Category Archives: Specialists

Profiles of publishing and book-industry specialists, from art directors to sub-rights managers to outside PR firms.

5 Things You Should Know About Modern Publishing

Posted by July 16th, 2014

1. You have lots of options

For decades, your only shot at getting your book into the hands of readers was to snag an agent who would (hopefully) get behind it and send it on to publishers. It was a daunting process with many gatekeepers between you and your readers. But with the advent of e-books and Print-On-Demand, the game has changed. The first step still is to write a great book; after that, there are many ways up the mountain, including small presses and self-publishing. It used to be over when the last house on your list said no. Now, it’s not over until you say it is.

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How BookBub Helped My Books Sell by Therese Walsh

Posted by July 9th, 2014

the moon sisters“It’s sort of miraculous,” one of my author friends said late last year of BookBub, a website/newsletter used to promote quality e-books with temporarily (and drastically) slashed prices. She had moved from traditional publishing into the world of hybrid-publishing—still accepting contracts with publishers but self-publishing older books that had gone out of print. When she decided to run a sale on one of her self-published books, decreasing the price from $4.99 to $1.99 for a few weeks, she contacted BookBub and was accepted for inclusion in a one-day email promotion. Sales increased once the price of her book dropped, she said, but truly spiked once BookBub’s e-blast reached its subscribers. The benefits didn’t end there; her numbers remained boosted for months after the end of the sale, and she began to sell more of her other novels as well. “It’s a whole new world,” she said.

I’d heard from other friends about the potential impact of BookBub, too, and so when my publisher decided to put the eBook of my latest novel on sale and utilize BookBub to get the word out to over 500k women’s fiction readers, I took a keen interest in the event. Sales for the eBook of THE MOON SISTERS had never really taken off. Though I didn’t hawk over my numbers, the best ranking I’d noticed on Amazon was in the range of 10k for the e-book. Nook numbers were similarly meh at Barnes and Noble. If the $10.99 price point—standard for an eBook when the bookshelf-book is a hard cover—repelled the e-book audience, would the $1.99 sale make a difference, and if so, how much of a difference?


May rolled around, and the two-week sale of the e-version of THE MOON SISTERS began. Though the BookBub announcement wouldn’t release until midway through the sale, word-of-mouth (and Facebook and Twitter) did a lot, and numbers quickly improved on the sales front. The day before the BookBub, numbers for the eBook of THE MOON SISTERS on Barnes and Noble were in the 900 range, and were in the 2k range on Amazon; a huge improvement.

I woke early the morning of the BookBub promotion and turned on my computer, full of anticipation. But nothing significant had changed. “Hang in there,” a friend coached. “My BookBub email hasn’t even arrived yet, and it’ll take a while for sales numbers to be reflected online, too.” Her reassurances made perfect sense, but I did spend a few hours wondering if I’d become the anomaly.

And then, boom. Continue reading

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LGBT Writing and Publishing with Emanuel Xavier

Posted by June 30th, 2014

Emanuel Xavier by Sophia WallaceToday, our blog guest is Emanuel Xavier, a colleague of ours here at Penguin Random House who works in Special Markets Sales. Outside of work, he’s a dynamo novelist, poet, performer, and activist. Below he clues us into how to support LBGT writing and publishing during Pride Month and beyond.


Lucy Silag: At Penguin Random House, you are the chair of the LGBT Network. What does the PRH LGBT Network do?

Emanuel Xavier: Random House participated in the It Gets Better campaign, and we realized the time was right for us to launch an LGBT group. We created the group to provide a supportive environment to all employees who share the common idea of nurturing workplace diversity and also increase awareness of LGBT authors and books within the community. We wanted to highlight the fact that our company publishes many LGBT books, as well as do more for the LGBT literary community. We have since taken part in The Rainbow Book Fair, sponsored the Lambda Literary Awards, marched in the NYC Pride March and raised thousands for GMHC by participating in the AIDS Walk New York. We also host in-house author events and social mixers and display our LGBT titles in the lobby for National Coming Out Day. It’s important for publishing companies like ours to visibly support LGBT literature.

Penguin Random House employees march in the 2014 NYC Pride March.

Penguin Random House employees march in the 2014 NYC Pride March.

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Book Cover Design Tips from Dave Walker

Posted by June 23rd, 2014

Book Covers Designed By Dave Walker

Book covers designed by Dave Walker.

We live in an entertainment universe where we are constantly over-stimulated with hi-def images and sound. As a freelance art director and book cover designer for the past 15 years, I’ve had to remind clients—and sometimes myself—that books are the opposite of that. A book cover is not a video or an animated GIF. It cannot move or make noise. We can’t try to force it to sing and dance. Books sit there patiently waiting for us to discover them. The cover is your vehicle to pull someone in, to give the potential reader a little sneak peak inside the book and to set the tone for what’s inside. You don’t have to tell the whole story—actually, as I’ll explain later, you shouldn’t even try.

When I first started designing covers I spent a lot of time in bookstores simply looking at books—15 years later I still make time to visit my local bookshops to see what other designers are doing, and to find inspiration. Outside of the broad categories of fiction and nonfiction there are myriad kinds of books and they all have a general feel and style—self-help, memoir, biography, cookbook, how-to, etc. Just like shoes and clothes, book cover designs have popular styles that come and go and evolve over time. You can feel an older design the same way you can feel an older model of car. This is part of the reason why publishers will repackage books after they start to look dated. Head down to your local bookseller (or, not as good, but still effective: browse online) and see what books in your particular category look like. They won’t all be the same, but you’ll start to get an idea of what publishers have found to be successful and, more importantly, what readers currently expect to see on a cover. Here I should state that you are not there looking to rip-off someone else’s design (although it goes on quite a bit, I’m sure you’re better than that). Inspiration good; stealing bad.

Whenever I design a cover—no matter what the subject—I ultimately want it to say one simple thing: “pick me.” I want to compel someone browsing online to click the cover and give the book a chance. You can’t always pinpoint what it is, but some books you just want to see what’s inside. Many times in print this is accomplished with fancy production effects like embossing, glossy varnish, or an unusual paper stock. But it can also be accomplished with a great typeface and just the right image. Maybe it’s a unique color combination, a contrast in type styles, an enticing title or subtitle.

A Few Book Cover Design Tips:

Keep your type simple and readable. Unless you have a real flair for type design you should just stick to basic, strong, readable fonts. A really cool font that is tough to read does more harm than good. Think carefully about colors and composition. Light type on a light background is tough to read. Small type placed on an image can disappear. Continue reading

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Which Type of Writing Guide Is Right for You, Right Now?

Posted by June 10th, 2014

Which type of writing guide is right for you right now

Many writers begin a story on a whim, and before long they’re taking an imaginary joy ride. Writing a novel is fun: the words flow . . . and then they don’t. Like Consumer Reports testing a car for safety, your writermobile slams into a wall. Now what?

Writing guides abound to address everything that stymies us. Search among the six types of resources to find a match for your problem or need.

Inspiration and Contemplation

These books prime the pump of imagination, help you generate ideas, and nudge you out of an unproductive rut. One of the best guides is The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron. Her 12-week study that addresses and overcomes all manner of “blocks” can open the floodgates of productivity and confidence. Cameron’s “morning pages” and “artist’s dates” have sustained millions of writers.

The Writer’s Life and Writing

We all want to know what famous writers think, how they write, and how they “made it.” The King, Stephen King, in On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, tells vivid stories about his life including drug addiction, alcoholism, and being hit by a car. He kept writing novels through nearly all of the difficulties, often mining them for his stories. King’s book includes reading lists, excellent craft advice, examples to model, and writing assignments.

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, by Anne Lamott, is seductive. Her honesty in laying bare her messy life, with humor, beckons the reader to do the same. By example and by the techniques she shares, Lamott urges readers to expect and move past “the shitty first draft.”

How to Write a Novel

Almost all novels have similar whole-book structure. If you’ve written your story “organically,” you may be out on a limb and need to return to the trunk. Three books will straighten you out. How to Write a Story: The Secrets of Writing a Captivating Tale, was written by Peter Rubie, agent and former book doctor for New York publishers, and Gary Provost, a master teacher and author of over 20 novels. This how-to-write book is straight-forward, clear, practical, specific, and almost foolproof for any writer who follows its directions. Continue reading

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5 Tips Writers Should Borrow from the Ad Industry by Meghan Harvey

Posted by June 9th, 2014

Meghan HarveyMy husband is a creative lead at an advertising agency here in Portland, and I recently returned to books after a stint in brand marketing, so we often find ourselves talking shop at home. Whether it’s the shortcomings of different storyboards, scripts, and pitches he’s crafting; the strength of the cover design or flap copy for the latest novel I’m working with; or the business end of the client-creative relationship, we have a lot of overlapping space in the Venn diagram of our careers.

You might think that the production of a piece of fiction has little in common with the production of a TV commercial for Nike’s new kicks, but the ad industry uses strategies on a daily basis that authors should learn to love and leverage. Here, the 5 tips writers should borrow from the ad industry:

Distill your story

The advertiser’s central challenge is to condense complex messages into extremely small spaces—a thirty-second video or a single image in a magazine. Space and time are premium, so advertisers are strategic and selective about each word they use.

It’s equally important for writers to exercise control over their story. What would happen if you were to take a hard look at your novel and scrub everything out but the essential elements? You just might begin to approach the transcendent brilliance of writers like Ernest Hemingway, master of the concise. It’s a common and tempting mistake to want so desperately for your reader to pick up what you’re putting down that you end up hitting them over the head. Trust your reader to do more with less.

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3 Reasons Why Writers Should Read More by Justin Keenan of Rooster

Posted by May 20th, 2014

JustinKeenan“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” Stephen King’s writing advice goes straight to the point: Writers should read more. It’s advice you see repeated everywhere, in almost every workshop and author interview. But what are those tools exactly? What is it that reading teaches you that you can’t learn just from classes, or from your own writing?

Reading teaches you what good language sounds like

Annie Dillard has a wonderful anecdote about a great painter she once met: “I asked him how he came to be a painter. He said, ‘I liked the smell of the paint.‘”

As a writer, words are your paint. Boiled down to its simplest form, writing is the act of moving words around on paper until you like the way they sound, and if you don’t love the visceral experience of working with words, you have no business being a writer.

Just as the musician trains her ear by listening to music, the writer trains her ear and develops her voice by reading. The more the writer reads, the better she knows her tools. At the very least, reading helps you sharpen your ear for language, showing you how to eliminate awkward constructions, needless verbiage, and lifeless clichés. Continue reading

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#RT14: Workshopping Your Best Book on Book Country

Posted by May 14th, 2014

Good morning, New Orleans! If you are here at the RT Booklovers Convention, let’s meet up!

Today is the first of two RT14 Book Country panels:

Workshopping Your Best Book on Book Country

Book Country is an online writing and publishing community featuring of all your favorite romance categories. Lucy Silag will demonstrate how to join Book Country, workshop your book, and connect with fellow romance writers to get constructive feedback on your writing. Writers are doing their best work with the help of Book Country’s thriving member base, and agents and editors are taking notice. This panel will include Book Country giveaways—books written by published Book Country authors—and exciting raffles for feedback sessions on your manuscript.

Event Date: Wednesday, May 14, 2014 – 12:00pm to 1:00pm

Panelist: Lucy Silag, Book Country Community and Engagement Manager

Location: 2nd Floor

Room: Studio 4 – (Preservation Hall)

Add this event to your RT14 Personal Agenda.

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RT Booklovers Convention 2014: What Alys Arden Is Excited About

Posted by May 12th, 2014

Join me in welcoming Book Country member Alys Arden back to the blog! Alys workshopped her first book, THE CASQUETTE GIRLS, on Book Country (I blogged about reading it here, and she celebrated its release here), and is now hard at work on the sequel, THE ROMEO CATCHERS. A New Orleans native, Alys is the perfect writer to help us get ready for our trip to NOLA for the RT Booklovers Convention this week. Read on for her tips about what to add to your conference itinerary.


Conference App screenshotYou know you are the biggest nerd on the planet when you get completely overwhelmed with giddiness after the RT Booklovers Convention releases the 2014 iPhone app, and you are dancing while it downloads.

Besides the content and participating author list, I am particularly excited about the convention this year because it’s taking place in New Orleans, Louisiana, my hometown! And if you know anything about me, or have read my work, you know that my affection for New Orleans runs deep.

Post-download, I subsequently spent the rest of the afternoon reviewing every single panel/event, cross-referencing timetables and maps to create a customized schedule with the perfect blend of inspiration, information, boundary pushing and networking. I had to calm myself down a few times when I realized that two (or four) of my top picks were happening simultaneously, like, why is the Veronica Roth chat happening at the same time as the Urban Fantasy Panel? WHY?!


I am currently in the process of writing a sequel to my first novel, THE CASQUETTE GIRLS, (which I workshopped on Book Country last year!) It’s a YA Paranormal Romance that takes place in the New Orleans French Quarter, so you’ll see a pattern in my top picks for #RT2014:

the casquette girlsBOOK COUNTRY: “How to Workshop Your Best Book” Wed. May 14th, 12 p.m.

Why you should be excited: Have you ever finished writing a chapter/novel/poem/short story/love letter/whatever and wished you could read it with totally fresh eyes? Or even better, have someone beta read it with unbiased eyes? That’s one of the reasons I joined Book Country (okay, also, I’m an Internet junkie and I will try anything once… okay, not anything.) As a first time writer, I thought I’d have to beg and plead for people to read my work – this wasn’t the case at all. Not only did several people from the community give me feedback on my then work-in-progress novel, but one morning I woke up to find a message from Lucy, saying that she wanted to workshop THE CASQUETTE GIRLS.  Her detailed feedback was invaluable. I still go back and read it, to this day. I only bring this up because three of the prizes being raffled at this panel are workshopping sessions with Lucy! YOU WANT TO WIN THIS PRIZE, just sayin’. Continue reading

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Four Ways to Promote Your Book Before Release by Michael R. Underwood

Posted by April 9th, 2014

Attack the Geek Full (2)Book Country Member Michael R. Underwood‘s latest book in the Ree Reyes series, ATTACK THE GEEK, came out this week from Pocket Books. His next book, SHIELD & CROCUS, is due out in June.


Figuring out how to promote your book before it comes out is a weird process. When you’re traditionally published, you have a team of professionals working with you, building buzz and anticipation for the book before it hits.

But what does that actually involve?

Every author, every book, and every publisher does things a bit differently, but here are some things I’ve done to try to get my name out into the world and to build awareness of/interest in my books:

  1. Podcasts. I love podcasts. When I was a traveling rep, podcasts and audiobooks were my lifeline, my connection to the SF/F world. As a result, I had a list of podcasts to reach out to and make appearances as a guest. I made appearances on the Functional Nerds, Speculate!, Adventures in Sci-Fi Publishing, and the Roundtable Podcast, among others. And last year, I became a co-host on The Skiffy & Fanty Show, while continuing to appear as a guest on others (most recently including the SF Squeecast). Podcasts are great for verbal thinkers and people who enjoy discussion in community (I am one of those people).
  2. Blogging. I used to blog a lot more, when I was a pop culture scholar trying to get into PhD programs for cultural studies/media studies. As a writer, it’s great to share your interests and connect with people who are both readers and members of the same interests/hobbies as you. I don’t blog quite as much anymore, since I spend more of my writing time on prose, but keeping your blog at least somewhat fresh is a good way to slowly build a readership, which then sometimes transfers over to buying your books Continue reading
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