Friday, March 30, 2012

Publishing Mythbusting

Don't go into shock, but I'm writing an actual, useful blog post today, instead of one where I whine about deadlines. (HEY--I SAID DON'T GO INTO SHOCK I CAN'T REACH ALL OF YOU WITH SMELLING SALTS!!!)

Still with me? Good!

The reason for my sudden sense of blogging clarity is that I've had a lot of people ask me the same questions recently, so I thought I'd take a few minutes today to do a little publishing mythbusting and de-bunk three of the myths I keep hearing.

(it has nothing to do with procrastinating on a difficult scene. Nope. I would NEVER. *adjusts halo*)


Okay, here goes:

Myth #1: I need someone to refer me to their agent/editor in order to get an offer of representation/book deal.
No, you don't.  I PROMISE.
Are there stories out there of authors whose friend recommended them to so-and-so and it ended in a book deal? Of course. BUT, 99.999999% of the time those drafts were good enough that, had the person queried/submitted the old-fashioned way, it would've ended in the same result. (also: there are many, many stories of writers who got the golden recommendation to an agent/editor and still had it yield a rejection). 
If your book is good--and right for that person and the market--it will get offers, whether you are a famous author's BFF or Jane Nobody from the slush pile. All a recommendation will really get you is a slightly faster read, which is nice--of course--but NOT worth the amount of stress and worry some writers put into the quest for networking. It still always comes down to the writing and marketability of your book. Nail that, and nothing can stop you.

Myth #2: Authors only blurb their friend's books.
Obviously, I can't speak for every single author out there, but I do know quite a lot of them and I can say in all honesty that the answer is No. And yes, I realize that a decent percentage of the time it seems like authors know/are friends with the authors who blurb them. BUT, that is not because the author is doing a favor for their friend by blurbing their book. It's because if you have enough in common with a person to be friends with them, there is a REALLY good chance you will like their book. The things that make people similar enough to be friends often translates to similar writing sensibilities.  
Am I saying connections don't help? Of course not. But what I am saying is: if you don't have them, your book/career is not doomed. There are many, many blurbs that happen where the author is not friends with the other author. So don't waste precious time stressing about it--and definitely don't try and befriend authors simply to get something from them. That's just a bad idea all around.

Myth #3: Published authors don't like to talk to unpublished/un-agented authors.
Again, I can't speak for every author here, but in my experience, published authors really aren't paying attention to this. Believe me, I understand. I remember being un-agented and unpublished and nervous around authors who were. However, I learned very quickly that if I relaxed and talked to them like real people, they were just as open and friendly to me as they were to others who were published. In fact, pretty much all of the authors I'm close friends with now I met before my book deals.  
And speaking personally for a second... honestly, if someone comes up to me and tells me they're a writer, it doesn't cross my mind to ask if they have an agent or a book deal. Sometimes I might ask the name of their book, but only because I'm bad with names and it would be really embarrassing if I was talking to someone whose book I've read and never realized it was them. And if I find out they don't have an agent or a book deal it doesn't make even the slightest difference in my opinion of them--and I know many authors who feel the same way.

Notice a theme here? Lots of people wondering about networking, and yes, networking IS important. But it's not the key to publishing success either.

And I'd like to wrap this up with a quick Shannon-Networking P.S.A: The best way to network is to NOT "network." Don't have an agenda when you reach out to people. Don't expect anything from them--and don't do it thinking it will advance your career. Reach out to someone because you admire their writing or enjoy them as a person. It is always always ALWAYS better to make a FRIEND than a CONNECTION. And don't let any of this take away from what really matters: improving your craft as a writer.

Phew--that was a lot of thinking! My brain is tired now! :)

Anyway, I hope you guys found this helpful and that it answered some of those questions that are sitting in my still-to-be-replied-to email label.

Also, if you have other pressing questions feel free to leave them in the comments. I'll do my best to answer them as soon as I can.

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Another blurb--and another contest to celebrate!

Some of you may have seen this already--since apparently it's  up on amazon (I've been scooped--that's what I get for waiting to share!) But in case you haven't, I thought I'd still go ahead and share it here:


"Keeper of the Lost Cities is a little bit Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, a little bit Lord of the Rings, and a little bit Harry Potter. And it's all fun!"  
--New York Times bestselling author Michael Buckley
Every time I read that I have to remind myself that he's talking about MY book--and not just because of the incredible and humbling comparisons he makes. 

Mainly it's because I might be Michael's #1 Fan (AND I WILL TAKE ON ANYONE WHO TRIES TO CLAIM OTHERWISE).


All of his books are amazing. (Seriously, AMAZING!). But his Sisters Grimm books are not only some of my all time favorite middle grade books--they're also a big part of the reason I decided to write middle grade in the first place.  

When I'd first had the idea for KEEPER and was trying to decide if I wanted to try writing it, I went to the bookstore for research. And I walked out with three books: ELLA ENCHANTED, by Gail Carson Levine, THE LIGHTNING THIEF, by Rick Riordan, and THE FAIRY TALE DETECTIVES, by Michael Buckley. And after reading those three I knew I had to give middle grade writing a try. 

I loved each of those books for different reasons. But what I loved about Michael's books (oh yes, I went straight back to B&N and bought all the rest of the Sisters Grimm series and devoured every word) was the way he melded humor and heart. He also has two strong, kick-butt girls as his main characters and yet tells the story in such a way that it will appeal to ALL kids. And his creativity and imagination absolutely blew me away. (Puck is also one of my favorite characters EVER!)

So years later, to have him read and blurb MY book is just the most incredible thing... 

Yes, it totally made me tear up. And yes, I wished I could reach through the screen and hug him (alas, I couldn't--but he's coming to Cali for an event soon and HE'D BETTER WATCH OUT. AN AWKWARD SHANNON HUG WILL BE HAPPENING!)

In the meantime, I just want to say, Michael, if you happen to see this, THANK YOU. Not just for your blurb, but for your fabulous books that have inspired me in more ways than you know. I can't wait for book 9, even if it also breaks my heart a little to see the series end. 

And to celebrate my blurb--and give you guys a chance to experience some of Michael's incredible work--I'm giving some of his books away! That's right--one lucky commenter on this post will win three--yes THREE--amazing Michael Buckley books.

To enter, leave a comment on this post by 11:59 pm pacific on Saturday, March 31. I'll draw one random winner and post their name on Sunday, April 1st (so I also recommend you follow my blog in some form, so you'll know you won. I don't email winners.)  International entries are welcome.

BUT, there's also one more step. 

Michel has QUITE a few books to choose from--and odds are many of you already own some of them. So I'm going to let the winner choose which three books they want. Just let me know in your comment which ones you would choose if you're the winner (and yes, pre-ordering book 9 IS an available prize). And if you're not familiar with his work, here's a list of all of Michael's books (and they're all handy goodreads links so you can click for more info--mark them "to read" if you want, etc)

Amazing list, right?
So let me know your three picks and here's hoping you'll be the lucky winner!

Ready... GO!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Challenges of Self Promotion

I've had this post percolating for a long time, trying to figure out how to say what I want to say. And I'm still not sure I've figured it out, but I'm giving it a try.*

This publishing thing is ... a crazy business. Awesome and amazing and many other incredible things. But it's crazy too. For so many reasons. Deadlines. Pressure. The fact that you are putting something deeply personal to you out in the world for all to see and judge, knowing some of them won't like it. (and that many of them will express that dislike in very public places, flogging you for all the world to see. YAY REVIEWS!)

But I guess the weirdest part--for me at least--is that you're also putting YOU out there. Especially if you're active online. Then you are putting yourself on blogs, facebook, twitter, tumblr, pinterest, insert-other-social-networking-trend here and saying, "Here I am world, judge me!" And THAT is a crazy, crazy thing. Especially because so many of the people I'm interacting with online are my peers.

See... here's the thing about peers. Whether we've yet to sell a book or we've sold twenty, we're all writers. And we're all watching each other, seeing what we're doing, and we can't help seeing things from the standpoint of ... would I do that? Would I say that? Would I blog about that? Would I want my book deal announced that way? Would I RT that? Would I tell that story? 

And naturally, a lot of times, the answer is, "No."

We're all different people. We all have different things we are and aren't comfortable with. So... we're all going to have different ways of handling things. ESPECIALLY when it comes to self promotion.

Oh, self promotion.

The words alone make me want to move to a wi-fi free cabin and curl up in a little ball for the next year while my books launch into the world. It is a big, mucky, icky gray area where EVERYONE has their own opinion on what is and isn't acceptable. There. are. no. rules. Except that it's pretty much a guarantee that SOMEONE will be bothered by SOMETHING you do. In fact, I'm sure it's already happened to me. I'm sure I've done or said something or not said or not done something or just... I don't know, the way I'm smiling in my author photo has rubbed someone the wrong way. Probably more than a few someones.

And that's okay. Personalities clash. Misunderstandings occur. Whatever. It happens. And it will keep happening.

But I guess what I'm trying to say--after all of this rambling--is mostly... I KNOW I'm going to make mistakes as I muddle through this crazy year. I'm SURE I've already made some. But... I still need to do it. I still have to talk about my books sometimes. And me. And share good news. I'm going to try and balance it the best way I can. But I'm sure some of you will probably think...  I wouldn't have done that--and you may even be right.

But... maybe some of you will enjoy sitting back and watching the last threads of my sanity unravel. Hey--maybe even a few of you will find it fun.

Whichever category you fall into, I hope you'll try to remember that I really am doing my best. I don't know what I'm doing and I'm not perfect so yeah... there will probably be faux pas. But I really hope that you'll bear with me anyway. Hey--if nothing else, there will most likely be a whole lotta Shannon Shame going on too. And prizes.  I AM NOT ABOVE BRIBING YOU TO LIKE ME!**

And hey, if you have any tips or pointers or DO NOT DO THIS pieces of advice, feel free to share in the comments. I can definitely use all the help I can get.

*please note: this post was not inspired by any particular or specific INCIDENT. Just something that's been on my mind pretty much from the moment I accepted S&S's offer and I realized I would have to self promote.

**See? Faux pas!  :)

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Shannon's mind blow of the week

What I realized today:

One year ago I was terrified that my book on submission would never sell and that my secret-book-in-progress would never be finished by when my agent had asked to see it.

One year from now both of those books will be on store shelves.

(CRAZY, right?)

So... clearly I worry about things unnecessarily
(shocking, I know)

Also--holy crap, what a difference a year makes!

So as I survive this month of crazy deadlines and crazy stressful things that are making me feel more than a little crazy, I'm going to try and remember that clearly if I just put my head down, dig deep and keep going I WILL get through--and that amazing things can happen from all that hard work.

(wow, was that all one sentence?)



*hums 'just keep swimming' as she gets back to work*

Friday, March 2, 2012

KEEPER'S FIRST BLURB!!!!!!! (and a contest to celebrate!)

A few of you might have seen me tweet this picture from the SCIBA event I went to last weekend: 

This is me with Amber Benson (yes, Tara!) and Lisa McMann 
(otherwise known as: two super-cool S&S Aladdin authors--with a Shannon standing nervously in the middle!)

And you might notice that I do not have my arm around Lisa McMann in the photo--and there IS a reason for that. See, poor Lisa had already had to endure a couple of awkward Shannon-hugs that evening, so I decided it wasn't right to make her endure any more.

Which may make you wonder why I was hug-molesting poor Lisa McMann.

Well... there are many reasons:

- I'm ... kinda a HUGE Lisa McMann fangirl 
- She's arguably one of the nicest authors out there
- But mostly, it had to do with this:

“A delightful and dangerous adventure with complex characters and relationships you'll root for to the end of time.” 
-Lisa McMann

In case you can't tell--that is the first official blurb for KEEPER OF THE LOST CITIES!!!

Nope--that's not enough exclamation marks:


Though, mostly... I get a bit teary every time I read it.

I mean, having someone say something nice about my book will always be an AMAZING thing. But to have it be from an author I've been admiring and fangirl-ing for YEARS--an author who writes both middle grade and YA with the kind of ease and skill that I aspire to, is just...

There. Are. No. Words.  

(That does not mean I didn't ramble--mostly incoherently--to poor Lisa at the event, thanking her for taking the time to read KEEPER and giving such an amazing blurb. But I will spare you that because it's bad enough poor Lisa had to suffer through it. I'm just happy I didn't cry!)

And just so you guys can fully understand why this blurb means so much to me, I've decided to give away some of Lisa's amazing books to one lucky commenter, so you can see for yourself why having her like my book is such an incredible compliment.

One winner will receive:
- A Hardcover of THE UNWANTEDS
- A Hardcover of DEAD TO YOU

To enter, make sure you leave a comment on this post by 11:59 pm PST on Saturday, March 10th. I'll draw one random winner and post their name on Sunday, March 11th. International entries welcome.

And whether you win or lose, I highly recommend you all check out Lisa's incredible list of titles. Here are links to all the ones currently available on Goodreads:

She also has two amazing new books coming out in the near(ish) future:

And since I am SO excited about the new books--and I want you to be too--I will give one extra entry in the contest if you mark either of them as "To Read" on Goodreads. (just to be clear, that would be one extra entry for marking UNWANTEDS 2 : ISLAND OF SILENCE as "To Read" and one extra entry for marking CRASH as "To Read") And hey, while you're there, if you feel like marking KEEPER OF THE LOST CITIES or LET THE SKY FALL as "To Read" I'll give one extra entry for either of those too. (I'm allowed to be a *little* shameless sometimes, right?) (The names are links--or I have a handy widget in my sidebar) 

So that means if you mark them all, you could have FOUR additional entries, along with the one for commenting, for a grand total of FIVE entries. Pretty sweet. Or, you could just leave a comment and take your one entry and roll with it. TOTALLY your call. Marking "to read" is completely optional. Just let me know what you do in your comment so I can tally accordingly.

Um... I think that pretty much covers everything, but if you have any questions, ask away in the comments.

(And Lisa, if you're reading this--and I doubt you are because you have probably had QUITE enough of my gushing already--once again just... thank you. I am truly humbled and honored.)