A book award makes me livid? Disillusioned? Offended? All three maybe

To be recognized for your work feels great, especially when it’s by experts in your field. Right?

Well you’d think it would.

[image from leavinglaw.wordpress.com]

I got a wonderful email from someone representing a (seemingly?) legitimate industry award. They said they found out about me from one of my Twitter posts. When they looked into my books, one stood out among the others, and they felt it was so good it could win one of their awards. They were excited for me to be a part of it all!

Please note they did not actually READ any of my books, just ABOUT them

The emailer stated:

We provide lifetime marketing assistance and low-cost exhibit opportunities among other things. First and foremost, we recognize excellent & positive products.

[image from gametimect.com]

Of course my *WARNING* *WARNING* BEEP BEEP radar went off because the very first thing they mentioned was their marketing assistance (red flag: they want your money). The second thing they referenced was recognition. Shouldn’t it be the other way around? At a minimum add the part about marketing assistance at the very end of the email, as sort of an aside?

But it gets worse.

I had to pay to be considered for this prestigious award from their panel of judges.

As in, pony up $300 per entry. A THREE HUNDRED DOLLAR entry fee. They were happy to tell me they could offer me a discount if I wanted to enter multiple books. !!! I’d eat up a years worth of profit just to enter (mediocre) books that were written in 2006.

[image from lawnchairnaturalist.wordpress.com]

I was and still am LIVID over this.

Is this common? Is this the going rate? Have I been disillusioned by common/standard business practices? I feel like kid that sees Mickey Mouse without his head on and realizes Mickey is just a kid in a costume, that he’s not real and never has been real. (Uh, sorry if that was a spoiler alert to any of you)

Anyone knee deep in the children’s book industry knows how little we authors (and illustrators) make. In fact, I have been paid less than $300 for an entire book/manuscript contract! (No, I don’t say that proudly) If this is what it takes to get a cool WINNER banner or sticker on the cover of my books, well, looks like I’ll stay award-less. I simply cannot afford to win!

Now I have a business degree. I understand operating expenses and all that. But this is like an Over-the-top Elite Country Club fee–overcharging people just so those people can proudly tell others they are members. It’s self serving and offensive.

Another analogy might be a cheezy self-proclaimed agent that has zero contacts and/or real experience that charges you to read your manuscript. This award doesn’t feel as slimy as those dirtbags, but it still feels wrong.

I am purposely not mentioning the name of the award. My goal isn’t to shame them specifically. I just need to hear from others what their experience has been. If you want to name names, please don’t do that here; email me their names and maybe we can start a secret spy detective club uncovering facade book awards. Or maybe we can help each other cry in our soup.

Until then, please be wary of emails out of the blue. Do your research before sending money anywhere (especially foreign kings that need a short term loan).

[image from wikipedia]

Even if Mickey puts his head back on, I’m still scarred.

Twitter 101: The Basics, For Writers

Twitter 101 for Writers Part One

The past few writers’ conference presentations I’ve given about Author Platforms have prompted many of the same questions. Most surround social media. I’m gonna tackle one biggie here: Twitter. Let’s look at the very basic concept of Twitter in this post, for the true beginner. How to use it effectively will be a different post, so be sure to keep looking around on my site if you need more help or detail.

“I know what Twitter is, but I don’t know how to use it like I should. Is there a specific process?” “Why do I want to use Twitter in the first place?” “What is Twitter anyway?” Let’s start with the very basics. Here are some definitions of Twitter:

  • Twitter is the best way to connect with people, express yourself and discover what’s happening. – Twitter

That’s kinda broad. Let’s look at a different definition:

  • Twitter is a free social networking microblogging service that allows registered members to broadcast short update posts called tweets. –WhatIs.com

Okay, that’s not really helpful at all. Let’s give it one more try:

  • A stupid site for stupid people with no friends, who think everyone else gives a sh*t what they’re doing at any given time. –UrbanDictionary.com

Haha well that sure is one way to look at it! I view Twitter as a huge cocktail party. You interact as much as you want, you come in and out of conversations as you see fit, you listen to other people rant or rave, you observe trends and popular topics, you initiate some conversations and contribute to others, you walk around to see what’s happening over in that side of the room, and yes maybe you enjoy a few people so much that you follow them around a little bit.

Looking at some statistics, it’s clear that social media is here to stay.

  • Facebook: 1.23 Billion users as of Dec 2013, 81% outside of U.S. (Facebook.com), 57% American adults, 73% 12-17 year olds (Pew Research)
  • LinkedIn: 277 million users as of Feb 2014 (Digital Marketing Ramblings)
  • Instagram (where you share photos and up to 15-second videos, image filters are offered): 150 million active users, 1.2 Billion likes/day (DMR, Feb 2014)
  • Vine (users share 6-second videos) : 40 million users (Vine)
  • Twitter: As of Aug 2013, Twitter reports

    280 Million users

    500 Million tweets/day

    Average 5,700 tweets PER SECOND

    135,000 new users/day

A tweet, or Twitter post, gives you 140 spaces, called characters, to say whatever you want. “Happy birthday” is 14 characters (without the quote marks), and “Happy birthday!” (without quotes) is 15. With quotes, they’d 16 and 17 characters. Anything that takes up a space, even a blank space, counts as one. The good news is you are forced to be brief. The bad news is it takes practice to get your point across succinctly.

Once you’ve got the hang of 140 characters, why keep going? What’s in it for you? Plenty. When used effectively, Twitter can:

8 Phrases that should NEVER come out of your mouth

Here are eight words and phrases that should never, and I mean NEVER come out of your mouth. At least not to me. In random order:

1. When you see I’m in the midst of a book you’re already read: “Did you get to the part where…

Don't. Say. A. Word.

Don’t. Say. A. Word.

Are you serious? What if I’m not there yet, you idiot? You just ruined it for me!

2. When discussing a book or movie I haven’t read/seen, but you have “Oh the ending of that is sooo unexpected.”

"This is the part where they all die in the end..."

“This is the part where they all die in the end…”

 Come closer so I can smack you. You pretty much just ruined any surprise I wouldn’t have seen coming. Now I’m gonna be on edge the whole time thinking Is that the shocker? Or is that it? She said surprise, so it can’t end up this way. I wonder if x or y will happen… Oh, I bet he turns out to be that guy’s father… Anything creative I come up with will make the real ending suck. Continue reading

“…finish at your leisure…”

When someone asks me to take a look at or work on something “at my leisure,” it takes everything to not point out that leisure, by its very definition, means time not spent working. It’s a time free from work/duty. So, reviewing something at my leisure is an oxymoron. If I’m not working, I am not going to look at work. I am not going to think about work.

I used to think vacation meant less work, not no work. I now happily embrace the true meaning of leisure. Mostly.

Quite frankly, wish I did sooner. 

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Shutting off the phone only works for so long (What if Uncle Harry takes a turn?). Staying someplace without wireless access sounds good but let’s face it, there’s *always* a Starbucks nearby that can give you a quick hit (I mean, how else are you going to post all those selfies on Facebook and Instagram?). Editing instead of writing is a great goal but never works (once those creative juices start a-flowing you don’t wanna shut them off). Going cold turkey, at least for a few days, seems to work best for me.

What about you?

Presenting at SCBWI Conference, April 2014

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Oh the joys of being part of a tribe. I had a great time presenting “Marketing the @#&! out of Yourself with Twitter” at the Northern CA SCBWI Spring Spirit conference (#SpSp14) on April 5, 2014, held in the Sacramento area. I was surrounded by greatness and the common love of writing children’s books. Being “on faculty” had its privileges too…allow me to show, not tell:

Here I am signing books right next to NYT best-selling YA author Jay Asher (@JayAsherGuy), as he enjoys a laugh with a conference attendee that just bought his book:

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Here I am next to author & illustrator extraordinaire Dan Yaccarino (of Oswald, Backyardigans fame as well as lots and lots of picture books) as he shakes hands with one of his many fans:

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Here I am in front of Chad W. Beckerman (Creative director and cover designer for Abrams Appleseed, Abrams Books for Young Readers and Amulet Books, as well as Mishaps and Adventures blogger) (@chadwbecks and @abramskids) and Louise May (Vice President/Editorial Director of Lee & Low Books) (@LEEandLOW) as they talk shop, with Dan Yaccarino and Northern CA SCBWI Regional Advisor Patti Newman (@PatriciaNewman) recapping conference success in the background:

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Here I am as Tricia Lawrence (@authorblogger), associate agent at the revered Erin Murphy Literary Agency, has a conversation with someone else at the after party:

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Here I am next to with the amazing, multiple award-winning, NYT best-selling author & poet Nikki Grimes (it’s almost like she doesn’t know I’m there):

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Here I am as Deirdre Jones (assistant editor and rising star at Little, Brown Books for Young Readers) (@DeirdreEJones) talks to BMOC Jay Asher (@jasasherguy) about his success with the hot selling Thirteen Reasons Why YA novel:

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As you can see in my rear-view mirror, here are art director Chad Beckerman (@chadwbecks), author Jay Asher (@jayasherguy), and associate editor Deirdre Jones (@DeirdreEJones) as they get ready to head to the airport:

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This may or may not be Chad approaching my car asking me to leave them all alone already:

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Ah, good times.

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“Not all treasu…

“Not all treasure is silver and gold, mate.” -Captain Jack Sparrow

Besides giving me an excuse to picture Johnny Depp (hubba hubba), that quote is relevant because this Saturday is the annual Spring Spirit conference for the Northern California Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (try saying that three times fast…). [Man, there is just no easy way get those words out. Does "@NorthCalSCBWI #SpSp14 conf" sound any better? No? I'll stick with conference then.]  If you’re a budding writer or illustrator of children’s books and you haven’t heard of the event or the group or the conference, write it down and pay attention next year! The 2014 April conference in Sacramento is sold out, as were pretty much all past conferences. There are a variety of events in the area year round, though, so check the group out soon, either on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/groups/221623931231668/) or Twitter (@NorthCalSCBWI) or http://canorthcentral.scbwi.org/ (local website) SCBWI.org (the national website with local chapters all around the world). I think you’ll find us to be good peeps (well, most of us…).

Anyhoo, there is bound to be a bevy of golden nuggets shared at this weekend’s conference. I say that not just as a proud conference presenter, but as an active SCBWI member in continued awe of all the great ways this group helps make our industry better. I’ll be presenting on “How to Market the @&$! out of Yourself with Twitter,” humbly amid greats like NYTimes best-selling author Jay Asher, award-winning and best selling poet/author Nikki Grimes, plus nationally-recognized editors, agents, artists and writers. Topics range from query writing to book proposals to multiculturalism and diversity in children’s books. (I’d list more but if you’re not attending it’ll just make you bitter to miss it.) It’s going to be a great day.

Captain Sparrow is right, all treasure is not silver and gold.