Monday, February 28, 2011

Marketing Monday - Donna Gephart

Today I have middle grade author Donna Gephart, who not only agreed to share her experiences, she wrote up this fabulous post within a few short hours of my request.

Donna has two books published, with a third due out next year. She's full of terrific insight, so let's begin!

Now that I’ve sold three novels, I wish I could talk to myself when my first book came out. I’d tell myself, “Stop freaking out!”

“People will read the book. You will get amazing e-mails from young fans, teachers, librarians and old boyfriends. You will even win a couple lovely awards.”

To you, dear reader, I say, “Do what feels comfortable. Say, “Yes” a lot. Let people know about your book and about you as a speaker, then move on and write the next book. If contemplating marketing and promoting gives you hives, think about the process as connecting and giving.”

Here are some examples from my experience that may be helpful:

School Visits:

When a friend told me a local middle school library was desperately in need of books, I gathered a bag of books our kids were not using as well as copies of my two novels and headed over there.

The librarian and I hit it off immediately. She was friendly and enthusiastic and really appreciated the donation of books. When she found out I did school visits, she invited me to give a (paid) presentation to the entire sixth grade class (about 400 students) and sign books at the school’s book fair.

A win for both of us.

Since that time, I’ve gone in to help her encourage reluctant readers to find books they’ll enjoy.

Media Attention:

A friend, Janeen Mason, suggested I contact her friend, Marilyn Bauer, who writes a local arts column blog for an area newspaper.

Marilyn is lovely! After she wrote about me, a reporter from that paper read my novel, How to Survive Middle School, enjoyed it and wrote a review in the newspaper, saying my book was good for both children and adults. (He even posted the review on Amazon.)

A parent read that review and told her group about me when they were looking for a keynote speaker for an event they were hosting. I spoke to that group about surviving parenting a middle schooler.

Another time, I wrote to a local reporter, telling her how much I enjoy her weekly “Meet Your Neighbor” feature. I’d been reading and enjoying it for years. The reporter asked if I’d consider being featured in the newspaper.

Of course I agreed.

After that article came out, I was contacted by several area schools about author visits.


I’ve been blogging since 2007.

A favorite feature is my 6-1/2 list – a cleverly disguised guest blog. Here are a few examples:

1. Erin Murphy and author Audrey Vernick give great tips about how to elevate quiet books.

2. Cynthia Leitich Smith discusses How to Promote Your Book Like a Pro

3. Cynthia Lord shares tips on creating great school visits.

Don’t blog in a vacuum. Follow and comment on other blogs. Doing guest blog posts is a great idea because it gives you the opportunity to connect with new readers. Thanks, Alison!

Your Book is Your Best Promotion Tool:

When you hear the advice, “Write the best book you can,” there’s a reason. Once your book comes out, it must stand on its own merits. Take my word for it, you’ll be glad you spent that extra time revising.

My first book, As if Being 12 ¾ Isn’t Bad Enough, My Mother is Running for President! had a lot of support from Random House. They flew me to Philadelphia to meet with influential librarians at a cocktail party during ALA. They promoted the book in print. They even gave out “Vote for Mom” buttons at a few large shopping malls across the country.

With all that support from Random House plus all my promotional efforts, the book did NOT break any sales records.

But instead of spending all my time and energy promoting that book, I did exactly what I was supposed to do. I wrote the next book.

ARCs of How to Survive Middle School were sent to reviewers by Random House. That’s it. I sent out an e-mail letting people know my book was out. And not a whole lot more.

Guess what?

How to Survive Middle School got starred reviews right out of the gate. It landed on the Texas Lone Star Reading List.

Before long, I got the happy news that it had gone into its FIFTH printing and sold out its advance. And it hasn’t even been out a year.

That had very little to do with what I or Random House did to promote it.

It was the book not the promotion that made those things happen.

So, here are my 6-1/2 tips for you:

1. Write the best book you can.

2. Spend as much time as needed to revise and polish your book.

3. Instead of thinking about what you’d like to get (book sales), think about what you can give — your time, advice, expertise, etc.

4. Connect in ways that feel comfortable and meaningful. Blogs, FB, Twitter, School Visits, Library Workshops, Articles for Magazines — whatever works for you.

5. Don’t be shy. Let your friends, family and colleagues know about how excited you are about your new book. Give out your business cards liberally. Include your book and Web site/blog information in your signature line on every e-mail you send out.

6. If you’re introverted, get thee to Shrinking Violet Promotions.

6-1/2. Here’s the most important advice. My agent reminds me of it every now again. Don’t get so caught up in worrying about sales and marketing and promotion that you neglect to do the most important thing for a long, healthy writing career: WRITE THE NEXT BOOK.

Donna Gephart tries to remember to WRITE THE NEXT BOOK from her home in South Florida. Her newest book, Olivia Bean, Trivia Queen, about a girl determined to get on the TV quiz show, Jeopardy!, comes out in 2012. Visit Donna online at and click on the hamster icon to view a hilarious singing hamster YouTube video.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


I am rather embarrassed to admit that I was given an award about three months ago that I have not yet claimed.  I think it's about time to rectify that, particularly since I just received another one (only two weeks ago--I'm trying, people, I'm trying)!

So, thanks to Megan K. Bickel for the Versatile Blogger award!

Isn't it lovely? My favorite color!

(Very belated) thanks to Megan for the award (head on over to join her for her the My Favorite Picture Book Blogfest on March 10). And now, seven things about me:
  1. When I picture my dream home, all I see is a huge garden. And some chickens.
  2. I have been attacked by a whooper swan, a bronze-winged duck, and a family of nene geese (all within a matter of weeks).
  3. When we were in Budapest over Christmas, I dropped a plate in the sink of our hotel bathroom and broke the sink (the plate was fine, the sink cost us 15000 forints).
  4. My office chair is an exercise ball.
  5. Because I work in English (and we speak English at home), I speak only enough German to get by, despite having lived in Germany for almost five years.
  6. I don't own a car.
  7. My most prized possession is a signed copy of Catch-22.

And now I pass this award on to:
  1. Shannon O'Donnell at Book Dreaming
  2. Susanna Hill 
  3. Catherine Johnson at Kangaroobee
  4. Nikki at Raising Marshmallows
  5. Robyn Campbell at Putting Pen To Paper   
  6. Elizabeth Mueller
  7. Janina R. Williams at My Road to Freedom, A Chicago Freelance Writer's Guide 
  8. Jeanne Kraus at Captive Audience
  9. Barb Best at Barbs Blast 
  10. LadyJai at Snippets from my mind 
  11. SA Larsen at Writers' Ally
  12. Deniz at The Girdle of Melian 
  13. Samantha Verant at Life, Love & Living in France
  14. Faith B. at Literary Coldcuts on Toasty Buns
  15. Ali Cross
  16. Margo Berendsen at Writing at High Altitude

And then I got the Stylish Blogger Award! (Cuz I am clearly so very stylish. Or something.)

Thank you Mask! I'm supposed to say seven things about me. Hmm. Do the above seven count?  I say yes, but I will pass this on to a different set of wonderful bloggers:
  1. Donea Lee at The Queen of Procrastination 
  2. Francesca Amendolia at Making It Up
  3. Lois D. Brown at I Devour Books
  4. Len L at Conversations with Self  
  5. MC Howe at Pensive Sarcasm
  6. Carrie at Carrie Keeps Typing 
  7. Ben Langhinrichs at My Comfy Chair
  8. Chris Phillips at Chris Phillips - Slushpile Savant
  9. Akoss at Nye Louwon - My Spirit 
  10. E.J. Wesley at The Open Vein
  11. Sharde Richardson at Realm Of Randomness 
  12. Jess Lawson at Falling Leaflets
  13. Vicki Tremper at VB Tremper 
  14. Laura Diamond at Diamond, Yup Like the Stone
  15. Michael at In Time ... 
  16. Shelley Batt at Voices of a Writer
Yes, I know we're supposed to do 15, but this rounds out the PB/MG crusaders (new crusaders, that is).

Monday, February 21, 2011

Marketing Monday - Carole Anne Carr

Today I would like to welcome Carole Anne Carr, a children's author who has self published several books for children, including two novels and a picture book. She will also have fantasy based on Norse mythology available soon.

Many of you already know Carole from her blog; she writes historical fiction set near her home in England. Through her books, she is making a tour of Shropshire's historical sites, which must be a wonderful experience for local children.

What has the process of self-publishing been like for you?

Very hard work indeed. I began this process as I started serious writing very late in life and didn't think any publisher would be interested in me at my age.

First I tried to discover whether I was on the right track by completing a part time three year course on creative writing. When I did well, I then decided to go ahead with this project.

Then I had to work out how to be a self-publisher. I didn't want vanity publishing, or a pay on demand printer, so I set about finding a good printer whose work I liked and who would publish one hundred books at a time - a number I thought I could sell to begin with.

I then used Google to discover how to be a publisher, learned how to make print ready files, asked my Grandson how to design a book cover and also make it into a print ready file, and learned about ISBN numbers and how to attach them to the cover. From the printer I learned about types of paper, how my book would be bound, costs,how long the process would take. I visited the printer to see the whole process from start to finish.

Then I wanted to add a picture book to my published work and so purchased a simplified version of photoshop - elements 8 - which was the correct one for my needs and struggled to place my illustrations into the book file.

Of course I edited my own work, a long tedious process, found a friend who would act as accountant and helped me set up as self-employed. I have since found someone to help with the editing, dicovered on LinkedIn, who is also at the beginning stage of his career and as yet does not charge.

How has online social networking helped you market your books?

Not a great deal as yet. It leads people to my website and bookshop, but it is only by my author appearances that I later have people buying from the site. However, I have found many useful connections, people who have kindly helped me along the way, through LinkedIn. Moral support that I receive from Blogger, Facebook, Twitter, is always welcome.

What steps have you taken to market your books in person (with bookstores, schools, libraries, etc.)?

I have sold over 1000 books since I started at the beginning of 2010, not a great number, and this has been due to selling myself to independent bookshops, working in local libraries and schools as visiting author, (placing my books in county libraries), visiting schools, (I taught for 25 years) and reading from my books and teaching creative writing.

I have joined many societies, Women in Rural Business and joined them at large county shows, attended craft fairs, I'm a member of the Society of Authors, Jelly, and the National Association of Writers in Schools and attend their conferences. I keep in touch with Nielsen, and have finally been recognised by Gardners the big book distribution people. I also give talks to women's groups.

My books relate to historical sites, although children's fiction, and I have made sure they are for sale in museums and bookshops related to those sites. My next book is fantasy, I'm hoping to widen my apppeal. I am constantly working to improve my visibility whilst writing more books. My first two books are shortly to become eBooks so that I can reach a wider market. If you google me, you will find that I appear over many many pages, very hard work indeed.

What advice do you have for other children's authors who might be thinking of self-publishing?

It is possible to be successful, and I think with much persistance you can become reasonably well known as an author. If you have the ability, and you can always take courses as I did to make sure you are on the right track, and you have the drive, then I'd say 'go for it'. However, I must add that it is easier for me, being retired!

If you are a published author and you would like to share your experiences with marketing and promoting your book(s), I'd love to share your story! Please contact me at anpstevens [at] gmail [dot] com.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Possums are Awesome Blog Tour!

Two weeks ago I wrote a little pay-it-forward post about a friend of mine who has helped me along with my writing. Someone who has taken me under her wing and who is already making a splash with her debut novel, Possum Summer.

"Possum Summer, is a heartwarming, vibrant story of a western Oklahoma 'country' girl [that] mixes themes of honor, resolve, and courage with just the right blend of adventure, excitement, humor, danger, love, compassion, and a small touch of romance. It's a book that middle graders will want to read. The author should brace herself for all the letters and emails she'll receive asking 'did this really happen?" -- Bill Wallace, author of A Dog Called Kitty and many other books

Today, I am honored to have her here! Live! In person! The fabulously talented Jen K. Blom...

Welcome to the POSSUMS ARE AWESOME blog tour for the middle-grade book, POSSUM SUMMER, coming out in March! (Have you preordered yet?)

The fantastic Alison was kind enough to be part of my blog tour, and she is one great lady! I'm here answering a couple great questions, and of course, P tagged along too...

First off, a little about the book:

a lonely kid.
an orphaned baby possum.
a dad that says no way.
how do you keep that kind of secret?

and what happens when you’re found out?

Here we go!

AS: You've described yourself as a Pantser. How much do you need to know about a story before you start writing?

JKB: Wee-eell, not too much. I need to know the conflict, the person's first name, the animal, and what makes me sad about it. I tend to write books that make me sad, for some reason.

AS: I suppose if you write things that make you sad, it helps you appreciate everything else. If you could go anywhere in the world where would you go and why?

JKB: Interesting! I've thought about this for a few days now and I guess I'd go back to Darwin, Australia, and just chill like a lizard on a sunny flat rock until all my worries were just cooked out of my brain. I lived there back in the day, and there is NOTHING like laid-back Aussie attitude to make you put things into perspective.

I would also like to show Loki * and DearHubs * my favorite outcrop of sand with the old beached tree where I watched many a sunset over beautiful water.
* Names changed to protect the innocent

AS: Possum Summer takes place in Oklahoma, where you grew up. To what extent did your childhood experiences influence the story?

JKB: Quite a bit. :-D I freely admit I stole the name of the creek where I grew up, as well as the entire first chapter (excepting the father bit) from my childhood. I was nuts! And I think a bit of me shows through there in P. She is SUCH a dear.

Princess: Deer? I ain't no deer!

JKB: DE-AR, you monster. Like a sweet little girl!

P: Listen here. I am not a sweet little girl! Just ask Mart! Why, he called me a girl one day, and I dumped all the tray of orange juices over him! And it felt GOOD! What do you like to eat, Miss Alison?

AS: I don't know if I can choose, I like so many things.

P: Ha Ha Ha! So many things, huh? How about earthworms and cow butt? Those things included?

JKB: P --- *warning look*

AS: *shakes head* I should have known better.

P: Sorry. (kind of) So what do you like to do? I'm gonna go out on a limb here and say writing.

AS: Writing and gardening.

P: Well! At least you go outside! That's good! (I KNEW it about the writing part!) What's really interesting about you?

AS: I have very curly hair.

P: Ha! Curly hair! I wish I had curly hair. My dad calls me a bottlebrush, which makes me mad. But because you said you like to eat lotsa different things, I drew you as a ... :

P: Yeah! A Raccoon! Jen had one when she was younger and that thing like'tve ate her out of house and home! Why, I met a rabid one, did you know that? For real! Jen said she put it in POSSUM SUMMER, and I read it, but ---


JKB: Alison, thanks for having me! I really appreciate it! (and sorry for the monster!)

AS: Thanks for stopping by Jen! Love the drawing, P! Can't wait to get my hands on the book!

Jen K. Blom writes about animals, the land, and kids, not necessarily in that order. Her debut, POSSUM SUMMER, is available March 2011.

Just the thing to give to a kid to start their summer of reading off right! (Available from your localindie, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Borders, or Book Depository!)

Seen the book trailer yet?

Want more POSSUMS ARE AWESOME blog tour tidbits? Go here and knock yourself out!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Bernard Pivot Blogfest

Nicole at One Significant Moment at a Time is hosting the Bernard Pivot Blogfest today. The questions below (written by Bernard Pivot) are from Inside the Actor's Studio. I've never watched it, but this seems like a great way to get to know other bloggers. So here goes...

1. What is your favorite word?

Excellent.  That's my favorite word, I'm not commenting on the question. If you're going to be positive about something, why do it only half-way?

2. What is your least favorite word?

Uh... it's a very offensive word that starts with c. I'll leave it at that.

3. What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?

Nature.  There is a phenomenal amount of unbelievably cool stuff in nature, and I find it soothes my soul and stimulates just about every creative idea I've ever had. When I'm blocked, all I need is a walk in the park to get things flowing again.

4. What turns you off?


5. What is your favorite curse word?

This is hard; it depends on the situation. When someone else frustrates me, I sound like the kids from South Park after Kenny's been killed. Although I don't use it often, I also like the one that's highly versatile (works as a noun, verb, or adjective).

6. What sound or noise do you love?

The sound of my children laughing. It brightens my day like nothing else.

7. What sound or noise do you hate?

We live in the city and walk/bike everywhere, so I think it has to be traffic.

8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

I would be a concert pianist.

9. What profession would you not like to do?

Anything that doesn't stimulate my mind.

10. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

"I loved your book!" =D

Monday, February 14, 2011

Marketing Monday - Anna Dewdney

When I asked Anna Dewdney, author/illustrator of the extremely popular Llama llama books what she did to market her books, she gave me an answer every author wishes were their own:
I really didn't do much to market my books, other than show up at bookstores.  It was a word of mouth thing, and after that, Penguin started marketing me. 
But Anna doesn't just show up, she provides an engaging experience for her audience, one that likely boosts the number of recommendations people give regarding her books (and the live experience).

I saw Anna at the Texas Book Festival in October. When she first got on "stage" she said not a word. Instead, she gave a little wave to the children sitting up front, uncapped a black marker, and set to work drawing Llama llama on a large posterboard. Anna made quick work of it, since she draws Llama llama often. When she was done, she turned to address her audience.

"Someone wants to say hi." She gestured at the illustration. "He's waving to you."

The children cheered and waved back.

Anna talked a bit about how she came to write Llama Llama Red Pyjama, which she then read. But she didn't just read it, she practically acted it out, doing different voices for Llama llama and his mother, making Llama llama's voice tremble when he was frightened. It was a highly entertaining performance.

Anna was at the Texas Book Festival to promote her new book, Llama Llama Holiday Drama, and she gave a similar performance for that one, even swooning near the end. The children giggled wildly, parents were grinning, it was a memorable event.

During the signing, Anna drew Llama llama in each and every book. So while Anna claims that she just "showed up" there is much more to her successful appearances than this modest author would like to admit.

Live appearances are not for everyone, but for authors (particularly authors of picture books) with a dramatic flair, events such as this once can speed the word of mouth along.

If you are a published author and you would like to share your experiences with marketing and promoting your book(s), I'd love to share your story! Please contact me at anpstevens [at] gmail [dot] com. 

Friday, February 11, 2011

Blogfest update

Two things to start: I just passed 100 followers!  I'll have to come up with something fun to celebrate! Hi to my new followers, and thanks for stopping by. And that brings me to the other thing... I'm sorry I haven't been out in the blogosphere this week. It's just been one of those weeks. But I promise I'll visit everyone else and get caught up with the new crusaders soon.

Now to the reason for today's (very late) post. Donna asked for an example for the upcoming Super-Snooper Blogfest, and I finally found a few minutes to write one. If you haven't signed up yet, join the fun. I'll be giving away a copy of Sam Gosling's SNOOP!

The shades were drawn; looked, in fact, as if they hadn't been raised in years. Clothes - all black - were crammed into the closet; several hangers jutted out at odd angles, resisting alignment in the tiny bits of space that remained. Assorted black shoes obscured the closet floor, lying at least two layers thick. In the bookshelf to the right, books lay strewn about, some stacked, others standing, still others falling to one side. Three books lay on the floor, where they must have fallen from the crowd above. Perched on the top of the bookshelf, two framed photos stared out into the room. One, a black and white landscape reminiscent of Ansel Adams, wrought a haunting, ethereal image. The second depicted a field of snow, pristine but for the wing marks flanking a single drop of bright red blood, the brightest splash of color in the room.

Based on that description, what conclusions would you draw about the owner of the room?

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Crusading and A to Z

If you're looking for a good way to connect with other writers (by genre, no less!), pop over to Rach Writes... to join the Second Writers' Platform-Building Crusade. It's a great way to get to know other writers through each other's blogs, find new friends and perhaps even some highly-coveted critique partners.

And I might be completely insane, but I've also signed on for the A to Z Challenge. Now to figure out what goes with the letter X...

Are you participating in any of these? Are you as crazy as I am?

Monday, February 7, 2011

Marketing Monday - Alex J. Cavanaugh

To pilot the fleet’s finest ship…
Few options remain for Byron, a talented young man with a troubled past and rebellious attitude. Slated to train as a Cosbolt pilot, Byron is determined to prove his worth and begin a new life. Much to his chagrin, Bassa, the toughest instructor in the fleet, takes notice of the young pilot. As war brews on the edge of space, Byron requires a navigator of exceptional quality to survive. Bassa must make a decision that could well decide the fate of both men. Will their skills be enough as they embark on a mission that may stretch their abilities to the limit?

Sound familiar? Today I have another well-known writer in the blogosphere: Alex J. Cavanaugh, author of the science fiction adventure CassaStar.

How have you made use of your online connections to market CassaStar? Did you find that your blog or twitter played a bigger role?

I was prompted by my publisher to get my butt online! So I started blogging first and then Twitter. Blogging has definitely played a bigger part. Through several blogfests and challenges, I built up my readership. My blogging friends really cheered me on when I posted my cover art and book trailer, which was cool. Before the release date of CassaStar, I put out a call for help and was overwhelmed by the response! Nineteen bloggers hosted my book tour and another eighty-plus featured my book and trailer on release day. Reviews and guest post requests continue to come in, which helps keep momentum going.

What did Dancing Lemur Press do to help market your book?

They made the book available in print and all eBook formats, sent out tons of review copies, and did a huge mailing and emailing campaign. They’ve worked hard to get my books into Barnes and Noble and libraries.

Have you done any marketing and promotion in person (beyond anything the publisher might have arranged)?

Sadly, no. I’m not comfortable in front of people, so I’ve had to rely on the Internet to promote my book.

Do you think social networking is more effective for writers of science fiction? Have you connected with readers through your blog?

I think it’s effective for any genre. What blogging taught me was to look beyond my genre, though. I followed a lot of science fiction blogs in the beginning, but it was the readers who were attracted to my own blog that showed the most interest, and many of them didn’t read science fiction. CassaStar is low-tech and character-driven, so it appeals to a wider audience than pure science fiction. This is something I would’ve never discovered without blogging!

Thanks for sharing your experience, Alex! Lots of good insight, particularly for those of us who are tend to be a bit more introverted.

If you are a published author and you would like to share your experiences with marketing and promoting your book(s), I'd love to share your story! Please contact me at anpstevens [at] gmail [dot] com.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Pay it forward

I've been thinking about writing this for quite a while now, and since Shelli at Market My Words is holding a contest for just this thing, I think it's time.

There are many people who have supported my writing: my husband, my kids, my friends and family, but there is one in particular to whom I am indebted.

When I finally decided to take my writing seriously, I joined SCBWI. I sent an email introducing myself to the regional leader and soon received a reply that put me in touch with the other SCBWIers in my city. They're all terrific, but one, in particular, has taken me under her wing and made me believe I can really do this writing thing.

That someone is Jen K. Blom, author of the soon-to-be-released Possum Summer. Jen took me in, sent encouraging words when I needed them, and gave me kind, but brutally honest feedback on my first novel. She sent gentle nudges, asking how the rewriting was going, and when it was (almost completely) rewritten, she read it again. She has helped me tweak my query letter and has been there with supportive words every time I've gotten frustrated. Without Jen's unfailing support, I would not be getting ready to query right now.

I am incredibly grateful to Jen, and I know I can never repay her. But I can pay it forward and provide the same support to others just starting their journey. I only hope I can be as helpful to others as Jen has been to me.

Who has helped you on your journey?

(If you're looking for the answer to last week's Fact or Fiction Friday: it was fact. We were unbelievably lucky to get home.)

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Super-Snooper Blogfest!

I think it's time I held a blogfest. I've participated in a few, but I haven't hosted one, yet. On March 2, we will have the Super-Snooper Blogfest!

What is that, you ask? Yesterday, I wrote about Sam Gosling's book, Snoop: what your stuff says about you. For the blogfest, you need to describe a setting that tells us something about your character's personality. Characters can be of any age, living in any time or place. But don't tell us about the character, tell us about his or her stuff. We'll get to know the character from what you write.

There will be prizes! I have a copy of Snoop that I will be giving away, so you can become a super-snooper in real life and apply it to your writing. If more than 30 people participate, I'll find a second prize, too (maybe I can convince Sam to sign a copy). So add yourself via the linky gadget below, grab the button, and spread the word!

UPDATE: If you're not quite sure what to write, you can find an example here.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


Have you ever walked into a room, looked around, and come away with an instantaneous first impression of the inhabitant? An impression that may have been modified a bit after meeting said inhabitant, but one that was probably at least partially correct? Welcome to snooping.

Most of us snoop, perhaps unintentionally, perhaps with purpose; with the help of Sam Gosling's book Snoop: what your stuff says about you, you can learn even more about people without even meeting them.

Okay, this sounds like fun, but what does it have to do with writing? First, it's a well-written and highly entertaining book (I missed my stop when I was reading it on the bus). Second, if you know what someone's stuff says about them, you can sneak all kinds of great information about your character's personality into your novel. Your audience will come away 'knowing' the character, but they won't know why they know what they do.

Sam uses the Big Five personality traits in his work: openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. You can probably identify where people you know fit into a big five personality profile. Extraverts thrive on contact with other people (I think of them as friend-collectors). People who are conscientious buy more of something before it runs out, are punctual, etc.

Now think about the characters in your story. What would their personality profile look like? Does their profile fit their profession? Introverts don't usually make good salespeople, so you may find that you need to rethink your character's personality, so that it matches their profession. Or perhaps you deliberately want to find an unusual combination for your story (the extroverted truck driver who uses his CB radio--do they still use those?--to chat with anyone and everyone on the stretch of highway).

And to add another layer of believability, what would this person's stuff say about them? If you describe a large music collection that contains everything from the Beatles to Mozart to Tool to Lady Gaga, the readers will know (although they won't know how they know) that the character is open to new ideas and experiences. See how that works? Pretty cool, huh?

And guess what? I happen to have an extra copy of Sam's book. I don't need two, so I'm going to give one away!  Details will be up tomorrow.

Where do you like snooping best? Medicine cabinet? Kitchen? Office?