Interview with Christina Chiu, Author of BEAUTY

Tell us the story behind the story. How did BEAUTY come to be?

Beauty” is a short story from my first book Troublemaker and Other Saints. When I finished the collection of stories, I started writing a novel, but Amy kept insisting her story be written. It was like she was sitting on my shoulder. Anything I wrote, she’d say, “That sucks because the story’s over here with me.” Finally, I set that novel aside and started writing Beauty. 

What was the most challenging aspect of writing BEAUTY?

There were different kinds of challenges. Motherhood interrupted my work; I never realized I needed so much emotional space and energy in order to write. I found out after my first child was born. In terms of the craft, I had a very difficult time figuring out the structure. It wasn’t until I realized how important karma was to the story that I understood what to do.

What is the message you want readers to take away from your book?

Don’t ever give up. It’s easy to see life rolling past and think you missed the life you wanted. But you haven’t. Always hold onto what you want. Work toward it. You may get there or you may not, but if you don’t try, you definitely won’t. Often it’s the process of moving toward what you want that is so rewarding. 

Describe your background. Did your background play a part in your book?

As a Chinese American woman, I find that my background is inseparable from my work. I like to examine stereotypes—really delve into them—to realize the complex people beneath. The systemic natures of racism and sexism are important to identify, explore, and understand. Only by confronting them can we change them. Beauty is an intersectional literary work, one that is American with American characters rooted in the U.S. I can’t tell you how many people ask me where I’m from, and when I say, New York, I get back: “No, where are you really from?” 

Describe your writing schedule. Do you outline? Any habits? 

I don’t have a schedule, but I’ve noticed that I write best under two conditions: when I have a lot going on and if I have real deadlines that need to be made. Often, the night before my chapter or story is due, I’m up all through the night writing. Sometimes my children wake for breakfast and I’m still at the computer.

What books are on your nightstand? What are you currently reading? 

I’m currently reading a lot because I’d like to help review books for authors who are either launching now like I am during Covid, or review novels from the past that I feel people should be reading now. I just finished reading a memoir called The In-Betweens by Davon Loeb. I’m about to re-read the novel Pym, by Mat Johnson (the first time didn’t count because I was a new mom and delirious from fatigue) and a memoir called Uncomfortably Numb, by Meredith O’Brien. I’m also about to start The Resisters by Gish Jen, which I’ve wanted to read since it came out.

Which authors do you admire? 

Gish Jen, Elissa Schappell, Michael Cunningham, Mat Johnson, Toni Morrison, Sherman Alexie, Helen Schulman, Marie Lee, Junot Diaz, Sergio Troncoso, Lan Samantha Chang, Helen Benedict, Maxine Hong Kingston, Denis Johnson

What have you learned from this experience?

I’ve learned to have fun and love life. I started shoemaking because of this book. It was research. But somewhere along the line, I fell in love with the process. The more fun I had, the more flowed out of me onto the page. I also learned what a beautiful and courageous person I am and that my work deserve to be appreciated.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever received? What is one piece of advice you would give your younger self?

The best piece of advice I ever heard was from Sherman Alexie. It was more than 20 years ago, back when we had to snail mail submissions to journals. I had gone to one of his readings. When someone asked this question about best advice, he said, “postage.” Just keep sending out your work. Every time you get a rejection for a story or book, just send it back out.

I would tell myself there’s a lot I don’t know, but there’s also a lot that others don’t know, too. So it’s okay to be in your power, even if it makes others uncomfortable or angry. You have so many things in your heart that need to be said. Say them. Not just for your sake, but everyone’s, especially for the children you will be having.

What are you working on now?

I’ve been working on a memoir and I just started another novel. The memoir is about 75% done. I’m hoping to finish a full draft soon. It’s pretty exciting. The novel I just started is really fun, so I’ll be working on that a lot this summer.

To learn more about Christina Chiu, visit her website.

Interview with Susan M. Gaines, Author of ACCIDENTALS

Tell us the story behind the story. How did ACCIDENTALS come to be?

For me, the genesis of a book is sort of like making a soup: it’s messy, and it involves lots of ingredients that you may not recognize when you finish. I first started thinking about this story way back in 1999. I was trying to coming to terms with the end of nature as I’d understood it coming of age in the 1970s. I had been thinking about climate change, trying to understand an economic system whose well-being depended on perpetual exponential growth and resource consumption, trying to comprehend why we hadn’t done anything to change it. I was thinking about my father’s Sierra Club activism when I was a kid, and about my own political inertia. I was yearning to start birdwatching again, a hobby I hadn’t indulged since I was a teenager. 

I was surprised to find these seemingly disparate interests merging with the stories I’d been hearing for years from one of my closest friends, who’d grown up in Uruguay. More surprised still, when I accompanied her on a family visit and discovered that the wetlands I’d dreamed up were real—and teeming with birds. Of course, I couldn’t write a novel set in a country I’d never lived in, so I found a job teaching English, adopted new friends and family, and made myself at home in Montevideo and Rocha for the next three years. 

That was just the beginning of the saga that produced Accidentals. It’s almost as if I lived, rather than wrote, this novel, which was entwined with my life and its ever-shifting maze of homes, day jobs, families, friends, deaths, and other writing projects for over fifteen years. Like history, the issues I was writing about kept reappearing with new masks over the years, and even now, as the book stumbles out into the world, they fester unresolved, their urgency newly masked by Covid19.

What was the most challenging aspect of writing ACCIDENTALS?

My answer to this question would have been different at different phases of working on the book. But the challenge I grappled with from beginning to end, through all the myriad drafts, is one that actually mirrors one of the novel’s underlying themes. The birds and ecology in Accidentals are not just setting, but essential characters, and I struggled to keep their quiet, science-based story in the foreground, even as the dramatic, gut-wrenching story of love, politics, and family escalates. I wanted readers to be turning pages, of course, but not so quickly that they miss the birds along the way! 

What is the message you want readers to take away from your book?

Reading a novel is a complex, individual experience, and I’m loath to dictate what readers should take away from it. My hope, rather, is that Accidentals provides a space in which readers can reflect deeply and critically on how the past informs the future; on the current mass extinction of species; the nature of altruism; what it means to emigrate and to immigrate; and on the ways that science, with all its uncertainties, illuminates the natural world, and our future. 

Describe your background. Did your background play a part in your book?

I grew up and came of age in California, where many of my closest friends were daughters and sons of Latin American immigrants—from Chile, Uruguay, Mexico, and Venezuela. My family spent every vacation camping in the West’s national and state parks, and I was close to an older cousin, who was an accomplished birder and biologist. I spent my preteen years birding and backpacking, went to a state college in the redwoods of northern California, wandered off with friends to southern Chile—where I acquired my second language—and dropped out to travel by bicycle through Southeast Asia and Europe (living out of a tent, financed by odd jobs, and an occasional company sponsor). 

In college, I got interested in organic chemistry, and I eventually ended up researching the chemistry and geochemistry of the oceans and sediments at Scripps Institution of Oceanography. I quit when I realized I would never find time for creative writing if I continued—I hardly found time to read a novel—but my scientific training deeply informs both my world view and my fiction. 

Accidentals embodies the emotional connections to wild places forged during my childhood in California, the scientific view of nature I acquired in my studies, and the complex feelings about Uruguay I inherited from my friends. 

Describe your writing schedule. Do you outline? Any habits? 

My writing schedule and habits have changed over the years, as they depend on my (paid!) job and family responsibilities, but I generally work best in the mornings, straight out of bed with a cup of coffee in hand. I like to eat at my desk, drink lots of coffee or mate, and go for a run in the afternoon (good thinking time). 

I write the same way I cook: without a recipe. It’s slow and messy, with a lot of trial and error, lots of “wasted” pages. I don’t outline at the beginning of a novel, but as I work my way into it, I start making loose outlines of the next scenes and events—which may then shift around as I work towards and past them. Sometimes I draw little graphs to illustrate the book’s pacing and tension, but these wouldn’t make sense to anyone else. Since my work is often tied to the seasons, I use calendars from the years when they’re set to keep track of the days. I usually make diagrams showing the characters and their relationships, ages, etc, and these diagrams also tend to change as I write my way into the book. 

What books are on your nightstand? What are you currently reading?

I usually have several novels going at once, flitting between them, depending on my mood—unless one is particularly good and takes over. A recent book-buying spree–part of the desperate attempt to support independent bookstores and new releases during the pandemic—means the pile is particularly large at the moment, and not very well curated. 

  • The Study of Animal Languages a novel by Lindsay Stern (just finished)
  • Her Sister’s Tattoo by Ellen Meeropol (just finished)
  • Animalia by Jean-Baptiste del Amo
  • Disappearing Earth by Julia Phillips
  • Glorious Boy by Aimee Liu
  • The Golden State by Lydia Kiesling
  • Weather by Jenny Offill
  • Family of Origin by C. J. Hauser
  • Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari
  • Fear Itself: The New Deal and the Origins of our Time by Ira Katznelson

There’s another pile of non-fiction that I’m collecting up as I muddle around with the background for my new novel, but I’m not going to list that.

Which authors do you admire? 

My taste has changed over the years, and there are too many to name (or remember), but here are a few that always come to mind, in no particular order: Toni Morrison. Wallace Stegner. George Elliot. A.S. Byatt. Marilynn Robinson. Margaret Atwood’s literary fiction. Richard Powers. Franzen’s first and last novel, but not the ones in between. Christian Kiefer, among younger authors. I’m leaving out all the 19th and mid-20th century authors I loved when I was younger, because I haven’t reread them and don’t know what I would think now. Except George Elliot, of course.  

What have you learned from this experience?

As with all my books, I became an expert on a lot of things—ornithology, Uruguayan history, rice farming, microbial ecology—which I am now quickly forgetting as I begin the next novel!  

What is the best piece of advice you have ever received? What is one piece of advice you would give your younger self?

No advice from me–I’ve done it all wrong, but I still don’t know what right would be! At least I was never bored with life! 

What are you working on now?

I’m in the early conceptual and research stages of a new novel, but I’m not ready to out it yet. 

You can learn more about Susan M. Gaines and her novel, ACCIDENTALS on her website.

James Patterson’s Newest Non-Fiction Release Tackles Kennedy Family Tragedies

Nonfiction is the new line in the Patterson program with Little, Brown. His latest release, THE HOUSE OF KENNEDY, fixes its lens on the tragic family legacy of the Kennedy’s. With his focus on strong storytelling, dramatic scenes, and narratively entertaining treatment of nonfiction subjects Patterson’s THE HOUSE OF KENNEDY will likely follow the success of FILTHY RICH and ALL-AMERICAN MURDER.

USAToday sat down with Patterson to discuss his latest release.

Summary: The Kennedys have always been a family of charismatic adventurers, raised to take risks and excel, living by the dual family mottos: “To whom much is given, much is expected” and “Win at all costs.” And they do–but at a price.

Across decades and generations, the Kennedys have occupied a unique place in the American imagination: charmed, cursed, at once familiar and unknowable. The House of Kennedy is a revealing, fascinating account of America’s most storied family, as told by America’s most trusted storyteller.

J. Herman Kleiger on The 11th Inkblot

Tell us the story behind the story. How did THE 11th INKBLOT come to be?

I love inkblots and mysteries!  I love being moved and surprised. Hermann Rorschach’s creation of his eponymous test has fascinated me for 40 years.  As a psychologist and psychoanalyst, I’ve immersed myself in the science and art of using the Rorschach Test as a diagnostic instrument.  As a writer, I’m drawn to the layered meaning of the inkblot – the appeal of complexity, ambiguity, and navigating the unknown reaches of our personal experience.  

When I completed my first book, Disordered Thinking and The Rorschachtwenty years ago, I was struck by the idea of an “11th inkblot.”  Rorschach’s test has 10 blots, administered according to standardized instructions for the last 100 years.  I thought that someday I would imagine a story about “the 11th inkblot.”  So the concept percolated for decades but came to fruition a couple of years ago.  Much of my professional life has involved in writing clinical reports, which, in some ways, tell stories about an individual’s inner life.  I’d authored three books about the Rorschach and wanted to create a story about the origin of the test.  

A confluence of events in my personal life gave birth to the story.  Long fascinated by my ancestry in Ukraine and the number of watch makers in my family, Eastern Europe and the centrality of timepieces became an important theme in my story.  While writing The 11th InkblotI lost my father, a WW II combat veteran. Although I dismissed decades of his war stories, they snuck into in my book as I was preparing for his death.  In some ways, The 11th Inkblot is an homage to my fathers – Pvt. Ralph Kleiger, my dad, and Hermann Rorschach, my professional father.  I don’t think the story would have ever found life without a third father-presence, that of my analyst, Irwin Rosen. 

What was the most challenging aspect of writing THE 11th INKBLOT?

“Killing the darlings.”  The often used phrase for writers helped me prune the manuscript and cut characters or storylines that got in the way.  Working with my editor, my wife, was challenging as her reasoned, objective perspective pushed me to see what I could not see on my own about my writing.  

Researching many content domains was both work and fun.  Learning elementary details about the history and mechanics of horology, studying maps of battles in the Easter Front of WWI, and learning about the Romani culture were challenges that I embraced.  

What is the message you hope readers take away from your book?

More of an experience than a message.  Beyond anything else, I want readers to enjoy this story, which is a journey in a man’s life, across time, and space.  Moreover, I hope to touch the reader – move them to laughter and, in some places, tears.  In the end, I hope to leave the passengers on the reading journey with a warm feeling, but also, with a sense of mystery, with questions that remain unanswered.

Describe your background. Did your background play a part in your book?

Clearly, my 40+ years as a clinical psychologist and psychoanalyst provided a personal and professional canvas for my story.  My work as a therapist and psychodiagnostician paved the way for writing a book that took fact and history as a basis for imagining people and events. Having written over 30 professional papers and book chapters and 3 nonfiction books, I learned that writing provided a creative space for describing concepts and telling stories about people’s inner lives and experiences. 

Describe your writing schedule. Do you outline? Any habits? 

My friend and mentor told me, “research cold and write hot.”  I think that meant spend lots of time reading about the background topics and content that will inform the story and then, write!  I wish I wrote on schedule.  That is hard because I am still working and writing professional reports and papers.  When I’m writing fiction, I usually begin with an idea or premise that draws me in.  The scary, yet exciting, part of the writing process is discovering where the story is going as I’m writing it.  I usually have a broad-brush sense of where I want to end but the pathway leading there evolves as I write.

What books are on your nightstand? What are you currently reading?

I’m finishing Topeka School by Ben Lerner.  My roots at the Menninger Clinic in Topeka, KS make this an especially appealing read.  Plus, Ben Lerner is a poet, turned writer of fiction, who writes prose like poetry.  Cutting for Stoneby Abraham Verghese is another book I want to finish.

Which authors do you admire? 

Anthony Doerr and Richard Powers.  Wish I could write like them.  

What have you learned from this experience?

Writing fiction is hard work but brings me ultimate joy.  Writing will be my 4th quarter passion.  I love writing about odd and interesting people, inventing characters and their back stories, tinkering with the details of their behavior and inner lives.  

What is the best piece of advice you have ever received? What is one piece of advice you would give your younger self? 

Some of it crept into the novel in the voice of several wise characters – the power of memory and holding onto the most important people in your life during hard and sad times.  My wife, my children, sister, family, and friends.  

What are you working on now?

I’ve begun a story about another psychologically damaged character, who becomes caught up in a mystery, wrapped in the genome, but neither he nor the readers know how much of this is a product of actual events or the mutterings of his own confused mind.  

Books to Read During a Pandemic

Severance by Ling Ma is becoming one of the hottest novels right now despite being published in 2018. The reason for its recent rise in sales is because the novel’s pandemic, Shen Fever, mirrors our own struggles with Covid-19. Ling Ma explores how it affects life around the world and specifically New York City. Not sure if reading about a pandemic while living through one will provide much solace, but it’s worth a shot.

Jane Hu at The Ringer discusses this and more in her essay. Also if you’re looking for another book about loss and epidemics, Joshua Keating has an article on Slate about how the Orwellian novel The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa mirrors how things we’ve taken for granted are disappearing in the age of Sheltering in Place and Social Distancing. Another dystopian tale that mirrors our current reality.

Living (and Writing) in the Quarantine

These are unprecedented times and as we wait, with bated breath, for a solution/remedy/anchor for this swirling storm we will continue to live our lives. Our lives, here at Kelley & Hall have always, and will always, revolve around the world of literature. We are going to use this space as an outlet for updates on how the Coronavirus is impacting the world of publishing and how writers can continue to move forward in an uncertain world.

To get started, here are a few gems we found over the weekend:

Sloane Crosley on writing about a pandemic on an emotional level – NYTimesBut like everyone else, writers feel the need to distill life as a means of surviving it.

National Book Critics Circle Announces Winners – Library Journal

What to Read During Quarantine. – The Strategist

Jami Attenberg on dysfunctional families, forgiveness, and women’s fiction. –The Guardian

Booker Prize 2019

The literary awards circuit took an unexpected turn on Monday when the judges for the Booker Prize made a revolutionary (and stubborn!) decision to award two novels with this honor. Margaret Atwood’s THE TESTAMENTS and Bernardine Evaristo’s GIRL, WOMAN, OTHER. This is not the first time the award has been split in two. According to the New York Times, in 1992 Michael Ondaatje’s “The English Patient” shared it with Barry Unsworth’s “Sacred Hunger,” but the prize’s organizers then changed the rules to only allow one winner to avoid undermining either book.” This year, after hours of deliberating and repeatedly being told they could only choose one winner, the judges threw caution to the wind and broke the rules…again.

If you’re looking for some award-worthy weekend reading, here is some information on these two riveting novels.

THE TESTAMENTS by Margaret Atwood is a #1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER. It brings us back into the world Atwood introduced readers to in The Handmaid’s Tale, (winner of the Booker Prize in 1986). Now she brings the iconic story to a dramatic conclusion in this riveting sequel.

The hit Hulu adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale starring Elisabeth Moss won the 2018 Golden Globe for best television series and the 2017 Emmy for outstanding drama.

More than fifteen years after the events of The Handmaid’s Tale, the theocratic regime of the Republic of Gilead maintains its grip on power, but there are signs it is beginning to rot from within. At this crucial moment, the lives of three radically different women converge, with potentially explosive results.

Two have grown up as part of the first generation to come of age in the new order. The testimonies of these two young women are joined by a third voice: a woman who wields power through the ruthless accumulation and deployment of secrets.

As Atwood unfolds The Testaments, she opens up the innermost workings of Gilead as each woman is forced to come to terms with who she is, and how far she will go for what she believes.

GIRL,WOMAN, OTHER by Bernardine Evaristo

“Joyfully polyphonic and vibrantly contemporary, this is a gloriously new kind of history, a novel of our times: celebratory, ever-dynamic and utterly irresistible.”—Booker Prize citation

Evaristo is the first black woman to win the Booker Prize. Girl, Woman, Other is a magnificent portrayal of the intersections of identity and a moving and hopeful story of an interconnected group of Black British women. Girl, Woman, Other paints a vivid portrait of the state of post-Brexit Britain, as well as looking back to the legacy of Britain’s colonial history in Africa and the Caribbean.

The twelve central characters of this multi-voiced novel lead vastly different lives: Amma is a newly acclaimed playwright whose work often explores her Black lesbian identity; her old friend Shirley is a teacher, jaded after decades of work in London’s funding-deprived schools; Carole, one of Shirley’s former students, is a successful investment banker; Carole’s mother Bummi works as a cleaner and worries about her daughter’s lack of rootedness despite her obvious achievements. From a nonbinary social media influencer to a 93-year-old woman living on a farm in Northern England, these unforgettable characters also intersect in shared aspects of their identities, from age to race to sexuality to class.

Sparklingly witty and filled with emotion, centering voices we often see othered, and written in an innovative fast-moving form that borrows technique from poetry, Girl, Woman, Other is a polyphonic and richly textured social novel that shows a side of Britain we rarely see, one that reminds us of all that connects us to our neighbors, even in times when we are encouraged to be split apart.

So you be the judge. Read both books and decide for yourself if the judge’s tenacity and stubbornness was warranted. I think you will find yourself understanding why they broke the rules.

Motivating Marketplace

Here’s what we believe to be true, published writers and writers aspiring to be published will always find motivation and inspiration when they read about book deals being signed. It is a clear indication that the publishing industry is not dead and is, in fact, always looking for new material to share with the reading public. So keep those fingers typing, that pen scribbling and that word count rising. Who knows, you might be written up here one day and inspiring future writers.

Imbolo Mbue, bestselling author of Behald the Dreamers, the PEN/Faulkner award-winning novel and Oprah Book Club selection has sold her next book to Random House. How Beautiful We Were is “a story told through multiple perspectives about what happens when an African village decides to fight back against an American oil company that is destroying their land.” It is an understatement to say that Mbue is a “writer to watch,” Lit Hub even called Behold the Dreamers a perfect example of the Great American Novel.

Photo via Toronto Star

Debut author Ashley Audrain’s The Push, has left the publishing industry reeling.

Former Penguin Canada publicity director Ashley Audrain’s THE PUSH is pitched as a modern-day WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN for fans of Celeste Ng and THE PERFECT NANNY, about the making and breaking of a family, told through the eyes of a woman whose experience of motherhood is nothing at all what she hoped for; in fact, it’s everything she always feared – via Publisher’s Marketplace.

Major auctions over the course of six days resulted in a pre-empt, two-book deal for publication with Pamela Dorman Books in early 2021 with nearly two dozen countries following suit.

“It’s the combination of that momentum, the few publishers that got in early having a lot of passion for it and also a major agent, Madeleine Milburn, who has an outstanding reputation and track record for discovering bold, new, almost certain to be bestselling talent,” explains Nicole Winstanley, publisher of Penguin Canada, which followed Penguin UK, as the first publishers to get on board with the manuscript.

“One of the international publishers, in his offer letter, referred to Ashley as ‘one of the biggest talents to have emerged in this century.’ I think that was the Dutch publisher and I think that gives you an idea of the sense of excitement around this,” said Winstanley.

This sale is creating buzz and excitement in the publishing industry because it is almost unheard of for an unpublished debut novel, sold outside of a book fair, during the quiet summer months to draw such attention.

The Rise of the Graphic Novel

Photo by Miika Laaksonen on Unsplash

Random House Graphic just announced a new imprint dedicated to publishing graphic novels for kids and teens that will launch in Spring 2020. This comes on the heels of HarperCollins announcing the launch of their graphic novel imprint, Harper Alley, in the fall of 2020. This reflects the rapidly growing popularity of the graphic novel format among young readers.

Many experts are crediting graphic novels with helping to foster a love of reading, as well as building an appreciation for the classics. The visual element attracts readers in a fundamental way and aids in helping understand texts perhaps previously overlooked by readers of all ages. The Mueller Report has even been given the graphic novel treatment.

With the rise in streaming platforms and the growth of book-to-film and television adaptations from beloved novels, more and more producers are looking towards graphic novels as inspiration for the big and small screen.

“Random House Graphic believes in the importance and power of comics storytelling, and the central place of visual literature in our world and culture today. The imprint’s mission is to transform the childhood reading experience by making high-quality graphic novels accessible to every type of reader.”

“Random House Graphic is dedicated to publishing the best in kids and YA graphic novels,” explains Gina Gagliano, Publishing Director of RH Graphic. “It’s an incredibly exciting time for the graphic novel medium—with more readers coming to these stories, and new groundbreaking books being published, the category is expanding by leaps and bounds. We can’t wait to share our contributions to it with readers, booksellers, comic book sellers, educators, librarians, and everyone who loves books and comics.”R

At Kelley & Hall, we are thrilled to be working with Andrew Trainor on his debut graphic novel, BLUEFALL,and experience the growth of this market firsthand.

Interview with Dave Carty, Author of LEAVES ON FROZEN GROUND

Tell us the story behind the story. How did LEAVES ON FROZEN GROUND come to be?

I’m not sure when I first got the idea for the story. But it presented itself to me as stories for four previous, and heretofore unpublished, novels often have: as a fully realized ending with a lot of white space in the preceding narrative. In other words, I knew how I wanted to end the book, but had no idea how I was going to get there. Writing the first draft, a course that took roughly 18 months, was essentially a process of discovering the story on a daily basis and putting it into words.

What was the most challenging aspect of writing LEAVES ON FROZEN GROUND?

Virtually every obstacle I encountered outside the actual writing was difficult, discouraging, and endlessly frustrating. After I completed the first draft, I submitted it to my agent at the time, who read it and rejected it. I had set the original book during the 1930’s depression, and she suggested, with good reason, that books set during the depression had about run their course in American literature. Since my agent had always given me good advice, I decided to rewrite the book per her suggestions: moving the setting to a more current period, and making slight changes in the characters’ makeups. The result took another 18 months or so, and what I thought would be minor tweaking evolved into an entirely new novel. No matter; I submitted the new book to my agent and she rejected it again. At that point I decided that, despite my sincere respect for her opinion, I would try to find a publisher on my own. After months of trying and dozens of rejections, the book finally landed on Michael Mirolla’s desk at Guernica Editions in Toronto, Canada, who to may utter astonishment liked it enough to take it on.   

What is the message you want readers to take away from your book?

I’m not a believer in “message” books, so there are no subliminal messages in this one beyond what readers might like to infer on their own. But I believe it is possible to rise above adversity and I believe in the triumph of the human spirit. I would be greatly flattered if even a few of my readers took those sentiments away from this book.

Describe your background. Did your background play a part in your book?

Yes and no. I spent 30 years writing for magazines, largely, although not entirely, in the so-called hook and bullet press. When I started writing fiction about 25 years ago, the last thing I wanted to do was write hook and bullet novels. But I’ve spent my life outdoors – in the woods, the prairies, the mountains — and have lived with animals all my life: bird dogs, cats, and peripherally, horses. In my late teens and twenties, I worked a numbing succession of low-paying jobs before I became a fulltime writer. All those experiences undoubtedly figured into the tone and setting of this book.

Describe your writing schedule. Do you outline? Any habits? 

I am very disciplined, which I have had frequently pointed out to me, not exclusively in tones of awestruck admiration, by those among my friends who know me best. I awaken early – depending upon the season, between five and six-thirty in the morning, then spend an hour or so drinking coffee, studying notes I’ve written to myself on index cards, watching the sun come up, and finally, meditating. Then I have a quick breakfast and write until noon. In the afternoon, I catch up on whatever else I’ve scheduled for the day. As for outlining, no. Been there and done that. Once I’ve scribbled out a brief storyline for a book, I sketch out a few high points in the narrative and then get after it, figuring out the thrust of the next chapter after I’ve written the last.

What books are on your nightstand? What are you currently reading?

I had to check. Here’s an abbreviated list: Man’s Search For Meaning by Victor E. Frankl; The Book Of Hours by Ranier Maria Rilke, and The Prosody Handbook, A Guide To Poetic Form, by Robert Beum and Karl Shapiro. There are others. This list might seem to imply that I’m an avid reader of poetry, but I am not. I would like to become an avid reader of poetry and am taking small steps in that direction. Mostly I read good novels recommended by friends and non-fiction books on a variety of subjects.

Which authors do you admire?

John Steinbeck, first and foremost. I have long thought that the Grapes of Wrath is a singular example of the Great American Novel. There were so many great writers from that era, Hemingway and Faulkner and Herman Wouk among them, but Steinway seemed the writer who, to me, wrote most often from a very deep place. Contemporary writers I’ve read and tremendously admire are Kent Haruf, Cormac McCarthy, TC Boyle, Jim Harrison, Michael Ondaatje, Ann Patchett, Annie Proulx…to name just a few of the great writers I’ve read in the last ten years or so.  

What have you learned from this experience?

That craftsmanship and beautiful writing and clever word play are all fine and good, but great stories are finer and gooder. So there.  

What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?

“If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life he has imagined, he will meet with a success unimagined in common hours.” That’s Thoreau, from Walden. I can’t improve on it.    

What is one piece of advice you would give your younger self?

Marry rich. Saves about 30 years of writing for magazines.

What are you working on now?

I’m halfway through a novel set in the Shields River valley, which is about an hour’s drive east of my home in southwestern Montana. It’s been tremendously enjoyable so far – I can’t wait to get to work each morning.

Interview with Andrew Trainor, Author of BLUEFALL

BLUEFALL by Andrew Trainor
  • Tell us the story behind the story. How did BLUEFALL come to be?

Years ago, when I was working as a professional actor with time on my hands in-between the hectic, but often sporadic, schedule of auditions and filming on set, I filled up virtually all my free time gaming in virtual worlds; this was a habit I picked up from my older brother when I was very young, often gaming with him and his friends over our computers. One day, I decided to use my credit card to purchase a virtual item in the game DOTA 2 – this item was purely cosmetic. It made my character look different but offered me no advantage in the game. The item’s cost at that time was the equivalent of $8, and I bought it because I wanted to stand out – to have some level of status in this game. A small part of me felt ridiculous spending money on a video game, but that didn’t stop me. Some years on, the developers of DOTA 2 issued a patch to the game that made this particular item no longer “droppable,” meaning that no new copies of the item would ever be found in the game. The supply growth was immediately cut to zero. Forever.

Immediately, the effect of this imposed rarity caused the item’s real-money value to sky-rocket to over $1500. The effective return on my initial $8 investment of a staggering 18750%, over a period of just four to five years, would have caused any stock-market trader or investment enthusiast to get excited by the possibility of immense gains. So, I made some money with my first ever virtual purchase – completely by accident. But what if I had foreseen this rise coming, and had pre-emptively purchased 10 of the item? Or 100? Or 1,000? It was this notion that sparked the idea for the story that would eventually become Bluefall.

Real-money involvement in virtual worlds is not a new thing. Back since the early days of the massively popular World of Warcraft, Chinese companies were hiring workers at pittance wages to “gold-farm”. Basically, they would find the most efficient process to gain virtual capital in the game, and then repeat that process over and over for 24 hours a day. The practice was against the game’s terms of conditions, but that didn’t stop the gold-farmers. These companies were obviously making enough money to justify their operation. World of Warcraft attempted to stop users from purchasing in-game capital for real money, but the sellers just went to platforms like eBay and conducted the transaction there.

Eventually, as it stands today, the World of Warcraft developers ceased trying to prevent these transactions and instead adopted their own “official” means of injecting real-money into the game. Users can now purchase “subscription time” – 1 month’s access to the game – and sell that to other players for a certain amount of gold. Thus, a functioning and official Economy and currency exchange was born. The same process has been repeated in various other games across the MMORPG genre. In every game, you can find someone willing to pay real money to look better, be stronger, stand out, and gain status – I myself was one of those people. And wherever you find money and a lack of strict regulation, you find sharks and opportunists ready to swoop in and exploit the market in order to get rich.

Bluefall, in a sense, is already happening. From that understanding, I only needed a model to progress with for the story, and I found a perfect framework in replicating/breaking down the causes and timelines of a real Economic crash that occurred in 1990’s Korea with the chaebols – Samsung, Hyundai, LG, etc. Add in my passion for sci-fi, a touch of detective noir, and the building blocks for the story were in place. That was over two years ago.

  • What was the most challenging aspect of writing BLUEFALL?

I first approached the idea 4-5 years ago, but grew frustrated and never finished it. Once I felt ready to revisit the subject, there was nothing remotely challenging about writing Bluefall at all — it was a sheer pleasure. But it wasn’t until I was able to approach the story with a fresh perspective that everything finally opened up for me. So I guess I’ll say the most difficult part was that initial ‘failure’, but I see now that it was a necessary part of the process and I look back on even that part of the journey as part of the greater joy of writing Bluefall.

  • What is the message you want readers to take away from your book?

There’s a couple of layers to this, but I think the most important message (to me personally, at least) in Bluefall is that we cannot hide from who we are — not even in a virtual world. Not through wealth, not through escapism, not through addiction, not through obsession, not even through the lies we tell ourselves and the ones we love in our desperation to dull the pain of reality. Until we can face ourselves as we are, we will always be unhappy.

  • Tell us a little bit about your background and how it helped inspire your work.

I’m a gamer who has over a year’s worth of playing time on WoW and another year spread out among a couple other MMOs since back in the days of the original Everquest, so I’ve always been interested in virtual worlds and fascinated by them. I studied Economics in college before I went into writing, so this concept is really just a direct blend of those two different parts of my past.

  • Describe your writing schedule. Do you outline? Any habits?

I come up with an idea that I think is cool and I try to hold onto that initial feeling of excitement for as long as I can. When it’s gone, I try to remember what I loved about it and that sometimes helps me get back on track. I write when I feel like it and sometimes that means staying up all night. Other times it means I won’t write for weeks.

I start with a cool idea, then form it into a story, then create a world for that story, then I populate that world with people. From the characters comes everything else. The specifics are different every time, but most of the things I’ve written (that were actually finished or turned out any good) have come about in that general way.

As to keeping everything organized when creating a vast world, I know there are other writers who about worldbuilding in a different way, but I don’t feel as if you need to meticulously plan out every single detail of a Universe to create one. You start with the big blocks and fill in some little ones, and when you’re confronted with making a choice you decide what works or makes sense with what you already have. It’s a strange kind of cause and effect process, i.e. you make X decision, so the next decision must be Y, and because you chose Y then the next decision must be Z. You can ask yourself any possible question about a Universe and answer it with some variation of that same process. There will always be inconsistencies at first, but rarely will you be presented with a situation where those disconnects can’t be resolved, so if you’re paying attention and aren’t afraid to make adjustments or rethink details when necessary, it doesn’t all feel so overwhelming. Everything starts with a single decision and from there blossoms into a living Universe, much like life came from single-celled organisms and adapted, by necessity, into complex, rational beings.

  • What books are on your nightstand? What are you currently reading?

I just finished the Mistborn series and have returned to rereading Tolkien’s The Silmarillion. What can I say? I’m a huge fantasy nerd.

  • Which authors do you admire?

Brandon Sanderson, for his work ethic; Sam Shepherd, for his artistic versatility; and Stan Lee, for his magical ability to turn stories and characters into modern mythology.

  • What have you learned from this experience?

Don’t be afraid to dive into the unknown – whether that is a genre you are uncomfortable with or a format you’ve never tried before. (Bluefall was my first graphic novel, after all.) But just as important as the fearlessness in an artist is the humility; asking for help and trusting those you choose to collaborate with is an absolutely necessary – and hopefully, enjoyable! – part of growing as an artist. Writing can often be a very solitary profession by nature, but I’ve recently come to realize that most of my favorite professional experiences were those rare opportunities to work with other creatives and watch them lend their own unique artistic vision to my work. Inevitably, the story becomes better for it.

  • What is the best piece of advice you have ever received? What is one piece of advice you would give your younger self?

“Write what you know” – or, even better, “Write what makes you come alive.” I wasted so much time in my formative writing years trying to figure out what people wanted to read. It was agonizing! This revelation has become a cliché by now, but everything became so much easier and more enjoyable for me when I focused on trying to write the type of stories that I wanted to read instead.

  • What are you working on now?

Bluefall: Vol. 2!

Agents vs. Publicists

{Photo by Nicole Honeywill on Unsplash}

I was recently asked by an author what the difference was between an agent and a publicist and which was more important to a successful writing career. The old adage of comparing apples and oranges is very fitting. Both are fruits, part of the same world, but within that world, they couldn’t be more different.

In a nutshell, agents shop material to editors and publishers in the hopes of securing a lucrative deal for their clients. Agents make money from a percentage of any sales to publishers/production companies/etc.

Tip: It is strongly advised not to move forward with an agent who requires or requests money upfront. There are even states with regulations against such business practices.

Publicists work on either an hourly rate or for a specified amount (often called a retainer). Publicists are responsible for getting material (in this case books and authors) media coverage and placement. They send out pitches and press releases alerting the media to the existence of the book and why it is “newsworthy,” and would make a good fit with their audience. When you see an author interviewed in a magazine or on a television news program, that is the work of a publicist (either in-house or independently hired).

Agents and publicists are both extremely helpful in building an author’s career. They can both help to create and facilitate an author’s brand and platform.

Interview with Author Beth Daigle on MUSING MEDITERRANEAN

Tell us the story behind the story. How did MUSING MEDITERRANEAN come to be?

When I first traveled to the Mediterranean in 2012, I had been freelance writing for regional magazines in my area for about five years. I had written many articles and columns, but began wanting something more. I tossed book ideas around in my head, but never landed on that one concept that seemed right. Fiction writing didn’t call out to me and children’s or young adult books didn’t light a spark either. My trip to the Mediterranean had been a lifetime in the making. I was excited to see my ancestral countries (Greece and Italy) for the first time and took along a travel journal to chronicle as much of what we did and saw as possible.  I began writing in it at the end of each day and about half way through the trip it was nearly full. It dawned on me that, with so much material already, this was my book.

What was the most challenging aspect of writing MUSING MEDITERRANEAN?

For me, the most challenging part of writing this book was determining what aspects of my travel experience were story-worthy and what needed to hit the cutting room floor. I wanted to give enough detail to capture the reader’s interest and keep the story moving forward, but not so much that the reader would become lost in minutiae.  It can be a fine balance between too much information and not enough.

What is the message you want readers to take away from your book?

I would like readers to come away from my book with the feeling that travel is full of possibilities. If they are planning a trip to the Mediterranean, I want them to read MUSING MEDITERRANEAN as a resource. To say, that sounds so interesting, I want to do or see that too. If a reader may never have the chance to visit Greece, Italy or Turkey, I want them to come away from MUSING MEDITERRANEANfeeling like they have. I want this book to be an escape just like a good vacation should be.

Describe your background.

I come from a marketing background having earned my undergraduate degree and MBA both with concentrations in marketing. I went on to work in the financial services and online consumer goods industries in various marketing capacities. Eventually, I left the corporate world to raise a family. I began freelance writing as a way to keep my head in the game beyond my role as mom. Writing and developing promotional content had always been my favorite part of my marketing jobs. The official decision to begin writing came when I binge-watched Sex and the Cityabout ten years after it first aired. I fixated on Carrie Bradshaw as a columnist and writer and declared, “I could do that.” So, I did. I had my first article published in Northshore Magazinein October 2008 and I’ve been writing ever since. I have written a movie and film column and had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing celebrities including Mark Wahlberg, Mike O’Malley and Scott Grimes. I also wrote a lifestyle column called Matters of Life and Beth and was the editor of a regional home publication which secured my current obsession with all things interior design and home décor.

Describe your writing schedule. Do you outline? Any habits?

Whether I’m writing a column, a magazine article or a book, my process is the same. I begin with a brain dump so that any and all of my thoughts, notes, interview quotes or research are together in one place. This often results in a ridiculously long version of whatever the end result is supposed to be. From here I begin my first round of edits, cutting anything that is superfluous. As I near a word count that is appropriate, I move into the next phase which is finessing each sentence – finding just the right words to express what I want to say and impart emotion through the words I choose. Next, I carefully run through what remains to fact check, spell check and proof to the very best of my ability. Finally, I read through for flow, reorganize content and ensure that my final version is as close to my version of perfect as I can get it.

I write best when I am alone without any distraction. I have a home office that I’ve turned into a little writing haven. Some of my favorite published pieces are framed and hanging on the wall and little mementos or quotes surround me for those moments when I need inspiration.

What books are on your nightstand? What are you currently reading?

I keep some of my favorite books on my nightstand including The Language of Flowersby Vanessa Diffenbaugh. Not only did I find that story and its romance captivating, but the education of Victorian age floriography was so interesting to me. After reading the book, I wrote a short article featuring it and I began bringing flowers into my own home that expressed whatever particular emotion or feeling I wanted in my life at that time. The romance, beauty and meaning of flowers is appealing on so many levels. Other books I have read and enjoyed that sit on my nightstand are Traveling with Pomegranatesby Sue Monk Kidd and Anne Kidd Taylor, A Man Called Oveby Frederik Backman andUnder the Tuscan Sunby Frances Mayes.

My book club just finished reading Little Fires Everywhereby Celeste Ng and before that Goodnight Nobodyby Jennifer Weiner. Up next we are reading Americanahby Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

Which authors inspire you?

I do enjoy the relatable and straightforward writing style of Elin Hilderbrand. She has an ease about her words that is perfect for the kind of summer reads she’s known for. When charged with reading the first book in her Winter Streetseries for book club, I ended up reading all four. They’re just interesting and effortless reads.

I am also inspired by Elizabeth Gilbert author of Eat Pray Love. I like to say that MUSING MEDITERRANEAN is Eat Pray Love meets My Big Fat Greek Wedding. I liken my transformation working through travel anxiety to Gilbert’s personal journey overcoming her own demons. Experiencing and appreciating other countries, cultures and lifestyles throughout the process allowed me to feel a connection with Gilbert and her travel experience. I also enjoy her very honest and thoughtful approach to writing. I hope that I am able to achieve a similarly authentic voice.

What have you learned from this experience?

I have learned that, like with most things in life, you can’t do it alone. Sure, you can put words to a page without help, but I believe, whenever possible, publishing a book is best done when you involve professionals who can take your work to the next level. Working with seasoned editors, publishers, and promoters has given me the satisfaction and peace of mind of knowing that I have given my book its best chance at success. The support has given me confidence.

What is your advice for aspiring writers?

My advice to aspiring writers is to commit. Commit to who you are as a writer, commit to your story, your writing style and your voice. You will have people tell you to change and you might be compelled to give them what they say “sells,” but if you have a story you believe in and can share it in an authentic voice, it is worth telling your way. Take pride in your work and do whatever it takes to make it the best it can be. If you can, work with a writing coach, hire an editor and do your research.

Above all, commit to getting it done. It’s easy to take on a big project like a book and set it aside for a time when you feel there’s more time. Life is busy, that may never happen, so make the time and tell your story now.

What are you working on now?

I continue to freelance and post regularly on my lifestyle blog, 3 Olives & A Twist. I am also planning a follow up to MUSING MEDITERRANEAN. The same cast of characters will be taking Hawaii by storm in 2019…working title, HELLO HAWAII. I would love to chronicle my time there in a similar way and update readers on how things are going with my travel anxiety.

Following a fabulous trip in 2014 to Los Angeles for the MTV Music Awards with a girlfriend, I thought my travel anxiety was a thing of the past. Unfortunately, it reared its ugly head again in 2016 when, two weeks prior to another European vacation, I put my foot down and insisted we cancel. After learning that one of our destinations, Nice, France, had been the target of a terror attack involving a cargo truck driven into a crowd killing 86 people, I simply could not muster the courage to go.

However now, with enough time passed, I am trying again with Hawaii and would love to share my experience there.

We can’t wait to hear more from Beth Daigle. Pick up a copy of MUSING MEDITERRANEAN and start planning your next trip!


Trends, Trends, Trends

{image via}

When you are writing a book, you spend the majority of your time holding your breath and praying that a book similar to yours doesn’t come out, or worse, make a big splash with a “significant” book deal. When you secure an agent and they shop your book to editors, you will probably hear the common refrain of “Sorry but we have a similar title already on our roster.” But there is a light at the end of this doppleganger tunnel. When you begin your publicity campaign having similar books published at the same time will only help your chances of getting noticed.

Editors and producers are always looking for trends in publishing. A trend is defined as a prevailing tendency or inclination, a general movement, a current style or preference, a line of development. Being part of a trend shows that you are part of a universal feeling that is currently gaining momentum. You should be able to reference at least three titles in order to declare something a “trend.”

Recent trends in publishing include books on gun violence in America (How to Be Safe, Only Child, If We Had Known, Oliver Loving), auto-fiction (Karl Ove Knausgaard, Rachel Cusk, Sheila Heti, Edward St Aubyn), and marriage vacations (The Break, The Intermission, Marriage Vacation, The Arrangement).

For an author, having a book with a similar premise or theme that releases within the same six-month time period is incredibly beneficial and will help your publicity efforts immensely.

When you are beginning to brainstorm your publicity plans, keep an eye out for upcoming releases. You can search on Amazon under publication date, Good Reads or in trade publications like Publisher’s Weekly and Kirkus that post reviews a few months before a book is released.

Keep your finger on the pulse of publishing and stay alert to trends and themes that are reminiscent of your work.

Interview with Writer Diana Snyder

Diana Snyder found a way of turning her love of writing and dating into an actual job as a TV writer on Freeform’s hit comedy, “Young & Hungry.” In addition to writing for the show, Diana is the co-author of the book, “Young & Hungry: Your Complete Guide to a Delicious Life,” which is a girls’ guide to being young, single, short on cash, and passionate about food. The book came out on April 11th. Snyder explains the inspiration behind the book, the message she hopes readers take Young & Hungry and how she became a writer for one of the hottest shows on TV.

Tell us the story behind the story. How did YOUNG & HUNGRY: Your Complete Guide to a Delicious Life come to be?

With the success of the TV show “Young & Hungry,” Freeform was looking to expand the Y&H brand with a lifestyle guide/cookbook. Gabi Moskowitz, whose blog inspired Y&H, was tapped to create the recipes but when it came to finding someone to write the advice and lifestyle section… the network needed someone who could capture the voice of the show and understand the “young & hungry” girl. David Holden (who created the show and runs it) chose me. As the youngest writer on Y&H I am constantly talking to the writer’s room about the dates I’ve been on (too many to count), the exercises I’ve tried (hello spin class), the drama in my friend group, and the career advice that helped me get promoted from writer’s assistant to full time writer in the span of less than two years. I developed and pitched about all the things I’ve learned as a twenty something girl trying to make a kick ass life for herself and sent it to Freeform’s publishing department. They felt that my pitch matched the tone of “Young & Hungry” which is all about Gabi Diamond, a young & hungry girl with big dreams trying to make it happen in San Francisco and hired me for the job!

What was the most challenging aspect of writing YOUNG & HUNGRY?

The most challenging aspect of writing “Young & Hungry: Your Complete Guide to a Delicious Life” was melding all the recipes, the advice, and the tie ins to the show in one book. I wanted the book to appeal to both fans of the show, and people who were just looking for some great advice and some simple (and affordable) recipes.

What is the message you want readers to take away from your book?

I want readers to realize that they can create the life they want! Gabi Diamond, the main character from the show “Young & Hungry” has a big dreams and a small bank account, but that doesn’t stop her from going after what she wants. I wanted to instill the “Young & Hungry” message in the book. For example, if you move to a new city and know absolutely no one… you can make new friends (there’s a chapter in the book on this). If you don’t have a budget to decorate your apartment, you can do some pretty great things on the cheap! If you’re single and depressed about it you can make yourself a Tinder profile and get out there! I want people to read this book and realize that they can easily turn their life from tragic to magic. I believe if you’re hungry enough you can make it happen! This book will give you some tips to get a head start.

Describe your background.

I went to NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and studied film & television production. During my junior year I wanted more real world experience, so in addition to being a full time student I was a full time personal assistant to an Oscar winning actor (which was the best learning experience ever). While I quickly realized I didn’t want to be an actor’s personal assistant for the rest of my life, it was an amazing gateway into Hollywood. After two and half years of living and working in New York, at 23 I packed my bags and left for LA. My first job in LA was working as a writer’s assistant for “Young & Hungry” during the very first season. After one season of taking notes, working crazy hours, and managing to pitch some episode ideas… I got bumped up to staff writer!

Describe your writing schedule. Do you outline? Any habits? Differences between writing a book vs. a television script.

When I’m writing on the show, majority of my writing gets done during the weekend since the week is so busy! During times when we’re not writing the show, I typically wake up; force myself to work out, and then head to either a coffee shop or my boyfriend’s office to write. Being around people forces me to actually write instead of spending hours reading blogs and watching videos (which I can totally do). As for my writing habits, I would say my style is write a quick outline, spit out a draft, and then edit the heck out of it! Writing a television show and a book are actually incredibly similar. They both require an outline and a structure (in this case the book was divided into five sections: basics, career, health, friendship, and love). However, an episode of “Young & Hungry” has to be less than thirty minutes whereas a book usually does not have a specific length. I think one of the reasons I enjoyed writing this book so much was the ability to deviate and go off on longer tangents. When writing a tv show you have very specific plot points you have to hit (sometimes even jokes you have to write in) and there’s not as much room to explore.

What books are on your nightstand? What are you currently reading?

I LOVE to read. I’ll read anything with a strong female character. I just finished a book called “Sweetbitter” about one girl’s experience working in the restaurant industry. It was fascinating! I’m also reading “The Devil Wears Prada,” because even though I’ve seen the movie a million times I was curious how it translated from the book. Ooh, and I always have the Meg Wolitzer book “The Interestings” on my nightstand because I think it’s just an absolutely genius piece of writing. Any book about a girl trying to follow her passion and make it happen is going to peak my interest.

Which authors inspire you?

I have such a girl crush on Jennifer Weiner! I think her writing is grounded, real, warm and unexpected. Every time I pick up one of her books I know I’m going to be reading an authentic female story. I also love Dani Shapiro, her memoir “Slow Motion” was one of the most honest and heartbreaking books I’ve ever read. Ooh, and Mindy Kaling! She’s just so funny and every time I read one of her books it feels like I’m talking to a super cool best friend or older sister.

What have you learned from this experience?

I’ve learned that if you want to improve your life (and your cooking skills) it’s totally possible. Three years ago I was air bnb’ing someone’s couch, barely had a paycheck, lived on Chinese takeout, and didn’t know a single person in LA. Now, three years later, I have a cute apartment in West Hollywood, I’m writing for a hit TV show, I have friends, a boyfriend, and I cook! As my sixth grade math teacher once said, “Inch by inch life’s a cinch… yard by yard… life gets hard.” I’ve learned that life is about growing in inches. Looking at this book I’ve seen how much I’ve learned and I’m so excited to share that knowledge with the readers of this book!

What is your advice for aspiring writers?

To have a writing career you have to do two things: write and then hustle. Spending nights writing your novel or script is ah-mazing but if you don’t have anyone to show it to… it’s useless! Writers have to spend equal time hustling and writing. Write your script… and then make sure you’ve got an amazing agent to show it to! If you’re writing a book, go to a networking event and make contacts in the industry. I’ve had to work for every single good thing that’s ever happened to me, nothing has come easily. You gotta work for it!

What are you working on now?

Right now I’m working on a bunch of things! First, we are in the middle of writing the fifth season of “Young & Hungry.” It’s turning into one of my favorite seasons and I think the audience is going to be very surprised to see where Gabi and Josh take their relationship this year. At the same time, I’m writing a proposal for a new book called “Instafamous” about an instafamous supermodel (think Kendall Jenner) and her slightly chubby best friend who move to New York to navigate the fashion world together after high school. It feels super fun and current and I’m having a great time writing it!

Give us your typical day-in-the-life of a television writer in Hollywood.

I wake up at around seven thirty and immediately make an entire pot of coffee. I check emails, read the “Young & Hungry” draft from the day before (and pitch some jokes) and then slowly listen to a podcast as I get dressed. I then drive to the “Young & Hungry” sound stage at CBS Radford and I call my mom to give her the life updates. Once I get to the office my boss, David Holden (who is the nicest human ever) usually brings all of the writers into our writer’s room to hear ideas. David loves ideas that come from real life. The best pitches come from a place of truth. For example, we did an episode last season where Sofia has a huge crush on her neighbor. That came from a time when I was dating my neighbor! So… once all of the writers pitch ideas David decides on the one he likes best and we all pitch on it to make it better. Once the idea is developed further someone goes off and outlines it and then we all split up and write scenes and eventually put the script together. On weeks when we’re shooting the show, around 2pm or 3pm every day we go to a rehearsal and watch the actors (who are fantastic) read the lines and depending on how things play (or not play) we do a rewrite. At all times we’re usually working on two scripts… the one we’re shooting that week and the one we’re shooting the week after. Working in television is for people who love fast paced schedules and red bull!

Do you have a favorite “Hollywood” anecdote about your life in LA?

Every single day driving up to the “Young & Hungry” set on the CBS lot feels like magic. I’m just a girl who grew up in suburban Westchester County, New York and working with so many talented people is a dream! Recently one of my best anecdotes was having Hollywood legend Betty White on the show! Having Betty White say one of the jokes that I wrote was one of the coolest moments of my Hollywood career thus far. Ooh, and we had Heather Dubrow of the “Real Housewives of Orange County” on the show and I totally fan girled out on her too! It’s so much fun getting to meet talented, fun, amazing people in entertainment that I admire.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?

I think the best piece of advice is that you have to “zig and zag.” Life isn’t a straight and narrow path. One minute you’re working as a personal assistant in New York, the next you’re writing on a TV show in LA. I think it’s important to be open to possibilities and go after what you want with tenacity and courage. Don’t let fear hold you back…. as Gabi constantly tells herself in “Young & Hungry”, “I got this!” I think every day you should wake up and tell the world that!

Interview with Author Patricia Perry Donovan

To say that author Patricia Perry Donovan is inspiring is an understatement. When disaster strikes we often hear the familiar refrain, “look for the helpers.” Patricia Perry Donovan is a helper. She based her second novel, AT WAVE’S END on her own personal experiences during Hurricane Sandy. After seeing so many families torn apart and displaced by this devastating super storm that happened in her own backyard, she volunteered in any way she could. But this wasn’t the first time Donovan displayed selfless actions, over ten years ago she and her husband started a teen service group to offer volunteer services across the world. She writes “Hopeful Family Dramas,” and AT WAVE’S END is that and so much more!

Tell us the story behind the story. How did AT WAVE’S END come to be?

Three key ideas came together to inspire this book. The major catalyst for AT WAVE’S END was Hurricane Sandy, which devastated the East Coast in October 2012. When the storm hit, I was in the midst of writing my first novel, DELIVER HER. We lost power for about 12 days. In my coastal community alone, more than 500 families were left homeless in the storm’s wake. Fortunately, my home was far enough from the beach to escape damage. In the storm’s aftermath, and for many months afterward, volunteers helped wherever we could: shoveling sand from homes, community cleanup. My husband and I started a teen service group about ten years ago, so of course we found many opportunities to assist.

In the wake of such devastation and the bureaucratic red tape that hindered recovery, it was easy to feel helpless.  One thing that was always needed, however, was food, whether for the first responders at the beachfront or for the displaced families who came together to eat at a local church.  That’s partly why I placed two chefs at the heart of AT WAVE’S END—that, and my six-year expatriation in Lyon, France, the gastronomic capital of the world, which turned me into a foodie.

As we volunteered, it was impossible not to be touched by the emotions, courage and determination of the storm’s survivors as they coped with their losses and began to rebuild their lives (efforts that continue today). I wrote a few short stories at that time based on my own experiences or stories I heard, which later formed the framework of this book.

Secondly, several years ago, a friend mentioned she was considering entering a “Win a Bed and Breakfast” essay contest for a property in New England.  It was the first I’d heard of those contests, which I later learned are fairly common.  I tucked this away as a possible story idea; later, I created The Mermaid’s Purse bed and breakfast as a shelter for the storm survivors, and a place for Connie and Faith Sterling to repair their frayed mother-daughter relationship.

Lastly, there had always been a gold moon-and-stars locket in my mother’s jewelry box.  Its origins were vague, but I ended up with it and began wearing it a few years ago.  People always remarked upon it. I decided to make it part of Connie and Faith’s history.

A note on the book’s structure: AT WAVE’S END is divided into five sections, each named for a common stage of disaster recovery that I learned about during post-Sandy volunteer training: Pre-Disaster, Impact, Heroic, Honeymoon, and Disillusionment. Some experts believe there is a general pattern or cycle of phases that a community and the individuals in it go through from the time of impact of a disaster to establishing a newly reconstructed life. I found this an apt structure for the story I wanted to tell.

What was the most challenging aspect of writing AT WAVE’S END?

Even though the book is primarily Faith and Connie’s story, my greatest challenge was honoring the storm’s survivors and showing sensitivity to their plights. Above all, I wanted readers to feel their strength and courage and not to feel sorry for them. For this reason, I asked some friends who experienced great loss in the wake of Sandy to read my early drafts.

What is the message you want readers to take away from your book?

Ultimately, AT WAVE’S END is a novel of family drama and suspense. But it is also a story of love, loss and recovery. During the most devastating periods of our lives, we often are forced to reorder our priorities, and discover what is most precious. The things (or persons) we can’t live without. I want readers to feel hopeful after reading this book, and to understand that no matter how great one’s loss, whether it is trust or a relationship or material things, life is never so desperate that you cannot rebuild.

Describe your background.

I am currently a journalist covering the business of healthcare (a subject that creeps into my writing). I have a degree in journalism and urban communications, and have made my living as a writer my entire life. I began as a newspaper reporter for a small weekly paper in central New Jersey, then segued into corporate communications.  Following that, I spent about fifteen years as a technical writer and editor in the IT field before returning to journalism in 2004. In 2010, I began taking classes in fiction writing as a lark, and found that I thoroughly enjoyed it. Some of the short stories I wrote at that time were published in literary journals.

Interestingly, I never set out to write a novel.  However, in 2012 I won a novel-pitching contest on the basis of twenty or so pages I had written. Since my prize afforded me a consultation with a literary agent, I needed to come up with a completed manuscript. I spent the next few months writing the story that ultimately turned into my debut novel, DELIVER HER.

Describe your writing schedule. Do you outline? Any habits?

Typically, I rise early and try to write for a few hours. I try not to edit myself too much in the early stages but go back and edit once I have a solid draft. As far as habits, I start the day by reading the last page or two that I wrote the previous day to get back into that mindset. As my writing career progresses, there are many distractions: social media, proofreading galleys, perfecting pitches for future novels. I devote about 30 minutes each morning to social media. But the ideal I strive for is to block out everything else and write 1,500 to 2,000 words each day.

And on the “pantser or planner” question, I aim to be somewhere in the middle. For my first book, I spent several weeks creating an extremely detailed outline. Once I started writing, however, I never even looked at it! I learned I am a “seat of the pants” writer at heart. However, being under contract, looming deadlines don’t permit me to stray too far off course. So now, I work from a very high-level outline, but allow the story and characters a certain amount of leeway, letting them guide me but periodically reining them in. I do pause periodically to read and take stock of the story, recalibrating if necessary, but with a firm eye on the calendar!

What books are on your nightstand? What are you currently reading?

Of course, topping my TBR pile are the July and August releases from my fellow Lake Union authors: THE COMFORT OF SECRETS by Christine Nolfi, THE TRUTH WE BURY by Barbara Sissel, MRS. SAINT AND THE DEFECTIVES by Julie Lawson Timmer, and A BEAUTIFUL POISON by Lydia Kang.

Also in queue is BEARTOWN by Fredrik Backman. I recently devoured MY GRANDMOTHER ASKED ME TO TELL YOU SHE’S SORRY and A MAN CALLED OVE. I’m a devotee of his character development.

Finally, I’m dipping in and out of MY BRILLIANT FRIEND, the first in Elena Ferrante’s trilogy. Her books require a particular mindset.

Which authors inspire you?

See Fredrik Backman above. I’m also in awe of Anita Shreve and Elizabeth Strout. Early on, I envisioned AT WAVE’S END as a series of linked stories a la Elizabeth’s OLIVE KITTERIDGE. I still aspire to write that sort of novel one day. Also, I’m currently analyzing Lisa Scottoline’s books. She is a master of suspense, instantly drawing her readers into her stories. I’m trying to learn from her.

What have you learned from this experience?

Many, many things! First, that you are never too old to try your hand at something new, and discover a new passion. That it IS possible to write a novel, word by word, paragraph by paragraph. That I should try not to be discouraged by negative reviews or other writers’ success, and instead remind myself that I HAVE WRITTEN BOOKS. That I should be receptive to ideas from talented editors, but that ultimately, the story is mine to tell (and sell!). That there is nothing more exhilarating than occasionally ceding control to your characters and watching where they will take you. (It’s a bit like using a Ouija board.) That book reviews matter for authors, and I should try to write a review for every book I read, even though I find that process a bit intimidating.

What is your advice for aspiring writers?

Clichéd, but put yourself in the chair. Make writing a priority. Find time every day to write, even if it’s only a few paragraphs. Good writing takes practice. Find a writing partner or writing group to critique your work.  It’s tempting but ultimately very isolating to write in a vacuum.

Also, read as much as possible. Read outside of your genre if you can bear it. Read about the craft of writing. (Stephen King’s ON WRITING: A MEMOIR OF THE CRAFT is required reading for all writers!) And please, please, please: write reviews for those authors.  Even one sentence matters. You can ask them to do the same for you one day once you’re published.

What are you working on now?

Besides ramping up for AT WAVE’S END publication, I’m polishing synopses and early chapters for two forthcoming (fingers crossed!) novels of family drama and suspense. The first centers on a case of medical identity theft, and the second on a teenage volunteer who goes missing while on a school service trip to Central America.


Interview with Author Jaime Hansen

According to Jaime Hansen, Expanding the Conversation started as a book, “but it’s really a much broader theme. It’s a call-to-action to get more people involved in the discussion around entrepreneurial ideas, leadership, women in business and bringing together different perspectives in business ideas. Hansen has built a website that is becoming a central portal for anyone interested in business and the dissemination of ideas to gather, learn and discover.”

In today’s rapidly changing business atmosphere, it is more important than ever that women stay one step ahead of the conversation. Working with Jaime and helping to spread the word about gender differences in the workplace was inspiring and energizing. She spoke to us about her book, her business and the future.

Tell us the story behind the story. How did EXPANDING THE CONVERSATION come to be?

Most of my career I’ve worked in male-dominated industries.  I’ve been very fortunate and never found this to be a problem; if anything, I felt it gave me an advantage in standing out.  That said, I’ve always been very aware of the gender imbalance in business.

In the last five years or so, I’ve watched this subject heat up in the media.  I think all talk on this topic – good, bad, and ugly – only helps bring more light to an issue that certainly needs to be fixed.  The problem for me is that the rhetoric has become very angry, and accusatory, and . . . one-sided.  Consequently, I feel like it has fallen on deaf ears.  People only seem to be talking (and listening) to like-minded people. There has also been a lot of talk about fairness and equality – which are great in principle, but sort of irrelevant in business.  For all these reasons, I think the last few years of heavy attention have actually brought about very little change to women in business.

So the idea behind the book, was as simple as the title. I really just wanted to expand the conversation – honestly and objectively – and get more people (women and men, current leaders and future ones) included in the dialogue.  A big part of the problem, from my perspective, is that we don’t incorporate different, sometimes unpopular, points of view to some of these age-old challenges.  My goal for this book was to start to do that in a thought-provoking, data-driven, and collaborative way.

What was the most challenging aspect of writing EXPANDING THE CONVERSATION?

The most challenging aspect of writing Expanding the Conversation was probably around keeping my ‘voice’.  I don’t write like a conventional business genre writer nor, to be honest, do I speak like one in real life.  But while it’s acceptable to be different in this way once you’re an established author, for a first-time writer – an atypical voice is not necessarily a selling point. There were many times I thought about (and was often advised to) switch over to write with authority and die-hard conviction, in other words to use a more ‘professional’ voice.

But ultimately those parts always sounded fake to me, and felt sort of like the antithesis of my entire premise.  Expanding the Conversation is NOT an expert account or a how-to manual of any sort.  It’s intentionally about opening up the dialogue to include new – sometimes opposing – points of view in an effort to look at things differently.  So in the end, I’m glad I stayed with my genuine voice, as I personally think it’s one of the biggest differentiators for this type of book.

What is the message you want readers to take away from your book?

There are actually a few messages in the book, including: leading with intent, taking the time to reframe perceptions, and maintaining authenticity.  But I think the biggest take-away is that leaders need to actively start seeking opportunities to leverage different characteristics for a competitive advantage.

People have started to see ‘equality’ as ‘sameness’ and that is a huge mistake.  Men and women are equal, for sure, but not for a minute the same.  Gender differences should be embraced and exploited – meaning made full use of and applied strategically for complementary, competitive advantages in business.

Describe your background. 

After graduating from Northwestern with a degree in the mathematical methods of the social sciences, I started my career as an economic consultant with an incredible firm in Washington, D.C.  A few years later, while earning my MBA at Duke, I “discovered the Internet,” became enamored with the technology sector, and moved to California immediately after graduation.

I got a job at Yahoo and found I was really good at business development – building relationships with strategic partners and collaborating with cross-functional teams.  I worked in digital media for a while (first at Yahoo, then for a stint at Fox), before switching over to software technology and a company called Cornerstone onDemand, doing similar business development and strategic alliances, but this time on a global scale.  I’ve worked with so many great people, with different leadership styles and teams, and after a while I decided it was time to take a pause and write this book on expanding the conversation.

Describe your writing schedule. Do you outline?  Any habits?

Ha!  Although I’ve read countless books proclaiming that the most successful people tend to be early risers, my life – and my mind – just simply do not work that way.  I spend the early morning with my kids before school, then a couple hours reading news and social media feeds, with the rest of the day dedicated to research (books, articles, podcasts, and sometimes live interviews).  Then it’s back with my family for dinner and early bedtimes (I have young kids).  Almost all my creative work – brainstorming, outlining, and the actual writing etc. – occurs at night.  The two notable exceptions are that I find myself doing some of my most creative thinking while driving and in the shower.  The driving is less intentional, but I often find myself taking very long showers in the middle of the day when an idea starts to brew and I want to flush it out a little.

What books are on your nightstand? What are you currently reading?

I recently finished Humilitas (John Dickson) – which I enjoyed and have just started Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself (Dr. Joe Dispenza).  I am also reading Venture Deals (Feld and Mendelson) for the second time and I’m in the middle of Delusions of Gender (Cordelia Fine)

Who inspires you?

In a word, I’d say: Entrepreneurs.  And to clarify, I don’t only mean that in terms of a profession, but rather those that have an entrepreneurial state of mind.  Real entrepreneurs boast three characteristics that I find truly inspiring – guts, passion, and creativity.  By nature, this type of person thinks beyond the norm.  An entrepreneurial mind is always curious and willing to try new things.  The kicker is that they have to put themselves out there to do it – so they often risk pushback or critique by merely mentioning their non-mainstream idea.  That’s not an easy thing to do, at least not for me, and it’s an especially difficult trait out of which to make a habit.  So those people that do this on a consistent basis – those are the people that inspire me to keep trying to change things on my end.

What is one of the most important lessons you have learned in business?

 One of the most important lessons I’ve learned in business is that everyone has a story.  Or more appropriately, everyone has his or her own story.  In my experience, business (like life), basically thrives on people and relationships, and no two are alike.  Almost every time I assumed to know a person’s story or background, I missed a crucial element.  Once I learned to see people as unique individuals with their own histories, interests, and motivations, it was easier to collaborate and devise plans that inspired everyone involved.  From my perspective, it merely takes direction to execute, it takes understanding to inspire.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?

“Do more things that scare you.”   At first, I thought this was advice to just loosen up or become a better risk-taker.  But gradually I learned that the things that truly “scare” us, rarely present real danger.  More often than not, the reason we’re scared to do something is simply because the outcome is unknown. We don’t know if people will react well to it, if we’ll like it, if we’ll be good at it.  And thus, this fear stops us from even trying new things in the first place.  That’s crippling because it not only stunts personal growth, it also prevents us from being inspired by new experiences.

Once I was able to look at things through that lens, the opportunity cost of NOT doing the things that scared me became far greater than the so-called risk of doing them in the first place and it changed almost every facet of my life, both personally and professionally.

What are you working on now?

I’m working on a few things now.  I’ve had the opportunity to do some great interviews and speaking engagements around Expanding the Conversation, which have been a fantastic way to engage further on additional ideas around these topics.  In addition to promoting the book that way, I’m also continuing to collaborate on videos, articles, and round-table discussions to continue that dialogue.

I’ve also been doing a bit of research and due diligence around a new venture fund, specifically directed at “underdogs”, or people who historically lack access to capital.  My hypothesis is that many of these overlooked, underestimated entrepreneurs would create great (and very successful) companies, if only given a chance to get started.  So part of what I’m working on now is a potential plan to put my money where my mouth is in order to give them the opportunity to prove me right!

Make Your Bed Every Morning

I was recently reading an article by Tim Ferriss, the creator of the wildly popular 4-Hour Series (4-Hour Workweek, 4-Hour Body, 4-Hour Chef) where he lists his 5 Morning Rituals to Help You Win Your Day. After asking 100+interviewees about morning routines, he came up with some similar themes. One of them struck me as a particularly poignant, no-nonsense, and simple ritual that could very easily be applied to the writing life.


How does this help a writer succeed? Because it is a simple act that not only teaches you how to develop a habit, but it allows you to create a sense of calm, order and peace in your life. Writers have a tendency to live very much inside their head and this can sometimes feel like a chaotic and confusing place to dwell. By creating a calm environment, writers can feel more in control of their lives.

Ferriss goes on to quote Naval Admiral William McRaven’s commencement speech at the University Texas at Austin:

“If you make your bed every morning, you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride, and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another. By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter.”

The thought of churning out 70,000-100,000 words in order to reach that elusive goal of completing a book seems daunting and overwhelming. But as Anne Lamott famously explained in her enormously popular writing book, Bird by Bird, you need to break things down into manageable tasks.

“Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report written on birds that he’d had three months to write, which was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books about birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, “Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.” – Anne Lamott

E.L. Doctorow had similar words of wisdom, “[Writing is] like driving a car at night: you never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”

Ferriss, and William McRaven, offer some good, solid advice for writers at every level. Writing is a habit that needs to be developed over time. Be consistent and write every single day. One word after another, after another, after another will help you reach that seemingly impossible word count and get you that much closer to achieving your dreams.

5 Tips for Preparing the Perfect Book Signing


Imbedded in the dream of being an author is the vision of attending book signings. Whether you are hopeful for a line around the block or just a chance to have your family, friends, and mentors gather in one room to listen to your journey, it is both a rewarding and humbling experience. For some authors a signing turns into a great way to connect with readers, hear their questions and build a fan base, for others it can be a crush to the ego when the only people in attendance are the store owner and a few random shoppers. First off, don’t be discouraged. I once attended a book signing in downtown Boston for an extremely successful, New York Times Bestselling author and there were about 4 people in attendance, one of them being a man who simply wanted to sit down and take a nap. But the author did something wonderful, she spoke to us as if we were her friends, she was funny, told great stories and had all four of us (the man eventually woke up) laughing and eager to buy her books. By taking the time to connect with us, she built lifelong fans. That being said, book signings are not easy endeavors. They require tenacity and a thick skin. Here are a few tips for preparing your book signings:

1) Plan

Where do you want to sign? Is there a local, independent bookstore in your home town? Do you have a busy Barnes & Noble nearby? Are you planning on traveling to visit friends or for business and have extra time on your hands? Map out a plan for where you would like to set-up some signings. Keep in mind that all of these are not going to come to fruition. It can be very difficult and time-consuming to get a bookstore to approve a signing because it is not as simple as just arriving with a pen in hand. The store has to work within its own calendar of events, it has to promote the event and determine how many books will be needed. They are also going to want to know if the book is available through standard distribution channels and whether or not unsold books can be returned.

2) Pitch 

Reach out to the media that is based near your signing location. Find the local papers, magazines and radio stations that cater to that particular area and let them know (well in advance) that you will be making an appearance. You are not necessarily inviting them to come to your event (if they do, super!) but it is a way of letting them know that you will be in the neighborhood on a specific date and there is a local “newsworthy” angle that may be of interest to them. Reach out to the media outlets in the closest major city, as well. Most newspapers (small and large) have an events section. At the very least, you can get your signing or appearance mentioned in their calendar section. Talk to the special events coordinator at the bookstore where you will be signing. Most likely they reach out to the local media on behalf of the bookstore, but it’s always good to coordinate and get a feeling for what kind of outreach they will do.

3) Prepare

What are you going to do once you get to your signing? Will you be doing a reading? A question and answer? A small speech about the writing process or your journey to becoming a published author? You don’t have to have everything scripted but it is a good idea to have a general idea of what you would like to do and say once you get to your event. It is also smart to get there early. It will give you a good feel for the venue and prevent any chance of being late to your own signing. You don’t want to leave your fans waiting.

4) Polite

Send a thank you card. Call the bookseller after the event to thank them for hosting or even send a small gift basket. These are all nice ways to endear yourself to a local bookseller, someone who most certainly could have a hand in helping to build your audience.

5) Publicize 

Take pictures at your event and share them on social media sites like Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat. Write a blog post about your event. Show future venues and media outlets that you are comfortable with public events so that they will keep you in mind. It will also show your readers and fans that you are a real live person and not just a name on a book. You could also have a friend take some video of you speaking or reading and put that on your website.

Book tours are not for everyone but if it is something that you have dreamed of doing or something that your publisher suggests you do, then these are just a few ways to make sure you cover all of your bases and do it right. There is no way to guarantee that an author event goes smoothly and there is no such thing as a “perfect” book signing but being prepared is a good way to banish some of those jitters and get you and your book out into the world.

Around the Web

Wifey101Cover 150couch

Jamie Otis explores her past and her journey to peace for She Knows, talks to Kathie Lee and Hoda on Today, and shares details on WIFEY 101 with Wetpaint, Inquisitr, and Radar Online.

The Knot ran two pieces on Jamie Otis and WIFEY 101.

Author Janet Kole contributed an essay to OmniMystery Magazine about making the transition from law to writing.


David Daniel wrote an emotional piece for the Jewish Book Council and was reviewed by Amos Lassen.



10 Reasons to Write That Book!


There are hundreds of reasons to write a book. There are reasons that exist solely in your heart and those that are universal. Below I am giving you 10 (Simple) Reasons to Write That Book because it’s a new year and resolutions are already being ignored. Don’t let this resolution slip between the cracks. I’m hoping to spark a fire in you to sit down, put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and write that book! I’m a book publicist so I see thousands of writers anxiously pursuing their dream and whether they succeed or fail in garnering the attention they want, they are always proud of the book that they can hold in their hands, a tangible example of hard work, dedication, and perseverance.

  1. You’ve always wanted to write a book. Let’s face it, most people have some desire to write a book. Whether you want to write a non-fiction book about Butter Sculptors or the Next Great American Novel, the desire is there and there is no amount of journal writing that is going to take the place of completing an actual book that people can buy and read.
  2. You become an expert. Whatever you write about, whatever subject or topic you explore, the amount of time it takes to write a book and the amount of research that goes into it builds your credibility and expertise. Even novel writing can make you an expert on any number of topics. Writing about divorce will make you an expert on divorce. Writing about wedding planning, elephant sanctuaries, murder. All of these topics will require research. They will require that you dive head first into these worlds to make them as real as possible.
  3. Be of service. Maybe you want to write a memoir about suffering a miscarriage. How many women will be thankful that you had the bravery to tackle such an emotional and difficult topic?
  4. Inspiring and life-changing. Writing a book awakens curiosity and allows you to see the world in a new and different way.
  5. Set goals and achieve them. Don’t we all want to check things off our bucket lists? According to writer Joseph Epstein, “81 percent of Americans have a book in them.”
  6. Helps clarify your thoughts. “When you have to write your ideas out in complete sentences and complete paragraphs, it forces a deeper clarity of thinking.” -Jeff Bezos. {via Fast Company}
  7. Helps launch a business. There is no better way of diseminating your ideas than with a book. A book helps other people get a clearer view of your vision. Going on talk shows to discuss your book can help more people find you and therefore increase your productivity and help grow your business.
  8. Introduces you to new people and new ideas. The publishing and writing world is not that big. Writers bond easily with one another because they know the difficult road they have all picked to travel down. It can be a lonely career, that’s why so many writers start writing groups, message boards and meet-ups.
  9. Brings confidence. Just knowing that you can do something that so many people only talk about doing is sure to ignite a fire in you.
  10. “Writing a book is a tremendous experience. It pays off intellectually. It clarifies your thinking. It builds credibility. It is a living engine of marketing and idea spreading, working every day to deliver your message with authority. You should write one.” {via Seth Godin}

5 Steps to a Great Press Release

Close-up of old typewriter

There are many approaches that you can take when drafting a press release for your book. One of the most important things you can do is make sure your press release provides all of the vital information so that you don’t leave an editor with any unanswered questions. Here is a quick cheat sheet to help you get the best possible press release crafted for you and your book.

  1. Headline. Be attention grabbing but not sensational. Give the most important aspect of the book so that editors know what will draw the reader in and why people will be talking about your book. Why do people need to read your book? How is your book applicable to a particular audience? What makes it “newsworthy”?
  2. Body. Don’t use BIG words. A recent study found big words to be a waste of time and not successful in proving your intelligence to readers. What do you want to say? If you were sitting down with an editor or producer, what would you want them to know about your book? Why is it newsworthy? Why is it readable? Think like a journalist. Give them the story right there in the body of the press release. Provide a quote from the author (you). Provide a quote from an expert if it supports your material. Give statistics, research studies, facts and figures that help make your story more interesting.
  3. 5 W’s and an H. Who, What, Where, When, Why and How. Enough said.
  4. Keep it clean. Be precise, straightforward, and to the point. Don’t fill up your press release just to take up space. This isn’t your 6th grade book report with a required word count. Don’t use wacky colors and fonts. Make it as print ready as possible because you will find that editors pressed for time may take your press release and run with it, exactly how it stands.
  5. Vital Stats. Provide any extra information on how to find you online {i.e., Twitter, Facebook, Website, Instagram, LinkedIn}.

There are a lot of rules for drafting the perfect press release. Once you learn, understand, and incorporate them, you can break them to fit your needs. Maybe your book is about bringing color and sparkle into your life, then adding funky colors and fonts represents your work and might be what grabs the attention of an editor? Maybe writing a sensational headline will set you apart? Maybe you don’t want to answer all of the W & H questions because you want to leave an element of mystery to correlate with the mysterious subject matter of your book? These are the tried and true rules for writing a press release and you should always make sure that you have one straight/serious/official press release available to send to the media. There is absolutely nothing wrong with having a fun/gimmicky press release available, as well. Some of the best coverage we have secured was the result of a more creative approach to gaining the media’s attention.

Julianne Moore Wins Golden Globe for STILL ALICE

Last night was a big night for Kelley & Hall client, Lisa Genova. Julianne Moore won a Best Actress Golden Globe for her portrayal of Alice in STILL ALICE.


Here is what Lisa Genova had to say about her self-publishing journey and joining forces with Kelley & Hall:

“In the summer of 2007, I began selling copies of Still Alice from the trunk of my car—usually 2-3 at a time.  Some independent bookstores would carry it, others wouldn’t.  None of the major chains like Barnes & Noble would touch it.  And since Still Alice was not going to be carried in physical bookstores outside my local area, it was crucial to have it available for purchase online. 

I created a website, You could buy it at and I started making friends at MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, GoodReads, Shelfari, AuthorsDen, Flickr, EBlogger, etc. In each of these profiles, I shared my book cover, my bio, an excerpt, praise, reviews, an author Q&A, a video, my blog.  I’ve made the most amazing, influential, and important contacts through these websites. 
Social networking works. I tell authors now–Be everywhere you can be. And be as professional looking as possible everywhere you are. The more you look like a “real” author with a “real” book, the better your chances are of getting some real attention.
By seven months, after I’d started getting some significant feedback and press, I could sense the beginnings of a buzz. Then I read about [Kelley & Hall client] Brunonia Barry who originally self-published The Lace Reader and went on to get a HUGE book deal.  Here was a concrete example of not only success, but HUGE success.  My dream was gaining more confidence.  I then hired Kelley & Hall Book Publicity out of Marblehead, MA to join me in my efforts. In the three months that I worked with Kelley & Hall, STILL ALICE was featured on television and radio. It was reviewed in newspapers, blogs, and at It was chosen for book clubs, as a staff pick at bookstores, and as a Finalist in General Fiction in the 2008 Next Generation Indie Book Awards. And it won the 2008 Bronte Prize for best love story in North America.
In the eighth month, the miracle happened.  Kelley & Hall got my book into the hands of Beverly Beckham at the Boston Globe.  She read my book and wrote the best review any author, self-published or not, could hope for in the Boston Sunday Globe.  Now you could hear the BUZZ.  As if her column wasn’t a big enough gift, Beverly then introduced me to a local author Julia Fox Garrison, who originally self-published her book, Don’t Leave Me This Way, about surviving a brain hemorrhage and then went on to get a book deal.  Julia then introduced me to her agent.  And her agent became my agent.
Jocelyn Kelley was fantastic in working as a publicist for me when Still Alice was self-published, and her tenacious/smart efforts led directly to press that led me to an agent and then a publisher.  She was completely worth the investment.”

Starred Publishers Weekly Review for JJ Partridge’s SCRATCHED

Congratulations to our client, JJ Partridge, for receiving a STARRED REVIEW in Publishers Weekly! SCRATCHED hits bookstores in November. 9781940192727_FCIn Partridge’s excellent third Algy Temple mystery (after 2008’s Straight Pool), the Providence, R.I., attorney, who’s in-house counsel for Carter University on College Hill, has too much on his plate. Academics opposed to Christopher Columbus are agitating to change the name of the holiday honoring him, a sure-fire recipe for conflict in the heavily Italian-American city. Providence’s reform-minded mayor has just named Temple to a commission overseeing a pool tournament. A Madoff-like scam artist’s Ponzi scheme has jeopardized the investment account of the trust that helps fund the university’s Institute for Italian Studies—whose director emeritus, Italo Palagi, has just been found dead of an accidental overdose of oxycodone. Temple, who suspects Palagi’s death and the institute’s financial troubles are related, sets out to unravel the truth. Partridge adroitly weaves together the different plot points of this witty and well-written whodunit. Agent: Paula Munier, Talcott Notch Literary Services. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 09/26/2014


Giving Your All

Giving your all, striving to be the “best”, can sometimes lead to burnout. I love this piece from Chela Davison at The Daily Love exploring the idea that sometimes we need to save something for ourselves.

“I can only healthily give something my all when my identity doesn’t gather its worth from my action. Giving has to be sourced from wholeness.”


Monday Motivation

All week long (and especially on the weekends) I search the internet for blog posts that inspire, intrigue and motivate. I wanted to set aside a specific weekly blog post to share all of the insight I have found. Enjoy!

26 Ways to Make Money as a Writer by phenomenal wordsmith and author Alexandra Franzen

Finding Clarity as a Writer by Jeff Goins. Goins continues to inspire me with his posts about the writing life. But you don’t have to be a writer to enjoy his explorations into the human mind.

Blending Your Personal and Professional Life by Amber Naslund. With more and more people working from home, it can be extremely hard to define the lines between work and play. Naslund makes some good points about the benefits of not creating a divide and instead letting everything flow together.

Top 5 Video Recording Tips from Amber Ludwig will give you the inspiration to stop talking about doing things and start doing them. Charge up that camera and make the bold step of putting your thoughts and advice out there.

Life Lessons from America’s Cup by Tiffany Han. You don’t have to be a fan of sailing, or any sports for that matter, to appreciate the advice Tiffany provides here. She writes about the importance of not quitting, not giving up and persevering.

6 Ways to Make Blogging Easier by Melissa at Freeing Imperfections. This personal blog offers a nice blend between professional tactics and personal details about her life.

Don’t be afraid of failure, just keep moving forward. {Tweet Monday’s Motivation.}

Think Like a Journalist


One of the best things you can do, when promoting your book, is to think like a journalist. You have a beat to cover and that beat is you and your writing. Look for stories that pertain to the subject matter in your novels, the themes you explore in your work and try to expand on them in a way that would interest everyone. Authors often say to me, “But I write fiction? I make these stories up and there isn’t any earth-shattering revelation in my work. It’s just about women and friendship (or divorce, death, marriage, children).” I always tell my authors that these are the stories that people gravitate towards, these are the personal stories that hold the most interest, these are the stories producers and editors go looking for when covering a topic. If you have written a book about divorce, a novel that explores the ins and outs of one of the most difficult times in a person’s life, then you should explore that in a way that will grab an editor’s (and ultimately a reader or viewer’s interest). Research it. How many divorces take place in year? What is the real percentage of marriages that end in divorce? Are there any headline grabbing names (i.e., Hollywood, Political) who are currently going through a divorce? Tackle your subject and research it daily. Set a google alert to let you know when your topic is mentioned in the news or on blogs. Authors often say, “But I’m not an expert. Who am I to weigh in on divorce/death/marriage?” If you have written a novel exploring a topic, then you are an expert. You have spent enough hours delving into the intricacies of this topic to consider yourself an expert. An expert continues to research and explore a topic and that is exactly what you are doing. Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, is considered an expert on happiness because she focuses an entire blog on just that topic. She writes about it daily, thinks about it all the time and explores every angle possible. If you can do that with the themes explored in your novels, then you should share your knowledge…as an expert.

Start every day by scanning newspapers, major online news sites and news programs. Stay alert to what is relevant, what news stories are trending, and where the interest seems to be. If something comes up in any one of these outlets that you feel pertains to your work, your writing or your life, start jotting down ideas. Write about it in your blog or mention it on one of your social media sites (Facebook, Twitter). Stay curious and alert at all times because all it takes is one story or “hook” and you could get the exposure that will help increase the visibility of you and your work.

Book Tours vs. Blog Tours


Here is the thing about book tours. They can be exhausting for the author and don’t necessarily result in exposure that will move your book up in sales. There are many writers who love hitting the open road, traveling to bookstores across the country, directly interacting with booksellers and readers. However, it can be difficult to have the stamina and the ego to take on a book tour. You will go to bookstore signings where there will only be three people in attendance (and two of them probably work for the bookstore). And unless your publisher is paying for this tour, it can get pretty expensive. All-in-all, a book tour is oftentimes not the best use of your time, energy and finances. However, one author that I recently spoke with, did a book tour, ended up in a bookstore with three people there for the signing (and yes, two were book store employees) but the third person was a freelance writer for a major magazine who ended up connecting with the author, writing about the book on the magazine’s website and creating a lot of buzz for this particular author. Sometimes, it does benefit to just put yourself out there. I always suggest that authors reach out to their local bookstores for signings or if they are already planning on traveling somewhere, reach out to bookstores in those areas, as well.

However, a blog tour is a much more efficient way to spread the word about your book without spreading yourself too thin. Blog tours allow you to interact with readers, use social media outlets (Facebook, Twitter) to increase the attention of the blog tours and generate interest for you and your book. Research say that people need to hear a title or name at least seven times before it generates a reaction, appearing in numerous places online is a great way to bring enough exposure to your name to have people react and pay attention.

Time to Shine!

Admit it. You’ve said it, or something along the lines of it. You’re feeling worn out, burned out or just want to get out.

“I can’t do this anymore.”

“I’m not a marketer, I’m a writer.”

“If I spend so much time selling myself, I’ll have nothing left.”

“My writing will suffer.”

“I’ll start annoying people.”

These are the common worries that people have when promoting their writing. They don’t feel qualified or capable of building “buzz.”

To quote a line from The Kings Speech.

“I deserve to be heard! I have a voice!”

We all have a voice and our passions fuel our thoughts, our voices, and what we say. The book you write is an extension of yourself.

Haven’t you wanted to be a writer all of your life? Wasn’t that the career you aspired to? The writing is the creative side but as with all careers, it can’t all be creative work, it’s also about money. You want to sell more books, earn more money and become desirable to your publishing house. You have to get out there. Let your voice be heard!

Things are changing. Selling and marketing books isn’t the way it used to be. There are many more channels, Twitter, Facebook, blogs, online reviews, and more competition. We can’t rely solely on securing a review in the book section of a major paper. Not only are those sections diminishing and restructuring their focus, but it is increasingly difficult for different voices (particularly new voices) to be heard.

Think back to when you were trying to get published, stomping the pavement to secure that perfect agent, to find the editor who connected with your work, you were persistent and dedicated to an ultimate goal. This is where many writers think the journey ends. This is where they are wrong. Now you have a new goal…find those readers. Maybe you will find your best reader, the one who belongs to 15 book clubs and writes for her local paper, on a website devoted to psychology enthusiasts. Maybe your work will connect with a columnist who will tell everyone she knows about this great book she read! Maybe a producer for a talk show reads the op-ed section of a particular paper every day and that is where she stumbles upon your essay and falls in love with your voice.

There are so many opportunities out there for writers. So even if you’re feeling like you don’t have it in you to toot your own horn or spread the word about your book, you owe it to yourself and your work. This is your job. Don’t just get it done. Excel! Strive for what seems out of reach and keep pounding the pavement. Go out on that limb, as the saying goes, because that’s where you’ll find the fruit.

Hocking & Eisler and the Changing Face of Publishing

Much has been written about, discussed, dissected and scrutinized about self-publishing phenomenon Amanda Hocking and her reported $2 million deal with St. Martins. Before that there was the news that bestselling author Barry Eisler turned down a six-figure deal and opted to self publish. Both authors are receiving significant press and publicity. It’s hard to say if Eisler would be such a household name right now if he hadn’t chosen to self-publish or if Hocking’s books would be downloaded at such an intense rate if she hadn’t just translated her self-publishing success into a multi-book deal.

We have witnessed success in self-publishing from many different angles and seen the success an author can acquire by building their platform through self-publishing and attracting mainstream attention. In some ways, self-publishing can be a great way to get your foot in the door, show publishers what you are capable of, and build a strong and supportive readership. With the multiple outlets for social networking and exposure that we have at our fingertips, it does change the rate at which authors can get the word out about their work and build a strong buzz.

Here’s what I like about Amanda Hocking, she writes! She’s written more than 15 books. She blogs regularly, constantly recording her side of the story, her views on publishing, her life as a writer. She actively and enthusiastically self-promotes.

Self-publishing offers writers the opportunity to jump right into the thick of things, to get their feet wet and get their words published. It is a risky and dangerous jump but it can have great rewards. Amanda Hocking offers her readers good stories at a cheap price and available at the click of mouse. These are all opportunities that were not available to writers a few years ago.

The changes we are witnessing in the publishing industry are complex and constantly shifting but they are showing us one thing, writers are being given more and more opportunities to do what they love, write and have their words read. Self-publishing is not going to harm or take business away from traditional publishers. Most writers, even those who have chosen self-publishing, still have the ultimate goal of being picked up by a traditional publisher. Traditional publishers can offer greater opportunities to authors immediately, the support and reception that comes from being with a recognizable publishing house can give an author a leg up. While self-published authors can steadily build significant careers (see JA Konrath) it can feel more like an uphill battle. There are many book review websites, magazines, and newspapers who will not review a self-published title.

There tends to be a stigma attached to self-published work that it is poorly edited, was rejected by publishers and is an authors “last resort.”  However, with stories like Eisler’s and Hocking, as well as our clients Brunonia Barry and Lisa Genova, self-publishing can prove extremely fruitful and part of an authors journey towards a successful and fulfilling career. For many, self-publishing is a step towards a specific destination, the goal of being traditionally published. For others, it is a way to fulfill a simple dream, to see their words in print. Whether self-publishing is part of your journey or the culmination of a dream, it is up to the author to build their name and get exposure for their work. Traditionally published authors have the same goal, bring their work to the attention of readers.

What I love about Hocking and Eisler and Konrath and Barry and Genova is that they make people talk about publishing, about books about an industry that has been around for hundreds of years and continues to grow and change, thrive and inspire.

Literary Roundup

Here is a round up of what is going on in the world of books.

Perez Hilton to Write Children’s Book

Billy Joel Cancels Memoir

John Mellencamp and Stephen King to Team Up on Musical

Brian Selznick’s Cover for Wonderstruck Unveiled

Stephen King Prepping New Title for Dark Tower Series

Sammy Hagar’s Memoir Released

Popular Blog WTF Is Up With My Love Life Scores Book Deal

NYPL Reveals Finalists for 2011 Young Lions Fiction Award

The Sweet Valley Twins are Back!

David Foster Wallace’s THE PALE KING Released Online Before it Appears in Bookstores

The Beauty of Books


One thing that the push towards digital may create is an increase in the art and artistry of printed books.

Fast Company recently profiled Penguin books cover designer Coralie Bickford-Smith and The Atlantic ran a piece on their hand sewn covers that will be releasing soon.

Penguin seems to be the leader in this area, but as word spreads and interest grows in collecting books as works of art, not just to read, the growth may be significant.

Simple Ways to Build Your Platform

Christina Katz has a great article in the March/April issue of Writers Digest on 50 simple ways to build your platform in 5 minutes a day. The constant throughout her piece is this: always be thinking about your book and how you can incorporate it into what is going on in the world. We give our clients this piece of advice frequently. This is one of the reasons we suggest that our authors start blogs. Many of them are apprehensive about venturing into blog territory. They are filled with questions like, “How do I build up traffic to my blog?” and “What do I write about?” Our advice is simple, just write. You will find that you start gravitating towards similar topics, topics that you cover in your writing, topics that you are passionate about. Putting yourself on a writing schedule, motivating yourself to write daily with a nonfiction hook  is a great way to start generating ideas and recognizing angles for your work to be covered. Train your brain to look for hooks everywhere and you will begin to develop angles that you can pitch to publications or websites. Search online for people writing about similar topics and connect with them. Build your online network and share and cultivate ideas.

Katz recommends that writers master the 5-minute release. “Zoom in on the latest happenings, holidays and story hooks and tie your book into it. Write 5-minute mini-press releases and send them out regularly.” Sometimes authors find themselves overwhelmed by all the great ideas they have for promoting their work that they don’t actually take the time to write them down and actively pursue them. Ideas should be written down as they occur, who knows which one is going to be the tipping point for your success.

Book News

Here’s what’s going on this week in the literary landscape.

Could the Kindle be free by November? It’s possible. However, what is most likely going to happen is that Amazon Prime members will be eligible for a free device, according to Michael Arrington at Tech Crunch.

-Half of this year’s best movies were based on books. Independent.

-Here is some new information on Ebooks for libraries. Library Journal.

-Interesting article on the importance of social media for authors. Guardian.

-Upcoming Books-to-Film releases. NPR.

-Alternative outlets for bookselling. NYTimes.

The Power of Twitter


With the rapidly changing dynamic of the publishing industry, the online presence of authors and their books is becoming increasingly significant. The immediacy that online sites like Facebook and Twitter, as well as blogs and book-related social networking sites like GoodReads and LibraryThing, provide for authors to publicize and sell their work is incredibly efficient. The opportunities these sites provide are growing daily and creative angles are being discovered and utilized much more frequently and with more successful results.

Twitter’s ability to create trends using the hashtag symbol, unite groups with the creation of lists and allow for direct contact between reader and author is an incredibly useful tool for book promotion. The built-in audience that author’s have to promote their work immediately through Twitter is becoming a much used resource in marketing strategies.

Publishers, publicists and authors are running contests on Twitter where people who Retweet certain postings are instantly entered to win giveaways including copies of books, bookmarks, and gift baskets of book-related items. These retweets are a great way of bringing more attention to a company or author’s specific Twitter feed and results in more followers and more exposure for the books they are promoting.

In order for Twitter to be effective as a promotional tool you must have a significant number of followers and the only way to increase your following is to post frequently, follow people and retweet posts you find interesting. Providing interesting links to articles on your Twitter feed is a great way to encourage other Twitter users to retweet your postings and bring new eyes to your profile.

Twitter parties are a relatively new strategy but are proving fruitful in both generating more followers and increasing your book’s exposure on Twitter. For example, young adult author Lisi Harrison is hosting a Twitter party for her newest release, A Tale of Two Pretties. She is cross promoting the Twitter party on her highly trafficked blog as well as through her publishers site.

Twitter is a helpful and useful platform to bring people with similar interests together and Twitter parties are simply a way for these people to interact at a specified time, thus creating a more immediate virtual connection.

Writer Rachel Aydt recently interviewed me for a piece in Publishing Perspectives on Twitter and its power to bring readers and writers together. Her article beautifully examines the changing world of publishing and the growing online community.

Follow us @KelleyandHall


I want to open this blog up to readers (and writers). What are your questions regarding book publicity? What do you want to know? We are here to answer your questions about an industry that changes DAILY. Do you want to know about social media? Do you want to know about book reviewers? Columnists? How to pitch magazines and newspapers? How to get an editor or a producer interested in your book? How to find an angle or platform that suits you and your work? Self-publishing versus traditional publishing houses?

What are your most pressing questions about book publicity?

Ask away…

Oprah’s Ultimate Australian Adventure

Jocelyn Kelley, Oprah Winfrey & Gayle King in Sydney, Australia

Jocelyn Kelley, Oprah Winfrey & Gayle King in Sydney, Australia

What an experience we had in Australia as part of Oprah’s Ultimate Australian Adventure. Gloria and I were able to take in the sights of Australia, learn about the culture and be a part of a major media extravaganza. The episodes of Oprah’s Ultimate Australian Adventure will be airing in January, so stay tuned for more updates.

A wonderful thing about Australia is how proud they are of their literary history. There are metal plaques embedded in the ground around Sydney’s Circular Quay called “Writers Walk” where they pay tribute to their writers by giving people a short history along the frequented path of travelers. The writers represented include not only those originally from Australia but also those who lived there or visited often. Authors such as D.H. Lawrence, Mark Twain, and Rudyard Kipling are represented in this extremely popular Australian “spot.”

Sydney's Writers Walk

Sydney's Writers Walk

While traveling through the city, we were able to explore the bookshops that seem to appear on every corner. Australians are readers!  One particular bookstore, Dymocks, was a particular delight because we found our own Lisa Genova‘s STILL ALICE prominently displayed on their recommended reads shelf. It was certainly a proud moment for Kelley & Hall!

Still Alice by Lisa Genova

Still Alice by Lisa Genova

Highlights of the trip included the Sydney Bridge Climb with the ENTIRE Ultimate Adventure audience (all 302…the most people on the bridge at one time!), the fireworks over Sydney Harbor and the illumination of an “O” on the Sydney Bridge (which is reportedly the first time they’ve ever done anything commercial on the Sydney Bridge), a regatta with Russell Crowe (we sailed in the replica of the Endeavor, the ship that Captain James Cook sailed when he made the first contact with Australia).The two Oprah shows we attended were full of so much enthusiasm and excitement for Australia it was infectious (except when Hugh Jackman hit the lights while performing a stunt…that was terrifying and definitely provided some very tense minutes).  We also had lunch with Oprah and she greeted us at the airport when we were departing for home,  individually thanking us all for coming on this “Ultimate Australian Adventure.” I was even able to discuss the latest Oprah Book Club pick, Charles Dickens GREAT EXPECTATIONS and A TALE OF TWO CITIES with Oprah herself.  This was certainly a trip we will never forget.

Lit Links


Here are some interesting literary links from around the web. Author news, interviews, opinion pieces and tips for writers, readers and anyone interested in the world of publishing. Enjoy!

Authors Feel Pinch in Age of E-Books – WSJ

On the Road with Jonathan Franzen – PW

Why You Should Blog – Tribal Writer

Danielle Steel Says She’s NOT a Romance Writer – Media Bistro’s Galleycat

Blackberry Unveils Their E-Reader, The Playbook – Blackberry

Ann Patchett Talks About Plot – WSJ

Can You Resubmit A Query? – KT Literary

Paperback Originals


Great article in today’s Wall Street Journal about the perceived stigma of paperback originals. The writer points out that one book, in particular, that could change the way we look at paperback originals is David Nicholls critically acclaimed ONE DAY which was released in the US as a paperback original and has gone on to sell incredibly well. It is also currently being adapted for film and will star Anne Hathaway. Paperbacks are an easier sell, less of a financial commitment, and can help build an author’s brand and recognition. They are also increasingly popular in the growing world of book clubs.

Oprah’s Ultimate Australian Adventure


I make no secret of my love for all things “O” and I have said on many occasions that I started Kelley & Hall because I was inspired by Oprah and her book club. I was enormously impressed by the way she could take a book and express such enthusiasm and delight in the words found within, urging her viewers to pick up a novel and discover new worlds. As her book club progressed, people soon learned that lives could be transformed by the messages and themes explored within the pages of a book and every one of us has a story to tell.

I started reading with Oprah when she announced her very first Oprah Book Club pick, Jacquelyn Mitchard’s THE DEEP END OF THE OCEAN, and I never stopped.  My life has, quite literally, revolved around the printed word and it just made sense to build a career that allowed me to spend my time reaching out to readers about authors and the work they create.  You can imagine my delight when my enthusiasm for books and all things Oprah resulted in my invitation to one of the most talked about premieres in television history. Yes, I will be traveling with Oprah (along with K&H partner Gloria Kelley) to AUSTRALIA! I am so looking forward to documenting this trip and exploring a whole new world!  I will keep everyone posted on our journey with Oprah’s Ultimate Australian Adventure.

Detach from the Results


When it comes to writing, there is a beauty in the unselfconscious mind. We allow our words to flow freely onto the page, we explore worlds and we try to disconnect from the audience. We are fully immersed in the writing process and business is a word we don’t even comprehend…during the writing process. Then we finish our books, our works of art, and have to begin to explore the business side. I have often heard from writers about the terror this stage of the game produces. Fixations on things like book sales, Amazon rankings and media coverage can suck all of the joy and energy out of that which you once dreamed about: being a writer.

I read an interesting piece on a blog the other day, ironically it was on a blog about acting! In the essay he writes that essentially you have to let go of the end result in order to succeed.

We need to have a direction we want to move in. But we must detach from the results. If we don’t detach from the results we will be locked in misery and thought. Also, detaching from the results opens us up to a possibility much grander than what our minds can imagine. We need to plant seeds and let them do their magic under the soil.

We often use the planting seed analogy when talking about publicity. We reach far and wide, send out messages and information to all appropriate outlets and often times the results far exceed our expectations. But these seeds also take time to come to fruition. You can’t send someone a book and have them read it, react the way you want and then cover it in a short period of time. However, often these seeds bloom in ways we never even dreamed. One person reads a book that we have sent them and it registers in an impossibly enlightening way. The right book at the right time. But if you, as the writer, spend your time obsessing over Amazon rankings or trying to beat the competition, you lose sight of that goal. To find readers and have them connect with your work, to open up a world inside the pages of a novel or memoir or non-fiction guide and have people understand and appreciate what you have created. In order to change lives and leave an impact, to honor your work as a writer, you have to detach from the results because it will only leave you self-conscious and stalled when completing future work. As Deepak Chopra (bestselling author and guru) says,

You do not want to dig up the seeds of your desires to see if they are growing, or get rigidly attached to the way in which they will unfold. You simply want to release them.

Some Weekend Reading


The debates are heating up as the dog days of summer come to an end and we prepare for the literary fest that fall brings. Here are some interesting tidbits that I have gathered from the literary world…

The Wall Street Journal wants to know if e-books are worth it?

Jennifer Weiner and Jodi Picoult take on Jonathan Franzen and the attention he has been getting for Freedom.

Barnes & Noble announced big losses.

Andrew Wylie got into an e-book battle with Random House, raising some serious questions.

Publishers Weekly announced that they will review self-published titles for a fee which raised a few questions from bloggers and writers.

In Between the Pages: A Look at September Magazines

I am always curious to see how many books are covered in the major magazines. I was actually quite impressed with the number of books that were either reviewed or briefly noted. It is also interesting to see which titles appear in more than one publication.


The Widower’s Tale by Julia Glass

Ape House by Sara Gruen

Are You My Guru by Wendy Shanker

Presenting Tallulah by Tori Spelling

Elle Magazine

Let’s Take the Long Way Home by Gail Caldwell

Juliet by Anne Fortier (front of book and

The Wave by Susan Casey

Quiet as They Come by Angie Chau

The Book of the Dead by John Lloyd and John Mitchinson

Gold Boy, Emerald Girl by Yiyun Li

Room by Emma Donoghue

Strangers at the Feast by Jennifer Vanderbes

Salvation City by Sigrid Nunez

At the Dark End of the Street by Danielle McGuire (article)

Unbearable Lightness by Portia de Rossi

Some Sing, Some Cry, Ntozake Shange

Fall of Giants by Ken Follett

Freedom by Jonathan Franzen

Delusions of Gender by Cordelia Fine

Brain Storm by Rebecca Jordan-Young

Vanity Fair

Nicholas Sparks profiled

Salvation City by Sigrid Nunez

Dogfight, a Love Story by Matt Burgess

Vida by Patricia Engel

All is Forgotten, Nothing is Lost by Lan Samantha Chang

The Honor Code by Kwame Anthony Appiah

Big Girls Don’t Cry by Rebecca Traister

Check, Please by AJ Stern

The Daily Show’s Earth by Jon Stewart

The Pleasure Seekers by Tishani Doshi (in brief)

Empire of Dreams by Scott Eyman (in brief)

A Secret Kept by Tatiana de Rosnay (in brief)

The Odious Ogre by Norton Juster ( in brief)

Time For Dinner by Stang and Rosenstrach (in brief)

Dreaming in Chinese by Deborah Fallows (in brief)

Sarah: The LIfe of Sarah Bernhardt (in brief)

Working Together by Michael Eisner (in brief)

The Temptress by Paul Spicer (in brief)

My Bright Midnight by Josh Russell (in brief)

The Elephant’s Journey by Jose Saramago (in brief)

Skippy Dies by Paul Murray (in brief)

Freedom by Jonathan Franzen

O, The Oprah Magazine

Juliet by Anne Fortier

I’d Know You Anywhere by Laura Lippman

Designated Fat Girl by Jennifer Joyner

Hollywood by Larry McMurtry

The Lady Matador’s Hotel by Cristina Garcia

A Curable Romantic by Joseph Skibell

Bitter in the Mouth by Monique Truong

Ape House by Sara Gruen

Russian Winter by Daphne Kalotay

Book of Days by Emily Fox Gordon

Getting to Happy by Terry McMillan

The Widower’s Tale by Julia Glass

The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson

Dreaming in Chinese by Deborah Fallows

Room by Emma Donaghue

The Wave by Susan Casey

Packing for Mars by Mary Roach

(Books that Made a Difference to news anchor Brian Williams)

Isaac’s Storm

The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid

No Ordinary Time

The Promise by Jonathan Alter

The Great Bridge by McCullough

Medal of Honor

Personal History

Taking Charge and Reaching for Glory by Beschloss


Rock What You’ve Got by Katherine Schwarzenegger

(7 Best Literary Heroines of All Time)

Little Women

Jane Eyre

Harry Potter


Pride and Prejudice

Eva Luna


Entertainment Weekly

(This is a weekly magazine but still wanted to include the titles featured this week)

Juliet by Anne Fortier

Mentor by Tom Grimes

The Good Daughters by Joyce Maynard

Last Night at Chateau Marmont by Lauren Weisberger

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

Chronic City by Jonathan Lethem

Parallel Play by Tim Page

The Self Suffient-Ishe Bible by Andy & Dave Hamilton

The Sisters Sinai by Janet Soskice

That Old Cape Magic by Richard Russo

Where the Money Went by Kevin Canty

Good Housekeeping

Juliet by Anne Fortier

Patti LuPone: A Memoir

Ape House by Sara Gruen

A Secret Kept by Tatiana de Rosnay


Sarah: The Life of Sarah Bernhardt by Robert Gottlieb

Gold Boy, Emerald Girl by Yiyun Li

Freedom by Jonathan Franzen


Men of Fire: Anthology by Susan Lyons, Rachelle Chase, and Jodi Lynn Copeland

Ron Charles Reviews Mona Simpson’s MY HOLLYWOOD

Ron Charles, Washington Post Book World fiction editor and weekly critic takes to YouTube to review Mona Simpson’s latest release, MY HOLLYWOOD. Charles reviewed this title for the paper but experiments with a video rendition of his review. He does so with humor and a tongue-in-cheek commentary on the changing face of book reviews.

Seth Godin to No Longer Publish Traditionally

Seth Godin, entrepreneur, author, public speaker and media expert, has made a decision of great significance and it is geared toward the publishing industry. He has decided that Linchpin, his 12th book, will be the last book he publishes traditionally. Here is an excerpt from his blog where he explains his decision,

Authors need publishers because they need a customer. Readers have been separated from authors by many levels–stores, distributors, media outlets, printers, publishers–there were lots of layers for many generations, and the editor with a checkbook made the process palatable to the writer. For ten years, I had a publisher as a client (with some fun self-published adventuresalong the way). Twelve bestsellers later, I’ve thought hard about what it means to have a traditional publisher.

Traditional book publishers use techniques perfected a hundred years ago to help authors reach unknown readers, using a stable technology (books) and an antique and expensive distribution system.

The thing is–now I know who my readers are. Adding layers or faux scarcity doesn’t help me or you. As the medium changes, publishers are on the defensive…. I honestly can’t think of a single traditional book publisher who has led the development of a successful marketplace/marketing innovation in the last decade. The question asked by the corporate suits always seems to be, “how is this change in the marketplace going to hurt our core business?” To be succinct: I’m not sure that I serve my audience (you) by worrying about how a new approach is going to help or hurt Barnes & Noble.

My audience does things like buy five or ten copies at a time and distribute them to friends and co-workers. They (you) forward blog posts and PDFs. They join online discussion forums. None of these things are supported by the core of the current corporate publishing model.

Since February, I’ve shared my thoughts about the future of publishing in both public forums and in private brainstorming sessions with various friends in top jobs in the publishing industry. Other than one or two insightful mavericks, most of them looked at me like I was nuts for being an optimist. One CEO worked as hard as she could to restrain herself, but failed and almost threw me out of her office by the end. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t heartbroken at the fear I saw.

All a long way of saying that as the methods for spreading ideas and engaging with people keep changing, I can’t think of a good reason to be on the defensive. It’s been years since I woke up in the morning saying, “I need to write a book, I wonder what it should be about.” Instead, my mission is to figure out who the audience is, and take them where they want and need to go, in whatever format works, even if it’s not a traditionally published book.

So Seth Godin, a man famous for predicting trends, analyzing market strategy and understanding the psyche of the modern American reader/buyer/seller is taking a formative stand and bravely going in a new direction with his work.

Writing is Selling


Whether you are trying to get an agent, a publisher or an article published, the key to a successful writing career is writing to sell. You want to sell your novel, memoir or article and you don’t have a lot of space or time in which to do that. You have to grab your readers from the opening page, even still, the opening paragraph. This same practice holds true when pitching yourself to media outlets. You want as much exposure as you can get, thereby guaranteeing that your media presence is significant and consistent enough to warrant attention from book buyers. When publicizing your book you need to think outside of the book review pages and see if you can generate interest in areas that either pertain to your background, the subject matter of your book, or both. When doing this you need to sell yourself and your idea to editors and producers in the shortest amount of time. You need to hook on to something relevant in the current news media cycle and explain why you would make the perfect expert to weigh in on that particular topic. Here are some tips for generating a strong approach when contacting media.

Know your facts. Start your research early and be consistent. Look for key facts that relate to the subject you are pitching. Editors and producers want to know about recent studies. If you have written a novel that deals with eating disorders, they don’t want to know about your character’s journey (yet), they want to know that 1 in 5 women struggle with an eating disorder (according to the National Institute of Mental Health).

The more the merrier. Give editors and producers plenty of material to work with. The more ideas you can generate, the easier their job is to assign a story or pursue a lead. Each idea should be topical, interesting and current. Stay on top of the news and keep those ideas coming.

Have an opinion. Be vocal about issues that relate to your story. Whether or not your opinion is the popular one, it will get people talking. Speak out and speak often. Raise questions, interact with your readers and bring these ideas into the public forum.

Find trends. Don’t panic if you see that another author has written a book with similar themes. Use this as a sign that society is gravitating towards the subject matter you have already explored. Join together and pitch trend pieces to magazines and newspapers. There is a reason that your story is playing out in different venues, there is a social outcry for it and you and your fellow authors are there to fill that need.

Think like a journalist. You want your story to sell so make sure it’s timely and appropriate. Know the outlets you are pitching. Whether they are print, radio, television or online, familiarize yourself with their content and do a little research to locate the correct editor.

Rick Moody on Author Blogs

Rick Moody addresses an interesting topic on Big Think with a very compelling (and some may say controversial) argument. He states that the “superficial, not revised, carelessness” about writing straight on the screen without significant editing makes blogging a detriment to a literary writer’s work. He believes that the writers who are pressured in the direction of publishing online are not able to put out the quality work that comes from “patient revision.” I am paraphrasing a bit what Moody describes as the abbreviated attention spans that online content tends to generate, but his point is an interesting one.

To quote from Moody’s latest release, THE FOUR FINGERS OF DEATH, his character, Montese Crandell, is conducting an author signing at an “old-fashioned used-media outlet” because of the advice of his wife “who’d spend her remaining time on earth counseling me on just how to boost my product.” There is something very accurate of the advice given to Crandell by his wife, because when it comes to publicizing your work, it is no longer about the art and craft that went into writing the book, it is about selling a product. Moody is right in saying that the internet and all of the available stories, videos and news items have led to “abbreviated attention spans” and authors are fighting for the attention of the elusive reader (and book buyer) so that they can continue the art and craft of writing a book, and get paid well for it. This is why we, as publicists, say that you really do have to wear two hats (the artist’s hat and the business hat) when it comes to being a writer. But should author’s blog?

I have spoken with author’s who feel that by blogging they are giving away their work for free. But at the same time, without giving potential readers something to grab hold of and get interested in, they may never discover you in the first place. It is imperative that as an author, you maximize your exposure and pull readers in. Blogs have proven to be an excellent way to gain attention and interact with readers. This is not to say that you shouldn’t edit what you put out there, because just as easily as your work can turn a reader on, if done haphazardly and without thought, it can turn your reader off and therefore defeat the purpose entirely.


Jonathan Franzen echoes this argument in the much publicized TIME Magazine article.

Reading in its quietness and sustained concentration is the opposite of busyness. ‘We are so distracted and engulfed by the technologies we’ve created, and by the constant barrage of so-called information that comes our way, that more than ever to immerse yourself in an involving book seems socially useful,’ Franzen says. ‘The place of stillness that you have to go to write, but also to read seriously, is the point where you can actually make responsible decisions, where you can actually engage productively with an otherwise scary and unmanageable world.’

So the moral of the story, and the advice we give to authors, is BLOG…but blog responsibly and edit, edit, edit.

Dennis Lehane Returns with Favorites

It has been 12 years but Dennis Lehane is returning to his most popular characters for his new novel, Moonlight Mile, which is going to be released on November 2nd.

9780061836923_0_CoverIt’s a sequel to Gone Baby, Gone and it takes place in 1997, where the once missing Amanda McCready is now sixteen and a straight A student, who wants to leave her irresponsible mother and Dorchester neighborhood, but then she goes missing again…

Amanda McCready was four years old when she vanished from a Boston suburb in 1997. Desperate pleas for help from the child’s aunt led savvy, tough-nosed investigators Kenzie and Gennaro to take on the case. The pair risked everything to find the young girl—only to orchestrate her return to a neglectful mother and a broken home.

Now Amanda is 16—and gone again. A stellar student, brilliant but aloof, she seemed destined to escape her upbringing. Yet Amanda’s aunt is once more knocking at Patrick Kenzie’s door, fearing the worst for the little girl who has blossomed into a striking, bright young woman who hasn’t been seen in two weeks.

Haunted by the past, Kenzie and Gennaro revisit the case that troubled them the most, following a 12-year trail of secrets and lies down the darkest alleys of Boston’s gritty, blue-collar streets. Assuring themselves that this time will be different, they vow to make good on their promise to find Amanda and see that she is safe. But their determination to do the right thing holds dark implications Kenzie and Gennaro aren’t prepared for . . . consequences that could cost them not only Amanda’s life, but their own.

Too Many Bookstores?


Is there such a thing as too many bookstores? Apparently, for the residents of Westhampton Beach, NY, the answer is yes. Today The New York Times profiles the battle between two independent bookstores and the animosity that is running rampant in this small town. This all comes on the heels of a recent New York Magazine article about the rise of the independent bookstore. According to the NYTimes article, Books & Books opened its doors in July and have received a less than stellar welcoming (reportedly older women have marched into the store to yell at employees and they have even faced vandalism).  The problem is, Books & Books is around the corner from The Open Book and is taking away business. But isn’t the beauty of independent bookstores that no two look or feel the same? Every independent bookstore has its’ own character and charm with varying approaches to reaching out to readers. Independent bookstores provide people with a sense of community, access to book clubs, author signings, and frequent staff picks. With so many people up in arms over the rise of the big box bookstore and the Amazon epidemic not to mention the strain that e-book devices are putting on printed matter, can we really start complaining about too many independent bookstores? Do we want to dissuade independent’s from opening their doors?

{photo courtesy of Paz & Associates}

Will E-books Replace Mass Market?

According to Pimp My Novel, e-books may take the place of the mass market title. As Eric explains, mass market books sell because they are cheap and portable…the very reason e-books are becoming popular. And with the prices steadily declining on e-books as the number of available titles increase, the e-book could turn the mass market paperback into a relic from the past.

Jonathan Franzen on Cover of TIME Magazine

jonathan franzen

According to MediaBistro’s GalleyCatJonathan Franzen has become the first living novelist to grace the cover of Time magazine in ten years. Novelist Stephen King was the last writer to hold to coveted spot, back in 2000.

Here’s an excerpt: “Franzen is a member of another perennially threatened species, the American literary novelist. But he’s not as cool about it as the otters. He’s uneasy. He’s a physically solid guy, 6 ft. 2 in., with significant shoulders, but his posture is not so much hunched as flinched. At 50 (he turns 51 on Aug. 17), Franzen is pleasantly boyish-looking, with permanently tousled hair.”

A complete list of all the authors that starred in Time cover stories follows below. The online edition of Lev Grossman’s cover story about Franzen is abridged. The online article explains: “This is an abridged version of an article that appears in the August 23, 2010, print and iPad editions of TIME magazine.”

Here is a list of author’s who have graced the TIME magazine cover.

Virginia Woolf (1937)
William Faulkner (1939)
Robert Frost (1950)
James Baldwin (1963)
John Updike (1968)
Norman Mailer (1973)
Alexander Solzhentisyn (1974)
John Le Carre (1977)
Michael Crighton (1995)
Toni Morrison (1998)
Stephen King (2000)
Jonathan Franzen (2010)

The New Yorker also has a post about the cultural weight of Franzen’s appearance on the cover.

Get Involved in Our Virtual Book Tours


At Kelley & Hall we have been actively reaching out to bloggers over the past few years. Once again, we want to make it even easier for bloggers to get involved. Let us know if you are interested in hosting any of our authors on your blog and we will gladly send you a copy of their book, information on the author and a detailed media questionnaire to use on your site. We can also arrange to have you interview the author directly.  In some cases, we can send you multiple copies for giveaways or help arrange special contests.

If you are interested in reviewing one of our authors books on your site or would like to be part of a virtual book tour, please drop us a note at jocelyn (at) kelleyandhall (dot) com.

A New Page in Publishing


Fascinating article by Jeffrey Trachtenberg in today’s Wall Street Journal on the changing face of publishing and one Cinderella story.

Writer Karen McQuestion spent nearly a decade trying without success to persuade a New York publisher to print one of her books. In July, the 49-year-old mother of three decided to publish it herself, online. Eleven months later, Ms. McQuestion has sold 36,000 e-books through Inc’s Kindle e-bookstore and has a film option with a Hollywood producer. In August, Amazon will publish a paperback version of her first novel, “A Scattered Life.”

Lit Links

The Huffington Post has a great list of the Twitter accounts for writers and publishing industry professionals.

If you get a bad review, don’t worry about it! Check out these horrible Amazon reviews for literary classics.

A significantly large group of young adult authors are binding together to help put an end, and bring an awareness to, bullying.

Booksquare weighs in on the iPad.

Digital books from a consumer’s POV.

You Can Lead a Horse to Water…

…but you can’t make him drink. I was just reading agent and writer, Nathan Bransford’s blog, and he makes an interesting and often widely overlooked point. No one person, publisher, or business can turn any book into a blockbuster success. No one in this industry has the power to turn any book into a bestseller. Yes, publishing houses can make business deals with bookstores and have their “BIG” books placed in prime, front-of-store, realty. They can have cut-out, life size displays and ads in every paper and magazine from here to Timbuktu. But if the book doesn’t build the ever elusive “word of mouth” or “buzz” that we so frequently hear about, it is not going to move off those carefully picked shelves. And what builds that buzz? Strong, compelling, well-written work that connects with readers. Because guess what? Readers talk! As Bransford says, “Lots of books get marketing dollars. Not all books become TWILIGHT or THE DA VINCI CODE or THE HELP or HARRY POTTER.” What Bransford doesn’t mention in his piece is that sometimes great books don’t get any help out of the gate and the author has a long, hard road of spreading the word about a book they believe in. It took years before Jenna Blum‘s THOSE WHO SAVE US to get the recognition it deserved. It wasn’t until it was out in paperback, years after its initial launch, that it made it onto The New York Times Bestseller List. This is why publicity is so important in the world of publishing. It can’t make a bad book a bestseller, but it can help an overlooked book rise up and shine.

The Future of Reading

In this week’s issue of Newsweek, the prolific author and Newsweek columnist, Anna Quindlen, weighs in on the future of reading. She makes one of the strongest, and most eloquent, points I have heard when debating the future of the hardbound book vs. electronic readers.

The invention of television led to predictions about the demise of radio. The making of movies was to be the death knell of live theater; recorded music, the end of concerts. All these forms still exist- sometimes overshadowed by their siblings but not smothered by them. And despite the direst predictions, reading continues to be part of the life of the mind, even as computers replace pencils, and books fly into handhelds as well as onto store shelves. Anton Chekhov, meet Steve Jobs.

Anna Quindlen’s sixth novel, Every Last One, will be released on April 13th in hardcover, digital and audio editions. Also, I read this article in the hard copy version of Newsweek when it landed on my desk this morning. Anna Quindlen’s article was referenced on the cover. Would I have discovered it in Newsweek’s online version? Who knows.

How to Manage Social Networking Sites

Social media and networking sites like Twitter, Facebook, GoodReads, etc., are excellent ways to build your network of readers, friends and fans. They provide a wide-reaching online community and allow you to disseminate information constantly. In a matter of moments you can alert thousands of people to the release of your novel, provide a link to an article you have written or ask a pressing question. These sites are important to building name recognition and increasing your exposure. The major flaw in this great design is that it can suck away your precious time and for writers, time is your greatest asset. With publishers wanting at least a book a year from their authors, it is imperative that you put all of your available time into your writing. Here are some tips to managing your activity on social networking sites.

1.) Organize. Set aside a specific time to check and update sites like Facebook and Twitter. Give yourself a half hour in the morning and a half hour at night. That way you can still interact with friends without becoming a slave to your status updates.

2.) Separate. Have a separate email address reserved specifically for social networking sites. We are emailed constantly throughout the day when friends contact us through Facebook. If someone comments on our status update, we get an email. If one of our friends updates their GoodReads page, we get an email. All of these emails can be enticing but also very distracting. You can also adjust your settings so that you don’t receive an email for every Facebook/Twitter/GoodReads message sent or comment posted.

3.) Balance. For every Facebook interaction you have over the course of the day, try to make a real connection outside of the social networking sites.

4.) Avoid Games. Admittedly, those Facebook games are fun and entertaining, but they can suck up your time faster than you can spell SCRABBLE.

5.) Be unavailable. Set your Facebook status to unavailable. If a friend wants to get in touch with you, let them email you. This will allow you to set aside the time to get in touch with your friend. If a friend sends you an instant message through Facebook, it is hard to tell them you’re busy when to them you appear to be “playing” on Facebook.

These new networking sites are providing us with an abundance of publicity opportunities, but there is always a down side. By managing your time appropriately you can take advantage of what these sites offer without giving up all of your available time and energy.

Book Bloggers

The writer Allison Winn Scotch recently posed the question What’s your opinion on book review blogs?  Do you think people read them?  Do you expect that they’ll become an influential force in the publishing world?  Do you as an author consider them valuable?

It is an interesting and consistently asked question in today’s changing media. One of the reasons that the book sections of newspapers are shrinking is because in today’s social networking world people are more interested in a dialogue than a one-sided summary or narrative about a particular book. They want a more visceral, personal reaction with questions and an open forum for responses. People want to know how a particular book will impact their life, what questions it will pose and how others are reacting to it. I think book bloggers become, essentially, an extension of your “friends” and you want to know what they are reading, which authors are on their radar and what they like and dislike. Ultimately we all make our own decisions, but online blogs and book-related websites provide readers with an instant outlet to express their opinions and reactions to books that strike a chord.

Book Trailers

book_trailer2While speaking last week at the Mystery Writers of America meeting, we were asked a very interesting and popular question. Do book trailers work? Are they worth the time and effort and do they result in more attention, increase in sales and brand recognition?  I think if you are going to take the time and effort (and cost) to make a book trailer, you have to create something that people will talk about and pass along to friends and family. It has to deliver a message, whether it is fiction or non-fiction, romance or mystery, there has to be a driving force that makes people want to spend the 2 minutes or 7 minutes watching this video at their computer. Kelly Corrigan is a great example of an author who used the message behind her book to create a trailer that not only allows the viewer to get a quick glimpse of what is offered between the pages of her memoir, but also something that would strike a chord and leave a lasting impression. Below are two examples of Kelly’s book videos. One is a trailer and one is a recording of a speech she gave interspersed with images. Ask yourself, does this make me want to buy her book? If the answer is yes, as I’m sure it will be, then the trailer has done its job. A trailer of static images with text scrolling across may not be worth the time and money, but something that can create a viral buzz and have people talking is worth it.

Mystery Writers of America

mwa_logo-785229 (1)

Last night Kelley & Hall was invited to speak to a wonderful group of writers from the Mystery Writers of America‘s New England chapter. This group of insightful  and talented authors had great questions and an eager curiosity to learn as much as they could about the skills and tactics employed when trying to secure publicity. Many of the questions revolved around both an online presence and the social networking outlet of Facebook. The conversation flew by and at the end there were still so many things I wanted to say about the importance of promoting your work to the best of your ability. I would love to open up this blog as a forum for aspiring and published authors to ask questions. Let this blog be the “Dear Abby” of book publicity. Email me directly at jocelyn (at) kelleyandhall (dot) com and we can address your questions right here on this blog. With the constantly changing face of publishing and media and the new opportunities developing at every turn, now is the best time to fully understand how to take complete advantage of these opportunities and let them work for you.

Google or Apple Tablet: The Race is On


According to The Huffington Post reports are coming out that Google and HTC have been working on a touch-screen tablet for over a year and a half. While word is scant, analysts believe the tablet could hit the market around the same time as the Apple tablet.

The iSlate (the reported name of the Apple Tablet) is said to be launching on January 26, 2010.

The Washington Post tries to explain the allure behind this much talked about product.

Add “Read More” to your New Year’s Resolutions

Nina Sankovitch, the woman behind Read All Day has some pertinent advice for all of us. READ MORE! It is a great resolution to add to your list or dare to have it be the only item on your list. Either way, it is a positive change we can all make in our daily lives. Sankovitch points out in her Huffington Post essay that if we spent less time on Facebook and Twitter, we could devote more time to reading.

“Reading is a vacation and an education,” says Sankovitch, and honestly, how many things can that be said about?

Ebooks Outsell Print Books


On December 26th, Amazon announced that, for the first time ever, they had sold  more ebooks than physical books on Christmas Day. In an interview, Jeff Bezos was quoted as saying that he believes that the print book will eventually disappear.

Amazon also announced that the Kindle has become the most gifted item in Amazon’s history. What do you think? Do you think physical books will disappear?

Happy Holidays!


It has been quite a year in publishing! E-books seem to be the talk of the industry but we have yet to really see a tremendous change in the power struggle between the real and the virtual. As Don Draper in Mad Men said, “I have a lot bricks, but I can’t quite see a building yet.”

This year has seen the demise of some great magazines and newspapers and more and more attention is going to online ventures and blogs. Self-publishing is getting mainstream attention and publishing houses are seeing some major restructuring.

All in all it has been a year of change, growth and invention. We are looking forward to the new year with hope and anticipation for what’s to come!

We hope you will join us on this journey in 2010 through the ever-changing world of media, publishing and literature. There are some great new voices on our horizon and we are looking forward to bringing them into your world!

Happy Holidays from all of us Kelley & Hall and have a safe and happy New Year!

The Power Force Online

When people think about publicity, they think about getting into the big publications and the major outlets; People Magazine, USAToday, The Today Show, Vogue, to name a few. What many authors don’t realize is that it is just as important, if not more, to build a strong online presence. This has lasting power. The more people start “buzzing” about you, your book and your expertise online, the more opportunities you are giving the “BIG” media to come and find you! ..Or at least have your publicist lead them to you.

For example, one of our authors, Megan Kelley Hall, has been traveling around (virtually, of course) to various blogs and websites talking about the role bullying has played in her YA novels, SISTERS OF MISERY and THE LOST SISTER. Both of her books are fiction, what is notoriously the hardest to promote because most news and entertainment outlets want a great non-fiction topic to build a show or article around. What we did with Hall was determine the best, most news-worthy angle that her stories provided. Because both of her books deal with the idea of mean girls, bullying and hazing (topics she researched painstakingly during the writing process) we used her expertise to build a “hook.” The result was that with every online outlet Hall wrote or was interviewed for, it always came back to bullying and the central theme of her novels.

When we were pitching Hall to the major outlets, one of my contacts over at Teen Vogue mentioned that she was working on a piece on bullying but that they typically didn’t cover fiction. Through our previous efforts with platform-building on websites and blogs, I was able to direct this editor to numerous sites where Hall has talked about the research behind the bullying aspect of her novels. Hall had set herself up as an expert and was therefore able to use the previously acquired online coverage to leverage a fantastic appearance in the cover story for the December/January issue of Teen Vogue.

Another example of how small things can lead to BIG exposure.

The Huffington Post Book Club


A few weeks back Arianna Huffington over at The Huffington Post announced the launch of their book club. Their first selection was IN PRAISE OF SLOWNESS: Challenging the Cult of Speed by Carl Honore. I think the subtitle of this book really says it all and it is fascinating that this was selected to be the inaugural book club selection for a website.

They are having their first *live* discussion about the book today at 3pm (EST). Check it out here.

Harlequin Enters the Self-Publishing World


Harlequin, the romance publisher famous for starting the careers of such household names as Nora Roberts and Tess Gerritsen, has teamed up with Author Solutions to create a self-publishing imprint. Harlequin Horizons, the new author subsidized imprint is one of the first in what could be a trend of major publishing houses seeking alternative methods for turning a profit. These new imprints would offer print on demand printing, typesetting, jacket design and basic levels of editing for a fee.

While I’m sure there are many authors who will jump at the chance of having their books printed with an imprint that is closely related to a major publishing house, there are both advantages and disadvantages to going the self-publishing route. The success stories of self-published authors may push many aspiring novelists to take this route, however, it is a very difficult and time-consuming journey. It is a journey that needs to be planned out fully and properly executed in order to give yourself a chance at mainstream potential (hiring an editor for a thorough, complex editing of manuscript, a publicist to help in media placement and review coverage, and acquiring distribution).

We will have to wait and see if more publishing houses follow suit and what kind of attention this results in for the writers involved.

Do You Write in Books?

This is something that I think about often when reading. How many people write in their books? Do you scribble notes to yourself, underline important/quote-worthy passages or do you just highlight words or sections? Does it help you better understand the material? Does it make the entire experience more memorable?

My parents collect rare books, so it has always been an unwritten rule around my house that books should be treated with care and respect…however, I have gone to the dark side. I write in books! I underline, I scribble (although I have extremely neat handwriting, so it really can’t be called scribbling), I highlight (yellow is my color of choice). I like my books to look like a version of my own personal diary. I want to always remember what struck me as poignant. I want to be able to revisit my thoughts and perceptions.

So my question is, “Do you write in books?” If you do, I would love to see snapshots of a page out of your book.

Tips for Publicity


I am going to try and use this blog as a place to disperse some pertinent information regarding strong publicity tactics. With publishing houses shrinking in staff and budgets dwindling, many authors will have to put their own time and effort into an effective campaign.

Here’s an insider tip:


When faced with tight deadlines and mounting article assignments, journalists need as much information as possible at their fingertips. The press release can also spark an idea or give the journalist incentive to include your book in an article or segment they are already working on.

Here are three things a good press release should offer.

1.) What problem will your book or your expertise solve.
2.) Why are you a good authority. Why should you be called on?
3.) Explain what you would like to offer to help solve the problem or bring light to a situation.


“Whatever big events have recently occurred, sure enough, I’ll see projects that are trying to capture that lightning in a book.”

-Agent Nathan Bransford on the trends he sees in queries.

Bransford wrote last year about a wave of chick lit with heavy protagonists. Sure enough, fast forward one year and that is exactly what we are seeing on the bookshelves.

From the article:

In this brave new ‘chick lit’ world, women realize that weight loss and dieting isn’t the way to happiness. If these new heroines lose weight in the books, they do so incidentally, as a result of finding genuine happiness and fulfillment in more substantial areas of their lives.

The ultimate fantasy for most women today is simply accepting themselves, whatever their body weight.

Why We Love CBS…

cbsCBS News deserves a medal! Every day we hear about book sections folding and the lack of interest surrounding literature, authors and publishing, and yet it is still one of the most influential and inspiring areas of our culture. It fills me with hope when I see news outlets adding book coverage to their schedules. Jeff Glor is the host of AUTHOR TALK, a place for authors and readers to come together and learn about what is going on in the world of books. Author Talk is “a place to find the best new books, and get answers directly from the authors who wrote them.”

The most recent book covered is WHEN EVERYTHING CHANGED: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present by Gail Collins.

How To Write a Great Novel


Fantastic article from the Wall Street Journal on the writing techniques, styles, nuances of famous writers!

For example:

Dan Chaon writes a first draft on color-coded note cards he buys at Office Max. Ideas for his books come to him as images and phrases rather than plots, characters or settings, he says. He begins by jotting down imagery, with no back story in mind. He keeps turning the images over in his mind until characters and themes emerge.

His most recent novel, “Await Your Reply,” which has three interlocking narratives about identity theft, started out as scattered pictures of a lighthouse on a prairie, a car driving into the arctic tundra under a midnight sun and a boy and his father driving to the hospital at night with the boy’s severed hand, resting on ice. He described each scene on a card, then began fleshing out the plotlines, alternating among blue, pink and green cards when he moved between narratives.

During the early stages of writing, he carries a pocketful of cards with him wherever he goes; as they accumulate, he stores them in a card catalogue that he bought at a library sale. It often takes two years before something resembling a novel takes shape. He eventually transcribes the cards onto the computer and writes furiously from 11 p.m. to 4 a.m.

{Thanks to Koreanish for bringing this article to my attention.}



“There’s no secret recipe for a good plot. Brilliance can be born of anything from a twelve-layered mystery to one old man in a boat trying to catch a fish. It’s all in the telling. But make sure your plot has the elements of great storytelling: believability, heart, and tension.”

— Laura Whitcomb, Your First Novel

Chris Bohjalian on Telling a Good Story


I recently interviewed Chris Bohjalian, author of the enormously popular MIDWIVES as well as many other thought-provoking and captivating novels. His upcoming release, SECRETS OF EDEN just received a starred review from Publishers Weekly.

Do you feel the subject matter of your books are ever rooted in a current event, a hot news story or a popular debate?

I don’t always relate a novel to a current event. “Skeletons at the Feast” is a love triangle set in Poland and Germany in the last six months of World War II. “The Buffalo Soldier” was about parental grief and loss and recovery. “The Double Bind” harkens back to “The Great Gatsby” and the literary canon. And even “Midwives” wasn’t about an issue that was out there in the news: No one was talking about midwifery in 1997. There was no national debate about home vs. hospital birth.

Still, I do have novelist friends who are preternaturally gifted at tapping into the cultural zeitgeist – and they sell boatloads more books than I do. So, clearly they’re on to something.

In any case, the last thing I would tell a novelist is that the key to great art is a great hook. Sometimes great art has a great hook…but I wouldn’t recommend beginning there.

Now, I think that if you are determined to pull something off the newspapers or news web sites and craft it into a novel, be sure there is some moral ambiguity or conflict to the story. Drama still needs conflict, even if your source is the news.

How do you decide what makes a good story?

Some writing professors will tell you to write about what you know; others will tell you to write about what you don’t know, but learn all you can. My sense is that it really doesn’t matter if you are writing about a subject you know all about or one that is completely foreign. The key is to explore a subject you care about so passionately that you want to get up at five a.m. to dive in. That has always been the barometer for me.

I should also note that for every novel I finish, I must go down two dead ends, some of which are hundreds of pages long.

Self-Publishing Today

still alice
Great piece by Jonathan Fields in The Huffington Post about the changing face of self-publishing. It is especially delightful because two of my clients, Lisa Genova and Brunonia Barry, are referenced in the piece.

We worked with Brunonia Barry when THE LACE READER was self-published and we were able to secure her coverage that brought the attention of agents and a major seven figure deal with William Morrow. We were then hired by Lisa Genova to help promote her self-published novel, STILL ALICE, about a woman suffering from early onset alzheimer’s. Once again, the coverage we secured led her to a dream agent and a major deal with Simon & Schuster.

Here is a quote from the Huffington Post piece.

“What so many people don’t realize is that self-pubbed writers are not a group of frustrated, no-talent writers. Rather they include established authors like Stephen King, intellectuals like Noam Chomsky and Lisa Genova and Brunonia Barry, writers who couldn’t find anyone to publish their books, did it themselves, and landed on the NY Times bestseller list. It is my belief that there are many more great works and writers out there, just waiting to be found by adventurous readers.”

I was thrilled to work with both of these authors at the very beginning of their careers and to help provide them with the guidance and publicity they needed to lead them to immense success. As the publicist, I am the behind-the-scenes person, but I truly love seeing my hard work and dedication to my clients pay off…BIG TIME!

Barnes & Noble’s Nook


According to the Wall Street Journal, a new electronic book reader is expected *TODAY* from book seller Barnes & Noble Inc. that will challenge readers from Inc. and Sony Corp. with a color touch-screen and $259 price, according to a planned ad for the device.

The price for the reader, called the Nook, matches that of Amazon’s Kindle. The Kindle controls about 60% of the burgeoning e-book market, according to Forrester Research.’s sources say the Nook will be partnering with Best Buy for sales of this device that will be available Thursday.

Fiona Robyn

British author, Fiona Robyn, is going to start blogging her next novel, THAW, on March 1, 2010. The novel, which will be in the form of the the main character’s diary, will chronicle three months during which Ruth is contemplating suicide.

To help spread the word she’s organizing a “Blogsplash” where blogs will publish the first page of Ruth’s diary simultaneously with a link to the blog.

It is certainly an interesting way to get attention and the viral marketing aspect of it is sure to create some media attention. We will have to wait and see if THAW makes the desired splash.

Social Media Examiner

PRNewser just brought a new website to my attention. Social Media Examiner is a web site that targets businesses who want to learn how to use social media to find leads, increase sales and build brand awareness.

From Social Media Examiner:

Social media is no more a one-off playground for brands than television advertising, direct mail campaigns or customer relationship management programs. It’s serious business and should be treated as such.

60 Years Later by Fredrik Colting

60 Years Later: Coming through the Rye by Fredrik Colting

60 Years Later: Coming through the Rye by Fredrik Colting

Fredrik Colting has selected Kelley & Hall as the publicity team for his controversial novel, 60 Years Later: Coming through the Rye (Windupbird Publishing) . JD Salinger has attempted to block the publication in this country and a decision in the Appeals Court has not yet been made. The New York Times, Associated Press, Gannett, and Tribune, as well as librarians, free speech advocates, and legal scholars are urging the Appeals Court to overturn the injunction barring US publication of 60 Years Later.

New York City: BEA and Backspace

This was a very busy weekend for Kelley & Hall. We spent the past weekend in New York City attending both Book Expo America and Backspace Writers Conference. It was interesting to see both sides of the publishing industry. As we often say in our seminars, there are definitely two sides to writing; the creative and the business. This weekend was a great example of both. At Backspace we were able to meet a number of aspiring writers, fascinating people with interesting stories to tell, and we spoke to them about finding hooks, networking and media exposure. It is never too early to start marketing yourself and building a brand or platform.

At BEA, we met with everyone on the other side of publishing; the sales and marketing teams, the editors and agents, librarians and booksellers, authors, and, a reality star or two.

{Alex McCord and Simon van Kemp from The Real Housewives of New York}

{Jocelyn Kelley with Meg Cabot}

{David Meerman Scott}


Typically, when booksellers attend the show, they grab galleys of some of the “hot” books for the Fall season. They then ship these galleys back to their stores. This is what the shipping room looks like; miles and miles of boxes as far as the eye can see. We found it interesting, and perhaps a sign of the changing times, that HarperCollins did not distribute any bound galleys and instead opted for postcards with access codes for people to download entire manuscripts to their computers or digital readers.

We will have to wait and see if this is a change that happens across the board.

For the most part, it was a more subdued BEA. There were fewer galleys and at times the show seemed to lack the typical excitement that it has shown in previous years. This is certainly a sign of the times, the current economic instability and the state of publishing houses.

It was still an entertaining and informative show, filled with interesting people and great books. And it was nice to be back in New York. Although, we were strangely captivated by what’s going on in Times Square. Apparently it is currently closed to cars and beach chairs have been provided by the city for people to sit back and relax and view New York in a way they never have before. Who knows how long this will last, or if the headache created by the traffic will cause it to end it’s run sooner than expected, but it was certainly a site to be seen.