Posted by: Kerry Gans | March 28, 2013

Top Picks Thursday 03-28-2013

Happy Passover a little late, and Happy Easter a little early for our readers who celebrate. And Happy Spring to everyone! (It is spring, right? This was the last snow this season, right?)

In sad news, horror writer James Herbert, author of the Rats trilogy, and Nigerian author Chinua Achebe, best known for THINGS FALL APART, died this week.

In tech news, Google Reader is going away. What are you going to replace it with? Nathan Bransford suggests Feedly as a replacement for Google Reader.

Diane Roback brings us the best selling children’s books of 2012.

Print books and bookstores are still finding their way in the new publishing landscape, but it seems that there is some optimism for our independent bookstores. Some publishers like Scholastic are bundling print books with free digital bonus features.

Libraries are also trying to find their way in the new paradigm. The Economist takes a look at public libraries and e-lending; Stephen and Tabitha King make a $3 million pledge to their local library; the “Literary Lots” program in Cleveland will bring vacant lots to life using children’s book themes; and the Canadian government is “muzzling” librarians and archivists.

In the comics world, Neil Gaiman returns to the Marvel universe; Jesse Post explores why children aren’t reading digital comics and what might make them start; and more Comics and Graphic Novel news from Publisher’s Weekly, such as Chicago schools defending the restriction of PERSEPOLIS and the shutdown of JManga.


Start a story in the action—that’s what authors are often told. But how far into the action should we start? Kristen Lamb explains why in medias res gives authors such trouble—and how to fix it. Kirby Larson takes a look at when a slower opening might be the better choice.

Mary Kole advises us to sell our premise for all it’s worth. If we are world-building, don’t hold back the most awesome thing until the climax—introduce it early and get the most mileage out of your world and its unique design.

Is your novel’s pace leaving readers breathless in a bad way—or putting them to sleep? Dana Marton has 7 tips to improve your novel’s pacing.

Got a lot of action in your book? Jason Andrew Bond tells you how to write a fight scene. Is your book heavy on song lyrics? Before you publish that book, understand the 5 steps to getting rights to the lyrics you want to use.

Some phrases are so overused they make readers cringe. If “obvious” is one of your crutch words, here are 8 sneering synonyms for “obvious.”

We’re always trying to give our characters flaws that we can work with in the story. Jeannie Campbell suggests that we are asking our characters the wrong question (“What’s wrong with you?”) and that we should ask our characters a new question to get a deeper and more story-oriented answer.

A lot of people wrote about naming characters this week: Sarah Pinneo talks about character names; Tim Kane lists some character names dos and don’ts; and The Write Practice explains how to name your characters.

We all know our work needs revision before it’s done, but how do we know what exactly needs to be revised? Kristen Lamb shares 5 red flags that your story needs revision, and Linda S. Clare tells us how to make your self-edits count.

Rachelle Gardner tells us that variety is a large part of how to make a living as a writer. And for a look into the emotional brain of an author, read this Twitter conversation between Richard Kadrey and Chuck Wendig about writing, arrogance, and success.

Do you write quickly? Ruth Harris explores the upside of writing fast. Maria Granovsky, on the other hand, struggles with procrastination demons, and shares how you can beat procrastination. Jennifer Mattern suggests that a word count tracker can make you more productive, no matter what your writing style.

Gene Perret explains how humor can make you a better writer, while Matt Haig gives us 30 things every writer should know.

Allison Vesterfelt explores the secrets to timeless writing, while Oscar Wilde gives timeless advice to writers.

Charlotte Rains Dixon peeks inside the mindset of the wealthy writer; Alyssa Lukara guides us from writing overwhelm into writing ease; and Leo Babauta spills the two secrets to motivating yourself.


In the publishing world this week, the big issue is the quarrel between Simon & Schuster and Barnes & Noble over pricing. Because of this quarrel, Barnes & Noble has severely curtailed its orders from the publisher, hitting many authors hard. One such author is Stephanie Burgis, who shows us this story from the author’s side. As Chuck Wendig reminds us, there are no winners in this battle between giants and no author should be gloating that other authors are suffering.

In the UK, a petition started by an indie bookstore against Amazon’s unfair tax advantage gets the requisite 100,000 signatures to be sent to the government for evaluation.

Melissa Foster talks about the pros and cons of agent-assisted self-publishing and Amazon’s White Glove Program.

If you’re looking to get your children’s book in front of an editor, check out Debbie Ridpath Ohi’s updated list of children’s book editors on Twitter.

Agents advise: Jennifer Laughran demystifies subsidiary rights; Gemma Cooper describes pitching at the Bologna Book Fair; and Stephanie Thwaites shares what NOT to do when submitting to a literary agent (the dead rodent incident is especially weird).

Not sure what you should be doing for your social media presence? An author website is a must, and Jami Gold tells us what an author website should include. Linda Adams shows us how to make our websites more welcoming for disabled readers. Meanwhile, Ellie Mirman shares 30 terrible pieces of social media advice we should ignore.


Writers write, and the letters they write are of interest to scholars. Check out these 10 fan letters from famous authors to famous authors. Against her stated wishes, Willa Cather’s letters will be published as an anthology.

Stephen Roger Fischer explores A History of Reading.

Was the notorious Macbeth actually not so bad? See what Shakespeare got wrong about Macbeth, King of Scotland.

There is nothing new under the sun. “Little Red Riding Hood” has Medieval roots; the Title Page has been in development since 1470; and even sticky notes are more ancient than you’d think.

Interested in publishing history? Check out the Barry Ono collection of Victorian penny dreadfuls, and go farther back in time with a short history of parchment.

The 15th century Wardington Hours manuscript has gone online; take a look at a Book of Hours; and, if you are into old manuscripts, this is the best chair in the world.

That’s it for us this week! (And fingers crossed for Spring to stay sprung!)


  1. I want you to know that I opened so many tabs off this post that each tab is just a little sliver with no logo or writing. LOL! Thanks Kerry, and thanks for including my blog! 🙂


    • You’re welcome, Jami! You’ve been on a roll with some really great stuff. And now you know how my browser tabs look when I’m READING all these blogs before I put together the post! 🙂


      • LOL! I bet. 🙂


  2. Thank you so much for the mention of my post AND for the fantastic collection of links. I could spend the rest of my Saturday reading these posts!


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