Giveaway Package: Robot Zombie Frankenstein!

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Teachers! Librarians! Buddies! And other Superheroes-in-Disguise!

Enter to win one of two Robot Zombie Frankenstein! prize packages.

Visit Annette!

Each includes: a signed book, plus build-a-bot foam stickers, robot chest panel iron-ons, and other kid-sized story-related bling: a Robot Zombie Frankenstein mini-notebook; a Robot Zombie Frankenstein pirate hat, eye patch and hook; a Robot Zombie Frankenstein pirate superhero-in-disguise disguise; Robot Zombie Frankenstein pirate superhero-in-disguise outer space invader glow-in-the-dark stars; and a Robot Zombie Frankenstein pirate superhero-in-disguise outer space invader chef hat and apron.

To enter, comment on this post and include an email address (formatted
like: cynthia at cynthialeitichsmith dot com) or a link to an email
address. Or you can email Cynthia directly with “Robot Zombie Frankenstein!” in the subject line. Author-illustrator sponsored. Eligibility: North America (U.S./Canada). Deadline: 11:59 CST April 23.

Cynsational Notes

Don’t miss the Robot Zombie Frankenstein! Support an Independent Bookseller Pre-order Special. Peek: “…receive a just-published, signed, personalized copy, plus foam build-a-bot stickers, robot chest panel iron-ons, and that delicious I-supported-an-independent-bookstore feeling.”

Robot Zombie Frankenstein (Candlewick, 2012) is a spring Indiebound Kids’ Next Pick.

Happy International Children’s Book Day (April 2) from Peek: “Since 1967, on or around Hans Christian Andersen’s birthday, April 2,
International Children’s Book Day (ICBD) is celebrated to inspire a love
of reading and to call attention to children’s books.”

Guest Post: Greg Leitich Smith on How to Plan a Book Launch

By Greg Leitich Smith for GregLSBlog &
for Cynthia Leitich Smith‘s Cynsations

It’s perfectly valid to treat the publication of a book as any other day. However, my wife, author Cynthia Leitich Smith, and I have had a policy since we started in children’s-YA writing of celebrating each success, however small. As Bradley Sanguini says, “Life merits celebration.”

And the hatching of a new book is a big deal.

Also, a book launch is in some ways a marketing tool — it gets people talking about and buying your book. And hopefully excited about reading it. 

There are several ways this could be accomplished, of course, including a bookstore signing, a signing or event at another facility, or a party at your home.

For Chronal Engine (Clarion, 2012), we coordinated a public party and signing at BookPeople and a private reception at our house. We split the event so we could offer an opportunity open to the public but also celebrate with members of the immediate children’s-YA literature community per se (I will talk about a launch party/reception in a subsequent post).

So, here are some thoughts, in no particular order, about a bookstore launch. 

The Bookstore Event

Before your book comes out or the manuscript even sells to a publisher

Bookseller and author Madeline Smoot directs traffic

Get to know your local bookstore and the booksellers. Don’t be stalker-ish. Just shop regularly at the store. Keep in mind that it needs to make business sense to open the facility and provide supporting staff for your event (for free). Frequenting the store will develop goodwill toward that end. What’s more, bookstores are terrific destinations, and, really, you should be reading and keeping up with the market anyway. (If your budget is such that all of your books must come from the library, that’s okay. Make a smaller purchase–like a bookmark–and/or help raise awareness of the store’s programming.)

Regularly attend other book launches and book-related events at the local bookstore. You will learn, have fun, and enjoy being a part of the scene. Besides, you don’t want to be one of those types who doesn’t support others but expects their support in return.

Be a part of a community of writers. In addition to its being 
uplifting, these are the folks who are most

likely to share in the excitement.  And, unlike other friends and family, they will get it get it.

Deinosuchus and Greg.

Planning the launch

Book your facility.  Many venues schedule events months in advance, including bookstores. (Try not to take it personally if, for whatever reason, the store can’t accommodate you.)

Decide what you want to do. Do you want a genteel wine-and-cheese party or a more raucous hootinanny? In either case, make sure the bookstore (or whatever facility you work with) is up for it.

Do you want to do an event by yourself or a joint event?  When Cynthia’s Holler Loudly (Dutton, 2010) came out, she co-hosted an event with authors Bethany Hegedus and Brian Yansky.

Try picking a theme related to the book for both the decorations and refreshments. 

Obviously, in the case of Chronal Engine, the theme was dinosaurs, so I had dinosaur footprints on the floor, dinosaur-shaped cookies, cupcakes with dinosaur pictures. When Jeff Crosby‘s Wiener Wolf (Hyperion, 2011) came out, he served mini hot dogs from Frank’s, invited in the dachshund-owner community, and featured relatives dressed up as Granny and the wolf.

Decide on the refreshments: In addition to the goodies pictured above, I chose kid’s party triangle tea sandwiches (peanut butter and jelly, ham and cheese, etc) and a lot of water and soft drinks in 8 oz. cans. The cookies were prepared by children’s author Anne Bustard and the sandwiches and cupcakes came from Central Market.

Anne Bustard’s dino-cookies (they went fast)
Dino cupcakes
Triangle finger sandwiches

If you choose an outside facility, make sure your bookseller can actually sell books there.

(Cynthia Levinson held her launch for We’ve Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children’s March (Peachtree, 2012) at the Carver Museum, and BookPeople sent staff to handle the sales).

In addition to food and drink, figure out whether you will need to have tablecloths, napkins, cups and plates. For my launch, BookPeople graciously provided all of these.

Varsha Bajaj, Shana Burg, Sean Petrie Margo Rabb
Jennifer Ziegler, Gene Brenek, Bethany Hegedus
Betty X. Davis, Cynthia Levinson

Know the facility. My local bookstore has excellent WiFi in the coffee shop, but seems to have a WiFi “dark spot” with a slow connection in the most optimal location for presentations to large crowds. Consequently, for events there, authors will not necessarily have access to the Internet. This can be a problem if you want to show your trailer via YouTube, if you want to Skype, etc. So, it’s key to make other arrangements.

Pack backups. Your bookstore will likely have its own projector, but you will probably need to bring your own laptop or tablet computer. If so, make sure you also bring necessary cords or Bluetooth connectors or wireless remotes, etc. If your presentation is dependent on it, you don’t want to find out only minutes before that a vital technological component is not available.

Extra cordage

Be aware, of course, that even the best of plans might not work out. When I launched Chronal Engine, I brought along an extra extension cord for my computer as well as an extra-long VGA cable (I didn’t have a wireless/remote mouse for my computer, and I’ve found that ones for the projector are a bit iffy). I also had masking tape to secure the cords against people tripping on them. That way, I figured, I could stand at the lectern and operate my slides myself.

In addition, I had prepared a Prezi presentation using the laptop (not cloud-based) version, because I knew I wouldn’t be able to get Internet access.

The Adapter of Doom

Then when I hooked up my laptop, I discovered that the power cord adapter wasn’t working. Fortunately, Cynthia has the same model computer, and I was able to dash back to the house and grab her adapter. But if that hadn’t happened, I would’ve been prepared either to quickly prepare and present a traditional Powerpoint or just have “winged” it.

In this regard, you should also plan on getting to the facility sufficiently early that you discover such glitches while there is still time to fix them.

Know your audience. At the Chronal Engine launch, I knew there would be a lot of people in the children’s-YA literature community, including writers and illustrators, teachers and librarians, book bloggers, professors of library science and education, plus friends and avid readers from outside that community as well as a good number of real live, actual children and teens.

The presentation should be such that all parties are engaged. Try an interactive component that will involve young readers in

the audience. You don’t necessarily want people to just sit passively.

Interior illustration by Blake Henry

Prepare your presentation. Ideally, it should be relatively short, engaging, and visually interesting. With mine, I was able to show pictures of dinosaurs and pictures from the book itself. If you do an overhead presentation, do not simply read your slides.

Practice your presentation. You should know what’s going on without having to consult your slides or hem and haw.

Ask for help. There is probably no way you can do it all yourself. For the Chronal Engine launch, friends were gracious enough to lend coolers; take photos; help with carrying refreshments and coolers out to the store; pick up the refreshments from Central Market; and bring stuff back to the house afterwards.  

Get the word out. Publicizing the event can take many forms and when your signing is at a bookstore, the booksellers can help out, too (either on the store website or sending notices to the literary section of the local newspaper, etc.).

If you blog and are adept at social media, use those. Perhaps take out a Facebook ad.

Post on local writer e-lists. Ask folks at your local SCBWI chapter and other writer organizations (e.g., Writers League of Texas) to announce the event. Send out invitations, either by traditional mail or using, say, Paperless Post or Evite.

Emphasize that it’s a party. You’re asking folks to come celebrate, not asking them to purchase. (Some librarians, for example, may have already put in their order elsewhere.) But having at least a ballpark RSVP count helps when you’re trying to figure out how much food and drinks you’ll need.


Lindsey Lane, Jerri Romine, and Meredith Davis

At the signing itself, welcome and engage the folks who are coming. Perhaps offer postcards, bookmarks and/or other swag to give away. Decide how you’re going to sign (e.g., are you going to have a special catchphrase or stickers, stamps, etc.).

If your books sell out and there aren’t enough for everyone, this is a good problem to have. Talk to the bookseller and see if the additional customers can go ahead and order copies. Swing by when those books come in to autograph. Whatever you do, don’t complain. Trying to anticipate the number of books needed is, put mildly, challenging.

Say thank you to everyone, especially those who helped out in some way.

And have fun.  Because life merits celebration.

Cynsational Notes

Greg’s report on the author presentation at BookPeople and Cynthia’s report on the reception that immediately followed. See also Author Interview: Greg Leitich Smith on Dinosaurs, Time Travel, Heritage and Chronal Engine.

Actor Interview: Jesse Bernstein, the Voice of Zachary, for the Eternal Audio Book

Used with permission.

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Today at Cynsations it’s my pleasure to welcome Jesse Bernstein, who performed the voice of “Zachary” in the audio book of Eternal (Listening Library), co-starring Allyson Ryan as the voice of Miranda. Jesse, could you tell us a little about your acting experience?

Hello, and thanks, Cynthia, for interviewing me and for writing such awesome books.

It’s funny because I didn’t come to Los Angeles to be an actor. I went to film school at the University of Texas in Austin and worked as an assistant at a talent agency for two years before I decided I wanted to be more creative and left the shirt and tie behind.

I took jobs waiting tables, however my acting career didn’t take off until I met an acting teacher by the name of Sandra Seacat. She approaches the craft differently than other teachers I’d worked with, giving the actor great tools to work with to live truthfully in imaginary circumstances. I’m thankful to have met her.

How did you come to connect with voice work for audio books?

I was reading stories to schoolchildren through SAG BookPals for about three or four years and thought I’m getting pretty good at this, the voices, the narration and I really enjoyed it so I sent my voice over demo to about five audiobook houses on the West coast and the only place that responded was Random House (the biggest book publisher in the world).

About The Lightning Thief audio.

They asked me to come in for an audition and to bring a book, any book of my choice. I brought Charlie and The Chocolate Factory (Knopf, 1964) because that’s what I was reading at the time to my classes.

The following week Random House called and asked if I’d be interested in narrating a new title called The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan (Hyperion). I accepted.

What do you love about it?

I love telling stories. I come from a long line of storytellers, my uncles, grandparents, my mom and dad. I remember being at summer camp telling stories. What’s great about books/audiobooks is it’s a lot of fun to step into the shoes of a character that is so far from my reality and, for a moment, I get to be him in his world.

What are the challenges?

The biggest challenge for me is creating unique voices for all of his friends and family and sometimes monsters and villains and have those voices be consistent throughout the book.

How did you connect (creatively) with the character Zachary?

About the Eternal audio book.

What I liked about playing Zachary is that I feel he was a tortured soul and I think we all have that living inside of us (or at least a lot of artists do), and to play a character that is misunderstood and flawed is a privilege.

What do you do when you’re not acting? 

When I’m not working as an actor, there’s quite a bit of downtime. It’s important to keep your head in the game and not get down when the phone isn’t ringing so I like to run, do yoga and write. I know it sounds like a charmed life, but it takes work and discipline. Every day.

I just finished my first young adult manuscript called “Project Bee Sting.” I saw a bee on the ground struggling for his life, and I tried to imagine how he got to that place (his final resting place).

Please keep an eye out for the book, and you can see some of my commercials at

Cynsational Notes

You can find audio productions of Cynthia’s first novel, Rain Is Not My Name, as well as Tantalize, Eternal, and Blessed from Listening Library/Random House. Click links to listen to excerpts. Note: Diabolical hasn’t been released yet, but watch Cynsations for updates.

Giveaway: Angel Burn & Angel Fire by L.A. Weatherly

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Enter for a chance to win Angel Burn and Angel Fire, both by L.A. Weatherly (Candlewick, 2012). From the promotional copy of Angel Burn:

When Alex finds himself falling in love with his sworn enemy, a half-angel with links to dark and dangerous forces, he discovers that nothing is as it seems, least of all good and evil. 

In the first book in a red-hot paranormal romantic trilogy, L. A. Weatherly sends readers on a thrill-ride of a road trip

– and depicts the human race at the brink of a future as catastrophic as it is deceptively beautiful. 

To enter, comment on this post and include an email address (formatted like: cynthia at cynthialeitichsmith dot com) or a link to an email address. Or email Cynthia directly with “Angel Burn & Angel Fire” in the subject line.

Author-sponsored. Eligibility: North America (U.S./Canada). Deadline: midnight CST April 16.

Cynsational Notes

From the promotional copy of Angel Fire:

In Book Two of L. A. Weatherly’s wildly romantic, action-packed trilogy, the angels are back with a vengeance . . . and they don’t have heaven in mind.

In the wake of the Second Wave, the angel menace has exploded, and Alex and Willow are on the lam. Willow’s prophetic dream points them to Mexico City, where they connect with a fledgling group of angel killers led by the exotically beautiful Kara, an Angel Killer from Alex’s past. But the team remains suspicious of Willow, even after the more-experienced Alex takes over as leader, training them hard for a rush attack on the Seraphic Council, or “The Twelve.” This elite group of all-powerful angels is also under the scrutiny of Willow’s angel-father, Raziel, who has his own sinister plan to defeat them.

What Willow hasn’t told Alex is that there was also a mysterious boy in her dream, one she felt overpoweringly attracted to. When brooding, gorgeous Seb shows up in the flesh, he turns out to be another – possibly the world’s only other – half angel. He’s been searching for Willow all his life, and when Alex enlists this rival to help keep Willow safe, he can’t predict what chemistry will pass between them . . . or how far Willow might go to keep Alex safe. Will their love endure or spell doomsday for the human race?