Sunday, July 27, 2014

Mighty Mississippi Book Blast Recap!



I'm still kind of winding down from the #MMBB tour, having gone directly from a 12-hour driving day, to a full day of airplane travel, to getting back to work on an overdue freelance project the day after I made it back to Portland. #MyGlamorousWritingLife :)

However, non-MMBBers keep asking me how the tour went, so in the interest of not having to repeat myself (AKA general laziness), I give you:

10 THINGS I LEARNED ON THE MMBB TOUR

1. Some people are natural performers and others are not. 
Even though I knew what basic questions I was going to be asked about my book--heck, I even made up some of them--I realized after the first event in Wayzata that I had basically described my book in a rambling and roundabout way that made it sound so unappealing that even *I* wouldn't buy it. Next to me, Philip Siegel was so funny that I probably would have bought his book even if he said it was about how to mix wallpaper paste. I do believe I'm a funny person, but I'm third-draft funny. I'm funny on paper. I'm funny in my comfort zone, surrounded by cats people I know. I am not a natural performer, but that's okay. It just means I should think a little about how I want to present my book before I do it in front of an audience.

Dawn Klehr, Philip, me, and Lindsay on Day One of the #MMBB

2. It's best if I be myself (but with less swearing ;-D)
I don't mean my rambling and roundabout self. I mean if I start out nervous and then try to be funny because everyone else seems to be rip-roaring comedy club hilarious, uh, that doesn't end well. Better to be unfunny but add something else to the mix--thoughtfulness? honesty? encouragement?--than to go for the laughs but come up short. Also, it's also best to dress as myself. Is it a coincidence the two events I felt most uncomfortable at were Iowa and Dallas, the two places where I wore a dress? (Sorry, Mom. I'm just not a dress girl.) If you're doing events for the first time, resist feeling pressured to get fancy. Go in the clothes you feel best represent you...unless those clothes are pajamas...unless your pajamas are really stylish...You see where I'm going with this. People who buy your book because of how you are dressed are probably not readers that you need.

Us in Iowa with bookstore owner, Sue. I look uncomfortable, don't I?

3. Acting silly never stops being fun.
Lindsay Cummings and I played Blair Witch with her phone cam in the bed & breakfast where we stayed in Dubuque, sneaking up to the deserted third floor in the dark. Either the stairs in that place were the creakiest stairs ever or Lindsay and I are really bad ninjas. Anyway, the third floor was deliciously creepy by the light of my cell phone. In one of the rooms we found...FACELESS DOLLS. 

More silliness, in group form. Team Anderson's poses for pix after the event.

4. Doing events gets easier with time and experience.
I'll never look forward to bookstore events because I'm just not an extrovert, but it did get easier throughout the week. Or maybe I was so deliriously tired by the time I got to Houston that I just didn't have the energy to be stressed anymore. Also, I really liked the events that were more about giving writing advice to aspiring authors and less about singing the praises of my books. I love my stories, but it's way less awkward to be my own book cheerleader when I can hide behind the interwebs.

Team Houston, with blogger Sara. Yep, I look pretty tired.

5. Hanging out with other writers is informative and inspirational.
I'll be the first to admit I'm prone to writer jealousy, so you might think that hanging out in groups of authors, many of whom are more successful than me, would be a recipe for disaster. But that's not what happened at all. Part of the reason I even thought I could plan this tour was because I'd heard Victoria Schwab planned tours on her own. I admire so much how she has made a name for herself by being prolific and tenacious. Hearing her and all of the other authors talk about their successes just filled me with this sense of "Hey, I can get to where they are someday, too!" Everyone was so incredibly kind and gracious to each other. Victoria Schwab, Courtney Stevens, and Heather Brewer in particular all shared such wise and thoughtful words that I felt uplifted just being around them.

Memphis was a laid-back event where we spent a lot of time talking about writing craft.

6. Everyone is nervous about the future.
Just like I found inspiration and energy from hearing about other authors' successes, I found comfort in realizing that everyone shares the same fears about their publishing futures. The only way to stay in the industry is to sell more books, and that's never a guarantee until your books have their own theme parks. Hearing authors talk about diversification, hybridization, working with multiple publishers, trying out new genres, etc. made me realize that there are a lot of options when it comes to building a career as an author. 

Dinnertime with Phil, Lindsay, Lydia Kang, and Whitney Miller.
People wearing pink in the back, please :-D

7. Making connections with indie bookstores has a lasting effect.
Setting up a tour like the #MMBB wasn't just about trying to sell a few more copies of our books to a few cities. Unless you are mega-famous, a tour would never pay for itself in that way. For me, it was all about the connections: meeting readers, meeting other authors, and meeting booksellers. When you set up an event with an indie, often times they let you sign stock. Then, after you're gone, your books will continue to sell well because they're signed. And then, maybe the booksellers will remember you and continue to hand sell your books. Maybe they'll be more likely to order your next book. No guarantees, of course, but I sold more than twice as many books in Chicago and St. Louis the week of the tour than I signed on event nights, so I have to partially credit that to the connections made with the bookstores. Indies forever!

Look at all those LAINEYs! Signed copies available throughout the Midwest!

8. St. Louis will always be part of me.
When you spend 35 years in a city, it gets inside of you. As much as I just cannot handle the St. Louis weather anymore, being back in town made me super-nostalgic. I miss my St. Louis author pals like Cole Gibsen, Heather Brewer, and Sarah Bromley. I miss my writer-blogger friends Christina and Jamie. I'm so glad I made the decision to set THE ART OF LAINEY in St. Louis, to highlight the Cardinals and the Arch, Forest Park and Wash U. Sure, some of the places are made up, but many are based on real places where I spent a lot of time--Mississippi Nights? Pi Pizza? Kayaks Cafe? Look hard and you'll find them :) And I'm so glad I got to do this big event with the amazing people at Left Bank Books. They brought me to St. Louis Comic Con, something that will forever be one of my greatest writer experiences. If I ever get famous, I'm signing all the books for Left Bank, no matter where I live at the time. I LOVE YOU GUYS!

Me with Christina from Ensconced in Lit

Me with Jamie from This Isn't Rocket Science

9. Power comes from doing the things that scare you.
A blogger in Houston (hi Nikki!) asked what dystopian world we could survive in and I said I'd be Dauntless in Divergent-land. [Sidebar: Everyone else said they couldn't survive in ANY dystopia and that they'd be killed/eaten first in an apocalypse scenario. This saddened me. Step it up, guys! When the zombie apocalypse comes I want GOOD people for my team :D] I always tell people I'd be Dauntless because even though everything scares me (seriously, everything), I do it anyway. I was scared to plan the tour, scared to go to the events, basically terrified to drive most of the way. I was scared to move to Portland, again terrified to drive there, scared to apply for a new nursing job, scared to quit said nursing job when I sold more books. Going further back, I was scared to live in Korea, scared to pet tigers, scared to ever show my writing to industry professionals. But I did all these things, and now none of them own me. To be honest, I wish I had done most of them sooner. Bravery isn't about not being scared. Bravery is about being scared but doing it anyway! 

Hey! We made the digital sign in Dallas! It doesn't get more powerful than that, right?

10. In the end, it's about the love of books.
Networking and selling copies is great, but in the end a tour should be about celebrating the joy of books with other readers. From Minnesota to Houston, the #MMBB was blessed with good-sized, attentive crowds who were enthusiastic and engaged. I am so grateful to each and every one of you who came out, and to those of you who couldn't make it but still mail-ordered books or spread the word about the events. I say this on basically every Acknowledgments page, but it all comes back to you guys. Without readers, there would be no authors. Thank you for making it possible for us to live our dreams <333

Amazing book cheerleader, blogger, and librarian: Mary from Mary Had a Little Book Blog.
(I swear we're not related. She's just that cool.)



St. Louis had the biggest crowd, but Naperville probably had the most teen attendees.
Thanks for coming to see us! We love you guys!




Monday, June 30, 2014

Lainey and Bianca's first date tips

In honor of the World Cup (which I won't even pretend to be watching because I'm a little busy preparing for the #MMBB tour and writing lots of books :D), I am re-posting these informative dating tips from Lainey and Bianca, complete with handy sports metaphors and soccer gifs. Originally posted at Read My Breath Away for the Canada blog tour.


Pre-game warm-up:






Lainey:
Plan your outfit and hairstyle beforehand and do a practice run getting ready. Maybe it seems like a waste of time, but my friend Kendall does some modeling and she says they sometimes do this at fancy fashion shows. If that epic dress you bought has a rip somewhere or those perfect shoes hurt so bad you can’t walk in them without limping, you’re going to want to know more than ten minutes before game time.

Bianca: Come up with two or three possible conversation starters, just in case things start to feel awkward. Don’t fill your brain with more than that, or you’ll just get confused. Think of something about a class you share in school or a movie that just came out. Don’t rehearse exactly what to say, because no one wants to sound like a programmed robot.

Lainey: Oh, and also think of an escape route, just in case. Maybe you’ve set a time limit on this date because of your curfew or other plans. Maybe a sibling or trusted friend is going to check in with you mid-date and suddenly “need” your help if things aren’t going well. This might sound sketchy to you, but it’s not like you’re planning for a bad date, you’re just covering the bases. And you’ll be less freaked out from the start if you know you’re not trapped with someone for hours and hours.

Bianca: But, don’t activate Operation Escape Route just because you’re feeling nervous. It takes time to get to know someone. I went on a first date not too long ago and it was a little awkward at first, but once we started talking we realized we had a ton in common. You wouldn’t want to pass up a good thing because you didn’t give it a fair try.

Lainey: Finally, set your limits beforehand. Are you okay with a goodnight kiss or are you going to wait a little longer (like oh, I don’t know, 250+ pages…) before you lock lips for the first time? You can always change your mind mid-date, but if you know at the start what you’re comfortable with, it’ll be easier to stick to your guns.


Game time:




Bianca:
Pick an activity that gives you a chance to talk, but also keeps you doing stuff so that you don’t have to talk a lot if you’d rather not. Dinner is kind of a high-pressure way to go for a first date because it’s just the two of you staring at each other. A movie is better, because you’re both busy watching, and then afterward if you’re feeling it you can go grab coffee or food and talk about what you liked and didn’t like.

Lainey: Other things that would be cool are a sporting event, a concert, a play, an amusement park, or maybe something like hiking or paintballing! If you pick an activity that you would enjoy on your own or with friends, chances are you’ll enjoy it on your date.

Bianca: You hate hiking. And I’m fairly certain you would hate paintball too. It hurts.

Lainey: Whatever. It’s not all about me, Bianca! These people know what they like. You know what’s funny? You and I both did the dinner thing on our most recent first dates. We should probably take our own advice! Not that we’ll need it anytime soon since our guys are epic. Okay next, try not to check your phone every five seconds while you’re out. It’s kind of distracting…and rude. Maybe leave it in your purse or pocket and sneak away mid-date to the bathroom if you just can’t help yourself.

Bianca: Listen, don’t just plan what you’re going to say next while the other person is talking. Don’t be too quick to judge your date. He or she might not have our awesome dating tips and therefore might be really nervous. Don’t be too quick to judge yourself, either. There’s no need to appear perfect.

Lainey: Try to just be yourself, and have fun!


Post-game wrap-up:




Bianca:
There’s nothing wrong with a little post-date analysis with a trusted friend, but don’t blab the minute details of your time together across the whole school. It’s no one’s business what you did or didn’t do.

Lainey: If you had a great time, it’s okay to call or text and say so. You don’t have to wait for the other person to initiate contact. You don’t have to wait three days or whatever the internet tells you in order to look cool. There’s nothing uncool about liking someone.

Bianca: But at the same time, don’t be a stalker. If you call or text two or three times and the other person doesn’t respond, maybe it’s not meant to turn into a relationship. That stings, but he’s not the right guy for you unless he thinks you’re the right girl for him. Or vice versa. You’re a varsity dater—a starter, at that, not a benchwarmer.

Lainey: If the first date leads to a second date to a third date and then maybe to trespassing on federal property, repeat all of the above until you’ve got so much game you no longer need our help. And if the romance fizzles out before the ref blows the whistle, no big deal. Look at yourself in the mirror (no, don’t fixate on that red spot that might be a zit) and remind yourself of why you’re awesome. Maybe it’s your welcoming smile, your quick wit, or your big heart. Or in my case, all three ;-)

Bianca: *cough* Or maybe it’s how you’re extra humble.

Lainey: Hey, no one is perfect. Right, reader-person? Keep that in mind if your date ends up less than fairytale-like. The real world can be a little trickier than the book world, but just as magical. Maybe there’s someone better—a tattooed, mohawked prep cook of your very own—lining up to take a shot at winning your heart.





Monday, June 23, 2014

#TeamLainey Winners!



What feels like forever ago I made the grand decision to give my little contemporary book, THE ART OF LAINEY, the best chance possible of succeeding by assembling a street team. I had no idea what I was doing, but I knew that bloggers like prizes so I came up with a list of things I could give away that wouldn't cost me too much money--signed books, swag, manuscript critiques, gift cards (that I sometimes get free from my credit card. What's in your wallet?) And of course, the piece de resistance--a role in a future book!

My street teamers performed like champs, tweeting, posting, sharing, voting, and changing their twitter icons to the LAINEY cover at a rate that had some people complaining that my book was too hyped. *side eyes* Whut? I guess if you live on twitter. Oh wait, that's most people.

Anyway, today I am announcing my winners!

Winner of the GRAND PRIZE EXTRAVAGANZA, which includes so many prizes I'm not even going to list them all so no one is too sad when I don't offer quite so many freebies next time (an annotated book? Whose idea was that? *gives Nikki Wang the evil eye*) is Sara from Forever 17 books. I think I got to know Sara back when she played Where in the World is VENOM?? She's been a fantastic supporter ever since and it's always an honor to be featured on her blog. Also, I <3 that tiger.




Winner of my 2nd prize, which includes a signed copy of THE ART OF LAINEY, a B&N gift card, and a partial manuscript critique, Is Jessica from Read My Breath Away. I also "met" Jess when she won a copy of Venom (or was it Belladonna?) Jess organized my Canada blog tour, accumulated more street team points than any other teamer, and recently helped get LAINEY into the Ottawa library system! 




And finally, my 3rd prize, a signed copy of THE ART OF LAINEY, goes to Lili from Lili's Reflections! I first got to know Lili when she emailed me back in 2012 asking for a book donation for a literacy program she was heading up in her town. I loved this idea so much I sent her ALL of the books I had lying around that I had gotten free as a reviewer but knew I would never read. We've stayed in contact ever since and I'm so grateful to have her on my team.


Every year the publishing industry hatches 200+ new debut authors and I've heard there are even non-debut authors writing epic books too (*waves hand in the air*). The fact that these ladies have supported me for four straight books is really amazing and I am so grateful that I know them. I'm glad I could give a little something extra back to all three of you in the form of street team prizes. Thanks again for all of your hard work!

If you would like to be part of the LIARS, INC. street team and have the chance to win the first ARCs of LIARS, INC. (and possibly VICARIOUS, depending on its release date), as well as get monthly emails from me with writing excerpts, exclusive news, and occasional groveling for tweets or author-favors (who? me?) check the street team tab after September 1, 2014 for more information.

Until then, keep an eye out for the LIARS, INC. cover reveal this week (allegedly...I am still awaiting the final file *taps foot*). And don't forget about the Mighty Mississippi Book Blast if you live in the middle of the US and the  <333 MICAH <333 novella INFINITE REPEAT that releases on August 5, 2014.





Monday, June 2, 2014

Thoughts on Illegal Downloading

The Art of Lainey, the first book I wrote where I hold the copyright, made its way into the wild last month. I am asking people to think before they steal it.

I have been warned that posting these thoughts might make me seem greedy or uncool or not kid-friendly, but so be it. I've always believed in giving people the benefit of the doubt, and it's possible that part of the problem comes from lack of awareness. And although all forms of illegal downloading are stealing, it can be particularly damaging to authors, who usually start out being lower-paid than musicians and movie people and can't recoup losses via live tours or DVD sales.




The above graphic is from Digital Book World 2013. This article has more information. The article comments are worth a read as they discuss which of the experiments have been validated.



Who does illegal downloading actually hurt? What's the big deal?

Illegally downloading stuff is stealing. I don't care if you happen to live in a country where your government has more important things to worry about than copyright infringement against Western authors and so they don't prosecute--it's still stealing. Most American authors make a small royalty credit (maybe $0.50 to $2.00--somewhere around a dollar on average) per book sold. In order to make any money beyond their advance, the author must first sell enough copies to "pay back" the advance, or "earn out." I'm not going to get into foreign rights here because it makes things needlessly complicated and many titles don't sell them. 

When you download, you don't just steal that royalty credit from the author, you also steal money from their agent, their publisher, and the bookstore/website where you would have bought the book legally. Assuming that editors and publicists get promoted based on how their titles do, you're potentially harming them too. And when the author tries to sell a new book, publishers look at sales figures on current titles when deciding whether to buy it or how much to pay. 


But aren't all authors rich anyway?

I put this section in because I used to teach English abroad and it was very common for my foreign students to think that all Americans were as wealthy as what they saw on Gossip Girl or The OC. "Why do you want to live by the ocean?" a Korean boy once asked me. "Don't all Americans have their own pool?" Sadly, no, we don't ;-)

It's true, some authors are very wealthy, especially with respect to standards of living in other countries. But, for every one of them, there are hundreds of traditionally published authors who are not rich. Here are some figures for the Apocalypsies 2012 debut group showing that almost half of the first contract advances were 20K or less. [Note: this is not broken down into single or multi-book contracts, so some of those advances were payment for multiple books. Also note: some authors make no advance.] An American author keeps about 60% of the advance money after paying agent fees, income tax, and self-employment tax. If a book earns a 20K advance, that means the author probably banks about 12K for their work, sometimes paid out over a 2-year period.

So how do we live? Some of us are supported by significant others. Some of us write 2 or 3 books a year, if we're lucky enough to sell that many. Others work second--often full-time--jobs. I've been working multiple part-time jobs to supplement my writing income. I don't tell you this so you'll feel bad for me. I could go back to full-time nursing and make over three times as much as I made from my writing last year. But nursing is exhausting and emotionally draining, so that would mean writing a LOT less...or maybe not at all. And that would make me unhappy. But I realize I'm lucky to have nursing to fall back on. Not everyone is as lucky as I am.

But even with respect to the authors who land big advances: Is it really okay to steal from people just because they have more than you? You have no idea how hard those writers might have worked to make it big. They don't owe you free stuff, do they?


But illegal downloading is great publicity, isn't it?

Some authors feel like this, and to a point, it does make sense to give stuff away for free. Giving away first chapters or even entire first books/novellas are tactics that have been used with mixed success. But the key there is that the author or publisher should get to decide who gets the product for free. The second key is moderation. The reason ARCs exist is to promote new releases. The reason ARCs are regulated is not to give away so many free copies that it noticeably reduces demand for the book. Author Melissa Marr was quoted on muso.com as saying the service removed 300 different online copies of one of her books in less than a month. Imagine if just 10 people downloaded from each of those websites--that would be 3000 potential sales lost in a month. Many books don't even sell 3000 copies in a year.

But I know what you're going to say--not all of those people would have actually paid for her book. True, but even a fraction--maybe a few hundred illegal downloads by people who would have otherwise bought the book--can make a difference. $500 toward paying back an advance is a fair chunk of money to most writers I know. And who knows how many of those hypothetical 3000 people might have gone to the library. Five hundred less library checkouts can hurt too.


But isn't illegal downloading the same as checking a book out of the library?

No. It's true, either way you are not opening your wallet and shelling out cash for a book. But here's the difference between pirating and the library. First of all, the library purchased at least one copy. But more importantly, if 10,000 readers pirate your book, no one gets paid and no one knows your book was popular. If 10,000 readers check your book out of the library, librarians notice and they order more copies, or they order your next book, or the nominate your book for awards, or they invite you to come speak, or they tell other librarians about your book, or they recommend your book to teens, who then maybe buy your next book or recommend it to more teens. See where I'm going with this? Librarians can be incredibly powerful allies for authors, if you let them.

One of my devil's advocate friends was quick to point out "Well, what if 10,000 readers illegally download and love your book--that's good PR, isn't it?" Um...maybe? But aren't those readers going to tack "And you can get it FREE from [sharefile site]" onto their word-of-mouth raving? And then download my next book from the same site? I see no reason why someone who had no problem stealing a book would turn around and willingly pay for the next book. So, doesn't piracy just lead to more piracy? You tell me.


In conclusion:

Times are tough and I don't know your particular situation. But please take a minute and realize that if you're illegally downloading a book that you want instead of buying it, you are potentially hurting that author's career. Have you ever wondered why an author who wrote a book back in 2009 that you really loved hasn't published anything new? Authors with middling or low sales often get released from publishers in order to make space on editor lists for debut authors who might turn out to be the Next Big Thing. Maybe it sounds cold, but writing is a business and there's no job security until your books have theme parks. Please don't make it even harder for authors by illegally downloading books.

Instead of downloading, consider visiting your local library. If the book isn't there, ask a librarian if it can be ordered from another branch or bought for their collection. And if you're in a country where you can't get a book from your library, think about ordering a copy from The Book Depository. They don't charge for shipping and they'll ship books all over the world.

If all else fails, try emailing the author. I've directed loads of people to contests where they could enter to win free copies of my books. I've also pointed out places where you can get the books used or for sale prices. Authors want you to have legal access to their books. Most of us will help you, if we can.

Thank you for reading. Thank you for thinking before you download illegally.






Sunday, May 25, 2014

Review incentive for THE ART OF LAINEY

Hi peeps! I cannot believe some three years after I started writing THE ART OF LAINEY that it's now hanging out on shelves next to books by people like Maggie Stiefvater. Do you know that I interviewed her when I was an unpublished book reviewer for a review website back in 2010? I used to ask her questions on Verla Kay's blueboards and be so excited when she actually answered. And now my book...next to hers. Holy surreal life!


Is it me or does that copy of Shiver look a little...rumply?


I've posted before about how important reviews are to me--yes, even the not-so-good ones. Because I believe more reviews will give my book a greater chance of success, I've come up with a review incentive. If you read and review THE ART OF LAINEY by June 3rd, and copy/paste your review in at least three places online, you can win an ARC of LIARS, INC, a copy of the e-novella INFINITE REPEAT, or a postcard signed by Lainey, Micah, Bianca, and me. Contest is international with limitations on the e-novella. More info on the contest form.


Micah says he worked hard on these postcards and you should want one.

Now you are probably wondering if you want an ARC of LIARS, INC. I mean, it doesn't even have a cover or flap copy yet. HarperTeen is still approving this stuff in-house, but I can tell you that LIARS is the story of  Max, Preston, and Parvati, who start a business selling lies and alibis to their classmates. Then one day Max sets up an alibi for Preston so he can hook up with a chick in Vegas and it's all good...until Preston never comes home. Did I mention Preston is a US senator's kid? Yeah, the FBI goes after Max and the evidence against him piles up. Max's CIA-wannabe girlfriend, Parvati, tries to help him prove his innocence, with some surprising results. Content info, FYI: there are F-bombs and sexual situations. I think it's a really cool book, but it's quite different from LAINEY. Keep an eye out for a cover reveal in the coming weeks because OMG this cover is going to be ridiculously awesome.

Happy holiday weekend to the U.S. peeps. Happy Sunday to everyone else.