Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Unique Tips for Setting Up a Blog Tour

Most authors – no matter if they are traditionally published or self published – set up their own blog tours. Some authors band together with peers who write in the same genre, then do a big blog tour together or contest together (like the Massive Romance Reader Squee Moment Ahead contest). Other authors send a “Call to Review” on their blogs or emails (See H.B. Moore’s blog post).

But what if you want to hit a broader market? Or you want to target certain niche readers? A great blog tour has reviewers with both small (100+) and big (1000+) follower counts, reviewers who have relationships with the author & reviewers who don’t know the author, and covers a variety of geographical locations.

For my book – (dis)Abilities and the Gospel – I wanted to get a wide variety of reviewers. Very few people on the tour were writer friends. My goal was to have a lot of reviewers who didn’t know me, who attended different churches, and who either had kids with cognitive disabilities or were church teachers who had someone in their class with a cognitive disability. Here’s how I found them:

First: Get Organized.

I’m a huge spreadsheet organization freak. It’s probably the only area I’m really good at keeping everything on track (Ask my hubby. I’m horrible at keeping my desk organized!) But spreadsheets – I can whip them out like crazy and keep track of gobs of things that way. And a good spreadsheet is essential when putting together a blog tour.

So, let’s get started. Create a spreadsheet with the following fields: Reviewer’s Name, Blog Title, Blog Address, Email Address, # of Followers, Target (for me this was either parent, church teacher, or book reviewer), Contacted On (date you emailed review request), Response, Scheduled Review Date and Review Copy Sent. Add blogs you are interested in to this list. Once you’ve done all your research, sort the list by number of followers and pick some of the bigger blogs and mark those lines in another color. Then sort the list by targets and see which demographics you need more of and mark those with a different color.

Then start sending emails to the bloggers. I had a lot of people return my emails saying they had never done a book review or participated in a blog tour. I sent them additional information, along with expectations for the tour (I gave them the option to choose a date within the tour time frame and told them I wanted their honest opinion about the book).  Don’t be afraid to choose reviewers who don’t have book blogs, but have a connection to the topic related to your book. During my tour, one of my reviewers was a cake decorator who had a child with autism. Her review not only introduced my book to a large group I wasn’t connected with, but was also picked up by several e-magazines. (See Topsy Turvy Cakes)

Start with Your Contacts

If you’re traditionally published, shoot an email over to your marketing team and ask if they have any blog book reviewers they recommend. My publisher actually had a few and even offered to send those bloggers review copies if they agreed to be on the tour.

I also emailed out to some disability and church groups I work with to see if they had recommendations, blogs they frequently went to for information, etc.  If you write YA, email out to your nieces, nephews, church youth groups, your friends’ kids, etc and ask them what blogs they go to check out cool stuff.

Twitter

Twitter was actually my best resource to discover new reviewers. If you’re not on Twitter, then you should start a profile. It’s a great way to connect with others – even if you don’t post on it daily. I try to go out once a week to socialize for about an hour.

On the Twitter homepage, there’s a link at the top that says “Who to Follow”. If you click on it, it brings you to a page with a search box. You can search for anything here (book reviewers, YA Romance, etc). You can also search for books that are like yours – for example, Matched by Ally Condie. Twitter searches through status updates and profile descriptions to suggest friends for you. For my tour, I searched for autism, LDS autism, Down syndrome, special needs, and church to name a few.I went through about a hundred profiles, checked out their activity and following. I also looked at who that person followed. I often found more good leads that way. After narrowing down who I wanted to review, I contacted them through either Twitter email or an email address that was listed on the profile.

Another tip is to do geographical searches – such as Autism Canada or Fantasy Reader Arizona.
Take advantage of hashtag searches too. Check out authors who write in the same genre as you and see what they are doing on Twitter. Elana Johnson did a huge Twitter promo for her book Possession using the hashtag #tagged. You could go through the postings with that hashtag to find readers who loved her book, then contact them to review your book.

Amazon & Goodreads

The awesome thing about Amazon and Goodreads is that they link to their reviewers profiles. Some of those reviewers list their websites or blogs. So you can check out books similar to yours and do some research on readers. Find a few who you really like, then send them an email through their website or blog.

Check Out Other Authors

It’s time to go hit the websites for all the big authors who write in your genre. Especially if you know of an author who has a book coming out in the next few months. They often list all the stops on their blog tour. Go check out those reviewers and their guidelines.  (BTW - Keep all this info in a spreadsheet for future reference!)  To find more authors: Go to Amazon.com, type in an author’s name and hit enter, then check out the “Related Searches” results just under the search box.

In Closing

Putting together a good blog tour involves a bit of internet stalking sleuthing.  But it’s totally worth it when you put together a completed list of reviewers from all over. The goal of a blog tour isn’t just to get (hopefully) awesome reviews, but to reach reader circles you currently don’t have connections with. Go for variety! Happy book tour scheduling!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Terrifying Blessings of Seminary and Autism



In August, our son turned 14 years old and entered high school. Just that transition alone is enough to stress out any mom – special needs teen or not. As much as I worried about my son moving to a huge school, I was more worried about his new morning routine.

Seminary.

I joined the church when I was 16 years old. My small branch didn’t have enough youth for seminary.  So the whole early morning thing – wow. The more I thought about it, the more terrified I became. Would the loss of sleep cause melt downs? Would he be disruptive in class? Would he even understand the concepts the seminary teacher discussed? Would the other kids be nice to him? Would the new schedule of EVERYTHING overwhelm him?

Yes, I am mom. And yes, I worry, worry, worry.

I talked with the stake seminary leader, who suggested we try early morning seminary first. If that didn’t work out, we could sign up to be an online or home bound student. One thing I knew though was if we did an online class, it would be forgotten between all the craziness of sports, homework and youth activities.

So we prepped for early morning seminary.

We talked about the new routine. Wrote up a written schedule with items to do to prepare each morning (eating breakfast, shoes, scriptures, brushing teeth, etc) so nothing would be forgotten in those early hours when, honestly, mom is barely functioning. Even with all the prep, I was still terrified.

But then my son surprised me. He transitioned just fine. No bumps. No “holy moly get me outta here!” Not only that, but he LOVES seminary.

My son is one of those kids who doesn’t really talk about all the things wandering around in his head. Sometimes I think he isn’t listening during family night, then a few days later, he asks me more detailed questions. Seminary is like that for him.

My son is also a cross country runner. A few weeks into the school year, he started sharing his seminary thoughts on our drive home. It went something like this – "Today while I was running, I was thinking about Nephi and . . ." 

It was the awesomest thing ever to have gospel conversations with my son. But he took it a few steps further. 

He started outlining a story about a boy who finds an old arrowhead that allows him to see Nephi, who is still working here on earth to influence youth to make good choices. There are some awesome twists and turns he’s already plotted out. How exciting!

Then he shared his feelings about the gospel through his homework. For theater, he was given a bunch of wire and asked to create something. Isaac designed a snail. Now, we haven’t seen the new Turbo movie yet, but I thought it was probably inspired by that.

I was wrong.

As part of the assignment, he had to write a paper detailing why he chose that creation and what it symbolized to him. I was astounded as he described the snail and its symbols. That the outer shell symbolizes the armor of God and how it can protect us. That the snail is a good example because it moves slow, and how that if we slow down, we have more time to think and make better choices, which he then tied back to how choosing the right gives us protection from God.

What an amazing miracle seminary has been. I love that my son is absorbing the gospel, feeling Heavenly Father’s love for him, and the power of the Holy Ghost. 

So, a note to moms and dads – it’s absolutely okay to worry about your children, but don’t let it hold your child back from exploring new things. You never know how it will help your child to grow and bless both of your lives.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Creamy Delicata Squash Soup

Each fall, I crave one of my favorite dishes from my time as an exchange student in France - creamed vegetable soups. Carrots, pumpkins, squash . . . choose your favorite for the base, then add in onions, celery, butter, cream. If you learn the basics, then these delicious soups will become a go to meal at your house. It's also a great way to get munchkins to eat their veggies.

Today, I'm going to share a simple squash soup. The first thing to decide is which type of squash you're using for the soup. I love Delicata Squash. They have a soft outer skin and have wonderful flavor.


 Creamy Delicata Squash Soup

Ingredients:

2-3 Delicata Squash, cut in half length-wise and seeded
1 onion, chopped
3 cups of vegetable stock or chicken stock
1 1/2 cups of heavy whipping cream
2 Tablespoons butter
salt to taste
pepper to taste


Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place the squash in a 9x13 baking dish, cut sides down. Add water until the bottom edges of the squash are covered (about 1/8"). Cover with foil and bake for 40-45 minutes. Remove from over and let cool.

2. In a large saucepan, melt butter. Then add the chopped onion and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally. You want the onion to be soft, but not browned.

3. Scrape the squash out of the flesh and add to the onions. Add the stock and heavy whipping cream. Cover the mixture and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally for 25 minutes. The squash will be stringy for about the first 20 minutes. Then it will break down and become smooth.

4. Puree the soup in a blender or food processor. Pour back into the large saucepan. Season with salt and pepper, then serve immediately.


If you're like me and love the results of cooking, but don't like the process so much, you might consider making extra to freeze for later. Simply double or triple the soup, then after it is seasoned, let the portion you want to freeze cool completely. I like to pour my soup into Ziploc bags (double bag it), then lay it flat in the freezer. Be sure to label and date it. The soup is good for up to 3 months.

Enjoy!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

COVER REVEAL for Spy for a Spy by Jordan McCollum

Spy for a Spy, the sequel to I, Spy, will be released November 12, 2013 (11-12-13!)
Already know you want to read it? Add Spy for a Spy on Goodreads.
Today, we’re especially excited to reveal the cover! But first, a little more about the book.

About the Book

Canada is probably the last place you’d expect to find an American spy. And it was the last place CIA operative Talia Reynolds expected to run into fellow operative Brand Copley. AKA her new boss. AKA her ex-boyfriend.
Just the guy every woman wants to face in the middle of planning her wedding. Once again, Talia’s lying to the man she loves, but this time, to protect his heart.
After Brand takes over Talia’s latest case and steals her newest agent, he assigns her to spy on her old boss—who’s suddenly giving her every reason not to trust him. With only weeks until the big day, planning falls by the wayside as she goes into damage control mode. But when Talia discovers Brand’s real motives, fighting him is the only option, no matter what the personal and professional cost.

And now for the cover!

Advance praise

Spy for a Spy is the perfect followup to McCollum’s exciting debut, I, Spy. With more tension, more romance and higher stakes than ever, Talia’s story won’t let you go until you’ve come to the heart-stopping, surprising conclusion. Such a fun read!
Emily Gray Clawson, author of A Way Back to You

Jordan McCollum’s talent for first person present tense narrative puts the reader in the driver’s seat for heart-pounding action in Spy for a Spy. . . . Talia is back along with her fiancĂ© Danny, and many of the same great characters from I, Spy. We also meet a man from Talia’s past, a high ranking CIA operative with secrets that threaten the U.S. . . . This novel is a perfect blend of danger, intrigue, romance and even a little of the LDS religon. It is a great read the whole way through.
— Becki Clayson

Spy for a Spy is a story threaded with an unforgettable main character, high stakes espionage, and a case of wedding jitters that would try the patience of any groom. McCollum deftly keeps us on a tightrope of page-turning suspense balanced with witty romance that will not let you down. A great follow-up to I, Spy, and one you don't want to miss!

About the author


An award-winning author, Jordan McCollum can’t resist a story where good defeats evil and true love conquers all. In her day job, she coerces people to do things they don’t want to, elicits information and generally manipulates the people she loves most—she’s a mom.
Jordan holds a degree in American Studies and Linguistics from Brigham Young University. When she catches a spare minute, her hobbies include reading, knitting and music. She lives with her husband and four children in Utah.
Follow Jordan on Twitter, like Jordan on Facebook and add Spy for a Spy on Goodreads today!
Check out Jordan’s blog tomorrow for your first chance to get a sneak preview!
Review Disclaimer: Sometimes a book I review has been sent to me for free by a publisher or an author. This in no way effects my review, which is my own opinion about whether the book was a good read for me, fit my tastes, and if I would recommend it to others. Other than possibly a free book, I am not compensated in any way for posting a review.