Word on the Street–Do we market ourselves well enough?


For Toronto’s Word on the Street, Andrea Wayne Von Koningslow (Bing and Chutney) and I sat at the CANSCAIP booth while two new young writers stood in front drawing people in. One was a “selfie” with two picture books.  They seemed well enough written–I didn’t read the whole story–but perhaps suffered from too much text for the usual picture book demograph–something a traditional publisher likely wouldn’t touch.


She talked about author visits and selling rubber bands with “I love to read on it” while I silently cringed. I enjoy visiting schools and getting kids excited about reading and writing, granted no buttons or elastics to sell with this message on it. And I don’t mind autographing and selling books but find it difficult to push this too much.

This writer also pointed out that none of us linked our websites to direct sales.  I love all bookstores, linking to one, especially a giant that other writers are in dispute with, seems problematic. Still do traditionally published writers market enough?

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I’ll let you decide.

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Telling Tales–The Literary Festival that Makes Reading Happen


In the attention competition, reading has been slipping of late not I think because of video games, television or music but because of the increased use of social media, Facebook, Twitter, tumblir, instagram, Youtube and Younameit.  I know I can spend great amounts of time watching short cat and dog videos and many, many more people seem to enjoy viewing Charlie Bit My Finger or Crazy Nast@#$$ Badger. The ironic thing about these pastimes is that they should attract only the monied because you need an expensive device and an Internet supplier to partake of them. Reading is free with a library card and arguably provides more professional entertainment, enrichment and relaxation. Also when I attend a literary festival that’s admission free, often only the privileged intelligentsia (writers’ and librarian’s kids, Waldorf students, home schoolers) attend.

This is where Telling Tale differentiates itself. By providing free bussing, access to Westfield Village buildings, story tellers, musicians, author presentations and talks, it’s been able to attract 7,000 visitors in 2014. All kinds of people. One young mom told it was her third year coming. She couldn’t afford to buy a book but her daughter enjoyed an autographed bookmark and I encouraged her to visit the library to borrow the book that matched her souvenir.


I also love that there’s a book table where kids can just pick up someone’s previously loved book for free.

Weather has cooperated. Big names such as Denis Lee attract the bigger crowds and line ups.  But I get a chance to connect with readers both new and old, face to face.  To show them the fun behind writing and research.  And reading!



And people do buy books.



Thank you Susan Jasper for your vision and dedication to making Telling Tales possible…and such a wonderful success. Thank you to all the dedicated volunteers you’ve attracted year in and year out.  It’s such a privilege (and so much fun) to present here.



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You Do Judge a Book By Its Cover

better-friends-than-ever-approved Recently a google search produced a website where the writer performed a Cover Snark review.  She revealed some 28 covers that someone had submitted and she gently made fun of them. The comment on my upcoming Feb 2015 release: “I really hope the construction workers who built this railway into the ocean were fired. Also, still living girl, maybe you shouldn’t follow your ghost friend into the ocean, kay?”

Not a scathing review, by any means. And all my friends rallied to vote my cover to the top of the snark list.Thank you! I actually think the Best Friends Through Eternity cover by Rachel Cooper is the best because I love the blue colours and I love the waves and letters in the sand. (Some comment claimed it was weird and creepy)

What I also enjoyed about the cover for Best Friends Through Eternity was that I was consulted along the way.  Ghost girl could have been in cutoff shorts, the letters along the spine might have been in the sand as they are on the front.  I think I was just one vote among several on the editorial team but still my income will be hugely impacted by this cover, I appreciate the consult.

Most importantly the image actually connects with the story, perhaps not literally point for point, which believe me some young readers may have a problem with, but thematically .

To me the worst comment Snark Reviewer made on a cover was “What the f***?” Come on, be honest, how often have you thought that about an image on a book.

Besides attracting a reader, I think that image should give some kind of hint as to what the book is about. A picture is worth a thousand words, right? And maybe you don’t get it right away.  Perhaps after you’ve read a novel, you look back over the cover and say, oh yeah, I get why all those letters in crazy font are scattered everywhere or why there’s a fine arts renaissance portrait on the cover.

What I also liked about the “snark review” is that for once the writer wasn’t on the hot seat.  For once one of the major marketing tools got some attention.

Canadian books have to compete with US novels that are half the price and have gazillion times the design budget. This cannot be easy. But I think some honest cover reviews might spur some better efforts and even some accountability.  If no one says “What the f***?” poor sales will always be hung from the author’s neck and at this point in history, writers’ heads and shoulders are already bowed down by the weight of all the responsibilities for promotion.

So come on reviewers, tell the publishers and designers what you think of their work. Star the covers not just the writing.

PS Votes proved Best Friends Through Eternity to be the winner by double the votes of the second place cover.  Yah, Rachel Cooper. Yah, supportive voting friends.




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