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.

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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.

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.

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.

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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!)