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Quote of the day

British writer H.G.Wells was born on this date.

Think about this Wells quote from 1931:

“Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe.”

Plenty of relevance in 2016!

What do bookstores have to say about author events? A guest blog from Waverly Place Literary Agency

Guest post by Debbie Carter, Waverly Place Literary Agency

What do bookstores have to say about author events?

“Because of the competition in New York City, we want to offer something experiential,” says Kaylen Higgins, Events Director at Strand Bookstore. “We want programming that’s more dynamic than just having an author’s talk or having a conversation.” (Facebook photo: crowd for Dog Medicine by Julie Barton)

Daniel George of Tattered Cover in Denver says, “Our most successful talks are the extremely prevalent and well-known authors on the national level, including bestsellers, genre writers, or those heavily invested in social media.” For authors of business books “or businessmen and women who write a book about their work or their career or simply their approach to success, we can have 100 to 150 in attendance and sell around 70%.”

BookCourt in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, is “one of the premiere independent bookstores in the country with one of the biggest event spaces of any bookstore in the city,” (Facebook photo)  Andrew Unger says. “We can hold as many as 400 people in our space. Ethan Hawke has made a habit of launching his books here. The energy of the space when it’s full is terrific.” He advises authors to understand the capabilities of the space. “When a local author makes us the third or fourth stop in the city, it hurts us a lot. Come prepared for a big celebration. James McBride brought his band to help him celebrate. We can do a lot and we like it when we can do a lot! Authors who take advantage of that fact always sell the most books.”

But books are usually sold for list price at events. How do stores motivate readers to pay full price for a book?

“The best way is to give them an unforgettable experience,” said Daniel of Tattered Cover. “A signed book only means so much to me, but if you felt like the presentation made you learn something about yourself, it solidifies an experience that could only be had at the Tattered Cover.”

While most, if not all, author events at bookstores are free, Strand Bookstore requires purchase of a $10-15 store gift card or purchase of the author’s book. Charging admission hasn’t really increased book sales, Kaylen says, but the store’s  third floor rare book room attracts a higher caliber of authors who offer an experience. “We’ve had stand-up comedians, podcasts and talks with slideshow components.” (Facebook photo: Harry Potter coloring bar in the rare book room)

Bookcourt customers look for something unique and often literary. “Authors should present their book in a unique and compelling way,” Andrew says. “I don’t think anyone has truly figured out “readings” yet. WORD bookstore is doing a heck of a job. Book People in Austin is doing some excellent programming, too. I like to think that in some small way I might also be turning some heads.  One of my favorite events was Robert Coover’s conversation with Garth Risk Hallberg about his monster of a novel The Brunist Day of Wrath. There was a modest crowd, but I consider it one of our great successes.  In terms of numbers we’ve hosted some hugely successful celebrity events:

  • Anthony Bourdain read here with the artist of his graphic novels.
  • Stephen King and Peter Straub talked with their kids Owen King and Emma Straub about growing up a family of writers.
  • Elvis Costello sat and signed books here for almost three hours one night, meeting all his local fans.

“Our customers look for something unique and often literary.The formula for captivating audiences en masse is still a mystery, though. Authors should know that beforehand. Invite everyone on earth you’ve ever talked to. Publicize yourself endlessly and tirelessly. Get people out! Don’t be afraid to think of something you can do that will make your event a true Event, make it stand out. And authors will win innumerable handsells from booksellers.”

Strand Bookstore, NYC

Strand Bookstore, NYC

Tattered Cover, Denver

Tattered Cover, Denver

BookCourt, Brooklyn

BookCourt, Brooklyn

Learn about “Amazon Selling Secrets” in ASJA’s September “Shop Talk”

Amazon Selling Secrets

Wednesday, September 21, 1 pm Eastern


How can you knock it out of the park on Amazon when there’s so much more competition today? By learning the top Amazon selling secrets from an industry pro! Book sales veteran Amy Collins of New Shelves Books will explain how to create an Amazon page that attracts more shoppers,  market on Amazon and push shoppers to your book on that site, get your book found there, and turn a “look” into a “buy.”


That’s what we’ll talk about in this month’s “Shop Talk” event.


Join us in this free event for ASJA members. 


Register now


About our guest expert:


Amy Collins, former book store buyer, director of sales at Adams Media, and special sales director for F+W Media, has been profitably selling to stores and libraries since 1996. For more than 10 years, she has run the successful book sales and marketing company, New Shelves Books, selling to Barnes & Noble, Target, Costco, Borders, Books-A-Million, Wal-Mart, and others. In the past 20 years, Amy has sold more than 3 million books into the bookstore, library, and chain store markets for small and mid-sized publishers.

Are you an editorial freelancer – or do you want to be one?

Editorial Freelancers to Rally at Salon on Sept. 7 at Content Marketing World

Freelance writers, editors, and editorial professionals now have an official presence at the largest and most important event for the content marketing industry: the Content Marketing Institute’s Content Marketing World, to be held Sept. 6 – 8 in Cleveland.

ASJA members Sherry Beck Paprocki, Howard Baldwin, Jennifer Goforth Gregory and Elizabeth Hanes will be a part of the CMWorld panelHunting the Unicorn: Five Ways to Rope In Highly Qualified Freelancers. They will outline winning collaborations with corporate and nonprofit clients and share tactics that content marketers can use to find and keep top-notch freelance talent. ASJA and Content Marketing World offer special rates for freelancers: registration code ASJA895 to pay $895 for the main sessions and code ASJA1370 to pay $1370 for the additional workshops.

ASJA offers writing conference in Atlanta: Sat Nov 5

Saturday, November 5, 2016: Dream Bold Atlanta

Join ASJA for Dream Bold Atlanta, a one-day writing conference at Agnes Scott College in Decatur, GA, where freelance writers will have an opportunity to meet one-on-one with editors, content providers and agents.

Keynoter and international bestselling author Robert Hicks will debut his new book: The Orphan Mother.

A limited amount of rooms are reserved for ASJA event attendees at Courtyard Atlanta Decatur Downtown/Emory at $159/night. The cut-off date to book your room is Thursday, October 13. Click here to reserve your hotel room.

Keynote Speaker: Robert Hicks

Named #2 in the most recent listing of the top 100 Reasons to Love Nashville by Nashville Lifestyles magazine, Robert Hicks was described as Nashville’s “Master of Ceremonies.” Saying “being a New York Times best-selling author should be enough – but not for Robert Hicks, award-winning author of The Widow of the South and A Separate Country. His passion for words is equaled by one for preservation, saving the history-steeped places associated with the Battle of Franklin. Writer, speaker, leader, world-traveler, preservationist – one person really can make a difference.”

His third novel, The Orphan Mother will be released on September 13, 2016 by Grand Central Publishing.

Registration rates: 

Fee Type Member Fee Non-Member Fee
  Early: $145.00 $165.00
  Regular: $165.00 $185.00
  Late: $165.00 $185.00
  Early: $25.00 $25.00
  Regular: $25.00 $25.00
  Late: $25.00 $25.00





May 5 & 6, 2017: ASJA’s 46th Annual Writers Conference

Join us for our annual conference at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York City.

GUEST POST: A literary agent reflects “On Authors and Book Talks”

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.


From American Society of Journalists & Authors, Wed July 20: Learn about Hybrid Publishing

July ShopTalk

 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)

Register now

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.

What do reporters say they would like from government Public Affairs offices?

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.

stack of books

How to write perfect press releases … how to choose the right typeface … how to handle intellectual property: Book reviews for anyone who writes

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:

  1. Professionals who need to write about technical topics [You can count on the quality of these detailed reviews.]
  2. 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.]

Pick one adjective. Just one, please.

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.

I promise.


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