Wednesday, July 26, 2017

15 things to leave out of your query

I had an article go up Monday at YAtopia about 15 things that should never be in your query.

Check it out.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Pitch Wars Wishlist

This is my sixth year mentoring Pitch Wars and I'm so excited to be back! (If you don't know what Pitch Wars is, it's a mentoring/pitch contest combo for MG, YA, NA, and Adult fiction authors looking for a literary agent. More info here.)

The Pitch Wars 2017 submission window is open August 2 (12:01AM) – August 6 (10PM EDT)!

About Me

Hi! I'm Sarah Nicolas and I write YA. I'm the author of Dragons are People, Too and Keeping Her Secret. I also write romance under the name Aria Kane. I'm represented by Rebecca Podos at the Rees Literary Agency. I've worked as a Publicity Director for Entangled Publishing and in the editorial department of two small publishers, though I got my start reading slush for Liz Pelletier. I write for Book Riot and blog at YAtopia.

I love Dr. Who, wine, Stargate, cooking, Star Trek, coffee, Star Wars, and am still convinced I'm going to marry Leonardo (the Ninja Turtle). I play a lot of wallyball (that's not a typo) and my day job is planning events for a public library. My social media links are in the sidebar to your right if you want to find me on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or other places. I'm an ENTJ and a Slytherin, so I'm basically *thisclose* to world domination.

What I'm Looking For

In case you just stumbled here, I'm mentoring the YA category this year. I like all genres except (red) hardcore horror. Light horror is okay, but no zombies, please. I'm also not the best mentor for straight-up historical. (However, if it has a fantasy/sci-fi bent, I'm all in. I LOVE historical fantasy.)

For me, contemporary needs a strong hook & to be high concept. (I ADORE quieter, less plot-focused YA, but am not the best mentor for it). I am not a good mentor for novels in verse.

Before you ask...

I always get questions about my genre list because I know it's more open than most mentors', but yes, I really do love them all, with the exceptions listed above. So there's no need to ask me "do you like xxx genre?" because the answer is yes unless it's hardcore horror or non SpecFic historical. And I'm definitely open to genre-benders. I'm also open to graphic novels.

As for the specifics, I love books that challenge societal norms, especially gender norms.

I love well-written romance, but a book doesn't have to have one for me to love it. Great/complicated sibling relationships are my kryptonite. I love a strong voice and am a sucker for economy of words (though not necessarily together). I like intriguing/sympathetic villains, mysteries, paranormal creatures I haven't seen a lot of, characters I can't get out of my head, and smart heroines.

I'm open to retellings in any genre, but they have to be fresh. I'm also especially interested in MCs who have a mental or chronic illness, but that is not what their story is about. (e.g. I have bipolar disorder and psoriatic arthritis, but my life is so much more than that.)

To repeat from last year: If you have a queer sci-fi, fantasy, or high-concept contemporary and don't query me I will die of disappointment. Then my ghost will haunt you forever.

DO NOT query me if your book is about sexual assault or has on-screen sexual violence.

Some recent books I've loved:
  • Shadowshaper by Daniel Jose Older
  • Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley
  • Want by Cindy Pon
  • We Are Okay by Nina Lacour
  • Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh
  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
  • Bone Gap by Laura Ruby
  • Denton Little's Deathdate by Lance Rubin
  • The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon
  • The Fifth Season by NK Jemisin
  • Tiny Pretty Things (series) by Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton
  • Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst
  • The Finishing School series by Gail Carriger

My Mentoring Style

Anyone who knows me will tell you: If I give you a compliment, I really mean it. If you're looking for someone to challenge you to make your book better in every way and to help you write the best damn pitch & query letter your book has ever hoped for, that's my style.

When it comes to revision, my strengths lie in tightening plots, increasing conflict/tension, and strengthening character motivation. My strongest quality in this contest, though, is the pitch itself. My experience as a publicist has honed my pitching ability and I've been called "the pitch master" more than once.

Every book is different. I have taken on books that needed very little revision; the authors just needed a little help with the packaging. I have also taken on books that needed complete overhauls. In 2015, Leigh Mar cut 60 pages of her manuscript and rewrote much of it. How much work a book needs does not fit in to my decision process. I'm only concerned with how much I love it and it's viability in today's marketplace.

Some Previous Mentees

Elly Blake is the NYT-bestselling author of Frostblood, which was her Pitch Wars book. She is represented by Suzie Townsend.

Jennifer Blackwood is the USA Today bestselling author of contemporary romance. Her debut Unethical was her Pitch Wars book. She is represented by Courtney Miller-Callihan.

Chelsea Bobulski is the author of The Wood (releasing August 1) and is represented by Andrea Somberg. She is a far better writer than I could ever hope to be.

Leigh Mar is represented by Elana Roth and is now not only a fabulous Pitch Wars mentor, but on the leadership team. We were co-mentors last year.

Shannon Cooley is an excellent writer represented by Victoria Marini and I expect big things from her.

Amy Bearce is the author of the World of Aluvia series, which begins with her Pitch Wars novel Fairy Keeper.


Please let me know if you have any questions in the comments. Just a head's up, I won't be answering "pre-queries" i.e. when people ask questions like "would you be interested in a book about a dragon shapeshifter who works for the us government protecting the president's son?"
Mister Linky's Magical Widgets -- Thumb-Linky widget will appear right here!
This preview will disappear when the widget is displayed on your site.
If this widget does not appear, click here to display it.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

How to Prepare for an Author Signing Event

You've booked an author signing event. Congratulations!

Now what?

In my dayjob as a library event planner, I host at least four Local Author Festivals every year, featuring at least ten authors per event. I deal with a lot of authors who are doing their first signing ever and am frequently asked questions like, "What should I bring?" So I decided to write it up here instead of typing it out every time!

I've broken it down into five categories for you.

1) What you need to know before packing:

Every venue is just a little bit different. Since I'm an author who does a lot of events, I try to answer all these questions right away, but I know A LOT of event organizers don't. So here's a list of questions you should ask if you don't have the answer provided:
  • Is the venue providing a table and chair? If so, how many chairs?
    • (i.e. don't bring your spouse/assistant/etc and expect there to be a chair for them without asking first)
  • Is the venue providing a tablecloth?
  • Does the venue have free wifi access available for authors?
    • this is especially important if you're selling your own books; see below
  • Is the venue handling book sales or is the author expected to? 
    • Who is providing the books? (some events may have a bookseller that will handle sales for a commission, but you provide the books)
  • Are you expected to speak/read or is it table-only?
    • If you are speaking at some point, is there going to be someone to watch your table while you're away?
  • Where should you park?
  • When should you arrive to setup?
  • Where do you go once you arrive?
  • How long is the event expected to last?
  • What is the expected attendance?
    • (Sometimes the organizer may not be able to answer that question, but they should be able to give you an order of magnitude (a handful? tens of people? hundreds? thousands? etc))
  • Is there a facebook event or another website you should use in your promotions? 
  • Are there any particular images you should use to promote the event?

2) What you absolutely must bring:

Whether or not you're selling your own books, there are a couple must-haves. (If you are selling your own books, there are more must-haves below)
  • Pens/sharpies - signing utensils of some kind. Some venues supply them, but most don't and it's always best to be prepared.
  • Bookmarks or some other "flat paper" handout like postcards or fliers. This is for readers who may not want to buy right away, but want to check your books out later.
    • At minimum, this needs to have a book cover and some way for them to find more information, such as your website url.
  • Tablecloth, if venue is not supplying. Many event tables are rough and you're going to want to cover that up. I've used a large scarf in a pinch.
  • Table and chair(s), if venue isn't supplying. Most do, though.

3) What you might consider bringing:

There are some things that work for some events/authors, and not others, so here's just a list of things to consider bringing:
  • Additional swag/giveaways
    • branded items such as pens, notepads, flashlights, keychains, etc
    • business cards (better for networking with other authors)
    • candy
    • First-chapter teasers
  • Newsletter signup sheet (and remember, readers must give their explicit permission to be added to your mail list)
  • One-sheets for school visits or writing workshops if there may be attendees who can arrange such things. (Mine is downloadable here, for example)
  • Extra battery packs for phones/tablets - many places do not provide access to an outlet
  • Water/snacks - talking to a lot of people makes you thirsty! And if you don't know how accessible food/water will be at the venue, it's better to be prepared.
    • mints/gum - I hate chatting with readers when I feel like my breath stinks
  • A sweater - just in case
  • Post-it notes - so the readers can write their name for you, so you don't spell it wrong
  • An attention-getting giveaway, like a giftcard (that you can email to the winner) or a cool bookish item (ask for numbers so you can call the winner to pick it up before the end of the event)
    • Depending on state laws, you may use this as a newsletter signup tactic
    • Don't forget to develop a plan on how to distribute to the winner!
  • Table decorations (for ex: I have a baby dragon figurine that sits on my table at events and people love him)
  • A sign that says "Meet the Author" or something similarly simple.
    • This is useful at events where it's not immediately apparent that you're an author, such as bookstore signings or multi-purpose events like craft fairs.
  • Book stand w/display book. 
    • If you're selling your own books, consider getting a book stand to display the book(s) nicely.
    • If a bookseller is selling your books at a separate table, bring one copy of each to display at your table.
  • Signage about your book(s)
    • signs that stand on your table or hook to the edge are cheaper and less likely to get in the way
    • free-standing banners are eye-catching, but sometimes there isn't room for them. 
    • Never assume you can tape/pin anything to anything. All fasteners should be zero-damage.

4) What to bring if you're selling your own books:

  • Your books (duh)
    • How many? This is such a hard question to answer. Most non-headliners sell somewhere between zero and twenty books at most multi-author events. If you're a featured speaker or popular, you may sell more.
    • Always bring more of the first in a series than the sequels.
  • Some way to take credit card payments!
    • I know it takes a little more effort, but you WILL lose out on sales if you don't have a way to do this. Square and Paypal are both easy to use (on a phone or tablet) and they take a small percentage of sales. 
  • Cash box with change - don't expect the venue to have change for you
  • Some way to keep track of sales. Depending on the state, you may need to collect sales tax and distribute it to the state.

5) Also consider...

  • Purchasing a rolling cart or collapsible handtruck in case you have to park far from the event venue. I use an older rolling suitcase for my events.
  • Avoid being aggressively salesy. Americans don't like to be aggressively sold on anything - think about how much we mock used car salesmen.
    • Make genuine, friendly conversation. Make readers feel comfortable with you.
  • No one may come. It happens to us all and it is unavoidable. Mentally prepare yourself for the possibility to avoid disappointment. Bring something to do that also doesn't make you look antisocial. 
    • Never make comments about how few people are there. It will always sound like you don't appreciate the readers who did show up.
  • Avoid negativity in general. The book/publishing community is small and interconnected. Even if the event is not up to your expectations, the connections you form and relationships you make can be invaluable.
  • Practice your autograph! Your autograph should be different from your legal signature, for purposes of avoiding identity fraud, etc.
  • Preparing a phrase for your signature that has to do with your book.
    • For example, I will write "Loyalty and justice, always" in between the reader's name and my signature, which is a phrase from a note my main character's father leaves her.
Please let me know if you have any questions or suggestions to add to the list! I wish you all the best at your future author events.