Wednesday, September 26, 2012


Well, it's official.  I've gotten my feet wet in the publishing process, and now, nearly six months out, I'm toweling them back off again and sorting through exactly which puddles I want to splash through from here on out.  Storybound launched in April 2012, and, true to the testimonies of those who have gone before, releasing the first book is quite the whirlwind of obsessive anxiety, innumerable bookmarks and other sundry self-promoting bits, and blog posts, interviews, and more blog posts.  I'm not complaining, mind.  It was quite the ride.  But now that things have slowed, I'm ready to re-evaluate the process and determine which components were truly helpful, which I actually enjoyed doing, and which sent my stress-meter through the roof.

Not to worry, this will not be an incredibly long post outlining all the "thou shalt nots" for the debut author.  Instead I want to focus on author visits.  In the year preceding my launch, I was fortunate enough to meet up with some other local debut authors, and that group (with the fittingly apocalyptic title of "The Harbingers of Doom") was a fabulous support as well as a great resource for cooperative events.  We did several local appearances together which not only maximized the numbers of attendees but cemented our friendships and the capacity for mutual angst-ing over the entire publishing process.

That being said, I'm not altogether sure the events were "successful".  While most drew on average ten to fifteen people (excepting the dreaded event where we had one - yes ONE - attendee.  Ugh.), it seemed that we primarily reached other local writers, friends of friends, and the occasional very welcome MG or YA reader.  That in itself was lovely, of course, because what author in her right mind doesn't enjoy chatting books and writing with other people who love to talk books and writing?  But the reality of being a midlist debut author is that you haven't yet build a readership.  In fact, word is just seeping out about your book, and the odds of someone who has actually read it coming to a local event in the first months after launch are very slim indeed.

So while author events are fun (there's nothing like being handed a fat stack of your own books to sign) and provide the fabulous opportunity to connect with booksellers and librarians (you wonderful bookish folk, you!), they were not opportunities where I connected with readers of Storybound.  Enter Skype, that heretofore mysterious term I had heard thrown around by my expat friends but had ignored until now.

A few weeks ago, I was invited to do a Skype author visit with the kids' book club at Changing Hands Bookstore in Arizona.  After accepting the invitation, I fumbled my way through the online Skype tutorial, and at just the right moment, had a lovely virtual chat with kids who love books, and, even more thrilling, had read Storybound.  Perhaps I'm several years too late, and those of you who don't dwell in the 1990s where I bide my time in a wifi free and Luddite existence are yawning and tabbing over to the next blog post in your reader.  But for the rest of us, for those who muddle their way through the latest online trends, this is one worth checking out.  The savvy folks over at skypeanauthor have even set up a virtual network to connect interested authors with teachers, librarians, booksellers, and, ultimately, readers.

I, for one, am sold.  Not only is the virtual author visit an easy way to connect with specific readers, but it provides a welcome informality that seems fitting for a middle-grade event.  While I may be stumbling my way through the Skype menu, my middle-grade readers are not.  This is old hat to a generation that keeps in touch with grandpa via a regular Skype date or checks in nightly with mom when she's on a business trip.  I found the energy and enthusiasm of the kids to be a welcome surprise, and the necessary brevity of a virtual event kept my presentation streamlined.  Without question, I'll be adding Skype visits to my newly-revised list of author "Must-dos" before Story's End launches next year.

What about you, Mayhemers?  Authors, what are your favorite ways to connect with readers?  And readers, have you ever participated in a Skype visit?


  1. This would be great, but we don't have the technology in the school to really make this work. I need to get on it-- I know the social studies classes really wanted to Skype with my son and learn about the Philippines, too.

  2. I worry that I would be too shy for this. But then there are a lot of things about being published (assuming I can get there) that I better just go ahead and get over.

  3. I've done four Skype visits and have had a ball. It's fun to engage with kids who have read your book and hear from them directly what they thought and what they'd like to know more about. I remember one boy trying to figure out how much of May B. came from my personal life. He asked questions like, "Have you ever had a wolf outside your house?" and "Did you ever step in a hole and twist your ankle?" It was cute.

    My favorite visit was with a group of children at an international in Indonesia. They won a copy of my book and a study guide and had worked through many of the lesson ideas before talking to me. It was very satisfying to see all they'd learned and were curious about. The teacher emailed me at the end of they year, saying our Skype chat had ranked as the highlight of the year.

  4. Ms. Yingling - I wish we would have had this sort of thing in my schooldays and hope the media/tech dept. of all schools will make space for this. So much potential!

    Matthew - Too...shy? You? No way! I have to admit I WAS a little nervous, because it was my first absolutely solo event (all other events I've done have been with other authors, which is wonderful!) And, since we are wifi-free at home I had to snag the public library study room, navigate skype, and hope for the best. But it really felt less intimidating because of the virtual nature of it - kind of like how online stuff is easier for those of us who are more reserved...

    Caroline - Yes! So. Much. Fun. I love their questions, too! So creative and thoughtful. And that's incredibly cool that you skyped with Indonesia!

  5. Interestingly, I have been contacted by a publishing house to set up a Skype visit at my son's school. Perhaps they read your post, Marissa?!


Thanks for adding to the mayhem!