Writers' Forum - June 2024

The monthly Writers’ Forum brings you the articles that I’ve read and bookmarked throughout the month to help you with writing, publishing, and book marketing & promotion. This includes news from the publishing world — and my-oh-my June certainly has brought us some crazy shenanigans from the grand world of publishing. . . . read on . . .

The Entitlement of Traditional Publishing (how an agent’s bad behavior got her fired.)

Why are Debut Novels Failing to Launch

Amazon Keyword Rules Changes

Costco Plans to Stop Selling Books Year Round



The Entitlement of Traditional Publishing or how an agent lost her job…

If you haven’t been following the story of how KT Literary agent Hillary Harrell lost her job this month, here’s the quick recap along with a couple of links to summaries of the issue. Harrell received a query that had a premise she loved, but apparently the query wasn’t strong. She ends up tweeting, “Just read a query that was THE ROAD meets DELIVERANCE (#YA) and now I want someone to write this for me, please?”

To which she received the reply, “Not the querier?”

And her reply was, “Hi, no, the author did not pitch it as such nor was the opening strong enough.”

And then a further reply was, “with respect, do you not see how it’s actually kind of insidious for an agent with industry influence to reject a querying writer with no power and then try to get someone ELSE to write THEIR concept but “better” just because they didn’t use those specific comps?”

The fiasco ended with Hartwell being fired and a lot of people weighing in on how this is far from okay behavior.

Read Nathan Bransford’s take here.

And a read this great summary by Jenny Trout/Trout Nation that gets into other incidents as well.

Why are Debut Novels Failing to Launch

Kate Dwyer’s article for Esquire is wholly focused on the traditionally published novel; however, the point being made her is an important one – intimacy vs influence. And readers are craving a sort of intimacy or community with the authors they read vs. the big book PR campaigns that are all about influence, which is not working as well anymore. (The article is much more complex than that, but that’s the quick takeaway.) https://www.esquire.com/entertainment/books/a60924704/debut-fiction-challenges/

Amazon Keyword Rules Changes

Important changes you (may) need to adapt to for your books’ seven keyword phrases on Amazon/KDP.


Costco Plans to Stop Selling Books Year Round

The majority of people reading this newsletter probably do not have their books being sold at Costco, but I’d guess that a lot of us are buying books there. And this article just made me sad, I guess. Because that is one of my favorite things about my Costco shopping trips. Now, they’ll primarily be sold September – December for holiday shopping. The reason given is that the stocking of books is too labor intensive because it requires staff to lay them out by hand vs the way the rest of the store is palletized products . . . however, that makes no sense – not really – right?? I mean the liquor, bakery, deli, meat departments all have hand stocking items not on pallets. https://www.seattletimes.com/business/costco-plans-to-stop-selling-books-year-round/



The Mainstreaming of AI Skepticism

Interesting article from Baldur Bjarnason on the increase in AI skepticism within groups/ industries previously hyping it as great new tech for improved productivity—like business management teams/consultants.


The ugly truth behind ChatGPT: AI is guzzling resources at planet-eating rates

Mariana Mazzucato’s article for The Guardian was an eye-opener for me. It highlights the resources used in increasingly vast amount to power our tech—and AI is one of the biggest users. This is everything from enormous quantities of water used to cool servers to rare earth minerals for our devices and so much more.


Publishers Are Already Using Way Too Much AI

Lit Hub’s article by James Folta unpacks the depressing details from a new report on AI use in creative industries. I skimmed this information to come back to it later because it’s so important to understand!

KDP Termination Problem (AI Content?)

Also from Dave Chesson, here’s another short video that walks through what seems to be an increasing issue with KDP account termination—possibly a product of honest authors getting caught up in the net meant to police AI garbage content.  

Opting Out of Facebook’s AI – not possible for us here in US.

Robin Phillips writes for the Author Help website based in the UK – explaining how she had the opportunity to opt out of Facebook / Meta using her content posted on Facebook to be used to train AI. But guess what fellow citizens of the USA?? This isn’t available to us here—why?? Because our laws that could/should protect our privacy in this way either don’t exist or are crap here in the US.  




Two Memoir Writing Articles from Jane Friedman’s Blog:

In “The Missing Link in Memoir Character Development” Lisa Cooper Ellison teaches how “a character’s internal landscape builds a bridge between the event and your character’s reaction.” She goes on to describe and show you how to use the three parts of this internal landscape—their worldview, carry-in expectations, and carry-over issues between your characters.”

And, in “Crafting Memoir with a Message: Blending Story with Self-Help” by Maggie Langrick identifies how to incorporate “teachable moments,” “reflective questions, inspiration tone” and more to make a memoir that is also a self-help story.

From Fiction to Creative Nonfiction

Are you interesting in making a switch with what type of writing you’re doing? Have you considered creative nonfiction?  This article from the Good Story Company serves as a handy primer for what goes into creative nonfiction.

5 Strategies for Writing the Parts you Don’t Like

If we’re being honest about our writing, we’d have to admit that there are parts of writing that we don’t like doing, but which are a necessity for story structure. This article from Authors Helping Authors provides guidance for identifying what parts we avoid writing and how to work around those bits with permission even to NOT write those parts—within reason. Good article to read if you’re feeling stuck or unmotivated with your current project.


How Symbols Can Support your Writing Life

I love this article from Lisa Tener. I’ve often included very specific symbols in my stories and even centered whole scenes around certain objects, but I can’t say that I’ve paid a lot of attention to symbols in my personal life. But now that she’s suggested it . . . I’ll probably start seeing things everywhere now. ha ha


Choosing Story Settings Based on Genre

I love this article from Jane K. Cleland about how certain settings fit certain genres and storylines. Setting is (or can be or in some cases SHOULD be) as important as character in your stories. The examples in this article are stellar and really help you to understand how to incorporate setting for maximum impact.


What  We Really Mean When We Say “Show, Don’t Tell”

Janet Fox, also for Jane Friedman’s blog, gives one of the best tutorials on this tricky bit of advice that we often have trouble navigating with our writing.

How I Write Consistently on a Daily Basis Without Burning Out

Leo Bardot’s article details her 4x4 method for different approaches to writing for different moods/days – in the end, they all get words on the page. See if her system might work for you.

Authors: Don’t Underestimate the Importance of Setting Boundaries

The Fussy Librarian newswire offers up a great how-to for setting boundaries, walking us through “why boundaries matter, what setting them looks like, and how to maintain them.” This may seem like something we should already know and do – but do we? Really? I think it’s never bad to check in and make sure our lives are balanced in the way that makes us the happiest as creative folks.

How to Define Your Books Target Audience in Six Steps

If this question has been stumping you, Jim Foley from the BookBaby blog gives you the easy-to-follow steps to define your target audience. Nice to see this detailed this way.



Authors Seeking Help to Plug Their Own Books After Cuts by Publishers

It’s what we’ve known for years now that authors do not always get the marketing support from their publishing house necessary to make a book a success. And the problem has grown even bigger with staff cuts in these departments at major houses. The article details how (& why) authors are spending marketing dollars to aid their sales—which is interesting no matter if you’re indie or traditionally published. (Although personally this is another nail in the coffin of traditionally publishing your books – why share royalties with someone who isn’t doing much to earn those royalties?)

Marketing Your Books with Emily Enger on the Good Story Podcast

In this podcast episode: “How does a new author start gaining traction? Can you stay authentic while "selling yourself" as a writer? Book Marketer and PR Coach Emily Enger joins Mary to talk about some of the aspects of the writing process that might leave a yucky taste in our mouths. Tune in for actionable tips and insights into a publicist and marketer's side of the publishing world.”


Draft 2 Digital Supports Authors in Many Ways – Here’s What’s New

I was amazed at all the new things you can find over at Draft2Digital—including a new email system for authors (I know a lot of people are looking for a way to switch from MailChimp). Check it out on the Self-Publishing Formula Podcast here: https://selfpublishingformula.com/episode-431/

The WisMissus Podcast – Episode 6: Book Launch Basics

EPISODE 6: BOOK LAUNCH BASICS (AND NOT SO BASIC) Welcome to the WisMissus Podcast: Reading, Writing & Roaming around Wisconsin, the Midwest, & Beyond. This is a podcast for authors by authors Valerie Biel and TK (Tracey) Sheffield! (And also for readers who want the scoop on what authors are REALLY thinking.) Join us as we share topics to help our fellow writers as well as fun tidbits on what we’re reading and where we’re roaming. In episode 6, we discuss the many steps to make the release of a new book a success. Lots of great lists and resources! Find the show notes/ links at the podcast home on Substack at: https://readingwritingandroaming.substack.com/p/book-launch-basics


Beyond the Classroom: 8 Unique Venues for Children’s Book Author Visits

Chelsea Tornetto, a former teacher turned author, helps us out with some great suggestions on where children’s book events might work—some of these are probably on your list (libraries), but some might not be. Read it here: https://buildbookbuzz.com/8-unique-venues-for-childrens-book-author-visits/

10 Things to Try if Your Book Doesn’t Get a Featured Deal (BookBub)

So you keep trying and trying to get a BookBub featured deal, but you keep getting turned down. Just the luck of the draw? Or is it something you can control? Lauren Aldrich walks through things you can fix and differences in your approach with your submission that might make a difference.

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