3 Steps to Building Your Book Launch Team

I had the most pleasant surprise this morning when I opened my email to find a copy of my upcoming novel’s book cover by Jessica Bell, publisher of Vine Leaves Press and a top-notch book designer, as well as author and singer/song-writer.

Due out Oct. 6, 2020, by Vine Leaves Press

Now I have the task of building a Book Launch Team. If you’re interested, email me at martha@engber.com.

Though I’ve had two previous books published, I’ve never done this particular task.

Free Book + Review = Happy Reader and Writer

A Book Launch Team consists of people who volunteer to read a free copy of your book ahead of the book’s publication and then help generate excitement by posting reviews and otherwise promoting the book on social media.

Communicate

Send out the word via all of your social media avenues and your newsletter subscribers that you’re looking for people interested in reading a free Advanced Reader Copy (ARC).

If you’re self-publishing, wait until you have the copyedited and formatted digital version. If you’re with a traditional publisher, talk to the staff about when the ARC will be created and disseminated.

Once you have the contact information for your volunteers, be sure to send them directions. Specifically:

  • Let them know the approximate date they’ll receive the ARC: Suggestions of when to distribute the copies range from from 2 – 6 weeks ahead of publication. I’ll send out copies as soon as the publisher makes them available, which will be at least 6 weeks in advance. That will give readers time to read the book and post a review on GoodReads, which can be done in advance of the pub date as soon as the cover and book information are loaded by the publisher.
  • When the correct ordering links are in place, ask your team members to pre-order the book, which stimulates future sales and a higher Amazon ranking. Since ARC readers are already getting a free copy, they may not feel incentivized to purchase the book. Consider suggesting they buy the book as a gift for a friend. Or let them know the Amazon Kindle prices are often so inexpensive as to be very inviting. I’ve purchased my fellow authors’ books for $2.99!
  • Suggest the review be 1 – 3 paragraphs: longer than a sentence and less than a treatise.
  • Provide a short, clear and detailed list of places to post the reviews (more on that below).
  • Give a few clear deadlines for placing the reviews.
  • Send them a personal thank you, and maybe a simple gift, in appreciation for their support. A truly personal touch would be to host a short Zoom meeting to thank everyone, or offer to talk with their book clubs if/when they read the book.

Some team members will request a print copy, at which point you’ll have to decide if you can accommodate them.

Where to Place Reviews

Be precise in telling your team members where you’d like them to post and the details, such as website URLs and instructions, about how to do so.

Make sure to put the most important venues at the top of the list. For example, I’m going to ask my team members to post on GoodReads, because that reaches a huge number of readers and the site allows people to post reviews well in advance of publication, typically as soon as the book cover and publishing information are uploaded (1-2 months before publication). Such an early review will encourage readers to click the to-read option that places the book on their “shelf” to buy and read once the story is published.

Be sure to tell your team members they need to have a GoodReads account. The process is simple, but be ready to help your team with the process.

The next place to post will be Amazon:

  • People can’t post unless they have an Amazon account AND they’ve spent at least $25 on Amazon in the last year. Sorry, but that’s the state of things! If people don’t want to open an account, provide them with other review options.
  • Let your member know they can’t post until the day of publication. The week before, send them a reminder of the pub date and ask them to have the review ready. Send another reminder on the pub date, because people are busy and will be likely to forget.
  • Warn your readers that when they post, the review won’t show up until 24-48 hours later. So don’t panic if you don’t see any reviews on the first day.

Once those main venues are covered, you can suggest a variety of other places team members can post if they have a little extra time. For example:

  • They can post a review on their blog.
  • They can send a simple message of “I loved this book!” on whatever social media platforms they use.
  • They can show a photo of themselves reading on their tablet.
  • They can suggest the book to their book clubs or others they know of.

Update

At every step, make people feel they’re truly part of your team by reiterating their importance and your thanks. If you don’t know some of the readers, take the time to find out where they live and why they love to read. If they’re fellow writers, be willing to return the favor when their books are publications. We humans work together so much better when we feel connected!

Keep everyone updated about the next step and send friendly (non-pushy!) reminders about upcoming deadlines.

And if a member of your team doesn’t care for the book and asks to be excused from writing a review, that’s fair! If I don’t like a book, I don’t assume the book is bad, but instead that I’m not the right reader and that others may enjoy the story more. Besides, it’s better to have a team member withdraw than to have them write a bad or mediocre review.

Lastly, there will be people who, despite your best attempts, simply take the free copy without offering a review. That happens. At least more person in the world has read, and hopefully enjoyed, your story.

Appreciate

In terms of thanks, send one the day of publication. Afterward you can send a simple gift, such as a hand-made card, or even a gift card for coffee/tea.

Again, if you’re interested in being part of the Winter Light Book Launch Team, email me: martha@engber.com.

Happy book launching!

Your Virtual Book Launch: Make It the Party You Want!

Do you recognize the now iconic lament of Lesley Gore’s 1963 hit:

“It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to!”

Those words — and more importantly, that assertive attitude — form the basis for the motto I’m using to plan the virtual book launch for my next novel, Winter Light (Oct. 6, 2020, Vine Leaves Press):

“It’s my party and I’ll do what I want to!”

All too often it’s easy for writers to forego such a celebration, not only because we tend to be introverted, so being the focus of an online event seems both personally and technologically terrifying.

Therefore it’s necessary to remind ourselves why this party matters:

  • You’ve worked long and hard on your book! You deserve to celebrate along with all of the people — friends, family, fans — who’ve supported you along the way.
  • A virtual party that can reach friends and readers around the world is a great way to increase your initial sales, especially now that more publishers are marketing to a worldwide audience.
  • You can always add a physical book launch party if and when that makes sense.

Vision

What kind of party do you want? Big and splashy with loads of people and prizes and activities like author K.B. Jensen’s writes about in her article How to Throw a Virtual Book Launch Using Facebook Live on JaneFriedman.com? Or a smaller, more casual gathering of friends, family and followers? Or somewhere in between?

Personality

Rather than pick an option based on what you feel pressured to do, ask what kind of event will suit your personality and that you’ll have fun carrying out. Nobody likes a stressed-out, no-fun party host!

Some of us authors are natural celebrities who feel comfortable in front of a camera and can address strangers as though they’re old friends. Some of us are quiet souls who’d simply like to do a reading and thank those who helped in some way toward the completion of the book.

My gig will be somewhere in between. While I have a lot of stage experience — musicals, choirs and dance recitals — I have no dreams of being a rock star and am only so technically savvy.

Pick a virtual venue where you’ll be comfortable

Chatting

If the prospect of being on camera in front of people you don’t know is daunting, you can invite them to visit your Facebook author page during a certain time and date.

After typing a welcome to those who show up, you can answer questions through written dialogue. In turn, people can send you congratulations filled with emojis.

But typing exchanges takes awhile and starves your guests of what they really want, to see your happy face!

Live Streaming

Live streaming options abound:

Many of these venues are free, while others may charge a monthly subscription fee. All are fairly easy to use. But a lot can go wrong if you don’t thoroughly check out the system. Specifically:

  • Will most of your guests have the software installed on their computers? If you send them a link to install the software, will they have the time or feel comfortable doing so?
  • Are you comfortable with the viewpoint? For example, on Facebook Live, you stare into the camera and see a view of yourself. Those who visit text their comments, which you read off of the screen and comment about. Do you like that setup, or would you rather be able to see and hear your guests, as you would on Zoom?
  • Check the audio well ahead of time. I was going to use Facebook Live, but when I used the platform for an event, the audio kept going in and out, a problem I couldn’t solve.
  • If you’re using a platform such as Zoom, check out all of the bells and whistles. Do you want to allow people to wait in the virtual room until you arrive? Do you want to mute your guests, or allow them to talk? What if people having trouble getting in? Do you have someone on hand to troubleshoot so you won’t be distracted?
  • Do you have the connectivity to support the venue? Nobody likes glitchy images!

If you want to explore other options, check out the 7 Free Living Streaming Sites by Alexander Bychock on Restream. Keep in mind new technical options are coming online every year, so doing a search for the latest and greatest is always in order.

Party Details: When and How Long?

While words of wisdom abound on the internet regarding the perfect day, time and length for an online event, there is no such thing.

Like any celebration you host, think about what will work best for the people you most want to attend.

Day of Week

Remind yourself that this is an online event and therefore lacks the promise of physical fun tied to an in-person party. People won’t want to be on their computers on a weekend, which is typically reserved for family activities and errands. So consider choosing a weekday and preferably Tuesday through Thursday, since people tend to be overwhelmed on Mondays, and Fridays are considered part of the weekend.

Time of day

Dedicated as your followers are, they won’t be able to attend during work. So consider an evening time that spans a decent range of time zones.

I’m on the West Coast of the U.S. I want to be sure my relatives on the East Coast can come, despite the 3-hour time difference, so I’ll choose 5 p.m. my time. Friends in my area will most likely be able to get off of work a little early, or come to the event a little later, while 8 p.m. for my West Coast peeps won’t be too late.

Length of time

Make your party long enough so people can drop in when they can, but not so long you’re worried about how to fill the time. I’m aiming for an hour.

Arrange activities

In between moments where you encourage people to purchase your book — be sure to let them know how — plan to entertain them, because what’s a party without activities? That and those actions keep you busy.

When choosing what to do, again consider what sounds fun and manageable for you and that will help you connect with readers and sell books.

Before you decide, check out the dozens of suggestions online, like those described in the article in 7 Steps to a Virtual Book Launch Even If You Don’t Have an Audience (Yet) on Author Unlimited.

Here are a few:

  • read from your book
  • answer questions about the book
  • read segments of positive reviews that illuminate topics in your story that you can then elaborate on
  • create a trivia contest where the winner gets a book

If you’re a good singer or musician, sing your audience a song. Or read them poetry. If your at-home partners or pets are willing, introduce them.

For ideas that include a little more technical savvy, return to K.B Jensen’s article.

When you invite people, don’t forget to tell them about what you’ve got planned.

Arrange a guaranteed fan club

You’ll of course invite those on your mailing list as well as all of your social media friends.

But you don’t want to worry about waiting online until someone shows up. So send a special invite to your close friends and family to ask who’s willing to arrive at the start of the party to get the ball rolling.

If they volunteer, take care of them:

  • If they’re not used to attending online events, or find technology daunting, give them easy instructions for how to reach the event and participate. If they sound unsure, arrange a dress rehearsal.
  • Ask them to bring 5 questions or comments to get the dialogue started.

Practice

I wanted to try a Facebook Live event, so I arranged a 40-min. Q&A for my first novel, The Wind Thief.

I practiced the night before by setting my phone to Facebook Live, but I didn’t hit start. That allowed me to see myself on camera. Then I rehearsed everything about the event, which showed what I needed to consider:

  • Location: I chose to broadcast from my writing desk in my office. I had to move a variety of things behind me — a hula hoop and a pair of skis — so people wouldn’t be distracted. I also had to close the window to block lawnmower and other outside sounds.
  • Camera angle: I chose a camera position where I wouldn’t be looking down on people, nor would they be able to see up my nose. Then I needed a prop that could reliably hold my phone in the right position without falling.
  • Appearance: While I love the natural light by a window, I looked washed out and so decided to wear makeup, which I rarely do. And while I love my favorite hoodie, it made me look like a bum, so I tried on a variety of things until I found what looked good on camera. Then I did the same for my hair.
  • Actions: I practiced addressing people while looking at my gestures and listening to my tone.

Facebook Live, and most likely other livestream choices, allow you to choose an “only me” privacy setting where you can record the practice session and play it back without anyone seeing.

Unless you’re an experienced broadcaster, your first video will be alarming. That’s the reason to practice! You’ll gradually become more comfortable and see what works. The end goal is to look and sound like yourself and be sincere when you talk to people.

Decorate

The last step is to decorate! Find out how to include graphics that state the name of the event, welcome people and feature your book. Facebook, for example, offers an Online Facebook Banner Maker you can affix to the top of your page.

Have fun!

Too often hosts spend so much time planning and carrying out their parties that they forget to have fun. So relax and remind yourself that you invested so much effort in this book, you deserve to celebrate with those who’ve supported you thus far.

____

If you’d like updates about Winter Light, The Wind Thief or Growing Great Characters From the Ground Up, please visit my website and up for my newsletter!

Passion Demands A Vocabulary of Desire, Vol. 3

by Bauke Kamstra

Simplicity is difficult for almost everyone, and especially us writers. We take a simple concept and allow other distractions to crowd in: adjectives and adverbs; side stories and backstories; trifles, that though beautiful, should be cut.

But poet Bauke Kamstra doesn’t fall prey to such dead weight. In his Passion Demands a Vocabulary of Desire, Vol. 3, he exerts a breathtaking discipline of 1 idea + few words = a thought that will stick with you all day.

—I can still fight this
my legs strong
(if weak in the knees)

& it yet lies
beyond my grasp

for how can you hold
the sea?—

Because I don’t know the poet personally, I can’t tell if the succinctness of his poetry came first, followed by the collection’s secondary title — 101 Tweets to Inspire Your Followers — or vice versa. I suspect the former, with the latter capitalizing on what people can relate to.

What I know, however, is that for me, poetry is abstract art. I have to find an artist whose abstraction speaks to me in a language I understand, which I find that to be true for this poet’s verse. His choice and combination of each poem’s few words sing in my head, rather than confuse me.

—a held remark
stiff in the craw
a stone in the belly baked
at oven temperatures you know
I must let it go so I run
into the wood.—

The abstractness of poetry in general comes in all textures, from soft to bed-of-nails harsh. I’m fondest of the comfort level this poet from Nova Scotia exudes: a firmness that drives out the sentimental to leave a form of salt residue like that along the ocean. In other words, a rough natural beauty. Because all too often when dealing with themes of passion, desire and love, the temptation to rose-color the human experience proves irresistible. Not so with these poems, which leave me feeling true in a windswept, scoured way.

Nicely don, Bauke Kamstra!

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I’ll provide you with updates about my newest book, Winter Light, forthcoming Oct. 6, 2020, by Vine Leaves Press. As a thank you, I’ll give you a FREE excerpt of my first novel, The Wind Thief!

4 Reasons to Join Me for a Live Q and A at 5 p.m. May 13, 2020

I’d love to have you join me for a live Q&A regarding my novel, The Wind Thief, at 5 p.m. PT on Wed., May 13, via my Facebook author page, Martha Engber’s Creatives.

Considering how precious your time is, the question is legitimate: Why spend 30 minutes of your time with me?

Get a First Peak at My Next Novel

Be among the first to get a sneak peak at my next novel, Winter Light, which will be published Oct. 6, 2020, by Vine Leaves Press.

I’ll create a list of those who join me and will offer you the opening chapters when they’re ready, as well as the opportunity to be an advanced reader before publication.

What Questions are You Dying to Ask?

When I finish a book, I’m always dying to ask the author specific questions about the story.

“How come he did that?!”

“Why couldn’t they have done something else?”

“Where did you get that idea?”

Come ready to sate you’re curiosity!

Hear How an Unusual Story Came to Be

I promise you, the path to the publication of this book began before the internet became a thing and continued on a circuitous path.

Get an Inside Look at What It Takes to Get a Book Published Nowadays

If you love books, they seem to appear out of nowhere, yet the obstacles are numerous! By answering questions, I hope to deepen your appreciation for storytelling and those who endeavor to tell those stories.

Ask Writing Questions

If you know me based on my character development book, Growing Great Characters, please feel free to ask questions regarding the writing process.

I hope to see you there!

And if you can’t join me…

SUBSCRIBE to my newsletter and get a Free novel excerpt!

I’ll provide you with updates about my newest book, Winter Light, forthcoming Oct. 6, 2020, by Vine Leaves Press. As a thank you, I’ll give you a FREE excerpt of my first novel, The Wind Thief!

I look forward to hearing from you!

Boundless Creativity: A Spiritual Workbook for Overcoming Self-Doubt, Emotional Traps and Other Creative Blocks

Purchase on Martha’s website

I want to give a shout-out to my friend and fellow writer, Martha Alderson, who today releases her new workbook designed to help all of us creatives learn ways to deal with those significant humps that accompany every project.

As Martha writes on her website:

Boundless Creativity is a transformational guide that incorporates a powerful technique called “The Universal Story”. The Universal Story is a four-phase program with easy-to-follow steps and exercises. Using the Universal Story, you learn to identify and dissolve the emotional and energetic blocks that create self-doubt and get in the way of your creativity.

These tips and tools give you the keys to unlock creative imagination, inspiration and intuition. As a result, you’ll see yourself and the world in new ways —with acceptance, emotional balance, and a tolerance of imperfection.

I haven’t completed a creative project yet that hasn’t had at least a few hair-raising, doubt-laden, wish-I-could-give-up moments. Martha’s book is written by a creative for creatives to help us discern what’s important and what’s not.

Because the long and short of it is, we need more art in this currently bad-news world! Art enlightens and elevates us all. So if you’ve got a story, but are having trouble telling it, consider purchasing Martha’s book. And check out her inclusion in a recent Forbes magazine article, How to Lift Your Mood in Troubling Times.

SUBSCRIBE to my newsletter and get a Free novel excerpt!

I’ll provide you with updates about my newest book, Winter Light, forthcoming Oct. 6, 2020, by Vine Leaves Press. As a thank you, I’ll give you a FREE excerpt of my first novel, The Wind Thief!

Man’s Search for Meaning

by Victor Frankl

I’ve always thought that as a writer, my first duty is to be curious about people. Not a little curious, but doggedly quizzical until I get as close as possible to understanding how people think and why they act as they do, including myself. But the observation and research skills I’ve built over the years are nothing compared to those of Viktor E. Frankl, author of Man’s Search for Meaning.

Even 23 years after his death, through his work, the Holocaust survivor continues to be one of the best examples of a human wholly devoted to studying the inner workings of humankind. Not because he wanted to write a bestseller, but instead because he believed helping people find their meaning in life allowed them to find happiness, which in turn leads to a better world.

This book is fantastic — and still relevant — on so many levels, determining which to list first is a challenge. And while the book could be simply described as a man telling how he survived three years in not one, but four WW II Nazi Germany concentration camps, including Auschwitz, that would be to excise the many surprising twists and turns.

Twist 1

The first is that Frankl was liberated in 1945 when the war ended. After several months spent recuperating, he sat down and wrote the book in nine day in his native German. The English translation of the title was From Death-Camp to Existentialism. New editions, along with the revised title, came out in 1959, 1962, 1984, 1992, and 2006. I read the last version, which was published nine years after Frankl died in Vienna.

Twist 2

Frankl didn’t leave Germany as so many Holocaust survivors did. Instead, he resettled in his hometown of Vienna where he spent the rest of his life until his death in 1997, by which time his book had sold 10 million copies and been translated into 24 languages.

Consider reading the 2006 edition, which contains extra material, and in particular, these three key sections: Frankl’s preface to the 1992 edition, Experiences in a Concentration Camp, and Logotherapy in a Nutshell.

Twist 3

When Frankl was arrested, he was already a doctor of medicine who’d chosen to specialize in psychiatry and was working on his doctorate in philosophy. The first day he entered a concentration camp, he did so with a fully-researched academic paper in his pocket.

Though immediately stripped of the document, along with every piece of clothing, he found scraps of paper on which to jot notes and so set about rewriting the paper in his head. The credited the task with giving him a sense of purpose so deep as to give him the strength to endure his hardship.

He even determined to build on his paper by including his observations of camp life. The result is that even as he gives very intimate details of his first-hand experience, he also includes a distant, clinical viewpoint, a combination that proves riveting.

“When one examines the vast amount of material which has been amassed as the result of many prisoners’ observations and experiences, three phases of the inmate’s mental reactions to camp life become apparent: the period following his admission; the period when he is well entrenched in camp routine; and the period following his release and liberation.”

As a writer, I appreciated his unsentimental observations of prisoners who fell into two groups: those who found a meaning that helped them survive, and those who lacked meaning and perished.

Again as a writer, I found myself making parallels to creating characters, whether fictional or not. Specifically, it’s a writer’s job to find a meaning worthy enough to propel a character forward with enough strength to surmount one obstacle after another.

Twist 4

I had assumed Frankl’s account of his time in the camp would be the main takeaway. When I began the section Logotherapy in a Nutshell, I did so half-heartedly. In dry, clinical writing, Frankl explains the following is an attempt to answer readers’ questions about logotherapy, a technique that helps people find their meaning in life.

Within two pages I found myself highlighting section after section as either aligning with what I’ve discovered in life, or providing new insights I’d never made before.

Again reading through the dual prism of a human being and a writer, I’ve gleaned ideas for being a better person and a better writer:

  1. What a person finds meaningful in life can change over time according to her/his circumstances.
  2. The struggles people endure should not be a source of embarrassment, but instead a badge of courage and source of pride at persevering even in dire circumstances.
  3. It’s during those rugged periods that people are afforded the opportunity to realize their potential by making a conscious decision about how to act. Will they be terrible to others, or helpful and kind?
  4. Lastly, the goal in life should not be to attain notoriety through awards, but instead, those are simply the outcome of passionately pursuing what one feels is important.

I’ll be chewing on his lessons of positivity and purposeful living for a long time to come. If you read the book, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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I’ll provide you with updates about my newest book, Winter Light, forthcoming Oct. 6, 2020, by Vine Leaves Press. As a thank you, I’ll give you a FREE excerpt of my first novel, The Wind Thief!

I look forward to hearing from you!

Teaming With Other Authors = 29 Free Ebooks!

Author Brian David Floyd recently decided everyone everywhere needed inexpensive distraction during this time of shelter-in-place. So he organized a Fun Reads for April! book promotion that offers readers 29 — 29! — books for free download, including mine (The Wind Thief), from April 7 – May 1.

Brian easily accomplished the task through BookFunnel. The online company offers a variety of services depending on the plan an author buys, the least expensive costing $20.

Even at that level, BookFunnel offers authors what they most need, an easy way to upload a digital copy of their books — and have it sent where it needs to go — for promotional purposes. Those include book giveaways or providing advanced reader copies (ARCs) to people who’ve agreed to read and review your book before it’s published. Authors can even send two hours of an audio reading of their books to subscribers.

BookFunnel also allows authors to create, or participate in, group promotions like the one Brian organized. I opened an account at BookFunnel last week. When I saw the listing for Brian’s promotion, I thought, why not?

When I saw the response he got from other authors, along with the beautiful display of book covers, I finally understood the power of teaming up with other authors.

BookFunnel and BookSweeps, a company that organizes book promotions and collects email addresses for authors’ subscriber lists, make it easy to meet authors who write books similar to yours. Not only is it fun to reach out to those authors and find out who and where they are, but you can work together to provide your readers with a much more expansive list of book suggestions.

By being generous in promoting fellow writers’ books, your readers will come to see you as one of them, a reader who loves great writing. And as a member of the tribe, they will appreciate you even more!

SUBSCRIBE to my newsletter and get a Free novel excerpt!

I’ll provide you with updates about my newest book, Winter Light, forthcoming Oct. 6, 2020, by Vine Leaves Press. As a thank you, I’ll give you a FREE excerpt of my first novel, The Wind Thief!

I look forward to hearing from you!

Rejuvenation Book 1

by Byddi Lee

Author Byddi Lee has created a dystopian tale in which she’s nailed all three facets of great science fiction:

  • a flawed, yet highly admirable main character readers care about
  • a plot that accelerates in intensity and speed toward en exciting conclusion
  • a deftly-written narrative where facts and descriptions about the world are slipped in around the character’s actions, thus creating a smooth read

Three reasons I loved this book!

The setting is some twenty years after aliens attack the earth, causing billions to die and ice sheets to melt so high there’s little arable land left. Most people live in subscrapers embedded in the ocean floor and that rise high above the surface. To control the population, no one can have a child until someone within the family dies, typically an older person, who feel pressured to die and make room for the younger generation.

Dr. Bobbie Chan is a doctor who works in a subscraper off the coast of Ireland with the ultra-elderly, 110 or older, whom she loves. Every day she tells her patients they have value and should live to the fullest until the very end, a passion that makes Bobbie extremely admirable. What she doesn’t divulge is that the death of her twin sister when they were young so traumatized Bobbie she fights the very existence of death.

When a strange disease spreads among her patients and the elderly elsewhere in the world, causing them to seemingly get younger, Bobbie at first sees the heightened quality of life potential. But when enough disturbing symptoms emerge, Bobbie begins to suspect foul play on the part of the Belus Corporation that runs the world. Bobbie’s diehard commitment to her patients’ wellbeing pushes her to investigate.

The author does such a fine job of slipping in descriptions of this new world and its advanced technology that there’s never a feeling of being overwhelmed. Instead, the story stays riveted on Bobbie’s changing emotional state and her fight for truth based on her belief that no one should be made to feel like a burden.

I’m looking forward to Book 2 in this trilogy!

SUBSCRIBE to my newsletter and get a Free novel excerpt!

I’ll provide you with updates about my newest book, Winter Light, forthcoming Oct. 6, 2020, by Vine Leaves Press. As a thank you, I’ll give you a FREE excerpt of my first novel, The Wind Thief!

I look forward to hearing from you!

Cheers, Somebody

by Katie Lewis

Often books and conferences for writers focus on the big parts of stories, such as plot, characters, pace, dialogue, etc.

I tend to approach writing in the opposite manner. Specifically, that the best writers are those who start from the smallest of details and build upward. My logic is that if they’ve taken the time to imagine a single, spot-on gesture, they’ve thought through the characters and story with equal care.

In the short story collection titled Cheers, Somebody, author Katie Lewis consistently nails the minute details that make the characters and their interactions real. Often simply admirably precise, other details are appropriately blunt and crass, while others are painfully truthful. Together the constant and consistent attention to the smallest parts of each story quickly create the mini-universe that is a short story, while also providing that necessary spin of uniqueness on common themes of love, loss, conflict and culture.

Choosing an example from the multitude is difficult, but here’s one from the first story for which the book is titled:

Collins danced his empty cup on the table, making a pock-pock-pock noise with the indented bottom’s echo until Stew placed his hand on top of the cup to make it stop.

The author continues that careful attention to detail throughout the story’s dialogue. Here’s an example from Ink J, the story I found most powerful.

“I, uh, I don’t know how to bring this up,” Bilson after several silent minutes of chewing rubbery licorice. “Not ‘I got news today’ or ‘Here’s something,’ but, well, I suppose. Anyway. I found out today that my college roommate died.”

While I’d term most of the stories accessible literary, a few stretch the mind, including a dystopian love story and a tale that uses brief and highly intimate scenes to portray the narrator’s relationship, seemingly with one man.

And that’s where I’ll leave the mystery!

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What’s the Difference Between YA and Adult Fiction With a Teen Protagonist?

After reading Carolyn R. Russell’s dystopian young adult novel, In the Fullness of Time (due out March 17, see previous post), I got to thinking about the above question. What, for example, is the difference between The Giver by Lois Lowry (YA) and Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger (literary); between A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle and and Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card?

The teen age of the protagonist is obviously not a deciding factor. My upcoming novel, Winter Light, for example, has a 15-year-old protagonist, but is not a YA novel. And think of Scout, the protagonist who ages from 6 to 8 over the course of To Kill a Mockingbird, which is not YA, either.

The current definition of YA is a category of books for readers age 12 to 18. Interestingly enough, the YA Wikipedia page notes that almost half of YA audiences consist of adults. The page also mentions that in 1802, a young writer named Sarah Trimmer for the first time differentiated between books for adults and for those in “young adulthood” between the ages of 14 and 21.

The following decades produced a variety of classics featuring young adult protagonists, including Lord of the Flies by William Golding. Then in 1967, 15-year-old S. E. Hinton wrote The Outsiders about the troubled kids at her school. That was the first book specifically marketed to young adults.

And there you have it, the obvious answer to the initial question: marketing. YA has since branched out in the same categories that apply to adult books: mystery, romance, sci-fi, cyberpunk, Christian, etc.

Yet the more subtle answer seems to lie in the treatment of subject matter. While many YA novels deal with adult themes — sexuality, abuse, love — the language is typically softer and cursing is at a minimum. That and the stories often revolve around what’s important to young adults, such as working through the transition to growing up, establishing independence and developing principles to live by.

Literary works, which appeal to people who like to puzzle about human nature, tend to focus more on the underlying themes of humanity. Think of Lord of the Flies where the shipwrecked boys quickly establish a power structure based on the physical prowess necessary to survive along with the ability to charm and persuade, which mirrors the power struggle in most societies.

Similarly, in my novel, the underlying premise is how some people are born under a tremendous burden simply by virtue of who they’re born to.

If you have anything to add, please do! I live for literary discussion.

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