Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Power of Free

by Matt Sinclair

I've been a journalist a long time now, but I can still be surprised. (Ok, in fairness, I'm a trade journalist, so there's still lots of things that can shock me in industries outside what I usually spend my energies on.)

Still, I was shocked to see what power can be had by giving away books for free. If I might wax semi-poetic about a book I've published in my role as the President and Chief Elephant Officer of Elephant's Bookshelf Press, we have just announced our first "free days" via KDP Select of Battery Brothers, the YA debut of author Steven Carman. If I may say so myself, I think it's a great story about two boys who love baseball, and a captivating story about overcoming adversity for Andy Lembo, the protagonist of the tale.

I'd been working on ways to get the story out in front of more people, and Steve and I agreed to use today, Thursday, and Friday as the first of our "free" days. We also partnered to promote the book through other sites that let readers know when books are free.

Too soon to tell whether there's been success? Yes and no.

Yes, because we still have most of the three days during which the book is free.

No, because when I checked how we were doing, I was shocked to see that we'd already topped four hundred "purchases" of the free book. In fact, between the time I started writing this post and now, we went from three hundred to four hundred.

As a small, independent publisher, EBP doesn't usually hit a hundred purchases of a book in a day, not even for our incredibly durable first anthology, Spring Fevers, which still "sells" 35-60 copies a month; it's been free for two years.

Yes, it's still too soon because the goal of free days is to get more people to buy the actual book when it isn't free. The proceeds of Battery Brothers are going to a nonprofit organization, the Sunshine Foundation, which is the original wish-granting organization. Obviously, we need to have proceeds in order to give them to the foundation.

No, it's not too soon, because this experience is already proving -- to me, at least -- the power of free. Getting the word out about this book, and all books, ultimately, is a partnership between the publisher and the author. It's in our mutual interests to share news of these books we love with readers who don't already know about them.

Free can help make that happen and let those characters imbue the lives of readers everywhere. They deserve it. If nothing else, Battery Brothers has been seen by literally hundreds more people than had seen it yesterday. Sharing it with readers for free has made that happen. Let's see how much farther the book can spread the power of the words within it.

Matt Sinclair, a New York City-based journalist and fiction writer, is also president and chief elephant officer of Elephant's Bookshelf Press, which recently published Battery Brothers, a YA novel by Steven Carman about a pair of brothers playing high school baseball and about overcoming crippling adversity. Matt also blogs at the Elephant's Bookshelf and is on Twitter @elephantguy68.

Monday, May 19, 2014


by Jemi Fraser

Life is going to throw a lot of curve balls our way. That's part of life. It's how we handle those curve balls that defines us.

When that curve ball is heading our way, we've got some choices on how to handle it:

  • duck
  • close our eyes and swing
  • keep our eye on the ball and swing
  • jump out of the batter's box
  • step into the pitch
  • watch it go right on by
A writer's journey to publication is chock full of curve balls. 
  • finding the right idea
  • writing the first page
  • finishing the draft
  • finding a crit buddy
  • sharing
  • revising
  • editing
  • writing a query
  • and synopsis
  • sending out that query
  • rejection
  • more rejection
  • marketing
  • reviews
  • contracts
  • sales
  • pressure of the next book
  • ...
Resiliency is the key to survival in the industry. So how do we deal with those curve balls? A few suggestions:
  • conversations and commiserations with writing buddies (this online writing community is incredible!!)
  • always having the next idea ready to go - keep an idea bank
  • critique the work of others - a great way to improve yourself & help out someone else!
  • study your favourite stories to see what works in them to pull you in
  • tears (but not for long!)
  • time outs/times off (again, not for long!)
  • chocolate (maybe that's just me)
  • learn something new (this is my personal favourite. Not only is it productive, but it builds your skill set and your confidence)
There's nothing wrong with jumping out of the batter's box - as long as you're ready to learn something new and then jump right back in. 

How do you build your resiliency?

Jemi Fraser is an aspiring author of contemporary romance. She blogs  and tweets while searching for those HEAs.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Speaking Engagements for the Shy

by MarcyKate Connolly 

One of the things you may not think much about when you’re writing that first book or just dipping your toe into the query trenches is that if you do get that book published, you may have to talk to a lot of people.

As in, in front of them. Standing up. Trying desperately to keep your lunch down and not flail so hard you actually take flight.

If you’re shy like I am, this might be a bit of challenge for you.

I recently had the opportunity to speak to a couple of groups (one as a guest speaker at a local reading council and another as a presenter on Scrivener), and while I’m definitely still learning, I thought I’d share what helped me stay calm and keep on.

Namely, passion.

I was terrified for that first event. They wanted me to talk about me and my publishing journey, a topic I suspect would make many shy writers feel squeamish. (They want to hear about me? But I’m boring!) It was a challenge to find a way to make it engaging, and fortunately I was able to also read an excerpt from my book (which is infinitely more interesting than me!).

Practicing my speech beforehand helped considerably for that first event, but the second was easier (even though I had to talk for 2 hours instead of only 30 minutes!) because it was a topic I was passionate about: Scrivener. The fact that it was a familiar atmosphere (NESCBWI, my favorite conference), also made me feel more at ease.

This is not to say it went entirely smooth—we had some technical difficulties with the microphone, and with getting a room full of people at various levels of usage all on the same page with Scrivener. But it was a topic I loved, knew inside out, and could easily wax poetic about for hours. So, I did.

If you’re fairly shy too, and the thought of public speaking makes you twitch, here’s my suggestion: start small, and start with what you love. If you can, arrange something in a place that is familiar like an event at your local library or a presentation or panel at a local conference you’ve been to in the past. Even better if you can choose something you love to speak about – maybe it’s revision, or story structure, or fairy tales, etc. If you’re passionate about the subject matter, and the location is familiar, an event like that can be a great way to ease into it before you have to stand up in front of a group of strangers.

Since I’m still learning too, I’d love to hear your thoughts on ways to feel more comfortable and be successful at public speaking!

MarcyKate Connolly writes middle grade and young adult fiction and becomes a superhero when sufficiently caffeinated. When earthbound, she blogs at her website and spends far too much time babbling on Twitter. Her debut upper MG fantasy novel, MONSTROUS, will be out from HarperCollins Children's Books in Winter 2015.

Friday, May 2, 2014

We Need Diverse Books

by Mindy McGinnis

Diversity in children's literature has become a prominent topic lately. The We Need Diverse Books campaign - spearheaded by authors such as Ellen Oh, Aisha Saeed and Chelsea Pitcher - has roared into the public eye this week, with prominent authors and publishers tweeting under the tag #WeNeedDiverseBooks.

So here's my two cents.

As a lifelong reader, I always inserted myself into the stories I read. I was the main character. I was the saucy sidekick. I was the cool cat. The romantic interest was the guy I liked and the MC’s best friend was my best friend. I created a new physical reality for the book, and if an overly descriptive passage didn’t match my imaginings it would be jarring, and oftentimes kicked me right out of the story.

As a librarian I’ve encouraged reluctant readers to use this tactic, to cast the book with themselves and their friends (or enemies!) in order to make it more real, more enjoyable, a more palpable experience of an alternate reality that they can truly participate in. I see it working more often than not.

Every now and then I see reviews of NOT A DROP TO DRINK where people say they wish I would describe my characters more so that they could visualize them. The truth is that I purposely resist in-depth physical descriptions because I want the reader to have perfect freedom to visualize the characters in any way they choose.

This includes skin color.

In short, we need diverse books because everyone assumes Lynn is white.
Mindy McGinnis is a YA author and librarian. Her debut, NOT A DROP TO DRINK, is a post-apocalyptic survival tale set in a world where freshwater is almost non-existent. The companion novel IN A HANDFUL OF DUST releases September 23, 2014. She blogs at Writer, Writer Pants on Fire and has a serious social media problem. You can find her on TwitterTumblrFacebookInstagram, and Pinterest.