Saturday, May 29, 2010

Spooky Reads & Giveaways

The Agency: A Spy in the House by Y.S. Lee (Candlewick 2010)(ages 12+): a recommendation by Greg Leitich Smith from GregLSBlog. Peek: "With her background in Victorian literature and culture, Y.S. Lee provides texture and pungency without overshadowing the characters or plots." Read a Cynsations interview with Y.S.

Enter to win a copy of Morpheus Road: The Light by by D. J. MacHale (Aladdin, 2010). To enter, email me (scroll and click envelope) with your name and snail/street mail address and type "Morpheus Road: The Light" in the subject line (Facebook, JacketFlap, MySpace, and Twitter readers are welcome to just privately message/comment me with the name in the header/post; I'll write you for contact information, if you win). Deadline: May 31. Publisher sponsored; U.S. entries only. See also the book trailer.

More Personally

Interview with Cynthia Leitich Smith by Naomi Canale from Dreams Can Be Reached. Peek: "I would likely relate most to Kieren Morales from Tantalize and the upcoming graphic novel Tantalize: Kieren's Story (Candlewick). He’s a serious reader with aspirations of being a writer and he excels academically. He’s also family oriented, loyal, and takes commitment very much to heart."

Friday, May 21, 2010

Eternal Story Secrets & Giveaway

Thank you to fellow YA author Holly Cupala for my most recent interview Story Secrets of Eternal (Candlewick, 2009, 2010)! Here's a peek:

"Occasionally, a character will emerge who’s something of a composite of a number of folks I’ve known.

"Nora from Eternal is someone like that. She’s an older lady—the chef at the castle, nurturing, likes to treat trouble with a hot meal, and is always willing to listen. She’s a tribute of sorts to my grandmothers and aunties."

Leave a comment at the post for a chance to win a copy of the novel. Deadline: 5 p.m. PST Monday. See details.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Guest Post: Author Mari Mancusi on Kids Don't Read Like They Used To...And That's a Good Thing

By Mari Mancusi

When I was a teen, you read a book, you reached the end. You put it down and started the next. The experience ended at "The End." But for today's teens, "The End" is just the beginning.

The DVD extras generation is looking for an entire multimedia experience when he or she delves into a book. They want the world the author created to live and breathe, and they want to become a part of it. And as an author, you can build an incredibly loyal fan base by taking steps offer that enhanced experience to them.

These days, when a tween or teen finishes a book they enjoy, the first thing they do is Google the author or series title. They're looking for author websites with cool downloads, fan sites with forums they can chat on, videos on YouTube to watch, Facebook pages they can "like," and secret inside information about what's coming up next. In short, they're looking to become a part of the world in any way they can.

Publishers have been slow to realize this, and a lot of initial multimedia/online content originated with the authors themselves, using their own budgets to enrich the reading experience. Now publishers are starting to catch on and will develop websites and videos for their top-selling authors. But mid-listers are still going to have to go it alone.

Don't worry--you don't have to spend a ton of money to create these multimedia extras. For example, while fancy book trailers can cost thousands of dollars to produce, a local college student might produce one at a big discount--or even free--just for the experience and exposure they get from being listed on your website. And don't think that free necessarily means inferior quality--I've seen fan videos with way more sophistication than some of the professional ones. Just make sure you supervise where they get their images and music from. They need to be royalty free to use or you might get in trouble down the road.

As an alternative, a simple webcam video with you chatting one-on-one with readers can be just as effective as a full on book trailer, if not more so. Mainly because this is what teens do themselves.

Look up "haul videos" on YouTube sometime to see what I mean. There are thousands of teens just sitting in front of their webcams, chatting about what they bought at the mall. They talk right into the camera and there's little, if any editing.

Since most newer laptops come with cameras already installed, this could be an easy, completely free way to promote yourself and your book. In these videos, you can talk about what's going on with the books. Give readers top secret advanced information or just chat about the plot of the next installment or even your life or writing process in general.

The key is to be natural and lighthearted and make the videos fun. (And not too long--three-to-five minutes is perfect.)

Other things that teens love? Widgets which can provide countdowns to your book release. has a free service or a pro service for $29.99 a year. You can also create (or have your webmaster create) AIM icons, Twitter Icons, Blog Avatars and wallpaper downloads--all with your book covers. In addition to allowing teens to become a part of your book's world and remember your series between releases, you're also getting free advertising to all their friends when they stick your book cover on their AIM or Facebook page.

One thing I did--which has been time consuming, but instrumental in pushing my series--was creating a fan club. On my website,, I have a "Want to Join the Blood Coven?" page where kids can sign up to become Vampires in Training. The kits I send contain a welcome letter from the vampire master, Magnus, a plastic "Vampire in Training" card to stick in their wallets (like a credit card--so much cooler than paper and you can get them made overseas pretty cheap - like $200 for 2,000 cards). They also get a magnet (I have those designed for free at VistaPrint and just pay shipping) and an autograph sticker they can place in their book. And lastly, I include six bookmarks. One to keep and five to give out to potential vampires in training that they deem worthy of the coven. There's also a forum where they can role play with the other vampires in training or just chat about the books.

Overwhelmed yet? Well, don't be. You don't have to do everything yourself. The thing is, readers don't just want to hang out in your world, they want to contribute to it. Encourage them to create fan videos and put them up on YouTube. Or draw pictures and post them to DeviantArt. Since a lot of kids will do this on their own and not tell you, you should regularly search these sites for content based on your books. If you find some, write to the user and ask them if you can post it on your blog. You can guarantee they'll say "yes" and send all their friends to your website to check out their stuff.

This is something teachers and librarians can help out with too. Buy a cheap webcam or a netbook with webcam installed and have kids do their own "book haul" videos by speaking into the camera about their favorite books and why they like them. Then upload the videos to YouTube (free) and send a link to the authors they mention, asking if they would consider embedding the video on their blogs or Facebook pages. How cool would it be to see your students' videos featured on their favorite author's page?

And lastly authors--communicate with your readers. When they write to you, answer them. When they post on your Facebook page, reply. I know it can be overwhelming, but even a one-line answer can build a relationship with a reader that will last a lifetime. They want to feel valued, important, part of the world. And sending a quick reply will make their day. They'll tell their friends and family and that's the kind of advertisement that money can't buy.

Because at the end of the day, it's not what medium you provide the "DVD Extras" in--video, podcast, website, downloads--it's how those extras make your readers feel about the world you've built for them. Draw them in, make them feel a part of things and let them know they're valuable to you. Because let's face it, the world couldn't exist without them!

Anyway, I could go on and on, but the point is this. Building a successful teen series and cultivating lifelong fans depends on a well-written book, a good publisher/distribution, and a whole lot of luck. But you can tip the scales in your favor by taking simple steps to build an online world that compliments your series. Not only will it spur sales and keep the momentum going between books, but it'll bring you closer to your readers and you'll all have a lot of fun!

Here are examples mentioned in the text:

book trailer

webcam video to readers

reader-created book trailer

See also fan art, the Blood Coven Vampires official website and facebook fan page.

Cynsational Notes

Mari Mancusi used to wish she could become a vampire back in high school. But she ended up in another blood sucking profession--journalism --instead. Today she works as a freelance TV producer and author of books for teens, including The Blood Coven Vampire series.

When not writing about creatures of the night, Mari enjoys traveling, cooking, goth clubbing, watching horror movies, and her favorite guilty pleasure--video games. A graduate of Boston University and a two time Emmy Award winner, she lives in Austin, Texas; with her husband Jacob and their dog Molly. You can find Mari online at

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Cynsational News, Morpheus Road Giveaway & Screening Room

Love a spooky story? Enter to win a copy of Morpheus Road: The Light by by D. J. MacHale (Aladdin, 2010). Here's the book trailer:

To enter, email me (scroll and click envelope) with your name and snail/street mail address and type "Morpheus Road: The Light" in the subject line (Facebook, JacketFlap, MySpace, and Twitter readers are welcome to just privately message/comment me with the name in the header/post; I'll write you for contact information, if you win). Deadline: May 31. Publisher sponsored; U.S. entries only.

More News

Interview with Author R.L. LaFevers by Leah Cypress from The Enchanted Inkpot. Peek: "In addition to researching the British Museum, I poured over antique street maps of London, pictures of buildings, studied the Edwardian period and its differences from the Victorian period, London street life, clothing, funeral customs."

Theodosia and the Eyes of Horus by R. L. LaFevers (Houghton Mifflin 2010)(ages 8-12): a recommendation by Greg Leitich Smith from GregLSBlog. Peek: " Theodosia Throckmorton is back and the Museum of Legends and Antiquities is as unsettled as ever. "

Cynsational Screening Room

Check out the book trailer for Keeper by Kathi Appelt (Atheneum, 2010).

Check out the book trailer for Shade by Jeri Smith-Ready (Simon Pulse, 2010).

Check out the book trailer for Claire de Lune by Christine Johnson (Simon Pulse, May 18, 2010).

A Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner (Greenwillow, 2010): a recommendation by Greg Leitich Smith from GregLSBlog. Peek: "...the deliciously Machiavellian follow-up to The Thief, The Queen of Attolia, and The King of Attolia..." Check out the book trailer.

Check out the book trailer for Dead Is Just A Rumor by Marlene Perez (Graphia, August 2010).

Check out the book trailer for Sea by Heidi R. Kling (Putnam, June 2010).

More Personally

Inquiry 1: Cynthia Leitich Smith: an author interview by Erin Moulton from The Day Job: A Writer's Inquiry. Peek: "With love to the literature and logic of the law, it's perhaps not the most poetic or action-packet reading, and it was a treat to come home again to those [children's-YA] books." Note: Erin's debut novel, Maple T. Rittle and the Quest for a Miracle, will be released by Philomel in summer 2011, and it's utterly splendid.

Tantalize (Candlewick, 2008) is being made available through Scholastic Book Club in its high school markets.

Attention Austinites: look for signed stock of Tantalize at Barnes & Noble in Round Rock and at the Arboretum. Signed stock of Eternal (Candlewick, 2010) also is available at the Round Rock store. And, as always, you can find signed copies of my books at BookPeople downtown.

An Interview with Ming Doyle [Illustrator of Tantalize: Kieren's Story (Candlewick, 2011)] by Jim at Bostonist. Peek: "I can't deny the appeal of drawing werevultures, werepossums, werearmadillos, and all other manner of Texan werecreatures along with some more conventional monsters on a daily basis."