One Month Left!

Today is exactly one month before the release of my book baby, The Last Wish of Sasha Cade! It’s crazy to think that it’s almost out in the world. I originally wrote the book in June of 2016, got my agent in July of 2016, got my book deal around January 2017 and announced it April 1st, 2017. (only realizing it was April Fool’s Day a few minutes after announcing. Oops!) So now, 2 years and 4 months after writing the manuscript, Sasha, Raquel, and Elijah will be out in the world. I am so excited I could burst.

To celebrate there being 30 days left until the release of my book, I thought I’d share 30 facts about the book with you today.

(Narrator: As the types this, she hopes she’ll be able to think of 30 things. We shall see.)

  1. I originally titled the book SASHA CADE’S DEATHWISH. Why? Because I thought using the word Deathwish– a term that usually means you’re an idiot about to do something stupid– in the literal sense would be cool. And it did sound cool. But ultimately it sounds a little too much like a thriller, so we had to change it.
  2. I wrote the book in 30 days. No joke.
  3. The idea for the book came to me because I wanted to write about two loyal best friends who would never betray each other.
  4. But that was boring, so I decided one of them had to die.
  5. I queried 20 agents and received 3 offers of representation. After racking up 100 rejections over 3 failed manuscripts, this felt like nothing short of a miracle.
  6. After feeling really really bad for needing to reject 2 agents, I signed with Kim Lionetti, who is the very definition of a dream agent.
  7. I wrote the prologue on a scrap piece of paper when the idea for the book came to me. The real published version is nearly identical to my scribbled first draft.
  8. Award winning Canadian publisher KCP Loft bought my book.
  9. My editor is the lovely Kate Egan, who also edited The Hunger Games trilogy.
  10. The book is set in the town of Peyton Colony, Texas, which is an abandoned ghost town in real life. I like to resurrect ghost towns in my novels so that I can set the stories in “real” places, but they aren’t too real and I can make up the town’s layout as I see fit. Check out the one paragraph of information that’s left about the real Peyton Colony here.
  11. The original draft was 77,106 words.
  12. The published book is 81,482 words.
  13. I have a file of “cut scenes” from the manuscript which is over 10k words long.
  14. I chose Sasha’s name from the actress who plays Ali on Pretty Little Liars. I had been watching A LOT of that show back in 2016 and she was my favorite actress on the show.
  15. I named Raquel simply because I wanted Sasha to call her Rocki.
  16. (Being an author isn’t all magic and unicorns. Sometimes we just make stuff up.)
  17. Elijah got his name because I just really love the name. I thought of it in like 2 seconds and just went with it.
  18. I hid the number 336 in the book.
  19. I hide the number 336 in every book I write.
  20. Raquel’s mom has the same tattoo as my best friend.
  21. Sasha’s house is loosely based off a vacation home I once stayed in on Canyon Lake, Texas. Her house is a lot nicer, but the view is the same.
  22. The fictional band Zombie Radio is based off the real band, Alkaline Trio, that both me and my real BFF love.
  23. Chapter Twenty Five is my favorite chapter of the whole book.
  24. Yes, I cried while writing this book. I cried while editing it, too.
  25. Sasha’s favorite movies are also my favorite movies.
  26. Sasha didn’t originally have a dog. My editor suggested it, and I love the way it turned out. Sunny is now one of my favorite furry characters.
  27. I spent hours on Pinterest trying to find the cutest couples Halloween costume idea.
  28. I once fed deer off a balcony and thought it was the coolest thing ever. So I put it in the book.
  29. I’ve never written a prologue or epilogue in my life — and I don’t like them in books either, and yet somehow I felt compelled to write them for this book. They are my favorite parts of The Last Wish of Sasha Cade (besides Chapter 25).
  30. I cried when I saw the cover of the book. It’s stunning and simple and perfectly captures the feel of the novel.

 

Phew! I did it!

The Last Wish of Sasha Cade releases in exactly 30 days. You can pre-order it now and get a sticker, signed bookplate, bookmark, and wish bracelet by clicking the pre-order link at the top of this page. (or click here)

Want to read an excerpt? Click here!

Add it to Goodreads here.

Have a wonderful weekend!

xoxo

The Anatomy of a pre-order Incentive

Happy Monday!

I have revisions and outlines and freelance work (and let’s face it, household chores) to do, so of course I thought it would be the perfect time for a blog post so that I can procrastinate all of that. (If you’d like me to be your role model, applications are on that desk over there.)

The Last Wish of Sasha Cade releases in 43 days (EEK!) and I’m deep in the middle of my own pre-order incentive, and I thought I’d share a bit about the whys and hows and whats of pre-order incentives. (I’m going to call it POI from now on since I’m lazy.) If you’re an author, you’ve probably done something similar yourself, or you might be considering it, and I’m here to share my experiences with you.

What is a POI?

It’s a campaign that gives you free stuff if you pre-order a book. Usually bookish swag, bookmarks, book plates, stickers, etc. Sometimes there’s a grand prize so that one of the people who pre-order will get an extra prize at the end of the campaign. It usually runs a few months before the book releases and ends on release day.

There are 2 types of POIs – one that’s publisher sponsored and one that’s author sponsored. Publisher sponsored POIs are pretty rare and you’ve probably seen them for huge books that have big name authors and big budgets. This would obviously be the ultimate POI because the publisher foots the bill and the author benefits. I’m not that lucky. I fall into the category of author sponsored POIs, so I’m sharing my experiences and insight with hosting a POI myself.

Why do a POI?

Pre-orders are VITAL to a book’s success. Sure, a book can succeed without high pre-order numbers, but authors want to give their book the best launch possible. Pre-orders count toward first week sales to get a book on the NYT list or other best seller lists. The main benefit of pre-orders is that it tells the publisher this book is worth it. Publishers might determine how many books to print based on how much buzz the book gets before release day. If you can get a good number of pre-orders, it makes the book more valuable to the publisher’s eyes.

And it’s not just about money. Seriously. I don’t ask people to pre-order my book because I’m foaming at the mouth to get the small percentage of royalties. 99% of authors aren’t rich, myself included. It’s a sad fact that most books don’t even earn out their advance, so getting a bunch of pre-orders could still mean you never see another dime from that book again. So, it’s not about money. It’s about author longevity. The simple and terrifying fact of publishing is that if I don’t sell enough copies of this book, no publisher will want to publish me again.

Authors have a lot of books in us. We don’t want to be one hit wonders. We want to keep publishing year after year, getting our stories out into the world. Publishing has become so much more competitive in the last decade, especially in YA, and authors have to bust their butt to stand out and be noticed. I’m one of those small fish in a huge pond, and even after getting my dream agent and book deal, I have never felt like I wasn’t swimming upstream, nearly out of breath, close to drowning. But if anyone can do it, we can, because authors are a stubborn bunch.

How do I set it up?

Make a dedicated page on your website. Post pictures of your incentive gifts, list out the rules, and include a link to claim the swag. Link it on the home page. Pin it to your Twitter profile. Make it as noticeable and accessible as possible! You want people to see it! I used a Google Form to collect people’s information to send them the swag. (It’s free to set this up through Google.) I also have Google set up to email me every time the form is filled out, that way I can mail it out the same day. If you don’t have that much time, or expect a lot of pre-orders, you can turn this feature off and just check it once a week or so. I encourage you to check out other POI pages to get a feel for how to set yours up. Make sure you include an official cut off date (mine is the day before my book releases).

I also allow people to claim my POI if they request my book from their local library. I think it’s important to include people who can’t afford to buy the book, especially since my target audience is teens and teens don’t have much money. I give all the same pre-order gifts except the signed book plate to people who request it from the library. Libraries are an excellent resource and a huge benefit to authors. Utilize them!

Should I do a POI?

Firstly, it’s going to cost a lot of money.

Secondly, I think it’s worth it. So yes. If you can, do it.

So what’s my POI?

Here’s my POI swag:

  • Signed Bookplate
  • Bookmark
  • Wish Bracelet (that I made myself. I even designed the card myself!)
  • Sticker
  • Postcard

For my POI, I ordered enough swag to make 100 packages:

  • Postcards $32.99
  • Bookplates $54.49
  • Bookmarks $40.72 (had to order twice since my PO lost the first order, but I won’t include that)
  • Bracelet cards $20.63
  • Bracelet cord $7
  • Bracelet charms $12
  • Stickers $48.46
  • Envelopes $5.99
  • Stamps $49
  • International Stamps (x10) $11

GRAND TOTAL: $282.28 for 100 POI packages. (Technically $40.72 more because my post office SUCKS but I digress..)

That’s $2.82 spent per POI that I mail out. This doesn’t count the fee I paid to a graphic designer to design the print files for my swag, but I would have paid that regardless of doing a POI.

It costs more money to send out a pre-order gift than I earn in royalties for a book sale. (It’s 3x more than the royalties for a paperback). Again, I’m not doing this for the money! I’m doing it to boost my book in any way possible. I want SASHA to succeed so badly. I’ve worked for ten years to see my name on the cover of a hardback book in a book store and come October 2, it’ll finally happen!

Maybe I’m selfish, but I want to do it again. So I’m pouring everything I have into promoting this book in the hopes that I’ll be able to sell another book down the road.

If you are an author, I definitely encourage you to host your own POI. Do it within your budget and chose swag that relates well to your book. I get so excited every time my Google form emails me to say someone has filled it out. That’s one more sale! That’s one more chance at continuing my dream! It’s definitely worth it.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on POIs in the comments, or if you’re an author with questions, shoot me a message. I’m happy to help!

The Last Wish of Sasha Cade ARCs are here!

I can’t describe the feeling of getting a box of advanced copies of my book in the mail. If you don’t know what ARCs are, they’re “Advanced Review Copies” of a book, books printed and given out to marketing professionals, booksellers, librarians, bloggers — basically anyone who can help build early buzz for a book before its release day. Not every book gets physical ARCs. Some are digital ebooks only, posted to Netgalley or emailed to reviewers. Some books don’t get advance copies at all. That was the case with my first 4 book deals.

It might be silly, but getting a physical ARC of my book has been on my author bucket list for over a decade.  It’s something I’ve wanted for at least 13 years. For the last 10 years I’ve been actively pursuing it, writing bad novel after bad novel until they finally started to get a little good. I’ve seen countless authors post photos of their own ARCs over the years and I always wondered, will it ever happen to me? Will I ever get that book deal? Will I see my book in a bookstore? Do I have what it takes?

Honestly more often than not, I thought it was a hopeless dream, but I kept writing. I almost gave up, and then I got a digital book deal. Then a small publisher book deal. Then I got an agent, and now I’ll have hardback books in the bookstore this October.

I wasn’t one of those overnight successes, with debut novel fame, but I’m all the more grateful for this book because of it. There’s something so special about working hard for something and then finally getting it. Sometimes I can’t believe it actually happened, and then I think back to 10 years ago and the person I was, who also thought it would never happen. But I’m so glad the past me kept trying. If you had told me 10 years ago that it would take this long, I’d have probably quit. But that’s the great part about having a dream… every day you have just enough hope that it’ll come true, so you keep working for it. If this is you now, don’t give up. It might take a while, but that time is going to pass anyway, so keep dreaming. Keep working. You’ll be glad you did.

 

PS- Enter to win a copy before you can buy the book! I’m giving away a signed ARC on May 1st, 2018 to one person who signs up to my newsletter through this form. < Click this link and enter to win!

The Evolution of an Author Photo

Does something seem different around here?

Does my site look a little more … professional?

When I first made an online presence for myself as a writer, I don’t even remember what photo I used with my social media accounts. It was no doubt some cell phone selfie that wasn’t the least bit official. But I distinctly remember back in 2012 when I first self published on Wattpad and Amazon and I had the realization that I needed something a little better than a selfie to represent me online.

So I did what anyone would do. I sat in my office (with terrible lighting) in a Batman shirt (that I believe cost $5), dug out the cheap digital camera from the back of the junk closet, handed it to my 8 year old and said, “Take a picture of me.”

And my first author photo was born:

I can feel your secondhand embarrassment from here. But it eventually got a little better. When my YA superhero series was picked up by Alloy Entertainment three years later, they requested an author photo for marketing info. I knew I should get a “real” photo, and I had spent years looking at other author photos and admiring them, but I didn’t seek out a photographer for a variety of reasons. The first being a healthy dose of anxiety and social awkwardness. I knew I needed a professional, but I was too terrified to call one.

So I went outside (better lighting), set up the camera on a tripod, and took my own photo. There was an awful glare on my glasses, so I removed them and smiled blindly at the self timer until it clicked. And thus, my slightly better but still awful author photo was born:

Not bad. Not the best, but it was okay. I was content with it for 2.5 years. I told myself one day I’d break out of my shell of awkwardness and splurge on a professional author photo … one day.

One day I’d do it.

And then the best thing ever happened. I landed an amazing agent, who landed an amazing book deal with a publisher who would put my next book in bookstores. Unlike my superhero deal with Alloy Entertainment, which was eBook only, The Last Wish of Sasha Cade would be a tangible book in real bookstores.

And you know what that means.

My publisher needed a high resolution photo for the hardcover jacket of my forthcoming book. I couldn’t put it off any longer, folks. This needed to be done. So I scoured the internet, asked my neighborhood website, and talked to friends in the Houston area to find the best photographer and makeup artist around. (Because if I was going to get real photos taken, I wanted my hair and makeup done, too.)

My anxiety was through the roof, and insecurities bubbled up from out of nowhere. My hair was stupid, my face was stupid, I’ve gained too much weight over the last three years. I’m a writer, not an actress. I spend my days in pajamas with coffee stains and day-old hair in a messy bun. I am NOT fit for public viewing.

In hindsight, I fretted more than I needed to because in the end, I found Dani Raine, photographer and makeup artist extraordinaire. And the best part? She had a contact form on her website. We arranged everything via email! Oh bless you, Dani Raine. Seriously, she is the total best. Incredibly talented and super nice, too.

She did my hair and makeup and had me looking like a freaking rock star, and then we went on location and took pictures. I felt like a total dork trying to pose, but she has some serious skills and she was able to mold me into looking like a normal human and not an awkward camera-shy author who hasn’t been out of her writing cave in months.

The results were amazing, you guys. It was so, so worth it. My only regret is that I didn’t do this years ago. The hardest part was choosing my favorite pose. Here are some of the options:

In the end, I recruited my daughter to help me choose the official photo. And this was her choice:

Ta-da! A real, professional, high resolution author photo that makes me feel worthy of being on a book jacket. I am a super legit author now. Huge thanks to Dani Raine! If you’re an author in the Houston, TX area, you should reach out to her. (Through the internet, obviously, because phone calls are the worst.) 🙂