Monday, April 28, 2008


. . . a-a-annndd the novel Red Glass by author Laura Resau goes to our reader, Lafreya, who was one of our Milestone Monday candidates. Congrats! Lafreya shared that she had just signed with an agent. That is such an behemoth accomplishment. If you'll email me your address, Lafreya, by clicking here, I'll get a copy out to you right away. Boy, and get ready for a treat. It is an exceptional read!

Next on our list of important announcements is that we are now just three days away from the start of our National Independent Bookseller Month. There is still time for you to send in the name of your favorite indie. We plan to feature a different one each and every day during the month of May. Please help us celebrate these very deserving souls!

Robin and I challenge you each to think of something you can do this month to honor your local independent bookseller. They continue to champion our field day after day after day with their love and knowledge of literature. Do you have a writing group or writing buddy that you can brainstorm with?

Last week, the writing group that Robin and I are in went down to a local park with a photographer and had him take some group shots of us. We plan to pick one of these photos and make a big poster for our local indie to put up that will read something like: Local Children's Authors Love to Shop at Chaucer's Books. Help Us Celebrate Them During May, National Independent Bookseller Month. Once we get it done, we'll post it here so you can see it.

This is just one way that we can bring attention to the good work that they do. We'd love to hear your ideas! We challenge YOU to do at least one thing to commemorate them in May.

The clock is ticking. Get ready, folks.

Indies rule!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Greg Trine: On Toastmasters

Violets, have we got a treat for you today. Greg Trine, a fellow introverted author and the mastermind behind the Melvin Beederman books, bravely went where few Violets have gone before: he joined Toastmasters. Yes my friends, he committed to improving his public speaking skills and he’s here to give us the inside dish! So without further ado, heeeeere’s Greg...

You know you’re an introvert when... walk to the front of the room for an SCBWI award and you’re so nervous you think your head is going to explode. go to the prom with Gertrude Whusterflap because you can’t speak in the presence of any girl you really like. employee at Macy’s Department Store undresses you instead of the mannequin you’re standing next to.

And so I joined Toastmasters. Here’s their vision statement:

Toastmasters International empowers people to achieve their full potential and realize their dreams. Through our member clubs people throughout the world can improve their communication and leadership skills and find the courage to change.

That’s exactly what I needed...courage...and lots of it. After all, I’d gone to the prom with Gertrude Whusterflap!

I went to and found that there were Toastmasters clubs in my area meeting weekly, biweekly, and monthly. It was clear to me—based on my almost-head-exploding experiences—that I needed as much experience as possible. I joined a weekly club and haven’t missed a meeting in three years (well, almost).

Toastmasters is all about giving people the tools and the experience speaking in front of others. The only way to get comfortable speaking in front of people is to get up and speak in front of people. Being an introvert, I’d naturally avoid such situations. And this is where Toastmasters comes in—it gives me the speaking experience I need. There is no substitute for stage time. At a Toastmasters meeting, whether you’re delivering a planned speech, evaluating another’s speech, or emceeing the meeting, you are accumulating that stage time.

I view my Toastmasters club as my public speaking workshop. It’s where I go to try things out, to take risks—but mostly it’s about getting better at speaking because I’m putting myself in front of others on a regular basis. And it’s working. Since my first book was published in June of 2006 I’ve spoken at an SCBWI event, the International Reading Association conference in Toronto, the Texas Library Association conference, the California Reading Association conference, and dozens of school assemblies (and they like me...they really like me).

So far, so good...and I owe it all to Toastmasters. In my opinion, everyone can gain something from Toastmasters...they just don’t know it yet. To find a club near you go to

Thank you Greg! (And let’s just hope ol’ Gertrude doesn’t google herself anytime soon!)

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Desperartely Seeking Cinderellas (or Cinderfellas!)

We interrupt our regularly scheduled programing to bring you ...

fAiRy gOdSisTeRs, iNk

Sneaking up on Surprising writers and illustrators everywhere!

Announcing a $1,000 grant opportunity
for a SCBWI member to attend the
August 1-4, 2008 SCBWI Summer Conference
in Los Angeles.

TO APPLY: Submit a 250 word double-spaced essay
describing what you hope to accomplish
by attending this year’s summer conference.

Send to:

Application deadline: May 15, 2008
Winner will notified on June 1st, 2008

Questions about the grant may be sent to:

Fairy Godsisters, Ink. is a small, benevolent squadron of children's book authors who believe in the magic of passing forward lucky breaks, bounty and beneficence, as so many have done for us. We are Thalia Chaltas, Mary Hershey, Valerie Hobbs, R. L. La Fevers and Lee Wardlaw.

Please feel free to pass this information along or link to it with wild abandon. And good luck!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Ms. Viola on Milestone Monday and the Latest 4-1-1

Ciao, l' amicos! Ms. Viola pitch-hitting here for Robin and Mary who are busy plotting away about some kind of SDQBI grant for something happening this summer in Los Angeles. All I know is that there is a delish one thousand dollar cha-ching attached. O-O-o-ooh! Now that got my attention! Do stay tuned on that front, won't you?

Milestone Monday! Back at last! The day devoted to blowing your horn however softly or madly you like. We want to hear about you! Perhaps you wrote through a difficult scene, queried an agent, received an encouraging rejection, updated your resume, said NO to something that was a big YES to you. Do tell! Leave a comment here telling us all about it, or if you prefer to blow quietly, you can send your milestone to Mary at Just between us. Everyone that submits a milestone will have their name entered in a drawing to win a copy of Laura Resau's faborama of a book entitled Red Glass, which has won just about everything but the Pillsbury Bake-Off. (Now is she or isn't she an introvert? Enquiring minds want to know. 'Fess up, Laura, dahlink!)

Just nine days and counting until the start of National Independent Bookseller Month here at Shrinking Violets! R & M wanted me to tell you to keep the bookstore names coming in. If you haven't already, please do post the name and address (or website) your favorite indie so they can be in the running to be featured next month. We love indies so much it nearly makes us weep.

So, post away, friends. Your tribe loves hearing from you!

Arrivederci for now--
Your loving Ms. Viola

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Avoiding Burn Out

One of the things we talk a lot about here on SVP is how introverts can make marketing work for them, how it’s important to find what you can do comfortably and let go of the rest. I was struck again this week by just how important—critically important—it is to find one’s comfort zone and stick with it.

I’m on an email list with some other kids’ authors and this week they started talking about burn out; as in, how incredibly burnt out they are. They are scrambling all the time, booking events and school visits, promoting their books, worried because they have to carry most of this load themselves, with their publishers providing little material—indeed, even moral—support. And they’re tired, and frustrated, and at this point in their career, they are beginning to question if it’s worth it and if writing is even something they want to be doing.

And there, in a nutshell, is why balance is so vital. It’s a juggling act every writer needs to perform, weighing the needs of a creative endeavor like writing against the business demands of publishing. The two do not mix well, sort of like putting ground up liver in your brownies.

But here’s the thing; for most writers, writing is an act that feeds our soul. The act of writing, while it may be horrendously difficult sometimes, fills some deep, creative need within us. This is a gift we’ve been given in this life, and we need to cherish that and nurture that. And that often means striking some kind of devil’s bargain with Publishing. Because the very last thing we want to happen is for Publishing to destroy our love of Writing. And it can happen.

Interestingly, just like in relationships, it is often the person who wants it the most who has the least power. The more desperate you are to be published, stay published, etc. the more subject to the random vagaries of publishing you will be.

Luckily, there are ways to structure your writing life to minimize this sense of desperation and burn out. One critical way is to find your comfort level with promotion, and do that and no more. You really don’t want to make yourself sick and run down from forcing yourself to do things associated with your writing career that you hate. Soon that negativity leaches over into your writing, which is the kiss of death.

One of my most beloved rules about writing is this: Protect the work. That is our job as writers, to protect our creative work from negative or corrosive forces. You have to come to terms with publishing and marketing in such a way that it protects your work; even, or maybe especially, from the rough and tumble affects of publishing.

You need to protect yourself, too. Step back from the edge, take a deep breath, remember cream rises, and that for most of us, it takes time to build a marketing presence in the book world.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Book Signing Survival Guide

Robin and I recently did a book signing together in a town where we knew absolutely NO ONE. We were parked at a table smack right in front of the main entry way, so incoming customers had three choices: 1) vault over the top of us; 2) veer sharply left or right as if we had the bubonic plague; 3) stop and look at our books. For the introverted customers, it was a bit of a nightmare. You could read it on their panicked faces as they came in and struggled with the dilemma of US.

If Robin or I had been at the table alone, it would have been mortifying all around. We've talked here previously about how helpful the buddy system is. This was a prime example. Nearly the first question I ask when I'm asked to do a book signing, if she is not already on the docket--"Can my cool author friend RL LaFevers come sign with me?" They always are thrilled to accomodate.

And, if you're not already convinced, here are Seven and a Half More Reasons to Do Book Signings with a Buddy:

1. You have someone to talk to when you don't have a customer. It is truly an uncomfortable feeling to be sitting at a table in a bookstore all by yourself. * Everyone is trying very hard not to make eye contact with you. I start having very vivid flashbacks of my 8th grade graduation dance.

2) If someone picks up your book and says, "Is it any good?" (people say the darndest things), your tablemate can wax poetic about it while you get very busy straightening your stack of postcards that have suddenly gone amuck.

3) You have someone to cover you when you go off to powder your nose or hunt for a Diet Coke. Potential customers won't think the book signing is over.

4) Is there anything better in the world sitting next to an author in a real live bookstore surrounded by books? The two of you can chat about all the ones you want to read!

5) You bring in more revenue for the store with two authors, and you'll leave the store manager/owner with a warm glowy cha-ching feeling about you, when maybe it was your tablemate that sold all the books.

6) You can compare giveaway schwag with each other. Find out where to order the coolest pencils, best postcards, try the newest flavor of Hershey chocolates, in case one of you always brings chocolates.

7.) After doing several signings together, Robin and I have concluded that we appear much more approachable as two authors. We don't look as needy or scary to parents or children. (IOHO)

7.5.) Can I just tell you again how helpful it is to have someone cover for you when you need to use the facilities?

If you are getting ready to do your first signing and you don't yet have a buddy, or are doing your 88th signing and still don't have a buddy, Robin and I are available for hire. If you live more than 60 miles from Santa Barbara, please send airfare. And we neither of us would argue with a little stipend, and oh, maybe a tiny clothing allowance-- and if you really must, fresh chocolate chip cookies are always so lovely. Robin will take lemon bars. (Kidding!)

Later, Innies--

*Stay tuned for an upcoming post entitled How to Survive a Book Signing When You're Alone. There are some excellent tricks for making it easier.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

On Saying "No"

I was talking with a client this past week about that very essential survival skill of saying "NO." It's just a tiny, two letter utterance, and for many of us it feels about as awful as gargling fire. We expect devastation, ruin and the need for rescue people to be summoned in our NO's wicked aftermath.

The trouble with saying no is that it most usually invites a lot more conversation, cajoling, sometimes whining, often conflict. And as introverts, we'll take collaboration, harmony, being off-stage any day of the week. It's so much easier to say yes, and be done it. Or, the alternative, which is to tell a big fat fib. And, then you have to make sure you remember it, in case there is, uh, follow-up about that alleged sherpa gig you pulled all summer. Which is why you couldn't join the rowing team.

Dawg, I hate the big fat fib stuff! Even though I have a great imagination, and could think of a gatrillion reasons that I can't do something. (Call me if you need some fresh material) But I just can't stomach the guilt that comes with it. Nor should I have to! I feel quite certain that I've spent the equivalent of an entire decade at events I don't want to be at, faking a lively interest. In my head, I'm picturing myself home alone with a book, a cat, and bucket of diet coke.

This next year for my birthday, I'm going to make this really cool party invitation where I ask everyone to stay home alone, without any talking, no electronics, and be quiet for three hours. (Gifts could be mailed to me.) 'Cos that's my idea of a fun time. And, it's so way past my turn--

Before writing and publication, I could get away with blowing my wad on things I didn't want to do, and the mandatory recovery period afterwards. So what if my spirit felt sucked dry-- I'd just sleep an extra two or three hours. Now, if I've got that kind of extra time, I need to be

It has turned into a simple math problem. I don't have enough minutes left in life to do things that don't serve my life purpose-- which is to be a good partner to my sidekick, write for kids, be a decent coach, and have lunch with Anne Lamott. That's all I can focus on. (Okay, there are seven other things, but you get my drift.)

Thing is, I'm actually an expert at saying no. Pretty much have a black belt in it. So do you! Every single time we say yes to something we don't want to do, we are saying an unequivocal NO to ourselves. NO to what we might have preferred to do. NO to what works better for us. NO to what we know we need to move our project or situation forward. NO to who we are as introverts.

This very succinct little word sets a good model for explanation. Be brief. "No thanks." "Sorry, I can't." "No, I've got other plans." Y ou really don't need to explain yourself more than that. Any more than the extravert would be expected to explain why the heck they need a lot of people coming over to their house on Friday night after being with people all day at work. A brief regret, wish them a good time, and change the subject.

Be very, very pleased with yourself. Swallow the scary aftertaste of the NO you just delivered, and focus on the big, juicy YES you just gave yourself. Strong work!

Now, this is where things get tricky. Having just empowered you all to let the N-word rip, now I've got to ask you to do something. Talk about your terrible timing! :-> But here I go anyway.

Please DO keep the responses coming about your favorite indies. In case you missed Monday's post, we'd love it if you'd send us the name/website/address of your favorite independent bookstore. We are getting ready to celebrate them. Thanks to all of you that have responded on and off-line. More, por favor!

Mary Hershey

Monday, April 7, 2008

Calling for Your Help!

Dear Friends,

In just three short weeks, we will begin our 2nd Annual National Independent Bookseller Month here at Shrinking Violets. We have some great fun and activities planned, but we absolutely need you. Are you IN?

Every single day during May-- omigod, posting every day? Yup!-- we will be to giving a shout-out to one of our Indies. Will you send us some 4-1-1 on your local favorite? Or, maybe one that you've visited elsewhere that you think should be included. Just send us the name and address, or website address so we can check them out. Everyone that sends one in will be entered into a drawing for a prize.

And, NOW would be a great time to start thinking about and/or telling us about someone that you think should be voted the 2008 SVP Independent Bookseller of the Year. Last year, we honored Vromam's Kris Vreeland. WHO will it be this year?? Oh, the suspense!

You can post the info on a reply to this message or email by clicking here.

Thanks, friends! It's going to be a great party in May-- don't miss it. Please pass this on to all the Indie lovers you know-- introvert and extravert alike. Grazie!

Mary Hershey

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Marketing Tasks: Three Months Out

It’s hard to believe that TEN LUCKY THINGS THAT HAVE HAPPENED TO ME SINCE I NEARLY GOT HIT BY LIGHTENING will be out in just three months, but it will. And it’s a great example of how the pre-publication time flies by and why it’s so important to stay organized and on top of your Promotional To Do List.

The bulk of promotional and marketing tasks to be accomplished this month have to do with press and promotional materials.

Now is a good time to begin putting together a full spectrum wardrobe of author bios. As we’ve talked about before, they can be devilishly hard to write, and you’ll need a variety of sizes. A very clever example of these varying-in-detail type bios can be found on Shannon Hale’s website. As we’ve said before here at SVP, it’s nice to have a 50 word, 100 word, and 300 word bio on hand for the various requirements of those who will ask you for them. But start playing with them now and trying a number of approaches and angles. If you start now, you may just have one you like in three months. Maybe.

This is also a good time to think about getting an author photo. You’d be surprised how often you’ll be asked for one, and if you give yourself enough lead time, you can wait for a good hair week to set up the photo shoot.

Another thing to begin thinking about at this three month mark is a press kit and whether or not you’ll want to put one together. A press kit, for those of you who don’t know, is a nice folder that contains information about you and your book, usually with the intention of being sent to the press so they can have all the information at their fingertips should they care to write about you or your book. A press kit might contain a short and long author bio, an author photo, a color postcard of the book cover, maybe a short interview with you answering some basic author FAQs about how you came to write the book, your path to publication, etc.

In the interest of full disclosure, I have yet to send out a press kit on myself. (Bad Violet!!) I did, however, send out many, many of them when I worked for a non-fiction publisher.

And lastly, I recommend getting some high quality, color postcards of your book cover. I know that Mary’s been researching the pricing on these, but I’m not sure if she’s ordered them yet. Usually, it’s a pretty simple and straightforward process and there isn’t much graphic designing involved, so it lends itself well to a do-it-yourself (read budget!) type production. But because it does involve graphic production and print time, it pays to get started early. Plus, you'll want to have them back in time to mail out before your launch date!