So You Want to Edit a YA Anthology?

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Anyone who’s edited a YA anthology since the recent boom began knows it’s pretty impossible to go at the proposal stage alone. I myself have talked a bunch of editors through it, and in order to do that, I had to be talked through it by some other fabulous and more experienced editors. (Thanks, Jess, Saundra, Marieke, and Katie!) And since this is an email I get every couple of months, I figured why not just make it easier on everyone (not that I’m not happy to answer questions!) and lay it out in a blog post?

So you want to edit a YA anthology! Let’s lay out the groundwork of what you need, first things first:

  1. The premise
  2. The lineup

The premise:

This is generally based on a theme, identity, genre, or some combination of the aforementioned. To take a look at a few anthologies that’ve made it to bookshelves:

  • All Out edited by Saundra Mitchell: This is both identity (queer) and genre (historical) based.
  • A Tyranny of Petticoats and The Radical Element edited by Jessica Spotswood: Ditto. Same genre, but in this case, identity is American girl.
  • Black Enough edited by Ibi Zoboi: Identity-based, as all the authors and main characters are Black, but other aspects vary
  • Hungry Hearts edited by Caroline Tung Richmond and Elsie Chapman: This is theme based (food) and identity based, in the sense that it’s a very intentionally diverse collection of different ethnicities.

So, how do you know what works and what doesn’t? Ehhhh I don’t think anyone knows, but focus is key. Anthologies need a hook at least as much as novels do; what’s the singular cohesive pitch that’s gonna make someone grab it?

The lineup:

This is my favorite part, and while you can certainly make an anthology happen without a broad network, it’s much easier the more people you know, and the more people know and trust you. Personally, having a network is kind of my “thing,” as is reading widely and assessing people’s specialties, so I not only hugely enjoy creating lineups, but I find it relatively easy.

The thing to keep in mind when creating yours is that diversity is key, not just because it should be everywhere but because it makes for a far more interesting collection. No one wants to read ten versions of the same kind of perspective.

But I don’t just mean diversity along racial or gender or ability or orientation lines; I also strongly recommend diversity in anthology experience. I think the best collections have authors who’ve seriously proven their mettle at short fiction and authors who are totally new to the anthology world.

You know those authors you see in what feels like every single anthology? There are two reasons for that:

1) They’re good, and not just at writing but at being reliable. Having to chase one author is a lot; having to chase twelve? Is hell. So you want to have people who are going to make this a pretty dependably pleasant experience and who deliver the kind of work that keeps readers coming back for them.

2) They’re authors who sell really well. I’m seeing this less than I used to, but at least once upon a time conventional wisdom was that you had to have three bestsellers in your anthology to sell it. If you take out the ones who don’t want to write short fiction, who don’t have the time for it, who are contractually prohibited from writing outside their contracts until completion…you’ll find a core group of authors who appear in what might look like a disproportionate number of collections, but it’s because they can sell them and also they are good at this.

Anthologies are really complicated because it’s a lot of authors to corral at once, so working with people who are complete strangers to you both personally and as authors is not ideal. You want to know you can trust them to deliver and deliver well; one person massively screwing up a deadline can throw off things (including payment) for the entire group. So yes, it’s always going to be easier to work with authors you know, even a little bit, because sending a DM with a quick question is much easier than sending a formal email and certainly than going through an agent each time. 

Another thing you must keep in mind is numbers. I know it looks like “Why don’t we just have everyone on board who wants to do this?” but every additional contributor means everyone is getting paid less; no one’s giving you extra money to add five authors. So let’s talk for a second about how payments work at the initial level, in the most common scenario:

There is a single advance.
That advance is divided in two, with half going to the editor and half being divided among the contributors.

As the editor, you have to make some decisions here. First, the agent cut: Are you taking it out of the full advance and then splitting in two? Or are you splitting in two and then taking the cut entirely out of your half?

Then, division among the contributors: are you including yourself in there and taking money for a story in addition to your editor half? Or not?

No judgment however you choose to do this! You have the right to be paid for your work however you choose. Obviously, the more you can and are willing to pay your contributors, the higher level authors you have potential to get, but many never ask how much they’re getting before committing, to be honest. I’ve asked before what people’s barest minimum is and they’ve said $500 a story if it was something they really wanted to do, and I’ve received anywhere from that to $1500. (Of course, anthologies where proceeds go to charities have their own rules.)

Part of why anthologies are so tough with publishers is because you can’t give them a “Well, I’ll take a shot on this” 5K advance; that money has to cover everyone. So if you’re starting at a minimum of 20K, and it’s already a tough market (partly because people are really lousy at supporting them and partly because they do not historically do well with subrights)…this is why they’re usually capped at around 13 (which is really 12 advances, in most cases, I’d say).

Another thing that’s important to mention is that anthology editors are far more often than not responsible for handling logistics of contributors. That means you’re the one sending out and receiving contributor agreements, sending out fully executed copies, working out the deadlines, sending out payments, dealing with agents, collecting W9s, issuing 1099s, etc. It is a ton of work. I’m not sure how it works if you’re not living in the US, but my guess is that you’ll need your agent to handle it for you.

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So now! Let’s say you’ve put together your lineup and you’ve got your premise and you’re ready to set up a proposal. What does it look like? Well, here’s His Hideous Heart‘s. You’ll notice it has selling points, including the authors, comp titles, and explanation of its relevance in the current world. Why buy it? Who will read it? What proof do we have that a cohesive collection like this can do well? How will we market it? These are the questions to keep in mind.

PITCH

Guilt. Regret. Love. Loss. Self-loathing. Terror. Vulnerability. Vengeance. Edgar Allan Poe may be over a hundred and fifty years beyond this world, but the themes of his notorious and much-beloved work have a whole lot in common with modern Young Adult literature.

HIS HIDEOUS HEART brings Poe’s stories and poems into the current era of YA through the imaginative minds of some of YA’s most exciting and creative mystery, thriller, and horror authors. Picture “The Tell-Tale Heart” retold by the author who brought you the utterly shattering and award-winning Charm & Strange, or “The Black Cat” redone with a queer teen vengeful spirit pursuing her attacker. Envision what an award-winning sci-fi author could do with “The Fall of the House of Usher,” or what havoc a disabled New York Times bestseller could wreak on “Hop-Frog.” Whether the stories are already familiar to readers or they’re reading them for the first time through the YA lens, one of literature’s most artful, compelling, memorable authors will be brought to life in 13 unique and unforgettable ways.

STATEMENT OF INTENT

HIS HIDEOUS HEART is a YA anthology featuring authors known for their talents in horror, thrillers, mystery, and generally high-stakes fiction reimagining individual works of Edgar Allan Poe as their own creations, in whatever genre they may choose. Contributors range from recent debuts to established bestsellers, some with considerable experience in creating enticing short fiction and some for whom HIS HIDEOUS HEART will be a first entry. Readers will find brand-new authors in one of these genres while also enjoying original work by familiar favorites.

This anthology is coming at a time when not only is the popularity of such collections booming in YA lit (see: BECAUSE YOU LOVE TO HATE ME ed. by Ameriie debuting on the New York Times bestseller list, the vast popularity of A TYRANNY OF PETTICOATS ed. by Jessica Spotswood spinning off into a second volume, We Need Diverse Books releasing both Middle Grade and Young Adult anthologies), but pop culture is trending toward the psychologically twisted and chillingly fantastical as well (see: Stranger Things, Westworld, Black Mirror).

A collection of Poe-related stories combines long-standing literary resonance with decidedly current popular trends, and this diverse author lineup in particular stands to draw readers from a plethora of fanbases that stretch well beyond Poe devotees.

SPECIFICATIONS

HIS HIDEOUS HEART will be in the vein of SLASHER GIRLS & MONSTER BOYS ed. by April Genevieve Tucholke, creatively and creepily spinning established literary work on its head and introducing readers to a fantastic collection of current authors paying tribute to one of American history’s best. Poe in particular makes for perfect source material for such a collection, as his work could be considered among the earliest examples of psychological thrillers and unreliable narration—elements that are certainly familiar to and beloved by many a YA fan but rare for literature of that age.

It will feature 13 (of course) stories, each around 5,000 words, for a total of approximately 65,000 words. At present, 12 authors have signed on, while a number of others have expressed interest. Space remains for a final contributor still to be determined.

MARKET STRENGTHS

Bestsellers: Contributors Marieke Nijkamp, Kendare Blake, and Hilary Monahan are all New York Times bestselling authors, and Nijkamp is a National Indie Bestseller as well.

Critically Acclaimed Authors: Included in the contributor list is a Morris Award winner (Stephanie Kuehn), a two-time Edgar Award nominee (Lamar Giles), three Cybils finalists (Marieke Nijkamp, Tessa Gratton, and Kendare Blake), a Teen Choice Book Award finalist (Marieke Nijkamp), an Indies Introduce selection (Emily Lloyd-Jones), an Andre Norton Award winner, Compton Crook Award winner, Locus Award nominee, Hugo nominee, and two-time Nebula nominee (Fran Wilde), and a number of authors who’ve received starred reviews, had books selected for the Indie Next List and Junior Library Guild, and appeared on ABA, YALSA, and state lists, lending not only prestige to the lineup, but visibility as well.

Promotional Platform: As a prolific contributor to the Barnes & Noble Teen Book Blog, Dahlia Adler offers a significant blogger network for promotional purposes. Nearly all 12 contributors have considerable social media platforms, and the geographical range of the author list offers excellent opportunities for both group readings and festival panels or solo events.

Educational Appeal: With a basis in seminal works of American literature, HIS HIDEOUS HEART would be ideal for high school curricula and library use. The material lends itself perfectly to a reading/discussion guide for analyzing the works of Edgar Allan Poe and how its themes translate into modern literature and across different genres.

CONTRIBUTOR LIST

The following authors have confirmed interest in writing a story for HIS HIDEOUS HEART:

Dahlia Adler (Editor) is an Associate Editor of Mathematics by day, a contributor to the B&N Teen Blog by night, and a writer of kissing books at every spare moment in between. She’s the author of Behind the Scenes, Under the Lights, Just Visiting, and the Radleigh University series, and a contributor to the historical young adult anthologies The Radical Element and All Out. She lives with her husband and son in New York City.
Bibliography: BEHIND THE SCENES (Spencer Hill, 2014), UNDER THE LIGHTS (Spencer Hill, 2015), JUST VISITING (Spencer Hill, 2015)
Anthologies: THE RADICAL ELEMENT (Candlewick, 2018), ALL OUT (Harlequin Teen, 2018)

(And so on)

***

And that’s it! You can also see some of how the contributors were chosen in that proposal, and also how important it is to be familiar with what’s already out there. And I’d be remiss not to mention that if you want to maintain a market for anthologies, you have to support the ones that exist.

Any questions? Other than “How can I get in an anthology”?

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Mid-Career Querying and Other Stuff We Don’t Talk About

If you’ve been reading this blog for about as long as I’ve been writing it, you know I haven’t been shy about talking about parting with an agent and signing with a new one. You know I don’t think there’s any shame in ending a relationship that isn’t right for you, and that I definitely don’t think you’re “damaged goods” when you go into querying again.

I don’t wanna write too much here about leaving your agent because I already talked about it in that post, but you can listen to me (and agent extraordinaire Jenn Laughran) talk about it in this podcast. You can also read a great post about it from Patrice Caldwell, who’s gone from editor to agent while also being an author who’s switched from agent to agent!

I do, however, wanna talk about the part where you look for what’s next when you already have something of a career behind you.

***

If you’re not familiar with my career, in a nutshell: I’ve published three YAs with a small press, two of which were under my first agent and one of which was under my second agent. I’ve self-published three NAs. I’ve been in three anthologies, all of which I’ve handled myself as a contributor. And I’ve had an agent sign me for a single project (through very mutual agreement), His Hideous Heart, which is releasing through a major publisher. It’s all a little messy and complicated, and on top of all of that, I’m in the NYC area, have a lot of experience in publishing, and I’m a blogger for B&N, which means I’ve also developed a lot of relationships with publishing professionals, which puts me in an extra-weird spot and has given me something of a “platform,” as the kids say.

It puts me in a spot that made a lot of people think that if I just snapped my fingers, I’d get a new agent. So, a few thoughts on that:

  1. I did have agents ask me to send them my query when I was ready with a new manuscript. I did not have agents tell me to just get in touch so they can sign me up. It’s like the verbal equivalent of doing PitMad: you get a little bit better of an idea who might be into you, but it doesn’t mean anything without the work behind it.
  2. I wasn’t looking to do it that way, and here’s why: after three years of not finishing anything other than short stories, I didn’t want to sign on with an agent without being sure I could finish another novel. Also, after having had an agent who was so Not That Into Me that she shot down two completed manuscripts from me in a row, I wanted to make sure an agent was signing me for what I actually do.
  3. I cannot emphasize that last line enough. One fear when you’re going into querying with something of a platform is that that‘s what agents want from you, and to be honest, I did still leave some of my phone conversations with offering agents feeling that way. it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been doing this; an author never wants to feel like you don’t care that much about the book they’ve queried with.
  4. I specifically focus more on my platform here than my publishing history because honestly my publishing history isn’t hugely notable; there are a lot of authors out there with indie histories, and if you think I did unusually well for a small press, let me tell you, I did not. Please still buy my books. For other authors, obviously their publishing history is a stronger pull, but mine isn’t much of a selling point.

Hmm, where was I. Oh yes! Querying somewhere in the middle of your career! This thing that feels extremely weird because not only have you had an agent before, but you’ve been on bookshelves before. “How am I back at the beginning??” you wonder. “Aren’t I supposed to be past this??”

Look, straight-up, some authors are past this. Some agents just kinda jump to a new agent with a proposal or really just amazing pub credits that require a constant partner. I don’t know at what point you’re officially qualified to be one of those authors, but my personal feeling was that I wasn’t one of those authors, so I can only address this whole thing from that perspective. There are definitely situations in which you may proceed differently!

This post is for people like Me, people who have some stuff behind them that wasn’t a Career Maker, whose needs changed or personnel changed or whatever whatever, who are ready to move forward and need a new publishing partner to do it with. People who aren’t newbies and know not to fall for the schmagentry but also just kinda didn’t expect to end up back here and don’t know what of the same rules apply from the first go-around and what don’t.

So, again, my backstory:

I’ve been going without a full-time agent for about five years, and only recently have I wanted one again, so in pursuit of that goal, I put blogging on the backburner, prioritized finishing my novel, sent it to my CPs, revised the hell out of it, and queried! Having been around the block a time or twenty (and having talked to people about their experiences for the past five years), I had a realllllly short query list this time around, focusing on agents who:

  1. Represented both YA and Adult, since I knew I wanted to write in both of those categories
  2. Bluntly speaking, I hadn’t heard lousy things about, or even just experienced things with that told me they were not for me for this particular partnership
  3. Had demonstrated interest and experience with diverse books
  4. Had sales and experience
  5. I thought would generally like not just the manuscript I was querying but what I had planned for the future
  6. Came from agencies with good subrights records

There’s nothing unusual about this criteria list, and I imagine it pretty closely resembles most people’s. Here, though, you’re seeing the first two steps:

  1. Write and polish a manuscript
  2. Make a list of what you want in an agent

Looks kinda exactly like the first time around, right? It mostly is! But that list is pretty long and pretty specific, and it makes some exclusions I wouldn’t necessarily look for the first time around. Do you think I cared about subrights in 2012? I did not! Did I factor in Adult each time I queried with YA? I did not! But at this point, I want and need an agent that can handle whatever I throw at them, and it’s gonna be a lot more mixed now that I’m a person who gets more, different opportunities than I did when I was just starting out. Plus, that second item on the list filters out a lot more people over the years…

Of course, this got thrown up in the air a little when I ended up entering PitMad immediately after, so I’m going to talk a little bit about how each point went down, bearing in mind I actually ended up sending about 15 more queries than I’d ever planned to. First, though, a quick rundown of how I actually did that research, since I know some people have been out of this game a while and aren’t sure if the same tools are still the best:

  • For what agents rep, Querytracker is a good bet, but follow up by looking at their actual websites. Additionally, know that even if it’s not an agent’s specialty, it doesn’t mean they can’t or won’t sub it; that’s a conversation you have. I did end up querying some agents who are known to be Kidlit-only, but when we talked about Adult, they were totally open to do it using industry resources and doing their own networking.
  • For who to avoid, Writers Beware and Absolute Write tend to be the tried and true. Of course, as with all things, keep nuance in mind; there’s criticism that means an agent is a red flag incarnate, and criticism that suggests an agent isn’t the best choice for a specific kind of author. For example, it’s not “bad” for an agent not to be editorial, or for an agent not to be a handholder. It is bad for an agent to withhold your sub list.
  • For sales and subrights, Publishers Marketplace is the best, but it’s not free. It might be worth paying $25 for a single month to do your research, but it’s not like you can’t find information by combing through the free Lunch Deluxe Weekly emails or Publishers Weekly deal announcements, or even just looking up authors and seeing where they’ve sold to and who repped them for those deals. You’re gonna use that same information and some really basic Twitter/MSWL research to figure out the rest anyway.
  • MSWL is a newer tool than when a lot of us were starting out, and it’s very cool, but don’t be overly reliant on it, especially for self-rejection.
  • Talk to your friends. For the love of God, talk to your friends. Learn how to filter, don’t take a single person’s unproven word on things, etc. etc. but do not be embarrassed to ask questions; that’s what we’re all here for.

Okay, so! The points!

I’m clearly not dancing around the fact that I got multiple offers here. This isn’t to brag; it’s to make clear that I’m working with a decent data set. It’s also, though, what has ended up being the scenario for most of my friends who’ve queried mid-career, so it’s not without its relevance regardless.

  • Represented both YA and Adult, since I knew I wanted to write in both of those categories

While this had been my initial target, thanks to PitMad, I ended up querying some people I didn’t know repped both, and when we had our phone conversations, it was a very upfront topic for me: “What are my options in terms of writing both YA and Adult?” Some agents were wholly onboard, some were willing to try, some felt more dismissive of it, and some, clearly did not really want to do it. It’s…not hard to pick out. So if you do want to write in more than one category or more than one genre, A) you should really talk about it on the call, especially since the query doesn’t give you a chance, and B) you should decide where you need the agent to be at on this.

  • Bluntly speaking, I hadn’t heard lousy things about, or even just experienced things with that told me they were not for me for this particular partnership

The former is pretty obvious; the latter, maybe not so much. How this played out? I skipped on querying a “good” agent who asked me to, who definitely is a good agent but didn’t treat me nicely the last time I queried; I was never going to be able to shake how I felt about that.

I skipped on querying an agent I know to be fairly attached to their visions of how books should come out, and I’m too stubborn for that.

I skipped on querying a very good agent who told me they don’t like to work on a certain kind of book that I personally hope to work on in the future.

I skipped on an agent I know from querying in the past is just way too slow for my liking.

Your experience can teach you a lot even about the people you didn’t sign with, and there’s nothing wrong with letting that inform your choices, especially in the first round.

  • Had demonstrated interest and experience with diverse books

Obviously this isn’t gonna be of equal interest to everyone, but beyond the fact that it’s a personal interest of mine from a support perspective, I was also querying an f/f book with plans to write more. So, it’s something I wanted agents to care about from a personal perspective, but it’s also something I wanted them to support me doing in the future. That’s level 1. Level 2, I wanted to know that they knew something about who wanted the kind of books I was writing, that they at least knew what they were doing when they subbed it. Yes, ideals matter, but this is a business decision and there’s a space to be both idealistic and mercenary in your thinking.

  • Had sales and experience

I think this is always an important one to talk about, because people always have Feelings around “new agents” and it’s important to dispel that it’s a unilateral category.

I had already been a new agent’s client and had mixed feelings about the experience, but when I left it was primarily because said new agent was becoming The YA agent at another agency I didn’t know. Mentorship is really freaking important for a new agent, in my opinion but like the kind of opinion I think is really a fact. Again, I ended up cracking on this list item due to PitMad, and it taught me a lot about it, because some new agents had senior agents with them throughout the whole process, and some were totally solo, and it made me wish I could have a talk with the latter’s agencies to say “Throw some more weight behind these people!”

To be clear, I don’t think going with a new agent is a bad choice at all, but in the best-case scenario where they’re well-mentored, you might be dealing with two people, not just one, and that’s something to keep in mind as you also have your own opinions. In the scenario where they’re not well-mentored, well…I leave that to you!

I 100% queried new agents I would happily recommend to other people after speaking with them, is my point here, and that I would have comfortably gone with if I hadn’t had more experienced options, but this time around, experience happened to be of particular importance to me.

  • I thought would generally like not just the manuscript I was querying but what I had planned for the future

This was a big one for me given my earlier agent experiences, and it landed in some very different ways. There was:

  1. Enthusiasm about everything (rare, extremely nice, varying levels of believable)
  2. Interest in everything, with some suggestions about how to best make that work (rarest, contributed significantly to my ultimate choice)
  3. Not much interest in what else I wanted to do, but confidence that they would submit anything within reason (something I would’ve been totally fine with if I didn’t have my personal past experiences under my belt)
  4. Cautious interest that sounded more like “we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it after selling this very commercial YA” (reasonable! and the most common)
  5. “Ehhh whatever, let’s talk about this book though” (Just…not what I’m looking for at this point in my career, at all.)
  • Came from agencies with good subrights records

Eh, what’s to say about this? Some agents clearly knew a lot about how it worked and how it generally went down for their agencies and my kind of work in particular, and some didn’t, and that’s whatever; I’m not an author whose career is ever gonna be made by subrights. However, there are others for whom it’s much more relevant (e.g. authors who self-pub very successfully) and then you definitely want to make sure you’re happy with how an agency does this, and you also definitely wanna see an agency contract or term sheet, something some agents provided without asking and some did not.

***

Okay! We are now 2500 words into this post and I don’t know if it’s helping a damn bit, but I’m just gonna keep going and discuss my favorite mid-career question that I had on a few calls:

What did you learn from your past experiences that you need/want in a new agent?

For the record, I’ll give some examples from my own answers:

  • Communication is very important to me. I care about speed but I also care a lot about transparency, and when I say I want to see my rejections, I literally mean “please click ‘forward’ on my rejection emails, no accompanying handholding necessary.”
  • I want to be able to give opinions, and while I defer to an agent’s expertise and of course their experience and networks, I have my own experiences and network and I’d like to be heard on that front.
  • I don’t need or really want a heavily editorial agent, but I do then need to know at what point you get involved in a manuscript’s development and what happens if you don’t like what I deliver.

***

So what else comes up?

Well, you might be asked to give a rundown on your publishing history and specifically why you left your past agents.

You might be asked what you see yourself writing going forward.

You might be asked what your planned followup book will be, and discuss whether that fits into a brand of sorts.

And of course, there might be editorial notes. Let’s talk about those.

Editorial notes were a complicated part of this process for me, and once again, I’ll break it up into how they fell into categories for me.

  • Really great reads of the book with some notes I really loved or at least found useful that I’ve already put into my revision
  • Notes that definitely had their merit and showed a lot of thought but didn’t feel like a fit for me and my style
  • Notes that strongly missed the mark for me and felt, for lack of a better description, like very hetero reads, which I don’t say to make a judgment but to say that was clearly not going to be a match for me as an author, especially considering what I like to write

Where I got really hung up on editorial notes was two-fold. First of all, at this time you’re so proud and excited you got all these offers, you have a bajillion different opinions on how to tear it apart. It’s one thing to have an editor, but this is A Lot of people editing your work, and in my case, only three people had ever looked at it before they did.

Lemme tell you, not every agent uses the sandwich method; some of them dove right in to what they wanted to change before ever saying a word of praise on the call and it is jarring.

Second of all, that category of notes that had their merit? I felt bad for not liking them. I felt lazy for not doing them. Even though I didn’t think it was right for my work! I played a lot of “Do I only think it’s wrong because I don’t wanna do it?” And thank God for publishing friends to remind me that I’m not lazy when I like the notes; I jump right the hell in when I like the notes. I know when something feels right and I’m allowed to keep trusting my instincts, especially this far down the line.

So uhhh I think that’s it? Choosing an agent at this stage was really freaking hard, and yes, I cried, and no, I don’t think there’s a way to ever be “sure” you did the right thing, only to go with your gut. The greatest factors in my choice didn’t end up being exactly what I thought they’d be and that’s always a scary thing, but sometimes you have to go through the process to figure out the thing you need most that you might not have even realized you could get.

And of course, this is just my experience; there are tons of factors that vary from one to another. For instance, consider that I’m not interested in, say, writing for Marvel, while this is a huge career goal for other authors and so querying someone who’s clearly made inroads there is something that might not have been on your radar as a debut but should be now.

Oh, and the “talking to clients” thing? Really, really do the “talking to clients” thing. Really. It can make a world of difference.

So, uh…any questions?

Covers and Events and More, Oh My!

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It’s been busy times here in the Daily life of Dahlia! First off, the biggest news: His Hideous Heart has a cover! Huge thanks to Eric Smith and Paste Magazine for doing a fabulous reveal of the anthology’s amazing cover, designed by Jon Contino with art direction by Keith Hayes! You can see the full reveal post here, but if you just wanna get straight to the cover, ta da!

I know what you’re thinking: that is stunning!! Is it available for preorder??? Good news – it is! His Hideous Heart releases on September 10, 2019, but you can get ahead of the game (and help an author out) by ordering in advance!

Amazon | B&N | IndieBound | Book Depository

And speaking of cover reveals, as you may or may not already know, I’m in the anthology It’s a Whole Spiel, edited by Katherine Locke and Laura Silverman, which releases the week before. In case you’re not yet familiar with the collection, here are the details!

*

A Jewish boy falls in love with a fellow counselor at summer camp. A group of Jewish friends take the trip of a lifetime. A girl meets her new boyfriend’s family over Shabbat dinner. Two best friends put their friendship to the test over the course of a Friday night. A Jewish girl feels pressure to date the only Jewish boy in her grade. Hilarious pranks and disaster ensue at a crush’s Hanukkah party.

From stories of confronting their relationships with Judaism to rom-coms with a side of bagels and lox, It’s a Whole Spiel features one story after another that says yes, we are Jewish, but we are also queer, and disabled, and creative, and political, and adventurous, and anything we want to be. You will fall in love with this insightful, funny, and romantic Jewish anthology from a collection of diverse Jewish authors.

(My story is called “Two Truths and an Oy” and takes place at college orientation)

​And yes, you can preorder this one too!

Amazon | B&N | IndieBound | Book Depository

While it is too far in advance to officially schedule events, fingers crossed there’ll be launch parties for both in NYC on their pub dates, so please do save the dates!

And speaking of events, I’m moderating/in conversation at two launch parties I’m really excited about, so come check ’em out! The first is the release of Once & Future by Amy Rose Capetta and Cori McCarthy, and if a genderflipped sci-fi King Arthur legend sounds like your jam, you do not wanna miss it! The book itself releases on March 26th, but the event is March 28th at Books of Wonder in NYC at 6:00 p.m.!And then in May, you can catch me in conversation with Casey McQuiston, author of the debut contemporary NA romance Red, White & Royal Blue, about a first son and a prince who go from enemies to lovers in one of the most delightful, fun, banterrific, spotlit courtships of our time. That one’s at Book Culture in Long Island City on May 14 at 6:30 p.m., and you can find more info here!

On a completely unrelated note, I have a new website! This blog is staying put, but the old official website’s design is dead, replaced by even more macarons! Check it out at www.DahliaAdler.com and lemme know what you think!

So what’s next over here? Well, starting tomorrow, I’ll be releasing a teaser every week on Instagram that gives a quote from each story, also revealing the title and which of Poe’s works they’re taking on. So if you’re not already following me over there, please do! (Not a bad time to catch up on my #AuthorLifeMonth posts, either!) And yes, there will be ARCs, and eARCs are scheduled to go up this week, so keep your eyes on Edelweiss!

(And if you’re wondering if I bought some extremely fun Poe swag, the answer is OBVIOUSLY, so stay tuned to all my social media for giveaways!)

That’s it over here – I’ve just crossed the 40K mark on my latest manuscript so it’s full speed ahead on the writing front!

Yours in rainbow Gothdom,
Dahlia

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Loved with Fewer than 1,000 Ratings on Goodreads

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Welcome to Top Ten Tuesday, started at the Broke and the Bookish and now hosted by Jana, the Artsy Reader Girl! I rarely do these posts anymore simply because I don’t have the time, but topics like these are so close to my heart, I can’t not. (Plus, they don’t require me to write any explanation, because it’s all right there in the title. Whee!) I did, however, tweak the topic from “fewer than 2,000 ratings” to “fewer than 1,000 ratings,” because I had enough that fit the latter that I wanted to get more attention!

Final Draft by Riley Redgate

35960813The only sort of risk 18-year-old Laila Piedra enjoys is the peril she writes for the characters in her stories: epic sci-fi worlds full of quests, forbidden love, and robots. Her creative writing teacher has always told her she has a special talent. But three months before her graduation, he’s suddenly replaced—by Nadiya Nazarenko, a Pulitzer Prize–winning novelist who is sadistically critical and perpetually unimpressed.

At first, Nazarenko’s eccentric assignments seem absurd. But before long, Laila grows obsessed with gaining the woman’s approval. Soon Laila is pushing herself far from her comfort zone, discovering the psychedelic highs and perilous lows of nightlife, temporary flings, and instability. Dr. Nazarenko has led Laila to believe that she must choose between perfection and sanity—but rejecting her all-powerful mentor may be the only way for Laila to thrive.

My GR review: This was such a highly anticipated book for me because I think Riley Redgate is, content-wise, one of the most interesting YA authors right now, and this did not disappoint. A book about a self-conscious author who loses her biggest fan and ends up with an instructor who effectively makes her feel like crap until she feels forced to bleed on the page to prove her authorial skill and worth? I mean. I can’t speak for all authors, but that sure as hell held some resonance for me.

Laila was an interesting MC in a lot of ways. She’s pansexual, or at least she would be if she wasn’t raised to find sex and attraction shameful and so could bring herself to say the word aloud. (I realize that sounds like me projecting on her, but no, all of that, including the word, is on the page. And not, as we usually see it, mixed with questioning whether she’s bi or pan; pansexual is her only consideration.) She’s plus-size. (At no point does she call herself fat, so I won’t either, but she does refer to wearing plus-size clothing.) She’s biracial (French-Canadian on her mother’s side; Ecuadorian on her father’s side). She has three best friends who are her whole world. (I love adorable group friendship dynamics, especially when they’re not all the same gender.) She’s super into writing and a fandom. Basically there’s a lot about her that I think is gonna be wildly relatable to people who haven’t seen themselves much, which is something I always think is awesome.

Three books into Riley Redgate’s catalog, I’m starting to notice a pattern wherein she discusses some things really, really well, but not seamlessly. Like, you’ll get to the end of a chapter and it’ll just be three pages dissecting something that’s never really gonna show up again, but she talks about it so well that you don’t care. So, I can’t really say that themes of identity exploration are woven neatly throughout, but I can say that when you get those discussions, they’re really welcome and great.

Did this book make me cry? Yes. Did it make me squee? Also yes. Am I going to recommend it annoying amounts? Absolutely.

Home and Away by Candice Montgomery

37941689Tasia Quirk is young, Black, and fabulous. She’s a senior, she’s got great friends, and a supportive and wealthy family. She even plays football as the only girl on her private high school’s team.

But when she catches her mamma trying to stuff a mysterious box in the closet, her identity is suddenly called into question. Now Tasia’s determined to unravel the lies that have overtaken her life. Along the way, she discovers what family and forgiveness really mean, and that her answers don’t come without a fee. An artsy bisexual boy from the Valley could help her find them—but only if she stops fighting who she is, beyond the color of her skin.

I blurbed this one, so instead of a GR review, here’s my official blurb, which I stand by a zillion percent:

“Tasia Quirk is bold, funny, talented, passionate, vulnerable, fierce, and just plain fabulous. Get ready to meet your new favorite YA heroine in Taze, and your new favorite YA voice in Candice Montgomery.”

Like Water by Rebecca Podos

 

31556136In Savannah Espinoza’s small New Mexico hometown, kids either flee after graduation or they’re trapped there forever. Vanni never planned to get stuck—but that was before her father was diagnosed with Huntington’s disease, leaving her and her mother to care for him. Now, she doesn’t have much of a plan at all: living at home, working as a performing mermaid at a second-rate water park, distracting herself with one boy after another.

That changes the day she meets Leigh. Disillusioned with small-town life and looking for something greater, Leigh is not a “nice girl.” She is unlike anyone Vanni has met, and a friend when Vanni desperately needs one. Soon enough, Leigh is much more than a friend. But caring about another person stirs up the moat Vanni has carefully constructed around herself, and threatens to bring to the surface the questions she’s held under for so long.

My GR review: Not at all surprised at how much I liked this. So different from Podos’s first book (except that I really, really enjoy how she handles familial dynamics in both, in what a presence the fathers are) but also so good. Also digging this trend of absolutely drama-free “oh, huh, I’m bi” realizations from MCs this year – always nice to see another experience show up in YA.

We Regret to Inform You by Ariel Kaplan

37007788Mischa Abramavicius is a walking, talking, top-scoring, perfectly well-rounded college application in human form. So when she’s rejected not only by the Ivies, but her loathsome safety school, she is shocked and devastated. All the sacrifices her mother made to send her to prep school, the late nights cramming for tests, the blatantly resume-padding extracurriculars (read: Students for Sober Driving) … all that for nothing.

As Mischa grapples with the prospect of an increasingly uncertain future, she questions how this could have happened in the first place. Is it possible that her transcript was hacked? With the help of her best friend and sometimes crush, Nate, and a group of eccentric techies known as “The Ophelia Syndicate,” Mischa launches an investigation that will shake the quiet community of Blanchard Prep to its stately brick foundations.

My GR review: Oh man I enjoyed that a lot. It was only partly what I expected; I kind of thought the MC would have more of an Enter Title Here vibe. But she didn’t, and I loved her for it. (Not a criticism of ETH – I love that MC – but I feel like it’s the obvious voice for an overachiever and it’s nice to see an alternative.) Also, the secondary characters are fabulous, especially Nate, whom I utterly adored. Woof I shipped them hard.

ETA: I forgot to mention when I first reviewed, but also, I loved the little bits about her family history (especially as someone who has familial roots in the Holocaust), straddling the privilege line, and feeling the pressure to make more of life. Yes, that’s a lot of things that resonated really hard that I initially forgot to mention because I was distracted by my love of the characters and ship. So sue me.

The Pros of Con by Alison Cherry, Lindsay Ribar, and Michelle Schusterman

31123196Drummer Phoebe Byrd prides herself on being one of the guys, and she’s ready to prove it by kicking all their butts in the snare solo competition at the Indoor Percussion Association Convention.

Writer Vanessa Montoya-O’Callaghan has been looking forward to the WTFcon for months. Not just because of the panels and fanfiction readings but because WTFcon is where she’ll finally meet Soleil, her internet girlfriend, for the first time.

Taxidermy assistant Callie Buchannan might be good at scooping brains out of deer skulls, but that doesn’t mean it’s her passion. Since her parents’ divorce, her taxidermist father only cares about his work, and assisting him at the World Taxidermy and Fish-Carving Championships is the only way Callie knows to connect with him.

When a crazy mix-up in the hotel lobby brings the three girls together, they form an unlikely friendship against a chaotic background of cosplay, competition, and carcasses!

My GR review: This was extremely fun and cute. I don’t know why I love con books so much, but I do, and this one delivered it in spades along with a really enjoyable friendship story, a really cute budding queer romance, and some observations on social media relationships that hit way too close to home.

The Authentics by Abdi Nazemian

31371275Daria Esfandyar is Iranian-American and proud of her heritage, unlike some of the “Nose Jobs” in the clique led by her former best friend, Heidi Javadi. Daria and her friends call themselves the Authentics, because they pride themselves on always keeping it real.

But in the course of researching a school project, Daria learns something shocking about her past, which launches her on a journey of self-discovery. It seems everyone is keeping secrets. And it’s getting harder to know who she even is any longer.

With infighting among the Authentics, her mother planning an over-the-top sweet sixteen party, and a romance that should be totally off limits, Daria doesn’t have time for this identity crisis. As everything in her life is spinning out of control—can she figure out how to stay true to herself?

My GR review: Really enjoying the spate of culturally infused coming-of-age novels I’m reading lately, and this was no exception. Interesting to me that the title focused on her friend group when her family and culture are so beyond dominant of the plot and definitely the stars of the show, but definitely not upset about the stuff that actually took center stage, even if it wasn’t necessarily my expectation going in.

Finding Yvonne by Brandy Colbert

36360431Since she was seven years old, Yvonne has had her trusted violin to keep her company, especially in those lonely days after her mother walked out on their family. But with graduation just around the corner, she is forced to face the hard truth that she just might not be good enough to attend a conservatory after high school.

Full of doubt about her future, and increasingly frustrated by her strained relationship with her successful but emotionally closed-off father, Yvonne meets a street musician and fellow violinist who understands her struggle. He’s mysterious, charming, and different from Warren, the familiar and reliable boy who has her heart. But when Yvonne becomes unexpectedly pregnant, she has to make the most difficult decision yet about her future.

My GR review: God, Brandy Colbert is just so good at capturing these seemingly little things that have totally fallen through the cracks in the ways we talk about teens and putting them front and center in can’t-miss books. I only barely read blurbs when the author is already an insta-buy for me, so I thought this was about a violin prodigy whose life gets thrown off kilter when she gets pregnant, but in truth, it’s the spaces in between that – it’s what happens when you aren’t a prodigy and you’ve just lost your love and maybe the future isn’t going to look how you thought, so now what? And it’s finding other ways to use what’s already in your life and build off that, but also maybe learn what else and who else you can be. And that applies to skills, to love, to existing relationships, to questions from the past…it’s all just wrapped up in this Very Real Girl, and all along the while is the question of “How complex would these questions be for me if I weren’t a Black girl?” and all the different ways working twice as hard for half as much presents itself.

So, yeah, I guess you can say I liked it 😉

Also, for anyone who specifically avoids pregnancy storylines, it’s actually a much briefer portion of the book when I was expecting; please don’t skip this one for it.

Echo After Echo by Amy Rose Capetta

27258116Debuting on the New York stage, Zara is unprepared—for Eli, the girl who makes the world glow; for Leopold, the director who wants perfection; and for death in the theater.

Zara Evans has come to the Aurelia Theater, home to the visionary director Leopold Henneman, to play her dream role in Echo and Ariston, the Greek tragedy that taught her everything she knows about love. When the director asks Zara to promise that she will have no outside commitments, no distractions, it’s easy to say yes. But it’s hard not to be distracted when there’s a death at the theater—and then another—especially when Zara doesn’t know if they’re accidents, or murder, or a curse that always comes in threes. It’s hard not to be distracted when assistant lighting director Eli Vasquez, a girl made of tattoos and abrupt laughs and every form of light, looks at Zara. It’s hard not to fall in love. In heart-achingly beautiful prose, Amy Rose Capetta has spun a mystery and a love story into an impossible, inevitable whole—and cast lantern light on two girls, finding each other on a stage set for tragedy.

My GR review: Gorgeous, intense, romantic, mysterious, and a really pleasant surprise to me in the Jewish rep, too.

Being Fishkill by Ruth Lehrer

25543153Born in the backseat of a moving car, Carmel Fishkill was unceremoniously pushed into a world that refuses to offer her security, stability, love. At age thirteen, she begins to fight back. Carmel Fishkill becomes Fishkill Carmel, who deflects her tormenters with a strong left hook and conceals her secrets from teachers and social workers. But Fishkill’s fierce defenses falter when she meets eccentric optimist Duck-Duck Farina, and soon they, along with Duck-Duck’s mother, Molly, form a tentative family, even as Fishkill struggles to understand her place in it. This fragile new beginning is threatened by the reappearance of Fishkill’s unstable mother — and by unfathomable tragedy. Poet Ruth Lehrer’s young adult debut is a stunning, revelatory look at what defines and sustains “family.” And, just as it does for Fishkill, meeting Duck-Duck Farina and her mother will leave readers forever changed.

My GR review: Well, that went ahead and ripped my heart clean out of my chest. Definitely a recommended read for a book with rural poverty. There are a few things I felt were left a little like open-ended mysteries, but they felt true to what the character would know/be able to access. Really interesting to read a YA that is definitely a YA but with a 12-13yo protag, especially since she’s sort of exploring her sexuality without even really seeming to realize that’s what she’s doing. I would so love to check in with Fishkill a few years down the line if that were possible, and that’s one of my favorite signs that I really enjoyed a book.

You Don’t Know Me But I Know You by Rebecca Barrow

33293040There’s a box in the back of Audrey’s closet that she rarely thinks about.

Inside is a letter, seventeen years old, from a mother she’s never met, handed to her by the woman she’s called Mom her whole life. Being adopted, though, is just one piece in the puzzle of Audrey’s life—the picture painstakingly put together by Audrey herself, full of all the people and pursuits that make her who she is.

But when Audrey realizes that she’s pregnant, she feels something—a tightly sealed box in the closet corners of her heart—crack open, spilling her dormant fears and unanswered questions all over the life she loves.

Almost two decades ago, a girl in Audrey’s situation made a choice, one that started Audrey’s entire story. Now Audrey is paralyzed by her own what-ifs and terrified by the distance she feels growing between her and her best friend Rose. Down every possible path is a different unfamiliar version of her life, and as she weighs the options in her mind, she starts to wonder—what does it even mean to be Audrey Spencer?

My GR review: Really, really good. This book just feels so…healthy? Like, YDKMBIKY is to reproductive choice after consensual sex as EXIT, PURSUED BY A BEAR is to reproductive choice after rape. If you loved the latter, please read this too. I think it’ll go a long way toward helping teens who’ve chosen the same path feel less alone and less judged.

Announcing #AuthorLifeMonth 2019!

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#AuthorLifeMonth is back! Whether you’ve been following along since its inception in 2016 or it’s brand-new to you, the same rules still apply: post whenever you want and skip whatever you want. Miss a day? Either post both the next day or just skip the day entirely! Don’t have Instagram? Doesn’t matter! Post on Twitter, Facebook, or any other social medium that uses a hashtag.

To answer the #1 question every year, yes, this is open to unpublished authors; just interpret the questions in a way that works for you, e.g. for “Acknowledgments,” you can shares ones you’ve loved from another book or share something about people who’d definitely be in yours.

As every year, the challenge itself begins February 1st. I think that covers it all, so without further ado, here’s the prompt!

Cover Reveal: The Truth About Leaving by Natalie Blitt

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Some number of years ago, when I was still on Absolute Write, I came across a pitch for a book in which I recognized certain elements the author wasn’t blatantly stating, and I commented, and out of that, we became friends. Ultimately, she debuted with something else, and there were other things, but then one day she tells me that this story, the one that first brought us together, was going to be published. And I was delighted, although I hadn’t read it.

Fast forward to, well, now, and I have read it, and loved it even more than I thought I would, and I also love its cover, which is why I’m so excited to be revealing it on my blog today!

Before we get to the art, here’s the cover copy for The Truth About Leaving by Natalie Blitt, releasing January 22, 2019, from Amberjack:

Lucy Green thought she had her senior year in the bag. Cute boyfriend? Check. College plan? Check.

But when her boyfriend dumps her the week before school starts and she literally stumbles into Dov, the new Israeli transfer student, on her first day of school, Lucy’s carefully mapped-out future crumbles.

Determined to have a good senior year, and too busy trying to hold her family together while her mom is across the country working, Lucy ignores the attraction she feels to Dov. But soon, Lucy and Dov’s connection is undeniable. Lucy begins to realize that sometimes, you have to open yourself up to chance. Even if the wrong person at the wrong time is a boy whose bravery you admire and who helps you find your way back to yourself.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

And here’s the beautiful cover, designed by Stepheny Miller!

Blitt Natalie_The Truth About Leaving_Front Cover_12-10-18

The amount I love this, especially with the Hebrew poetry tacked up in the top left corner, seriously cannot be overstated. Buy links are up under the cover copy, so what are you waiting for??

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Blitt Natalie author photoNatalie Blitt is the author of young-adult and middle grade novels. She lives in the Chicago area with her husband and three sons, but spends a lot of time daydreaming about going back to Canada where she grew up. You can visit her online at www.natalieblitt.com.

Brief 2018 Wrap-Up and What’s Ahead

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Greetings from the quiet place that is my blog! Of course, most if not all of you know that I’m actually blogging all the time.

Currently, it’s preview season on B&N Teen Blog, which means you can find new posts by me, Melissa Albert, and Sona Charaipotra that are packed with titles to get excited about for the new year.

Thankfully, LGBTQReads has been thriving this year, even getting out a shoutout in the New York Times, thanks to the lovely Becky Albertalli, and I’m excited to share that it’s being archived by the Library of Congress as part of their LGBTQ+ Studies Web Archive!

And this year, I picked up a new blogging spot called Frolic, where I get to flex my Romance muscles!

I also got to go to some fun events, including my very first FlameCon (as press) and my first Jewish Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Seminar (as a panelist on publicity), and finally meet my favorite author (who also wrote my favorite book of the year – seriously, if you haven’t read Sadie by Courtney Summers yet, fix that!) I moderated some great panels/launches featuring rock stars like Katherine Locke, Kheryn Callender, Heidi Heilig, Zoraida Cordova, Lev Rosen, and Lauren Spieller, and wow yeah, speaking of books you should buy if you haven’t yet!! and got to do a panel with my All Out editor, Saundra Mitchell, and co-contributor Kody Keplinger!

 

Aaaand that’s most of what’s been up this year, because I also moved into a new house, had my baby turn into a toddler, am still at my dayjob as a math editor, and I’ve been writing lots of things that will hopefully turn into books you can hold in the future, but we all know there’s no guarantee of that, so, whee, publishing!

BUT, here’s one thing you will be able to hold, and that’s the last thing I’ve been working on this year: His Hideous Heart! My Edgar Allan Poe anthology officially has a pub date of September 24, 2019, and is now available for preorder!

That’s it for me for now! Stay tuned for a special cover reveal (not mine!) on the blog tomorrow, more news on His Hideous Heart and It’s a Whole Spiel as I have it, and lots more in the future!

Announcing His Hideous Heart!

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I am so, so excited to announce my latest book news, which is that I’ve* sold an anthology to Sarah Barley at Flatiron, and it’ll be releasing in fall 2019!

*By “I” I mean the brilliant Victoria Marini of IGLA

His Hideous Heart is such a dream project – it’s a collection of 13 retellings of the works of Edgar Allan Poe, modernized and twisted and made generally awesome by:

Me
Kendare Blake
Rin Chupeco
Lamar Giles
Tessa Gratton
Tiffany Jackson
Stephanie Kuehn
Emily Lloyd-Jones
Amanda Lovelace
Hillary Monahan
Marieke Nijkamp
Caleb Roehrig
and Fran Wilde

I mean, !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Oh, and another really cool thing? The corresponding original works by Poe are going to be in the book, so if you wanna do a side-by-side comparison, the work is right there. A+ to my brilliant editor for that idea, and a million thanks to Jaclyn Marta for the original idea of an anthology of Poe retellings and for letting me run with it!

(Also thanks to Jess Spotswood, Marieke Nijkamp, and Katie Locke for very patiently walking me through the mechanics and logistics of anthologies. They are such good people and you should get yourself A Tyranny of Petticoats, The Radical Element, Toil & Trouble, Unbroken, and It’s a Whole Spiel!)

The book is already on Goodreads, so please do add it if you’re so inclined!

A Publishing FAQ Master Post

Hang around publishing people of all types and you’ll see the same questions and answers surfacing over and over again, despite the zillions of excellent resources on the internet. So, I decided to pack the most common questions and my most favorite answers into one work-in-progress place. Ta da!

(Note that you can also find a lot of info on this site. To find what you need, check out the site guide.)

Writing/Revising

Q: What should my target word count be?
A: This post by agent Jenn Laughran.

Q: How do I keep my book up to date when trends are rapidly changing?
A: This post by agent Sarah LaPolla.

Q: I’ve heard that as a white person, I should not be using food terms to describe People of Color’s skin. What are good ways to respectfully describe it?
A: This post by Writing with Color.

Q: How Can I Increase My Word Count Output?
A: This post by Lindsay Smith.

Querying

Q: If I were bookmarking one post of publishing info, what should it be?
A: YA Highway’s Publishing Road Map.

Q: Where can I find out who reps my category/genre?
A: Querytracker.

Q: How important are comp Titles, and how do I choose them?
A: This post by Eric Smith on Pub Crawl.

Q: How do I handle multiple agent offers?
A: This pair of posts by Lydia Sharp and me.

Q: How do I handle querying after a split with my agent?
A: This post by me. (Note that this varies depending on how well-known/published you are. This post is assuming no prior reputation/publication.)

Marketing/Publicity

Q: How do I run a successful preorder campaign?
A: This post by Erin Bowman.

Q: When should I start promoting my book?
A: This post by Jodi Meadows on Pub Crawl.

Q: How do I build a social media platform?
A: This post by Eric Smith.

Perpetual WIPs: Bookseller Edition, Part IV

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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 know Rachel Strolle of Anderson’s Bookshop, who happens to be, without exaggeration, one of the best YA supporters in the known universe.

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

Blind Date with a Book is a great way! Plus, shelf talkers for books helps draw the eye, so I try to write out as many as possible.

Preorder campaigns – what helps them actually work?

If an author is going on tour and has a preorder campaign, let the store know. ESPECIALLY if you know who the YA booksellers at the store. This can help with handselling the book before its on the shelf (oh did you know that if you order this book for our event, you can also get [insert gift here])

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

If you’re doing it in an area where you have friends and family TELL THEM (and if you were already bringing all your cousins and your weird uncle, if the store has a policy about needing to buy the book from their store PLEASE LET YOUR WEIRD UNCLE KNOW). Launches are super fun!

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?

Most often someone at the publisher goes through with our publicity department, but sometimes an author is like “hey i’m gonna be around [date] can we do something” and then they still go through our publicity department.

A good event for me is an engaged audience (no matter what the size). DO NOT JUST SIT DOWN AND ASK IF THERE ARE QUESTIONS. At least introduce yourself and then you can always do a “is there anything y’all want to talk about?” If there is one teen who is remarkably excited to be there, it’s a win. Also a good sign is when a parent looks like they’re mad at the line taking a while but then they see how excited their teen is and they soften.

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?

I LIKE LOTS OF GENRES OK

Other world Fantasy–The Reader by Traci Chee, either of Roshani Chokshi’s books, Truthwitch by Susan Dennard

Our world Fantasy–The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey, Shadowshaper by Daniel Jose Older

Historical Fantasy–The Falconer by Elizabeth May, The Diviners by Libba Bray, Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig, Girl with the Red Balloon by Katherine Locke

Mystery/Thriller–anything by Stephanie Kuehn, Last Seen Leaving by Caleb Roehrig, Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro

Contemp–You Don’t Know Me But I Know You by Rebecca Barrow, Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert, all Jason Reynolds’ books, Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli

Historical–You Bring the Distant Near by Mitali Perkins, Outrun the Moon by Stacey Lee, The Agency series by Y S Lee

Retelling—Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao, Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust, A Wicked Thing by Rhiannon Thomas

Sci Fi–Proxy by Alex London, Want by Cindy Pon, Shadow Run by AdriAnne Strickland & Michael Miller, Zodiac by Romina Russell

Grab bag–Jane Unlimited by Kristin Cashore, They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera, Timekeeper by Tara Sim (the looks I get when pitching this one are the greatest things ever)

What does your typical day look like?

Usually reading. If I’m at the store usually it’s helping customers, checking on the blind date with a book display, petting all dogs that walk in (with human’s permission), and making sure the two parts of our YA section have the right books. (We separate the “12&Up” from the “14&up”)

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

“Can I see pictures of your dog?”

But also a good bet is if they know I’ve read their book and don’t quite know how to quick pitch it, I can help with that!

But also dog pics.

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

If we’ve got it, great! A signature in a book can definitely help sell it!

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

The YA booksellers on the sales floor and the YA buyer might not be the same person. And sometimes the bookseller on the floor can have sway over things that might not get ordered otherwise, so make sure you talk to both!

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?

It can vary depending on how full the section is or if we are doing a pull for a certain publisher. If a staff member has a staff rec on something and swears they’ll handsell it, usually it stays. Or if the author is coming soon!

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

I’ve been noticing a lot of varied stuff recently, which is GREAT. I definitely try to pick things that won’t necessarily sell on their own. The great thing about handselling is, it’s just telling the truth about a book to a person who may never have heard it before.

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

Anderson’s Bookshop and it’s awesome because I’m there

HAHAHAHAHAH no I’m kidding. There’s always lots of great events and we have a killer YA section. And by that I mean the section is large, not that it’s only YA books about murder.

RachelRachel Strolle is a bookseller, teen librarian, and in a constant state of book recommending. She has a lot of books and a very cute puppy, and thrives when belting out show tunes alone in her car.