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Special Announcement! Winners of the Bree Ogden Agent Pitch Contest announced tomorrow! Don't miss it!
Also - don't miss the announcement of the new WriteOnCon!! Free online conference Aug 10th-12th. Speakers include Mark McVeigh, Joanne Volpe, Mary Kole, and more. I'll even be doing a marketing workshop for all writers. Go check it out!
Today, Holly Cupala, author of Tell Me A Secret is here!
Hi Holly, tell everyone about you and your new book coming out next week.
Hi Shelli, thanks for having me. My debut YA novel, TELL ME A SECRET (out next week on June 22nd!), is a little bit mystery, a little bit romance, and a little bit family story.
In the five years since her bad-girl sister’s mysterious death, seventeen year-old Miranda has been holding the family together—her suffocating mother, her disappearing father, and the secrets that bind them. Now she is on the edge of everything she’s ever wanted—art school, a best friend to unlock her sister’s secret world, and a boyfriend who will take her away from it all…only she has a secret of her own. Two lines on a pregnancy test will shatter everything. That’s where it gets interesting!
This wasn’t my first novel—those would be the teen romances I wrote in eighth grade before I actually experienced teen romance. Tragic poetry followed actual romance! For a long time, I thought I would write for adults, though I secretly kept working on kidlit manuscripts. I eventually found my way to SCBWI and spent years learning the craft and trying to find my voice. It took a devastating life event to uncover it, but some friends encouraged me to keep writing. And suddenly, the whole story just fell in my lap.
How did you get your agent and can you share some of your submission experience with editors?
In so many ways, I’m an SCBWI success story—I’ve gone to local and international conferences for years, received a Work-In-Progress Grant, and learned much about the craft and business by volunteering and taking classes.
I met my agent (Edward Necarsulmer, Children’s Director at McIntosh and Otis) in a moment of incredible serendipity—I was assigned to his table at the 2008 SCBWI Conference/NYC Writer’s Intensive. I read my first five hundred words, and he said, “W-w-w-w-w-ow. I...I…I can’t think of anything to suggest…wow.” So, he had me at wow, and he’s been wowing me ever since! We went through one revision (I had another agent offer, but for some crazy reason I picked the one who wanted me to revise before going out with it), and he sold it in a pre-empt to our top choice!
One strategy that I think was helpful before teaming up with an agent was to meet with editors. They would ask to see the full manuscript, but I didn’t submit it myself. So when Edward asked me about the manuscript’s history, I could tell him there were five editors who wanted to see it—he ended up getting a two-book deal in the space of a few weeks.
I love those kind of stories! I had dinner with Edward at an SCBWI conference when we were on . He is funny and very passionate about his work. Can you talk a little about readergirlz? What is the concept behind Operation Teen Book Drop?
A few years ago, four award-winning authors (Justina Chen, Lorie Ann Grover, Dia Calhoun, and Janet Lee Carey) began readergirlz as an online teen lit community devoted to encouraging girls to “read, reflect, and reach out.” The day after their first major project, 31 Flavorite Authors (an entire month of live author chats), they called me! It only took seconds for me to realize they were asking me to join an amazing group of women with an important mission. I’m very excited and grateful to be the featured author in August!
Operation Teen Book Drop came about because Justina (besides being a brilliant author) has a huge heart. She was researching at Children’s Hospital for her second novel, GIRL OVERBOARD, and noticed the lack of comfort objects for teens. Publishers, YALSA, GuysLitWire, and 30,000 books later, we have brought Operation Teen Book drop to Children’s Hospitals across the country and, for the first time this year in teaming up with If I Can Read, I Can Do Anything, to Native teens living on tribal lands. Plus our readers and tons of YA authors participate. It gets bigger every year!
How has getting involved with this passion helped you build a stronger network?
Readergirlz is all about making connections among readers—teens, librarians, teachers, authors, and book lovers. It has been an amazing journey to get to know people as a result of our shared love of great YA books.
Not only have you been involved in giving back to readers through readergirlz but you also contribute a percentage of your book profits to World Vision's Hope for Sexually Exploited Girls? Why? Is that a passion of yours?
My husband and I have supported World Vision and that program for a number of years now—even though TELL ME A SECRET isn’t about sexual exploitation, it is about women and secrets and shame, and I felt there was a connection there. I was really excited to be able to be able to tie two of my passions together and give back in some way.
In addition to giving back, what are a few creative things you have done to promote your books?
A few projects we have going on: this blog tour, Story Secrets (interviews with YA authors), a 2-chapter sneak preview booklet and exclusive excerpt at Hunger Mountain, making DIY swag, events in several cities, a book trailer (coming soon!).
My husband has been kind of amazing in this regard and has embraced TMAS publicity with gusto! He redesigned my website, produced the trailer, designed the Tell Me A Secret site, and has been having fun making t-shirts and other swag. He’s has a lot of business and tech savvy, so he’s always coming up with these crazy, out-of-the-box ideas. I say, “But honey, nobody in publishing does that.” But then we try it, and it works! He’s slowly expanding my Holly 2.0 comfort zone—and we’re having a lot of fun doing it!
Plus, there are some very exciting things we can’t talk about yet…but very soon… So much of it was just making friends and being at the right place at the right time.
What marketing advice do you have for authors/writers?
A very wise author friend with 20/20 hindsight once gave me a gem: make writing your next book a top priority. Why? Because once the dust settles and you’ve calmed down a little after the sale of your first book and as you wait for editor revisions, there will be a valuable gap of time before the revision letter arrives and the marketing machine begins to rumble. Once you’ve gotten those revisions, once you’ve started a blog and tweeted and talked to every bookseller in the nation and planned your virtual tour and teamed up with other authors (all excellent things to do), your book will hit the shelves and maybe even become a runaway bestseller…and you’ll realize that a second book is due. Yesterday. And suddenly there is a lot less time and a lot more pressure. Give yourself the enormous gift of a head start.
Also, I’ve learned that it’s just not possible to do everything! There are so many potential areas of marketing: social networking, a blockbuster book trailer, jaw-dropping website, tweeting, blogging, vlogging, school visits, bookseller meetings, blogger networking, swag and contests, tours and virtual tours…the possibilities are endless. Choose what you can do—what you like to do!—and do it well. It helps to be kind and thankful, and to make lots of friends along the way.
Speaking of which…thank you so much, Shelli, for inviting me to your blog!
You can also find Holly hanging out on Twitter and Facebook.
Also Holly is having a TELL ME A SECRET Tour Contest! Prizes each week for blog comments – we’re giving away signed books each week, t-shirts, journals, gift cards, and more!Leave comments at any official tour stop or Holly's blog throughout the tour schedule ! Go to her blog for more details. The next stop on the tour is Tuesday at Amy Brecont White's blog.
Comment on Holly's interview and tell me: "When you get published, is there a group or organization you would like to help or contribute to? And why?"
I will draw 5 names of 5 preadvanced samples of Tell Me A Secret (along with some swag). And I will mail them this week so you can read it before the release! :)