Perpetual WIPs: Bookseller Edition, Part III

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If you’ve been following this blog for a few years, hopefully you’re familiar with Perpetual WIPs, a series I ran for a while with different editions that asked a bunch of industry folk a bunch of questions and posted the answers anonymously. This newest edition is a slightly altered take in two ways: 1) it’s not anonymous, and 2) instead of posting everything in groups, it’s gonna be one interview at a time. The better to soak up the valuable knowledge!

Because here is a thing I’ve noticed as an author: how to deal with booksellers and indies is something many of us are still clueless about even after years of publishing, especially if you are…shall we say…not your publicity department’s top priority. And so, I got a bunch of fabulous booksellers to help clear up the answers to the most frequently asked questions I see on the topics of their jobs and how best to work with them as authors.

If you missed the earlier posts, check ’em out here! To see a new perspective, read on and get to meet author-bookseller Emily Lloyd-Jones of Gallery Bookshop & Bookwinkle’s Children’s Books!

What kind of opportunities does your bookstore offer for discovery of new authors? (e.g. Events, “blind date,” carrying swag, etc.)

We hold events for new authors. We have a small basket for chapter samplers and we’ll put those out for customers to take. We carry all of the Indies Introduce titles. (More on that, later.)

And on a personal note, I try to read at least a few chapters of every debut ARC that comes to me. As both an author and a bookseller, I know how excruciating it can be to promote one’s self as a newbie in the industry. So I try my best to check out titles that might otherwise fly under the radar.

Preorder campaigns – what helps them actually work? 

In my experience, having an existing fanbase. We’ve run a few preorder campaigns, and the most successful ones are when an author is well-established and has very dedicated readers. Cool swag helps, but reader loyalty seems to be the key.

What tips do you have for authors who want to hold a launch party at bookstores?

Bring cookies for the booksellers. Just kidding! Sort of. Most of us do love snacks.

My advice would be the same for any author who wants to hold an event at our store: get in touch early, be polite, make sure your books are readily available to order, have a hook that will draw customers into the store—or have a huge family/friendbase that will fill seats.

Launch parties aren’t that different from regular events. If you have certain foods/drinks you want to bring, talk to the bookshop. If you have an idea of a theme or what you want to do, you can discuss that, too. Some people want more of a reading/signing and others want a party. We’re open to both.

How do/should people go about setting up panels/events at your store? Does someone at the publisher need to do it or can authors arrange them themselves? And what makes an exceptionally good event?

We’ve set up events with both publishers and with authors directly. Both have worked out well. We have an event coordinator and he’s the one to talk to if an author is interested in doing an event with us.

If there is an author who wants to do an event at our store, the key is that there’s some sort of draw for the local community. The events that do really well have presentation or entertainment built into them. We once had an author give a talk on the history of cheddar to promote his book—and we had a cheese tasting! It was a lot of fun and was very well attended.

My advice for authors looking to set up events is this: think about what will draw readers to your event. What makes your event memorable?

On the more practical side, please arrive early. Stay in contact with the event coordinator and let them know if your plans change. And please always be understanding if something goes awry—sometimes things just happen and no one can predict them. The best event authors are ones that are both flexible and cheerful.

Someone walks into the store and says, “I feel like I’ve read all the bestselling [insert your favorite genre] books but not much else; what would you recommend?” Once you’re able to breathe again, what recs do you throw at them?

My first question is, “Okay, what was the last book you truly loved?” Because YA is more of an age-range than a true genre, teens can want a book about anything from hard-boiled mystery to contemporary romance to mermaids. So I always establish what sort of book they’re actually looking for.

My current recommendations include THE BEAST IS AN ANIMAL by Peternelle van Arsdale, RAMONA BLUE by Julie Murphy, LITTLE & LION by Brandy Colbert, and THE GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE TO VICE AND VIRTUE by Mackenzi Lee.

What does your typical day look like?

This depends on the day of the week! One thing I love about being a bookseller is how variable my schedule can be. On some days, I’m in the front of the store selling books, checking out customers, and taking orders for books we don’t have on the shelf. On other days, I’m in shipping—where I receive books from publishers and distributors. Other days, it’s data-entry time and I’ll be sitting in the children’s section, working to keep our purchase orders up to date. And on other days, I’m in the back of the store with sales reps talking about which new releases I should purchase. I’m also the official cat wrangler, so if the bookshop cat needs to be taken to the vet, I’m the one that gets to haul him there.

There are a lot of tasks that go on behind the scenes to keep a store running smoothly.

If an author in your area (or at a conference) had fifteen minutes with you, what should they be asking you?

“How can I help you sell my book?”

No, really. Help us. If you have a perfect elevator pitch, tell it to us. We can use it. If your book has a local angle that we can use, let us know. If a bookseller is interested in your book, ask your publisher to ensure that we get an ARC or a comped finished copy. If you’re self-published, make sure your book is available through distribution channels.

Anything you can do to help a bookseller sell your book is wonderful!

Authors walking into your store and offering to sign stock: excellent or awful, and why?

Excellent! So long as the author is friendly and polite, I love when this happens.

My advice is to look for your own books first, to make sure they’re actually in stock. Because it’s ridiculously awkward when an author walks up and is all, “Do you have my book?” and we have to answer “No.” There can be so many reasons why we don’t have the book, and none of them are personal. Sometimes they’ve just sold out or it’s an older title that we had to return or perhaps the subject matter simply wasn’t for our store.

So, find your books on the shelf, gather them up, bring them to the front counter and politely offer to sign them. We’ll put a nice “autographed copy” sticker on the front, and everyone is happy.

What are some best practices for working with bookstores that authors and/or publicists might not think of?

If you’re a debut author, ask your publisher to submit your manuscript to Indies Introduce. Two panels of booksellers read these books to find twenty (ten adult and ten children) titles that they think are the best new voices. Publishers then offer special terms on these books for participating indie bookshops. It’s a great way for new authors to be discovered.

Also ask your publisher to send you to local bookseller association events. These are smaller than Winter Institute or Children’s Institute, but I have found many titles I wouldn’t have otherwise read at smaller events. NCIBA—the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association—holds a fall and springtime gathering so booksellers can learn from one another, talk to publisher contacts, and meet with authors. There are other organizations around the country—figure out the one your local bookshops belong to, and pitch these events to your publisher.

Get ARCs to booksellers early. Yesterday, I completed my buy for new children’s books from Penguin for next spring—and it’s October. We order months in advance, so it’s in your best interest to get booksellers copies of ARCs as soon as they’re available.

And, lastly, because I know this is getting kind of long, on your website or social media, don’t have your only purchase links go to Amazon. We see that and it’s always disheartening. If you’re able, please find a local bookshop that you can direct readers to—and if you can develop a partnership with that bookshop, all the better. If readers know to shop at a certain place because an author has signed copies or directed them to that bookshop—we notice that, too.

Turnover on the shelves: what’s your policy? How long before a new release is given the boot, and what can keep books longer than the standard shelf life?

This depends on the genre because some of our sections are smaller than others. For example, adult hardcover fiction has a much shorter shelf life than say, mystery. We have more space in mystery, so we can afford to keep books there longer. If a book sells—great! We’ll keep reordering it.

In the YA section, my usual time limit is eight months. If a book doesn’t sell a single copy for eight months, it’s usually time to return it to the publisher.

What have you noticed in terms of trends that sell, both regarding content and cover design?

Trends are impossible to predict. We’ve had books I thought would sell collect dust on the shelves. We’ve had books that I thought “never in a million years” go huge. Readers’ habits cannot be predicted. If you’re trying to write for a trend, don’t.

As for covers, they matter. I won’t lie. If they’re gorgeous, more readers will pick them up. But I have also seen terrible covers sell because they have staff recommendations attached to them or because a reader picked it up, handed it to a friend and said, “You have to read this.” Good reads tend to float to the top, regardless of their packaging.

Covers matter but the content matters more.

What store do you work at and why is it awesome?

I work at Gallery Bookshop & Bookwinkle’s Children’s Books in the historic village of Mendocino, California! We celebrated our 50th anniversary a few years back. We’re also right on the ocean, and we can whale watch from our cash register.  It’s the most beautiful view in the world.

We also have an adorably cranky bookshop cat called the Great Catsby.

*****

Emily Lloyd-Jones grew up on a vineyard in rural Oregon, where she played in evergreen forests and learned to fear sheep. When she was twelve, her cousin gave her a copy of Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain Chronicles and triggered her lifelong addiction to genre fiction. She went on to read all the usual suspects (Tolkien, Lewis, McCaffrey etc). When she wasn’t immersing herself in someone else’s fantastical world, she was usually creating her own.

After graduating from Western Oregon University with an English degree, she loaded up her car, wrestled her cat into a pet carrier, and drove across the U.S. to Philadelphia. She enrolled in the publishing program at Rosemont College but spent far too much time in coffee shops working on a novel when she probably should’ve been writing her thesis. Once she managed to finish both, she again packed up her car (and a very disgruntled cat), and drove back to the west coast.

She currently resides in Northern California, where she works as a bookseller/children’s buyer for an independent bookshop. There’s a lot of coffee involved. When not selling books, she’s busy writing them. She is represented by Josh Adams of Adams Literary.

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Perpetual WIPs: Bookseller Edition, Part II

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If you’ve been following this blog for a few years, hopefully you’re familiar with Perpetual WIPs, a series I ran for a while with different editions that asked a bunch of industry folk a bunch of questions and posted the answers anonymously. This newest edition is a slightly altered take in two ways: 1) it’s not anonymous, and 2) instead of posting everything in groups, it’s gonna be one interview at a time. The better to soak up the valuable knowledge!

Because here is a thing I’ve noticed as an author: how to deal with booksellers and indies is something many of us are still clueless about even after years of publishing, especially if you are…shall we say…not your publicity department’s top priority. And so, I got a bunch of fabulous booksellers to help clear up the answers to the most frequently asked questions I see on the topics of their jobs and how best to work with them as authors.

If you missed the first installment, check it out here! If you’re ready for another POV, read on to meet the wonderful Suzanna Hermans of Oblong Books in Rhinebeck, NY!

Preorder campaigns – what helps them actually work? 

A very strong social media following is key. I’d suggest working with your local bookstore to offer personalized, signed books. Make sure they can accept web orders – that’s essential! (and always link to them anywhere you’re linking to your book!)

What tips do you have for authors who want to hold a launch party at bookstores?

Choose a store that is hyper-local to your home base of friends & family. If you’re a debut, no one knows you – it’s up to you to bring a crowd. The bookstore will of course promote your event to their customers, but many stores host hundreds of events a year and competition for people’s time is fierce. Also, it’s *really* important to remind your friends that they need to buy a book at the event or pre-order it through the hosting bookstore. Nothing is more of a bummer than for a store to host a launch and have people walk in with books having bought them online.

How do/should people go about setting up panels/events at your store? Does someone at the publisher need to do it or can authors arrange them themselves? And what makes an exceptionally good event?

Both! All events need to go through the publisher’s publicity departments eventually, but I’m not opposed to well-organized author-arranged tour pitches. Keep in mind that books from all panelists need to be new and readily available from an established publisher. Exceptionally good events are ones where a reasonable number of people attend (20+), we sell a good number of books, and everyone (audience, authors) goes home happy.

Someone walks into the store and says, “I feel like I’ve read all the bestselling [insert your favorite genre] books but not much else; what would you recommend?” Once you’re able to breathe again, what recs do you throw at them?

Ooooof. So many books! On the MG/YA side I’d recommend Caela Carter’s Forever or a Long, Long Time & Nina LaCour’s We Are Okay. On the adult side I’d say Jennifer Egan’s Manhattan Beach & Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich’s The Fact of a Body.

What does your typical day look like?

As co-owner and the buyer for both our stores, most of my day revolves around ordering: restocking books that have sold, meeting with publishers’ reps & ordering the next season’s frontlist, and deciding what books to return. I also buy much of the non-book product we sell in our stores: toys, games, gift items, and more. In addition to that I host many of our store’s events, in-store and offsite, and help organize the back-end office that keeps our stores running.

If an author in your area (or at a conference) had fifteen minutes with you, what should they be asking you?

How can we work together to sell more books?

Authors walking into your store and offering to sign stock: excellent or awful, and why?

This depends! I always prefer an author to give me notice (and ask permission) if they’d like to sign stock. A minimum of two weeks notice is ideal so we have time to order in a few extra copies of your book. And a bookstore might graciously decline if they don’t think your book is right for their customer base. Of course, if you’re just browsing in a bookstore and see your book – ask to sign it!

What are some best practices for working with bookstores that authors and/or publicists might not think of?

Be patient with us and remember that we’re working with a lot of other authors as well. We want to sell your books, but we also have a lot of other work on our plates.

Turnover on the shelves: what’s your policy? How long before a new release is given the boot, and what can keep books longer than the standard shelf life?

Totally depends on the book, but I’d say for a new hardcover I give it at least 5-6 months before it’s returned for not selling. Paperbacks get a little longer, and some books on niche topics might get a year or so before I give them the boot.

What have you noticed in terms of trends that sell, both regarding content and cover design?

 Oh man, trends are tricky. We saw a huge female-driven crime trend around Gone Girl  and Girl on the Train, but now that category is so over-published it’s hard to tell what is good and what just has a good cover. I’m not sure what’s coming up next. And in YA contemp was really having a moment and is still selling a little better that SF/F, but it’s not as dominant as it has been in recent years. As far as covers – I don’t really notice trends there. I just notice whether a cover is good or not!

 What store do you work at and why is it awesome?

Oblong Books & Music in Millerton & Rhinebeck, NY. I think we’re awesome because we care deeply about our community and the books we sell. Our staff is made up of passionate readers who excel at customer service. We’ve been around for 42 years (it’s my family business) and plan to be hear for generations to come.

*****

Suzanna HermansSuzanna Hermans is a second generation bookseller and co-owner of Oblong Books and Music in Millerton and Rhinebeck, NY. She is a past president of the New England Independent Booksellers Association and recently served on the Advisory Council of the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression. She has also served on the American Booksellers Association’s Advisory Council, as well as their Children’s Advisory Council and New Voices Committee. In 2017 she is a judge for the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature.

Perpetual WIPs: Booksellers Edition!

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If you’ve been following this blog for a few years, hopefully you’re familiar with Perpetual WIPs, a series I ran for a while with different editions that asked a bunch of industry folk a bunch of questions and posted the answers anonymously. This newest edition is a slightly altered take in two ways: 1) it’s not anonymous, and 2) instead of posting everything in groups, it’s gonna be one interview at a time. The better to soak up the valuable knowledge!

Because here is a thing I’ve noticed as an author: how to deal with booksellers and indies is something many of us are still clueless about even after years of publishing, especially if you are…shall we say…not your publicity department’s top priority. And so, I got a bunch of fabulous booksellers to help clear up the answers to the most frequently asked questions I see on the topics of their jobs and how best to work with them as authors.

To kick off the series, please welcome the lovely Lelia of One More Page in Arlington, VA!

What kind of opportunities does your bookstore offer for discovery of new authors? (e.g. Events, “blind date,” carrying swag, etc.)

We do events with new authors, although it’s hard because our network and promotion alone aren’t always enough to get a crowd in for an event. Often we rely on authors to push an event since they have the direct line to their readers via social media and other avenues. The best opportunity for new authors is usually a panel featuring one or two seasoned authors with a new or debut author. The more authors, the bigger the draw, and it’s a great way for attendees to discover a new author.

Preorder campaigns – what helps them actually work?

At our store, we’ve really only done preorder campaigns with YA authors, but many of them have been very successful. From what I’ve seen, the biggest factor has been exclusive swag offered to people who preorder the book. I’ve seen authors give out pins, prints, quote cards from their books, temporary tattoos, and more fun things to entice people to order books in advance. This in conjunction with social media promotion is the recipe for success, I believe.

What tips do you have for authors who want to hold a launch party at bookstores?

Launch parties are great because it’s the first event (generally), so your network of people is fresh and ready to come out and show their support. Make sure you tell a bookstore that you can bring in a crowd, and then reach out to all your groups to make sure they know about the launch event. I know it can be hard, especially for new authors, to promote themselves without feeling like they’re bragging, but I think most people–whether it’s coworkers, family, friends, or fellow authors–are eager to buy your book and celebrate with you. Snacks or sweets are good to create the party atmosphere, and some authors like to decorate if their book has a certain thematic element. I can’t speak for other bookstores, but I know we’re always happy to accommodate food, drinks, or other unique elements for a launch party. And if you have questions, or you’re not sure what kind of setup you want, don’t hesitate to ask the bookstore. I always check in to see what kind of vision an author has for their launch. It’s your special day! We just want to help make it great.

How do/should people go about setting up panels/events at your store? Does someone at the publisher need to do it or can authors arrange them themselves? And what makes an exceptionally good event?

I’d say about half of our events are set up by authors themselves. Publicists are overworked a lot of the time, so if you as an author want to reach out, there’s nothing wrong with that. I tell authors it’s good to loop in their publicists if they set something up themselves, just because it prevents any miscommunications or double-booking potential. If you want to do a panel and you know some authors in the area who are game, great! But don’t worry if you don’t have any co-authors lined up. Most bookstores have enough local author connections that they can try and set something up if you’re looking to fill out a panel. In terms of quality of event, I sound like a broken record, but promotion, promotion, promotion. Tweet about it, mention it in your newsletter, make sure it’s on your event page on your website. If there’s a local Facebook group of YA authors/readers, try and post about the event there. If you’re doing a panel, I’d recommend reaching out to everyone beforehand with a game plan so everyone is on the same page. The best part of panels is the dynamic between the authors. If you’re an introvert, just remember that most likely a large part of the audience is, too. And as weird as it feels to talk about yourself and your book in front of strangers, they’re so interested and want to hear what you have to say! When in doubt, just try to remember what weird things you had to Google during the writing process.

Someone walks into the store and says, “I feel like I’ve read all the bestselling [insert your favorite genre] books but not much else; what would you recommend?” Once you’re able to breathe again, what recs do you throw at them?

Okay, I’ll try to streamline this instead of writing six pages… Wild Swans by Jessica Spotswood; Hope and Red by Jon Skovron; My Lady Jane by Jodi Meadows, Brodi Ashton, and Cynthia Hand; An Infinite Number of Parallel Universes by Randy Ribay; and Monsters: A Love Story by Liz Kay (after I’ve felt out whether said reader doesn’t mind their fiction with some teeth).

What does your typical day look like?

I start by reordering the books we sold the previous day, and then seeing to any crucial emails. I also try to skim PW, ShelfAwareness, and Twitter for any important headlines. Our shipments from UPS usually come around 11, so I’ll start receiving those into the system and shelving those books, or calling anyone who may have special ordered a book. Once in a while I remember to update our calendar handouts and book club flyers. In between all that, hopefully I have time to order books for upcoming events and, of course, help any customers who may actually want to purchase a book. (These interactions range from, “I head about it on NPR two weeks ago and don’t know what it’s called…” to, “I met Louise Penny once at a book signing and she was so nice!”) The life of a bookseller is never dull!

If an author in your area (or at a conference) had fifteen minutes with you, what should they be asking you?

Oh wow… I’m trying to think of this from the point of view of an author. I would say, “What are you reading?” is always a good opener, but don’t hesitate to ask questions like, “What makes a good event?” or, “What’s the best in-store event you’ve ever done?” Or even, “How do you handsell a book?”

Authors walking into your store and offering to sign stock: excellent or awful, and why?

Here’s the thing: if we have a copy of an author’s book, I am always happy to have them sign it. We’re a small store, so the odds aren’t always in our favor, and if they ask about it, and we don’t have their book, I feel terrible. But if you’re in the store and happen to see that your book is on the shelf, I say go for it! I mean, after asking permission.

What are some best practices for working with bookstores that authors and/or publicists might not think of?

The one thing that comes to mind that can be an issue is self-published or small press authors. There are a lot of ins and outs that people on the non-retail side don’t fully understand, and it can make things tricky. We’re a small bookstore, and we desperately want to help support small presses, but it’s not always easy. Small presses often don’t have the luxury of offering discounts as high as big publishers, and that’s hard for us since the margin on books is already so small. Plus, we can’t open an account with every small press, because the paperwork alone would take time and resources we don’t have, and ordering from a distributor (the major ones are Ingram and Baker & Taylor) gives a lower discount, plus the books aren’t returnable, so we can’t send back any copies not sold at the event. Publicists and authors will tell me, “The book is available from Ingram and it’s returnable, so why don’t you order some copies!” But even when a book is listed as “returnable,” there’s still a restocking fee and return shipping, which means we lose money on any copies we ship back to the distributor. This happens with self-published authors, too. Our policy is to ask authors to bring their own books in cases like this (which I usually feel mildly guilty about), and split the profits (60/40–with 60% to the author). I wish it was easier to stock small press and self-published authors, but it’s a tough industry. I find that being open about these details is usually the best way to make sure both sides understand each other and can work out the ideal scenario for everyone.

Turnover on the shelves: what’s your policy? How long before a new release is given the boot, and what can keep books longer than the standard shelf life?

My rule of thumb is about 9 months on the shelf without selling before we pull it to return, but it can be up to a year sometimes. Exceptions to that are any local authors’ books when I know we’re going to do another event with them at some point in the future. If you want to stay on the shelf longer, try to find a staff member who will champion it. (Of course, that assumes that you can convince a bookseller with a TBR pile the size of the Tower of Pisa to read your book.) Also, if you’re local and want to use a bookstore as your hub for signed copies, you can post on your website and send readers there to buy books.

What have you noticed in terms of trends that sell, both regarding content and cover design?

I think books that are sort of hard to define by one genre are doing well, but that could be wishful thinking because I love books like that. If it’s one part time travel, one part historical fiction, and one part lesbian love story, you just have to find someone who likes one of those things who’s willing to take a leap on the others. In terms of covers…big, bold text with a cool background design (think broken glass on a Louise Penny cover, or brick, or flames) are doing well, at least in some genres. Minimalist cartoon graphics have been coming up a lot since Where’d You Go Bernadette, I think. (See: China Rich Girlfriend and Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine.)

What store do you work at and why is it awesome?

I work at One More Page Books in Arlington, Virginia! We’re awesome because…we sell chocolate? (We usually give a bar to authors as a thank-you gift after an event.) And we have a pretty good sense of humor. I like to say we take books, wine, and chocolate more seriously than we take ourselves. Also, we have a cardboard cutout of Barack Obama since he shopped here once.

*****

Lelia is the book buyer and YA event coordinator at One More Page Books in Arlington, Virginia, where she is also part of the planning team for the NoVa TEEN Book Festival. Among her professional achievements, she has acted as traffic cone to save a parking spot for Maggie Stiefvater’s Camaro, and she has met David Levithan three times without crying in front of him. She delights in the thrill of trying to pair each reader with the perfect book.

TBR Bingo!

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Hey, all! I had a fun idea that I shared on Twitter today and figure I may as well share here too! It’s a way to finally get yourself to read alllllll those books that stack up in your house (or on your e-reader) that you legitimately do wanna read, but just can’t seem to make the time for…even though you’re suddenly buying fourteen other books.

Basically:

  1. Create a bingo card, which you can easily do here, filled with books you already own and absolutely want to read: https://t.co/9d5RjK1zOG (doesn’t need to be 5×5, either; they have options for smaller ones!)
  2. Every time you see one of those books mentioned on social media, or spot it on a shelf, or whatever, READ IT. Then cross it off like you would on any other bingo card.
  3. Note: if you realize there’s one you’re not seeing anywhere, go ahead and read it anyway – this is how you know it especially needs love! Then you can be the person mentioning it!
  4. As soon as you get bingo, treat yourself to a new book or an ARC read or whatever your usual vice is that prevents you from reading what you already own!

And to make sure you hold me to doing this too, here’s my card!

(Yeah, I know, I can’t believe I haven’t read any of those either.)

Interested in participating? Share your card and/or follow along with other people’s at #TBRbingo!

How is it August??

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My my, it’s been a while, but hello out there to all those who still read this blog, and thank you for doing so! As you may have noticed, I’ve been up to my elbows in blog posts for LGBTQReads and the Barnes & Noble Teen Blog, and I’ve also been busy with this little guy:

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Yep! For those who may have missed it, I had a baby in May, and somehow the entire summer flew and now he’s this big boy and I’m going back to work in…two days. Oh God.

So, admittedly, not a lot of writing has happened in…a while. But there is some bookish stuff going on, so, check it out!

  1. Behind the Scenes and Under the Lights are both on sale this month for $1.99! Please consider sharing the sale, buying, gifting, whatever you can do to help support these books, especially the supergay one. You can find them both here: http://amzn.to/2uWg24J but if you’re buying today (August 2), using this link for Under the Lights would be awesome! http://ebookdaily.com/bargain-kindle-books/2017-08-02/B00X3ODI90Ebookdaily125

2. Out on Good Behavior is on sale too! Just .99 at all retailers!

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Amazon USB&N | iBooks | Smashwords |  Kobo | Amazon UK

3. The next anthology I’ll be appearing in, All Out, is up for preorder! You can see what it’s all about at Amazon or B&N! (And if you know me, you can probably figure out which story mentioned in the cover copy is mine!) And of course, you can see it has an official release date of February 27, 2018!

4. The anthology I’ll appearing in after that is up for preorder too, and the gorgeous cover was just released by USA Today! Check out this beauty!

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Preorder here: Amazon | B & N (Note release date: March 13, 2018!)

So, that’s what’s up over here – hope you enjoy whatever you may buy/borrow/read, and enjoy the rest of the summer! (Or winter, for those on the other side of the equator!)

Your First Chapter is a Promise to Your Reader: Great Opening Pages in Diverse YA, by Eric Smith)

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The fabulous #DVPit pitch contest for marginalized writers is back, and I’m excited to be hosting this fabulous guest post by agent/author/blogger extraordinaire to help kick it off! Eric’s words are better than my words, so I’m gonna let him take over now to discuss some examples of killer opening pages in diverse YA! (And thank you, of course, to Beth Phelan, mother of #DVPit, for putting this all together!)

Your First Chapter is a Promise to Your Reader: Great Opening Pages in Diverse YA

When it comes to pitch contests on the ol’ social media, and pitching / getting requests from agents in general, a lot of time you’re going to be asked for the first few pages of your manuscript. Maybe a couple of chapters. Hell, some agents are going to want you to paste those first pages in an email.

Chances are, if you’re a querying writer, you’ve already polished these opening pages to perfection, pouring over them again and again.

Which is great, but before I dig into talking about opening pages… make sure the rest of your manuscript is as polished as those early chapters.

Done? Okay. Let’s continue.

Now, everything I’m about to prattle on about here is subjective. Remember that, writers. When it comes to pitching agents and editors, sometimes it isn’t about how good your book is. Sometimes it’s about taste. What that particular agent or editor enjoys reading. So make sure you’re taking your time when doing your research, and don’t take it personally when something just doesn’t gel.

In my opinion though, a great set of first pages, a great first chapter, is one thing and one thing only.

A first chapter is a promise between a book and the reader.

Are you getting ready to read a fantasy novel and explore a lush, imagined world? Is this a contemporary YA, packed full of swoons? Are we going to be scared? Thrilled? Challenged? Those first pages tell your reader what they are in for, and promises them that they can look forward to more in the chapters ahead.

Don’t break your promise.

And no, an unreliable narrator isn’t an example of breaking a promise, friends. You can usually tell when a narrator is messing with you early on. And even if you can’t, you’re promising more than just a tricky storyteller. There’s the world. The people around your character. The tone. The voice. The stakes.

You should be able to establish that in the first chapter. And then, you should be able to keep your promise.

Let’s have a look at a few fantastic examples of diverse YA reads with kick ass opening pages.

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Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina

YAQUI

“Yaqui Delgado wants to kick your ass.”

A kid named Vanesa tells me this in the morning before school. She springs out with no warning and blocks my way, her textbook held at her chest like a shield…

I had a hard time finding an excerpt of Meg Medina’s extraordinary book anywhere to paste here, and I’m not about to type up the entire first page (because copyrights), but you can read the sample first chapter on Barnes & Noble here.

What you’ll find here, is that the opening to this book hits you with the conflict immediately. Not only that, you’re instantly hit with the tone of the book.

In these few pages, we learn who Piddy is. Her family. Why this Yaqui thinks of her the way she does. We meet some of her friends. The setting is immediately set, the stakes are immediately dished out, and readers are ready to keep going.

The takeaway? If you can, hit readers with the stakes right away.

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The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig

GIRL FROM

It was the kind of August day that hinted at monsoons, and the year was 1774, though not for every much longer. I was in the crowded bazaar of a nearly historical version of Calcutta, where my father had abandoned me.

He hadn’t abandoned me for good—not yet. He’d only gone back to the ship to make ready for the next leg of the journey: twentieth-century New York City. It was at our final destination, however, where he hoped to unmake the mistakes of his past.

Mistakes like me, perhaps.

You can read the full excerpt over on HarperCollins’ official website, but right there, those first few paragraphs, sets the scene for Heidi Heilig’s fantasy novel so, so well.

Boom. In two paragraphs, we learn that we’re in a time travel novel. That we’re in some extraordinary circumstances. And that there is some serious family drama going on. As you read further into the first chapter, you understand immediately what’s at the heart of Heilig’s story… a father who wants to save his wife in the past, the result of which may wipe his daughter from existence.

The takeaway? Establish your genre right away. The world, a place where time travel exists, is presented instantly. And like Medina’s book, the stakes are right there.

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The Secret of a Heart Note by Stacey Lee

SECRET

“BEWARE, YE AROMATEUR; LAY YOUR TRAPS OF LOVE,

BUT DO NOT YOURSELF GET CAUGHT.”

Larkspur, Aromateur, 1698

MOST PEOPLE DON’T know that heartache smells like blueberries. It’s not the only scene, but it’s the main one, and if someone comes to us smelling like blueberry pie, Mother and I turn them away. The heartbroken need time to heal before we can work our magic.

You can read a whole sample of Stacey’s novel over on HarperCollins’ website, here.

There is just so much to digest from that single paragraph right there, but immediately, we know we’re in a world where smell and love are intertwined. In fact, at the end of the first chapter, she wraps it up with “love witches can’t fall in love” and explains the rest of that quote up top.

That if she falls in love, she’ll lose her gifts.

Right away, we know what’s at stake, and what we’re going to see through the novel. Magic. Potions. Elixirs. A challenging choice between one world and another. And if you haven’t read Lee’s beautiful book, let me tell you. She keeps that promise, friends.

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Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova

LABYRINTH

Follow our voices, sister.

Tell us the secret of your death.

Resurrection Canto, Book of Cantos

The second time I saw my dead aunt Rosaria, she was dancing.

Earlier that day, my mom hand warned me, pressing a long, red fingernail on the tip of my nose, “Alejandra, don’t go downstairs when the Circle arrives.”

You can read more of the first chapter over on Barnes & Noble’s website, here.

Right away, you know you’re in for something magical and dark when you step into Cordova’s world in Labyrinth Lost. The first few paragraphs sets the scene, and as the chapter moves forward, we see the brujas and brujos dancing to heavy music, as Alejandra’s deceased aunt seems to reanimate. She’s scolded for interrupting the ritual… and this is all within the first few pages. We are fully immersed, and totally gripped.

Zoraida wastes no time making her promise. And neither should you.

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Now, I’ve only dished out four examples of awesome openings that make their promise immediately, with authors who throw you into their world quickly, dishing out stakes and characters right away.

What are some of YOUR favorite examples, readers? Share, and help your fellow query-ers.

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against wallEric Smith is an author, blogger, and literary agent currently residing in Richmond. His books include The Geek’s Guide to Dating (Quirk, 2013) and the Inked duology (Bloomsbury). He’s the editor of the upcoming adoption-themed anthology, Welcome Home, due out with Flux in September. He can be found on Twitter at @ericsmithrocks. Learn more about his books and what he does via his website, www.ericsmithrocks.com.

Librarian/Teacher Wishlists

Wanna help out schools and libraries in financial need? Here are the wishlists of teachers and/or librarians who could seriously use your help! (Wanna submit yours? Email it to me with your address or tweet it at me and email me your address!)

While these are Amazon wishlists, which means you can easily buy books and have them shipped directly, note that you can also just ship the actual books (or ARCs, where noted) – just click the link that you bought it somewhere else and follow the instructions. (You can email me for the address.) So, whether you’d like to make your donation with money or with hardcopies, you can easily do both this way!

https://www.amazon.com/gp/registry/wishlist/34GNYFOPKC06B/ref=nav_wishlist_lists_2 (ARCs okay too!)

https://www.amazon.com/registry/wishlist/1YY370FPD5YUI/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_ws_x_pwNHyb7YGAP5X … (ARCs okay too!)

https://www.amazon.com/registry/wishlist/Y3GZVNYH821Y/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_ip_wl_o_tO-szbNC5RJ4P (ARCs okay too!)

https://www.amazon.com/hz/wishlist/ls/1NIPPOJPZJQUG?type=wishlist&filter=unpurchased&sort=default     amazon.com/hz/wishlist/ls…   

#AuthorLifeMonth Returns!

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Hey, remember this?

It’s back, beginning February 1st!

2016 End of Year Book Survey

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year, thanks to the lovely Jamie of Perpetual Page Turner! I live for this Annual End of Year Survey, even though it hurts my soul to have to narrow down responses.

These are always a little weird for me to do because writing the preview posts for B&N means that I read a lot of books far in advance – my reading schedule isn’t like most other book bloggers’ – and being an author means I might’ve beta read books two years before they come out. So, I’m sticking to books that were published in 2016 and that I read in 2016 (except where noted)!

2016 Reading Stats

Number Of Books You Read: 185 (As of 12/9)
Number of Re-Reads: Ain’t nobody got time for that
Genre You Read The Most From: Contemporary YA

  1. Best Book You Read in 2016:

Clearly I am going to employ the breakdown option:

2. Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?

Weirdly, while I absolutely loved Six of Crows and The Wrath and the Dawn – like all-time top five fave fantasies loved – their sequels didn’t do anything for me. And I know they were good sequels; I think I’m just way more of a standalone person when it comes to fantasy. A thousand percent a case of It’s not you, it’s me, and I am very glad to see how alone I am on that front.

 3. Most surprising (in a good way or bad way) book you read?  

Cherry by Lindsey Rosin – not only was this a super fun read, but it wasn’t heteronormative! Which, in fairness, wasn’t a huge surprise when I read it because Christina told me it wasn’t, which is what shoved it to the top of my TBR, but still. I also don’t know what I was thinking going into Girl Mans Up, but I definitely didn’t think I was gonna love it, so that was a delightful surprise and I am very psyched about that Morris nom!

 4. Book You “Pushed” The Most People To Read (And They Did)?

I asked Twitter, and apparently it’s between Cherry by Lindsey Rosin, The Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrutskie, and This Song is (Not) For You by Laura Nowlin.

 5. Best series you started in 2016? Best Sequel of 2016? Best Series Ender of 2016?

Series Started: YA: The Conqueror’s Saga; Romance: Five Boroughs by Santino Hassell and Cyberlove by Megan Erickson and Santino Hassell

Sequel: The Long Game by Jennifer Lynn Barnes (YA) (and very much Map of Fates by Maggie Hall, which I read in 2015)

Companion: Break Me Like a Promise by Tiffany Schmidt (YA) and Love on the Ledge by Zoraida Cordova (NA)

Series Ender: The Ends of the World by Maggie Hall (Yeah, that’s a 2017, but so it goes)

 6. Favorite new author you discovered in 2016?

Santino Hassell

7. Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/was out of your comfort zone?

Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge by Paul Krueger – I am not remotely an Urban Fantasy person but I thought this was a lot of fun, full of great representation, and it has drink recipes!

 8. Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year?

I often read books in one shot so this is always hard for me to gauge, but I feel like I remember being really bitter at having to put down The Abyss Surrounds Us at work.

 9. Book You Read In 2016 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year?

This Adventure Ends by Emma Mills

10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2016?

19370304

11. Most memorable character of 2016?

Lada from And I Darken by Kiersten White

 12. Most beautifully written book read in 2016?

When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore. Honestly, in any given year she writes a book, that book’s gonna be the answer. So to be fair, I’ll add another: The First Time She Drowned by Kerry Kletter.

13. Most Thought-Provoking/ Life-Changing Book of 2016?

Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera

 14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2016 to finally read? 

How to Repair a Mechanical Heart by JC Lillis. That’s one of my favorite LGBTQIAP YAs of all time now and people were talking about its greatness for SO LONG, but I was too lazy to pick it up for NO GOOD REASON.

 15. Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2016?

 “On our wedding night,” she said, “I will cut out your tongue and swallow it. Then both tongues that spoke our marriage vows will belong to me, and I will be wed only to myself. You will most likely choke to death on your own blood, which will be unfortunate, but I will be both husband and wife and therefore not a widow to be pitied.”  (Kiersten White, And I Darken)

16.Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2016?

Under Threat by Robin Stevenson (144 pp)
Crooked Kingdom
by Leigh Bardugo (536 pp)

 17. Book That Shocked You The Most

Never Missing, Never Found by Amanda Panitch. She is goooood at twisty psych thrillers.

18. OTP OF THE YEAR (you will go down with this ship!)

Avery and [redacted] from It’s Not Me, It’s You

19. Favorite Non-Romantic Relationship Of The Year

Frances and Aled from Radio Silence by Alice Oseman

20. Favorite Book You Read in 2016 From An Author You’ve Read Previously

Outrun the Moon by Stacey Lee

21. Best Book You Read In 2015 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else/Peer Pressure:

How to Repair a Mechanical Heart by JC Lillis, which thank God Becky Albertalli finally got me to read. Should also mentioned that I would never have picked up This Song is (Not) For You by Laura Nowlin if not for Rachel G. telling me it had an ace MC.

22. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2016?

I feel like this should be easy, and yet? I’ll go with Stellan here, because I’d been firmly Team Jack in The Conspiracy of Us and then somehow Map of Fates turned me.

23. Best 2016 debut you read?

Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow (Runner up: Last Seen Leaving by Caleb Roehrig)

24. Best Worldbuilding/Most Vivid Setting You Read This Year?

I mean, Leigh Bardugo’s pretty unbeatable here, right? Ketterdam 4eva. (Runner up: Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova)

25. Book That Put A Smile On Your Face/Was The Most FUN To Read?

It’s Not Me, It’s You by Stephanie Kate Strohm

26. Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2016?

A World Without You by Beth Revis – full-on hysterical crying fit. Nina LaCour’s 2017 We Are Okay did the same. Phantom Limbs by Paula Garner was a slightly more human level of crying.

27. Hidden Gem Of The Year?

Up to this Pointe by Jennifer Longo

28. Book That Crushed Your Soul?

Well, I read it in…2014, maybe? But This is Where it Ends by Marieke Nijkamp 4eva.

29. Most Unique Book You Read In 2016?

I guess that would be When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore? I just do not see anyone who writes like her, and the representation and imagination and imagery in that book are all just stunning. I feel like “unique” should be something that works with format in a cool way, but this was the only book I could settle on that felt right.

30. Book That Made You The Most Mad (doesn’t necessarily mean you didn’t like it)?

Asking For it by Louise O’Neill, and no, it definitely doesn’t mean I didn’t like it.

1. New favorite book blog you discovered in 2016?

Queer Lit on my Mind, which isn’t exactly a book blog but it’s a (now-) friend’s Tumblr on which they post some of the most thoughtful and interesting reviews of LGBTQIAP books I’ve ever read.

2. Favorite review that you wrote in 2016?

Victimhood and Survival Get a New Perspective in E.K. Johnston’s Exit, Pursued By a Bear (on B&N Teen Blog)

3. Best discussion/non-review post you had on your blog?

What We Aren’t Talking About When We Talk About Feminism in YA

4. Best event that you participated in (author signings, festivals, virtual events, memes, etc.)?

I vacillate on whether or not I’ll do it again, but I’m really, really proud of #AuthorLifeMonth and how many authors it brought out of their shells on Instagram, and especially how many people said things like “I’ve never realized how much I’ve accomplished before.” Those two things were exactly the point, and I love that it worked.

5. Best moment of bookish/blogging life in 2016?

Starting LGBTQReads. The love that site received upon launch was wonderful, and it still gets so much interaction every day. The messages I get on Tumblr in particular are so freaking wonderful, and it’s been amazing to help people find the books they need and to be a source for authors to promote stuff they’d ordinarily have trouble finding a place to do so.

7. Most Popular Post This Year On Your Blog (whether it be by comments or views)?

The post introducing #AuthorLifeMonth!

8. Post You Wished Got A Little More Love?

I’m actually pleasantly surprised with the viewership on this blog, considering how infrequently I post on it these days. But I want more people to play Choices and interact with this interview!

9. Best bookish discovery (book related sites, book stores, etc.)?

I haven’t even been to The Ripped Bodice yet (fingers crossed for February!) but it is EVERYTHING. They did host me for a Skype chat one month when they chose Out on Good Behavior for their book club and that was amazing ❤

10.  Did you complete any reading challenges or goals that you had set for yourself at the beginning of this year?

Yep! Goodreads challenge was 175 books and I completed that, and goal was to finally set up LGBTQReads and I did that.

looking-ahead-books-2015

1. One Book You Didn’t Get To In 2016 But Will Be Your Number 1 Priority in 2017?

I really wanted to read The Reader by Traci Chee, Bound by Blood and Sand by Becky Allen, and Mirror in the Sky by Aditi Khorana, and own all of them, so hopefully I’ll get to them early next year! Also still haven’t read Wonders of the Invisible World by Christopher Barzak, which was my answer for this question last year, so that’s just embarrassing.

2. Book You Are Most Anticipating For 2017 (non-debut)?

Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert. I freaking loved Pointe and this character is bi and Jewish, so, no-brainer!

3. 2017 Debut You Are Most Anticipating?

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas and It’s Not Like It’s a Secret by Misa Sugiura. (Does Katherine Locke count as a debut despite having two Romances out already? Because if so, The Girl With the Red Balloon for the motherfluffin’ win.)

 4. Series Ending/A Sequel You Are Most Anticipating in 2017?

Series Ending: The Savage Dawn by Melissa Grey
Sequel: Now I Rise by Kiersten White

5. One Thing You Hope To Accomplish Or Do In Your Reading/Blogging Life In 2017?

Honestly? Focus on it less. Looking forward to my personal life taking far more precedence in 2017.

6. A 2017 Release You’ve Already Read & Recommend To Everyone:

Uhhh there are a lot of these, so I’ll just mention the five I’ve blurbed: How to Make a Wish by Ashley Herring Blake, Our Own Private Universe by Robin Talley, Whenever I’m With You by Lydia Sharp, The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee, and Geekerella by Ash Poston! (Yes, I know that’s a lot to blurb in one year but there was just no saying no to books I wanted to read that badly and then adored!)

That’s my year! How was yours?

Ten Books I’ve Added To My TBR Lately

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Happy Top Ten Tuesday, courtesy of the Broke and the Bookish! Today’s topic is completely self-explanatory, so, voila!

29331371Prom Queen Perfect by Clarisse David – because Sue compared it to Gossip Girl in this post and that’s really all I need to know

Two Naomis by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovitch and Audrey Vernick – I don’t usually read MG but this one looks super cute, and I like to have books on hand about Real Things to recommend to my friends for their kids. Knowing a good MG to rec for kids of divorce seems like a good thing!

The Opposite of Here by Tara Altebrando – I still have to read The Leaving, but I’m a big enough fan of Altebrando’s other stuff that any of her contemp YA goes onto my TBR automatically

Birthday by Meredith Russo – I was such a fan of If I Was Your Girl, whatever Russo did next was obviously gonna be an instaread, even if it falls outside my category of preference

Certainly, Possibly, You by Lissa Reed – Really enjoyed the first book in this series, and bought this one about halfway through it. I’m writing this post over a week in advance and honestly I’ll probably have read this by the time it posts. (Update: yup)30199421

Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo – Oh come on

See All the Stars by Kit Frick – Kit’s always been an awesome supporter of YA, and her debut sounds seriously excellent

The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert – This was obviously an auto-add seeing as Melissa is my fabulous editor at the B&N Teen Blog, but I’ve also heard this book is amaaaazing from her CPs, and knowing how many agents were vying for it and how quickly it sold…yeah, I’ve got good feelings

These Ruthless Deeds by Tarun Shanker and Kelly Zekas – recently read and realllllly liked These Vicious Masks by this duo, so obviously I need the sequel!

By Your Side by Kasie West – insta-add, always

What have you recently added to your TBR?