Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Why I?

I got an interesting question at a recent conference I attended: “Do all YA’s have to be in the first person?”

I was a little surprised by the question; I immediately wanted to answer no.

But then I thought about it – and I realized that the asker had a good point; because from all the examples out there, it certainly does feel like first person is the norm.

But why? Going even deeper into this question – why is YA most often in first person…and adult genre fiction most often in third?

The first part of my answer to this relates back to my post on YA vs. Adult – voice. There is a definite ego-centric (less reflective of the world/life, less put into perspective, a world through the teen lens alone), emotionally vibrant and raw quality to YA voice that is best served in first person to hone in on that narrowed focus. And, let’s face it, YA authors are often pulling from their inner teens - so the I voice really is coming from the "I" of the author.

But that is not the only reason. The second layer to my answer is about how relatable the characters, situations and worlds actually are.

A cheating boyfriend, new kid at school, alcoholic mom - things featured in reality we can relate to and understand. But a snarky miss toting from one glamorous ballroom to the next, swept away in an elegant waltz…and then diving out the window in chase of a jewel thief? Not so much easy to relate to.

Let's look at some more examples:

  1. Contemporary YA deals with themes and situations that are directly relatable – and it’s almost always in first person.
  2. Lest you think all contemporary should be relateable, however: contemporary romance, despite being set in our world, often features a situation we can't relate to at all - love at first lust (...ok, sight), and a clean, happy ending. We are reading these stories HOPING we'll have it...but we can't really relate to it.
  3. Adult genre fiction is often pure fantasy (not something we'd likely have happen in real life) - and it is most often in third person.
  4. Genre YA, too (more commercial, fantastical novels) tends to feature more third person – again, I'll argue, because they are harder to relate to.
  5. However, again, lest you think all fantasy is not relatable: Dystopian YA, despite being far from situationally relateable, draws on many of our own fears – we can directly relate to what is going on, because so many of us have felt the same way - and so it’s not hard to see why so much of it is written in first person.

There's clearly no hard and fast rule. But my take on it is that a voice in first person allows the reader to actively be a part of the story in a directly relatable way; a voice in third person allows the reader to be just as absorbed - but like watching a movie rather than playing a virtual reality game.

Quite simply: if you’re reading I in a novel, you’d better be able to put yourself in I’s shoes.

So, what to take away from this?

If you’re debating whether or not your novel suits better in first or third – ask yourself what your end goal is. If you want your readers to have a more direct and intimate experience, first would be a better fit.

But if you want your readers to truly escape, release all inhibitions and disbelief grounded in our reality, give third a try.

You can always find and replace it back.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Tips on Marketing Your Novel

Below is a helpful list I compiled (using the brilliant “phase strategy” author Jessica McCann -- All Different Kinds of Free -- put together way back when I sold her debut) of the best tips on promotion I could find and think of.

I strongly encourage any author reading this post with any more tips and ideas to share – nothing is ever going to be comprehensive, but that’s really the fun part of marketing: finding new, fun and proactive ways to reach your audience!

AND – you’ll notice that there is a phase for all the pre-published out there too – oh yes: that DOES mean you need to start…NOW!

Pre-Sale Phase

•Get INVOLVED – not just with book signings and conferences, but with online groups and review sites. The biggest term to remember here: PAY IT FORWARD. NETWORK is a very close second.

•Go to and tweet when you’re reading a book; if someone is having a book birthday, congratulate them; if someone makes a sale, congratulate them; if someone is having a contest or wants others to post their book title as their twitter icon, participate. Get EXCITED for others sharing your journey and help them too – even if a fraction of them help you back, you’re better off than NONE of them helping!

•Join online writing groups such as , Romance Divas, YAHighway, and chat groups such as #YAlitchat on Twitter.

Immediate on Sale Phase

•Post news and update profiles: Twitter, LinkedIn, professional website, etc.

•Email announcement to friends, family and colleagues

•Email blogs (relevant to your genre) with 500+ followers to ask if you can guest post to share your success story (hopefully you FREQUENTED these sites during your pre-sale period)

•Announce to your social groups/network

•Start thinking NOW about potential guest blog post topics you could cover (i.e., if you had a historical fiction, you could write about how to research historical fiction; navigating career transition from X to novelist, etc.)

•Create a blog; if you’re skittish on venturing out on your own, get a group together, such as the ladies over at Let the Words Flow.

Top tips for blogging:

1.Keep the content useful and unique
2.Pick a reader-friendly layout – simple and eye-catching
3.Link to other blogs and posts when YOU post (it helps you get higher in the search rank for sites like Google – as does posting frequently!)
4.Add a personal touch
5.Post regularly (at LEAST once a week)
6.Use tags and keywords
7.Use images as much as you can – keep it visually stimulating!
8.Keep your titles simple and catchy
9.Get it out there – tweet/announce via website, etc every time you post!

Buzz-building Phase

•Media: Pitch local author profile to local magazines/papers

•Media: News release to local publications

•Online: add sample chapter to your author website, tweet link (check with your publisher before doing this to make sure it’s ok)

•Online: periodic genre and book-related Tweets (pub news, trivia, quotes from book, etc.)

•Syndicate your content so your ONE update appears in as many places as possible (here's a how-to guide)

•Online: periodic updates to LinkedIn profile with book news

•Online: Continue with current social media strategies to build followers & make connections overall (I love this chart on how to stay active and visible)

•Check out how well your efforts are doing – check your blog stats per post, for example, to see what’s resonating and working, and what is not. Other status checking sites: Clicky, Tweetmeme, YouTube statistics. Look at how many comments you get per post – are they interesting enough TO comment on OR retweet?

Pre-release Phase

•Book stores: contact any local independent stores that may want to stock copies

•Online: post book trailer to website and tweet link. Join and post to YouTube.

•Online: add "buy the book" links to website

•Print: Create bookmarks, postcards, flyers featuring cover art (mail to
personal/professional contacts, hand out at any events/conferences)

•Email: send update to personal/professional contacts

•Print: If possible, write guest posts and/or newspaper/magazine articles on ANY topic, and include your book title/release information in bio

•Online: Host book give-aways on Twitter (e.g. RT for chance to win advance copy)

•Join relevant conversations and chats to your topic – link relevant posts from other authors or bloggers to your website and accounts.

Release and Beyond Phase

•Book release event – book a local B&N or bookstore to host your event. Focus on stores that report to bestseller lists such as NYT (you can always ask an independant if they do or not, if you can't book B&N; here's a post detailing the bestseller lists, and a story/how-to on reaching the NYT list.)

•Book club meetings via Skype - conference in on misc book club meetings to discuss your book (promote this online – perhaps have a sidebar on your blog or website that announces your availability to join in on book club meetings)

•Compile list of local booksellers to approach; offer to sign print copies they stock, provide signed bookmarks to give away

•Submit your title for awards/contests for published novels

•Try Podcasting tips or other fun facts to supplement your novel (an audio recording): How to Create a Podcast (A Step-by-step Tutorial from


•Let everyone know it’s out - email friends and colleagues, post on your blog/website/facebook/twitter – and add a link to where they can buy it!

•Explore other social media possibilities -- Facebook page for novel, Amazon author page, Goodreads

•Consider getting URL (build simple site with book club questions/ideas, trivia/factoids, links to relevant info, etc. -- see for an awesome example)

•Guest blog opportunities (use your list generated early on!)

•Blog book tour

•Advertise any events on the Facebook/website

•Twitter: Profile picture will be cover of book, can host a Q&A session (#BOOKTITLE)

•Facebook/Website/blog: Profile picture will be cover of book, add author bio, news, blurb of book w/description of contents (link to where to buy, list other titles), host give-aways, contests, host a guest author – continue your networking! – with a tie-in subject, Facebook ads

Potential Events

Just because you’re published doesn’t mean conferences aren’t for you – they certainly are! Give workshops to gather attention to yourself and book (though don’t necessarily focus on YOUR book as the workshop – maybe an angle you used to write it, to help others out). WORD OF MOUTH spreads!

Put together a list of any local events to attend, including bookfairs you could set up a booth/table at, and reach out to conferences and offer to do critiques or workshops.

The most important thing is to keep it lively and fun!

Finally: create brilliant marketing plans your agent wants to share to give yourself an extra promo boost. ;)

Saturday, October 1, 2011

What I Like…and Why I Like it

I honor of my re-opening to submissions, I thought I’d do an in-depth explanation of what I love to read and what I'm craving to represent. Below is a list of all the books I read over the two weeks of my honeymoon, and what I specifically liked about each one; the list is only fairly comprehensive in terms of my reading tastes, but should give some great examples:

Some Like it Wild* by Teresa Medieros (Historical Romance)

What I Loved: The yummy yummy Scotsman. I really could not wait to get back to the delicious hero in this book every time I put it down! What is more, is that I loved the characters; the heroine is spunky and she’s not Venus come to life or some nonsense; her beauty and passion are sparked purely in the eyes of the hero. I love that kind of book because it makes the romance feel so much more private and personal. It’s also an extremely well-executed book, and the level of passion is just what I like.

One of my all-time favorite Highlander books is Temperance by Jude Deveraux

Queen of the Dead* (Ghost and the Goth, book 2) by Stacey Kad (Contemporary Paranormal YA)

What I Loved: Whenever I dive into this series I am always struck by how smart the heroine is. She’s the stereotypical blond cheerleader – with brilliant people-reading skills. I love characters that break the mold like this; this character acts the same way that stereotypical cheerleader would, but she’s given depth and dimension which make her entirely likeable. I also love the dry and sarcastic voice; a must-have for me in any contemporary! I do love me ghosts, too…

One of my all-time favorite ghost books is The Mediator series by Meg Cabot

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (Science Fiction/ Dystopian)

What I Loved: This was so amazingly gritty and relentless; and so real. The world building was so well done; for a dystopian, this is crucial: I knew the food dishes they ate, the politics, the fashions, the history, the technology, everything. All the little details that make up a world were explained which made it read so vividly. The main character’s thought process , working things out with me as she went, also drew me in as a reader; nothing was told to me – I lived this with her.

The Heiress* by Lynsay Sands (Historical Romance)

What I Loved: The blunt heroine. This story had a holy mother of a complex plot, but really, I was drawn in by the fresh, sassy heroine. This hooked me with the unique plot, and kept me reading for the feisty heroine.

My three all-time favorite historical romance writers: Julia Quinn (witty and sexy), Lisa Klypas (passionate and delicious) and Johanna Lindsay (fiery and passionate)

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver (Dark Contemporary w/ Fantastical Elements)

What I Loved: if anyone has ever wondered what “beautiful dark” means in my bio – this is it. Beautiful writing with such a dark and tortured subject. The heroine was so real and vivid – her memories and moments bubbled up to me like snapshots, giving me a 360 view of each and every character in this chilling and morbid situation. To quote the book, “so many things become beautiful when you really look” (343); not only her life, but my life, came into focus as I read.

Atlantis Awakening* by Alyssa Day (Paranormal Romance)

What I Loved: to be honest, I was a little hesitant to post this one up – because it’s a vampire book. A shape-shifter, werewolf, vampire book – and I do NOT (repeat: do NOT) want any vampires or wolves. However, there were also some very unique elements to this story – the warriors of Atlantis (who isn’t fascintated by Atlantis?) and the “gem singer” – a woman whose witch powers include being able to sing emotions and power through gemstones. Loved that. Call me a sucker for a glittery jewel, but any kind of “gem speak” is up my alley. The hero was, admittedly, a little too animalistic in his possessiveness of her heroine, but I appreciated how spunky and fiery she was in the face of it.

When it comes to paranormal, I’m really looking for fresh; I’m open to time-travel as well – one of my favorite books in that category is Remembrance by Jude Deveraux.

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson (Dark Contemporary – Issue Book)

What I Loved: I know I’m like ten years late to the party on this one, but this truly is such a powerful and heartbreaking book. Another beautiful dark for me; the heroine’s emotional journey was so gritty and raw – I could feel every ounce of her shame, frustration, the injustice of it all – and above all, was so incredibly inspired by her courage as she grows and finds her voice. The “issue” was very secondary to my connection to the heroine; that’s how I like “issue” books – more about the emotion and the character/s than the issue or message.

I didn’t read a fantasy or a gothic-inspired ghost book, but I’d love to have those too – especially creepy, dark and chilling ghost (or fantasy) YA.

The only kind of picture book I’m really looking for is along the lines of Square Cat* by Elizabeth Schoonmaker – short, funny text, preferably character-driven (650 words or less) – and I’m being VERY very selective on PBs.

I also didn’t read any middle grade, but I particularly love middle grade with heart, along the line of The Higher Power of Lucky* by Susan Patron, and middle grade with fantastical, paranormal, or sci-fi elements.

There’s more in my bio, but this is what I’m particularly craving right now.

Be sure to take a look at the “For Writers” tab in my blog to make sure you submit the best possible manuscript. Here are tips on revision…and finally, how to write a hook to knock me dead!

Submission guidelines are here.