If you have found this through our "Should I Know Who You Are? Book PR for the Modern Age" panel at AWP 2016 in Los
Angeles, welcome, and thanks for attending our panel. Bios (and contact
information) for our panelists are below.
Here are our recommended resources to get you started as you
contemplate or launch into promoting your book. Good luck!
We are all big, big, BIG fans of publishing professional
These JF posts and articles are
especially recommended by Kelly:
Can You Promote
a Book Without Making Yourself Miserable? by Ed Cyzewski
The Online Presence That’s a
Natural Extension of Who You Are and What You Do. (Is It Just Fantasy?) by Jane
Here’s an agent blog about promoting/marketing that Lori
Lori has written these useful articles:
Writer's Digest. "10 tips for making the
most of the MFA experience."
The Writer. "Get involved: Play an active part
in the writing community."
Kelly wrote this helpful article, Getting
Your Book to the Top of the Reviewer’s List:
I blogged tips about how to give a great reading:
Kelly likes “Website Tips For Authors,” by Midge Raymond, in
Beth recommends this article about the client/publicist
Katie suggests following:
Katie Freeman, @foxyhedgehog
Beth Parker, @beth_parker
Leslie Pietrzyk, @lesliepwriter
Kelly Davio is the Senior Poetry Editor and US Publicist for
Eyewear Publishing in London, England. She also edits Tahoma Literary Review and directs the
poetry-focused PR consultancy Small Press Love. Her poetry
collection, Burn This House, was
released by Red Hen Press in 2013. More information: http://kellydavio.com/
Katie Freeman is the Associate Director of Publicity for
Riverhead Books, and has worked at Farrar, Straus and Giroux and
Pantheon Books. She has served on committees for the
Brooklyn Book Festival, PEN American Center, Words Without Borders,
Narrative 4, and the National Book Foundation and can be found online
Lori A. May is the author of several books,
including The Write Crowd: Literary Citizenship & the Writing Life which
was named a “best book for writers” by Poets & Writers magazine.
Her writing may also be found in publications including The Atlantic, Brevity,
and Writer’s Digest. Lori is a faculty mentor in the MFA program at
the University of King’s College-Halifax and a publishing internship supervisor
with the Wilkes University MA and MFA writing programs. More information: http://www.loriamay.com/
Beth Parker has been working in book publishing
since 1999 promoting a wide variety of fiction and nonfiction authors ranging
from debut fiction to celebrity memoirs, YA, and more. She has worked on
numerous New York Times bestselling campaigns in all genres.
In 2014 she started her own PR firm, Beth Parker PR. More
Leslie Pietrzyk is the author of two novels, Pears on a Willow Tree and A Year and a Day, and, most recently, of
This Angel on My Chest, a collection
of unconventionally linked short stories about the sudden death of her 37-year-old
husband. It won the 2015 Drue Heinz Literature Prize and was published in
October by University of Pittsburgh Press. More information: http://lesliepietrzyk.com/
I always like to say that one is never done learning about
writing. I take advantage of many wonderful continuing ed sources: The Writer’s Chronicle, Poets & Writers,
conversations with smart writer-friends, sitting in on craft lectures at
residencies and conferences, the AWP conference, asking questions at readings,
and, of course, craft books. I love tucking into a book that explores the
writing process from a new vantage point, and so I must recommend Robin Black’s
Crash Course: Essays from Where Writing
and Life Collide.
It’s no surprise that I would love this book because I’m an
admirer of Robin’s fiction (If I loved
you, I would tell you this, her collection of short fiction, is ensconced forever
on my Favorite Books Bookshelf) and I’m a tremendous fan of the online essays about
writing she’s been sharing for several years. (Many have been adapted and are
included in this book.) She has a smart and sensible eye for addressing writing
conundrums, and the generosity with which she shares her own struggles—with writing,
with life, with her “late bloomer” arrival to the writing life—is astonishing.
(It’s notable that I’ve never seen a better essay on the dreaded writing
jealousy than “The Success Gap.” This third rail topic that rarely is admitted,
let alone addressed!)
I could go on and on, but I thought what might be more
useful is to share a few of the passages I marked in my copy:
On knowing when the draft is the final draft:
How do you know when a story is finished?...
It took me
a while to realize that the answer that I give to this question is itself an
echo of the other, earlier one: I know a
story isn’t finished until I can explain to myself exactly why I have made all
the craft choices I have made.
Or, to put it another way, if
you plan on ending your relationship to a story and exposing it to the harsh
gaze of those who didn’t write it, you had better be able to articulate to
yourself why you think it’s time, because there are likely to be times when you
doubt that you should have done so.
I’ll reductively label this “on plot,” though the essay covers
so much more:
[of characters], it turns out, is a strangely rich source for the imagination,
a fact that I have found to be of help when I am struggling with a story that
has taken on a moribund, fruitless quality…I hunt for the points of inaction
that my characters might themselves later regret, those decisions that might
inspire in them the rich fictions of which we are all such gifted authors when
we are sorry to have chosen the safer, less active of two possible paths.
On stepping out of one’s comfort zone:
point, we probably all glimpse, even nurture, the fantasy of universal
approval. But it is a better goal to evoke passion—even when it includes both
extremes. On my good days, when my head is truly in the game, I would rather my
work be adored by some and despised by others than that it be liked by all.
That expansion of acceptable response allows me to take risks. And taking risks
is the only way I can grow.
experience, envy rarely has much at all to do with what one wishes for one’s
friend or colleague, and everything to do with one’s own doubts and anxieties
about oneself. Maybe envy isn’t even the best word for the stomach-churning one
can feel at a friends’ good news. Maybe the better word is fear.
Oh, there’s so much more! The book is divided in two
sections, with the essays upfront taking on life challenges as they relate to
finding one’s way as a writer, and the second half flipping the equation,
focusing on the writing challenges as one works deeper into the writing life.
Each essay is short and stands alone…perfect to dip into as you ease into your
writing space, or to do as I did, devour in one delicious gulp of mad
Here’s a lovely write-up on “Ten Things,” the first story in
THIS ANGEL ON MY CHEST (which you can read in your already-purchased or
soon-to-be-purchased copy of the book, or here, online). I love that Michael Czyzniejewski
has chosen to blog about a different short story every day for an entire year—he
is smart and passionate about the form, and his selections range widely.
Reading his blog might be as rigorous as following a college syllabus, but
1000x more fun, because he’s also hilarious.
Anyway, here’s a tease from the post about “Ten Things”:
I feel for the protagonists, no matter what the stories are,
and that’s not because of the obvious tragedy. It’s because this writer makes
everyone into people instead of tropes, people who do things, need things, want
things, and forsake things. I’d bet Pietrzyk could write this book even without
this tragedy, or any other, in her own life. She’s got the chops. That’s pretty
Could there be a more incongruous setting for 12,000
angst-ridden writers—clad in black, oozing anxiety—than sunny California? Or is
this exactly the thing writers need, a Joad-like journey to the “other” edge of
the land, with mountains and valleys and a vast ocean beckoning, a land of milk
and honey and book contracts? Yes, the traveling circus that is the AWP writing conference
is headed to L.A. and I will be following, just one of the 12,000 bleary-eyed,
name-dropping, crowd-scanning, black-clad, totebag-toting writers in desperate
need of a drink and a blurb from Famous Writer. I haven’t been to L.A. in
years, but the direct quote I remember uttering as I was being driven around in
a convertible on an 80 degree January day was: “I feel my brain melting away,
and I’m happy about it!” Perhaps existential angst will melt away, and we’ll be
happy about it?
But on a more basic level, how can you survive the experience and live to tell
the tale? Read on for my own conference survival tips, based on my past
Wear comfortable shoes, at least most of the day. There’s lots of traipsing
around long hallways and the long (sometimes uncarpeted) aisles of the book fair.
It’s also inevitable that the one panel you really, really, really want to see
will be in a teeny-tiny room and you’ll have to stand in the back…or sit on the
floor; see the following tip:
Wear comfortable clothes, preferably taking a layer approach. Wherever you go,
you will end up either in A) an incredibly stuffy room that will make you melt,
or B) a room with an arctic blast directed at you. Bulk up and strip down as
needed. Also, as noted above, the AWP conference staff has a knack for consistently
misjudging the size of room required for a subject matter/speakers (i.e. Famous
Writer in room with 30 chairs; grad student panel on Use of Dashes in Obscure
Ancient Greek Poet in room with 300 chairs), so you may find yourself scrunched
into a 2’x2’ square on the carpet; see the following tip:
To avoid being stuck sitting on the floor, arrive early to panels you really,
really want to attend. If you are stuck on the floor, hold your ground with a
big bag and/or coat to get yourself some extra space. Whatever you do, do not
be nice and squeeze over…those panels can seem VERY LONG when someone’s knee is
wedged in your ribs. (Any resulting bad karma will be worth it.)
If a panel is bad, ditch it. Yes, it’s rude. Yes, everyone does it. (Be better
than the rest by at least waiting for an appropriate break, but if you must go
mid-word, GO.) I can’t tell you the high caliber of presenters that I have
walked out on, but think Very High. Remember that there are a thousand other
options, and you have choices. The only time you have to stick it out is if A)
the dull panel participant is your personal friend or B) the dull panel
participant is/was your teacher or C) the dull panel participant is your
editor/publisher. Those people will notice (and remember) that you abandoned
them mid-drone and punish you accordingly (i.e. your glowing letters of rec
will instead incinerate). Undoubtedly this is why I have never been published
in Unnamed Very High Caliber Magazine, having walked out on the editor’s panel.
There are zillions of panels: When you pick up your registration badge, you’ll
get a massive tome with information about all of them, and also a shorter
schedule that’s easy to carry around. Take some time right away to read through
the tome and circle the panels you want to attend on your master schedule. Then
ditch the tome. Better yet, go to the AWP website now and scroll through
the schedule tome and
decide now where you want to be when. And best of all, use the “my schedule”
planning feature on the online schedule to mark the events you’re interested in
and keep that stored on your favorite technology (mine is a sheaf of printed
paper…which may be smart since I often forget how/where to re-access “my
schedule,” which requires logging in and somehow finding “my account”).
Anyway…no point waking up early on Friday if there’s nothing you want to
attend. I checkmark panels I might go to if nothing better is going on and star
those that I will make a supreme effort to attend. Give yourself a couple of
options at each time slot so that if a room is too crowded, you have an
Someone will always ask a 20-minute question that is not so much a question but
a way of showing off their own (imagined) immense knowledge of the subject and
an attempt to erase the (endlessly lingering) sting of bitterness about having
their panel on the same topic rejected. Don’t be that person. Keep
your question succinct and relevant. Maybe even write it down first, before you
start to endlessly ramble. And yes, if you are “that person,” everyone will
mimic your annoying question to their friends in the bookfair aisle, and your
career is over.
Don’t ever say anything gossipy on the elevator, unless you want the whole
(literary) world to know it. Do listen up to the conversations of others on the
elevator, and tell your friends what you’ve overheard over your offsite dinner,
embellishing as necessary.
Same advice above exactly applies to the overpriced hotel bar. Also, if
you happen to get a chair at the bar, or, goodness, EVEN A REAL LIVE TABLE,
hang on to it!! People will join you if they see you’ve got a spot!
Famous people! I mean it: the only reason to ever give up a table in the
hotel bar is because the bar has shut down, you’ve consumed every bit of liquid
in the clutter of glasses, and a beefy bouncer is headed your way.
Support the publications at the bookfair. Set a budget for yourself in advance,
and spend some money on literary journals and books and subscriptions, being
sure to break your budget. Do this, and then you won’t feel bad picking up the
stuff that’s been heavily discounted or being given away free on the last day
of the conference. But, please, do spend some money! These journals and presses
rely on OUR support.
Just because something is free, you don’t have to take it. Unless you drove,
you’ll have to find a way to bring home all those heavy books/journals on an
airplane. Or you’ll have to wait in line at the hotel’s business center or the
UPS store at the convention center to ship them home. So, be as discerning as
you can when you see that magic markered “free” sign on top of a pile of
sad-looking journals, abandoned by the grad students with hangovers who didn’t
feel like dealing with their university's bookfair table.
Try not to approach the table of each journal at the
bookfair with this question: “How can I get published in your journal?”
Also, I recommend avoiding this one: “How come you didn’t publish my
poem/story/essay/screed?” Try instead: “What a beautiful journal. Please
tell me more about it.” Even better: “I’m thinking about subscribing.”
It may be too late for some of you, but it’s inevitable that you will see every
writer you’ve ever met in the aisle of the bookfair at one AWP or another…so I
hope you were nice to all of them and never screwed anyone over. Because, yes,
they will remember, and it’s not fun reliving all that drama as the editors
of The Georgia Review gaze on.
Pre-arrange some get-togethers with friends/teachers/grad student buddies, but
don’t over-schedule. You’ll run into people, or meet people, or be invited to a
party, or find an amazing off-the-beaten-track bar. Save some time
for spontaneity! (Yes, I realize that I’m saying “plan” for spontaneity.)
Don’t laugh at this, but bring along Purell and USE IT often. For weeks
after, post-AWP Facebook status updates are filled with writers bemoaning the
deathly cold/sore throat/lingering and mysterious illness they picked up at
AWP. We’re a sniffly, sneezy, wheezy, germy bunch, and the thought of
12,000 of us packed together breathing on each other, shaking hands, and
giving fake hugs of glee gives the CDC nightmares.
Along the lines of healthcare, don’t forget to drink a lot
of water and pop an Advil before going to sleep if (haha…if!) you’ve been drinking
a little more than usual.
Escape! Whether it’s offsite dinners/drinks/museums/walks
through park/mindless shopping or whatever, do leave at some point. You will
implode if you don’t.
This is a super-secret tip that I never share, but I’ll
share it as a reward for those who have read this far: there will be a
bathroom that’s off the beaten track and therefore is never crowded. Scope out
this bathroom early on. Don’t tell anyone except your closest friends the
location of this bathroom.
Finally, take a deep breath. You’re just as much of a writer as the other
11,999 people around you. Don’t let them get to you.
If you're interested, I will be on the following panels and
signing books at the following places at the Bookfair:
AWP Panel: “We’re on the Road to Somewhere: Approaches to
Managing the Writing Life”
L.A. Convention Center, Meeting Room Level
F114. We're on the
Road to Somewhere: Approaches to Managing the Writing Life. (Josh
Pietrzyk) There are no shortcuts when it comes to writing. Sometimes, the
challenge isn’t getting started—it’s sticking with it through criticism and
rejection; doubts and confusion with the material itself. In this inspiring
panel, successful writers discuss their own winding paths to publication and
offer practical suggestions for building a creative and professional life in a
variety of writing fields—including editing, blogging, and screenwriting—while
managing a writing life over the long haul.
AWP Panel: “Should I Know Who You Are? Book PR for the
L.A. Convention Center, Meeting Room Level
F280. Should I Know
Who You Are? Book PR for the Modern Age. (Leslie
A. May, Beth
Davio, Katie Freeman) Turns out that writing the book is a cinch
compared to promoting the dang thing. How can writers embrace shameless
self-promotion while avoiding the dangerous humble-brag? How can we claim media
and reviewer attention in a crowded marketplace? How will readers find us? An
independent book publicist, a small press publisher, and two publicity-minded
authors offer insight and tips to help writers of all genres navigate old and
@University of Pittsburgh Press
I love reading about a writer's salad days...these reminiscences by 97-year-old Doris Grumbach are wonderful! Doris Grumbach came in to teach a workshop when I was getting my MFA
at American University and she seemed (as I recall) mostly unimpressed, except for one remark
that she spoke while handing back a story to another writer: "I enjoyed
reading this." Oh, but I was terribly envious! Even now, I think this
might be the rarest, most perfect compliment to receive as a writer.
The custom in the [Iowa Writers’] Workshop was to submit a
short story to everyone in the class, note their criticisms and comments, and
then resubmit the rewritten story later in the semester. I came away from those
three sessions with a great respect for the collaborative way the Workshop
operated, and with one favorite and perhaps apocryphal story. Paul Engle, the
director of the Workshop, told me that Flannery O’Connor shyly submitted her
first story and sat behind the class circle, taking down all the criticisms
that were offered. When that story, “The Geranium,” was resubmitted, it was
exactly in its original form. Not a word had been changed. It appears as the
first story in her famous collection,The Complete Stories.
This is one of my favorite classes to teach, and I’m so
pleased that Politics & Prose is now offering classes AT NIGHT!
Registration is limited, so don’t put this off if you’re interested. And if you’re
doubtful that prompt writing is for you, please read my recent article on the
benefits of prompts for any writing practice here.
Right Brain Writing:
Politics & Prose Bookstore
Price: $45 (10% off for members)
Explore your creative side at this afternoon of guided
writing exercises designed to get your subconscious flowing. No writing
experience necessary! This is a great class for beginners and also for those
fiction writers and/or memoirists with more experience who might be stuck in
their current project, looking for a jolt of inspiration. The goal is to have
fun in a supportive, nurturing environment and to go home with several
promising pieces to work on further. Please bring lots of paper and pen/pencil
or a fully charged computer. Details and Registration.
My article about the neighborhood prompt writing group is up
today at the AWP site. How can prompt writing help your writing practice? Why
turn to prompts…aren’t they for students and workshops?
I’ll be honest. Much of what got me thinking about prompts
was needing my own hand held. I had poured myself into writing a novel that
didn’t sell and was left flailing around, unable to commit to another long
project. Anxieties about the publishing biz sapped my creative energy. More
than anything, I wanted to remind myself that writing could simply be fun, not
exclusively a pathway to publication. Starting a low-stress prompt group felt
We need some humor today (or at least I do), so here’s a link to a funny piece by
poet/fiction writer David Ebenbach, about how to promote your book of poetry.
#8. Reviews really help put the book out in front of people,
at least if the review is from the New York Times. So, you know, if the New
York Times offers to review the book, I say go for it.
And, actually, speaking of promotion, David will be one of
the three readers at lovely Upshur Books in Petworth/DC on Thursday, March 24
at 7PM. He’ll be joined by Baltimore writer Kathy Flann and yours truly!
I’m delighted with this write-up of my recent visit with the
George Mason University MFA Program. We talked about ELEVEN different manuscripts
in 2.5 hours, which meant that I focused on larger writing issues that could be
relevant to all, which also meant that I got to share some of my favorite bits of
writing advice, including Alfred Hitchcock’s theory on how to create suspense,
which is included in this blog managed by Stillhouse Press:
by Joanne M. Lozar Glenn
They say an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Here are five ounces of prevention to cure "falling off the wagon" of
a writing practice. Consider making one of them a habit--because meeting your
blank page or screen regularly (whatever "regularly" means to
you) is lots easier than trying to get reacquainted after a long absence.
it's just you and a buddy, pledge to meet at a coffeehouse and write for
30 to 60 minutes every week. You don't even have to share what you write.
Just write, and go home. Mission accomplished.
make a pact with that buddy to write (on your own) for a specified amount
of time each week, using any old prompt to start you off--and agree on a
regular time and day, say Thursday at 3 pm, to report your progress.
Then call each other just to say you did it, or to read to each other what
you wrote. Alternatively, you can do this by email.
it's you and a few others, decide together whether you want to have a writing group
(where you write together) or a critique group (where you respond
to each others' writing). Let the first meeting be a discussion of what
kind of group you'd like it to be; who will be responsible for keeping the
group on track; how the group will work; when, where, how long, and how
often you'll meet; and what ground rules you want everyone to follow.
if the writers you'd like to hang with are geographically scattered or
pressed for time, create an accountability group. Agree that you will each
set at least one writing goal a week, share it with the group, and report
(the following week) on what you accomplished. Then rinse and repeat. The
size of the goal is up to you. What's important is the regular checking
in, aspiring, accounting, and doing it all over again. You'd be surprised
how much you can accomplish with regular attention to this practice and
the group's support.
you're overscheduled and "writing" is impossible for now, first
forgive yourself, then try to at least capture the ideas for "someday
writing" that flit through your brain. You could jot each idea in a
small spiral-bound "idea catcher" or use a manila folder to hold
the scraps of paper, one per idea, that you pile up. You could jot ideas
on index cards or post-it notes and file them in a zipped pouch for easy
retrieval and sorting. You can even use the "Notes" section of
your smartphone. What kinds of ideas, you ask? Ralph Fletcher,
author of A Writer's Notebook, suggests jotting down mind pictures,
snatches of conversation, memories, doodles, things you wonder about, and
even photographs you capture with the phone's camera.
No matter which of the above practices you try, doing it
consistently guarantees that you'll not only have "written" more than
if you'd done nothing at all--you'll also feel that, despite whatever else
fills your day, you're living more of a writing kind of life.
Joanne M. Lozar Glenn is an independent writer, editor, and
educator. She leads destination writing retreats that feature writing from
prompts as simple as a photograph and as shameless as eavesdropping on
strangers’ conversations. Her book Memoir
Your Way (co-authored with five other writers) is forthcoming from Skyhorse
Press. For more information: www.wtwpwn.com
My friend Dan Wakefield is delighted to
announce that his most popular novels (and one memoir) are now available in ebook format,
thanks to Open Road Media. While I love all of Dan’s work, I have a special place
in my heart for the memoir, New York in the Fifties, which I keep on my “Favorite Books
Bookshelf.” It’s a wonderful and wonderfully personal history of those
post-war, pre-hippie days in New York City when you might say, “I’m going over
to Jimmy’s,” and mean James Baldwin’s apartment—at least if you were fortunate
enough to be Dan Wakefield!
Here is the
list of Dan’s titles, and a link for more information is below:
The Apple Tree:
A young boy ‘keeps watch’ over the
girlfriend his big brother leaves behind when he goes off to fight in WWII.
Going All The Way:
“. . . wonderful, sad, funny, a scathing portrait of middle America through the
eyes of a new fictional character” – Gay Talese
This story of divorce is “a modern Pilgrim’s Progress . . .with all our contemporary hangups,
frustrations and temptations. . .” - Chicago
Home Free: My novel of the ‘Sixties – read it while listening to Janis
Joplin as the hippies and hangers-on search for a new meaning of “home”
Selling Out: “”. . .killing-funny, killing-sad, fires
everywhere. War is hell, maybe, but so
is L.A.” – Tim O’Brien
New York in the Fifties (Memoir): “A
precise and moving recreation of a time and a place when the world seemed small
and we knew everyone in it.” – Joan Didion
DC-area author Leslie Pietrzyk explores the creative process and all things literary.