Sunday, June 30, 2013

Marketing Adventures

As a debut 2012 author (of What She Left Behind, Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster), one of the questions I love to ask when I’m doing author interviews is what marketing tips other authors have. So today I thought I’d share some of my own marketing adventures!
GIVEAWAYS: This has turned out to be one of my favorites. You can do a giveaway on Goodreads for up to six months after your release.  During my Goodreads giveaways, I noticed a dramatic increase in the number of people who added my book to their to-read lists. I’m currently using a Goodreads giveaway to find a home for one of the German copies of my book. In Germany there is also a site similar to Goodreads called Lovelybooks. (Although the title sounds English, it’s all in German). I was able to do a “reading circle” with my German version on this site –  my German publisher agreed to provide 15 copies of the book for this. Once the reading circle members received the book, they would post comments about different sections of the book. They could also post questions for the author, which if they weren’t able to translate into English, the moderator would do for them. Speaking of giveaways, don't forget to enter the YAFUSION GIVEAWAY for the ARC of All the Truth That's in Me  - it ends JULY 5!
CAR MAGNETS: I slapped a couple of car magnets on the driver and passenger side doors of my car last summer before heading out on a cross-country trip. People all over surprised me by asking questions about my book because of them – from a toll booth operator to a woman at a national park. I had signed bookmarks in my glove compartment, which I handed out to people who asked about the book. On this same trip, I plotted out my route to hit a dozen bookstores across 400 miles in one day, quickly running in and signing stock at each one (I checked on line first to make sure that the stores had copies of my book in stock).
BOOKMARKS: This has been my favorite giveaway (I sign them with a grey Sharpie) though I had some T-shirts, tote bags, and notebooks with my book’s cover on them as well. I also had a small amount of bookmarks made with my German cover on them since I have some friends and contacts in Germany. (If anyone has a YA reading friend in Germany who would like one, you can send me his/her address through the contact form on my website).
POSTCARDS, LETTERS, and POSTERS: The month my book released I sent postcards to lots of public and school libraries in my state (Michigan). I also sent letters to high school English teachers in Michigan (first I found the school addresses on-line, then I used the school websites to address them to a specific English teacher). I enclosed discussion questions, signed bookmarks, and a letter summarizing my book and mentioning my launch party details. In the letter I mentioned how teachers could enter a poster giveaway by e-mailing me. It’s hard to know how effective this mailing was, but it did lead to some school visits which I really loved.
BOOK TRAILERS AND YOUTUBE ADVERTIZEMENTS: I had a book trailer made (which I absolutely love!) To me, this was definitely worth the cost as it’s a great little commercial for my book. It’s also fairly inexpensive to advertise your video on YouTube. I often use the book trailer to introduce my book when I’m giving a talk at a school, library, or conference.
I’m always interested in more marketing tips, so please use the comments section to add your own!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

All the Truth That's in Me, Part 2

The other day I shared my review of All the Truth That's in Me, by Julie Berry, Viking (Penguin Books), September 2013. You can return to that post to enter to win the ARC.

I had a nice email exchange with the author, Julie Berry.  I was curious about her writing and revision process because of the unusual narrative style with very short chapters/scenes, a four-part structure, and the use of 2nd person POV ("You").  Technically it's not 2nd person as Julie explains below, but I'm not sure how else to describe it.  It's as if the main character is writing a letter to her best friend/love, and addressing him as "you," but it's not written in the format of a letter. You'll just have to read it and see for yourself!

Here's Julie's response, and she offered to send some of her newly printed, fun swaggy stuff to accompany the ARC giveaway.  Thanks, Julie!

From Julie:  The unusual format of All the Truth That’s In Me came about organically. The story simply wanted to be written that way, if that makes any sense. Judith, the main character, has a compressed kind of intensity in the way she sees her world. Her observations are fractured, as her existence has been. As an outcast in her community, and as a person who cannot speak, she endures long periods of silence, of boredom, drudgery, and loneliness – times of “no story.” But she survives this with the company of her own poignant, sometimes poetic thoughts. And so the narrative seemed to want to unfold in this granular manner, stitching observation to observation and event to event. 

The choice to employ second person (which, technically, this is not, since the “you” of the story is a character within the story, but that’s a bit of hair-splitting) was a deliberate decision, an experiment at the very start, that begot the germ of the idea. But the form, ie, the short chapters, came about naturally, not deliberately. I loved how Judith seemed in charge of her story from the very beginning. She’s the most powerful heroine I’ve ever come to know through my own writing.

Enter to win the ARC giveaway of All the Truth That's in Me by Friday, June 5th here:

Coming September, 2013: All the Truth That’s In Me, a YA novel from Viking (Penguin Books). “Haunting and unforgettable.” – Ruta Sepetys, bestselling author of Between Shades of Gray and Out of the Easy. “Riveting.” – Judy Blundell, National Book Award-winning author of What I Saw and How I Lied. “Powerful.” – Rita Williams-Garcia, Newbery Honor author of One Crazy Summer. Read about it in Publisher’s Weekly.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Agent news and an ARC giveaway

You know what friends say when they're trying to encourage you, whether it's about love, or job hunting, or the often long and frustrating path to publication.

When one door closes, another opens.  
When you least expect it, good news will surprise you.

Cliches yes, but they persist because they're so often true, and it recently happened to me.  For lack of a better transition, I'll just blurt out my news:

I have an agent!

Carrie Pestritto from The Prospect Agency is bursting with energy, shares my vision, and I'm excited and honored to be working with her.

For those of you in the midst of the challenging process of querying, I hope my story encourages you to keep plugging away.  I had a very good agent many years ago, but she was unable to sell my first novel.  After much debating and agonizing, I made the decision to look for a new agent who would be a better fit for me. But first, I needed to dive back into my craft and simply focus on writing without worrying about publication.  I attended the Whole Novel workshop through the Highlights Foundation. I won and finaled in some contests which validated my hard work.  And finally, I began querying a new novel. 

I revised with an agent, but she was concerned that my novel was too similar to others on her list.  The good news: she sent my manuscript to one of her colleagues.  That agent also asked me to revise, but she too ultimately passed on my manuscript. She left with me with more feedback, and I revised again.  I knew the story was as strong as ever, but I'd lost confidence in it. Instead of querying more agents, I set the manuscript aside and focused on another new novel.  I started an online writing class.  Then just by chance, I stumbled upon an agent pitch contest at the Love YA blog. (Monica B. often hosts contests like this - you should definitely follow her blog!)

Carrie Pestritto selected my pitch, requested 50 pages, then the whole manuscript.  We had a wonderful phone call, and she asked me to revise.  Here we go again, that negative voice piped up inside me.  But I agreed with her suggestions, her enthusiasm encouraged me, and I knew I had to take this chance. She loved my revisions, loved my story on the second  read, and offered me representation. 

I've still got more revising to do, but having an agent's support has re-energized me, and of course I want this manuscript to be as strong as possible before it sees editors' eyes.

To celebrate accomplishing this step toward my goals, I have a great book to share. In May, I attended a regional SCBWI conference.  Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, and both Ohio chapters joined together to host the Wild, Wild, Midwest conference.  I attended several workshops with editor Kendra Levin from Viking, and won an ARC of a YA novel she edited, All the Truth That's in Me by Julie Berry.

 Coming September, 2013: All the Truth That’s In Me, a YA novel from Viking (Penguin Books). “Haunting and unforgettable.” – Ruta Sepetys, bestselling author of Between Shades of Gray and Out of the Easy. “Riveting.” – Judy Blundell, National Book Award-winning author of What I Saw and How I Lied. “Powerful.” – Rita Williams-Garcia, Newbery Honor author of One Crazy Summer. Read about it in Publisher’s Weekly.

Despite the wonderful reviews, I was hesitant to read this story due to its description as an empowering tale of recovery from trauma. I had recently finished If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch which was gorgeous, but intense and heartbreaking. I'm a social worker, and I can only handle so many stories of trauma every year.  But, after attending Kendra Levin's workshops, I respected her judgment, and I saw that the author had an MFA from Vermont College in writing for children and adults - I've been impressed by every book I've read from their graduates.

I tentatively began to read and discovered that the story was much different than I expected and not at all what I feared.  The cover looks modern to me, but the story is historical, set in an unknown year, in a Puritan-like settlement. The narrative style is unusual with very short chapters/scenes and a four part structure.  Other reviews have compared it to Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, but it reminded me of Chime by Frannie Billingsly.

All the Truth That's in Me won't be released until late September, but I'd love to give my ARC to one of our YA Fusion followers.  The giveaway ends on Friday, July 5th.  To enter, please leave a comment and include your email address.

Happy summer reading!
Kristin Lenz

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Word Choice

I was told once to think about what I had to say before said it. Phrasing this differently means to choose your words wisely. As a writer, I take this very seriously as I’m pounding away on my works in progress and when I’m revising. If I do this correctly, I can tell my readers so much more about my characters than what I actually put on the page.

Your word choice can set a mood, it can tip your hand without saying something bluntly, and it can help your characterization.

For instance, in my newest novel, DARE YOU TO, Ryan is a high school baseball player considering the Pros after graduation. In the first chapter of the book, Ryan is dared to get Beth’s phone number. When he finds out that she has no plans in being involved in this scheme, Ryan steps up his game (notice the last word I just used there).

Ring the bell. Playtime ended with those words. Purposely invading her space, I steal a step toward her and place a hand on the counter next to her body.

To describe Ryan, I used the word playtime and the verb steal.  Ryan is a baseball player who doesn’t like to lose. In keeping true to Ryan’s character, he’s going to speak internally and externally in words that he’s surrounded by. Stealing base is something he thinks about often.

Also, pay attention to the phrase: ring the bell.

Several images can be created by this: the bell ringing to signal the start of a boxing match (which is what I was imaging since Beth and Ryan always seem to go several rounds with each other).

Or as my husband would sometimes trash talk while playing basketball: ring the bell because I’m taking you to school.

Either image is one that works for me. It shows how Ryan is determined and loves to win.

So when writing or revising, think about who your character is, what makes them tick, think about what types of words they would use, then you can use that to your advantage!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

YA Fusion Welcomes Back Ruta Sepetys--and a Giveaway!

We’re having a banner week at YA Fusion—best-selling author Ruta Sepetys is back to answer questions and give away of copy of her newest offering, Out of the Easy.

When YA Fusion last talked to Ruta, her award-winning debut, Between Shades of Gray, was racing up the charts.  

Since then, Ruta has had her nose to the promotional and writing grindstones.  I’m not sure if there were actual nasal sparks flying, but knowing Ruta I wouldn't be surprised.  She’s made multiple trips to Europe for book signings and lectures, appeared at conferences, and written Out of the Easy.  Here’s the new book’s scoop, straight off the jacket:

It’s 1950, and as the French Quarter of New Orleans simmers with secrets, seventeen-year-old Josie Moraine is silently stirring a pot of her own. Known among locals as the daughter of a brothel prostitute, Josie wants more out of life than the Big Easy has to offer. She devises a plan get out, but a mysterious death in the Quarter leaves Josie tangled in an investigation that will challenge her allegiance to her mother, her conscience, and Willie Woodley, the brusque madam on Conti Street.

To that I would add that this is a well written and delightfully paced character-driven adventure with a splash of mystery and romance in a fun historical setting.  Let's get Ruta's take on the book.

Ruta, thanks for hanging out with YA Fusion, we really appreciate your time.  Start at the beginning, please.  Was there a light bulb moment for Out of the Easy's story and setting?
RS – There was definitely a “light bulb moment!” My introduction to New Orleans came through a vintage pair of opera glasses I received for my birthday. The glasses were still in their original case from the jeweler in New Orleans and they were engraved and dated as a gift from someone named Willie. I’m nuts about history, so I hired a researcher to trace the origin of the glasses. I learned that Willie was a woman from a brothel in the French Quarter. And the jeweler who sold Willie the glasses was poisoned. He ate a dozen oysters in the Quarter and kicked the bucket. You can’t make that stuff up. My fascination with New Orleans was born!

So... the brothels of New Orleans.  Research must have been interesting.  Got a good conversation starter you can share?
RS – Oh my gosh, there were so many incredible research moments. But the most exciting part of the research process involved visiting the former brothel of New Orleans madam Norma Wallace. Willie’s house in the book is based on Norma’s. I was able to go into the house and see exactly where everything took place. It was both fascinating and unsettling.

Out of the Easy has some similarities with Between Shade of Gray—they both have a first person, past-tense female lead who starts off unusually young for a YA, and they both have a strong historical context—but the books are very different.  For one thing, the historical element of Between Shades of Gray is more central to the story.  In some ways, it is the story.  With Out of the Easy, though, the characters are central and the history is context.  Did the process feel different to you while you were doing it?

RS – The process of writing the two books was extremely different – especially on an emotional level. Writing Between Shades of Gray was very difficult because I knew that what I was describing had actually happened but was kept secret for over fifty years. The pain and suffering was very real. Writing Out of the Easy was full of joy. The characters made me laugh and cry but it was a celebration of identity in a very positive way.

Josie, the heroine of Out of the Easy, is very together and capable, yet she still has strong needs and vulnerabilities.  How conscious were you of balancing her strengths and weaknesses?
RS – I’ve met women like Josie Moraine so the character is very real to me. I wanted her surroundings to be a major hurdle that challenged both her strengths and weaknesses. I definitely evaluated that balance as I read my drafts.

The character Jesse builds nicely as the story progresses.  He’s a lot of fun, and I get the feeling you enjoyed writing his scenes.  As he would say, you like him.
RS – I stole Jesse's lines straights from my husband. Yes, I am mad bonkers in love with the hubs.

Please tell us a bit about your writing process.  How much do you outline, and how defined are the plot and characters before you start writing?
RS – I wish I had a specific process. For me it starts with the characters, what they are striving for, and what sort of moral decision I can push them to. I don’t create a detailed outline but I make notes on the specific characters and a loose breakdown of action.

You had a career in music management before becoming a full time writer.  You’re still involved in music education, yes?  Is there a crossover in the work experience?
RS – My experience in the music industry absolutely feeds my writing. I was fortunate to be around so many creative people. After twenty years, the artists encouraged me to leave the business side of the industry and pursue my own creativity. Yes, I’m still involved in music education, mentoring, and am on the board at one of the universities here in Nashville.

What’s next for you, Ruta?  Touring?  New book?
RS – Earlier this year I did an amazing ten-week international tour. I’m now taking the summer to work on my third book. I’ll be touring again September – November 2013 and then on the road again February – May of 2014. I’m really excited because I’ll be hitting Berlin, Krakow, Paris, Barcelona, Madrid, Tokyo, Bangkok, Budapest, Warsaw, as well as many US cities. It’s a dream and I am so grateful to my publishers and the readers! The full itinerary is listed on my website at:
Thank you for having me here at YA Fusion!!

Thanks again to Ruta for sharing her time and a copy of, Out of the Easy.  Readers, if you don’t win this copy, visit a bookstore soon, you won’t be disappointed.

Please comment below to be considered for the drawing. Extra points offered for posting about the contest on Facebook or Twitter (please include mention of this in your comment). Email MUST be included in the comment to be considered. Open to US and Canadian entries only - apologies. Contest closes at midnight EST on 6/16/13.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

FABULOUS FIRST YEAR! Interview with Katie McGarry


Congratulations to our very own Katie McGarry on the release of her second book, Dare You To!!

Dare You To

"I dare you..." 
If anyone knew the truth about Beth Risk's home life, they'd send her mother to jail and seventeen-year-old Beth who knows where. So she protects her mom at all costs. Until the day her uncle swoops in and forces Beth to choose between her mom's freedom and her own happiness. That's how Beth finds herself living with an aunt who doesn't want her and going to a school that doesn't understand her. At all. Except for the one guy who shouldn't get her, but does.... 
Ryan Stone is the town golden boy, a popular baseball star jock-with secrets he can't tell anyone. Not even the friends he shares everything with, including the constant dares to do crazy things. The craziest? Asking out the Skater girl who couldn't be less interested in him. 
But what begins as a dare becomes an intense attraction neither Ryan nor Beth expected. Suddenly, the boy with the flawless image risks his dreams-and his life-for the girl he loves, and the girl who won't let anyone get too close is daring herself to want it all....

It’s been less than one year since your debut, Pushing the Limits was released. You have had amazing success and been nominated for countless awards including Goodreads Choice in the romance category (voted sixth place—John Green won first if that tells you what a big deal this is), a top pick for reluctant readers by the American Library Association, and you’re currently a double nominee for RWA’s RITA Award in the romance category and best first book—to name a few.
--Is there a particular award or nomination that means the most to you—one that you can cross off your bucket list? Or one you’re striving for?

I never expected any of the nominations. In fact, I never really dreamed of any of the above because it felt so out of reach.

I will say that I am excited and proud of all of them, but I am especially thrilled about the Top Pick for Reluctant Readers by the American Library Association. PUSHING THE LIMITS is a story of hope and I’m happy that it can reach more readers through this list!

--Obviously, this has been a life-changing year for you. Do you have any advice for other authors climbing the ladder from regular mom/wife to mom/wife/rising-star-author?

First off there is no such thing as a regular mom/wife. The amount of work we do—we are all superstars!

I always consider myself a wife/mother first and writer second. My husband and kids are my home base. While my career is important to me, my home is the top priority. I always make my decisions of how to divide my time based on this.

--Do you have any advice on handling social media for authors who’ve just landed their first deal?

Find what you are comfortable with and what fits your personality. Personally, I enjoy twitter. It’s fun to have conversations with people from books to movies to commercials I like on TV.

Whatever you choose to do, don’t overload yourself and make sure you don’t take on too much that you end up wasting your writing time!

--Beth is a secondary character from Pushing the Limits and I loved her from the first few sentences out of her mouth. When did Beth demand that her own story be told? And when did you know what that story would be?

There’s a part in PUSHING THE LIMITS where Noah finds Beth physically broken and bruised. It was in that moment that I knew Beth had a story and what it would be.

--Can you tell us one of your favorite Beth lines? (preferably one of her wickedly-dark snark-tastic linesJ)

Ryan: “When you kiss guys, do they drop dead from the venom that spews out of your mouth?”
Beth: “I wish, because I would have kissed you days ago.”

--Do you have a favorite scene?

The rain scene between Beth and Ryan!

--Can you tell us anything about your next book and when we’ll see it on bookshelves?

I’m currently working on Isaiah’s story, CRASH INTO YOU. I don’t have an exact release date yet.

--You’ve made a lot of YA contemporary romance “favorites” lists this year. Can you name a few of your latest favorites?

I love Trish Doller’s SOMETHING LIKE NORMAL!

Thanks, Katie, for taking the time to answer some questions!!

If you live in the US and would like a chance to WIN a signed copy of DARE YOU TO by Katie McGarry, simply leave a comment. Drawing will be held two weeks from today!