Saturday, March 24, 2012

Saturday Savvy Sensation: Cynthia Leitich Smith

Yay! Today we have the sensational Cynthia Leitich Smith!

Cynthia Leitich Smith is the New York Times and Publishers Weekly best-selling author of TANTALIZE, ETERNAL, BLESSED, DIABOLICAL and TANTALIZE: KIEREN'S STORY (Candlewick). Her award-winning books for younger children include JINGLE DANCER, INDIAN SHOES, RAIN IS NOT MY INDIAN NAME (all HarperCollins) and HOLLER LOUDLY (Dutton).

Her website at was named one of the top 10 Writer Sites on the Internet by Writer's Digest and an ALA Great Website for Kids. Her Cynsations blog at was listed as among the top two read by the children's/YA publishing community in the SCBWI "To Market" column.

Who are you (what do you write, what are your personal stats)?
I’m the author of several children’s and YA books including Holler Loudly, illustrated by Barry Gott (Dutton, 2010), and the Tantalize series (2007-).

I make my home in sunny Austin, Texas; with my author-husband Greg Leitich Smith and our four fierce writer cats. I also occasionally teach writing for young readers.

Where can we find you online (blog, twitter, facebook, etc.)?
Author website:

When did you begin your online platform building?Before anyone had heard of “platform building”—I launched my author site and an e-newsletter in 1998, my blog in 2004.

What is your message, if any (is your blog about anything specific, for example)?
My focus is inspiration and upbeat, useful information for writers, readers, gatekeepers, booksellers,
publishing pros and other book lovers of all stripes.

How have you built your followers? What have you done that has been the most successful?
I consistently offer in-depth coverage of the craft and business of books for young readers, including guest
articles from new and established voices in the field, interviews with members of the children’s-YA literature community, and coverage of breaking news.

What have you done that has failed?
I regret giving up my e-newsletter when blogs took off. I’d built up a substantial following, and I was too quick to trim my sails. On a related note, I waited too long to hire a professional web designer.

How much time do you spend blogging? Reading blogs? Commenting on blogs?
I spend about an hour a day blogging and about as long reading and commenting on blogs. Exceptions would include book launch periods or when I’m faced with a substantial, quick turn-around series of posts, such as coverage of Bologna speakers.

What else should we know about you?
I’m active online, but I put my creative writing first. When I’m stuck on a scene, I dance to the soundtrack to “Xanadu.” For the first time today, I received a check from a publisher in Turkey. And my latest revision went to my editor this morning.

Any additional advice for our readers?
Find a way to visually unify your platform. For me, using variations of the same avatar and color palate made a huge difference.

Don’t be afraid to put your byline out there. If no one knows you’re the author of the blog, then it’s difficult to build relationships.

Think hard about how personal you want to get. There’s no one right answer. It’ll vary from individual to individual. But it can help to set a guideline. I don’t say anything on my blog that I wouldn’t say at a podium or a lunch with colleagues, gatekeepers and publishing pros.Remember, it's a two-way conversation. Go forth with empathy, good humor, and cheer.

That is such sensational advice, Cynthia. I adore that you dance to Xanadu. And a check from Turkey? How exciting! Thanks so much for visiting. You've been a savvy inspiration to us all!


write4him said...

Laura and Cynthia, thanks for the great interview.

Cynthia said:
"Don’t be afraid to put your byline out there. If no one knows you’re the author of the blog, then it’s difficult to build relationships."

I failed consistently at blogging because of this...blogging incognito. Yep, people want to associate a name and a face with the blog. Once I realized that, my blogging improved. Thanks for the reminder.

AlexJCavanaugh said...

Wow, she's been blogging a long, long time.
She's right about building relationships and about watching what you say on your blog. I'm really conservative in real life and I think that comes through in my blog with my lack of offensive or controversial posts. (And that's not what I'm about anyway.)
Nice to meet you, Cynthia!

Sarah Pearson said...

I love the 'what else should we know about you?' paragraph :-)
I follow the advice about not saying anything you wouldn't say publicly elsewhere. Sometimes I have to bite my lip, but at least I never regret my words.

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