Wednesday, February 26, 2014

7 Questions For: Literary Agent Lana Popovic

Lana holds a B.A. with honors from Yale University, a J.D. from the Boston University School of Law, and an M.A. with highest honors from the Emerson College Publishing and Writing program. She joined Zachary Shuster Harmsworth in 2012, after interning at the Perseus Book Group foreign rights department and the Kneerim & Williams Literary Agency.


At ZSH, Lana works closely with authors on a wide range of both fiction and nonfiction projects, and is committed to providing extensive editorial guidance. She is particularly interested in edgy Young Adult and New Adult works, running the gamut from realistic, gritty novels and exquisitely beautiful, powerful teen voices to contemporary fantasy, crime, and horror. She is also keen to represent literary thrillers, and well-crafted projects for adults in the areas of fantasy, horror, mystery, and dark, unconventional romance. In terms of nonfiction, Lana is looking for fresh perspectives on popular culture and science from bloggers, academics, and journalists.

For more information, check out my friends Natalie Aguirre and Casey McCormick's wonderful blog, Literary Rambles.
 
And now Lana Popovic faces the 7 Questions:


Question Seven: What are your top three favorite books?

I’m going to cheat a little here, because my favorites are actually series, and they are the following: 

1) Lev Grossman’s MAGICIANS series (amazing voice along with killer snark and relatable angst), 
2) Stephen King’s THE DARK TOWER series
3) Jacqueline Carey’s KUSHIEL’S DART series


Question Six: What are your top three favorite movies and television shows?

1)Battlestar Galactica, the 2005 reboot
2) Supernatural
3) BBC America’s Sherlock

  
Question Five: What are the qualities of your ideal client?

My ideal client is like a cross between a really close friend and a cash cow:) 

Seriously, though, I love writers who are so committed to their craft that they actually enjoy revising and actively seek feedback from me, but who also have the initiative and deep creativity to take my editorial comments and really run with them. 

Since my plan is always to be the agent an author will have for the entirety of her career, we also need an aligned vision with regard to what her dream future holds, whether that be writing YA exclusively, or branching out into NA and adult. 

And humor. We’re going to spend a lot of time together, either on the phone or corresponding via email or Twitter, and we’ll get both the best and worst of news together, so there has to be a strong camaraderie there. 


Question Four: What sort of project(s) would you most like to receive a query for?

Upper YA is closest to my heart, and I love both extremely high-level contemporary realistic novels and really dazzlingly imagined contemporary fantasy or historical fantasy. 

In terms of contemporary, I’d love to see literary mysteries and thrillers, as well as non-American settings and edgier novels that explore alternative culture—tattoos, graffiti, that kind of thing. 

In terms of fantasy, I love elaborate mythologies, either already existing—I’d love to see a Slavic-inspired fantasy, for example—or entirely original, as in DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE  


Question Three: What is your favorite thing about being an agent? What is your least favorite thing?

I love giving authors good news. I think that’s everyone’s favorite thing! 

Least favorite would have to be receiving nasty responses to rejections—we all get those, and wow do they always sting—and rejecting projects in general. This is also why I no longer give feedback when I pass on a project. Keeping it short and sweet seems to work best. 


Question Two: What one bit of wisdom would you impart to an aspiring writer? (feel free to include as many other bits of wisdom as you like)

Keep trying, always! If you haven’t had any luck querying a particular novel, but are committed to making writing your career, write another novel and give that one a shot. 

I recently competed against ten other agents for a writer who had previously queried another novel and hadn’t received a single offer of representation. Just because this book might not be your first to be published doesn’t mean it won’t be your second. 


Question One: If you could have lunch with any writer, living or dead, who would it be? Why? 


Has to be Stephen King. It would be a very silent and awkward lunch, during which I would gaze at him with adoring, awestruck eyes, but still—totally worth it.



Lana holds a B.A. with honors from Yale University, a J.D. from the Boston University School of Law, and an M.A. with highest honors from the Emerson College Publishing and Writing program. She joined Zachary Shuster Harmsworth in 2012, after interning at the Perseus Book Group foreign rights department and the Kneerim & Williams Literary Agency. - See more at: http://www.zshliterary.com/lana-popovic.html#sthash.VJMIOEyS.dpuf
Lana holds a B.A. with honors from Yale University, a J.D. from the Boston University School of Law, and an M.A. with highest honors from the Emerson College Publishing and Writing program. She joined Zachary Shuster Harmsworth in 2012, after interning at the Perseus Book Group foreign rights department and the Kneerim & Williams Literary Agency.
At ZSH, Lana works closely with authors on a wide range of both fiction and nonfiction projects, and is committed to providing extensive editorial guidance. She is particularly interested in edgy Young Adult and New Adult works, running the gamut from from realistic, gritty novels and exquisitely beautiful, powerful teen voices to contemporary fantasy, crime, and horror. She is also keen to represent literary thrillers, and well-crafted projects for adults in the areas of fantasy, horror, mystery, and dark, unconventional romance. In terms of nonfiction, Lana is looking for fresh perspectives on popular culture and science from bloggers, academics, and journalists.
- See more at: http://www.zshliterary.com/lana-popovic.html#sthash.VJMIOEyS.dpuf
Lana holds a B.A. with honors from Yale University, a J.D. from the Boston University School of Law, and an M.A. with highest honors from the Emerson College Publishing and Writing program. She joined Zachary Shuster Harmsworth in 2012, after interning at the Perseus Book Group foreign rights department and the Kneerim & Williams Literary Agency.
At ZSH, Lana works closely with authors on a wide range of both fiction and nonfiction projects, and is committed to providing extensive editorial guidance. She is particularly interested in edgy Young Adult and New Adult works, running the gamut from from realistic, gritty novels and exquisitely beautiful, powerful teen voices to contemporary fantasy, crime, and horror. She is also keen to represent literary thrillers, and well-crafted projects for adults in the areas of fantasy, horror, mystery, and dark, unconventional romance. In terms of nonfiction, Lana is looking for fresh perspectives on popular culture and science from bloggers, academics, and journalists.
- See more at: http://www.zshliterary.com/lana-popovic.html#sthash.VJMIOEyS.dpuf
Lana holds a B.A. with honors from Yale University, a J.D. from the Boston University School of Law, and an M.A. with highest honors from the Emerson College Publishing and Writing program. She joined Zachary Shuster Harmsworth in 2012, after interning at the Perseus Book Group foreign rights department and the Kneerim & Williams Literary Agency.
At ZSH, Lana works closely with authors on a wide range of both fiction and nonfiction projects, and is committed to providing extensive editorial guidance. She is particularly interested in edgy Young Adult and New Adult works, running the gamut from from realistic, gritty novels and exquisitely beautiful, powerful teen voices to contemporary fantasy, crime, and horror. She is also keen to represent literary thrillers, and well-crafted projects for adults in the areas of fantasy, horror, mystery, and dark, unconventional romance. In terms of nonfiction, Lana is looking for fresh perspectives on popular culture and science from bloggers, academics, and journalists.
- See more at: http://www.zshliterary.com/lana-popovic.html#sthash.VJMIOEyS.dpuf
Lana holds a B.A. with honors from Yale University, a J.D. from the Boston University School of Law, and an M.A. with highest honors from the Emerson College Publishing and Writing program. She joined Zachary Shuster Harmsworth in 2012, after interning at the Perseus Book Group foreign rights department and the Kneerim & Williams Literary Agency.
At ZSH, Lana works closely with authors on a wide range of both fiction and nonfiction projects, and is committed to providing extensive editorial guidance. She is particularly interested in edgy Young Adult and New Adult works, running the gamut from from realistic, gritty novels and exquisitely beautiful, powerful teen voices to contemporary fantasy, crime, and horror. She is also keen to represent literary thrillers, and well-crafted projects for adults in the areas of fantasy, horror, mystery, and dark, unconventional romance. In terms of nonfiction, Lana is looking for fresh perspectives on popular culture and science from bloggers, academics, and journalists.
- See more at: http://www.zshliterary.com/lana-popovic.html#sthash.VJMIOEyS.dpuf
Lana holds a B.A. with honors from Yale University, a J.D. from the Boston University School of Law, and an M.A. with highest honors from the Emerson College Publishing and Writing program. She joined Zachary Shuster Harmsworth in 2012, after interning at the Perseus Book Group foreign rights department and the Kneerim & Williams Literary Agency.
At ZSH, Lana works closely with authors on a wide range of both fiction and nonfiction projects, and is committed to providing extensive editorial guidance. She is particularly interested in edgy Young Adult and New Adult works, running the gamut from from realistic, gritty novels and exquisitely beautiful, powerful teen voices to contemporary fantasy, crime, and horror. She is also keen to represent literary thrillers, and well-crafted projects for adults in the areas of fantasy, horror, mystery, and dark, unconventional romance. In terms of nonfiction, Lana is looking for fresh perspectives on popular culture and science from bloggers, academics, and journalists.
- See more at: http://www.zshliterary.com/lana-popovic.html#sthash.VJMIOEyS.dpuf

Friday, February 21, 2014

Happy Black History Month!

Hi Esteemed Reader. I don't have a whole lot to say today, except to tell you you can enter this contest to with a copy of  Dear Mrs. Parks: A Dialogue With Today’s Youth, signed by Rosa Parks herself!

Monday, February 10, 2014

NINJA STUFF: The Distraction Of Reader Feedback, Accountability, and Cover Reveal

Hello there, Esteemed Reader. I hope this post finds you well. Though I'm posting this Monday, it's a Saturday morning for me. I've got coffee, Bob Dylan is singing softly (imagine, an English Major who likes Bob Dylan!), and Little Ninja is cooing beside me in a way that tells me I've got about 30 minutes before he'll demand to be fed again. Mrs. Ninja is getting some much needed sleep and the boys have the house to themselves, which means it's time to write.

I even know what I'm supposed to be writing (it's the story to go with the cover to the left of this). Today it's to be a sad scene between a husband and wife, one of whom is nervous about the state of their marriage, and the other of whom is a zombie. The situation is high stakes, the motivations of my characters are clear, so this scene should write itself:

"Honey, we need to talk."
"Grrrr."
"Ahhhhh!"
Chomp, moan.
"Graghhahahaha. Mmmmm, brains."

But I can't seem to summon the willpower to get it done. It doesn't help that past me wrote present me a manuscript note after the last section reading: "this next scene is the heart of the character. Nail it." Oh, thanks for taking some of the pressure off, past me, ya jerk!

I turned off my internet, but it did no good. So to prime the pump, I thought I'd at least jot down a blog post. If I'm going to squander great writing time futzing around the house, updating this blog is at least more productive than playing Plants VS Zombies 2.

A famous writer recently said to me--okay, fine, it was Hugh Howey, but I'm starting to talk about that guy as much as I talk about Batman. I don't want him scared to visit Indiana because I come off as a stalker and there are other writers to be discussed now and again. But not other writers who posted this on my Facebook page

"I know that blogging helped me transition into writing by teaching me the joy of getting words down every day (and also the immediate positive feedback, which books take too long to get, which means giving up too early)."

Update: Little Ninja is now in his pouch on my chest and we're listening to Tom Waits.

While I'm talking up my hero Hugh Howey, I also have to link to this post about self publishing that every writer should read and that I wish I'd written, but I wouldn't have because I'm not that smart and it contains essential naughty language (fair warning). Good writing advice from a guy who's been there and come out successful on the other end is worth paying attention to, especially when he's giving it away for nothing.

And Howey's right, of course. Blogging is not only a distraction from writing, it does give me immediate feedback. Even after I write this 1000-word zombie scene (more chomping in the real version), I'll still have a good 20,000 words to write (lots more chomping) before I can turn All Right Now over to my critique partners, the YA Cannibals, who will require I do tons of editing before I can turn it over to my editors, who will require even more revision before I can make the story available to you, Esteemed Reader.

But I'm writing this post today, I'll look it over and polish it again tomorrow, and Monday it will be up at the blog and I'll get immediate feedback from readers as well as a notice from Mr. Howey's lawyer advising me of the new distance I'm court-ordered to maintain from Jupiter, Florida.

Sudden subject change: Writers who claim not to read their own reviews are either J.K. Rowling, who couldn't read them all if she tried, or are lying. There are probably some writers made of steel who never procrastinate during writing time and aren't even aware there are sites dedicated to discussions of books where readers are making their opinions of writers' work known. To my knowledge, I've never met one of these writers, but if you are such a writer, good on you. My hat is held to my chest in awed admiration as you pass.

The rest of us writers have to grapple with putting the feedback we receive from Esteemed Reader in its place. I'm not about to advise you how to do it as I'm still figuring out how to do it myself. Susan Kaye Quinn warned me not to get Yellow-Spotted-Sales-Checking Fever, but I totally got it anyway. Indie Authors can get up-to-date details on how many books they sell just as a blogger gets real-time updates on traffic and it's impossibly intoxicating to see those numbers move, made even more enjoyable as each time they move, I get money (that's new and quite rewarding). 30 books sold in an hour and I'm Stephen King, two hours with no books sold and I'm a destitute failure whom no reader could ever love.

And I read my reviews. I've checked Amazon and Goodreads more than once in a day like a spider watching his web, hoping for new reader feedback. And you writers reading this, don't try to act like you're better than me. I've had authors comment here on reviews two months later in response to an Esteemed Reader's comment. You've probably written a better book than mine, but you're the same reader feed-back addict I am. I see you twitching and doing the same junkie shuffle I'm doing hoping for that next fix.

If you've been an author for longer than me, and statistically speaking, you have, you've probably learned how to maintain a healthy relationship with your readers and their feedback. Fortunately, I've blogged for long enough to know that it does get better. I used to check my traffic stats here once an hour, but I eventually got to where I could check just once a day, and when I'm not blogging, I sometimes go weeks without checking.

The shiny newness of having blog traffic has worn off and I know that apparently no matter who I interview or what book I review, it will never get as many hits as my review of Bunnicula, this blog's traffic grand champion (shrugs). I may never again write another post for writers as popular as the number two winner, A Pound of Flesh, No More, No Less: A Post About Editing, and most of my posts will not be as popular as the interviews with writers and agents and other folks more interesting than me, which is as it should be.

The thing to remember is that those traffic-champion posts didn't start out any more popular than the other posts at this blog. I wrote them, edited them, posted them, and then wrote the next post and the next. While I was busy generating new content, readers were linking to the old posts and word of mouth was spreading. My post about editing is nearly three years old, but when I check the traffic stats Monday evening, I have no doubt it's readership will be 3-5 times greater than this post. This post might catch up, but it will take time and by then I'll be more concerned about my newest post.

What appealed to me about indie publishing in the first place was that in some ways it makes writing books like writing blog posts (but professionally edited). I was reading a new review of All Together Now not too long ago instead of writing and I read this:  "I'll be looking forward to more from Robert Kent."

"Score," I thought, "this reader wants another book!" Then, immediately after that thought, "too bad she's never going to get it as I spent my writing time reading her review."

All Together Now is done. There's nothing left for me do except occasionally promote it and eventually translate it to more formats (hang in there Nook readers). I need to leave it online for Esteemed Reader to find it and recommend it and that book is going to do what it's going to do. By the time it's getting more traffic, it would be nice if there were some other books for readers to buy. I feel this is a more successful strategy than hoping this particular reviewer remembers what she said whenever I get around to finishing the next book.

My time is not better spent just promoting my one book anymore than I would spend my blogging time promoting one post. Old posts becoming popular raises the traffic to new posts and new posts bring attention to old posts and there's plenty of traffic to go around and as they're all part of my blog, no matter which post wins, I win. And so it must be with books, except that traffic comes with money:)

Which brings us back to Hugh Howey, of course (someone call security). There's a writer who gets way more reader feedback than me and interacts with his readers, yet still keeps the books and blog posts coming. He doesn't have a day job or a new baby, I suppose, but he also has way more stuff to deal with (mo readers, mo problems). So, as always, when in doubt, I opt to imitate the behavior of more successful writers. Therefore, All Right Now will be a story of zombies attacking different levels of a silo deep below the earth. Just kidding--I'm saving that for my erotic Wool fan fiction:)

What I'm going to do is write in public to keep myself accountable, Hugh-Howey style. If you go to his webpage right now (and you should've gone to read that blog post I told you about instead of this), or the websites of a million Howey imitators, you'll see word counts for works in progress (why is there no countdown for the I, Zombie sequel?), which makes waiting for the next Molly Fyde a little easier.

I'm going to turn this blog from a distraction to a motivator. I want to have All Right Now in reader hands by October of this year, if not sooner, which means I need my first draft no later than March. As of right now, I have 7,701 of an estimated 25,000 words before I'm done. It has taken me since January 1st to get to that many, which is sad, sad, sad (you get a new baby and see how fast you write).

Update: Little Ninja is now kicking me from a boppy pillow and we're listening to Blondie.

I don't know how well this is going to work, but writing a book about zombies is in my wheelhouse. I know how this one ends and I've already planned most of it, which means I just have to write the thing. I think updating this blog with my word count will keep me honest and certainly will embarrass me if I don't reach my goal. If this works, I may do it with the next book as well. Honestly, Steven Novak's cover is so pretty, why wouldn't I want it gracing my blog as soon as possible:)

And now, because I found it helpful, here is more wisdom from Susan Kaye Quinn, who could save me a lot of time if I just applied her advice the first time around:







Tuesday, February 4, 2014

NINJA STUFF: An Appropriate Relationship Between Author and Blogger (Part Two)

Last Time on Ninja Stuff: I talked about how authors should better appreciate bloggers for all the hard, usually unpaid work they do to promote books. I stated that I think a writer who requests a blogger to feature them should have the courtesy to promote that post should a blogger agree to do them a solid. I also admitted that I'd been a tad too hasty in commenting on a post advocating for bloggers (whom I love) because I didn't think through the ramifications of requiring authors (whom I also love) to promote posts about their work.

And now the thrilling conclusion...

Today, I want to talk about book bloggers, their relationship to authors, and some behaviors that are definitely not okay. Chief among them is charging or otherwise extorting authors for reviews. Unfortunately, authors are surrounded by folks who want to take advantage of their big book dreams pretty much everywhere they go.

There are probably exceptions (please name them in the comments if you know of some), but I would be deeply skeptical of any blogger or review publication that wanted to charge for a review. As an author I don't consider a review I have to pay for to be worth having.

Certainly, I would never want to be found having paid for a positive review of my book. Whatever short-term advantage such a review might give me would be far outweighed by the potential risk of my having been discovered buying a planted review. I'd rather let one book get destroyed by troll reviewers than risk the integrity of my entire body of work (of which there will soon be one). As a blogger, I don't want people thinking my opinion is for sale (I will give you a totally biased 5-star review for free).

I'm in a somewhat unique position as an online reviewer because I don't actually write reviews in the traditional sense and I'm now an author. I write posts about books, telling you the key details and praising the strong points of each novel. But the following disclaimer has appeared on every Book of the Week "review" I've ever written:

I’ll leave you to discover the negative qualities of each week’s book on your own.

What is that!?! If I tried to get a gig as a professional critic someplace, I'd be laughed right out. What kind of reviewer doesn't write criticism? The kind who writes reviews because he loves books and authors and doesn't care that he's not known for being a hard-nosed critic.

I'm okay with this because there is no such thing as an objective reviewer. Certainly, there are many reviewers closer to being objective than me, but a review, no matter how substantially argued, is just the opinion of the reviewer. Art is subjective, period, end of story. So is its enjoyment.

Bloggers have their own tastes and bias. Some are more objective than others. Over time, bloggers develop a reputation and their readers typically take this into consideration when evaluating their reviews. If a book becomes relevant enough for readers to discuss, a consensus will eventually form, and readers will have their own opinion outside the consensus. Neither my automatic 5-star review or a review written by the author's mom will hold that great a sway. A book attracts readers or it doesn't.

And reviews aren't the final word. I don't care that Bait 3D currently has an average of less than stellar reviews. I loved that movie. 3D sharks in a grocery store is choice entertainment and I'll never believe otherwise.  I would've watched it even if it only had one star and I can't wait for the sequel. Conversely, I still haven't seen The Artist, which won all the academy awards and the hearts of critics everywhere. If it were on, I wouldn't leave the room, but no amount of critical praise is enough to convince me to invest two hours of my life I could otherwise be enjoying Sharknado.

I don't think book blogging should be elite. Some bloggers will rise to greater notoriety than others as will some authors, but all should be welcome. Online real estate is plentiful and cheap, so if you like books, why not stake out your lot? If you're an author thinking of establishing or expanding your online presence, you should absolutely consider starting a book blog because then you'll be part of the solution for authors who need to get the word out. Karma will come back to you when you have a book to promote. Trust me, I know.

There is no one way to run a book blog. Book bloggers don't have to have any special training and there is no uniform code of ethics for online reviewers. Anyone, anywhere can up and declare themselves a ninja just as anyone, anywhere can up and declare themselves an author, and that is a beautiful thing. All are welcome, which means authors will always encounter conflicting submission guidelines and one-off oddities when seeking book promotion.

Therefore, I can't chastise book bloggers for not following the rules as there are no established rules for me to appeal to. So what follows is a list of things I think book bloggers should do to at a minimum:

1. Post your reviews to sites other than your blog. This is a win/win. People aren't searching Google for "Indiana dad who writes zombie books and has opinions on middle grade fiction" (pity). But they are searching for opinions on books and my reviews are more likely to be seen on Amazon and Goodreads than they are at this blog. Esteemed Readers who like my reviews follow me home, which is a win for me. They also encounter my opinion at a crucial location when they're considering purchasing the book in question, which is a win for the author. Win/win. Do this.

2. Be consistent and fair in your treatment of authors. Readers will turn on you if you're rude to an author. If your average review is 700 words, try to maintain that average for books you like and books you don't. If you savage authors for their shortcomings, make sure you're consistently savaging the same shortcomings across multiple books and writers.

3. Write a review submission policy. You can only complain about authors not following it if you  have one. Mine's simple: if it's a middle grade or young adult book, email me. I might say no, especially just now, since having a baby has put considerable restraints on my writing and blogging time. Unless you send me a mass email or form letter (delete!), I usually respond within a week.

4. Be polite and respectful. You don't have to look at books through rose-colored glasses like I do, but writing books is hard. Whatever you're reading, someone, somewhere probably loved it and worked hard on it (maybe not hard enough, but still). You can write that the book is bad without attacking the author personally. You can treat authors of bad books with the same courtesy you treat authors of great books.

5. If an author gives you an interview or a guest post, they are your guest. Treat them as such and be thankful they've agreed to appear at your blog.

6. Maintain an easy-to-search list of links. This is another win/win. Readers will appreciate being able to navigate your site and authors will get more bang for their buck. Not everyone reads a review the day it's posted. The great (and sometimes terrible) thing about online is it's forever. Your review is still valuable to the author two years later, so make it easy for readers to find. When I interviewed Courtney Summers, she was a debut novelist, and her interview has only become more impressive for me to have with each book she's published. If you're interviewing me, keep that link posted as it's a long-term investment:)

7. If an author requests a reasonable change, make it. I've had authors and agents request I update their photos, bios, answers, and other information. If someone writes a guest post for you, then notices an error and brings it to your attention, correct it. The change makes you both look better and you'll develop a reputation for being a blogger who's easy to work with. The writing community is a small one and you want that reputation. If an author requests an unreasonable change, such as please reread my book and reconsider your review, respond and let them know why their request is unreasonable. If the author persists, you have my permission to block them:)

8. Remember that authors are magical. An author is someone stuck half in another world and deserves the benefit of the doubt. Just now I was changing my son's diaper while simultaneously imagining we were surrounded by walking corpses and pondering how we might escape (very practical). I'm not all here and I'm not the only one. Authors sometimes say strange things and behave oddly. So long as they're courteous to you, return their courtesy and understand that an author's aloofness is a natural outgrowth of their profession.


If I think of anything else, I'll update this list later. But I think this is a good start.

I've got one last bit of advice for book bloggers: you're the reporter, not the story. Always remember that in your dealings with authors, even when it gets difficult, and it probably will at some point. Lois Lowery is a big deal author and rightly admired for her contribution to literature (as are most of the authors who've appeared here, but I had to pick one to make this point). Her accomplishments are hers, not mine (obviously). Any glory that falls on me for having had the good fortune to feature her here is reflected glory. I'm just the guy holding the microphone for a greater talent and I do well to remember it.

By and large, authors are very nice people and appreciate their fans. I've had the experience of big time authors being extra nice to me and I highly recommend it as it's awesome. Courtney Summers thanked me in the back of her zombie book (how awesome is that) and of course I thanked her in the back of mine. Darby Karchut's new book, Gideon's Spear, available today, features a blurb from yours truly. Both of these things were a surprise to me as the authors decided to do them without my knowledge and I'm very excited and grateful.

Just yesterday in response to the first part of this post, Hugh Howey wrote on Facebook where my mom could see it that I was an "excellent writer." It made me feel warm and fuzzy because I really admire Hugh Howey and I have his email address. I could bug him right not and ask him to read my book, request that he tell me once again how special I am, ask him to give me writing advice, etc. And he's such a nice guy, he might even do some of those things, but it would be wrong of me to ask.

This is crucial to understand. If you want to piss an author off, impose on them with personal requests. Hugh Howey's time is not better spent placating me. He's a busy guy and I and all his fans are better served if he spends his time writing his next book, which is something we can all enjoy. He's got a website full of great advice to writers. We can all read it. He arranges fan meetings and next time he does one close to me, I'll try to go as I'd enjoy meeting him in person and that's time he's set up in his schedule to do that.

DO NOT DEVELOP A REPUTATION AS SOMEONE WHO EXHORTS AUTHORS. DO NOT ASK THEM TO CRITIQUE YOUR MANUSCRIPT, DO NOT WRITE THEM SIX MONTHS AFTER THEIR REVIEW AND ASK THEM FOR ADVICE. YOU ARE ENTITLED TO THEIR POST AT YOUR BLOG AND THAT IS ALL, AND ONLY THAT MUCH BECAUSE THEY AGREED TO DO IT. YOU ARE BASKING IN REFLECTED GLORY.

That being said, the situation does sometimes get murky, I know. I had a well known author insist on critiquing my manuscript without my even hinting I wanted it, though I did appreciate it (I'm not passing that up). Another author insisted on introducing me to her agent. And I don't mind asking authors if their agents or editors would want to appear here as that's my schtick and the author is totally welcome to ignore the request.

Part of the reason a writer might want to start a book blog is to network and make writer friends. By meeting so many writers, I've found some really cool people I now consider friends. I tried to be brief and respectful and professional in my emails to Lynne Reid Banks, but every time I did, she emailed me back and we had a lovely correspondence that went on for some time and I treasure it. What's key, though, is that correspondence was on her terms. I didn't expect it and l certainly didn't feel entitled to it. It just happened and it was very nice. I don't expect it to be repeated the next time I interview a childhood hero.

To further confuse this issue, I summoned up all the courage I ever had or ever will have, took a crazy leap of faith, and asked Richard Adams to blub my book, and he did. He said he was happy to and I believe him. I don't ask authors who appear here for blurbs anymore because the authors I asked after Mr. Adams did not respond favorably, nor should they have. It was an abuse of my position to ask. As soon as an author politely pointed this out to me, I felt pretty low and I won't do it again.

As I've said, there is no hard and fast code of ethics for book bloggers to follow. None of us is specially trained to do this and most of us aren't getting paid. Mistakes happen. But I think if we book bloggers proceed with the understanding that we're doing this for a love of books and authors and that the blog itself is its own reward, we'll be all right.

Monday, February 3, 2014

NINJA STUFF: An Appropriate Relationship Between Author and Blogger (Part One)

Greetings and salutations, Esteemed Reader. I hope this post finds you well. It's Writing Day, which is how it is I have time to both produce my daily word count for All Right Now (soon to be available) and write this post. The YA Cannibals are all here and for the first time, so is Little Ninja, which means my writing group may get to see me write with a baby in a pouch on my chest before the day is over and witness my full on Dad-ness:)

I stumbled into an online hornet's nest briefly over the weekend, which is good. It builds character:) It's important for me to remember that I'm an online figure (mostly anonymous though I may be) and the things I do online I do in full view of every Esteemed Reader I've ever had or ever will have. That is the reality of being a writer in our time. It's the reason the daring of some of our literature may dip a bitsome pretty wonderful things have been written by some pretty terrible peoplelooking at you, Hemmingway and Hubbardbut they didn't have to live in public. Today's authors do.

So I read a post by a fellow book blogger about reviews and an author's responsibility to the blogger writing the review. Specifically, her contention was that writers requesting a blogger take time out of their life to feature the author's book on the blogger's promotion platform should reciprocate by using their platform to promote the blog post. Knee jerk reaction: I agree.

Happy go lucky ninja that I am, I commented that it annoys me when authors invite me to dinner and don't pay for their meal, and it does. When Richard Adams was interviewed here, believe me, it was because I asked him:) It was extremely gracious of him to make time for this blog and a fanboy like me. He did not have to say yes. I had nothing to offer him. I cannot imagine his sales have been impacted by little old me, but Richard Adams is a class act and did the interview anyway. He owes me nothing. I owe him. The same is true for all the other authors I've invited to appear here.

The authors who've approached me and requested I review their book and interview them are in a somewhat different situation. I think offering to give me a review copy in exchange for a feature post at this blog is fair. I've been giving away copies of All Together Now to the bloggers kind enough to post about my book.

I flatter myself by thinking I'm an author bloggers don't regret agreeing to feature because I've been on their side of the transaction and I appreciate the effort and sacrifice that go into maintaining a blog. I'm one of eleventy billion indie authors flogging a book about zombies and the blogger has no way to know for sure that my book isn't terrible like so many others.

Giving them a free book is the least I can do and that free book should entitle me only to their consideration, not their guaranteed review, and certainly not their opinion being swayed one way or anotherthough of course it will be, because by the very act of "meeting" online, I've given them an impression of myself beyond what's available in my book.

No amount of courtesy on the author's part makes up for a terrible reading experience and the reviewer is well within their rights to declare my book awful despite my having been polite and given them a book or even an interview or guest post. It isn't rude or personal. A reviewer who promises their readers their honest opinion about a book should give it (that's not me), whether the author is a class act or a jerkface. If I met Roald Dahl, I might regret it, but The Witches would still be one of the greatest books I've ever read and my impression of his writing is probably aided by the fact that I didn't meet him.

I've given copies of my book to bloggers who to date have neither reviewed it nor so much as mentioned it to their readers. So long as the blogger looked at my book and gave it some consideration, we're square. I used to send books to agents in hopes of representation and it was the samea moment of their time to consider me is all I can reasonably request in exchange for providing the opportunity. Does this sort of suck for newbie writers? Yep. If you're not used to putting up with some things that suck, you haven't been writing long.

In the event that the blogger who's time I've imposed upon agrees to feature my book, I technically owe them nothing. I've never charged an author for an appearance here (nor will I ever) and I've never paid to have my book featured. A blog post is a mutually beneficial transaction. The blogger needs content. You can't run a book review blog with no books to review. The author needs for someone, anyone to please talk about their book. That these two parties have found each other is a beautiful thing and nobody owes anybody anything.

However, there is such a thing as courtesy and decorum. If someone in life does something nice for you, you do not have to say thank you. But odds of more nice things being done for you are greatly increased if you do. And if you do something nice for someone, it is perhaps understandable if you are miffed should they neglect to thank you. It doesn't change the nice thing you did and you probably didn't do it to be thanked, but the person would likely be closer to your heart if they showed a little gratitude.

So when a blogger features me, I tweet a link to their post, I share it on Facebook, and I link to it from here. I like their reviews on goodreads and when Amazon asks me if their review was helpful to me, I assure Amazon it absolutely was. Perhaps this makes me seem self absorbed, and I am, I am, but I also believe in saying thank you. I do that also, but by promoting their blog, presumably I make at least one or two people aware it exists.

I have a couple fans and if I can send both of them to that blog, thereby benefiting both me and the blogger kind enough to feature me, I say that's a good thing to have done. As of this writing, demands to review my book have tragically not overwhelmed me:) If I were a writer of Hugh Howey's prominence, I might feel differentlybut that guy somehow always finds time for his readers and smart writers will emulate the behavior of such a successful author.

I'm not angry at the authors who have had tons of twitter followers and FB friends, none of whom knew I reviewed their book because the author didn't tell them. It would've been nice if they had, but the authors, even the ones who requested my services, were not obligated to. I had the pleasure of reading a book, fresh content for this blog, and usually an interview with an interesting writer. Fair enough.

But I remember the authors who did show their gratitude for my time and am more likely to review their future works. I tell you this because this is a blog for writers and I want writers reading this to recognize this truth as I'm sure other bloggers feel similarly.

The vast majority of authors are wonderful people and if you read this blog, you know I love them. But there are some jerks out there and it's been my impression that the there's a direct correlation between being a jerk and being less successful as a writer.

I had an author beg me to consider their unknown indie book, then demand that I ask him different questions specific to his work than the questions I ask everyone. My response was to politely decline him, but my thought was that if those same 7 Questions were good enough for Richard Adams, you better believe they're good enough for an unknown indie author. When he came back months later with a new book, I declined him without even reading the book's description.

Conversely, the more successful the author, typically the nicer they are and the more I admire them. I met Kathi Appelt at a conference surrounded by writers who thought she walked on water (could be she does), and she made a point to seek me out over all those adoring fans and thank me for my review of The Underneath. She didn't have to do this, but it took all of a minute of her time to do it and it was a great thrill for me, not to mention a crucial instruction on how a great writer ought to behave that I'll never forget.

I've since bought other books by Kathi Appelt and I'm more likely to recommend her over other authors because she created a lifelong fan in a single gesture. I firmly believe that Kathi Appelt is more successful because she makes a habit of doing things like this and creating fans one at a time adds up over a writing career. If you're looking for a fan, you could do worse than a blogger who's interested in booksI'm halfway there already.

Likewise, Hugh Howey wrote me and congratulated me on publishing my first novel. Darby Karchut not only congratulated me, she read the book and reviewed it and now her blurb appears in the marketing. When I think of the sort of author I most want to be, I want to be this Hugh Howey/Darby Karchut/Kathi Appelt type. In the interest of time, we'll leave this point with those three examples, but know that most of the authors interviewed here have behaved admirably.

Other authors have argued with me about my review of their book, which is absurd, because I give every book here 5 stars. Some authors have become nasty when I told them I didn't want to review the sequel as I'd already promoted them once and there were other authors I wanted to feature instead. And some authors have sent me messages that can only be described as crazy pants. If they send me such messages before I write my review, I dump them, but crazy is sometimes hard to screen for.

Bloggers who deal with authors get to chat with some of the greatest people on earth, but they also encounter psychoswhich is true of anyone interacting with a wide range of writers. I'm so glad I blogged first before becoming an author as it's given me an appreciation for what bloggers do and too many writers take us for granted. If you want me to take time away from my family and my writing to read your book and promote you in the same space as the fantastic authors who've appeared here, that's not a service you should have to pay for in any way, but it's certainly not nothing and a bit of gratitude goes a long way.

So when I encountered a fellow blogger asking authors to be courteous to bloggers, I resoundingly agreed. We need authors, but authors need us, and as an author/blogger, I need everyone:) The trouble was I didn't consider the post as it was written carefully enough before I commented. This particular post outlined some required things an author should do in exchange for being featured, and that subject is a little murkier than the black and white argument that authors should appreciate bloggers (and vice versa).

Our old friend Mike Mullin corrected me on that score. I've talked a lot about author's behavior toward bloggers, so in the second part of this post I'm going to talk about blogger's behavior toward authors. So stay tuned author friends and blogger friends, during part two remember what an advocate I was for you in part one:)

See you tomorrow, same ninja time, same ninja channel.




Go to Part 2.