you can do. You'll find out who's agent is looking at work, what school has the most lucrative school visits, etc. So, get out there and start talking. Break that stereotype of the wan author locked in a dark windowless room working feverishly on a manuscript. You can do that when you get back.

And, if you do happen to be lucky enough to live in Austin, the SCBWI has a meeting tomorrow at BookPeople. See you all there.

Thursday

A Twit Tweets on Twitter (Say that 3 times fast)

I have finally joined the world of Twitter and have officially become a Twit.

(Personally, I feel that many of my friends and family have considered me a twit for years, but since I didn't tweet on Twitter my twitiness was still debatable.)

I have to confess that I've known about Twitter for quite some time, but I'd been reluctant to join in. Perhaps I didn't understand the joy of micro-blogging. Perhaps I thought it pointless and a waste of time. Perhaps I am just getting old and don't catch on to new technologies as quickly. Or it could be a little bit of all of the above.

However, as my time constraints seem to grow at the same rate as my belly, I find it harder and harder to blog even 4 times a week, much less daily. And that brings Twitter and its micro-blogging platform to the rescue. I do think I can manage to type 3 sentences on a regular basis. And if it's as addictive as I hear, I'll soon have tweets coming out the wazoo.

If you go to visit my tweets right this second, they aren't very exciting. However, I'm going to hear the Leitich Smiths (Cynthia and Greg) speak on a panel hosted by the Writer's League of Texas. I think this may give me a chance to show my new twitiness off.

Wednesday

New Year, New Books

This year we'll be putting out 4 books here at CBAY. My editorial assistant has been hard at work trying to get them all copyedited. And I have been working hard to get covers and interiors done.

Now, I feel the need to show off my progress so far. Here are the books releasing in August:

The highly anticipated, at least by me, sequel to last year's Book of Nonsense, The Infinite.

Briefly, this book picks up where the last book left off -- the twins still have to fulfill The Council's mission and destroy the Book of Nonsense. Unfortunately, it's in the hands of the badly burned but still deadly Emmett. What's worse, Rash's ledger of containing lists of words of power have turned up at the dump where someone is wreaking havoc. If the twins work together, they might have a chance. The problem is, they might not actually be working together.

Curious to know more? I'll be posting an excerpt from the book next week.

This is CBAY's debut paperback release, The Secrets of the Cheese Syndicate, by Class of 2k9 debut author, Donna St. Cyr.

In this book, Robert Montasio did not think his day could get any worse until his sister drinks a bizarre soda that causes her to start shrinking. Robert's only hope is a mysterious organization known as the Secret Cheese Syndicate. Unfortunately, they cannot help without a special cheese that has been lost for years. Now, with a tiny little sister in his pocket, Robert has to travel the world to find the Mystic Cheese of Eliki and, perhaps, discover secrets from his family's past.

Thursday

Blogging for Beginners

In April I will be speaking at a conference here in Austin. It won't be publicized for a few more days, so I'm going to be mysterious about it until then.

At the conference I will be doing a session on Online Marketing with an emphasis on blogging. Now because of the way this conference is structured, I anticipate most of my audience to be beginner or even "new to the concept of blogs" bloggers. I thought one interesting way to introduce them to the kid-lit-o-sphere would be to offer them advice from other friendly bloggers.

And that's where you come in. I would love it if everyone would post a friendly piece of general advice for novice bloggers in the comments section of this post. Then, I'll use the advice (with your blog address attached of course) during my presentation. If for some reason you do not want me quoting your advice or would prefer to remain anonymous, please let me know. And then in 10 weeks time when I invariably post my presentation, you'll be able to see what stellar advice all of you offered to the next wave of bloggers.

I think I would like to make this presentation a little more interactive then most, so I'll probably have more questions and want more advice in the future. Just so you know. :)

Tuesday

Amazonian Fulfillment

One of the best markets for a small press is Amazon. It's easy to get our books listed, they take the same discount as a wholesaler but with a much lower return rate, and they are a huge portion of the online book market.

However, recently, I have been feeling a wee bit frustrated with Amazon. One of our books has been constantly showing up as being out of stock. On one hand that means the book has been selling well. On the other hand, it means that current sales are down. People are much less likely to order a book when it shows up as out of stock.

I would love for the book to start showing up as back in stock. But there's nothing I can do about it. Hence, my aggravation.

You see, Amazon works in a very specific manner. Once a week they place an order for books. I send them the books and they show up in stock. The book sells, they order more, etc. and the cycle continues.

My "problem" right now is that one of my books massively outsold the quantity Amazon had on hand. And for some reason, Amazon isn't ordering enough books at any one time to both cover the backordered books and to keep books in stock. So, the book keeps staying listed as out of stock.

Ah, the joys of small business ownership.