On Authors and Book Talks
By Debbie Carter of Waverly Place Literary Agency
Living in the hub of America’s book publishing capital, I see new books churned through New York’s publicity machine of readings and TV talk shows. Every new book competes for a slot in bookstores, libraries, bars and colleges. It’s great having the selection of famous and emerging authors in fiction and nonfiction.
But with so many events happening at once, I have to make the difficult choice of choosing one book over another. You would think my appetite would be sated, but really, most of the time I’m disappointed. Or bored.
Same old, same old. The author reads an excerpt, making mistakes as if they’ve never read it before. They talk too fast, or choke, or apologize for not being better prepared because of a crisis at home that day.
Then they take questions, which are uninspired, because the author has set the standard. Even a generous offering of wine and hors d’oeuvres, which are nice, won’t persuade me to buy a book. If the author is a drone, I won’t feel obligated.
Why are authors casual in the presentation of their books? Do they prepare? Are they nervous? The point of author appearances is to entice readers to buy the book.
The acting teacher Stella Adler said that if actors insist on becoming casual, they will become uncaring. Acting students in Russia stand up when a teacher enters a room. They preserve a formality about themselves, dictated by tradition. When introduced to you, they bow over your hand. “When the visitor is singled out and made to feel special, the special nature of the theater is once again affirmed.”
In The Art of Acting she offers other advice on how to prepare for a role. Actors, too, must cope with stage fright. Adler says actors prepare by building a relationship with the set; they imagine preparing the stage as a garden or they become familiar with the objects as though the set was their own bedroom. Props, too, are part of an actor’s character. Like hats.
The person who wears a high hat has to know how it lives. The high hat lives in a box, and that box gives you its nature and its value. Do you know how to brush this hat or put it down? Do you know you have to use both hands to put it on? It’s made to be worn straight. The person who wears it has a controlled speech, a controlled walk, a controlled mind. You must not bring your own out-of-control culture into the wearing the hat. In the society of that hat, the human being as well as the clothes were under strict control.
The Art of Actiing, p. 79
What if authors imagined themselves in hats?
Stella Adler. Compiled and Edited by Howard Kissel. The Art of Acting. New York: Applause Theatre & Cinema Books. 2000.
Hybrid Publishing: Your Book, Your Way
The great news for authors is that they no longer have to choose between the restrictive arrangements of traditional publishing and the Wild West of self-publishing. Tanya Hall, publishing expert and Greenleaf Book Group CEO, will introduce you to the happy middle ground of hybrid publishing where authors can compete with the major publishing houses without sacrificing their control, ownership, or profits.
That’s what we’ll talk about in this month’s “Shop Talk” event.
Wednesday, July 20, 2016
1-2 pm. Eastern (calculate for your time zone)
About our guest expert
Tanya Hall is CEO of Greenleaf Book Group, a hybrid publisher that specializes in creating best-selling books and compelling brands for independent authors, and a sponsor of the ASJA2016 Writers Conference. Tanya has worked directly with authors to develop publishing strategies (leading to multiple New York Times best-sellers); spearheaded Greenleaf’s ebook and digital-first programs; and built Greenleaf’s distribution organization, working with retailers and wholesalers to develop one of the fastest-growing distribution businesses in the industry.
When I attended the annual NAGC Communications School (National Association of Government Communicators), I heard reporters’ perspectives on dealing with Public Affairs offices.
The reporters’ biggest frustration? “It’s so hard for reporters to find the right number to call in a government agency. Please put those numbers on the website.”
So to all the PIOs reading this: Put clearly marked direct phone numbers on your agency’s website. Make everyone’s work easier. Nobody likes being stuck in a phone maze.
My 7/5 blog talked about Technical Communication: the Journal of the Society for Technical Communication.
Technical Communication runs an excellent book review department. In the hard-copy issue I’m looking at (ISSN 0049-3155), the book review section runs from pages 57-79. That’s amazingly large.
Books reviewed include:
- Conquering the Content: A Blueprint for Online Course Design and Development
- How to Write Perfect Press Releases
- The Evolution of Type: A Graphic Guide to 100 Landmark Typefaces
- Technical Writing Process
- Managing Chaos: Digital Governance by Design
- Ethical Issues in Science Communication
I cite this journal to benefit two distinct groups:
- Professionals who need to write about technical topics [You can count on the quality of these detailed reviews.]
- Authors who want to get attention for their books [Authors: You won’t see many book review departments this good or this big. If you write a book related to communication, consider submitting a copy for review.]
To prepare for teaching a corporate writing workshop, I read a wide range of speeches, press releases, summaries, PowerPoints, and speaker notes. One issue kept popping up: the word “and” appeared too many times.
Consider this sentence:
1. A key challenge each year? Keeping employees engaged and interested. [Pick “engaged” or “interested”. You don’t need to use both.]
Look at this one:
2. The forum prompted them to explore the topics and discussions in greater depth. [Pick “topics” or “discussions”. Audiences don’t want to hear both.]
Here’s a whopper:
3. We kept our customers engaged and involved by posting noteworthy information and updates. [You know what to do: cut.]
This is the most practical editing tip I know:
If you’re tight for time, just cut the unnecessary “ands” in your document. It’s the fastest/best way to boost your writing. You’ll get a great return on your editing investment.
If you write about technical communication issues, tap into the resources of the Society for Technical Communication. STC’s journal, TECHNICAL COMMUNICATION, is a peer-reviewed quarterly journal aimed at both tech comm practitioners and academics.
The journal’s multidisciplinary perspective brings value to nonfiction writers in a wide range of fields.
I first learned about the Society for Technical Communication when I attended NAGC’s communications school last month. [NAGC is the National Association of Government Communicators, and I highly recommend their annual comm school to anyone who writes for government … writes about government … or needs access to government information.] STC exhibited at #NAGC2016.
A guest blog from Donna Harris, a government communicator who serves on the board of NAGC (National Association of Government Communicators) …
Argh…Government! That’s what you hear these days. Either there is too much or too little government action. But wait, I work for the federal government—well to be honest—for an independent government agency and I have a secret. The federal government is a wealth of knowledge. How do I know? I’m a government communicator and I can’t wait to tell you what I know—well mostly.
When I started this job, I really didn’t know much about the communication field or the resources available to be successful in addressing the onslaught of media concerns. Where to start? Where to look? Okay like any other person, I Googled my way through press conferences, quotes, and other exciting ways to communicate. But not until I learned of the government network, did I really start to percolate. How did I learn this? I went to the National Association of Government Communicators (NAGC) Communications School; a little known school established to offer networking opportunities and workshops, to address and advance the needs of the government communicator. What I found during this school is the opportunity to interact with the media in a learning environment, and the ability to build networks and exchange ideas that can be useful when the need arises. What was even better about the school is the ability to obtain resource information and gain the comfort level to pass along resources to both my communicating peers and the media.
As I type these thoughts, one recent example comes to mind. Last week I received a media inquiry for case information on illegal substances we’ve come across in the course of our investigations. I really didn’t have an answer, so what did I do; I got on the communicating horn and spoke to my folks, who in turn told me to call someone else—okay it’s government. But mysteriously in my inbox and not from my Agency, I received an email of a press release announcing an arrest on the substance in question. Well I called the reporter and passed along the information with the appropriate contacts, steering her to the correct Agency. What did this tell me and the reporter? With the ability to communicate and research information, we could work as a team to obtain the elements needed for a great story. This was a win-win and helped to shape a new and hopefully lasting partnership.
So the moral to this story is…always be willing to explore and communicate with government employees. While we may not always have the answer, I’m certain through trial and maybe a little error, we will find you the assistance you need. Because it is really true…most of us are good and very conscientious workers, who strive to do good by everyone and the world.
By Donna Harris…a government communicator.
If so, consider attending the Association for Financial Professionals annual conference: October 23-26 in Orlando FL.
I was invited to speak at their 2014 conference in Washington DC. With about 6000 attendees from all over the world, the networking was terrific. I gave a sold-out session on public speaking to a room of 300 and made great business contacts.
Here’s a brief interview I did with Kathryn Stokes, president of the National Association of Government Communicators:
1.What was your first job in government communications? What is your current title?
I came to state government first as a contractor in the communications department tasked with writing the agency’s Continuity of Operations Plan, then was hired on as the Public Relations Manager. Currently, I am the Strategic Affairs Officer [Mississippi Department of Employment Security] reporting to the Deputy Executive Director, CFO. I manage the agency’s social media, provide backup for communications department, track agency performance measures, and manage executive projects.
2. How has government communications changed during your years in this field?
Since my tenure in government communications is relatively short [8 years], the primary changes I have seen are the adoption of social media and other technology we use to get our messages out. In addition, changes in executive appointments have impacted how our agency communicates. When new political appointees come on board, they seem to want to manage communications until they become comfortable with our skills. Our most recent appointee has an English degree, so he wants to see all written communication. However, he relies on his communications team for talking points if he has to appear on TV or radio, and has even engaged in the use of social media, something he was vehemently opposed to when he came on board 4 years ago.
3. What would you like journalists/writers/authors to know about working with government communicators? Or, put another way, how can government communicators serve as resources for journalists/writers/authors?
Journalists/writers/authors should look to government communications as the conduit for getting them the information they need. They should know we are not always the masters of our strategies; political appointees often control communications activities and although we do our best to facilitate their requests within their timelines, we rarely have control over getting the information/SME/spokesperson, etc., in a timely manner. It would be helpful for them to know this when requesting information and to leave plenty of time for us to manage their requests. It’s also a bit frustrating that they do not use our websites to gather information. We often get requests for information that is readily available on our website. At least in our case, we encourage journalists to get on our lists for e-mail blasts and to follow us on Twitter to keep abreast of timely information.
|What’s Next? The Future of Public Health
Bold thinking. Provocative discussions. Future visions.
|Join us for a remarkable live webcast June 9, 2016 for What’s Next? The Future of Public Health as three of the nation’s leading writers explore what’s ahead in pandemics, social justice and other critical issues that will shape human health in the coming decades and beyond. Participants include:
Yamiche Alcindor, a national political reporter for The New York Times, who has produced videos on human trafficking, gun violence and poverty.
Sonia Shah, a science writer, whose most recent book is Pandemic: Tracking Contagions from Cholera to Ebola and Beyond.
Laura Sullivan, an NPR News investigative correspondent who has reported on the business of disaster response, the de facto housing of the mentally ill in America’s jails, and other major issues.
Julie Rovner (moderator), the Robin Toner Distinguished Fellow and senior correspondent for Kaiser Health News; and author of Health Care Politics and Policy A-Z.
|The onsite event is sold out. Please be sure to watch the webcast.
What’s Next? The Future of Public Health
1 – 3 p.m. Eastern
Thursday, June 9, 2016