Fran Cannon Slayton - The Wild Ride To Publication (Children's Book Version!): April 2008

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Virginia Festival of the Book Panel - Audio Version!

Well, I have my 15 minutes of fame! I spoke on a panel at the Virginia Festival of the Book last month, and the discussion was captured on audiotape and is now available on the Virginia Festival of the Book's website: ! (It's under the "Listen To Events" section of the website).

The topic of the panel was "Opening the Vein: Pouring Life into Writing," and I am the first speaker after the initial introduction.

I think I have a little practicing to do for any Oscar acceptance speeches that might be in my future, but overall I'm pretty happy with how things went. Although I do have to say that having my words memorialized online for anyone to hear is, well . . . weird.

Anyway, if anyone wants to take the time to listen, I'd love to hear what you think!!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Meeting Jon Scieszka

I had the fantastic opportunity to meet our new Ambassador for Children’s Literature, Jon Scieszka, at my friend Joan Kindig’s house yesterday. What a fun time! Joan was kind enough to tell him that I had a book coming out, so we talked shop a bit and I got his opinion on my current burning question: should I go to ALA this year when my book doesn’t even come out until 2009? He said GO!

Now, I’ve been asking a lot of people this question lately, and I’ve heard a wide variety of answers. Some say go for sure. Some say nah, probably not worth it. And some fall somewhere in between. The huge bonus for me about Jon Scieszka saying “go” without qualification is that now I have a HUGE tool to rationalize going in my back pocket. No matter the benefit, no matter the cost – an AMBASSADOR has said that going is worth it. And how, my friends, can I argue with that?

Besides getting all chatty with Jon, I was able to get The Stinky Cheese Man (no, I didn’t already have it, and yes I am embarrassed about that fact) and his new Trucktown book. Both signed, My daughter was THRILLED with Trucktown. She was even able to read the words “smash” and “crash” throughout the book, which was huge fun for both of us.

By the way, can you say “Trucktown” 50 times fast? Jon is going to be doing 50 books in this series over the next 3 years! WOW! And there’s also going to be a Webkinz-like product for at least some of the characters in the book.

I tried to imagine some of the characters in my MG novel as Webkinz, but stopped when I got to the corpse in my first chapter. Maybe not such a good idea.

I think the biggest thrill of meeting our new Ambassador was this: he’s truly got a great sense of humor (hey, he laughed at some of my jokes so IMHO the guy’s a freaking laugh riot – or was he just being polite?), and we need humor to reach kids in the literacy arena. Kids will want to read when they connect reading with fun. And I sure had fun yesterday, which reminded me that not only should kids have fun reading, but authors should have fun writing, too. And that was a fun thing to remember.

So thank you, Mr. Ambassador – I salute you! [Insert raspberry here]

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Freaked Out on Book Marketing: Balance Regained!

So, I promised to tell you how I moved through my recent “freaked out” feelings about book marketing.

Well, a big chunk of it was going to my friends on Verla Kay’s website. The writers there are extremely generous, and they shared lots of wonderful insights about how they keep it all balanced. At least sometimes!

The three biggies that helped me were these:

1) Have a schedule.
2) Do the book marketing tasks that you enjoy. (And don’t do what you don’t!)
3) Realize that some books get lots of publicity and tank anyway, and some books get no publicity and go on to greatness. And often it doesn’t have much – if anything – to do with the author’s marketing efforts.

That last one really got to me, in a good way. It made me realize that while I want to do my best – to give my first book my very best shot – in the long run it really isn’t all about me. In some ways, it’s just about my book – it’s written, and it’s going out in the world and hopefully some kid will love it the same way that I loved Sounder or Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry, or A Wrinkle in Time. It’s the fact that I wrote it that is the most important thing. And in other ways, it’s not even about that much – it’s just gonna be what it’s gonna be. And that’s okay.

This new attitude of mine doesn’t mean that I’m going to let up on publicizing my book

– I do feel my efforts are important on some level. But realizing again that it’s not “all about me” lets me take myself less seriously. It will be okay. No matter what happens.

So I’m pleased to report to you that I’ve re-gained my sense of humor on the other side of all the angst.

(Now, will someone please remind me about all this the next time I get all freaked out?!)

Friday, April 11, 2008

Editing, Marketing, and Freaking Out!

Well, I told you I learned my lesson that I should post a blog entry on a regular basis – remember? But I guess I really didn’t learn my lesson, because it’s been a couple of weeks since my last entry. So what have I been doing?

Doing Edits. And Freaking Out.

Let’s start with the fun stuff – the edits. I really, really enjoyed doing them. They were what I call “substantive edits,” although I’m not sure that’s exactly the term the publishing industry might use. I was doing some cutting, working on the pacing, fixing the language here and there, and reading the whole thing out loud, which to me is a joy! I love reading out loud – not just my own work, but anything. There are things about language and pacing that you can only understand when you read the words out loud. I have to admit I especially like doing it with my own work, because the rewards are instantaneous. It’s like fixing wrong notes in a piece of music – you can hear the difference.

A Word on Cutting When Editing.
I feel like this go around, I finally was able to cut some slow parts – some of my “little darlings” – and finally get rid of them. It’s a hard thing to do, to lay the ax to that turn of phrase that’s just so fun but really irrelevant to moving the plot forward, and in fact slows it down. I don’t think I’m perfect at it, but I felt like this time around something clicked in me that allowed me to do it better than I have before. At least, I hope so!

The Freaking Out Part.
Okay, now the freaking out part. I was freaking out about marketing my book. I’ve been doing a good bit of talking to other authors lately, and at some point the whole marketing thang just overwhelmed me.

There Are So Many Things You Can Do To Promote Your Book:
blog, have a newsletter, have a website, join a co-marketing group, do MySpace, do Facebook, join Twitter, read other people’s blogs, join innumerable listserves (those for writers in general, for your genre, and for your niche markets), join Jacketflap, join Shelfari, figure out all the social websites like Diggs, Technorati, etc., make postcards, figure out who to send them to, make bookmarks, figure out where to store them, make business cards, and hope someone will want one someday, do school visits, learn more about literacy, read Hornbook, read Publisher’s Weekly, go to ALA, go to BEA, figure out all of the other librarian, teacher, bookseller and writer conventions you can possibly go to, wonder how to contact booksellers, figure out your blog tour, wonder how to approach online kidlit reviewers without making a fool of yourself, consider bribing all your friends for fantastic Amazon reviews, realizing said bribes don’t work but not understanding quite why, not to mention learning about search engine optimization, book trailers, and how to use online videos in a way that flatters (ha!). . . oh, and try to remember people’s names as you do all this.

Are you crazy with me yet? I can go on. But I won’t bore you. (Or at least I won’t continue to bore you!]

I’ll just tell you I’ve found a little peace in the storm. And I promise to tell you about it . . . next time! (Hmmm, let’s see – does it have to do with drawing boundaries? Setting limits on, say, how much time I spend on all my marketing efforts?! As Bugs Bunny would say, "Could be, Wabbit!")