Monday, December 07, 2009

Marvelous Marketer: Maggie Stiefvater (Bestselling author, Shiver)

Hi Maggie! *waves*

Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to stop by. Tell me a little about yourself. About your book, how you got started, and your journey to publication.

*Maggie strives to make a long story short* Let’s see, as of the time of this interview, I have three YA novels on the shelf, of which the most famous is probably SHIVER, currently on the NYT bestseller list, I’m a full-time author, and I write YA contemporary fantasy pretty exclusively.

SHIVER is the first of a trilogy about werewolves -- well, shapeshifters more properly, I suppose. And LAMENT and BALLAD are companion books about homicidal faeries and kissing. With all my novels I strive for 90% realism and 10% fantasy. I want them to feel very grounded.

My first novel, LAMENT, was a slush-pile baby, pulled out of the muck by Andrew Karre at Flux. He asked me to revise it, I made a feeble attempt, and it ended up going nowhere. A year later, I submitted my next manuscript to him, and he said, “How about that first one?” He asked me again to revise, and this time, I knew what I was doing -- well, I had a better idea, anyway -- and he bought it after I revised three chapters. I still remember what he said on the phone when he made the offer. He told me that I was going to be big in the literary world, that all I needed was to get my foot in the door. And he said, “Here’s the door.”


You are a big blogger, did that have anything to do with your success. Or how do you utilize your blog in a marketing way? (Include website/blog? When did you start it and who manages it?

First of all, the down and dirty links: my website, designed in part by Xuni (I did the header and much of the color scheme). And my blog, (also mirrored on Blogger).

The short answer is yes, blogging had a lot to do with my success. But the long answer is yes and no. Yes, I would’ve sold SHIVER without my blog. No, I wouldn’t have sold it for as much. Both of the publishers who made it to the final round of the auction for SHIVER cited my web presence in their offers.

The fact of the matter is there’s a lot of YA out there now, and even if a good book will get read eventually, a kick-ass blog will help your good book to get read faster. If you add all of my blogging and social networking folks altogether, it’s literally thousands of people that my publisher probably wouldn’t reach through other means -- or, even if they could, that my publisher can speak to on a different level because of my blog. The first step is getting people to know your name. Once they know your name, you market your book to them in a different way.

Here’s the thing about my blog, though. You have to blog because you love to blog. You have to blog about something interesting, and what you did over the weekend isn’t interesting unless you know how to spin it. A blog where you dutifully post every other day about your wordcount and how your characters are speaking to you is not going to win you thousands of readers, because there are hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of blogs out there, and anyway, even the best of those will only appeal to writers rather than just plain readers.

Also, don’t just blog about your book and where to buy it. Who will subscribe to a year long advertisement for you? so whoo hoo SHIVER’s been on the bestseller list for 17 weeks, sold rights in 30 countries, and been given x honor and shortlisted for y award. NO ONE CARES. That may be putting it a bit too strongly, but there’s no point in me posting “I SOLD THE CROATIAN RIGHTS!” and the next week saying “I SOLD THE LITHUANIAN RIGHTS!” My mom and husband are excited about these things. Readers will think you’re gloating if they bother to care at all. Not great content.

I have a handful of blogs in my blog reader that I read all the time. They’re all either: a) intensely informative on the industry, b) extremely hilarious, c) extremely snarky about the industry, d) involve strange photographs of animals doing strange things to tourists, or e) all of these things. I analyze why I read these blogs all the time. When I’m writing a blog post, I try to think, is this something that will actually entertain, or am I just posting dutifully?

A last comment: I reply to just about every comment left on my blog. I know a lot of people don’t, and it is a huge burden of time for me, but it makes a big difference to readers. I’ve seen authors who stopped replying to commentors, and guess what -- they stopped getting comments. Who wants to shout into the void?


How do you use social networking to get the word out about your book?

Indirectly, for the most part. Again, you can tell that direct selling of myself makes me break out in a rash. It’s far better to be a visible part of a community than always crowing about yourself. So I’m on Facebook and Twitter (I’m on Goodreads, too, but mostly to just post my favorites books rather than engaging in book clubs on there). I had a Myspace account but found it to be clunky, slow, and ultimately a giant vacuum of my time with no visible results.

Anyway, my policy for these guys is the same as my blog: I answer every comment. I change my status updates fairly regularly, and I often use these places to let readers know where I’ll be for a signing, because I have a lot of local fans/ friends/ readers. I also, however, post a lot about my love of Spock and how many nostrils human beings breathe out of at any given time.


Did you think about marketing before your book was published? Did you
start prior to getting an agent or selling your book? If so, when and what
did you do?

Well, I was a full-time portrait artist before I got published, and my online blog basically helped me pay my rent by getting the word out there about my art: http://greywarenart.blogspot.com. So I already knew about the power of blogging and the power of being a useful and friendly member of the blogging community. I also had mostly learned the lesson that your blog is a cocktail party: no religion, politics, or sex.


How do you work with your different houses on marketing? Do you plan your events together?

Generally only the conferences get planned together. Everything else is relatively independent. It was more of an issue in October, because I had just had SHIVER (Scholastic) come out, and BALLAD (Flux) came out right on its heels. So there was more juggling.


In your opinion , what are the top 3 things every author should and must do to promote their book?

Hum. There is no “must” in promoting, because it has to do with your personality. But I would say a) blog. b) reply to your comments. c) buy cases of your own books to giveaway to important folks you meet and for contests and influential bloggers.

What creative things have you done to promote a book?

My favorite contest had readers post a snippet of the book and the book cover on their blogs to enter -- in a week, hundreds of blog posts with my book cover in them went up, and even if no one hit “buy on Amazon” right after seeing it, half the battle was already won, because next time they went into stores and recognized the cover, they’re far, far, far more likely to pick it up.

I also bring my harp with me to signings for the faerie books, because they have a lot of Irish music in them. That way I can play and not look bored.

And finally, I think all the time from the point of view of the book reader. What would I want to hear about a book before it comes out? Where would I be looking for it? What would make me click buy or tell my friends about it?

Thanks for joining us today!

Thanks, Shelli!

38 comments:

Patti said...

Excellent interview. Great advice on marketing your book. And I loved the book Shiver, can't wait for the sequels.

Eileen Astels Watson said...

WOnderful insight here. I must check Maggie's blog out. Can't wait to see what she delivers there!

Paul Greci said...

Thanks Shelli and Maggie. Great advice and fun to read.

Catherine Denton said...

Thank you Shelli and Maggie. I enjoyed learning from you!

Robin said...

GREAT interview. Awesome nuggets of advice, Maggie. Thanks!!!

Solvang Sherrie said...

Great interview!

I loved, LOVED Shiver. One of my favorite books of the year.

How wonderful that she was a slush pile success story, too!

Christina Lee said...

Yeah Maggie! I just down-loaded a sample of Shiver to my Kindle last week and I will be reading it next. Great interview, Shelli!

Myra said...

I found Maggie when she emailed me and asked me to review Lament for YABC. First I fell for the writing, then I fell for the writer. Maggie is a fab example of how to do the work right.

Also, one nostril. And yes, I learned that from Maggie.

Frankie Diane Mallis said...

I love Maggie and this was a really insightful interview and very true!! Good to remember:) Thanks for posting this, Shelli!

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Wow, a big hurrah to Andrew Karre for opening the door for you. Very cool publishing story.
I also appreciate that you reply to comments. I do that and like it when other bloggers do it. I prefer to think of blogging as interactive, as dialogue, as exchange of ideas--not as one person's microphone.
Thanks Maggie and Shelli. Well done.

Susan R. Mills said...

Awesome interview. Thanks to both of you.

Vicky Alvear Shecter said...

What an inspiring story...and what a smart and savvy author!

Sara Tribble said...

Great job to both of you! Love all this stuff! And her book is already on my *To Read* list due to some referrals from other readers I network with online!

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Fantastic interview - I read every word. Twice! I truly appreciate the blogging advice, as well as all the other gems of wisdom Maggie shared. Thanks, ladies! :)

Sandy Shin said...

That's an great interview! All the advice are wonderful. :)

Robin Constantine said...

Great interview and advice!

Loved SHIVER and am excited to find out it's a trilogy! Cool.

Sarah Campbell said...

Thanks for doing this interview, Shelli. Good advice.

Rebecca Knight said...

Love the advice and blogging tips :). The cocktail party analogy is perfect!

Sara ♥ said...

This is really fantastic :-) Great interview - I bookmarked it! Will definitely be back to this blog!

Lisa and Laura said...

AMAZING interview. I love writers who love to blog.

V. S said...

Fun interview, great advice and blogging tips

ElanaJ said...

This is fantastic information! Thanks Shelli and Maggie.

Carol said...

Thanks, Shelli. Interesting interview with Maggie. It's always wonderful to read about a dedicated and successful professional writer. It's motivating, and a little scary, but inspirational.

Kelly said...

Wow. Maggie had fabulous tips and ideas. I love that she still comments to her commenters!! That is awesome!!!
Super awesome spectacular interview!

Jenna said...

Fantastic interview! Thanks, Shelli and Maggie! There's some great info here, and I fully intend to check out Maggie's blog. :)

Maggie Stiefvater said...

Thanks, guys!! I hope it was useful. Tricia, I loved what you said about blogging -- so true!

Katie Ganshert said...

What a great interview! Thanks for sharing!

Shelli said...

Hey guys - thanks for stopping by. Maggie was great to interview - funny right? and i loved what she said about blogging.

Gail said...

Great interview, Shelli! I totally agree with Maggie (and Tricia) that it's important to respond to comments and make a connection to readers. I'm starting another blog for teens with vision challenges and dialoging with them is the main goal.

Pamela said...

Great interview with great advice!

I have followed Maggie on livejournal for a while now and she has some pretty interesting posts and lots of fun contests. =)

Shiver was a good read too. =)

Great job on the interview!

Pam

Nathalie said...

Wow! I've learned so much just by reading this interview. Thank you, Shelli, and congratulations and hanks to Maggie Stiefvater for generously sharing her tips on blogging and marketing. :)

RKCharron said...

Hi :)
Thank you for the excellent interview with Maggie Stiefvater. Thanks to Maggie for sharing. I really enjoyed learning a bit more about her and her writing and the backstory to Lament and how to get an online presence which helps market yourself and your writing.
Happy Holidays,
RKCharron
PS - posted about this interview on my blog for 5am Tues Dec 8th.

Cheerios and Pearls Necklace Stories said...

Wonderful interview, Shelli. Thank you for posting. I just finished reading "Shiver" and I am very impressed with Maggie's writing style, book idea and vocabulary. I'm planning to read "Lament" soon. In the mid time Maggie's advises in this interview are realistic and helpful!

Pixiewinkle said...

Great interview! A friend passed the link on and I'm glad she did. Lost of useful information and it's always nice to hear of someone who got published!;)

a. fortis said...

Thanks, Shelli and Maggie, for such an inspiring interview! It was great to read about another artist who's also pursuing the writing life.

Natalie Aguirre said...

Thanks for the great interview Shelli and Maggie. I love Shiver. One of the language arts teachers at my daughter's middle school does too and she brought up the book at the PTSO meeting and then at the student council meeting this week. She suggests it to kids who like Twilight, with yours being an example of good writing.

Maggie Stiefvater said...

Ah, thanks - especially to Natalie - for the kind words about Shiver!!

Vonna said...

Thanks for this great interview. Maggie, I took Shiver to my critique group to use it as a gorgeous example of showing not telling and immersing the reader in each and every scene. Beautiful writing!