Dare to Read

March 8, 2012

My Road to PUblication : Alison Ashley Fomento

Today I’m excited to introduce Alison Fomento to my readers.

Alison is a special guest because she is the first picture book author I’ve ever interviewed.

Please join us to welcome Alison as she tells us how her new book THESE BEES COUNT! came to be.

Here is what Alison has to say:

 

 

interview by Carmen Ferreiro-Esteban

 

 

•               Good morning, Alison, could you tell us, first of all, why did you write this book?

A honey-vanilla ice cream cone inspired my new picture book THESE BEES COUNT! Our family was vacationing in Florida and what’s a vacation without daily ice cream stops? This particular ice cream shop had signs posted about the disappearing honeybees and colony collapse disorder and how important bees are for pollinating crops.

I had a light bulb moment of how bees count in our world. My first picture book, THIS TREE COUNTS!, had only been out a few months at that time, and the phrase “Bees Count!” stuck with me and I started writing a draft right away.

•               I know THESE BEES COUNT is a picture book. But do you consider it to be fiction or non fiction?

THESE BEES COUNT! is a fictional and non-fiction counting picture book suitable for kids from kindergarten to fourth grade. There are talking bees in my book and a fictional group of school children visiting a bee farm, but every bee fact mentioned in the book and the “The Buzz on Bees” end notes are fully researched and fact-checked with several apiarists (bee experts).

•               Who is your illustrator?

Sarah Snow is the fabulous illustrator for THESE BEES COUNT! She’s done a great job capturing the beauty of the bee farm and you can almost hear the buzzing when you turn the pages of the book. She uses collage and paint so the art has texture and seems to pop in each scene. Sarah illustrated THIS TREE COUNTS! and will illustrate my next book out in 2013, THESE SEAS COUNT!

•               Which formats is it available?

THESE BEES COUNT! is now available in hardback, and I hope that it will be available in other formats (paperback/e-book) and languages soon, as has happened with THIS TREE COUNTS!

•               Can you tell us a little about your road to publication

I had experience writing for various magazines and newspapers such as The Writer, Parenting, and The New York Times, but I really wanted to get my fiction in print. In 2008, I attended an SCBWI conference where an editor from Albert Whitman & Company spoke on a panel about writing picture book. I submitted two stories which were rejected, but in each letter, the editor gave me promising feedback and mentioned that they were seeking nature stories. I had a very short 200 word story ready about a tree and the third submission time was the charm in this case. THIS TREE COUNTS! became my first published picture book.

•               Do you have a marketing plan?

As any author knows your publishing house can only do so much for your book. I’m part of the KidLit Authors Club, a regional promotion group, and I actively seek out libraries, bookstores, and festivals to share my book. And schools! My book is geared for the school market, so one of my favorite activities is visiting schools and sharing my books.

•               Any advice you want to share with our readers who have a manuscript ready?

Don’t rush. Sure, it’s possible to write a book in a week, but revise, revise, revise, as long as it takes to get your story in great publishing shape. And always think before you submit a query. Do your research to find the agent or editor that might be most interested in your type of writing.

 

 

 

Alison Formento grew up in Arkansas and now writes and lives in New Jersey with her husband, two kids, a dog, and a few fish. Learn more about Alison at alisonashleyformento.com.

March 1, 2012

My Road to Publication : Jennifer R. Hubbard

 

 

Interview by Carmen Ferreiro-Esteban

 

 

Today, Jennifer R. Hubbard shares with us how a serious commitment to her craft paved her road to publication.

Jennifer, an insightful critique partner, is the author of two moving realistic YA novels: The Secret Year (Viking 2010) and Try Not To Breathe (Viking, January 2012).

You can read my review of Try Not to Breathe here: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/282282727

This is, in her own words, her story:

My road to publication was both short and long. I began sending out short stories while I was still in high school, and one of the first stories I sent out got published.

But it was a long time until I sold another.

I took a day job in another field, but I kept writing. For years, I sent out stories, and some of them appeared in magazines. It wasn’t until 2003 that I looked at all the young adult (YA) novels on my shelves and thought, “Why don’t I try to write the kind of book I’ve always loved to read?”

I’d made a few attempts at novels over the years, and most of them would qualify as YA—except they wouldn’t really qualify as novels. I usually only managed one or two short drafts. In 2003, I took a course in writing children’s literature, taught by Vivian Grey. I started going to SCBWI conferences and joined that organization. I sought out critique partners. And I began revising my novels more deeply than I ever had before. When my level of commitment changed, my results changed—slowly, but surely. Late in 2007, I queried an agent at Curtis Brown, Ltd. with my latest effort: a novel about a secret relationship, a sudden death, and a notebook left behind. The agent signed me and sold the book to Viking. It appeared early in 2010 under the title The Secret Year. Earlier this year, my second YA book with Viking, Try Not to Breathe, appeared. It is the story of a boy recovering from a suicide attempt, and his friendship with a girl who is trying to reach her late father through psychics.

When I began my publishing journey, self-publishing was not nearly as viable as it is now. Even so, for an unknown writer doing contemporary realistic fiction, the traditional route still has advantages: access to reviewers, eligibility for awards, access to the school and library market as well as the chain bookstores. My first book appeared on an Indie Next list, an ALA list (Quick Picks), and a Texas Library Association list (Tayshas). Also, I had the benefit of an editorial team, professional book designers, and a marketing team.

It’s very true that publishers don’t send most of their authors on book tours, nor do they buy co-op (prime bookstore placement, such as special displays) for most of their authors. A lot of the social networking, approaching local bookstores about signings, and ordering swag (e.g., bookmarks, pens, postcards) falls to the author. I’ve definitely found that it helps to band together with other local authors for live events, rather than trying to go it alone. I’m currently working with both the Kidlit Authors Club and the New Jersey Authors Network.

However, publishers still do a lot of the behind-the-scenes heavy lifting: contacting national media, handling author appearances at the major conferences like ALA and BEA and NCTE, distributing review copies, and interacting with the bookstore buyers. And my literary agency handles foreign rights and other subsidiary rights (film, audio, etc.) that I would have a hard time shopping on my own.

With traditional publishing, you have less control over the process, but more team members pitching in at every stage of the process. So I think authors can be happy on either road, but just have to choose the route that will work for them.

Bio: Jennifer R. Hubbard (www.jenniferhubbard.com) is the author of The Secret Year and Try Not to Breathe, both young-adult novels. Besides books, she loves hiking and chocolate, and can be found on Twitter @JennRHubbard.

January 19, 2012

My Road to Publication

Interview by Carmen Ferreiro-Esteban

Today we have with us my friend and fellow author Chris Bauer.

I met Chris at the Bucks Country Writers Workshop when Chris was writing his wonderful and scary, and wonderfully scary novel SCARS ON THE FACE OF GOD: THE DEVIL’S BIBLE. So I was privileged to have a first peek into his story, while accessing his expertise as beta reader for both TWO MOON PRINCESS and its sequel THE KING IN THE STONE.

I confess I am no fan of horror stories (life is scary enough as is) but I loved his protagonist and was enthralled by his strong and distinctive voice.

I highly recommend you try this book, it’s above all a well written and compassionate look into a human soul

Why did you write this book?

SCARS ON THE FACE OF GOD: THE DEVIL’S BIBLE started as an attempt to exorcise some demons re an apparent cluster of mentally and physically impaired children in my old northeast Philadelphia neighborhood in the 1960s. It ended up with a more epic sweep when my research turned up a religious artifact known as the Devil’s Bible, a 13th century manuscript with a demonic legend. The massive book became a spoil of more than one European war, and is currently on display in the Royal Library of Sweden.

What genre is it?

Urban fantasy/horror. Maybe horror fits its description best, considering it was an EPIC Awards finalist as best for that genre for 2010. Alas, it took home the silver as runner-up. It’s been blurbed by multiple Bram Stoker award winner and NYT bestselling author Jonathan Maberry and Scott Nicholson, a majorly independent horror/thriller writer who is currently breaking some records in self-pubbed offerings. (Wow. This sounds like boasting. Sorry.)

Who is the expected audience?

Folks who liked Rosemary’s Baby, The Exorcist and to some extent The Da Vinci Code might like this. I’ve been asked if it’s a religious book. Nah. There’s a religious bend to it but the subject matter dictated this bend, and it’s not preachy in the least. Anyone who enjoys a few twists, a forty-year love story and some apocalyptic mayhem would be the intended audience.

Who designed your cover?

Deena Fisher, publisher, Drollerie Press. Drollerie Press is kaput, sorry to say, because of Deena’s debilitating health issues. (Hi, Deena. Hope you’re feeling better.)

How does the cover reflect your story?

It depicts the misty, eerie quiet of an early morning in the small town of Three Bridges, PA, just before tragedy strikes. People have asked me about the black bird. He’s just hanging out, waiting for something bad to happen, and it does.

In which formats is your book available? Ebook, hardcover, paperback?

Ebook if you want me to earn anything on it. A small number of trade paperbacks are still available on Amazon from the original publisher but I doubt I’ll ever see those royalties. Plus the ebook has some revisions vs. the original. Here are the links: amzn.to/tV3K0g (Amazon); bit.ly/smashwords_scars (Smashwords).

Why did you choose to self-publish?

Aforementioned sudden closure of small press Drollerie Press, the original publisher. Closed its doors in October 2011 and returned all rights to me plus threw in the cover art. Yes, it was kind of ugly the way it went down (internet silence from the publisher as she mended from a devastating illness while the press tanked), but she tried to do more right than wrong for her authors. I could have either a) held off as I shopped my new book, hoping I could entice a prospective agent and/or publisher into re-launching SCARS as part of a two-book deal or b) re-launched it myself. Extremely unlikely a publisher will be interested in it as a second book, considering its only modest success when originally published. And let’s face it, Amazon and Smashwords now have some very attractive royalty programs. And don’t forget that much of a book’s success depends on the author’s own marketing, which I have to do anyway. So why not try to direct that chunk of income into my own pocket, you dig?

What is your marketing plan?

Hit up as many reviewers and bloggers as I can find. Giveaways, guest blog posts, reviews. Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, other social media. So far I’ve had a number of takers, all breadcrumbs for this new bend in the changing publishing environment. Here’s where the breadcrumbs lead, in case you missed the earlier links: amzn.to/tV3K0g (Amazon); bit.ly/smashwords_scars (Smashwords).

Any advice you want to share with our readers who are considering self-publishing?

It looks very attractive, but it’s deceiving. Authors who are doing well by self-publishing their work brought their platforms and readership with them. J.A. Konrath and Scott Nicholson are examples. Then, of course, there’s Amanda Hocking, whose success has been freakish. My advice: Have your work critiqued (a must): peers are good, professional is better. Read your work aloud! Attempt to take the normal road to publishing first. Find an agent who can sell your book/series to a traditional publisher and establish a readership before entertaining self-publication. I’m following my own advice, am currently pitching a new novel to agents. But going the traditional route is easier said than done. Rejection sucks. Do it anyway.

C.G. Bauer writes horror, crime, mystery, mainstream and anything he damn well pleases, most of it really good. In addition to his novel SCARS ON THE FACE OF GOD his short stories have appeared in Shroud Magazine (“Zombie Chimps From Mars,” Spring 2011 print edition) and Thuglit, and his “You’re A Moron” short was podcasted by Well Told Tales (tale #60) with more than 94,000 free audio downloads/plays to date. “Sink,” a short-short, will be released late January 2012 in the new anthology 100 HORRORS. He’ll be releasing a collection of short stories later this year.

December 22, 2011

That Elusive Perfect Title

Filed under: On Marketing,On Writing,Two Moon Princess,YA — carmenferreiroesteban @ 12:37 pm
Tags: , ,

 

 

by Carmen Ferreiro-Esteban

 

 

The Cover, the Title and the Blurb, the three things that determine whether we buy a book, are chosen by The Powers of Be, not by the author, in the traditional publishing business.

I discussed the cover of my YA fantasy, TWO MOON PRINCESS, in a previous post where I explained I had no saying on it.

I didn’t choose the title either. My original title was LEAVING THE CASTLE, because in the book my protagonist, Princess Andrea, tries again and again to break free from her father’s castle and this struggle is what motivates her throughout the story.

Which title fits the story better, which one is more catchy to prompt the readers to grab the book, I do not know. But the importance of the title is hard to ignore. It was reading about the title of the new released remake of the Swedish trilogy THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO that made me ponder about that elusive “je ne sais quoi” that makes a title unforgettable.

In Sweden, the trilogy had a quite different title. One that defined the spirit of the book exactly and expressed the point Stieg Larsson was trying to make with his story, that abuse against women exists even in Sweden, considered by many the most liberated country.

The title there, if you wonder, is THE MAN WHO HATED WOMEN.

Appropriate? Absolutely. Catchy? I’m not sure.

THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO on the other hand catches your interest immediately. But does it match the book?

What do you think?

February 10, 2011

Marketing for Writers. Interview with Shelli Johannes-Wells – 2

Filed under: Author's Interview,On Marketing — carmenferreiroesteban @ 5:45 am
Tags: ,

 

by Carmen Ferreiro-Esteban

 

 

As promised here is the second part of my interview with Shelli Johannes-Wells.

CFE. What kind of blog do you recommend for a published author, one that concentrates on writing and publishing tips, or a personal one that describes her journey as a writer/author?

SJW. I think anyone who does a blog needs to find or give somethign special. My blog gives marketing advice to writers. It was a way for me to give back to the community. But I didnt stumble on this niche until a few months after i started. I think write what you know and love. Dont try to do something you don’t care about or love – it will come across in your posts.

CFE. Do you recommend the author to contact blogs that review your kind of book and offer to send a copy in exchange for a review?

SJW. There are many blogs that give review steps if you want them to consider your blog. I think it’s great to reach out to book bloggers and reviewers as long as you follow their policy in contacting them. Instead of asking them to review a book, offer a blog post on something that helps drive traffic to their site. Do what’s good for them and it may be good for you. Know what I mean? Anyone who goes out there and starts asking for reviews and plugging their book will not get a good response.

CFE. Could you explain the concept of blog tours and guest bloggers to my readers?

SJW. Blog tours – is when an author goes form blog to blog answering questions about themselves or their book

Having a guest bloggers is when you ask someone do a post for your blog.  This tends to be more topic-focused as opposed to interview questions on a blog tour.

CFE. I know you run your own marketing company BILAN. Can you tell us what services do you offer that would help an author increase her sales?

SJW. I do marketing which includes web sites, swag (bookmarks, postcards, business cards etc). I can also provide marketing consulting or even draw up a very specific marketing plan for the author as well. I try to stay away from the hardcore publicity aspect. But if you come by and follow my blog. there is a newsletter that will start coming out that will give you that advice without hiring me 🙂 I also do agent contests as well as marketing contests periodically.

And if you’re serious about your marketing, don’t forget to visit Shelli’s blog at http://www.faeriality.blogspot.com and sign for her newsletter.

February 7, 2011

Marketing for Writers. Interview with Shelli Johannes-Wells

Filed under: Author's Interview,On Marketing — carmenferreiroesteban @ 5:08 am
Tags: , ,

by Carmen Ferreiro-Esteban

Today, I have invited Shelli Johannes-Wells to join me.

Shelli is a YA/MG writer who runs a wonderful marketing blog for authors “Market my Words” (www.faeriality.blogspot.com) I highly recommend.

Shelli has, kindly, agreed to answer my questions about the best strategies for authors to promote their books. Her answers were so thorough and insightful, I have decided to share them with you, my readers, in two posts, so you can digest them at leisure.

Please read on.

CFE. As an author with no previous experience on sales, I am baffled by the marketing part of the business. So I was somehow relieved when someone as knowledgeable as Alvina Ling, Executive Editor at Little Brown (Young Readers) said in answer to your question “what do you feel is most important in promoting books? What doesn’t seem to work?

“To be honest, the longer I’m in the business, the more clueless I am about what works and what doesn’t. It really seems like a crap shoot to me. I know this isn’t a great answer–but it’s the truth!”

(http://faeriality.blogspot.com/2011/01/marvelous-marketer-alvina-ling.html)

Do you agree with Ms. Ling’s answer?

SJW. I think a lot of people do not know how to organize so they do just throw stuff out there. I think you can organize your marketing so it is relevant, not too expensive and very targeted.  I’ll say this – if you don’t do anything, you can be sure it won’t work. But if you do everything and it’s just random, it’s not worth the time either. It needs to be to the point and specific.

CFE. Even if it’s hard to guess what works or not when promoting your book, what steps would you recommend to an author whose book has already being released?

SJW. First, I think every author needs a web presence. That should be first and can be done way before you get published.

The author needs to organize and write down 3-5 target audiences. Not just teens, schools, bookstores and libraries. But really think about who they are targeting. The niche’s their book touches.

Then I think the author needs to come up with a plan of attack for each target audience and decide what will reach them in the most effective way.

CFE. I have heard an author must have a blog. So my question is, what can the author do, in the way of advertising, to increase the traffic to his/her site?

SJW. Actually I DON’T think a blog is a must for everyone. Web site – I would say yes. But anything after that needs to be what the author feels comfortable with and it needs to be purposeful. If you start a blog and only post once a month, it’s a waste of time if networking is what you want out of it.

Now, if you do have a blog and want to increase traffic – you need to think of it as relationship building and go out and meet people. Kinda like – you wont get a date if you dont talk to guys. Does that make sense. A few easy ways to build traffic are: post regularly, visit others and comment, and have short posts that are timely. Don’t plug yourself all the time. Do it to meet others and they will come 🙂  Of course – you can always read up on SEO optimization and making sure your blogs are listed in places like STUMBLEUPON or technorati.

CFE. What is more productive in your opinion, running contests on your blog or commenting on other authors/possible readers blogs? Other suggestions.

SJW. Any of it. To me, if you are genuine and give back, people come by. Show your voice, run contests, meet your followers and your blog will grow over time. It does take time. Just like Rome, no blog was built overnight (wow am I profound or what today? :L)

To be continued…