Talking with ‘The Mourning Parade’ author Dawn Langley: an AUTHORS success story

Last  week, AUTHORS submission platform user Amberjack Publishing published The Mourning Parade by Dawn Langley, a book that Foreword Reviews remarked was “told with authority and fine craftsmanship,” that “leaves an impression that lasts beyond its final page.”

With pre-publication promotion at Book Expo America, The Mourning Parade is one of Amberjack’s premier 2017 titles and actually began its journey into their catalog on the AUTHORS platform. Written with gripping prose and heartrending, realistic characters whose drive will propel you through the lush landscape of this incisive novel, this is one book in 2017 you shouldn’t miss.

We are so excited to see the publication of The Mourning Parade and spoke with the author about her experience, process, and look behind the curtain.

Sparked both by her mother’s love for elephants and a trip to an elephant sanctuary in Thailand, Langley took a year to complete the her first draft of Mourning Parade and continued to craft and edit for an additional eight months. Once she was satisfied, she queried more than 20 different agents.

A lot of them were interested, but no one bit,” said Langley. “So I decided to go after publishers myself. I have plenty of publishing experience, so simply needed to find someone with whom I could work.”

Want to add The Mourning Parade to your GoodReads Shelf? Click here!

Not long after, Langley sat in on a skype call a friend of hers was having with award-winning independent publisher, Amberjack Publishing, who was interested in acquiring the friend’s book. After hearing their pitch to her friend, she was set on submitting to them.

I liked what they stood for and pursued them myself. “

Amberjack referred her to the AUTHORS submission platform to review her manuscript and platform, which Langley thinks gave her an edge for presenting the best view of her work. “I was thrilled with how professional my query looked,” she added. “I had a great feeling about working with them. They are a small, independent press and three books they are publishing are interesting and diverse. I was thrilled that they wanted to talk to me about possibilities!”

After publishing 30 other books, I knew how the process worked and what to expect,” she said.  “So I wanted to have an active role in the process.” In Amberjack, this veteran published author found a true partner in the craft and prospect.

Amberjack encourages that, and the women there are smart, savvy and supportive,” said Langley. “It’s all gone incredibly smooth and I love having them in my corner. I’m hoping we have a long and fruitful relationship!”

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Advice for Writers from Agent & Publishers at DBW

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We spent our time at DBW soaking up as much wisdom from industry insiders as we could, including insights and advice for writers from the best in biz. Here are some of our favorites.

On the role of the agent and editor….

You want to have a pure relationship with the author. you don’t want to talk about money or anything that can sully it,”—Deb Futter, Vice President and Editor-in-Chief of Hardcovers, Grand Central Publishing

“The publisher should be the number one biggest fan.”  — Amy Einhorn, Senior Vice President and Publisher, Flatiron Books

“It’s in the author’s best interest to have a literary agent. They play a very important role,”  — Amy Einhorn


On what makes a great platform…

“Writers who have an ongoing conversation with readers. “ — Laura Nolan, Aevitas Creative Management

This was something we heard echoed in many sessions and different contexts. You don’t have to have an enormous, nationwide platform if you have a consistent, rich conversation with readers. Many writers do so through Twitter, WattPad, and Facebook. This also means tweeting more than just about YOUR book, but interacting directly with your readers and their conversations, too. 

On writing to fit in a trend…

Don’t do it. 

The overwhelming comment on this was that trends, in an editorial sense, are often conflated with fads. So, just because a lot of vampire novels are coming out right now doesn’t mean the way you will get published is if you write a vampire novel. As Amy Einhorn pointed out, in each success there is nuance.  You get published because your story spoke to something in the publisher or agent, usually a combination of the impact of the story and your marketability, which brings us to advice….

On what makes a great story…

Narratives with conflict, characters and settings filled with specific, concrete details and experiences. 

Collectively the panel of literary agents agreed on these criteria because within specifics lie universal truths and experiences that readers can relate to on a visceral level. 

“All of us are exactly like the consumer–we’re readers. And we want the best product we can give them.” – Deb Futter, Vice President and Editor-in-Chief of Hardcovers, Grand Central Publishing.


On query letters….

“If the love doesn’t come through on the page, it’s a no go,” said Deb Werksman, Publisher of Sourcebooks.

Workman and others echoed phrases like “if you could meet the author, I know you’d love the book” in query letters, but that’s unfortunately not a productive metric. In other words, YOU might be lovely but you need to get that to convey on the page. The consumer doesn’t have the benefit of meeting you and falling in love with you, so the publisher has to act of the same accord. 

Most editors want to see midlist titles for comps, not the book that blew everything out of the water.

Maybe your book is as good or better, but there are too many mitigating factors to say that it is actually a comp title without doing a thorough analysis of the book, audience, and author platform. 


On the children’s market…

“Within the children’s market, we want a writer who has at least two out of the following three: compelling writing, a compelling hook, and a compelling platform.” — Ginger Clark, Curtis Brown Literary Agency

On market entry…

“Sometimes it’s not about starting with the book,” commented Regina Brooks, President and Lead Agent of Serendipity Literary Agency  “It starts with the right medium, and then moves to the other lucrative property options.”

Brooks doesn’t always begin with the sale of her client’s book, but instead movie rights, audiobook, merchandising, etc. 

On rights sales and contracts….

“Every division in your publisher isn’t going to have the same enthusiasm for a title,” commented Ginger Clark, agent at Curtis Brown. “You can’t force passion.”

This one requires a bit of context. Part of the benefit of an agent is that they have your back at every juncture of the negotiations process, including the sale or protection of foreign rights to publication. Clark pointed out that the concern over those rights–be they foreign or format-specific–is not simply about money for the agent and writer, but consistently working to find the right home for the book in each market and across each medium.

Little Pickle Press to March 4th: Why?

One of our earliest adopters, Little Pickle Press, is rebranding. CEO and Chairman Rana DiOrio discusses the change and how it fits with their mission statement. 

by Rana DiOrio, Chairman & CEO of March 4th, Inc.

March 4th, Inc. We recently changed our corporate name from Little Pickle Press, Inc. to March 4th, Inc. Our partners at asked me if I’d like the opportunity to write a blog post to explain why, and I accepted their kind invitation.

Why change the name?

Earlier this year I wrote an article for The Independent titled, “It’s the Why that Matters.” The “Why” of Little Pickle Press has been “to create media that fosters kindness in young people and to do so in a manner congruent with that mission.” Just like the audience for whom we create stories, we’ve experienced growth and change since launching in 2009. This has led us to broaden our purpose to better reflect that maturity and to adopt the name March 4th in support of that change. As March 4th, we remain steadfast to our original “Why,” yet we now aim to magnify its impact by “inspiring character development in young people.”
March 4th imprints Little Pickle Stories, Big Dill Stories, and Relish Stories
We further determined that our expanded “Why” would best be met through changes in our corporate structure. The “Little Pickle” brand will continue as one of three marketing age-appropriate stories and related products to consumers—Little Pickle Stories (ages 0-10; @LP_Stories), Big Dill Stories (ages 11-14; @bigdillstories), and Relish Stories (ages 15+; @relishstories). We also established two wholly owned subsidiaries—March 4th Properties, our intellectual property (IP) holding company, and March 4th Productions, an operating company tasked with leveraging that IP beyond publishing (e.g., videos, feature films, merchandise, audio, and apps).

Why March 4th?

“March 4th” is the only date in the year that, when spoken, is also a declarative sentence (try it: “March forth!”), and not just any sentence, but one that connotes forward momentum and strong character traits such as decisiveness and courage. The fact that March 4th acts as both a homophone and double entendre is a fitting homage to our literary roots.

Why should you care?

The recent US election only deepened our belief that if society is to flourish (well, survive), it must imbue character traits such as kindness, honesty, bravery, and patience in young people, both by example and through education. The challenge is that people, especially children, learn best when they are unaware they’re learning—that’s where March 4th comes in. We view this challenge as an opportunity to shape our future by providing young people and their caring adults an ever-increasing selection of stories and products that engage and entertain young minds while relaying the value of character and inspiring its development.

About the author:

Rana DiOrio has been helping companies grow since graduating from law school. As a lawyer, investor, and investment banker, she has assisted hundreds of management teams in achieving their goals. Becoming a mother inspired Rana to find a way to align her career and values. Her solution was to become an entrepreneur, founding Little Pickle Press in 2009 as a social mission company. Rana sits on the Advisory Boards of GrapeSeed, Stepping Stories, and Vanderbilt University School of Law. Her personal pursuits include fitness training, practicing yoga, reading non-fiction and children’s books, dreaming big dreams and helping other entrepreneurs realize theirs, and, of course, being global, green, present, safe, kind, and American (foreshadowing her next title, which will pub in 2017!). She lives in San Francisco, California with The Cowboy and her three Little Pickles. Follow Rana DiOrio on Twitter at @ranadiorio.

Ripple Grove Press Joins

rgp-logo-2Ripple Grove Press, a children’s picture book publisher based in Portland, Oregon, joined to manage their submissions and find new projects through our intelligent query matching system. We’re thrilled to welcome them to the AUTHORS family. Ripple Grove is home to captivating children’s titles like Monday is Wash DaySalad Pie, and Mae and the Moon.

ripple-groveAs a get-to-know-you, below is an essay by Ripple Grove founder and President Rob Broder covering what writers need to know about the submissions process and what he’s learned from it as well. Read more about Ripple Grove here.


You Can Judge a Book by Its Title, and Other Wisdom from the Submission Pile

We have received over 2000 submissions at Ripple Grove Press (RGP) since we opened our doors in 2013, and we have read them all. Only a few make it into our “revisit” folder for another look. Many do not make it there for a simple reason: they do not follow our submission guidelines.

Follow the Submission Guidelines

Our website clearly states that we do not accept stories with a holiday or religious theme, yet my inbox receives submissions with a holiday theme or a religious mention, or submissions about God or the stars in the heavens. Not only do those stories get passed over, they make it difficult to want to move forward on any project with that writer. By not following our guidelines, that person wasted their own time as well as ours—not a good sign.

The same concern comes up with people who email RGP about “what type of format to submit” their story. It feels like these emails are only a way to get our attention. If you want to know about format, there are industry standards, go look them up. Don’t try to get my attention with email questions, your story will get my attention. Just submit.

Please Don’t

Please do not tell me in your query letter that your story is wonderful and that it will delight me. Every story is wonderful to the person who wrote it. When I see that sentence I get nervous, and it makes me want to move onto the next submission.

Please do not tell me that I “will like your whimsical story” because right there you are telling me that it rhymes and that I probably will not like it. Let your story talk for you.

Do not send a hand-written letter on a hotel notepad, telling me an idea for a story you have. (Yes, I have received that.)

Please do not include where you think the page breaks should be. It’s very distracting and takes away from the story. If we’re interested in your story, then we can work it out together.

Please do not submit a story with a dedication page and five more pages of your biography and an index with a table of contents. Keep it simple, less is more. If we like your story and we need more, we will ask.

Often, I like the query letter more than the story. Sometimes the query letter is longer than the story or more time has been put into writing the query than the story. I get so excited about the query, ready to dive into the story, only to find it was not as well written. That leaves me disappointed. Keep the query and book description short and sweet. Make me want to read the story; that’s what I want to do. I want to be wow’d. I want to say, “Yes, this is it! This is what RGP is looking for.”

Leave Room for the Illustrator’s Input

Please don’t insert “illustration notes.” A picture book is a group project: writer, illustrator, editor, and publisher. The illustrator helps to tell the story as well as the writer. If you wish to enter into this project with a publisher, you have to be able to let part of the story go and share the work of envisioning it. We are all working together to make the most beautiful picture book possible.

Unless you have experience or training as an illustrator or photographer, please do not send rough sketches or photos of what you think the story should look like. It is distracting and doesn’t help your submission.

Please remember not to make your story too descriptive. Telling me that “Tommy wears a green shirt in his blue messy room and has a brownish dog and goes to school four blocks away from his home and it was sunny this particular day and the tree in the yard is a little crooked,” makes it difficult for the illustrator to tell part of the story with pictures. We understand you have a clear perspective on the way your story should be, (after all, you wrote it) but if you want to grab my attention, it will happen with your words, not with your pencil sketches or photos or overly descriptive text.

Judging a Book by Its Title

So, what’s in a title? A title can say a lot. It can provide me with what the story is about, introduce a character or tell how the story will end. But some titles go too far (I’m making these up but they are similar to what we’ve received):

The Grumpy Town – this says to me, everyone in the town is grumpy, except one small child who turns the town around and they are all happy in the end with merriment in the streets. Hopefully it won’t rhyme.

Or Mr. Pajama-Wama the Cat Thinks There’s a Monster Under His Bed. I never thought there was a monster under my bed and I don’t know why I would want to put that idea into a child’s mind. Plus the title gives it all away, and I don’t want to read the words Mr. Pajama-Wama on every single page. And hopefully it won’t rhyme.

There are titles that describe too much and spill the entire story, like, Little Red Hen and the Missing Mitten on a Rainy Tuesday. I know everything before I even get to the first sentence. And… hopefully it won’t rhyme.

If your title mentions your pet’s name or your grandchild’s name, it usually doesn’t pan out. When titles have names that don’t match the characters you created, like Aidan the Kangaroo or McKenzie the Raccoon or Addison the Hippo, it’s obvious the child is sitting right next to you as you write your story. I understand that something special or sweet has happened to your loved one, but that doesn’t mean it has universal appeal. Before submitting your story, share your ideas with friends or a critique group. Ask for their honest opinions. Read your story out loud to yourself.

The titles that make us want to move on to the story are the simple titles that pique my interest and keep me intrigued, like (and yes, these are our books) The Peddler’s Bed… ok, now what? Or Too Many Tables… ok, where could this go? Or Lizbeth Lou Got a Rock in Her Shoe… ok, a little long and I bet it rhymes but you got my attention.

You can judge a book by its title… if words like Hope or Grace or Pray or Johnny Scuttle Butt are there. And although bodily-function writing might be humorous to some, it’s not something I want to read over and over again to a 4-year-old. So please, no poop or pee or burp or fart… not timeless, not cozy. Might fit with another publisher, but it’s not for RGP.

Please Wow Us!

With all this said, I still get excited to read every submission and every story. I want to find the gem, I want to be wow’d. I want to put your story in my revisit folder and I want to like it more and more each time I read it. So please, do your research. And please, oh please, read children’s picture books. Read award-winners, what’s popular, what librarians recommend. Read stories you may not be a fan of; they will guide you to your own voice. Study them: why do they work, what made the publisher choose this story? Match your story with the right publisher. Start by reading their submission guidelines. Hopefully all this work will shine through your story and one day you’ll get that phone call from a publisher who would like to talk with you about your submission.

– Rob Broder, President & Founder of Ripple Grove Press, January 2015

The Publishing Bullseye

Imagine you are pulling back on an archery bow as you aim your arrow at a target ninety meters away. Not an easy shot to hit the bullseye. The center ring looks so tiny from here. (Probably because it’s only 12.2 cm wide) Good luck.

One hundred arrows later….

An amateur is not likely to get a hit. But, should one spent arrow happen to land on the center ring, you have a good chance of winning. Wouldn’t it be nice if some Unseen Hand guided your arrow all the way to center target? does just that. Well, not in archery, but in publishing. This week we released our new Submission Matching & Delivery System that further improves our connective publishing network. Continuing with our metaphor, our platform is the bow, your submission is the arrow and center target is the right agent or publisher to represent your work. Our technology is that Unseen Hand. So how do we affect the shot?

We are now using data analysis and matching algorithms to pair our writer’s manuscript with the best possible agent or publisher. We aim  your submission to the target, guided by what you have created and  what our partner agents and publishers are looking for.

Historically, writers used a hit and hope strategy, flinging all sorts of arrows at any target they could find, hoping one lands and gets their manuscript read. When you consider the thousands of publishing opportunities and the variables between each of those, you’d might think it could work. Well, just ask any agent or publisher who receives thousands of poorly targeted submissions or the millions of writers that never hear back if their arrow struck at all. Not a good or effective strategy.’s new submission matching system takes away all the poorly spent arrows. If you don’t match one of our agents, we will not permit a submission to be sent to them. It would be like setting you up to fail. Instead, you create your project and we analyze and match it. We then show you all of your submission matches, then let you take the perfect shot with each one. It is more efficient and more likely to have the desired results.

In just a few short days we have  received very positive feedback from both sides of the equation. One of our writers, Gerry Cappa of County Antrim, Ireland, summed it up saying, “This is a brilliant innovation for authors and publishers/agents alike. It deserves to be well supported and, with a bit of luck, should become the industry standard.”

Time will tell how accurate we are and whether we become an industry standard. Time will also allow us to increase our accuracy, as the more data we analyze, the better we will become.

So, load up the bow. Take your shot. Let’s see what you hit.

Picking a Genre: AUTHORS Guide & Definitions

Picking a genre for your work can be really hard, we know. So many stories have plots, characters, and threads that seem to cross different genre categories. As a result, many writers will slap every genre that touches their story to their query. This is a huge mistake.

In certain ways, assigning more than two (maybe three) genres can communicate that the writer may not have the clearest sense of the story they’re trying to tell. Just as importantly, it may also mean the writer doesn’t fully understand who their audience is. That is not to say we recommend writing to an audience instead of writing to the story, but it’s important to understand how your work fits into the larger publishing landscape. The folks at Write to Done made an excellent point when they said, “your ideal audience uses genre to find your book.” Check out their article for a much more in-depth discussion of market research.

In general, it’s easier for an editor or a consumer to wrap their head around something straightforward. Furthermore, when additional genres are ascribed to a manuscript, the less accurate each description becomes. This is because each genre has specific requirements that merit it. These are largely standardized, accepted definitions across the industry.

For example, you may have written a gripping detective caper that includes a whirlwind romance between the detective and his Girl Friday, but that doesn’t mean it’s a romance. It means you wrote a dynamic character in a mystery novel.

So, for your reading pleasure, below are definitions of the genres we have on our forms (so it’s not exhaustive, but applicable). Note: this is only a list of fiction genres. We will cover nonfiction in another post. Much of this information was compiled from the much more exhaustive  Writer’s Digest guide. There is also a very cool “genre map” from the folks at Book Country if you prefer your research to be a little more interactive. We also found some fun quizzes relating to genre, too. However, they’re more about what you should start to write, not what you have written. Might be good for a day when writer’s block has taken hold. Here’s one from Quibblo and another one from Playbuzz


The key element of the Action/Adventure novel is, you guessed it: action! The action overshadows the characters, setting, themes, etc. Primary conflict is often human vs. nature, as opposed to human vs. human or human vs. self.

Stories and novels whose central characters are African American. African American and other ethnic fiction genres often portray a protagonist of color in conflict between mainstream American culture and his or her ethnic heritage.  

Stories and novels whose central characters are Asian American. Asian American and other ethnic fiction genres often portray a protagonist of color in conflict between mainstream American culture and his or her ethnic heritage.  

Essentially, a true life story reimagined or expanded on by a writer so much that it has transformed into fiction. Uses biographical and historical research to inform the framework of the traditional novel, including conventions of fiction like dialogue, mood, theme, etc. Similar to historical fiction except that characters in a biographical novel are not fictitious, whereas an historical novel may be comprised entirely of fictitious characters.

Female-centered narratives that focus on the concerns and conflicts of the individual protagonist. Often deals with issues encountered by modern women, including, but not limited to romantic relationships, female friendships, workplace issues, motherhood, and more, but in a jovial or humorous tone. May include romantic relationships, but the plot is not driven by them.

Works whose intended audience is a child between the ages of 2 and 16. Extremely variable, as the writing itself as well as subject matter needs to be appropriate for the reader in question. Usually has a vivid opening, strong central character and deliberate, meaningful action.

Christian fiction novels are driven by and exemplify traditional Christian values through the plot, characters, and conflict.

Coming of Age novels center around the protagonist’s entrance into adulthood and all of the baggage and conflict that goes along with such a transition. Major growth and change must be seen in the central character.

Stories that could or do take place during the time they are being written and published. These stories do not cross with other genres.

A story about a relationship that is driven by sex.

This genre takes the family unit as its driving force. The characters will be related and the conflict driven by their relationships. Often viewed over a long swath of time or even several generations. Often used to portray historical/political/social events and developments. Like most of our families, these stories tend to be pretty dramatic.

Fantasy stories depend on magic, mythological beings and original contrivances to drive conflict, plot and setting. Stories often take place in another world imagined by the author, where the author has to create concrete rules and norms for the universe, including social structures and beings.

Based off of stories passed down generations. Can differ culture to culture. Setting may be real or imaginary. Often driven by a moral imperative or lesson.

Stories and novels whose central characters are Hispanic/Latino.Hispanic/Latino and other ethnic fiction genres often portray a protagonist of color in conflict between mainstream American culture and his or her ethnic heritage.  

A story set during a real period of human history. May involve political/social events of a specific time period.


Stories whose conflicts and plots center around major holidays and are driven by events prompted by those holidays.

A story whose central themes and plot center around dread, fear, unknown forces, malignant entities. In essence, stories that give you the heeby-jeebies and make you want to sleep with the lights turned on. Think Poe, Lovecraft, King, etc.

Involves a series of comical or humorous events throughout the plot, or a particularly funny or humorous character.

Very close to mystery or thriller genre, but will focus more on the legal proceedings of the crime in question. Think classic Law and Order, Boston Legal, or most anything by John Grisham.

Stories and novels whose central characters are Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender or of non-binary sexual or gender identification. Often portrays the protagonist in conflict between mainstream American culture and his or her marginalized sexual or gender identity heritage.  

Works where craft, style and technique are as important as plot, character, and subject matter.

Mainstream fiction is somewhere between literary and contemporary fiction. The stories are not focused on one convention as their structure (such as mystery/romance/sci fi, etc.). A mainstream novel will be driven by depth of character, background, etc. and their conflicts. Comparable writers include J ames Michener, John Updike and Joyce Carol Oates.

New stories blending the worlds/characters/events of other fictions.

Stories where the main characters work in the medical profession and the plot is driven by the relationships and conflict found within that work setting.

Mysteries involve strong characters with strong motivations in conflict with physical, psychological or societal obstacles in a plot in which one or more pieces remain unseen until the end.

Stories and novels whose central characters are Native American/Aboriginal/First Nations. Native American/Aboriginal/First Nations and other ethnic fiction genres often portray a protagonist of color in conflict with mainstream American culture and his or her ethnic heritage.  

A story driven by elements of the paranormal, including ghosts, vampires, werewolves, fairies, etc. Often, but not always, also considered horror.

A story modeled after a well-known story or convention with the goal to satirize or point out ironies within a given situation.

A story whose central characters are politicians or work with politicians and whose conflict is driven by elements of lawmaking, diplomacy, or international relations.


Religious fiction novels are driven by and exemplify a religion’s beliefs tenets  and values through the plot, characters, and conflict.

In a romance novel, the entire plot is driven by a romantic relationship. There is almost always a happy ending. In many cases, a sexual awakening or revelation is a driving force in character development. Sex scenes are present, but not overly graphic (which would take the text into erotica).

Science Fiction positions science and technology as the bedrock of the central conflict or setting. Often set in the future and may involve speculations about scientific advancement. Often crosses paths with fantasy, but the two genres are distinct.

Spiritual fiction novels are driven by spiritual discovery/awakening through the plot, characters, and conflict. May or may not involve an organized religion.

A story whose central characters are athletes or work with athletes and whose conflict is driven by competition and sport.

A story whose main objective is to incite a feeling of suspense in the reader. The plots are often sensational, involving crimes, violence, espionage, etc. Often a detective story with high stakes and moral certainties.

Urban fiction (street lit/street fiction), is set in a city landscape and often defined by the socio-economic realities and culture of its characters.

Stories set in the old American West (c. 1800s)

Stories set in the late 1800s and early 1900s, often set in England.

Stories that involve Witches, Wizards and magic. Often overlaps with Fantasy. depend on magic, mythological beings and original contrivances to drive conflict, plot and setting. Stories may take place in the contemporary world, with the presence of magic being real.

Similar to chick lit in that it is a female-centered narrative dealing with issues relevant to women, but not told in a jovial or humorous tone (necessarily). The Romance Writers of America define it as “a commercial novel about a woman on the brink of life change and personal growth. Her journey details emotional reflection and action that transforms her and her relationships with others, and includes a hopeful/upbeat ending with regard to her romantic relationship.”

Literally just books written for people between the ages of twelve and seventeen.

August in New York: AUTHORS Publisher & Agent Updates

George Washington, Mystery Drinks, and Publishing

August is typically a sleepy month in publishing, but not for the groups I met with. The agents are getting prepared to pitch like crazy in September, and everyone is prepping for September launches of books they’ve been working on for years.  Not every meeting is detailed here for strategic reasons, but I’m grateful for everyone’s time and input. First the agents — I know I’m lucky to get to spend time with such fun, wonderful women.

Caitlen Rubino-Bradway ( LKG Agency ) and I had the yummiest breakfast at Blue Dog Kitchen Bar. Double thumbs up. Caitlin says she definitely sympathizes with writers pitching their manuscripts because that’s how she’s spent much of August — preparing queries to the publishers. She certainly has a sympathetic heart for all the writers and dedicates Fridays for reading submissions.  

Meanwhile, they’re looking forward to their client’s winter release by Simon and Schuster: I Hate Everyone, Except You by Fashion Guru Clinton Kelly.

I met Mary South of Lowenstein Associates at her office. Like Caitlen, she is incredibly empathetic to writers working to get a manuscript published. As I did with everyone, I ran through a list of new features we’re considering and she emphatically said she didn’t need an automated reminder because she’s “on the site all the time because I feel guilty if I take too long to get back to the writers.”

I have to tell these stories for the writers who sometimes feel so neglected! I told you we have the best people on this platform. She also impressed me because she moves through the platform faster than I do and I didn’t think that was possible.

Mary’s excited about the great reviews for their Agatha Raisin series that’s now been adapted for television.

Karisa Chappell Koontz (Leshne Agency) and I had drinks in a snazzy bar. The bartender was trying to convince the establishment to add his creation to the menu. I voted yes. It didn’t have a name yet, so I can’t tell you how to order it!

My favorite takeaway from the conversation with Karisa was that she takes submission from more seriously than ones that come in email. That’s because (as you writers know) we ask a lot of questions and force writers to really think through their work and organize their material.

Karisa and Lisa Leshne are excited their September release of Julissa Arce’s book My (Underground) American Dream: My True Story as an Undocumented Immigrant Who Became a Wall Street Executive, coming out in September from Center Street Books, an imprint of Hachette Book Group.

Last but not least, totally fun dinner with Renee Fountain (Gandolfo Helin & Fountain Literary Management) at Fraunces Tavern. She requested a venue change last minute and I loved that her selling point was, “George Washington’s headquarters were upstairs.”  It was absolutely worth it and I read the online history all the way home.

Renee seems like an old friend because she’s been with us since early days and even judged the Thriller contest we did with Reedsy. I remember her being fairly dubious of the whole thing at first, but now she’s a true partner. I can run ideas by her which seem great from a technology standpoint and she quickly points out the publishing ramifications that we still need to consider.  In a new business, you can’t ask for more than that.

Renee’s looking forward to Kensington’s September release of Danny Johnson’s The Last Road Home.

The trip wasn’t limited to agents. I met with several publishers as well, including multiple imprints at Skyhorse and Hachette (which ended in a fire drill). Many want to see more non-fiction experts on and we do too! I also had the pleasure of meeting with data scientists at a couple of the imprints who want to really understand what we’re doing.

I actually got to go shopping with Ashley Graham, founder of hybrid outfit Lift Bridge Publishing. We arrived before the restaurant opened for lunch and had some time to kill in nearby stores. Neither of us have spare moments to go shopping with girlfriends, so I thought it funny that we found ourselves walking through the store and talking while we waited for a table.

While AUTHORS currently matches writers only with traditional publishers, we discussed ways of allowing writers to pursue alternate paths like hybrids if they’re interested. In a recent poll, 30% of our writers were interested in this type of connection, so I’ve been meeting with several well-respected hybrid publishers to see what they can offer our writers.

Once seated, we discussed both her goals moving forward and the different marketing and writing support  Liftbridge does for writers. For instance, Ashley  hired a bus to take a marketing trip into New York from DC one day. Video of grateful writers here. She also runs online classes for teens who want to be writers.

I thought that sounded like an entire business right there, but she says no, that publishing is their core. The rest just contributes to supporting the writing community.

The writers know better than anyone that getting published is hard, but it’s great to know there are such caring publishing experts waiting for you on the other side.

Self-published and Proud (Finally)

writer iconAUTHORS user Alisa Schindler on her journey from query to self-published writer


Over the past two decades, I have written four fiction novels. Each time I finished the proofing, editing, revising and then doing it over another dozen times, I’d start the process of submitting. I’d write to sought-after agents and up and coming agents, or editors if I felt a certain connection. For my first manuscript, a romantic suspense novel called, The Obsession, I sent out my query and sample chapters with a pack of Red Hots in a fire engine red envelope. I worked in advertising at the time and thought I was being clever. The few agents who responded wrote personal notes–It was the 90’s!!–telling me that they thought my book had potential but just wasn’t good enough. And P.S. Thanks for the Red Hots.

The next few books I sent out with less fanfare but no less enthusiasm. There was mostly flat out form letter rejection but there was just enough occasional positive rejection to keep me starry-eyed and hopeful. Just an encouraging word from an agent or editor could keep me submitting for months. But ultimately, they each hit a point where I gave up. It was time to move on.

Back when I wrote my first manuscript, self-publishing was a non-issue. I had never heard of it and never once considered it. I longed with every fiber in my being, every tap of the keyboard, every envelope I licked, to be picked up by a traditional publisher. I needed that stamp of approval. I needed someone legitimate to make me feel legitimate.

Even as the self-publishing market grew, I wanted no part of it. I felt that if I wasn’t picked up traditionally, then I wasn’t good enough to be published and I stubbornly maintained that position for years.

But about three years ago, on a fluke, I started a blog. I grew my following and started freelancing at online publications as well. I also began interacting and networking with other bloggers and writers online.

I watched as they self-published memoirs and essays books, using their social media savvy to sell themselves and their work. It was fascinating and it started a shift in my traditional brain. Could I? Should I?

After a whole lot of consideration and thought, one day not long after my 46th birthday as I was reviewing yet another of my social networking friend’s books to be self-published, I had my breakthrough. Why not me? I didn’t need to be pat on the back by ‘the man’. I was good enough. I had a platform. And it was time. It was my time.

So I did it. I self-published one of my manuscripts and later this month, I’ll do another. I am over the stigma, assigned by myself as well, that self-publishing is for those who aren’t good enough. I’ve met too many amazingly talented, self-published authors who have written great books and are rocking their sales.

I’m no longer embarrassed to say that I’m self-published. In fact, I’m proud of myself. I’m just a little embarrassed that it took so long.

alisa glamourAlisa Schindler is a freelance writer whose essays have been featured online in the New York Times, Washington Post, Scary Mommy, Brain, Child and Good Housekeeping, among others. She occasionally blogs at, and has just self-published, Secrets in the Suburbs, a fun, sexy fiction book, now available on Amazon. Find her on twitter at @icecreammama

First get good, then get lucky: One writer’s advice on getting published


If you’ve been a writer for any length of time you’ve no doubt read many books that tell you how to write bestselling fiction. You’ve also no doubt been assailed with at least as many marketing experts telling you the best way to market your novel so it will become a bestseller.

I’ve been writing all my life. My first attempt at fiction was e-published in 2010. For five years now I’ve been actively honing my fiction writing and marketing skills in pursuit of ever-elusive success. I’ve read a lot of books and investigated a lot of book marketing programs.

Here’s what I know for sure – nothing.

Most what I’ve learned is what doesn’t work. Here’s a few of them:

  • social media
  • giveaways
  • blogs
  • free books – as in zero price point
  • contests
  • email lists
  • social media – yes, I know I’ve already mentioned it, but social media deserves to be reinforced because not only does it not sell books, but for the delusional among us (myself included) it’s seductive, addictive, and a huge time waster – time that could be better spent actually writing something worthwhile instead of responding to virtual fans in the internet void.

So how do you become a bestselling author?

You get lucky.

According to Malcom Gladwell in his book Outliers, The Story of Success, success follows a predictable pattern. It’s not the brightest who succeed, nor is it the sum of the decisions and efforts we make on our own behalf.

Success is bestowed upon those who have been given opportunities – and have the strength and the presence of mind to seize them – plus accidents of time, birth and place matter greatly.

Let me repeat that; success is less about talent and more about opportunity plus it’s greatly influenced by accidents of time, birth and place.

In a word, luck.

There’s no master plan, no formula, it’s all a fluke, pure and simple serendipity.

So, is luck all it takes to be a success?

No, you also have to be prepared so if you do get lucky and get invited to the ball you actually know how to dance.

There’s this little thing about having to do 10,000 hours (ten years) of practice to achieve the level of mastery associated with being a world-class expert – in anything. According to neurologist Daniel Levitin,  “In study after study, of composers, basketball players, fiction writers, ice-skaters, concert pianists, chess players, master criminals, etc., this number comes up again and again.”

Excellence at performing a complex task, like writing a good novel, requires a critical minimum level of practice and that’s all there is to it.

You first must get good, then get lucky.

So if you’re an indie author about to self-publish your first novel and you haven’t logged 10,000 hours of practice your chance at success is negligible, nil, nada.

Worse yet, if by a fluke you do get lucky without being good you’ve likely blown your big chance.

Stay calm, be brave, watch for the signs

ROD RAGLIN is a writer and user. He can be found on twitter at @rodraglin. Check out his blog and his website for more ruminations and insights on writing and publishing.

Z. Oko & The Dream Keepers: Discovered in AUTHORS

Last year, Z. Oko joined to find a home for her book, The Dream Keepers. Award-winning publisher Black Rose found and fell in love with Z.s book, which was published last month. Today, Z. talks with AUTHORS about her process. 

The_Dream_KeepersAUTHORS: Where did the concept for The Dream Keepers come from?

ZENA: I have always been a dreamer, so I thought why not write a book about dreams.  After all, it’s something that we all do.  I also find dreams very interesting because they are a bit of a mystery, yet I believe that our dreams can be very powerful and relay information back to us from deep within our subconscious.

A: How long did you work on this The Dream Keepers?

Z: I started in November 2014.  Due to me being in full-time employment at the time, I found it hard to continue with such a creative outlet.  I then decided to leave working for an employer and concentrate on my dream.  All in all, the whole book took less than a month to write.

A: What book (or writer) has had the most influence/biggest impact on you, and why?

Z: John Steinbeck.  Steinbeck wrote from the heart and he never sugarcoated anything.  Steinbeck wrote truth, it is evident in his work, for that I admire him deeply.

A: What was your favorite part of the publishing process (besides finishing The Dream Keepers)? 

Z: Seeing it come to life step by step. From the editing to getting the book cover design.  The book that has been in my head was finally becoming a reality, I felt elated!

A: What’s the hardest thing about writing?

Z: The hardest thing is being distracted!  Sometimes there are things that require attention and must be dealt with, housework especially!

A: What’s the easiest thing about writing?

Z:  I am in my element when I write.  It has always come naturally to me and I am truly grateful to be able to explore the depths of my imagination.  It is always interesting to see where it will take me.  Imagination is limitless and that’s a beautiful thing.

A: What surprised you most about publishing?

Z:  For me, I was surprised at how quickly it all happened for me!  I had a dream, followed it, and it paid off.

A: Do you have a favorite character in your book? if so, who?

Z: Mona is my favourite character.  Mona has an innocence about her along with a habit of coming to conclusions too quickly, which can backfire on her in a funny way.  Mona adds humour to the story without knowing it.  She has an open mind and is quite fearless.

A: Same question, but least favorite.

Z: The man in the odd shaped black helmet.  He may have a hidden agenda, or he may be there to do good.  There is a presence about him that is quite unnerving.  Without creating spoilers you will have to read it for yourself and see what he gets up to!  

Z. Oko currently lives in England with her husband and two children. A writer and imaginative daydreamer by day, and a reader and dreamer at night, Z. Oko’s love for writing fiction has always been at the forefront in her life. At the age of seven, Z. Oko wrote a piece which was selected to be sealed into a time capsule which will be opened in 2088. Z. Oko’s aim is to enrich and inspire.

To learn more about Z. and her book, check out her website. She can be found on twitter (@zenaoko), Facebook,  and Google+ The Dreamkeepers is available from for purchase from Black Rose, Barnes and Noble, Amazon UK and Amazon US