Your Bookish Fall Wardrobe

The leaves are already starting to turn in my neck of the woods, so (after bemoaning the loss of summer) I opted to browse this season’s literary outfits.

Below you’ll find some of the best wardrobe pieces for your inner word nerd, and I’ve put a * next to the companies that are associated with book-related charities or literacy organizations. What better way to shop than that?

ModCloth: Oh My Gosh A-Line Dress in Library

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ModCloth: Style Study A-Line Skirt in Scholarly Kitties

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BookRiot*: Always Be Closing T-Shirt

BookRiot*: I Lift Hardcovers Hoodie

Out of Print*: Romeo and Juliet T-Shirt

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Out of Print*: The Queen of Mystery T-Shirt (Agatha Christie)

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Harry Potter Alliance*: Books Turn Muggles Into Wizards Sweatshirt

Harry Potter Alliance*: Granger/Lovegood 2020

Litographs*: The Maze Runner T-Shirt

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Threadless: The Thesaurus Sweatshirt

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Threadless: How to Kill a Mockingbird T-Shirt

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Society6/Evie Seo: Books Fall Open T-Shirt

Society6/Evie Seo: Dream Up Something Wild and Improbable T-Shirt

Need more inspiration? Check out this round-up of awesome literary gear: Your Bookish Shopping Guide

Platform for Fiction Writers

Ah, the dreaded p-word. “Platform” is an all-encompassing term that can include blogs, websites, social media, speaking events, TV/radio appearances, celebrity fame, and other outlets that help an author connect to readers, writers, and other gatekeepers in the literary industry. Jane Friedman describes it best: “an ability to sell books because of who you are or who you can reach.”

At one time, nonfiction authors were the ones who had to worry about platform—they had to prove there was an audience who wanted to read about their particular memoir, advice, or topic. But now, most fiction writers are expected to have a platform too. The content of a story always comes first, but many publishers want to see an author’s connections in the early stages of the game. So let’s take a look at frequently asked questions about all things platform for fiction writers.

Why do publishers care about platform? This is an easy one to answer: we want to know if an author has a readership. Publishing is a competitive industry, and finding an author who is already connected to consumers or influencers is a huge win!

Do I have to have a platform to get published? Short answer: no.

I’m a new writer. Should I have a platform? Longer answer: eventually you will be expected to grow a platform to connect with readers, so it only helps you to start now! But both the you and the publisher should have reasonable expectations of what that platform will look like…for most people, it isn’t easy to build a large platform until they have a book to market! Take a look at other aspiring or debut writers in your genre, and set goals based on where those folks are.

Does a publisher look me up online? We sure do! Casual internet stalking is one of the first things I do when considering an author’s submission. I check for social media, but I also check to see if the author has attended any recent conferences/festivals, participated in events like Pitch Wars or NaNoWriMo, or are a member of nationally recognized groups like SCBWI or RWA that could connect them to readers and other writers.

What should my online platform look like? When it comes to being online, be sure that you’re going for quality over quantity. Having ten different social media accounts doesn’t matter if you’re not posting regularly and interacting with other users. I always recommend starting with the following:

  • A professional, author-centric website or blog
  • Author accounts (not personal accounts) on at least two social media sites. Which sites will depend on your book and your audience, but Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are good places to start.

How many followers should I have? Follower counts depend on a number of factors, including your publishing history, the topic of your book, your intended audience, and how new you are to a site. The two most important things to consider here are 1.) making sure you’re not just doing a follow-for-follow approach (we know what that looks like!) and 2.) following and being followed by influencers. Influencers include book bloggers, booksellers, librarians, authors, editors, book tubers, reviewers, and anyone else who is active in your arm of publishing. These folks will make a better audience than random followers you don’t know.

The internet isn’t my thing. How else can I build a platform? The bad news is, the internet kind of needs to become your thing. Having an online presence is a key element of an author’s platform, and oftentimes is their main connection to readers since it’s one of the first places readers discover new authors and books. The good news is, you can work on your “real life” platform too! Look for opportunities for public speaking (like doing a panel at a conference), join a group like RWA or SCBWI, or see if you can get a spot writing book reviews for a paper or magazine. Anything that makes you visible to readers is a step in the right direction!

What makes a good platform? Like I mentioned above, having a professional online presence is key, and it’s also hugely helpful to have connections through writing groups or conferences. When it comes to an online platform, follower counts will vary, so what I look for is engagement. If an author creates a post, does it get liked, commented on, and shared? Offline, I like to see one or two ways an author is regularly interacting with the larger reading and writing community.

Where do I even start??? Check out the links below for tips on starting your platform:

Have more questions about platform? Post in the comments field below!

What the World Needs Now Is Reading Without Walls

I will start this post by saying I am a white, cishet woman. For better or for worse, my world has been defined by those qualities, just like all of us are influenced by our geography, upbringing, ethnicity, religion, sexuality, gender, and a million other factors. There is literally no other person on the planet who has experienced the exact same things you have experienced, or who sees the world exactly as you do.

But while each of our individual POVs are unique, that does not make them more compelling, more important, or more valuable than someone else’s. We are not the only characters in this book—everyone you meet is the hero of their own story, and those stories are interwoven with millions and billions of others.

Last year, Gene Luen Yang, rock star author/illustrator and National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, started a campaign called Reading Without Walls. The concept is simple: read books that take you outside your own experiences, and maybe even outside your comfort zone. A book meets the Reading Without Walls challenge if it:

1. Is about a character who doesn’t look like you or live like you.

2. Is about a topic you don’t know much about.

3. Is in a format that you don’t normally read for fun. This might be a chapter book, a graphic novel, a book in verse, a picture book, or a hybrid book.

I’m lucky enough to work in the publishing industry, which means I can get my hands on a lot of books. So this year, I wanted to take this challenge very seriously. For every book I read that felt familiar to me, I wanted to read at least one that showed me something new. The beautiful thing about books is that we readers get the chance to inhabit another character’s story, if only for a little while. We get to see the world through different eyes and have thoughts that are not our own. Books will never replace real human interaction or experience, but they open doors to stories we may never get to know otherwise.

What I’ve found through this challenge, 8 months in, is that I know very little. My tiny bubble of a universe has been expanding, but it is still just that—a tiny little bubble. That’s humbling and horrifying at the same time, and yet I find it strangely comforting that there are hundreds more books out there that can help me overcome my lack of knowledge bit by bit.

We all need to work on closing the ignorance gap so that in a generation, we won’t have people in this country who believe it’s okay to embrace hatred and racism. There is no excuse for ignorance, and there should be no tolerance for lack of respect or kindness. Reading has actually been proven to increase our empathy, so there has really never been a more important time for people to pick up a book and learn.

Of course, books can’t teach us everything—we still need to go out into the world and physically stand up for what’s right, take time to try new things, and find small, daily ways to spread love. But when you have a spare moment, take the Reading Without Walls challenge. Actively seek out new characters, new topics, and new forms of storytelling. Now, more than ever, we must get to know the other heroes around us, to learn about our differences, and to celebrate what brings us together.

 


*Post Image by Gene Luen Yang

Not Your Average Jane: 7 Ways “Jane the Virgin” Nails Storytelling

*Includes some spoilers*

I spend most of my day evaluating the merits of a story. Are the characters experiencing enough change, does the plot move at the right pace, does the key conflict cause too little tension…that kind of thing. This means that sometimes, when I’m relaxing with a TV show, I find myself looking for those elements running through each episode. And when I found Jane the Virgin, I found the show my storytelling heart had been looking for.

I am late to the Jane the Virgin party, but I have now joined in and cannot rave enough about it. Why, you ask? If the idea of a humorous, poignant, and totally self-aware spin on a telenovela doesn’t appeal to you, well, you should reevaluate your outlook on life. Rarely do I fall in love with a show so quickly or deeply as I have with Jane the Virgin, which has made me laugh and cry and scream…sometimes all in one episode. And, while there are so many things this show does well, I chose the seven things I love best about its storytelling. Because what the writers and cast of Jane the Virgin have done best is tell a remarkable story. Continue reading

Beyond the Manuscript: What ELSE an Editor Looks for in a Submission

Let’s pretend (only for one horrifying second) that the content of your manuscript didn’t matter.

Yes, I know. It’s awful. But bear with me.

Let’s pretend that it didn’t matter how good or bad your actual writing was, and that an editor only focused on the other pieces of your submission—your platform, your hook, etc.

Okay, now you can stop pretending. That was pretty scary, right? Don’t worry—content is always going to be the #1 concern for an editor. However, it isn’t the only concern. So let’s dive into the other elements of a submission an editor considers when thinking about acquiring a book. Continue reading

Favorite Books of 2017…So Far

As we are now a little over midway through the year, I thought it was about time I made a list of my favorite books I’ve read in 2017 so far. There are, of course, some important caveats:

  • Not all of these came out in 2017. Some came out a while ago and I am just behind on my TBR pile! *Shame*
  • There are seven books on this list, but they are listed in alphabetical order and not ranked order. Choosing favorites of the favorites is too hard!
  • None of these are books I have edited, since obviously I love my babies the most.
  • And finally, these are all YA novels because, well, I’m a YA editor. (And Peter Pan. Who needs grown-up books? Okay, maybe grown-ups.)

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins Continue reading

I Want a Book Heroine Like Wonder Woman

I watched the new Wonder Woman movie a few weekends ago and fell completely in love. Not just with Chris Pine (our love story began long ago), but with Wonder Woman herself and what she means as a heroine. Gal Gadot plays a character who is filled with optimism, strength, and kindness, without ever seeming cheesy or “too perfect.” In fact, some of Diana’s flaws are her best characteristics, and only serve to make us love and relate to her more. I love her so much that I’ve found myself scrolling through my submissions desperately seeking the next Diana Prince. So, with *some* spoilers, I will try to put into words why I want a book heroine like Wonder Woman.

(P.S. If you have a character like this, have your people call my people.)

(P.P.S Yes, I know the amazing Leigh Bardugo is publishing a Wonder Woman YA novel. Wonder Woman: Warbringer!!!!!! I have obviously already preordered it and routinely stalk her social media for updates. You should do the same, because preordering and social media stalking are cool.)

(P.P.P.S. Also, please consider this list of other mega-awesome novels that can help cure your Wonder Woman hangover. But now, let’s get back to the post.) Continue reading

Not Just a No: The Decision Behind a Rejection

Let’s face it—getting rejected sucks. You poured your heart and soul into a book and were brave enough to ask other people to read it…only to get shot down.

Quite frankly, doing the rejecting isn’t all that fun either. We editors and agents know the hard work that goes into writing a manuscript, and it’s never a good feeling to know you’re crushing someone’s dream. We’re not sitting behind our desks, holding red pens and grinning evilly as we write a giant “NO” on someone’s submission. We want to fall in love with books. We want to publish them. But not every submission will be a fit, and here’s why. Continue reading

Reblog: What an aspiring writer needs to know about editing, marketing, and publishing: An interview with editor Jillian Manning!

Reblogged from GoTeenWriters.com

Monday, May 22, 2017

Stephanie here! I’m really excited that Jillian Manning, the acquisitions editor at Blink YA Books, is here with us today! Jillian was my editor for my 1920s mystery, The Lost Girl of Astor Street, and is a rock star of an editor. Not only is she great at the red pen stuff, but she’s super encouraging, and will even dress up for her authors:

Jillian and me at the ALA Midwinter Meeting. Wouldn’t we have been great flappers?

Jillian was gracious enough to take time out of her schedule to answer a few questions for me about the unique struggles of trying to get your first book published. I wish I could have read her detailed answers back when I was a flailing and confused aspiring author!

Continue reading

Writing Conference Pitches: Dos and Don’ts

Many writing conferences offer aspiring writers the opportunity to pitch agents and editors. These meetings can be a chance to get representation or even a book deal, and as a result can seem totally intimidating. But don’t get overwhelmed—follow these dos and don’ts to make the most of your face time with a publishing pro!

Do…research the person across the table. Spend time before the meeting checking out the agent or editor on their website and on social media so you know exactly what kind of project they’re looking for. Choosing the right person is the first step to finding a home for your book. Continue reading