Posts filed under books

day twenty nine: on book-bloggers, the unsung heroes of every novel

I still remember those first moments people started talking about COME ALIVE on their blogs.

It freaked me out at first. A lot of these people were friends of mine or within the network I frequented online. I didn't know how to respond. They didn't have to write about it. There wasn't a sign up or anything. These were just people who loved me and loved my book and wanted to talk about it. Should I respond at all? Should I share the post? Would that seem egotistical? Should I even thank them? 

When EVERY SHATTERED THING released, I signed up for a blog tour through InkSlinger PR. This is where I began to understand the magic of word-of-mouth marketing and how amazing bloggers can be for a book. I had blogs posting about it every day for a little over a week. Some of them were amazing. Some of them were unsure. Some of them were from people who didn't like the book.

All of them were SO NEEDED to get the word out about EVERY SHATTERED THING.

I grew more relaxed. I started answering questions and engaging with the bloggers on social media when they'd chat with me. If they tagged me in a tweet with a link to their review post, I'd thank them for reading + sharing the book and RT their review. I found them on Facebook and made sure to "like" their blog pages so I could keep up with them. If they responded to me consistently on Twitter, I'd make sure to follow them back.

Slowly, over the past fifteen months, I've come to realize something.

I would not be where I'm at today if it weren't for book bloggers taking time out of their schedules to read and talk about my books. Not every review glows with praise. I'm okay with this. There is nothing — nothing — that compares to the community of book bloggers who celebrate and cheer on indie authors. I've learned more about indie publishing through this network than anywhere else. And I've grown to love the people behind some of the blogs that promote books with humility, excitement, and honesty.

A few months ago, I was a table assistant for an author at a local book signing. Before the doors opened, there was a line down the hallway and circling the stairs below the hotel lobby. There were homemade t-shirts. Posters made. Scrapbooks filled with book covers and character names. These bloggers weren't messing around by holding one-or-two books to sign. Nope. They had luggage filled with copies of books. Multiple books per author.

The atmosphere was electric.

They gave gifts to the authors. Bracelets, drawings, flowers — and it wasn't with this "I'm trying to impress you" vibe, either. These were humans legitimately wanting to connect with another human they admire. These were relationships that formed long before the face-to-face interaction. 

One reader came up to the woman I was working with and started crying. 

"You have no idea what your books did for me," she whispered. Laughing, she wiped at her cheeks. "I'm sorry. I told myself I wouldn't cry. But your books....they just got me through a huge rough spot and I'm so thankful. Please don't stop writing." 

If I didn't know it before that event (I did), I definitely knew it after: book bloggers are the lifeblood of your indie release. 

Love them. Care for them. Engage with them. Pay attention to your @ replies on twitter, because sometimes they'll send you questions about your book. Respond to their emails if they take time to shoot you a message. 

Rainbow Rowell does this well. So does Sue Monk Kidd. I've even had John Green reply / favorite / RT a few of my responses to his questions or comments. Cora Carmack and K.A. Tucker and Autumn Doughton are also amazing at engaging with their readers.

I used to think it was okay to not respond. (And sometimes, it's necessary.) But, then I started noticing how seen I felt when authors took the time to engage with me when I'd tweet about their books or send them a message on social media. I started realizing that the book I loved just turned into a blog post trying to convince everyone else to read it. 

I'm not a book blogger, but I'm more likely to share a work and celebrate its releases and try to get others to purchase a book if I know there's a human and not a robot between the hardback bindings.

So imagine the power of a book blogger. 

By getting bloggers to read and review your book, you're harnessing their platform. Note: harness and don't use. There's a difference. One, there's an exchange that happens. A giving over of sorts. There's no expectation that they will share a certain way and you're thankful regardless. The other? You just want them for their numbers and audience and not because it's one more person reading your words + engaging with you in storytelling.

Word of mouth marketing is huge. Think of the runaway success of FAULT IN OUR STARS or how it wasn't until John Green wrote about ELEANOR AND PARK for NY TIMES that Rowell hit the bestseller list. Book blogging is more than just haphazardly throwing up GIFs to explain the feels involved in a certain novel. Book blogging is spreading the love of good stories.

And you know what? Even if the review lacks the oomph you're hoping for, they're still talking about your book. They're still sharing links. They're still celebrating the fact that one more person pushed a book out into the world. Because of this, bloggers will always be a huge step in my marketing process. Every time someone writes about EVERY SHATTERED THING or SOMEWHERE BETWEEN WATER & SKY, I'm thankful. Every time someone RTs a tweet where I'm sharing about it, I'm encouraged. And every time a reader expresses hope for new books and curiosity about what I will publish next, I'm inspired. 

If you want to feel connected to your readers, find bloggers who will read and write about your book. Love them. Support them. Cheer for them as they hit milestones of their own. When you get down to it, we're all in this together. From my experience, book bloggers are some of my favorite partners in helping me share about my latest characters because they believe in the stories just as much as I do. 

And for an author, this type of relationship is priceless.


Need more inspiration? Introducing Hustle & Flow: a weekly letter with artistic visioning for the everyday creative. I would love it if you signed up, and I won't ever spam you. Promise. 

You'll get hints and anecdotes about getting unstuck and living your most artistic life within the midst of your every day poetics. AND, if you sign up during October, you'll get some special extras dealing with indie-publishing.

Posted on October 29, 2014 and filed under books, indie publishing, writing.

the book that became a favorite and the one I threw away.

In the past week, I've read two books.

One became a favorite of mine. 

The other turned into ash and scraps of paper as I ripped it up and threw it away, burning the rest taking the form of quotes on journal pages. 

A quick aside: I love literature, and because of this deep admiration, never really condone the burning of books. I mean, Fahrenheit 451 is one of my favorite books and I can assure you it is not, in my case, a pleasure to burn. I've only ever thrown away one other book. However, in this moment, I could not ignore the shaking in my bones. Maybe you've been there? There are countless reasons, one of which I would be willing to say it was nonfiction and written as truth. I won't release the name of the book, or include it in my Goodreads as one I couldn't finish. I believe in people finding their own way with words and books and if you're really curious about it, shoot me a message. We can chat more about it. 

Moving on.

A couple years ago, I was at the STORY conference when Andrew Klavan began speaking of his experience reading Crime and Punishment. It was his conversion story, set in between the pages of a plot ripe with grace and beauty.

I thought of this story as I watched flames lick the cover of the book I had been so interested in reading. The one I purchased seven months ago, almost to the day. The other half of Klavan's tale includes a book that's dark and twisted and revealed to him the path he was taking. He too had read two books, with one shaking him to the core with the evil and darkness apparent.

Put simply, he didn't want the narrative of the second one. He wanted the grace and beauty, even in moments of discomfort and darkness.

I don't often write about my spirituality, mostly because I've grown to believe the relationship I have with God is inherently intimate, and therefore not meant to be put on display. However, in this moment all of those intentions went rogue.

I bolted out of bed.
I grabbed the book. 
I started ripping out the pages, whispering prayers and curse words alike.

You can attribute this reaction to the firm lineage of righteous indignation pulsing in my blood. There was no fucking way I would allow those words in my home any longer.

I can't tell you how viscerally I reacted to this second book last night. I can try, pointing to posts written days after receiving it in the mail. I can attempt to mention the synchronicity of those closest to me speaking truth. 

Or I can explain the conversation I had with my sister on the phone, when I once again realized the power of words placed with intention. It reminded me of what I wanted my words to create: hope, second chances, redemption, love, the beauty of small yet breathtaking human moments. 

And the realization that I can't fill my own story—the one I'm living—with hope and beauty when I'm reading words built around lies and darkness and the power that feeds off the very truth I'm trying to share.

So I build my list slowly, with intention. I'm done taking the words of others as gold. I know what Gold is, and I recognize the moments her name is plastered on tarnished brass. I don't want the words of trite suppositions filling the space meant for belonging and restoration. I've pondered this for a few months now, how as a writer, reading serves as filling up that internal reservoir. 

I will be fierce in my execution of good reads, because I want more. I want the words that leave me hanging on for dear life. I want the stories that leave me breathless and aching to write. My life—my story—my words deserve nothing less. 

This means something for this space: an addition of sorts, a series tried about twice over and probably three years past its time: Elora Reads. The goals being specificity, honesty and ingesting words that make me want to turn around and create.

Because I'm done with the words that stifle that fire. They're now ash in my disposal. They're burning in the rancid dumpster heat.

First up and later this week: The Goldfinch—the book that became a favorite.

Posted on September 1, 2014 and filed under books, elora reads.

elora reads :: GREED

book_covers_round2.jpg

Back in August, my friend Kelly sent me a text saying "you need to read Vain."  

Being the amazing-publicist-that-she-is, I knew I could take her word for it and one-clicked the book on the spot. 

I loved it and then got super-excited-and-fangirly because it was going to be a series. And not just any type of series. It would be focused on the seven deadly sins. 

Brilliant. Sold. 

I waited for Greed (not-so) patiently and when I finally got a review copy, I read it all in a day. I'm so excited to tell you about it.

The Blurb >>  

Gather ‘round, love, because I want you. I want what you have, I want what you don’t have, I want more of what I already have. I want. But if you so much as ask for something in return, go ahead and walk away. Know if you want to play in my world, it’s every man for themselves and the weak become mine. Leeches will be obliterated because I make it my job to destroy them. I protect what’s mine and I take what’s yours...because that’s what I do. I want.

My story will not endear me to you and, frankly, I could care less if it does because I’m in this for the money and nothing else. There’s nothing redeeming about me. I’m a corrupt, money hungry, immoral asshole from Los Angeles. I’m every man’s worst nightmare and every girl’s fantasy.

I’m Spencer Blackwell...And this is the story about how I went from the world’s most coveted guy to the guy no one wanted around and why I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.

The author >>  

Fisher Amelie is the author of The Leaving Series, Callum & Harper and Thomas & January. She began her writing career as a copywriter for an internet marketing company wherein one of their client's said, 'Hey! You're funny. You should write books'. Which in turn she said, 'Hey, get out of here! This is the lady's restroom.' While washing her hands and the embarrassment from her face, she thought they may have had a valid point. So, she took the thousands of hours of writing stories growing up, tucked them into her pocket and began writing and writing and writing.

 What I liked >> 

Amelie can write, y'all. This is more than just your typical YA. It's gritty. It deals with some heavy stuff.  The main character isn't without his faults and she portrays this artistically. I liked the tension between Cricket and Spencer, the realistic setting, the shades of grey in a black and white world. I also appreciated Amelie's personification of Greed. The ghosts of Spencer Blackwell's past were articulate and haunting.

What I loved >>  

I approached Greed much like I approached Vain. Even though I knew a bit of Spencer's backstory (what we hear in the previous book) I loved how she plucked him out of comfort and placed him in a ranch. I loved Spencer's fight for Cricket and the out of left field plot twists (I honestly didn't see them coming—which is refreshing). Most of all, I loved the development of characters. Outside of those needing to remain static, no character was out of place. 

What you should know >>  

This is the second book to a series but each one reads as a stand-alone. I would still suggest reading Vain first if you haven't yet, only because Spencer is introduced and you'll get a sense of his character before jumping into the story.

There aren't many books that can capture an essence of something and portray it artistically. Amelie does that. Her writing is approachable and fun but her stories are so much more than entertainment. There's a depth to these stories that you can miss if you aren't careful.

Bottom line? Purchase GREED on Amazon  You'll love it. Promise.

 

Posted on October 29, 2013 and filed under books, fiction.

let's be writers.

It was a few weeks ago on a Friday night. I had just gotten off the phone with my now agent, and my head was swimming with the possibility of what-could-be—I'd gone into this whole self-publishing thing hopeful. I'd seen what could happen when a story found its niche and audience. I wanted it for me, wanted it for my writing, wanted it for my characters. 

That evening, I felt alive [the gin helped].  

"How are you feeling with everything?" My phone buzzed with the text from a friend.

I giggled. How was I feeling? High. Euphoric. Scared shitless. Hopeful. Insane.  

"Good!" I responded. "I just got off the phone with an agent interested in my work and I'm really excited about it...."  

We talked back and forth for a little while, each talking about our hopes and fears with publishing [her book comes out next week]. I told her that the deeper I sink into the possibility of writing books for a living, the more my heart feels at home.

The reply came quick.  

"Oh Elora. Let's be writers. Let's really be!" 

I smiled, because this is her. Declarative.

The next week, I received a letter in the mail. It was from her, and it was a card with her font scrawled across with black ink -- 

 let's be writers 

 .::.

I have this card now perched on the wall in my office. It's within my line of vision as I type, and so every time I glance up I see her words and remember.

This is what I want. It's what I've wanted. Forever.  

.::. 

I taught myself how to write. Driving with my grandma to her aerobics class, I would remember letters off of signs and copy them on paper as I leaned against the wall—my own babysitter free within those empty pages waiting for my own scrawl. Every night, I'd show them to her. 

"What does this say, grandma?"  

"Well darling, that says STOP."  

And then I'd categorize it.  

I did the same thing with our books, the many thrown about our house. After the first few hundred times my dad read me One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish I knew it by memory. If I knew by memory, I could study the way the words curved into each other. How they bounced together and created a rhythm all their own. 

From there, I wrote on everything. Paper. Fisher Price kitchen set. Highlights Magazine. I wasn't satisfied with just any story. It needed to make my breath quicken and my arms heavy with longing. It needed to make me break into a grin or a shout because I couldn't get to my journal quick enough. 

In elementary school I'd write plays with my friends.
In middle school I dabbled in short stories.
High school brought the angst of poetry. 

For me, words—in whatever form—became my safety.. 

 .::.

A month ago today, Every Shattered Thing released. It's been a month of crazy highs and crazy lows. 

But really, it's solidified one thing: there's nothing I want more than to write.  

I think for writers, putting our work out there brings a level of vulnerability we aren't prepared for—no one ever tells you or sends out warnings about the review process. HINT: don't read them. But, as much vulnerability is required, there's nothing like seeing your work alive and breathing and in the hands of others. It's your work. Something you created out of nothing.  

That's nothing short of magic. 

And regardless of whether you believe those words came to you via Spirit or Muse or Creativity, there's one commonality: nothing scares the shit out of you more than thinking of writing another book, and nothing makes you feel more alive than realizing you get to do this for the rest of your life.

Let's be writers?  

Yes. Let's really be. 

Posted on September 27, 2013 and filed under risk, books.

elora reads :: 2012 edition

Looking back at this year, it's funny to see the list of books I've finished. 2012 was obviously a year of nonfiction for me. I dove heart first into some heavy topics in order to prepare us for the adoption. Some of these books were really, really good. Some of them I didn't finish. Some I couldn't finish save for the tears streaming down my face. It hasn't been until recently, when I took November to write some fiction and realized huh...I kinda forgot what fiction looks like because I'd been reading/writing almost exclusively nonfiction, that I embraced fiction again with open arms. Either way, I figured I'd share with some of my favorite reads from this year.

Nonfiction - 

Attachments :: This book moved me in a profound way. It's amazing to me just how much we take from those first few weeks of our life. Reading this book proved healing in a lot of ways and explains so much - so much - of why I act the way I do and how I relate with others. In fact, after finishing this book I immediately ordered the companion book, God Attachment. I took these books slow - reading them in bits and pieces. I couldn't take much more than a few pages at a time because of the weight of it all. It's so good though. I plan on rereading both.

Circle of Quiet :: So, in the past few years, Madeleine L'Engle has become one of my patron saints. I read this at the beginning of the year, when I struggled with what it meant to truly {abide} in my words and a career and my desire to be a mother....everything just seemed so exhausting and I'd pick up this book and exhale. Reading L'Engle puts spark and heat back in my writing.

Heroes and Monsters :: I've written about this book before here, and Josh even did a guest post for me back in June when I took a break from blogging. Needless to say - if you haven't gotten this book you really, really need to grab it. I have so many quotes underlined on my kindle and I'm waiting to buy the paperback so I can have a physical copy. It's just that good. Josh is a brilliant wordsmith and he tackles some heavy memories in this book.

Fiction - 

The Delirium series :: I am not ashamed of my fan-girl status with YA-literature. Although there are the exceptions where a book just perpetuates the stigma of the young adult label, there are others - Lauren Oliver's Delirium series, for example - that continually blow me away. The premise itself is original :: love is outlawed. I love the twists in this series and everything Oliver tackles. The plot is fast-pased, no one is immune, and her writing is impeccable.

Daughter of Smoke & Bone series :: Again, I've spoken of this series before. Although it's categorized as YA, I don't see it as such. Laini Taylor's writing takes my breath away - it's literally flawless. Her world-building is just...incredible. There were so many moments I would read and just breathe in her ability to throw her characters in all types of situations - awkward, dangerous, heartbreaking, hopeful - and every time I felt the emotions so vividly. I recently heard talks of turning the series into movies and I couldn't be more thrilled. In fact, as I read the first book, I looked at our roommate and said, "they'll make a movie of this and I'll be the first in line."

Revolution :: You know those books that make you fall in love with a period in history? This book made me crave more from the French Revolution. I love, love, LOVED the twin-plot lines going and found myself super-depressed when the book ended. Mostly because Jennifer Donnelly is such an incredible author and she doesn't have many books. Her ability to weave so seamlessly the lives of two characters was incredible. This book was one that made me want to write.

Indie-pub -

So, thanks to a few friends I've picked up a few incredible self-published books this year that blew me away. All of these (except one) have since been picked up by a major publisher, but I wanted to give a shout-out to those who broke free from the traditional mold.

Slammed :: I was so skeptical when I first started reading this book. It was my first taste of self-published fiction and I just didn't know how it would settle in my stomach. Especially when I got to the conflict - a teacher/student relationship. But, Hoover handled the situation with dignity and (to me) held the tension of this reality perfectly. I read it in one sitting. It was that good. As soon as I finished, I went to the kindle store and downloaded the sequel, Point of Retreat and thus began my deep dive into self-published novels.

Easy :: Another read-in-one-sitting. I knew what I was getting into with this one - having been told it was pretty intense. But there's intense that borders on voyeurism and intense that embraces the heartbreaking reality of sexual assault. Tammara Webber definitely possesses the heartbreaking reality. My heart rate escalated many times while reading this and I so appreciated the girl fighting back.

Losing It :: I added this book for so many reasons. First, it's good. Like, entertaining good. Like, giggle in your bedsheets good. But also, I wanted to include it because of the story behind it. It's another self-pub gone crazy but the genre is a new one :: New Adult. I'm not sure where it's headed, but this genre is pretty hot (heh) right now. I appreciated this book because even though the topic was mature, the scenes weren't overly explicit or over-the-top. It was as it should be - awkward. I mean, let's be real. Carmack's book is a fun read and there's one scene in particular where I was stunned by her writing. I mean it. Floored. It's probably not where people assume, though and I can't give it away for fear of spoilers so you'll just have to read it yourself. I suggest it if you aren't prone to blushing during awkward situations. Or snorting. *side eye*

Ten Tiny Breaths :: Just read this last week, y'all. At first, I wasn't sure if I would enjoy it. I mean - there aren't many books out there that tackle PTSD and do it well. About a third of the way through I was hooked and by the ending I found myself taken by the story of complete redemption and restoration. Even better - this is the book that hasn't been picked up by a publisher. Yet. I'm banking on Kathleen sealing a deal with this one.

Okay. Those are my favorite books from 2012. Share with me :: what are some books you LOVED this past year? 

Posted on December 27, 2012 and filed under books.