Sunday, July 17, 2016

VICARIOUS Pre-order Incentive!!

Are you planning to buy Vicarious? If so, you might want to order early and take advantage of this awesome pre-order incentive :D Everyone who orders a new hardcover or e-book, from any store or website, by Aug 14th (so yes, if you ordered last week or 6 months ago it counts) is eligible to receive 2 signed bookmarks, a signed bookplate, a magnet, and 2 Vicarious-themed stickers. Bookmarks by Julie Heidbreder. Stickers designed by Ri from Hiver et Cafe :)

This incentive is international. In order to get your free goodies, you need to email your mailing address to pstokesbooks [at] gmail [dot] com subject: VICARIOUS pre-order, and include a photo, scan, or screenshot of your order confirmation or receipt. Lovely international peeps: It helps me a ton if you type out your address on multiple lines like my super-clueless self should address the envelope. Also, don't forget to include your postal code if that's something you're not used to using. Please allow four to six weeks for arrival.

BONUS: Enter to win a painted tote + ARC of the sequel!
Once again the lovely Becca Fowler from Pivot Book Totes has created an awesome giveaway tote for me. Sorry. The lighting does not do it justice here, but rest assured it is a thing of immense beauty and fine detail work :D I mean, look at that water! One lucky pre-orderer will be chosen at random to receive this painted tote plus one of the very first ARCs of the sequel (available this fall.)

Wanna try before you buy? Click here to read the book description and first three chapters of Vicarious or if you have a Net Galley account you can read the first 109 pages here. Dying to read the rest? Buy links are available on the countdown widget in my sidebar :)

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Girl Against the Universe: School/Library Giveaway

I've been talking to my HarperTeen editor and to library personnel I know for the last few weeks about ways to introduce more teachers and librarians to GIRL AGAINST THE UNIVERSE. Not only is the book receiving great reviews for being entertaining and avoiding/subverting overused YA tropes, it's also inspiring and empowering some of its early readers, especially those with anxiety, depression, PTSD, or those dealing with grief or loss. And multiple reviews have pointed out that the portrayal of therapy in the book might encourage kids who are struggling to ask for help.

"As I’m still going through my own healing process, I had a resounding thought while reading Maguire’s story: This is it. This is what I want my own healing to look like." 

"I think the shining star of this novel is how positively therapy is portrayed. Honestly I wish I had this book after my mom passed away because maybe I would have gotten the help that I needed to deal with my issues." 

But how to make it stand out in the eyes of teachers and librarians among a crowded spring/summer full of contemporary releases? This is an ongoing quest of mine, so if you have suggestions, please let me know! I can't really afford to buy advertising, and I've been told a postcard campaign might not be effective since it's so difficult to figure out which librarian buys books for which branch or department. But then yesterday one of the big book retailers marked down hardcovers to just $7.91. [Click here if you want to see if that price is still in effect.] That's cheaper than I can buy direct from my publishers, so I picked up a few extra copies and ...

I am giving away 10 hardcover copies of GATU to American schools and libraries :D

Maguire is bad luck.

No matter how many charms she buys off the internet or good luck rituals she performs each morning, horrible things happen when Maguire is around. Like that time the rollercoaster jumped off its tracks. Or the time the house next door caught on fire. Or that time her brother, father, and uncle were all killed in a car crash—and Maguire walked away with barely a scratch.

It’s safest for Maguire to hide out in her room, where she can cause less damage and avoid meeting new people who she could hurt. But then she meets Jordy, an aspiring tennis star. Jordy is confident, talented, and lucky, and he’s convinced he can help Maguire break her unlucky streak. Maguire knows that the best thing she can do for Jordy is to stay away. But it turns out staying away is harder than she thought.

"Readers will laugh, cry, and root for Maguire as she fights to reclaim her life with the help of a dynamic supporting cast. Girl Against the Universe is exactly the kind of book we need more of in YA."

"Stokes did a great job of fostering the friendships in this story. It could have been so easy to make one of these characters your typical mean girl, but it was entirely refreshing to see her not go that route."

To enter:
  • You must have a USA mailing address (Puerto Rico is included).
  • You must be a librarian, media specialist, library assistant, teacher, or someone else who works with groups of 12-24 year olds in an official capacity.
  • If you win a copy, it must kept in a way where it can be circulated to multiple readers, e.g. school/community library circulation, classroom library shelves, etc., and not donated or sold to a single person.
  • You must have a business address (I will be media mailing in early August) or be able to verify your position/affiliation if the book is to be sent to a private residence.
  • You must fill out this form by July 25th. Winners will be randomly selected by Aug 1st.

How do you know if you want a copy of GATU to share with your students? Here are a few facts about the book:

1. This is a book about mental illness. 
Main character Maguire is suffering from PTSD, specifically survivor's guilt. After being in multiple serious accidents where everyone but her was injured or killed, Maguire worries obsessively that she might be a "bad luck charm" to anyone who gets close. To help combat her anxiety, she has developed unhealthy coping mechanisms like isolating herself from people and obsessively checking her environment for hazards. The first four chapters of the book are Maguire beginning a course of cognitive behavioral therapy after yet another accident pushes her to her breaking point.

2. This is a funny and uplifting story. 
A lot of mental illness books are dark and gritty reads with depressing storylines and/or negative portrayals of therapy. Maguire's issues are treated seriously and respectfully, but the tone of the book remains hopeful throughout and Maguire receives a lot of support from her friends and family. The book's therapist is competent and helpful without doing all the work for her. There are places where she is suffering from panic attacks or engaging in compulsive behaviors that might feel all too real to readers with similar issues, but there are plenty of lighthearted funny moments to balance out the darker spots.

3. The romance does not magically cure the mental illness. 
Romantic love does not fix mental illness. Often, a new romantic relationship actually exacerbates a person's current struggles by adding additional stress and expectations. There is a romance in this book, but it begins as a friendship, and Maguire has no problem telling Jordy that she's not healthy enough to date anyone at first. Even after they later become involved, Jordy supports her as she works through her therapy challenges, but she is the one who drives her journey toward healing.

4. In fact, nothing magically cures the mental illness.
Maguire is told by her therapist early on that mental health is fluid, that no matter what they accomplish together, she's still going to have good days and bad days At the end of the book, she's still in therapy and has formed alliances with friends and family members that will continue to help her grow. However, she is still in charge of her healing process, and although she recognizes the progress she's made, she knows there's still a lot more work to be done.


Maybe you already got GATU, or maybe you're looking for something edgier and higher concept to entice your reluctant readers. I'm going to throw in three free paperbacks of my 2015 thriller LIARS, INC. This book received a starred review from Kirkus and has actually created new readers. Multiple teens have sent me emails to say they hated books but were forced to read one in school. When they picked up LIARS, they didn't want to put it down. All of these kids asked for recommendations for more books and I was happy to oblige. 

LIARS is great choice for older teens or at-risk youth who are tired of boys in books all being rich, smart, gorgeous, and successful. Protagonist Max Cantrell lives on the streets for a year before being adopted by a loving, lower-income family. He a regular guy--that kid in the hoodie who sometimes falls asleep in the back of class. But all that changes when a business selling lies and alibis leads to Max being implicated in his best friend's murder.

Oh, and since you're here, if you like giveaways, you might be interested in entering the Goodreads giveaway for my next release, VICARIOUS! I'll be doing some international giveaways for that book starting in my July newsletter, which you can subscribe to by clicking on the "mailing list" tab.

Friday, June 17, 2016

GIRL AGAINST THE UNIVERSE: Read the original beginning

A lot of you know that I made massive revisions to GIRL AGAINST THE UNIVERSE during the editing phase, including researching and writing the entire therapy arc and psychologist sessions, which are based on actual cognitive behavioral therapy. The submission draft of the book was lighter in tone. Maguire wasn't struggling quite as much at the beginning of the story, and although her journey to attempt to overcome her fear of being a bad luck charm went through largely the same task-oriented trajectory, it wasn't until the end of the book that she realized she needed the help of a professional therapist. You can read more about the specific revision strategies I incorporated over at Forever 17 Books.

Image by Rebecca from Australia

I thought it would be fun to share the original beginning to the story. If you were one of my #LoyalLiars street team members then you might have already read this. Either way, if you've read the novel you'll recognize about 40% of these paragraphs from the final book. This is pretty common for me--to cut entire chapters but excerpt out certain passages that I think are particularly meaningful and fit them in elsewhere. Check it out:


Chapter 1 (Deleted)

I didn’t blame myself for the first accident, or even the second one. After the third one, I did what any rational twelve-year-old would do—I went to a fortuneteller.
            Her eyes got wide as she flipped over the tarot cards one at a time. I don’t remember exactly what she dealt, but there were a lot of swords and everything was upside-down.
            “Grave, very grave,” she muttered. She grasped my hand and examined my palm, shaking her head in dismay. “You are surrounded by darkness.”
            “I’ve been in a couple of accidents. People…got hurt,” I stammered.
            “But this reading…” She sighed dramatically and gestured to the five cards laid out in a cross formation. “It says the worst is yet to come.”
            After that, the bad dreams started. Four years later, they’re still haunting me.
            There are two in particular that I have on a regular basis. One is about the car wreck, about plunging through the guardrail and down the side of the mountain. It starts off just like I remember the moments before the accident: me and my brother fighting in the backseat, my dad and uncle laughing at us. But then instead of telling my brother to shut up, I tell him he’s going to die. I tell them they’re all going to die. And then I reach for the steering wheel. When the ambulance arrives, I’m covered with everyone else’s blood, just sitting cross-legged in the carnage. Smiling.
            The other recurring dream is of a cemetery and three coffins placed side-by-side. The pallbearers come back with a fourth coffin and everyone at the funeral turns and tries to stuff me in it. I’m screaming and kicking, but no one seems to notice or care. They just pin my body to the shiny satin interior until they can slam the cover shut.
            Tonight I have the first dream.
            I wake with a crushing sense of dread wrapped around my middle, the shrill cry of the ambulance siren fading away as light begins to filter through my rapidly blinking eyelashes. With trembling fingers, I slip a battered red notebook out of the top drawer of my nightstand and record what I remember. I call it my luck notebook, but it’s more a ledger of unfortunate happenings and bad dreams. Nightmares can be a hint of things to come, so on dream days I have to be extra careful.
            Setting the notebook aside, I lift a hand to my throat to make sure my mystic knot amulet is still in place. The mystic knot is a Buddhist symbol of luck that I bought online. It’s supposed to bring positive energy to every aspect of your life. Believe me, I need all the positive energy I can get. I wear my mystic knot 24-7—when I’m sleeping, when I’m showering, even in gym class.
            Especially in gym class—high school gym can be dangerous.
            As a bonus, the amulet is made of iron, which is said to repel evil faeries who cause bad luck. I don’t know if there’s such a thing as faeries, but bad luck has to come from somewhere, right? Better safe than sorry.
            I knock three times on my wooden nightstand and then dab a bit of jasmine perfume from a tiny heart-shaped vial on each of my wrists. The manufacturers of the perfume claim it’s made with water from a special Himalayan stream and has been blessed by Nepali monks.
            Just one more ritual to complete before I slide out of bed—my daily positive affirmation. I know it sounds cheesy, but a lot of people swear starting your day with a positive thought makes a difference and I’m in no position to ignore stuff that works just because I feel lame doing it. Most people say something like: “Today is going to be a great day.” I try to keep things a little more realistic, like: today isn’t going to be as bad as that day at Celia Bittendorf’s sleepover party when everyone but me started throwing up all over the place and Celia told her parents I poisoned the cake and then her mom called my mom and I got picked up at midnight and everyone at school avoided me for the rest of the year.
            Okay, maybe that’s a little long.
            “Today is not going to suck,” I mutter.
            Stretching both arms high in the air, I yawn mightily and finally get out of bed. Standing in front of my dresser mirror, I recite a Chinese good luck prayer eight times. (Eight is a lucky number in Chinese). Then I make a half-hearted attempt to finger-comb my hair and twist it back into a bun. That part’s not about luck; it’s just about keeping my hair from taking over my face. I’ve got one of those manes that everyone likes to ooh and ahh over, but no one really wants for their own. Thick black hair that hangs to the middle of my back in corkscrew curls and sticks out a couple of feet from my head if I don’t tame it down and tie it back. Kind of like that old school guitarist, Slash, only I’m a lot smaller than he is, so my hair looks even bigger.
            I tromp down the hall and into the kitchen in my pajamas. My mother is at the counter, cutting up a mango, the baby monitor tucked in her front pocket. I watch her for a moment, listening to the whisper of the knife blade as the slices pile up on the cutting board. If I had to describe Mom in one word, it would be control. Controlled knife. Controlled expression. Pressed pantsuit. Hair cut short enough to never be unruly. Everyone needs to feel in control; we just go about it in different ways. For Mom it’s clothes and hair, a second husband with a stable job, a battery of tests early in her pregnancy to make sure my new half-brother Jacob would be born healthy. For me it’s a notebook full of data, a series of good luck rituals, and a predictable routine that I can plan for.
            My stepdad, Tom, has his head buried in a newspaper. He’s an engineer of some sort. Chemical? Mechanical? Honestly, I don’t know, but then I’ve never made much of an effort to ask. Don’t get me wrong--he’s not a wicked stepfather or anything. He’s basically cool. It’s just even after five years of him being my stepfather, it still feels like betraying my real dad to get too close to him.
            I spoon some oatmeal into my favorite bowl with the painted white elephants around the rim and take my usual seat across from my half-sister Ellen. When my mom and Tom aren’t looking, I toss a little salt over my left shoulder. Ellen catches me and giggles. “Maguire,” she says in her high-pitched voice, mangling my name just slightly so it sounds like Mack Wire.
            “Shh.” I raise a finger to my lips. Her bright blue eyes sparkle. She’s only four. She’ll play along.
            Casually, I let my hand drop to my chair where I knock three times. My rituals probably seem excessive, and I guess they are. But you’d be excessive too if people’s lives were at stake. You know how some people are magnets for trouble? I take that to a whole new level—I not only attract bad luck, I somehow reflect it onto the people around me.
            Yep, I’m a bad luck charm.
            It sounds a lot cuter than it is.
            I was nine when the car accident happened. My dad, Uncle Kieran, my brother, and I were heading home from a day of hiking at a state park outside of San Luis Obispo, where I grew up. A scenic road. A hot summer day. The perfect setting for a Sunday drive.
             Or, as it turned out, a horror story.
            Connor and I were fighting about this boy who lived down the street when I saw the giant truck heading right at us. The driver must have lost control of his rig as he navigated the twisting mountain road, veering dangerously into our lane.
            Dad tried to swerve onto the shoulder at the last second, but we were driving along the side of a hill and there was just a few feet of concrete and a flimsy guardrail. The back of the truck clipped us and sent us straight through the guardrail and down the incline. We flipped end over end and landed in a rocky ravine. Dad, Uncle Kieran, and Connor were dead before the paramedics could get to us.
            I didn’t even get hurt.
            I was still in the ER when the newspaper people found me. They called me the miracle kid. I’ll never forget how they buzzed around me, asking prying questions about what I remembered and why I thought I got spared. I had just lost three members of my family, and these people wanted to talk about the luck of the Irish.
            My mom tried to shield me from the reporters but eventually gave up and posed with me for a few pictures so they would go away. She said focusing on how I was alive would help everyone cope with losing my dad and uncle, two of the town’s most decorated firefighters. It didn’t help me cope. All I could think was that I should have been nicer to Connor. He was just teasing me. How is it something that feels so crucial one moment can seem completely trivial after the fact? If I had known, I would have spent my brother’s last few seconds on earth telling him how much I loved him instead of telling him I wished he would shut his mouth for good.
            The driver of the truck died too, so we never found out for sure why he had lost control.
            I never thought much about control before that day.
            Two years later, when I was eleven, a rollercoaster I was riding careened off the tracks and crashed to the ground at a nearby amusement park. That accident wasn’t quite as serious—at least no one died—but every single passenger in our car had broken bones, except for me. Again, I was completely unharmed. No one called me a miracle kid that time, but the crazy lady who begs for change in front of the AM/PM called me a witch.
            We moved after that.
            There were other things too, like the previously mentioned slumber party disaster. That’s what sent me off to the fortuneteller and caused me to start keeping track of everything in my luck notebook. But then three months ago, the house next door to us accidentally burned to the ground from a candle I left lit on my windowsill. You wouldn’t think a brick house could go up like a box of matches from one teensy dollar store votive, but it did. The firefighters said they’d never seen anything like it.
            We moved again.
            Mom said it was because Tom got transferred, but I’m pretty sure it was because of me.
            That’s how we ended up in Pacific Point, a suburb of San Diego where tan, blond people seem to outnumber everyone else three to one. It’s only my second day of junior year and already three people have asked me if I’m a foreign exchange student.
            “Maguire, don’t forget you have tennis tryouts after school,” my mom says with entirely too much enthusiasm. She fiddles with a piece of hair at the nape of her neck.
            “Got it,” I say through a mouthful of oatmeal. As if I could forget. The problem with tennis tryouts is that they’re outside of my normal safe routine: walk to school, sit through classes, walk home. How can I hope to control the situation if I don’t know exactly what’s going to happen?
            Tom takes his plate and mug to the sink and rinses them thoroughly. “I hope the new racquet works out for you.” He slides his now clean-enough-to-eat-off dishes into the dishwasher.
            “I’m sure it’ll be great.” I force a smile.
            He and my mom bought me this top of the line graphite-titanium-moon rock-bulletproof two-hundred dollar racquet. I appreciate the gesture, but unless it’s going to play for me there’s no guarantee I’ll make the team. And unless it’s magical, there’s no guarantee something bad won’t happen.
            The oatmeal begins to congeal in my stomach when I start brainstorming about possible accidents that could occur during something as seemingly benign as tennis tryouts.
            As you can imagine, once I accepted the fact I was bad luck, I tended to shy away from group activities. And groups. And activities. I traded dance lessons and the church soccer team for running—something I could do all alone. I also started spending a lot of time in my room, tucked under my covers reading books. There’s only so much damage a book can do, and I wasn’t worried about hurting myself. The worst is yet to come. Accidentally hurting yourself is way better than hurting other people.
            I also started researching ways to combat bad luck. Gran told me this story about evil faeries, about a man who wished for something bad to happen to his neighbor. Apparently he didn’t really mean it, but his words invited the faeries into his life and they never left. Sure, Gran’s tale was probably complete fiction, but what if it wasn’t?
            So I started out reading about primrose and iron and how to keep the faeries away. Gradually, I widened my search to cultures outside of my own, learning about herbs and chants and new age-y things like yoga and positive affirmations. I even spent one whole summer trying to de-curse myself with all-natural tonics and spells purchased on the internet. I tried whatever I could do without a lot of explanation to my mother. And anything I decided might have some positive benefit, I incorporated into a daily routine. I had plenty of time to knock on wood and repeat good luck chants since I’d quit doing much else besides going to school.
            Sure, I got lonely for a while. But getting invited to slumber parties just wasn’t worth the stress of wondering if I might accidentally burn down the house with my flat iron or be the only survivor of a freak sleepover massacre. And loneliness is just like everything else—if you endure it long enough, you get used to it.
            But when we moved to Pacific Point, my mom finally decided I was spending too much time with my head in a book and told me that this school needed to be different. I needed to get involved or she was going to choose an activity for me.
            Rule #1: Never let your mom choose for you.
            I imagine myself on the flag twirling squad like Mom in her high school. Someone would probably get impaled. At least tennis racquets are round, and presumably non-lethal.
            “I can’t wait to hear all about it,” my mom says. She fusses with Ellen’s hair while my sister drinks the leftover pink milk at the bottom of her cereal bowl one spoonful at a time. “I hope that practicing you’ve been doing pays off for you.”
            She’s talking about me going to the park and hitting the tennis ball against the wall of the racquetball courts. I used to hit around with my brother when we were kids, but I’ve never had any lessons or anything so I spent the last few days practicing as best I can. I have no idea how good everyone else will be and I don’t want to be completely humiliated at tryouts.
            “And you said if I make the team I can take your car to the away matches, right?” After the accident, I developed a huge phobia of riding in cars. It took months of sedatives just to be able to ride with Mom. There’s no way I’d survive being a passenger on a bus full of kids.
            My mom and Tom exchange a glance but he doesn’t say anything. “I don’t see why not,” my mom says. “I won’t be going back to work for a while.” She’s on maternity leave from her job as a physical therapy assistant.
            “If I don’t make the team, can I have points for effort and then go back to my usual routine?” I ask hopefully.
            “No,” Mom says firmly. “Trust me, honey. These are the best years of your life. You’ll thank me for this someday.”
            “If these are the best years then someone needs to just kill me now,” I mumble. She doesn’t know what high school is like these days—people obsessing about extracurriculars and AP classes and padding their college applications. It’s all about what you have and where you’re going. No one seems to notice who you actually are. And is it me, or is my mom the only mom in the history of ever who told her kid to spend less time reading and more time being social? Doesn’t she know the chances of me getting drunk, pregnant, and/or arrested are much lower if I never leave my room?
            A mix of wailing and static bursts from the baby monitor.
            “And that’s my cue,” Tom says jokingly, pretending like he’s racing for the door.
            My mom smiles. “I’ll get him. You go ahead.”
            “If you’re sure.” Tom kisses my mom, ruffles Ellen’s hair, and gives me a wave. “Knock ‘em dead, Champ,” he says. Grabbing his keys from the table, he heads off to work.

            I slide my chair back from the table and mutter something about finishing getting ready. “Dead” is not a word I want associated with today.

Graphic by Emilie from Canada

If you want to read more deleted scenes, you can check out Maguire and Jordy practicing tennis at the local tennis club, or Maguire and Jordy's sister trying to hide Maguire from Jordy's mom. I have over 100 pages of cut scenes from GIRL AGAINST THE UNIVERSE and I will be sharing more of them in the future, both on this blog and over at my Wattpad account.

BONUS: Click here to read the beginning of my twisty mystery VICARIOUS, releasing August 16, 2016 from Tor Teen. Are you a fan of dark, action-packed stories? Request an ARC/e-ARC here.

Friday, May 20, 2016

GATU Early Reviewer Appreciation Giveaway

GIRL AGAINST THE UNIVERSE is finally out in the wild!!

Photo by Canadian blogger Amanda Stav (@bbbblogca)

I am really proud of this book. Not only is it fun and romantic, I think for readers who are dealing with anxiety or fear, it will resonate on a deeper level. Maguire has a great support network and a loving family, but things inside her head are pretty dark. My wish is that reading about Maguire slowly overcoming her issues will bring comfort and hope to people who are currently struggling. And if you're not struggling, then there's that whole fun and romantic part ;) Click here for more info about GATU and to read the first three chapters.

Aila made this and I am still in awe.

In order to help get the word out about Girl Against the Universe, I'm asking people who have read the book to consider posting a short review to the book-buying/review websites they frequent regularly. You can find links to several larger American sites in the sidebar by clicking on the icons on the "Available Now" widget. For your convenience, here are links to AmazonB&N, and Goodreads

Because your time is valuable, I've created an early reviewer appreciation giveaway. The first 40 readers (INT) who post an honest review of 50 words or more in three different places and fill out this form will all be mailed a copy of a limited edition fan art postcard created by Aila from One Way or an Author and a limited edition "Life is risk" sticker created by Ri from Hiver et Cafe. If you've already received Ri's sticker in your Uppercase box, I will send you a different cool sticker made by Silvana from The Book Voyagers. If you don't normally write reviews and 50 words feels like a lot, consider writing a "What I liked/What I didn't like" list format review.

But that's not all. One random winner out of 40 entrants will receive a $10 gift card to Amazon or an international equivalent. This giveaway is mainly geared toward getting some of the 250 people who have rated the book on Goodreads to write or cross-post honest reviews, but anyone who has read the book is welcome to enter. Contest ends June 1st.

Curious about why I want reviews so badly? Keep reading:

I've blogged about this before (see the reviews tag), but my thoughts have changed over the past couple of books. I don't read reviews much anymore. I will read extremely early ones just to see if people are reading my book the way I'm hoping they will and I will read friends' reviews and most of the ones tweeted at me because I feel like those probably won't crush my fragile writer soul ;) Occasionally I will read other ones, but these days I am try to do this full-time writer thing and that means in any given week I might be promoting 1-2 books, revising 1-2 books, drafting 1-2 books, and outlining 1-2 books. That's a LOT of voices in my head, so I try to minimize the reviewer voices--positive or critical--that get in there too.

But even if authors aren't reading them, reviews can impact the success of a novel in several ways.

1. There's the obvious way, where if a book has a lot of positive reviews, then a prospective reader might be more willing to take a chance on it. Positive reviews have the power to influence readers who are "on the fence."

2. There's the inverse (converse?) where a negative review might prevent someone who wouldn't like the book from picking it up, which is also a good thing. Multiple people wrote negative reviews for Liars, Inc. on Goodreads because it has sex and F-bombs. I would love to see those reviews on book-buying websites even though they'll lower my overall rating, because I don't want people who will dislike one of my books to buy it. GATU has neither sex nor F-bombs and I'm not willing to risk losing a potential reader forever to make one sale.

3. Sometimes just the sheer numbers of reviews (say 60 on Amazon vs. 10) is enough to cause a potential buyer to click for more info. The only reason I ever clicked on Susan Ee's Angelfall is because it had a massive number of reviews, and I really enjoyed that book. Volume of reviews can influence casual browsers who might click on "People who bought [Book] also bought [Other Book]" links.

4. Most book-buying websites also have algorithms that cause the more "popular" books to come up more frequently in site "If you like [Book] you might be interested in [Other Book]" features and targeted emails, etc. This placement can be tremendously helpful in getting the word out about a new book to targeted audiences--almost like free advertising. One way a book's "popularity" is measured is by number of reviews.

5. So-so reviews can also sell books. One of the three-star reviews I've seen for GATU was extremely well-written and complimentary--the reviewer mostly felt that book was kind of long. (It is.) If a reader sees that and likes long books, that might be even more persuasive than a 5-star review. Also, everyone knows that not all 3-star reviews are the same. Some reviewers have their reader-meter set to LOVE and three stars means the book let them down. Other reviewers have a "no five star" policy since no books are perfect, and three stars might be a really good review from them.

6. Even one-star reviews can sell books. I will openly admit that when I see a book being obliterated with one-star reviews, my curiosity is piqued and my sympathy-response is activated. I am more likely to read that book. Also, some one-star reviews are more "it's not for me" than "no one should ever read this." One of my Liars, Inc. one-star reviews says this: No matter how I didn't like the plot/decisions of the characters, I will say the writing was exceptional, and the book is a fast read. I love flawed characters and fast reads. That's basically a blurbable quote from someone who "borderline-hated" the book.

Ri's sticker on the left was included in this month's Uppercase Box.
Silvana's design on the right took second place in a contest I ran in April.

So those are my reasons for wanting your reviews. Are you an author? Why do you want reviews? Are you a reader? What is it that makes you write a review for one book and not write one for the next book?

Thanks for considering writing a review for GIRL AGAINST THE UNIVERSE. Here's the link to the giveaway form again if you need it. And if you plan to read the book later this summer, no worries. Like I said, I'm mostly hoping to persuade people to cross-post reviews already written. I don't want anyone rush-reading to qualify for this. I'll run another reviewer appreciation giveaway when the paperback releases if not before.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Girl Against the Universe Gratitude Giveaway

Girl Against the Universe is out on the shelves and I can barely believe it :D It feels really good to have released a book that is fun and entertaining, but also has the possibility to be comforting, inspiring, and even helpful to some readers. I'm already blown away by the responses I've gotten from early readers who related to Maguire on a personal level.

Honestly, I'm proud of this story for a lot of reasons, another of which is the lovely author blurbs on the back cover.

I don't know how much you know about the process of authors blurbing books, but asking another author to read your book for blurb can be kind of an awkward experience for everyone. You have to put yourself out there to get rejected. You have to put another author--who most likely knows just how bad getting rejected feels--in a position to tell you no. Every book I say, "I'm not going to do it this time. It always ends with me feeling terrible." But then I do it anyway, because if *I* am not willing to advocate for my book, then how can I expect anyone else to do it? And there's hard data that author blurbs result in more sales.

But it's not just about the numbers. An author blurb helps a busy librarian, who might not have time to read your book, still be able to recommend it. An author blurb gives a bookseller information about your book months before it hits the shelves. When I see a book blurbed by an author I love, it definitely makes me more interested in reading it. And honestly, there is nothing more validating than having your peers read your work and like it enough that they're willing to put their names on it.

So this is a thank you post to my cover blurbers, Tamara Ireland Stone and Miranda Kenneally. (I received two other lovely blurbs that were too late for the cover, but I'll save them for another giveaway when the GATU paperback releases. Love you, Sarvenaz and Ann <333)

I approached Tamara and Miranda for blurbs because they both wrote books that I love, and I felt their readers would enjoy Girl Against the Universe.  They were both kind enough to take time out of their busy schedules to read GATU, and they both believed in the story enough to personally endorse it. Tam, Miranda--thank you for supporting my latest novel :)

I'm giving one lucky reader two books--their choice of one by each of these authors. This contest is INT and I will be ordering from The Book Depository or Wordery. Here's a little more about Tamara and Miranda's latest titles, but feel free to choose from their backlists as well:

If you could read my mind, you wouldn't be smiling.

Samantha McAllister looks just like the rest of the popular girls in her junior class. But hidden beneath the straightened hair and expertly applied makeup is a secret that her friends would never understand: Sam has Purely-Obsessional OCD and is consumed by a stream of dark thoughts and worries that she can't turn off.

Second-guessing every move, thought, and word makes daily life a struggle, and it doesn't help that her lifelong friends will turn toxic at the first sign of a wrong outfit, wrong lunch, or wrong crush. Yet Sam knows she'd be truly crazy to leave the protection of the most popular girls in school. So when Sam meets Caroline, she has to keep her new friend with a refreshing sense of humor and no style a secret, right up there with Sam's weekly visits to her psychiatrist.

Caroline introduces Sam to Poet's Corner, a hidden room and a tight-knit group of misfits who have been ignored by the school at large. Sam is drawn to them immediately, especially a guitar-playing guy with a talent for verse, and starts to discover a whole new side of herself. Slowly, she begins to feel more "normal" than she ever has as part of the popular crowd . . . until she finds a new reason to question her sanity and all she holds dear.

Do you already own a copy of Every Last Word? Check out Tamara's other books here.

Captain of the soccer team, president of the Debate Club,
contender for valedictorian: Taylor’s always pushed herself to be perfect. After all, that’s what is expected of a senator’s daughter. But one impulsive decision—one lie to cover for her boyfriend—and Taylor’s kicked out of private school. Everything she’s worked so hard for is gone, and now she’s starting over at Hundred Oaks High.

Soccer has always been Taylor’s escape from the pressures of school and family, but it’s hard to fit in and play on a team that used to be her rival. The only person who seems to understand all that she’s going through is her older brother’s best friend, Ezra. Taylor’s had a crush on him for as long as she can remember. But it’s hard to trust after having been betrayed. Will Taylor repeat her past mistakes or can she score a fresh start

Defending Taylor releases on July 5th, but if you don't want to wait, Miranda's got scads of other books to choose from!

Share your own thoughts about author blurbs to get the comment points for the giveaway. I'm really curious to know what you think!

a Rafflecopter giveaway