Sunday, June 5, 2011

Eleven Up: Interview and Giveaway with Elana Johnson

Gretchen McNeil here, and I have an ANNOUNCEMENT!!! I have an ARC of POSSESSION which we are giving away as part of this interview. Details below...

But for now, let me introduce one of my favorite people in the YA writing community: Elana Johnson.

First off, the novel - POSSESSION.

Vi knows the Rule: Girls don't walk with boys, and they never even think about kissing them. But no one makes Vi want to break the Rules more than Zenn...and since the Thinkers have chosen him as Vi's future match, how much trouble can one kiss cause? The Thinkers may have brainwashed the rest of the population, but Vi is determined to think for herself.

But the Thinkers are unusually persuasive, and they're set on convincing Vi to become one of them...starting by brainwashing Zenn. Vi can't leave Zenn in the Thinkers' hands, but she's wary of joining the rebellion, especially since that means teaming up with Jag. Jag is egotistical, charismatic, and dangerous--everything Zenn's not. Vi can't quite trust Jag and can't quite resist him, but she also can't give up on Zenn.

This is a game of control or be controlled. And Vi has no choice but to play.
Awesome right? Now for Elana...

When Elana and I were discussing what we wanted to do for this interview, we immediately latched onto the idea of doing an interview that would benefit both the Apocalypsies and the book blogging readership as a whole. For those of you who don't know, Elana has been involved in the online writing community for many years. She has been involved with, blogs with the League of Extraordinary Writers and is one of the founders and organizers of WriteonCon. In addition, she's written one of the best how-to-write-a-query-letter manifestos of all time in FROM THE QUERY TO THE CALL and has shared advice with writer and bloggers alike on BUILDING A BETTER BLOG.

Right? Talk about a Rockstar.

I remember when I originally heard that POSSESSION had sold. While I'm always happy for the successes of other writers, Elana's sale filled me with singular glee. It's always amazing when a writer that has given so much to the community has overwhelming success. She doesn't know it, but I'm a fangirl.

So without further ado, I give you Elana Johnson's BEST ADVICE WHEN LAUNCHING A BOOK.


1. Put on your happy face. You know how the Internet is a public place? And you know how people get all awkward when someone unloads all their problems? Yeah, don’t do that.

Put on your happy face. On your blog. On twitter. On Facebook. It’s okay to say you’re sick or that you need a vacation, but that’s about the extent of things. In my non-professional opinion, I didn’t ever put anything about how edits were killing me, or that there was no way I could make my deadline—and I’ve seen a number of authors do that.

For me, I wanted my editor and agent to think that everything, and I mean everything, was smooth sailing in the Elana Johnson Edit World. Even if I had no freaking clue how to fix something, and I might be pulling an all-nighter to get those edits done.

Keep those convos for your CP’s and besties through email.

2. Ask a lot of questions. If you’re like me, you don’t want to “bother” your agent/editor with the little things.

Get over yourself. Do it anyway. Just do it in a way that it seems like you’re asking because you want to know, not because you’re concerned. Or because you’re unhappy with what’s happened or what will happen.

That’s the fine line. You have to ask neutrally.

I found that the more informed I seemed, the better response I received. From everyone. My agent. My editor. My publicity and marketing team. When I met them in New York, they all said, “You know so much.” Or “You’re in the know.”

Secret: I’m not. I’m just really good at pretending like I am. I do this by asking detailed and specific questions of the right people at the right time. So ask yourself, “Should I ask my agent or editor this?” And “Is this something I can figure out and then ask a clarifying question that is specific to my book?” Or “Should I email This-Other-Amazing-Author-Who-Might-Know first?”

But don’t be afraid to ask questions.

3. Find a support group. You will need them. Unless you’re like, a sociopath or something. Trust me, you will need them. And it needs to be someone who won’t hate you when you email five times a day for reassurance or whining.

4. Use your connections. You may not even know you have them. For example, I just discovered that the Customer Service Rep at my local Barnes & Noble is the father of three girls I teach. So I emailed him to say so. He then sent out an email to all the teachers who hold Educator cards in my county (that’s three districts!) to tell them about the local author and fellow teacher who’s having an event.

You may not have that. You might. You NEVER know where your contacts will come from. So be sure to follow #1 and have your happy face on all the time. Listen. Lurk. You’ll find connections that will help you network.

5. Don’t try to be old when you’re new. Right now, you’re new. You’re a debut author. No one is going to treat you like Brandon Mull or Holly Black. Schools are not going to be clamoring for your attention. Conferences aren’t going to feature you as their keynote speaker.


Just accept the fact that you’re new. Unproven. Valuable, yes. But you’re not old yet. And that’s okay. The sooner you accept that, the happier you’ll be. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t aspire to speak at conferences or sign at book festivals. It just means that most people (organizers and librarians and educators) aren’t going to fall all over you until you have a product. And that product is your book.

So have patience, Obi Wan. You’ll get there. ‘

6. Let your publicist and marketing department do their job. I know we’ve all heard over and over that every author has to do some self-promotion. This is true. But really, let your publicist do their job. Let the marketing team as well. They have better and stronger connections than you do, trust me. For example, my publicist sets up my newspaper interviews. She gets me into book festivals. The marketing people send out my ARCs. They design and help with promotional things, like banners and contests.

Find the things you can do, and do those. (Some things are blog tours, ARC contests, generating buzz, participating in online forums to get your name out there, etc.)

7. Don’t compare yourself to other authors. I’m 99% sure that most of you have been comparing yourself and your experience to mine as you’ve been reading this. I can hear you going, “She has a publicity team and a marketing team? Will I get that?? What if I don’t???”

Don’t panic. And don’t compare. Not all titles receive the same marketing money. It is a fact of life. Your book is already a success because somebody bought it. They believe in it. They want it to do well.

No matter what, at the end of all this, you’ll have a published book. And not everyone can say that.

So no comparing. You may not get on the BEA Buzz Panel. Few do. You may not be the next J.K. Rowling. Few are.

8. Enjoy the ride. Remember that this is a huge accomplishment! Enjoy yourself. Don’t get all caught up in cover art and that so-and-so got their ARCs first. That sucks all the joy from your publishing experience. Trust me, I know.

This is a big roller coaster. And you’re on it, and you can’t get off. Don’t try. Don’t wish you could. Enjoy the ride.


For someone like me who's launching a book in just under three months, this advice is priceless. I suspect for anyone who's writing a book or thinking about writing a book... it's priceless as well. Wow. Awesome.

So do you want to read the amazing POSSESSION that literally the entire Interwebz is talking about? HERE'S YOUR CHANCE!

The Rules:

Follow the Apocalypsies Blog: +1 entry

Tweet about this Interview: +1 entry

Facebook or Blog about this Interview: +2 entries each

Total your points with links and your email address in the comments.

This giveaway is open to US and Canada residents only. Contest is open until 9pm PST Thursday, June 9th, and the winner will be announced on this blog Friday, June 10th.

Ready? O-K!


  1. Sounds great

    gfc follower

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. More wisdom from Elana J! Thanks so much for your calm voice and your smiling face--even if you're faking it sometimes. You make it sound like we can do this too.

    Lesli Muir Lytle

  4. Yay!


  5. Dear iwanttobeagrocery: you CAN. :D

  6. Sounds amazing, thanks again!
    +1 GFC follower

    deadtossedwaves at gmail dot com

  7. Cool interview thx.
    Following you. + 1

  8. Thanks for the interview & giveaway!
    +1 GFC follower
    +1 tweet!/Dani_Nguyen/status/77737948514234368

    total = 2

  9. i really want this book!
    +1gfc follower

    +1 tweeted-!/chieu12/status/77780872153153536

    +2 fb-!/permalink.php?story_fbid=108994605857440&id=100000493925113

    total= 4

  10. Tweeted @jdonnelly14 on Twitter

    GFC Follower Jenn

    2 I guess jennlovesed14 at gmail.

  11. Elana, good, good, good stuff. Happy launch!

  12. Follower + FB + Tweet = 3!

    Absolute fantastic interview with awesome advice that I really need right now! THANK YOU!

  13. Great interview. Such good advice. I'm so excited for Elana. I'm not going to enter because I'm giving away her books to spread the word too.

  14. I cant wait to read this book! :-)


  15. Hi! I'm so excited to read this fabulous book!
    I'm following your blog (+1), I tweeted (+1), and I blogged on my livejournal (+2)! Soooo...
    My total = 4
    Thanks! :)

    starcrossedlove01 at gmail dot com

  16. I follow via GFC!
    crazypplrok at gmail dot com

  17. I wanna read!

    +1 Following as ‘cyc’
    +1 Tweeted:!/nodizzies/status/78595356518125569
    +2 Facebook:

    Total: 4 points


  18. Possession sounds amazing. Thanks for the giveaway!

    I'm a follower.
    Entry total: 1

    Sara M
    sara_UFblog [at] yahoo [dot] com

  19. What a great interview! I loved it. Great information. Thanks!

    +1 GFC folower
    +1 Tweeted:!/brennabraaten/status/78868076170444800


  20. Whoops! Forgot my email: brenna dot braaten at gmail dot com

  21. +1 Following Apocalypsies
    +2 Facebook: