I'm the world's worst gift-giver. I procrastinate, which doesn't help, because then I have no good gift ideas and no time to think about good gift ideas, either.
So this year, I'm starting early and I'm plagiarizing. Yep, I'm plagiarizing, guys—I'm getting my gift ideas from some of the best gifts that other people have given me. And, even better, because the odds are high that you are a writer too, my list goes both ways. Go ahead, you can use this list to shop for someone else and/or you can make liberal use of your highlighter and then forward it to a relevant e-mail address, or conveniently forget it on the kitchen counter—oops!—or leave it under someone's pillow.
Okay, that might sound a little self-serving, but hey, just as you are thinking about what you are going to give others, others are thinking about what to give you.
So without further ado and in no particular order—wait for it… can you hear the musical cue?—these are a few of my favorite, practical and very specific writer things:
1. Adjustable mobile rolling laptop desk: My dad gave me one of these a few years ago. He said I needed more time away from the "big" desk. This multifunctional laptop desk can be rolled around the house and the office and is perfect for the writer who needs a flexible work space or for those of us who like to change scenery through the day. Best news? You can find versions of it in all price ranges! Available pretty much everywhere: Amazon.com, Overstock.com, Staples, Office Depot, Target, WalMart. I even saw one version of it for $15.99 at CVS last week. The model below is from Amazon.com and can be purchased for $58.94.
2. Library Cart. My husband—handsome devil that he is—sneaked one of these under the Christmas tree a few holiday seasons ago. Okay, I'll admit it. I'm a geek. I was so excited about my brand new library cart! This Wood Book Cart is ideal to hold conceptual, quick reference and research materials. I use mine to collect the basic, go-to resources that I'm currently using in a project. Whether I'm working at my desk or on the terrace, I can have everything I need at my fingertips. Spoiler alert. At $244, this particular model can be pricy. But I did find a laminate version on Amazon.com for $59.
3. Any author in the midst of a new release will love a book publicity package. There are some excellent ones out there, and they can range widely in prices, including the ones by the very talented Mayra Calvani, who offers a combo package that includes interviews, guest posts, spotlights, and profiles posted on sites such as Blogcritics Magazine, Seattle Post Intelligencer, The Examiner, Open Salon, The Writer's Life eMagazine, The Dark Phantom Review, Red Room, Goodreads, and about 14 other blogs for only $199. Contact: email@example.com.
4. For the busy author seeking to augment his/her social media presence, a subscription to a social media promotion service might be just the thing. There are many good ones, all of which work to promote your work, posts and reviews. Aileen Aroma offers a customize range of services starting at very reasonable prices. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org for additional information.
5. Another great gift for an author promoting a release is a Virtual Book Tour (VBT). VBTs come in all types and sizes, and can provide inexpensive and simple services, such as a one-week Twitter book blast, or complex packages that include anywhere from a week's tour to a sixty-day tour and range from ten stops to more than fifty stops.
Bewitching Book Tours offers several different packages, ranging from $40 for a one-day blitz to $125 for a one-month tour and $175 for a tour with all the bells and whistles. In addition, Bewitching offers gift certificates in digital or paper format that can be applied towards any of their tour packages. For more information, contact email@example.com.
I.O. Virtual Book Tours also offers Virtual Book Tour packages widely ranging in prices and services, which can be previewed here.
6. A gift certificate to http://www.vistaprint.com can gift the author in your life with some very reasonable, quality business cards that will guarantee a great first impression for agents, publishers, colleagues and readers. The gift certificate can easily be put to good use to design and print some very necessary marketing props. From personal author cards to bookmarks, Vistaprint offers some very reasonable deals on promotional materials beginning as low as $10.99.
And here's a neat tip, courtesy of my colleague at TTB, Knight of Flame author, Scott Eder: Vistaprint offers an option to add a QR code to the back of a business or promo card. A smartphone can scan the QR and connect directly to an author's website, book or even a sample chapter. Take a look at my business card and post card below. How cool is that?
7. This wonderful book bag was a special gift from a dear girlfriend. Boy, did she hit the nail in the head. The Bloomsbury Bookbag from Levenger's is a leather and canvas tote bag with a generous capacity for books, tablets, files and more, and comes stocked with 8 useful tools for reading and note-taking, including stiff file folders that protect your notes and loose pages. It's perfect for those writers’ conferences and it fits everything that you might need during your speaking engagement, book signing or critic club meeting. It's lightweight, which I love, and very sturdy. It's priced at $69 and it comes in three different colors.
8. Even for the practical-minded writer, a custom piece of jewelry might be just the thing. My girlfriend Y—mistress of gift-giving—presented me with a very special, incredibly thoughtful gift for The Curse Giver's release. She had this beautiful custom pendant designed especially for the occasion. She told me that she selected the green stones to evoke my heroine's connection with the earth and her love for the herbs and ingredients she used to mix her potions. She said that the pendant's custom design evoked the magical ring depicted on my heroine's back in The Curse Giver's cover. Take a look below. What do you think?
The pendant is gorgeous as is, but it was the thought and care that Y put into her gift that touched me so deeply.So perhaps you might want to consider the option of ordering a custom jewelry piece, a bracelet, charm, pendant, necklace, something unique that somehow reflects a special connection to the person, his book or her stories.
There are many custom jewelry designers around. I'm fond of http://www.etsy.com/, a website that houses a host of talented artists who specialize in handmade or vintage items, art and supplies. Etsy describes itself as "the most vibrant handmade marketplace." They offer an astounding variety of options, styles and prices. Whether you want to spend a few dollars or more, you can personalize almost anything at Etsy. At the end of the day, it's the thought and care you put into a gift that matters. Thanks again, Y!
9. My little sister was barely out of college when she splurged to buy me this phenomenal Mont Blanc pen. She was thinking ahead. She anticipated that one day, I would be autographing my own books. She predicted that I would need a reliable, well-engineered, lasting pen with just the right thickness point. The best part about her gift? Every time I sign one of my books, I feel her love and presence.
This is an expensive gift by all standards, but Montblanc is supporting UNICEF’s global initiatives to enable more children to learn how to read and write. For every piece in the Signature for Good collection sold, Montblanc will donate part of its proceeds to UNICEF’s education programs.
10. And of course, any reasonable gift list for writers must include—what else?—some awesome books about writing. Whether you are buying for the newbie writer or the veteran author, these books—some old, some new—are bound to please.
From Sol Stein, On Writing and How to Grow a Novel are two of my all-time favorites. Times may be changing, but the principles of good writing and great storytelling remain the same. These awesome books start at $12.99 new for the paperback editions, and are available also in hard cover and Audible editions at Amazon.com.
From Orson Scott Card, How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy is a must read. My yellowing 1990 paperback edition is highlighted from top to bottom. I loved every page of this concise, well-written treasure, especially the last three pages, which talk about a writer's life at home with heartfelt honesty. Available in paperback edition new for as little as $9.99 on Amazon.com.
Another favorite of mine is Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maas. It might be because I got it when I first took Mr. Maas's seminar many years ago, but I found this book as helpful as the seminar. The version that I have is available in paperback and Kindle versions, starting at $9.34. I haven't read Mr. Maas's updated book, The Breakout Novelist, but I include it here with great hopes. It's also available in paperback and Kindle versions, starting at $11.99.
And then there is Write Like the Wind, from MB4's very own Aaron Lazar, a three-book deeply personal series on writing that manages to teach, comfort and inspire at the same time. This honest, vivid look at the writer's life offers plenty of wisdom to all writers, including the aspiring writer. The series’ three books are available in e-book format, on sale for a price that can't be beat—all three books for under $5. My favorite format is the Audible version at only $6.95.
What do you think? Anything here that catches your fancy? Do you have a fantastic gift idea for writers that you want to share with the rest of us?
Dora Machado is the award-winning author of the epic fantasy Stonewiser series and her newest novel, The Curse Giver, available from Twilight Times Books. She grew up in the Dominican Republic, where she developed a fascination for writing and a taste for Merengue. After a lifetime of straddling such compelling but different worlds, fantasy is a natural fit to her stories. She lives in Florida with her husband and three very opinionated cats.
To learn more about Dora Machado and her novels, visit her website at www.doramachado.com or contact her at Dora@doramachado.com.
For a free excerpt of The Curse Giver, visit: http://twilighttimesbooks.comthingsTheCurseGiver_ch1.html.