Monday, July 27, 2009

Choosing Your Own Path

So here’s the thing. There are at least a hundred different paths to success. No, I’m not kidding.

Pick any author you can think of, and they will have had one path to success. Now pick another one. Yep, sure enough, the chances are remarkably high that they’re path to success was much different than that of the first author you picked.

Some authors will write one amazing book that will capture our collective attention for generations (Harper Lee, Margaret Mitchell) or take ten years to complete a single work, but one that knocks our socks off. (Audrey Niffennegger, Donna Tartt) Others will achieve success by producing a dazzling number of books, the mere idea of which leave the rest of us breathless. (Nora Roberts, Meg Cabot)

Some will be overnight success as their one book explodes on the market (Dan Brown) and others will have built an audience over time, producing one book every year or two (Sue Grafton, Stephen King). Others will get there by writing a number of highly successful one-offs (Dean Koontz, Michael Crighton) Success can also be fueled by writing in multiple genres. (Nora Roberts, Phyllis A.Whitney, Holly Black) Not to mention, non-fiction. (Elizabeth Gilbert, Anne Lammot) Heck, there’s even success through vitriol. (Michael Moore, Ann Coulter)

But my point is, whatever your creative process and working method is, chances are there is a very legitimate path to success that you can emulate.

If you don’t already have one, consider picking a role model (or two) for yourself. Study their career, their process. If their path appeals to you, my guess is that you will probably have similar strengths to theirs, or at the very least be committed to acquiring them.

And just as there are many successful paths for writing success, so too are there many different paths to achieve a successful marketing presence. It is not one size fits all. Whatever your comfort level with promotion might be, chances are that there is a role model out there for you.

Sometimes it is the story of getting published itself that becomes the marketing hook, whether being discovered by another well known author (Christopher Paolini) or through a blog (Greg Pincus) or because your books generated a mega-auction (Stephanie Meyers).

Then again, some authors are simply natural born promoters, managing to turn every interaction with a human into a chance to (successfully) sell their books. Others rely on their publisher to do most of the work, then give 110% once the opportunities are there. Some use the internet, blogs, Facebook, Twitter. Others rely on word of mouth, or networks of teachers and librarians. Some authors are amazing teachers, which builds a secondary audience of hard core fans. Or perhaps they are hugely entertaining speakers. Or inspire us with their eloquence and passion.

Again, there are tons of paths to success here. Chances are, some part of your skill set will match one of them. If you don't know what that is, spend some time thinking about it. Pondering it. Poke around until you find something you can work with.

However, the key word in that paragraph is work. You do have to be working on a skill or two. You do have to be building a blog presence or challenging yourself to learn how to speak in public or finding ways to take advantage of the skills you have. Maybe speaking in front of adults makes your knees knock together, but put you in front of a roomful of kids and watch out; you’re on.

It is so easy for me to see some of the Hyper Extroverted Marketers and think, wow, I will never, ever be able to do that. And you know what? I won’t.

But that doesn’t mean I won’t be able to find my own path to marketing success. One that suits my own strengths and weaknesses.

Strengths and weaknesses. Those are things we spend a lot of time thinking about for our characters. It's important to remember that we have them, too. And they are just as individual as our paths to writing success or our author voice or the stories we choose to tell.

Do you have an author whose career you admire? Whether the path they took to success or how they've built a "presence"? I'm betting you do, and in an effort to sprinkle some inspiration around, we're going to have a contest.

Leave the name of an author whose career or path to success you admire in the comments and you will be entered to win an AmaZinG, exciting book giveaway!
Hint: It's a fabulous new ARC that everybody wants to get their hands on, and the author will be interviewed right here on SVP next Monday! Don't miss it!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
And speaking of exciting news, the winner of the Not-Attending the Blue Moon Ball at Nationals contest is Sherrie Peterson! Congratulations, Sherrie! Although, since this is your first conference, Mary and I both think you should keep this offer in your back pocket. You might find out you're a Cinderella at heart!

Secondly, Mary and I were thinking it would be fun if some of the Violets attending the National Conference felt like meeting each other. In order to take some of the social pressure off (hey, we're introverts!) we thought what we'd do is grab a table or two at the Golden Kite Luncheon. We'll put a purple balloon on the table so you all will know it's us, and then we can sit together at lunch if that sounds good. RSVP to me so we'll know how many tables, if any, we should snag.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

On Quiet Books, Blue Moons, and Your Milestones

Brain Boggle de Jour
What exactly is a quiet book?  Robin and I have been chatting this up big-time in recent weeks, and had a really fascinating discussion with our writer's group on Friday. 

What makes a book quiet and what makes a book commercial?  Are those two things always mutually exclusive?  Is it something that authors can even control? Is it voice that drives commercial success? Is it story?  Might it be what the film industry, and now publishing, refer to as "high concept?"  Is it the degree in which your publisher's marketing team gets behind you?  Can the right promotional campaign take a quiet book and lead it to more commercial success?  As you can see, I'm still struggling in my mind with the definition.  Does quiet = less sales? And commercial = cha-ching?  We would love to hear what you think!   

About YOU
I'm calling a Milestone Monday right now!  Between our weeks devoted to indie bookstores, then our month on Twitter, and our change to once-per-week posting, we miss hearing from you!  What's the haps? Please post a comment telling us about something you've accomplished lately that you're excited about.  Finish drafting/writing something? Sell something?  Get a good review?  An agent?  A super-friendly rejection letter?  Do let us know! As always, if you post in our MM celebration, you are automatically entered into our drawing for a prize! 


Lastly But Not Leastly
It has come to my attention that my long-standing date to Not-Attend the SCBWI Annual Ball can't accompany me (shrieking here)! Rest assured Robin will be at the LA National Conference in August, but she has a scheduling conflict that won't allow her to Not-Attend this year's Blue Moon Ball with me.  I don't have date!  And I desperately need one--it's tradition! But not just anyone, I need an especially stealthy date that can skulk away with me, artfully dodging all the super-excited Blue People in tall, wide, sparkly, shiny, pokey costumes.  If they find out you're not attending, they get super bummed out and want to make you change your mind. They get the very same face that I'm sure they look at pound puppies with, god love them. They try very hard to get you to come, and will even offer you their extra boas, leis, or body paint. It really is best to keep the lowest profile possible that night.  As you can see, I have a lot of experience in the Not-Attending business.

And may I say that the SCBWI team does such a FABULOUS job of putting this event on ... it seems to get grander each year!  Least from my view as I creep around the edges to get back to my room.  I would attend if only I could find my Invisibility Cloak and Supersonic Earplugs so that I could float around and ogle the outfits and fanfare. Not-Attending is absolutely not a dish or boycott of the ball in any way at ALL! It truly is a highlight for so many people. I'm glad they do it for all the excitement and joy it creates. Now if they ever hold a Silent Ball where there are fabulous desserts, no talking, a reading competition, and blindfolded dancing-- I want to order my tickets NOW.  

Until then, I'll keep my tradition of sneaking away to the movies and/or the quietest restaurant possible.  Because even after just two days of Nationals, my skin starts turning itself inside out and I need to get away from the masses, if only for a couple of hours. I become in desperate need of psycho-spiritual dialysis.

If YOU would like to be my date to Not-Attend the Blue Moon Ball at Nationals, please email me here at or leave a comment telling me why you'd be the Perfect (platonic) Date.   Robin and I will announce the selectee next week! If you are chosen to be my date, you will be my guest at the movies.  Snacks included!  I'm a pretty fun date (right, Robin?), love to laugh, and hardly ever talk during the movie.   

Hope you all are having a marvelous summer, full of adventure and renewal--

Mary Hershey

Monday, July 13, 2009

Lost In Translation

Or: The Amazing Half Life of all Your Cyber Trivia

I got an email the other day from a reader in Poland, where Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos had just come out. I got to wondering where the Polish edition was available online, so I Googled the title and stumbled upon a website with a biography of me. In Polish. So I plugged it into one of the many magical online translators and learned a few eye-opening things about myself:

Following the publication of the book "The Falconmaster" which has proved a real success
Uh, not so much, no. In fact, it was remaindered.

Family life dictated that the child looked into the literature.
Again, not quite the way I remembered it. I’m pretty sure they all tried to talk me out of it.

Work on the novel takes place always in a similar rhythm.
Gawd, I wish! I need to find a new process for every dang book!

But you get the picture. And then there were some things I’m pretty sure I never said online, so I’m not quite sure how they pieced that information together. I guess I need to go through and do a Google scrubbing.

But it was this one that really made me cringe: Robin La Fevers [is] very nervous at the public signing books

Yeah. Ouch. Don’t think I’ll be doing any signings in Poland any time soon.

Clearly, this conscientious person had Googled my entire existence to piece together this biography, and stumbled upon Shrinking Violets in the process. And while I have been fairly upfront about my struggle with coming to terms with the public obligations of being an author, I am pretty sure I never intended my nervousness to be proclaimed in an official biography. ::le sigh::

While I talk about the difficulties I encounter as an introvert, I also hope I make it fairly clear that even though it has been a struggle, I embrace that opportunity to connect with readers. I’m afraid that somehow, that part got lost in translation.

Now the thing is, once upon a time, I was very nervous at public engagements. But here’s the thing that can’t be stated enough: Practice really is the best way to get over that fear.

Sure, there are other coping techniques and little tricks, but the best—dare I say only?—way to get over this fear (as opposed to reduce nervousness) is to move THROUGH it. Not around it, not under it, not over it. But to wade smack through the heart-pounding, lung-constricting fear of it until you get acclimated to that fear. Hmmm, I mean that to be comforting, but it might not be. . .

The thing is, once we become acclimated to something, it loses some of its ability to terrify us. Plus, if we’ve done it 50 times and survived, the chances are we’ll survive the 51st time as well. (Note: This may not apply equally to bungee jumping or parachuting, but it works with public speaking.)

Which is basically just a really, really long winded way of letting Poland know that I’m fairly comfortable with public speaking now, in case they’d like to invite me over for some author events. As we talk about a lot here on SVP, just because we start off being terrified by something, doesn’t mean we are condemned to feel that way for ever.

And if being luck enough to have the opportunity to connect with readers isn't a terrific impetus for change, I don't know what is.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Meet Hannah Schwartz: Our 2009 Newly Crowned Independent Bookseller of the Year!

Pictured top row left to right:  Bridget Suback, Kristen Kucharczuk; bottom: Jane O'Connor, Hannah Schwartz

At last!  Robin and I are both thrilled and honored to introduce you to Children's Book World's owner and our newest Independent Bookseller of the Year, Ms. Hannah Schwartz!

In our recent month-long search for our next bookseller to be inducted and crowned, Hannah proved to be the hands-down People's Favorite, with both her customers and industry professionals.  She joins a stellar lineage-- following in the luminous footsteps of Kris Vreeland of Vroman's Bookstore (2007) and Alex Uhl, A Whale of a Tale Book Shoppe (2008).

Robin and I dashed across to Haverford PA in our luxury Shrinking Violet jet to interview Hannah, and wished we could have taken you all with us.   In our custom introvert-friendly Boeing, there is spacious room between seats, a No Talking section, a No Eye Contact section, and a serve-yourself refreshment bar.* :-]

Without further ado, Violets and Vinnies, our newly crowned Indie Queen, Ms. Hannah Schwartz, is in the building!  Please join me in giving her a rousing welcome and congratulations! 

SVP:  We are always curious about booksellers and librarians. Demographically, are they as introverted as writers tend to be?  Where  do you fall on the introvert/extravert continuum?

Hannah: I am extremely introverted.  I dislike talking about myself which is probably why it took me so long to answer these questions.  It certainly wasn't for lace of enthusiasm for this award!

SVP: Of all your trillion duties as an Indie owner, which part of your job do you most enjoy?

Hannah: Unquestionably, I love to read the upcoming books.

SVP:  If you had one wish for the publishing industry, what would it be?

Hannah: I hope that the publishers will continue to support independents.

SVP: What was your most memorable author event?

Hannah:  When I first read this question, I threw it out to my staff, saying I didn't want to say J.K. Rowling.  But guess what?  It was hands down J.K. Rowling.  It was not only the anticipation and preparation, but mostly the faces of the kids when she looked and connected with them.  We still think about it.

SVP:  What are you reading now?

Hannah: Since we are in the process of buying fall books, the answer is many books, all at the same time.

SVP:  Complete this sentence: The most challenging thing about being a bookstore owner is:

Hannah: Having the time and energy to deal with the business end and still have time for the fun (reading and talking about the BOOKS).

SVP: What is your biggest wish for your bookstore?

Hannah: To continue to be a part of the community by bringing students, teachers, and parents together with authors and illustrators and, ofcourse, books.

SVP:  We keep  hearing that bookstores are becoming less and less interested in having authors do in-house book signings,  unless your first name is Stephanie, and your last name rhymes with Deyer or Beyer.  :-) Any comments from your perspective on the future of in-store author signings?

Hannah:  In-store author appearances are tricky, at best.  Our ideas about them change constantly.  When I first opened (20 years ago), I only wanted events on Saturdays.  Then I only wanted them other days if could bring a class into the store.  Now I am on a different page.  We have had much success with authors (often sent by publishers) we place into schools at no expense to the schools. However, they must be comfortable presenting to the age group the book is intended to reach.  I could go on, but I guess the bottom line is that in-store signings are often not what they are cracked up to be.  Perhaps panels or visits with children or teachers does a better of job of spreading the  word.

As an aside, the author you were referring to was sent to us and did an appearance for her second book at a school.  The students were very well prepared (by one of our staff) and it was a happy experience for all.

SVP: As a book buyer and seller, is there any book you keep waiting for someone to write?

Hannah: Any book that connects a with a child, and makes her a reader.

Thank you!  Now that she has been inducted, Hannah will be receiving her official SVP coronation certificate,  a $100.o0 gift card to Tango in Bryn Mawr, and a small assortment of goodies befitting her royalty.  Unfortunately, the life-size cardboard stand-ups of Robin and me would not fit in the box.  Dangitall. :-)

*I might be making this tiny part up about our jet, but every other single detail is 100% true guaranteed.


If you have a second, Violets, follow the link to Hannah's bookstore, on her home page, she has a youtube video book review by one of her staff (I'm assuming that) of Rebecca Stead's new book When You Reach Me. I haven't seen this done on a bookstore's website before, but what a great idea.  Have you seen this done before? I loved Rebecca's First Light, can't wait to read this next one. 

And just a reminder that starting this month and this week, we will be posting on Monday's only-- our Eco-Cyber contribution to reducing some of the information overload in your life.  As Robin suggested in her recent post, do take that extra 5-10 minutes each week, clear your head and just breathe.  May the Muse reward your stillness!



Thursday, July 2, 2009

New Schedule Reminder

I just wanted to pop in and remind you that, in an effort to reduce the cyber-clutter in all our lives, we’ll be switching to our once a week posting schedule beginning this week.

Consider taking the five or ten minutes you’d usually spend here at SVP and do something wonderfully, completely for yourself. Recharge, unwind, breathe, give thanks, celebrate your creativity, just be…be your glorious, introverted self for an extra ten minutes.

Wishing you a peaceful holiday weekend! We’ll be back Monday with an interview with our new reigning Independent Bookseller of the Year, Hannah Schwartz!