Interview with Glen Ellyn Public Library’s Middle School Librarian Christina Keasler

Inspired by Glen Ellyn Public Library’s Middle School Librarian Christina Keasler’s recent School Library Journal piece on “Dedicated Middle School Collections in the Public Library: A New Trend?“, CQ author Amy Bearce – writer of the World of Aluvia Series, which falls perfectly into the middle school catogory – interviewed Christina to discuss the article, and why books for 11-14 year olds are so important.

As a public librarian, what led you to write the article, “Dedicated Middle School Collections in the Public Library: A New Trend?” for School Library Journal?

I had made our library’s middle school collection in the summer of 2015. We were making an exclusive space for middle school students, and when we had asked them what they were looking for in a public library. They had mentioned they don’t like wading through the “baby stuff” to get to where they need to go. After our collection was established, we had a few librarians from nearby libraries ask me our parameters for selection. Parameters are one thing, but finding out which books fit these criteria is another. I had gone to a yearly seminar that would booktalk YA books for 8 hours, specify which ones are suitable for grades 6-8, and the reasons a particular book is not. I thought to myself that this seminar is so needed, and if only publishers would catch on to this need. School librarians can label books “just for 8th graders”, but that goes beyond our role in the public library scope. I decided to write an article explaining the need for this specialized collection in public libraries, and what to look for. I reached out in listservs looking for selection parameters beyond this area, and Harford County reached out to me. I figured they weren’t the only one with such an established middle grade collection, but it was still extraordinary to me, and decided to transform the article to focus on one of the early trailblazers for public library middle grade fiction.

Finding a word that captures the books that fit this group can be tricky.  What do you think of the terms, “upper middle grade” “younger YA” “bridge book” or “gap” book? Is there a term you use instead? Does saying “Middle school books” end up being misunderstood by some as the industry term “middle grade” or vice versa, given that “middle grade” or “MG” is used in the publishing world to indicate for ages 8-12? (Many parents have told me this is confusing for them, to see a ‘middle grade book” that is not actually a good fit for “middle schoolers.”)

I absolutely completely agree with this. To me, middle grade is different than “tween”, but they do overlap in age, and both are ambiguous in the profession. There isn’t a standard, widely used term in the industry that is self-explanatory, and part of my article was to address that there should be.

In your article, you wrote:

Not all YA titles are ideal for middle school audiences, while many middle grade novels are a bit too immature. While some publishers are catching onto this trend, marketing certain titles directly to middle school audiences, most still do not identify books that cater primarily to this age group.

This is so true. Why do you think that most publishers are still not yet seeking out books written for this particular audience? Any guesses? Do you expect to see more publishers start marketing certain titles directly to this age group?

In the publishing world, YA was a new and blossoming genre not too long ago. Sadly, I think the publishers have been behind the times with the demands and needs of other literary professionals. The fact that we’re starting to see some books recommended for grades 5-8 or 6-8 is promising, but I think we’re still a long way before this  becomes standard.

What kind of parent response do you see at your library to having the middle school collection broken out like it is? Do they still ask for help finding books that fit their tween/young teen? What are their biggest concerns when their kids are choosing books?

The biggest success for our personal middle school collection is the independence of the reader and the self service within the collection. It’s a browsing collection. Parents will go there feeling a little more confident about finding a book that can relate to their kid, and kids can find their next great read without feeling uncomfortable and being asked what kind of books they are looking for- a question they seem to forget the answer to when put on the spot.

What kind of interests do you see in your students at this age? What are they talking about when they come to the library?

Middle school students are still incredibly overscheduled like their high school counterparts, but lack the ability to be self sufficient to make their own schedule, or get to their destination. We have a good split of kids focusing on homework, but also finding time to unwind a little bit at the library. We try to give them a little leniency with silliness and volume control when they’re here. This is their place and we want them to feel welcome.

What kind of programming do you offer for this age group?

I’ve found that programming needs seem to vary by library. If you label it tech or STEAM, they will come, but middle schoolers absolutely will not contribute anything required to create outside of a program, no matter the incentive. Talent show – zero. Fan fiction contest with winners having a free lunch with the author – zero. Other libraries have not had this problem. We have an active middle school volunteer program with a steady group of regulars.

What are your most popular books right now from the middle school collection?

Sad books. Realistic fiction where kids have to overcome potentially crippling adversities to succeed. We still have the loyal fantasy readers that read series after series, but sad realistic fiction has been a big push lately. Once at a reader’s advisory visit to a public school, I mentioned See You At Harry’s being the saddest book I’ve read in a while, and they could’t keep it on the shelf after tht.

Have there been books that surprised you that your students loved that you either thought would be too young or too old for them?

We sometimes get surprised with a 5th or 6th grader asks about a big name book like The Fault in Our Stars, or something that has explicit reasons for being in the YA collection, but it’s not our job to censor books. Our state award list generated for 4-8th grade sometimes has nominees that are shelved in our YA collection. That’s always a surprise.

It seems most 6th-8th graders who want to read about romance (and they exist, right?) have to go from middle grade, with almost zero romance, straight to YA with 16+ protagonists often facing more advanced relationship situations. What are your thoughts on books with light, sweet romance for middle schoolers, especially books with actual 13-15 year old protagonists authentically navigating that first serious crush / boyfriend / girlfriend relationship? Are those hard to find, even for a librarian who works with this age group?

I think these are becoming a little more common, at least not non-existent. The issue is that they’re still hard to find. First crushes are one thing, but middle grade readers commonly like to “read up”, books that have an older protagonist. 15-17 year old protagonist with a romantic interest, you’re in dangerous territory. I would love it if publisher reviews made a note so say it’s a squeaky clean romance so purchasers don’t have to find out the hard way.

What are some of your favorite books that you recommend as a fantastic fit for this age group?

Again, if it’s a sad realistic fiction, it’ll fly off the shelf. I normally gravitate to our award nominee list, too. In this area, we have a common reader’s advisory scenario where the child reads at a higher level than most books that are suitable for content. If they like fantasy, I normally recommend The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of her Own Making by Catherynne Valente. That book is cute, interesting, and full of exemplary vocabulary words.

Would you as a librarian be interested in seeing more books that relate to the terror and thrill of the middle school years in all their glory, written FOR tweens and young teens?

Seeing that the Middle School books by Patterson are popular, I think they’d circulate, but we have those in our fiction section, not in our middle school fiction. Again, kids like to read up. I personally feel that they can build up expectations, or completely flop to real life experiences and they may be hard for the reader to engage with the story. Books like Ghost by Jason Reynolds capture what it’s like to be in the middle school years without being strictly about the day-to-day average life. It’s more subtle.

If a public library wants to move toward having a middle school collection, do you have any resources you’d recommend or any advice for how to make the switch a smooth one?

Most people I’ve spoken to find that School Library Journal’s grade recommendation is the most realistic for their community. If you have middle school volunteers, have them pull books from your general fiction collection that they think are interesting to their peers. One comment on my article has been to work with your local school librarian, something that I now wish I had done. Make those partnerships and use them. Finally, know your community. Find what your middle grade readers read. Do they commonly go to the YA section? Do you want them to stay in your area until the designated age? Maybe you need older (but safe) reads in your juvenile section for them.

As a publisher, how can we help facilitate this trend? We currently notate our books that are “upper middle grade,” as we have several titles that are written specifically with 5th-8th graders in mind. If there are other ways to indicate to selectors/collection development specialists which books fit which audience, especially the often-overlooked middle school crowd, we’d be interested in hearing more.

Indicate grades in your reviews. Be clear about your levelling system in general.

No publishers use the same system it seems, so we have to acclimate to each one.  Note review factors that made your decision .Does it have sex, or drug use? Language? Let the selectors decide what is appropriate for their readers and the collection they’re purchasing for.

Christina is currently the middle school librarian at Glen Ellyn Public Library, IL. She’s responsible for the middle school collection and programming and serves as the youth department’s 3D printing and technology expert.



Interview with Wendy Ceballos

Curiosity Quills recently had the pleasure of speaking with Seattle’s Third Place Books’ former Director of Events & Marketing Wendy Ceballos.

Seattle is losing you to New York City, where based on your track record, I’m presuming you’re running for governor. You’ve obviously been an incredible asset to Third Place Books. Considering that you grew up in Washington, as far as I know, then went to UW, and worked at Third Place for nearly 20 years, moving to NYC is a huge change. It’s a bold, courageous thing to do. What made you decide to do it, and how do you want things to change for you there?

I fell in love with New York on my first visit over 10 years ago. I had just taken over managing our events program and we were there to meet with publishers and pitch Third Place Books as THE place for author events. It quickly became my go to vacation spot for a few years, I would house sit for friends in the middle of August when it’s insanely hot…that’s how in love I was. So, this move is a long time dream coming together with an amazing wife that was game and a year of intense planning. And, I did have a friend in publishing tell me to ‘just rip the band aid off’ and move at BEA in 2014, and for some reason that spoke to me.

You’ve served as the content strategist for all of Third Place Books’ online platforms, and you’ve developed the social media outreach for the store. Can you tell us more about getting that system in place, and a few of the challenges you encountered with that?

The biggest challenge at the very beginning with building our social media presence was buy in from staff. For a long time it wasn’t viewed as a legitimate marketing tool, but something I wanted to goof around on. Of course that was at the platforms and then, of course, we now have data. Data that proves those cute cats snuggling with books are what our readers want to see!

Can you give a few tips for authors who are working with bookstore staff to put on a great event?

Be nice to your booksellers, they are the ones talking to potential readers AFTER your event. Events can be nerve wracking for authors, there is a lot of internal pressure but always remember you want booksellers to be your allies after your event.

You have made a Herculean effort to put systems in place in a lot of areas. Tell us about one of the systems that really clicked, and how you could tell that it was working and paying off.

The biggest thing that has paid off for me, authors, my staff, and our readers has been creating an actual events department at our main store, where most Third Place events are held. In addition to my role, which oversees everything, we now have a hosting team, we have someone that makes in-store signs, someone that manages the events table, we have a graphic designer that puts our calendar together, we have an event coordinator at our LFP store that takes on all the day-of details and manages the hosting team, we now have an offsite department with an offsite events manager (Sam Kaas, formerly of Village Books), and we have an information flow that supports everyone and gets them the info they need to do their job which then supports a successful program. That makes me feel productive, and I’m leaving my replacement Zak with something he can navigate easily in the beginning. I’m sure he will revolutionize our programming and systems even further!

What’s your secret to getting things done? How do you stay focused and productive?

Lists and keeping my inbox organized by which hat I wear. Also a little tidbit from a flow chart featured in Getting Things Done by David Allen. ‘Will it take less than 2 minutes? Yes? DO IT! Seriously it changed my life, when you are busy you have a tendency to feel like the little stuff can be put off but it’s the other way around. Clear the clutter, clear your mind.
And when you need to step back and regain some energy, what are your favorite things to do?

Aside from reading, travel! I took my first solo trip abroad when I was 37. I waited WAY too long. I’ve since made up for it by traveling to Spain, France, Taiwan (twice), Hong Kong, the Phillipines, Iceland, and Mexico. I think 90% of the joy and benefit of traveling is in the planning stage so when I need to unwind I jump on airbnb or some of my favorite travel blogs..

Finally, could you recommend a few books you read recently and loved?

I’m reading Insomniac City by Bill Hayes right now. It’s really so perfect, he’s just moved to New York and is seeing the city with fresh eyes. It’s as if he’s encouraging me in my new adventure, and his relationship with Oliver Sachs is really touching.

And I always recommend The Ice Trilogy by Vladimir Sorokin, READ IT!!



Interview with MG & YA Author Aimee Lucido

Curiosity Quills Press recently had the pleasure in interviewing children and young adult author, software engineer and pasta aficionado, Aimee Lucido.

1) I hear you’re writing a cool new MG about a code-learning girl? Can you tell me more about it? Do you feel that’s something you want kids (girls, especially) to learn in middle school? How soon is too soon to pick a career path?
I’m currently working on a middle grade novel in verse whose working title is THE MUSIC MY KEYBOARD MAKES. It’s about a lonely twelve-year-old girl named Emmy who winds up in a computer science elective because she doesn’t have any better options. She builds a friendship with the only other girl in the class, Abigail, who is learning to “come out of the closet” to her friends and parents about her love of computers. The two girls, along with the other kids in the class, slowly discover their voices through the programming language of Java, and the poetry progresses, it begins to incorporate Java’s syntax and concepts as the students, and ultimately the readers, learn to think in code.
Computer science should be taught in schools as early as possible in the same way that math and reading should be taught in schools as early as possible. We don’t read “Goodnight Moon” to our infants because we expect them to be writers one day, or teach them to count because we expect them to be mathematicians, we do this because math and English are important skills for whatever career path they choose. Similarly, computer skills are becoming more and more necessary in any field as we leap towards the future. If a child plans on pursuing computers professionally in some capacity, then that’s fantastic! But that’s not the primary purpose of mastering computer literacy.
2) Speaking of careers, how do you see your own path playing out in the next 10 years? Writing fulltime? Or was writing something you dreamed of doing as a kid, or is this something you have come into just now? Is this MG your first book? Any other cool ideas?
Writing has always been a huge part of my life, and no matter where my software engineering career goes, writing is never going to leave me. I think I would go crazy if I ever dropped writing, simply because I would lose my primary creative outlet. Similarly, no matter what happens in my writing life, technology is never going to leave me, even if I do quit one day to write full time.
THE MUSIC MY KEYBOARD MAKES is the first book I’ve ever tried to write explicitly about tech, but technology is such a deep part of me that even if I’m not writing about it literally, it sneaks into my writing in other ways: in a picture book I’m working on, a girl builds a jungle gym inside her kindergarten classroom, engineering her way out of her problems; In a middle grade ghost story I wrote during my first semester at Hamline, the main character’s mother is a cryptography professor at Stanford; I have a dream of a nonfiction project about shrinking down to see how a computer works from the inside; and, since I’m an analytical person, my characters tend to be too, thinking like coders even if they aren’t.
I have a *ton* of cool ideas and not nearly enough time to work on them all! That’s a point in the column for one day quitting to write full time, I guess. But would I go just as crazy without code as I would without writing?
3) One part of writing is, well, writing, but the other is self-marketing. What are you doing to get yourself brand recognition? And what would you recommend to other authors just getting started on that path? Do you think tech would help you with that, or are face-to-face signings still the best way to a reader’s heart?
Answering interview questions here is a start, no? I don’t do enough brand recognition stuff, and that’s a weakness of mine that I want to work on. I could tweet more, I could blog more, I could go to more SCBWI events. But it is tough to work on my writing on top of a full-time job, so that’s my excuse for not being proactive on that front.
I would hope that the tech work helps me with brand recognition. Especially for projects like MUSIC, which are specifically about technology. I have a lot more experience than other writers who choose to write about the same subject.
In addition, I write crossword puzzles, and there’s a bit of branding in there as well. Hopefully all these feed off each other and one day I’ll just burst in a single glowing ball of fame-flame!
4) Speaking of books. Or, especially, sci-fi… Where do you think tech will go next? In which direction? Quantum computers? Fully conscious AI ala the movie Her and I am Robot? Have we cleared the top of the fast development hill, or will we still be rushing ahead?
The cool thing is that we’ll probably go in all these directions at once. Just… slowly. “Fully conscious” AI (or at least AI that passes the Turing test) comes in tiny baby steps. Uber, Tesla, Google, and others are all putting self-driving cars on the road *today*, and SpaceX is working on interplanetary tourism as we speak. I have an Amazon Echo and a Nest in my house and even without any more development, those machines are pretty darn cool. I don’t see us slowing down any time soon!
5) To follow that up, I have to ask… is it sci-fi or fantasy for you, and have your preferences changed based on what you have witnessed firsthand in the tech trenches? Which book is on your to-read list this spring? How about, which movie? Which video game? Oooh, and do you ever dream-cast your favorite books?
Fantasy over sci-fi, but my true love is magical realism. I like when mundane things are talked about as though they’re magic, versus magic things being talked about as though they’re mundane. It’s entirely possible that my life surrounded by technology makes the sci-fi mundane (or at least not an escape the way fantasy or magical realism is) but I have always loved stories like The Golden Compass or Matilda, or anything by Nova Ren Suma that show a magical flip side to our current reality.
My to-read list is about a million miles long. I’m currently halfway through three books: Flora & Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo (magical flip side! See???), Freak The Mighty (just started, love the voice so far), and the third book of Gene Yang’s Secret Coders (It’s so dreamy. A beautiful, fun window into the magic of technology).
I am very much looking forward to watching Get Out and Moonlight, but I’m not very good at watching movies, so it may be a while before I get to them.
Zelda just came out for the Nintendo Switch (!!!!) and I am making my boyfriend wait for me to have free time to play it with him before he’s allowed to start.
And I do dream cast my favorite books, but I do it with people that I know personally, not famous actors. Every YA/MG book I read automatically gets transplanted into the setting of my life when I was the age of the protagonist, and the supporting characters all get the faces of my friends of that time.
6) Happy ending or you would rather be surprised? Is it different between game / books / movies for you? Why? Can you elaborate? (The eternal romance vs. love story debate).
I like bittersweet endings in both my movies and books. I like endings that don’t go the way you’d expect, but still feel complete. Holes is my idol in this capacity in that it ties up all loose ends, but is still surprising and intriguing. I want to be left thinking about it months after I’ve put the book away. And I don’t play as many games as I would like, but my favorite ones tend to end bittersweet as well. Link’s Awakening? I cry every time I wake the windfish.
7) If you could tell something to our ancestors, anything, without fear of messing up the timelines – what would you say, and to whom?
Oh gosh… If I don’t tell my ancestors to watch out for Hitler than I’m kind of a monster, right?
That and I’d tell my parents to invest all our money in Microsoft back when they first went public.
8) And the reverse question – if you could ask any of our ancestors / famous figures anything – whom would you ask, and what would you ask them?
This isn’t exactly a question, but I would love to get a sense of what it was like to be the wife of one of the famous, powerful men of the history of America. I consider myself pretty loud and strong, but I wonder what I would have been like if I had lived back when women weren’t encouraged to be loud and strong. I hope I’d be an Angelica over an Eliza, but who really knows?

9) So, I know you’re both an author and engineer at one of the mover-and-shaker companies in Silicon Valley (you have asked not to be identified beyond that, and we certainly understand your reasons). But being there on the forefront of a computer age, do you feel we’re heading toward a dystopian or utopian future? Is this a big concern of yours, or do you think scaredy cat sci-fi authors have it wrong?

I don’t believe that any world, either in real-life or in sci-fi, is ever fully utopian or fully dystopian because any world is ultimately made up of real, nuanced, and complex people, none of whom are either perfectly perfect or perfectly imperfect. And so, the best fictional worlds, the ones that ring the most true to me, are the ones that explore the reality, nuance, and complexity of technology and the people who use it.
If you take a beautifully crafted “dystopian” book like Feed by M.T. Anderson, or The Giver by Lois Lowry, what makes these futuristic worlds so compelling is that they have their pros and cons. I remember reading The Giver as a kid and just wanting to be swallowed up into the closeness and safety of that world. But that comfort in the beginning is intentional on Lowry’s part so that it hits harder when she reveals that the world is colorless, and that the society will even resort to killing babies in certain circumstances.
Similarly, in Feed, some of the technology is pretty incredible. I would love to have a pill that takes pictures of my colon as it goes down instead of undergoing a colonoscopy. I would love to have quick and affordable transportation to the outer reaches of the universe. I would even love to be a teenager in a world so safe that parents will let their high school kids go off to the moon for a weekend. While the style of the writing emphasizes the cynicism of the world, there are also moments of intimacy and potency that demonstrate that the world isn’t as simplistic as it might be in the hands of a less skilled writer.
In fact, M.T. Anderson writes that he himself feels the love/hate relationship with his world: “I don’t think this would have been an interesting book to write (or to read) if I had only hated the hyper-marketed world I describe. For me, the key to the discomfort is how much I love some of it, how much I still do want to be slick like the people on the tube, beautiful, laughing, surrounded by friends. And how much I legitimately do think that the technology-based information resources at our command now are incredible (things like Project Gutenberg, the Internet Archive, instant music and movie downloads, even the much-maligned Wikipedia). These are tools for an amazing new intellectual understanding of the world, though they come with strings attached. Think about the way technological progress over the last twenty years has revolutionized the artistic possibilities in film, or the scientific processes of medical experimentation – or almost any field. We have at our fingertips knowledge and power like no other generation before us, and that’s intoxicating. I am no Luddite. And this would not have been an effective satire, in my opinion, if I hadn’t also been seduced by what I was mocking. It is the anguish of indecision that animates it. This is indeed a brave new world, but there is a cost.”
When it comes to real-life technology, we must remember that these breakthroughs don’t erupt from nothing. They evolve over time from the brains of humans, who spend their hours working and thinking critically about their work. This is something that bothered me about, say, The Circle by Dave Eggers. The book treated The Circle as a company full of toadies, who smiled and applauded at whatever the visionaries said. But what makes real-world technology so intriguing, and what makes it something that I want to spend my days working on, is that we are very aware of the negative implications of any forward movement in technology. For every idea that someone comes up with, there are a hundred people poking holes in it, and arguing passionately about why it should never exist.
As an illustration of this, there is one scene in The Circle where they meet as a whole company once a week for something called “Dream Friday.” Eamon Bailey, one of the “Three Wise Men” gets on stage and presents on something that he’s working on. From the get-go, Eamon is painted as a beloved leader. Shouts of “We love you, Eamon!” rise from the audience, and no matter what terrible joke Eamon comes up with, the audience bursts into laughter. Even Mae marvels at his “off-the-cuff eloquence.”
The scene progresses as Eamon walks the audience through his plan to put hidden cameras up at beaches so that surfers can see what waves are like before they head to the water. He adds that there is a feature to share your secret cameras with someone else, and even shows a camera in Cairo with two unsuspecting citizens having a conversation in Arabic. He boasts that the crime rate in the world would be cut down 70-80 percent if people were watching all the time, he drops the phrase “All that happens must be known” and accidentally livestreams a video of his mother in a bathrobe, all to roaring applause from his employees.
This is supposed to make us feel icky, and it does.
And it would never. Ever. In a million years. Happen at a tech company.
Tech companies are full of some of the most cynical, critical, pessimistic people in the world. If my CEO ever got on stage to accidentally show a picture of his mother in a bathrobe and suggest that everyone should be able to put cameras anywhere at any point and give access to those cameras to whomever they want, the employees would walk out. We’d rage about the voyeurism, the security implications, the risk of abuse for things like child pornography, rape culture, terrorist attacks. If we put out that product there would be Tech Crunch headlines, brand deterioration, and our company’s value would crash, not to mention the fact that that the vast majority of us would be unable to sleep at night.
Not to say that our existing technology doesn’t have its downsides. The Circle is written as a parody of Facebook and Google, and there are certainly privacy implications surrounding every feature that those two companies put out. But that’s where the intelligence and and caution of the employees come in. That’s where government regulation comes in. That’s where employee and customer outrage comes in. That’s where people sue, refuse to pay for services, eventually putting the company out of business.
Let’s not forget that Apple CEO Tim Cook recently said no to the NSA accessing user data, and that Facebook spends thousands of engineering hours per year thinking about how to give users more control over who sees their data. Uber doesn’t show the rider’s picture to the driver to protect their identity, and almost every highly-trafficked messaging service allows users to encrypt their messages in order to keep them off-the-record.
When we as authors paint our dystopian worlds with strokes that are overly broad, we not only do a disservice to the actual future, but we make bad literature. We write two-dimensional, mustache-twirling villains that at least this reader would never pick off a shelf.
So in summary, no we are not moving towards a *-topian future, because technology is just a tool. A very powerful tool, perhaps, but it is still just a tool. And like any tool, it is no more benevolent or malicious than the people who use it.
Thank you, Aimee. It was fantastic speaking with you, and you had some very insightful answers to our questions.
Aimee Lucido is a software engineer by day, writer by night. She is finishing up her MFA in writing for children and young adults at Hamline University and in her free time she writes crossword puzzles and performs musical improv with her team Flash Mob Musical. She lives in San Francisco where she has made it her personal goal to eat at every pasta restaurant within a ten mile radius.
Find Aimee Online: Website | Facebook | Twitter

Reading Transforms Online Courses for Authors and Book Bloggers

My name is K.M. IMG_3763 step2Robinson of K.M. Robinson Photography and Reading Transforms and I am so excited to be able to share two amazing opportunities with you!


Through Reading Transforms I am offering a series of free online courses in addition to our author and book blogger resources, the next of which will take place this March.IMG_4645 bootcamp
I will be hosting an Author Bootcamp course that will focus on branding and platform building by working on design, marketing and branding for both the author and their books. This class is limited to ten students and will run for the month of March. Students will be able to view one short lesson per weekday that will be available to view whenever the participant’s schedule allows them to jump on the site. Each day will also have a short mission that they can begin to work on. Weekends are built in for catch up if the week ends up being busier than expected. All participants will have access to a secret Facebook group where they can engage with other participants and the instructor to ask questions, encourage each other and show off their progress. This course will be held again throughout the year, but there is no time like the present to begin developing and enhancing your brand while engaging and finding new fans.
bootcamp author course graphic IMG_1936 step1 March 2016I will also be hosting a Book Blogger Bootcamp that will focusing on expanding blogs and online platforms while coming up with creative and unique ways to promote both the blog and the books the blog features. We will be working on design, creating engaging and unique content, branding, and marketing. This course will run for the month of March and participants will be able to view one short lesson per weekday, with weekends left open for catch up should the week get unforeseeably busy. These lessons will be available for participant to view at any point in the day when they have time to jump on the site. Each day will have a mission for participants to begin work on that will help grow their blog one step at a time. We’ll discuss copyright law, design, marketing, and branding. Each participant will have access to a secret Facebook group that will allow the participants to interact with each other and the instructor, ask questions and show off their work. During this course participants will not only improve their imagery skills, but learn to define their brand and market it to engage with their readers and find new fans. This course is limited to ten participants, but will be held again through the year.IMG_1563 step 1 author bootcamp march
I’m so excited to offer these amazing opportunities to you. I am currently running an Author Bootcamp this month and it has been amazing and the participants are making incredible changes that have opened many doors to them. I can not wait for you to join us for the Author Bootcamp and Book Blogger Bootcamp courses this March.
For more information you can visit the Reading Transforms course websites.

Told You Twice: Live Panel and Tweet Chat!

On October 19 at 8am central (6 am pacific/ 2pm GMT), join our Dir. of Marketing Nikki and our media consultant and youtuber Benjamin of Tomes on a live panel where we chat with authors Andrea Berthot and David Hammons about writing a story adaption, and get insight from Litchat’s Robyn McIntyre.

Live Panel on Google Hangouts

Watch Live on YouTube

Then head over to Twitter straight after for a tweetchat – the hashtag is #ToldyouTwice – with Nikki, Benjamin, Andrea Berthot, Robyn McIntyre and David Hammons!

The-Heartless-City-front-coverThe Heartless City

Henry Jekyll was a brilliant doctor, a passionate idealist who aimed to free mankind of selfishness and vice. He’s also the man who carelessly created a race of monsters.

Once shared secretly among the good doctor’s inner circle, the Hyde drug was smuggled into mass-production – but in pill form, it corrupted its users at the genetic level, leaving them liable to transform without warning. A quarter of the population are now clandestine killers – ticking bombs that could detonate at any given moment.

It’s 1903, and London has been quarantined for thirteen years.

Son of the city’s most prominent physician and cure-seeker, seventeen-year-old Elliot Morrissey has had his own devastating brush with science, downing a potion meant to remove his human weaknesses and strengthen him against the Hydes – and finding instead he’s become an empath, leveled by the emotions of a dying city.

He finds an unlikely ally in Iris Faye, a waitress at one of the city’s rowdier music halls, whose emotions nearly blind him; her fearlessness is a beacon in a city rife with terror. Iris, however, is more than what she seems, and reveals a mission to bring down the establishment that has crippled the people of London.

Together, they aim to discover who’s really pulling the strings in Jekyll’s wake, and why citizens are waking up in the street infected, with no memory of ever having taken the Hyde drug…

Heart-eating monsters, it turns out, are not the greatest evil they must face.

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Goodreads

cover2500Alice Takes Back Wonderland

After ten years of being told she can’t tell the difference between real life and a fairy tale, Alice finally stops believing in Wonderland. So when the White Rabbit shows up at her house, Alice thinks she’s going crazy. Only when the White Rabbit kicks her down the rabbit hole does Alice realize that the magical land she visited as a child is real. But all is not well in Wonderland.

The Ace of Spades has taken over Wonderland and is systematically dismantling all that makes it wonderful. Plain is replacing wondrous, logical is replacing magical, and reason is destroying madness. Alice decides she must help the Mad Hatter and all those fighting to keep Wonderland wonderful. But how can she face such danger when she is just a girl?

Alice must journey across the stars to unite an army. She discovers that fairy tales are real in the magical world beyond the rabbit hole. But they are not the fairy tales she knows. Fairy tales have dangers and adventures of their own, and Alice must overcome the trials of these old stories if she wants to unite the lands against Ace.

With the help of Peter Pan, Pinocchio, Snow White and heroes old and new, Alice may have the strength to take back Wonderland.

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Goodreads

Writing Advice: Filtering, by Matthew Cox

Filtering ― or, how to keep your reader at arm’s length

by Matthew Cox

I’ve been doing a fair amount of proofreading / light editing and have found myself talking about filtering a lot as of late. Readers may not notice filtering in the same sense it jumps out to a writer/editor, however, they will notice the effect it has on their immersion. A story that has a lot of filtering makes the reader feel as though they are watching from a distance. However, like many “best practices” in writing, it is not an absolute case of good and bad.

What Is Filtering?

The simplest explanation is when a writer “filters” their world through the presence of their character rather than just presents the setting to the reader. The writer inserts the character between the reader and the action with certain phrases: he saw, he felt, he heard, he knew. (There are quite a few other ones, but you get the point.)

What is happening here is the writer is describing their character experiencing something. They are not allowing the reader into that experience, instead keeping them at a safe distance and pointing. See that? Caleb just heard scratching noises and then saw a pack of rats swarm out of that trash right at him. (It feels like the reader is standing at the far end of the street watching Caleb, safe from the rats.)

Why is it bad?

By inserting that extra layer (the character) between the reader and what is happening, it lessens the immersion of a scene. The reader is observing someone rather than sharing the experience with the character. While filtering is not “bad” in the same way that typos or grammatical errors are, it (much like adverbs) weakens the writing.

Here is an excerpt from my short story “A Ghost Among Fireflies” as originally written:

     The strange feeling of having been here before beckoned her. As if by memory, she navigated a minefield of old toys, broken computer equipment, and the shattered remnants of once-furniture, now thick with mold. She glanced at a desk to her left, her eyes at the level of its surface. An old, broken holo-terminal there glimmered in the weak light from the window, reflected curtains the only image on the screen.

Here is the same excerpt modified to use filtering. Does it feel different to read?

     She felt strange, as if she had been here before. She remembered the room, navigating a minefield of old toys, broken computer equipment, and the shattered remnants of once-furniture. She could smell the thick mold on everything, even a desk to her left as tall as she was. Atop the desk, she saw an old, broken holo-terminal, its dark screen reflecting from the weak light in the window.

Aside from ‘she saw’ getting repetitious, the second passage doesn’t put the reader into the room with the character as much as lifts them far enough away to observe the character experiencing the scene.

Is it always bad?

Sometimes, it is more important to point out that the character became aware of something. Your protagonist can approach a room containing something dangerous (let’s use a rattlesnake) and notice it before he walks in. Jake paused by the door when he saw a rattlesnake lurking under the bed.

When calling attention to the character’s perception of something is more important than just setting a scene, filtering is not a bad thing. Here, the intent is to indicate the character has sensed something―when whether or not they do is the focal point of the moment.

Sometimes, words often considered signs of filtering are the most direct way to convey something, or to preserve meaning. “He had heard that before, many times” would not carry the same connotation as “They said that before, many times.” The first way makes the character seem as though they are tired of hearing it, linking a sentiment to the idea. The second example is a statement of fact, lacking the characterization.

The Bottom Line

In a scene where it is not important to point out the character is aware of something, (the reader will expect a character is aware of their surroundings unless told otherwise) avoiding filtering lets your reader immerse themselves in your story and experience it alongside the character. They are no longer “reading a book” but existing in the world you have created.

It also prevents them from getting fatigued from seeing the phrase “she heard” or “she saw” repeated.

There is no clear-cut “this is wrong” or “this is right” regarding filtering. Anything works, sparingly. (Even adverbs, which I loathe.) Overuse of filtering will lift your reader right out of your narrative and leave them watching with binoculars from the sidelines.

Matt Cox - Author PicAbout Matthew Cox

Born in a little town known as South Amboy NJ in 1973, Matthew has been creating science fiction and fantasy worlds for most of his reasoning life. Somewhere between fifteen to eighteen of them spent developing the world in which Division Zero, Virtual Immortality, and The Awakened Series take place. He has several other projects in the works as well as a collaborative science fiction endeavor with author Tony Healey.
Hobbies and Interests:
Matthew is an avid gamer, a recovered WoW addict, Gamemaster for two custom systems (Chronicles of Eldrinaath [Fantasy] and Divergent Fates [Sci Fi], and a fan of anime, British humour (<- deliberate), and intellectual science fiction that questions the nature of reality, life, and what happens after it.
He is also fond of cats.

Find Matthew Cox Online

Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Website

Building Your Author Platform with the A to Z Blogging Challenge

A2Z-BADGE-000 [2015] - Life is GoodWhen it comes to marketing books online, authors are encouraged to establish a platform. We’re told to get involved in social media, and often that involves starting a blog. How do we go about building an audience for our blog though?


There are the basics, of course. Build an attractive, easy to navigate site. Write blog posts of interest and post on a regular schedule. Make it easy for people to follow the blog and get updates. And of course, network with other bloggers to build a readership. This takes time and effort


Want to know how to expedite the process and with more efficiency? Get involved in the A to Z Blogging Challenge!


The Challenge was started in 2010 by Arlee Bird at Tossing it Out. It began as a challenge to post every day in April with Sundays off for good behavior. This left twenty-six days–one for each letter of the alphabet. Now in its sixth year, the event draws over two thousand participants.


One of the first benefits is discipline. Participants learn to come up with short, interesting blog posts, often with a theme. Six posts a week establishes a habit of regular posting. With other bloggers visiting, it also prompts the blog owner to get into the habit of responding to comments and visiting others in reciprocation.


Another benefit is content. An empty blog won’t attract readers. With twenty-six posts in one month, it places one on the fast track to building content. This also helps with search engine rankings, which in turn brings more readers.


The Challenge expands a blogger’s reach within the community. With new blogs to explore and others stopping by for a visit, readership begins to grow. New connections happen daily and a blog’s reputation develops quickly. What normally takes months of searching instead takes just a few weeks. That’s a big bonus to the writer on a time crunch.


Probably the greatest benefit is connections and friendships. The Challenge is common ground and it connects us to those of like minds. Building up a community of friends and supporters is vital to an author. We need encouragement when we hit those low points. We need cheerleaders when things are falling into place. And we need supporters who will help spread the news about our books. The only way to get that is by establishing genuine friendships.


To give you an example of how well the Challenge can help a blog grow, I’ll use my own. Before the very first Challenge in 2010, I had roughly thirty followers. There were only one hundred participants that first year, but by the time April ended, I had over eighty followers. The following year, I joined as a co-host, and with over a thousand participants, I gained almost three hundred and fifty new followers. Those bursts propelled my blog forward with much needed momentum and established my blog in the community. And it’s been my blog and involvement in the blogging community that have had the biggest impact on my sales, propelling all three of my books to the top of the Amazon Best Seller list for Science Fiction.


So, what are you waiting for? Join the biggest blogging event of the year and give your author platform a boost–join the A to Z Challenge!


Dragon of the Stars by Alex J Cavanaugh 1Alex J. Cavanaugh works in web design, graphics and technical editing. Online he is the Ninja Captain, an A to Z Challenge co-host, and founder of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. He’s the author of Amazon Best-Sellers CassaStar, CassaFire, and CassaStorm, and his next book, Dragon of the Stars, comes out April 7, 2015. | | |

Interview With Book Deals Daily

Curiosity Quills recently interviewed Book Deals Daily, a subscription based book promotion website, which sends readers updates about free and discounted books.

Could you start off by telling us a little bit about Book Deals Daily?

Book Deals Daily is a service that allows readers to get heavily discounted and free ebooks sent to their inbox daily. The service also enables authors to easily reach a large platform of avid readers and potential fans. With custom recommendations for readers based on their specific interests and unprecedented access for authors to thousands of subscribers waiting to download their next book, Book Deals Daily is changing the way best-selling books are created.

How did Book Deals Daily as a venture come about?

I noticed a need for authors to be able to promote their books to a large, targeted audience at a fair price. There are some other companies out there that do that, but they can charge upwards of a thousand dollars just to send your book out! I wanted to make a service that would be fair to authors, while allowing them to target exactly the kinds of readers who would love their book. And so Book Deals Daily was born.

What could authors expect if they submitted their book to be featured on Book Deals Daily?

With Book Deals Daily, authors can expect their book to go out to our thousands of readers via email and social media. Some number of those people will purchase their books, and we hope some number of those people will also become lifelong fans.

We’re currently running a special where we’re promoting authors at no cost, so there’s no downside to anyone using our service.

And what can readers expect if they subscribe to Book Deals Daily?

Readers can expect to get a daily email from Book Deals Daily with time-limited offers for books that match their interests. You’ll only get an email if there’s a deal that day on a book in a category you enjoy reading, so there’s never any unwanted stuff. The service is totally free for readers.

What experience and skills do you bring to Book Deals Daily, which help promote authors?

I’ve been in the indie book writing and publishing space for a few years. I’ve worked in digital marketing for the better part of a decade now. Aside from this venture, I consult for businesses both small and in the Fortune 500 on marketing strategy and business development. So it was a nice marriage between my interests and an area I am already expert in.

Do you have any tips on how authors can spread the word about their books, and gain more interest?

Every author needs to have their own website these days. There is no excuse not to have one. They are very easy to create yourself, or, if you wish to outsource it, very inexpensive to have made.

Authors should have an option for people to subscribe to their mailing list on their website. When an author releases a new book, the list can be mailed, providing a huge shot in the arm for a new book launch.

And social media accounts are necessary for the serious author wishing to self-promote. I could write a whole series of articles on this topic, just targeted to authors. Perhaps I will do that through my consultancy.

What are some of the common mistakes you’ve seen authors make in terms of promoting their books?

There are lots of mistakes I see that really hurt an aspiring authors success. One of the biggest is not having a professional cover for your book. This is a big deal, as people do truly judge a book by its cover. And with designers all over the world willing to make a cover for less than a hundred dollars, there is no reason not to have a sharp looking cover. Another huge mistake I often see is not having enough reviews for your book on Amazon. The aspiring author needs to work tirelessly to make sure those first handful of reviews make it to Amazon and show the rest of the world just how good their work is. Finally, another big mistake authors make is thinking they can just release their book to the masses and it will become a best-seller on its own. Authors, especially self-published ones, must work tirelessly to promote their work. Professional promotion services, like the one we have at Book Deals Daily, provide a huge boost for the author looking to self-promote in this brave new world.

If you could offer one piece of advice to authors looking to take their book promotion to the next level, what would it be?

Be willing to part with your baby. The writing, editing and publishing process is long, drawn-out and emotional. Trust me, I know. So when it comes time to price a book, most authors want to charge the world for it. This must be resisted. In a time where books can be had for 99 cents, it is just not viable for a new author to expect to get $9.99 for their first ebook right out of the gate. A strategy where the first book is priced between $0 and $2.99 seems to be a winning strategy for obtaining those initial raving fans that go on to become lifelong readers of your work.

And finally, what are you currently reading?

For my own personal development, and for my consultancy, I am always reading non-fiction on marketing, business development, goal setting, time management and the like. To take a breather, I love to read thrillers. I end up buying a lot of the books we promote and reading them myself, because I am constantly getting great books coming across my desk!

Thanks for this opportunity, and if anyone has any questions, feel free to contact us at I am happy to answer any questions you may have!

Thank you for your time. It was a pleasure having you visit the site.

About Book Deals Daily:

Book Deals Daily sends time-limited emails each day for free and discounted ebooks that match your specific interests. Read on your e-reader, tablet, smartphone or right on your computer.

Book Deals Daily Online:

Website | Twitter

Bitten by Books Interview

Today, Curiosity Quills has the pleasure of interviewing Rachel Smith, founder of book review and author promotions blog Bitten by Books, which has produced its own line of jewellery.

Thanks for joining us Rachel. Could you start off by telling us a little bit about yourself and Bitten by Books?

RS: I have been an avid reader since the early 70’s; to say that I am a bibliophile is an understatement. Books were my friends as a child and have been constant companions through all of the ups and downs throughout my life so far.

Initially, the blog was supposed to be a hobby. It was founded in 2008 out of a desire to capture my thoughts and insights about paranormal fiction books, which I was thoroughly hooked on at the time. Something cracked wide open though, and Bitten by Books was born.

How did Bitten by Books as a venture come about?

RS: Within a month of starting the site, authors were flooding me with inquiries to not only review their books, but also to do online events. Over the first few years, we gained a really solid following and began offering advertising to authors and publishers. We have steadily grown over the years with the help of our dedicated review staff and fantastic readers, as well as the completely amazing array of authors who have supported our efforts.

How did reviewing books, and offering author events expand into a jewellery line?

RS: Again, jewelry making started out as a hobby, but quickly turned into a business as well. My husband likes to joke that I am not allowed to have any more hobbies because they all seem to turn into businesses, LOL.

Many of my first jewelry pieces were beaded or nature-inspired. I starting noticing that there were some fantastic horror-themed jewelry components out there as well, so I started incorporating more Gothic/horror pieces, and those tied in nicely with the Bitten by Books blog.

What could authors expect if they submitted their book for review, or signed up for a live interactive author event with Bitten by Books?

RS: We are currently closed for book review submissions. Authors who sign up for an event with us go through a process to pick the type of event and get things rolling. It is really important for authors to book their events several months in advance as we have very limited space and the schedule fills fast. Readers come to Bitten by Books to actually meet and chat with authors throughout the day and evening. It is a great way to meet new readers because the internet is at everybody’s fingertips.

With traditional book signings, a person may not live near where their favorite author is touring, and there are only a few moments to interact with the author. Doing an online event via a blogging platform allows readers to take their time and ask authors things they really want to know about them or their books. It also allows the authors to really shine and share on a deeper level about their work, and more importantly, about themselves.

Building an excellent rapport is key to any good relationship. We have had some amazing conversations over the years between authors and readers. It is one of the main things that I believe keeps readers coming back to the site. They like the interactive portion of the events and finding new books and authors. Of course, they also love the contests!

What can customers and authors (looking for great goodies for giveaways) expect when buying a piece of jewellery from you?

RS: All of my jewelry creations are hand crafted and come gift boxed. I also do custom work for people as well and love doing new things. My most recent offerings are Magical Dragon’s Eggs, which you can see by clicking here.

How does your experience as an avid reader since the early seventies help in the running of Bitten by Books?

RS: Besides my ability to read (lol), you can rest assured that I am passionate about books, reading and all of the inner workings of the publishing industry. I am an idea person and am always looking for ways to combine the aspects of the books I love with business, and ultimately to help authors promote their work.

Outside of being a reader and jewellery designer, what other experience and skills do you bring to Bitten by Books, which helps promote authors?

RS: I have an IT project management background, so I am familiar with how to run “projects” and am comfortable with technology and all the things that drive it in our fast-paced, electronic-filled lives. Having worked for myself for more than 15 years and growing up in a family that had their own small business, I “get” what it is like to wear many hats. I work and have worked with geeks and creative people and love them both.

Being an author is not only about writing books, but running your own business. I have owned several online businesses, as well as a bricks and mortar store. My background is very diverse and has given me the chance to do some amazing things and meet fantastic people all over the world. One of my specialties is networking and connecting people with the right tools or other people that they may find helpful in promoting themselves, no matter what business they are in.

What key aspects do you think make a successful live interactive author event?

RS: Be completely mentally present while you are talking to readers. Be honest and original. Use this time to really show readers what your books are about and the creative mind that is behind them. Take the time to actually write a well thought out response (it doesn’t have to be super long) to questions. Ask the readers questions and create dialog. Most of all, have fun with it.

Do you have any tips on how authors can spread the word about their books, and gain more reviews?

RS: Maintaining a consistent positive online presence is key to getting the word out about your books and what is coming down the pipeline. You don’t have to spend hours a day doing this; simply manage your time and book out time for your online promotional efforts. I have found using an online calendar – scheduling when certain things should happen each day, week or month – is really helpful.

If you have the budget, there is always the possibility of hiring a Virtual Assistant or similar service. But you really don’t have to pay for it if you can come up with a process that works well for you in the beginning.

As far as reviews, that can be a bit trickier. There are thousands upon thousands of new books that come out each year. While there are a lot of sites that take books for review, the best first step is to ask other authors or your publisher for a list of who they recommend, then research the blog thoroughly before submitting to them. Find out what their review policies are before emailing them. Don’t just randomly spam 500 blogs without even looking at what they do.

While researching blogs, here are a few things to keep in mind: How often are reviews posted? How often do they post new content to their site. If there are not a lot of reviews or content on the blog, then that may not be the best fit for a review of your work. If there’s nobody in the “house” so to speak, then the chances of even having somebody see your review are slim to none. Determine how and whether they promote reviews, as well as the quality of the reviews they have posted.

“Quality over quantity” is a good rule of thumb for reviews. Trying to get 800 reviews of your book that may end up being sub-par, never seen, or promoted is a huge time suck. Pick a number of sites and then consistently submit your work to them if they are open to it and you feel confident about what they are doing. Also, don’t wait until the last minute when your book is about to drop, then expect an instant turn around for your review. This will help avoid feelings of frustration for both yourself and the review site.

What are some of the common mistakes you’ve seen author make in terms of promoting their books or interacting with readers?

RS: In regards to book promotion, the biggest mistake I see authors make is trying to be on too many social networking sites and spreading their efforts too thin. Pick three social media sites max and see how they work. The top three critical ways to promote are via Facebook, Twitter and opt-in email newsletters.

The other common mistake is not having your own website domain name or a sub-par website or blog. You can buy a domain name (and I recommend to use your name if it isn’t taken) for less than $15.00 a year. Even if you use a free website building service like Wix or Weebly (although I don’t recommend most free services), you can still buy your domain and have it point to your free site. You don’t have to have a fancy super expensive site, but it is very important that it look professional and be easy to navigate.

One mistake I have seen authors make over and over is not interacting with readers at online events, or being too brief when answering questions. Again, this type of thing falls into your promotional time, so, if you have planned to be somewhere to do an event, be there and interact. You only get one chance to make a first impression, especially in an online forum. I recommend not doing more than one event per day, and not doing 40 appearances in a row. Choose 10-15, spread the events out, and make sure they are on blogs that have an active readership and that really promote events and authors. Also, always give the blog you are holding your event on original content. It doesn’t have to be a long blog post; make it short and sweet, 3-4 paragraphs max. Posting the same content over and over is not productive and could be annoying to readers. Ask yourself “would this be something I would follow an author around reading over and over again”?

What’s the most effective book promotion efforts by an author you’ve seen? And what made it stand out for you?

RS: I tend to really not closely follow what other authors or bloggers are doing to promote their work. This is mainly due to time constraints. Instead, I watch technology trends and follow my own processes and fine tune them as I see things change. I have seen a TON of different promotional efforts since 2008.

The one that has stood out to me is the auction that author Brenda Novak has been hosting for many years to benefit children’s diabetes research. This is a very different way to promote your work, but more importantly it supports a great cause and is very memorable to both readers and authors alike. Banding together for a common good that brings together authors and readers is a win-win scenario.

If you could offer one piece of advice to authors looking to take their book promotion to the next level, what would it be?

RS: Do some local events like conventions in your area, or larger ones if you have the budget. Participate at comic book conventions or other types of events that are a good fit for the type of writing you do. These events may help you reach readers who haven’t been exposed to your work.

Never be afraid to try something new and different. If it doesn’t work, then scratch it off the list and stick to your core promotional efforts until you see something else that looks like fun that might be a good fit for you.

Thank you for your time, Rachel. It was a pleasure having you visit the site.

Bitten by Books

About Bitten by Books:

The focus of the Bitten by Books blog is to provide book reviews and live interactive author events for all types of genres; Paranormal Fiction, Paranormal Romance, Urban Fantasy, Mystery, Science Fiction, Horror, Young Adult, Children’s and Fantasy. Our reviewers share an avid love of all things books! Bitten by Books prides itself on offering our readers honest book reviews, author interviews, interesting guest blog spots, advertising and fun contests. Whether you love paperback books or e-books, make your only stop for all things book related. If you are an author or publisher be sure to contact us and start connecting with like minded people today.

Find Bitten by Books Online:

Website | Jewellery Line | Facebook | Twitter | Newsletter | Google +

Rachel Smith_Bitten by BooksAbout Rachel Smith:

The Bitten by Books founder Rachel Smith is an avid reader and has been since the early 70′s. She enjoys primarily paranormal fiction, but can occasionally be caught reading non-fiction, chic lit or books on esoteric subjects. When not reviewing books you can find her blogging about her favorite products at, creating jewelry at her other business A Charming Time. Rachel has worked as a spiritual counselor and teacher for many years. When not reading or hanging out online this Pacific Northwest native enjoys spending time with her husband and playing with her pack of ferocious dogs and listening to music.

Find Rachel Smith Online:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Newsletter

Interview with Book Promotion Site SciFiFantasy Freak

Today, Curiosity Quills has the pleasure of interviewing SciFiFantasy Freak, a book promotion website for all things science-fiction and fantasy. Until 12.31.14, SciFiFantasy Freak are offering all listings on their site for free, so don’t miss out on this great opportunity to be featured on the best place for scifi and fantasy!


Thanks for joining us. Could you start off by telling us a little bit about SciFiFantasy Freak?

First and foremost—we LOVE science fiction and fantasy!

SciFiFantasyFREAK is an email subscription service tailored specifically for readers on the hunt for quality science fiction and fantasy. Anyone who has subscribed to our list will receive daily listings of free, discounted and new release books in those genres. The service is free and free books are listed in every email. For anyone who loves to read science fiction or fantasy, this is a can’t-lose service.


How did SciFiFantasy Freak as a venture come about?

Our company was founded by an indie author of (drum-roll, please) science fiction and fantasy who has achieved moderate success through advertising with other subscription sites like BookBub and EReaderNewsToday. Pleased with the success those sites provided but disappointed with lack of posting frequency allowed by their guidelines, our founder recognized a need for more sites like them. For any product to stay in front of its audience, its message needs to be consistently delivered. One email sent to millions of subscribers is wonderful, but that email has shelf life of one week—less, usually. What does an author do for the other 51 weeks of the year? That is where sites like SciFiFantasyFREAK come in. We haven’t reinvented the wheel, we’ve just given authors and readers another outlet for offering and finding quality material.


What could authors expect if they submitted their book to be featured on SciFiFantasy Freak?

Authors will have their books sent in an email to our subscriber list, which is sent every day at 1:00 p.m. Our list has been carefully grown, populated only with fans of the genres we advertise. As a result, our open-rates are more than twice the industry average and our click-rates are almost four times the industry average. What that means in simple terms: if you write science fiction or fantasy, our subscribers want your books.

We also post the daily listings right on our main page every morning, announce the listings on our Facebook page, and Tweet it to our followers.

Two unique services offered at SciFiFantasyFREAK are our New Release program and our Editor’s Pick program.

Most subscription sites don’t offer an option for newly released material to be promoted. We do, and we offer the chance for those listings to run three days consecutively if the author chooses to do so. We understand how hard it is to get a new book off the ground. We understand that even our most loyal subscribers can’t read every single email we send them. We want to give new books their greatest chance at success.

The Editor’s Pick is unique because we do not require that a book be discounted in order for it to be listed under this program. Again, this is an option most subscription sites do not offer. There is only one Editor’s Pick per day. We are very choosy about which books we promote through this program because we feel we are putting our reputation on the line every time we call a book the “Editor’s Pick.”


How does your experience as a reader help with the running of SciFiFantasy Freak?

We understand what it is like to pick up a book, only find your eyes glazing over and your attention wandering after the first couple of chapters. Everyone at SciFiFantasyFREAK is an avid reader—we know what quality fiction looks like. We don’t judge books by their cover. We read reviews, we read excerpts, and only choose books we believe our readers will enjoy. Our ratings guidelines help weed out the poorly written ones, but we look beyond those ratings and reviews, as well.


Outside of being a reader, what other experience and skills do you bring to SciFiFantasy Freaks, which helps promote authors?

As well as being an author, the company’s founder has been in the service industry for over twenty years and has handled the advertising needs of the businesses he operates for the entirety of that time. With extensive experience in social marketing, we have confidence that the exponential growth we’re seeing currently will continue for many years to come.


Do you have any tips on how authors can spread the word about their books, and gain more interest?

Absolutely. Of course, number one would be to use subscription-based sites like SciFiFantasyFREAK. They are a low-cost, low-risk, potentially high-yield investment. Of course, the downside is that the promotions only last one day, so we recommend a constant rotation of advertising through multiple sites. If you can find reliable sites that will push your sales, twice per month on a six-month rotation is what we suggest—that means finding twelve sites that work.

Make friends with other authors. You’d be surprised at what groups of writers can accomplish together. The box sets of authors who all write in similar genres? Brilliant. What a wonderful way to provide value to the reader and at the same time get one of your books in front of them. Get a link on other authors’ blogs or websites in return for doing the same for them on yours. Above all, ask them what’s worked for them. Most authors will happily share the stories of their successes. Yes, authors are in competition with each other to some degree, but it’s not like ‘Big Mac vs. The Whopper’—someone who has enjoyed The Hunger Games will almost certainly buy Divergent as well, and certainly there are hundreds of ways those two series could be cross-promoted.


What are some of the common mistakes you’ve seen author make in terms of promoting their books?

Don’t make your own cover. Don’t edit your own book. You’re an author. You tell stories. That’s what you’re best at. Some authors would say this was supposed to be a question about ‘promoting’, and to that we reply: these two facets are—above all—the most effective ways of promoting your books. The cover: self-explanatory. Perhaps we at SciFiFantasyFREAK don’t judge a book by its cover, but the vast majority of your readers do. And if you believe that the negative reviews left as a result of poor editing won’t negatively impact your sales, you’re very wrong.

Don’t waste all your time on social media. That’s not to say it doesn’t work at all, but you’re swimming in a very big pond there, and it is hard to get noticed with so many other fish all waving their arms screaming look at me too! Best way to approach social media: make a posting schedule for yourself and stick to it. There are apps that allow you to set those posts up in advance—even better. Authors, certainly you’ve heard it over and over, but the best use of your time is spent writing more books.

Stay away from Google Adwords and Goodreads pay-per-click advertising. They are both an abyss of wasted click-money.

Don’t be afraid to get creative. Find places where you know there are large groups of people who read your genre—and then make yourself known there. Whether it’s an erotica writer making a deal with their local Adam & Eve chain, a how-to-make-the-best-cupcakes writer making a deal with the local bakeries, or a science fiction writer making a deal with the biggest SciFi blogs on the internet to promote them—find your niche. Find the ways you communicate best. Don’t be afraid to try promoting in ways you’ve never heard of.


If you could offer one piece of advice to authors looking to take their book promotion to the next level, what would it be?

For indie authors: be willing to give at least one of your products away. If you’re looking to gain the trust of readers, show them they can trust you. Choose the first book in your series, and make it free. If you don’t have a series, choose the best representation of your work and make that one free. If you only have one book and it’s not selling… close this web page right now and write another book.

For established authors, build your email subscriber list. It can be hard to do, and usually takes time, but eventually you’ll have a solid amount and there is nothing more powerful for new releases than that one tool.


And finally, what are you currently reading?

Perception, by Lee Strauss. Great book by a wonderful author. Highly recommend.

Thank you for your time. It was a pleasure having you visit the site.

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With so many options available online to book buyers, it makes it hard to find what you’re looking for. Especially if, like us, you only read SciFi and Fantasy. This site has been created to simplify your search. No more wading through “everything else” in order to find the books you want. At SciFiFantasyFREAK, we will never advertise anything that doesn’t fall within those two genres.

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