On Submission with Bethany Crandell

If there's one thing that many aspiring writers have few clues about, it's the submission process. There are good reasons for that; authors aren't exactly encouraged to talk in detail about our own submission experiences, and - just like agent hunting - everyone's story is different. I managed to cobble together a few non-specific questions that some debut authors have agreed to answer (bless them). And so I bring you the submission interview series - Submission Hell - It's True. Yes, it's the SHIT.

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Today's SHIT guest is a special friend of mine. Bethany Crandell slogged through the query trenches right alongside me, celebrated with me when I crawled on out, and then kept on slogging. We all know slogging makes one weary, but this slogger slogged it out. Bethany emerged with an agent and a deal for her debut SUMMER ON THE SHORT BUS, which will be available from Running Press in 2014.

How much did you know about the submission process before you were out on subs yourself?

Thanks to one of my best pals allowing me fly-on-the-wall access to her sub process, I knew a fair amount. However, it’s a lot like the first few weeks of sleep deprivation after you bring your newborn baby home from the hospital. People warned you you’d be tired, but until you’ve experienced it first hand—no warning does it justice.

Did anything about the process surprise you?

I was surprised by how incredibly kind the editors were. We received a handful of rejections, but they were all lovely and encouraging. One actually made me cry! It turns out editors are not dream crushing trolls after all.

Did you research the editors you knew had your ms? Do you recommend doing that?

Hello. My name is Bethany and I’m an internet stalker.

You bet I did. I am a control freak. Since I was on the sidelines waiting while Rachael communicated with the editors, Googling, Twitter-stalking and PM browsing were about the only things I could do that allowed me to feel like I was still a part of the experience. I’m not sure that it got me anywhere, but it did give me a sense of purpose. I wouldn’t not recommend doing it. I think you need to do whatever works for you to get through the process. (For the record, I never Google Earthed anyone. I had to draw the line somewhere).

What was the average amount of time it took to hear back from editors?

It varied. Some were as little as three weeks, others had it several months and never replied even after we got the offer from Running Press. I’m sure there are a ton of things that factor into their response time. Current lists, how full their in-box is, how many people in-house have to read…basically, too many to count. I tried not to fixate on the spurts of radio silence, but when you’re a big communicator, like I am, that wasn’t easy.

What do you think is the best way for an author out on submission to deal with the anxiety?

Write, if you can focus long enough to do so, and talk to people. I wouldn’t have survived submissions without my author pals there to cheer me on, boost me up, and let me vent. Other writers are your greatest resource—utilize them!

If you had any rejections, how did you deal with that emotionally? How did this kind of rejection compare to query rejections? 

Whether you’re agent hunting or searching for a publishing home, rejections suck--period. The difference this time around is that I wasn’t taking the hits by myself. Rachael, my agent, was fielding the blows, too. Knowing I had someone who believed in my book as much as I did made the passes a lot less painful.

If you got feedback on a rejection, how did you process it? How do you compare processing an editor’s feedback as compared to a beta reader’s?

I had a little spreadsheet where I tracked the date our query went out, when the material was requested, as well as any feedback they provided. Again, it made me feel like I had a little bit of control in the situation. (The stupid things we writers tell ourselves.) Thankfully, the worst feedback we received was completely subjective. (Subjective. That word gives me the shivers.) I think I’d have fallen on the floor and assumed the fetal position had there been something negative.

As far as the differences between betas & editors; it was hard, but I tried to remind myself that editors are looking for more than just a well-crafted book. They need something that’s going to sell. As much as market trends can hurt authors, that’s just the way it works. Editors gotta eat, too.

When you got your YES! how did that feel? How did you find out – email, telephone, smoke signal? 

Here’s the scenario: Ten minutes after I hung up the phone with my agent the phone rang again. I glanced at the display and saw it was her number. My initial thought was, “OH CRAP! Something really bad is happening. Why is she calling me again?” After a deep breath I picked up the phone…

ME: “Hello?”
AGENT: “Are you sitting down?”
ME: “Uh…”
AGENT: “They’re going to make an offer today.”
ME: Absolute silence immediately followed by hysterical, bordering on scary, laughter. “Shut up! Are you serious? Don’t lie to me ‘cause you know I can’t handle that today.”

The rest is a lovely blur. It took several days for the reality of what was happening to sink in. In fact…it’s still sinking in. Sometimes I’ll be doing something totally brainless like sitting at a stoplight or packing the girls’ lunches and it will hit me, MY BOOK IS GOING TO BE ON A SHELF—IN A BOOK STORE! And then I break into the giggles again.

Did you have to wait a period of time before sharing your big news, because of details
being ironed out? Was that difficult?

Thankfully, my editor contacted me within two or three days to let me know it was safe to let the cat out of the bag. The cat is now perched on a very tall mountain with a megaphone mewing like a lunatic!

Thursday Thoughts

Thoughts lately…

1) I've got a healthy colony of mockingbirds on my property. They're very attractive birds, and also incredibly intelligent. I recently learned that they attack people they see as threats - what if we did that? I'm picturing urban housewives bursting out of front doors and tearing hairs from the jogger's head that's passed by one too many times.

2) I have a weird fascination with buzzards. They are incredibly unattractive birds. Really, really ugly. But, God gave them some weight on the other end of the scale too, because those things can hover forever at incredible altitudes. Since they're not hunters, I can only assume they go way up there and glide for the fun of it. Such interesting, weird, ugly things.

3) If a bug gets inside my car and I drive 30 miles away and it flies out - is it lost? Did it have a real home that it would go back to every night? Or is it just like, "Oh what a relief! That girl cannot sing."

Cover Talk with Megan Shepherd

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I love talking to authors. Our experiences are so similar, yet so very different, that every one of us has a new story to share. Everyone says that the moment you get your cover it really hits you - you're an author. The cover is your story - and you - packaged for the world. So the process of the cover reveal can be slightly panic inducing. Does it fit your story? Is it what you hoped? Will it sell? With this in mind I put together the CRAP (Cover Reveal Anxiety Phase) Interview.

Today's guest is my fellow Lucky13s and Friday the Thirteeners member Megan Shepherd, to talk about her awesome cover for THE MADMAN'S DAUGHTER, available from Balzer & Bray, January 29, 2013. Megan's got a few e-hangouts, find her on her site, Facebook and Twitter.

Did you have any pre-conceived notions about what you wanted your cover to look like?

You would think a writer might also have a good eye for visual arts, but I don’t. A few cover ideas came to my head for The Madman’s Daughter but they were all pretty terrible, so I was delighted to leave it to the professionals! I actually designed a fake cover for The Madman’s Daughter as part of a blog dare, and this is the train wreck that I produced:

Though I do think it has a certain, I don’t know, sophistication. Ahem. As far as the real cover, I put all my trust in the HarperCollins designers. I just knew I wanted it to capture the creepy, beautiful, Gothic feel of the book. I also hoped it would appeal to a wide range of readers: boys, girls, adults, librarians. And I think they did a fantastic job with that.

How far in advance from your pub date did you start talking covers with your house?

I first heard whispers about the cover design a year before the pub date. My editor kept me up-to-date with the process, which was pretty exciting for a debut author. My publishing house, Balzer + Bray, hired a photographer to do the photo shoot complete with model and outdoor setting. I got to see the model’s headshots, which was an incredible moment—looking at your fictional main character as a real person!

Did you have any input on your cover?

The design team at HarperCollins handled everything, thankfully—I’d have just given them some awful advice like “put a shirtless man on the cover” (ie, see my terrible design above). My editor did a great job keeping me informed; she showed me their original design plan, which included color schemes, inspiring images, and sample fonts. Everything was absolutely 100% spot-on; I really felt like they understood the mood of the book. Then she showed me the tentative mock-up and the ARC cover and asked my opinion on each along the way. I just loved everything, right from the start.

How was your cover revealed to you?

Thinking of seeing my cover for the first time makes me smile! It was in late April, and I was on a week-long writing retreat in Bat Cave, North Carolina (what better place for a top-secret writers retreat than Bat Cave?) with eight other MG and YA writers: Alan Gratz, Megan Miranda, Tiffany Trent, Beth Revis, Carrie Ryan, Laurel Snyder, Kristin O’Donnell Tubb, and Gwenda Bond. I’m dropping their names because they are all so cool, and also inspirations of mine, and now I can tell you what they eat for breakfast ☺ Anyway, as we were winding down for the day, I got an email from my editor with the cover art! Immediately all the other writers crowded around, and there was lots of shrieking and happiness, followed by lots of wine.

Was there an official "cover reveal" date for your art?

Being a part of the Friday the Thirteeners blog, I’ve met some wonderful people. Ellen Oh (whose book Prophecy comes out in January 2013) and I are both with HarperCollins and both had a cover reveal date of June 18. So we thought it would be great to collaborate and have a joint reveal! Mandy at YA Book Central hosted an exclusive cover reveal, where we gave away ARCs and swag, and it was tons of fun.

How far in advance of the reveal date were you aware of what your cover would look like?

My cover reveal was June 18, and I saw the tentative cover about six weeks before that. Then there were a few weeks of tweaking fonts and colors, but the basic feel of the cover remained the same.

Was it hard to keep it to yourself before the official release?

It wasn’t just hard—it was impossible. Literally. I probably showed it to more people than I was supposed to, but I was just too excited! The “pre-cover-reveal” circle of trust mostly included my husband, the other writers at the Bat Cave retreat, my mom, and this waiter who accidentally saw it over dinner. 

I wanted to show it to everyone! To stick it on my website and make postcards of it and generally proclaim to the world that my book has a beautiful cover.

BBC: What surprised you most about the process?

MH: I had very few expectations about how the cover design process would go. The process itself wasn’t too surprising, but the feeling I got when looking at the finished cover was. It’s so strange and wonderful to put a real person’s face to the character in your head. I love the model they used, and the way she is peeking over her bare shoulder. There’s a hint of madness there, but also strength, and desire, and power. And I love that you only get a glimpse of the face, so readers can still use their imagination to picture Juliet Moreau.

BBC: Any advice to other debut authors about how to handle cover art anxiety?

MH: Long before I saw it, I was irrationally worried I would hate my cover art. But once I looked at other Balzer + Bray titles, I realized that there was no reason to be anxious. All their covers are great and do a wonderful job of capturing the spirit and feel of each individual book. Designers are designers for a reason—they are really talented at what they do! I’m so glad that my editor and the design team were able to capture how I felt about the book and convert it into such a perfect, intriguing cover.

Thanks for having me on the blog, Mindy!

Cover Talk with Erin Bowman

I love talking to authors. Our experiences are so similar, yet so very different, that every one of us has a new story to share. Everyone says that the moment you get your cover it really hits you - you're an author. The cover is your story - and you - packaged for the world. So the process of the cover reveal can be slightly panic inducing. Does it fit your story? Is it what you hoped? Will it sell? With this in mind I put together the CRAP (Cover Reveal Anxiety Phase) Interview.

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Today's guest is my fellow Lucky13s and Friday the Thirteeners member Erin Bowman, to talk about her awesome cover for TAKEN, available from Harper Teen April 16, 2013.

Did you have any pre-conceived notions about what you wanted your cover to look like?

I didn't know what I wanted TAKEN's cover to look like so much as I knew how I wanted it to feel--dark, mysterious, ominous. I think Harper really nailed it.

How far in advance from your pub date did you start talking covers with your house?

We started talking about cover art before I even had a pub month! Discussions began in November of 2011, and at the moment, TAKEN is slated to release in April of 2013. So that's a whopping 17 months in advance!

Did you have any input on your cover?

I did! My editor, Erica, asked me what I envisioned for the cover and I shared with her the moods I already listed out above. We also talked about how I’m personally not a big fan of faces that are front and center on a cover. I don't mind seeing people, it's just that when they fill 90% of the cover, I feel it takes away from the reader being able to visualize characters for themselves. I mentioned Robison Wells' VARIANT as being a great compromise on the people/faces debate, and also pointed out how well I thought it struck that dark/mysterious/ominous mood I envisioned for TAKEN. Erica took all this back to the design team and they handled things from there.

How was your cover revealed to you?

Good 'ol email. Erica sent me the initial comp just before Christmas of 2011. While some elements were placeholders at this stage, the overall concept remained the same from initial comps to final cover! (And I must add that while the artwork was not what I was expecting, it absolutely struck the moods I had hoped for. The designer did a fantastic job!)

Was there an official "cover reveal" date for your art?

Harper's winter catalog went live on June 25th, so I was instructed to "reveal" the cover the week prior (June 18-22). I ended up revealing it on Pub(lishing) Crawl on June 19th.

How far in advance of the reveal date were you aware of what your cover would look like?

I saw the final version of the cover (with highres photography and updated models) in February, so that's four months before the reveal. (Then again, the cover didn't change drastically between the initial comp and the final, so it felt like I had to wait more like six months. I was so anxious to share the prettiness.)

Was it hard to keep it to yourself before the official release?

It was near impossible! I was (and still am) so in love with my cover that I wanted to show it to the world the first day I first saw it.

What surprised you most about the process?

How little I was involved. Harper did ask me for my thoughts before they began designing, and I was allowed to weigh in on the initial comp, but they ultimately owned this process. This shouldn't have surprised me because we hear again and again that authors don't get to pick their covers, but it was still somewhat shocking once I was confronted with it. Being a designer in my past life (web design), it was very hard for me to sit back, relax, and let someone else man the creative process. But publishers know what they are doing. They get the audience and what will sell. They know what causes a person to pluck a book off the shelves. In the end, I'm so happy I didn't design my cover; I wouldn't have created the gorgeousness Harper did, and I’m so grateful for the cover they’ve given my story.

Any advice to other debut authors about how to handle cover art anxiety?

Remember that you’re the expert at writing the book and you publisher is the expert at getting people to pick it up. A cover is a piece of advertising. Yes you want it to accurately reflect your novel, but you also want as many people to pick it up as possible. If you're not in love with your cover art, try to pick one thing to focus on. What is the biggest thing you dislike or long to have changed? Have an honest conversation with your publisher about that element. They are more likely to tweak one element than a dozen, so pick your battles. And try to enjoy the whole process. It only happens once for each book, and it's quite a ride!

On Submission with Lenore Applehans

Today's guest for the SHIT (Submission Hell - It's True) is Lenore Appelhans, the blogger extraordinaire behind Presenting Lenore who stopped by last week. Lenore's experience in the submission process certainly wasn't hellish, but a good dose of optimism never hurt any aspiring writers, either. And it certainly didn't hurt that her debut, LEVEL 2 sounds like it's made of everything you ever wanted, wrapped up in paper and topped off with a glorious cover..

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How much did you know about the submission process before you were out on subs yourself?

I did know a bit, mostly from scouring the blue boards (community at Verla Kay’s website) or from SCBWI resources/conferences.

Did anything about the process surprise you?

My agent walked me through the process and he was incredibly confident that it wouldn’t be on sub long.  He told me he was pitching it on a Friday and that we’d probably hear first reactions mid-week the following week. So when he forwarded me some feedback on Saturday already, I was elated, but my anxiety level also rose considerably. I might not have slept that whole weekend.

Did you research the editors you knew had your ms? Do you recommend doing that?

I had the submission list, and I googled all of their names, but I found precious little info about them. The main way to find out about which editors edit which books seems to be reading acknowledgement pages. So I did a lot of that to pass the time while I was waiting!

What was the average amount of time it took to hear back from editors?

Well, we heard that the first editor had interest in less than one day. We also got a couple of rejections by Monday. By Tuesday, my agent indicated that it would likely go to auction on Thursday, but then the preempt came in from S&S and we eventually accepted that.

What do you think is the best way for an author out on submission to deal with the anxiety?

I wish I knew! Fortunately, I didn’t have to deal with that specific anxiety for very long, but I’m sure if it had been much longer I would have developed some coping strategies.

If you had any rejections, how did you deal with that emotionally? How did this kind of rejection compare to query rejections?

The rejections we got were basically of the “this is just not for me, but I’m confident you’ll sell it elsewhere” variety, and the face of so much positive feedback, they really didn’t register much. You can’t expect everyone to love your book.

When you got your YES! how did that feel? How did you find out – email, telephone, smoke signal?

It was all via phone calls on a chilly Tuesday night in March. It felt really, really surreal because I just couldn’t believe I would soon have an actual book published. By the time the deal was agreed to, it was nearly midnight here (in Germany I am 6 hours ahead of New York) so my husband and I celebrated by going to the grocery store and buying sparkling wine and Snickers ice cream bars.

Did you have to wait a period of time before sharing your big news, because of details being ironed out? Was that difficult?

Because the publishing contract and the movie option with CBS happened at the same time, Deadline.com broke the news the next day and S&S sort of had to scramble to write a press release.  The deal was announced in PM and PW on Thursday, so it really wasn’t too bad of a wait.

Cover Talk with Ellen Oh

I love talking to authors. Our experiences are so similar, yet so very different, that every one of us has a new story to share. Everyone says that the moment you get your cover it really hits you - you're an author. The cover is your story - and you - packaged for the world. So the process of the cover reveal can be slightly panic inducing. Does it fit your story? Is it what you hoped? Will it sell? With this in mind I put together the CRAP (Cover Reveal Anxiety Phase) Interview.

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Today's guest is my fellow Lucky13s and Friday the Thirteeners member Ellen Oh, to talk about her awesome cover for PROPHECY, available from Harper Teen January 2, 2013.

Did you have any pre-conceived notions about what you wanted your cover to look like?

Well, my kids did versions of the cover that I loved! But otherwise I didn’t have any real idea of what I wanted it to look like other than wanting an iconic cover. I was so happy with what HarperTeen produced.

How far in advance from your pub date did you start talking covers with your house?

I’d say as early as the summer of 2012 was when we had the first conversations with my editor where she asked me what I was thinking about. I remember telling her that I really liked the Eon cover for the paperback version. There was the shadow of a girl holding a sword before an amazing dragon. And then I didn’t hear anything until I saw the first version.

Did you have any input on your cover?

Not really, but then that’s probably a good thing as I’m not artistic or creative in the very least! I leave that to the professionals. The only thing I asked for was something iconic, which they totally delivered.

How was your cover revealed to you?

My editor called me first and then it came via email and I was like WOW!

Was there an official "cover reveal" date for your art?

Yes, the marketing team at Harper asked me to reveal my cover the week of June 18th. Being very literal, I revealed it, jointly with the wonderful Megan Shepherd, right on June 18th!

How far in advance of the reveal date were you aware of what your cover would look like?

I’d say I knew what the final cover was at least 2 months before the release.

Was it hard to keep it to yourself before the official release?

HELL YES! ;o)

What surprised you most about the process?

That it takes a year to create a cover. That shocked me.

Any advice to other debut authors about how to handle cover art anxiety?

I think the best thing is not to stress about it because it ultimately isn’t in our hands. Being able to give input on what you hope for is good early on, and I do think they take an author’s input very seriously. But after that, forget about it and know that you are in good hands with your publisher.

When Your Mom Calls At Five AM Wanting To Borrow A Gun...

... the first question out of your mouth isn't "Why?" But rather, "Which one?"

Well, it is if you're me, anyway.

Yes, life continues to be an amalgamation of the amazing. Some really awesome storms have been ripping through Ohio lately. If you've been following my Twitter feed you know that it's been above 90 degrees as late as 10 PM these days, and you've also seen pics of golf-ball sized hail. The one thing I can't take a picture of is the fact that around 300,000 people in my state do not have power at the moment. Well, I could take a picture but it would be rather... dark.

My parents are among the 300k, but we're resourceful people. You can imagine the same couple that has a backhoe at their disposal also has a generator, so they're doing alright. However, the generator cord isn't quite allowing the back door to shut all the way, and sometime around 4 AM a particularly curious mammal with opposable thumbs figured that out.

So what do you do when there's a raccoon in the kitchen? Call your daughter and borrow her rifle.

It seems pretty straightforward, but raccoons aren't really that excited about being shot at. Plus, Abby (yes, the Scottish Terrier of tunneling under the road fame) had it in her head that *this* was her redeeming moment and was doing her damn-it-all-best to kill the raccoon, which really just meant she was ruining any chance of my dad getting a clean shot.

Oh - and I forgot to mention that he only had one bullet.

And also - the flashlight was going dim because they've been using them constantly.

And yes - that flashlight was my Mag light that I still haven't gotten back after the Abby-Under-the-Road Incident.

One more thing - the person holding the Mag light was my mom, who kept having to scream and run the other way when the raccoon charged her.

It was a glorious, badly-lit circus.

To add to the fun, my parents' St. Bernard (appropriately named Boo, because he's scared of everything) would occasionally stick his head in whatever room the entire escapade had moved to, howl mournfully, and then back out because he didn't feel equal to the situation. Dad says it's just not in his nature to hurt things, and that's a good thing.

My dad is a really big, really nice guy (pretty much just like Boo). He gave the raccoon every chance to make an escape, but once it did find its way back to the screen door it refused to let go of a bag of bread (no, I'm not kidding) that wouldn't squeeze through the crack. So it was time to make use of the one bullet, and unfortunately the raccoon met its bitter end in the bathroom.

Mom says that's OK, because she was tired of the Harvest Gold colored tub anyway.

Blogging with Presenting Lenore

I’ve ran across a lot of really awesome people, and culled an enormous amount of information from blogs. As I raided my brain – yes, I picture myself on the prow of a Viking ship, approaching my own gray matter – for more people I’d like to interview, it repeatedly offered up names of bloggers. And so, the third series; Bloggers of Awesome. Yeah, it’s the BOA.

Today's guest is Lenore Applehans of Presenting Lenore, who runs an absolutely stunning book review blog, as well as being a debut author herself! Her book, LEVEL 2, will be available from Simon & Schuster, January 15, 2013. For her fantastic cover reveal and trailer, check out this post on her blog. And to make her even cooler, she's a cat person.

So you run an excellent blog over at Presenting Lenore What made you decide to take the approach you do on your blog?

Originally I envisioned PL as a place to talk about my work in advertising (hence the title), but after attending the SCBWI pre-Bologna conference in 2008, I repurposed the blog to discuss books. In the early years, my reading was a lot more eclectic, but gradually my focus narrowed to YA since that’s what I mainly write.

I know a lot of aspiring writers who are intimidated by the idea of blogging. They want to, but they are worried it will cut into their (already precious) writing time. You're a prolific blogger - how do you recommend one be both a successful blogger and writer?

Blogs are a ton of work, no question. In 2009, at the height of my blogging, I wrote and published a post every day – with probably about half being book reviews. These days, most of that creative energy goes into writing fiction, so I’m lucky to have time for one or two posts a week.

One thing I think helps keep a balance is having specific goals. For 2012, for example, my two main goals are to stage my two dystopian/post-apocalyptic theme months (February and August) and to promote my fellow debut authors in the Apocalypsies via my Apoc Love! feature. I also have the very reliable Cat Tuesdays as an easy filler post.

I used to accept more blog tours and scheduled events, but I’ve drastically cut back on anything that has a firm deadline. It’s just too stressful. Having a calendar really helps though!

It looks like you’re a big reader - do you set aside time for that?

I have to set aside time for reading and I consider it part of my job as a writer. It’s essential not only to know what’s out there but also in terms of improving craft. I have learned so much about how to pace and plot YA from reading hundreds of YA novels over the past couple of years.

You do a lot of reviews. Have you ever given a bad review? Why or why not?

I’ve written critical reviews, yes. Book reviews are for readers and if they’re not honest, they are worthless. What I think a lot of authors don’t really get is that vaguely positive reviews pass from a reader’s consciousness in a matter of seconds while an in-depth, thoughtful review, even if it has its criticisms, forces a reader to engage with the material and really consider reading it.

Despite my firm belief in the value of critical reviews, my Apoc Love! book reviews are a bit different. Since these debut authors are essentially part of my support community, I use this feature to accentuate the positive, only talking about what I love about a book and not bringing up what I don’t. I’m still being honest, but my readers know that I’m only discussing the good aspects of the book.

Do you think blogging is a helpful self-marketing tool?

It can be, for sure. When I asked, in a recent survey attached to a contest, where visitors had first heard about LEVEL 2, I’d say 70% answered that they’d heard about it via my blog. Granted I was a blogger long before I was an author, but the contacts I’ve made just by being an active part of the blogosphere all these years (leaving comments on other blogs, engaging people on twitter, joining in events like read-a-thons, etc) are so valuable. At Book Expo America this year, I couldn’t walk two feet without running into someone I knew.

What other websites / resources can you recommend for writers?

I’m a huge fan of the link round-ups at YA Highway and Cynsations and I check in at least once a week at Verla Kay’s blue boards. I also subscribe to Publisher’s Marketplace and the free newsletters from Publisher’s Weekly and Shelf Awareness. I find myself clicking on a lot of links from authors, agents and editors on twitter. Always lots of wisdom to be found there!

It can also be very educational to follow some of the more critical reviewers in the blogosphere to get an idea of what type of story element resonates and what repels. A few of my favorites are: Forever Young Adult, The Book Smugglers, GalleySmith, StephSuReads, and Stacked Books.

What is your genre, and what led you to it? Does your genre influence the style of your blog?

I’d say LEVEL 2 falls mainly into the thriller genre, though it does have some dystopian elements.  My blog isn’t dystopian most of the year – just in February and August! But I am also blogging on the group blog The League of Extraordinary Writers, which focuses on sci-fi.

Any words of inspiration for aspiring writers?

Hard work pays off. Maybe not today, but someday! Hopefully soon :)

Cover Talk with Shannon Messenger

 I love talking to authors. Our experiences are so similar, yet so very different, that every one of us has a new story to share. Everyone says that the moment you get your cover it really hits you - you're an author. The cover is your story - and you - packaged for the world. So the process of the cover reveal can be slightly panic inducing. Does it fit your story? Is it what you hoped? Will it sell? With this in mind I put together the CRAP (Cover Reveal Anxiety Phase) Interview.

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Today's guest is my fellow Lucky13s and Friday the Thirteeners member Shannon Messenger, to talk about her awesome cover for LET THE SKY FALL, available from Simon Pulse in March, 2013.

Did you have any pre-conceived notions about what you wanted your cover to look like?

Honestly? Not really. I had a much stronger sense of what I DIDN’T want it to look like than what I wanted, so mostly I sent a lot of silent, “please don’t let it have _____” wishes into the void and danced for joy when I saw the final cover.

How far in advance from your pub date did you start talking covers with your house?

Pretty early, actually. Even in my first round of edits there were notes in the margins of certain scenes marking them for possible cover ideas. And during The Great and Never-Ending Title Debate (LET THE SKY FALL was VERY hard to title) my editor gave me some information on what they were thinking for the cover to try and help inspire some title ideas.

Did you have any input on your cover?

Yes and no. My editor and I are (fortunately) very much on the same page, so mostly she told me what they were doing and I said brilliant things like, “Ooo, that’s going to be awesome!” I did get to see headshots of the models they’d selected for the photo shoot ahead of time, and offer some suggestions on how I’d preferred them to be styled (all of which were met with: yep, that’s what we’re planning!), but on the whole it was all the amazing team at S&S doing what they do best.

How was your cover revealed to you?

In an email from my editor where she gushed and gushed about how amazing it was for several paragraphs and I did my best to be a good author and read all of that despite the fact that all I really wanted to do was DOWNLOAD THE ATTACHMENT AND SEE IT.

Was there an official "cover reveal" date for your art?

Yes, though it was a bit of a rushed scramble. Within a couple of weeks of finalizing the art I found out that LET THE SKY FALL was going to be featured at a special S&S event the week of BEA and that ARCs would be given out. Which—while AWESOME—meant we needed to do the reveal before that event, and there wasn’t a lot of time to organize. So we settled on revealing May 30th, which gave me a couple of weeks to prepare, but was still before everyone would start traveling for BEA and be too distracted to be checking blogs.

How far in advance of the reveal date were you aware of what your cover would look like?

Only about three weeks. Like I said, it was a bit of a last minute scramble.

Was it hard to keep it to yourself before the official release?

YES! Keeping secrets is never easy for me. And since we were scrambling to prepare for that event, I kept getting exciting things I couldn’t share. Like, they sent me my ARCs, but I couldn’t post the obligatory Shannon-Hugging-Her-Book photo (what? It HAS to be done!) because the cover was still secret. Same with when the bookmarks I’d ordered came in, I *almost* forgot and posted a picture of them on Twitter. Thank goodness I remembered at the last minute and stopped.

What surprised you most about the process?

How MUCH I loved the final cover. It was SO MUCH BETTER than what my imagination had come up with.

Any advice to other debut authors about how to handle cover art anxiety?

Yes, two things. One: try not to panic until you actually SEE the cover, because nine times out of ten authors end up loving what their publisher sends them. And if you do happen to fall into the category of not liking your cover, trust your agent to help guide you through. There’s a lot that can still be done and I know many authors who started out with something that wasn’t right and ended up with something awesome!

 

You Just Can't Make This Shit Up

My life really is a never ending stream of ridiculousness. Last night an All-Family-Distress-Call went out when my mom's Scottish Terrier got herself stuck under the driveway.

Ahem, yes - under the driveway. For those of you who are unaware of what a culvert is, you might want to click here. For everyone else, I'll just keep going.

For those of you who don't know, this is a Scottish Terrier.

For those of you who don't know, this is a Scottish Terrier.

My sister and I are aware of the minor miracle that made us able to pass through our German mother's care without becoming morbidly obese. We're not sure how we escaped the fate of every single family pet, but I think it was being athletic and also the fact that it was the 80s and most of us wore spandex whenever possible.

In any case, Abby (named after Aberdeen) is the most recent in a long line of Scottish Terriers. As a breed, they are incredibly intelligent and ferocious little shits. Individual results may vary.

Yesterday Abby got it into her head to dive into a culvert and investigate tight spaces that her very large arse had no hope of fitting into.

Or back out of.

And so, Abby was in fact, stuck under the driveway.

Individual results may vary

I got the call around 9 PM because I'm the owner of a very nice Mag lite and my mother had managed to turn my dad's on at some point during the afternoon and never ever turn it back off. So I drove over to my parent's house to find the neighbor, my brother-in-law, my cousin, and my dad all standing in a hole up to their waists and pounding on the drainpipe to see if the dog was in that particular pipe or the next one.

For those of you who don't know, this is a backhoe.

For those of you who don't know, this is a backhoe.

Note - it's very difficult to see a black dog inside a pitch-black pipe after 9 PM.

Abby wasn't in that pipe, so the next element came into effect - the backhoe. Yep. We dug up the driveway, cut the phone line and continued beating on the pipe in the hopes that one very fat Scottish Terrier would get up the gumption to push herself on out. But she didn't, so the backhoe was implemented into Plan C, which involved pulling the entire culvert pipe up and getting it vertical so that her fat butt just fell out one end.

And she then proceeded to go up to the front porch and beg for a treat.

She got it.

Cover Talk with Elsie Chapman

I love talking to authors. Our experiences are so similar, yet so very different, that every one of us has a new story to share. Everyone says that the moment you get your cover it really hits you - you're an author. The cover is your story - and you - packaged for the world. So the process of the cover reveal can be slightly panic inducing. Does it fit your story? Is it what you hoped? Will it sell? With this in mind I put together the CRAP (Cover Reveal Anxiety Phase) Interview.

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Today's guest is my fellow Lucky13s and Friday the Thirteeners member Elsie Chapman, to talk about her awesome cover for DUALED, available from Random House February 26, 2013. 

Did you have any pre-conceived notions about what you wanted your cover to look like?

Not at all, actually. A lot of the time, I have a hard time pin-pointing why I like or don’t like something, only that I do or don’t. I was just hoping that when I saw what my publisher came up with, I would simply fall in love with it.

How far in advance from your pub date did you start talking covers with your house?

Over a year in advance. Which seemed early at the time, but looking back, I’m so glad they got a head start on it. So many people are involved with the cover process, and there’s a lot of back-and-forthing which takes time.

Did you have any input on your cover?

My editor and DUALED’s art director presented me with concepts and ideas and asked for feedback. I really appreciated being asked for my opinion, and it was great that they were interested to hear my thoughts on everything!

How was your cover revealed to you?

Step by step, in that they’d tweak, come back to me, we’d all talk, then they would tweak some more. By the time I actually saw it, I already had a good idea what it was going to look like. But seeing it all actually finalized—with the title on it, my name and picture, the tagline and blurbs—it was an overwhelming moment. It just hit me that this was how DUALED was going to be presented to the world.

Was there an official "cover reveal" date for your art?

Not really, but my editor gave me the heads up about when my publisher would be releasing it online, so I could plan my own reveal ahead of time if I wanted to go that route.

How far in advance of the reveal date were you aware of what your cover would look like?

With the finalized version, about a week or two, I think.

Was it hard to keep it to yourself before the official release?

It was! I really wanted to share it, but I’ve learned to be a much more patient person now, with the publishing process being what it is. So I try to keep in mind that all good things take time.

What surprised you most about the process?

How involved it is, and how much thought is put into every single detail. From the font to title placement to whether or not any special effects such as gloss or foil will be used. And as much as it is an art and a super creative process to put together a cover, it does make sense that the sales and marketing department also has a say in the final product.

Any advice to other debut authors about how to handle cover art anxiety?

To always remember that your publisher wants nothing but the best for your book, and for it to succeed. And that they know more than we do about what works for a cover. So trust that they’re going to do an awesome job, just as they trust you to do the same when it comes to filling the pages in between!

Indie Success with Alicia Kat Dillman

We all know there are many different routes to success in this industry. Today on the blog I have someone who not only said, "Hmm... I think I'll go Indie," but, "Hmm... I think I'll just go ahead and start my own Indie business." That kind of spirit and determination is an amazing thing to see, and I've made room twice-over this week on the blog for Alicia Kat Dillman for that reason..

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Indie author & illustrator Alicia Kat Dillman is a lifelong resident of the San Francisco Bay Area. Kat illustrates and designs book covers & computer game art by day and writes teen fiction by night. Her first book, DAEMONS IN THE MIST, features seventeen year old Patrick Connolly who has been hopelessly infatuated with Nualla for years, though he is all but invisible to her. Until, that is, he rescues her from a confrontation with her ex. Little does Patrick know he’s just set off a dangerous chain reaction that will thrust him into a world of life altering secrets and things that shouldn’t exist, because the fog and mist of San Francisco is concealing more than just buildings.

What made you decide to become an Indie publisher?

Most little girls play house or with dolls, I played store. I think I’ve wanted to own my own business since I was five. I come from a long line of people with that entrepreneurial spirit, so it was inevitable, really. I have nothing against traditional publishing, I have a lot of friends who work in the industry. But for me, it was more important that I do this myself, than hand my project over to someone else. I really like the idea that this is mine; that I made this. My words, my art, my design, my drive, moving it forward. That my readers get one complete vision, one story, one voice. Pure, the way it was meant to be.

Did you do a lot of research? What resources do you recommend?

I do a lot of research before I do anything, but yes, I did a lot of research before I decided to open my own indie publishing company. I joined a few online groups. Read a ton of articles, blogs and books. I started going to two twitter chats each week geared toward indie publishers. I researched and learned a few new computer programs. I studied books, not the stories in them, but the books themselves. The way they were constructed, the way they were laid-out, the way digital books are formatted, to make sure I could make something just as well put together as the big guys.

Books that were helpful:
Self Printed: A sane person’s Guide to Self publishing by Catherine Ryan Howard
Smart Self Publishing by Zoe Winters
The Newbie’s Guide to Publishing by J.A. Konrath

Twitter chats:
#IndieChat
#MBPA

The cover art for DAEMONS IN THE MIST is fantastic - and you did it yourself! What's your process?

I hit the books, analyzing what’s out there. Trying to design something that’s true to the story while at the same time something that will stand out from the pack of other new releases.

For the base of Daemons in the Mist’s cover, stock photography was used as part of a newer art form called enhanced photo-imagery. I head on over to the stock photography sites and browse for what I need. I then download their mock images and jump into InDesign to start mocking up a cover based on the template generated by the book printers. Because Daemons in the Mist is part of a trilogy, all 3 books were mocked up at the same time. When I get the cover design the way I like, I purchase the chosen images and head on over to Painter.

I then use my custom designed brushes and go to town. I tend to use what they call  “illustrative color” even though my process with the cover was a departure from my norm, my signature style and use of vibrant color and dramatic lighting is still present. Once the painting is complete, I head back over to InDesign and import the final art before exporting the file and sending it off to the printer. And that’s how my covers are born.

You want to know a secret? The photo-enhanced cover I did for Daemons in the Mist is only the second one I’ve ever done.

Your trailer is also very nicely done, and again - you did it yourself! You're so useful! :) What made you decide to take the approach that you did with it?

Daemons in the Mist is told in first person so I figured the trailer should be as well. I decided the trailer would be Patrick’s story, told from his point of view, so I chose two scenes from Daemons in the Mist as the base of the trailer. Why those two scenes? Because really, the whole story pivots on the decisions he makes in those chapters.

The Words
Most of the lines in the trailer were lifted from actual passages in the book and then edited to fit the format of the trailer. It gives you a taste of what you’ll get in the story and a look into the way Patrick thinks; his voice. The few lines he says speak volumes to all the conflict he’s going through in the story without giving too much away and spoiling the story like our modern movie trailers do.

The Music
I wanted a song that was quiet and dramatic like the rain because it is in those small moments we hear ourselves the loudest. Or at least I do anyways.

The Visuals
I wanted it to look like you were one of the people on the street watching Patrick and Nualla through a mix of passing cars, fog and rain. And I wanted that beautiful and dreamlike quality of mist and fog. It’s a metaphor for the whole story. Like fog, the things in it are never as they seem. The farther you go into it, the more you see, the more you realize that everything you thought you knew, was wrong.

What's your marketing strategy? How do you plan to raise awareness of yourself as an author and DAEMONS IN THE MIST as a title?

I’m easing into it so I don’t get overwhelmed. I’m new to indie publishing and I don’t want to take on too much and get burned out. That being said, I use all the digital tools at my disposal. If it’s high-tech and social media based there’s a good chance I’m there.

I have a FB page for my studio, my writing, and for the Marked Ones Trilogy. As well, I have a Google+ for me and a page for the books. A lot of authors are on FB but they completely ignore Google+ I don’t, in fact the tour wrap party will be on the DITM Google+ page on June 23rd.

I’m also a regular on Goodreads, Deviant Art, Pinterest, Tumblr and I participate in 5 twitter chats a week. Part of it is about being where my audience is, but mostly it’s because I spend 90% of my day working alone in the studio and I’m a very social person.

This year most of my marketing is internet focused. I’m only attending half the events I normally do because I’m getting married later this year. But that doesn’t mean I ignore the outside world completely. It’s all about a good balance of both. Aside from all the social media, I also exhibit at conventions and festivals and do events and signings at my local indies.

On top of all this I’m doing a two week 30 blog virtual book tour. Which of course you know because you’re on it.

Any last tips for those considering going Indie?

Learn to do as much as you can yourself and hire pros for the rest. I for example, am dyslexic, so editing and copyediting just isn’t in my skill set. So I hired people to fill those positions at Korat Publishing. You can skimp on a lot of things when it comes to running your own indie company but editing and a top-notch cover design should never be the place where you make your cuts.

Lastly, if you’re not willing to put in the work to deliver a professional product, then don’t even try to go it your own. There are plenty of publishers and indie presses out there still looking for talent. Do yourself a huge favor and work with one of them.

Thursday Thoughts

1) Tonsils. Yeah, I've still got mine. They make me miserable. Everyone tells me that having them out as an adult is tantamount to torture, but I'm tempted to call their bluff.

2) Appendix. Yeah, I've still got mine. Everytime I have midsection pain (or mittelschmerz, as we Germans call it) I have to wonder if it's about to blow and poison all my properly functioning innards.

3) Little toes. Yeah, I've still got mine... oh wait, you probably do too. In any case, I'm always stubbing the damn things, and no, we don't really need them. I checked.

4) Eyebrows. Yeah, I've still got mine... despite lots of waxing and tweezing. (And yes, you get four thoughts this week). Ostensibly, our eyebrows are supposed to keep sweat from running directly into our eyes. And yeah, they probably are pretty useful once you think about it. But did you know you're not the only person (uh, thing) benefitting from that? Yep. Something lives up there.

And yes, that last thought was just a random something I've been carrying around in my weird brain for awhile. I just had to back up it with a link.

Blogging with Mindy of Magical Urban Fantasy Reads

I’ve ran across a lot of really awesome people, and culled an enormous amount of information from blogs. As I raided my brain – yes, I picture myself on the prow of a Viking ship, approaching my own gray matter – for more people I’d like to interview, it repeatedly offered up names of bloggers. And so, the third series; Bloggers of Awesome. Yeah, it’s the BOA.

Today's guest is Mindy (AWESOME name, right?) from Magical Urban Fantasy Reads. Mindy is an obsessive reader. She primarily reads YA, Paranormal Romance, Urban Fantasy, Dystopia, Post-apocalyptic & Sci-Fi. She has a serious problem with falling in love with fictional characters.

So you run an excellent blog over at Magical Urban Fantasy Reads. What made you decide to take the approach you do on your blog?

I was already a little obsessed with writing my opinions about books on Goodreads. Then, one day after reading Nightshade, I saw that Andrea Cremer was hosting a twitter giveaway of Wolfsbane so I thought I would enter! Well, that giveaway opened me up to the world of book bloggers and I immediately jumped in.

You're a prolific blogger! How do you recommend fledgling bloggers become seasoned pros like yourself?

I wouldn’t say that I’m seasoned because I still feel like I’m a newbie. I think one of the most important things is to make sure you do it for fun, and to do it because you like to do it. Book blogging can be and IS a lot of work. It was overwhelming in the beginning, but now…well now, it actually isn’t any easier now than it was in the beginning! I thought in the beginning it would be the hardest, but it doesn’t really get any easier! You just have to find a balance about what’s important to you and what’s not.

I think the most important thing is to get yourself out there! Make sure you are involved in all of the social media websites. Interact with other bloggers and authors. Get to know bloggers who live near you and meet up with them at book events.

You’re a huge reader. How do you find the time? And because I love a challenge – how many books do you think you read in a year?

I mostly read when everyone else in my house is asleep, and I read until way into the late hours of the night…and, sometimes, into the wee hours of the morning! Last year I almost read 60 books and this year my goal is 80. At first I was shooting for 100 but I was dreaming a little too big.

Have you ever given a bad review? Why or why not?

Yes, and it sucks! I very rarely need to do that anymore because if a book isn’t holding my interest, I’ll stop and move on to the next book. I always try to be as honest as I can be for each and every review, and I mainly speak about my feelings from reading the book, so if I have emotions of dislike, you will hear it in the review.

How do you decide what you’re going to read next?

Usually, it’s between a book that’s been staring at me FOREVER or a book that I have to hit at last minute in order to complete a review.

What do you think is the best way for readers to be exposed to debut authors?

Definitely, it’s through social media. There are quite a few authors who I’ve first chatted with on Twitter, sometimes for over a year, not even knowing whether they will have a book releasing soon. And then when I see the upcoming releases, and their name is on the book, I jump all over it!

As a book blogger, what’s your advice to writers on getting themselves out there?

Twitter! I can honestly say that Twitter is the best place to get yourself out there. Find bloggers who read your genre, follow their blog and follow them on Twitter! Through them, you will be able to find more bloggers who read your genre as well. Blog tours, and fun giveaways, are always good ways to get yourself out there too, and giveaways don’t even need to be books. I know an author who gives out knitted stuff she makes, and people love it!

You have an INCREDIBLE first name. I mean, it’s just GLORIOUS. How much do you love it?

I absolutely LOVE my name!!! Whenever an author is asking for suggestions for a character name in a book, I always say, “MINDY” because the name Mindy totally rocks! I’m glad that you agree! LOL

Thursday Thoughts

It's my last Thursday before summer, and so today you get one BIG Thursday Thought. Hopefully I don't come off as kind of a prickly b, but there's something I have to get off my chest.

I've been a school librarian for something like a dozen years now, and every year about this time people start asking me, "So, are you packing up all those books yet?"

Sigh. It's one of those innocent questions asked by people who don't really understand the logistics of the situation, but after twelve years of getting the same question about 10 times in the same month it gets very hard not to say something like -

"Yes, it's very hard work to pack up 11,000 books, ship them to our offshore Cayman Island storage facilities, wait three months, then ship them back into the country, unpack them, and put them all back onto the shelves according to Dewey. Really it's a miracle we manage it every year. It's funny though, you'd think with an entire room full of bookshelves we'd just keep them there over the summer, right? Where better to store books than bookshelves. Geez, wish I woulda thought of that before now."

On Submission with Tara Dairman

Today's guest for the SHIT is Tara Dairman. Her debut novel, All Four Stars, will be published in 2014 by Putnam/Penguin; it’s about the youngest restaurant critic in the history of The New York Times (she’s 11). Tara claims to be slightly older than 11. In 2009, Tara and her husband quit their jobs to take a very long, “around-the-world” honeymoon. Over the next two years, they visited 74 countries on 5 continents and ate more fabulous street food than they ever imagined possible. You can read their blog and see lots of pictures from the whole crazy, wonderful experience at AndyandTara.com

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How much did you know about the submission process before you were out on subs yourself?

I knew the basics: about how many editors you usually subbed to in one round, and not to expect to start hearing back from them for weeks (if not months). I feel like there’s a lot of information out there about querying agents, but fewer people are willing to talk publicly about their submission experience—which is one of the reasons I found the previous SHIT interviews on this blog so helpful! =) But those interviews also showed me that people’s subbing timelines and experiences can vary wildly.

Did anything about the process surprise you?

I guess that the big thing that surprised me was that I ended up getting an “R&R” from the house that ultimately bought my book. I had heard of people getting revision requests before being taken on by agents, but I didn’t really know that that was an option at the submissions stage—I kind of thought that publishers either bought the project and then worked on revisions with you, or flat-out rejected it. In my case, there were a few elements of the story that the publisher wanted me to beef up. Luckily, I connected very much with their suggestions, and they liked the changes I made with their guidance, so they ended up making an offer.

Did you research the editors you knew had your ms? Do you recommend doing that?

When I got the submission list from my agent, I did a quick Googling out of curiosity, but that was about it. I didn’t feel the need to do the kind of in-depth research I had done on agents I was querying because I trusted my agent’s choices. And really, isn’t that one of the reasons you hire an agent—to worry about that stuff for you?  =)

What was the average amount of time it took to hear back from editors?

We found out that we had interest from one house the day after we went on submission (which is very fast!), and my agent let the other editors know about the early interest, so I think that sped up the reading process for some of them. We ended up hearing back from about half the editors in the first week, one more editor about three weeks into the process, and the last few about six weeks into the process, after my agent had notified them that we had an offer. So I guess that’s about three weeks on average, though it varied quite a bit.

What do you think is the best way for an author out on submission to deal with the anxiety?

For me, working on a new project was key. That was something I hadn’t been able to do while querying agents, but I guess that something about actually having an agent—a partner in crime!—let me relax enough to get back to writing. I also recommend planning a vacation for part of the time that you’re on sub—anything that gets you away from constantly checking your e-mail/phone and reminds you that a whole, interesting world exists outside of your will-I-or-won’t-I-get-published bubble.

If you had any rejections, how did you deal with that emotionally? How did this kind of rejection compare to query rejections?

The big difference between editor rejections and query rejections is that editors usually give some sort of concrete reason about why they’re turning your project down. Most of my rejections from editors said nice things about my writing, even as they explained why the book wouldn’t work on their list. Those reasons varied, although a couple of editors already had food-themed MG or YA projects and didn’t think they’d be able to acquire another one.

If you got feedback on a rejection, how did you process it? How do you compare processing an editor’s feedback as compared to a beta reader’s?

The feedback I got on rejections wasn’t very consistent—each editor seemed to have her own reason for turning down the book, and it often didn’t seem to have much to do with the concept or the writing. When I shared earlier versions of the manuscript with beta readers, I tried to watch out for commonly-cited problems. If multiple readers pointed out that something was bothering them, then I probably needed to fix it. But I didn’t really get that from the editors (this time).

When you got your YES! how did that feel? How did you find out – email, telephone, smoke signal?

I found out by phone, but smoke signal might have been faster! It was the first day of our let’s-distract-Tara-from-being-on-submission road trip, and we were driving through the South Dakota badlands—which, as it turns out, have pretty spotty cell service. We emerged from a dead zone and my phone beeped with a voicemail from my agent, saying she had some news and asking me to call her back. My heart pounded as I called her, and she was barely able to tell me that we had an offer before I lost service again. I called her back again, lost service again, called again, lost again, and finally got the bright idea to ask my husband to pull over. I finally got the rest of the news as we sat on the shoulder of the road.

Did you have to wait a period of time before sharing your big news, because of details being ironed out? Was that difficult?

After we got the offer, we still had to hear back from a few other editors, which took a few days, then my agent had to do some negotiating. I accepted the revised offer a week after the first call, and then the day after that the news was up on Publisher’s Marketplace! I was actually expecting to have to sit on the news much longer than that, so I was kind of surprised by the speed.

I was still on vacation at this point and had limited Internet access, but had told my mom on the phone that it was now OK to share the news. I thought that she would just call a few relatives or something, but instead she went and posted about it on Facebook. When I found out about this, I had to scramble to get online and share the news myself so my mom wouldn’t totally be scooping me!

Author Photo Friday

I've got an appointment today to make my life better. Or something like that.

Today is the day I put on a dress, do my hair, paint my nails, and pack some comfy clothes to get the more casual shots that I'll probably end up using.

I made a video about my thoughts on author photos. Wish me luck.

And the poor photographer.

Cover Talk with A.G. Howard

I love talking to authors. Our experiences are so similar, yet so very different, that every one of us has a new story to share. Everyone says that the moment you get your cover it really hits you - you're an author. The cover is your story - and you - packaged for the world. So the process of the cover reveal can be slightly panic inducing. Does it fit your story? Is it what you hoped? Will it sell? With this in mind I put together the CRAP (Cover Reveal Anxiety Phase) Interview.

Here today to usher in the new interview on Writer, Writer is my fellow debut author A.G. Howard. She's a great gal that I knew back when we were just anonymous screennames bouncing off the same agent entries over on QueryTracker, so I'm thrilled to be sharing the astounding cover for her book SPLINTERED, available from Amulet in January, 2013.

Did you have any pre-conceived notions about what you wanted your cover to look like? 

I did. I’m very visual and I actually like to “construct” my own book covers for fun sometimes. I always assumed it would be a dark gothic-type cover with Alyssa as the centerpiece and some sort of symbolic details woven in, like maybe the broken toys and the bloody roses. Here’s the mockup I made:

Granted, I was WAY off in the color scheme. But once I saw what they had done, I was thrilled. Choosing vivid colors lent a whimsical feel which is so important, so the reader goes in knowing to expect some strange silliness along with the creepiness. The model is beautiful, but also looks very innocent, like my MC. I also loved the fact that Alyssa’s face is partially covered by her hair (speaking of her hair, the model’s is exactly how I pictured it!!!).  One thing both our covers had in common was the actual vision: Alyssa front and center, and plenty of subtle details woven in (the bugs and flowers who talk to her, the snaky vines, the key around her neck, and her wild and haggard expression, because believe me, she goes through some crazy stuff…heh).

How far in advance from your pub date did you start talking covers with your house? 

November, so about three months after I signed.

Did you have any input on your cover? 

Yes. My agent arranged a “Meaningful Consultation” clause in my contract, which meant I got to watch the entire evolution and actually had back and forths w/my editor along the way. But honestly, their ideas were so amazing, I hardly had anything to say. Although there was a lot of swooning going on. LOL

How was your cover revealed to you? 

Since I was involved throughout the process, it was a gradual evolution. My editor would send me mockups along the way to view and comment on.

Was there an official "cover reveal" date for your art? 

There was a little bit of confusion there, because I’d told my editor I wanted to do a reveal, so they needed to let me know before it hit the online catalogue and went live. Then I was googling myself one weekend, and there it was, up in the catalogue. I emailed my editor LIKE FAST and she wasn’t even aware they’d already posted it. It had only been up that one day. Evidently, designing and editing are kind of worlds apart even though they’re both in-house. She did some checking around for me (this was on a Saturday, mind, so she really went out of her way there) and got the okay for my reveal. I had been in contact with a very delightful gal named Tami, who runs the lovely Krazy Book Lady blog. I appreciate her so much because she was so flexible and pushed aside everything so I could post it first thing Monday morning before anyone else got wind of it on the catalogue. I spent all day Sunday making my book cover reveal trailer, and then it all went off without a hitch. Whew!

How far in advance of the reveal date were you aware of what your cover would look like? 

The day I contacted my editor that the cover was in the catalogue, I actually had to make sure that was the final version because there had still been a little back and forth going on between the designer and the artist. So, two days before the reveal, unless you count watching the evolution.

Was it hard to keep it to yourself before the official release? 

Well, I have select group of online pals (my critters/beta readers) that got to watch every step of the progression w/me. That helped me reign in my excitement until I could share w/the world.

What surprised you most about the process? 

I didn’t realize it took both a designer and an artist (two separate entities) to make up the cover. I always assumed it was the same person doing both. But instead, the in-house designer looks for a freelance artist who has the qualities in their artwork that would best capture the book’s feel. Really, it’s pretty amazing how many people actually had a hand in it along the way. The model, the artist, the designer, my editor, the publicist. LOTS of involvement in-house and out of house.

Any advice to other debut authors about how to handle cover art anxiety? 

Have your agent get a Meaningful Consult clause in your contract. It really does help if you get to have a little input, if for no other reason than you get to see the progression of the cover, and fall in love with it along the way!

I Don't Care

That was my go-to phrase when I was a kid.

Parent: "Mindy, you didn't clean your room."
Me: "I don't care."

Parent: "You're grounded you for a week."
Me: "I don't care."

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Parent: "You're making me angry!"
Me: "I don't care."

As you can see, I learned early on that apathy is the biggest stick you can carry while walking softly. So my parents found the perfect book for me: PIERRE by Maurice Sendak.

PIERRE is the story of a young boy who uses that same catchphrase to dismiss, irritate and otherwise flaunt his independence to his parents. Tried beyond endurance, Pierre's parents go to the movies one night to get away and a lion marches into the living room and announces he's going to eat Pierre, who boldly claims -

"I don't care."

And is thus eaten.

After this little literary gem had been installed on my bookshelf, my parent's automatic response to my defiant "I don't care" was -

"Okay, Pierre."

Which was a really nice way to say, "Get your shit together or you'll be eaten by a lion."

I hear "I don't care," everyday in my job, and it never slips by without my brain tacking on, "Okay, Pierre." So Maurice Sendak is going to be with me for a long time, haunting my steps and reminding me to care.

Or be eaten.

Thursday Thoughts

Thoughts lately…

1) Facebook really enjoys being the last word in social networking. When you accept a friend request from Bob it says,  "You are now friends with Bob." Yeah, 'cause before you were totally faking it.

2) I think nerd is just another word for someone who's discovered that 90% of society is bullshit and removes themselves from it.

3) When someone says, "Race ya!" and you immediately say, "You win," without breaking stride, it totally takes the wind out of their sails.