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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Living the Dream

There are many times, my Minions, when I sarcastically refer to my chosen profession as "living the dream"...like when I'm sobbing into my kleenex about something horrible I've done to Vlad, or when I'm on my hands and knees picking up unidentified ickies as opposed to actually writing. But my launch week...well, I really was living the dream.

First, the event at Mott Community College went pretty well--sold some books, but the best part was my conversation with the B&N manager (if you live in or near Flint, MI, you simply must shop at the Barnes and Noble on Miller Road--tell 'em I sent you; they know me there) and CRM afterward, when we were talking about books and kids and boys and how hungry they are to read. They asked if I could come out the next day and do a quick signing at their HUGE store and of course, I said yes. The manager, Dan (ie "my new best friend, next to Katie, the CRM") called the manager at Hot Topic and asked them to help push the event, which they did (Yay!). So...the next day after decorating for my big vampire-school-dance-themed party (yeah, more on that in a bit), I race over to B&N and not only do I share the joy of a front window display with James Patterson, JK Rowling and Stephenie Meyer......but Stephenie Meyer and I share a table right inside by the front door. I also have an entire endcap, and a special place next to Meg Cabot in the Teen section, AND a separate display on the customer service counter. My signing table is right inside the door and every 15 minutes my new best friend Dan says things like, "If you've finished reading Harry Potter, you're going to love this new book by Heather Brewer, folks--trust me, you'll want to get up to the front of he store and meet her now, because soon she's going to be so big that she won't be able to get out and do signings much." I give away cookies (the easiest way to sell books is to utter the magic words, "Ya wanna cookie?" Trust me.), mini bottles of water, buttons, candy, and in an hour, I signed and sold a lot of books. Afterwards, Dan tells me that they had a big employee meeting the night before and it was easily decided that MY BOOK is the one they want to put their "big push" behind, because it's so "desperately needed".

Yeah. I know. :D

Then that night's the party, which was so amazing that I can't even describe it. (Actually, I can--the room was draped in red and black, many people came from all over, the food was excellent and people are still sending me compliments...) And B&N sold a ridiculous amount of books, and eventually left happy as clams. I floated through the rest of my trip and came home to the great PW review. And then, as if that weren't enough, EGB was chosen as B&N Pick of the Week, and I had another excellent signing at the amazing Borders in St. Peters, MO, where I met a ton of people and sold a ton of books (and met my new best friend, Fran).

I'm blessed. And thankful. And grateful.

Life doesn't last forever, Minions. And I thank my lucky stars that mine is so full of goodness. No matter what happens, ever, I'm thankful that I'm truly living the dream. And I'm thankful to you, all of you, for making it possible.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Heads up, Minions!

Vlad is a Barnes & Noble Pick of the Week!

EDITED TO ADD: Actually, I posted this late, and Vlad is no longer Pick of the Week. But...he was last week. How rock does he???

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

In Which Heather SQUEEs About Her PW Review


Okay. So sorry for the hush-hush around here during the launch week of EIGHTH GRADE BITES, my Minions, but Vlad and I have been travelling, partying, and schmoozing with all sorts of awesome folks. Pics will come soon, but for now....it seems Publishers Weekly really gets what Vlad is all about. Yay!

Brewer's first children's book, first of the planned Chronicles of Vladimir Tod, is like a Laurell K. Hamilton toned way down for the elementary school set. Vlad is miserable. His mother and vampire father died years ago in a suspicious fire, and he lives in a small town with his maternal aunt, a nurse who regularly raids the blood bank for him ("Could you get me O positive this time? That's my favorite," he nonchalantly asks her as he spoons "a big, sweet glob of half-frozen blood" into his mouth). His best friend, Henry, is the only other person who knows why Vlad is so meticulous about about applying sunblock and why he brings lunch to school. But when Vlad's English teacher goes missing (readers know he's been murdered), the substitute teacher, Mr. Otis, seems uncannily wise to Vlad, leaving Vlad to worry that he may be exposed. The mystery and suspense angles never get scarier than, say, a Goosebumps installment, and the tone stays mostly light, with plenty of descriptions of Vlad's diet that are to gag for. Brewer catches the wretchedness of adolescence: the hero's crush on a classmate is dead-on with its understatement and inaction, and his friendship with Henry encompasses lots of banter and insults. The uninitiated will appreciate the ample stock of vampire lore, while the more knowledgeable will sink their teeth into the puns.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The Long Awaited Trailer...

Here it is, at last! Please click below to view it. (Many, many enormous thanks to my fangtastic designer, Marie Lu.)

Flash Movie: Vladimir Tod by *mree on deviantART

Now, just a heads up, my Minions: A) this trailer will be permanently parked on my website shortly, so no fear! B) yes, I am aware that clicking on the box leads you to DeviantArt. and C) I'm leaving town early tomorrow morning and won't return until late Sunday night--Vlad and I are off the celebrate the launch of EGB and to convince some people to buy it.

We'll miss you! (Especially Vlad...he's feeling snacky)

Monday, August 13, 2007

I've Got Vlad By A Whole Year

You Are 14 Years Old

Under 12: You are a kid at heart. You still have an optimistic life view - and you look at the world with awe.

13-19: You are a teenager at heart. You question authority and are still trying to find your place in this world.

20-29: You are a twentysomething at heart. You feel excited about what's to come... love, work, and new experiences.

30-39: You are a thirtysomething at heart. You've had a taste of success and true love, but you want more!

40+: You are a mature adult. You've been through most of the ups and downs of life already. Now you get to sit back and relax.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

It's almost here!!!

Just about a week to go before the official debut of EIGHTH GRADE BITES and Vlad and I couldn't be happier (or more exhausted). In case you Minions are wondering where Auntie Heather has run off to recently, I've had interviews (including with the lovely Kim Alexander of XM Satellite Radio and the amazing Amanda Emery of MCC Chronicle), party details, and all sorts of last minute launch stuff to attend to. So...sorry. Kinda forgot to blog. My bad. :)=

I just wanted to let everybody know that in case you're interested in another opportunity to win Vlad's hoodie (because you've already entered the contest on my Win Things page...right?), you should head on over to TeensReadToo.com and enter to win one there (click here and scroll down)! And keep watching...because I've got several hoodies that are just itching for a home.

I also wanted to tell my Minion Horde (that would be you) to start checking stores now for any sign of EIGHTH GRADE BITES, because Vlad should be there soon (and once you see him, kindly snap off a pic and send it my way). And, as a heads-up, since this is a crazy busy time for me, blogging may be sparse. HOWEVER! I will always read your comments and emails...even if it does take me a bit to get back to you. We should be back to a regular blogging schedule come August 20th.

For now, get out there and read!!!

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

How To Get Published -or- In Response to 40% of the Emails I Receive

So you've made the decision to try your hand at getting published! Please, allow me to offer you simultaneous congratulations and sympathies. This is not an easy business to enter, but it is, at times, immeasurably fun. If you're reading this, odds are you've already cleared an enormous hurdle by making the decision to learn more about how publishing works. I'll see if I can answer some of the more common questions I'm asked here. I hope it helps!

How much does it cost to get my book published?

Whoa! Slow down there, chief. First off, it costs you nothing to be published by commercial publishers: the non-vanity, non-subsidy, non-self-publishing publishers (more on these here, thanks to SFWA). In fact, you should be getting at least a little money in your pocket from this experience. But you're getting way ahead of yourself here. First off, once your work is polished to the extreme, you need to find representation. You need a literary agent.

What's a literary agent?

A literary agent is someone who represents you and your work, who acts as a go-between and uses their business connections to get your manuscript in front of the right editors. Once an editor is interested in making an offer, your agent negotiates on your behalf. Your agent will also vet contracts, get your check to you, handle disputes, and give you insight to potential problems with your writing. They are your personal champion in the publishing world.

Okay, so how do I get one?

First off, you research. Find out who represents authors that you admire, who has made recent sales in your genre. Be sure to check out Agent Query, Writer's Market, Jeff Herman's Guide, and Publisher's Marketplace. You can also seek out advice on writers forums, but there is a lot of misinformation out there, so I recommend you check out Backspace.

Once you have a list of reputable agents (remember: reputable agents charge no fees. For more info on how to spot a scam agent, check out Writer Beware's list of abusive practices by these...for lack of a better word...people.), you'll need to write a query letter to send to the agents on your list.

What's a query letter?

A query letter is a letter of introduction that a writer sends to a literary agent in order to introduce themselves and the book that they're interested in garnering representation for. You should spend as much time on this as you do on your actual manuscript, because this letter is your foot in the door, and if you screw it up, you might not get an agent's attention (however, please note that pink paper or that swirly-girly font you've been eyeing will only get you the wrong kind of attention). You can always Google for examples of successful query letters, but I'll post mine here for inspiration. A query letter should be professional, intriguing, and descriptive without being over the top. Here's mine:

Dear Mr. Agentman,

If you thought eighth grade was tough, try it with fangs and a fear of garlic.

Junior high school really sucks for fourteen-year-old Vladimir Tod, and not in the good slurp-up-the-blood kind of way. A gang of bullies harasses him daily, the principal is dogging his every move, and the girl he really likes prefers his best friend. Oh, and Vlad has to hide the fact that he's a vampire.

When the one teacher he really connects with mysteriously vanishes, Vlad is determined to find him. But then Vlad finds an unsettling note scribbled across his essay: "I know your secret."

Vlad must locate his missing teacher, dodge the principal, resist the bullies' tempting invitations to Bite me!, and get a date for the dance--all before he is exposed for the teen vampire he is.

EIGHTH GRADE BITES is complete at around 39,000 words. It is the first book of a series, THE CHRONICLES OF VLADIMIR TOD. My short fiction appears in Darkmoon Rising, Descending Darkness and is scheduled to appear in two separate issues of Morbid Outlook. I'm also a contributing member of Backspace writers' organization.

Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.

Kind Regards,

Heather Brewer

Looking at it now, it most definitely has room for improvement, but of the eleven agents I queried with it, nine responded with requests to read (six fulls, three partials), and one wanted an exclusive, so it couldn't have been that bad (and yeah, the book is now much longer...and Vlad is now thirteen...but you get the point, right?).

Will you write my query letter for me?

Nice try. No.

Okay, so is there any more advice you can give me about query letters?

Absolutely! Use crisp white paper, a new printer cartridge, Times New Roman 12pt font, and always include a SASE (self-addressed stamped envelope) for their reply (as well as your phone number and email address). And be PATIENT! Sometimes it takes three months or more to hear back. Agents are very busy people.

Also, develop a thick skin. You will get rejected--we all do. And whatever you do, don't fire of a "you'll be sorry" email. It'll only hurt you in the end. Remember, professionalism is the key to success.

What happens if an agent requests pages or offers me representation?

You send the pages UNSTAPLED (rubber band is okay) and you send them out right away (but don't bother to FedEx overnight unless asked, it makes you look like an amateur), along with a polite cover letter reminding them of who you are and what you're sending. If you get an offer, sit tight, ask questions about how the agent plans to grow your career, what their commission rate is, and take a few days to really think about it before signing on the dotted line. When you feel a hundred percent right in your choice, go for it! (and don't forget to contact the other agents you've queried to let them know you're already taken)

Is that all I need to know?

Nope, but it's a good start. In a few weeks, I'll write a What Happens After I Get an Agent? blog entry. I hope this helped!

What People Are Saying About 'Eighth Grade Bites'

"A spooky mystery that's funny, gruesome, heartwarming, spellbinding, sad, joyous, surprising and topped off with a tasty blend of blood and chocolate. Yum. What more could you ask for?" ~D.J. MacHale, New York Times-bestselling author of PENDRAGON: JOURNAL OF AN ADVENTURE THROUGH TIME AND SPACE

"'Eighth grade Bites' had me on the edge of my seat. It's a great piece of fiction. It drops you right into the action, grabs you by the throat (pun intended), and won't let go. Vladimir Tod is a truly sympathetic character cursed with an existence not of his own doing, but doing his best to do the right thing. It's part 'Goosebumps' mixed with 'Harry Potter' and a dash – no, a heaping tablespoon – of Stephen King. If you're in eighth grade, or a vampire, or an eighth grade vampire, 'Eighth Grade Bites' is a definite must read!"~Butch Hartman, creator of Nickelodeon's THE FAIRLY ODD PARENTS and DANNY PHANTOM

"Eighth Grade Bites is a terrific vampire tale told with a sharp, middle-school grin. It definitely does not bite!" ~Christopher Moore, author of BLOODSUCKING FIENDS and A DIRTY JOB

"Eighth Grade Bites is a delightful novel filled with dark, biting humor that will appeal to everyone who ever felt they were different. A deft hand at depicting the angst of teen years, Heather Brewer does a wonderful job blending vampire legend with the modern day horror that strikes fear in the heart of so many: the eighth grade."~Katie MacAlister, New York Times-bestselling author of EVEN VAMPIRES GET THE BLUES

"Heather Brewer has invented the most endearing of vampires in Vlad, an eighth grader juggling the woes of adolescence with the decidedly unique difficulties of being a vampire. She perfectly captures the humor and angst of eighth grade, mixed with a nail-biting adventure. Utterly charming and irresistible!" ~Liza Conrad, author of HIGH SCHOOL BITES: THE LUCY CHRONICLES

"This book will fool you. Just when you think you've identified it as a story lit by the cheery glow of a slightly scary jack-o-lantern, it becomes something else -- a tale told by the flickering light of a dying campfire late at night. And the shadows are very dark indeed. A surprising mix of humor and horror." ~Douglas Rees, author of VAMPIRE HIGH

"Fresh and fast-paced, with just the right brew of chills and laughs. I’m looking forward to finding out what happens when Vlad hits Grade Nine." ~Nancy Baker, author of KISS OF THE VAMPIRE

"A fabulous book from a gifted storyteller! I never wanted it to end." ~Gena Showalter, author of OH MY GOTH