Two Writing-Related Events This Month

Hey! I'm currently doing two writing-related fundraisers for my beloved church, Park Slope United Methodist. Will you please check them out, sign up, and/or share?

1) On Thursday, November 30, at 8 p.m. EST I'm offering a webinar, "The Secrets of Selling Your Manuscript: From Submissions to Acquisition." From the description: "In this one-hour benefit webinar, I’ll walk you through the submissions and acquisitions process step by step, addressing the agent search, the elements of a successful query letter and submissions package, and what’s happening on the editorial side of the desk, all the way through to a final response. Wherever you are in the submissions process, this webinar will provide the information you need to give your manuscript its best shot." Cost: $40. You can ask questions beforehand that I'll try to answer either in the course of the session or over e-mail afterward, and if you can't attend the webinar live, you can still sign up and receive a link to watch it after it's aired. I've never given this talk before, and I'm looking forward to it, so I hope you'll join me.

2) Through a silent auction, I'm offering five of my standard one-hour sessions of editorial time, which you can use for a critique, hands-on editorial work (line-editing, copyediting, proofreading), a strategy or career discussion.... It's up to you! The auction will conclude on Saturday, November 18. Click here to bid.

Thank you for your interest in both of these opportunities!

"Book Trailers! Pros and Cons? Do They Help Sales?"

(I received this question for my August 2017 newsletter, and repost my answer here.)

I do not have any real data on this, but these are my impressions of the pros and cons:


  • Fun! 
  • Good for marketing to kids, and those who work with kids. (E.g., it’s easy for teachers to show them in class, and it gives librarians an instant book talk.)
  • GREAT for school visits.
  • Can build up anticipation and interest in an ongoing series especially. If you search for "book trailers" on YouTube, the trailers that have the most hits have a recognizable character at their center. See, for instance, this trailer for "Pete the Cat:  Rocking in My School Shoes," which seems to be the book trailer with the most views ever, followed by a book about "A Day in the Life of the World's Cutest Dog" and a YA book trailer starring Zendaya


  • Hard to do them well on a meager budget.
  • Fresh, creative ones can be useful; bad ones—PowerPoint slideshows or iMovie clip jobs—probably don’t hurt, but they might be a waste of money and time if you don’t do a lot of school visits or have a way to get the clip in front of a significant audience. 

Some great ones, beyond those linked above:

Feel free to post your own favorites, thoughts or tips below!


    On Writing Resolutions vs. To-Do Lists

    (cross-posted from my December 2016 newsletter) 

    New Year’s Resolutions often feel like genie’s wishes to me:  outsized, made under stress, and requiring supernatural effort to fulfill. So I make annual To-Do Lists instead — ten to fifteen specific items that I know I can accomplish in a year, if I keep the goals in mind and create the right long-term framework for the actions. While I haven’t written out these lists every year I’ve lived in New York, in the years when I have, I usually organize the items in three categories:  Read, Practice, and Experience. Under “Read” I set out a list of three or four novels I’vealways meant to read and never got around to:  The Brothers Karamazov, Midnight’s Children, Villette. Under “Practice,” I put things like “Cook dinner for a friend once a month,” “Eat four servings of fruits and vegetables a day,” and “Floss.” And under “Experience” went items like “Walk all the bridges connected to Manhattan,” “Eat at Momofuku,” “Go to the Whitney Museum,” or “Run a half-marathon” — trying to push myself out of my everyday life and work absorption toward special moments or more challenging goals. When I lived alone, I posted the list on the back of my apartment door, so I saw it every day, and as I completed each item on the list, I’d write in the date of completion next to it. I don’t think I ever finished the entire list in a year —Moby-Dick and Infinite Jest remain unread — but the “Practices” especially pushed me to make better choices:  When I hesitated over the bathroom sink late at night, torn between the annoyance of flossing and the allurement of bed, the list would say, gently but firmly, “FLOSS.” And then I would.

    So I offer this as a technique that might be useful to you as you contemplate the writing and publishing you wish to do in 2017 — both the making of the list, and the categories to break it down. Perhaps you want to create a “Draft” category for your dream projects, “Revise” for those already in progress, or “Submit” for those you’ve been fiddling with for too long. Maybe your “Practice” could be to write every day, or to write a chapter a fortnight, or to draft a picture book a month, or to keep a reading journal to reflect on and learn from the books you admire (or loathe). “Experiences” could include “Getting ten rejections” — because that would mean you had the bravery to send your work out ten times, and survived it — or developing a new school-visit presentation, or trying a different form or genre of writing, or attending a national SCBWI conference. And perhaps you want to “Read” some books that might help or inspire you; I’ll offer a brief list of suggestions below. 

    If you like the idea of this list, start by thinking through what you want your writing and publishing lives to look like in 2017, and identifying the goals and practices that will help you create those lives. This in turn leads us back to those big questions:  Who are you? What do you most want? What do you most need? And what kind of changes or sacrifices are you willing to make so you can get those things? Whatever goals you set out, remember to frame them as actions within your control:  You can’t control whether your book will make the New York Times bestseller list or you’ll get an agent; you can control how you shape your marketing efforts and the quality of your first ten pages. Try to make your list in a spirit of love and not punishment, as it should offer your writing and the best parts of yourself more space, more joy, more depth, honor, and time in your life, not be designed to starve you in any way. (Keep in mind the wisdom of the excellent pastrix Nadia Bolz-Weber:  “Nothing you resolve to change about yourself will make you more worthy of being loved.”) And do write or type the list out, and post it somewhere that you can see it regularly, to stay in touch with your to-dos through the next year.  

    2017 promises to be a remarkably tumultuous year on the world stage, and its noise and need for action could reach deep into our lives. I wish all of us good fortune in finding the answers, and setting the goals, that will help us stay focused and do great work through this new year.