Book News: The Dryad of Fairmount Park, To Be Published Spring 2018

novel aesthetics

That bundle of images is from a #NovelAesthetics I tweeted last year.

And now that book is actually happening.

Before I moved away from Philadelphia, I spent every other weekend holed up with my YA writing group (hi Randy, Lauren, Katherine, and Julie, I miss all of you terribly), fussing over a book that was challenging the hell out of me.

Much like the drive to curate my adoption-themed anthology Welcome Home, I wanted to write a novel for adopted kids. Teens who were wrestling with finding a sense of identity, the way I did when I was younger. I wanted there to be magic, friendship, a diverse cast of characters. I wanted to talk about how we treat the world around us, and how it reflects on how we treat one another.

I wanted a lot.

I affectionately referred to this book as "The Nena Book" whenever I talked about it, as my wife pushed me to try and write this. To talk about transracial adoptees (like me), and to write a story that was incredibly close and personal to me.

It was absolutely the book of my heart. And now, it'll be published by Flux in the Spring of 2018.

belmont

Here's what it's about.

THE DRYAD OF FAIRMOUNT PARK is YA contemporary novel with a heavy splash of magic. In it, a recently adopted teen girl, Leila, discovers that her connection to nature and passion for environmental activism are part of her unique and magical genetic makeup, and a grove of trees that holds the secret.

With her best friend Sarika, she has to rally her environmental science club, passionate local activists from around the Internet, and a cute young park ranger with a one-winged owl, to save this magical grove in Philadelphia's large historic park.

All of this, while wrestling with bullies at her new high school, and struggling with words like “Mom” and “Dad” for Lisabeth and Jon, her new adoptive parents that want nothing more than to love her.

If she doesn’t, she’ll never get the answers she seeks, and the city of Philadelphia might face a catastrophic environmental collapse, as long-hidden magic fades from the city.

And there you have it. It's kinda like FernGully, but in the city. Though I should stop saying that. I'm not sure anyone remembers that movie but me.

dryad blip

I'm so thrilled that the book found a home with Flux. They're doing my adoption anthology this Fall, and they've published books by a bunch of authors I adore, like Fonda Lee, Emily Skrutskie, Helene Dunbar, and more.

Thanks for taking this one on, Mari and team!

Speaking of thanks, there are a lot of thank yous in the mix here, as Dryad came together as a result of a lot of people.

A massive thank you to my darling wife for pushing me to try and write something that challenged me, and reading the roughest of drafts. Dawn Frederick for saying okay when I said "I have a book about magic, adopted kids, trees, and some of those kids and trees are magic." Adi Alsaid for that inspiring Mexico writing trip. Zoraida Cordova for telling me to keep the magic. My writing group up top.

And the many beta readers who took the time to read this thing over the past year and a half, from when it was a loose rough draft to a manuscript I was trying to polish... McCormick Templeman, Heidi Schulz, Tristina Wright, Shveta Thakrar, Elizabeth Keenan, Laurel Amberdine, Alisa Hathaway, Rebecca Enzor, Brenna Ehrlich, Thomas Torre, Willa Smith, Natasha Razi, Leah Rhyne, Amber Hart, McKelle George, Jenny Kaczorowski, Nic Stone, Samira Ahmed, Kim Liggett, and Bill Blume, for taking the time to give me feedback, despite your wild schedules.

This is actually going to be the very first YA novel of mine to be in print, that you can pick up at a bookstore. It's true! The Geek's Guide to Dating was humor. My Inked series with Bloomsbury was all digital. The anthology might have my name on it, but it's not really mine. It's a collection of stories from many.

It's an intense feeling. My first in-print YA novel. I'm just so happy right now.

So. Here's to Spring 2018.

I can't wait for you to meet Leila and Sarika.

And a one-winged owl named Milford.

Author Platform and Social Media: Four Ways to Build Platform That Have Nothing to do with Your Twitter Following

icons

I'm not even sure what some of these are.

A few weeks ago, I was right outside Nashville for the Tennessee Writing Workshop, meeting with authors, agents, and editors from all over the place.

I love these kind of events. It's a great opportunity to talk to writers about the industry, meet people in the industry, and just have a lovely time talking about what everyone there absolutely loves. Making books happen.

It's also a chance to hear wrong things being said.

One talk that always comes up at these kind of events... is the ever popular "platform" discussion. I talked a bit about that in this post a few months ago, discussing how it's important to build a platform for YOU, and not just for an individual title, and how the discussion of platform often gets confused there.

A few authors asked me about getting their social media following up in order to improve their platform, and were surprised when I told them that wasn't the answer. This is another way the concept of platform gets confused. People thinking that platform means social media.

It doesn't. Though, it is a nice part of it.

I can absolutely see how this happens. You see people that have those visible online numbers, whether they are behind-the-scenes industry folks or authors with a big following, and it seems like maybe that's the answer. Or, maybe you're getting bad advice, from people who think platform is just social media, and likely have some kind of #social #media #influencer hashtag nonsense in their profile and follow an insane number of people.

"I'm a social media expert! Look at these 47,425 people I follow and #engage with! #influencer #brands!"

Get the hell out of here.

If that's the case, please delete that from your brain and maybe those people from your timeline. If you hear platform and think, "okay, I need to tweet, get followers, and figure out how to get a blue checkmark" I'm here to help you stop doing that.

It's super important to think about platform outside of just how many Twitter followers you potentially have, how big your Facebook fan page is, or what your Instagram engagement looks like. Especially as these free services quickly become more pay-for-play and frequently shift their algorithms.

"So wait, WTF is platform if it isn't my social media following?!"

Platform is about how many people you can potentially get your work out in front of, not how many people can potentially read your tweets. It's about how big your potential audience is and how easy it is for you to reach them, not how big your Twitter following might be.

I'm stressing potential because remember, there are no guarantees in this game. 100% of your audience is never going to buy your book. Let's just get that out there now.

Platform is about building that little bio in your potential future book, in the jacketflap copy, that says stuff like "[Author Name] has written for [Publication], [Publication], [Publication], and regularly appears on [Media Outlet] and [Podcast]."

It's about what you're doing off of social media. For those of you who think platform takes away from your writing... you couldn't be more wrong. Here are some ways to increase your platform, that have nothing to do with your social media following, and have everything to do with writing.

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Takes work, it's not that easy. Image via Hover.

1. Blogging For Yourself (But Also For Others)

One of the many ways you can build your platform outside of using social media, is to focus on blogging and creating a home base for those blogs. I ramble a bit about that here, but to summarize? Create a website where you aren't just showcasing your work, but discussing the work of others. Yes, you can dish out advice (I'm doing that now!) and talk about your writing process (many authors do!), but the way to build traffic and a following? Talk. About. Others.

Absolutely perfect examples of this can be seen via Dahlia Adler, Ava Jae, and Chuck Wendig, who frequently use their personal sites to uplift others, and not just talk about their own books. This helps you develop an audience, which in turn, helps you develop a platform. There's a reason you'll see cover reveals on Dahlia's blog or guest posts on Wendig's site. Because they've developed a platform and an audience for more than their own writing.

And when it is time to promote their books, that audience is there, happy to about what they're working on.

2. Blogging For Others (But Also Yourself)

So you have your website going, it's doing well, but you want to extend your reach. One misconception when it comes to platform, specifically when it comes to people assuming platform is social media, is that you have to own your platform.

You don't. In fact, some of the best examples of platform are outlets that aren't owned by the writer.

Think about it. Do actors and musicians own the stages they perform on? Okay sure, a few probably do. But not all of them. And hundreds of thousands of people pass through these places week after week. Think of yourself as the musician, and other media outlets as your potential stage. You don't own the place, but your voice is welcome, and has the potential to reach a much larger audience.

Me? I write for Book Riot, Barnes & Noble's YA blog, Paste Magazine, and hell, anywhere else that will have me. That there, is an example of platform building. These are outlets that could potentially cover what I'm writing outside my blogging life, with a staff of writers who might consider it. There's obviously no guarantee there, but it's a possibility. Remember, platform is about potential. 100% of your audience is never going to buy your book.

Some more examples:

Michele Filgate: One of my favorite book people on the Internet, Michele writes for dozens of places. LitHub, BuzzFeed, The Millions, Salon. Check out her list of places here. And let me tell you. I will be one of the very first in line at my local bookstore when she has a book on the shelves. I don't even need to know what it's about.

Morgan Jerkins: A fellow Book Riot contributor, Morgan can be found on Catapult (along with Michele), BuzzFeed, LitHub, The Guardian, Electric Literature... the list goes on. She has a book hitting with Harper next year, and I can't wait.

Fran Wilde: Fantasy author extraordinaire, just had a huge piece in The Washington Post. You can catch her writing for GeekMom, Tor.com, i09, and tons of other places that are hugely on brand (frand?) for her, in addition to all her short stories (which would fall into the fourth thing I'll mention below) that get published everywhere.

Michael Waters: I'm waiting for this kid to become a bestselling author in the next few years. You can catch Michael writing for B&N Teens, The Guardian, MTV, The Establishment... the list goes on. He's 18. Future rockstar, keep an eye on him please.

You can also spot a few of my clients blogging in other places, like Mike Chen (The Mary Sue) and Diana Urban (BookBub).

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Just don't drop it after. Or maybe do. Depends how well it goes. Photo via LinkedIn.

3. Speaking Engagements

What are you an expert in? Are you writing non-fiction? Take every opportunity you can to get yourself in front of people. See if you can rope yourself into a TedX talk. Nerd Nites, Creative Mornings events... opportunities like these, which often come with a video of your talk, will elevate your platform. Because hey, maybe you can come back. Maybe they'll dish out copies of your book at the next event.

One of my authors, Lindsey Smith, tours the country talking to people about health and wellness. When she presented that, and the incredible numbers in her audiences, I signed her immediately. It's an audience that wants her work, and will be there when something new comes out.

One of my friends from back home, Marisa McClellan, is another great example of platform done, particularly with speaking engagements. She does a TON of classes and workshops centered around her blog and popular canning books.

4. Publishing (But Not Blogs or Books)

"But that's what I'm trying to do!" You scream at me from across the Internet. I'm not talking about your book. "But I'm already blogging!" Nope. Not talking about your blogging either. I'm talking about short stories, bits of non-fiction, projects like that.

I get to rep someone as unbelievably prolific as Ilana Masad, and I'm extremely lucky. It feels like every other week, she's got another piece published someplace, or she's winning another honor from someone. I'm frankly intimidated by her, and it's great. She's published in an array of places. Split Lip Magazine, The Butter, Catapult, The New Yorker, Joyland, Marie Claire, Electric Literature, Broadly... from fiction to non-fiction. She works hard to be published often, and in outstanding places. Look at her bibliography here, which will likely update by the time I post this.

Having this fantastic roster of places you've built relationships is absolutely an example of platform.

By writing for outlets like this, getting published regularly, you have yet another place to potentially push your book when that time comes. Maybe they'll cover your book when it gets released. Maybe they'll give you an interview or a review. Potential, potential, potential. It's there.

Some more great examples:

Celeste Ng: Author of one of my favorite literary novels in forever, Celeste has short stories and non-fiction essays published in Gulf Coast, One Story, The New York Times, and more. Check out her bibliography on her website, and PLEASE go buy Everything I Never Told You immediately.

Robin Black: My former graduate school professor and mentor, before her two amazing books hit she had short stories published in The New York Times Magazine, The Chicago Tribune, The Southern Review, One Story, and other places. You can check out her list here.

Emily St. John Mandell: She wrote Station Eleven. Need I say more? You can see some of her amazing pieces in The New Republic and over on The Millions, where she's a staff writer.

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And there you go. I've prattled enough. I'll probably add to the "examples" list, and if you've got a few, add them in the comments!

TL;DR? Build your platform off of social media, by building yourself a website, blogging for yourself (but focusing on others), and working on other writing projects. It's about more than Twitter, you guys.

Four Reasons to Use Social Media as an Author That Has Nothing to Do With Selling Books

social media tom This semester, I had a great time teaching my first graduate-level publishing class at Rosemont College. It was a real thrill, spending so much time with students eager to get into the industry, and exploring different ways to venture in. Some were aspiring editors, others wanted to get into publicity. The class? A marketing course.

A lot of the course touched on social media, as well as discussing ways to utilize various publishing-industry-specific tools when working on publicity and marketing campaigns.

I loved it so much, I thought maybe I should start blogging about some of the stuff I dished out. Maybe take some lessons from my pals and colleagues Carly and Maria over at P.S. Literary, and start doing advice-type-things on the ol' blog.

So, this is the first of what I hope will be many.

There are a lot of reasons why I'm on social media. I use it to network with people in the publishing world, keep track of news both locally in Philadelphia, nationally in, you know, the world, and keep an eye on what's going on in the book industry. I meet new authors, both as a fan and as potential clients. I tweet out links to things I find interesting and hope others will too.

But I don't think of it as a place to sell books. Because social media seldom does that well.

Now, there are certainly a few exceptions to the "social media doesn't sell books" claim. When an eBook deal hits for a book that plenty of people love and an author is able to rally their friends around it... well, that can do wonders. But that's a $1.99 eBook we're talking about, not your $17.99+ novel.

"Then why am I even on here?!" You scream to the heavens, your finger hovering over the 'delete account' button in your Twitter's settings.

Calm down. This is why.

What social media will do, is make you part of a community. It'll endear you to readers. It'll serve as buy-in for someone thinking about covering you and your book. And later on down the line... maybe the result of that will sell a book. Maybe.

But again. That's not why you're on there. For sales. You should be on there for other perks. Let's dig in.

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baymax hugging

Sometimes you just wanna hug your favorite authors.

1. ENDEARMENT & WHY I'VE BOUGHT THE SAME BOOK EIGHT TIMES: Like every book lover ever, I spend way too much time fussing over my personal library. Moving this book here or there, buying a new box set so I have to shift an entire shelf. Maybe I'm having a rough day, so I just decide to go all High Fidelity on the collection, reorganize it autobiographically or some such silliness.

It happens.

Whenever I do this, there are a few books that always stay in place. Two dozen or so. Written by authors that I've become pals with on the ol' social media. Some I've never even met, some I've only seen once or twice at a convention. But these are the books I talk about with people the most. And this is a huge takeaway for authors and social media that people don't consider enough.

Social media has the power to endear you to your followers and fans.

See, social media has endeared the authors and their books to me. And this, in my opinion, is the number one reason to be on social media as a writer.

Publishing is always trying to figure out how to get consumers to know about their books. "Discoverability" is a fancy buzzword that gets tossed around a lot. And the most powerful method of discoverability isn't big ol' ads, book trailers, microsites, marketing campaigns, etc.

It's word of mouth from passionate fans and book lovers.

Those two dozen or so books? They're the books I giveaway the most to friends who come over. The books I rebuy constantly. For example. Recently while looking over my expenses, I noticed I purchased Something Strange & Deadly by Susan Dennard SIX TIMES last year. Promise of Shadows by Justina Ireland? EIGHT times. The list goes on.

Following people that love your work, booksellers you admire, communicating with other authors. They'll keep those special books on their shelves, and tell their friends about them.

It's an emotional connection. That's something no amount of ad money can buy.

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pay attention to meeee

Dude.

2. COMMUNITY & NOT BEING "THAT GUY" AT THE PARTY: When I have a bit of book news, there are a handful of authors I tend to send a big ol' BCC email to, or bug on gchat, or hit up via DM on Twitter. If we weren't friends and in the same community, chances are this would result in an irritated email back or a subtweet, and then zero results.

But when you're part of a community, the result is wonderful.

Signal boosting cover reveals, eBook sales, new deals, etc. Blog posts listing books, including maybe yours. Reviews on Goodreads. Group blogs for debut authors (lookin' at you, Swanky Seventeens). No matter your genre, there's a community out there for you, full of writers, booksellers, bloggers, librarians, and readers that will bolster you up.

And now, for a quick lesson.

One question I get a lot regarding joining a community, is figuring out how to actively participate IN said community. How do you build a following? Make friends? It's easy.

I want you to think back to every house party or college bash you've ever been to.

When you walk in, and people start talking to you... do you want to talk to the person who won't shut up about themselves, or to the person who asks you questions? Who inquires about your projects, wants to know you, wants to talk about you to other people? Who takes the time to introduce you around?

Think about social media and joining the online community like a party. Chances are, you'll make more friends and more connections by being genuine, by being curious, and by taking a vested interest in others. If you're just at the party to talk about YOU, no one will want to hangout with you.

Don't. Be. That. Guy.

There are a lot of reasons why writers write. To tell a story, maybe educate. But one thing you probably don't think about going into all of it, is the community that you'll inevitably discover. And finding your people, like minded folks... that's another reason to put pen to page.

When I announced WELCOME HOME back in February, I didn't expect to hear from several dozen authors and book lovers that were adopted. My entire life, I maybe knew a handful of adopted kids, who moved in and out of my life. Once that announcement hit, I suddenly knew close to a hundred. I might have cried a bit. Or a lot. It was probably a lot.

Joining a community makes you feel like you're part of something bigger. You discover a support system you didn't know you had. Social media is the perfect way to find your bookish people.

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believe

Don't let this happen to you!

3. BUY-IN BUT NOT SALES, DON'T GET EXCITED: When I say 'buy-in' I don't mean purchasing.

When you have a book ready to hit the market, having an online presence is an important way to encourage people to learn more about you not just as a writer, but as a person. The books I love the most and talk about the most aren't just written by talented writers. They're written by good people I admire.

If you've ever been to a conference ever, you've likely been talked to death about platform.

Someone can check out your social media profile, your website that lists your writing, the articles you've posted on your site... and know a few things right away. Are you the kind of author who might draw people to their bookstore, if you're say, plotting an event? Are you someone that might be good on a panel? If you're unagented, and querying around, are you part of the community? If they are a person in the media, a book blogger or an editor at a magazine, can they learn about you quickly to help with potential pieces?

There are a ton of things that having an established online presence helps with, and this is a big one.

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hashtags

They can be fun!

4. #HASHTAG: THE AUTHOR-CENTRIC ONLINE EVENTS: Still querying? Don't have a book out just yet? Besides all the other reasons I just listed (which yes, you should still be active on social media in the book community even if you don't have a book on its way), the author-centric hashtag events are a must reason to be on social media.

Since becoming an agent, I've requested manuscripts from SO MANY authors via social media, and signed quite a few as a result of events like #PitMad. I've offered to rep authors I've found on there, only to find numerous agents clamoring for that particular manuscript, which always fills my heart with joy.

Want to check out a success story? Check out Samira Ahmed's post about us connecting in #PitMatch, here!

If you're unfamiliar with #PitMad, you can learn more about it via Brenda Drake's website. It's an online pitch event, where editors and agents alike scour for projects they might be interested in. And there are many of these.

#DVPit is a new one that I'm excited to check out, specifically for marginalized authors.

#PitMatch was a Valentine's Day themed one, with editors, agents, and authors playing along. I hope they do it again.

There are also excellent resources like #MSWL, or Manuscript Wishlist, which allows you to read through book ideas agents and editors are excited about potentially finding. It's an absolutely incredible resource, and it all pools into this great website.

And then of course, some authors run them on their own. Dahlia Adler's Instagram hashtag campaign was FANTASTIC (I presented it in my class!), and helped scores of authors and readers connect. Learn more about it here.

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And there you have it!

Hope you liked this, you guys. I'll do more. Promise.