Category Archives: publishing

How to Make Your Favorite Authors Write More Stuff

Woman_using_computerAuthors today have to do a great deal more self-promotion than ever before. Between tweeting and pinning and Facebooking, it’s a wonder that they have time to write books anymore–but they won’t get that chance unless their current books sell, sell, sell.

However, social media also gives you the opportunity to help your favorite authors get that next contract. If you really liked that last book, don’t just tell your real-life friends, tell your Goodreads friends. Leave a glowing review, and follow the author there. Give ’em 5 stars on Amazon and B&N. Follow them on Twitter and Facebook. Comment on their blog. Publishers look at all of these when deciding whether the next book is worth the investment.

Not only will you be helping your favorite authors write more stuff, you’ll stay up to date on their live appearances and upcoming projects. You’ll get to read their writing for free–authors’ blogs tend to be outstanding. You’ll be one of the first to buy the new book, instead of the one who says “Oh, I didn’t know _______ had a new book out!” Also, authors tend to be way more entertaining on Twitter than celebrities (which is understandable).

bookshelfSome of my favorite authors to follow include: Neil Gaiman (Sandman), John Scalzi (Redshirts), Veronica Roth (Divergent), Alexandra Robbins (The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth), and Jody Hedlund (whose books are Christian romance–not my usual cup of tea–but whose blog is collection of brilliant advice on publishing), among others.

OK, folks, time to support your favorite authors: Which author blogs/Twitter feeds/etc. do you read? Rec them here!



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The Art of the Cardigan: Lessons Learned at AWP

Last week, I attended my first writers’ conference, AWP 2012. This is a big-deal conference in the writing world, and I just lucked out that it happened to be held in Chicago this year. It was overwhelming and inspiring, so I thought I’d share a few things that I learned:

  • Once I am published, I will need to obtain a wardrobe of chic, artfully draped, long cardigans in dark colors. (Corollary for men: If you’re under 30, the cardigan must be Mr. Rogers-style and be paired with black-framed hipster glasses; if you’re over 30, you can just go with a sport coat—no cardigan required.)

  • It’s really cool to hear famous authors read from their books. The national award-winning authors I saw at AWP include Bonnie Jo Campbell (American Salvage), Jennifer Egan (A Visit from the Goon Squad), Jane Smiley (A Thousand Acres), Darin Strauss (Half a Life), Isabel Wilkerson, (The Warmth of Other Suns), Jaimy Gordon (The Lords of Misrule), and Rebecca Skloot (The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks). I know a lot of you loved Henrietta Lacks, so you’ll be pleased to know that Skloot seems like the kind of person who’d be fun to meet for margaritas.

  • It’s also really cool to “discover” authors who I hadn’t heard of. If you’re looking for books that are not on the best-sellers lists (yet), check out Alexi Zentner and Alexander Yates for literary fiction; Kristen-Paige Madonia, Kat Falls, and Bridget Birdsall for young adult novels; Amina Gautier for short stories; and René Colato Laínez for young children’s books. Colato Laínez’s The Tooth Fairy Meets El Ratón Pérez looks especially fun (El Ratón Pérez is the Latin American/Spanish equivalent of the Tooth Fairy—in the book, the two characters accidentally meet at the home of an American boy with immigrant parents), and the author is an entertaining speaker.

  • Translations aren’t just for Greek epic poems that you had to read in high school. A lot of publishers specialize in English translations of books from other countries. I picked up a copy of Children in Reindeer Woods by Icelandic author Kristín Ómarsdóttir. Amazon and B&N don’t even have it ready to sell yet, but I’ve got it! Muahahaha!

  • Not all literary journals are full of relentlessly depressing stories and abstract poetry. There are some fun, unique journals that you might not always find on the bookstore shelves. Fairy Tale Review (variations on familiar fairy tales), Kugelmass (humor), and The Normal School (a blend of humor and other offbeat pieces) particularly caught my eye. I bought copies of those and will probably look into submitting too.

  • My obsession with funky-colored pens is not uncommon to writers, even in this technological age. A lot of exhibitors were giving away cool pens. Score!

  • A lot of them were also giving away pins—my favorites are the ones in the photos here.

  • Wait until the last day of the conference before buying anything—the exhibitors don’t want to carry all those books and journals back home, so they’re selling them at a discount or giving them away!

Have you ever been to a book-oriented conference? Have you ever met a favorite author? Tell me about it in the comments!



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Ready Player One: A Love Letter

I finished Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One a few weeks ago, but if I’d written this post then, I would have come off like a squealing 12-year-old at a Bieber concert. So in the interest of maintaining my professional decorum, I gave myself some time to chill the frak out.

Because I loved this book. Really, really loved it. It’s set in a dystopian America in the year 2044, where most people are dead broke and living in city slums or “stacks”—trailer parks where the trailers are stacked dangerously high in the interest of saving space. However, there also exists a virtual reality, the OASIS, in which nearly everyone in the world works, plays, and attends school. Friends are avatars who you interact with every day, but may never actually see in person. Virtual travel costs virtual money and occurs via virtual vehicles.

When OASIS creator James Halliday dies, he leaves behind a video game-style scavenger hunt, the winner of which will inherit his multi-billion-dollar fortune as well as ownership of the massive virtual world. Our hero, 18-year-old Wade Watts, joins the millions of gamers worldwide who join the hunt for the virtual keys to the ultimate prize.

Halliday came of age in the 1980s, so most of the scavenger-hunt clues and games are related to movies, videogames, and music of the era. Wade and his fellow hunters become experts on 1980s pop culture to get into Halliday’s head and decipher his puzzles. For instance, Wade’s obsessive knowledge of the movie War Games and the Rush album 2112 turn out to be valuable skills in his quest.

Of course, as in any good ’80s action story, there is an evil corporation that is looking to beat our hero and take over the (virtual) world. As the end of the contest grows closer, the stakes grow higher in the virtual scavenger hunt and in some cases, have real-life consequences.

Ready Player One is funny, fast-paced, and clever, and I might had shed a tear here and there. (I admit to nothing.) It’s Cline’s first novel, although he has written numerous spoken-word pieces and screenplays, including the hilarious indie Fanboys.

If ’80s pop culture isn’t your gig, then this probably isn’t the book for you—although I think that sci-fi/fantasy fans of all ages will appreciate this great yarn. As a sf/f-loving child of the acid-wash decade, I adored every page of it. Warner Brothers has reportedly secured the movie rights, so read it now and be ahead of the curve!

(Side note: While researching Cline’s publishing history for this post, I found out that he owns a DeLorean—which he has modified to look like Doc Brown’s time machine in Back to the Future! How awesome is that? Now I love him more.)


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Bad PR = Good News?

The old saying that there’s no such thing as bad PR has turned out to be true, at least in the case of the book I just finished.

I picked up Lauren Myracle’s Shine after the National Book Award committee accidentally included Shine on their Young People’s Literature shortlist instead of a similarly named book. When they realized their mistake, instead of just adding the sixth book, they went public in saying that Shine had not made the shortlist and essentially forced the author to withdraw. Even though the book had been deemed good enough to make the nomination list, the committee apparently decided that public humiliation was the best way to go.

But the author handled the whole situation with such cool and grace. Despite feeling like crap, she withdrew but requested compensation for her trouble—in the form of a $5,000 donation to the Matthew Shepard Foundation (Shine is about a girl trying to solve the violent hate-crime suffered by her gay best friend).

So this was a writer I wanted to support, and I bought the book—and I definitely made the right choice. Shine is a complex, heart-pounding mystery, with rich descriptions of setting and a vivid cast of characters. (Full disclosure: I’ve had a thing for gritty young adult lit lately.) The themes of gay bullying and drug use also make it a timely read.

The publishing media reported that Shine saw a big bump in sales during and after the book award debacle, so I hope that the net result for Myracle is that she’s gained a whole new set of fans.


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As much as I’d like to participate in the Internet blackout, I don’t know how to take down my blog for the day. (Well, I do, but I’m not confident that I could get it back up tomorrow!)

So instead, I’m linking you to information about SOPA/PIPA, the legislation that could literally wreck the Internet as we know it. It was initially designed to try and stop Internet piracy, but the bills go too far. Way too far. They eliminate the “due process” and “innocent until proven guilty” system that our government is supposed to be based on.

If you haven’t done so already, contact your senators and representatives and tell them to vote against these bills. Sadly, one of my senators from Illinois, Dick Durbin, is one of the co-sponsors of the bill. He has received hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from big media, so don’t think that’s a coincidence. But that didn’t stop me from pestering him anyway. When he loses the next election, I want him to know why.

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Well, sort of–it’s a review, not my own fiction. But it’s for Ploughshares, one of the most well-respected literary journals in the country, so I’ll take this one as a win.

I mentioned here a few months ago that I had been selected to review a past issue of Ploughshares, edited by Sherman Alexie–and here is my piece! Read and enjoy.


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Smut in Space!

Cartwheel Galaxy (It sounds like it's from a sci-fi story, right? But it's real! This pic is from the Hubble Telescope.)

*** UPDATE: This project got fully funded! Woo hoo! ***

A writer friend, Mary Anne Mohanraj, is looking to publish a book of erotic sci-fi–I’ve read the first three stories of the collection (along with a lot of her other work) and they’re great. In addition to being hot, fun, well-written stories, she also makes an effort to include characters that are diverse racially, sexually, and in other ways, which makes her work more interesting than most.

Instead of going through her usual agent/publisher route, she’s trying something new and going through Kickstarter. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Kickstarter: It’s a site that allows artists of all kinds to post their projects and get them funded by people who are interested and would like to see the final project get made.

In addition to wanting to see my friend succeed, I’d also like to see this project get published because it’s important to get more diverse characters in sci-fi. Plus, it’s gonna be good.

If this sounds like something you might be interested in, check it out! She’s got some really fun prizes for supporters. :)

Photo: Courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech/P. N. Appleton (SSC/Caltech), Wikimedia Commons

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