This is a great post by Cidney Swanson that I’m reposting here because I think it’s incredibly useful. (And we’re super proud of Cidney and her Kirkus starred review!!!!)
In the September/October issue of the SCBWI Bulletin, there’s an article devoted to an issue faced by all writers choosing a path of self-publishing: What can these authors do to vet their books? The article mentioned two new-to-me paid reviewing services (grubstreetreads.com andblueinkreview.com) and suggested that the use of either service might benefit an author looking for that exterior stamp of approval.
Depending upon where you sit in your self-publishing journey, the $99-575 which such services charge for reviewing can look like a lot of money. For myself, I thought of it as a cost on the order of what I might spend to attend a conference, something I budget for several times a year from my writer income.
I really appreciated the SCBWI nod to the appropriate use of for-pay review services.
Many of us, when first encountering the idea of a paid review service, rightly look askance at it. However, there are organizations which offer honest reviews, and it was nice to see SCBWI endorsing a couple of new ones.
While I haven’t used either of those services, I have used two of the older, more established options. Of the major review publications in the US, only two currently offer reviewing services for self-publishers, and both are available on a for-pay basis only. (Both expressly exclude self-published books from being submitted through their non-pay channels which they reserve for publishing houses.) Publishers Weekly offers a $149-199 program and Kirkus Reviews offers a $425-575 program.
Publishers Weekly devotes a supplementary magazine each quarter to self-publishing and includes paid-for reviews in the publication. I have not yet heard back from Publishers Weekly, so my experience with them is incomplete. However, here are some statistics from their last (quarterly) publication devoted to self-published titles. Of the 186 submissions they received, they reviewed 47 in their publication. Of those 47, 7 were starred reviews. What this tells me is that for authors who plunked down $149 (or $199) last quarter, they stood a one in four chance of having their title reviewed and a one in twenty-seven chance of having it receive a starred review.
Kirkus Reviews follows a different setup from PW. Kirkus promises that if you pay, your novel will be reviewed. They make a point of telling you there’s no guarantee of a positive review. The pool of reviewers is the same as the pool used for reviewing traditionally published novels. Kirkus created this service specifically so it would be economically viable for them to be able to review books from indie authors and/or small presses (which are not revenue-generating for them.) Because the review they offer may be negative, they give you the choice of publishing or not publishing the review. The vast majority of self-pubbed reviews are not published. Overall, starred reviews are awarded to about 10% of books reviewed, but fewer self-published works receive stars than do traditionally published works.
For me, the experience was a bit terrifying. As soon as I hit the “pay” button for the Kirkus review, I began waffling between the extremes of muttering to myself, “It’s only one person’s opinion,” and, “But it’s Kirkus!” I think that anyone going into this needs to realize that both of those are true. To receive a positive review from Kirkus or any other professional review organization is a significant achievement, but in the end, you have received the opinion of one reader. If you can live with that, for-pay reviewing might be a good option for your self-published title.
Finally, a humorous warning for those who pay for a review with Kirkus and receive a starred review: they will not email you to tell you that your novel has received this distinction. I got my review on the exact day promised. I tried to read it. This was difficult because all the air in the room seemed to disappear as soon as the pdf opened on my computer screen. After reading it, I hit the “publish” button. Then I got to see my review looking all nice and shiny on the Kirkus Reviews website. I smiled at it for several minutes before noticing that they’d placed a star just to one side of the title. What did that symbol mean? Was it an asterisk thing-y intended to make me look lower on the page? And then the screaming started. My family rushed into the room to find out what was wrong with me. They saw me gesticulating wildly at the computer. A few inches away from my star was written this phrase:“For Books of Remarkable Merit, Look for the Kirkus Star.”
TWO WORLDS. TWO TEENS. ONE WISH.
TRANSFER STUDENT is a science fiction Freaky-Friday romance/adventure about two normal teenagers struggling to survive high school and deal with their parents… typical rites of passage. The twist? One teen is an alien from the planet Retha. In a galactic teleporting experiment gone wrong, Ashley, a Beverly Hills High surfing fashionista, and Rhoe, the biggest geek on planet Retha, swap lives. Only by surviving life as their biggest nightmare do Ashley & Rhoe discover their dreams. How far would you go for someone you love?
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TRANSFER STUDENT BLOG TOUR: LEAP DAY, 2012 – MARCH 20th
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Getting Sideways: Book 2 in the Full Throttle Series
Getting shipped off to live with his uncle Race was the best thing that ever happened to fifteen-year-old Cody. Then a wreck at the speedway nearly ruined everything. Cody’s making every effort to get his life back on track—writing for the school paper, searching for the perfect girlfriend, and counting the days until he gets his drivers’ license—but there’s no escaping the nightmares that haunt him.
A chance to build his own car seems like the perfect distraction. Until Cody realizes he’ll have to live up to Race’s legendary status. But that’s the least of his worries, considering he doesn’t have his dad’s permission. All he has to do is the impossible: keep Race from discovering his lie until he can convince his dad that racing’s safe.
Yeah, sure. That’ll be easy.
Haven’t read the first book? Running Wide Open is on sale now for 99 cents.
Running Wide Open: Book 1 in the Full Throttle Series
Cody Everett has a temper as hot as the flashpoint of racing fuel, and it’s landed him at his uncle’s trailer, a last-chance home before military school. But how can he take the guy seriously when he calls himself Race, eats Twinkies for breakfast, and pals around with rednecks who drive in circles every Saturday night?
What Cody doesn’t expect is for the arrangement to work. Or for Race to become the friend and mentor he’s been looking for all his life. But just as Cody begins to settle in and get a handle on his supercharged temper, a crisis sends his life spinning out of control. Everything he’s come to care about is threatened, and he has to choose between falling back on his old, familiar anger or stepping up to prove his loyalty to the only person he’s ever dared to trust.
Praise for Running Wide Open:
“It doesn’t matter if you are a racing fan or not, Running Wide Open will captivate you and capture your heart.” – Cari J, Amazon reviewer
“The roar of engines practically explodes off the page in this compelling, heart-thumping debut. Cody Everett is a straight-shooter with attitude, smarts, and whip-cracking wit; he doesn’t pull any punches, and neither does author Lisa Nowak. The collision of Cody and the world of stock car racing makes for a great story, one of the best I’ve read in a long time. Running Wide Open is a book not to be missed.” – Christine Fletcher, author of Tallulah Falls and Ten Cents a Dance
“The racing is easy to understand and does not get in the way of a rattling good story. I still couldn’t put it down on a re-read.” – Elisabeth Miles, Amazon reviewer
“We race stock cars during the summer and even though this is a recommended read for Young Adults, we are seniors and enjoyed every page. We can hardly wait for the sequel to come out. MUST READING!” – Maxci Jermann, Barnes and Noble reviewer
“I say read this book, it’s fun, it’s beautiful, it’s a very cool read that will give you a feel-good state of mind. Awesome read.” – L.E.Olteano, Butterfly-o-meter Books
In addition to being a YA author, Lisa Nowak is a retired amateur stock car racer, an accomplished cat whisperer, and a professional smartass. She writes coming-of-age books about kids in hard luck situations who learn to appreciate their own value after finding mentors who love them for who they are. She enjoys dark chocolate and stout beer and constantly works toward employing wei wu wei in her life, all the while realizing that the struggle itself is an oxymoron.
Lisa has no spare time, but if she did she’d use it to tend to her expansive perennial garden, watch medical dramas, take long walks after dark, and teach her cats to play poker. For those of you who might be wondering, she is not, and has never been, a diaper-wearing astronaut. She lives in Milwaukie, Oregon, with her husband, four feline companions, and two giant sequoias.
Connect with Lisa online:
- Twitter: http://twitter.com/Lisa_Nowak
- Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/LisaNowakAuthor
- Google +: http://bit.ly/LisaNowakGooglePlus
- Blog: http://lisanowak.wordpress.com/
- Subscribe to her newsletter for updates about coming attractions: http://bit.ly/LisaNowakNewsletter
Today we’ve got a great new post from Cidney Swanson, our newest PacNWYA author!
Take it away, Cidney!!
I recently had the privilege of joining Women’s Night Out, a book club that meets monthly in Eugene, Oregon. The group had chosen my novel RIPPLER for their October read. Of course I felt honored and happy to know I’d be gaining over a dozen new readers! I’d like to share a few of the things I learned from this experience as well as some ideas I have for making myself available to other groups.
After I recovered from the initial surprise that a group of moms would be interested in choosing my book, I had a few things I needed to do. Because my book wasn’t being carried locally, I had to make sure the book group leader could easily communicate where to buy a copy. In this day and age, you are likely to find a mix of those who want paper copies and those who prefer an e-version, so make sure you send links for all of these possibilities.
Next, I discovered the group wanted a set of discussion questions. And they wanted them ahead of time. This is something you want to spend some time on, if you’re interested in book groups. I found the idea incredibly intimidating, even though I’ve taught college-level courses and had to come up with discuss-able questions for books I’d assigned. But this was my book. How the heck was I supposed to know what to ask? I found myself literally too close to be able to do this without some outside help.
Fortunately, I found some help. You know those books on your shelf right now—the ones with “discussion questions included” stamped across the cover? I searched through a few and discovered the inspiration for a very long list of possible discussion questions. Looking at the questions posed for someone else’s book gave me the distance I needed from my own book.
Alternatively, you could simply ask questions of the group that you really wonder about as the author. That is, instead of asking discussion questions, you could ask feedback-oriented questions. Which leads me to: the FAN factor.
Doing a book group is a great way to acquire a set of fans!
One of the things that happened spontaneously at the actual meeting was that the readers wanted to know if I had any questions for them. (I.e., feedback questions) I wish I had thought of these ahead of time as I really couldn’t think on my feet with fifteen faces turned my way! So do spend a little time thinking here as well.
Here are some things I did not do this time (probably as a result of deer-in-the-headlights syndrome) that I will definitely do next time.
1) Offer to sign books. (Duh, I know!)
2) Pass around a sign-up sheet to add emails to my New Releases Email List.
3) Offer a discount-code for the next-in-series.
4) Encourage guests to post reviews on merchant sites. (Amazon, etc.)
5) Offer to do interviews, giveaways, or guest posting for any of the guests who have book blogs.
6) Offer to return and/or ask the guests to let their moms, friends, and so on in other book groups know I’m available for future engagements.
Wow, that list is embarrassingly long. Hopefully it will help you to be better prepared than I was!
Lastly, I want to leave you with a few suggestions for finding book groups.
- First start with people you already know. Who do you see on regular basis that you know participates in a book group? Are you a member of a group who might be willing to let you “try out” your book as a book-of-the-month pick? Do you have kids who participate in a book club?
- If you don’t have any of these resources, you’ll need to search farther a-field.
Check library bulletin boards for book groups that you might approach by
email. Create a landing page they can visit that describes what you have
to offer to a book group. See my page here.
- If you have a FAQ section on your website, be sure to include “Do you have
discussion questions for your book?” as a FAQ, and then provide a list.
This lets potential book groups know you are prepared for them!
- Using whatever social media you already use and enjoy, put the word out that you are available. Again, direct people who read your tweets, facebook page posts, and so on to visit your landing page to learn more about hosting you
(and your book) at their next event.
- If you are doing an event like a book-signing or school presentation or if you
have a table at a conference, be sure to have a flyer that indicates you
are available for book groups.
- And what about out-of-town engagements? Where do you regularly travel? Does your mom or mother-in-law belong to a book group? Let them know you’d be honored to visit them the next time you’re in town.
Speaking for myself, I’m hooked and I can’t wait to visit another book club! There’s simply no better feeling than being in a room full of people who’ve read your book. (At my event, there were several who knew parts of it better than I did!)
Best Wishes to you, and please let me know about your ideas and successes!
I thought you all might enjoy reading about some of the topics we cover in the Rain Boots Required YA Author Tour, so I’m putting my talk about Voice and Believable Dialogue into blog form. We’d like to divide our blog posts three ways – some author talk, some reader talk and some young/new writer talk.
Before I get started on that, though, I’d like to issue an apology. We didn’t have cards at Wordstock and I wrote our web address down on my card for a lot of people. I realized last night that I probably put PacNWYA.wordpress.com on about half of them. That would be our Twitter handle. Ugh. Not trying to mislead anyone, my brain was just plain fried from spending the weekend at Wordstock. Forgive me! And, hopefully you found us with a minimum amount of Googling.
On to the good stuff…
For tween and teen writers, getting into the mindset to write adult characters is just as difficult as it is for me (Stacey Wallace Benefiel) to get into the mindset of a teenager.
Okay, I might have a slight advantage because I’ve been a teenager, but that was, like, twenty years ago.
A lot of things have changed.
When I was sixteen we didn’t have cell phones or the internet or Facebook. I wrote all my stories on an electric typewriter. No e-mail! No digital cameras!
Most importantly, not much YA to choose from. I believe there were twelve YA novels and three of them were V.C. Andrews books.
Yes, it was totally boring and I can’t remember what we did with our time. Probably, we threw rocks at stuff.
So, I’ve developed a few tricks I use to find my YA voice and write believable teen dialogue. I think these tips work well for young writers to use when writing adult characters too.
1. I read. A lot. When I find a YA novel that is written in a style I enjoy, as a writing exercise I copy that style using my own dialogue. Through the process of writing dialogue, copying paragraph structure, learning how someone else writes description, my YA voice emerges.
2. I watch YA TV and listen to how the characters speak. The Secret Circle, TVD, The Lying Game, the Nine Lives of Chloe King, Separated at Birth. My DVR is filled with CW and ABC Family shows. TV as homework, how cool is that?
3. I listen to those around me. Thanks to the Beaverton Civic Theatre, I have the chance to teach and direct young adults in Children’s Theatre once a year. I’ve picked up a lot of insight from simply being around the teens in those plays.
This is even easier for teens, as they’re around adults more often than I get to be around teenagers. Listen to your parents and teachers speaking to each other. How is it different from the way you and your friends talk to one another?
4. I give each character a type of music that fits them. Zellie, the protagonist in my YA trilogy is a 16-year-old pastor’s kid. She gets Taylor Swift. Whenever I hear a Tay Swift song, I think of Zellie and find that she comes to me easily.
Her BFF Claire is a little cooler. She likes Pink. Zellie’s parents, Paul and Grace are Stones and Cyndi Lauper fans, respectively.
I use these tips to find my YA voice and I think they’d be helpful in finding the voice of any character that isn’t a lot like you.
Now, when I get to the editing stage, I have a few more guidelines that I follow to make sure that my intentions and my dialogue are believable and age appropriate. (When I’m talking to teens, I list the inverse of these rules.)
1. Swearing, drinking/drug use and sex are statements. All of these rites of passage have to have a real and valid reason behind them.
2. Slang is allowed to run rampant. YA’s have their own language, made up words and phrases used amongst friends. Honor that.
3. Love/infatuation/lust are all the same thing.
4. The characters are allowed to make stupid, obvious mistakes. That’s how a person learns. Rarely do teenage characters choose the best path first, they haven’t discovered what it is yet. Trial and error.
Thanks for reading! I’d love to hear your thoughts on YA voice in the comments.
Stacey Wallace Benefiel
In August, 2011 authors Angela Carlie and Stacey Wallace Benefiel decided that they wanted to organize a book tour for the month of October around Wordstock. After tweeting and posting on Facebook that they were looking for other Pacific Northwest YA authors to get involved in the tour, Lisa Nowak, Rebecca Knight and Laura Elliott signed on.
The Rain Boots Required YA Author Tour was born!
The group got a booth at Wordstock prior to naming the tour and, on a whim named it Pacific Northwest YA Authors. Prior to Wordstock, the tour made two stops – at Cover to Cover Books in Vancouver, WA, where they spoke to a group of writers about different aspects of YA writing, and the West Linn Public Library, where they spoke to middle grade and early high school aged kids about writing, self-publishing, inspiration and several other topics.
Both events went off without a hitch, with the exception of a loudly beeping video camera, and the authors began to have an inkling that they were on to something.
On the first day of the Wordstock book fair, several people inquired about the name of the booth and wanted to know if they could either join the Pacific Northwest YA Authors organization or have the group come speak at their library/school/book club.
It was meant to be.
The authors realized that they…
1. Enjoyed each others company and worked well together.
2. Had a lot to say about self-publishing and their individual publishing journey’s.
3. All had a passion for encouraging and helping other writers.
4. Could finally stop boring their spouses with enlivened, detailed talks about e-book formatting.
By the end of the day, this website was created and a contact e-mail acquired.
If you’re interested in joining the Pacific Northwest YA Authors or would like to book us for an event, please contact Stacey at firstname.lastname@example.org
Please check back over the next week or so to see how this website evolves. We’re going to be adding video of our talks from the book tour, facts about self-publishing and book formatting and other helpful information.