Thursday, March 29, 2012

YA Scavenger Hunt, Red Team Style

Okay, so dude, today is the day for another YA scavenger hunt. This time, it's bigger and better--and designed so that you, the readers can do as little or as much as you want.

There will be three loops. Blue, Yellow, and Red. You can win 20 books on each loop, for a total of 60 books! Or just do one loop, and enter to win 20 books.

And I'm Team Red! If at any time you get lost on the hunt or a link isn't working, you can click here to keep going.

Today for the hunt, I'm hosting the awesome ninja, Ali Cross, author of BECOME. Let's learn a little about them before I reveal Ali's exclusive content.

About Ali: Ali Cross is the sensei of the writer's dojo where she holds a black belt in awesome. She lives in Utah with her kickin' husband, two sparring sons, one ninja cat, two sumo dogs and four zen turtles.

Ali is the author of the Desolation series, a young adult urban fantasy about the kick-butt devil’s daughter and her search for a destiny of her own choosing.

Click here to follow Ali and her ninja-tastic news on her blog.

About BECOME: Sixteen-year old Desolation Black wants nothing more than to stay in Hell where it’s cold and lonely and totally predictable. Instead, she’s sent back to Earth where she must face the evil she despises and the good she always feared.

When Desi is forced to embrace her inner demon, she assumes her choice has been made—that she has no hope of being anything other than what her father, Lucifer, has created her to be. What she doesn’t count on, is finding a reason to change—something she’s never had before—a friend.

Dude, you know you need to buy BECOME and read it, stat.

And now, Ali's secret content, the first 2 chapters of DESOLATION, her second novel, due out soon!

DESOLATION sneak peak

And that's not all! You can enter to win a signed paperback or an e-copy of BECOME by Ali Cross simply by clicking twice to let people know you've seen this exclusive content on the Red loop of the YA Scavenger Hunt. Click here. Click tweet.

To continue the hunt, GO TO JANET GURTLER'S blog, where you'll find another amazing author, with more exclusive content.

Oh, and you'll need this letter to help you unscramble the phrase to ENTER TO WIN the 20 books on the Red Loop of the YA Scavenger Hunt. Secret Letter: N.

So go forth, meet new authors, find new books, view exclusive content, gather all the letters, and enter to win!

I'm super excited about my exclusive content today--hope you can find it, because it has to do with SURRENDER and The Insider's Case Files, which you can enter to win HERE. And you have another opportunity to win POSSESSION... So go find where I am today!

Happy hunting!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Marketing -- Power In Numbers?

Okay, so I think we all know that marketing is a strange and scary beast. It's hard to keep yelling from your rooftop about your own book. It's hard to know how to reach out past your own circle of blog followers or twitter people.

That's why being a member of a group can be beneficial for your marketing strategies. I have long been active in the blogging community, and that right there can be the foundation where you find the people that you might want to bring in a little tighter. Maybe join forces, you know?

I have belonged to several groups, and they've each performed different roles. No matter what the group, there is definite power in numbers. There are pros and cons to groups, of course, but I'm just going to focus on the pros here.

1. Extended reach. In a group, take the League of Extraordinary Writers for example, there's going to be people that have more reach than you, or a different reach than you. When you're associated with the group, you can access that reach.

2. Help in spreading the word. The more people who tweet for you about any number of things can help get the word out to their followers, and theirs, and theirs... Hmm, this sounds like #1.

3. Moral support. This is extremely valuable. In an industry that is highly solitary, having a group of people with which you can express your true feelings is important. Also, these people can help brainstorm additional marketing ideas, and teaming up with another person can be an advantageous marketing strategy.

4. Exposure. Oh, wait. This sounds like #1 and #2. Ha! I do think group activities (like the YA Scavenger Hunt) can allow authors great exposure to audiences they might not have otherwise "met".

However, group activities can be hard. Remember those science projects and stuff in junior high and high school? Not everyone pulling their weight? The overly anxious person? Yeah, that can happen in groups, even online.

Things to Keep in Mind:
1. You get out of a group what you put in. (This is code for: Don't always take from your group. Give too.)

2. Not all personalities work well in groups. (This is code for: Choose wisely.)

3. Evaluate, evaluate, evaluate. (This is code for: Don't stay in a group if it's making you A) crazy, B) mad, C) crazy-mad. Constantly evaluate your position in the group and how much time it's taking away from writing.)

The bottom line: I think groups are an effective way to advance your marketing. You can draw from a wider audience, have an opportunity to reach a wider audience, and have the added bonus of an attentive ear from people who get what you're going through.

Do you belong to any group blogs? Unofficial groups? Have you thought about them from a marketing standpoint?

Or are you overwhelmed by group blogs? Group projects? Group promotions?
I'd love to hear both sides!

Monday, March 26, 2012

The YA Scavenger Hunt Is Coming...

Dude, so I'm participating in the Spring YA Scavenger Hunt, coming up on Thursday of this week. It's an amazing opportunity to meet new authors, find new books, AND win amazing prize packages of books!

I'm on the Red Team, and you will have an opportunity to win 20 books if you follow our loop. There is also a Blue Team and a Yellow Team. Go here for full details.

I'm giving away TWO copies of POSSESSION -- one as part of the 20-book main prize, and one if you can find my secret content on the Red Loop... so see if you can find it beginning Thursday, March 29 at Noon Pacific Time.*

And my secret content? It has to do with SURRENDER and The Insider's Case Files, a fantastic prize you can enter to win by following the instructions on this post, and reading the Official Rules on this page...

Hope you'll join us for the hunt!

*I will be blogging on Thursday this week, at Noon Pacific Time, and then revealing the winner of the Red Loop POSSESSION copy on Monday, April 2.

More marketing tips -- including joining together with groups like the YA Scavenger Hunt -- coming on Wednesday.

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Great Preorder Adventure

Okay, people! Today is wonderful and exciting for many reasons.

1. The Hunger Games comes out in theaters today. I am so excited to go! Now, I just need to find a free weekend...

2. Today begins the great pre-order giveaway for SURRENDER -- which comes out on June 5! I've never done anything like this before, so it's going to be a grand adventure, on which I hope you'll join me! It should be very simple, really.

I've been working behind the scenes to put together "The Insider's Case Files" which is a booklet of 10 characters you'll see in SURRENDER -- including some of your favorites from POSSESSION.

The Prize: 50 people will get this exclusive file, with never-to-be-released-online character content and some of the most amazing exclusive character artwork (by the genius that is Dustin Hansen), and a SURRENDER swag package in their mailbox in May.

One spectacular character illustration will be released during next week's YA Scavenger Hunt (on March 29) and will give you an example of the type of amazing prize this is! And I can't help myself... These are Vi's eyes, and only the smallest taste of the beautiful art you'll get in The Insider's Case Files.

The What: Pre-order SURRENDER from your favorite retailer, or spread the word about this contest.
Order SURRENDER here: (*No purchase necessary. See Official Rules.)

The When: From now until May 8, when the paperback of POSSESSION hits shelves. (Previous pre-orders will be accepted. Just email the confirmation email/screen shot. See below.)

Please see the Official Rules here.

The How: Four Ways to Enter!
1. Pre-order Surrender.

Email possessionbook(at)gmail(dot)com with a forward of your order confirmation. (If this includes confidential financial information, please take a screen shot of your order confirmation. Screen shot instructions for Mac and PC are here.)

2. Tweet or Facebook about your purchase. (If you need additional help knowing how to do this, click here.)

3. Like SURRENDER on Amazon. Two clicks: Click this link and then click the "LIKE" button on the Surrender page.

4. Tweet about this giveaway. It only takes two clicks: CLICK HERE and then click TWEET.

You must send an email to enter. Please say which items (1-4 above) you've done in the entry email you send to possessionbook(at)gmail(dot)com.

And that's it! I hope you'll take a few minutes today to pre-order SURRENDER or help spread the word -- and if you're super-excited to read the book, you don't have to wait much longer. The first two chapters have been released into the wild! Go here to read them!

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Using Facebook and Goodreads In Your Marketing

Okay, so there are some free resources out there that you can use to help reach people that are outside your blog/twitter/Facebook range. Because, really, that's what it's all about. Trying to get your book in front of as many people as possible.

I think Goodreads and Facebook are two places you should consider using more in-depth if you haven't yet. You can also purchase ads on Goodreads and Facebook, but that's a step above this. (I've had some very good results with my ads, but we can talk about that another day.)

1. Upload an excerpt. This is a new service, and it's free. I've found that a PDF works/looks best, and you can upload the entire book and then choose to only show a certain percentage of it, so it's probably a 5-minute job to do this.

Then, what I do, is advertise using the word "free" in my ad. Like, "Fans of The Hunger Games and Matched, read the first two chapters of POSSESSION, a dystopian novel, for free." (Or something more eloquent... But I definitely reference the best-sellers!)

I've had over 40,000 views in a single day on an ad like that. And all I did was upload the first two chapters of POSSESSION--which has been free on my website for over a year anyway. But it's getting it into the hands of READERS in a place where READERS hang out.

And that's Goodreads.

How: On your author dashboard, under your book title, there's a link that says "Add ebook". Click there and follow the directions to upload an excerpt. Seriously. It's five minutes.

2. The Goodreads Giveaway. We've talked about this before, so I won't go into tons of detail here (you can check this post if you missed it), but I think the giveaways are invaluable on Goodreads. And they'll cost you very little--mailing costs only.

1. Make a quiz. Teens hang out on Facebook, not twitter. So while a lot of us like twitter better, if you're writing YA novels, you need to become acquainted with Facebook. You can make quizes on Facebook that you can then advertise on your page.

How: Basically, all you have to do is type "quiz" in the search box at the top of your Facebook window. Find a quiz making app you like, and go to town.

2. Customize, customize, customize. You can upload covers on the new page layout. Do it. Make a nice one (or have one made), and upload it.

You can add custom tabs on your page. I like using the apps "Static HTML" and "My Tab". (To find these apps, just type them into the search box at the top of your Facebook window. Go to their page, and click the "Add this app to your page" button.) You can hide things behind gates this way, which means people have to "like" your page to see the content. And I'm no genius with HTML, but you know who is?


That's right. BLOGGER.

I open my blog that I use for practice and upload photos, type in what I want, make them the color and size I want, everything. I can preview it all in blogger. Then I simply go into the HTML tab, copy the HTML code, and paste that into the HTML window on Facebook.

Save, and ta-da! You have a fully customized page on your Facebook page. FOR FREE. It's almost like you could take your FB page and make it your website...

3. Post often. I try not to be obnoxious, and I try to post things I think my fans will like. My personal goal is to post twice a day--once before work and once before bed. I try to post about my book, my real life (without getting too personal), other YA authors, books, reading, The Hunger Games, or whatever I think my fans will like.

Everything is not about my book, my events, etc. My personal philosophy on Facebook is the same as here on the blog: I try to post 5 times about other things before I pimp my book, or event, or free short story, or whatever again. I want people to interact with me, not tune me out.

So, are you using Goodreads and Facebook to your full advantage? Hopefully you can now!

Monday, March 19, 2012


Okay, so sometimes I feel like a Debbie Downer here on the blog. So today I'm going to be sharing some celebrations. Not necessarily my own, but for some things I've seen recently that I love, and that deserve to be celebrated.

1. CREWEL cover release! Oh my heck, you guys. Did you see it?

I simply cannot wait to read this book. I think the color and the spinny-ness of it are gorgeous. Plus, I know how exciting it is to see your cover out there, so yay to Genn! Celebrate with her!

2. PERCEPTION releases. Dude, you guys. If you haven't started this series yet, you should. I loved CLARITY with every fiber of my being, and I called the bookstore where Kim was signing so I could get a signed copy of this second book.

Rating: Elana Highly Recommends.

Plus, I'm almost to the point of my sequel releasing, and the excitement for such a thing is very palpable. So woot woot to Kim and PERCEPTION! (You can show your enthusiasm by buying the book...)

3. LACRIMOSA officially comes out tomorrow! Yeah, it's been "out" for about a week or so now, but the official release date is tomorrow.

I loved this book, and I think if you like paranormal stories, you will too. Christine has worked for a long time to see this book in print, so yay to her! Tell her a big congrats -- and you can get the book for only $5 for your Kindle or Nook.

Money well-spent people. Money well-spent.

OR you can leave a comment here and you might win a copy! That's right, people! In celebration of the release, I'm giving away an e-copy of LACRIMOSA as well as the prequel DIES IRAE. Just leave a comment.

Anything to celebrate today? Lay it on me. Let's make this Monday awesome!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Embracing Failure

Dude, I can hear the groaning now. The muttered, "Really, Elana? We have to embrace the failure?"

To which I smile broadly and say, "Heck, yes you do!"

See, it's only by falling that we learn how to get back up. Everything we've done in our lives, from learning to walk, to holding a fork the right way, to driving a stick shift comes from failing first.

Why should we assume that writing will be any different? And not only writing, but the publishing process?

I think this is a mistake we make. We assume that because we're adults now, it's embarrassing to fail. Rejection is too hard to face. Revising, editing, submitting becomes too much to endure. Because we might fail--and then everyone will know.

I think that's the wrong way to look at it, because it is only through our mistakes, our trials, our failures that we learn.

When we attempt to write a story and then sell that story:

  • We learn how we write best.
  • We learn what conditions we need around us to be able to write.
  • We learn what kind of books we like.
  • We learn our strengths in crafting a story.
  • We learn our weaknesses.
  • We learn how to stop crying and start again.
  • We learn who's on our side, and who isn't.
  • We learn what's truly important in life.

And we do it all through writing, trying, failing.

So don't be afraid to fail! As for me, I'm going to embrace the failure. Turn it into fuel for my fire. Use it to learn, grow, change, improve.

It's a writing--and a life--lesson.

*sounds the battlecry* Who's with me? Are you ready to fail?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Words For The Wise

Okay, so I was playing around with some fonts last week because well, it was one of "those days" where the universe seems to be conspiring against you, and everyone has written 40,000 words and you've deleted 129, and dinner burned, and your favorite reality TV show is a repeat.

One of those days.

And I like fonts, so I thought they'd cheer me up. They did, and not only because of the fancy curls and wicked edges. But because this is what I was making:

What do you do to cheer yourself up? Ever feel like quitting? Maybe try making some little signs for yourself... Or something.

Monday, March 12, 2012

A Mental Squint

Okay, so balancing the busy life of speaking to teens, beginning promotional/marketing efforts for one book, and trying to write another has divided my creative energy into thirds.

Luckily, I heard a quote over the weekend (thanks to Bethany!) that helped me in the writing part of my creativity.

picture here

“When you are describing 
A shape, or sound, or tint; 
Don't state the matter plainly, 
But put it in a hint; 
And learn to look at all things 
With a sort of mental squint.”
~Lewis Carroll

And so that's what I'm doing while writing now. Squinting. Mentally. Ha! But seriously, I think it's going to work.

How do you focus on writing when you're in the middle of other storms?

PS. The winner of the STARTERS ARC is Jenny! Congrats! Email me with your mailing address at elanajohnson(at)gmail(got)com.

Friday, March 9, 2012

This, That, And Some More

Okay, so lots going on in my neck of the woods recently.

This: I moved my free short story, Insider Information, to my Facebook page only. In fact, my Facebook page is going to be the hub for all exciting book-related things--and there are some EXCITING things coming up! So you should be over there, liking that, if you haven't already.

That: Possession is a bargain book on Amazon right now. With the new paperback launching the new look of the series very soon, this is going to be the last time you can get a sparkly white cover. I would seriously love you forever if you bought it.

It's only $7.18 right now, and you can't even really go to McDonald's for that much. (Don't be a hater. You know I love the Bic Mac.)

If you already own Possession, maybe you'd consider buying it as a gift. No one has to know you got it for 60% off...

Some More: I have an ARC of STARTERS by Lissa Price! This is an amazing dystopian novel that comes out on Tuesday, March 13.

A quick synop: In the future, teens rent their bodies to seniors who want to be young again. One girl discovers her renter plans to do more than party--her body will commit murder, if her mind can't stop it.

If you'd like to win the ARC, just leave me a comment on this post.

So there you go! This, That, and Some More. What have you been up to lately? If there are exciting things, I better be getting an email!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

In the Beginning...

Okay, so dude, I think the beginning of the novel is the hardest to write. Let me just get that out there up front (if only I could do that in my books!).

I know some people complain about the middles, how they sag, how they get muddled, whatever. I'd rather work on a middle than a beginning.

Some people mention the end, how hard they are to get right, how they have to be crafted just so, they have to pay off, etc. I'd much rather work on an end than a beginning.

The beginning is just -- so -- hard.

I've been thinking a lot about why beginnings are difficult for me. I've also been preparing for a presentation to a group of teen authors.

And suddenly, it hit me.

Beginnings are SO HARD because you have to DO SO MUCH in SUCH A SHORT NUMBER OF PAGES.

There are things readers expect:
1. A hook: something to keep them reading.
2. A sympathetic character: why keep reading if they don't care about what happens to the person?
3. Well-crafted writing.

There are things authors also must consider, that maybe readers don't notice as much:
1. A theme. Usually the theme is stated in the first 15 - 20 pages. Did you know that??
2. The set up. You have to establish the world as it is. And this can be hard to do in sci fi and fantasy. Heck, it can be hard to do in the real world.
3. You need the catalyst for change. This usually comes between page 35 - 50. I always tell my crit group, "I want to be surprised by 50." Like, whoa. Where did that come from? And how's the MC going to react to it?

So basically you've got 50 pages to hook a reader, set up the world (and how the MC sees the world), introduce the theme, build a character people will care about, and advance the plot through a catalyst.

No wonder I hate beginnings. No wonder I write out of order.

How do you feel about beginnings? What else do they need in order to be successful?

Monday, March 5, 2012

Can You Believe It's March??

I mean, seriously. March, where did you come from? I feel like time is moving simultaneously warpish and sluggish. It makes no sense, and my brain is getting all swirled up.

Anyway, SURRENDER will be in out in exactly three months. THREE MONTHS. Can you believe that? It feels like POSSESSION just hit shelves. {{{Just one example of the warp-speed movement of time.

I had some goals last month to finish some books, and it didn't happen. So I'm going to go public here and say that I will finish the two books this month. I'm (almost) sure I can do it. I have about 20K to go in one, and about 20K in another. That's less than NaNo wordcounts, so yeah. I *think* I can.

March is always a good month for X-Men. Yesterday, I watched the first three. When I type that, I feel sort of nauseous, but it's true. Gotta love downtime on the weekend.

So, can you believe it's March? What are your writing goals this month? Seen any good movies lately?

Friday, March 2, 2012

When Everything Isn't Coming Up Roses...

Okay, so my husband is a huge fan of sports. Football, basketball, hockey, baseball, golf, even bowling. But especially football. So a few weeks ago, he's reading this book about Vince Lombardi and we're sitting at my son's eighth grade recreational league basketball game, where they're in the race for first.

And I say, "I don't like how competitive sports are. It makes me nervous."

And he gets all giddy, and he's like, "I just read a quote on that. Here," and hands me the book.

Now, I don't read for educational purposes, but I read the passage from the Vince Lombardi book. I don't really remember what it said, but the gist was that competition makes us into men. (Or something.)

So as always, I relate this experience to my life. And right now, I'm doing the publishing thing, so that's where my mind goes.

I think we all know that just because someone has an agent, or a book deal, or whatever, doesn't mean they won't experience setbacks. Loss. Frustration. And/or disappointment.

Oh, the disappointment.

So I've had a rough couple of months, and a few weeks later, I'm sitting at the championship basketball game for my son, and they win. There's this big celebration, and parents are taking pictures, and my eyes are roaming this ghetto junior high gym, and what do I see?

A quote by Vince Lombardi:
I firmly believe that any man's finest hour, the greatest fulfillment of all that he holds dear, is that moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle - victorious.

And I thought, "YES! I am exhausted on the publishing field of battle. I have been victorious in the past. Can this be my finest hour? Can I be victorious again?"

I honestly don't know. But I'm determined to "work my heart out in a good cause" and see where it takes me.

I went home, and I'm taking these:

Some of you know my daughter did a lemonade stand for Valentine's Day.
We used 6 lemons to make the 1 cup of juice needed for the lemonade. I cut, she squeezed.

And I'm trying to make this:

This is my daughter's lemonade stand. I made a simple syrup to make that pink lemonade. It was delicious! And my favorite part of her sign? The happy face. It makes me smile every time.

Because sometimes life and publishing seems to throw nothing but lemons. We may feel like we're fighting the good fight. We're exhausted on the field of battle. And there's still only lemons.

There are a thousand reasons to be sour. But by taking a simple syrup, you can make that sour into something delicious.

And that's what I'm going to do.

So. Are you making lemonade right now? Fighting the good fight? Or are you just exhausted?

Also, do you like how I went from sports, to Vince Lombardi quotes, to publishing, to lemonade? Because that was an epic chain of thought. Ha!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

CassaFire by Alex Cavanaugh

Okay, so today it is my great pleasure to welcome Alex Cavanaugh to the blog! I know, you're shocked I'm here on a Thursday. But this book was too good to pass up.

So a little bit about THE BOOK:
The Twitter version: tell us about your book in 140 characters or less: On a distant planet boasting alien ruins, a loner pilot meets his match. All Byron wanted was his privacy…

Tell us how this second book came to be. Always a planned series? Finished the first and wanted to write a second? Are you kidding? I never intended to write another book! Everyone kept asking though - when’s the sequel and will it contain women? I never planned it but I wanted to make my fans happy.

What one thing did you learn by writing a sequel? That I could do it! That I really could continue Byron’s story.

Name one thing that was harder the second time around. Coming up with something fresh. My original outline for CassaFire in no way resembles the finished book as I kept making changes.

And, one thing that was easier. I already knew the main character really well, so everything surrounding Byron was easy to write.

What else are you working on? Secrets? Inside scoops? Give us the juicy stuff! Juicy? Can I offer you a soft orange? I’m working on the third book, tentatively titled CassaStorm.

Have you always wanted to be a writer? Ironically, no. I wrote a little when I was younger but I never had any aspirations to be a writer or author.

What made you decide to go that “extra step” and seek publication? Crap, I’m supposed to tell you something brilliant, aren’t I? Um, I just decided what the heck! What’s the worst that could happen?

Quick! You’ve been chosen to be a contestant on Survivor. What luxury item do you take? Luxury item? My iPad. (The essential item would be a Bible, which fortunately is on my iPad!)

Tell us something about yourself we don’t know. My wife would say I’m a compulsive hands washer, but I’m not that bad.

And the most important of all: bacon or chocolate? Bacon AND chocolate? Yes, please!

Visit Alex’s site and leave a comment during his book tour for a chance to win CassaFire, CassaStar, and a CassaFire tote bag and mug!


Watch the trailer:

CassaFire is the sequel to Cavanaugh’s first book, CassaStar, an Amazon Top Ten Best Seller:
“…calls to mind the youthful focus of Robert Heinlein’s early military sf, as well as the excitement of space opera epitomized by the many Star Wars novels. Fast-paced military action and a youthful protagonist make this a good choice for both young adult and adult fans of space wars.” - Library Journal

Whew! If you're not excited to read CASSAFIRE now, I don't know what else we need to do. I do want to echo that last statement by the Library Journal. My 13-year-old son enjoyed CassaFire and CassaStar, so it's definitely for readers of all ages!

What sci fi have you read that you like?

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