Posted by: Kerry Gans | January 23, 2014

Top Picks Thursday 01-23-2014

Another large snowstorm engulfed our region, as did bitter cold. But we warmed our frozen fingers on our keyboards as we collected links for you!

In a very long but highly informative blog Q&A, Joe Konrath (champion of self-publishing) and Steve Zacharius (CEO of traditional publisher Kensington) discuss the state of publishing today and the future role of publishers.

I have never met a writer who didn’t love libraries, and here are Jance Gable Bashman’s top 5 reasons why she loves libraries. Meanwhile, librarian and columnist Karen MacPherson reflects on 20 years of industry change.

Awards are on the horizon. This week, the finalists for the 2013 National Book Critics Circle Awards were announced, as were the Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults 2014 Finalists (YALSA).

2013 was the Year of Fantasy Novels for young readers. If you’re still wondering what Steampunk is, check out this intro to steampunk page for teens from the NY Public Library.

Common Core education standards have been adopted in many states (not without controversy). A New York Public Library panel discusses what the Common Core means for literature and books in the classroom.

Joanna Walsh’s #readwomen2014 campaign to change sexist reading habits has gained widespread interest and support.


It seems like everyone is pressing writers to write books faster. Elizabeth S. Craig shows us how to write books faster—without compromising quality. If you have a good handle on your novel’s structure, that can help speed up the process, too. C.S. Lakin discusses the very beginning of novel construction—the concept. Laurie Halse Anderson tackles the other side, discussing writing unresolved endings. For faster typing, Joe Bunting shares 8 formatting tips and shortcuts for writers.

Roz Morris lists 3 tips for writing watertight fantasy, science fiction, and time travel stories, Liz Bureman looks at the effects of using epigraphs in your story, and Rob Reinalda shows us how to avoid jargony language and other linguistic errors.

Characters do the heavy lifting of our stories. Becca Puglisi explores where character strengths come from; Carol Despeaux investigates parental influences on character development; Carly Watters has 30 questions to ask your main character; K.M. Weiland demonstrates how minor characters can carry your theme; and Martha Alderson (aka the Plot Whisperer) shares how to create a backstory wound that will evoke emotion in your readers.

We talk often about editing your book, but Terry O’Dell talks about editing audiobooks.

Sometimes we need help with motivation and focus. Angela Ackerman lists 8 software tools to keep the words flowing; Nathaniel Kresson explains how to build a writing group in your community; and Ethical SEO Service says if you can talk, you can write.

K.M. Weiland discusses why writers should have a god complex; Jamie Lee Moyer shares 7 things she’s learned so far; and Anne R. Allen reveals 6 pieces of bad advice new writers should ignore.

Agent Janet Reid appeals to many a writer’s heart when she declares that conference pitch sessions are the spawn of the Satan—and when you hear what she suggests instead, you will like her even more.

Maybe because it’s the beginning of the year, but it seems a lot of writers are assessing what it means to be a writer for the long haul, and what it really takes to be successful in this choice of career: James Moran on how every project is “breaking in” all over again; John Scalzi on a season in the Major leagues; Chuck Wendig on writing as a long con; Khaled Talib on the agony and ecstasy of writing; and Kameron Hurley on the importance of persistence in your writing career.


We hear a lot about self-publishing and the Big 5 traditional publishers, but there are a lot of small, independent presses out there as well. PDMI Publishing tells us 3 things to look for when going with an independent publisher.

In other small publisher news, Barefoot Books stops selling directly to bookstores, while Good Enterprises (parent company of Good Books) winds down after its December bankruptcy filing.

Queries are a common topic here, but usually for agents. Nina Amir guides us through writing queries for magazines and other publications.

Speaking of queries for agents, Chuck Sambuchino has compiled a “query-letter pet peeve” list from numerous agents; Janet Reid tells us how to use the email subject line to your best advantage; and agents Juliet Mushens of The Agency Group and Jordy Albert of the Booker Albert Literary Agency share what they are looking for right now.

Can blogs make a difference in marketing? Molly Greene shares 5 ways blogging sells books, while Carolyn Howard-Johnson gives us blog tour tips.


A.A. Milne’s birthday was 18 January 1882. Celebrate with these beautiful Winnie-the-Pooh quotes.

Attention all Stella Gibbons fans: she left behind 2 unpublished novels!

Read the original, heartbreaking story from The Times, 1853, that inspired the 2013 movie 12 Years A Slave.

V.C. Andrews, author of Flowers in the Attic, died many years ago—but the publishers took no notice. Meet the ghost of V.C. Andrews.

Check out 17 book-inspired accessories to add to your collection.

Also, if you think “unlike”, “flash mob”, and these 3 other words are purely 21st century words, think again.

Take a look at this AMAZING library: Real Biblioteca del Monasterio de San Lorenzo del Escorial en Madrid (Spain).

The Brontë sisters lived in Haworth, England. This picture, taken c. 1890, shows Haworth much as the Brontës knew it.

And if you thought the good old number 2 pencil was obsolete, check out these amazing lead pencil sculptures by Dalton Ghetti.

That’s it for us this week!


  1. Thanks so much for including my post! I really appreciate it.


    • You’re welcome! We don’t often have mag query tips, so we’re happy to introduce our audience to a possible new market for their work.


  2. Thank you for including my post “The Eye of a Writer” from Janice Gable Bashman’s blog. Much appreciated.


    • You’re welcome! Some good insights there.


  3. Thanks for the shout-out for my “bad advice” post. Great links!


    • You’re welcome! And keep the good advice coming!


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