The winner of Forget Her Nots is...
Emily from Emily's Reading Room!
Today, Jessica Leader has stopped by and wants to give away a copy of her newly released book, Nice and Mean.
Nice and Mean appears on the Summer 2010 Kids IndieNext List.
Hi Jessica, tell us about yourself.
I am a young-adult writer, teacher, director, lover of cake and everything pickled.
Tell us about Nice and Mean (only in 140 characters – your twitter pitch!)
NYC seventh-graders, one nice, one mean, face off their high-profile video elective. Deception, unveiling, learning, laughs. You can read an excerpt here.
What inspired the story?
Nice and Mean’s two main characters, Marina and Sachi, were actually supporting characters in the first manuscript I ever wrote. That first story didn’t have enough action to make it work, but I remained intrigued by Marina and Sachi and knew that for my next piece, I wanted to focus on the two of them.
Throughout the first story, I had wondered: Why was Marina so mean and angry? How would she react if she ever came up against a force as strong as herself? And Sachi—the Indian honor-roll student, so nice, so loved, but so secretive—what would make her assert herself? When I realized how much these characters could learn from each other, I knew they belonged in a book together, and to make them interact, I paired them up in a video class they both cared about tremendously. I wanted to show how niceness and meanness (or assertiveness, really) both have their place but need to be tempered with their opposite. I hope I’ve succeeded.
Was there ever a time when you felt like giving up? Why didn’t you?
I can’t remember if there was any one time, but I do remember a meeting with an editor at an SCBWI conference that left me so incredibly frustrated that I peeled out of the parking lot leaving bitter voicemail messages for everyone I thought would listen. (Sorry, gang.) The editor did like aspects of the story, and some of her suggestions were spot-on, but she also gave me feedback that I just didn’t know how to translate at the time.
As upset as I was, though, I don’t think it occurred to me to give up. Call it confidence, call it arrogance, or call it late for dinner, but I believed that I had the skills to write stories worth telling and the dedication to make them worth reading. So I kept at it, and finally, after approximately five million years, one publisher—Simon and Schuster—said Nice and Mean, you’re on!
What have you learned about promoting books in your publication journey? What worked well for you?
I quote my friend, writer Varian Johnson: “There are only two things you need to do: set up a website and write your next book.” He added (and now I’m paraphrasing) If you’re doing anything additional, do what you love. If you’re taking on additional promotion efforts and you don’t love them, it will show.
For me, doing what I love meant finding my target audience and forging genuine connections. I like talking about the craft of writing, and as a former middle-school English teacher, I love talking with teachers and librarians. Kidlitchat on Twitter led me to a local English teacher, who in turn led me to the bookseller that—unbeknownst to me—nominated Nice and Mean to the Summer 2010 IndieNext List. I hadn’t schemed to land there, and if I had, it probably wouldn’t have worked. But I did connect with the type of readers I cared about, and it turned out wonderfully well.
What was a waste?
The book hasn’t been out long enough for me to know if anything ended up being a waste, but I have heard from other debut authors that focusing on Amazon rankings is not a good use of time. Amazon represents only a small percentage of your sales, and the rankings are updated so frequently that any ground you might gain will probably be offset by someone else’s efforts. Focus on your next book instead!
What creative promotion ideas do you have for Nice and Mean?
Because the book deals with niceness, meanness, popularity and assertiveness, I’d love to connect with organizations that go into schools and do workshops on these issues. Teaching middle-school, it wasn’t hard to notice the uber-importance of social interactions, and I loved seeing how a good book discussion could affect students’ beliefs. I’m hopeful that Nice and Mean could be a part of such a conversation.
What’s your biggest fear and why?
Airplane turbulence. Just answering this question, in fact, reminds me that I have to send three copies of Nice and Mean to the man from Connecticut who calmed me down during a particularly stressful flight up to New York. (The three books are for his triplets. As kind as he was, I’m not assuming he needs three copies of the book.)
Thanks for having me on the blog, Shelli! I always come here when I need a boost, and I hope I’ve given something useful in return.
You can follow Jessica on her blog or Twitter.
To be entered in the drawing, tell us. Throughout the book, Marina pushes people to do things they don’t want to, and Sachi does things she doesn’t want to in order to please others.
Name one example of each that you have done in the past.