Guest Post: Putting the Readers Back in Charge of Publishing

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Imagine a YA publishing process without gatekeepers.  One where editors and agents read the manuscripts that readers love, not vice versa.  One where anyone with a knack for writing, a passion to succeed, and a little flair for self-promotion, has a fair shot at being published.

All too frequently, this isn’t the case.  Books often get rejected for reasons beyond authors’ control.  One editor turned down an ultimately successful book by saying, “The girl doesn’t, it seems to me, have a special perception or feeling which would lift that book above the ‘curiosity’ level.”  The book in question?  The Diary of Anne Frank.  Furthermore, according to the Cooperative Children’s Book Center, only about 10% of all YA books accepted for publication feature “multi-cultural content.”  Clearly, there are some blind spots that need addressing in the publishing industry.

It’s with this vision in mind that Publishizer is launching its YA book proposal contest called Plot Without a Cause.  Publishizer is a startup seeking to fill a hole in the publishing industry through crowdfunding.  It works like this:

You write the book proposal.  You know the book proposal I’m talking about.  The one you’ve been daydreaming about for years.  The one that just popped into your head last week and you haven’t stopped thinking about since.  The one for the manuscript that’s been dearly loved by you but maybe not so much yet by the publishing industry.  That one.  Then you register (for free!) on Publishizer’s website and post your proposal in the Plot Without a Cause section (again—for free!).

Now this is when you’ll have to start hustling.  Crowdfunding runs on pre-orders, so you had better start promoting that proposal.  Reach out over social media, post on your blog, email your old roommates—whatever it takes to start building buzz.  If you get the most preorders by the time the contest ends, you’ll win $1000 dollars.  And if you don’t have the highest number of preorders, don’t worry—you’ll still be queried to major publishers who fit your proposal.

Previous Publishizer contest participants have gotten interest and landed deals with a variety of traditional publishing companies, including Harvard Square Books, She Writes Press, and Weiser.  Publishizer takes a small commission on pre-orders when you choose a publisher at the end.

Every year, thousands of books are rejected by the publishing world for reasons that have nothing to do with the quality of the book—they’re too mainstream or not mainstream enough, too similar to books already being published or too different from books already being published.  Or the literary agent just doesn’t stand to make much money on the deal so they pass on a perfectly good book!  Imagine how many brilliant YA manuscripts go unpublished every year thanks to frustrating rejections.  Imagine how many hugely talented authors quietly give up on their dreams, just because the gate to a traditional publishing path isn’t open to them.

With their new YA book proposal contest, Plot Without a Cause, Publishizer is seeking to level the playing field.  Publishing decisions shouldn’t be based solely on a literary agent’s judgement or how many friends you have in the industry. They should be based on quality of writing and how many readers the book attracts.

Great books get overlooked all the time, and this is an opportunity to show acquiring editors that yours is worth paying attention to.  Not to mention the readership and funds you could gain in the process.  Crowdfunding (or crowd-publishing, in this case) is growing in popularity and brings a personal touch back to book sales—for readers and publishers.  Are you in?

Guest Post: The Sioux People By Andrew Joyce

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My name is Andrew Joyce and I write books for a living. I would like to thank Camillia for allowing me to be here today to promote my latest, Yellow Hair, which documents the injustices done to the Sioux Nation from their first treaty with the United States in 1805 through Wounded Knee in 1890. Every death, murder, battle, and outrage I write about actually took place. The historical figures that play a role in my fact-based tale of fiction were real people and I use their real names. Yellow Hair is an epic tale of adventure, family, love, and hate that spans most of the 19th century.

Now that the commercial is out of the way, we can get down to what I really came here to talk about: the Sioux people. The people we know as the Sioux were originally known as the Dakota, which means ally. The name Sioux came from the Chippewa and the French. The Chippewa called them Nadonessiou, which means adder, or enemy, and then the French shortened the name to Sioux.

Every culture has an origin myth. We in the West have Adam and Eve. The Ancient Greeks had Gaia. According to the Norse people, Odin and Ymir founded the earth. If you will allow me, I’d like to tell you the creation story of the Dakota.

In the beginning, before the creation of the earth, the gods resided in the sky and humans lived in darkness. Chief among the gods was Ta՜kuwakaŋ, the Sun, who was married to Haŋyetuwi, the Moon. He had one daughter, Wohpe. And there was Old Man and Old Woman, whose daughter, Ite, was wife to Wind, to whom she gave four sons, the Four Winds.

Of the other spirits, the most important was Iŋktomi, the devious trickster. Iŋktomi conspired with Old Man and Old Woman to increase their daughter’s status by arranging an affair between the Sun and Ite. His wife’s discovery of the affair led Ta՜kuwakaŋ to give the Moon her own domain, and by separating her from himself, created time.

Old Man, Old Woman and Itewho was separated from Wind, her husband—were banished to Earth. Ite, along with her children, the Four Winds, and a fifth wind—the child of Ite but not of Wind—established space. The daughter of the Sun and the Moon, Wohpe, also fell to earth and later resided with the South Wind. The two adopted the fifth wind, who was called Wamŋiomŋi.

Alone on the newly formed Earth, some of the gods became bored. Ite prevailed upon Iŋktomi to find her people, the Buffalo Nation. In the form of a wolf, Iŋktomi went beneath the earth and discovered a village of humans. Iŋktomi told them about the wonders of the Earth and convinced one man, Tokahe, to accompany him through a cave to the surface. Tokahe did so and, upon reaching the surface, saw the green grass and blue sky for the first time. Iŋktomi and Ite introduced Tokahe to buffalo meat and showed him tipis, clothing, hunting clubs, and bows and arrows. Tokahe returned to the underworld village and appealed to six other men and their families to go with him to the Earth’s surface.

When they arrived, they discovered that Iŋktomi had deceived Tokahe. The buffalo were scarce; the weather had turned bad, and they found themselves starving. Unable to return to their home, but armed with a new knowledge about the world, they survived to become the founders of the Seven Council Fires.

The Seven Council Fires . . . or Oćeti Šakowiŋ . . . are the Mdewakanton, the Wahpeton, the Wahpekute, the Sisseton, the Yankton, the Yanktonai, and the Lakota.

After Tokahe led the six families to the surface of the earth, they wandered for many winters. Sons were born and sons died. Winters passed, more winters than could be counted. That was before Oćeti Šakowiŋ. But not until White Buffalo Calf Woman did the humans become Dakota.

Two scouts were hunting the buffalo when they came to the top of a small hill. A long way off, they observed the figure of a woman. As she approached, they saw that she was beautiful. She was young and carried a wakiŋ. One of the scouts had lustful thoughts and told the other. His friend told him that she was sacred and to banish such thoughts.

The woman came up to them and said to the one with the lustful thoughts, “If you would do what you are thinking, come forward.” The scout moved and stood before her and a white cloud covered them from sight.

When the woman stepped from the cloud, it blew away. There on the ground, at the beautiful woman’s feet, lay a pile of bones with worms crawling in and among them.

The woman told the other scout to go to his village and tell his people that she was coming, for them to build a medicine tipi large enough to hold all the chiefs of the nation. She said, “I bring a great gift to your people.”

When the people heard the scout’s story, they constructed the lodge, and put on their finest clothing, then stood about the lodge and waited.

As the woman entered the village, she sang:

‘With visible breath I am walking.

A voice I am sending as I walk.

In a sacred manner I am walking.

With visible tracks I am walking.

In a sacred manner I walk.’

She handed the wakiŋ to the head chief and he withdrew a pipe from the bundle. On one side of the pipe was carved a bison calf. “The bison represents the earth, which will house and feed you,” she said.

Thirteen eagle feathers hung from the wooden stem. White Buffalo Calf Woman told the chiefs, “The feathers represent the sky and the thirteen moons. With this pipe, you shall prosper. With this pipe, you shall speak with Wakaŋ Taŋ՜ka (God). With this pipe, you shall become The People. With this pipe, you shall be bound with the Earth for She is your mother. She is sacred. With this pipe, you shall be bound to your relatives.”

Having given the pipe to the People, and having said what she had to say, she turned and walked four paces from the lodge and sat down.

When she arose, she was a red-and-brown buffalo calf. She walked on, lay down and came up as a black buffalo calf. Walking still farther, she turned into a white buffalo and stood upon a hill. She turned to bow in the four directions of the four winds and then she vanished.

Because of White Buffalo Calf Woman, the Dakota honor our mother the Earth; they honor their parents and their grandparents. They honor the birds of the sky; they honor the beasts of the earth. They know that Wakaŋ Taŋ՜ka resides in all animals, in all trees and plants and rocks and stones. Wakaŋ Taŋ՜ka is in all. They know that Wakaŋ Taŋ՜ka lives in each of us.

Because of White Buffalo Calf Woman, they have become Dakota.

 

The Art of Book Cover Creation By Kristin Bartley Lenz

Hey guys! Today I have something a little different for you. The author of The Art Of Holding On And Letting Go, Kristin Bartley Lenz is here today to talk about how book covers are designed and created! I’m sure you guys will love learning about how your favourite covers have come about just as much as I enjoyed it. So here’s Kristin!

As a reader who is also a writer, I tend to be as interested in the summary, blurbs, and reviews as much as a book’s cover. But I’ve watched my daughter scan the shelves of bookstores and libraries choosing and rejecting books by their covers alone. Social media has opened up new avenues for publishers to tailor their cover designs, such as Swoon Reads/Macmilllan, which asks readers to vote for their favorite of several cover directions for their debuts. https://www.swoonreads.com/blog/category/cover-creation/
It wasn’t until my own novel entered the publishing process that I truly saw the behind-the-scenes making of a book cover. I was fortunate to be involved in many of the cover decisions, including choosing from four initial cover concepts, all very different.

Here’s what my cover designer, Amanda Schwarz, shared about her initial process with my book:

“When designing a book cover I search for a way to visually represent the emotion of the novel while not outright telling the audience what it’s about. After reading the book I realized that the heart of the story is the lead character coming to terms with where her life has taken her and accepting change. In particular the Annie Dillard quote at the end of the novel struck me, “Mountains are giant, restful, absorbent. You can heave your spirit into a mountain and the mountain will keep it, folded, and not throw it back as some creeks will. The creeks are the world with all its stimulus and beauty; I live there. But mountains are home.” To me, this sums up the feelings of the book. Cara, by the end, comes to realize that no matter where she is in her life, the mountains, along with Uncle Max, will always be a part of her. They are inside of her and a life that she can return to one day.

So while not referencing climbing directly, I felt having mountains represented in the covers somewhere is very important as Cara comes to hold on to the important aspects of her previous life, but also learns to let go of others as she grows in the story. It captures the tone but there is also the mystery of what exactly the mountains represent to the story.

While working on the preliminary designs I also decided to use handwritten or script text for the covers. Since we spend the entirety of the book seeing the events from Cara’s perspective, anything that isn’t handwritten felt too impersonal for a very personal story. I chose fonts that have similar characteristics but also contrast to emphasize the emotions of the title especially “Holding On and Letting Go.”

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More layers were added after the initial direction was determined – the images of the mountains, trees, the cityscape, and starry night sky. Later, there were more choices with colors and fonts, and the back cover design as well. Mysterious notes play a role in Cara’s story, so the back cover blurbs are featured on a sheet of wrinkled paper to correspond with this aspect of the plot. If you look closely, you’ll also see the mountains on the back cover carrying over from the front.

I was delighted by other little details right through to the finished design. There’s a small image of a carabiner on the book’s spine, and the inside of the front cover is green to match the trees on the front.

Now that my eyes have been opened to the possibilities, I look at book covers with a new appreciation and notice details I previously overlooked. Even more fun, my publisher is tweaking the cover of The Art of Holding On and Letting Go for a second printing, and this time we get to include a shiny gold sticker thanks to the Junior Library Guild!

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Want to learn more about the art of book covers? By the Cover is an ongoing feature at Book Riot, and Publishers Weekly has a new column devoted to book covers.

Guest Post: Andrew Joyce & Danny

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It is 1896 in the Yukon Territory, Canada. The largest gold strike in the annals of human history has just been made; however, word of the discovery will not reach the outside world for another year.

By happenstance, a fifty-nine-year-old Huck Finn and his lady friend, Molly Lee, are on hand, but they are not interested in gold. They have come to that neck of the woods seeking adventure.

Someone should have warned them, “Be careful what you wish for.”

When disaster strikes, they volunteer to save the day by making an arduous six hundred mile journey by dog sled in the depths of a Yukon winter. They race against time, nature, and man. With the temperature hovering around seventy degrees below zero, they must fight every day if they are to live to see the next.

On the frozen trail, they are put upon by murderers, hungry wolves, and hostile Indians, but those adversaries have nothing over the weather. At seventy below, your spit freezes a foot from your face. Your cheeks burn—your skin turns purple and black as it dies from the cold. You are in constant danger of losing fingers and toes to frostbite.

It is into this world that Huck and Molly race.

They cannot stop. They cannot turn back. They can only go on. Lives hang in the balance—including theirs.

My name is Andrew Joyce and I write books for a living. Camillia has been kind enough to allow me a little space on her blog to promote my new novel RESOLUTION: Huck Finn’s Greatest Adventure. I think it’s a good book, but what do I know? Anyway, I’m kinda shy about tooting my own horn. So I think I’ll turn things over to my dog Danny—Danny the Dog—to toot it for me. So without further ado, here’s Danny.

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Andrew has interrupted my busy existence to help him out here. For a person who works with words for a living, he has very little to say in real life. He wants me to tout his book for him, but I don’t think I will. Instead, I think I’ll tell you a little about my life.

I’m Danny the Dog and I’m gonna tell you of my two recent days of misery.

Perhaps I should start at the beginning . . . I mean the very beginning.

Ever since I was a little shaver, my human has always kept me near. Before he got into the writing racket, he worked for himself. So I could always go with him on his jobs. We’ve been together thirteen years or more and I’ve gotten used to him. When I was younger, he did leave me home on occasion, but who cared? There was a cat next door that I used to watch from the window as it sat under a tree. That was fun, and it kept me occupied all day. I had a doggie door and a fenced-in yard. I was in Dog Heaven! Anyway, here’s the thing: Somewhere along the way, I got used to having Andrew around. Five years ago he stopped working and became a writer, so he’s home all the time now—he never goes out. Maybe that’s it; maybe I’ve got used to having him around. But whatever it is, I like it when he’s close by, but don’t tell him and don’t ask me why.

So here’s what happened. The night before last, he went out for the first time in a long time without taking me. We now live on a boat and there’s no yard for me to hang out in when he’s not there. No squirrels to chase. As he was leaving, I asked him to take me with him. I know I was barking, but he understands me. “You have to stay,” he said. I mean, is that any way to speak to man’s best friend?

Well, he was gone for only a few hours and when he came home, I wagged my tail until it almost fell off.

After that, I reckoned everything would go back to normal. But no. Andrew got up bright and early the next morning (something he never does) and after I took him for a walk, he started to leave me . . . again! I couldn’t believe it, not again. It was invidious of him to say the least. And I let Andrew know it in no uncertain terms. Well, it didn’t matter what I said; he left me alone anyway. And this time he was gone all day.

I was unhappy and kind of lonely. So I got up on the chair where he sits when he writes, and spent the day there waiting for him to come home.

When Andrew finally came in, I cried a little bit (the first time in my life). But I’ve got to hand it to the old guy. When he saw how lonely I had been, he told me that he would never leave me alone again for more than a few minutes. I don’t know what minutes are, but by his voice and the way he scratched my neck, I know he loves me. So I forgave him.

That’s about it for now. Oh yeah, I almost forgot—go out and buy Andrew’s new book. He’s not a bad sort . . . not really . . . and you’d make an old man happy.

This is Andrew again. On behalf of Danny and myself, I would like to thank Camillia for having us over. It’s been a real pleasure.

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