October 27, 2011

After The Call: The Big Scary Thing Called Marketing

To be perfectly frank, the thought of marketing terrifies me. I don't even have a book deal but my knees get wobbly when I hear words like self-promotion, networking, and building an audience. Eep!

Luckily, I attended an SCBWI conference this past weekend and a few of the sessions focused on---ta da!---marketing! The sessions were really enlightening and it helped me feel more comfortable about promoting any books I may (hopefully) publish in the future.

Onto what I learned!

1.) Be creative. Be very, very, creative. 

Author/Illustrator Brian Lies spent an entire hour on how he marketed his NYT Bestselling picture book, Bats at the Beach. Now, I'm not a picture book writer but Brian's suggestions can be applied across genres: be the best advocate for your book, reach out to local publications, etc. One particular piece of advice really stuck out to me...

Be creative! Even if you think it's crazy, you should entertain the idea at least. 

Case in point, Brian's wife came up with the idea of decking out their car with images from his books. Brian thought she was craaaaazy but you know what? Their "bat car" totally brought in foot traffic for Brian's book signings! 


2.) Start marketing now

At the conference authors' panel, all four of the authors mentioned how important it is to market your book before it gets published. We're talking three, four, five months prior. Their explanation? You want to help build buzz around your book to generate excitement. 

And so, all authors should have some sort of web presence, whether it's a static website or a blog/Facebook/Twitter/Tumblr combo. We need to make it very easy for readers and reviewers to find us. 

Speaking of blogs, one of the authors mentioned that she felt blogs are "on the out," mostly because there are so many of them now. Still, as a blogger myself, I'd encourage writers to delve into blogging if it's something they're interested in and willing to invest in. After all, I've met some fantastic friends through blogging and I expect them to buy 30 copies of my book, thus propelling me onto the NYT Bestsellers List. 

Kidding, kidding! All joking aside, blogging may not be a surefire tool to garner a ton of book sales, but it can be a great way to meet your peers and for general word of mouth. 

3.) Reach out to unconventional sources. 

When I hear the word marketing, my mind drifts to stuff like book signings, blog tours, and promotional materials like bookmarks that I can give to my mom. But the authors' panel helped to show me how important it is to think outside of the box when it comes to finding your audience.

For example, YA author Amy White reached out to local arboretums because her novel Forget-Her-Nots focuses heavily on flowers. On that same note, my friend Jessica Spotswood has promoted her book Born Wicked through her alma mater by participating in an alumni panel and getting featured in the school's magazine. (Jess didn't attend the conference. I'm just using her as one of my examples!)



I know it's a cliched phrase but I'll say it again: think outside of the box when it comes to marketing your book. Not only should we reach out to local schools and publications, we should also try to find niches to broaden our audience, whether it's through alumni networks or the Rotary Club or the local Trekkies group. (Hey, I write sci-fi. Trekkies would like my books, right? Maybe?)

Anyway, I'm still a total newbie when it comes to marketing but I'm really glad that there are a lot of different ways to promote a book---and not all of them are scary!

Although you won't find me trying to peddle my book door-to-door... I'd rather have my teeth pulled. 

October 24, 2011

The Death of the Black Sitcom?

Today was a fantastic day in my book, mostly because I got the latest issue of Entertainment Weekly. I seriously love this magazine. In high school, my brother and I would regularly fight for it whenever it came in the mail. (I won a lot!)

This week's issue was particularly awesome because it featured a bunch of cast reunions. Princess Bride! Home Improvement! Growing Pains! 227!

OK, I actually didn't watch a whole lot of 227 when I was a kid (I think I was too young for it) but one of the interview questions really stuck out to me:
EW: Do you feel like the major networks have all but given up on shows centered on African-Americans? 
Jackee Harry: I think the title of your article should be "What Happened to the Black Sitcom?" We've disappeared. We have been banished. I'm not happy about it. I can tell you that. 
Huh. This made me think. Growing up, some of my favorite shows featured all Black casts. Family Matters? Loved. Fresh Prince of Bel Air? Adored. And The Cosby Show? Holy cow, one of my favorite shows ever. Do you guys remember the episode where the Huxtables teach Theo what it's like to live in the "real world"? So they make him rent his own room? Oh my, soooo funny.


So yeah. With the popularity of such shows in the 80s and 90s, I have to echo Jackee Harry's question: what happened to all of the Black sitcoms? I watch a fair amount of TV but I can't think of an all-Black comedy on one of the major networks today. Of course, a few shows exist on Cable (channels like BET and TBS come to mind) but these networks don't have the audience of NBC or CBS.

Which disappoints me. Majorly. In the YA blogging community, we often discuss the importance of publishing books that feature characters of color. We want children to be exposed to all sorts of peoples, to all sorts of cultures and voices. And you know what? This exact same argument applies to television.

I'll be honest. I didn't have a lot of African-American friends growing up. The schools I attended had a fair number of Asians and Indians but not many black students. And so, shows like Family Matters and Fresh Prince were formative for me. They showed me, Hey! These families aren't that different from mine! Even though these families were make-believe, they felt real to me. They were real to me.

It's my hope, then, that the major networks will breathe new life into the Black sitcom. And the Asian-American sitcom. The Latino sitcom. The Arab-American sitcom. We need this diversity.

We desperately need it.


October 19, 2011

Wednesday Wants

One
My first 'want' this fine autumnal Wednesday? To get my bloody manuscript revised! On Monday, I finished my third draft (wahoo!) and I'm now tackling the fourth (ughhhhh). I imagine I need to do one more revision after this one before I can send it to my betas. As much as I love this book, I believe it is trying to kill me slowly.

Two
This coat from Kate Spade is absolute perfection! I adore its bright color, even though I'm not usually a fan of pink, and I adore its flattering silhouette. But I certainly don't adore it's price tag. Egads! $800! Do you know how many books I could buy for that amount of money?


Random aside: I used to own a coat with a similar silhouette. It was midnight black. It was from Zara. I bought it in a little consignment shop in Paris during my study abroad for a whopping 20 euros. I loved that coat.

But it was stolen.

Le sigh. I still think about it sometimes.

Three
These mugs! With the fall in full swing, I'm craving hot apple cider, mint hot chocolate, and lots of pumpkin spice lattes. Aren't these mugs sort of perfect for snuggling up on your couch and reading a fantastic book? Add in a blanket and an oversized warm sweater and you have yourself a perfect afternoon.


Four
Speaking of books, I want every novel I read to be like DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE: vivid settings, oh-so-real characters, and a plot that made my heart twitter. It. Is. So. Damn. Good. 


I finished it a week and a half ago but I still can't get it out of my mind. Right now, I'm reading it for the second time, savoring each word and falling in love with Karou all over again. It's energizing to read such lush and beautiful prose---it pumps me up for my own writing. Even though I'll never be able to write like Laini Taylor, her work inspires me. It pushes me to become a better writer. 

Seriousyl! Go read it right now! Right now!

What are you craving this Wednesday? 

October 13, 2011

The Internet Can Be Very Small

I'm a lurker.

I read a good amount of blogs and forum threads every morning but I don't often leave comments. This is mostly because I'm sort of shy. It took me over a year to post on a popular writing forum, even though I spent over an hour perusing its threads each day. And when I finally did leave a comment, I got nervous. What if someone disagreed with me? What if someone picked a fight?

See? This is why I lurk. I'm loco in the cabeza. (<-- Aren't you amazed by my Spanish?!)

Anyway, last night, I was reading a thread---one of my favorites actually---and I noticed a few of the people were trash-talking another writer. Who are they talking about? I was curious so I backtracked through the thread, figuring they were discussing an idiot writer who had done something incredibly offensive.

Well, I was surprised. Really surprised. They were talking about one of my favorite bloggers! A blogger who I admire and respect.  I couldn't help but think about this blogger stumbling onto this thread---a very open, very public thread---and getting terribly hurt by the comments.

The internet can be a very small place. 

I've heard this warning over and over again as I've gotten more involved online. But it didn't really hit home until last night.

A few thoughts:

1. Be careful what you post online. Especially in public forums. You really don't know who's reading it.
2. Sometimes, we need to get something off our chest. That's fine. But why not do that in an email? 
4. Before you post anything, stop for a second. Ask yourself: will I regret this later? And: will I be embarrassed if the person I'm talking about reads my comment?

Of course, there have been things I've posted online that I've come to regret later. (ie, photos of me in a bathing suit) I'm certainly no saint! But it's safe to say that I'll be super careful when I post comments online in the future.

Or maybe I'll just lurk.

October 12, 2011

Random Thoughts on a Rainy Day

For the past few weeks, Justin and I have been thinking about buying some land (cheap-ish land) and building a house on it. And so, I've been poking around the Great Internets, looking at different builders and whatnot.

Good Lord! Building a house on your own property can be a mega headache. From hooking up utilities to choosing a home site to digging a well if needs be.

I'll say it again. GOOD LORD!

But then I stumbled upon this house:



So cute, right?

It was designed by New World Home and was featured as Country Living's House of the Year in 2010. It also happens to be super green.

And...here's the clincher...

It's a modular house!

Crazy, eh?

So, basically, this house is constructed in the New World Home's factory and then delivered to your site in separate "modules" where workers will seam it together. (Apparently, modular homes are not the same as trailer homes. They have to be built to county and/or state standards.)

I did a little more digging and found more green modular homes that look, well, pretty darn amazing.






I definitely have to tip my hat to these architects! The term "modular home" has such a stigma---a stigma I held for a long time---but these houses totally blow my mind. 

Anyway, Justin and I are still a little ways off from buying any property but I may have to keep these houses in mind once we take the plunge. 

October 7, 2011

Friday Five

One
Justin and I are back from North Carolina! It was a quick three-day trip and we arrived home late Wednesday evening.

Two
And now we're in the airport! We're heading to Cincinnati for the weekend for a wedding and our flight has been delayed for an hour and a half. Justin is a bit frustrated but I view delays as: MOAR WRITING TIME!

Three
I'm wearing one of my favorite dresses to the wedding, a dress that I'd wear everyday if I could because it's super comfy and it's super polka-dotted. (And hey, it's on sale! Go buy it so we can be twinners!)

Don't I look fabulous in this pic? Yep, that's totally me. Snerk.
Four
I don't know too much about Cincinnati aside from...

* It's named after the Roman farmer-turned-soldier, Cincinnatus. (Hey, I learned something from my Roman History class!)
* It's the hometown of American president James Garfield.
* It has a zoo! I love zoos. I'm totally going to the zoo. (Although I grew up by the National Zoo, which is free, and so I believe that all zoos should be free. Guess I'll be sneaking in!)

Five
I inhaled Lola and The Boy Next Door yesterday. Seriously, yo. I started reading around 6AM and I was finished five hours later. It. Is. Awesomeness. Dare I say that it's even better than Anna and the French Kiss? Which is almost blasphemy to me since I loved ANNA and I absolutely adore Paris, but LOLA features both Anna and Etienne and it has a dog named Heavens to Betsy. Five out of five stars!

So what are you guys up to this Columbus Day Weekend? 

October 6, 2011

Need a Thursday pick-me-up?

I promise a real post will be coming soon but I just had to share these hilarious photos I found online, via the Huffington Post.

In a nutshell, photograph Rion Sabean decided to snap pictures of "manly men" in traditional pin-up poses. You've seen the poses: buxom ladies sticking out their behinds, sticking out their perky chests, one finger dangling over lipsticked lips. The results are hilarious!



Don't these pictures just make you snort? And make you realize how silly pin-up poses are?! What's your favorite? Mine has to be the upper left photo---sexy lumberjack! Check out his gams!

If you want to keep snorting with me, be sure to find more pictures here. Happy Thursday!

October 3, 2011

Writing on the Road

Hey guys! 

I'm spending a few days in North Carolina this week, tagging along with Justin while he's on a business trip. I have my trusty laptop, my drug of choice (Dr. Pepper), and my ever-comfy writing outfit to keep me company. Sweatshirt + Leggings = Awesomeness! 

No make up, yo! Oh, my sweatshirt says "Maryland." Go Terps!
My writing plans for this trip include: 

1. Re-writing the last ten pages of my manuscript. (They still need to be switched over from first person to third.)
2. Tackling my ever-expanding novel to-do list (fleshing out scenes, adding some back-story, etc.).
3. Try not to drink too much Dr. Pepper/hot chocolate/bottle of vodka to get through this revision.

Once my fingertips revolt from too much typing, I shall tackle my reading plans for this trip:  


Yep! I bought a copy right before we left. I'm seriously excited to read this novel (so much hype!), but I must be good and finish my revisions first.

*Flips open The Night Circus instead*

Damn it.

Hope you guys had a fabulous weekend! Justin and I watched 50/50, which was really fantastic. It made me laugh out loud and cry twice. Highly, highly recommended!