Monday, June 2, 2014

Announcing FEATURED GIVEAWAY Winners!

We are excited to announce the final winners of Armchair BEA 2014 -- the FEATURED GIVEAWAY winners!  Each of these winners have already been contacted and have confirmed their winnings, but we wanted to publicly congratulate them and once again say thank you to these amazing sponsors!  Without further ado, I present to you our winners . . .

1 fully featured Wordpress install, with two hours of theme customisation and one year of hosting. 

Sarah from Exploring All Genres

2 auxiliary prizes of a year's free hosting for two lucky winnners, with 250mbs space and 2gbs bandwidth.

Social media graphic package (for the purpose to help brand your author/blog FB/Google/, Twitter (old & new layout). Includes avatar 1x1 ratio (sized right for twitter also)

A dozen (12) ebooks from Patchwork Press

Brittany from Please Feed the Bookworm

Three (3) ebooks from Patchwork Press

Julie from My Five Monkeys

A single title ebook (1) from Patchwork Press

Cici's Theories

Congratulations & Thank You!!

Announcing the Top Cheerleader Prize!

For Armchair BEA 2014, our Commenting Team wanted to do a little something extra for our CheerREADER volunteers, and that resulted in the Top Cheerleader Prize!  We are now happy to announce that Wesley from Library Educated won the Top Cheerleader Prize by commenting on 207 blogs during Armchair BEA. Our cheerleaders left 4,996 comments (and those are just the ones who kept track)!

Congratulations Wesley and thanks for doing an awesome job supporting our Armchair BEA participants! 

A HUGE SHOUT-OUT TO Wesley and every other of our 2014 CheerREADERS for doing an absolutely amazing job this year!!  We appreciate all of your hard work!!

LIVE FROM BEA (BLOGGERS): Tech 201--All About Ad Networks

Please welcome Florinda from The 3 R's Blog: Reading, 'Riting, and Randomness as she gives a little peek into the panel that she sat on during the BEA Bloggers Conference this year.

For the first time, the annual BEA Bloggers Conference offered two programming tracks this year--"101" sessions for newer bloggers, and "201"-level topics for more experienced ones. I was honored to moderate the "Technology 201: Ad Networks" session featuring panelists Jason Chambers of the LitBreaker network, Henry Copeland from BlogAds, and Swapna Krishna of S. Krishna’s Books in a Q&A, and I'd like to share a few of the highlights of our discussion with Armchair BEA.

Tech201 Ad Networks panel BEA Bloggers ArmchairBEA
Panelists (l-r): Florinda Vasquez, Swapna Krishna, Jason Chambers, Henry Copeland
Photo by Amber/Shelf Notes.

  • Why wouldn’t a blogger want to monetize with advertising? What are the negatives/pitfalls?

Bloggers may worry that carrying ads means "selling out" or advocating something they may not stand behind, or be concerned about the aesthetic impact of ads on a blog's appearance. With most ad networks--and with a good understanding of the terms of the agreement between the network and the blogger--neither of these has to be a problem. 

  • Besides the money, what are the benefits to carrying advertising on a blog? 

The fact that your blog can attract advertisers may give it more credibility with publishers, and help attract better review offers. Also, ads that line up well with your (book-related) content can help your readers discover new books they want to read.  

  • When/how do you know if your blog is ready to carry advertising?

Consistency and regularity in posting is more important than traffic. and specialized, niche-oriented content may be appealing to advertisers even if a blog's overall numbers aren't as big.

  • Where do you get ads? What options do bloggers have?
Selling ads independently:

For most blogs, this won't generate much revenue on its own, and it's not particularly easy to manage. Try placing a statement on your blog inviting advertisers, and link that to contact information so they can approach you--but keep your response expectations low, and consider doing this as a supplement to another ad source. You'll have to negotiate your own pricing and terms, and you will probably want to charge a flat rate for a set amount of time; the CPM model (cost per 1000 impressions) used by ad networks doesn't really work on such a small scale. (You may be able to find a plugin for this if your blog is a self-hosted Wordpress one.) 

Ad networks:

Search for networks and find out how to apply; you may need to provide some blog stats. There are networks like Litbreaker, Blogads, and Riot New Media that specifically target book blogs. Networks may be able to work with bloggers who want more control over what ads appear on their blogs---for example, excluding certain advertisers or product classes, or showing geographically targeted ads.

  • How can bloggers be more appealing to advertisers and maximize their potential ad revenue?

A blog that consistently posts engaging, original content and has a clean, professional appearance will appeal to advertisers, and as previously mentioned, blogs with a well-developed speciality niche can do well.

moderator behind podium BEA Bloggers ArmchairBEA
Why didn't the moderator use the podium?
Photo by Sheila/Book Journey
Most ad networks have specific requirements about where ads need to be placed on a blog; usually, they must be at least partially "above the fold," or visible onscreen without scrolling. Some networks restrict or prohibit carrying ads from other sources, so it's very important to know the terms of your agreement with a network before you try to combine different types of ads. Then again, while it may seem counter-intuitive, exclusivity may be advantageous; your blog may be more attractive to advertisers if they know they won't be competing for views.

Mobile and social media are shifting the focus from traditional to "native" advertising, AKA sponsored posts. These generally pay a flat rate for a post that conforms to certain parameters; the specifics will depend on the subject and the sponsor. Sponsored posts that are consistent with your overall blog tone and topics can be effective as long as they retain your blog's voice (and include appropriate disclosures). There are several networks that offer sponsored-post opportunities for bloggers, including BlogHer Publishing NetworkClever Girls CollectiveCollective BiasMassive Sway/The SITS Girls, and TapInfluence. However, as yet, there are none that particularly cultivate book blogs. 

Thanks to Amber of Shelf Notes (and the Armchair BEA on-site team) and Kim from Sophisticated Dorkiness for letting me use their session notes in preparing this post--I had the questions in hand, but no opportunity to take notes on the answers!

LIVE FROM BEA: Author Interview with Jon Scieszka

A final interview LIVE FROM BEA, courtesy of Amber and Arianna of ShelfNotes!

Shelf Notes had the pleasure of sitting down with Guys Read creator (and author of many great books, including The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales), Jon Scieszka for a short chat between his busy visit to BEA 2014.  We have to grudgingly admit that we went into the interview a little wary of the idea of a book geared entirely towards getting boys to read.  Why can't they just discover the joy of reading for themselves?, we thought.  But Mr. Scieszka removed all of our doubts in the below interview, and we were converts by the end of our time together.  He truly has a passion for sharing his own love of reading with boys in any way possible, which we found is much more difficult than it may sound!  Luckily, today's young male readers have a smart, funny, and never-endingly enthusiastic leader to bring them into the book-loving fold.

SN: So, where did you come up with the ideas for the book?

JS: They kind of grew out of the whole guys read program.  And the the heart of the Guys Read idea is not to tell boys what to read, but to hear from them what they enjoy reading.

SN: Ohhh, okay.

JS: So the website honestly just does what the web does well, which is collect information from everybody. We just said, "Send us books that boys love!  And we'll pass those on to other guys."  And it's kind of this great grassroots, so instead of from the top down, it's from the bottom up.  It's like everyone goes "Yeah, we love Gary Paulson, we'll read anything by Gary Paulson," so we just collect all that information.  That was about 10 years ago that the site's been going.  And then I thought we could take the next step and actually use all these people who wanted to do their own for connecting with the boys, and then we could also lead them to some authors they might not know about. Because that's hard for any reader: where do you find that next book?

SN: That is very true.

JS: And doubly hard if you're not much of a reader.  Because my son was like that, he would walk into the bookstore and he would just go, "Ugh, kill me now."

SN: "Where do I go?" Yeah. In the library world, they're called "readalikes."

JS: Yup. And that's so important.  So we thought, let's just do that.  And I loved short stories as a kid.  And then, having been a teacher too, I also realized that that's a great little thing.  Like we always had throughout the school year that "Drop everything and read," "Stop everything and read."

SN: I loved that.

JS: I did, too!  But - there's this great 40-minute period, and always there would be boys coming up to me just going, "I don't have anything to read!"  And I'd just go, "We do this EVERY DAY, this is not a surprise!" [laughter]  So I would have a whole collection of short stories, graphic novels, stuff that they could get into and kind of out of in 45 minutes.

SN: And you saw that more with the boys?  Like, the girls never needed to find something to read?

JS: The girls always had their stuff.  They had pencils, they were organized. [laughter] They had their Trapper Keepers and all that stuff.  The boys had nothing!  It was like, "I don't have a pencil."  It was like, "Oh my god, you're in school, how do you not have a pencil?"

SN: You could find one on the floor!

JS: Yeah, exactly.  Look around a little bit. [laughter]  But short stories are great and kind of non-threatening, too. Because you could say, "You know what?  You don't have to love the whole book. If you don't like a story, stop reading it!  Read the next one."  And that's a great thing for a reader, because otherwise they don't get that permission too often. Because in school you have to read [the assigned book], it's required. 

SN: So, have all the books been a part of the Core Curriculum?

JS: We started with those bigger kind of genre subject areas, so the first one was all humor stories, just because that's what I thought of.

SN:  And boys do really like humor.

JS: And it did so well, too.  Because you realize that what you do in school, there's not that much funny stuff for required reading.  It's, like, ehhhhhh....

SN: Yeah, if your teacher tries to tell you its funny, you're just like "No, it's not funny." [laughs]

JS: That's usually true, too!

SN: What grade did you teach, by the way?

JS: A little of everything, I started as a first grade assistant teacher, and then just hopped around and did second, third.

SN: Mostly elementary, though?

JS: Yeah.  And just up through sixth, seventh, and eighth. 

SN: So that's probably a great thing for the boys to see you, because, you know, so many female elementary teachers.

JS: Well that was a huge part of even shaping the project.  And I grew up with five brothers!  I had an all-guy house, and then I went into elementary school teaching, and as you know, it's all women!  And it's just like "Oh my god, I'm on a different planet!"  I was mystified!  Like, "Are we actually going to listen to each other and not wrestle?!"  [laughter]  We worked in different ways.  But [males] were really underrepresented in that way. I think my little guys didn't see a role model for reading. Because it's their mom, it's the librarian, the teachers - they were all women.  Who are all well-meaning, and trying to connect them, and have a range of tastes, but I think the boys honestly would look around and be like, "Yeah, you say reading's for everyone, but it doesn't look like it!"  And I have two kids, too - a daughter who's a crazy reader, like from birth.  She was one of those little kids who would flip a book and pretend like she was reading, and kind of babble to herself.  And then my son Jake two years later was just like "Eh" and not really that excited about it.  It's like, "I'll play hockey instead."  And to this day, he doesn't - he reads a ton, but kind of in his own way. Like online sites and information.  He honestly told me, I think it was in seventh grade or so, he goes: "Why would you read something that was just made up?"  It's a good question.

SN: I hear that a lot, actually. 

JS: Because the boys want something true, something real, something that they can use - and you can tell when they're little bullshit artists, they just are getting more material that they can challenge people with, I think. [laughs]

SN: So this book is the true stories.

JS: Yeah, and we got some great stories in here.  Man.  And they're a perfect kind of mix of adventure, history, and disgusting. 

SN: Yeah, I saw the tarantula!

JS: Oh, the tarantula's beautiful! [laughter]  And then Steve Sheinkin, you know his stuff?  He did Bomb, that was probably his most famous book.  So he writes this story about these guys who are pirates, but they get shipwrecked on the west coast of Africa, get taken prisoner as they're trying to get across the Sahara, lose like 100 pounds, and they start drinking camel urine, and then they just don't get to eat, they're eating their own skin that's falling off!  It's just - the details are so good.

SN: That's perfect!  And that's a true story?

JS: Yeah.  And then Nathan Hale, who does those, they're kind of graphic novels with Abrams [a publisher], he writes about a mountain man, Jim Bridger, and a couple other guys.  So this other guy gets shot, and they wait for him to die, in the 1800s out in the West, and these guys finally go, "He's not gonna die, let's just take his stuff and leave him."  Two days later, he comes alive, because he's been attacked by a bear.  So he's mauled, he's got a broken leg, and he crawls across like 200 miles, lays in a bed of maggots to clean his wounds, it's good details like that! [laughter]  Like your kind of story. 

SN: Where did you get all these ideas?  Was this stories that you knew?

JS: No, we let all these writers find it.

SN: Okay, so the writers found their own stories.

JS: Candace Fleming did this other great story about Jumbo the elephant.  Hit by a train, that's how Jumbo died. - Spoiler alert! In case you didn't know that. - But it's terrible. [laughter]  But that's the cool thing that nonfiction writers do.  In fact, I was trying to get our publisher to do nonfiction from the beginning, but they were a little afraid of it.  Like it doesn't sell or didn't sell as well back in the day?  

SN: Or the combination between nonfiction and short stories, maybe?

JS: Yeah.  And yeah, short stories always kind of drive the publishers crazy, too.  Because they're like, "Eh, they don't sell very well."  But they could!

SN: I do think you have a good point, that it's going to allow the boys to engage with something that they don't have to commit to. 

JS: And then they get to look across this great range of writers.  And then you find somebody, like a Steve Sheinkin, or Nathan Hale, and you go "I'm gonna go look at his other stuff!" And that's how we kind of make sure to get those authors whose stuff will lead somewhere else. And same with the women authors that we pick, because Kate DeCamillo did a thing early on for us, in the humor thing, I wrote a piece with her.  Shannon Hale did a great piece.  Jackie Woodson.  So you want them, if they go read some more, to look up Kate DeCamillo [or the author they enjoyed].  Plenty of boys love her stuff. And then I think they don't feel so creepy about it, somehow. It's not just a "girl book" to them. 

SN: So you say you were a reader, you are a big reader, you were when you were young?

JS: Yeah, I grew up as a reader. I don't know how that happened. 

SN: Did you have parents who read a lot?

JS: My dad doesn't read hardly at all, even though he's an elementary school principal - he's a information, magazine reader.  My mom was probably a bigger reader.  And she read a lot to us. But out of the six boys in our house, I would say half of us are readers, and the other half, not really. It's a weird thing.  And that was the same I found with my kids, they grew up in the same household, they kind of had the same influence, but something weird happened, yeah. 

SN: Did you have a favorite book when you were little?

JS: Yeah, I had a couple.  But I think one of my all-time favorites was Go Dog, Go.

SN: Yeah!  Love that book.

JS: Because it has just the craziest thing going on.  I grew up, like in school, we had to learn with Dick and Jane.  And those are just so lame! You read that and you go like, "Why am I reading this?!"  It's like, "There's no reason to be a reader!"  Then I read Go Dog, Go, and I thought: "This is good.  I want more like this." 

SN: That's great. 

SN: Where do you find the authors, are you friends with them?

JS: Well that was part of the thing!  I realized, so I've been doing this - Three Little Pigs came out 25 years ago. So I've been doing this for like 25+ years, and I just end up knowing a lot of these people.  And now kind of it's like a small group.  So Jack Gantos was one of the first guys I asked, because I just thought, "This guy's hysterical!"  [To our surprise, he gestures Jack Gantos over and we spoke briefly.]

SN: Which of the books have the kids most responded to?  Was it the humor one?

JS: Yeah, I think humor's like the easiest.  But this one, I think it'll get a ton of fans, because it so meshes with "our guys" who are such information fans. And it cuts across the weirdest collection of stuff, too. 

SN: I don't know if you ever see controversy [over this], but do people say, "Why make a book for just guys?"

JS: Yeah, usually the third grade girls. [laughter] They like to read me the riot act.  They're like, "That's stupid!  Why are you making a book just for guys?!"  And I go, "Because they need help!" And I think everyone who's a teacher and a librarian understands, we need all the help we can get.  Because it's a difficult thing!  Boys are a tough sell. And some of it's genetic, I'm convinced, some of it's biological, we know boys develop later than girls, so they start in school, they're kind of behind, and then they're not successful, and, with all this stuff with testing has pushed reading accomplishment lower and lower, like down to kindergarten - no kindergartner should be taking written tests!  That's ridiculous. So the boys are even less successful. Because they don't become readers till second grade.  Some of them third grade!  And there's nothing wrong with that. So by and large, man, no I've had just the best response.  From teachers especially, and librarians.  And parents!  Who just really know, and they say, "Oh, thank goodness!"  And now we can point to them, to this set, and go, "Here's 50 different stories.  You'll find something."  And it's a good low-pressure thing, too. Because you say to the boys, "You DON'T have to love them all."  Like you can say, I am a mystery reader. I am a sci-fi reader. I am a nonfiction reader. And then that's part of their identity. 

SN: And you have it all covered. -- So, what's the next one?

JS: We have 3 options.  One is ghost stories, which the editor really likes.  Another one's action/adventure...maybe a heroes and villains kind of thing?  One other thing we're kind of circling around is just real stories of real kids. To not be fiction, to not be fantasy.  And there's a strong history of that, like Wayside School?  A little crazy, which I like, too.  Or even all of the Andrew Clements stuff, like Frindle? Stuff that happens in a kid's life.  I think that's why Wimpy Kid is such a success, because that's what happens to them.

SN: Our last question is: what is you favorite type of candy?

JS: My favorite type of candy?  ...Potato chips?

SN: That's not a candy!

JS: No, but I think of it as my favorite thing, so it just came to mind.

SN: So, it's more of your favorite guilty pleasure. [laughter]

JS: Yeah.  But if it's candy, I would say bittersweet chocolate. 

SN: All right, nice!  That's a very adult thing to say.  We are candy fanatics, so we have to ask that.

The interview was great, and we are now big fans of Mr. Scieszka.  We look forward to introducing the young boys in our own lives to this wonderful collection!

The interview's last words: "Reading for pleasure, we gotta keep fighting for that.  Guys Reads is out there fighting for you!"

(We'd like to thank Jon Scieszka, his publicist, Walden Pond Press and Armchair BEA for connecting us for such a wonderful interview!)

We'd like to share a few pictures from the interview and some shots of Jon Scieszka signing his book:

Follow Jon Scieszka on Social Media:

Twitter: @Jon_Scieszka

Yours Truly,

Arianna & Amber

LIVE FROM BEA: Author Interview with Michelle Knudsen

We have another great interview brought to you by our on-site correspondents, Amber and Arianna of ShelfNotes!  Read on for awesome!

Hi Everyone!

Amber & Arianna from ShelfNotes bringing you a special interview with Michelle Knudsen who will be coming out with a fantastic book this September called Evil Librarian.We both had the chance to read Evil Librarian before the interview and couldn't wait to meet Michelle because we had so much fun reading the book. Here is a description of the book:
He’s young. He’s hot. He’s also evil. He’s . . . the librarian.
When Cynthia Rothschild’s best friend, Annie, falls head over heels for the new high-school librarian, Cyn can totally see why. He’s really young and super cute and thinks Annie would make an excellent library monitor. But after meeting Mr. Gabriel, Cyn realizes something isn’t quite right. Maybe it’s the creepy look in the librarian’s eyes, or the weird feeling Cyn gets whenever she’s around him. Before long Cyn realizes that Mr. Gabriel is, in fact . . . a demon. Now, in addition to saving the school musical from technical disaster and trying not to make a fool of herself with her own hopeless crush, Cyn has to save her best friend from the clutches of the evil librarian, who also seems to be slowly sucking the life force out of the entire student body! From best-selling author Michelle Knudsen, here is the perfect novel for teens who like their horror served up with a bit of romance, plenty of humor, and some pretty hot guys (of both the good and evil variety). 

We stopped by the Candlewick Press Booth and sat down to chat with her. This is what she had to say:

ShelfNotes: We loved the book. You must have been influenced by Buffy the Vampire Slayer, right?

Michelle Knudsen: Yes, I am definitely a big Buffy fan. Early on we were describing this as sort of Buffy meets Glee. I wanted to capture that, little bit serious, little bit funny, not necessarily what you would expect, but all the things I love about Buffy, definitely.

ShelfNotes: You've done a whole bunch of books for kids, but this will be your first YA. How was the transition? Has the promotion been different?

Michelle Knudsen: Yeah, it's very different because books for little kids, I'm promoting to teachers and librarians. I mean, I read to kids, and try to connect to kids but it's not the same sort of direct, "I've written a book for you, so I need to tell you about it". So for Young Adult, it's all sort of new to me, I joined Tumblr, which I was told is where you now have to go for Young Adult book promotion. I get a little of that with the Middle Grade, I get emails from actual readers, which is awesome, so I'm excited for that kind of interaction with the Young Adult audience. 

ShelfNotes: A big part of the book is centered around theater. Where did you grow up? Was theater a big part of your life?

Michelle Knudsen: I grew up in Staten Island, so it's not necessarily a big part of Staten Island life in general but I did Community Theater when I was little and school musicals, I went to Theater camp which is probably going to be the setting for the second "Evil Librarian" book. Musical theater was very important, high school theater was very important, a lot of my friends from school were in that group. I still do a little bit of Community Theater now. Village Light, in New York City, we do Gilbert and Sullivan operettas, which are fun. I've been a big Musical Theater fan for a long time.

ShelfNotes: The show you picked, Sweeney Todd, it fit really well within the book.

Michelle Knudsen: Yeah, I liked the coming together of those things because it's all so dark. It's dark, it's funny, there's real feelings in it. He's crazy, but you understand why and he's a bad person, but you like him anyway, it's complicated.

ShelfNotes: So we know you'll be doing a sequel, will there be any more, a trilogy?

Michelle Knudsen: That would make sense. I didn't have a plan; I mean it seems like there's a plan right?

ShelfNotes: Without giving too much away, I noticed you wrote a part in the book that has the main character having to return a favor three times, and I thought this was the set-up for the next few books.

Michelle Knudsen: You would think that. I always plan on the books to be stand-alone but I can't help but stick things in there that, you know... 

So, I wasn't sure when I wrote it, if it would be a stand-alone or not. But now, my editor Sarah would like to do another one and it was her idea to do Theater Camp, and I was excited. So that one is shaping up, the story is coming together. I don't have the whole thing yet but I have enough that I think it's going to happen. I should knock on some wood. *Knocks on the table*

ShelfNotes: We love that this book isn't being promoted as a trilogy (at least, right from the start). Lots of people seem to be doing that, they want to make the trilogy so that everyone knows you'll have to buy every book in the series but this is a great way to go about it.

Michelle Knudsen: I also wanted people to read it and not feel like,"well, now I'm going to have to wait forever for the next book." Because that happened with my Middle Grade books, the second book ended on a cliffhanger and the third book still isn't out and people are waiting.... So, I don't want to do that to them again.

ShelfNotes: Do you know a librarian? Because you can tell how much you know about libraries.

Michelle Knudsen: I know a lot of librarians. I've worked as a library monitor in school, I worked at the library in Cornell during undergrad and as a grown-up later. It was actually the best job I've had for writing because I was evening/weekend supervisor, I could write during the day and be around people and books, I loved it. I love libraries, I love librarians. And he's a good librarian (character from the book), even though he's evil.

ShelfNotes: Although, we don't know if he has his MLS.

Michelle Knudsen: That's true. He just magically assigned himself one.

ShelfNotes: Which characters will be showing up again? Have you figured that out yet?

Michelle Knudsen: No, I haven't really figured it out yet. I mean, definitely Cyn, definitely Ryan. This is more than I've told my editor about the book, but what I'm thinking is that, it's the theater camp that he's (Ryan) always gone to and so this year, she's going to go with him. So it's going to be weird for her because he knows everybody but obviously there will be some demon things happening, it's not just going to be theater camp stories. I don't think her other friends will make appearances, except in the beginning, maybe the end. I might do letters, I want her to still be in touch with Annie. But I have a feeling it's going to be one of those camps where they take your phones away, so that there's no texting and there's only old fashioned, slow communication with the outside world. We'll see, it's still all just... starting.

ShelfNotes: You make a lot of great adult references in the book, references we loved and appreciated but weren't sure the YA crowd would get it. We thought, maybe it was like watching cartoons, they always throw in a ton of adult references for the parents and also that it's something you'd want to introduce to the readers, like Waiting for Guffman. You do a lot of that, we loved it and it made us happy to see these kinds of things, but did you throw that in to introduce the readers to what you love, that kind of thing?

Michelle Knudsen: A little bit of both because I feel like Cyn would be the kind of person into things from previous generations, because musical theater is so historically based, and she's not always grounded in the contemporary world. But, I also threw them in because I loved them and I figured, other readers of YA, who were older, would get the references and I would love the idea of introducing teens who don't know about those things, inspiring them to watch Waiting for Guffman or Highlander...

ShelfNotes: How did the cover come about?

Michelle Knudsen: Matt Roeser did the cover, and he's a brilliant, magical genius. 

ShelfNotes: What book is that? (Underneath the Devil stamped on front)

Michelle Knudsen: It is an Italian Textbook, like an old Italian Textbook, which I also thought was brilliant. Ohh! You guys have to see the actual hardcover, so... the whole thing looks like an old book and then there's a library card, old fashioned, taped on the back, with the card and the date stamps and all of the characters names on it. There's stuff written in Sharpie on the card, it's beautiful. I don't know what his inspiration was, but they send me things once they start to come together. I haven't really talked to him about how he came up with this idea but it's very eye catching. We had a lot of trouble getting the face, the image just right because at first, I thought it looked too friendly, but then we didn't want it to look too evil, we wanted him to look a little scary, but also fun, but not too much fun that you'd think it was a cute book about a happy devil. 

ShelfNotes: Who was your favorite character to write?

Michelle Knudsen: Oh, that's hard. This is my 1st first person book, so I really liked Cyn's voice and I've had the most fun writing this book out of any book so far. I really liked writing the librarian, and I liked Principal Kingston, I don't know... he was a surprise, I didn't see him coming. I kinda like everybody in there but I feel closest to Cyn because I was in her head for the longest time, so I guess I'd say she's my favorite, but the librarian was a lot of fun too. 

ShelfNotes: I think this has to be made into a Musical!

Michelle Knudsen: That would be awesome.

ShelfNotes: A Joss Whedon Musical, it'll be awesome.

Michelle Knudsen: Oh, haha... could you imagine! If Joss Whedon did something with my book, I would die, that would be it!

ShelfNotes: He just needs to read it and then he'll know.

Michelle Knudsen: We need to find someone who can make him read it. Anyone friends with Joss Whedon?

ShelfNotes: Not us, but Neil Patrick Harris was here yesterday, we were a couple degrees away, apparently. 

Michelle Knudsen: Eh, missed opportunity, I guess.

ShelfNotes: Last question, the most important one, what is your favorite candy?

Michelle Knudsen: My favorite candy? Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.

ShelfNotes: How do you eat them?

Michelle Knudsen: I eat them very slowly with a glass of red wine. It's a classy pairing but they go surprisingly well together, just little bites. It has to be the regular size ones, not the Mini's, because then the ratio is off of the chocolate and peanut butter.

ShelfNotes: Well, we cannot wait for the follow up books. This is going to be great.

Michelle Knudsen: I'm very excited too.

We wanted to share some photos we took with her, as well as some of Michelle with a HUGE crowd during her signing at the Candlewick Press Booth. 

Follow Michelle Knudsen on social media: 

Twitter: @michelleknudsen

Thank you so much for such a fun interview Amber, Arianna, and Michelle!!

LIVE FROM BEA: Engaging Your Readers and Taking Your Writing to the Next Level

Our very own Sheila from Book Journey had the opportunity to serve on one of the panels for BEA Bloggers Conference.  She is here today to share more information on this very panel.

Engaging Your Readers: Take Your Writing to the Next Level

I had the pleasure of sitting on the panel for Engaging Your Readers and Taking Your Writing To The Next Level. 

Our team was made up of our Moderator, Mandy Boles who reviews at LifeBetween Books, myself, Nicole Bonia who reviews at Linus’s Blanket and co-founder of Bloggers Recommend, and Jason Baker of Mediander LLC.

Some of the highlights that came out of our panel was:
  • Have post titles that are engaging and make people want to click to see what you wrote.
  • Asking questions at the end of your post, or writing posts that encourage discussion will create comments.
  • If you are looking for people to read and comment on your blog, you need to put yourself out there on social media – Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Storify, whatever works for you.  Comment on other blogs.  Join in on meme’s.
  • Make your comments on posts good.  Do not say “nice review” and PLEASE do not add your links to your own posts or blog in the comment.  Comments should encourage conversation.  Mention your thoughts on the same book, or something you particularly found interesting about the post… if your comments are interesting, people will go to your blog to check out what you are writing.
  • Keep your blog current – try to post at least 4 times a week.
  • Tag your photos that you use in your posts – do not leave them listed under 72.jpg, but change that to include your blog name, maybe your name, author and book title if it is a book pic. This will drive more traffic to your blog when people search images.
  • Write beyond the books – interesting bookish topics, book club discussions, author events, etc. If you do not know what to write about, look up what people are searching for that brings them to your blog.
  • Break up posts with pictures – always when writing reviews add a picture of the book.  Long posts should have another picture in it to break up the wording.  We are a visual society. 
  • Font matters, change it up in posts.
  • Posts should not be longer than 800 words.  If you have a long post – consider breaking it up into a series.
  • Try to set up a tracking on your blog to see what is receiving the most attention.
  • Set your posts up to go automatically to Twitter when you write them, add them to other social media as well. 

I am certain I am not recalling everything from this session.  Everyone had such great input!  We hope that this information is something that you can use as you plan out your posts and determine what you really want for your own blog.  We had a lot of fun on our panel!

Thank you so much Sheila for all these wonderful tips!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

WRAPPING IT UP: Armchair BEA 2014 Comes to a Close

It is time for Armchair BEA 2014 to come to a close.

However, as we are wrapping things up here, don't forget to keep checking back over the next couple of days to see our final LIVE FROM BEA coverage coming your way.

Let's take a quick look at Armchair BEA 2014 by the numbers . . .

Approximately 460 participants registered for the event this year.

Almost 1150 link-ups from participating bloggers and authors.

50+ designated Armchair CheerREADERS hopping through those links.

4 FEATURED giveaways.

300+ daily giveaways thanks to our amazing 50+ sponsors.

9 topics that got us talking and 1 day of blogger designated giveaways.

6 hopping Twitter parties, one every single day of the week this year.

6 Instagram Challenges, bringing out creative and imaginative photos.

21 Armchair BEA team members working hard behind the scenes.

All of this combined to make one week full of INFINITE FUN!!

Thank you to EVERYONE involved in Armchair BEA 2014!  Each and every one of you helped to make this one of the BEST yet!

At the end of every event, we also like to take the time to hear your thoughts and suggestions on future Armchair BEA events.  Please take a few minutes to complete our closing survey below.

Until next year, THANK YOU from the Armchair BEA 2014 Team!  
Keep on spreading the literary love!!

Armchair BEA 2015 is estimated to take place during the last week of May 2015.  Tentatively mark your calendars, and be sure to be following Armchair BEA in one of the following ways to stay up-to-date on the exact dates and any other important Armchair news coming your way.