Friday, May 01, 2009

I Wasn't Kidding...

...When I said that Laura Dave is one of the most collaborative peeps around. Ditto Julie Buxbaum, author of The Opposite of Love and the forthcoming, After You. In fact, the three of us are pretty tight, and so I'm so super-duper psyched not only to keep their company but that our alma mater profiles us in the current issue of their alumni magazine. Seriously, it's an honor, not just because I admire their writing skills but because they're such generous people.

Here's the article - check it out! Happy weekend!

Fun Friday Features

So one of my favorite aspects of my job is getting to interview actors whose work I admire. To that end, I was so, so excited to do the below two interviews: I'd been a huge fan of Jennifer Garner since her Alias days (it's my second all-time favorite show after Felicity!), and I've already raved here about my obsession with Friday Night Lights, so interviewing the star, Taylor Kitsch, was no small thrill.

So I just wanted to post the pieces because, yeah, I'm psyched! :)

They're also good segues into some of next week's posts in which I'll talk about celebrity interviews. If you have any questions about that realm, post them below or email me. Happy weekend!

Jennifer Garner: Come On, Get Happy
Taylor Kitsch: Big Man On Campus

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Blurbs or Bust

Question of the day: how much of a difference do you think blurbs actually make?

This is a much-debated question here at Ask Allison, as we've raised this discussion a few times before. Now, with some perspective after a few books, I can tell you that I don't think they have as huge of an impact as some authors think they do. But I'm open to being convinced otherwise. Maybe I'm just old and jaded. :)

When I was a debut author, I stressed, stressed, stressed about blurbs. OMG, was I frantic about them. Partially because yeah, I thought it would help book sales, but in hindsight, I suppose I also wanted some validation from my peers. Fortunately, I got it: I got six glowing blurbs from well-known authors, all of whom I am still grateful to today. Really. I still buy all of their new books as my way of a thank you. Did their blurbs help sell actual books? Who knows. They did certainly help excite my editor and publicist and likely gave me some legitimacy when it came to wooing magazine placements, but in terms of sales, I have no idea. Which isn't to say, of course, that they didn't help: a good blurb is always better than nothing, and in this industry, you can use every leg up you get, but did they make or break my book's success? No. No, no, no, no, no.

Interestingly enough, I solicited fewer blurbs when it came to Time of My Life. I wasn't as frantic, though sure, I wanted some choice quotes for the back of the jacket cover. And rather than six, I had three. And you know what? That book sold the hell out of itself. Was it the blurbs? Well again, I'm sure that having these wonderful, wonderful authors endorse my work didn't turn people off, but at the end of the day, The Today Show and People Magazine and strong word of mouth is what generated sales.

So my conclusion? Yeah, get those blurbs if you can but have some perspective: they're a small part of the package. A nice one to have, but so many other things go into the success of a book, that a few more (or a few fewer) likely won't tip the scales.

But I'm open to changing my mind. What say you?

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Laura Dave Rocks (And More...)

So the main ingredient to Ask Allison is that this is a place where authors, aspiring, published, on their way, support other authors, and so today, I wanted to shoot off a quick post about one of my favorite people in the world, Laura Dave, whose paperback, The Divorce Party, was released yesterday. Woot!

Now, before you rolls your eyes and think that I'm just pimping one of my author friends to increase book sales, I wanted to give you a little background. Yes, Laura is one of my dear friends, but we became dear friends because I wrote her a fan email. Yes, this is true. Even authors write other authors fan emails. :)

A few years back, I plunked down on the couch and started reading her debut, London is The Best City in America. I barely removed my ass from the couch until I was done. (And this was while I was at the beach, which is seriously saying something.) I saw that she and I had gone to the same college, so I fired off a note to her about her precocious and tender writing. Well, she wrote me back, invited me to meet for coffee (because that's just the kind of gal she is), and a friendship was born.

Here is the type of friend, author aside, that Laura is: not only did she insist on reading a print out of an early draft of Time of My Life (which she actually printed herself), she then promptly offered me what is now the epigraph in the book. It was one of her favorite quotes, a quote, in fact, that she had reserved for one of her own books, but she insisted, INSISTED that I take it. I have countless other ways that she rocks, but that one really exemplifies her collaborative, supportive spirit and why I hope you'll take a quick sec to click on the Amazon link and buy the book, which is a wonderful, smart, insightful novel that stands on its own, even if she were the most horrible person on the planet. :)

I just always think it's great when authors embrace other authors: there are those out there who are threatened by their peers and there are those who bring out the best in their peers. You already know which category I choose my friends from. Same with Laura.

Here is the link: check it out!

Also, NYC-ers, Laura and I are doing a joint reading/discussion on writing and publishing THIS MONDAY, AT MCNALLY JACKSON (52 PRINCE STREET) AT 7pm. Hope to see some of you there!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

This is the Best Idea Ever

I cannot claim this idea as my own, but I love it so much that I had to blog about it. I woke up this AM and checked Twitter and saw that @joshmalina, an actor whom I don't know, but whose work I have followed (West Wing, Big Shots - yeah, I watched that, so what?, I confessed as much to Michael Vartan when I interviewed him), posted the brilliant idea of tweeting your worst reviews. Ha!!!! I am SO DOWN for that.

Here's the thing about bad reviews: they may be eviscerating, gut-punching, vomit-inducing at the time, but I promise, you can look back at them and giggle. I swear. Case in point: when The Department came out, the Washington Post ripped me a new one. I mean, it was like the reviewer knew me and launched a personal attack. (Seriously, my agent saw it and called me to ask if I knew her!) The review, at the time, literally gave me the shakes - it was physically revolting. But now, omg, I saw Josh's tweet, and I'm actually laughing as I try to find the review on the internet to post it up. I mean, seriously! It was one stinking review that the reviewer took a little too seriously.

Anyway, whether you're on twitter or not (and if you are, come post your own bad review!), this is just a good reminder that this too shall pass. :)

Twitter: TOTAL PAN TUESDAY! #tpant
My twitter tag: @aswinn

UPDATE: Josh stops by in the comments section and weighs in! Say hi to him below!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Blurb Bartering

Question of the day: Can you talk about the best way to go about asking authors for blurbs? How do you approach them? When is the best time in the process to do so?

This is a timely question for me, as I'm sitting here typing this with a stack of ten or so to-be-read-for-potential-blurb manuscripts and galleys on my desk. Sigh. I feel soooo badly that I haven't had time to read them all, but given where I am with my manuscript, it hasn't been possible. BUT, now that I've been on both the asking and the being-asked end of this question, I do think I have some insights.

First, I can't and won't blurb a book that hasn't been sold. A lot of authors feel this way, and there are several reasons for it. To begin with, as noted above, I have a long pile of books that HAVE been sold, and truth told, I just don't have the time to read a manuscript that might not see the light of day. That sounds terrible, I know, but it's honest. And I think understandable. Second of all, agents and editors advise authors not to blurb anything that hasn't yet sold for legal reasons: if the manuscript never sells and the author THINKS he sees something similar in your next book, who's to say that said author won't raise a stink about plagiarism, stolen ideas, etc? Again, I know, very unlikely, but people can do very weird things when they don't fulfill their dream and see someone else doing it, and it's not a chance worth taking.

So, let's say your manuscript sells. Hurrah! Congrats to you! What now? Well, once you have a finished ms, you can certainly start sending out notes to your favorite authors. If you're not in the galley stage, however, this means one of two things: that the author, if she agrees to read, will receive a bound copy of the ms (sort of like a bound term-paper/thesis that you might have made at Kinko's in high school or college) or the author will receive a 300-page print out of your book, akin to a loose ream of paper. You can guess which ones get relegated to the bottom of the pile. I do my reading at night or on the subway or in hit or miss places where I might find a few spare minutes. I simply cannot carry around loose pieces of paper, not to mention that it feels much more like homework than pleasure reading when you're reading a literal print-out.

BUT, sometimes, you can't avoid that, and it is what it is. If you really want an author, it might be worth asking, even if she receives a 10-pound lug in the mail. Most often, however, I'd simply advise that you wait until the galley stage. Yes, it's soooo wonderful and joyous and perfect to have blurbs on your galley, but unless you personally know an author, I really wouldn't have an expectation that she'll read those 300 loose pages.

How do you ask? You send a very, very polite email to said author, explaining why you'd like HER to blurb, why you think the book might resonate, and of course, being very, very understanding if she can't. I'd also make note of the fact that blurbs aren't obligatory, and when I was asking for blurbs, I never, ever assumed that someone would like my book OR would have the time to read it. If one did, bingo! And if she didn't, there were no. hard. feelings. You should also leverage your agent and editor contacts: they might rep or work with authors who are good fits and with whom they have an in. Authors always feel more obligated to read a ms if there's a connection.

Finally, don't take it personally if you don't receive a coveted blurb from a particular author. I can honestly say, now that I'm on the other side, that I am so, so busy, and I am trying to bust my way through all of these, but a realistic voice in my head also knows that's not going to be possible. I used to think: how hard is it to read one lousy book? But it's never one lousy book; it's a lot of them, along with juggling my own work, my own life, and ideally, my own reading for pleasure.

I'm also trying to be judicious: there are authors who blurb just about anything, and I don't think that's fair to readers. I'd like to think that I'll be someone who readers can count on to be honest in my endorsements, so if I don't fall in love with something, I just don't feel right tacking my name on. It's not personal. Hell, plenty of people didn't blurb me. And I get that. It made the ones that we DID get all the more sweet. And that's not to say I wouldn't go back to these authors and ask again next time. But when and if I did, I'd keep in mind their own looming tower of to-be-read manuscripts, and I'd recognize that one blurb won't make or break my book. Really. You won't believe it now, but looking back on it, I promise you that it's true.