Oct 22, 2014

Thanks, CRA attendees!

If you attended my workshop at the Connecticut Reading Association conference on October 23, here is the PowerPoint presentation that accompanied the workshop:

Revision Tricks Any Kid Can Do

And here is a Revision Tricks Guide (based on the presentation) that your students can use as they revise their own work.

Feel free to download and use them with your students.

Have fun, and thanks!


Oct 2, 2014

Amazon vs. The World: Why Amazon is Winning


Love 'em? Hate 'em? A little bit of both?

There is so much to hate about Amazon's bullying tactics, their dodging of sales tax, and their treatment of warehouse employees. (Do a search on any of those terms, and you'll get more background than you'll ever want.)

More than any of the above, I worry about any one entity controlling the distribution of books, because Books = Ideas. And limiting access to Ideas is a Bad Idea.

But two things happened recently that make it pretty obvious why Amazon dominates, and why they will continue to dominate if their competitors don't get up to speed.

Thing #1:

I have a new book coming out in a few months. Very exciting, right? The minute I had a jacket image and ISBN number, I was ready to tell the world. Look how pretty! You can preorder! 

But the book's information was available in only one place. Can you guess where?

And it was all there: Cover image. ISBN number. Publication date. Preorder button.* Plot summary. Links to all my other books.

It took about 3 weeks for the same information to show up at BN.com or any other online bookseller.

So, being an author who sympathizes with Hachette authors (there but for the grace of Amazon etc.), and is opposed to Amazon ruling the world, I had two choices: share my good news, via Amazon, or bite my tongue until the news was available more widely. I bit my tongue. (Which probably makes no difference for an author of my (un)fame, but it proves I'm a good sport.)

Thing #2:

This morning a message popped into my inbox, directly from Hachette, advertising a specific new book title. I suppose I'm on their mailing list, and it WAS a book that interested me, and that I hadn't known about before. I followed the links to buy it at bn.com, where it was discounted, AND with free shipping.

"Ha!" I said to myself, "Good move, B&N! Way to capitalize on Amazon's feud with Hachette, swoop in and steal sales from your biggest competitor!"

I set about placing my order. 

Half an hour later, after many clicks, blank screens, kick-outs, and general frustration, I still hadn't bought the book.

I gave up. I will try from another retailer, but I won't get a discount, and it's a $35 book, so a discount would have been nice.

If I had shopped at Amazon (except of course the book was "backordered" for 3 weeks and not discounted either**), I would have been able to part with my money in under two minutes.

So here is the conclusion: Love Amazon or hate Amazon, or somewhere in between, Amazon has its sh$t together. They know what they're doing, and they do it very, very well.

Until other booksellers--online and real-world--get up to speed, Amazon will continue to rule the world.

* because not a Hachette book
** because Hachette book

Sep 6, 2014

A peek into the process: ARCs and uncorrected proofs

I'm always fascinated to learn about what goes on behind the scenes when a book is published. Here's how it's working for One Witch at a Time:

Within a few days of each other, I got these in the mail:

Advance Reader Copies (ARCs)

And these:

Uncorrected page proofs

Outwardly, they look very different, but inside, they are exactly the same. Most importantly: They both have errors. (Which is why ARCs tend to have a big UNCORRECTED disclaimer somewhere on them.) This is where editing and production and promotion all overlap. Because while I'm reading the page proofs, and marking corrections and small changes (I'm STILL deleting extraneous, cringe-inducing words like just!), the bound version is going out to reviewers and booksellers.

And that's very exciting!

I just hope they don't just see the extraneous justs. I'd be just horrified!

Jun 9, 2014

Cover reveal!

The cover of One Witch at a Time is out, and I love it so much!

It was designed by a brilliant person at Simon & Schuster named Sonia Chaghatzbanian. I love her too, and I haven't even met her.

One Witch at a Time takes readers back to Brixen, where trouble is brewing once more. Can our hero Rudi undo the disaster caused when an unsuspecting stranger brings a foreign witch’s magic to Brixen?

Oma is back, and so is Susanna Louisa, and (of course) the Brixen Witch. And there are some new characters too, including a mysterious girl who Rudi can't seem to resist...

There are cats, too. And chickens. I hope that makes up for the conspicuous absence of rats this time around. ;)

The book is coming in February, so stay tuned for more news! There is a trailer in the works...

Apr 14, 2014

Who doesn't love a free book?

In honor of National Library Week and School Library Month, I'm giving away free signed copies of The Brixen Witch in paperback.

Hop on over to Goodreads to enter. Good luck!!

Apr 7, 2014

Adventures in Copyediting

Last week I got the copyedited manuscript for One Witch at a Time, which will be published in February 2015. (Ten months and counting!)

My editor still works on paper, which is very comforting if you don't take all the little stickies and margin-notes too personally.  Here is what it looked like:

But of course you DO take it personally. In fact it feels like a small stab with a heart-fork* because I've revised and revised and revised already, and my editor said she was happy with my revisions. So why is my ms. marked up AGAIN?

Here is where I explain what copyediting is:

Actually, it's a few things:

1. It's marking up the ms. for the typesetter and designer. Stuff like where to include chapter openers, nonbreaking spaces, dashes, ellipses, etc. Probably half of the red marks on the pages are stuff the author can ignore.

2. Nuts and bolts I might have missed: a repeated word, misspellings, incorrect use of commas or semicolons, etc.

I try to clean this up as much as possible before I turn in my ms, but I do miss a few things. Mostly this step consists of writing a line of dots under the deleted commas marked by the copyeditor. (A line of dots means to "stet" or "let stand" the original text, and ignore the copyeditor's mark.) I do a LOT of stetting of commas. I like my commas where they are, and I like an occasional run-on sentence, even if it breaks the rules of commas. But I suppose the copyeditor can't assume that, so she points out the rules and leaves it up to me to decide I actually DO want to break the rules sometimes. Easy enough, dot dot dot.

3. Consistency and logic. This is where a good copyeditor saves an author's bacon. She notices that you wrote "the dairy has only three cows" on page 14 but "the dairy's last two cows" on page 58. She will also tell you where she had trouble picturing what you described, and do you want to reword some passages? Sometimes she might even draw a picture:

This is where the heart-fork twists a bit, because the description seems clear enough to YOU (because you're the one who wrote it!), and rewording might cause that riveting scene to suddenly go CLUNK. But sometimes the copyeditor is right, and it needs to be done.

Sometimes, though, the copyeditor is wrong, and it's important to take a deep breath and remember that. The copyeditor is not marking your ms. to show you all the places where she is right and you are wrong. She is only asking questions, knowing that sometimes the answer to the question will be NOPE, or STET. But if she doesn't ask, how can you be sure of your writing? And how can you catch the two cow/three cow problem? And so she asks, and it's up to you to not take it personally.

And so I extracted the fork from my heart and forged through the ms-that-was-not-quite-perfect, and sent it back, pretty confident that now it's as perfect as I can make it.

*Heart-fork: Perfect, pithy term stolen from sports columnist Jason Gay.