Posted by: Kerry Gans | February 27, 2014

Top Picks Thursday 02-27-2014

Welcome to the last round-up in February!

Author James Patterson is paying it forward—literally. He pledged to send $1 million to independent bookstores, and the first installment of over $267,000 went out recently. One recipient was a store near and dear to our Chronicler hearts—the Doylestown Bookshop! A great store, it has seen the releases of friends of the blog Jonathan Maberry, Tiffany Schmidt, Donna Galanti, and Kathryn Craft as well as Awesome Reading Fests hosted by Lucas Mangum. We’re thrilled they’re a part of this!

In another salvo from the self-publishing world, Hugh Howey has another AuthorEarnings report to continue the quest for transparency in the publishing world.

Chris Gustafson says the best way to engage reluctant readers and to get kids talking about life issues is to read books that deal with the tough issues. Sexuality is often a hard topic to broach, so in honor of LGBT month, here are some good novels on sexuality.

YALSA has released their 2014 Outstanding Books for the College Bound and Life Long Learners.

It’s the 50th anniversary of Harriet the Spy! To find more amazing children’s books, check out The Guardian’s Children’s Books podcasts.

A book coming out: Iain Banks’ final book—of poetry—with Ken MacLeod will be published in 2015. And a book being pulled: Penguin India faces a growing backlash for withdrawing The Hindus by Wendy Doniger from shelves.

Like to write on trains? Amtrak is now offering “residencies” for writers.

Some strange titles make it to the shelves, and the Diagram Prize aims to celebrate the best of the strangest. Here is the final ballot for the 2014 Diagram Prize for Odd Titles.


Turns out nonfiction and fiction are not as different from each other as we thought. Roger C. Parker has 10 ways nonfiction authors can use mind maps to plan their book, and Jane Lebak tells us how to stop your interviewees from being terrified of talking to you (because fiction writers need to interview when doing research, too).

We’ve all heard the advice to only write the exciting stuff in our books. Jami Gold shares 3 tips on how to skip the boring stuff, and Robin Constantine shows us how to craft a love scene so it is anything but boring!

Write, revise, repeat. Erin Teagan lists 10 things about revision that have little to do with actual revision; C.S. Lakin shares 10 essential self-editing tips; and Jeff Goins tells us how to stop sounding stupid and write like a pro.

K.M. Weiland shows us how to create character arc by opposing what the character wants against what the character needs. We talk a lot about main characters, but what about the rest of them? Chuck Wendig’s guide to creating super crazy awesomepants supporting characters might help you out.

Find out how to write children’s picture books from Tara Lazar, and take a peek into how sci-fi, fables, and fantasy challenge conventions in romance and relationships, from Debby Harris.

To spice up your writing, check out 5 ways to add humor to your writing from Dena Dyer, and Doron Meir’s 3 writing tips you can steal from animators.

Author Jordan Jacobs explains (among other things) why editing your work is NOT selling out.


In a sad commentary on our times, the number of independent bookshops in the UK has fallen below 1,000 for the first time since records began.

George Parker goes in-depth into Amazon’s history and business practices and asks: Is Amazon good for books? Laura Bennett follows up, noting that the publishing industry is so scared of Amazon that (almost) no one will talk about Amazon on the record.

Are you trying to decide whether to self-publish or go the traditional route? Publisher Steven Booth tells us when self-publishing is the best road to take. If you self-publish, beware MM Jaye’s 5 ways new writers can chase away potential readers. Are you self-publishers tired of having to format twice—once for print and once for ebook? Tracy Atkins of has the solution: a 2Way template that will format both print and ebook for you.

When querying or pitching you should have “comparative (aka comp) titles” in mind—titles of books that would be shelved next to yours or that have some element strongly in common with yours. Agent Janet Reid explains how to use effective comp titles.

We love signing contracts, but don’t be naïve when you sign. Vinjay Jain lists the contract provisions every creative needs to know.

Some people’s agents seem to submit their clients’ work narrowly. Mary Kole tells us why an agent may not submit widely.

Market yourself! One essential tip is to keep your website’s events page up-to-date. And follow these other tips on how authors become mega-brands.


Need some historically accurate vocabulary? Try the Online Etymology Dictionary.

Lewis Carroll’s letter on fame goes up for auction.

In sad news, UK literary agent Ali Gunn dies of a brain hemorrhage.

Ever wish you could send the villains in children’s books to jail? The Book Patrol puts the leading villains of children’s literature into the legal system.

How about classics with a twist? These classic books would’ve been much more interesting if the female characters had been the protagonists.

From classic books to rare books: the Bodleian Library’s Rare Book team is now on Twitter. Follow them @RareBooksOfBod and be treated to gorgeous images from their collections; Erik Kwakkel brings us unusual premodern bookmarks; and proof that bookish types are often ahead of their times, this article traces the first use of computers in the late 1960s and early 1970s to catalogue Medieval manuscripts.

That’s it for us this week! We’ll be roaring back next week for our first March roundup.


  1. Thank you for linking to my post “5 ways new writers can chase away potential readers”. Being a new kid on the block, it means a lot! Greetings from Greece!


    • You’re in Greece? Ahh, must be warm there (it’s in the single digits here!). Keep up the good advice!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. What a rich collection of information! Having fun clicking on links and taking notes on the wealth of great writing advice. Thanks for posting this. 🙂


    • You’re welcome! We’re here the same time each week, with all new stuff. We love to pay it forward, and we love to find new voices to join the conversation!


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