Monday, May 30, 2011

Marketing Monday - Jen K. Blom

Marketing Monday is back! (There are more in the works, I promise, but all of the wonderful authors who are contributing their experiences seem to be just as busy as I am these days. Lucky for them, they're not about to make an intercontinental move. It's not an experience I recommend.)

Today, I'm thrilled to feature a personal friend, Jen K. Blom, whose contemporary middle grade novel, Possum Summer, is just now coming out.

I've heard reports that people in the U.S. have received their copies. I'm still waiting for mine. *taps fingers* *checks clock* *sighs*

Possum Summer sold out quickly on Amazon, in large part due to Jen's great promotional activities. In fact, her marketing is what gave me the idea for this series. So here's a bit more about how she (and Holiday House) marketed Possum Summer.

What has Holiday House done to promote Possum Summer?

Holiday House has been great! They've promoted Possum Summer everywhere, and recently my little book is at BEA, being shown to all the great Booksellers out there! They also helped with the marketing idea I had (called the Showdown, see below) Holiday House FTW!

What is the Great Oklahoma Animal Showdown? How did you come up with this idea, and how did you manage to coordinate it from another continent? (And how is it going so far?)

The Showdown is going great so far! I wanted to address my readers directly, but I also wanted to have a sort of party for my book that included them. So I thought: why not Oklahoma, where I grew up? Why not the public school system, which left me so many positive (and negative) memories? All my great teachers? They deserve the notice. So I worked it up.

The book is in the schools (as of June 1) and will be featured on here soon. It was a bit of a headache getting everything settled from a continent away. :-) My sister and her kids *waves* did the hard manual labor of sending out the envelopes I sent out, and putting stamps on them. Holiday House was AMAZING on this front, really working with me to fine tune the competition and even the CEO, Mr. John Briggs, had extremely helpful suggestions! They really are amazing.

What role do you see social networking playing in your marketing and promotion efforts?

TBH, not much with the kids. More with reviewers, who could read and review my book, and librarians and parents. I find a huge amount of people I interact with online are other writers, but they're parents too, and they're searching for a book for their kids that excites them, makes them cry, and helps them out. I'm hoping that Possum Summer fits that bill!

How long will those who haven't pre-ordered have to wait before Amazon restocks? ;)

HAHAHAHAH The LATEST you'll have to wait is June 1 (I hope)! I was astounded that it sold out so quickly! It is all a dream. :-D

* * *

Thanks for sharing your experience, Jen, and congrats on the new release!

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

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

Seen the book trailer yet?

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. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Top Agent

My son's birthday is next week, and he's been asking for a Top Agent. Funny, I want the same thing. Except his looks like this:


And mine will look a bit more... lively. Interactive. Requiring less imagination to become animate. (But just as willing to scale walls.)

I'm participating in Sara Megibow's How to Hook an Agent with Your Query Letter webinar on Thursday (followed by personalized feedback from an agent on my Top Agent list--can't go wrong with that!).

Fingers crossed that my son and I both get our wish!

How's your writing/querying going?

Friday, May 20, 2011

What writing taught me about parenting

You would think that reading parenting books would teach you about parenting, but I've actually learned just as much from my books about writing. A few examples:
  1. Show Don't Tell  Or, in parenting parlance: actions speak louder than words.
  2. Keep it simple  Don't use language that your audience doesn't understand. Use short sentences and clear wording to get the point across (I wish my students would do this).
  3. Everything should happen for a reason  Otherwise known as natural and logical consequences (we need to use these a LOT in our house).
  4. Don't lecture your reader  Or your kids, any more than you have to. They tune out words, which is why #1 and #3 are more effective.
  5. Don't underestimate your audience  Think they won't remember that you promised them a new book if they were good at the store? Think again.
  6. Try not to criticize  The kids, your partner/spouse, or yourself. Focus on the positive.
  7. Let your character's think  Your kids, too. They'll thank you for it.
What else can we learn about parenting from writing?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Insanity. And a blog award.

The past ten days have been a blur of sorting, donating, cleaning, painting, and otherwise trying to de-clutter our apartment and get it ready for other people to see. To give you an idea of just how crazy it was, it took me 12 days to read Rick Riordan's The Red Pyramid. Normally, it would've taken me two. So during those precious moments when I DID have time to read, I felt like this:

But now the apartment is so clean it sparkles. When I told my five-year-old this, he asked if I'd sprinkled glitter everywhere. At least he didn't ask if it looked like vampire skin.

And in the midst of all that cleaning, I felt anything but stylish, and yet Julie Hedlund, critique partner extraordinaire, gave me the Stylish Blogger Award. Thank you Julie! It came at a time when I needed a little pick-me-up.

Out of curiosity, what are the "rules" about passing on an award you've already passed on? Do you do it all over again?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


I anticipated that my kids would have nightmares once we actually moved. Uprooting them from everything they know and moving them thousands of miles away to a location with a very different culture is a highly emotional experience; just the kind of thing to trigger nightmares (source).

What I didn't anticipate was their starting so soon. A good night's sleep has become a thing of the past. At least once a week, one of the boys wakes me with a nightmare. I guess the stress is getting to everyone. I've been fortunate not to have nightmares, but maybe that's because the others wake me, and once I'm awake, I can't shut off my brain and go back to sleep. Hard to have a nightmare if you're awake!

While I'm lying awake at night, I wonder how I might make use of this in a future story. What circumstances lead to nightmares? How can those circumstances lead to bizarre dreams for a character, and how can I make that dream an essential component of the story?

According to the Mayo Clinic, nightmares can result from any of the following.
  • stress Stress may be caused by everyday events (school stress, bullying, work) or bigger events (a divorce, death of a loved one, a move). (This is clearly the issue for us.)
  • a traumatic event Nightmares are one of the classic symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. Did anything really traumatic happen to your character? If so, there ought to be nightmares afterward.
  • illness When people are sick, particularly if they have a high fever, nightmares can dominate their sleep. One of the best examples of this that I've seen is in Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series. In one of the later books, the main character, Claire, becomes deathly ill, and we experience the illness through her dreams and altered perceptions. 
  • drugs Both legal (some antidepressants) and illegal (barbiturates and narcotics) drugs can cause nightmares. What is your character going through? Are drugs involved? (Probably not if you're writing for children!) Make the experience real for your audience by incorporating nightmares.
And don't just include nightmares for effect, put them to work. Make your character's brain pull together pieces of what's happening around him/her into a frightening experience that not only illustrates the psychological issues, but also provides the reader with important information about the character or story line.

That's what I'll be thinking about when I'm wide awake at 3am.

Have you incorporated dreams or nightmares into your writing?

Thursday, May 5, 2011


I'm posting less often, these days. The big inter-continental move is next month, and between dealing with that, trying to polish and submit my current middle grade novel, and preparing for the Writers Workshop at Chautauqua, my time is precious.

But, I need to thank two people for three awards that I've received over the past few weeks.  Deirdre at A Storybook World awarded me both the Powerful Woman Writer Award...

and the Creative Blog Award.

Thank you, Deirdre, for the gorgeous awards (she designed them herself). I haven't been able to determine that there are rules for passing these along, but I may do so anyway. But that will be fodder for another post.

Thanks, too, to Elizabeth Mueller, for the zebra:

A to Z was great in terms of discovering new blogs. It also taught me that I just can't blog six days a week. I am in awe of those of you who do.
How do you get anything else done?!?

Monday, May 2, 2011

Marketing Monday - Hilary Wagner

Whew! After an intense A to Z April, Marketing Monday is back!

Today, I am thrilled to feature Hilary Wagner, a middle grade author whose debut novel Nightshade City has already enjoyed terrific success!. If you're a children's writer, chances are, you are familiar with her blog posts or tweets.

Hilary has also been a terrific resource for other authors through SCBWI and in an interview for the CBI Insider.

She's fun, she's incredibly sweet, and she... well, she loves rats. What's not to love? ;) 

What did Holiday House do to help promote Nightshade City?

Holiday House has deep ties in schools and libraries. Even now, more and more libraries get my book every week. It's so exciting. It's even at several libraries in Singapore, Spain, Germany, and the Netherlands!

Among other events, Holiday House had me speak at the NCTE ALAN workshops in November at Disney World. That was a big honor and certainly something to mark off the bucket list. I'm happy to say I'll be on the NCTE Holiday House panel this year as well, to speak about my latest book. Anytime Holiday House has me and other authors speak, they always set up a dinner party too, wherein myself and the other authors get to sit down with Educators and professionals in the publishing industry to talk about our books and help spread the word, not to mention have a great time! They've truly been great and not knowing what to expect as a debut author, they surpassed everything I could have hoped for as far as marketing me.

What did you do to market your novel? When did you start getting the word out (and how)?

Well, I'm in an on-line writers group--not a critique group, but a group of writers who support each other through the whole process. So, as a group, anyone with a book coming out gets a blog tour and we are all part of it. We all write for different age levels, but that doesn't matter, spreading the word is spreading the word!

I did work with a book publicist as well. Through my publisher, my book got into Barnes & Noble and other retail stores, but I really wanted a strong Indie presence. I worked with my publicist to design postcards that went out to a huge list of independent booksellers. It worked too! Just the other day, I was at a local Chicago indie bookstore who said the reason they ordered my books was because they received the postcard!

I'm also pretty involved with social networking (twitter, facebook, blogging) and not just to push my book, but to make friends. The on-line writers' community is vast and truly supportive of one another. I've met wonderful writers, who've become good friends and great supporters of my books. It's also been a great way to land speaking engagements. Many of the panels I've spoken on and school visits I've been invited to have all been a result of some form of social networking.

Also, if not involved already, I suggest every children's writer joins the SCBWI. My local chapter (Illinois) is very active. I've made so many friends and I actually get to meet them in person! I was just on an SCBWI panel last month in Chicago, talking about social networking for your book, so your question is quite timely! It's such a wonderful resource for meeting fellow writers, joining critique groups, finding SCBWI meet-ups in your local area. I would be lost without them!

You have a quote from Rick Riordan on the cover. (Wow!) Do you think that helped Nightshade City gain some attention from fans of Percy Jackson?

I sure hope so! I was literally in shock with my agent read the quote to me. She was walking down the street in NYC and I was sitting in my office. I screamed out loud and everyone came running! What an honor! Apparently, Mr. Riordan's children had read the final manuscript and like it so he read it too! It's truly amazing how these things happen in life.

Nightshade City is in its second printing, a CBC Best Book, a Crystal Kite Finalist, and a Goodreads Choice Award Finalist. What do you think led to this success? (aside from the fact that you wrote a terrific novel)

I would think it's all the "terrific novel" part, ha, ha! Honestly though, I think much of it is getting the word spread about your book. It's a very organic process. I suppose you can compare it to how a rumor gets started, but with a bit of luck it's a good rumor in this case! ;)

What advice do you have for other authors who are just starting to think about promoting their books?

Well, when you first start out it's a little overwhelming. You don't need to join every social networking site or have three blogs going, posting every day. You just need to figure out what works best for you. I'm active with my blog, but really only post once a week. That's what works best for me. It's doable, I can manage it, and I don't feel pressure. It took a while to grow my readership--it won't happen overnight, so don't get discouraged. IT WILL HAPPEN! Just keep consistent with your posts, follow others in your field (usually they'll follow back), try and respond to folks who comment on your blog and have fun.

I'm also pretty active on Twitter and Facebook, but I use it more for fun than anything else. About 95% of the people I'm connected to are fellow writers and it's fun to joke and be silly with everyone, talk about our "regular" lives, as well as talk about our writing and publishing. The key is to be yourself! No one wants you to constantly blab about your book and your book alone. Frankly, it's annoying and a good way for people to drop you as a connection. To me, it is perfectly fine to talk about your book, provide links, etc, just don't make that all you are. Let me know you, because I'm sure you're wonderful and then of course, I'll want to support you and buy your book! ;)

Thank you, Hilary!!  The White Assassin, Hilary's sequel to Nightshade City, will be released in October. Don't miss it!

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.