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Guest Post from Author S. M. Johnston

Author S.M. Johnston (from Australia!) joins me today to discuss the five things she learned after she wrote her book, SLEEPER.  The novel released December 2nd.  I love her information on Australia, how her main character isn’t white, and what she was told about the new adult genre from publishers. 

1) I was writing a New Adult novel: When I first wrote SLEEPER, New Adult wasn’t a term that was commonly being thrown around. Whiling I was querying there was still a lot of resistance from agents to NA, and to a degree there still is. I probably would have been better making Mishca seventeen (which would have meant ditching the whole falling-in-love-with-your-university-professor storyline) or making her in her mid-twenties. This way the story would have clearly been either Young Adult or Adult. In fact I have a YA version of the story that came about after an agent and an editor both requested rewrites. It was this version that I was originally contracted for, but when the acquiring editor found out about my NA version and read it she said it was more inspired and that was the one she wanted to print.

2) New Adult has slow take-up in Australia: I was at a speculative fiction writers festival in Sydney earlier this year and there was a panel on the future of publishing, so I asked about NA. This was greeted by some obvious looks and a snarky tweet. Talking to people about it afterwards, it comes out that Australians just don’t like the term, rather than the category. And a lot of people against it have the same reasonings that people outside of Australia have: it’s a marketing tool that adds labels. It’s also a marketing tool that sells and helps clearly to define reader expectations.

3) Contemporary sells best in New Adult: New Adult was just starting to take off when I was near the end of my querying with SLEEPER. But everyone wanted NA Contemporary. I was fortunate that Entranced was ahead of the game in this area and predicted readers would want more options from NA, especially for the male reader market. And the calls started to come for Speculative NA.

4) Having a MC of colour “supposedly” impacts on sales: I read an article on this from a girl complaining about her cover impacting on her sales because the model was of colour. To be honest, I didn’t think that was the problem. The cover looked clumsy and wasn’t a clean, professional finish. Time and time again I’ve seen complaints of white washing of covers, or for books where there is an MC of colour that the MC isn’t featured clearly (or at all) in the artwork. This does suggest that publishers believe, and may have evidence, that the model on the cover impacts on sales. But the outcries of people about white washing also shows some people don’t care.

5) According to a big 6 editor, US or UK settings sell best: I was fortunate enough to be in an online chat with Big 6 editor and I asked him about interest in stories set in Australia. In his opinion, they didn’t sell and he wasn’t overly interested in acquiring them. I was gutted. I’d already finished my story, but more than that, I’m a proud Australian and I wasn’t going to stop setting my stories Down Under, even if it cost me a big 6 contract. Though afterwards I found lots of stories set in Australia that make in on the international publishing scene. The percentage may be small in the overall scheme of things, but they are there. Another thing is, the world is changing. Generations Y and Z think more globally than any generation before them. They want to know what’s out in the world, and Australia is a unique country that interests a lot of international travellers. So why wouldn’t a novel set here sell well.

 While these are five things I found out after I finished SLEEPER, I wouldn’t change a thing. I love being a pioneer for Australian New Adult and for Speculative New Adult. I love that my MC is of colour, as that’s how she always was for me. And I love her representation on the cover of my book. It’s perfect. I am an Aussie through and through every story I have written is set here, at least in part, and I’m sure most of them will be.

 Publishers, agents and writers say it regularly, “Don’t write to trends” and I’m sure glad I didn’t. I wrote a story I love and still found a home for it.

Title: Sleeper (Book I in the Toy Soldiers series)

Author: S. M. Johnston

Release Date: December 2, 2013

Publisher: Entranced Publishing, Rush

Genre: Upper YA/NA speculative fiction

Blurb: A new heart should mean new life, not a living nightmare.

Mishca Richardson’s life is at an all-time high after her heart transplant. With new boyfriend, Ryder, the two of them have the perfect summer romance. Even the nightmares that have been plaguing her sleep since her operation can’t dull the high she’s on.

Things start to unravel as Mishca develops superhuman abilities. She does her best to hide them so as not to end up a science experiment in a lab. But she can’t ignore the instant attraction she experiences when she meets her university professor, Colin Reed.

Torn between the blossoming love and the obsession, Mishca must decide if she wants Ryder or Colin. But the organization responsible for her changes and her connection to Colin, is moving to secure Mishca for himself so that she can be the weapon he always intended her to be. If Mishca can’t resist her programming she’ll have a lot more to worry about than romance.


Buy Links:


Review Snippet:

“SLEEPER is a fast-paced adventure filled with mystery, romance, action, and humor. Mishca and Ryder rank up there with my favorite heroines and heroes ever! S.M. Johnston is an author to watch out for.” ~Wendy Higgins, author of Sweet Evil, Sweet Peril, and Sweet Reckoning.


Giveaway: a Rafflecopter giveaway


About the Author:

Sharon is a writer from Mackay in Queensland, Australia who has short stories published in anthologies and was also runner-up in the Australian Literary Review’s Young Adult short story contest with KARMA. By day she is a public relations executive and by night she writes weird fiction and soulful contemporaries while her husband, two sons and cat are fast asleep.

Social Media Links:

Facebook page:


Goodreads Sleeper Page:

1 Comment on Guest Post from Author S. M. Johnston

  • Meghan Stith says:
    December 15, 2013 at 3:45 am

    This looks great! Thanks for sharing!


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