Wednesday, July 31, 2019


I've followed Jane Friedman for quite a few years, and she's an excellent resource. I also saw her keynote at a recent conference, and she is an amazing speaker. Her newest book, THE BUSINESS OF BEING A WRITER, is great for anyone who wants to know more about the current warps and wefts of the publishing world:

Writers talk about their work in many ways: as an art, as a calling, as a lifestyle. Too often missing from these conversations is the fact that writing is also a business. The reality is, those who want to make a full- or part-time job out of writing are going to have a more positive and productive career if they understand the basic business principles underlying the industry.

The Business of Being a Writer offers the business education writers need but so rarely receive. It is meant for early-career writers looking to develop a realistic set of expectations about making money from their work or for working writers who want a better understanding of the industry. Writers will gain a comprehensive picture of how the publishing world works—from queries and agents to blogging and advertising—and will learn how they can best position themselves for success over the long term.

How did The Hot Sheet first come about? 

In 2011, journalist Porter Anderson began contributing guest posts at my site ( with news and analysis on the publishing industry. After a few years, we eventually wrapped up that effort, as it wasn’t really an income generator for him or me, aside from a smattering of sponsorships.

So after that ended, we were talking about what else we might do together, and came up with the idea of a paid subscription email newsletter for authors, something that built on my expertise and understanding of the author community, and his industry access and travels to publishing conferences. Our oft-repeated tagline was “no drama, no hype.” We wanted to offer news and analysis that avoided the bias and rancor that can characterize discussions in both the traditional and self-publishing community. (Indie authors tend to excoriate traditional publishers and authors; traditional authors and publishers tend to demonize Amazon and look down on indie authors.)

No drama/bias/rancor is a welcome relief; it's also nice to hear about the parts of publishing that not many people talk about. In THE BUSINESS OF BEING A WRITER, you dispel the myth that publishing is harder now than it used to be, despite the current "cognitive surplus." How might writers' impressions play into some of these perceived barriers? 

Social media makes it immediate and easy to compare notes with other authors, and learn about how often and common it is to get rejected. While the information sharing and camaraderie is valuable, it can also encourage unproductive thoughts and anger (e.g., focusing on an unfair system, seeing editors/agents as idiots or disrespectful, etc). But the historical record shows that the relationship between authors and publishers has always been strained and occasionally adversarial. Even Horace complained about his publisher!

That said, discoverability today is harder. There's no sure way to make your book or  name stand out when so much potential media competes for readers' attention. This is why so many authors will give away their work for free or cheap: the attention is worth more to them than payment. The act of publishing, whether you traditionally publish or self-publish, isn’t all that hard. Selling what you publish—that’s when authors find out where the real difficulty lies.

The other thing I'll add is that while it is a challenging environment for debut novelists, more novels are published today than at any other time in history. The opportunities are greater, but the number of people competing at a high skill level are also greater. So I think it ends up being a wash as far as whether it's more difficult to get published. But to the writer it's always going to feel hard. (Some say it should feel hard to weed out the unserious.)

I've often heard conflicting opinions about giving away work on the free or cheap, and it's reassuring to know that writers can find opportunities in most situations. Between writing, consulting, maintaining your online presence, speaking, and everything else on your plate, to what degree do you find work/life balance and avoid burn-out? 

First, I like what author Alain de Botton says on this topic: let’s stop pretending such a thing even exists. “Everything worth fighting for unbalances your life,” he says. I agree.

Still, I have put in place protections for my own sanity.
  • I try to limit client appointments to three days a week so I have uninterrupted time to focus on writing and editing work.
  • I check and respond to email about once a day, in the afternoon.
  • I segment some social media to specific parts of the day rather than checking in frequently.
Because I work from home, it’s important that when I step away from the desk at the end of the day, I don’t return unless it’s an emergency. I say “no” to just about anything that would require me to work from home in the evening.

I also keep work email off my phone, even during work travel. That is probably the No. 1 way I preserve my mental health and I highly recommend it. Yes, it’s caused a few headaches here and there, but it’s a rule now. I don’t email from my phone, ever.

All of those are excellent ideas--especially separating email from the phone. In what ways do you see authorship further evolving amid current and new developments?

It depends on what sort of author you’re talking about. For traditionally published authors, we’re going to see increased pressure on novelists especially to become better marketers and promoters of their own work. The publishers just can’t effectively market or support every title, and sales of fiction are trending down. It’s harder to get that attention I mentioned earlier.

Indie authors are feeling more pressure than ever to advertise their books to keep sales up—to use social media ads, BookBub ads, and Amazon ads in particular. But knowing how to advertise well, and maintaining effective campaigns, is time consuming and something I considered a specialized skill. I hate to think that success in the future will depend on authors becoming online advertising experts (or having the funds to advertise), but that’s what it feels like right now.

All authors can invest in their long-term success by getting readers and fans onto an email newsletter list, so they can stay in touch with people most likely to buy their books. I know everyone’s sick of hearing about email marketing, but it works—and it’s by far the best defense against the power and control of platforms like Amazon, Facebook, Google, and others.

Buy: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

For Jane Friedman's other books, click here

For more about Jane Friedman, click here

This post can also be viewed here

Wednesday, July 24, 2019


I first connected with Susan Adrian over Twitter when we discovered we had a mutual connection to UC Davis. Her latest book, FOREVER NEVERLAND, provides an interesting perspective within a familiar tale:

Clover and Fergus are the great-great-grandchildren of Wendy Darling (yes, that Wendy). And now Peter Pan wants to take them to Neverland for the adventure of their lives! But Clover’s a little nervous–she’s supposed to look after her brother. Fergus is autistic, and not everyone makes him feel welcome. What will happen to him in this magical world?

Fergus isn’t nervous at all. To him, Neverland seems like a dream come true! He’s tired of Clover’s constant mothering and wants some independence, like Peter and the Lost Boys have. He wonders, Why can’t the real world be more like Neverland?

Neverland is fun and free, but it’s also dangerous and even scary at times. There are unfamiliar creatures lurking in the shadows and strange sounds coming from the waters. And then the mermaids start to go missing. . . .

What brought you to Montana? And what, if anything, do you miss about California?

I came to Montana for a job. In 2003, my husband and I were both laid off, with a new baby. We both did a nationwide job search, and I was offered a wonderful job at the Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology as a scientific editor, on the Montana Tech campus. My husband later became the Executive Director of the Montana Tech Foundation. We've been here ever since. Butte is a wonderful place to raise a family. We do go back to California once or twice a year, for the sunshine and the ocean.

Sounds wonderful. In FOREVER NEVERLAND, one of the characters is autistic. How did this character find his way to you?  

The two characters in FOREVER NEVERLAND came to me together, very strongly. I was interested in the dynamic between the two, with Clover being very overprotective and Fergus wanting help...but also just wanting some space and independence. Once I realized I needed to write both characters' points of view, I did extensive research to make sure I got Fergus right.

Interesting that both characters showed up at the same time, and dual points of view always offer such great opportunities to show the dynamics between characters. According to your website bio, you once danced in a ballet company. Did any of your experiences find their way into your book NUTCRACKED, debuting in October 2019?

There are many of my experiences dancing that showed up in NUTCRACKED. I was fortunate for that book in that I did not have a time of research to do, at least for the ballet parts. I remember that time very vividly. I was a dancer from the ages of 8 to 16, and I did get to play Clara when I was 13. It was a remarkable experience to relive some of that time and relay those experiences – having mice chase me across the stage, and watching the tree grow – to readers.

I'll bet! What are some of your current projects?

I am currently working on another middle grade project (working title THE WILD SIDE OF ROWAN MCKINNON) that I'm very excited about. It's about a girl who learns that her mother – who left when she was three days old – is really an Irish shapeshifter, called a pukka. Rowan sets out on a journey to find her mother and learn about who she is. There are wild horses, eagles, and good friends, set in the high lands of Montana and Wyoming. Like all my books, it has magic.

Buy: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

Buy: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

For Susan Adrian's other books, click here

This post can also be viewed here

Wednesday, July 17, 2019


I first featured Aminah Mae Safi here. Her newest book, TELL ME HOW YOU REALLY FEEL, debuted in June, and this enemies-to-lovers story should definitely be on your To Be Read list:

Sana Khan is a cheerleader and a straight A student. She's the classic (somewhat obnoxious) overachiever determined to win.

Rachel Recht is a wannabe director who's obsesssed with movies and ready to make her own masterpiece. As she's casting her senior film project, she knows she's found the perfect lead - Sana.

There's only one problem. Rachel hates Sana. Rachel was the first girl Sana ever asked out, but Rachel thought it was a cruel prank and has detested Sana ever since.

In our last interview, you said that girls and women "don’t have to be perfect to take up space in this world, to take up space in the pages of stories." What do you wish for girls and women who have difficulty accepting themselves?   

You've got to believe in yourself. This is something I struggle with. But part of accepting yourself is honestly believing in yourself and trusting yourself. Learning to listen to yourself. Learning to spend time with yourself and your own thoughts. It's all these things we try to actively prevent girls from doing when they're growing up.

There's this quote from the modern remake of the movie Sabrina: “I sat in a cafe, drank coffee and wrote nonsense in a journal, then suddenly it was not nonsense – I went for long walks and I met myself in Paris" and I think that's what I wish for all girls and any marginalized person, particularly if they have trouble accepting themselves. Get to know yourself. Know you're okay. We're all imperfect beings in this life trying to figure out the best way to make a life for ourselves. We all feel that way. Feeling that way doesn’t mean you’ll never be able to believe in yourself. Develop enough of a sense of yourself so that you know how to trust yourself and know how to listen to yourself. I think that’s where belief starts.

It certainly does--though it can be, as you said, challenging to maintain. In TELL ME HOW YOU FEEL, I love how the relationship between Sana and Rachel evolves. Did you know how their story would unfold before you started drafting, or did it develop as you wrote it? 

It's always both, isn't it? I mean, I sold this book on proposal, so I definitely had an outline. But things change as you draft. They always change. Many of the key scenes are as I envisioned them. Some new moments popped in at the last minute and really took hold in the story.

This is a bit metaphysical, but when I think I always know the story, I'm just finding it again. It's like, the real story is always in there-- waiting to be pulled out of whatever I've written. But I've got to get all the words down first— many of them the wrong ones— and then continue to edit and find that true story as I work.

So in the end, it genuinely feels like this was always the story and the romance couldn't have unfolded any other way. But maybe that's just a trick I tell myself so I can easily cut scenes and characters when they're not serving the overall book. But Sana and Rachel turned out exactly as they were meant to and their love story unfolded exactly as it should have.

Lovely. What do you feel are the most difficult aspects of writing romantic comedies? 

You've got to be rooting for the characters to get together, almost from the first pages. You've got to establish who the characters are and where they need to go, quickly. There are quite a few rules— mostly unspoken— with rom-coms that you've got to understand and acknowledge, even if you decide to break them along the way. Any kind of genre with structure, you've got to know when to play by the rules, and when to break them. You've got to know which tropes serve your overall story and structure, and which ones will only bog you down.

With a rom-com, you've got to do all of this, while also making it feel fun and effortless to read. Effortlessness is always difficult. Introducing people who are essentially two strangers to your readers and getting them to root for their love story is also difficult.

And it's definitely a lot to think about. If you could tell your younger writer self one thing, what would it be and why?

You're going to be alright, kid. Just keep showing up. We don't control a lot in life, but we do control our own thoughts and our own actions. So quit worrying about other people and keep showing up.

Incidentally, I still tell myself this. Works wonders.

Buy: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

Buy: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

This post can also be viewed here.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

HAPPILY & MADLY by Alexis Bass

I've met Alexis Bass at a few author events, and recently saw her on a conference panel about mystery writing. Her book, HAPPILY & MADLY, is a thrilling story that would appeal to fans of We Were Liars.

Maris Brown has been told two things about her destiny:

1. She will fall happily and madly in love.
2. She could be dead before she turns eighteen.

The summer before that fateful birthday, Maris is in the wealthy beach town of Cross Cove with her estranged father and his new family--and the infamous Duvals. Since the youngest member of the Duval family, Edison, is back from college and back in the arms of Maris's new stepsister, her summer looks to be a long string of lazy days on the Duval's lush beach.

But Edison is hiding something. And the more Maris learns about him, the more she's given signs that she should stay as far away from him as possible. As wrong as it is, Maris is drawn to him. Around Edison, she feels truly alive and she's not willing to give that up. Even if it means a collision course with destiny.

According to your website bio, you are "a huge advocate of long beach vacations." Is this what inspired the setting for HAPPILY & MADLY?

Absolutely! The setting of Happily & Madly was inspired by the many beach vacations I’ve been on over the years—beaches on both coasts as well Hawaii and South America.  Even lake-beaches! Cross Cove is a fictional place so I was able to incorporate the best off all beaches into the setting.

What a beautiful way to capture setting! And even though the backdrop is idyllic, HAPPILY & MADLY offers a plot that hinges on concealed truths. What is the most challenging part about giving necessary information, but not revealing too much? 

It’s definitely challenging to figure out how to divulge information, making it authentic to how the main character would receive it, while at the same time doing service to the story. I rely on a little bit of intuition and also studying how other novels I’ve really enjoyed have parsed out information and measuring if that will work for my particular story.

Going along with the plot, there was a music playlist for HAPPILY & MADLY on the Tor Teen Blog; how do these songs best capture the mood you needed for this story?

The playlist posted on the Tor Teen Blog perfectly captures the mood of the story—the fun of summer and living large, the desire of forbidden love, and the twisted parts of the plot.

Wonderful. What are some of your current projects? 

I can’t yet announce what’s next for me, but I have a Young Adult project in the works that I will hopefully be able to discuss soon. I’ve also been working on and off on a novel written in second-person about a woman accused of murdering her wealthy husband.

Buy: Book Passage ~ Amazon ~ Barnes and Noble ~ Indiebound

For Alexis's other books, go here

This post can also be viewed here

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Release Feature: WILDER GIRLS by Rory Power

I'm excited to announce that WILDER GIRLS by Rory Power is out today! I featured this book here, and it's already getting plenty of buzz:

It's been eighteen months since the Raxter School for Girls was put under quarantine. Since the Tox hit and pulled Hetty's life out from under her.

It started slow. First the teachers died one by one. Then it began to infect the students, turning their bodies strange and foreign. Now, cut off from the rest of the world and left to fend for themselves on their island home, the girls don't dare wander outside the school's fence, where the Tox has made the woods wild and dangerous. They wait for the cure they were promised as the Tox seeps into everything.

But when Byatt goes missing, Hetty will do anything to find her, even if it means breaking quarantine and braving the horrors that lie beyond the fence. And when she does, Hetty learns that there's more to their story, to their life at Raxter, than she could have ever thought true.

Buy: Book Passage ~ Amazon ~ Barnes and Noble ~ Indiebound

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

STAY THROUGH THE STORM by Joanna Rowland, illustrated by Lorian Tu

Joanna' Rowland's picture books have a way of gently guiding readers through life's challenges, especially her book MEMORY BOX, featured here and ALWAYS MOM, FOREVER DAD, featured here. When composing my monthly newsletter last May, I saw that she had a new picture book--STAY THROUGH THE STORM--and I couldn't wait to feature it.

When a storm approaches, a friend encourages another to stay until it passes, sipping cocoa, building a fort indoors, and sharing memories.

Since our last interview, MEMORY BOX has been translated into different languages. What has been the most rewarding part of seeing this book make its way into the world?

So far, the Memory Box: A Book About Grief has sold Dutch foreign rights. It was read to over 140 families from around the world at St. Jude’s hospital on their Day of Remembrance which is an annual event for bereaved families. What has been special to watch with The Memory Box is to know it has been helpful for some families during one of their most heartbreaking times in their lives. I love reading reviews on Amazon (I know I’m not supposed to read reviews) but hearing from people I’ve never met that the book has touched has been so rewarding.

What a lovely journey the book has taken--and I have no doubt it will touch many more readers. I love how STAY THROUGH THE STORM encourages bravery. In what ways did the story develop as you wrote it?  

 During Tara Lazar’s StoryStorm in January 2017 I was watching snow fall at the cabin and I wrote the word storm down. I knew I wanted to write about a storm, I just didn’t know what the heart of my story was. I’d drive around listening to Imagine Dragons' Thunder and Lightning song and just think. Nine months later on one drive I was thinking about my friend Scott that died by suicide and how I wished he had stayed. Then the metaphor and title hit me – Stay Through The Storm. I knew where the heart of the story was now. It’s really about friendship through a real storm but I hope readers can see that maybe it relates to life storms as well.

And it's also a good reminder of how important it is to weather those storms together. What do you think are the necessary elements of a good story?

For me a good story has to connect to me on some emotional level. Does it make me want to laugh, cry, reminisce? I find the best stories are the ones that linger long after the book is closed.

Beautiful. What topics do you think should be covered more in picture books and why?

My heart is drawn to writing about the harder topics children face such as grief, divorce, and heartbreak. Kids don’t always have the ability to express their emotions during those hard times. Reading a book about other children going through difficult times can help. Books are a beautiful and safe way for children to navigate the world around them and to help open the door to conversation.


Buy: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound


Buy: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound


Buy: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

This post can also be viewed here