High School Writers

Today I talked for an hour to a grade 12 writers arts class in Toronto. I was invited by the teacher of the daughter of a friend of my sister’s. (How’s that for a complicated relationship.)

It was really great and inspiring (for me), and I hope, most of all, that I didn’t completely discourage them from seriously pursuing writing… Because I told the truth–mostly–about publishing.

Looking back at myself at that age, I would have loved to meet a published author and ask questions. But since I didn’t have the guts to try writing as a career back then, hearing the truth about how difficult it is to earn a living as an author probably would have just reinforced what I’d already decided. To do something else…

But still, I really hope that I didn’t say anything today to discourage these budding young writers.

It took me a lot of years to discover (or admit to) who I really am. Here’s hoping the kids I meet today get there sooner. :)


Where is Deviants?

Well, that’s actually a good question.

If you’re heading out to your local big chain book store, or even indie… spoiler alert… the chances of finding Deviants on the shelves are very, very low.

Why is that you ask?

While there can be a lot of reasons that a particular book doesn’t end up in stores (small publisher, bad distribution, not a “commercial” enough title or genre, no sales push from publisher…) in my particular case it’s none of the above.

Bookstores in the US and Canada banded together to boycott my publisher, Amazon Children’s Publishing. The official reason stated by the big US-based chain who started the boycott was that the publisher is only making the e-books available in the kindle format (not Nook, or Kobo, or the more generic e-pub), but I suspect the reasons go deeper than that. But that’s not really what this post is about.

This post is supposed to answer the question: Where is Deviants?

Drumroll….. Answer:

To buy the e-book (currently only $3.99!) you can buy it at the kindle store here:  Deviants on Kindle.

If you don’t have an account with yet, set one up. It’s easy. You will need a credit card but it’s probably one of the most secure retail sites out there. Amazon pioneered this online retailing stuff. They’re good at it. Very. (One possible reason the other retailers are scared and boycotting the book released by the publisher they own..)

Don’t have a kindle? No problem either. There are free kindle apps for your computer, tablet or smart phone.

To buy the hardcover, (prices vary), you can order from most online bookstores.  They will ship them directly to you (possibly for free if you order other things too–or, say, multiple copies. 😉 ) or you can have them shipped for pick-up at a local store. Here are a few suggestions:

And if you live in Southern Ontario and/or the Kingston area, the following stores have Deviants in stock. (Many copies at these stores are even signed! *note to self* get up to Yorkdale to sign more of their stock.)

Indigo Yorkdale
Chapters Brampton
Chapters Barrie
Chapters Belleville

Not being on bookshelves makes it harder for me to help readers find my book. Want to help spread the word? If you’ve read Deviants, please consider posting a review at or or wherever you post reviews. Tell your friends about it. Tell strangers about it. 😉 Ask for it at your library. Ask your local bookstore to order it.

This has been a public service announcement from the Where’s Deviants Task Force (WDTF).

RWA 2012 Photos!

Last week I was at the RWA National conference. RWA is the Romance Writers of America. I’ve been a member of this group since 2003 and love it, even though the last romance manuscript I wrote was in, um 2004.

They’re changing their rules and it’s possible that I won’t be able to be a member much longer–pout–but I learned so much from the organization and it’s members, and the conference is always a fabulous time.

This year I even got to meet some folks from my publisher, which was awesome.

But the best part of the conference is that I got to spend some time with great friends.

Here are a few photographic highlights.

The fabulous Stephanie Doyle with her RITA finalist flag flying. :)

And another of Steph after I caught her attention. This was during the set up for the HUGE literacy signing.

Steph and fellow GLIAS blogger Heather Snow

Steph and I at the vodka workshop. Yes, there was a vodka workshop. I learned that I shouldn’t drink so many sweet vodka drinks in a row. 😉

Later that same night… with YA author Linda Gerber and Harlequin author Liz Talley. At The House of Blues, Downtown Disney.

With the fabulous Molly O’Keefe. We were “getting ready” for the RITA ceremony. We found every tiny (and awesome) Mexican restaurant within a mile of our hotel. Fish tacos! Margaritas!

YA Author Wendy Delsol, and romance authors Megan Frampton and Carolyn Jewel at our table for the RITA ceremony. (We were the girls in the back row.)

Listed in Publishers Weekly!

I am excited that DEVIANTS made the list of “Galleys to Grab” for the upcoming BEA trade show/conference. 

The proof is below, but in case it’s too small to read,  here’s what it says, listed under Thrills, Chills and Fantasy:

Deviants by Maureen McGowan (Amazon Children’s Publishing). Book one of the Dust Chronicles is set in a post-apocalyptic world in which a 16-year-old orphan with mutated DNA must protect her younger brother.

It’s all starting to feel real. Can’t wait to reveal the cover art. :)

Agents and Free Books (not related)

Oh, blog. I am so sorry. How I have neglected you!

I admit. I’ve been cheating on you. I fear I am not well-suited to blog monogamy. (Blogmanog?)

If we are ever to heal our relationship, I must confess my sins: Today, I cheated in two places.

At Drunk Writer Talk, I blogged about the heavy burden of free books, even if they’re digital.

And on the CLRWA blog, I compared searching for an agent to placing a want ad to fill a job post.

I will endeavor to be more faithful in the future, dear blog. :)

Roller Coaster Week

No one ever said publishing was for the faint of heart but boy, some weeks can be crazier than others. The highs! The lows…

Do you want the good news first or the bad? I’ll start with bad…

Those of you who follow publishing news will no doubt have read that the big chain book stores in North America recently announced that they will no longer carry books produced by Amazon Publishing in their physical stores. That means they won’t carry some upcoming celebrity memoirs, James Franco’s new novel, Deepak Chopra’s new book, #1 NYT Bestselling non-fiction author Tim Ferriss’s new books… or my upcoming YA trilogy, Deviants.

Some will say that it serves Amazon right. That a retailer has no business being a publisher. Or that their business tactics of late have been bullying. While I agree that Amazon has been throwing its considerable weight around, I do think some of the reactions have been at tad hypocritical. Certainly some of the vitriol I’ve read in the blogosphere has been.

It’s amusing how short people’s memories seem to be about who’s David and who’s Goliath in the publishing business. It wasn’t long ago that everyone in the industry was accusing the big chain stores, which many are now rallying behind, of being bullies with unreasonable demands about discounts and returns that publishers claimed would put them out of business. And everyone was up in arms about how the chains were putting the indie book stores out of business.

Let’s fact it… it wasn’t long ago that the publishing industry was excited about the little tech company from Seattle who was giving the industry another way to get books into the hands of readers.

(And I won’t even talk about the fact that Amazon sells the books published by B&N’s publisher–Sterling Books–or that B&N also has exclusive titles and editions.)

The monopoly accusations made by some authors make me shake my head too. It’s been a few years since I studied economics but if memory serves, what Amazon is doing is called vertical integration, different from a monopoly, and since B&N is pretty much the only game in town in terms of physical book stores now (along with Indigo Books in Canada) who has the monopoly? What it seems to me is going on now, is that for decades the publishing industry has been an oligopoly (a few entities dominating an industry) and Amazon is daring to threaten that oligopoly, to change industry practices, and take a bigger piece of the market.


I love book stores. Big chain ones with their variety and coffee shops. Indies with their customer service and ambiance. And when my first books came out last year it was a thrill to see them on bookstore shelves. I do not want to see book stores go under. But who’s going to be hurt by this move the brick and mortar stores are making? For the most part, it won’t be Amazon–they’ve got deep pockets–it will be their authors. Sure, if this move keeps more big-name authors from moving away from the Big Six to Amazon Publishing the strategy might hurt Amazon too but if the dominating  brick & mortar retail chain is refusing to carry a publisher’s books out-of-hand, regardless of each book’s merit or commercial appeal, who is being the bully?

Putting my business-cap on, I think what it boils down to is that while any retailer has the right to choose what merchandise it wants to carry, and I get why they might not like the taste or feel of selling their competitors products, I don’t understand why a retailer would want to force customers to go to their competitor to buy that product. A fan of Tim Ferriss, for example, who may have never bought anything at Amazon before, may now become their regular customer, if it’s the only place he/she can find Ferriss’s new book. If that customer has a positive shopping experience, well, that customer may decide to mostly shop at Amazon in the future.

Are bookstores simply trying to push Amazon into making their e-book titles available in Nook and Kobo formats? If so, I hope the gambit pays off because I’d like my books to be available to as many readers as possible in whatever format they prefer.

In my hopes and dreams, Amazon will make their books available across all digital platforms and the brick and mortar stores will reverse their decisions.

Whether any of these companies are acting out of smart business decisions or fear or spite, I feel like my getting into the debate risks drawing attention to what feels like pettiness–mud slinging and sandbox fights–and I like to stay out of that kind of thing when I can. But at the same time, as a newly contracted Amazon Publishing author, I couldn’t keep silent. I figured friends and readers would be wondering how I feel about the whole thing.

And how do I feel? Like a kid whose parents are fighting. I just want them to stop.

From an author’s perspective, it sucks to hear that your books will not be in these big chain stores, and sucks even more to have that decision be based, not on your books’ merit or commercial appeal but on who published them. (Yes, I know that authors with smaller publishers and self-published titles have been suffering this for years but those reasons made sense to me as they were about distribution logistics and return issues…)

Last week an editor of a book review site, Book Riot, described a dilemma she faced when she was about to give a book she’d loved a positive review–before realizing the book was from the Amazon Publishing ecosystem. Her post is interesting. She made me feel better and worse all at once… I knew having reviewers refuse to read my books, or be predisposed to hate them, and not having the books stocked in some brick and mortar stores were risks I was taking when I chose Amazon as my publisher. (Yes, they chose me but I also chose them).

I went into this with my eyes (mostly) open. And no matter who your publisher is, there’s never any certainty that the big chains or indies will carry your books. No guarantee you’ll get reviews, negative or positive. I knew there would be pros and cons to choosing Amazon as a publisher, and I still hope the benefits of my choosing Amazon Publishing will outweigh this newly revealed downside–they are, after all, good at getting books in front of the right readers–but it’s impossible to even guess at this point. Time will tell. Right now, hearing this news simply sucks.

Did you forget I promised you good news, too?

The same week these worrying press releases came out, I also got some fantastic news!!!

I got a fabulous quote for Deviants from a #1 NYT Bestselling author! Woo hoo!

Quote to be revealed at a future date when I feel more like celebrating. :)

SCBWI vs. RWA Cage Match

What are the similarities and differences between these two writers’ organizations’ big national conferences?

I discuss today over at my group blog Drunk Writer Talk.

(Aside) The first manuscript I ever wrote was a romance, as was the second, which I abandoned before revising, having decided that romance wasn’t my genre. And while I made that decision back in 2003, I’ve remained a member of RWA because I love the organization and the friends I’ve made there.

Now I have a new love… SCBWI. (end of aside)

In my post, I compare the two conferences.

Another difference I thought of after I posted is: free books.

At RWA’s National conference you end up with at least 10 free books without even trying (you get them when you register and at each keynote) and by trying you can end up with boxes and boxes and boxes of free books. The big six (and smaller) publishers all host free book signings for their authors. Also the publishers give away at least one title (usually more than one book) for each all of the keynote speakers. (The books are on your chair when you go into the room.)

RWA also has a HUGE author signing open to the general public, where the books are donated by the publishers, and any published member attending the conference can sign. It’s HUGE. Hundreds and hundreds of authors signing. And last summer, when it was held at the Marriott in Times Square, the line started hours in advance, trailed through the entire hotel, snaked around the driveway and down the street. It was my first time signing, with Cinderella: Ninja Warrior and Sleeping Beauty: Vampire Slayer, and I have to say it was quite a thrill. Quite a few of the younger teens who came up to ask me to sign books had clearly been given lists of authors they were allowed to talk to/buy from by their mothers. :) Not surprising given the range of authors signing, from well, me (with a young-skewing YA) to full-on erotica novels.

If my comparison had been scoring based on getting books, or opportunities for published authors to get their books into the hands of readers, RWA would win hands down. But from my perspective as an author and conference attendee, I’m not sure I could pick a clear winner.

While I love the free books I get at RWA… I often end up donating them to a library or hospital, or giving them away to friends, and I kind of liked not needing another suitcase to go home. :)

RWA Home Page

SCBWI Home Page

SCBWI Visual Highlights

SCBWI is the Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators. Try saying that three times fast. Or three times slowly for that matter. 😉

I’ve been to quite a few writers’ conferences over the years, but this was my first SCBWI, and I had a fabulous and productive time.

I nearly filled a whole notebook with madly scribbled notes. The full day “intensive” on Marketing for Professional Writers was unbelievably overwhelming. My head was ready to explode by lunch. And that day ended with drinks with my agent and the impressive and witty Jon Fine from Amazon Publishing. Now it’s time to sit back and prioritize. :)

For now, here are some of the fun highlights — just the ones for which I have photographic evidence. :)

Here is the fabulous Mahtab Narsiman, moi and multi-talented Debbie Ridpath Ohi.

Photo taken by Debbie (on the right), also known as @inkyelbows

All of the speakers at this conference were unbelievably high quality, but one fun unscheduled treat was a short presentation by Henry Winkler who writes middle grade novels with SCBWI founder Lin Oliver.

Here’s bad and fuzzy photo I obnoxiously took of him when I accidentally ended up standing beside him waiting for the elevator. I should have said hello and asked permission, but didn’t want to pass up on the opportunity. My apologies to Henry. :)

After the conference, I did a little chill-axing at the MOMA before taking the train to Newark airport for my flight home. Didn’t have nearly as much time there as I would have liked, but stopped for the best cup of hot chocolate I’ve ever had.

What you can’t tell from this photo, was that it was hot in two ways… and spiked. I can’t remember all the ingredients but the key ones (beyond hot chocolate) were tequila, chilli flakes and cinnamon. Yum. That’s a stick of cinnamon sticking out. Talk about spicy. Burned going down, in many good ways. :)

I will talk more about the content of the conference both here and at Drunk Writer Talk soon.