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January 6, 2018

4 January Books to Read

by Susan Roberts


2017 was a great year for books and it looks like 2018 is going to be as good or better.  I have been able to read a few January books that I'd like to add to your books to read lists.  Are there January books that you're anxious to read?

January 5, 2018

The Importance of an Elevator Pitch

by C.M. North


I did a thing the weekend before Christmas. It was scary, exciting and fulfilling all at once. It took about two hours of my life and made me feel more validated as a writer than I’ve perhaps ever felt before.

I did my first ever book signing!

To many established authors, this is probably no big deal. To avid readers, it probably means nothing, either. But to me it meant a lot: I sold fifteen physical copies of my books, which is more than I’ve sold in the past year, and to top it off I made over $100, which is by far the biggest paycheck I’ve received for my writing, ever.

As rewarding as it was to sign books for complete strangers, there’s a part of me, nonetheless, that feels I could have done better. It was a cold, rainy December day and the stragglers were few, though the bookshop (a small, local independent one) was cozy, and I had quite a few moments of staring into the distance, waiting for someone to walk in.

But that isn’t what I think could have been better. Yes, it could have been a warm, sunny December day, but that isn’t what I mean. Instead, I’m referring to the actual interactions I had with customers—with potential readers of my work. The truth is, I think I could have sold even more copies had I been able to better convey the interest and the engagement of the books themselves.

The funny thing is that, by day, I work in a busy retail environment. I’m usually quite excellent at introducing myself, engaging with customers, and discussing relevant solutions to their needs. Selling a book oughtn’t to be that different … except that it’s my own book. It’s one thing to sell a product you have no personal attachment to; that washing machine, or those pair of jeans, or that hammer—you can speak to the features and the benefits all day, and probably sell a good few of them. But how do you talk about something you’ve spent years of blood, sweat, and tears crafting from nothing without sounding … well, arrogant, or proud? ‘This is the best novel since The Fault in Our Stars.’ ‘If you like The Lord of the Rings, you’ll love this.’

‘Please buy my book, I think you’ll really like it.’

It’s a difficult mentality to overcome, even though selling your own book shouldn’t be that different than selling someone else’s. After all, there’s no one in the world who’s a better subject matter expert. No one else knows it as well as you.

So why is it so hard?

I think part of the difficulty is that one’s own work is, in essence, a piece of one’s soul. It’s dangerous, selling your soul—it leaves you vulnerable and exposed. What if they don’t like it? It’s more than just a rejection of your opinion, but of your very self. It becomes a frightening prospect.

It’s also difficult to avoid falling into tropes and stereotypes when someone asks you what your book is about. ‘It’s about a boy’; ‘It’s about a young girl’; these are the things that, well, all books are about, really. After all, how many fantasy books are out there that follow the adventures of children and young adults? How many YA books pit their characters against social stigmas and mental illnesses? (I mean, all of them, it seems.)

And so it becomes important to craft your answer to the question, ‘What’s it about?’ To write it, practice it, and rehearse it. To deliver it so naturally that it sounds like you just made it up—but in reality, you were just waiting to hook a potential reader.

An elevator pitch is essentially a way of getting someone interested in you, your product or your writing, in a remarkably short length of time (the idea being you could sell yourself in the time it takes to ride an elevator). And I didn’t have one. I didn’t know how to sell my books. I committed all of the sins above, and, well … probably to my detriment.

It’s odd, of course, because I’ve been sending out query letters for some time for my recent YA novel, 22 Scars, (Amazon affiliate link) so you’d think I’d have some practice at pitching my book. (That being said, I haven’t received an acceptance yet.) But delivering in writing and in person are two very different things. You also need to have a few different options: do you give the plot synopsis including the twist or just the hook to whet the appetite?

My pitch essentially sounded something like this: ‘22 Scars is about a young girl suffering from depression, self-harming to help cope, and the traumatic experiences that led her to this point.’ Ugh. It’s bland, generic, uninspired, and totally lacking any form of hook to differentiate it from a thousand others just like it. But what if it had sounded more like this? ‘Imagine your best friend never smiles, never laughs, and cuts herself daily just to cope. What if she were your crush? Your own child? What would you do? 22 Scars explores the life of Amy—seventeen and severely depressed—from the points of view of those closest to her. Along the way, it delves into the mentality of chronic depression, and the reasons for it. It can be painful at times, dealing with both physical and sexual abuse, but ultimately—I’d like to think—rewarding and inspiring. I’d recommend it to anyone who’s ever been depressed, or knows anyone who suffers.’

Perhaps not a work of art, but certainly a little more engaging, right? Maybe makes you want to know more? It takes about 45 seconds to say, even at a slow pace. And it (hopefully) doesn’t sound like anything you’ve read before.

In the end, the book signing was fun, cozy and rewarding, and not just because of the sales. It was wonderful to talk to people about books, reading, and what they were getting for themselves and their loved ones. I just wish I had prepared myself better before going in, and felt more comfortable speaking to my own work. After all—no one knows it better.

C.M. North is a trained musician, coffee addict and author of 22 Scars, a young adult novel about teenage depression and growing up with tragedy and trauma. He lives in northern New Jersey with his wife, son and cat Pia, who insists she take precedence over writing. You can find him at cmnorthauthor.com.

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January 4, 2018

Review: Make It Count by Tamar Sloan

by MK French

Casey can see the number of days someone has left to live as soon as she makes skin to skin contact with them. Because it hurts to know this and not discuss it, she has retreated into herself and faked a phobia of death. Now that she's seventeen, others are calling her on it and not allowing her to isolate as much. She resists until she meets PJ and can't deny that she wants to get closer to others.

January 3, 2018

Review: Daughters of the Night Sky by Aimie K. Runyan

by Susan Roberts

I read a lot of WWII fiction but this was a totally new look at the war for me. This historical fiction was about Russian women pilots who bombed German areas during the war. The author did extensive research for this book and her research made this book even more interesting and intriguing.

January 2, 2018

Review: Shadow Weaver by MarcyKate Connolly

by MK French

Emmeline has the gift to manipulate shadows, and her best friend Dar is her own shadow. This talent causes others to fear or ridicule her, and her parents jump at the chance of a cure when it's offered to them. She doesn't want to lose her best friend or her magic, so Dar strikes a deal with her: help her become flesh and blood, and Emmeline will never have to lose her gift.

January 1, 2018

First New Releases of 2018

by Donna Huber


Happy New Year! It's a new month of a new year, which means that new books are hitting the shelves. 2017 had a number of blockbusters and I can't wait to see what 2018 has to hold. Here are a few books to watch for this month. Pre-order today so you don't miss them.

December 31, 2017

2017 Wrap Up

by Donna Huber



It has been another great year at Girl Who Reads. I find it slightly hard to believe that in a few short weeks we will be celebrating our 7th anniversary. We have read so many great books, some fun bookish features, and welcomed a number of guests this year.

Reviews: Perennials by Julie Cantrell

by Susan Roberts

This was my first book by Julie Cantrell and I enjoyed it so much that I just ordered her older books (Donna review The Feathered Bone). Perennials is a heart- warming story about an estranged family that is trying to become a whole family again. Plus, it has beautiful descriptions of flowers and gardens - if it wasn't winter, I'd be out planting flowers after reading it.

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