Once upon a time, Gretchen McNeil posted an panel/event on Facebook with Brodi Ashton, Veronica Rossi and Jennifer Bosworth. Since it had SCBWI in the title, I asked if it was open to the public and then again if everyone would be willing to sign afterwards.
Gretchen’s answer? DUH. [STG, My adoration for this woman is immense.]
Now, being the sneaky sneak that I am, I looked through the list of people who said they were attending. On that list? Tamara Ireland Stone. I may have died a little before sending her a creepy DM asking if she was really attending. Annnnd she said yes.
After getting books from Jaime & Erin, I just had to sit back and wait for the event day to get here. Patience. I’ve got it.
We headed up to LA early. Not only was it one of the last days of X Games, but it was the start of the Sunset Strip Music Festival, so we were expecting traffic to be even more shiteous then normal. And it was.
We got to the hotel around 4pm. There were so many people. After grabbing Starbucks, we settled into some seats in the lobby bar and waited some more.
I almost [literally] ran into Cynthia Hand and then Veronica, Tahereh Mafi and Ransom Riggs all went walking by. I’m pretty sure I even saw Shannon Messenger. I was excitedly pointing everyone out to Hubs and he was not amused. The upside to hanging out in the lobby bar area is all of the people watching. And LA has some of the best. We saw J. Bos come through the front door and she we chatted for a minute before she went to go find Gretchen.
Gretchen found us around 5 and invited us to the “circle of awesome”, which was a grouping of couches around a fire pit. She introduced us to the group of people who where already there, including Amy Tintera.
I saw Tamara come down to the area. She was talking to Shannon when she saw me. I jumped up and we had an exuberant hug before we chatted for a bit. She also gave me some amazing gifts before breaking away to socialize with the people who kept streaming in.
A quarter from the Time Travel store for my expired parking meter & a Time After Time mug.
We sort of just sat back and took it all in since we were the only people in attendance who weren’t authors….which I wasn’t expecting.
Eventually, we left and went to one of the bars to get happy hour food. And had some delicious gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches.
We got back to the circle of awesome and were just hanging out. Tamara came over and we started talking about my upcoming Time After Time playlist blog post. She also showed me an AMAZING Time After Time related photo that I hope she’ll share at some point after the book is released.
We also talked about her release party for Time After Time and if Hubs and I were going to come up to San Francisco since she was planning on coming to San Diego. I also gushed all over her about the ending of TAT and how much I adored it. You guys, this book…I don’t have words for it.
Gretchen, Jennifer and Brodi started talking about how Veronica was going to be late around 7:15. Gretchen said they were each going to answer three questions:
1. What is the best thing that has happened since you sold your book?
2. What is the worst thing that has happened?
3. What do you wish you knew before being published?
B: Meeting good friends. Seeing my book on the shelf. The day it was out I went to the store and freaked out. I told a woman in the aisle “this is my book”. The woman held up the book in her hands and said the same thing. The worst part is realizing how much I don’t have control. The cover, the tour, the signings. All of it. I was under the impression that once I hit this milestone, it’ll be smooth, that I’ll have a career. And it’s definitely not like that.
J: I’m going to work backwards. Do you know about the It Gets Better campaign? No, it’s not true. It gets harder. The thing I thought would happen was validation and it didn’t happen. There are so many people who are ready to judge your book and tweet you about it. I wish someone would have told me that. The worst thing that’s happened is that my publisher passed on my second book. One that I really believed in and I put my heart into it. I had to break into publishing all over again. The best thing is that I was able to sell a second book. Not the same book, but a different one. It proved that I had more books in me.
G: The best thing was when Christopher Pike blurbed Ten. Got an email from cpike number number at AOL. He said that he wanted to blurb the book and I burst into tears. That was the moment I realized that I was an author because a person I read wanted to blurb my book. The worst is when Barnes and Noble skipped on Ten. It’s happening again with 3:59. It seemed like a death sentence, but I proved that it’s not. There is a hierarchy in your publisher. There are books that will get more money for marketing. I would have promoted my book differently if I would have known that there wasn’t going to be a huge push.
The Q&A started while waiting for Veronica to come down.
Do you have any idea how much you spent on promoting your own book?
G: It’s an expense, I got an outside publicist who got me an interview in PW. Indie bookstores carried Ten. More than $5k, less than $10k. Spent hundreds of hours in time and at least $400 at the post office.
J: I’ve probably spent around $3k on swag and travel for Struck.
B: I’m the one who spends myself to most places and that surprises a lot of people. I have to charge an author fee now because I’ve spent a lot of money in hotels. Gretchen is great at self promotion on social media and I have a hard time doing that. I look to her to see how it’s done.
G: The bookmarks that we hand out? We pay for those.
B: I gave out a car. That was a horrible way to spend the money.
How do you find out beforehand if your publisher will give you the push?
G: If they pay a million dollars for your book, they’re going to promote it.
B: It could be based on the size of the advance. As it gets closer to the publication date, everything could change.
J: I didn’t find out until 3 months before. I tried to find out, but I’m not sure they even knew.
B: Even if you have a healthy advance, they could decide to cut their losses.
G: I get asked how many books I’ve sold from doing the self promotion. There’s no way to quantify that. It’s not like tv where there are Nielsen ratings to show you exactly what you’ve done against the shows that aired at the same time.
When you do self promotion, do you check in with your publisher?
J: You are your best champion. [There was a lot more to this, but I was trying to take pictures.]
G: And sometimes you get 400 emails because you said something in an online interview that maybe you shouldn’t have said.
Did you have an outside editor before you sold anything?
B: Get a really good critique group.
J: Find someone you can trust. Someone you know.
G: Mine is right there. Laurel has done all of the work on Ten and 3:59. It’s really hard to find people to trust with your book.
J: You need to know when to trust yourself. Develop your instincts so it’s not turned into something they want to read instead of what you want to write.
Why am I self publishing an old manuscript?
G: The money is immediately mine. It is completely written. It’s not going to take me 6 months to finish, it’ll take 2. [There was a lot more to this answer]
Veronica got there at 7:45 and she got the 3 questions.
V: I have been so lucky because of the publishing deal, I got to meet some amazing people. You can think of success in terms of book sales, but I’m in this for the long run, I’m going to be writing for the next 40 years. The journey is so rewarding to be able to email and text with author friends, having peers to share it with. The worst? Book 2. It almost killed me. I almost fell out of love with writing. Writing on deadline was really hard. I had a fans who were waiting, an agent and editor who were waiting. It wasn’t the same as writing for fun, for me. It was work. I pulled more all nighters than I did in college. BUT I LOVE IT.
G: We are lucky to be standing up here and have the pressure of deadline.
V: I never lost sight of that.
J: I way lost sight of it. I wanted to go back to writing for myself.
V: That’s what I wish I knew. I actively try to protect the creative process. I walk for an hour a day. I listen to audio books during that time. I can’t always pick up a book when I’m done for the day, I’ve always been a reader. I plow through audio books, I no longer have the editorial voice.
J: I listen to them all the time. I no longer read on the page. I’m tired of looking at words.
Did you know how many drafts you were going to go through?
B: if I knew it was going to be 18 drafts, I wouldn’t have done it.
G: My books are really short with a tight outline.
J: Expect one horrible, rip your heart out of your chest, Indiana Jones rewrite.
At this point, I stopped typing the Q&A because before Veronica answered a question, she asked everyone not to tweet out her answer. I wasn’t sure if it was a joke or not, so I just stopped taking notes. Before I left, I asked all four ladies if I could blog about the event. If one of them had said no or even hesitated with an answer, this post would have been entirely different.
They stopped taking questions at 8pm. I had books for Veronica, Brodi and Tamara.
I caught Veronica first. I showed her Jaime’s UK copies and she hugged them, calling them her babies. I gave her the option of a hot pink or black sharpee. She picked hot pink because she had never used it. We chatted for a minute or so before she told me that she better see us at the next event because this one didn’t count. I told her that I was glad we weren’t at the point where it was stalkerish. We hugged and she dashed off to make the rounds.
Brodi was next. I was able to catch her finishing a conversation and sort of thrust Erin’s books out at her. I gave her the option of hot pink or black and she chose black because she was dressed all in black. We chatted for a minute or so before she also hugged me and thanked me for coming.
And now for Tamara.
She was in the middle of a conversation and I didn’t want to interrupt, but after a few minutes, Hubs was getting eager to head home. I hesitantly touched her arm, apologized to the two women who she was talking with, and asked if I could borrow her for two minutes.
Tamara said that I get way more than two minutes, excused herself from her friends and led me over to a table away from the crowd. Where we talked for 15 minutes or so. I learned all sorts of things about her writing process, how she reads her reviews and the different plot plans she had for Time After Time.
And I tried not to die from fangirling.
You guys. She is so amazing. *sigh*
She also signed my UK copies of Time Between Us.