Monday, October 13, 2014

Authors and Reviews - How We REALLY Feel


Naturally, if every bit of it is glowing, we cheer, nod, and say, "This person is brilliant!"

But what about when part of the review isn't all party cakes and rainbows?

Well for me, I'd say I have a LOVE-LEARN relationship with reviewers and reviews.

Some authors I know stopped reading reviews because it makes them sad/angry/vengeful or (fill in the blank). And ain't nobody got time for that, right?

But not me.

I can't wait to read them. I purposely didn't call it a "love-hate" relationship because that's not usually the way I feel when I read reviews about my novels. (Unless of course it seems like the reviewer has a personal vendetta against me from my high school days, or they only read the first two chapters....then I might not be so forgiving.)

And to be perfectly honest,  maybe I do hate it a little when I read negative things. After all, it did take me two years of writing and revising to finish the book, so it's human nature for some comments to sting a little. But overall, I think of it as a learning experience. Maybe because I've been a teacher my whole life...?

So here's the scoop:

I LOVE when reviewers read my books, flattered they spent their precious time choosing my book to read. I LOVE when they LOVE it and share their view of it with the world. that effect, a giant thank you to book reviewers, librarians, and friends who post reviews for my books on Goodreads, Amazon, and/or Barnes & Noble.

What I might not love is when they spot flaws in my characters, world-building, plot, or endings. But there are things I don't love in other books I've read, so why wouldn't others feel the same way about mine? The trick is to try and objectively view the review as if it weren't about my book, and to realize that the different tastes in reading material is what helps keep novels diverse.

Easier said than done.

Here's what I do when I read a review:

1) Look at the final, overall rating to prepare myself whether it will be meh, good, or great.
2) Read it quickly once and react however I'm feeling (but don't share that with anyone).
3) Read it a second time, but this time, I read it as if my editor is giving me advice about things I need to address.
4)  I note the things they liked and/or disliked.
5) If more than one person said the same thing, I'm definitely going to try to make sure that, in the future, those same flaws have been addressed.

If you're a reviewer, do you worry about how you phrase a negative review, or is it more fun to dish it dirty and not think about the author? Is there any sort of etiquette involved?

And if you're an author, do you read your reviews? Why or why not?

Til next time,

Monday, September 22, 2014

Margo Kelly’s Debut WHO R U REALLY? was Ripped from a Real Life Event

After her daughter narrowly survived a man she met in an online role-playing game, Kelly wrote a breathless young adult thriller with the hopes of helping others spot and unmask internet predators.
 When a Nampa, Idaho, police detective said to Margo Kelly’s daughter, 
“It is your job to tell others—your real everyday friends that you go to school with—tell them what happened to you, so nothing like this can happen to them.” … she agreed.

“My daughter is my hero,” Kelly said, “for being willing to share her personal choices, conversations, and feelings in order to help others, regardless of the negative judgment she might receive as a result.” Additionally, Kelly realized if she wrote a novel about her daughter’s experience, they could help more people avoid the trappings of internet predators. Who R U Really? is primarily a work of fiction, but the essence of the plot is what happened when Kelly’s daughter was nearly abducted. The fictional elements are based on what has happened to young women across the country on a too frequent basis.

“Inspired by her own daughter's terrifying story, Kelly has painted a realistic picture of how a smart girl can get caught up in something dangerous online,” said the School Library Journal. “Guaranteed to give readers goosebumps—particularly as events heat up toward the end. … A good choice for families to read together.” (

According to the Fall Preview issue of Kirkus Reviews, “Thea’s mistakes, while frustrating to encounter, are frighteningly plausible, and the relationships among characters are well–fleshed out, especially between mother and daughter. Kelly’s first novel is a suspenseful page-turner with multiple suspects, a little bit of romance, and a strong but not overbearing message.” (

Who R U Really? will be published in hardcover and e-book versions by Merit Press (F+W Media) on September 18, 2014.

More about Who R U Really?
When Thea discovers a new role-playing game online, she breaks her parents’ rules to play. And in the world of the game, Thea falls for an older boy named Kit whose smarts and savvy can’t defeat his near-suicidal despair. Soon, he’s texting her, asking her to meet him, and talking in vague ways about how they can be together forever. As much as she suspects that this is wrong, Thea is powerless to resist Kit’s allure, and hurtles toward the very fate her parents feared most. Who R U Really? will excite you and scare you, as Thea’s life spins out of control.

Buy online:

More about Margo Kelly
Margo Kelly is a native of the Northwest and currently resides in Idaho. A veteran public speaker, she is now actively pursuing her love of writing. Who R U Really? is her first novel. Margo welcomes the opportunities to speak to youth groups, library groups, and book clubs.
Follow her online:
Twitter: @MargoWKelly

      Scheduled Appearances:
September 26, 2014 – 5pm – Book Signing at Hastings in Meridian, Idaho
September 27, 2014 – 4pm – Book Signing at Hastings on Overland in Boise, Idaho
October 3, 2014 – 7pm – Book Launch Party at Hyde Park Books in Boise, Idaho
October 11, 2014 – 4pm – Book Signing at Barn

Friday, September 12, 2014

Top FIVE Things I Learned AFTER My Debut Novel Came Out

YAY! You're what?


After the exuberance at signing my first contract ebbed a bit, I set my sights on what it would be like following the novel’s release. I didn’t worry too much about the logistics of it, but I had imagined that over time, I would become pretty well versed on how things would progress.

I wasn’t.

Partly because there’s a lot to learn and experience, but also partly because, for everyone else involved, it’s not their first time to the publishing watering hole and they don’t know how much (or in my case, how little) you know about the after party. While it’s only been two months since Wanted:  Dead or In Love (Merit Press) came out and even shorter since One Smart Cookie (Omnific Publishing) was released,  I’ve already learned A LOT since then.  Here we go:

5. YOUR PUBLISHER WILL PROMOTE YOU, BUT…you have to promote yourself.  A LOT. Your publishing house has tons of authors on their lists, with more books being released each season, so keep on tagging them in your tweets and status updates and it works to doubly promote them and you. It’s a good thing.

4. YOU HAVE TO FIND YOUR OWN WAYS TO GET THE WORD OUT – no one wants a blowhard that says “Buy my book, buy my book!” all the time, so think hard about alternate connections to your books and make it fun. Run promotions that get readers involved. Make connections with librarians, appear at functions near your home (so it’s not too expensive)….just get out there and be visible and friendly, not pushy.

3.  GIVEAWAYS CAN GET YOU NOTICED…but if you offer a gift card along with your book, many people will enter for the money, but not your book. Something to think about.

2. YOUR FRIENDS ARE EXCITED FOR YOU, BUT MIGHT NOT BUY YOUR BOOK. And that’s okay. Not everyone is a reader. Try not to get too disappointed and don’t hold grudges. (But hopefully they won’t mind if you don’t buy their kids’ Boy Scout popcorn either…) Just kidding!! Okay, maybe not. See how hard it is NOT to be disappointed? J But to my wonderful friends, family, and fellow scribes who have supported me by coming out to my book launch events, purchased my novels, or spread the word, you’re the best!! I can’t thank you enough!

1. SALES TAKE A WHILE TO ACCRUE. While there will (hopefully) be a nice spike when your book first comes out, it takes time for word of mouth to build. Keep buzzing about your book because you might think everyone has heard, but many haven’t. Everyone needs reminders and fresh news about your book and appearances. Slow and steady wins the race. 

So there you have it…and the learning curve doesn’t stop there. What was something that surprised YOU about the publishing business after your debut came out?



Kym Brunner dreams entire novels in her head, but needs about a year to write it all down.  She wishes there was an app for this. She's addicted to chai tea, going to the movies, and reality TV. When she's not reading or writing, Kym teaches 7th grade full time. She lives in the Chicago area with her family and two trusty writing companions, a pair of Shih Tzus named Sophie and Kahlua. She's repped by Eric Myers of The Spieler Agency.

Wanted: Dead or in Love, Merit Press, June, 2014
One Smart Cookie, Omnific Publishing, July, 2014


Sunday, August 24, 2014

CREATE A PLAN TO BUILD A PUBLISHING CAREER - Taking Agent Laura Rennert's Advice

At the SCBWI-LA conference earlier this month, executive agent Laura Rennert from Andrea Brown Literary Agency wowed us with her knowledge about how authors should build successful careers.

She suggested that we view ourselves as being the CEO of our own company, which would make your agent your COO. After reviewing who her authors are, she develops very systematic plans for each of her clients and says we should do the same for ourselves.

Basically, you need to think about who you are as a person, who your readers are, and what your books are about, then build your brand and marketing efforts upon those ideas. So here are my thoughts on each of those topics:

Who am I as a person?
  • teacher/ author
  • outgoing
  • always striving to be humorous
  • am intrigued by things unique and unusual 
  • laid back and easygoing

Who are my readers?
  • teens
  • smart adults who dig YA
  • librarians? reviewers? teachers?

What are my books about?
  • everyday teens on the brink of something new
  • often suspense & plot driven
  • falling in love
  • humor + heart
  • something unusual or quirky such as:
  • Bonnie & Clyde, Polish superstitions, falconry, space camp.

So based on those bullet points...what's my plan?
I'm going to try and formulate one now:

I'll focus on writing blog posts, running contests, and appearing at events hoping to showcase my sense of humor, my knowledge of suspenseful writing, and showing my love for things that are quirky.

Hmm....I think I like it. At least for now.

Laura Rennert did mention restructuring now and then as you go along. Figure out what's working and continue doing those things, while at the same time, weed out the strategies that weren't so successful. What works for one author might not work for another, so don't lose hope. It may take years to develop, but keep working and hopefully you'll see sales rise and offers increase. (*see me grinning with sparks of hope in my eyes)

Now it's your turn to be the CEO of your book company. Write down the three categories listed in bold above, along with your bulleted lists that represent you, and then come up with a one-line plan. I'd love to hear what it is, so please share in the comments....


Sunday, August 10, 2014

Need a FREE Way to Promote Your Humorous Book?

Find a connection to something famous and make it your own! Make sure you either own the rights to the pictures or give photo credit. You just might find readers who appreciate your sense of humor.


Thanks for the idea, Veronica Rundell, a friend and book reviewer,  V's Reads, who graciously shared her pictures from Chicago's Museum Campus! 

Got any other ideas?

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Choose Titles for Your Blog Articles Wisely....Or You May Anger Readers

Courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos/Stuart Miles

I was blessed with the opportunity to write an article for Chuck Sambuchino's "Guide to Literary Agents" column for Writer's Digest. Considering how many hits Chuck's blog posts get, I was in debut author heaven. After being given the okay for a guest column with the freedom to choose the topic, I excitedly detailed how I came about writing multiple POVs for Wanted:  Dead or In Love, my YA novel about Bonnie & Clyde taking over the bodies of two modern day teens (which resulted in four POVs interspersed in the story). I figured readers might wonder how and why I chose to write it in alternating POVs, and so I gave (what I hoped was) the interesting background about my thought process.

Before it appeared online however, someone at WD changed the title of my article from "Cracking Down on Multiple POVs:  Surrender and Nobody Gets Hurt," to "You Should Write From Multiple POVs if Your Story Demands It." Perhaps mine was too long or they felt it wasn't catchy enough. Although I thought my title with the criminal undertones was clever and fit my article, I wasn't upset.

No biggie, right?

I didn't think so....until I saw the list of comments on the Writer's Digest Facebook Page that linked to my article (which has since been taken down). People were writing angry comments that my post was nothing but a promo for my book and didn't give advice about whether or not to write from multiple POVs. The thing is...I hadn't intended to do that.

I left one short polite reply on the Writer's Digest Facebook page explaining that my original title had been changed and basically, sorry for the misconception. (I'm not sure if my comment caused them to take down the post or if the fury of the commentators did, but either way, it's probably a blessing for both of us).***Editing to say that on the webpage itself, there were lots and lots of wonderful comments by readers. Definitely the lovely outweighed the grumblers. Thank you, positive readers! :)

Here's the thing:  the title gave readers a different expectation. And I guess, looking at it from their perspective, I can see why they might have had some sour feelings. They wanted a checklist or guidelines of when you should use multiple POVs in your story and when you should stick with a single POV. I'm not sure there's a right/wrong answer to that question, except to say that uh (ahem) you should do it if your story demands it.

That said, I guess I learned that blog post titles have more significance than I knew. With that in mind, I decided to create a few guidelines for choosing blog post titles:

1) CRAFT A CATCHY TITLE - it's important that you make readers curious to see what your article is about. If you're tweeting a link to your article, you only have a split-second to catch a reader's attention. "Write a Title That Fits" wouldn't have been as interesting as the one I chose for this blog post, although it would have reflected the content.

2) DELIVER WHAT YOU PROMISE - the title should reflect the content. No one likes bait and switch. Yes, it should be catchy, but it can't promise something that you don't deliver. Make sure the reader gets what he's coming to your blog for, or they might not come again.

3) REFRAIN FROM GENERIC "GRABBER" TITLES - there are many tweets that say, "Check this out!" or "You won't believe what you'll see by clicking HERE." Yes, we are curious by nature, but when you've seen enough of those, you stop following the link. No one likes surprises THAT much.

Those are all the rules I can think of at the moment (except maybe if you host someone as a guest on your blog, don't change their title without running it past them first.) :)

If Chuck Sambuchino or anyone from Writer's Digest reads this article, I want to reiterate how grateful I am for the opportunity to post an article for your organization. Hopefully the readers that left those angry comments will surrender their feelings and no one will get hurt. :)

Care to share any other guidelines that I missed?

'Til next time...xoxo, KYM

Wednesday, July 2, 2014


If I never publish another book, I will forever treasure the moments that I am experiencing this summer with the release of my debut novels: WANTED: DEAD OR IN LOVE from Merit Press, and in a few weeks, ONE SMART COOKIE from Omnific Press.

Maybe it's because it took me ten years to get here that I now cherish this moment so much, but I've come to realize that the difficult journey might be what is making this reward all the more precious.

I have acknowledgments and dedications in my books to thank all the hundreds of supporters and writers and friends who made my dreams come true, but still felt I needed to share this glorious night with those who couldn't be there in person.

Here are some pictures from one of the best writer days of my life thus far––billed as "A YA AUTHOR EVENT" at Barnes & Noble––when I was actually part of the panel instead of an attendee. Woot!! The other three authors were not only cordial, but funny, sweet, and super smart too!

Barnes & Noble Window Display in Arlington Heights, IL

The four of us who presented: me, Stacey Kade, Elizabeth Fama, and James Klise (they were all awesome!!)

A few members of my amazing SCBWI writers' group:  Terri Murphy, Terry Flamm, me, and Mike Kelly

The adorable Ruby clan - family friends and super supporters!

My good friend and colleague, Pam Lily - who was with me when I got the original "call" from my agent!

FORTY MINUTES INTO THE PRESENTATION - about 60-75 of you in all!

You seriously have no idea how much it meant to me to see all of you!
Thanks for taking time out of your busy lives to come cheer me on. 

Giant thanks also to the B&N managers, Ralph & Amy, who were wonderful to work with!