Top Ten Authors I’ve Only Read One Book From But NEED to Read More

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Self-explanatory post, a la The Broke and the Bookish! Let’s proceed with my design-less thoughts.

Brandy Colbert – read and loved Pointe; need anything and everything else she writes immediately

Steve Brezenoff – adored Guy in Real Life; super, super need to read Brooklyn, Burning

Emery Lord – loved Open Road Summer, and have heard nothing but fabulousness about her next book, The Start of Me & You

Christina Lauren – have only read Beautiful Bastard but I must read everything these ladies write, ever, basically

Brenda St John Brown – Her debut NA, Swimming to Tokyo, was one of my faves this year, and I’ll definitely need to read more

Sarah SkiltonLoved Bruised; must read High and Dry

Shelley Coriell – I so enjoyed both the MC and the romance in Welcome Caller, This is Chloe that I’m dying to spend time with more of her characters

Katie ContugnoHow to Love was absolutely one of my favorite YAs of 2013, so I cannot waaaait for her next book, 99 Days

Julie MurphySide Effects May Vary down; Dumplin’ needs to be in my face yesterday

Tess Sharpe – Tough subjects and wonderfully drawn queer characters make her such an author to watch for me. Looking forward to seeing what comes after Far From You.

Who’s on your list?

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Underrated Contemp YAs

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Oh, is there an opportunity to rec books? Ones that I don’t think get enough attention? I WILL TAKE THAT. (Thanks for the excuse, Broke and Bookish!)

MY BEST FRIEND, MAYBE by Caela Carter – love this book and the character evolution within, and really wish it got more airtime during discussions on diverse YA. I think the reason it doesn’t is because the main character is white, Christian, and straight, but make no mistake – this book is full of the conversations those looking for diversity in YA are looking for, thanks not only to the main LGBT storyline, but the love interest, a Haitian guy who was adopted into his white family.

SAVING FRANCESCA by Melina Marchetta – underrated would be the wrong word for this one, because anyone who’s read it knows what a freaking gem it is. Instead, I mention it here because I think often people know that JELLICOE ROAD is a major must-read, and this one gets overlooked. Don’t make that mistake. This book has a similarly deep and wonderful romance, fantastic friendships, and real, true family issues as well.

17 FIRST KISSES by Rachael Allen – This is pretty much the truest meaning of underrated right here, as in I literally think people rate it too low, and I can rant about this with a few blogger friends for hours, and oh right I’ve already done that.

ASK AGAIN LATER by Liz Czukas – Yeah, yeah, technically not contemp, but it may as well be. I think it probably went underread because of the whole “sliding doors” thing, but that part is so irrelevant, and this was one of the cutest, most fun, most voice-y books I read this year.

OVER YOU by Amy Reed – I’ve read so many toxic friendship books, and I couldn’t figure out what was missing from them until I read this one. In so many books of that ilk, the toxic friend remains this missing piece of the narrator, necessary to make her whole, even when the toxicity is plain for everyone to see. OVER YOU is about a girl who recognizes how much better she can be – how much more she can like herself – with her independence. (Bonus points, always, for the narrator being bisexual.

SISTER MISCHIEF by Laura Goode – This book got recommended to me a lot when I was compiling the QUILTBAG Compendium on this blog, so when I spotted it during my inaugural visit to Powell’s in Portland, I snatched it up, and then promptly devoured it in two sittings. It is most certainly not an Everyone kind of book – I have to admit that even though I loved it, I never got over the cringing feeling of reading a hop-hop book about white girls. (This is addressed in the book itself, and is a really interesting conversation, but ultimately, it reads a lot like many of the conversations I see about writing diversity – white people reassuring white people on matters of cultural appropriation.) But I do think there’s a ton that’s worthwhile, and different, and fascinating about this book, and I hope more people give it a shot.

LEFTOVERS by Laura Wiess – Laura Wiess is, in my opinion, one of the most criminally underread contemp YA authors out there, and this is my favorite of hers. This is the book I wish a billion people would’ve brought up during all the conversations of rape culture that sprang up around Steubenville. This is the book that taught me what it was. This is the book that still teaches me what it is.

BALLADS OF SUBURBIA by Stephanie Kuehnert – A dark and intense look at the power of addiction, both harmful substances and harmful people.

THE CHAPEL WARS by Lindsey Leavitt – In a year full of cute romances, Dax and Holly were probably my #1 most shippable. The combination of their realistic flaws and fabulous banter earned them a special place in my heart, and I think many other banter-lovers would appreciate them too.

BRUISED by Sarah Skilton – This was one of my favorites of 2013 (as you can see here). I loved the MC’s combination of physical toughness and emotional vulnerability, and her journey back to herself after witnessing a traumatic event and faulting herself for the role she played (or didn’t play) in it.

Any of my 10 on your list of faves? Leave me your lists in the comments either way!

 

Author Spotlight: Jennifer Brown

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Welcome to another Author Spotlight on the Daily Dahlia! Today we have none other than…

AuthorSpotlightJenniferBrownAnd of course, if you’d like to put a face to that name, here’s one the author herself has graciously shared :)

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So, who is Jennifer Brown? Here’s her official bio, and where you can find her:

Jennifer Brown is the author of acclaimed young adult novels, Hate List, Bitter End, Perfect Escape, and Thousand Words. Her debut novel, Hate List, received three starred reviews and was selected as an ALA Best Book for Young Adults, a VOYA “Perfect Ten,” and a School Library Journal Best Book of the Year. Bitter End received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and VOYA and is listed on the YALSA 2012 Best Fiction for Young Adults list.

Jennifer’s debut middle grade novel, Life on Mars, will be released in 2014. She also writes women’s fiction under the name Jennifer Scott. Visit her at www.JenniferScottAuthor.com

Jennifer writes and lives in the Kansas City, Missouri area, with her husband and three children.

Twitter: @JenniferBrownYA
Instagram: @JenBrownYA

Check out her women’s fiction at: www.JenniferScottAuthor.com

Why am I such a fan? Please see the following Dahliafied bio:

Jennifer Brown wrote one of my very first favorite YAs. Hate List was a great lesson in creating multifaceted “villains,” and from there, I went on to voraciously devour more of her books, which always seem to be right on target with issues that need to be discussed among teens and aren’t nearly enough. Her newest release is Torn Away, which I haven’t yet read, but a whole bunch of reviews have declared pretty freaking awesome.

Wanna learn a little more about these books? Check ‘em out here:

All of These Glorious Books Are Already Published

A Little-Known Fact About Hate List:, a book about the aftermath of a school shooting, from the perspective of the dead shooter’s girlfriend: Bea, the art teacher who supports Valerie, was inspired by my best friend’s mom, Gloria, who has always been there for me. Bea is such a source of peace and belonging for Valerie, she wasn’t even given a last name. She is just Bea…or “Just Be.”

A Sensory Image to Accompany it: The song “World Full of Hate” by The Dropkick Murphys

Buy HATE LIST here: http://www.indiebound.org/book/9780316041454

A Little-Known Fact About Bitter End, about an abusive relationship: The spillway where Cole takes Alex was inspired by the Prairie Lee Spillway in Lee’s Summit, MO, the town in which I grew up.

A Sensory Image to Accompany it: The song “Landslide” by Fleetwood Mac (only I secretly like the Dixie Chicks’ version better)

Buy BITTER END here: http://www.indiebound.org/book/9780316086967

A Little-Known Fact About Perfect Escape, about a girl whose brother has OCD: We own a little jackalope toy just like the one Kendra and Grayson pick up at the gift shop in Wyoming. We got ours at Hoover Dam, and his name is “Jack.”

A Sensory Image to Accompany it: Mounds and mounds of rocks

Buy PERFECT ESCAPE here: http://www.indiebound.org/book/9780316185585

A Little-Known Fact About Thousand Words, about a girl suffering consequences of having a naked photo leaked: I am a dedicated thrift store shopper, and loved taking Ashleigh and Mack to the thrift store.

A Sensory Image to Accompany it: A wall covered with graffiti, maybe with this on it somewhere:

Buy THOUSAND WORDS here: http://www.indiebound.org/book/9780316209724

A Little-Known Fact About Torn Away, about the aftermath of a tornado: One of the characters’ names, and the town name, are the first and middle names of one of my nieces.

A Sensory Image to Accompany it: Broken shards of a porcelain cat figurine

Buy TORN AWAY here: http://www.indiebound.org/book/9780316245531

For the book pimping portion of our program, because this is my blog, after all:

3 other books in your genre (which, for Jennifer, is contemporary YA) you love:

CRASH INTO ME by Albert Borris

FORGIVE ME, LEONARD PEACOCK by Matthew Quick

REALITY BOY by A.S. King

3 other books not in your genre that you love:

WHERE’D YOU GO, BERNADETTE? by Maria Semple

THE ROSIE PROJECT by Graeme Simsion

GAME OF THRONES series by George R.R. Martin

Who are you repped by? (And/or who reps the books you’ve sold?)

Cori Deyoe at 3 Seas Literary Agency

As a published author, what was something you learned through the process that was so not worth the stress?

So many things! I stressed so much about what was the “perfect” query letter, following what I thought were the “rules” to a tee. Also, I stressed about “building a platform” or “building a readership” before I was published. And then, once published, I learned that having book trailers made was definitely not worth the stress and money.

What was something that actually was?

Well, I don’t know if hard-core stressing is ever worth it, but I think being mindful of a fresh story line and solid writing is a good thing. Lots of competition out there. You have to stand out!

What sorts of things do you shamelessly pass off as “research”?

Social media

A Troubleshooting Guide to Inevitable Publishing “Disasters”

“Man plans, God laughs.” I don’t know who originally said that, but I think it was about publishing. Being caught off guard blows, doesn’t it? WE HAVE PLANS. WE HAVE MARKETING. WE HAVE PUB DATES. WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO US.

But, ya know, stuff happens. So, here are the four “disasters” I see the most, and how to handle them with your sanity relatively intact:

Your cover was revealed before your actual cover reveal. Stop. Breathe. I promise, in 99% of scenarios, no one cares. This isn’t a big deal. (If your cover is changing, okay, but even then…this is still kinda not a big deal. I have seen it happen enough times to be sure it has done nothing to ruin anything.) If you can bump up your actual cover reveal, great. If you can get that cover taken down, great. But otherwise, just move forward as planned. People are still gonna be excited by the big event, and most aren’t even gonna notice it’s on Edelweiss or Goodreads or wherever. You’re checking that stuff every day; your readers aren’t. And put yourself in reader shoes for a minute – does this affect anything for you when it happens to someone else? Have you ever actively not bought a book because you first saw the cover in a boring way? If so, let’s have a talk about how dumb you are.

I hate my cover/edits/whatever. This is hard. There isn’t always something you can do. No, wait, correction – there isn’t always something that will work. But there is always something you can do, and that’s communicate your feelings to your closest handholder. If you have an agent, tell your agent. If you don’t have an agent and are with a small press, tell your editor. There is no guarantee of having things changed, but there is a guarantee that nothing will change if you don’t ask for it.

Something somewhere has made it so that your book is not available in all places at the same time. This is really annoying; I’m not gonna lie. My launch party had to get moved to the night before my release and I was nervous I wouldn’t have books and I had to keep explaining it wasn’t my pub day to people who thought it was, and B&N for some reason had it way before Amazon, and yeah, it was annoying.

In a way, though, it actually ended up being kinda great, too. It took some of the massive amounts of pressure off The Day. Instead of June 24th being Everything, I got to be excited when I first saw my book in B&N the week before; I got to promote my launch party and the availability of signed copies at Books of Wonder on June 23rd; and then June 24th was people getting the ebook delivered, me actually having time to breathe to thank people for their congrats, and then getting to enjoy the night at a different bookish event.

So, basically, my strategy when this happens is to focus on the cool things the day they happen, and give the other stuff their days. (Basically, a multi-pronged release.) Yeah, it might require a little more work on your part to make every day of stuff feel like a relevant day, but…it really isn’t. Book is available at B&N but not Amazon? Use the B&N link in all your tweets, focus on it being at B&N, and then when it’s available at Amazon, do the same thing for “Amazon Release Day.” Etc. Etc.

Hosts bailed on my blog tour. Yeah, this happened to me, and honestly, I ended being grateful for it. I’ve said before I’m not a huge proponent of blog tours, and realizing this was an easy out of half the tour I had said up felt like someone had just given me the gift of time. If you really do want to make up the missing stops, put together a standard completely ready-to-go post and do some Twitter begging. If you’re going to be last minute, you better make it as effortless for the hosts that take pity on you as possible!

Got other disasters in mind? Had one you recovered from gracefully? Or gracelessly, even? Tell Aunt Dahlia all about ‘em!

Author Spotlight: Paula Stokes

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Welcome to another edition of Author Spotlight! Today we’ve got none other than the lovely…

AuthorSpotlightPaulaStokesOr, as you can picture her from now on:

mecrocShe was even good enough to caption her picture she’d never use as an author photo for us:

Worst crocodile wrastlin’ technique ever. Good thing he’s fake or I’d now be typing with my toes.

Here’s a little more about her, officially:

Paula Stokes writes stories about flawed characters with good hearts who sometimes make bad decisions. When she’s not writing, she’s kayaking, hiking, reading, or seeking out new adventures in faraway lands. Paula loves interacting with readers. Find her online at www.authorpaulastokes.com or on twitter as @pstokesbooks.

Aaaaand here’s what I have to say about her:

Paula is freaking fabulous and you’ll be seeing a lot more of her to come in future years (Oh, yeah, she has like 30 books coming out in the next few years, just FYI.), in multiple genres, from multiple houses, because yes, that’s how cool she is. It’s gross.

And here’s a little bonus material, provided by Paula:

Here’s a post I did on handling bad reviews that I like a lot.

My FB page When I get 1000 likes, I’m giving away an ARC of LIARS, INC. (INT). Hook a sista up because It’ll be totes awkward if it takes me until release date to get there O_O

And now, most importantly of all, let’s talk those books!

The Published

Art of Lainey cover web resLittle-Known Fact About The Art of Lainey:

The celebrity actor/soccer player started out as just an actor in the first draft. I named him Paul Waters and he was basically an exact replica of Paul Walker. He was part of my “dream cast.” :(
 
A Sensory Image to Go With It:So Obvious” by Runner Runner

Buy it: B&N * Amazon * Indiebound

The Art of Lainey also has a brand-new accompanying e-novella, Infinite Repeat, available for Nook and Kindle.

 

The Upcoming

LiarsInc web res(1)

Liars, Inc. releases March 24, 2015!

Little-Known Fact About Liars, Inc.:

I pitched this idea to my agent at a conference back in 2010 before she was even my agent and she liked it. But then I let the plot marinate for over a year before I started writing because the character motivations weren’t clear to me.

A Sensory Image to Go with It:

“Never Meant To (Lie)” by Radio Iodine. (They were a 90s St. Louis band and that’s a hard song to find, but the whole album, Tiny Warnings, is brilliant.)

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VICARIOUS (Tor Teen, Fall 2015/Winter 2016): This is far and away the most ambitious book I’ve ever attempted, requiring expert consults in psychology, technology, weapons, and Korean culture. It scares me, trying to write as an EFL speaker from a different culture who also has PTSD, because there are so many ways I could mess it up. Good thing I like a challenge :)

“Chop Suey” – System of a Down

And now, for the book pimping portion of our program, because this is my blog, after all:

Tell us about your critique partner(s)/co-author(s) and why their books are awesome! 

I’m super-excited for Marcy Beller Paul’s UNDERNEATH EVERYTHING (B&B, Fall 2015). Marcy writes lyrical yet economical prose, similar to Ally Condie or Gayle Foreman. Her book is a unique balance of literary and commercial that will appeal to both teens and adults.

I’m also very psyched for Philip Siegel’s second book. I’m not sure if I can say the title, but I’ve read the book and Siegel delivers a heartfelt and hilarious story, filled with his trademark witty prose.

1-3 other books in your genre(s) you love? 1-3 other books not in your genre(s) that you love?

I don’t really have a genre, per se, but I guess I’ll call myself a contemporary romance and mystery writer, at least until VICARIOUS comes out.

Contemp books I love:
 
GOING BOVINE by Libba Bray
ALONG FOR THE RIDE by Sarah Dessen
I HUNT KILLERS by Barry Lyga
 
Spec books I love:
 
VICIOUS by Victoria Schwab
WHITE CAT by Holly Black
ANNA DRESSED IN BLOOD by Kendare Blake

 

Who are you repped by?

I am repped by my dream agent, the fabulous Jennifer Laughran from Andrea Brown. Sometimes I still have to pinch myself when I think about that.

As a published author, what was something you learned through the process that was so not worth the stress?

Obsessively monitoring your rankings/ratings/reviews. Amz rankings change every hour and you can move up or down fifty thousand places from morning to afternoon. So then, what is that really telling you? On ratings and reviews–yeah, those first few skewerings hurt like hell, but the only way you’re not going to have bad reviews is if you’re not selling any books.

What was something that actually was?

Getting your manuscript the way you want it. I know people who are DONE after copy-edits–they don’t ever want to see their pages again. They don’t proofread master pages or read their manuscripts out loud because they just can’t bring themselves to read their stories one more time. I will nitpick until the last moment, tweaking word choice and even asking if I can add or delete whole paragraphs if it means improving the story. Once that book goes to the printer, that’s it. No matter how hard I try, there will always be something afterward I wish I had changed. But the more I put into it, the less of those instances there will be. Plus I feel like the public and publisher deserve my best effort.

What sorts of things do you shamelessly pass off as “research”?

*looks around for tax professionals* Several trips to the gun range, international travel, adventure sports, krav maga lessons. I’m still debating whether I can write off some personal training I needed in order to be fit enough for the krav maga lessons :) There may be some purely-for-research shark diving eventually. Here’s the secret to happy writing–write what you’re really passionate about, not what you think the trends are or what agents say they want. Then the research won’t even feel like work.

What do you always wish people would ask you in interviews?

Heh. If you could dedicate any one song to your most negative reviewers, what would that song be? IDK why no one has asked this yet ;-)

Author Spotlight: Kara Taylor

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Welcome to another edition of Author Spotlight on The Daily Dahlia! Today I’ve got Kara Taylor…and that’s all I’ll say here, because you’re about to learn everything else you need to know. AND ALSO BECAUSE I REALLY NEED TO GET TO THIS PICTURE NOW.

AuthorSpotlightKaraTaylor27191_1223936242539_6013650_nClearly you need an official bio on the chicken girl ASAP:

Kara has a BA in English/Secondary Education from Stony Brook University. She loves New Girl, sushi, and puppets that say rude things. It’s her dream to own a bakery someday.

Kara was inspired to start writing in part by her grandmother giving her Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, and in part by her father’s bizarre antics, such as blow-drying his car. Her father looked like Borat in the 80’s.

Kara lives on Long Island with a Chihuahua named Izzy and a kitten named Felix. Her favorite authors are Gillian Flynn, Stephanie Perkins, and Nelson Demille. She writes full-time. She was the writer and co-executive producer of The Revengers, a dramedy developed for The CW, executive produced by Rashida Jones and Will McCormack (Celeste & Jesse Forever).

Website: www.karamtaylor.com
IndieBound: http://www.indiebound.org/search/apachesolr_search?author_filter=Taylor%2C+Kara
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/karatwrites

Aaaaand the Dahliafied version:

Kara writes a freaking fantastic mystery series whose first book kept me up waaaaay too late, and which blissfully satisfies my Veronica Mars-y cravings. (See my  She also wrote for a TV show, and also, she’s basically young enough to be my daughter (it’s possible I am exaggerating slightly), so I am a little humbled.

Now, let’s talk about that aforementioned series of awesome, shall we?

The Published:

Little-known fact about Prep School Confidential: This was the third full manuscript I wrote, but the first one that was published.

A sensory image to accompany it: The smell of smoke

Buy It: Amazon * B&N * IndieBound

Little-known fact about Dirty Little Secrets: This is the book I consider the “easiest” to write. I finished it in four months, and it didn’t require that much revision. If only it always worked out like that!

A sensory image to accompany it: The woods at night, i.e.: https://www.flickr.com/photos/incatbirdcolors/6551956249/

Buy It: Amazon * B&N * IndieBound

 The Upcoming:

Deadly Little Sins releases August 5, 2014! 

Pre-order it: Amazon * B&N * IndieBound

And now, let’s get rec-ing ball on the mofo:

Tell us about your critique partners and why their books are awesome!

Debra Driza (author of MILA 2.0) writes action-packed sic-fi with an ass-kicking protagonist. (Think Nikita, if she were an android.)

Lindsey Culli writes contemporary that always leaves me feeling gutted in a good way, and my agent-sister Kathy Bradey has written some of the most imaginative fantasy books I’ve ever read.

1-3 other books in your genre (which for Kara, if you haven’t caught on, dear readers, is YA mystery) you love:

  1. Pretty Little Liars by Sara Shepard
  2. Deadly Cool by Gemma Halliday

1-3 books not in your genre that you love:

  1. Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
  2. Night Fall by Nelson DeMille

And, finally, let’s talk publishing:

Who are you repped by?

I’m represented by Suzie Townsend of New Leaf Literary, a book-selling ninja. For my TV writing, I’m represented by United Talent Agency and Brillstein Entertainment Partners.

As a published author, what’s something you’ve learned through the process was not worth the stress?

Self-promotion. You can peddle bookmarks and introduce yourself to librarians until you’re blue in the face, but self-promoting is like trying to fill a giant bucket one drop at a time. If I had to do it all over again, I’d focus on working on my next book instead of trying to promote the soon-to-be-published ones.

What’s something that actually was?

Gutting an entire manuscript based on my editor’s notes. Revising/re-writing is a really stressful part of the publication process, but I’m always happier with the end result.

What sorts of things do you shamelessly pass off as “research”?

Watching ID Discovery (A True Crime station). Unusual Suspects, My Deadly Secret, etc. Those shows are my catnip. Also watching documentaries; I recently watched WEST OF MEMPHIS.

What do you always wish people would ask you in interviews?

“Where do you get your story ideas from?” HAH! Just kidding. I wish people would ask what I would do if I couldn’t be a writer. I’d love to be a producer or network executive in the entertainment industry. If not, I’d maybe try to use my English teaching degree.

Leave some love for Kara in the comments, and check back here on/around the 1st and 15th of every month to meet some more awesome authors!

A Little Bit About UNDER THE LIGHTS

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So, as some of you may have noticed, my second book fiiiiiinally went up on Goodreads this week. It’s called Under the Lights; it’s a companion to my debut, Behind the Scenes; and if you’re so inclined, you can add it here. And, for the curious who’d rather not venture to Goodreads, here’s the blurb:

Josh Chester loves being a Hollywood bad boy, coasting on his good looks, his parties, his parents’ wealth, and the occasional modeling gig. But his laid-back lifestyle is about to change. To help out his best friend, Liam, he joins his hit teen TV show, Daylight Falls…opposite Vanessa Park, the one actor immune to his charms. (Not that he’s trying to charm her, of course.) Meanwhile, his drama-queen mother blackmails him into a new family reality TV show, with Josh in the starring role. Now that he’s in the spotlight—on everyone’s terms but his own—Josh has to decide whether a life as a superstar is the one he really wants.

Vanessa Park has always been certain about her path as an actor, despite her parents’ disapproval. But with all her relationships currently in upheaval, she’s painfully uncertain about everything else. When she meets her new career handler, Brianna, Van is relieved to have found someone she can rely on, now that her BFF, Ally, is at college across the country. But as feelings unexpectedly evolve beyond friendship, Van’s life reaches a whole new level of confusing. And she’ll have to choose between the one thing she’s always loved…and the person she never imagined she could.

So, voila! Under the Lights is dual-POV, and unlike with Behind the Scenes, I’ll definitely be posting excerpts in advance. Like its predecessor, this book is decidedly upper YA. It’s actually got a whole lot more happening on-page, because LGBTQ+ YA romance seems to be sorely lacking that, and that’s a damn shame. (It’s pretty freaking hot, I’m not gonna lie.) And, to answer the most Frequently Asked Question, yes, it does feature appearances from both Liam and Ally ;)

Under the Lights certainly has things in common with BtS thematically, but it’s also about very different people, who are handling some of those similar issues in very different ways, with very different partners. I will cop to the fact that when I started writing it, I was really concerned about attempting to write Vanessa, because I didn’t feel like I knew her very well. The amazing thing about writing this book was changing that to the extreme, how that came about, and how much I love her now, and hope other people will too. I don’t usually enjoy talking about a book’s journey much, because I don’t usually find it very interesting, but this book is a major, major exception to that, and one I’m really excited to discuss closer to publication. (And, of course, huge thanks to my CPs – Maggie Hall, Marieke Nijkamp, and Gina Ciocca – because there is no way in hell I would’ve gotten there without them.)

If you’ve got any questions, please feel free to leave them in the comments, or in the box on Goodreads – just please don’t spoil BtS for those who haven’t read it yet! (If you have a spoiler-y question, you can just go ahead and email me.)

And a quick note on BtS, because this has come up a lot lately – if you don’t yet own the book in paperback and you want a signed copy, please order one from Books of Wonder; they’re carrying a whole bunch, and I’m happy to stop by and personalize one upon request! I’m there all the time for launch parties and to bug Gaby anyway, and sending books out that are sent to me for signature is getting a little pricey. (And am always happy to send out signed bookplates within the US!)

A huge, huge superthanks to everyone who’s already added Under the Lights on Goodreads, and to everyone who’s read, borrowed, bought, recommended, sent store pics of, tweeted about, and reviewed Behind the Scenes. You guys are amazing, and I’m so, so excited to share another book with you <3

Celebrating Superpowers in Honor of ILLUSIVE!

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Now, I don’t do a ton of promo-y stuff on my blog, and I really don’t talk about a lot of non-contemporary YA on my blog, so if I’m doing both in one post, you can guess I’m pretty obsessed with this book. And indeed I am! ILLUSIVE by Emily Lloyd-Jones just might be my favorite YA sci-fi of ever, and if the words “X-Men meets Ocean’s Eleven” do quivery things to your insides like they should, it just might jump onto your list of faves too! So, you should probably read it ;)

Wanna learn a little more? Here’s some info about the book:

illusive-cover-1The X-Men meets Ocean’s Eleven in this edge-of-your-seat sci-fi adventure about a band of “super” criminals.

When the MK virus swept across the planet, a vaccine was created to stop the epidemic, but it came with some unexpected side effects. A small percentage of the population developed superhero-like powers. Seventeen-year-old Ciere Giba has the handy ability to change her appearance at will. She’s what’s known as an illusionist…She’s also a thief.

After a robbery goes awry, Ciere must team up with a group of fellow super-powered criminals on another job that most would consider too reckless. The formula for the vaccine that gave them their abilities was supposedly destroyed years ago. But what if it wasn’t?

The lines between good and bad, us and them, and freedom and entrapment are blurred as Ciere and the rest of her crew become embroiled in a deadly race against the government that could cost them their lives.

Places to Purchase:
Signed Copes at Gallery Bookshop: www.gallerybookshop.com/book/9780316254564
Barnes & Noble: www.barnesandnoble.com/w/illusive-emily-lloyd-jones/1117321253?ean=9780316254564
BAM: www.booksamillion.com/p/Illusive/Emily-Lloyd-Jones/9780316254564?id=6008814428335
IndieBound:http://www.indiebound.org/book/9780316254564
Audible: www.audible.com/pd/Kids/Illusive-Audiobook/B00L5OP6OA/ref=a_search_c4_1_1_srTtl?qid=1403323308&sr=1-1

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Emily Lloyd-Jones grew up on a vineyard in rural Oregon, where she played in evergreen forests and learned to fear sheep. After graduating from Western Oregon University with an English degree, she enrolled in the publishing program at Rosemont College just outside of Philadelphia. She currently resides in Northern California, working in a bookstore by day and writing by night.

 But the main reason I’m blogging right now is because Emily posed a very important question, and I need to answer it:

ILLUSIVE bannerCan you guess what I picked?

TELEPORTATION HELL YEAH

I can’t even imagine a better power than teleportation. NO MORE COMMUTING. (I know, I know – that is the most old-person reason to choose a superpower ever, but whatever. I know my fellow commuters totally hear me on this.) NO TRAVEL COSTS. NO DEALING WITH THE TSA. And, most important, YOU CAN HAVE WHATEVER SNACKS YOU WANT WHEN YOU TRAVEL AND NO ONE CAN MAKE YOU THROW OUT YOUR OLD, FULL WATER BOTTLE JUST TO BUY A NEW ONE.

I aim really high, guys. It’s what I do.

But for real, I love love love to travel, and if I could get somewhere in an instant, without factoring in travel time and costs, I can’t even imagine what a gamechanger – and lifechanger – it would be, especially now that I’ve got Twitter friends all around the world! (BtS signing in Manila, anyone?)

So, teleportation is my no-brainer immunity choice. What’s yours?

An Unauthorized Guide to Being a Debut Author, Part III: In-Person Events

Well, if you’ve made it this far, you’re probably sick of me by now. (And if you have no idea what I’m talking about, you might want to check out Part I and Part II.) You’re in luck – this part’s gonna be pretty short. This is partly because I don’t have a ton of experience with in-person events, so hopefully other people can share more of their own experiences, and partly because I’m incredibly exhausted, but I promised I’d have something up on this today, so, voila.

A general thing about in-person events: if you did get swag, they’re great places to bring it. Especially if you didn’t get the kind of swag that fits into a standard envelope, like buttons. Just have it laid out in front of you, and bonus points if you bring something to sign it with. Bookmark are often glossy, but I find metallic Sharpies work on them really well.

Signings

I was lucky enough to sign at BEA – a lovely perk of Spencer Hill, who’s great about doing in-booth signings for their authors – and it was a lot of fun. It was great to meet people, great to see my ARCs in people’s hands, great to be able to give out bookmarks when I ran out of ARCs… a lot of greatness.

Let’s talk about signing things:

1. I was really afraid I would screw up someone’s name. I didn’t. I’m sure I will someday. If you do, you just give Julie another book with her name spelled properly and pray you can find someone named Jumanji who wants the copy you wrecked. But generally, the way signings work are that someone ensures each person’s name who wants a personalized copy is written on a post-it, and the person presents the post-it, and you pay careful attention.

2. Sometimes pens don’t work. Bring a lot of them. Test them out on things. Be careful with stuff that has a glossy finish. It’s really not ideal for signing, but often Sharpies are the key. No one is more attentive to matters of the correct pen than Corinne Duyvis (Otherbound) so if you’re stressed about the right pen, absolutely check out this post she wrote.photo(7)

3. It’s really, really hard to talk and sign at the same time. Here are a couple of things that help:

  • Signing 101: come up with 1-3 stock phrases you’ll use to sign every book. Sometimes your brain will be functioning well enough to write something more personal, and sometimes it won’t. Don’t feel pressure to be super creative. Just find something(s) that tie(s) in well with your book – a phrase, a sentiment – or a simple “Thanks for reading!” will do. Some people don’t write anything at all – just sign their names. It’s all okay, I promise.
  • This is one thing I love that I have to credit to Caela Carter (My Best Friend, Maybe), who in turn credited it to Alison Cherry (Red): Keep a copy of your own book there and use it as a guest book, so while you’re signing X’s book, X is signing your book. It lets you focus, gives them something to do, and is an amazing souvenir at the end of the night.
     

4. Read this post by Mary Robinette Kowal, which is the most helpful post I’ve ever read on book signing.

Launch Parties

To be perfectly honest, I’ve only been to launch parties in three places – all indie bookstores in NYC – so again, I can’t speak to all experiences; hopefully people will chime in if things are drastically different in other situations. But here are the things to take into account:

  • Date, time, location
  • Invitations
  • If/how you’ll be selling books
  • Refreshments
  • Activities
  • What scene you’ll be reading, if the activities include reading
  • Swag
  • Outfit

So, let’s go through those:

Date, time, location: There are two main options for date – you can have it on your actual release day, or you can do it at some point that weekend. As long as your book will be available for sale, that’s what matters. As things worked out, I did mine the night before my release, and actually am thrilled that that happened because it took a lot of pressure off the release day, but it’s never a guarantee you’ll have books available by then. As for time, take into consideration who you really want there, and work it around their hours. (Mine was at 6 p.m., as most launch parties at Books of Wonder in NYC are.)

As for location, again, two main options: bookstore, or not-bookstore. Bookstore is the easiest to arrange selling books, for obvious reasons. I won’t go into all that stuff about consignment etc. because I don’t know all that much, honestly, and my publicist is the one who arranged that stuff with the store. I just got in touch about three months before the party to book it (the summer is particularly packed), gave an estimate so they’d know how many books to order, and took care of whatever else was on me.

If you don’t do it in a bookstore, you’ll have to see if one will distribute for you. I have to be honest that I have no idea how this works, but I imagine it’s not that hard to find out.

If your book is digital, and so you won’t have hard copies, there’s no real advantage to doing it in a bookstore. Just have it wherever you’re comfortable, and (totally ripping off other people here) try to have at least one computer present so people can order it online at the party.

Invitations: Facebook, evite, or Paperless Post are all fine. I kind of did a stupid, lazy mix. Send six weeks before, remind two weeks before, accept that it’ll only give you some idea of your numbers, and as with anything else, people who say they’ll come won’t, and vice versa.

If/how you’re selling books: See “location.” In which I’m still useless on this question. Thanks, Patrice!

Refreshments: Every launch party I’ve been to has allowed people to bring their own food, though I’m sure some places, especially if they have cafes inside, do not. Tying refreshments into the theme of your book is a fun thing to do, but remember that it’s not the reason people are there; don’t drive yourself crazy. Store-bought everything is fine. Probably don’t bring champagne into a children’s bookstore. Cheese and crackers, fruit, cupcakes, and some bottled drinks are perfect.

Activities: Some people are cute and clever. I am not. I went with the super standard Intro -> Reading -> Q&A -> Signing. If you wanna do more, power to you. Just remember that for a two-hour party, you should expect to fit the mingling and all activities into the first half, and leave the whole second half for the signing. It takes longer than you think.

Scene: I don’t really know how to advise on this. I picked my scene for its lack of profanity, basically, and ended up having to lean away from the microphone to whisper the words “drug-fueled orgy.” So, WTF do I know. Just pick something reflective of your book and style, not too spoilery, and preferably funny if you’ve got it.

Swag: As per above, if you’ve got it, bring it, and put it out on your signing table.

Outfit: Be awesome. It’s your freaking debut launch party. There is no such thing as too much. Take it from someone who wore a tiara.

Panels, Tours, School Visits etc.

I literally know nothing about this stuff other than what I’ve been to as a fan/spectator and what I’ve followed from other people’s. Here’s what I can tell you:

If you do this things, you will most likely be sending and financing yourself.

Yes. True thing. There are some publisher-backed events and tours, but they are very, very rare. If they happen for you, great! But do not go in expecting them. Do not expect to be reimbursed for travel or hotel. Just, don’t.

Set a limit of how much you’ll spend/how far you’ll travel on your own dime for something like a school visit. If a request goes beyond that, it’s okay to ask if they will pay, or help defray the cost, or do a Skype visit instead. You are under no obligation to spend your own money; you are under no obligation to say yes to requests that require you too. You’re actually under no obligation to do much of anything at all, unless it’s literally in your contract.

If you do do these things, keep the same stuff in mind – all the important things re: signing, swag, etc.

One huge difference between a launch party and…basically every other kind of event, is that for a launch party, I would say to do it solo. It’s your family, and friends, and pub family, and they want to see you. There’s no reason to make it about anybody else.

However, for any sort of panel or other event, especially if you’re a debut, I highly recommend bringing in 2-4 other authors, at least. It’s extremely hard to work up an audience for your average event if you don’t already have fans. So talk to other people with books similar to yours, in similar geographic areas, and work out some kind of panel. Or talk to your publicist, and tell him/her where you’ll be, when, and ask if there’s anything happening you might be able to join. Etc. Etc. So many writers have gone through the awkward situation of mainlining an event, only to have almost no one show up. At least if you’re not the only author there, you have someone to laugh about it with. But more importantly, you’re just more of a potential draw as a group.

Sooo, I think that’s it? Yeah, let’s say that’s it. And I’m sure you have questions, because I was only half coherent when I wrote this, so, bring ‘em on in the comments! 

An Unauthorized Guide to Being a Debut Author, Part II: ARCs, Swag, and Self-Promotion

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(If you’re just tuning in, you can probably tell from the title of this post that you missed something. For Part I, click here.)

OK, let’s move on, shall we? Say you get your cover and buy links, and now it’s time to promo. Let’s play a game I like to call What’s actually worth the time, effort, and stress, bearing in mind that time is just about always better spent writing your next book? Or, to make up for the stress-y section I just closed with yesterday, let’s play my favorite (PG-13) version: Bang/Marry/Kill?

Cover reveal: Bang. Do not get nearly as emotionally attached to this as you think you need to. This is probably the most overrated source of stress in debuting. It does not matter if your cover has leaked before you do an official reveal – no one cares. There are a bunch of ways in which this can happen that almost always lead back to some sort of lacking communication between Editorial and Publicity. Do not stress. If your cover gets out before your planned reveal, just bump up your reveal as early as possible and do it anyway. Not nearly as many people have already seen it as you imagine have, and even if they have, the official reveal is fun. It’s when people comment, it’s a huge bump of TBR adds, and it’s usually when you’ll do your first giveaway. (If you don’t have ARCs yet, just promise to send an ARC as soon as you have them.) Hafsah at IceyBooks has been fantastic at super fast turnarounds for those who’ve found themselves in a pinch, and she has a great audience.

Blurbs: Bang. They’re wonderful if you get them, but truth be told, plenty of fantastic books don’t have them (and some editors/imprints don’t even go for them, as a general policy), and while I think they can help sell a book, I don’t think not having them hurts.

Blog Tour: Kill. Seriously. Kill it with fire. Or at least kill the “Write a guest post for a different blog every day for a month” kind of blog tour. Interviews are great but get repetitive really quickly, so unless you really enjoy answering interview questions (which I personally do, so I did a whole bunch), I’d say to do maybe three and then chill. As for guest posts, they probably require the greatest amount of effort to the lowest possible result, and I really strongly advocate against them unless either A) You really want to write about that subject, especially if it’s relevant to your book, B) It’s something cute and simple you can do pretty easily, and/or C) It’s for an audience you never would’ve reached on your own. The guest post that had by far the best response, and to an audience that largely didn’t know me otherwise, was a simple 10 Reasons Not to Date Your BFF’s Co-Star, which I did for Hazel at Stay Bookish and never would’ve thought to do on my own.

Twitter Party: Marry. I know, right? I didn’t see that coming either. And truth be told, I didn’t do the best job at mine, because I was so paranoid that I’d annoy the hell out of everyone on my feed that I didn’t promote it nearly enough or make my answers broadly visible enough, but I still had a great time, and found some new readers through it. I was super lucky to have Rebecca at Reading Wishes offer to throw me one – I definitely wouldn’t have done it otherwise – and while it can be a little overwhelming, I also found it to be a lot of fun, a great way to interact, and it only took an hour. (Yes, I know a lot of people might be wondering WTF this even is, but this post is already super long, so if you’re one of them, just ask in the comments.)

Blog Hops/Release Day Blitzes: Bang. But not Bang because I think they’re as helpful as other Bang-y things; more because people are really nice and really like to help you promote your book as possible, and this is a nice, relatively easy way to allow them to do that and also promote themselves and be of interest to their own readers. I chose a blog hop that focused hard on the latter – if people were taking the time to create blog posts for me, I wanted them to be able to use those posts to promote themselves/their books as well – but a surprising number of people opted not to use it that way. Did this sell any books or heighten awareness? I have no idea. But I think for me, emotionally, the feeling of community and all the people who wanted to participate helped a lot with the process.

Giveaways: Marry. Giveaways are great things for drawing attention to your book, though obviously they can be severely limited by the number of ARCs you’re given by your publisher. My fellow OneFour, Maria Andreu (The Secret Side of Empty), wrote a great post on Goodreads giveaways for the blog, and though I know authors have had mixed results, I’m very pro them. Yes, they result in a lot of TBR adds, which is nice, but they also make your book/cover pop up over and over on people’s Goodreads feeds, which is never a bad thing. If the winner(s) actually like the book and review it, that’s just a great bonus, as far as I’m concerned! (Mine did not, in case you were wondering. Oh well.)

I think that covers the promo basics, so, let’s talk about that whole “ARCs” thing and what we do with them!

I have to confess something here – I have no idea WTF you’re supposed to do, as an author, with regard to sending ARCs to indies or libraries. I didn’t use any for that purpose, and maybe you’re supposed to? I have no freaking clue. Hopefully someone who knows better about this stuff will talk about that in the comments or something. So let’s talk about what else you can do (in addition to aforementioned Goodreads giveaways):

  1. Give to friends/family. This is, I gather, a rather common thing to do with them. It’s also not a thing I did. I love you, family and friends, but these are promo tools, and we get limited amounts, and let’s face it – you’re gonna talk up my book anyway. Obviously this is a personal choice, but for what it’s worth, everyone’s still speaking to me.
  2. Do giveaways on blogs. This is the first thing I did, via Heather at the Flyleaf Review. She was a great early supporter (my very first W.O.W., which is such a nice thing <3) and she did a great job with it. I’m a fan of these because when you do giveaways on your own blog or via your own Twitter, etc., you’re really just reaching your own audience; this allowed me to reach someone else’s. And in fact, the winner of this ARC was someone who probably wouldn’t have picked up the book otherwise and ended up loving it, being a wonderful supporter, and writing a great review of it on her blog, Goodreads, and Amazon, which is pretty literally the best thing you can ask for. (Thanks, Jenny! <3)
  3. Send to bloggers you particularly want to review, if your publisher won’t. Some bloggers either prioritize or only read hard copy ARCs for one reason or another. How publishers decide who does and who doesn’t get these may be a function of timing, or experience, or reach, or whatever. There were a couple of bloggers I really wanted to read BtS who strongly preferred hard copy to electronic, and that’s where two of mine went. One ended up reading and reviewing it (and it’s the best thing ever) and one didn’t. So, as with anything else, calculated risk! (I will write a post on author/blogger relations eventually, but it’s worth mentioning here that accepting an ARC is not a promise to read or review, and it’s certainly not a promise to like it. If you can’t be cool with that, don’t use your ARCs this way. But I strongly advise getting cool with it.)
  4. Do giveaways on various forms of social media. I kind of sucked at this, because I’m just not that good at non-Twitter social media, but I love the general idea. In my case, I did one on Instagram, but A) I don’t have that many followers and B) I made the mistake of not checking the hashtag I used for it first. #BtS = some sort of Korean boy band, apparently? Whoops. Still, it was fun, but if you’re gonna do it, do it smarter than I did. (I also did one on Twitter, and that worked just fine.)
  5. Send on ARC tours. If you’re in a debut group, I strongly recommend doing this. It’s been really nice having OneFour friends read and review, and Behind the Scenes has found some of its most ardent advocates that way, including several who took the time to review the book on Goodreads and even Amazon, post-release. If you’re not in a debut group, consider sending to a friend, and then asking said friend to pass it along when (s)he’s done, etc. Sort of a DIY ARC tour!

I’m pretty sure that covers everything I did, and it was all to varying levels of success, but this is, of course, only half the story. Here’s, to my knowledge, what my publisher did:

  1. Made electronic versions available on Edelweiss. I personally preferred Edelweiss to NetGalley because I think it’s more for professionals and less for casual readers, and I gave a pre-approved list to my wonderful publicist, Patrice, based on people who responded to a Tweet about it.
  2. Set up a signing for me at BEA. This was a really great experience, and it is admittedly a rare one. My publisher is great about doing these for their authors (in-booth; only one author from my publisher did it in the general autograph area), but this is not something every publisher does for every title; it’s very much a small press perk, or at least a perk of my small press :)
  3. Included ARCs in the gift bags at the author/blogger party during BEA week. I have no idea what the outcome was of this, but I do know my ARC was in maybe half the gift bags, so it certainly got out there!
  4. Sent out for trade reviews. I got a nice one from School Library Journal.
  5. Sent out for blurbs. I got great ones from two of my favorite authors, so, that was pretty cool.

Now, on to a reality that sort of sucks to say, but is important nonetheless:

There’s no telling what any author can expect from his/her publisher; promises are frequently made and broken, if they’re ever made at all. Publicists leave, and sometimes that can cause an entire publicity plan to get abandoned. Bloggers fail to post when they say they will. You might fail to write what you promised by the necessary deadline. Et cetera, et cetera. The fact is, you can build up all the expectations you want, but I’d venture to say almost no author ends up with the publicity experience being what (s)he expected, for one reason or another. Be prepared to handle yourself whatever you feel you cannot possibly live without.

And finally, one more thing that falls under the phase of post-cover, pre-release self-promotion is Swag.

I actually don’t have a ton to say about swag. (Famous last words. I’m obviously about to say a ton about swag, just because.) The fact is, it doesn’t help your sales. From a financial perspective, it will never justify its cost. If you don’t have the money for it, and your publisher isn’t providing it (I’m pretty sure most don’t. Mine provided my bookmarks, which I gather is rare; I paid for everything else), it is really, really okay to skip. Even if you can afford it, don’t spend a ton of money on it; I’d say the number one thing I’ve seen authors say they’d do differently next time (well, the number two thing, after “Spend less time writing guest posts for blog tours”) is get less swag.

So what purpose does it serve? Here’s what I’ve gotten and done with it:

Bookmarks – I’ve loved having these, because they were great to sign at BEA when I ran out of ARCs, and at my launch party for people who’d preordered the book but not received it yet, and wanted me to sign something. I also sent a bunch to an awesome friend who works at a bookstore and stuck them in comp titles. And I also sent a bunch to a friend of a friend who works in a library and uses them as prizes for a teen summer reading thing. And, every now and again, I do a giveaway for a book that isn’t mine, and I stick one in. These are really great, free uses. (I’ll get back to the other use in a minute.)

Bookplates – These are key for people whose books you can’t sign physically. I actually had to buy them for Reasons I’ll get into closer to the event I really bought them for, but truth be told, these are a little weird for paperbacks. They’re still nice to have, but I wouldn’t call them “everybody must buy” kinds of items. (Obviously these are pointless if your book is e-only. I would, however, advocate signing up for Authorgraph to anyone who’s book is coming out digitally, which, these days, I think is everyone. It’s free, both for you and for fans.)

Buttons – These were fun, and are great for in-person events, so you have something to scatter on the table and for people to take etc.

But

Here’s the thing about swag – it can be really, really pricey. What you’re paying for when you really deal with swag is:

  1. The design of the item (unless you can design your own, which I can not)
  2. The production of the item
  3. Postage to send the item

This adds up so, so fast. You cannot imagine how much will you spend on postage if you send swag to everyone who wants it, and especially not to people who want it outside your country of residence. (Not to mention when you give away actually books – postage on those can be killer, so make sure you use media mail!)

That final thing I’ve done with my swag? Sent it out to people who ask for it, both as real giveaways and in response to tweets. It costs me almost as much to send a package containing those three things as it does to buy my book at its current Kindle price. Not the amount I make from my book – the cost of my actual book. To send one package of swag, to one person, in the US. (To send one standard envelope – just a bookmark and bookplate – outside the US costs exactly half a book, or double the royalties of that book.)

My biggest piece of advice regarding swag, if you’re going to buy it and send it out reasonably liberally? Get flat swag that fits in standard envelopes – bookmarks, tattoos, whatever. If you’re in the US and can’t send it for 45 cents (which adds up quickly too, I assure you), save it for in-person events.

That isn’t to say “don’t get swag”; I love having something to send to people who are excited about my book, or can’t afford to buy it but want something, or…I don’t even care what. I just like it :) I’m just saying, don’t feel pressure, especially if money’s tight, and be careful about how you’re spending it; they’re easy costs to underestimate.

So, that’s part II! Questions? Comments? Trying to figure out how to politely tell me I talk too much? It’s all good! (Well, not really the last one, especially because there will be a part III at some point, on in-person events. GET EXCITED.)

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