Posted by: Kerry Gans | September 26, 2019

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 09-26-2019

Welcome to the last Top Picks Thursday in September! For all you caffeine addicts out there, Sunday is National Coffee Day! Grab a cup and settle in to peruse the links below.

Publisher Macmillan wants to limit every library to a single copy of new ebooks for the first 8 weeks. Librarians are pushing back, including asking readers to sign a petition against this practice, which would make wait lists for the new books incredibly long. Nate Hoffelder tackles Macmillan’s main complaint, saying the whole “library ebooks kill retail ebook sales” idea makes no sense.

The goal is to get people to read, after all. Joe Pinsker explores why some people become lifelong readers, and Julie Beck investigates the adults who treat reading like homework.

While you are reading, go broad—or abroad. Mina Javaherbin urges us to become multicultural, and Elliott Holt examines the enduring appeal of ex-pat lit.

Is your destiny written in the stars? Jeanna Kadlec has the fall 2019 horoscopes for writers.


Our readers write in widely varying genres and formats, and although much writing advice can work for most writing, there is some advice that is very specific. Jessi Rita Hoffman shares 7 common memoir mistakes, Lucy V. Hay has 10 quick tips about writing horror, Amy Rogers gives us pitfalls and solutions for writing a science thriller, and Nancy L. Erikson reminds us that .

There are many over-arching craft elements that the reader doesn’t consciously note but feels if they are missing or incorrectly done. Andrea Merrell lists 3 critical storytelling elements, Tamela Hancock Murray discusses stakes versus conflict in your novel, Jenny Hansen shows how to find your story’s theme, and Angela Ackerman says a good ending must provide one single element: satisfaction.

Then there are the smaller units of story that readers do notice. Jami Gold explains chapters vs. scenes, Dawn Field guides us through crafting the perfect chapter, Stavros Halvatzis shows how to achieve scene tension, James Scott Bell urges us to do the unexpected, and Nathan Bransford asks if you are creating mystery or just being vague.

Finally, we have the details that readers may or may not see, but will impact their reading experience. Kris Kennedy lays out how to properly use backstory, Randy Ellefson looks at worldbuilding and flying as transportation, Zoe M. McCarthy tells how to introduce taste in a story, and Suzanne Purvis shows how to power up your prose with rhetorical devices.

Characters are the lynchpin of your story. Dawn Arkin examines using character sheets in fiction writing, Nathan Bransford urges us to let the reader diagnose your characters, Kristen Lamb examines the power of different characters to resonate with different readers, and Nathan returns to show how to create a great villain.

While we should all edit our work as thoroughly as possible, Brian Kurian reminds us that your writing doesn’t have to be perfect. Harrison Demchick has 4 ideas to help revise that first draft, Lori Freeland discusses the value of critique groups, and Janice Hardy suggests you cut unnecessary internalization from your scenes. No matter what we do, though, sometimes the story just doesn’t come together. In that case Bill Ferris has a hack’s guide to breaking up with your book.

Writing can be emotionally taxing. Anne R. Allen describes how well-intentioned loved ones can sabotage your writing career, Julie Holmes shows how something as mundane as stairs can derail your writing plans, and Margie Lawson explains how to channel your strengths even when you don’t feel strong.

We get advice from many places. McKayla Coyle has compiled the best writing tips from Electric Literature interviews, Christopher Oldcorn says to wrap your writing like a beautiful birthday present for your reader, and Debbie Burke takes us behind the scenes at a writer’s conference.


Authors need to know a lot about the publishing business to be successful, whether we are self-publishing or traditional. Sandra Beckwith has 21 book publishing terms all authors should know, Amy Collins explains why designing your own cover is often not a good idea, and Christopher Wills wonders if we are in a pulp fiction reprisal.

Even going traditional, there is a lot of business that authors need to know. Janet Reid tells us at what stage you should send the prologue—query, partial, or full; agent Kate McKean explains the ins and outs of book deals, and Lisa Tener lists 8 top non-fiction book proposal mistakes and how to fix them.

Distribution is always an issue. Brian Jud talks about selling to non-bookstore retailers, and Anne Merrick lays out how to get your books into libraries. Library sales in other countries can garner money for authors beyond the original sale, because some countries give a “royalty” for borrows.

Marketing is more than just placing ads. Helen Baggott shares DIY PR for indie authors, and Sandra Beckwith has 3 ways to get your dream endorsement.

So much outreach is online these days, it can be dizzying. Kristen Lamb discusses branding on social media, Cristian Mihai explains how to make friends with other bloggers, Kim Lochery has the complete guide to Twitter hashtags, Rachel McCollin demystifies SEO for authors, and Chrys Fey shares 6 ways to build traffic to your website.


People never change. What Edith Wharton knew, a century ago, about women and fame in America.

Speaking of famous women, Katy Hershberger wonders why female celebrities aren’t writing more novels, and Constance Grady explains how Reese Witherspoon became the new high priestess of book clubs.

Because it’s bigger on the inside: a full-sized Dr. Who TARDIS is the biggest Little Free Library in Mississippi.

When literary giants collide: John Milton’s notes on Shakespeare’s plays appear to be found.

On the necessity of heeding the voices with lived experience: listening to indigenous elders in a time of climate crisis.

The mashup of visual and words: the handwritten styles of Instagram poetry.

Leah Price assures us that books won’t die, while Jim Shepard discusses why we still need small literary journals.

Everything old is new again: Millennials are looking backward, seeking self-help books more about “we” than “me,” including ancient philosophy.

The pen may be mightier than the sword, but just be careful where you point it. Emily Temple tells the story of the snarky poem that got its 17th-century author murdered.

That’s it for the last Top Picks Thursday in September! See you in October!



  1. […] media and speaking in public at various events. If you find this intimidating, Ruth Badley reveals how Indie authors can approach the media, Kristine Kathryn Rusch gives the scoop on public speaking for writers, and Karen A. Chase provides […]


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