3 S.R. Johannes: Marketing lessons with Terra Elan McVoy (author of The Summer of Firsts and Lasts)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Marketing lessons with Terra Elan McVoy (author of The Summer of Firsts and Lasts)

Terra Elan McVoy is the author of three
outstanding books: Pure, After the Kiss, and her new release, The Summer of Firsts and Lasts.

Not only is her writing so flavorful, but her covers are totally delicious.

Today, she stops by to share some marketing lessons she has learned after publishing three books.

Summer of Firsts and Lasts is about t

hree sisters. One life-changing summer.

Calla loves summer because summer means Duncan. They’ve been best friends for years, but Calla has never worked up the nerve to tell him how she really feels. This summer, the summer before college, is Calla’s last chance.

Violet isn’t much of a rule breaker in real life. But this isn’t real life, this is summer, and Violet is determined to make the most of it. Besides, a little sneaking out never hurt anyone. And sneaking out with James is 100% worth the risk … even though James is completely off-limits.

Daisy has never been the sister that boys notice, but when sparks fly with Joel at the first bonfire of summer, it seems so easy and right. So why is being his girlfriend so complicated?


In a nutshell, - what is your publishing story? How did you get published?

As you probably know, the journey to publication is different for everybody. Mine was a little long and winding, in that I really have been writing for most of my life, and studied it seriously in high school, college, and even in grad school. I didn’t get interested in YA until I was working as an editorial assistant in New York, however (that’s where the idea for Pure came from). Because I was in publishing and new a lot of editors, I talked to them about my idea (about a girl trying to manage both high school and being a person of faith); their responses encouraged me to keep working on the manuscript. When I moved to Atlanta, I stopped working on it for other things, but a year later, an editor remembered my idea and approached me about it. I slaved over the outline and the pitch, and she took it in to acquisitions, and they signed me up! The short version sounds so easy! But really it was almost two decades in the making.

What do you think are the 3 main things that work well in marketing your books?

I’m actually kind of terrible at marketing. Simple word of mouth has been such a huge boon for me, really. So writing the best book I could possibly write has been one “marketing” tactic that I’ve really aimed for; if it’s not good, after all, people won’t pass it along. Having relationships (genuine, organic ones) with other writer friends has also been a big help; meeting other authors, interviewing them on my blog, going to their events—just building a community of good writers around me has been really fun for me. Beyond that, the basics of blogging and tweeting and F’booking and doing events has also been a part!

What is the biggest mistake you made with your marketing?

Like I said, I didn't do much marketing. So THAT for me is the biggest mistake. I think I could have done more to try to help my publisher out in the beginning, and wish I could continue to do more. Coming up with smart ways to do that—things that will be effective and not too much of a time suck—is always really tough.

What is something creative you have done to market your newest book?

To celebrate the release last week of The Summer of Firsts

and Lasts, my friends at Little Shop of Stories threw a truly awesome Camp Extravaganza party for me since my character as actually at

summer camp. We had ice cream (all three flavors on the book cover, or course), camp crafts & games, plus a fantastic talent show that included some of the members

of the girls book group I lead, the local improv troupe, D.U.C.K Improv, plus my friend, Vincenzo Tortorici and my own husband’s

fabulous magic trick! (I read as part of the talent show too.)

It was terribly fun and fabulous (especially having made Camp Callanwolde t-shirts beforehand). All in all, a terrific weekend! You can see pictures of the event at my web site.

What are the 3 main lessons you learned between marketing book 1 and book 3? What do you do differently for this book that you didn't do before?

The main thing is that you really do have to DO it. You have to get out there and get involved in the conversations, let people know who you are and what you’re doing. It’s tricky, for me, to do that and not seem too pushy, but not doing it at all is a big mistake.

The important thing is to find a way that is really authentic to you. Since I love talking to kids about writing I have really tried to reach out more to schools and do more workshops; but for some other writer that might not be as comfortable.

I love talking to bloggers and other writers, and that’s been useful for me, so I try to do more of that. I wasn’t Tweeting before at all, but now I’ve found a way to do it that fits. That’s what the learning process between Pure and The Summer of Firsts and Lasts has been—finding ways to be “out there” that are still comfortable and genuine.

What do you think are the 3 most important things any writer can do to write the best book they can write?

One big important thing is to not be focused on the outcome. Worrying about “will this sell” and all of that really takes away from the writing, which demands a LOT of concentration and time. Reading everything you can possibly read in the same genre –finding what’s already out there and identifying what you like and don’t—is also a huge help. Taking your time also matters a lot: taking time with characters, with developing the world, with examining all your sentences, with revising and revising . . . writing a masterpiece is not short work!

What is your favorite word and why?

What a great question to end with. I love “crepuscular,” because it is just such a fun word to say, but also because it describes that twilight time of day when the sky is half blues and half peaches: warm and cool at the same time. It’s a lovely word—a transitional word—and I just always feel this delightful peace and calm when I say it. It evokes the thing it means, at least to me!

You can follow or learn more about Terra at her blog, twitter or Facebook.

In other news, check out more Bookanista posts today!

Elana Johnson marvels at Moonglass

Christine Fonseca raves about It’s Raining Cupcakes

LiLa Roecker and Carrie Harris have a passion for Possession

Beth Revis admires the audiobook of Anansi Boys

Carolina Valdez Miller is giddy over Moonglass – with giveaway

Megan Miranda swoons over Strings Attached

Shana Silver delves into Divergent

Sarah Frances Hardy gabs about Gossip from the Girls Room

Matt Blackstone is tantalized by Bad Taste in Boys

Stasia Ward Kehoe glories in a guestanista review of The Rendering


Hardygirl said...

This looks like a great one, and I'm intrigued by the premise--and yes, I totally want to eat that cover!


Jessi said...

Awesome interview! I LOVED After the Kiss, and am totally looking forward to The Summer of Firsts and Lasts--which is an amazing title, btw!

Stasia said...

Totally agree with the point about finding ways to be out there but also to be genuine. I find when I'm not really following my own passions as a writer and a person, the marketing effort feels very tough. When I'm connecting to people and things I truly care about, the marketing is work I have the energy and willingness to do! Thanks for a great interview, Shelli!

Natalie Aguirre said...

Great interview. I love the cover of Terra's book! Especially since it's lunch time. Ha!

Terra has some great advice on connecting to other authors even though she says she doesn't market enough. Who does? Sounds like a great book.

Carmen Ferreiro-Esteban said...

Great interview.

I agreed with Terra's advice on writing. At the end, the only thing we can control is our writing.
What happens with our manuscript after we are finished, we cannot.

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