Posted by: Kerry Gans | February 28, 2013

Top Picks Thursday 02-28-2013

What if an indie bookstore owner ran a city? We might find out. Eric Papenfuse, owner of Midtown Scholar Bookstore, is running for mayor of Harrisburg.

Let people know how to support your books and other authors they like. Chuck Sambuchino has 11 ways for you to help support an author’s new book. One way, of course, is word of mouth and getting book clubs to pick it up. A new app called Book Glutton allows you to converse with other readers INSIDE the book itself—a book club within a book!

Awards season is upon us! The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America announced the 2012 Nebula awards nominees (to be awarded in May); the Horror Writers Association put out the full list of Bram Stoker award nominees (to be awarded in June); and the Diagram Prize for Oddest Book Title of the Year has posted their list so you can vote for your favorite weird title.

Some of the most powerful books made are those that are tributes to something the writer is passionate about. Maurice Sendak’s final project, My Brother’s Book, is a tribute to his older brother. Author Patricia MacLachlan and illustrator Steven Kellogg are teaming up to create a Sandy Hook tribute book.

Children’s book author Otfried Preussler dies at 89.

We all hear about cutbacks to library budgets. Karen at Teen Librarian Toolbox gives us a look behind the scenes at what really happens inside libraries when the money gets tight.

Finally, a Hall of Fame for writers! A national museum for American writers is set to open in Chicago in 2015.


When you’re getting your book “out there,” there’s a lot of things you need to do—or not do. Victoria Strauss tells us why NOT to register a copyright for unpublished work. Roz Morris describes how to get a great cover design when you have no idea what it should be, while Helen Phillips and Adam Douglas Thompson give 6 tips on how to make a book trailer. Did you know you should get a Library of Congress Number for your book? Judith Briles explains how to get your LCCN.

But the thing you need most to succeed is a wonderful opening to your book. 16 agents share what they love and hate to see in openings.

John Yeoman demystifies how to plant clues in a mystery story. Be sure you’re planting your punctuation correctly: Mark Nichol tackles how to correct an awkward interruptive phrase, 5 commonly misused compound words, and the use of excessive commas, while College Humor gives us 8 new punctuation marks we desperately need.

We really need to know our characters inside and out to make them “real” on the page. Wendy Paine Miller suggests ransacking your main character’s apartment (and other eccentric things) to get to know your main character better. Mary Pletsch reminds us that conflict should happen when characters interact, and Kristen Jett gives us an easy method for how to write the boyfriend character.

Along with conflict when characters interact, Phoebe North shows how to put conflict in the dialogue, while Meg Waite Clayton has 10 suggestions for writing dialogue.

Revision is where we really work on the nuts and bolts of our WIP. Karen Woodward gives tips on how to analyze your story structure to make sure it’s solid; Jami Gold shows how to strengthen your theme in revision; and Nevena Georgieva shares a lesson from “Downton Abbey”—kill your darlings.

For those still wondering how to format your manuscript, Harold Underdown has the manuscript format basics. For those wondering about differences in short and long form writing, Susan J. Morris shares how writing a short story differs from writing a novel. And for those wondering how to apply life lessons to your art, James Scott Bell writes about lessons his father and mother taught him.

You will find all sorts of things in life that derail or discourage you from your writing. Kristen Lamb talks about one enemy of art—the failure to focus. Donna Cooner lays out the 10 worst types of critique partners, any of which could send you down the wrong path. And Kody Keplinger reminds us that while goals are fine, setting goals that are outside of your direct control can be dangerous and disheartening.

If you find yourself getting discouraged, remember the amazing journey of Life of Pi novelist Yann Martel, who went from making $6,000 a year to superstardom. Also remember, as Robert Cottrell says, the Internet has launched a golden age for writers and readers.

While many writers worry themselves over “discoverability,” Rachael Berkey talks about how sometimes the perfect book can fall into your lap at the right time. Deirdre Kelly talks to and about female Science Fiction writers and if there are noticeable differences in the writing of female and male writers in that genre.

And if all that’s not enough advice on writing, here’s 72 quotes about writing.

We all would love to write more—to find more time in the day. Rochelle Melander gives us 5 tools to have a successful Write-A-Thon; Leo Babuata tells us the most successful techniques for rising early; Joanna Penn shares how to write more and create a daily writing habit; and Chuck Wendig lays out a slow and steady writing plan and a similarly simple editing plan to get you through those first and second drafts.


Amazon is much in the news these days. It turns out that Amazon’s much-praised recommendation engines only result in 10% of their sales—most purchasers come to the sight already knowing what they want. Amazon is also squashing affiliates who promote free Kindle books too heavily. And Amazon has given hints that it might get into the “used e-book” market. Nathan Bransford asks: Should selling used e-books be allowed?

On the independent bookstore side of things, several indie bookstores file a class action suit against Amazon and the Big Six to destroy DRM and level the playing field for the little guy. Also, National Association of College Stores president Mary Ellen Martin says that NACS will launch a program to support indies.

Agent Kimberly Cameron doles out publishing advice, while Janet Reid gets specific with why you need an audit clause in your publishing contract.

Going to the NYC Writer’s Digest Conference? Meet the 55+ literary agents who will be taking part in the Pitch Slam and find the right one for you.

Sending a query rather than live pitching? Chuck Sambuchino has 10 query letter questions answered.

Still not sure what an agent does? Let Thor explain the mysterious literary agent creature and its function.

Are you at the point where you need to get the word out? Joel Friedlander has 12 steps to blog tour success, and Deena Schoenfeldt thinks all authors should have a landing page.

Blogging is the go-to way to interact with your fan base. Ali Luke and Joe Williams give 3 reasons for writers to blog—and 3 reasons NOT to. Victoria Mixon lists 7 surprising things about blogging.

And, since image is everything, Rachelle Gardner has 7 ways to look good on your webcam.


Hey, Kipling fans: More than 50 previously-unseen Rudyard Kipling poems are to be published for the first time in the UK next month.

Things sure were strange in the real world for Edgar Allen Poe. There was the whole Sarah Helen Whitman affair, then the mystery of if he was a secret Freemason, and the possibility that he was buried alive. Weird stuff!

Are you old enough to remember the tribulations of working on a typewriter? Mental Floss brings us a brief history of the typewriter.

The literary world is all about mash-ups these days. Check out these classic books given pulp-art covers. Then we have designer Christoph Gowans turning classic album covers into awesome book covers—complete with blurb telling what the book is about.

In the category “Things That Were Not Supposed To Be Possible,” view 10 “unfilmable” books…that were made into films, AND Romeo and Juliet performed by…gingerbread men.

A writer’s influence can last long after they are gone. Stamps honoring all six of Jane Austen novels go on sale in the UK to mark the 200th anniversary of Pride and Prejudice. Also, Kurt Vonnegut’s famous lecture of the shape of stories has been visualized in an infographic.

Beauty can be inspiring. America’s most beautiful public library is the Central Library in Kansas City, Missouri; here are 12 wonderful writer’s gardens to visit; and 12 beautiful poems for book lovers.

Finally, Henning Hansen investigates the purpose behind Medieval manuscript marginalia.

That’s it for this week—and this month! See you in March!

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