Tales in Publishing:
First Book Launch
So I had my first book launch party. It was virtual, as we were doing an anthology with eight writers from various parts of the globe. I would say the experience was a learning one, exciting, and went pretty well--at least I think it did.
We each were allotted an hour to introduce ourselves and our book. I was second to last in the lineup. From the start, I realized that like a real-life party only the best friends and family seemed to show up for us, and frankly we writers probably aren't the most popular people. We hide in books and behind computers more than socialize. Anyway, it was clear when only 37 people said they were going (7 being us writers) that it looked dire. 7 people got 30 people to come online for one hour--that's not much. Considering 8 were my friends (and my mom), I felt I didn't do to bad.
In the first hour, it was clear not many people were commenting. I had prepared myself to the T and this saddened me. I began commenting on every author's segment to help things along. I did this ALL day, 5 minutes here and there. It was so simple, it was kind of disheartening that the people who should believe in us and want to help us, couldn't spare five minutes. In the middle of the day things got worse where only us authors commented for each other, one author asking if anyone was there without much of a response.
I grew nervous when my time came up. I had a post for every 5 minutes of my hour all ready, so all I had to do was copy, paste, and post. No hitches and I got a lot of responses. I had 10 people commenting throughout the hours and liking my stuff. Considering how things looked prior, I'd call it a success. I'm so thankful for those people to take time out of their day to support me.
I'm not sure the party generated a lot of sales. With these things, it's kind of exclusive to people who know you and want to read your stuff. Here's some things I think are important for virtual book launch parties.
1. Really get people to "go." I sent reminders, personal messages telling them to shift from interested to going so they wouldn't miss out. I blasted social media.
2. Offer prizes. Even your best friends have busy lives and need some kind of enticement to leave their "me" sphere to dedicate a few minutes to you.
3. Prepare ahead of time. There were some technical difficulties for a couple authors that cut into their time. I tested it all out well before my turn to make sure it would go well.
4. Make sure most of your posts have an open-ended question that can involve your reader. We are human beings and love to share what we think and feel. So I had questions that asked their opinion or to tell us a little story of their own. If it's only telling them something, the most you'll get is a like.
5. Make it interesting! Aside from informing people about yourself and your book, make it interesting so people stay on there. Pictures of your characters, stock photos, lines from the book, etc. But also put a spin on it. Some authors do a video so readers get to know them. I suggest making it short. I check out of most videos after 5 minutes. I did something different. My story was called "Dare," so I had my characters play truth or dare through cute and witty vignettes. Each one asked a question about the reader being in a similar situation. These posts got the most likes and comments than my others.
These are just my thoughts, but in all honesty, I probably sold double the amount of books a couple days later when I posted a picture of the actual book on social media. I think seeing the actual paperback hits people as being real. Over a hundred of my friends liked the post (and counting), and several said in the post they bought it. From this experience, I learned that if I publish my own book I should have a virtual and real book launch party where I invite my core 8 out to my house or another venue. Although fun, I missed the human element.
Tips for YA Lit:
Heroes (Part 2)
3. The Bad Boy--he's the Byronic hero gone wrong, a bit sadistic even, honestly a jerk. The appeal of this character is the hope he has an arc. The heroine will change him. I despise this one. It's rare for people to drastically change in the real world, and if you decide to change your nature it should be for you not someone else. A solution to alter the bad boy is by making him more of a street rat (see below).
Heroes (Part 2)
Last blog, I discussed Byronic hero and the friend stereotypes found in a lot of romance and YA lit. Today, I want to focus on subcategories or spin-offs of these two that seem popular...
4. The Hot Dork--this is major untapped hotness that was under the girl's nose only she could never realize it. His brain is sexier than his body, but he's still cute. And he's not ruined yet by other girls, so he tends to worship the heroine. The only problem with this guy type is usually the heroine appears vain for never noticing him before or he drastically changes himself to get her attention. And you know from above how I feel about people changing for others.
5. The Popular Jock--he's oh-so popular, with a smoking body, not to mention the star of high school. Every girl wants to date him, guys envy the attention he gets, and life is simply perfect for him. The only problem with this one is it can go two ways: he could be a meathead or deep down has a heart of gold. Meatheads normally are portrayed as stupid and who really lusts over an imbecile? Also, if he has a heart of gold why would he hang out with a crew who is stereotypically seen as the bad guys and bullies of YA literature? It's just doesn't work well. What could work is him ditching his shallow friends and seeing the error of his ways. I've seen this work well a couple times, I'll admit, where he's able to use his influence to change others for the better as well, but still not a favorite of mine.
6. Adorable Boy Next Door (or childhood friend)-- self-explanatory really. He lives next door or across the street in view all the time but never eye candy until some event sparks the heroine's interest. Something happens to awaken her to the idea he is not a boy but now a hot guy worthy of scoping out. The same goes for the childhood friend if you don't want to make him a neighbor. Perhaps they played together as kids but things fell apart and they're reunited. This one works well. Every girl likes to pick a boy to crush on in her acquaintance when she's little, so it is plausible that as a teen this little fantasy could come true. It lends realism to the girl snagging this hero. I employ this one in my story "Dare" in the Evernight Teen Kissed anthology (Now available).
7. The Arrogant Rich Kid (or know it all)--this guy gets on your nerves because he either has it all or knows it all. Usually the girl dislikes him at first and their interactions are bristling and full of anger. But as they say, there's a thin line between love and hate for both are emotions full of heightened passion. Something has to happen to make him palatable, though, or this becomes a spoiled snot snags the girl kind of story. He either changes for the better because she candidly shows or tells him his shortcomings and he wants the only thing he can't have, her. Or sometimes an author will have it be an act to protect his vulnerability (back to the Byronic hero). Either way, this only works if the spoiled brat vanishes and grows into something sweeter and likable.
8. The Street Rat with a Heart of Gold--This guy is lower than the girl in some way--financially, socially, etc. He is beneath her according to society or high school social hierarchy and feels he is not her equal, that wanting the heroine is wrong and gaining her affection is out of reach. He is rough, ill-mannered, a troublemaker, and perhaps people are a bit scared of him. He is to himself, could care less about what people think, a free spirit. Deep down he's a good person that is misunderstood. He's a teddy bear inside if people take the time to know him and fiercely protective and loyal. He is the opposite of this girl's world which attracts her. He fills a missing void in her life and they make each other better people although everyone around them disapproves.
Of course these are all stereotypes. No guy realistically is only one of these. Most likely he's a combination of them or juggles these roles depending on his mood and events around him. I think it takes a skilled author to pull these off and most of the time they are blended: the hot dork-friend, the know it all rich kid-Byronic hero, etc. I'm sure I missed quite a few but I was trying to keep this from getting too long. Please feel free to comment on ones I have overlooked and I can start a part 3 going.
Book Launch Day
The day has come and I'm beyond excited! I'll keep it short and to the point. Below you will find the description of my story followed by the links of where you can purchase it. Happy reading and please help me out. If you do not want to buy share this so someone in your acquaintance can.
It all started with a dare. A kissed note slipped into the locker of Mia’s longtime crush managed to capture Gray’s attention, but how to get her first-ever kiss from him proves more problematic. With every dare there’s a second option. Will truth give them a shot at romance or will her kiss sputter out on the page?
"Then, feeling very much like a fool, I kissed the corner of the paper and pulled away. A solid, seductive, pouty kiss mark was irrevocable evidence that I had lost my mind over a boy."
You can buy this story with seven others in the Kissed Anthology in digital or print forms. Click on the following link for a universal place to see all versions for sale...Buy here
Tips for YA Lit:
Heroes (Part 1)
Where heroines seem sometimes blank for readers to insert themselves into for YA romances, the heroes are drastically different. There is a bigger range because frankly girls are attracted to different kinds of boys. There are so many stereotypes that I'm dedicating two posts to males. Unlike the quandary of the heroine being simplistic and dull--too normal--boys in these novels seem to have much more to them to make readers want them. But since all girls have different preferences, what type of guy character is the best?
The two most popular heroes I've come across in young adult literature are...
1. The Byronic Hero--this one is my favorite for two reasons. He has recognizable boy behavior that seems realistic and there always is a reason or backstory (and these vary) for why he acts the way he does. It's fun to create a backstory of your own making that gives him such depth and vulnerability that your readers swoon. Named after Lord Byron, because he was a brooder and had characters who were as well, this hero is melancholy, a bit of an emo at times, but not whiny. He is strong, with a rough exterior, and hard to get to know because he has defenses up. He usually is dark, rebellious, arrogant, the bad boy but in a less obvious way. He is mysterious and every girl wants to know him, peel him like an onion, and yet he tries to maintain his distance. Think Edward Cullen, Maxon Schreave, The Phantom of the Opera. I honestly think this character is magnificent, but the drawback I see in books is sometimes he's too stereotypical and his stubbornness is over the top and extremely repetitive. Sometimes the reason behind his behavior isn't enough to compensate for being so cruel. Critics of Twilight often see Edward as extremely controlling instead of concerned. Some see Maxon as weak and vindictive when his feelings are hurt. These interpretations are true but that makes them wonderfully "human" and flawed. The only issue I have is whether these male stereotypes are healthy for younger precocious YA readers. YA is usually written for 14+ but readers as young as 10 often read them too.
2.The Friend--this one is always great because it is so realistic. A lot of romances start off as friendships and once you get to know each other, overcome obstacles together, and are there for each other through both good and bad times, sometimes romance sparks. What is nice about these heroes is they are normal. These guys are usually funny, engaging, charismatic, smart, and accessible. The struggle and anxiety of crossing that line, that first kiss, creates exciting tension for readers as they can envision this same thing occurring with their guy friend who they may start to view as a little more than a friend. Think Jacob Black, Gale Hawthorne, Ron Weasley. The only issue with this hero type is he's not as exciting as the rest. People tend to read to escape reality, which is why it's fiction. A second is sometimes these guys lose the girl in the end misleading readers to believe "normal" is not good enough. Nice guys finish last as they say, which is a shame. Poor Jacob and Gale. Even JK Rowling admitted Ron and Hermoine probably wouldn't have lasted long in reality.
The main issue to worry about with these characters is that they are stereotypes. It sets up unrealistic expectations for younger readers. But we use them because we do find truth in them. As a writer, here's what I do to try to avoid making him too stereotypical.
- Start your hero off as a stereotype like this and it's okay if it feels over the top in the beginning of your story
- Challenge him again and again in situations and interactions where this stereotype cannot succeed
- Change his responses to these situations. Make him grow and slowly change for the better (prevents annoying repetition)
- In the end of the story, make sure he's not completely 180 from his beginning self (because no one should completely and unbelievably change themselves in the name of love)
- But do make sure he is no longer fully fits that stereotype
Next week--sub-types of the above stereotypes if you want a more blended character.
Tips for YA Lit:
In 2005, Twilight came out. It was a smashing success and movie franchise. As a grown woman, I got sucked into it. I was straight out of grad school wanting to read some fun YA fluff, tired of analyzing capital L literature. But of course, there never is the ability to turn off your analytical brain once it is well-trained. I found I abhorred the heroine Bella. I almost hated her. However, at the same time, the characterization was a marketing genius move. I admire although look down upon Stephanie Meyer's heroine.
First, the story and reinventing of vampire mythology is what got me reading. But Bella Swan is weak, insecure, and lacks any personality traits except strange slang "Holy Crow!" and clumsiness. But here is the genius move: having no personality and being told in first person allows the reader to be Bella. She's a cardboard cut-out readers can invert themselves into. One could also argue a lot of teenage girls are realistically weak and insecure as they navigate towards adulthood. To me, it was overboard. She thinks she's plain and yet three guys are into her from the start. Just doesn't line up unless she is fairly pretty and thinks so lowly of herself.
This trend lasted for almost a decade and long before Bella came to the scene. The damsel in distress trope is long running. Thankfully, now strength in a girl is seen as a positive thing. Think Katnis Everdeen from the Hunger Games series. She doesn't seem to have time for boys due to trying to survive and yet the books still are laced with romance. But Katnis is in an extreme situation and so is perhaps much stronger than our average teen girl in an everyday setting.
I bring up these examples because you need to think of several things as you develop your heroine:
1. Marketability--pay attention to trends if you want to sell. Bella worked then, Katniss worked next. Research to see where we might be headed. I personally believe if you're writing contemporary YA, your heroine falling on a spectrum between these two examples is safe and marketable.
2. Strive for realism--readers need to believe this is a teen girl from her thoughts, words, to actions. Research this. Listen to them in public. A lot of the time authors will make them too innocent or young, too child-like. Others make them so mature they read more like adults. It's true some real-life teens are mature and some are immature, but you want to cater to the middle, the average girl.
3. Don't overdo stereotypes--stereotypes are reinforced by society for a reason. Having some stereotypical teen behavior will be authentic to your audience. Make your heroine unique in some ways (maybe a bit more than just stumbling a lot), but recognizable as a insider of the reader's group.
4. Or the breaking of them--But if you chose a stereotype breaking heroine don't go overkill in making her break all the rules. She won't ring true. This appears in historical romances a lot. A girl will be a feminist but comes across as a petulant, stubborn brat rather than an enlightened crusader. A great example of it done well is in the Selection series where America was a strong, real girl amongst weak or superficial girls.
5. Make her a savior as well as needing saving--this stems into the plot more but aligns with character realism as well. Humans, regardless of gender, help each other and need help. It is the human condition. By not aligning the plot in stereotypical fashion and thinking of our hero and heroine as simply human beings, you achieve equality. This is essentially more realistic than the old fashioned damsel in distress waiting to be saved (Bella) or inverting these gender roles having the heroine save the hero (Katnis saving Peeta). Why not have them both save each other and earn that "hero" part of their titles?
Onto heroes next week!
Tips for YA Lit:
Those who know me personally acknowledge I'm a talker. One way my skills at being a conversationalist help me is it carries over into writing. I feel as if my dialogue is my best asset when it comes to my writing. Dialogue is one of the most important aspects in a novel giving it authenticity, propelling the plot along, revealing character, and more. It's a vehicle to get everything and anything across. Think Hemingway's "Hills Like White Elephants," which is all dialogue and symbolic setting; it has so much meaning through the characters' words. This is an exemplary work, but it can go very wrong for some authors. There's nothing worse than contrived dialogue where you scratch your head as a reader and think, who talks this way? Or what guy would actually directly admit that? What girl would say this? Or could the writer get anymore stereotypical? When it comes to YA, as an adult writing it, things get difficult because we aren't young and our understanding of youth culture is as an outsider. No matter how hip and in the know we are, we are not in the club.
Here are the unspoken rules I abide by when it coms to YA dialogue:
Be hip, but sparingly: "I'll pick up bae in my whip and we'll Netflix and chill."
Phrasing like this is over kill. It reeks of old person trying to act cool and speak on teens terms. If you don't know what "Netflix and chill" is look it up (so not innocent). Second, it excludes younger and older readers forcing your audience to only be in that five year high school range. Third, and most importantly, it times your piece as in future generations will not understand the slang used, even a decade out, you may not be able to sell novel. To combat this, I use it sparingly and in a way anyone can figure out, like "OMG" and "cray." It is more universal and still authentic. Another way is if you use something like "whip" in dialogue, then mention "car" in the prose following it to help define it subtly for the reader.
Be Realistic. Read aloud.
One of the things that will get me putting your book down and not finishing is unrealistic dialogue. As much as stereotypes suck, they exist because they are preconceived notions society has reinforced. Stick to gender stereotypes for the most part, unless the character is supposed to be "different." Guys that freely talk about their feelings usually make me role my eyes. Because of society's macho expectations, it should be a struggle for him. The struggle is far more realistically romantic anyway. Another stereotype is a girl freely talking about her feelings or issues with friends, which is a great realistic way to reveal these feelings or conflicts. To combat any off-kilter dialogue, I read aloud, sort of like a voice actor putting emotion into it. You can hear when it rings true and when it appears a bit cheesy.
Bigger is not always better!
Rarely do we use huge multisyllabic words in every day speech. It goes hand in hand with realism. I remember Dawson's Creek growing up and loving how these kids were so smart and used SAT type language, but it's not realistic. I was an intelligent youth, and we dorks didn't speak this way, and if we dared we'd be bullied beyond belief. Smart people don't really speak this way when just hanging out with friends if they want to fit in, and fitting in is a huge concern of teenagers throughout the ages. To combat this, limit huge vocabulary to one or two more difficult words if showing the character is intelligent. Otherwise, save it for the prose. Even then, too many large words in one sentence actually can make your meaning ambiguous and your prose needlessly wordy (as I try to tell some students who think using an excelled vocabulary--usually incorrectly--is best). You also are writing for teens who have varying vocabularies, so why not cater to all of them instead of some kind of elite intellectual readership?
Keep it short
In real life, we rarely even spout out a Shakespearian-length monologue unless in the event of telling a story. One great thing about Aaron Sorkin's work (The Social Network, Steve Jobs, The Newsroom to name a few) is his rapid-fire dialogue, how people's conversation volleys back and forth at a fast pace. It is utterly realistic to have a long conversation of short exchanges then to have a monologue followed by another. If I read long monologues that tell and don't show (if it's not a necessary story being told), I tend to skim ahead to just get the gist of it. I want to see the reaction of the other person more than just hearing the words. How people interrelate is way more interesting than just the words they say aloud. To combat this, break it up. Even if the other person simply gives them a look or sighs, it shows us interaction.
The age old propelling rule
Dialogue should propel the plot forward. I like this rule but there are other aspects to look at. Such as dialogue in the exposition can show us a lot about the character without having to describe it, even if it hardly propels the plot forward. Think about TV and movies. Since we rarely have the narrator telling us things on the screen, the dialogue must reveal who the characters are and what they are like. It is the driving force of cinema since it lacks the depth of the prose a book can employ. To combat useless dialogue, make cutting it (or adding) part of your revision process. If it doesn't reveal something or move the plot forward, it can be cut.
Now that I started, I realize there are so many "rules" out there for writing dialogue effectively. I may return to add to this list one day, but for now I think these are the most effective in YA lit. Dialogue can make or break a book.
Stay tuned for next week's discussion on characterization.
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