Thursday, February 28, 2013

ONE giveaway - Custom art by Andrea Hannah

Hi, sweet readers.

I'm all emotional today. You know that I believe in a few things when it comes to this whole crazy publishing business.
One is that the people who love you and your book are POWERFUL when it comes to getting the word out.
Another is that one of the best ways to promote art (yes, I'm calling my book art, hush.) is with other art.

Well, I'm very lucky that one of the people who loves me and ONE most in the whole world also happens to be a super talented artist. Combine those two things and it's like one of Andrea Hannah's superpowers (along with writing heartbreakingly beautiful characters and poetic prose) is creating stunning custom art for ONE. 

Yeah. I know. "Lucky" doesn't even begin to cover it. 

She had this idea, to take some of the things that most moved her about ONE and to translate them into custom minimalist prints with a mixed-media feel. 

I didn't really give her much guidance, because I wanted to see what SHE loved about the book. It was a great instinct, because OMG YOU GUYS LOOK:

That's a quote from Merrin, and it's one of her most emotionally bare moments in the whole book. She's taking a huge risk by admitting that, and guess what?  I had totally forgotten about that line.

But Andrea picked up on it. Isn't it BEAUTIFUL?

I'm so excited that Andrea and I are giving away the signed print that you see above!

All  you have to do is leave a comment below, telling us which quote you would most like to see made into a custom print. It could be your book or any book in the whole wide world! We're just book geeks, so satisfy our curiosity about what you think are some of literature's most art-worthy lines. (Oh! And tweet about it for an extra entry, if you please.)

Thanks, sweeties! *smooosh* And good luck!!!!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

NOW CLOSED!!! Official Call for Members of #TeamONE!!!

Please note: the call for members of TeamONE is now CLOSED, since we hit fifty members!  Wooohooo! Thank you so much, everyone!!! 

Last month, I announced that I’m self-publishing my debut novel, ONE, about a girl with half a superpower and the boy who makes her fly. It comes out in June, and I’m hoping that the characters I love so much reach a TON of readers, and that they love them, too. 

We all know that one of the most challenging parts of making a book successful is getting the word out. Selling books is not like selling food, or toothbrushes, or snuggly winter sweaters. No one literally needs a book.  

So, what makes someone buy a book? And more importantly than that, one book over another?
Enthusiasm. Excitement. Bouncing and squealing and grinning recommendations from people they know and trust.

But the world is so big and I, the author am so small! How will I ever recommend ONE to even a fraction of the people in this world who might enjoy it?

Well, the answer, I hope, is Street Team – a group of people who have read the novel and liked it, AND THEN do their best to gab about it in reviews, in blog posts, on social media, and in person to anyone who seems like they’d enjoy reading it.

Then I thank them profusely with ARCs, book swag, loud public exultation, and all the (virtual, non creepy) hugs and kisses they can stand.

I’m super lucky that there are about 35 members signed up for #TeamONE already. I’m looking for 15-20 more people to join. It could be anyone – kids, teens, adults; readers or writers; teachers, book club members; anyone who rides an elevator or stands in a grocery checkout line or watches their kid on the sidelines at soccer practice. I may not be able to send ARCs to everyone - my awesome assistant and I are going to make that decision when we see all the entries - but either way, I'd love for you all to sign up. *smile*

If you’re interested in joining up, would you do me a HUGE favor by clicking this link to sign up

Friday, February 22, 2013

(Off topic!) Hamantaschen Recipe

Okay. I know this is a writing blog. But it's Purim, and with Purim come hamantaschen (see pic below) and I just feel like I wouldn't be a good friend if I didn't tell you how to make them. So, here's the recipe and instructions. Happy Purim, sweeties. 

Here's what you'll need for about 3 dozen large-ish cookies:
3 eggs
1 c sugar
1/2 c margarine
4 c flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp lemon juice
3 tbsp orange juice

Cream together eggs, sugar, and margarine until very light and smooth


Mix in the remainder of ingredients.  It will look kind of crumbly at first, but keep working it with your hands until it comes together:

Roll it out to about 1/8 inch and cut into circles with the rim of a drinking glass:

Now, do all your assembly and baking on parchment paper.  Trust me.  Just do it.  Brush the circles with egg whites and place filling in the center.  This will go best for you if you buy the cans of pastry filling in the baking aisle instead of trying to make do with jam, etc.  It is expensive, but a little goes a long way (I think one small can made around 2 dozen cookies):

Pinch the sides of the dough together to form a three-cornered shape:

Into the oven at 350 for about 15 minutes. 

You want them to be golden at the seams:

I plated mine six to a paper plate.  You can wrap the whole darn thing in saran wrap and stick in the freezer, then pull it right out for easy gifting.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

ONE's first chapter!

It's no secret that I'm in love with Trisha Leigh's The Last Year series. (Beginning with WHISPERS IN AUTUMN, so gorgeous.)

We became friends after I read and fangirled over the first and second books and critiqued the third (!!! I know. I'm so lucky.) It was then that Trisha said, "You know, I have some downtime. Would you like me to read ONE?"

WOULD I?!?!?!?!?!?
(Yes OMG YES.)

So she read ONE. Funny thing about writers who become good friends and CPs - often, their writing is kind of similar. Turns out that Trisha's and my writing? Is A LOT similar. 

Yep. We both write pretty lyrically, about strong, occasionally snarky, female protagonists who don't take 'no' for an answer. So, she loved ONE, and I died of happiness. Then I asked her to blurb it, and died of happiness again when she said of course she would (!!!) 

And THEN? She offered to put the first chapter of ONE in the back of the final installment of her The Last Year series. So, of course, I screamed, accepted, and did an epic happy dance. Because I. Had. Arrived.

To make a long story short, SUMMER RUINS, the fourth and final installment in The Last Year series, comes out today. Which also means that anyone who buys it can read the first chapter of ONE in the back (!!!)

I was going to make all of you buy SUMMER RUINS, but my assistant John said that wasn't fair, and that I should post it here. And, of course, he was right, as he always is. So. Without further ado, the first chapter of my debut Young Adult Sci-Fi, ONE


Most nights, and some mornings before sunrise, I sneak to the back of the shed and I practice. I push myself off the ground, telling my body to go weightless, and hover. An inch, two, six, a foot. I stay there for seconds, then minutes.
I can’t generate enough tension between my body and the air to take a step - can’t even make myself drift. I’d give anything just to be able to float along like a freaking ghost.
I’m a One – a half-superpowered freak. It’s the same sad story for all of us. Every superpower is made up of at least two distinct abilities. A kid can only fly if she can make her body light and then somehow propel herself forward.
Two powers. Not One. 
Every One puts up with getting teased at Superior High, waiting for their second ability to show up. While they do, that One power starts to fade. There are still shimmers of it, but after a while the kid quits trying and the One fizzles into nothingness. Then their disappointed Super parents ship them off to Nelson “Normal” High, like mine did.
Here's my secret - I never quit trying.
This morning, standing in our weedy backyard surrounded by a chorus of crickets, behind the ancient shed with chipping red paint, I go weightless. It happens so fast I feel like I’m being pushed upward. My heart jumps.
I try to move, try to resist the air, or push it away from me, and…nothing. I’ve been practicing so much I’ve gotten fast at going light. So I’m a speedy floater. Great.
I could hover here forever, until my muscles strain, then burn, then ache, then tremble, weeping and getting eaten alive by mosquitoes. I know I’d just end up collapsing on the grass.
Nevertheless, I smile when I have to will some weight into my body, to keep from floating above the shed. I definitely cleared three feet this time. Four years of hard work, and I can float an extra two feet.
Maybe by the time I’m eighty, I can say “hi” to the folks taking hot air balloon rides at the Nebraska State fair.
I’ve watched all the old-school cartoons about misfit superhero kids who just need to work on developing their powers in order to totally rule. But I’m not a freaking X-man. I know I can’t work on my One power hard enough that it becomes something better, something more. And it’s not like I can magically give myself a Second.
I know. I know.
But my body whispers to me. It tells me I can fly, if only I’m brave enough, strong enough, determined enough.
I sigh and trudge back to the house, being careful to dry the dew from my shoes before heading in to get ready for my first day at Normal.

Dad slows the car as Nelson High comes into view. It's about a third the size of Superior High, and the building’s face is shot through with mossy cracks, dull with years of dirt the groundskeepers didn't bother to power wash before the first day. It’s a strange contrast to the slick solar panels that blanket the roof, glinting silver-blue and reflecting the sky full of white, fluffy clouds. Most people think these older-model panels are hideous, but I always love it when a building’s roof looks like an extension of the sky.
I can’t take my eyes off the school, but I can feel Dad looking at me from the driver's seat.
“Dad.” I pat his knee, a little awkwardly. “I’m just going to school. A different one, but still just school. I’ll be fine. Maybe better. You know…than I was,” I say.
Dad eyes me. He doesn’t believe me, but he’s going to pretend he does.
I clear my throat. “You could have let me drive myself.”
“What if you didn’t get a pass? Or couldn’t find a spot? Best to figure out the lay of the land...”
“The lay of the land” is one of the phrases Dad uses when he’s worried. To be honest, I’m worried myself.
It’s been ten years since my One power - going weightless - showed up. Seven years since Mom and Dad started to worry, in whispered voices, that I’d never get a Second, like the other kids. Only one year since I’d pretty masterfully failed at Superior High. One year since we all knew I would always float instead of learning to fly – knew I would only ever be a One.
I was worried sophomore year at Superior would suck, anyway, what with the fliers and the speeders and the teleporters rubbing their superpowers in my face just by being there. This way, maybe it doesn’t have to.
“Did your hair for the first day, Merry Berry?” Dad flips an end of my hair with his finger. He’s lucky I’m feeling slightly optimistic this morning, or I might mess his up right back. It looks flawless for work at the Hub, as usual.
I don’t answer.
“Well,” he says, “you look beautiful.”
I humor him with a shake of my head and a smile.
All my features are slight, like my stature: a pixie nose, near-translucent skin with not even a freckle to decorate my cheeks, sparse eyebrows.
But my hair is the worst. The longer I let it grow, the more it tapers from thick brunette into baby-fine, dull brownish ends, so I keep it short, at my shoulders. At least it waves instead of lying stick-straight. It’s wispy as the clouds on a clear day.
“I know Mom gave you a new lock. Did you clear out your smartcuff from last year?”
I roll my eyes and push up my sleeve to show him that yes, the three-inch wide flexible tablet that holds all the information I need to get through the day, besides acting as a phone, GPS, and universal ID, has been wiped clean of all the stuff I needed at Superior. I don’t tell him that I spent days hacking it to change the ID status from “Merrin Grey: One” to “Merrin Grey: Normal.”
I pop the door handle open and crack it before we’re even fully stopped. The football field, which peeks out from behind the school, has a fresh frame of bright white lines and a state-of-the-art looking scoreboard. I imagine the classrooms and the locker rooms feature an according disparity. Great.
“Three thirty, Dad. Okay?” I scoot myself out of the seat and onto the sidewalk. I let the door fall shut before he can answer. Not because I’m trying to be rude, but because I think if I hear Dad’s voice now I might cry and mess up the first mascara I’ve worn for about ten months.
I’m not really upset about transferring from Superior High to Nelson.
I’m not. I’m not.

No one really says it out loud, but everyone knows Supers and Normals hate each other – too much decades-old bad blood. Supers say the Normals were jealous of them, and that’s what caused tensions in the first place. Normals say they didn’t know anything about Supers, or whether they could be trusted. 
I can see that. The way the Supers treated me, a sad powerless kid, at SHS, I figure maybe the Supers scared the crap out of Normals, sixty years ago. Superstrength, or teleporting, or being able to shoot fire, could be terrifying if it was used as a threat.
Being a One is the worst – we’re caught exactly in between Super and Normal, between stuck-up and terrified. Supers assume we're jealous, and Normals assume we're full of ourselves.
But here, I’m the new kid. No one knows anything about me. And here, no one has to. I take a deep breath through my nose, trying to ease the pit in my stomach.
I’m feeling a little too light this morning.
The wind feels like it might blow me away today. My loose, tissue-thin shirt hangs off my bony shoulders, then blows against the curve of my back, and I know that anyone can tell how thin I am in the tank top underneath. My cuffed denim shorts go down to my knees, and because Mom picked them up in the girl’s department, they fit snugly to my legs. That’s fine, since I learned that baggy pants only made me look ridiculous, and even more slight.
I look down at the ground and take a deep breath. Heavy. Be heavy. My eye catches the one thing that will make me smile - my blue plaid Chucks. My brothers, Michael and Max, gave them to me for my sixteenth birthday last month. They thought I would like them, and they were absolutely right. Awesome kids, no matter how jealous I am of their insanely rare water-walking skills.
With any luck, this year will just be the boring prelude to where I really belong – occupying one of the spots in the Biotech Hub’s summer internship program. I can do anything if it leads to that. I breathe deeply, hoping the air pressure in my lungs will make me heavier, and take my first steps toward a normal year at Nelson High.

I’m guessing there are three hundred students in the whole school, which means everyone here knows everyone else. I let out a slow sigh of relief when I realize none of the students milling through the halls look at me. Either no one notices me, or no one cares. Or, since it’s the first day and I’m new, I’ll pass for a freshman.
I find the administrative office easily enough. I have to pound on the ancient touchscreen installed there to get my schedule, and when I finally get it to download onto my cuff, it takes another torturous several minutes of waiting for the map of the school to appear. Through the thick, translucent office wall, something catches my eye. A tall, middle-aged man with black hair slicked back from his forehead and glasses, pushes out the door. I swear the faint scent of licorice wafts out after him. He looks just like my Organic Chemistry professor from Superior High.
Maybe not everything about Normal High will be awful and unfamiliar after all.
I wave my wrist under the ID scanner in a variety of positions, but it just won’t register. It’s all I can do not to growl at it. Finally, it beeps its recognition, and I push out through the door as the stilted robotic voice croaks, “Good morning, sophomore Merrin Grey.”
The hallway teems with students, but I think I see him. Yes.  The black hair, and those thick-rimmed glasses. That’s got to be him. He’s talking to a petite woman in a navy suit at the end of the hallway, leaning close to her ear, his eyes darting around at the students. They both nod at each other and start to walk down the hall, away from me. She motions toward a door.
 As I get closer, I see the placard next to it reads “Principal Lee’s office.” I push through the crowd, but just as they reach the door and the woman reaches out to turn the knob, some clumsy kid rams into my shoulder, spinning me around. I don’t even care enough to be embarrassed or to yell at the jerk, because when I look up, the door’s closing behind them.
I pinch my lips together, cursing under my breath.  Mr. Hoffman is the one who came and dragged me out of the first horrific day of freshman biology, gave me a test, checked it over in about three minutes, and walked me to his class full of AP Organic Chemistry seniors without another word. While the other freshmen were trying to impress each other with their superpowers, I was staying behind in his classroom while he graded assignments, building models and generally kicking Orgo’s ass. By the end of the year I was working from a college textbook.
Mr. Hoffman’s the one who made me think I could score a spot in the Biotech Hub’s summer internship. Only five kids get to go every year, and I don’t think a One has ever landed a chance.
I slump against one of the walls and check my schedule on my cuff. Nothing with Hoffman. I’m sure that whatever he’s teaching is so high level I’ll have to get notes from Mom and Dad and a meeting with the principal just to get me a seat in the class. That is, if I actually did see him. I can’t imagine why he would actually leave the state-of-the-art Superior classrooms to come teach at this dump.
I pass my locker, number 5637, noting its location. I have nothing to put in it yet, and don’t feel like programming the new print-scanning lock Mom slipped in my bag, so I don’t even stop.
My first class is History – Modern American. I sigh with relief. At Superior High, freshmen take this class, so I should’ve already learned all this stuff. When I click through my reader to find the textbook, though, it’s not AMERICA: PATHWAYS TO PROGRESS, the one we used last year. Instead, it’s AMERICAN HERITAGE AND YOU.
There’s no teacher’s desk at the front of this classroom. When one of the few adults I’d seen in a bright orange Nelson High polo shirt walks into the classroom, plugs a cartridge into a port on the back wall, and a 3-D projector displays a life-sized image of a teacher at the front of the room, I almost cry with disappointment.
This year, the weird projected holo-teacher says, we’ll be focusing on American history post-Uranium Wars, but she wants to go through a brief summary of that thirty-year period before we begin.
“Seventy-five years ago, foreign missiles suddenly and deliberately attacked a transport of uranium cores being transported to safe storage in the American desert, triggering the Uranium World Wars. The leakage into Lake Michigan made thousands sick, killing some, and fundamentally altered the genetic structure of thousands of others.
“Many of these individuals developed extraordinary powers: for example, super speed or strength, control of natural forces, teleportation or telekinesis. Twenty years later, a diabolical group of five of these mutants, all leaders in their communities, formed a plan to assassinate the President of the United States and overthrow the government. Thankfully, it was stopped before damage was done.
“Never had our nation experienced such a threat from within our own borders.
“Most of the mutant population, some thirty thousand strong, was concentrated around the Great Lakes. Even after the investigations and trials in the aftermath of said threat, we knew that some among them were potentially dangerous. Though most were loyal Americans, no one knew what would happen among this concentrated population if the new leaders’ efforts congealed into a full-fledged revolution.
“Military authorities therefore determined that all of them would have to move. Tens of thousands of men, women, and children, all affected by supernatural abilities caused by the uranium contamination decades earlier, were removed from their homes to communities in established, out-of-the-way places. Of course, the government helped in any cases of financial hardship, and once the families had reached their destinations, provided housing and plenty of healthful nourishment for all.
“The mutated citizens wanted to go to work developing their abilities for the betterment of society. In areas away from our main government and weapons stores, and under appropriate safeguards, many were allowed to do so, under the condition that they would work together with the existing United States Government for the welfare of all United States citizens.”
After every sentence this non-teacher speaks, my mouth drops open just a little farther. This is not the history they taught us at Superior.
Of course, they taught us about the Uranium Wars, and the attempted government takeover. But the story of the camps sounded totally different at Superior.
Notices were posted. All mutated persons, and their families, were required to register. The evacuation was not cheerful. Stones were thrown, and jeers were screamed. It was out of fear, they taught us at Superior. Of course the Normals feared the Supers. But this twisting of history is inexcusable.
This lecture at Nelson doesn’t include video footage of the internment camps’ shoddy housing, or the mothers clutching their crying babies while they waited for the food trucks. It doesn’t show the Supers waiting in long lines to see doctors they didn’t trust, or the makeshift schoolrooms full of dirty-looking kids in clothes that didn’t fit quite right.
The holo-teacher directs us to the touchscreens in our desktops to answer some multiple choice questions about the lecture. I force my brain to go numb as I answer them the way I know the textbook wants us to.
I don’t know exactly what this means for the next three years I’m supposed to spend here at Nelson High. But after hearing this lecture, I know I can’t spend my life among Normals. No way.
I’ve got to get that internship.

By the time I’ve sat through Calculus, Bio, and English, I’m feeling grateful for the remote-lecturing holo-teachers – it means there’s no one to ask me to stand at the front of the classroom and introduce myself. That is, until I realize people are going to start asking me who I am to my face.
I have no idea what to expect from these Normal kids. Will they suspect I’m not like them? Can they see that I can float, if I want to?
I manage to keep my head down all the way to my locker. All I want is to get there to ditch my sweatshirt, retreat to the girl’s room - if I can figure out where it is - lock myself in a stall for a few minutes, and take a deep breath for the first time since I got here.
And maybe eat my lunch in there. Just for today.
I wiggle the handle of my locker, but it won’t open. I bend down to take a look at it. No jerk’s poured superglue in there or anything.

Before I know it, I’m shaking the stupid locker handle so hard it’s making a racket, and a few people standing near me look over and cock their heads. When I almost whack my own face with my struggling hand, I give up, resting my head against the cool, solid metal for a second, breathing in through my nose.
I am seriously losing it. Over a locker.
Half a second later, a shoulder taller than my head pushes into the metal door, then a large hand with long, thin fingers jiggles the handle side-to-side a couple times and wrenches it up, letting the locker pop open.
I feel the warmth of his nearness against my cheek, countering the chill of the locker, like a shock on my skin. The guy clears his throat, then says quietly, “They’re tricky.”
I barely glance at him before I look down at the floor, but I do catch that he has blond hair and glasses.
 “You new here?”
Before I can answer, some guy halfway down the hall hollers, “E! Coming?”
The guy at my locker – “E” - gives his head half a shake, smiles a little, then turns to walk away.
And now everyone’s staring at me. Great.
As soon as I find my way to the bathroom, I place both hands on the rim of one of the sinks, steadying myself there. After a few seconds, I splash my face with water, then reach over to the soap dispenser. Everything about this place feels dirty.
As I’m lathering my hands, I notice the logo on the soap dispenser. The Hub Technology logo appears on every product made at one of the Hubs. It’s five ovals, one for each Hub, intersecting in the shape of an atom with a key as the nucleus. Someone has crossed out the “Hub” in “Hub Technology” and written “Freak” next to it.
Suddenly, I can’t get enough air into my lungs. I duck into a stall, sit on the toilet, bury my face in my hands, and take one, two deep breaths.
I hope with everything in me that all the other kids actually eat in the cafeteria.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Cover Reveal! CLICK TO SUBSCRIBE by L.M. Augustine!

Hey, sweet readers! 
Today I'm so, so excited to be hosting a COVER REVEAL! Let's get right down to business!

Click To Subscribe
Author: L.M. Augustine
Genre: YA romance
Release Date: April 2013
Designer: Allie Brennan (who is fantastic and brilliant and totally recommended by L.M.)

1,135,789. That’s how many subscribers sixteen-year-old West Ryder has on his web vlog series. But he only has eyes for one of them.
As one of the internet’s most prestigious video bloggers, West talks about high school relationships under the name “Sam Green.” As far as he knows, no one from school, not even his best friend, Cat, has seen his videos. But the highlight of the whole thing is Harper Knight, who comments every day at exactly 2:02 in the afternoon. He doesn’t know anything about her aside from the occasional deep philosophical messaging on why pizza tastes so delicious, but as stupid as it sounds, he might be falling for her. So when they finally agree to meet in real life, West’s hope for romance seems more and more in reach. But that all changes as soon as he arrives at their meeting spot and sees Cat walking toward him, wearing the same “I <3 d="" green="" harper="" have="" on.="" promised="" sam="" she="" span="" t-shirt="">
To his alarm, West realizes he is falling in love with the best friend who has always been a sister to him.

Without further ado......

Add it on Goodreads.


Some Things:
To celebrate the cover reveal… there is a giveaway! Note: ARCs won’t be ready until late March/early April, but if you win one, you will be the first to get it. (All of the winners will be emailed a day after the giveaway ends.)

For those of you interested in the book, check the author’s Facebook page and blog (links above) because he will be posting a number of excerpts of CLICK TO SUBSCRIBE throughout the week.

And to anyone reading this: thank you! Your support seriously means so much to me. (Me = the awkward author, L.M., who has raided this blog for the day. MUAHAHA!)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, February 11, 2013

A Little (HUGE) Exciting Awesome Announcement!

Hey, sweet readers!

I'm jumping, dancing, and squealing with excitement about this, so I'll cut to the chase -

I've been chosen as one of the new Muses over at Pen and Muse!

I was seriously biting my nails over this one, since Kristen and Jolene received so many applicants for their new Path to Self-Publishing monthly posting crew, but really, the two-round "interview" process was an absolute pleasure and so much fun. I loved getting to know them and setting up my intro post, which will go live tomorrow.

For those of you who don't know, Pen and Muse is dedicated to EVERYTHING a writer needs to know about publishing - from the craft of writing (see some excellent guest posts on outlining from one of my writing besties, Andrea Hannah) to amazing branding and marketing tips, and everything in between! It's a bookish haven for those of us writers who are looking for one blog that can guide us in any direction we'd like to go.

About a month ago, Kristen and Jolene decided they wanted that to include advice on self- and indie-publishing. And they picked me to help them out!

Excuse me while I try to contain my excitement. 


Seriously, I'm so honored and humbled. I can't wait to start posting for them, along with my fellow new Muses J. Meyers, Faith McKay, Cara Elizabeth, and Rebekah Crane. I know we're going to make and awesome and enthusiastic addition to the team.

So please, if you haven't already, go follow Pen and Muse everywhere possible:

I'm gonna have so much fun with this.
See you there! 

Friday, February 8, 2013

Publishing 101 - Working on Your Platform

Hi sweet readers! I thought I'd do a series of posts detailing my experiences taking Publishing 101 via publication of my debut novel.

My goal is to publish a book that is indistinguishable to my readers from any novel from a Big Five publisher.  It can be done - in fact, finding such a novel is the one thing that finally got me off my butt and pushed me to self-publish ONE.

Just as a traditionally published book has a huge team of professionals behind it, ONE does as well. My plan is to blog about every step of the process from agent-approved manuscript to published book. 

Okay, guys. It's time to talk about the ever-elusive PLATFORM. First, a definition.

Your platform = you + your book + your online presence.

You might have thought that you + your book = your platform.
But if all you have is you + your book, then what you have is a sales pitch, not a platform. 

Online presence is so important because it's what  tells people who you are, what your personality is like, how professional you are, and how hard you work. It's important because people assume that your book is  a reflection of you. (Because, honestly, it is.)

For this reason, you need to make decisions about how you present yourself on social media, especially. For example, here's what I tweet and post on Facebook about 90% of the time - a summary of my online presence.

  •  Stuff about my writing and publishing process
  •  Anecdotes from raising my four punk children
  • YA Literature
  •  Writing advice and encouragement of others
  •  Assorted vanity tweets - my hair is pretty, my husband is funny, my book is awesome, and I liked this totally random article.

Now, perhaps more importantly, here's what I do not tweet or post on Facebook about, 90% of the time:

  • What frustrates me about publishing
  • Discouragement and complaints
  • Picking on particular people or books
  • Volatile issues 
  • Telling people to buy my book.

This is a sketch of my online presence, which, in addition to me and my book, makes up my platform. I'm not saying that these are the right or wrong ways to do things. (Some people have tons of followers just from being mean and snarky all day long - more power to them, if they can pull it off, I guess.)

I want to say one very, very important thing here. Lots of people have told me that promo for ONE is going relatively well because "I have a good platform."

While that's true, that's not the whole picture.

In truth, "I worked long and hard at building a good platform." I've been building relationships with readers and writers (and, now, my friends!) for the past year and a half. I've been genuine and honest and poured a lot of time into it. A good platform is earned, not bestowed by the Twitter gods to a random few. 

Lastly, before you dive into platform building, there are a few things you need to check at the door:

1. Any attitudes you  have about your target audience
    People know when  you're being genuine, and when you're pandering. If you think your target audience (12 to 18 year olds, if you're writing YA) is: silly, petty, immature, dumb, volatile, or incapable of understanding and perspective?  First, why are you writing for them? And second, change that attitude, because it will come off in your interactions with them and they will not buy your book. They just won't.

2. The idea that you are special.
Look. There are thousands and thousands of books out there. Readers have plenty of books from which to choose.
Is your story's concept awesome? So are a ton of others.
Do you write gorgeous prose? So do I. And all my friends.
Is your cover stunning? Guess what - anyone else can hire the same designer.

Seriously, now. The minute you understand that your book is just as great and worthy and readable as hundreds of other books out there, no more, and in some cases, less, is the minute you attain the humility that you will need to succeed in this business. The best place to put it on display is in your online presence.

And, even though this should go without saying, I'll say it anyway. Say thank you. To everyone. Lots of times. It doesn't cost anything and it goes a long way. 

3. The expectation that this will be quick and easy.
Gaining quality followers, friends, and readers takes a very long time. It's time and energy well spent, but relationships don't spring forth from gimmicks or giveaways. Real, quality relationships, the ones that make up your platform, come out of genuine human interaction. It takes awhile. It's totally worth it.

Monday, February 4, 2013

A Guide to (and a Plea for) Propriety on Social Media

Hi, sweet readers! I want to talk to you about something serious today.

A few months ago, I blocked someone on Twitter.
I can't remember exactly why - whether he was being overly confrontational, sexually suggestive, or otherwise inappropriate - and it doesn't matter. (I've blocked people for many reasons, those being the most common.)

 I blocked him because, for whatever reason, I no longer wanted him to be able to communicate with me on Twitter. 
It is my right to make that decision, and so I did.
That week, he emailed me. I can't remember exactly what he wrote - whether he was apologizing, asking why he was blocked, or asking to be unblocked, it doesn't matter.
I no longer wanted to communicate with him, and so I didn't reply.

Weeks went by and I thought this person would now leave me alone.

I was wrong.

Last night, I received another email from him, asking me to "please, please unblock him on Twitter."

It sounds innocent enough, and maybe it is. Probably it is, even. But the fact that this person is going out of his way to ask me to unblock him on a social media site that should be, in the grand scheme of things, not a big deal, scared me. Because the fact that he'll go out of his way to take the time to email me, makes me wonder if he'll be motivated enough to take any more steps. Any further steps - and he only lives one state away. And it's easy to find out where I work, and to approach me there. And, and, and.

So, even though I've been stewing about appropriate use of social media for quite some time, I felt that it was finally time to make an official blog post about it: A Guide to Propriety on Social Media.

The rules are simple to remember and easy to apply.

1. If you wouldn't say it to someone's face, in public, don't say it on social media. Because social media is a public forum, and there is a person - with a face and a life and emotions - behind the screen.

This includes, but  is not limited to:

  • Aggression of any sort, whether over sports teams, writing/querying/publishing methods, politics, or comic book universes.
  • (Unwelcome/unsolicited) Sexual suggestiveness, explicit or implicit. (If you have to stop and ask yourself whether you're being sexually inappropriate, YOU ARE. Don't post or tweet that.)
  • Unsolicited advice. Meaning: If I didn't ask you how to write my book's blurb, style my hair,  or discipline my children, I don't want to know what you think. Really. I don't.

2. If something would get you a restraining order in real life, don't do it.
Think of Twitter as a high school.. If I've made it clear, by blocking or unfriending you, that I don't want you to sit at my lunch table, do not under any circumstances wait for me at my locker, come watch me at volleyball practice, or have your friends pass me notes in class.

It is creepy, and I will call the cops on you. I am not freaking kidding.

Here's the part where I defend myself, even though I strongly feel I don't need to. 

  •  I understand that people in violation of these rules may have real medically-explainable issues discerning appropriate social interactions. In the case of social media, that is their problem, not mine.
  •  Blocking, unfriending, or otherwise dissociating from someone on social media is neither a punishment nor harmful to that person. It is my personal decision to choose who I interact with - no more, and no less. 
  • I fully recognize that it's possible I'm overreacting. I would rather trust my own instincts, and be safe, than allow others to brush off my concerns, and be sorry.
  • I know that this is why some people use pseudonyms for every online interaction. Setting aside the fact that that would be nearly impossible for me personally, I did not use a pseudonym, and it's too late to do so now. 

I'll be watching and managing the comments to this post quite closely, because I don't want them to devolve into blaming anyone who has ever felt scared, worried, or victimized by social media abuse or creepiness. I also don't want this to turn into a platform for the person currently freaking me out to defend himself.

 So,  if you were about to do either of those things, please don't comment. Save yourself, and me, the time.

Thanks for those of you who are listening, and supporting me. You mean the world to me.