Monday, November 29, 2010

A Reader's Guide to Book Signings

Over the years, I've had a gajillion book signings, give or take. Lately, that number has been growing.

And in the last bit, some people, knowing that signings aren't totally awesome unless your last name is something like Rowling, have asked how they should act when they see a writer at a book signing. What's the etiquette?

If I hadn't been on the other side of the fence, I wouldn't have the answer. But alas, I have been there. Many times.

And some days, I wish I had a sign with tips for people to read as they pass.

So today, a list of DOs and DON'Ts for the reader who happens upon a book signing:

1) DO Make Eye Contact and Smile.
In other words, don't panic, pretending the writer doesn't exist, then veer the other direction as if we have leprosy. Yes, we know you're avoiding us. And no, a simple acknowledgment of our existence doesn't obligate you to buy our book. A simple "hello" can go a long way in making the writer feel at least human instead of shunned.

2) If Something Is Offered Free, DO TAKE IT.
Any published writer has likely already been through a lot of rejection, but that rejection gets compounded at a signing, when 99% of people walking by don't buy your book (and some 85% pretend you have leprosy).

Ergo, if the writer offers a bookmark, a card with their book cover, a flier, or WHATEVER, graciously take it, say thanks, and walk on. By doing so, you are not obligated to buy the book. But having a free bookmark or a (ahem) free recipe card rejected can get rather demoralizing after the 186th time that day.

Many writers bring along candy or chocolate. Feel free to take a piece WHILE acknowledging the writer's existence in the process. (Don't take the candy and pretend no one is at the table.) A friendly exchange like that is actually a nice thing, even if you don't buy a book.

3) DO Feel Free to Talk to the Writer.
This does not in any way obligate you to buy anything. After constant rejection, it's nice to get even a simple comment like, "You wrote that book? Cool." Sometimes chitchat evolves into family stuff or interests. It helps pass the time, and really, at least in my case, I do enjoy getting to know people for a few minutes. Even if they don't buy a book.

A corollary for writers: Unless a person actually shows interest in your book, don't give them a three-minute spiel on it. That makes everyone uncomfortable, and you'll feel even more rejected when they don't buy it. Have ONE or TWO short sentences to use when people approach, and if they want to know more, they'll tell you. If they don't ask for more, DON'T keep pitching your book; find something else to talk about.

4) After making eye contact and/or smiling/saying hello, DO NOT keep glancing over if you aren't interested. Writers expect people to keep walking, since that's what happens most times. (And that is fine.)

BUT if someone keeps glancing your way, that's telegraphing a message that they might be interested. Writers have to read body language like crazy at book signings; it's all we've got.

If you keep looking over at us or our book display, you're asking to be talked to. If you accidentally find yourself doing a double and then a triple take and (ACK!) the writer SPEAKS, then just be polite. Smile and say something pleasant (even, "Good luck with your book"). Then feel free to keep walking. Just don't revert to the shunning and contagious disease thing.

5) If you DO want to buy a book, great! You're welcome to talk to us longer (you're our new best friend). As the writer signs the book, tell them if you'd like the book made out to a specific person, and if so, SPELL the name even if it's "Beth." It's amazing how many ways there are to spell the simplest of names, so if there's the slightest chance the writer could get the name spelled wrong, clarify it.

6) If you have no plans to make a purchase, DON'T talk for ten minutes. Seriously, that just messes with our heads. We are ON for hours at a time, keeping adrenaline moving so we can be peppy and fun and approachable. It's exhausting. If someone stops and chats, it's really nice. To a point.

But here's the thing: after ten minutes, I'm bound to get my hopes up that this person will actually buy a book. When they walk away, it's depressing.

I know this can be confusing with #3 above, but it comes down to there being a sweet spot for how long to talk.

You're safe chatting for a minute or two before you end up in commitment waters. But if you've heard several anecdotes about the book, you know what research the writer did, you've heard the backliner, and the writer knows where you live and how many kids you have, your favorite TV shows, and that you're currently potty training Joey, chances are you've been talking too long.


Caveat: These are my rules when dealing with a perfect stranger at a book signing. If you're already my friend, everything changes. For starters, I'll probably want to talk for 20 minutes. For another, you're probably THERE to buy my book.



That's my basic guide for handling book signings as a reader. Questions? Throw 'em into the comments.

Writers: Anything you'd add?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

A Turkey Story

For your Thanksgiving reading enjoyment, and with permission from my second grader, here is a story she wrote for class.

Spelling and punctuation hers, although I've clarified a couple of words in brackets. (She got help spelling "unconscious" from a student teacher. I was stunned to see it spelled right at first.)



Turkey Trouble

Once apon a time there was a tacky turkey named Jill. Jill lived on a farm. Her Grandma told her all about Thanksgiving. Jill didn't believe her, because fore ten years the farmer had not eatan turkey. Sence she was a tacky turkey she made the farmer laugh. Until one year when the farmer got annoyed. He got so annoyd that he wanted to eat her!

So she ran and while she was runing she hit her head on a rock and lost her memory and for a fyow [few] minutes she was unconscious. When she woke up she found herself on the counter and the farmer was rite next to her. The farmer was holding a very sharp and shiny thing.

It was very close to her neck so she jumped of the counter and ran out side and she hit her had agen and she remembered every thing! She looked behind her and saw the farmer running after her!

She found some cordbord [cardboard] and some spray paint. So Jill folded here and sprayed there and by the time she was done she had made a berel [barrel] and she jumped into it and the farmer went rite paste [past] her. While the farmer wasn't looking she ran away and she lived happily ever after!

Monday, November 22, 2010

What One Book . . .

At a book signing not long ago, a store employee posed the following question:

If you could pick one book to read over and over again for the rest of your life, what would it be?

She said it was her tricky way of finding out people's favorite books.

I disagreed. For me, at least, the answer to that question didn't necessarily point to my favorite book. Because of the way it's phrased, the question alone eliminates several contenders.

Here's why:

Some of my all-time favorite books aren't quick, fun, happy reads. They aren't something I'd necessarily want to have at my fingertips, every day for the rest of my life even though they blew me away or I love them dearly for whatever reason.

Some of them are hard reads. Or slow reads. Some are filled with musical language or voice or character as big as plot. Some make me weep. Others make me think. Hard.

So if I could have just one book to read every day for the rest of my life, it almost certainly wouldn't be one of those favorites, as brilliant and amazing as they are.

A few titles on the list of favorites that would not make the list of books to read forever include:
  • The Poisonwood Bible
  • The Great Divorce
  • Dombey and Son
  • East of Eden
  • Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
  • The Source
Books I adore that I also might be able to stand rereading for years on end (although I'd get sick of anything eventually, I'm sure):
  • Rilla of Ingleside
  • The Blue Castle
  • Pride and Prejudice
  • Sense and Sensibility
  • To Kill a Mockingbird
  • The Hero and the Crown
  • Ender's Game and/or Ender's Shadow
  • Harry Potter (the entire series, or forget it)
Then again, if I could have just one book, I might opt for something wildly informational so I could learn something. (Does an encyclopedia, with all its volumes, count as one book?)

What books would be on your I-love-it-but-can't-read-it-every-day list?

And which books make it onto your awesome-and-fun-but-not-too-deep-so-I-can-read-it-almost-forever list?

Or am I the only weird one who has two lists?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Briefly out of Hiding

Checking in really quickly in the middle of my month of insanity. (So weird to not be blogging regularly. I feel rather cut off from part of the world . . .)

Just had to drop a note to say thanks to the great English 195 class I got to speak to today at BYU. You guys were awesome. Your enthusiasm was contagious, and you made me feel welcome.

(One of the student aides graduated from my high school. Yay for T-bird English majors!)

I felt like a college student again and had to remind myself constantly that it's been awhile, that I'm more than twice the age of incoming freshman, and that my son could be here in three years.

THREE. (I hesitate to ponder too long on that freaky fact.)

One story I shared with the class is something I posted here awhile back about the myth of English being a fluffy major and of Dr. Cracroft's awesomeness about it. (Read that post HERE.)

Eng 195 students: Feel free to contact me if you have questions. I'd love to help!

(And Dana, follow your dreams . . . both of them!)

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

For Mom, Who Is Not on Facebook

Taking a tiny break from my chaotic editing/proofing/NaNoWriMo schedule to post the television segment that aired like a week ago.

I put it on my Facebook page. Mom's not on Facebook, so for her sake, here it is again (especially because I mention her in the clip . . .).

The two main segments are on the Channel 2 site, but my husband compiled every teaser and clip that I was on.

Another note: Thursday is Veteran's Day! In honor of the holiday, Channel 2's Fresh Living morning show is having me on to talk about Band of Sisters and the Flat Daddy program.

(I know; when it rains, it pours! Never thought I'd do 2 TV segments for the same station in the same month but for different books!)

Fresh Living
KUTV Channel 2
Thursday, November 11
10:00 AM

And now the kitchen segment with Chef Bryan Woolley:



Friday, November 05, 2010

New Author Interview: Tamara Hart Heiner

Recently I interviewed debut novelist Tamara Hart Heiner, whose novel, Perilous, will be out with WiDo on November 16.

Good news for e-book readers: the electronic version is already out. (You can buy Perilous on Amazon HERE.)


I haven't read Perilous (although I must say the title rocks), but since I always find talking with new writers fascinating, I thought it would be fun to talk to her about publishing and writing.

Here's our interview.

AL: How long have you been writing and how did you get started? (When did the bug bite you?)

THH: This is a really difficult question for me, so I'll give you the simple answer. I wrote the first draft of Perilous when I was 12. My muse then took 10+ year sabbatical, returning to bug me again in 2007. I've been writing religiously ever since.

AL: Where did the idea for Perilous come from?

THH: I really have no idea. I was bored in study hall and started writing. Why on earth I chose to write about four girls that got kidnapped is totally beyond me.

AL: What research did you have to do for the book?

THH: Mostly I had to research law enforcement, particularly detective work, and also had to research different locations where the book takes place.

AL: What was the most interesting thing you learned?

THH: Everything with law enforcement was fascinating. From how easy it is to tap a phone (now I know why all law enforcement phone numbers are restricted!) to how department budgets work, to sharing responsibilities across state and even international borders.

AL: What is your writing style? Are you an outliner or a by-the-seat-of-your-pantser? Somewhere in between?

I'm a total outliner. I didn't outline with Perilous, and the plot went all over the place before I buckled down and finished it. But my outlines are very simple. Four sentences to describe a chapter. Leaves me a lot of room for creativity.

AL: What is your typical writing schedule like? (I know, I know . . . hahahaha!)

THH: What's a schedule? I wish. I try to write during nap time, giving me about 30 minutes a day. I can't do it when my kids are up. I try at night but really I'm too tired. So . . . yeah. It takes me a lot longer to do something than I want it to.

AL: What is one big thing you've learned through the process of publishing your first novel?

THH: Ask questions. Find out all the opinions and experiences you can. Be very aware.

AL: What's been the biggest surprise about the publishing process?

THH: How much a book changes. Now I read books and wonder what it was like before the publisher got to it.

AL: Which authors are your biggest literary influences in the national market?

Aprilynne Pike, Suzanne Collins, and Kelley Armstrong

AL: In the LDS market?

Aubrey Mace, Lisa Mangum, and David J. West

(AL: Gotta mention to my readers that Aprilynne Pike is LDS, but she publishes nationally.)

AL: Any advice for aspiring authors?

Don't give up, even if it means sacrificing your firstborn child to get there. (I don't mean that literally.)

Me again.

Tamara is doing two giveaways in connection with her release.

First, anyone who comments on a blog tour post is entered to win a copy of her book. That giveaway begins October 15 and ends November 15.

Second, ONE person will also win a KINDLE (you read that right).

The Kindle giveaway is point-based. It begins October 15 and ends December 15.

Whoever gets the most points during those two months wins.

Ways to get points:
1 point: blog comment (can comment on all the blogs, multiple times, on the tour)
1 point: follow her
blog

1 point: retweet
2 points: blog about the blog tour
5 points: purchase the book (For the ebook or paperback, email Tamara the confirmation email as proof. If you actually buy the book in the store, which is not possible until November 16, mail her a copy of the receipt.)

Add up all your points and gather your proofs (links, etc) and email it all to to Tamara at the end of the blog tour (tamara at tamarahartheiner dot com). There's no limit to the number of points you can earn.



Good luck on the giveaway . . . and good luck to Tamara on her new book!

Monday, November 01, 2010

Why I Am (and Will Be) Crazy

I have decided to dip my toes into uncharted waters. (And possibly mix metaphors in the process . . .)

Novembers past used to be the most insane time of the year for me. And that didn't count preparing for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

The whirlwind used to be because of my work as assistant director of the Utah Chocolate Show. Even after I pulled away from that (something had to give, and it wasn't going to be family or my writing), the fall was almost always loaded with book promotions (when I had a fall release) PLUS trying to get my latest book polished up and ready for submission.

This year, I have none of those excuses. (Okay, I do have the promotional excuse with THIS beauty, but not the "get that book turned in" one, nor do I have the chocolate show one. Oh, and yeah, I guess I did promise to get a rewrite back to my editor ASAP. I'll do both. I swear.)

As one writer on the Kindle boards put it, if you're a writer and don't have a good reason to not to NaNoWriMo, you should do it. He says it's "like jury duty." (Only I'll add: more fun. I hope.)

For my non-writer friends, here's what's I'm talking about, a song that explains why November is going to be NUTS.

(It's a song parody on one of my old favorites, "That Good Ol' A Capella." I love the version sung by The Nylons.)





That's the gist.

Basically, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. It's when thousands of writers use that month to write a brand-spanking new manuscript in one month: 50,000 words of one, at least.

(That's usually not a full novel unless we're talking a Middle Grade book. My novels range from about 75,000 to 115,000 Still.)

Let's spell it out:

FIFTY.

THOUSAND.

WORDS.

IN.

ONE.

MONTH.

For pantsers (people who have no clue where their story is going and just write), it can be a nightmare. For outliners, October is NaNo prep month, where they make lists of scenes and plot out their stories. I think I'll be somewhere in the middle.

Why am I doing it? Because I'm in a weird writing funk, and I think it'll take something drastic like 50K in a month to knock me out of it. I've got a couple of book ideas rattling about in my head. I've picked which to use, figured out some scenes and major characters and plot elements, but I should have outlined it. (Although I've always landed in the middle of the panster/outliner spectrum, so maybe I'm okay . . . I hope.)

So, my beloved readers, here's how this will affect you:

With the exception of a few posts here and there, I won't be blogging much in November unless it's to give a brief update on my madness and/or put up a progress toolbar so I can be publicly humiliated if I don't reach my goal.

I'll be largely absent from Facebook and Twitter. I'll try to keep my e-mail time minimal. (I can't NOT have SOME e-mail. I'm not a caveman.) I may treat myself to a Google Reader fest to check blogs if I've reached my word count for the day.

But if I don't swing by your blog in November, don't feel neglected.

Know it's nothing personal. I'm just feverishly losing my mind as my keyboard smokes.

Coming Soon: Firsts and Lasts

UPDATE: Firsts and Lasts is now live as an ebook, and it'll soon be available in paperback as wel! Get the ebook HERE . I've got s...