Wonderbook Winners and Select Comments

We had a great turnout for the Wonderbook contest last month, and I’m happy to announce our three winners: Sarah Hendrix, Dylan Fogle, and Connie (we still need your full details—check your email).

Sarah Hendrix:
I’m currently running back and forth between the Oasis of Malaise, the Fortress of Distractions and the Bridge of Certainty. Although I think I left my muse at the Desert of Pointless Writing and Writing… I am nearing the completion of this draft and am ready to spend quite a bit of time exploring the Lake of Endless Revisions.

Dylan Fogle:
I seem to be perpetually stuck at the Start. Always on the verge of going. But somehow getting stuck in not doing it.

I can’t start because of an Encounter With Self-Doubt :)

While the contest winners were chosen randomly, I would have loved to give prizes for the most imaginative answers. Here’s a small selection that were submitted (you can read them all at the bottom of the contest page—and you should, because there’s far more than can be included here).

Did you know: if you scuba dive deep into the Lake of Endless Revision, you can access a system of submerged caves that you eventually exit right near the loops of procrastination? Yeah, I found that out by accident.

Annie Thompson
I am in a turnabout between encounter with self doubt and fortress of distractions. It seems that every time I wade through one, I find myself right in the middle of the other!

Daemon Hoskin
I laid siege to the Fortress of Distractions, won the battle, stormed the gates and locked myself in. From the arrow slits, I watch the line of figures marching towards the True Ending, and just when I am about to lower the drawbridge and ride out – ooh shiny!

Dave Versace
I’m definitely on the plains of distraction, but I think maybe these bites I picked up in my various encounters with self-doubt are beginning to fester.

I thought I’d made it from the Loops of Procrastination to the Desert of Pointless Writing and Writing, but instead realized yesterday that I was somewhere in the Plains of False Inspiration. The Story shook off my hand, dove into the ground ,and disappeared. Looking off to the west, I see the same blasted Loops of Procrastination and I have…um…dusting to do. And the pantry to reorganize. And I should fold all the laundry. Also knit another five pairs of socks. Then there’s the music to learn. Piles of papers to be sorted. The tack room’s a mess. I need to get back to riding the bike, but the refrigerator has gunk in the vegetable drawers…maybe a nap is in order.

I’ve been swimming in the Lake of Endless Revisions for a few weeks now. Someone please send a boat to fetch me!

I’m stranded on the Lost Coast of Shipwrecked Endings. Please–someone send a map that includes the correct ending and a lovely rum drink inside a coconut.

Stephanie Bogart
Two suits of tragedy in action
Beguile blocks the Bridge of Certainty
Keeping purpose from gaining traction
A hollowed voice echoes through eternity
Chastising for the infraction
Another day gone to ignored opportunity
A creation so near to satisfaction
Maybe a Wonderbook filled with diversity
Will lead me out of The Fortress of Distraction.

Took me all day but, this is what floated around my head after I saw the map. However, this is the first time I have actually spent any time writing anything for the past month. I thank you for the inspiration.

You can find out more about Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction here at the official site. I’ve had the book for a couple of weeks now and it truly is beautiful, and full of great information. Every writer should have a copy, and should give a copy the budding writers in their life.

Win Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction

As a writer, your journey to the end of the story is a long, tortuous one, fraught with problems—procrastination, distractions, self doubt. These dangers are countless, and unimaginable.

That is, until now.

Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction shows you all of that and more, through the use of wonderful, whimsical, and sometimes just plain weird imagery. In partnership with Jeff VanderMeer, we at BookLife Now are offering an exclusive look from Wonderbook: a map of this journey. So we ask you—where are YOU on the journey to the end of the story? Look at the image below and tell us where you fall. Answer in the comments area and you’ll be registered to win print copies of both Wonderbook and Booklifenow – three winners will be selected randomly, just add your comment below.*


Of course we’re all writers here, too, and a few of us (unable to join in on this contest), offer our own glimpses:

Caroline Ratajski: I’ve emerged from the Plains of False Inspiration and I am currently stumbling along the border of Desert of Pointless Writing and Encounter With Self-Doubt.

Jaym Gates: I’m somewhere between the Oasis of Malaise and the Fortress of Distractions. I have the book, and it’s probably a decent book, but I have too many other things that need to be done, and no real energy to get back into momentum.

Bear Weiter: With my current novel, I really wallowed in the Plains of False Inspiration for a long time—everything and anything that came to me that seemed special, unique, was considered and explored. It took more time than I had expected to wade through there and get past it. Now I’m mostly working around the Fortress of Distractions, but that’s pretty standard for me—that one I know well, and battle often enough that we’ve almost become friends. Not quite, but almost.

Update: Jeff says “I’ll throw in a couple of extra things into the winner’s packages.” He has refused to elaborate, but free books, free postage, and extra stuff?! You definitely want this.

*Because this is a contest, a few quick notes. You must be 18 or older to enter—I know, that sucks, but it simplifies things legally. If you’re under 18, get one of your parents to enter for you. Three winners will be selected at random from all of the posted comments—we reserve the right to not approve your comment for spamming or inappropriateness (rudeness, tastelessness, and excessive profanity all fit in here). If you post a comment and use a bogus email address (yeah, I said bogus), you get nothing! No purchase is necessary to win—and we’re not selling anything anyway. Postage will be taken care of, but it may take a while for the books to arrive should you live outside of the US. The contest is open through October.

Success is Like Lightning

Mercedes M. Yardley wears red lipstick and poisonous flowers in her hair. She has been published in several diverse publications, and her first short story collection will be released this fall. She is a member of the SFWA, the HWA, and is represented by Jason Yarn at Paradigm. Mercedes is the nonfiction editor of Shock Totem magazine. You can contact her at www.mercedesyardley.com or follow her on Twitter as @mercedesmy.



Success Is Like Lightning: Preparing Before It Strikes

The literary world is feast or famine.  Either you’re beating the bushes in order to drum up work, or you’re tied, screaming, to the front of a locomotive as it heads for a cliff.  I have seldom seen an author say, “Why, yes, I am absolutely comfortable with my satisfying, impeccably-balanced work load.”  When success strikes, it’s most likely going to hit fast.  You had better be prepared.

  •   Have your work ready to go.

It may seem fundamental, but you’d be surprised how many writers are still, and forever will be, in the process of writing.  I stumbled across my agent as a fluke, and had to pitch my novel on the spot.  He said, “This story is intriguing. Is it ready to submit?”  Not only was the novel polished and ready to go, but so were the query and synopsis.  It was in his inbox immediately after he requested it. Thank goodness I was prepared, because this gentleman is now my agent.

  • Have a marketing plan ready.

If somebody picks up your novel, you won’t have time to breathe, let alone plan a marketing campaign from scratch.  You’ll be hitting deadlines like a beast, so it would behoove you to already have your grunt work done.  Will you do book signings? Blog tours? Is travel a feasible option? Do you have any marketing contacts? This can all be roughly planned ahead of time so you can avoid your deer-in-the-headlights moment when life is at its busiest.

  • Collect ideas for your book launch.

When your editor shrieks out, “Go, kid, go!” you’re going to hit the ground running.  Having an idea of what you’d like to do for a book launch will save you time.  Not to mention that when you’re trying to make five million decisions in two days, you’re not going to be doing your best thinking.  Serving smelly fish sticks with paper mermaid tails at your launch probably isn’t your best idea, no matter how brilliant it seems at 2:00 am.

  •   Scout out other opportunities in advance.

Would you like to have your work considered for awards?  Are there grants or contests that you have in mind?  There are many small awards that have very specific criteria.  If you’re a Nebraskan writer of color coming out with a second book of poetry, for example, there may be a monetary award for you.  But will you have time to search this out when you’re coordinating your book launch?  No. This is the sort of thing that you find in advance and tuck away for later. Mark the application submission dates on your calendar so you can submit on time.  Even better, have your application mostly filled out in advance so you can just add the additional info. You’ll have enough on your plate during your feasting times, but it would be a shame to let these delightful opportunities pass you by. Work on them during your famine.

  • Remember you’re doing what you love.

When you’re down to the wire, the stress can get completely overwhelming.  It seems the things that normally mean the most to you and bring the most joy (your family, your book, and the things that you’re doing to get your work out there) become so heavy that they’re unbearable.  Don’t forget to take days off.  Don’t let the responsibility suck the beauty out of what is ultimately your moment.  Everything is a choice and you’re choosing to invest time in something you believe in, and something that will bring you happiness and fulfillment.

How to Get Booksellers to Love You (And Sell Your Book)

Erin Haire is the manager of the Hub City Bookshop, an independent bookstore run by the Hub City Writers Project.

As a retail bookseller, one of the most exciting aspects of my job is interacting with authors.  The relationship between authors and booksellers, ideally, is mutually beneficial.  We have a common goal: sell some books.  As a bookseller, I’m much more likely to do that with an involved and enthusiastic author.

In the spirit of continued goodwill between authors and booksellers, here is some advice from a fairly successful independent bookseller to authors who are getting their start.

1.  Be nice.  Do you really catch more flies with honey than with vinegar?  Absolutely.  This is the most important and least frequently heeded advice I give to authors, especially those just starting out.  A good attitude and friendly demeanor will open a whole lot of doors when dealing with retail professionals.  When you work in customer service, you have to deal with some unhappy, rude folks.  It’s just comes with the territory.  If you make it your business to avoid the ranks of the disgruntled masses, my gratitude will get you one step closer to having your book on my shelves.  On the other hand, if you get me on the phone and tell me that you don’t think I was raised right because I haven’t had time to review your memoir, I’m not stocking it.  Period.

Once your book is in the store, there is nothing that makes me happier than selling books by authors I know to be genuinely nice people.  Most other booksellers I know feel the same way, so be nice to them.  Also, be nice to the reps at your publisher, because they’re the ones selling the books to us.  Generally, just be nice.

2.  Make sure your book is available.  This sounds like a no-brainer, but the easier it is to get your book the better.  If you know the name of the sales rep I should be dealing with at your publisher, put his or her phone number in the packet you send.  If it’s available from a wholesaler like Baker and Taylor or Ingram, make that clear up front.  If you’re self-published or with a very small publisher, I strongly recommend making sure that at least one of the big wholesalers carries your book.  If the book sells and the only way I can get more is to call you directly, it may or may not be worth my time to get a hold of you.

3.  Include all pertinent information when you make first contact.  Did you go to high school two blocks from my store?  Has your family lived in our town for a hundred years?  Do you teach at a local elementary school?  Is your cover art a photo of a local landmark?  If so, please tell me!  Mind reading is not an ability included on my admittedly impressive resume of personal skills.  If there is a particular reason you think your book will do well in my store more than others, lead with that.  Well, introduce yourself first, and then tell me about your mother’s book club that meets down the street and has a hundred members that are all dying to buy your book.  Remember, I like selling books just as much as you do.

4.  Get on Twitter.  This might sound like silly advice and you might think it’s not for writers who are serious about their craft, but get over that attitude quick.  Yes, Jonathan Franzen doesn’t like Twitter, but he doesn’t need personal contact with booksellers to ensure we stock his book.  After you win the National Book Award, maybe Twitter becomes a bit redundant.  In any other case, it can be an invaluable tool.  Twitter allows you access to a community of people who successfully work in the book business.  Publishers, editors, agents, bloggers, booksellers, and authors are all represented.  Participating in a community of like-minded people will feed you creatively and professionally, and Twitter is a very easy way to get involved.

Hopefully these tips will offer some insight into the minds of independent booksellers.  I think that the folks who make an effort with booksellers without a doubt have more successful events, more publicity for their books, and higher sales.  We love books, and we are constantly looking for the next fantastic piece of literature to champion and the next great author to get excited about.  Be committed to your work, because we’re committed to books. Also, be nice.