Monday, May 30, 2016

Links From Kris. Appropriate and In Appropriate

 by Kris Kahrs

In the spirit of collaboration, the forces of good and evil here at The Pen and Ink Blog decided to split the difference and list both the appropriate and inappropriate kidlit links this week. 

The Appropriate:

Go to bed with a good book?  What if that book also kept you warm at night? The Great Eastern Hotel in the UK has a blanket designed by Tiago da Fonseca that is also a traditional bedtime story.

The Inappropriate:
Author/Illustrator, Josh Cooley has a series called the L'il Inappropriate Book line.  One of these has a Golden book of our favorite movies, The Godfather. Definitely not a bedtime read for anyone under 21. 

The Appropriate:
This ultra-hip library desk from the Tu Delft Architecture Bibliotheek in the Netherlands.  Every bibliophile's dream.

The Inappropriate:
Over at College Humor (and yes, the name does say it all), there are more funny, but ah, inappropriate titles for children.    

My favorite.  You can get the wallpaper here.

Enjoy this week's Appropriate and Inappropriate Links.

Monday, May 23, 2016

The Simple Ideas Behind Promotion for Writers

By guest Poster A,J, Cosmo

A.J. Cosmo is the best-selling author and illustrator of over thirty children's books. I first met him at a book sale at Encino Elementary School. I sat next to him ans was impressed by his style of presentation. The first book of his I read was The Monster That Ate My Socks. Loved it.

Check out his work at that is, if you like monsters, imagination, or heart.
I do! A.J not only has a great website, he has a free picture book for following him. I signed up to test it out and Pretty Please? Princess Polly is delightful

The Simple Ideas Behind Promotion for Writers

Everyone wants to promote, or should I say, they

need to promote. For some reason authors tend to shy away from sales. We tell people that it's about the passion, or the craft, or the love of just doing it, which is true, but it would be disingenuous to say that money isn't a factor.

So how do we sell books? Well, why do people buy books?  There are three reasons why a person purchases a book:

  1. Entertainment
    The book appeals to them for the sake of passing time, making them feel better, or making them think about something new.

    If your book relies on entertainment alone, make sure that you understand what it is about your work that people enjoy. Be sure and ask your readers because the answer may surprise you. Once you understand that, make sure that all of your sales material points to it.

  2. Information
    The book appeals to readers because it contains something they want to know or teach.

    This applies well to non-fiction but can also apply to fiction. Some books for children may secretly teach language and shapes while some grown-up books may take place in a historically accurate or otherwise well researched setting. Make sure that your advertising tells readers what they will gain from investing in your book.

  3.  Symbolism
    The book represents more than the sum of its pages. It represents an ideal, movement, or a group of people that the reader wishes to be a part of.

    How many of you have gone to a speaker, loved what they said, bought their book, and then never read a single page? Don't feel guilty. You weren't buying their book, you were demonstrating your appreciation of that person and your agreement with their views.

    If you can score school appearances, events, or conferences to sell your books, good for you! If you can't though, you can still attach your book to a cause. Wonder by Raquel Jaramillo marvelously tied itself with the relationship between othering and bullying while Harry Potter has become synonymous with perseverance.

Hopefully your book can sell to at least two of these ideas. After all, the best textbooks are also entertaining while wonderfully written narratives can unite entire groups of people (think of John Green.) Spend some time considering how you would sell these features of your book and to whom those features would most appeal.

Basic marketing is nothing more than informing people of something they might like. Inform the right group of people in the correct way and you won't even be called a marketer. Tell the wrong people in an offensive way and you will be thrown out as a shyster.

If we turn all of this into a process you get something that looks like this:

  1. Determine what you have.
  2. Determine who would want it.
  3. Test how best to describe what you have.
  4. Find where these people gather.
  5. Present what you have to them in an appropriate manner         (as dictated by the customs of the group.)

Simple, no?

Notice how I haven't once mentioned a traditional ad- that's intentional. Ads are like rain; most people ignore it, some avoid it, others get upset by it, but very few people enjoy standing in the middle of it. What you need is something more focused.

If you have a romance book, you would start your promotion by finding groups of romance readers. The more specifically the group matches your product, the better. If your book is about creating romance, you would look for an audience of lonely people to show the work to. If your book is a revolutionary love story about an oppressed minority, you could speak at a convention hosted by said minority.

What you don't do is blow $500 on shotgun Facebook ads, spam Twitter with "buy my book" tweets, or guilt trip your friends and family into making a purchase. All of that will only end in poor sales and tears.

Human beings naturally promote to each other, it's in our DNA. As a species, it's beneficial to share where delicious fruit trees are. Yet, we are also distrustful of those outside our tribe. If your brother tells you of good food, you will go at once to retrieve it, however, if a stranger tells you the exact same thing, your first thought may be of a trap.

That's why finding your audience, your tribe, is so important. Before you can find that tribe though, you first have to understand exactly what kind of fruit you have and who specifically has the taste for it.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Dispatch: #52: Pain is a Time Traveler

by Lupe Fernandez

April 27. I am in Romita, Mexico with my mother. The last of her brothers had died. Mom is here to pay respects. I am here to make sure mom gets through the airport without getting lost or exhausted or injured. Out of the Leon GTO Airport. Fierce sun. Acrid smell of petrol and burning wood. Mom is fine and enjoys the company of her two sisters.

I miss my wife, my house, my girls, my cats, fishy the fish, and my routine. This is the first time I've been away from my wife and house for a long duration. Mom intends to stay two weeks. This is my fourth trip to Romita. I know the narrow streets packed with cars. I know where to buy tortas con pollo. I know to guzzle bottled water. know the family and can speak rudimentary Spanish to get by.

I miss my wife. An ache in my abdomen. That's where my pain goes.

Tears stream down my face the first day here. Complicated by anxiety of traveling. I'm not afraid of planes or doers of evil.

Pain is a time machine. I'm five years old, stuck somewhere. I don't want to be an adult, but I'm most qualified to accompany Mom on this emergency trip. As a five year old, I badly want to go home regardless disappointing Mom or the expense of changing airline reservations.

A tear drop tumbles me backward, to 2012. I spend two weeks with Angel during our dating phase. We wanted to see if we could live together. After the living trial, I drove back to LA weeping at 70 miles per hour. My heart torn. I didn't want to leave.

A tear drop shoots me back to Fall 1980, first quarter of UCLA. I buckled over, homesick. Freshman in the dorm partied. Beer flowed. Girls everywhere. The great university beckoned.

Tear drop. Fall 1977. The first day of high school. A cold fruit drink pours from the locker room vending machine. Cigarettes smoked in the quad. Lockers clang. Bells ring. I want to go home. I'm overwhelmed. I keep the gnawing fear to myself.

Drop. Drop. Kindergarten. First day of school. Stephanie E. points at me and announces to our teacher Mrs. Meanes, "Teacher, he's crying." Snot. Crayons. Tan bark.

I wipe my face. Fall asleep on a hot afternoon in a spare bedroom at my tia's house. Portable fan rumbles. I wake up an hour later. I've returned to the present. April 2016.

As an author I often take time trips to a character's past and future. But I'm the tour guide. I'm in control. I say when, where and how long.

As a writer, I often have to emotionally go to some dusty, humid, cold, bright aching place, dry mouthed, nausea paralyzing place in an ocean of memory. It's the job.

But wait.

Is the pain burning backward or forward? Am I still in kindergarten and a five year old's hot tears drip into the 21st century? Or do they originate from some middle place? The locker room at Winton Jr. High smelling of bleached towel. I put my jockstrap on backwards. I didn't know how to wear it and Chris Whatley and Michael Lee laugh at me.

Pain travels through time. Who's to say which way?

Monday, May 2, 2016

More First Lines. Suppose Were the Editor . . .

 By Susan J Berger

I spend a lot of time looking at other writer’s first lines. I study to make my own first lines better. There are thousands of writers submitting daily to a limited number of editors and agents. If I do not capture them in the first paragraph, I am slush.

Here are a few of my favorites from mid-grade and YA novels. Pretend you are an editor and you only had room for three of these books.  Which three would you pick?

1. When I wake up, the other side of the bed is cold. My fingers stretch out, seeking Prim’s warmth but finding only the rough canvas cover of the mattress. She must have had bad dreams and climbed in with our mother. Of course she did. This is the day of the reaping.

2.  At the end of the Century before last, in the market square in the city of Bahese, there stood a boy with a hat on his head and a coin in his hand.

3. A poem by Eden Streit
Eyes Tell Stories
But do they know how

to craft fiction? Do
they know how to spin

4. There was a boy called Odd and there was nothing strange or unusual about that, not in that time or place. Odd meant the tip of a blade and it was a lucky name.

5. I remember lying in the snow, a small red spot of warm going cold, surrounded by wolves.

6. The best day of my life happen when I was five and almost died at Disney World. I am sixteen now so you can imagine that left me with quite a few days of major suckage.

7. Prince Charming is afraid of old Ladies. Didn’t know that, did you?
Don’t worry. There’s a lot you didn’t know about Prince Charming: Prince Charming has no idea how to use a sword; Prince Charming has no patience for dwarfs; Prince Charming has an irrational hatred of capes.

8. If you asked the kids and the teachers at Lincoln Elementary School to make three lists – all the really bad kids, all the really smart kids and all the really good kids-Nick Allen would not be on any of them. Nick Allen deserved a list all of his own and everybody knew it. 

9. There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it." 

10. If your teacher has to die, August isn't a bad time of year for it.

11.  I have been accused of being anal retentive, an over-achiever, and a compulsive perfectionist, like those are bad things.

Here's the list of where they came from.

1. The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins
2. The Magician's Elephant, by Kate DiCamillo and Yoko Tanaka. 
3. Tricks, by Ellen Hopkins. 
4. Odd And The Frost Giants, by Neil Gaiman.
5. Shiver, by Maggie Stiefvater
6. Going Bovine, by Libba Bray
7. The Heroes Guide To Saving Your Kingdom. By Christopher Healy
8. Frindle by Andrew Clements
9. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis
10. The Teacher’s Funeral by Richard Peck
11. Millicent Min, Girl Genius by Lisa Yee.

For me, I would pick 6, 7, and 11, which says a lot about my reading tastes. I've read #1, plus #6 - #11 and loved all of them, so it was a hard choice for me. Which three did you pick? Happy reading and writing!