Sunday, March 24, 2013

Margaret Stohl's ICONS Debuts May 7, 2013

By Kris Kahrs

      Well, the Inkies can say we knew her when... before Beautiful Creatures was a book and not a movie. Now, Margaret Stohl is debuting her solo effort, ICONS which goes on sale May 7, 2013.  

      ICONS is a Young Adult post-apocalyptic story of an alien decimated earth and four teens who are born with special powers immune to the aliens' control. Margaret Stohl should start offering workshops on how to create a bestselling YA novel-cum-hollywood movie vehicle. Four young teens pulling together to save their home seems to be the ticket.

      As of last September 2012, Alcon Entertainment bought the rights to ICONS. Alcon Entertainment recently wrapped Beautiful Creatures, the movie of Stohl's book, co-authored with Kami Garcia featuring another foursome of teenagers fighting powers beyond the beyond.

      Alcon CEO, Broderick Johnson said, "Once we learned of Margaret's new venture, we jumped at the chance to continue our partnership with her and this amazing series of books".  ICONS is the first book in a planned series by publisher, Little, Brown and they just released this killer book trailer last week on March 13th 2013. If you watch it, you'll just have to buy the book. It's that exciting.  We'll take a dozen!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Interview with Self Published
Author Sariah Wilson

by Susan Berger

I think we are all intriqued by the idea of a well written self published book. . I have fallen in love with two self published authors recently and I asked them both if I could interview them.  

Meet Sariah Wilson, author of The Ugly Stepsister Strikes Back.

Everyone knows how all those fairy tales go. The princess gets beautiful, nabs her prince, falls instantly in love, lives happily ever after and leaves her evil stepsisters in the dust.

But what happens when you're the ugly stepsister and your obnoxiously perfect--read pretty, smart, and, worst of all, sickeningly nice--stepsister is dating the charming, tall, devastatingly handsome guy you've had a thing for since you were nine years old?

Quirky, artistic and snarky Mattie Lowe does not lead a charmed life. Her mother is constantly belittling her on Skype. Mercedes, the school mean girl, has made it her personal mission to torment Mattie. But worst of all? Her stepsister Ella is the most beautiful, popular girl in school and is dating Mattie's secret longtime crush, Jake Kingston.
Tired of being left out and done with waiting for her own stupid fairy godmother to show up, Mattie decides to change her life. She'll start by running for senior class president against wildly popular Jake.
Ella can keep her Prince Annoying. Mattie's going to rule the school.  And no one, not even a cute and suddenly flirty Jake, is going to stop her.

I happened on this book during the Lee Wind and Mother Reader's Blog Comment Challenge. The premise intrigued me enough to buy a copy for my Kindle App. I loved the story and stayed up till the wee hours to finish it. I didn't realize until the end of the book that it was self published. Then I emailed Sariah and asked for an interview.  
Sariah Wilson

Why did you decide to self publish? 
Sariah: Because I felt completely and totally defeated by traditional publishing.  With regards to New York publishing, it seemed like in order for an agent to look at you, you already had to be published.  But to get published, you had to have an agent!  I tried to defeat that angle by publishing in a smaller, niche market.  I had three books come out that way.  I had two unexpected pregnancies, and felt drained creatively with two little ones.  It was very easy to fall away from the publishing world.  But I felt an itch to get back to writing.  I started reading blogs, looking at my old writers’ groups and an email from The Passive Voice led me back to J.A. Konrath.  I used to follow his blog previously and had always admired his acumen and marketing prowess.  But suddenly he was talking about this self-publishing thing and I went back to about 2009 and started reading every post he put up.  I was stunned.  (Stunned!)  For days it was all I wanted to talk about.  A literal revolution was happening in front of me, and I wanted to be a part of it.  I loved the idea that I could control everything – the title, the cover, the price – and keep all my rights.  I will never, ever traditionally publish a novel again.  I might consider a Hugh Howey situation – print rights for a limited time, but there’s no way I would ever sign a traditional New York contract now, regardless of the offer.  (Which is easy to say because, um, no New York offers.  LOL)

Which company did you choose to do it through?
Sariah: I’m exclusive to Amazon right now.  I followed the train of thought that you should have your book available everywhere to everyone.  That makes sense to me – you certainly don’t want to miss out on potential customers.  Unfortunately, I was making diddly squat from Barnes & Noble, Smashwords and all their sites, and Kobo.  (Diddly squat = zero dollars.)  The only place I was selling was Amazon.  So I decided to give the Select program a shot.  I mean, I literally had nothing to lose.  I wasn’t selling very many books before – 19 in November, 13 in December and 7 in January.  Most people sell more books every month; I was selling less!  So I enrolled and did a major promotion for the end of January.  I gave away more than 40,000 copies.  I had several hundred people sign up for my mailing list.  Went from 30 reviews to over 200.  Have had about 2,500 people add my book to their Goodreads shelves.  And after it was over, I started actually selling books!

Did you use an editor (well, if you didn't, I am in total awe)
Sariah: I did use an editor.  Her name is Melinda Fulton, and she is all kinds of awesome.  She’s the perfect editor for me.  There weren’t any major revisions or anything – just great input and catching my mistakes.

How did you choose your editor?
Sariah: I had planned on using my old editor from my publisher, but he decided to go to law school.  So I asked around to my writer friends on who they would recommend.  Eschler Editing came up several times, and so I contacted them, and they put me in touch with Melinda.  I chose her because I liked how she edited and the rapport between us.

How did you choose your cover artist? How much does this cost?
Sariah: I had a much harder time choosing a cover artist.  Initially, my husband drew some artwork and we put a cover up.  And I had several reviewers/bloggers saying “Don’t judge this book by its cover!”  I knew I needed to change it before I tried really promoting it.  So I started looking for an artist, asking for recommendations. The most important thing to me was the cover look professional.  I don’t remember how exactly I found Scarlett Rugers, but she is phenomenal.  I loved her cover designs, and she is the consummate professional, and very supportive of indies.  She called me on the phone to talk about my vision for the book, and then she actually READ the book!!!  How many cover artists do you know that do that?  She presented me with a couple of options, and if you’ve read my book you know her cover is just so totally perfect for Mattie and the fairy tale theme.  I fell in love with it.  When I hired her, it cost me $200.  I think her business must be booming, because her prices have nearly doubled.  Which means I will have to come up with that cash somehow because I love her work.

How much time do you spend marketing the book?
Sariah: Probably not as much as I should.  I am experimenting and trying different things to see what works best for me.  I hate spamming people on Facebook/Twitter, and I don’t know how effective blog tours are.  But just because something did/didn’t work for someone else, doesn’t mean it will/won’t work for me.  You’ve got to give things a shot.

What do you think are your most effective  strategies?
Sariah:  think Select is the most effective strategy there is.  I know it may change in the future and Amazon should have competition, but right now you just can’t beat it. 

Are you satisfied with the sales?
Sariah: Not at all.  Am I happy that I routinely sell more in a day than I did in the entire month of January?  Absolutely.  But I don’t think I’ll ever be satisfied.  I’m very competitive with myself, and I want to be successful.  I always think I can do better.

I am trying to think of a nice way to ask you how much money you have made so far. No one wants to talk about that and everyone wants to know. I am looking for a way to ask like "Is it bigger than a breadbox?"
Sariah: I haven’t made all that much money yet – but so far I have made enough to pay for editing and a cover for my next book (which is what I really wanted!) and to send my youngest to preschool next year.  Put it this way – in the last 45 days since my major free promo I’ve made about as much as I would if NY offered me a standard newbie contract.  :)

Thank you, Sariah for a wonderful interview. Sariah has graciouly offered to give away a pdf or a mobi version of The Ugly Stepsister Strikes Back to one of our readers.  I love this book. If you don't win it, please consider buying it on Amazon. You can get it for your Kindle or Kindle app for 2.99

Enter to win by leaving us a comment. Put your email address in the comment i.e Harry at hotmail (don't use the @ symbol. We'll figure it out)

My next interview will be with Sarah Wynde. Self published author of A Gift of Ghosts.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Dispatch #5 - Visit to Chronicle Books

by Lupe Fernandez

Last Thursday, The Chronicle Children's Group invited SCBWI San Francisco/South members to wine, cheese and an opportunity to meet the region's local publisher in SF's South of Market district.

For Giants' fans, Chronicle Books is down the street from AT&T Park.

Chronicle Books publishes books on Art & Design, Food & Drink, Life & Style, Literature, Pop Culture and offers Moleskine, Paper Goods, and Personalization materials.

Their Mission Statement:
Inspired by the enduring magic and importance of books, our objective is to create and distribute exceptional publishing that's instantly recognizable for its spirit, creativity, and value. This objective also informs our business relationships and endeavors, be they with customers, authors, vendors, or colleagues.

Ginee Seo
Children's Publishing Director
But of interest this reporter is the Kids & Teens section. Their website breaks books down by age, genre, holidays, multicultural and subject. Chronicle also has a Kids Blog.

According to their website, Chronicle Books was founded in 1967 with the Children's list "...launched in 1988."

But hey, don't take my word for it. Go visit their site now.

And now, on with the party.

SCBWI San Francisco/South Group
Katerine Taylor & Jeanne Yee
Wine & Water

Monday, March 4, 2013

In Conversation with Robin P. Glasser

Robin P. Glasser

by Catherine Lee

From one exquisite life as a professional ballet dancer, Robin turns the page in her career to become an illustrious illustrator. She is best known for illustrating the Fancy Nancy series of children's books. I hope you enjoy our conversation together!
1. How long did it take for you to decide to dive into illustrating for children's books?
I had a whole other career in the arts before I went back to school to study to become a children's book illustrator.  I was a professional ballet dancer until I hurt my back just before turning 30; I had to find another direction for my life.  I'd always loved to draw, and I was always drawn to children's books, so when I applied to Parsons The New School for Design as a (very old) first-time college student, it was with a very specific course of study in mind.  That, then, was the decision to dive into illustrating for children's books.  Actually being hired to draw my first children's book (Judith Viorst's Alexander, Who's Not (Do You Hear Me? I Mean It!) Going to Move) took another five years from when I graduated.  Five years and two babies.

2. It seems like you're doing some wonderful amazing things. Was it fun to do Sarah Ferguson book?
So much fun!  She's got a wonderful sense of humor and we've kept in touch over the years.  I've been very lucky to work with many amazing authors, from children's book icon Judith Viorst, to radio host and consummate story-teller Garrison Keillor, to the penetratingly sharp Lynne Cheney...and my wonderful and very clever baby sister Jacqueline Preiss Weitzman.

3. Fancy Nancy is such an adorable series, and will the series be an endless call? Can you give us a hint on the theme of the next one coming out?
We plan way ahead, so the cover of the next big illustrated book, Fancy Nancy and the Fanciest Doll in the Universe (which is coming out April 23rd), has been featured on websites for many months already, but I literally just finished the illustrations two weeks ago!  Now I am working on the cover of the third chapter book, Nancy Clancy Sees the Future...but Jane (O'Connor) hasn't even written the story yet.  Jane is amazing -- I'll keep illustrating Fancy Nancy stories as long as she keeps coming up with good ideas, and believe me, I don't think she will ever run dry.

4. How long does it take for you to do a complete book? And do you see the copy before print to make sure everything is good? But I bet the printed finished product is best!
Jane and I have a brilliant editor -- Margaret Anastas -- and a hugely talented art director, Jeanne Hogle.  We all work together, along with dozens of creative people at HarperCollins, to make each book as good as we can.  I recently had some health problems, so the Fanciest Doll had to wait for me to get better, and thus I completed it in four months, from start to finish.  That's crazy fast, but the circumstances were unusual and I had a deadline to meet.  The illustrations for A is for Abigail, by Lynne Cheney, took me two years to complete.  And with all the history I learned while drawing that book, I felt like I had completed a master's degree in American history!  The first time the book is in my hands is magical -- and it's even more fun to see it featured on a shelf in a book store!

5. Must be nice to do this while having a family too! How do you like that?
I work odd hours of the day or night, depending on my deadlines and who is actually at home (my children are now ages 21 and 18).  But I worked throughout my children's lives -- in fact, I was offered an audition for that first Judith Viorst book while I was literally in labor with my son Ben -- so I can't imagine my career any other way. I'm so lucky to have awesome kids, a sensational partner in my husband, and a career doing something I really love.  Sure it's all a balancing act, but isn't everyone's life?

6. It's been a over a decade of doing illustrations. Is there any other areas that you would like to branch out into?
While I was waiting to land my first book -- a very long five years -- I did other things in illustration, like greeting cards and theater programs and posters.  But I love to tell stories, and children's book illustration offers that opportunity.  I'm pretty happy in the niche I have found.

7. What would you tell someone that aspires to be a children's illustrator?
Know what's out there -- browse the shelves at books stores and libraries and figure out the trends.  Objectively compare your work to what you are seeing.  Try to attend panel discussions at book festivals or professional organizations to learn from other illustrators. Look into joining the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) to garner ideas about the field from editors, agents, and published illustrators and authors. Take classes and keep honing your craft. And keep positive and keep going -- it takes a long time to become an "overnight" success!

8. What was your best time, the beginning, middle or where you are now?
Oh, definitely where I am now.  My children are in very good places, and they have grown up understanding that finding one's passion is a big key to happiness.  I have a great life partner in my husband Bob, who lets me do my own thing at all the crazy hours I choose to do it.  It wasn't always like this -- for a long time I was a single mom always strapped for time and cash, and I am very proud that my illustration work has brought security and comfort to us all.

9. What do you enjoy your life the most about being an illustrator?
The projects I work on tend to be humorous; I crack myself up all the time as I sit at my drafting table.  It is very happy work.  I also love that HarperCollins has given me the opportunity to continue to "perform" -- a joy I have had since I was a young ballet dancer.  When I go out on book tours, I love to meet my Fancy Nancy fans who are, more often than not, dressed to the nines and totally adorable.  I get to share my love of books with them.

10. Must have been exciting being a professional ballerina. Could you tell us what that was like?
I was fortunate to be in a dance company -- Pennsylvania Ballet -- that had a tremendous touring schedule, so we did a lot of performing all over the country.  Ballet is hard work, often painful, with the drudgery of daily classes, sewing ballet shoes, and lots of laundry.  But you get out onto that stage, under the lights, with an audience before you, and you become truly alive.  Your body moves, the music moves you, and the experience is exhilarating. I was also fortunate to be in a company of people who were remarkable and fun as well as being talented dancers, so I was lucky in my friendships as well.  And, by the way, I was never a "ballerina" -- like a general in the army, the title "ballerina" is reserved for a specific level of attainment.  I was a "soloist"...and, as you might imagine, given my second career as Fancy Nancy's illustrator, I specialized in dramatic or humorous roles.

11. This is a silly question, but I like to always ask one. What is your favorite color? And what is your favorite time of hour and why?
My favorite color used to be blue, but Fancy Nancy has been good to me, so perhaps my new favorite color, like hers, is Fuchsia! My favorite hour of the day is when my husband brings me my coffee in the morning and we chat for a few minutes before starting our days.

We thank Robin P. Glasser for this lovely interview.  May her artistic success continue. For more about Robin Glasser, visit her website.

Catherine Lee is a contributing editor at Pen & Ink Blogspot.