Hey, Amazon, My Book is NOT an @$$hole!

Apparently there’s some cross-pollination going on at Amazon resulting in a weird TWENTY BOY SUMMER mashup. Which might be kind of cool if it was, like, mashing up with Stephenie Meyer’s latest or J.K. Rowling’s or Sarah Dessen’s. In fact, I’m pretty sure that any of the books in Amazon’s 8 million + collection would’ve been a better accidental partner for TWENTY BOY SUMMER than the one currently sharing its key phrases (underlined here in red in case they don’t jump out at you):

Amazon goof!

I know, right? I mean, isn’t every young adult author’s dream to see her listing on Amazon? Like this?

Twenty Boy Summer (Hardcover)
by Sarah Ockler (Author)
Key Phrases: @$$hole rule, inner jerk, destructive jerks…

That’s just the beginning, before scrolling to the “statistically improbable phrases” and “capitalized phrases.” Readers (and parents and teachers), I can assure you that despite what Amazon says, TWENTY BOY SUMMER’s Anna Reiley and Frankie Perino have never uttered any of the following phrases. In fact, I’m pretty sure that I myself haven’t uttered the following phrases, either (at least not since I left my last office gig):

  • @$$hole rule
  • inner jerk
  • destructive jerks
  • certified @$$hole
  • @$$hole management
  • jerk rule
  • The Virtues of @$$holes
  • Garbage Dump Troop, or
  • Satan’s Cesspool Strategy

They’re working on correcting this sort-of-hilarious-but-not-really mess, but in the mean time, I’m pretty sure the only thing that could possibly make me feel any better about this is… if you go pre-order TWENTY BOY SUMMER right now (yes, you’ll get the right book, as long as you click the pre-order button and not, like, the Kindle link for the @$$hole book!). Even if you already ordered it for yourself, maybe you can order it for a friend. That would go a long way in easing my suffering over this ill-advised mashup. Show Amazon that you won’t let a little cussin’ get in the way of your YA reading pleasure!

(No pressure. I mean, it’s not like I would call you the A-word on my blog or anything. That would be pretty statistically improbable.)

Party Like It’s, Um, 2009

Last night I had this crazy dream in which National Fuel (the gas utility company here in Buffalo) totally shut down, leaving the entire region without heat. I had to trek over to some government agency about said missing heat, along with about 1 million other cold people, and the person working the desk told me she really loved my book and wanted to give it to her supervisor immediately.

Hours later, still waiting in the lobby with all the other cold people to get my heat turned back on, the desk woman tracked me down. She needed me to sign some forms because they wanted to give me a $2 million grant to work on my next book.

“My supervisor really loved your book, miss,” she said, handing me a pen. “And we really just have this money sitting around. We have to give it out in grants. It’s yours.”

2 million dollars. Nice, right? Well I must be some kind of mystic, because when I woke up this morning, well… guess which one of those dreams came true?

Hint: Effing brrrrrrrrrrrrr!

National Fuel didn’t shut down, but my furnace died, and I froze all day, and even though they came and fixed it pretty fast, I’m still frozen, because if I start out the day cold (or with bad hair or in a bad mood), my whole day is shot. And still, hours and hours later, no one has arrived with my $2 million check, despite the fact that I signed about seven different forms for that woman!

Life is, like, so totally unfair.

Effing brrrrrrrrrrrrr!

Speaking of unfair, and waiting around for things that never materialize, yes, I abandoned my faithful blog readers again for nearly a month. A lot of exciting things have happened since I last rambled here, including but not limited to two trips to the ER (only one was my own), the start of a brand new year, and the long-awaited swearing-in of a brand new president.

George, don’t let the door hit you in the…

*Ahem*

Anyway. January is just the beginning. There are lots of fun things happening in 2009, especially on the YA lit front. Check it out:

12 Months of Debsness

On the 15th of each month, you can win a Debsness bag stuffed with goodies from the 2009 Debutantes member authors. All you have to do is leave a comment on the Debsness post and you’ll be entered to win. I’ll put the link up here before the next giveaway.

2009 Debs Blog Tour

Starting in February, running throughout the year, 37 of the 2009 Debutantes will stop by SarahOckler.com during the craziest blog tour in history1. We’ll learn a little bit about their 2009 releases, main characters, interesting trivia, and maybe some other fun stuff, too.

‘09 Debut Authors Challenge

Blogger Story Siren is hosting the ‘09 Debut Authors Challenge for anyone interested in reading a set number of YA or MG novels from debut authors published this year. I’ve been lucky enough to get a sneak peak at several ’09 debuts in ARC format, with a few more on the way, so I’m excited to be part of the challenge. If you like to read and you ❤ YA as much as I do, check it out!

TWENTY BOY SUMMER hits the shelves!

On June 1, 2009, just about two years after finishing TWENTY BOY SUMMER and signing an agent, I’ll get to walk into my favorite bookstore and see it on an actual shelf.

Like, next to other actual books.

That people can actually buy.

And read. OMFG.

*Faints*


1. This claim has not been scientifically proven.

Teen Marketing by Vogue: Drink Smoothies, Be Wooed

Marketing consumer products to teens isn’t an exact science, especially in a downward-spiraling economy. As a YA author who will soon depend on teens’ eagerness to trade their cash for a copy of TWENTY BOY SUMMER, I get the marketing challenge. I’m always on the lookout for creative, original, and even wacktastic ways to promote and share my book with young adults. Giving stuff away for free? Staging a stunt for local media? Embarrassing myself on YouTube? Yes, yes, and where do I find the bucket of red paint and bag of feathers?

Making an international mockery of myself on film to sell books is one thing. But I’m sooo not down with Teen Vogue’s new approach, reported in today’s New York Times.

Teen Vogue Haute Spot

Meet the Teen Vogue Haute Spot, a store that doesn’t sell — well — anything. Instead, it just kind of “presents” stuff, observes, and then “whisks” teen customers to conveniently-nearby retail locations to buy the goods.

A store that doesn’t sell stuff? Check it out:

Instead, the store will be a place for girls to relax, try on clothes and drink smoothies — all while marketers woo them.

The stores will offer free snacks, informal modeling, a perfume bar, a makeup station, charging stations for cellphones and iPods, a gift-wrapping counter and racks of clothes.

Stylists and attendants at the store will advise visitors on lipstick, shoes and outfits.

And, to the delight of retailers, they will whisk visitors to stores in the mall where they can buy the products.

Something about it feels, well, oogie to me1. In my mind, some hip-looking woman clad in black leather lures unsuspecting girls into the store with free samples and cool music. The store is bright pink with silver accents (you can’t see the pink part in the drawing because the store shown here is still under construction), techno beats bumpin’ softly in the background, and clear, futuristic-looking counters holding trays of frosted glass bottles that say “eat me” and “drink me” à la Alice in Wonderland. While girls innocently sample high-end clothing and makeup and smoothies, shopping and texting and modeling, chatting and laughing and relaxing, a panel of corporate researchers in white lab coats and thick safety goggles watches from behind a two-way mirror, taking careful notes against their clipboards and muttering the occasional “verrrry interesting” and “mmm-hmmmm.”

Unless Teen Vogue is verrrry transparent with its customers about the purpose of Teen Vogue Haute Spot — explicitly stating what the magazine and participating retailers hope to accomplish and how they’re tracking and reporting on the teens’ behaviors, purchases, and data — this is not a good marketing tactic for consumers. It might be great for Teen Vogue and its retail advertisers. But for teens? Smarmy.

Here are a few other points I’m uncomfortable with:

Zain Raj, the chief executive of the marketing firm Euro RSCG Discovery, part of Havas, said many other companies sell merchandise not connected to their brands. Teen Vogue’s decision not to sell anything would help raise its profile among its audience.

The fact that Teen Vogue Haute Spot isn’t selling anything doesn’t raise its profile if employees are just marching girls down the hall to the Clinique counter at Nordstrom. On the other hand, if the store offered free products for teens to sample without additional expectations, wooing, or whisking, that would be more of a profile-raise for me. Or — better yet — donate the clothes and cosmetics to girls who could otherwise not afford them, or to girls and moms shelters or in hospitals. But this approach: “That shade of $38 lipstick looks smashing on you. Shall I escort you to Bloomie’s to complete your purchase? Have another smoothie. Can I have your email address? Thanks for being wooed!” Nope. Not cool.

Next point. What do you make of this?

Mr. Raj, who is not involved in the Haute Spot, suggested that publications should “basically get people wedded to the brand proposition for the long term.”

Basically get people wedded to the brand proposition for the long term? Is anyone else creeped out by that statement? Especially when it applies to teens? I mean, I want teens to love my book, and to buy it, and maybe even to tell their friends about it and hopefully buy future books. I’d be elated if they were entertained, touched, excited, saddened, angered, uplifted, or otherwise moved by my books. But do I want them to be wedded to my brand proposition for the long term? No.

If we as a culture spent less time “marrying brands” and more time developing personal relationships and learning about ourselves and the world around us (and, ahem, reading), maybe we wouldn’t have to think up smarmy marketing strategies in the face of a downward economic spiral.

Okay, we live in a consumptive society. It’s part of our problem, but none of us is immune, and it certainly doesn’t have to be all bad. If we like certain brands or products, being wooed by marketers is okay, as long as we know who’s doin’ the woo-in’ and the what and the how and and the why the woo-in’ is bein’ won. I mean, done.

The Teen Vogue Haute Spot plan, conversely, reads like a bunch of smoke-and-mirrors for teens who would probably support the brands enthusiastically without all of the underhanded marketing tactics.

Teens, what do you think about this? Other readers, marketers, writers, and parents — any thoughts?


1. Confession: As much as I find this oogie, I secretly wonder if a similar approach would work with TWENTY BOY SUMMER sales. I could invite a bunch of teens to my house. I could make smoothies. I could offer perfume samples and snacks and outlets to charge iPods and phones. And girls, if you like the book, I could “whisk” you right over to my computer where you could sign in to your amazon.com account and place your order! I wouldn’t even take any notes or where a creepy white lab coat… hmmm… verrrrry interesting… that book looks just smashing on you! Would you like another smoothie?


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A Message from Chancho

Greetings, long-lost friends!

Chancho, my three-legged lucky writing pig, wants to apologize on my behalf for the prolonged and unplanned blog truancy and assure you that hey, I’m workin’ over here! My summer wasn’t just a breezy collection of lackadaisical days on the beach1!

I’ve been writing / revising / reading / reviewing / book-planning my ass off for three months (neither the blog nor the ass reflects this, but Chancho will vouch for me!). But rest assured, long-time fans and loyal stalkers, I’m back… with a tan2, a lucky pig, and whole bunch of writing updates for those of you that still care (or at least pretend to).

20 BOY SUMMER

Last month, I reviewed and marked up and sent off3 the first pass pages (FPPs) for 20 BOY SUMMER, meaning… last chance to make any changes. And first chance to see the typeset pages with…

(I know we’re all supposed to be serious professional writers, but allow me this momentary break from my otherwise seriously serious professionalness…)

…my name on them and little seashells in the corners and my copyright and chapter headings and fonts and everything!

*ahem* As I was saying….

20 Boy Summer, First Pass Pages

Because of the timing of the FPPs and some other deadlines, I did a little work on my Martha’s Vineyard vacation (see above), which I’d planned to do anyway but in the moment felt a little “Sarah can’t come out and play until she finishes her homework!” because beyond the big sliding doors was the deck and then a pond and then… the ocean. Which I couldn’t visit until the 3rd day but it was totally worth the wait.

By now I’ve read 20 BOY SUMMER so many times that I can recite it backwards in my sleep, but I finally had to stop tweaking it and send it off into the world (the secret publishing world… it’s still not ready for the big scary real world), much like a mother watching her Kindergartner board the bus for the first time…

*sniffle*

In other news, Little, Brown sold Dutch and German rights for the book. I had to resist editing the text to include what would be translated into “Das ist verboten!” which is my favorite German phrase but alas wouldn’t really work unless I added a new scene where Frankie was like, “Anna, let’s go stomp on those cute little sand castles and make the kids cry,” and Anna was all, “No way, Frank. That’s, like, totally forbidden.” That, and I don’t know the German phrase for like, totally.

BOOK 2

Almost finished, but I can’t4 share anything about it yet. Just that it’s not a sequel, it takes place in Vermont in the summer, and there’s a girl named Delilah. To say anything more is like, totally verboten! But Chancho is with me for the home stretch and he truly is a good luck writing pig. And he’s so adorable that every time I feel overwhelmed with writing or just generally whatevs about life I can look at him and everything is magically okay again.

Chancho makes me happy!

See what I mean? Don’t you feel better now?

BOOK 3

No way, man. This one is top top top secret with a capital TOP. Just know that I’m working on it and will move fully ahead as soon as Delilah is done, with Chancho by my side. Before long you’ll be reading blogs full of rants and questions and disconnected ramblings about all new characters in all new places with all new issues and conundrums and none of the characters will say like, totally.

On a final note…

A Lighthouse Writers Workshop WOW!

Many of you know that I owe much of my writing success to the dear friends and faculty I met through Denver’s Lighthouse Writers Workshop. So it is with great joy and OMFG over-the-moon-ness that I congratulate fellow Lighthouse member David Wroblewski. His debut novel, THE STORY OF EDGAR SAWTELLE, was just selected as Oprah’s latest book club pick. People have been raving about this book all around me since its debut this summer, and all this time, I had no idea that David was a member of my fave writing group. I didn’t have the opportunity to meet him before I left Denver, but I couldn’t be happier or more proud of Colorado’s literary community! Congrats, David!

I think that’s enough for one update, right? Stay tuned later this week for…

  • Moving News! Where do we go from here? Hint… it’s not New York City, and it’s happening in 9 days!
  • How I Spent My Summer Vacation (after I finished my homework)! What have I been doing with my free time for three months since I clearly wasn’t working on my blog? Where did Chancho come from? And where has all the sea glass gone? All this and more…

Thanks for sticking with me, loyal readers. See you soon.


1. Okay, there were some lackadaisical days on the beach, but I wouldn’t call it a collection or anything.
2. Beige is a tan, right?
3. Sent off, as in, paid extra to have it FedExed priority overnight from MA to NYC so it would get there first thing in the morning. Only it didn’t, because the plane was somehow grounded in Memphis due to “issues with the plane,” which later became, according to the FedEx representative I called, “you know, hurricane
Ike?” Yeah, she said it just like that, like I’m some horribly insensitive person for questioning a service failure in the middle of a natural disaster, even though on the day I shipped the package, Ike didn’t even have a name yet because it was just a baby storm in the Atlantic Ocean far far away, which is probably why the first woman told me the plane had issues, not the weather. And also, I didn’t know that Memphis was en route from MA to NY but then again, I’m a writer, not a cartographer or a meteorologist, which is why I ultimately allowed them to refund half of my money instead the full amount.
4. By “can’t” I mean “won’t,” because it won’t come out until 2010 and, assuming the world is still spinning in two years, I don’t want to use up all of my reader excitement just yet.