3 S.R. Johannes: Marvelous Marketer: Holly Cupala (author of Tell Me A Secret!)

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Marvelous Marketer: Holly Cupala (author of Tell Me A Secret!)

The winner of the Bloombsury/Walker lot is...


Congrads and email me your address (sjohannes@bilaninc.com)

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!

Thanks Holly!

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! :)


jpetroroy said...

I've always loved the St. Jude's Research Hospital.

Larissa said...

I'm already volunteering with the Florida Writers Foundation, so I'd probably try to do more with that. :)

Great interview! Congrats to Holly, and thanks, Shelli!

Christina Farley said...

Very inspiring interview. Thank you to Holly for your words of wisdom. Lots of great advice in there. I'd love to give back to kids that I'm in contact with like the elementary school that I teach at. Kids are a huge part of my life as a teacher so that's where I'd like to have an impact in.

Renae said...

Great interview. I would love to give back to the education system in some way. I teach second grade now and would love to have an impact on these kids!

Good luck to everyone who entered the agent contest with Bree! She is awesome!

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Thank you Holly for sharing your excellent experience and for pointing out those who helped along the way and reminding us that making friends is part of the journey. I loved this interview.
If I made it, I'd want to give back to kids somehow. I know there are organizations that encourage young people to write. That would make my heart sing.

Riv Re said...

I plan to donate around 10% (at least) to several different funds, including an Israeli charity that helps pay for weddings.

Serenissima said...

I'd like to contribute time and books to schools in my area that most need it.

laurapauling said...

There are people in my area with contacts to orphanages in other countries. I'd like to give to that or to helping literacy here in America.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

This is one of the BEST author interviews I've read. I love Holly's pre and post romance writing. Too funny. And what an awesome husband. :D

Karen Akins said...

Well, I'm just fired up. Love this interview. I would/ already do volunteer time and resources to the public library and Bethany Christian Services. I used to work for Bethany, and they provide valuable counseling and help to girls facing unplanned pregnancies as well as children's services here in the U.S. and around the world.

Kate said...

I have always wanted to give more to the ASPCA. I love animals and I think people need to be more aware of the horrible conditions some of these animals live in, and learn about how to help.

sithereandread (at) gmail (dot) com

L.J. Boldyrev said...

Great interview! I grabbed a preview of the first two chapters of TELL ME A SECRET from Books Of Wonder and it has my dying to read the book!!

And what is it about us writer gals being married to tech savvy men? Seems to be quite a few!

Congrats on your success, Holly! Wish you the very best with your career!

Because I already have a sample, I ask not to be entered, but that you, Shelli, for the interview!

Lena said...

Awesome interview! I would love to help out Habitat for Humanity. With all the earthquakes, hurricanes and what not, it'd be nice to help contribute to others in desperate need of shelter. Every little bit counts, right? :)

Cari said...

Great interview!

Irene Latham said...

Holly is such a sweetheart! And yes, the two chaps in the booklet are awesome... don't enter me, Shelli, but thanks for this interview.

bclement412 said...

Great interview! I'd want to help a cause preventing animal cruelty.


Natalie Aguirre said...

What a great interview. Holly, your book sounds awesome. That's so great you are donating some of the proceeds to charity and are involved in Operation Teen Book Drop and readergirlz. I'm a big fan of Dia Calhoun.

I can't wait to read your book and visit you on your blog tour. Thanks for saying we don't have to do it all with marketing because it drives me nuts just thinking of it all.

Michele Thornton said...

Can't wait to get my hands on Tell Me a Secret. I'd donate to American Stroke Association in honor of my brother in law, and bring lots more bags of cat food to our local shelter.

Iffath♥Ahmed said...

Great interview! Holly - I love how you're donating part of the proceeds of TMAS to charity, you should be so proud of yourself, and you're helping the sisterhood!

Also, please don't enter me in the draw, Shelli, I already have a copy of the book :)

holly cupala said...

Thank you again, Shelli, for inviting me to Market My Words, and to everyone for stopping by! I'm so excited to see all of your smiling faces and kind words.

I hope this encourages you just a little bit to keep writing the story you are meant to write, and have fun with the marketing. You are all inspiring to me!

Janet Lee Carey said...

What a great interveiw! Loved the opening about the book and the sound writing advice.
Yes to working on the next book (so glad you did that already, Holly)And to highlighting Outreach as a part of the book launch. Today's interview is an inspiring start to the blog tour for Tell Me A Secret.

Trini said...

The organizations I have always felt a needed to help the most are the ones that support Colorectal Cancer. My father was diagnosed with this disease and it took his life within nine months. Awarness and education are the keys to help saving lives.
The Colon Club

Great interview! Can't wait for the next stop.


Kayla :) said...

I'd love to support Juvenile Diabetes. My friend has this and I want to help her and others in her situation.

kayla3194 at gmail dot com

Jemi Fraser said...

What a great question - there are so many. Some of my faves are: Canadian Cancer Society, United Way, school libraries, school breakfast programs...

scatterbeams said...

I love Holly's description of finding her voice - and what a wonderful voice.

My current favourite non-profit is 826 Seattle. I want to get more deeply involved with them next school year.

Mrs. DeRaps said...

I would donate to the Literacy Volunteers of America (Pro-Literacy). I am a volunteer right now and see how much is needed in the way of materials and such.

Great question! And, I can't wait to read Holly's book. I've read the first 2 chapters and am hooked!

Vicky Alvear Shecter said...

I like Women-to-Women International which supports women from war-torn countries get a new lease on life with education and other kinds of support. I sponsored one woman from Rawanda and would like to support one from Darfur. The amount of suffering these women endure is simply unimaginable and I love this group because it's one-on-one support...

Hannah S said...

There is an awesome organization near me that helps women get back on their feet--it's great! I'd love too support that. :)
And thanks for the interview. :)
I LOVE Holly!
Love, Hannah

Bailey H. said...

I loved the interview Holly! It makes me want to read the book even more!! I would like to contribute to the Susan G. Komen foundation because its personal for me, as my grandma died of breast cancer.

Claire Dawn said...

I love reading intervies for books I was already looking forward to. *grin*

I agree with so much of what Holly said. (Especially the part about trying to market on all possible fronts...)

If I'm ever rich and famous, I'll be donating to Go Longitude. They train women in Ghana to enter the workforce and build houses for Dalit people in India. I went to India last year to help build houses.

Bookaholic (Jessica) said...

Terrific interview. Holly seems like such a sweet person.

I would help a Children's Hospital. We currently do that and have tried to make small donations over the past few years to a local hospital. I have a young child and I couldn't imagine going through what some parents have to with illness and disease. I would want to make larger contributions to help those families.

Janet Johnson said...

Great interview! Wow, Holly, I LOVE that you give back so passionately. Definitely inspiring. :)

Jessie said...

great interview. I'd like to give back to my local Guardian ad Litem program. I was on the board for years and recently resigned to have more time for writing, but these kids really need all the support they can get.
also, Shelli, I'm giving you a blog award today. This place is wonderful! http://jessie-harrell.blogspot.com

Solvang Sherrie said...

My favorite organizations are Habitat for Humanity and Heifer International, because they help people to help themselves. I think it's such a great idea to think about giving back at all stages of your life and your career.

Jessy said...

I didn't realize you are donating a percentage of TMAS profits. That's very generous of you. I wish there were more people out there like you!

Your husband sounds very supportive. That's great of him to help out with promotion like that.

Erika Lynn said...

In my opinion you can never go wrong with the Red Cross. They do so much


Cass said...

Hmm...I'd love to be able to contribute to many different charities all over the world. In particular, perhaps Salvation Army, Red Cross, RSPCA, some lesser-known ones. Health research funds.


angelatarantula said...

I would contribute to the Boston Children's Hospital. It was voted one of the best childrens hospitals in the nation and I would like to fund it for further research into things like cancer and uncured diseases.

angela z