Posted by: Kerry Gans | August 27, 2015

Top Picks Thursday 08-27-2015

Welcome to the final Top Picks Thursday of August! I am sure many of the parents out there are looking forward to the beginning of school, so we can have our writing time back.

The contentious, Puppy-laden Hugo Awards happened earlier this week. Here are the 2015 Hugo Award winners—and a recap from Chuck Wendig and a thoughtful piece from Charlie Jane Anders.

If you are visual, right-brained, or ADHD, try this organizing book for the artist.

For Tolkein fans, look for his unpublished The Story of Kullervo to hit bookshelves soon.

Kristan Higgins has had it with people dissing romance—especially people who criticize romance without having read a single book.

Nikkitha Baskshami examines “binge reading disorder”—where we read many, many articles a day yet retain very little of what we’ve read.

Get full use of your website. Jane Friedman shows how to sell digital products and services on your website.

We love our bookstores—and so does Chuck Wendig! Hop over to Chuck’s blog and give a shout-out to your favorite bookstore.

In a poignant post, Kathryn Craft shows the power of story in real life.


Embarking on a new writing project is always exciting yet fraught. Sometimes, you get hung up somewhere in the story. Nathan Bransford gives his tip on how to get unstuck. Sometimes your descriptions just aren’t pulling their weight. Eli K.P. William describes how to write vivid descriptions. And sometimes we are searching for that elusive “voice” for our narrative. Emma Darwin shares some insights into the elements of writing voice.

Characters create a lot of issues for the writer. For example, K.M. Weiland explains that the protagonist and the main character are not always the same person. Amanda Patterson shares 10 secrets to creating resilient characters, Laurie Schnebley Campbell explains using the heroine’s journey for inner conflicts, and Christy Distler tackles how your characters talk—avoiding unnecessary discourse, talking heads, and the British butler syndrome.

Editing is as unavoidable as death and taxes. Kristen A. Kieffer lists 10 things to do before editing your first draft, Teymour Shahabi explains how to find an editor, and while you’re at it, please check your manuscript for these misspelled and misused foreign phrases.

Writers are usually generous with their writing advice. Christopher Shultz writes in defense of (and against) the old adage of “write what you know,” Ellen Mulholland discusses routines and rituals in writing, Larry Brooks ponders on letting it rip, and Elizabeth Crook shares 7 rules for writing historical fiction.

Writer’s conferences are a great place to have fun and learn. They also can be places that scare us introverts to death. Angie Dicken tells us what resources we should pack for our writer’s conference, and Andrew Swearingen explores the experience of the sophomore writing conference.

There can be heated debates about paper books versus e-readers. But Jennifer Maloney says the real future of reading may have nothing to do with e-readers. She discusses the rise of phone reading, and what it means to authors and publishers.


Once we get into publishing, whether traditional or self-published, we are in business. So we need to think like business people. But we writers are an emotional bunch. Jami Gold examines how low author-self-esteem can impact our business decisions.

Crowdfunding sounds so enticing to finance your book project, but it can be very hard to pull off successfully. Judith Briles explains how crowdfunding success can be yours.

Querying can be crazy-making, but it doesn’t have to be. Ash Krafton lists 5 mistakes that make you look like an amateur, Janet Reid tells what to do if you’re not sure if your book is YA or adult, Kim English reminds us that querying is not a zero-sum game, Jennifer Laughran addresses personalizing your query letter, and Query Shark has a fantastic in-depth look at what makes queries successful.

Once we have our book, we need to sell it. James Scott Bell shows how to create some buzz for your book, Rachel Thompson has tips from authors on how to increase your sales, and Porter Anderson shows what reader analytics can teach authors and publishers.

Social media is a great way to connect with readers. Frances Caballo has 13 tips to help you attract and keep Facebook fans, Ricardo Fayet explains how to use Twitter to find and engage book reviewers, Jenny Hanson shares 5 easy SEO techniques for writers, Chris Syme reminds us to beware of social media snake oil, and Jane Friedman explores why there’s so much conflicting advice about social media.


Ray Bradbury’s FBI file shows the power of the pen. They thought he was subversive. They thought all SF was subversive. They were right.

Read 20 of the most profound things ever written by J.R.R. Tolkien and 12 quotable lines from Pride and Prejudice.

David Byrne has opened a personal lending library during the annual Meltdown Festival in London.

Brianne Moore lists 12 teen novels about poverty.

These are the 51 best fantasy series ever written (in the last 50 years). Did you catch these classical jokes hiding in your favorite children’s books?

Cannabis was discovered in 400-year-old tobacco pipes in William Shakespeare’s garden. This could explain some of the weird stuff in his plays.

So how did the Germanic, rune-based English alphabet become the Roman-based one we have today? Find out in the lost letters of the alphabet and how it’s evolved.

Have it your way…or not? Burger King tries to block the trademark application for the 1,200-year-old Book of Kells.

That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! We’ll see you in September!

Posted by: J. Thomas Ross | August 25, 2015

Social Media: Pop Goes the Pop-Up

Those of you who read the blog regularly know that every week for our Top Picks Thursday feature the five of us gather recent blog posts that we enjoyed or that provided valuable news, tips, and information for writers. Although Nancy Keim Comley and I sometimes compile the gathered posts for Top Picks Thursday, Kerry Gans usually puts the post together and does a stellar job of it. And she’s been doing so for more than four years!

We first published Top Picks Thursday on June 2, 2011. Finding blog posts to include in our feature has required reading a lot of blogs during the past four years. I find most of my contributions through Twitter, and even though I read numerous posts on the same topics — writer’s block or self-editing, for instance — I find reinforcement or new tips or a new perspective on the topics, which makes reading new posts valuable. After all, a writer is always learning.

I do not, however, put every post I read on my list for that week’s Top Picks Thursday. I don’t include posts about personal life or experiences unrelated to writing. Glaring errors in grammar and spelling (which shows the blogger either didn’t know the correct forms or didn’t take the time to proofread) can make me decide not to recommend a post, as can a lack of clarity. And, while authors shouldn’t neglect to give their work a plug — in the sidebar or at the beginning or end of a post — too much self-promotion is a turn-off.

Another thing that can make me disregard a blog post is a pop-up or a pop-out. Pop-ups, which are requests for a reader’s name and email address that appear somewhere over the blog post (so that the writer can send the reader newsletters or special offers or promotional material), are more common.

Pop-outs come out from the side and offer a reader a way to click and share on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and other sites. It’s more common to have these buttons at the end of a post, but some sites have them pop-out from the side. Most of the time pop-outs provide a convenience for readers; however, on a few sites, irritating pop-outs cover the beginning of all but a couple lines of the blog entry, making it difficult to read. If a post is difficult to read, I don’t feel right including it on my Top Picks Thursday list.

Pop-ups can be even more problematic. I understand why writers use them. Any writer who reads posts about social media or who attends classes, workshops, conferences, or conventions hears from social media gurus and successful published authors that an email list is a more effective marketing tool than Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or other social media sites. As a result, a number of writers ask visitors to their website or blog to sign up on their email newsletter lists. Sometimes a bonus, such as a free story or book, is given for signing up. On many blogs, this request is in the sidebar (you can see ours in the sidebar at the right) or at the end of the post. More and more, however, I run into the request in pop-ups.

I admit to finding pop-ups annoying, but I’m not totally against them and have included on my Top Picks Thursday list some blog posts with small pop-ups that show up at the end of the post. I have no patience, however, with those that appear before the end of the post. I can understand a writer asking me to sign up for her or his email list if I’ve read all the way to the end of the post, but I object to having my reading interrupted after I’ve only had the chance to read two paragraphs. How am I expected to know if I want to join an author’s email list before I’ve had a chance to read the whole blog post?

Even more aggravating are the pop-ups that materialize before I’ve had a chance to read one word on the site. These pop-ups usually cover the entire page as well. When bombarded with such a pop-up, I react by closing the tab. If a blogger cannot wait for me to read the post before asking for my email address, I am unwilling to take the time to read the post or to recommend it to our readers.

My point in this post is not just to explain how I choose posts for Top Picks Thursday. I hope to inspire writers to consider how they are handling their websites and blogs. Remember that less is more. Not only does too much or too blatant promotional material make people cringe, but how you try to connect with readers is important. A request for the reader to sign up for an email list in a sidebar, at the end of a post, or in a small pop-up that appears at the end of a post is more respectful of a reader than a huge, demanding pop-up. Be kind to your readers. A pop-up or a pop-out should never cover the blog post or make reading it hard.

I’d really like to hear other people’s opinions about pop-ups, email lists, and social media marketing in general. In all honesty, I don’t sign up for email lists. I used to, but I couldn’t keep up with all the email. Since email marketing isn’t going to work on me and I don’t respond to marketing on other social media either, maybe I’m not a good person to use as an example. Please share your thoughts.

For readers:

How do you feel about social media marketing? Are you annoyed by pop-ups? Do you sign up for email lists? Is social media marketing effective in getting you to buy books?

For authors and bloggers:

Do you use pop-ups on your blog or website? Do you find them effective? Do your email newsletters drive sales?

Let us know what you think. wlEmoticon-smile.png


Posted by: Kerry Gans | August 20, 2015

Top Picks Thursday 08-20-2015

Welcome to our weekly writerly links round up! A hot and steamy August is just right for staying cool indoors and browsing for writing advice.

Many of us bemoan how long it takes to get published. A.J. Cattapan explains why she’s glad it took 11 years to get her first novel published.

In this digital age, can you successfully market under a pen name? Frances Caballo discusses how to market your books using a pen name.

So you’re an author and you’re going to be on a radio show or podcast. David Congalton shares 10 tips for authors for mastering a radio interview.


Everyone has different writing processes, but have you ever tried pre-writing? Kaitlin Hillerich describes the 4 benefits of pre-writing. One benefit is to stave off writer’s block. If you get stuck, though, Martina Boone shares 3 techniques guaranteed to break writer’s block.

Caroline B. Cooney explains how to use the “what if?” technique to overcome story slump, Rochelle Deans shows how using brackets in our first draft can save time and sanity, and Molly Best Tinsley explores the purpose of the second draft.

When it comes to characters, we need to make them real in what they feel and say. Mary Jaksch shares 3 secrets of transmitting naked emotions, Liz Bureman explores how the 5 stages of grief can help your writing, Marcy Kennedy gives 5 reasons why internal dialogue is essential in fiction (and how to use it in your story), and Linda Clare shows how to write dialogue that sounds like real speech.

Every part of your story needs to work together to make a compelling read. Joanne Hall explains how to write fight scenes an editor wants to see, and K.M. Weiland teaches us how NOT to waste your story setting’s full potential.

After we write “The End” we need to edit. Lee Wind suggests using Tag Crowd as a useful editing tool, Kathrine Locke shares the reverse outline and magic Post-It revision technique, and Stuart Horwitz explains how to use beta readers to help you write your best novel.

Janine Savage lists 5 things you can do to improve your writing, Terry Tyler has 10 debut novelist danger areas, book doctor Allie Spencer shares top 10 tips for your first novel, and Carrie Bailey gives us 3 rules to finish a novel faster.

Jo Ann Schneider reminds us that we know more about writing than we think we do, Robena Grant ponders that passion is an odd thing, and Jeff Goins explains why writing isn’t really what you write about.


Publishing is a business, so we writers need to think like business people. Allison Stadd shows how focusing on the little things allows the big things to take care of themselves.

Because publishing is a business, publishers often want entertaining books that sell rather than difficult, literary works. James Scott Bell explains why writing entertaining, escapist fiction is NOT a bad thing.

Got a book? You need back-cover copy and a good author photo. Jessi Rita Hoffman tells us how to write back-cover copy for any type of fiction or non-fiction book, and Bill Ferris shows us how to get the perfect author photo.

We also need an elevator pitch, which is good in many situations from queries to writers’ conferences. Grace Hitchcock walks us through creating an elevator pitch.  Finally, we need an awesome bio to attract new readers. Alex Limberg explains how to write a bio that will supercharge your guest posts and drive traffic to your website.

If you are an author who also blogs about books and worries about getting on publishers’ bad sides with your reviews, Janet Reid lays out some rules for blogging about books as an author that should keep you out of trouble.


Arianna Rebolini brings us 20 struggles of being the only book lover in your friend group.

Ever wonder what Presidents read on vacation? Jarry Lee has President Obama’s summer reading list.

That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! See you next week—stay cool!

Posted by: Gwendolyn Huber | August 17, 2015

The Adversity of Creation

This month I’ve been reading about the process of creation in a marvelous book entitled “How to Fly a Horse: the Secret History of Creation, Invention, and Discovery” by Kevin Ashton.

The news from this author is not horribly shocking.

Basically, creation is work – not magic, as some would tell you. Start creating and keep at it. Creating is a process.

What was news to me, and a relief to discover is that the emotional process of creator’s is predictable and normal.

I am not alone or defective. This is part of the process.

It’s natural to want to find solutions quickly and easily and we all wrestle with pride and shame and fear as we face our imperfect early drafts and inevitable rejection. After all not everyone will love us or our creative children.

It’s natural to embrace denial and long for certainty but neither of those things will make our creations better.  They are both, in fact, death knells for creativity.

Here is a quote:

“What determines whether we will succeed as creators is not how intelligent we are, how talented we are, or how hard we work, but how we respond to the adversity of creation.”

Posted by: J. Thomas Ross | August 13, 2015

Top Picks Thursday 08-13-2015

Hi! Welcome to The Author Chronicles blog. Thanks for checking out this week’s Top Picks Thursday.

With August almost half over, how is your summer reading going? Are you concentrating on classics from a summer reading list or enjoying light beach reading? Jami Gold wonders if you’ve ever had anyone shame you for your reading choices. Big Al discusses whether readers want series or standalones, while Jamie takes a look at perception vs reality in our online book community and beyond.

Not every reader will appreciate an author’s work. When a parent declared Some Girls Are (which was selected as an ALA/YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults title and a Top Ten Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers) is “smut” and “trash,” the school removed it from school’s summer reading list. Author Courtney Summers responds.

Also in the realm of young adult literature, Dahlia Adler considers how damaging heteronormativity can be in YA, and Rob Bittner discusses violence in LGBTIQ fiction for young adults.

Despite the increase in e-publishing, libraries remain important to readers and writers. Deborah Fallows provides an interesting look at how libraries are changing, with ideas like putting books on school buses and reaching out to new moms.

Peter Bebergal reports on Nebula Award winning author Samuel Delany’s comments about the past and future of science fiction, while Andrew Albanese wonders if Bryan Stevenson’s speech accepting the Andrew Carnegie Award for Excellence in Nonfiction might be the best book award acceptance speech ever.

Feral kitten we just adopted.

Feral kitten we just adopted.

Were you as thrilled as we were about Dr. Suess’s new book? Jarry Lee tells us that Random House Children’s Books has started a social media campaign supporting the ASPCA to celebrate the book. What a great idea!

Romantic elements can be found in all genres, but David Corbett wonders why so few platonic friendships between men and women can be found in literature or other media.

If you enjoy visuals, Isabelle Sudron presents the 17 best infographics for writers.


How do you start your writing day? Do you have trouble getting started? Terri Windling relates her “ritual of approach.” Diane Holcomb asks if you are too busy to start rewriting your novel and offers some solutions.

Need some help with your writing? Chuck Wendig lists 100 random storytelling tips and thoughts. Several other bloggers offer writing tips and advice. Karim Dimechkie lists 7 things he’s learned about writing, and Laurel Garver discusses how to channel writerly frustration. Barbara Baid discusses becoming a better writer by not writing.

Words are a writer’s medium for conveying story. Barbara Baig delineates 3 qualities of masterful word choice.

Just how important is a name? Jennifer Moss asks if you are making these 5 mistakes in character naming, while Donald Maass discusses the effectiveness of using feelings without names.

The plot is a key element in any novel. Jody Hedlunds suggests 4 steps for turning plot ideas into a novel, Janice Hardy discusses the three-point structure for plotting, and Cathy Yardley offers pointers on how to craft a page-turning plot.

When the manuscript revisions are finished, many writers turn to beta readers for comments. Linnea Ren discusses her experiences as a beta reader and what authors don’t want to (but need to) hear.


Now that your manuscript is ready for submission, Matt Toffolo gives tips for writing the best logline and synopsis for your story/screenplay.

For those looking for an agent, Jacqui Murray gives 16 query tips from literary agents, and Adrienne deWolfe lets us in on what literary agents won’t tell you. Agent Kate McKean urges writers not to stop trying to find an agent because it’s hard, and Angela Ackerman recommends making your own luck as a writer.

Shannon Deaton considers what to do after a story is rejected.

Sarah Fox lists lessons learned on the way to publication, and Warren Adler discusses confronting bad book reviews. James Scott Bell also offers some advice to traditionally published authors.

Not all writers are interested in traditional publishing. If you’re uncertain which path to take, Margaret Madigan discusses the burning question — to self-pub or not to self-pub, and Jami Gold asks those interested in Indie publishing paths if they know their goals.

Angela Christina Archer discusses types of businesses authors can set up.

Effective use of social media is important to writers. Anne R. Allen explains why social media is still your best path to book visibility. Jody Hedlund gives 5 easy tips for driving Pinterest traffic to your author blog or website. Jeff Goins specifies 5 types of platform personalities and asks you to consider what type is right for you.

When you are marketing your book, Sharon Bially gives tips on nailing your email subject line for effective promotion, and Penny C. Sansevieri discusses the best way for writers to use Amazon’s preorder feature. Of course, it helps if you have a famous spouse. Steven Levingston describes how Tracey Stewart discovered the power of a book plug by her husband Jon Stewart on The Daily Show.

How does a writer evaluate the success of book sales? John Scalzi gives a breakdown of how his latest novel did and what the numbers mean in a changing industry.

News from the publishing industry: Claire Kirch tells how Cottage Door Press tries a new approach to selling books for the youngest readers, and Jim Milliot reports that sales are down but profits are up at Simon & Schuster.


The Vocabularist explores the peculiar names of punctuation marks.

See what happens when Dilbert writes a novel.

Take the quiz — can you identify these classic novels by their closing lines? — from FangirlingDaily.

Nancy Tinker tells how Thomas Hughes, author of Tom Brown’s School Days, also founded the idyllic town of Rugby, Tennessee, as a social experiment.

Emily Bowles gives a brief history of Dickens bashing.

Manchester University launches largest-ever online collection of the work of Victorian author Elizabeth Gaskell.

Jamilah King writes an article on the assumption of whiteness in Harry Potter and Hermione’s skin color, with an amazing array of fan art.

Cece Bell tells how she made her beautiful graphic novel El Deafo.

In the Harvard Gazette, Colleen Walsh reports that a newly discovered manuscript reveals what Thoreau learned about Margaret Fuller’s tragic drowning.

Most of the 600 pages of Darwin’s original version of “On the Origin of Species” manuscript have been lost, but not the 65 pages his children used for doodling. You never know what might come from kids’ artistic endeavors!

If you haven’t read it yet, check out our interview with agent Eric Smith from P. S. Literary.

That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday. See you next week!

Posted by: Kerry Gans | August 11, 2015

Back to Basics: Why I Write

Sometimes, since I have embarked on the road to publication, I forget why I write. I get so caught up in the minutia of good writing, it gets overwhelming. Character arcs. Story structure. Subplots. Show don’t tell. Kill your darlings. Polish the dialogue. Delete the adverbs. Watch the word count. The list of what it takes to write a good book seems endless. And to then market that book…Well, that’s a whole other story.

In the midst of all that, sometimes I think, “Why am I still doing this?”

I am not alone in the sacrifices writers make to write. In sleeping less to write more. In grabbing writing time at your child’s extra-curricular activities. In allowing my child to watch Kung-Fu Panda for the thousandth time so I can finish a blog post. In not watching any TV. In perhaps leaving the breakfast dishes in the sink until lunchtime just to squeeze out another 5 minutes of time. We all have different sacrifices, but we all have some.

When I first started writing, back in the days before computers, writing was pure fun. Creating people and worlds out of nothing—magic. Utter magic. The adrenaline rush of having words pour from my pen was addictive. You know what I mean—“the flow,” “the groove,” “the zone.” When I’m there, I lose track of everything—space, time, myself. And when I come back up, I blink and stare around like when you first walk out of a movie theater—not knowing what day it is or where I am.

I don’t get into that zone much anymore—I don’t have the large chunks of time I need to get that submerged. But sometimes I get that adrenaline rush when I go back and read something I wrote a while ago. It happened the other day, as I read parts of a book I last looked at a year or more ago.

I got lost in the writing. I got sucked in, and when I stopped, I thought: “Wow. It’s like a professional wrote that.”

Then I remembered that I was the professional.

Moments like that are what excite me and energize me now. It’s how I know I’m getting better at this writing thing. That all the slogging work has been worth it. When all the minutia falls into place, fades into the background, and lets the reader fly.

This is why I write—why I can’t give it up.

Because of those moments when I rise out of myself and hold the whole universe in my hands.

What keeps you writing?

Posted by: J. Thomas Ross | August 7, 2015

Friday Feature: An Interview with Literary Agent Eric Smith

The Author Chronicles gives a warm welcome to literary agent and author Eric Smith. Fellow blogger Kerry Gans and I met Eric at this year’s Philadelphia Writers’ Conference in June, where he was one of the featured agents and editors. When I asked if he would answer a few questions for the blog, he enthusiastically agreed.

Photo Eric Smith

You have a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in English. Is a degree in English a requirement for an agent’s job? Are there other specific qualifications for the job?

I don’t think so. I’m sure it helps, all that time spent in school learning what you love, what you dislike, getting an eye for well-written prose and the like.

What interested you in becoming an agent?

One of my favorite things about working in publishing was that relationship with the authors. Some of the authors I had the pleasure of working with became pals of mine, and we talk often. Being an agent gives you an even closer relationship there, and you get to be with them from the start of their careers, to help shape their books. I really wanted to play a bigger role in that whole process. And I really love it.

P. S. Literary is based in Toronto, but you work in Philadelphia. Do you travel to Toronto, or do you chiefly work in Philadelphia? How do you stay connected with the other agents in the agency?

It’s true! I miss those guys. I work out of my home office in Philadelphia, surrounded by my corgi, bunny, and chinchilla. We stay connected through the magic of email, Gchat, and frequent video conferences. Also, by tweeting puns at each other on Twitter.

Do you like to travel, or are you more of a stay-at-home guy?

Oh, I generally work out of cafes and the like around town when it comes to work. I have my home HQ, but being out and about keeps me sane. And I love traveling.

Describe an agent’s typical workday. Do you take work home?

I think it differs for everyone. Some agents work out of an agency office, others are satellite folks. Me, I generally start my day by flipping through queries, usually while reading industry news via Shelf Awareness, Publisher’s Weekly & Marketplace, and checking out the book blogs, like BookRiot, GalleyCat, Huff Post Books, etc. to see what’s going on in the business side, as well as what readers are actively talking about.

If I’ve got a lot of manuscripts I’m excited about, I’ll go to a cafe and do some reading. Sometimes I’ll spend the whole 9 to 5 reading. Other days, I’m busy editing. I’m very hands-on with my authors and spend time with their manuscripts.

So yeah, lots of email and lots of reading.

In your interview with Michelle Hauck, you mentioned that you make editorial suggestions to your author clients. Do you make suggestions for marketing too since publishers are leaving more and more of that to authors?

I think that’s kind of an over generalization in the industry, people thinking publishers are pushing more of the marketing to their authors. Yeah, you’re responsible as an author to be out there, talking about your book, working on your social media, taking Q&A’s when they come your way and the like. But every publisher will have publicity people, marketing folks, and a sales force who are uber passionate about your book and actively working on it.

I was one of those marketing folks at a publishing house for five years (and I loved it, hi Quirk!), so I have a lot of experience with that. I dish out advice and guidance, mostly definitely.

What is your favorite part of the job? Your least favorite? Why?

Favorite part, saying yes. Least favorite, saying no. :-) I just like making people happy, so turning down manuscripts is always a bummer.

What hobbies or other activities do you pursue to balance out your life?

Well, I have a lot cute pets. They keep me busy and adequately snuggled. I do a lot of my own writing as well, and I teach. But mostly I just love relaxing with my wife, having a good Netflix binge, and hanging out with our friends. Video games keep me VERY happy.

You are an agent, author, blogger, and teacher. How do you manage to do it all?

Haha, well, I don’t sleep all that often. It’s about finding a good balance and knowing what you really want to be doing.

As an author, do you outline or let the story flow?

Eh, I do a little bit of both. Sometimes the story will just go, and then I’ll get to a part that I want to expand on later, so I’ll outline and plan to go back. Or sometimes I know I have something I want to get to quickly, so I’ll outline whatever I’m working on and jump ahead. I mix it up, and my drafts look like a nightmare.

Do you like quiet when you write or do you have a playlist? If you listen to music, what music do you prefer?

Oh, definitely a playlist. I regularly blast pop punk: Fall Out Boy, New Found Glory, Punchline, All American Rejects, Eve 6, The Ataris, you name it. If there are power chords and angsty lyrics, I want to listen to it.

What’s a little-known fact about you that readers might find interesting?

Hm. I used to play in ska bands as a teenager / in my early 20’s. :-) I played saxophone. Even toured a little. Good times, full of really bad dyed hair.

As an agent you read a lot of manuscript drafts. What are the biggest mistakes you see new writers making?

Not so much in drafts, but in what I get sent. My lil’ wishlist on my website is pretty clear, and a simple glimpse at my Twitter or blog will tell you exactly what I like. Sending me something that’s totally off my list… well, it’s just a waste of that writer’s time. Make sure you’re researching. This isn’t graduate school thesis level research either. It takes five minutes to Google an agent, and read what they like. Not too hard.

Thanks, Eric.


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geek dating coverinked coverEric Smith is an author, blogger, and literary agent living in Philadelphia. He’s the author of The Geek’s Guide to Dating (Quirk Books, 2013) and Inked (Bloomsbury Spark, 2015). He’s a regular contributor to BookRiot, Barnes & Noble, and Paste Magazine.

After several years working in publishing, Eric joined P.S. Literary as an associate agent. He spends his days looking for exciting new writers, working with them on their books, and sometimes, when he has a moment, working on his own. You can follow him on Twitter at @ericsmithrocks.


Posted by: Kerry Gans | August 6, 2015

Top Picks Thursday 08-06-2015

Welcome to August’s first Top Picks Thursday! We have plenty of links for you today, so let’s jump in.

The Twitter hashtag #TenThingsNotToSayToAWriter gives a lively (and often funny) look at what NOT to say when you meet an author.

Catherine Nichols ran an interesting experiment. She sent out her novel under a male pseudonym—and watched vastly different results roll in.

Jo Eberhardt reminds us of the power of fiction—how even those who write for “entertainment” can save a life.

When a husband loses his wife’s special book, author Judy Blume saves the day.


Many writers use Word for their manuscripts, but the software Scrivener is growing in popularity. If you’ve been a little leery of diving in, Jessica White explains Scrivener.

To make your story great, you have to pay attention to things both large and small. Janice Hardy discusses the midpoint reversal that sets up the second half of your novel, Jody Hedlund shows how similes and metaphors spice up a story, Alexander Limberg explores balancing dialogue and description, and K.M. Weiland gives a clinic on using exclamation points.

Not every hero is a superhero, endowed with paranormal powers. Emily Tjaden lists 6 ways to make ordinary protagonists extraordinary. Sometimes we want to include real people in our stories. Helen Sedwick explains the right of publicity, and how you can safely handle real-life characters.

Revision is necessary to creating a great story, but sometimes knowing where to begin editing is mind-boggling. James Scott Bell addresses writing paralysis due to over-analysis, and Jami Gold looks at when it makes sense to make big revisions.

We all seek inspiration. Carrie Bailey has 5 things painting teaches us about writing, Jami Gold explores what we can learn from reading bad writing, and Martina Boone shares 6 ways to unleash the magic of subconscious writing.

Writing takes commitment. Drew Chial explores how writing a novel is a lot like a relationship, Julie Ellis lists 5 tips for making writing a daily habit, and Martina Boone discusses how to overcoming shiny, new idea syndrome.


Many authors also review books—so what happens when you are asked to review a train wreck of a book? Can you get out without being blacklisted? Janet Reid answers.

If you’re looking to be published, Erica O’Rourke shares her super-secret key to publishing success. Shayla Eaton examines the Kindle Scout program’s problems—and the solution.

Many of us are seeking agents—but sometimes the relationship is not what you expected. Nathan Bransford explains how to know when to leave your agent.

Tracy Hahn-Burkett gives advice to authors from a bookseller’s point of view, while Anne R. Allen discusses how the Look Inside preview can make or break a sale.

If marketing scares you, Jael McHenry reminds us that everything is writing. Along those lines, Jason Kong describes 5 awesome benefits to writing flash fiction for your email subscribers.

Sometimes juggling writing, marketing, and real life seems an impossible task. Sarah Negovetich shows us how to stop being a tortured artist, and Joanna Penn tells us how to set up your own website in 30 minutes.


How literate are you? Can you match these quotes to their classic books?

That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday!


Posted by: Matt Q. McGovern | August 5, 2015

The Attention Span of Our Muse

I was recently in a conversation with someone about the book I’m working on, and the question came up (to me): what’s your muse say?

It caught me off guard, because the honest answer was that my Muse wanted to write something else. :D

I think a writer’s first book project can become mired in development, and that’s certainly happened with mine. I question its direction and its genre age, based on the writing style that I’m comfortable with. I don’t have a problem with this approach because it’s a blast and I love it. The experience itself is a journey and I’m proud of having it.

My Muse, on the other hand, may have written several novels already. ;)

Neil Gaimon’s Sandman series has a library in the realm of Dreaming that has books on the shelves that have only been dreamed and not put into existence. It’s my favorite library description next to the library in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, and I’m sure I’d have books in both.

But I answered the question in more detail, and ended up quickly writing several scenes of what my Muse was working on. Totally separate storyline than what my book was about, regardless of direction or audience age.

Personally, I think my Muse is just a reflection of me and what’s going on in my life. It’s the summer in the city but my Muse likes to dream of Northern Minnesota (I’m no fan of the heat).

It’s also a story and stories need to be told.

I don’t want to stop the book “project” because it’s been very educational, and I also haven’t gotten to the point where I’ve decided it’s time to move on from it.

I’m curious about the stories that are churning and bubbling in writers’ minds. Is there a time where a writer says, “Hey, I think this one wants to be written.”? How many ongoing works of writing are put on pause to let a lively snippet come to life?

What is your Muse up to?

Posted by: Kerry Gans | July 30, 2015

Top Picks Thursday 07-30-2015

July is winding down, but we’re still going strong collecting links for your Top Picks Thursday enjoyment!

On a sad note, true crime novelist Ann Rule has died at age 83.

A tale of two manuscripts: the story of how an abandoned manuscript became the latest book by Dr. Seuss, and the suspicion that Harper Lee’s Go Set A Watchman is a fraud.

Authors Delilah S. Dawson and Chuck Wendig discuss whether YA writers should censor their social media. Chuck’s response to the guy who was mad because of a gay character in his book makes it clear where he stands.

Some people think public school libraries aren’t important. In Ohio, there are 43% fewer school librarians in the public schools than 10 years ago. And ask this Utah boy reduced to reading junk mail if access to books is important.

Michael Grothaus explores the many ways that changing your reading habits can transform your health—even reading a little more can make a big difference.


Sometimes the hardest part of writing is finding your topic. Jeff Goins shows how to know what to write about. If what you write about is fantasy, Ian Johnstone shares his tips on fantasy and commitment to writing.

From first word to last, every writing project is full of decisions to make and craft techniques to master. Ryan Lanz discusses the puzzling prologue problem, Adriana Mather talks about rhythm in writing, Ninie Hammon shows the best and worst ways to use backstory, and Chris Robley shares how to know when you’re done writing your novel.

Every writer needs editing. Corina Koch MacLeod and Carla Douglas explains why copyediting is not “rocket surgery” and Daphne Gray-Grant wrestles with the idea of readability statistics.

A lot of writers enter writing contests. As always, read the fine print about rights before you enter. Lisa Gail Green also has three questions to ask yourself before entering online writing contests.

We all have times where the words aren’t coming and we are burnt out. Ben Schmitt has 11 tips on how to write even when you don’t want to, and 6 of the world’s most-loved writers humorously explain how they deal with writer’s block.


None of us like to face our mortality, but we will all die sometime. What happens to all our online presence at that point? Anne R. Allen tells us how to prepare so our digital executors have what they need to deal with our online life.

Agent Janet Reid discusses several business situations to avoid, while Jane Friedman points out why using non-disclosure agreements is a bad idea.

If you’re looking for an agent, Donna Galanti examines how to get your manuscript past the gatekeeper, and Janet Reid tells us how to talk to an agent in social situations.

We all know that we can turn one book into numerous revenue streams, but sometimes the logistics are daunting, especially for self-publishers. Mark Williams explains how to get your books translated and marketing with little cash outlay, and Jane Friedman walks us through how a book becomes a movie.

Blogging is one way to reach readers. Guest blogging is a way to expand your reach. Helene tells us how to write a killer guest blog.


Rick Walton on why picture books are not just for kids.

How did writers mark pages for editing before Post-It notes? Jane Austen gives new meaning to the term “pin it.”

Oscar Wilde made a splash on the London scene even before his writing was famous.

Did you know these 13 facts about L. Frank Baum’s Wonderful Wizard of Oz?

That’s all for Top Picks Thursday this week! See you in August!

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