Monday, February 20, 2012

Middle grade manners

I am looking for feedback/input/advice here, so please take a moment to read on and give me your thoughts.

The question: when is it appropriate to use potentially objectionable language in a middle grade novel (or is it ever appropriate to do so)?


Why do I ask? Thunderstruck (my MG) is a multicultural story; one character is American Indian, another is from Mexico. The Mexican periodically throws out a Spanish word when he speaks. As one of my wonderful critique partners pointed out, the Spanish I've used for him is rather formal, therefore probably not very true-to-life. But a Mexican friend (who is helping me with this part of the manuscript) informed me that to make it true-to-life would require using a term that can also be used as an insult. Therein lies the problem.

So what's an author to do? Is it better to write something that's realistic, even if it might end up teaching some colorful language to a younger age group? Or is it better to stick to the less realistic, but unlikely to offend, language?

I know people often advise to make up your slang, but when the manuscript deals with two languages, I think that's a pretty big challenge.

What do you think?

Monday, February 13, 2012

Marketing Monday: Holly Cupala

Marketing Monday is back! It's been a long time, I know, but it has been worth the wait!

Today, I have Holly Cupala, author of Tell Me a Secret (HarperCollins 2010).

Holly is currently promoting her second novel, Don't Breathe A Word (HarperCollins, January 2012; check out a two-chapter sneak preview). She's chock full of terrific information about how to spread the word. Read on to learn more!

How did you help to promote your first book, Tell Me a Secret?

I pretty much decided that I got to do this debut book once, so I gave it my all. Plus I have an amazing husband who did the same—we had a blast together and did some crazy things. Videos, sneak previews, trailer, events.

I worked hard to plan and work ahead as much as possible, especially with the blog tour and sending two-chapter sneak previews to 150 indie bookstores and at least that many bloggers.

We had a couple of audiobook offers, but we decided to produce our own so that we could hire award-winning actress Jenna Lamia, then ended up making a ground-breaking deal with Audible to distribute it (here). The TMAS trailer we produced was a finalist in the first SLJ Trailie Awards!

Awesome (and well deserved)! What are you doing to market Don't Breathe a Word? Are you trying to expand your audience with the second book, and if so, how?

After everything we learned from TMAS, we went for the highest impact efforts for the DBAW launch. We created a downloadable sneak preview booklet (, we’ve released a trailer with incredibly gorgeous graphics from our friend Realm Lovejoy (below), and a blogger fan generously put together a tour (

[Holly is also holding a contest for the trailer launch, so be sure to check it out!]

With the guidance of a couple of wise fellow authors, I enlisted the help of a street team to get the word out, so of course we’ve made stickers and posters and fun swag to send to them. We had a big launch party in Seattle, and I’ll be doing a few local and national events as well. I’m really excited to report it’s gone into a second printing, and I just found out Barnes and Noble chose DBAW as a Top Teen Pick for the month of February!

Sounds like your marketing efforts are really paying off! What advice do you have for debut authors who are just starting to think seriously about marketing?

Put a Google Alert on your name, your book name, your name + book name (spelling variations, etc., since if you are like me you will run into a fair number of misspellings). Watch for bloggers waiting for your book—you can always politely contact them about interviews, etc.

You can’t always send review copies (and most of the time publishers don’t give that many), but you can respond and see if they’d like to do an interview or guest post. As a side note, setting up blog tours can be very time-consuming, but there are a couple of blog sites out there that may want to organize one for you.

If you have an ARC to spare, check out some ARC tour blogs—they usually sign up ~10 bloggers who will mail one galley among themselves and review.

If you can get to a major conference (BEA, ALA, etc.), it’s great for exposure—see if you can get your publisher to sponsor you and/or schedule you for a signing.

And…pace yourself, because marketing can be consuming and exhausting! You can always do more, but I think it’s good to do what you can do well and what is fun for you.

Thank you, Alison, for inviting me to your blog, and I hope your readers enjoy Don’t Breathe a Word!

* * *

Thank you Holly, for taking the time to share the secrets of your marketing success!

Holly is the author of Tell Me A Secret (HarperCollins 2010) and Don't Breathe A Word (now available!), two young adult novels about...well, secrets. Readers and reviewers are saying very nice things about her novels—she hopes you will read them and tell her what you think.

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.  

Monday, February 6, 2012

Boot Camp

If you are interested in writing nonfiction for kids, the Highlights Foundation has a couple of terrific workshops coming up: Nature Writing Boot Camp (April 16-19) and Science Writing Boot Camp (April 19-22).

Both workshops offer a terrific opportunity to work with award-winning authors and editors, learn how to write science as a an engaging story, and get feedback on your work.

Not sure you can afford it? The Highlights Foundation offers scholarships. (They're worth it people--I speak from experience!)

And if non-fiction isn't your thing, check out the other workshops offered by the Highlights Foundation. There's something there for everyone.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Phil had it right

On Wednesday, it was 60 degrees and sunny, and I wondered if Punxsatawney Phil would see his shadow, or whether we'd have an early spring. He saw his shadow, and look at this!

Pretty smart for a rodent. ;)

On the bright side, I finished revising Thunderstruck! Now to stoke the fire, make some hot cocoa, and enjoy the snow.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

WIP Wednesday

Whew! I'm nearing the end of revisions on Thunderstruck (and I mean serious revisions, as in cutting nearly 5,000 words, changing the voice, and adding a character). So naturally, instead of finishing, I've been working on other things.

I've got two articles about critters nearly ready to go (just waiting on an expert review for one of them), and this morning I sent off a picture book manuscript that I've been working on for two years (hey, it rhymes and it's fiction; it's taken a while to get it just right).

And a bit of good news--I received a contract for an article with Highlights! I have now earned enough money from my writing (this year) to buy a couch for the basement, so Koda doesn't sit on us while we're watching movies. *throws confetti*

February's off to a good start!

And in other news, it's sunny and almost 60 degrees out and tomorrow is Groundhog Day (not sure what that is? Read this. Even if you do know, you should read it anyway!).

 What do you think, will Punxsatawney Phil will see his shadow tomorrow? Is winter already over for the year?