Friday Five: Around the Blogosphere

For today’s Friday Five: a few writerly things other people are saying around the blogs:

  1. Janet Hardy on following through on the tension you’ve created.
  2. Jama Rattigan is celebrating the 4th anniversary of her delicious blog by welcoming everyone to her new site.
  3. Kurtis Scaletta talks about the five ways writers have to describe their story and gives tips on them all.
  4. Shrinking Violet Promotions on revising the BIG stuff.
  5. Jeannine Atkins shares a bit about her own, personal plot school.



Friday Five: Around the Blogosphere

I take you today to a few posts that caught my eye, and my imagination, over the past couple of weeks.

1. PJ Hoover lists her top ten reasons to have a writing group (different than a critique group).

2. Beth Revis gives her answer (for now) on the question of how to define success.

3. On a similar thread, lit agent Erin Murphy guest-posted over at Shrinking Violet Promotions about the many different paths to success.

4. Janni Lee Simner coaxes her protagonist to join her on the first steps into Draft 3 of her their WIP.

5. Terri Thayer asked us to share our snow-day stories. Being a native Californian, I had to make mine up. 🙂

Happy Friday, everyone, and here’s to a wonderful weekend.

What I Did on Launch Day & Book/Chocolate Winner!

Okay, guys, I’ve been waiting over a year to get to put up this post! I love reading launch-day reports from other writers, and half the reason I got myself out from behind my desk and into the real world (okay, the real BOOK world, anyway) was so that I’d have something to write about.

Yes, fantasy can create reality. 🙂

Before I start the report. I want to thank everyone again who has helped and is helping me launch the book. This includes not just the bloggers who are talking about me so kindly, but also local friends and family who are just working to keep me (relatively) calm and sane. Hugs to you all!

There are still a few contests running, chances for you to win a copy of The Writing & Critique Group Survival Guide. Check these out:

And I want to announce the winner from my own contest, who gets both a copy of my book and a bar of Lindt’s Intense Pear Dark Chocolate. Drum roll…

  • Susan R. Mills!

Susan, email me at beckylevine at ymail dot com, and I’ll get your prizes out to you!

Okay…back to the day!

I did write. Well, I tried to write. I sat down at my computer for an hour and took notes on an upcoming scene. Okay, it wasn’t until two days later that I got my brain together enough to actually start the scene, but the effort was made. I believe, on launch day, that more than counts!

And then I went out. My first stop, with the simple goal of ordering mini-cupcakes for my launch party, hit CUPCAKE FAIL. My favorite bakery does not make the mini’s. I have to say, as seriously intense as modern cupcakes are, I believe the regular size are overkill. So…back to the drawing board. Let’s skip over the control-freak anguish and just get to the result. Mini-cupcakes will be provided by Kara’s Cupcakes in Palo Alto, where the woman who took my order was kind, patient, and quoted Occam’s Razor at me.You really can’t beat that kind of service!

Okay, then came the big moment. I had tried, a few times earlier in the week, to see if my book was on the shelves of any local bookstores, but no luck. I took this as fate, or at least as a positive indication that I might very possibly show up at one of those stores on launch day and NOT have to push past my shyness/nervousness (yes, really) about approaching a bookseller & offering to actually sign my books. So I strolled casually to the back of the Barnes & Noble in The Pruneyard Shopping Center, pretty sure that I’d just be browsing the writing section for other people’s books. At first glance, I was right–nothing in the craft section. So I browsed and looked for a few other things, when…BOOM!

They’d stocked it among the marketing & getting published books!

Well, probably, being next to a book on getting an agent is not such a bad spot. 🙂

It didn’t matter, though, because after I took my breath and hunted down the incredibly nice salesperson and asked if they’d like me to sign the books, they ended up in an entirely new spot. And, look-proof that I DID ask and that I DID sign!

It felt good, weird, and silly all at the same time. But I do love the stickers!

Finally, thanks to my husband’s back being on the mend and sitting in a chair being not quite so painful, I took him and my son out to dinner to celebrate. We went here and ordered only from the appetizer menu–one of our favorite things to do. Even my son, pretty much a burger guy, was able to find a delicious set of Sliders. Then home to pajamas, Ben & Jerry’s Karamel Sutra ice cream, and a few episodes of Battlestar Galactica. Yes, geekdom reins over glamour in our house!

All in all, a wonderfully happy, exciting day. The perfect way to step briefly out of life’s regular programming. 🙂

Friday Five: Taking a Look around the Blogiverse

I feel like I’ve been doing a lot of navel-staring the last few weeks, like I’ve been a little too wrapped up in ME.  But I do love touching base with a Friday Five. So this Friday, I’m going to point you to a few other people…enjoy!

1. Start at Susan Taylor Brown’s blog. All this month, she’s posting about 31 Blogs (You Might Not Know) to highlight blogs she enjoys that may have flown under our radar. Just a nice tidbit every day, but she’s bringing lots of wondering bloggers to my attention. Susan’s posts this month and her generosity at her blog are actually my inspiration for stepping back from the mirror today–thanks, Susan!

2. Martha Alderson is The Plot Whisperer. Last year, she filled December with wonderful posts about what to do about revising the novel you “finished” during NaNo. She’s back this year with the 2nd Annual International Plot Writing Month. Posts start here.

3. You know them as The Shrinking Violets, rescuers of all introverts. Who are they behind their superhero masks & capes? Robin LaFevers and Mary Hershey, wonderful writers and bloggers. For intensive writing advice and wonderful motivation, check out Robin’s and Mary’s individual blogs.

4. Do you want to learn about the publishing industry–about what’s happening today and what may very well be happening tomorrow? Jane Friedman is publisher and editorial director of the Writer’s Digest brand community. She has two blogs (maybe more!) at There Are No Rules and Publishing Passion. Jane has strong opinions and ideas about what publishing is doing and what it should be thinking about. You may or may not agree with all she says, but she is on top of everything that’s happening today, and she does a brilliant job of sharing all her knowledge and experience with those of us struggling to figure it all out. Her posts are not to be missed.

1. If you’re a kids or YA writer, you already know Jen Robinson. And if you don’t, well, you just head over and introduce yourself to her blog now. What if you don’t write for kids and teens? Well, Are you an adult who’s been hearing about this surge in YA lit and wondering where to get started? Do you have any kids in your life who love reading, or who are struggling to find that love? Do you have a list of young ones and teens on your holiday-gift list? Do you care about literacy, about promoting reading for all ages? Jen is a passionate advocate for literacy, for bringing books into children’s lives, and for continuing to read “young” books into our adult years. She knows more about kids/YA books than anyone I know, and that’s saying a lot. Her generosity of time and energy are epic. Get her blog into your blog reader now.

There. Now you have more links to add to your already busy lives. 🙂  Happy friday & happy reading!

If it’s September, it Must be M…m…marketing?!

Well, not yet. For pete’s sake, people, the book doesn’t come out until January. But I’ve read enough about book promotion to know that you don’t wait for the book release to get started. And the one date that has been floating in my head for a while is October—the month I’m supposed to talk with the manager at Books Inc in Palo Alto about my launch party. He sends a newsletter out in November, so he/I/we want it on the calendar by then.

And October isn’t that far away.

I’m not diving in deep yet. But I do want to at least start work on a list of to-dos and check that list for my Comfort Level Inventory, as the brilliant ladies at Shrinking Violet Promotions call it. Because we can’t do everything we want, or even everything we think we’re supposed to. And I want to have as much fun as I can with this part of the writing path, not spend all my energy on all the “shoulds” so very accessible to all us worriers.

So this week I start on the list. I’m going through ALL the blog post headers over at SVP, browsing for the helpful tips I’ve read before. And I’m going back to BubbleStampede, too, for all the great ideas Laura and Fiona put up in their year of blogging. You remember, the ones Laura talked about in her interview.

There are some things that I pretty much know won’t show up on the list right away. Like a trailer. I had some ideas, and I may get to them further into 2010, but I know that the visual is not my strength and there are a whole lot of twists and turns down that path that will take some serious quiet time for me to figure out. (I can hear you all now, Oh, come on, Becky, you can TOTALLY do a trailer. And I say back to you, Maybe. We’ll see. Now go away.) Some promotion I’ll be doing through Writer’s Digest, and I think it’s better not to overlap much on that stuff.

But things like:

  • Local launch party
  • Blog interviews
  • Review copies
  • Bookmarks (Are these still a good giveaway, with all the e-readers out there? I mean, think about that.)
  • Updating my profiles on different sites
  • Stockpiling chocolate

Yes, those will all be on the list. And more. Hopefully, you guys will find this part of the journey interesting, because I’m pretty sure I’ll be blogging about it now and again. And again. As the panic rises.

It’s sure to be quite a ride. 🙂

Marketing Interview (& Contest) with Laura Purdie Salas

In September of 2008, Laura Purdie Salas joined up with Fiona Bayrock to explore marketing and PR possibilities for two of their picture books that were being published the next year: Salas’ Stampede! Poems to Celebrate the Wild Side of Schooland Bayrock’s Bubble Homes and Fish Farts. And they decided to do this exploration publicly—at their LiveJournal community, Bubble Stampede. Over the next months, the two authors discussed their marketing goals, their fears, and their plans.

I asked Laura if she’d do an interview here, to talk about what some of those plans were, how they year and the release went, and which ideas worked better than others. Happily, she said, “Yes.” Read all the way through—Laura has provided a TON of specific, practical information.

And leave a comment. I’ll enter you all in a drawing for Laura’s book Stampede! I’ll draw the winner next Wednesday, September 2.

And on to the interview.

BL: How did you and Fiona hook up? What made the two of you decide to work on your marketing plans together?

LPS: When I posted one or two Marketing Monday posts on my personal blog, I told readers that I’d be sharing my book promotion journey. Fiona Bayrock and I knew each other from being on the NFforKids Yahoo group, and she emailed me to suggest we join forces and do a joint blog. I thought that was a fantastic idea and said, “Yes, let’s!”

BL: Why did you decide to do the planning publicly, on the community blog?

LPS: Well, I had a nice motive and an ulterior motive. The nice motive was that I like to share stuff on my blog, when possible, that is information and that’s hard information for beginners to find. My ulterior motive was that by sharing my promotion tasks, I’d be promoting my book, of course. Also I hoped to get feedback and ideas from some writers who were more experienced than me. And we did! Finally, I thought being public about it would help make me accountable and keep me on track.

BL: What were your biggest/basic marketing goals for Stampede!?

LPS: Here’s the list I was working from.


  • Contact local media (personally & also through publisher’s publicist). Do again in summer with a back-to-school angle
  • Approach blog reviewers about sending review copy (give list to publicist)


  • Create a STAMPEDE website and give it some presence on my website
  • Create “billboard presence”—my word for a static online site/page that you don’t have to change a lot—on Facebook, Linked In, MySpace, Ning, etc
  • Update Flapjacket, Children’s Literature Network, and other sites that list my books
  • Do an ongoing marketing blog with Fiona Bayrock


  • Book launch
  • Local book events with another author?
  • Attend IRA (International Reading Association) in May this year, here, in Minneapolis
  • Possibly attend ALA (American Library Association) in Chicago
  • Try to arrange to speak at some conferences in 09

Reaching out to Teachers/Booksellers

  • Teacher’s guide
  • Reader’s theatre
  • Authorless event kit? (A set of online materials a bookstore can print out to create a fun storytime with reading, activities, maybe a craft…all without too much work on the bookseller’s part and no in-person visit from the author.)

Reaching out to the Press

  • Create an online press kit
  • Update my bios
  • Create some resource materials (10 Great Back-to-School books, 10 Terrific Poetry Books, etc.) to share in press materials and also on Amazon
  • Write a back-to-school piece for news wire

Name Recognition

  • Guest-teach a couple of classes in the Whidbey Island Writers Association
  • Serve on poetry panel for CYBILS awards
  • Write a bi-monthly poetry column for Kid Magazine Writers
  • Attend local book club with media specialists, kidlit profs, and children’s book buyer for the entire Minneapolis metro area as members, etc
  • Anything that can bet my name in front of people and where I can slide a mention of Stampede! in there

Miscellaneous Stuff

  • Book trailer
  • Blog campaign to get people to request that their library buy a copy of the book
  • Have promotional items made
  • Campaign contacts to review the book on Amazon and B&N
  • Mail press kit to local media
  • Have postcards made as soon as cover is final and start handing them out now!


  • Start updating contact list so that I can do mailing to schools, libraries, independent booksellers, and personal contacts

BL: What were your marketing fears?

LPS: In-person events scared me the most. I was losing sleep about a book launch. The idea made me so nervous. The other big fear was just that everything would fall flat. The more you put into it, the harder you try, the bigger our humiliation is if it all falls flat.

BL: Where and how did you gather your initial ideas about what a marketing plan might include?

LPS: The fantastic blog Shrinking Violet Promotions was a great starting point for me. Also, I had been saving emails and articles and all sorts of stuff for years in a folder marked Promotion. It was a “someday” folder…and someday came, and I really did use a lot of that information!

BL: What marketing to-dos went on your original list of things to focus on?


  • Contacting the publicity department at my publisher
  • Building the microsite for Stampede!
  • Creating the book trailer
  • Figuring out a book launch

BL: Did you accomplish that whole list?

LPS: I did do all the stuff on that short list, though I ended up doing an online launch. It was a ton of work, but it was also lots of fun. The launch happened in April, but all the activities and comments are still live here.

BL: What was the best thing about marketing your book?

LPS: That’s a tough question, since marketing doesn’t come easily to me. Um…One was that putting so much effort into this really made me appreciate the value of my book. I risked my time, energy, money, and pride, knowing I might not get something in return—but felt like my book was worth it. Two was that by putting a lot of visible effort into Stampede!,I made my publisher aware that I was willing and able to promote my book. And that in turn made my publisher more willing to promote my book, like by sending me to ALA Chicago (and Texas TLA—Texas Library Association—next spring). This is a lot of money to spend on an unknown author, and I think (though I don’t know for sure) that my own promotion efforts indirectly lead to this.

So much stuff we do in marketing has no immediate, tangible result, so it’s hard to evaluate. But I do think impressing your publisher as a busy, effective marketer can only help!

BL: What was the hardest thing about marketing your book?

LPS: Handing out postcards or flyers or whatever at conferences—that is just so not me. Even as I’ve gotten more confident and a little more experienced, I’m still not comfortable with this. OH! And the other hardest part was in bookstore/signing events. Some were better organized than others, and some resulted in a few book sales. But I do not have a salesperson’s personality, and three hours out of too many Saturdays resulting in three books sold just got kind of old.

BL: With the book launched and “out there,” and looking back, is there something you now see as a must-do for writers?

LPS: If you’re not 100% comfortable with marketing, partnering up with another writer with a new book out is what I would consider a must-do! Teaming up with Fiona Bayrock for some online promotion at Bubble Stampede pushed me to do more. And for in-person events, which are what really intimidate me, teaming up with Dara Dokas (Muriel’s Red Sweater) was such a wonderful thing for me. The other must-dos, I think, are:

  • A website or section of a website devoted just to your book
  • Teacher-support materials (reading guide, reader’s theater, etc.)
  • Getting your book into the hands of reviewers (both print and blog)
  • Increasing your visibility in the writing community—don’t always focus on just one book; the more visible YOU are, the more people will recognize your name and hopefully check out your book(s)
  • Make postcards and/or business cards featuring your book cover and hand them out freely

There are a few things I never got to on my list, mostly because I ran out of time.

  • I never did any mailings
  • in-person launch (fear factor, more than time factor)
  • More billboard presence for my book on various online platforms

BL: Are there any other recommendations you’d give to writers whose book will be published in the next year?

LPS: I know I said bookstore events weren’t that successful for me. But it’s great to do them to build relationships with your local booksellers. I’m doing a reading at Red Balloon Bookshop in October, but they also hooked me up with an event at a minor league baseball game and recommended me to a school looking for (paid) author event. Booksellers have all kinds of connections with schools and organizations, so it’s smart to make them aware of you, your book, and what you might have to offer.

Start early. Some of this stuff takes a ton of time! And bookstores and other venues plan events for the future.

Don’t beat yourself up. I did as much as I could for Stampede!. I wanted to learn what works best for me. I didn’t get to everything, but I tried to just be proud of what I did do. And with my next book, I’ll be more selective, concentrating on the kinds of things that worked well the first time around.

Twitter Update: My Latest Thoughts

Okay, raise your hand if you knew, when you read this post, that I’d say this:

Twitter is growing on me. And, no, not like mold.  🙂

Honestly, it’s still not my favorite social networking place. My brain chemistry is still happier on Facebook, with the layout of the page and the way you can follow comments directly off the original update.

But I’m getting better at skimming through the tweets. I don’t feel, anymore, like like I’m only seeing stuff I’m not interested in and missing the tweets I really want to read. Just to get a little scientific here, maybe it’s one of those ways I can stretch my brain “muscles,” carve some new synaptic paths–which, you know, is always good. If painful.

And there are some interesting things going on out there at Twitter. Here’s what I’ve seen so far.

  • I mentioned that I’d heard there were more agents and editors on Twitter than on Facebook. So far, this seems to be very true. Obviously, this doesn’t mean we writers jump all over them, but it’s interesting to hear what they’re saying to us and to each other. Also, agents do send out tweets that they’re open for questions–which does give us a chance to find out some specific info we’ve been wondering about.
  • This week, Jessica Faust and Kim Lionetti of the Bookends agency are doing twitter-pitch contests. They look like a LOT of fun. And let’s face it–really good practice. You’ve got a couple more days, and you can find out the details here.
  • Mary Hershey and Robin LaFevers of Shrinking Violet Promotions are trying out Twitter for a month. They’re challenging some of us to turn the tables a bit–instead of tweeting about what we’re doing, to tweet a question to everyone else about what theymight be doing. The other day I asked people what their favorite character in their WIP was doing, and I got some great answers.
  • There’s an interesting site called TweetChat. They set up occasional “conversations” on a specific topic. I believe there’s a weekly (?) poetry chat, and I stopped by once for an interview (where a moderator and everybody else tweeted their questions) with my friend Susan Taylor Brown. It was a bit chaotic, but fun, and I’d like to try a few more.
  • Follow Friday. I’m just gathering a few names to do this one tomorrow. Every Friday, tweeters (I refuse to call us twits!) send out a few ids of people they enjoying following on Twitter. It’s a nice way to check out other people you might want to follow, and it’s one of those good Sally-Field moments, too, when you see your id in someone else’s FF.
  • Retweeting. I do like this one. If someone tweets a thought or a link that you like or find interesting/helpful, you can retweet it. (If you download Tweetdeck, which I prefer to the Twitter page, there’s a button that makes this REALLY easy.) Basically, it means that the people who are following you will get to see the tweet, check out the link, even if they’re not following the person who originally posted it. It’s a nice feature–it means I get to see some good tweets I might miss, and it gives me a chance to “introduce” people to each other.

There are still a few weird things about Twitter. I’d still LOVE to find an app that threads the conversations for me–that shows updates and all subsequent comments in the same place. If you hear of anything like that, puh-lease send me a note!

I’ve got things set up so my tweets go automatically to Facebook. I like this–saves me retyping. BUT it happens automatically with my retweets as well, which gets confusing on Facebook. I’ve passed on a few announcements of someone else’s success or good luck, only to have my Facebook fans congratulate ME!

A few weeks ago, I started getting a LOT of what I call “icky” followers. Some of them were people who have nothing to do with writing or other things I’m interested in–the Twitter equivalent of the door-to-door salesperson asking me if I want to buy a dozen eggplants. (Note: I could be a vegetarian if I only liked vegetables!) But others were definitely gross, porn-type tweeters. Okay, no, I’ll call them twits. They weren’t tweeting to me, but they were showing up on my Followers page. The Followers page is where other people can go and see who is following you, in case there’s someone they might like to add to their own list. For me, this mostly means other writers are coming to see who’s following me. And then they would get, yes…ick.

If this happens to you, there is a way around it. There’s an option on the first page of your Twitter settings called Protect My Updates. If you check this box, then you get an email telling you someone has asked to follow you. You then have the option to accept them or decline them. There is a potential downside to this that Susan Taylor Brown (a social-networking guru, as well as a wonderful writer) was telling me about. She’s going to send me a note later describing how that all works, and I’ll update the post. So stop back in for the full story! UPDATE! So I went back & forth with Susan a few times–because she’s a VERY patient teacher (check out her online social-networking class here), and I am not the most fast student on this stuff. The basic thing seems to be that, when you protect your updates, you are creating an additional step for someone to follow you–some people may not bother, which might lose you followers. Also, they can’t see your updates when they go to your profile, so they can’t get an idea of the kinds of things you’re tweeting about. Same possible result–people may decide it’s not worth the effort/chance to follow you.  I can’t tell if that’s been happening to me or not. I am still getting people asking to follow me, and I’ve only said no to a couple–really just the eggplant salespeople! But, obviously, I wouldn’t know if people were passing me by. I know I’m supposed–in terms of promotion–to be in this for the numbers, but it’s hard for me to think that way, so I’m not too worried. Susan suggests also that these “icky visits” may go in waves, so I may try unprotecting for a bit every now and then and see if it makes a difference.

Finally, I found a couple of recent posts about the actual USEFULNESS of Twitter.

As a side note, I’ve personally had a couple of experiences on Twitter AND Facebook that have proven to me these are places I need to be. They may or may not lead to anything concrete, but I’ve gotten opportunities from both that I would not have gotten without being out there.

If you’re looking for me, I’m still at and