For Writers

The Power of Group Author Events

In April, my second middle grade novel, The Summer I Saved the World…in 65 Days, came out. A few months before my “book birthday,” I had a moment of panic. Actually, several moments of panic. I was going to have to leave my writerly cave at some point, wasn’t I? I was going to have to put on actual clothing and go out into the world. I was going to have to PROMOTE. The word that strikes fear in many writers I know. Some authors say they LOVE promotion but I question their sanity.

All joking aside (sort of), many authors aren’t very comfortable switching from writing mode to publicity mode. We’re much more comfortable in our made-up worlds where our characters can do anything we want them to do. And of course we can do this while wearing pajamas, so all the better.

pajamasBut as I’m sure you know, both online and in-person promotion are pretty much a necessity in today’s author world. And so is the worry that comes along with it. The basic nightmare of sitting at an autograph table, Sharpie in hand, waiting for people to show up. (Besides your relatives.)

Amie Borst’s post yesterday outlined numerous opportunities available for authors to promote their work, and I’d like to expand on one of those ideas — bookstore visits.

At an Illinois SCBWI writer’s conference last fall, I started chatting with author Kate Hannigan, who had a middle grade book, Cupcake Cousins, coming out about the same time as my novel. We discovered that we shared the same publicity worries, and after we were done with our little therapy session, Kate came up with the brilliant idea of joining forces with other middle grade authors and doing group bookstore events this spring.

Out of our discussion that November day, Middle Grade in the Midwest was born. Energizer Bunny that she is, Kate put together a group of middle grade authors including Amy Timberlake, Wendy McClure, Crystal Chan, Emily Ecton, Liesl Shurtliff and me — all of us live in the Chicago area — and we began approaching Indie bookstores. Not only were they thrilled to host us, we learned that there truly is strength in numbers.

After our first event at Anderson’s Bookshop in Naperville, Illinois last week, we agreed that group author events are not only a great idea for pulling in attendees, they’re also way more fun! During our panel discussion, we were able to interact and bounce questions off each other, and this gave our talk more depth and insight. There weren’t any awkward silences because one of us always had something to share.The event was productive, energizing, and inspiring — both for the attendees and the authors.

And, I remembered what I always take away after I spend time with middle grade authors — they’re pretty much the nicest people on the planet. Many of the writing crises that I think happen only to me were echoed among our group. It’s always comforting to hear that other authors write terrible first drafts, think they’re never going to write another book, and question every single plot turn.

Anderson's 2

From left: Liesl Shurtliff, Kate Hannigan, Crystal Chan, Anderson’s Jenny Gerard, Michele Weber Hurwitz, Anderson’s Anne Swanson, Emily Ecton, and Wendy McClure.

So here are some of our tips for lining up group author events:

1. Contact the bookstores at least 3-4 months in advance with a succinct email. Create and attach an online “flier” with author bios and book covers. We began contacting bookstores in January for our May events.

2. Brainstorm with the bookstore the best time and day to pull in the intended audience, and be flexible with scheduling. We had so many email threads going back and forth, Kate actually created an Excel document to keep track of everyone’s schedules. It’s a good idea to have a point person who’s the master scheduler and all-around organizer.

3. Plan to meet for lunch or dinner! Sharing a meal before the event breaks the ice if some of the authors haven’t met.

4. Provide the bookstore with author website links, author and book cover photos, and contact information. Help them out as much as possible!

5. Promote the event on your own social media, and tag the other authors as well.

Later this month, we’re visiting the Book Cellar in Chicago, The Book Stall in Winnetka, Illinois, the Lake Forest Bookstore in Illinois, and doing a panel discussion at Chicago’s Printer’s Row event as well. Thank you to all of these fabulous Indie bookstores that have graciously agreed to host our Middle Grade in the Midwest group.


Michele Weber Hurwitz is the author of The Summer I Saved the World…in 65 Days and Calli Be Gold, both from Wendy Lamb Books/Random House. Visit her at and on Twitter @MicheleWHurwitz.


Book Marketing 101

You’ve written a book and perhaps you’ve even signed a contract with a publisher. Think your journey stops here? Well, it doesn’t. And the sooner you accept that, the better off you will be. Sorry, but it’s the ugly truth.

As you probably already know, many publishers require their authors to do the lion’s share of marketing. Unless, of course, you’re one of the lucky ones that received a six figure advance, then you can sit back and relax…even write the next book.  But for the rest of us, well, there’s a lot of work ahead.

The Big 5 and even many small publishers will submit your book for review which is a great start. Favorable reviews will help land your book into libraries, schools, and even reading lists.  I’m willing to bet even the less than stellar reviews help books get noticed (as any parent of an ill-behaved child will tell you, negative attention is still attention!).  But what if you’re with a small press that didn’t submit your book? What if promised reviews never came to fruition?  What’s a children’s author to do when their book hasn’t been reviewed?

As a children’s author, readers aren’t reached in quite the same way as their adult counterparts. So it’s important (albeit a bit difficult) to connect with your readers in the way that they find their next book. I’m definitely no expert, but here’s some tips that should help all authors successfully market their work of genius.

     1. School Visits: This is a tricky step as most school libraries (or at least in Virginia) require the book to be reviewed by at least one major source. If you have the means, consider purchasing extra copies of your book. Donate a copy to your local elementary and/or middle school. Offer free or discounted visits (at least initially) so that you have a better opportunity to reach your readers.

     2. Skype Visits: I’ve connected with some pretty awesome readers through my classroom Skype visits. As a promotion, I’ve offered these free visits to teachers that use Cinderskella in their classroom. Children who wouldn’t have otherwise known about the book become excited about it. The best part is seeing their smiling faces and answering their thoughtful questions.

     3. Libraries/Summer Reading Lists: When Cinderskella was released, I immediately donated a copy to my local library. I had no idea what that small gesture would produce, as I did it solely for the readers, hoping one child would gain something from the message in my book. Shortly after I donated a copy I received a warm thank-you note from the Director as well as an invitation to present at their summer reading program. Am I stoked? You betcha!

     4. Book Signings: I love indie bookstores. They have a wonderful reputation of supporting authors. They will make every effort to reach readers who would be interested in your book. In exchange they like donuts. Cupcakes work well, too.

     5. Festivals/Group signings: Back in April, I was part of YA Fest in Easton, PA. There were over 50 authors present and I even participated in a world record. The friends and connections I made while I was there were invaluable to me. (Look close – my daughter and I are standing directly to the left of the librarian!)

      6.  TV, Radio, Newspaper, Magazines, and other media: While most authors would love a spot on Ellen, many will have to settle for the local venue to garner attention of would-be readers. Recently both of my books were featured in Middle Shelf Magazine. Skip ahead to page 47 to get all the deets!

     7. Book Clubs: Oprah and Al Roker are two names that come to mind when it comes to book clubs. Our very own Sheela Chari had her book, Vanished, featured on Al Roker’s Book Club for Kids.  But local book clubs through schools and even homeschool groups are a great way to be involved, too. Volunteer to speak at one of their events to be extra awesome!

     8. Websites and Blogs: It goes without saying that there should be a place on the interwebz for readers to find you. Some professionals argue you should have both a blog and a website, others say one or the other is fine. Whatever you chose, just keep it updated frequently.

     9. Contests and Giveaways: Goodreads, blogs, and other venues are a great way to promote your book through contests and giveaways. Readers love free books!

     10. Book Trailer: I’ve seen some awesome book trailers and others have been a major yawn fest. For me the key is to keep it short (30-60 seconds), highlight the major plot points, and keep the audience engaged. Yup. It’s the query letter in video form.

     11. Swag: Posters, bookmarks, buttons, necklaces…whatever floats your boat – or the boat of your reader! Freebies are fun and they create a way to connect with your audience. If you’re at a signing or school event, be sure to put your John Hancock on those babies. Signed swag isn’t just for those who’ve made a purchase!

     12. Social Media: Most middle-grade readers aren’t on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram. So I’ve found that while this isn’t the best way to connect with my readers directly, it’s a viable indirect route to reach them through teachers, librarians, and other industry professionals. I’ve also connected with wonderful authors who have helped promote my books along the way through these various forms of networking.

These ideas, of course, are just a start of all the various ways to reach your audience. But sometimes that’s all you need – one chance, one little start – and you’ll be on your way!

What techniques have you implemented to reach the middle-grade reader?

Amie Borst writes the middle-grade series, Scarily Ever Laughter, with her middle-grade (and middle daughter) Bethanie. Their first book, Cinderskella, released in October 2013. Little Dead Riding Hood follows this October 14th, 2014! Find Amie on her website and both mom and daughter on Facebook!

Make a Splash in the Real Mermaids Giveaway!

Teenage girls have to deal with a lot of tough firsts. First zit. First crush. First… mermaid’s tail?

real mermaids

In the fourth installment of Hélène Boudreau’s breezy, fun and “unputdownable” Real Mermaids series, our favorite mer-girl Jade can’t think of a better way to celebrate peace in the underwater mer-world than with a tropical vacation in the Bahamas with her family and BFF.

Soon, Jade is enjoying the tropical sunshine, all-you-can-eat buffet, and island day trips. But when Jade gets lost in the island’s famous waterfront Straw Market, something doesn’t feel quite right. A body splashes into the water as a cruise ship enters the harbor and a teen boy selling conches from his boat behind the market knows more than he’s willing to admit.

With no body, no leads, and no other witnesses, though, the local police don’t seem too concerned. Maybe Jade’s imagination has been acting up on her, just like Cori said, considering everything she’s been through in the past few months. But with Mom and Dad off on a honeymoon excursion it wouldn’t hurt to check things out, would it? Little do Jade and Cori realize, they are about to uncover more secrets about the splashing body, dangerous cruise ship cargo, and more questions than answers lurking in the nearby Caribbean waters.

Absolutely fresh and sweet, a quirky coming of age story complete with first periods and bumbling dads…an unputdownable adventure, part Judy Blume, part Hans Christian Anderson, and 100% delightful, this fun, fresh tale (tail?) will have girls begging for a sequel…” – The YA-5

“[T]he author keeps suspense high and her prose moving while tapping straight into young teens’ angst about friends, enemies and boys.” –Kirkus

Sound like fun? I think so!

Would you like to win a copy? Me too!

How about adding book 1 to that collection? Yeah, I thought so!

mermaids 1

How about book 2 as well? I know I would!

real mermaids 3

What if I told you book 3 was included in the giveaway? You’d probably make a real splash, wouldn’t you?

mermaids 4

Well, as many of you know Helene is a former member of our little blog and she’s agreed to give away ALL FOUR BOOKS in the Mermaid series!!!All you have to do is fill out the rafflecopter form below. That’s it!

So what are you waiting for? Start swimming!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Amie Borst writes twisted fairy tales with her teenage daughter, Bethanie. Together they’ve penned, Cinderskella, which released in October 2013. They’re excited about their upcoming release of Little Dead Riding Hood in October of 2014! Visit them at and