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DEALING WITH A DEBUT: Best/Worst Promo Investment

  Posted by Amy Trueblood , 17 November 2017 · 38 views

 

As a soon to be debut author there are many things running through my head. Besides the usual worries about edits, copy edits, ARCs, and first pass pages, there are concerns about cover reveals, reviews, and, of course, publicity and promotion.

Many of these items are out of my control, but the one thing I feel like I can try to corral is publicity and promotion. That may have to do with the fact that I spent ten years working in marketing, public relations, and advertising. And while I have experience, I’m also aware that the publishing world is a completely different animal than the general retail marketplace.

With that in mind, I decided to start this new blog series called, Dealing With A Debut. The plan is to share advice and tips from past debuts in hopes that future debuts can plan a clear path for the time leading up to their own release.

As I’m new to all of this, I reached out to previously published author friends who write Adult, Young Adult, and Middle Grade and asked if they would mind sharing their debut experiences, in particular how they approached publicity and promotion. I was overwhelmed by the outpouring of help, and I must give a HUGE shout-out to all those writers who patiently read over my long questionnaire and provided more than brilliant answers!

 

For today’s second installment we’re going to cover promotional investment. Here is the question I posed in my questionnaire:

“In your opinion what was the single best piece of promotion you did? What would you say had the worst return on investment?”

This ended up being a very valuable question because I received an array of answers and ideas that I’d never thought of before.

 

BEST INVESTMENT

1. Bookmarks – This was an overwhelming response. Many said it was a nominal investment but it tended to be the most used piece of marketing for their debut.

2. Book festivals/conferences- While this may not be an option for everyone due to cost, many authors said this was one of the best ways to spread the word about their book and meet readers, teachers, and librarians in person.

3. Book bloggers – Many authors also mentioned that working with a group of bloggers via tour or reaching out to bloggers with a high-level of followers helped to spread the word about their debut.

4. Other swag/promo items: Branded lip gloss was mentioned as a big hit. One author mentioned she had success sharing short stories on WattPad that played into her debut. Another author mentioned linking her blog to Goodreads to create higher traffic. A debut also mentioned participating in an online event like the YA Scavenger Hunt which helped create interest in her book.

5. Instagram – A few people mentioned that joining Instagram helped to boost their author profile especially when they included images of their books and included information about reviews or giveaways.

6. Postcards to libraries: This item is last on the list because I received mixed responses. Some authors mentioned that this helped promo while others said it felt like a waste of resources.

 

WORST INVESTMENT

1. Book trailers: A few respondents mentioned that this was a waste of resources as it did not create a lot of buzz for their debut and can be a large financial investment.

2. Facebook Ads: One author mentioned that she saw little return on investment when trying to promote her debut on Facebook.

3. ARC tours: While fun, a few respondents mentioned that the cost of postage and lack of reciprocal reviews made this an investment they would likely not do again.

 

As with any unscientific survey, all of these responses are diverse and based purely on personal experience. What worked for one debut may not have worked for another. Most of the writers mentioned working with their publicist, and talking with other authors in their same genre, helped them determine the best use of their resources.

 

Next time in DEALING WITH A DEBUT: What makes a successful book launch?

 

 

 



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Dealing with a Debut: Let’s Talk Timing

  Posted by Amy Trueblood , 20 October 2017 · 13 views

 

 

As a soon to be debut author, there are many things running through my head. Besides the usual worries about edits, copy edits, ARCs, and first pass pages, there are concerns about cover reveals, reviews, and, of course, publicity and promotion.

Many of these items are out of my control, but the one thing I feel like I can try to corral is publicity and promotion. That may have to do with the fact that I spent ten years working in marketing, public relations, and advertising. And while I have experience, I’m also aware that the publishing world is a completely different animal than the general retail marketplace.

With that in mind, I decided to start this new blog series called, Dealing With A Debut. The plan is to share advice and tips from past debuts in hopes that future debuts can plan a clear path for the time leading up to their own release.

As I’m new to all of this, I reached out to previously published author friends who write Adult, Young Adult, and Middle Grade and asked if they would mind sharing their debut experiences, in particular how they approached publicity and promotion. I was overwhelmed by the outpouring of help, and I must give a HUGE shout-out to all those writers who patiently read over my long questionnaire and provided more than brilliant answers!

 

For today’s first installment we are going to cover timing. Here are the questions I posed in my questionnaire:

 

“How early did you start your book promotion? Six months prior to your release date? Three months? One month? Did you feel like that was too early or too late?”

 

Their responses:

 

Preparation (nine months prior to release)

Many respondents commented that somewhere around the nine month mark they started planning for their release. Several writers mentioned putting together a spreadsheet outlining what their promotion would look like from the six-month point on. If their book was on Goodreads, they promoted the link to get adds and create buzz for their title.

 

Six months

By this time many had either scheduled a talk with, or already spoken to their publicist. The conversation usually covered things like cover reveal timing, signings, conference attendance, launch day parties, and when their book would appear on NetGalley. If pre-order links were live, they were also encouraged to promote the links on social media.

 

Three months

Promotion kicks into gear. Blog tours are scheduled and so are interviews. Many writers responded that at this time they had firm plans in place for their pre-order giveaway. Some were also promoting ARC giveaways either on their publisher’s website or on Goodreads.

 

Week of launch

By this time most fixed promotion is in place. Blog tours or storygram tours are posted. At this point, authors are encouraged to use social media (Twitter, Instagram) to promote their release.

 

Other important points mentioned:

 

Debut groups

Many writers joined debut groups as soon as they had a deal. Several times it was mentioned that these groups not only provided support, but also helped educate one another on the process of promotion.

 

Cover reveal/NetGalley

Most commented that when their cover was revealed the promotion game changed. Once they had a reveal (most said this happened around the six-month mark) they did little bit more promotion. If by that time they had ARCs, they were encouraged to do giveaways on Goodreads, or promote a giveaway if their publisher was providing an ARC. Many also mentioned a big promotional push when their book was added to NetGalley.

 

Pre-order links

Once their cover was revealed, many responded that their next step was promoting pre-orders. Planning for this started around the six-month mark (ordering swag, etc). The actual campaign began about three months prior to their book’s release. Pre-orders campaigns included everything from stickers, to postcards, to other types of swag like enamel pins and tote bags.

 

Overall thoughts

The majority of writers agreed that pre-planning was their most important piece of advice for debuts. For them, having a good plan in place relieved some of the pressure and anxiety that came with being a debut. Many also mentioned that heavy promotion is still required after the book comes out. They recommended pacing yourself and enjoying the process so you don’t get burned out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



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NOTHING BUT SKY – NetGalley and ARC requests

  Posted by Amy Trueblood , 18 October 2017 · 4 views

 

Hello all!

First, thank you for all the loving support during my cover reveal last week! I REALLY appreciate it. 🙂

Today I’m posting because I wanted to let you know that NOTHING BUT SKY is now available to request on NetGalley.

If you are a blogger, reviewer, teacher, or librarian and would like to read (and later leave a review!) you can go here to request.

You can also request an ARC through the Google doc here. If you fill out the form, I will pass along to my publisher. There are no guarantees that you will be approved, but I am happy to send your request!

As always, thank you for being so kind and supportive! Hope you have a great Wednesday!

 



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It’s here!! The Cover Reveal for NOTHING BUT SKY

  Posted by Amy Trueblood , 13 October 2017 · 4 views

This has been a very long journey and I’ve dreamed about sharing this post one day. Thank you to each and every one of you who have read my posts on the ups and downs in publishing and have consistently offered words of encouragement. It has taken a while to get here but I wouldn’t change any of it because I’ve learned so much.

So without further ado, here is the final cover for NOTHING BUT SKY hitting bookshelves on March 27, 2018.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trueblood -Nothing But Sky - Final Cover

 

My publisher is giving away three ARCs over on YA Books Central – http://www.yabookscentral.com/blog/it-s-live-cover-reveal-nothing-but-sky-by-amy-trueblood-giveaway-us-only

And don’t forget about the YA Historical books I’m giving away to celebrate the reveal (UNDER A PAINTED SKY, SPEAK EASY, SPEAK LOVE, AMONG THE RED STARS and THE GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE TO VICE AND VIRTUE). To enter, simply leave a comment on this post with a way to contact you (email address or Twitter handle). Giveaway will end Sunday, October 15 at 11 p.m. EST time. Giveaway open to U.S. residents only. GIVEAWAY IS CLOSED.

Also, you can add NOTHING BUT SKY to your Goodreads TBR! Or if the story sounds like something you might enjoy, the book is available for pre-order on AmazonB&N, and Indiebound!



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Countdown to Cover Reveal Day 1: The Story of Your Heart

  Posted by Amy Trueblood , 12 October 2017 · 4 views

 

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I’ve been immersed in the writing world for over seven years now. In that time I’ve met incredible friends who have become beta readers, critique partners, and amazing sounding boards. Over those seven years, many of these friends have gone on to be huge successes New York Times and USA Today bestsellers. Watching their success has been exhilarating, and to be honest, a little bit daunting. While these friends were selling books two and three, I was still working on what I termed “The Story of My Heart.”

Nobody ever told me to give up. Each and every person who read drafts of NOTHING BUT SKY told me I had an important story to tell, but after a few years of working I wasn’t so sure.

I’ve read countless stories about writers who have shelved books, many of them saying their craft, or the market, wasn’t ready for them. They admitted they still go back to those stories and hope one day they’ll get to work on them again. When I read these stories I have to confess I get a little sick.

The thing is, deep down I never wanted to shelve NOTHING BUT SKY. Even after the rejections, rewrites, and offers of R&R, there was something inside me that screamed  I couldn’t let this story go.

There’s a phrase in the writing world that gets tossed around a lot – “Your yes is out there somewhere.” For a long time I called BS on this. If my “yes” was out there, where the hell was it hiding? What I didn’t know at the time was not getting that “yes” was a gift. A gift because the story wasn’t ready yet. A gift because it hadn’t landed in the hands of the right editor.

My path to publishing for NOTHING BUT SKY is a long and winding road. One day, when I’m ready, I’ll share all its surreal ups and downs – because there are many! For now I want to share what I truly believe and that is “Your yes IS out there somewhere.” Keep writing, keep improving your craft, and then hold on for what might be a long ride. If you believe in your story, if it holds a piece of your heart, don’t ever give up!

 

In my continuing support of extraordinary YA Historical books, today I’m giving away a copy of Mackenzi Lee’s New York Times bestseller, THE GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE TO VICE AND VIRTUE.  

GIVEAWAY IS CLOSED.

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Henry “Monty” Montague was born and bred to be a gentleman, but he was never one to be tamed. The finest boarding schools in England and the constant disapproval of his father haven’t been able to curb any of his roguish passions—not for gambling halls, late nights spent with a bottle of spirits, or waking up in the arms of women or men.

But as Monty embarks on his Grand Tour of Europe, his quest for a life filled with pleasure and vice is in danger of coming to an end. Not only does his father expect him to take over the family’s estate upon his return, but Monty is also nursing an impossible crush on his best friend and traveling companion, Percy.

Still it isn’t in Monty’s nature to give up. Even with his younger sister, Felicity, in tow, he vows to make this yearlong escapade one last hedonistic hurrah and flirt with Percy from Paris to Rome. But when one of Monty’s reckless decisions turns their trip abroad into a harrowing manhunt that spans across Europe, it calls into question everything he knows, including his relationship with the boy he adores.

 

To enter, simply leave a comment on this post with a way to contact you (email address or Twitter handle). Giveaway will end Sunday, October 15 at 11 p.m. EST time. Giveaway open to U.S. residents only.

Also, you can add NOTHING BUT SKY to your Goodreads TBR! Or if the story sounds like something you might enjoy, the book is available for pre-order on AmazonB&N, and Indiebound!

As always, I’m so very grateful for my readers. Tomorrow (after its release on YA Books Central) I’ll be posting the final cover for NOTHING BUT SKY. I hope you’ll come back and see the beautiful job FLUX books has done and then help me boost all over social media!!

 

 



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Countdown to Cover Reveal Day 2: Is that real?

  Posted by Amy Trueblood , 11 October 2017 · 4 views

When people read the blurb for NOTHING BUT SKY the frequent question is “Is that real?” The reason the question comes up is because people still believe that at the beginning of the twentieth century women continued to be very demure. They’d fought and received the right to vote on August 18, 1920, but their skirts still skimmed the ground and their rights remained few and far between. But after World War One ended, society began to change and so did women.

In the 1920s women, who were once married in their late teens, sought work in larger cities. They worked as waitresses and as secretaries. Others found their place in the sky as wing walkers, performing perilous stunts-many times without a parachute. These women were brave souls who were willing to risk their lives in order to push gender boundaries.

These women included:

Mabel Cody: The niece of Buffalo Bill Cody, Mabel was one of earliest female wing walkers. In November 1921, she would be the first female to try a car to plane transfer in Florida but the stunt was unsuccessful.

Lillian Boyer: In 1921, Lillian Boyer began her career as a wing walker. Along with her pilot, William S. Brock, they traveled the country in what would eventually be called “The Lillian Boyer Flying Circus.” Lillian was the first woman on record to successfully perform a car-to-plane transfer as well as “The Breakaway” where she hung from the bottom skid of the plane by nothing but her teeth!

Ethel Dare: Earliest articles have Ethel Dare first performing around the age of eighteen. She was well-known for a handful of stunts, but was most famous for jumping from plane-to-plane while mid-air. She performed from 1921 until her death in 1924.

While NOTHING BUT SKY is pure fiction, many of Grace Lafferty’s stunts in the book were pulled from the actual performances of these brave and daring women!

 

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(http://www.dot.state.mn.us/aero/aved/museum/lillianboyer.htm)

 

Speaking of brave and daring women…

Today’s book giveaway is the YA Historical, AMONG THE RED STARS by Gwen C. Katz. GIVEAWAY IS CLOSED.

 

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World War Two has shattered Valka’s homeland of Russia, and Valka is determined to help the effort. She knows her skills as a pilot rival the best of the men, so when an all-female aviation group forms, Valka is the first to sign up.

Flying has always meant freedom and exhilaration for Valka, but dropping bombs on German soldiers from a fragile canvas biplane is no joyride. The war is taking its toll on everyone, including the boy Valka grew up with, who is fighting for his life on the front lines. 

As the war intensifies and those around her fall, Valka must decide how much she is willing to risk to defend the skies she once called home.

Inspired by the true story of the airwomen the Nazis called Night Witches, Gwen C. Katz weaves a tale of strength and sacrifice, learning to fight for yourself, and the perils of a world at war.

 

To enter, simply leave a comment on this post with a way to contact you (email address or Twitter handle). Giveaway will end Friday, October 13 at 11 p.m. EST time. Giveaway open to U.S. residents only.

Also, you can add NOTHING BUT SKY to your Goodreads TBR! Or if the story sounds like something you might enjoy, the book is available for pre-order on AmazonB&N, and Indiebound!

Come back tomorrow to read another fun inside story and check out my next giveaway as we countdown to the cover reveal for NOTHING BUT SKY on Friday, October 13 on YA Books Central.



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Countdown to Cover Reveal Day 3: Writing YA Historical

  Posted by Amy Trueblood , 10 October 2017 · 4 views

It was never my intention in my career to write a Young Adult Historical novel. As I mentioned in my post yesterday, the idea for NOTHING BUT SKY took hold of me and wouldn’t let go until it was written.

When you decide to write historical you still have to look at your story in a basic way. You have to create believable characters. Develop a great plot. And of course, world build. But world building takes on an entirely different skill set when you write historical.

Unlike writing contemporary, you can’t just allow your characters to say whatever they want. You have to research and make sure the words they’re using were actually in play during the time period. For example, there was one word I wanted to use to describe Grace’s flying act. I fell down a rabbit hole of etymology trying to discern whether or not that word was part of the early twentieth century vocabulary. A day later (yes, a whole day) I figured out it might be best to pick another word!

That’s the trick with writing historical, you have to draft normally but you often have stop to make notes about fact checking elements of the story. Just to give you an idea of things I had to research for NOTHING BUT SKY: British and english slang, carbolic acid poisoning, the cost of a woman’s evening dress, the cost of a meal on a train, what types of trees and flowers grow in Nebraska, early twentieth century film.  I could go on and on. Let’s just say the bookmarks on my lap top are varied and extremely strange!

One thing I will tell you about writing historical is that it pulls you into a web and never lets go. I found once I started telling Grace’s story, I wanted to read more YA historical. I tore through beautiful books by Stacey Lee (whose book is part of my giveaway!), Mackenzi Lee, and McKelle George. In fact, McKelle’s book, SPEAK EASY, SPEAK LOVE (a beautiful 1920s retelling of Shakespeare’s MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING) is today’s book giveaway! GIVEAWAY IS CLOSED.

 

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Six teenagers’ lives intertwine during one thrilling summer full of romantic misunderstandings and dangerous deals in this sparkling retelling of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing.

After she gets kicked out of boarding school, seventeen-year-old Beatrice goes to her uncle’s estate on Long Island. But Hey Nonny Nonny is more than just a rundown old mansion. Beatrice’s cousin, Hero, runs a struggling speakeasy out of the basement—one that might not survive the summer. Along with Prince, a poor young man determined to prove his worth; his brother John, a dark and dangerous agent of the local mob; Benedick, a handsome trust-fund kid trying to become a writer; and Maggie, a beautiful and talented singer; Beatrice and Hero throw all their efforts into planning a massive party to save the speakeasy. Despite all their worries, the summer is beautiful, love is in the air, and Beatrice and Benedick are caught up in a romantic battle of wits that their friends might be quietly orchestrating in the background.

 

To enter, simply leave a comment on this post with a way to contact you (email address or Twitter handle). Giveaway will end Friday, October 13 at 11 p.m. EST time. Giveaway open to U.S. residents only.

Also, you can add NOTHING BUT SKY to your Goodreads TBR! Or if the story sounds like something you might enjoy, the book is available for pre-order on AmazonB&N, and Indiebound!

Come back tomorrow to read another fun inside story and check out my next giveaway as we countdown to the cover reveal for NOTHING BUT SKY on Friday, October 13 on YA Books Central.

 



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Countdown to NOTHING BUT SKY Cover Reveal Day 4: About that plane…

  Posted by Amy Trueblood , 09 October 2017 · 4 views

Yes!!! We are only five days away from the cover reveal for my debut, NOTHING BUT SKY on YA Books Central. To celebrate this important event, all week I’m going to share small tidbits about the book and do a fun giveaway. Keep reading to the bottom of the post for more details!

One question that comes up over and over about NOTHING BUT SKY is where did the inspiration for the story come from? It all comes down to two words…the plane.

A few years ago on a trip to Chicago I visited the Museum of Science and Industry. As I wandered around the museum I happened upon a biplane tethered to the ceiling. I went in for a closer look and noticed a placard under the plane. It mentioned how this type of plane was used after World War One for barnstorming. Barnstorming was basically an aerial circus consisting of aerobatic tricks and stunts performed by wing walkers.

Intrigued by this concept, I went home and started my research. One constant in all my reading was the type of plane frequently used in barnstorming acts. This plane was the Curtiss JN-4, nicknamed “Jenny”.

 

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The Curtiss JN-4

 

In NOTHING BUT SKY, Grace and her team fly in Curtiss JN-4s. These “Jennys” were used as military trainers for World War One pilots. After the war was over, many pilots returned to the states and still wanted to fly. Around this time the government wanted to get rid of the old planes so they sold them for surplus for around $200. Many pilots scraped together the money, purchased the planes, and then went on to perform in these flying circuses.

 

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The wild thing about this plane is the frame for the wings was made entirely of wood. The wings themselves were covered in nothing but fabric (usually Irish linen or cotton). A chemical mixture was painted over the fabric so it wouldn’t sag during flight. This mixture of cellulose dissolved in nitric acid was termed “nitrate dope”. This “dope” protected the fabric and adhered well so it prevented sag during flight. It also gave the fabric a durable finish when it dried. The only problem with the dope mixture was it was highly flammable. Not great for a pilot who always worried about the potential of a crash and the amount of gasoline on board.

Now imagine an adult walking along the frame or scrambling up to the top wing while 500 feet in the air! The fact more people didn’t put a foot through the wing (which some did) or crack the frame during their performances is extraordinary Wing walking was definitely not the job for the faint of heart!

As I mentioned above, all this week I will be counting down the days to my NOTHING BUT SKY cover reveal on Friday. To celebrate, I will be giving away fun prizes including some of my favorite YA Historical books.

Today’s amazing book is Stacey Lee‘s UNDER THE PAINTED SKY! Winner of the SCBWI Crystal Kite Award, as well as the American Library Association’s pick as Best Fiction for Young Adults. GIVEAWAY IS CLOSED.

 

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All Samantha wanted was to move back to New York and pursue her music, which was difficult enough being a Chinese girl in Missouri, 1849. Then her fate takes a turn for the worse after a tragic accident leaves her with nothing and she breaks the law in self-defense. With help from Annamae, a runaway slave she met at the scene of her crime, the two flee town for the unknown frontier. 

But life on the Oregon Trail is unsafe for two girls. Disguised as Sammy and Andy, two boys heading for the California gold rush, each search for a link to their past and struggle to avoid any unwanted attention. Until they merge paths with a band of cowboys turned allies, and Samantha can’t stop herself from falling for one. But the law is closing in on them and new setbacks come each day, and the girls will quickly learn there are not many places one can hide on the open trail.   

 

To enter, simply leave a comment on this post with a way to contact you (email address or Twitter handle). Giveaway will end Friday, October 13 at 11 p.m. EST time. Giveaway open to U.S. residents only.

Also, you can add NOTHING BUT SKY to your Goodreads TBR! Or if the story sounds like something you might enjoy, the book is available for pre-order on Amazon, B&N, and Indiebound!

Come back tomorrow to read another fun inside story about NOTHING BUT SKY and check out my next giveaway!



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NOTHING BUT SKY: Meet Grace and Henry

  Posted by Amy Trueblood , 06 October 2017 · 5 views

From the first moment I imagined writing NOTHING BUT SKY, I knew exactly who and what I wanted my main characters, Grace and Henry to be like.

It may sound weird to someone who is not a writer, but everything about Grace Lafferty came to me fully-formed. I knew exactly how she looked. How she talked. And more specifically, I knew what she wanted, yearned for deep in her soul. She appeared on the page and pretty much wrote herself-snarky, determined, loving, and above all else, extremely loyal.

Henry was a little different. Right away I felt he was tortured, but he also was an honest and forthright man. He could be bristly, but there was a reason behind it. For me, he was a man who took his work seriously. He understood from the beginning that as a mechanic he kept Grace and the rest of their team from certain death.

I’m sharing this all for several reasons. One, I want you to fall in love with these characters they way I have, but I also want you to understand their flaws. Why they make the choices they do. It was what I thought about when I talked to the editors at Flux about making my cover.

I threw out many ideas, included images and covers I liked, and then the designers went to work. Next Friday, October 13 I get to share the final cover with the world! My official reveal will be on the amazing website, YA Books Central and I can’t wait for everyone to see the beautiful work Flux has done for my book baby.

Starting Monday, I will be doing a “Countdown to Cover Reveal” on this blog. Each day I’ll be sharing a small piece of insider info about the book and doing a fun giveaway! Be sure to stop by all next week and learn more about NOTHING BUT SKY!

Until that time, I have another surprise to share. As I said above, I’ve always had a clear idea of what I wanted my characters to be like, but I also knew for sure what I wanted them to look like, too!

With the help of the amazing artist, Linnea Gear (@linneadoodles), I had character illustrations made of both Grace and Henry. Scroll down to discover what they look like to me!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Grace ilustration

Grace Lafferty

Nothing But Sky

 

 

 

 

Henry Illustration

Henry Patton

Nothing But Sky

 

 

Together…

 

Grace & Henry

 

 

Again, I’m incredibly thrilled with these beautiful images and how Linnea brought my characters to life!

 

Thanks for reading and don’t forget to stop back on Monday to participate in my “Countdown to Cover Reveal” series!



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FIRST FIVE FRENZY with Stacey Graham of Red Sofa Literary

  Posted by Amy Trueblood , 29 September 2017 · 4 views

If you’re like me, you toil for hours editing and fine-tuning the first pages of your manuscript. You look at the first lines to make sure they are compelling and tight. You examine the next few paragraphs, hoping your MC’s voice is already taking hold of the reader.

The First Five Frenzy is all about getting an agent’s perspective on what works, and what fails, in those first pages of a manuscript. It’s tricky to get the right balance, but I hope by reading each agent’s comments you’ll learn how to make your manuscript a shining gem that’s requested over and over.

Today, I’m proud to share Stacey Graham’s perspective on what’s important in those critical first pages.

 

 

Amy: Many writers have the impression that a great first line is imperative to drawing in the reader. How important is a first line to you as an agent?

Stacey: While a great hook is important, I’m also looking for voice, structure, and flow throughout. As an agent, I need the whole picture to work so while you can bring the sass in the first line, the last line needs to be just as awesome.

 

Amy: A lot of books open with common things like dreams, eating breakfast, riding in a car, starting at a new school, etc. What are some openings you recommend writers stay away from?

Stacey: I’m not seeing those as often anymore, so writers are definitely paying attention to the market and what agents and editors suggest staying away from. Mix it up a little–start the day after he was fired or the day before the house burned down. What’s the inciting incident that changes your main character? It doesn’t have to be the first thing out of the gate, but pack away those tired clichés and get to the good stuff.

 

Amy: When you’ve responded to a writer to request a partial or full manuscript, what was it about their first pages that piqued your interest?

Stacey: I’m always curious. I want to know why this happened to this person and how are they going to get out of this pickle. If the first pages hook me with a great voice, I’m usually in for the long haul to see how it shakes out. If the voice isn’t connecting, I know…sooner. A lot sooner.

 

Amy: What are some common mistakes writers make in their first five pages?

Stacey: Not getting to the story soon enough. Weave the backstory into the narrative so readers aren’t wading through flashbacks or why a character is compelled to find out why they’re afraid of fish eyes right out of the gate. Also, submitting before they’re ready. Have the story critiqued by your writing peers–not your well-meaning family and friends. Listen to their suggestions to make the project stronger and edit as needed before sending to an agent. I see many first drafts that could have used a gentle-but-firm critique on areas such as dialogue, structure, and overall flow.

 

Amy: What resonates with you most in those first pages? Voice? Pacing? Unique concept?

Stacey: Voice. I work with a lot of middle grade manuscripts and voice is vital to keep me (and kids) turning the pages.

 

 

Stacey Graham is an associate agent at Red Sofa Literary, joining the agency from the other side of the literary desk as an author, ghostwriter, and freelance editor.

If you are interested in submitting to Stacey, please be sure to follow the submission guidelines for Red Sofa Literary.

 

 



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