Category Archives: Social Media

Quit the Chicken Job, You Must

KFC BucketWhen I was 16 I got my first job with my first real paycheck, working at Kentucky Fried Chicken. I only lasted for five months. It wasn’t the low pay or the terrible hours that drove me to quit, or even the fact that I came home every night smelling like poultry.

It was the sensory overload that did me in.

More than once, when a line of hungry, impatient people snaked all the way out the door, I ended up in the back room, crying and flustered. It was just too much. Looking back, I realize I took the job way too seriously. I wanted everyone to be happy, wanted to do a good job. But it was just chicken. I wish I could go back and give 16-year-old me a hug and tell her that: “Girl, it’s just chicken.” I’d still encourage her to quit, though. To have enough confidence in herself and her skills to go find something better. Calmer. More in line with her interests and talents.

Fast forward twenty-something years, and I’m actually doing what I love! The book debut looms just three short months away. And I’m back in panic mode. Am I establishing an online presence? Am I doing enough to prepare, to network, to suddenly become outgoing and eloquent? Will any of it make any difference in the long run? It’s that queue of impatient customers all over again, all clamoring for their bucket of chicken.

I’m the first to admit that social media often sends me into a spiral of anxiety. I’m not witty or interesting or invested enough to keep up. Some days I try. Many days I don’t. Sometimes just having unanswered email feels like an unbearable source of noise and clutter. It can even dictate whether or not I have a productive writing day. I’ve read lots of articles about how much authors should be doing to promote themselves online.  They range from do everything to do only the things you feel comfortable with. Our very own Megan Morrison wrote a wonderful, sensible post along those lines here.

YodaBut what about the days when I DON’T FEEL COMFORTABLE WITH ANY OF IT?!

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say: that’s okay too.

You might be familiar with Yoda’s famous line from The Empire Strikes Back: “Do, or do not. There is no try.” An inspiring quote for most any situation, right? But at the risk of alienating my fellow Star Wars fans, I’d like to propose an alternate philosophy when it comes to book promotion and social media: “Do, or do not. Or try, if you want. But if it stresses you out, or interferes with your writing, then don’t worry about it.

I will say that I’m starting to get the hang of Twitter. I think I’ve been signed up for almost two years now. Needless to say, it’s very, very, verrrrrry slooooow going for me. But that’s the pace I’m comfortable with, and I have noticed my brain gradually absorbing bits and pieces—enough to keep me from giving up. So I will continue to try.

I totally think Yoda would get on board with that.


ChristineHayesauthorpicChristine Hayes writes spooky stories for middle grade readers. Her debut novel, MOTHMAN’S CURSE, is due out June 16, 2015 with Roaring Brook Press/Macmillan. She is represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency. Follow her on Twitter: @christinenhayes.


Filed under Advice - Helpful or Otherwise, Anxiety, Book Promotion, Panic, Promotion, Social Media, Time Management, Writing, Writing and Life


by Amy Finnegan

simon thumbs down

We all do it.

Whether or not we are the mean-spirited type, we judge other people. We judge music. We judge food. We judge books. We either deem them worthy of our praise, or deserving of our scorn. Sometimes we just give our targets a “meh” and move on.

This topic has been discussed a few times here on EMU’s Debuts lately, which has led me to think more and more about it, especially as the launch of my first novel approaches. But a recent experience helped me view the compulsion to not only notice, but share what one considers a shortcoming, from a different angle . . . one that doesn’t involve the book that I spent several years writing.

It involves my new home instead.

Two and a half years ago I sat down with a piece of paper and sketched out what I envisioned as my dream home, inside and out. Everything I’ve ever wanted. Then I took it to an architect, and over the next 18 months, we pared and pruned, designed and redesigned. It was a very long process and involved much more work than I ever could’ve imagined (much like writing a novel, and getting it published!)

rolled up plansThen a hole was dug. A foundation was poured. Walls were built. I began to see my paper dream house become an actual home. It was beautiful (OMG! Look at what I’ve done!) and also scary (OMG! What have I done?). It was an exciting, exhausting, stressful (!!!!) twelve months of building. I was there nearly every day for several hours, micro-managing every detail so it was truly built exactly the way I wanted it to be.

And FINALLY, it was finished, and it was decorated with everything that my family loved. It was perfect for us. We practically skipped through the halls.

And then, my friends, we opened it up—as we had promised our builder and subcontractors that we would do—to the Parade of Homes, wherein close to 20,000 people walked through every room with little blue booties over their shoes.

Let . . . the . . . criticism . . . begin.

All 27 homes in the parade received written reviews from attendees. Most, as is common with books, were positive. But about 10 – 20% of the reviewers were negative, even scathing. This is what I found interesting though: almost every single house received both praise and scorn for the very same feature. Here are some actual, verbatim, examples:

House A

Reviewer 1: How many different materials can be crammed into a room? Busy, busy, busy. Less is more, more is unappealing.

Reviewer 2: I have never seen a house done so beautifully! Make sure you have enough time to really take in every inch of it . . . every detail is spot on.

House B

Reviewer 1: This house is one of a kind, hands down the best house I have ever been in! Aaaaaammmmmaaaaazzziiiiiinnnnngggg.

Reviewer 2: I was underwhelmed . . . disappointed on all levels.

House C

Reviewer 1: The theater was so bad with sheared fabric on the walls — really!?!?!

Reviewer 2: One of the nicest home theaters I’ve ever seen!

House D

Reviewer 1: Oh. My. Gosh. What more is there to say!?!?! Can I give it 10 stars?!?!

Reviewer 2: Gross . . . . Seriously gross.

In no particular order, these are the homes discussed above:








four chairs house

Do any of these homes look “Gross . . . . Seriously gross” to you? In my opinion, all of them are gorgeous, and certainly what many would consider a “dream home.”

But people have their own likes and dislikes, for reasons that even they can’t always explain. To argue with them is pointless.

I don’t like fish. I just don’t. I don’t like the way it smells, or the way it tastes or feels in my mouth. Friends, and especially my husband, have often told me, “But THIS fish is so mild. It melts on your tongue! Here, you have to try it!” And so I do, and *cue gag reflex* . . . nope. There is nothing anyone can do to MAKE me enjoy the taste of any fish. Ever. (I do not like fish here or there. I do not like it ANYwhere!)

As an author, it’s absolutely, positively, IMPOSSIBLE to write a book that every reader will like. It will never happen in the history of the world. I personally feel that Harry Potter is the best book series that has ever been written. It melts my soul with its goodness. I’ve read it over and over and over again, and I laugh and cry in all the same places (and additional ones as well). But online, that series has tens of thousands of one-star reviews. Some people hate it with a passion beyond reason, as though it was written by the devil himself (or in this case, herself).

How can our feelings toward the very same books be such polar opposites? But isn’t that the case with almost anything? Books, music, movies, art, food . . . homes? Everything is subjective, and its value always depends on the eye of the beholder.

I’m saying all of this now because once NOT IN THE SCRIPT hits shelves in October, it will be open to the judgment of the world, and it’s always a bad idea for an author to argue (or even explain particular choices) with his or her critics. So this is my one chance to say: “I invited you into my heart, poured my soul out to you, shared my idea of romance and true love and humor, and if you don’t feel it’s good enough, you’re perfectly free to put the book down, unfinished.”

There was a point during the Parade of Homes—when I was fluffing pillows and such—that a woman looked over the entertainment area in our basement and said, “They don’t even have a pool table! A home like this SHOULD have a pool table.”

It wouldn’t have been appropriate for me to approach her and explain why we didn’t get a pool table, but an unexpected thing happened at that moment. I laughed out loud. Totally laughed. Like, all day long. Because it reminded me of the way book reviewers sometimes trash an entire book because the story doesn’t end how they think it should’ve ended. Would this lady have otherwise been super pleased with my basement if we’d had that one missing element? I doubt it. We already have a LOT of cool stuff down there. Among other features: an indoor sports court, a Harry Potter themed theater with signed props and memorabilia from the movies, an arcade, a Beatles themed music room, a ping pong table, and a four-person air hockey table. Not even this was enough to earn her approval.

air hockey close view

The space in question: a pool table we would rarely use, or a 4-person, tournament-style air hockey table?

So why, dear questioning Parade Lady, do we NOT have a pool table? Because we didn’t freaking want one, okay? Would YOU want a $15,000 pool table if you had two teenagers and one eight year old who constantly had dozens of friends running through your basement? Would YOU want a pool table if you knew pizza and pop and caramel corn would end up on it no matter how diligently  you tried to avoid it? Would YOU want a pool table if no one in your family even played pool? Or would you get one anyway just to impress people who thought you SHOULD have one?

These are the snarky types of replies authors often want to give to critics of their work. And it will definitely be difficult for me to resist doing so. There will probably even be times when a review makes me cry and I will wish I’d never even written the book. It’s going to be tough. I’ll have to develop some thick skin. Most authors I know refuse to read their reviews. They cause too much doubt, I’m told. They mess with your writing mojo. They make you feel horrible about yourself. That’s very sad.

So to all you writers out there pouring your hearts out and giving the world a glimpse of your very soul, THANK YOU FOR SHARING! I don’t care if you don’t have a pool table in your book, or in your basement, or anywhere at all! I love that your stories are exactly how they feel right to YOU!


Amy (who doesn’t like fish, but that’s okay! You can eat as much of it as you want to!)


IMG_0723-2Amy Finnegan writes her own stories because she enjoys falling in love over and over again, and thinks everyone deserves a happy ending. She likes to travel the world—usually to locations where her favorite books take place—and owes her unquenchable thirst for reading to Jane Austen and J.K. Rowling. Her debut novel, NOT IN THE SCRIPT, came about after hearing several years of behind-the-scenes stories from her industry veteran brother. She’s also been lucky enough to visit dozens of film sets and sit in on major productions such as Parks and Recreation and Parenthood. You can follow Amy on Twitter @ajfinnegan, or Facebook (Amy Finnegan, Author).



Filed under Advice - Helpful or Otherwise, Happiness, Helpful or Otherwise, Reviews, Social Media, Writing and Life

The Fine Line Between Promo & Bozo

There’s an author on a popular social media discussion forum who starts a half dozen Twitter-like threads about her self-published books at least twice a day. My inbox floods with @’s, RT’s and hashtags when it’s supposed to be filled with lively discussion and debate about children’s literature. I’ve tried to gently steer this author, explaining that Twitter blasts aren’t appropriate for a discussion forum, but she continues to promote her books as if she doesn’t care about annoying the group membership.

Likewise, I’ve seen authors on Twitter tweet “read my award-winning book!” and “my book rated 5 stars on Amazon!” ad nauseam, never writing about anything other than their work.

And you know, when it comes to book promotion, that just doesn’t work.


Imagine a cocktail party. Whom at that party do you slowly back away from? The person inflating themselves, talking about their accomplishments, their interests, even their Amway products (“but they really are superior!”). They never engage in conversation, they never ask about you. You stealthily pull out your phone and text a friend across the room: “Save me!”

Social media is no different. If you constantly talk yourself up, everyone’s going to tune you out. It’s like a radio station that loops the same song for 24 hours. Once or twice and you’ll bop your head to the beat; more than that and you’ll bop your head against the wall.

headagainstwallThis is why book promotion is so difficult; there’s a fine line between promo and being a bozo. How do you inform people about your book without sounding like a windbag?

What I’ve learned over the past seven years of blogging is that being a friend to others is the way to go. Be helpful. Prompt interesting discussion. You don’t have to talk about your book to do book promotion. In fact, I roughly adhere to the 80-20 rule. Talk about your work only 20% of the time (or less). If you’re funny and entertaining online, people will assume your book will be similarly guffaw-inducing. And maybe they’ll buy it.

But the worst thing to do is to beg. You’ve seen it: “Only 34 more ‘likes’ and I’ll reach 500! Go ‘like’ me! Please RT!” Really? Is this the way to get quality followers? No. It’s the way for authors to inflate their numbers and their ego. Authors should stop looking at the numbers and start looking at the people. Because people online are just like the ones at the cocktail party–except they don’t need anyone to save them. They just need to press a button and you’ll go away.

(But please don’t go away! Tell me, what book promotion mistakes do you see online?)


tarafall2011piccloseTara Lazar loves writing witty bios that make her sound interesting, but often fails. Her debut picture book THE MONSTORE will be released with the Aladdin imprint of Simon & Schuster on June 4th. She’s the “Social Media Captain” for the NJ chapter of SCBWI. There’s more hilarious authorly escapades at her blog,


Filed under Blogging, Book Promotion, Social Media

Zen and the Art of Book Promotion

The whole point of Emu’s Debuts is that we’re beginners here. We’re figuring this out as we go. No matter how long we hoped and worked and dreamed that we would be published, for all of us, this is our first time out of the gate.

It’s like parenting. You can’t practice, not really. You can’t prepare, though countless self help books and seminars would have you believe otherwise. There is a steep learning curve. For everyone.

These days, authors are expected to be very active in promoting their books. This introverted, often painfully shy sector of society is supposed to suddenly transform into a dervish of charming, bubbly wit. There now, I’ve made writers sound dull, haven’t I? It’s not that—it’s just that sometimes we are more comfortable in our imagined worlds than we are in the real one.

There are plenty of informational articles and even entire blogs that spell out exactly what an author should do in each of the 12 months leading up to launch day. Here is a short list, just to give you an idea:

  • sign up for twitter
  • contact book sellers
  • print bookmarks
  • design catchy tie-in temporary tattoos
  • build a website
  • tweet
  • make a book trailer
  • plan a cover reveal
  • arrange a blog tour
  • make a press kit
  • host giveaways
  • tweet
  • contact media outlets
  • present at conferences
  • sign up for ARC tours
  • plan a launch party
  • schedule school visits
  • tweet some more

Really, I could go on. And on. And on. If you let it, promotion can completely take over.

The thing is, nobody is going to remember my fancy press kit. And those temporary tattoos are going to fade after a shower or two. But our young readers will remember our stories.

I have just over three months until Parched hits the shelves. In that time, I’ll pick and choose from the list above, doing the things that will connect me with bloggers and teachers and librarians, with the kids who have been craving a story just like this one.

But most of the time, I won’t even be thinking about marketing and promotion. I’ll be writing.

MC Author Photo CroppedMelanie Crowder graduated in 2011 with an MFA in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She is the author of the forthcoming middle grade novel, PARCHED (Harcourt Children’s Books, 2013). A West Coast girl at heart, Melanie now lives and writes in the beautiful (if dry) state of Colorado.

Visit her online at


Filed under Blogging, Book Promotion, Promotion, Social Media

Getting the Word Out about Those Wishes

Katerina’s Wish takes place circa 1900, but sharing her story with the widest audience possible is a 2012 challenge. Some of that responsibility falls on the author. But a lot of it also falls on the shoulders of a publisher’s in-house publicist. Ideally, the two work hand-in-hand, yet one of the biggest questions that authors seem to have when gearing up for their book’s promotion is what the role of a publicist entails (which may seem counterintuitive, given that it’s, well, about being public).

Fortunately, Courtney Sanks, the Simon & Schuster publicist behind Katerina’s Wish, generously answered a few questions about what this key player in a book’s success does.

– In a nutshell, can you explain what a publicist does to promote a book?

A book publicist’s goal is to great buzz and awareness of an upcoming title throughout different communities. There is the traditional media community such as local and national newspapers, magazines, television, and radio as well as the book trade community. This includes industry review publications (think Publishers Weekly) as well as librarian and academic publications (School Library Journal).

Every book campaign is different but once a book is set to publish a publicity plan is created. Every single book we publish is sent to our list of reviewers either in the form of an ARC or finished copy. The publicist also sends a finished copy and pitch letter or press release to a refined list of media deemed appropriate for that title. We ask ourselves, “Is this more on the literary scale of the spectrum? Does this book target middle grade or teen readers? Is this good for any niche publications? Any particular bloggers? Does the author have any contacts we should send to?” We really aim to target our audience so every book has a chance to succeed. A lot of meetings happen between the publisher, marketing and publicity teams.

Perhaps that is a very large nutshell, but book publicity is an intricate web of planning and reacting at a moment’s notice so that at the end of the day we can say we did as much as we could to get a book out there!

– What can/should authors do to dovetail with your efforts? Any advice on which strategies might be more fruitful than others (e.g., setting up blog tours and/or book store events, speaking at conferences/festivals, creating swag, generating press releases)

Work your contacts! Prior to the book’s publication date start networking in your community. Get to know your local booksellers and librarians. Local connections are invaluable when it comes to setting up book signings and events and this also encourages booksellers to pay special attention to hand-selling your titles in their stores. Once the book is in stores, we also encourage you to offer to sign stock at your local bookstore, as signed copies generally sell more swiftly.

-Research neighborhood events such as book festivals and find out how you can get involved. Be sure that any “off site” (an “off site” is an event that takes place somewhere other than a bookstore) can accommodate the sale of your books by partnering with a local or chain bookstore.

-Go online! Set up a Facebook or Twitter account page for yourself and/or in the name of one of your characters. This can be a great marketing tool and previous authors have found that teens and tweens really respond to their sites. Updating your personal website with information about your new book is also helpful. Touch base with your editor to set up your author portal or your publisher’s equivalent author website.

-Make connections with the editors and reporters at your community newspapers. Local newspapers are often interested in highlighting the talents and accomplishments of their readers. Op Ed columns are another great PR tool for certain books. If your book topic or area of expertise is timely, controversial and lends itself to an Op Ed letter then we encourage you to write and submit one to your local paper.

-Don’t forget to reach out to your fan base about your bookstore signings. Including the store, date and time on your website, Facebook page, etc., is a great way to promote the event and let your fans know where to find you.

– Anything else you’d like writers to know about the author-publicist relationship?

Don’t hesitate to keep an open line of communication with your publicist! We are here to help your book succeed and any contacts you make along the way could lead to more coverage. If you are participating in any writer’s workshops, teaching seminars, or just on vacation and want to pop into your favorite bookshop to sign some stock, let us know and we’ll always lend a helping hand! We publish several hundred books a year (that’s a lot of press releases!) but we’ll always do our best to maintain a working relationship with you and get your book out into the world, (it just might take a day or so to get back to you.) And remember, not only is it our job, we’re book lovers too!

Thanks Courtney! I’m sure you’ve helped a lot of writers today. Best of luck getting this beautiful book into as many readers’ hands as possible!


Filed under Advice, Book Promotion, Promotion, Social Media

What’s the Deal with the Cover Reveal?

Wow, what a whirlwind week! On March 30th, I was given permission to officially release my cover for LEAGUE OF STRAYS. I’d been staring at it for the previous six weeks (was that all it was?), waiting impatiently for the moment when I could join other authors of 2012 and present my cover to the world. If you haven’t seen it, I will grandly reveal it once more, because it was so much fun to do the first time…

When the cover first came in my email box, I was scared to open it up. My only input on the design had been a vote on model selection. What if I didn’t like it? What if the design was, gulp, boring? I didn’t have to worry. I loved it immediately, though I had to get over the fact that Kade resembled a certain vampire who shall remain nameless (turns out that’s a good thing, according to my daughters.) I loved the purplish/blue starry background, the fact that someone thought to make Charlotte a redhead, even though she doesn’t dye her hair until a later scene in the book, the super scalding choice for Kade, the spot on “girl next door” look of Charlotte, the fabulous large lettering for the title—the electrical wire running through the font really ups the thriller feel. And I would be dishonest if I didn’t mention that one of my favorite features is the large red font of my name! I owe this cover beauty to designer-extraordinaire, Maria T. Middleton, one of the best in the business, and all the Abrams staff who worked so hard on it.

How important are covers, really? I don’t really know. As a teen, I judged the title first (hope you’ve had success in finding the right one, Melanie Crowder!), next the jacket copy, then the cover, and finally, the inside flap text. If I was really on the fence, I’d read a few random paragraphs inside. If those didn’t grab me in some mysterious way, then I didn’t look further. I never read reviews. With today’s blog craze, though, I imagine it’s different for teens. Word of mouth takes on a whole new meaning.

But back to the “reveal.” I was completely taken aback/impressed/floored by the amount of people who commented on the cover, or posted on Facebook, or retweeted my original reveal tweet. I am deeply grateful to the larger writing community, who shared my news as if it were their own. In a blink, my cover seemed to be everywhere.  To my surprise and elation, it even got a design review on blogs like Wefancybooks.blogspotcom.

As for my author website, it went from a daily average of, um, a few loyal readers to 200 in a 24-hour period. (This is similar to the feeling one gets when a good friend knocks on your door and you have to invite them in, cringing all the while because your house is messy. I definitely had my OMG, is my website cool enough to handle these visitors moment?!)

In the end, I realized it’s not about promotion, it’s about capturing a great moment in my life and enjoying every second of the party. Speaking of parties, I can’t even imagine how exciting my future launch party will feel, with real, live friends to wrap my arms around. Then I can say thanks in person.


Filed under Book Promotion, Celebrations, cover art, Happiness, Social Media, Updates on our Books!

The Major Role of Minor Characters

If used well, minor characters aren’t minor at all.

We know that minor characters should never be “cardboard.” That every character needs to be fully fleshed out. For example, avoiding stereotypes is good. Not every football player struggles in school. Not every cheerleader is blond and mean. Generally, good characters (like real people) are a myriad of different elements.

Yes, minor characters need to stand on their own—be interesting, compelling. But why include them in the ways that we do? Because they can be an excellent tool in teaching the reader something about our main character. And that is the ultimate objective, isn’t it?

One of my minor characters in ONE FOR THE MURPHYS would have some choice words for me at labeling her “minor.” She’d put me in my place, frighten me, and then make me laugh with her choice of words, lobbing some comment about how I’m drowning in my own gene pool.

Her name is Toni. She’s gruff. She says what’s on her mind even when it will offend people. In fact, if it will offend, all the better. Yes, her self-protection strategies are extreme and they’ve kept her alone. Her walls are high and formidable.

These are some of the things that can happen within a person when they feel like no one loves them for who they really are. Some pretend, trying to be someone they’re not to fit in. Not Toni. And she apologizes for nothing. To a casual observer, she is not vulnerable. Ever. And at the beginning of the book, she considers this to be her greatest strength. A badge of honor.

Toni had found a kindred spirit, though. A fictional girl who had been literally shunned since the day she was born. She is bright and strong and determined. She speaks up for what is right and in the name of those not able to protect themselves—regardless of the consequences. Although gruff (and green) on the outside, she is filled with compassion and love. She is the Wicked Witch of the West named Elphaba from the Broadway musical (and the book by Gregory McGuire), WICKED.

The day Carley meets her, Toni is wearing a WICKED t-shirt, which Carley assumes merely label’s Toni’s personality. When asked to do a social studies project on a person that has changed the world for good, she insists on doing Stephen Schwartz, the man who wrote the lyrics to Wicked’s genius musical score. She dreams of starring on Broadway like Idina Menzel. But at this point, Carley still didn’t understand. All the layers of Toni. But, as Carley changes her perspective—develops an understanding of Toni—a light shines back on Carley, teaching the reader more about her.

As these two girls, who start out as bitter enemies, get to know each other’s hearts and stories they learn how much they have in common where it counts. They develop a shared love for Elphaba’s signature song, Defying Gravity, and its messages within for two girls who are wounded in different ways but both wounded just the same. Who both ache with a void in their guts but how those feelings manifest themselves very differently—yet the same— in each one of them.

Using minor characters in this way is a prime example of writing that “shows rather than tells.” They are there to heighten tension. Move the action. Push our protagonists where they don’t want to go. Sometimes an unexpected reaction from a minor character teaches us something as well. For example, consider the kid always in trouble with a teacher who tries to defend him. Can we possibly draw a conclusion about the child by the teacher’s protectiveness? So, minor characters need to be fully formed, free-standing people. But, in the end, their main purpose is to shine a spot light on our main character.

Consider The Breakfast Club, one of my favorite 80’s movies. Completely dependent on character—a human pinball machine of vulnerability and emotion. Think of how much we learn about each one of those six students because each of them is pushed by another into revealing something they normally wouldn’t. And how much we learn about them by their individual reactions to the principal. If you’d like a reminder of how characters shine lights upon each other, think about pulling this movie out.

If you have not seen Broadway’s Wicked, I suggest that you do. For all kinds of reasons I could do an entire post on. But in relation to this post—the writing in Wicked is masterful. Characters are constantly shining spotlights on each other in the ways that I’ve described. And it is all so organic.
I was so moved by Wicked. I think it drove the writing of the Murphys. I often write with music but never with lyrics. Except in the case of Murphys and Wicked. I never made a decision to choose this music; it chose me. And out of it, Toni was born.

I do love Carley Connors, but I must confess that my favorite character may be Toni. I can see writing a novel some day with her as the protag. And I will then have to create minor characters that shine lights upon her.


**To enter a giveaway for a free, signed ARC of ONE FOR THE MURPHYS, go to my website here for directions:

Here is a video of WICKED’S Idina Menzel singing Defying Gravity:


Filed under Book Promotion, Character Development, craft~writing, Happiness, Social Media, Writing

Where Can You Find Cynthia?

Alas, the time has come to wrap up Cynthia Levinson’s debut week for her book WE’VE GOT A JOB. But don’t despair! We’re leaving you with more places to find Cynthia on the web. We’ve left a trail for readers, teachers, writers, and, well, just about anyone who’d like to know more about Cynthia’s writing process and what led her to craft such an important book. We’ve chosen…

…as your handy-dandy WE’VE GOT A JOB online guide. Click here for a page with several thumbnails–each a trail that ends in an interview with Cynthia.

Find the link in the gray stripe at the bottom of each box and click. Easy, right?

So go ahead–teachers, introduce WE’VE GOT A JOB to your students. (Here’s a free online curriculum guide to get you started). And everyone stay tuned to Cynthia’s website, where she’ll soon be posting a trailer produced by the 4th grade students you met in yesterday’s post.

Although we hate to say farewell to this auspicious debut week, we know that Cynthia’s book will live on in classrooms across the country and in the hands of readers of all ages.

On page 115 of WE’VE GOT A JOB, Cynthia quotes Dr. Martin Luther King , Jr. as saying to the children of Birmingham:

“You are certainly making history, and you are experiencing history. And you will make it possible for the historians of the future to write a marvelous chapter.”

Cynthia Levinson is that historian, and WE’VE GOT A JOB is, indeed, that marvelous chapter.


Filed under Book Promotion, Celebrations, Education, Happiness, Social Media

Vlogging Tips from a Newbie Vlogger

Wow, Mike. You may not know this yet, but you’ve created a monster in your Monday post Regarding Physical Evidence or Lookit, Vlogging. Forget today’s To Do List, I just threw the whole thing away and concentrated on making my first video blog and uploading it to Youtube. Always wanted to try vlogging, but never had the guts. Until Mike stepped up and showed me how easy it is. With my MacBook Pro and iMovie, it was a breeze, made even easier with the help of my technologically-savvy ten year old daughter. (Everyone should have one of those…The kid, I mean.) So, folks, here it is. I hope you enjoy it:



Actually the hard part was accepting what I look like on video. I mean, I never knew I had an eyebrow problem. Why does my left one go up so much higher than the right? I just finished revising a book where a character has this very same problem, not knowing all along that I suffered from the same affliction. Sigh. But other than that, it was a fun, rewarding process. Not sure what it will do for the writing career, to be honest, but whatever. Marketing is all a bunch of guesswork, anyway, right?

P.S. Does anyone know why the words are not in sync with my mouth? I’m pretty sure that’s not another affliction of mine.


Filed under Blogging, Book Promotion, Happiness, Social Media

The Countdown (and the Freak Out) Begins

Happy Halloween, everyone! Today, I’ve decided to share my biggest fear: that my book will come out and no one will read it, and I’ll only have myself to blame because I failed to promote it the way I should. But wait, let me start at the beginning….

When my book sale was first announced, a lot of non-writer people asked me, “When’s your book coming out?” I would inwardly cringe, then perkily respond, “Fall, 2012.”

“What?” they’d cry. “That’s years away.” Their eyes would glaze over, like they were beginning to wonder about my sanity. Was I making this all up, anyway?

Let the countdown begin!

I’d mention some of the things I knew about why the process took so long, from revision to proofreading to cover art to publicity. But in my heart, I’d ask myself, “Yeah, why?”

To this date, I know little about the mysteries of what goes on behind the scenes at my publisher’s office. I keep meaning to make that call and see if I can get them to lay out their Plan of Action. Especially now that my book is only a year out.

Speaking of a year out, with the start of the countdown clock, my excitement level about my book has gone way up. A year is a tangible chunk of time. I no longer inwardly cringe when people ask me about my release date. After months of so little going on that it all seems unreal, the activity is beginning to pick up: my editor has asked for an author photo to show at a sales meeting; we’ve now completed two revisions and some tweaks; she has my acknowledgements page; and, at long last, my book is graduating to the line edit stage. (Oh my gosh, that sentence was complicated to write and I wonder if I got the colon and semicolons right? Anyone?) I also know, vaguely, that some people somewhere are doing some serious pontification on my cover art.

Meanwhile, back at home, I can suddenly hear a low level buzz. Opportunities are starting to come in: I now have a tutoring job for a very talented 12-year-old who writes her own middle-grade books; I’ve taught a week writing workshop for teens; I’ve spoken to SCBWI people about being on a debut panel at a conference next fall; and our School of the Arts has asked me to speak to the high school creative writing class. (Oh my gosh, what is it with me and semicolons today?)

This is just what I wanted and dreamed would happen, but, like always, here comes the neurotic side, saying, “Wait! Your book comes out in a year? That’s almost no time when it comes to pre-release marketing. You have to get going, as in N-O-W! Start visiting Goodreads. Arrange blog tours. Find someone to make a book trailer. Look into getting a publicity person. Set up speaking arrangements at book fairs….” And that’s when I realize how little I know about marketing my own book. To make matters more confusing, I’ve been reading blogs about how word of mouth is pretty much an organic occurrence and that the writer has only a limited ability to generate sales, despite many of us devoting hours daily to our websites or personal blogs or visiting Twitter and Facebook three times a day.

I know I have a huge education ahead of me as I start to count down this final year before release. I have so many questions about what I should or should not bother doing. It seems that our technology explosion has made the world of marketing so much more complex for authors than it was twenty years ago. There is so much you can do in the age of Internet, and I am finding it daunting to wrap my mind around the options. I grew up with the assumption that having a book published meant that writers would only be expected to spend more time in the writing cave, creating new works to keep their audience happy. And while, logically, this still seems like a sound idea, I can’t help but think that’s nowhere good enough anymore. I am beginning to worry that the marketing beast will take over my life, leaving me little time to write the next book.

Can't lose sight of what I love most, even if it means I can't do it all

I am excited. And I am lost. And I am scared. And I am excited. Because now the book feels real, and with that comes the responsibility to do what I can to assure that I’m not a “One Hit Wonder.” On the other hand, the best way to be a “One Hit Wonder” is to stop creating stories that make a difference. The question is, how to find the balance?


Filed under Book Promotion, Happiness, Social Media, Writing