Showing posts with label book launches. Show all posts
Showing posts with label book launches. Show all posts

A Book Signing with Author Ransom Riggs

"Stay Peculiar"
When Ransom Riggs came to town, I knew I would have to go see him. And I wasn’t disappointed. Riggs is the author of Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children #1 New York Times bestselling series; the fifth book in the series, The Conference of the Birds, just came out on January 14th.

Our Albuquerque Barnes & Noble hosted Riggs in grand style. While the “events” that were set up for ticket holders were presented mostly by Riggs’s traveling crew (our stop was the 9th on his whirlwind book tour in a van decorated with lively Conference of the Birds artwork), B & N employees helped, too. I’m not sure who provided the chocolates, cookies and sweet drinks, but it didn’t matter. In the hour before Riggs danced in, the guests, numbering approximately forty by my count, had a great time. One woman sitting in the front row, a gold ticket holder, even came dressed as a character from Riggs’s stories.

There was so much to do: tattoos stamped at the tattoo booth, photos taken by the participants themselves in front of a giant poster backdrop, and a mysterious event known only to gold ticket holders (my ticket was silver, which included a hardcover copy of The Conference of Birds). Three notebooks, signed by Ransom Riggs, were given away.

Riggs grew up in Florida. When he was twelve, he found old photographs with his grandmother at a collector’s store in town. His fascination grew and he soon became a collector himself, scouring old photos at swap meets and flea markets. He especially liked the photos that had writing on the back, such as an old photo of a young girl named Dorothy who, on the back, said that she had died of leukemia at his age. He’d never before thought that anyone his age would die. Photos then were ten cents a piece; later, as he grew more serious, he paid more.

He would find creepy stuff, such as a collection of men with blank eyes (these poor souls either had cataracts, were blind, or came from another world, not sure), which appears in The Conference of the Birds, war time photos, and Gothic photos, to name a few. He kept his photos into albums. No permission was necessary for these unclaimed photos (I had to ask). And then he came to a photo of a peculiar child. Hmm.

When he was thirteen, he joined a writer’s group called Inklings. He wrote Stephen King-like stories alongside old ladies writing their memoirs.

After a stint at film school, trying his hand at screenwriting, and other jobs, he was encouraged by the editor of a small publishing company to write a novel, and his novel of an island full of kids with strange abilities was born. He thought the novel wouldn’t get any attention, but it slowly gathered momentum, and was made into the movie, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. The ending of the novel was a cliff-hanger, and two more novels followed, a trilogy. The end. He thought. But now he is in the middle of another trilogy, writing the latest novel, half-way done and slated to come out in 2021, while on the road in his van, traveling on his book tour across America.

Riggs’s wife, Tahereh Mafi, is also a bestselling author, with six books in her New York Times and USA Today bestselling YA Shatter Me series, and her novels A Very Large Expanse of Sea, longlisted by the National Book Award for YA, and Furthermore, Gr 5-7. They share an office, write side-by-side, and he shared with his characteristic terrific sense of humor that she very kindly and gently reads his early drafts.

Riggs’s Wisdom
After Riggs blew in front of the crowd, seated by tickets, I was struck with his attitude. He thanked B & N for having him, expressed his gratitude that his readers have stuck with him through his six-odd year writing journey. He said knowing that his readers were waiting for this book was a big shot in the arm for him.

He began his talk by answering questions that are usually asked, which I thought was a big time-saver. This way he covered a lot of more territory than might have been missed by having to save time for a lengthy Q & A session, though he did allot some time for Q & A at the end.
  • He said writing is a great escape; channeling whatever feeling—sadness, joy, etc., into good fiction is a good way to get our feelings out.
  • In the beginning, he used his photos to inspire his characters, but now the story has its own momentum, and he goes with that.
  • He listens to music, not while writing necessarily, but music helps him to think up ideas.
  • Writer's Block strategies: Writer's block is a sign that the author is trying to force the character to do something that doesn’t come naturally, or the author is too attached to the plot. Any author suffering from writer's block needs to back up and think about what they’re trying to write.
  • The most important thing Riggs has learned? Writing faster doesn’t make it worse! Just write the book instead of all that other stuff!
I left elated and motivated to get back to work. Riggs put on an interesting, refreshing and highly invigorating talk. If he comes to your town, I recommend that you go see him. Before I attended Riggs's book signing, I was not familiar with his work. Now I can't wait to dig into his books, and his wife's, too.
Introductory photo: From Ransom Riggs's Facebook Pages

Linda Wilson, a former elementary teacher and ICL graduate, has published over 150 articles for adults and children, and several short stories for children. She has recently become editor of the New Mexico SCBWI chapter newsletter, and is working on several projects for children. Follow Linda on Facebook.

Amazon Offers Preorder to Help Launch E-Books

Most questions I get asked revolve around launching a book appropriately  (and how getting reviews plays into that!). New authors seldom understand the benefits Amazon offers for getting exposure or how to utilize them. I often cover topics like these in my SharingwithWriters newsletter--often as brief tips like this one from the August letter:
E-Book Publishing Tip: Amazon just announced that they have instituted a pre-order program to help you promote the launch of your e-book on Amazon just as the big publishers do for their hardcovers and their paperbacks. Learn more about the program on Amazon's page and more about setting your launch date ahead in The Frugal Book Promoter. You'll learn how this tactic helps you take advantage of both pre-order time and also allows you to apply for reviews with big review journals like Publishers Weekly that require up to 16 weeks of pre-pub notice for your book to qualify for a review. There is still more on that process at this page in the Writers Resources section of my HowToDoItFrugally Web site: And there is a whole chapter on how to make the power of Amazon work for you in The Frugal Book Promoter, too.  
To subscribe to SharingwithWriters, send an e-mail with SUBSCRIBE in the subject window to Your welcome letter will include a few additional free benefits you can use to promote your book.  
Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of This Is the Place; Harkening: A Collection of Stories Remembered; Tracings, a chapbook of poetry; and how to books for writers including the award-winning second edition of, The Frugal Book Promoter: How to get nearly free publicity on your own or by partnering with your publisher; The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success; and Great Little Last Minute Editing Tips for Writers . The Great First Impression Book Proposal is her newest booklet for writers. She has three FRUGAL books for retailers including A Retailer’s Guide to Frugal In-Store Promotions: How To Increase Profits and Spit in the Eyes of Economic Downturns with Thrifty Events and Sales Techniques. Some of her other blogs are, a blog where authors can recycle their favorite reviews. She also blogs at all things editing, grammar, formatting and more at The Frugal, Smart and Tuned-In Editor .

Your Amazon Launch: Learning from Mistakes

By Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of the multi award-winning
Frugal Book Promoter:
How to get nearly free publicity on your own or partnering with your publisher

(updated and expanded to 416 pages!)

As the author of The Frugal Book Promoter ( and other award-winning books in the HowToDoItFrugally series of books, I probably shouldn’t have made any mistakes with the online launch of the second edition. And I probably wouldn’t have if I had been taking my own advice.

In the first edition of The Frugal Book Promoter I warned people that it’s never too early to begin promoting a book. That was years ago! Sometimes we need a boot in the pants to remember what we already know.  I shouldn’t have waited so long to begin making lists and checking them twice!

And since that first edition was published I had built a great platform that I thought would be sufficient. And that brings me to my biggest mistake. Hubris. We authors who have been around awhile are often sure that we can rely on what we have done and who we already know. My contact list included Denise Cassino, an online launch specialist (, and I knew I could rely on her. I have a huge contact list I had been collecting assiduously. What more did I need?

Well, The Frugal Book Promoter also warns authors to categorize their lists. Which I did. But I didn’t have a specific category for the kinds of writers and people who run writers’ services I could ask for bonuses. Bonuses are those things that we offer people when they buy our book on a certain day to try to raise our sales rank. I pulled together a great bunch of bonuses, but after the fact I kept remembering folks I could have asked so it wasn’t nearly as long as it could have been and these bonus partners help an author get the word out (online) about your book.

Further, I took a vacation just before the launch so I hadn’t given myself much thinking time. Again hubris. I reiterate in my book that getting publicity and doing promotion is a partnership. The people an author or publisher hires to help them can’t do it on their own. They need both ideas and cooperation from the author.

Hubris. I had launches before. One for my novel at the Autry Museum of Western History. One for my book of creative nonfiction at my home. Several at bookstores for chapbooks of poetry. But they were realtime launches. This online launch was different. Launches designed to raise ratings at online bookstores are done online and needed lots of techy expertise. At least I knew that I needed Denise!

Services for online launches are like a bowl of minestrone. They come in different sizes, at different prices. The different ingredients are designed to do different things for the health of your book. The more you know about them before you start, the easier it will be to make choices based on the time you have, the money you have and the needs of your particular book.

I knew that when you hire any publicist, you aren’t just buying services. You’re buying their network, their contacts. Their Rolodex is at least as important as their expertise. I didn’t know how much I could do to support Denise because the word “online” mislead me. It seemed so…well, automated. I was right but I was also wrong. No matter what your expert’s level of expertise, the author is still always a vital ingredient. They bring the personal stuff to the launch buffet.

I also had a grasp of how to promote on online bookstores but I still needed Denise to lead me through lots of little things I didn’t know. Luckily, time wasn’t so short she couldn’t do that. Stuff like getting one’s Kindle edition and paperback edition connected. Things like getting your book into a suitable Amazon category with as little competition as possible. Thinks like running a “like” and “tag” campaign before you even begin the launch. If you don’t know about those things, you need some help, too. Yes you do.

I thought this campaign would be lots less work than a book tour. Let me tell you, after two days focusing on online sales, I was exhausted. On the night of my launch I fell into bed at 8 pm. I know people who have stayed up all night checking ratings. I am inspired by their stamina but not about to emulate it!

So, was my campaign a success? That’s the other thing I learned. Online launch campaigns are just like marketing in general, though they can be measured more accurately. When you hit #1 in Amazon’s sales ratings you’ve made it. But is that really your only goal? I don’t think it is. My book hit a very low (and fantastic!)  rating of 1,422 (the lower the better) in overall books but never made it to #1 in its category. #4 was the best we could do for a book in the competitive category of marketing. Here’s what the campaign did:

1.      It gave me new opportunities to connect. Even a mistake we made with the bonuses gave me a chance to reconnect with people who had already ordered The Frugal Book Promoter.

2.      The new names of opt-in writers I collected were worth their weight in marketing gold.

3.      The new partners who contributed to the bonuses the campaign offered—well, that was more than worth the effort.

4.      Oh, yeah! At least for some time, my book beat Stephen King’s On Writing, a moment even noncompetitive me shall cherish! Mmmm. And a couple Writer’s Digest market books!

Online book launches are like anything else in marketing. They’re about branding. They’re about exposure. They’re about networking. They’re about sharing. Most of all they’re about learning more and having some fun. Marketing in all its aspects is a vital part of publishing. An online book launch is a way to learn to love it.

Carolyn’s online campaign propelled her book to number four in one of its categories and to the top 100 books on Amazon for a time. When she fell into bed at the end of the launch day, that was enough. She writes a free Sharing with Writers newsletter and blogs for the benefit of authors at, , and Learn more about her consulting services and books for writers at

Only One Life

By Terry Whalin  @terrywhalin Sometimes during my day, I will take a few minutes and watch some YouTube or Tik Tok videos. Whenever I watch,...