Wellington Square Bookshop: a touch of class, a dash of whimsy

Philly Liars Club authors!

Once again, the Philly Liars Club is throwing a Truth Tour party to raise awareness of independent bookstores, and this one is just in time for the holidays!  This bash, “Liars Tell the Truth about Wellington Square Bookshop,” is at the bookstore, located in the Eagleville development at 543 Wellington Square, in Exton on Saturday, December 5th from noon-2 p.m. The festivities are free and open to the public, and include goodies, our famed Truth or Lie trivia game, and prizes including autographed book bags and signed books.  Plus candy canes…

Here are the Liars who will be there: Bram Stoker award winner Jonathan Maberry (Patient Zero, St. Martin’s), fantasy author Gregory Frost (Shadowbridge, and Lord Tophet, Del Rey/Random House), young adult author Marie Lamba…me… (What I Meant…, Random House), contemporary novelist Kelly Simmons (Standing Still, Washington Square Press/Simon and Schuster), debut crime novelist Dennis Tafoya (Dope Thief, St. Martin’s), historical author Keith Strunk (Prallsville Mills and Stockton, Arcadia Publishing Images of America Series), mystery author Merry Jones (The Borrowed and Blue Murders, Minotaur Books), mystery author Jon McGoran who writes as D.H. Dublin (Freezer Burn, Berkley Books), and social media marketing consultant, writer and lecturer Don Lafferty.

And, once again, our mission is clear: Support indendent bookstores!  We hate seeing online retailers and big chain bookstores squeeze out indies all over the country.  Can you imagine your town without any bookstore at all? Well, it’s happening everywhere.  So this holiday season, we are asking everyone to do gift shopping at your wonderful local indie!   They are special and unique.

Cozy seating at Wellington Square Bookshop

As soon as you step into Wellington Square Bookshop, you know it’s unique.  Maybe it’s the fountain, or the tin ceilings, or the pillars that look like they’ve been taken from an ancient Indian palace. The store, which was originally located a few doors down in an 800 sq ft space, just relocated to its current location this past August. It now occupies a 3700 sq ft space, and includes an elegant gourmet coffee shop with goodies from Delightful Desserts of West Chester.

And of course there are the books: new titles, used titles, first editions and rare books. “We are definitely NOT a Barnes and Noble,” says Jolie Miao, who works at the store. The shop refuses to carry Oprah’s book club picks or Twilight, but here you will find many a treasured titled you won’t easily find elsewhere. They also offer free book appraisal services to anyone who asks. In addition, the store carries gift items including candles, book lights, notebooks and packaged coffees. And for the undecided holiday shopper, there are gift cards.

Great coffees and snacks...I taste-tested 'em to be sure

The differences from the chain bookstores run deeper than the store’s beautiful architecture and eclectic selection of books. “We are chill people and we like to have fun,” says Miao.  “We all read voraciously in our free time, and love to discuss books over a cup of coffee with a customer! As an independent bookstore, we really can get to know our customers.” This all translates into great service. They can personally recommend books to people, and have been known to call customers when that new book from a favorite author finally arrives or gets announced in a press release. “We love to meet bookies who share our passion,” Miao says.  “We’re truly in it for the books first.”

The community is starting to notice, and is taking part in events at the store including author signings, a weekly story time, and two book clubs.  The bookstore also welcomes outside book clubs to hold their meetings in the shop. And to sweeten the deal, Wellington Square Bookshop will even give these clubs free coffee and pastries, along with 20% off their club’s book purchases.

“This store is a gem,” says author Dennis Tafoya, who urges people to think of independent bookstores first before going to that online retailer or chain store. “By shopping at independents for your holiday purchases, you’ll help ensure that unique stores like Wellington Square Bookshop will be here for us for years to come.”

Remember, we all can make a huge difference here.  Browse at all of those little shops.  Visit their online sites and order that way.  Buy indie bookstore gift cards.  Make a difference!

Stranger than Fiction: Are Industry Lies Keeping You Down?

To all writers out there who are dutifully following the rules laid out in guidelines and at conferences about submitting your work: getting frustrated much? How well I know that feeling.

If you play strictly by the rules, the whole process could take so long that you just might give up before your manuscript is seriously considered by an agent or an editor.  The following article is for anyone who has a tightly edited manuscript and wants to speed up the whole submission process without completely pissing off the gate-keepers to the publishing world.  I hope it helps you get closer to your dream of publication.

Stranger than Fiction:
Are Industry Lies Keeping You Down?j0402594
by Marie Lamba

Never send simultaneous submissions. Always tell you are multiple submitting. Never email. Do this, don’t do that. Yada yada yada. Guess what? Lot’s of this advice might be actually keeping you from getting ahead! Let’s sort some of this stuff out.

The Big Lie:
Never send simultaneous submissions. If you do simultaneous submit, you must tell the editor/agent.

The Big Truth:
Never send simultaneous submissions to two editors or agents in the same company. Other than that, all is fair in love and publishing. Hey, what other business expects you to do things one at a time and wait for months to hear anything? Makes for very poor marketing. And you don’t need to tell anyone it’s simultaneous. Just don’t mention it. Do you really think you are getting two offers from two different people at the same time? Seriously?

I know that if you talk to editors on a conference panel, they’ll tell you just the opposite. Think about it. Why would they want you to flood everybody with submissions? And if you were a buyer, wouldn’t you love to avoid all chances of competition? But talk to professional authors, and they will tell you to simultaneous submit. If they didn’t, they’d still be waiting by the mailbox for a response.

Caveat: Make sure you carefully target your submission to editors and agents who actually handle your type of work, or else you’re wasting everyone’s time. Also, if an agent asks for an exclusive read and you agree, make sure it is an exclusive or be up front if it isn’t. You don’t want to start things on the wrong foot.

The Big Lie:
Be patient.

The Big Truth:
Patience is sometimes stupidity. In every submission, include a SASE postcard with a check off that they’ve received your work in good condition. If after a month the card is nowhere in sight, email the editor or get on the phone and call to track it down. Otherwise you may be waiting for 4-6 months to hear about a book that they never even received. (Been there, done that.) Of course, if you’re multiple submitting, it won’t be a huge tragedy, but still.

Also, if you haven’t gotten a response to your manuscript in their promised reading time, do a follow-up by email, phone or mail to make sure you’re still in the queue and not lost in a junk pile. Be polite and no nonsense about it. Don’t waste everyone’s time chitchatting.

The Big Lie:
Never Email

The Big Truth:
Email is amazing. Email queries are fast. Agents love these. You can find most agent and editor emails by Googling “their name” plus “email.” Email is also great for a quick follow up on a return postcard that wasn’t sent, or if the manuscript is past the reading time promised. But I wouldn’t email a manuscript unless you got a go ahead for this first.

The Big Lie:
When going to a conference, leave your manuscript at home.

The Big Truth:
Okay, nothing screams AMATEUR more than hauling out that huge manuscript and foisting on an editor at a conference, but it is useful to have the manuscript tucked away just in case. When I was at a pitch slam and the editor liked what I said, he asked, “Could you quickly read me some of it?” I yanked that pile of paper out pronto and started off. Also, I like to bring to conferences a few stapled sets of my first chapter with a one-paragraph summary and contact info attached to them, just in case.

The Big Lie:
If an agent/editor doesn’t get back to you, give up.

The Big Truth:
Always hope. Agents and editors are swamped. They may say response time is 4 months, when in reality it could be 9 months to a year. They lose manuscripts, their computers fail, emails get lost in cyberspace. Always put in that SAS postcard to confirm receipt. If emailing a manuscript, ask for an email confirmation that it was received. Follow up every few months to make sure you’re in the queue and ask if you should resend. You’ll find that most feel really bad about making you wait and will be kind when you touch base with them.

The Biggest Truth of All:
If your manuscript is shoddy, nothing will work. If your manuscript is excellent, GO FOR IT! No one will turn you down, unless you are a complete jerk. So be professional and courteous. When these two qualities are mixed with an excellent work, it is the true formula for success. No lie!

Why Conferences? (Or, How I Got My Editor and My Agent)

It’s conference season. Tons of workshops with authors, editors, agents. Panel discussions. Pitch sessions. As you receive glossy brochure after glossy brochure, you’re probably wondering, is it worth it? Why go to a conference at all? Well, here’s an article I wrote a few years back, and I’m including it here in the hopes that it might motivate you to step out of your house, and meet some editors and agents face to face.  Some seriously great things can come from it.

Why Conferences? (Or How I Got My Editor and My Agent)
by Marie Lamba

Take the time to network with others in the writing biz.

Take the time to network with others in the writing biz.

Okay, none of the following can help you if your manuscript isn’t ready. I mean completely free of errors, completely interesting, completely wonderful. But what if it truly is? How can you get on the speedy (and speedy is a relative term here) road to publication? In a word: conferences. Seriously. Here’s how it worked out for me.

First I applied and was accepted to the amazing One on One Conference held annually at Rutgers University (children’s writers only). If you are writing for children, this is the ultimate place to be. The editors and agents there know you have some semblance of talent to be able to get in, and they are extremely available to talk with you throughout the day. You are paired up with an author, an editor or an agent who works in your genre and you get to talk with them one on one for 45 unbelievable minutes. Then you get a 5 on 5 round table discussion with your match plus four other pairs. Plus there’s chatting with anyone you dare to over lunch. Plus there’s a keynote and a panel discussion. Absolute heaven.

I was paired up with the very kind Alvina Ling, editor at Little Brown. Not only did she enjoy my first few pages and ask to see the whole ms (yeah!), but she also asked if I was interested in finding an agent. She recommended a small handful of agents she especially respected that dealt in my genre, and said I was welcome to say that she had referred me. I’d say that was the best $75 dollars I’d ever spent, wouldn’t you?

You know how they say never email an agent a query, especially one who says on her website “no emailed queries?” Well, ha! I decided to be bold, and I found out that when your message line says “Recommended by (insert the name of the editor or top author here…only if they’ve actually recommended you, of course),” that they would in fact read your query immediately. And if all goes well, that agent will email you back in a matter of hours asking to see your whole manuscript. It went well. So I jumped the queue, saving myself about 3 months of waiting just to hear a response to my query. So far so good.

I’d like to say that the response to the manuscript was as fast. You know. The agent waits with baited breath, reads your manuscript overnight, gets back to you immediately. Well, that didn’t happen. So I figured if I didn’t hear back in the next week, or at least the next month, then I was toast. One month went by. Two months. Three. I sent a cheerful little note to check on its status. Three and half months went by.

Blah. So, time for another conference. This time I decide to attend the BEA Writer’s Digest Conference in New York. The agent I’d hoped to get would be there. Perhaps we could meet? I email her. She’s too busy. Still, I’m hopeful about the conference. I tell her I’ll try to get on her line for the one-minute pitch session to say hi. There seems to be a large number of children’s editors on the roster, and I hope to talk to lots of them. Surely not every attendee will be a children’s author, right?

To my relief I am right about this. The lines for the adult fiction editors and agents snake out the doors and through the corridors. People in those lines are lucky if they can see one of their choices. In the room featuring the children’s editors and agents, the lines only have about 20-25 people on them. I’ll get to talk to as many of these folks as I wish. I’m the first in line at the desk of Jim Thomas, Editorial Director at Random House Children’s Books. The format is rigid. The organizers ring a bell, and you race to a seat and give your pitch. After one minute, the bell rings again, and it’s time for the editor or agent to talk with you and ask questions. One minute later, the bell rings again and you have to evacuate the seat for the next person. The hope is that by the third bell you’ll have that person’s business card in hand with an invitation to mail your manuscript to them.

I had practiced my pitch ahead of time, driving my whole family nuts in the process. I felt ready. I even had my manuscript with me in my bag (something they tell you never to do…but still). So the bell rings, and I start my pitch and Jim reacts with shock and interest at the topic, and then, to my total surprise, asks if I could read the manuscript to him. (See? It’s a good thing I had it, right?) I fumble through some papers and yank the book out and start reading in a fast and steady pace. DING! Times up. Jim is smiling. “You see that person on the end? That’s Lisa Findlay. She works with me at Random House. Get on her line. I think she’ll like this.”

Wow! Another referral. So I jump onto Lisa’s line. Tell her Jim sent me. Pitch her the book and she hands me her business card asking me to mail sample chapters. Things are really going great here.

I get on the long line leading to Jennifer DeChiara, my sought after agent, and finally get my chance to chat with her. She seems tired but attentive, and I tell her she’s already got my book, but I just wanted to say hi. I discover that even though her website says she responds in 3 months to manuscripts, 6 months or even a year are more realistic dates. Good to know.

Flash forward several months. I haven’t heard from Jennifer DeChiara or Lisa Findlay. Sigh. That’s okay, right? I start working on a new book. I try not to think about it. BUT NOTHING SEEMS TO BE HAPPENING. Then something happens. It’s September and it’s like the publishing world has returned to work from a long long summer break. Lisa Findlay asks to see my entire novel, so I send it. Great!

Then I get an email from Jennifer DeChiara. Something to the effect of: I am reading your manuscript tonight. Okay. Is this one of those form emails or something? I try not to read too much into this.

Then, THE phone call comes. It’s Jennifer, in person, saying all these incredible things we writers only dare to tell ourselves in our deepest slumbers. Would I sign with her? Would I?

So now I’m absolutely floating. I dare to dream and all that stuff. But it gets better.

Within a week, Lisa Findlay gets in touch. She loves the book, has some suggested changes, but would love to sign me at Random House. Me? Me! Okay, after I get up off the floor, and call my husband who seems to only be able to say, “You’re kidding. You’re kidding,” I immediately contact Jennifer to deliver the amazing news.

So both of my pursuits for an amazing editor and an amazing agent were successful, and within a week of each other. Pinch me!

And sign up for conferences. Lots of conferences.

New Beginnings

It’s 2008, and I’ve sort of recovered from my extremely crazy booksigning/appearance schedule of the past few months.

I don’t know about you, but for some reason, this year I’m more ready than ever for fresh starts. I’ve seriously cleaned out my office, trashing old files, and even windexing my desktop. I’ve filed away the old, and pulled out the new, namely two new novels to move ahead on.  So this seems like the perfect time to start a brand new blog!

For my older postings, you can go to my myspace page Marielamba, and click on my blog. There isn’t a ton there, but it does chronicle some of my experiences with marketing my first young adult novel, WHAT I MEANT… (Random House YA). 

Here, I’m hoping to relate more of the writing experience. 2008 should prove interesting. For one thing, my second YA novel, which I call OVER MY HEAD, is just starting to make the rounds to publishers via my wonderful agent. How quickly will anything happen? What responses will we get from publishers? Will I chew all my fingernails and toenails off while I wait? These and other burning questions may or may not be answered over the next few weeks or months. Suffice it to say that I’ve done all I can with the writing of the manuscript, and now it’s on to the part I hate: the it’s all out of my hands part. I really really really like to be in control of my own destiny. Too bad I never am!

And while this manuscript is out trying to find its perfect match, I’ve got to somehow put it out of my mind while I escape into the world of my next book, which I call DRAWN.  I’m actually really looking forward to writing DRAWN. It’s about a teen artist who moves to England with her father in hopes of finally fitting in and seeming normal. But when she gets there, she discovers she’s unwillingly carrying on her family’s freaky psychic tradition.

Among the fun things I’m looking forward to in this book are exploring the artist’s mindset, exploring the castles and countryside of England, and exploring what it would be like to be in love with a really fantastically sexy ghost.  Good times for me!  

I’ve always been an artist, sketching, doing linoleum prints, pen and ink drawings, photography, ATTEMPTING to oil paint. But when I had kids, I kind of put my art supplies aside, devoting myself to raising my daughters and to writing. There simply wasn’t time for art, too. Can you tell I really miss it? I’m hoping that by traveling along with my character Michelle De Freccio as she sees the world through her artist’s eyes, that I will start to see things that way again too. 

As for England, when I was a senior in college, I spent a semester living in the Cotswolds with a British family. So writing about Michelle as a student there will be just like traveling there without having to pay the expensive airfare.

And as for getting involved with a sexy ghost? Sigh. What can I say? I never have. I envy Michelle’s future adventure, except for the whole her boyfriend is already dead part. Hey, no relationship is perfect, right?  

I’ll keep checking in with updates on DRAWN, and on OVER MY HEAD for you guys here, along with any news about my first novel WHAT I MEANT… 

Also keep your eyes peeled for a series of book reviews on this blog. I have about 30 advanced reader copies of new YA books that will be coming out in 2008 spring and summer. As I read through them, if I like them I’ll post a review. If I don’t like it, I’ll keep my mouth shut.  I’ll leave the negative crud to others. Suffice to say, if I write about a book, it’s because I really think it shines. 

Later!