Friday, May 22, 2009


This time of year I begin to feel like a racehorse approaching Kentucky Derby time. BookExpo America has certainly changed over the years and many say it's changed too much. But I'm a cockeyed optimist when it comes to the book business and the BookExpo still holds so much hope and excitement for me. Who will I meet? Will I find new business? Will I sell one of our projects? Will my feet hold out for the three-day marathon in Javits Center?

BEA has come up with the coolest tool ever this year. It's an online listing of all exhibitors and their booth spaces which enables you to track them down and plan your convention meetings accordingly. Thank you BookExpo! This is really making pre-show planning so much easier.

We will be visiting as many out-of-the-city publishers as possible, along with old friends and new contacts in New York houses. Jon will be pitching several of his projects including Breeder's Choice, a cozy mystery featuring a traveling veterinarian and his ebullient sidekick, a raven named Mrs. Pine. I'm hoping to interest some new editors in Below Par, a humorous novel about a slacker who rises to a unique challenge. At the heart of it lurks the very thought that keeps amateur golfers buying new clubs every year: "If only I didn't have a job and family, I could practice all the time and be as good as those pros I see on TV."

We both have several other projects we'll be pitching when appropriate, but much of our work will be to simply identify and introduce ourselves to editors we'd like to know better. My situation is unusual in that part of my time will be devoted to the publicity side of our business, so my work is truly cut out for me.

In general, BookExpo is the time to greet old friends, develop new business, enhance relationships with ongoing clients, check out the competition, recharge your batteries and recommit yourself to another year of books and authors. Facebook, Twitter, and blogging have revolutionized our business, but the old "meet and greet" still has a huge impact on everyone.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


BookExpo America (BEA) is just around the corner. It's sure to be a hot time for agents, authors, editors, publicists, sales people, marketing pros, book distributors, buyers, and everyone else associated with the world of book publishing. This year BEA is being held in New York City and in the days leading up to the actual BEA weekend there will be two excellent writers' conferences: BEA Writers Conference is co-sponsored by Writers Digest and the BEA; Backspace Writers Conference is "the new kid" among writers conferences, but is developing a sterling reputation.

One of our readers, Debbie Schubert, is fortunate enough to be attending BOTH of these events and has agreed to be our eyes and ears. Check back after BEA to read about Debbie's impressions of these prestigious conferences. She's going to guest blog here.

I'd be interested in hearing from others out there who have attended or are planning to attend various writers conferences (not just BEA-related). Send me a quick email with details?

Monday, May 11, 2009


Another morning of queries, and yes, you guessed it, the "abused woman who is the world's greatest composer" was back! I need a break.

We're registering for Book Expo America this week. We'll spend the rest of the month getting organized so that we make the convention as productive as possible. This pre-BEA flutter of activity brings back memories of BEAs and ABAs past. (It was called the American Bookseller Association convention--ABA--when I was just a new kid in publishing.)

The big book for Rodale in 1980 when I attended the first "ABA" was, I kid you not, Movable Insulation. Those were the good old days at Rodale when "organic" meant compost, sprouts and rice cakes and Bob Rodale came to the booth and sat in a rocking chair. I remember a guy passing our booth and saying to his friend, "That guy looks just like Bob Rodale!"

As time passed and Rodale began to move from the old mail order books model into the scary world of trade books--those that would do well in bookstores--our image at BEA began to change. Instead of baking bread in the booth as we did in the 70s, we concentrated on pushing books out the door. Instead of do-it-yourself insulation, draft horses, nuts and grains, we began to promote running, back packing, beauty and "delicious cooking."

Then we found Dave Barry and everything really changed for the book division. Our crack director of trade sales, Barbara Andrews, discovered a column Dave had written for a suburban Philadelphia paper. His column entitled "How to Make a Board" charmed Barbara and all of us in publicity. This guy Dave Barry was REALLY funny. And he was writing about a topic near and dear to us at Rodale, building things! He should write a book for us!

We contacted Dave who was unagented at the time. He agreed to write a short humor book entitled The Taming of the Screw. As publicity director, I was thrilled, but didn't know how to publicize such a book. I got smart with his next book, Babies and Other Hazards of Sex, and hired Donna Gould, a freelance publicist who had done a great campaign for The Preppie Handbook. Instead of Movable Insulation, we launched Dave's Babies book at BEA and the rest is history. Donna and I collaborated beautifully on the publicity campaign for the book which included a 12-city author tour for Dave. Babies and Other Hazards of Sex became a Rodale bestseller.

Dave went on to write several more books for Rodale, but was eventually wooed away to Crown who could pay him more and invest more into his career. It was a good move for him--he's a famous guy now. But, now you know where he got his start!

What does this mean for writers today? I think modeling your career after Dave Barry's might be a good idea.
  • Work like crazy. Dave wrote for newspapers to pay the bills. You may need to write a blog.
  • Get yourself out there.
  • Keep writing, no matter what else you have to do to pay the bills.
  • Take advantage of whatever opportunities come your way.
  • Play nice. Don't burn bridges and do what your publisher tells you.

I got carried away with the good old days with this entry. Stay tuned for more on Book Expo!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009


Rainy and cloudy again here. It's been a peculiar spring in the Northeast. Two weeks ago it was so hot that we turned on the air conditioning. My daughter and I went to NYC to see "Rock of Ages" (loved it!) and sweltered in the hot sun waiting for tickets. A few days after the hot spell it began to rain and we haven't seen the sun for days and days. Back to sweatpants, long-sleeved shirts and hot tea.

The hot spell forced all the spring trees to blossom at once and now we have the end of the forsythias in combination with lilacs, dogwoods, cherries, and now honeysuckle. Beautiful-odd, but beautiful. The hummingbirds have returned from South America and I worry about them shivering in the cold.

A morning of queries. Would you believe it? Two more "literary" queries from the "abused woman" author(s). Maybe this is a scam designed to drive agents nuts and will eventually land a book contract for the demon behind the whole affair., Inc. announced that it will increase its fees for "wireless transfer of personal documents to a user's Kindle." The article goes on: "The fact that Amazon feels it necessary to up the charges means the service must be proving popular, and that fits in with anecdotal evidence that e-readers are mostly being used to read documents rather than magazines and/or books. Anyone who's job involves, say, reading reams of Ofcom reports and radio-spectrum analysis will love a device that enables easy transportation and keeps track of progress - not to mention removing the intimidating heap of paper from the desk."

OK. Here's the question of the day for those of you who are Kindle-owners. Do you read books / magazines / newspapers on Kindle or do you read your own documents? I have been lusting after the Kindle because it would be a great way to read manuscripts. But, can I afford it?

Friday, May 1, 2009


Our reader Debra asked the following question about "cozies":

In order for a mystery to be considered a "cozy," does it have to have a craft-type element? (Blueberry recipes, how to knit a 200-thread-count sheet in five easy steps, etc?) Or, is it just a strong female protag who is not in the crime field investigating one or more murders? The latter is what I've read as the definition, but it seems most cozies have a craft element.

I don't think the "craft" element is essential, Debra. But I checked with some experts. Here's what the "Cozy Mystery List" website says:

"I think that people who read Cozy Mysteries probably have their own unique ideas about what they think Cozy Mysteries should be... I know what I like, and look for in a Cozy.... I find that most of the cozy mysteries that I read take place in a small, picturesque town or village, with characters who I could envision having as neighbors or friends. (Of course, once I find out who the killer is, I wouldn't particularly want that person living next to me!) They are usually not zany people, although an eccentric or two might lurk here and there. On the whole, they are usually normal, every day characters you might have known at one time in your life. Cozies don't usually involve a lot of gory details or explicit "adult situations," either."

I think she/he is right on the money. Whenever I think of a cozy I think of the Miss Marple series written by Agatha Christie. Themis-Athena, one of Amazon's Top 500 reviewers, gave this information in her review of a recent new edition of the Miss Marple series:

"'Miss Marple instituted herself so quickly into my life that I hardly noticed her arrival,'" Agatha Christie wrote in her posthumously-published autobiography 1977 about the elderly lady who, next to Belgian super-sleuth Hercule Poirot, quickly became one of her most beloved characters. Somewhat resembling Christie's own grandmother and her friends, although 'far more fussy and spinsterish' and 'not in any way a picture' of the author's granny, like her, she had a certain gift for prophecy and 'though a cheerful person, she always expected the worst of everyone and everything, and was, with almost frightening accuracy, usually proved right.'"

Does this help, Debra?