Meet Cassie Hanjian from Waxman Leavell Literary Agency!

[reposted from GLVWG’s conference blog]

by Tammy Burke


Hi Cassie,

I am so glad that you will be joining us for our 22nd annual “Write Stuff” conference. Your background — as an international literary scout, managing author rights, previous author support, and now an agent — I’m sure has given you exceptional skills in knowing what’s a good fit in the publishing world in addition to having the expertise to help an author grow. Welcome!

So the first question I would like to ask is on your bio on Waxman Leavell Literary Agency’s website you say that you “look forward to creating partnerships that prioritize building identifiable author brands.” Could you share a tidbit on some branding ideas? Also, what would be your dream manuscript and how would you describe the ideal author?

Cassie Hanjian:  For author branding, the most important thing to think about is your audience. How does your audience see you, and how easily will your audience be able to identify you in the future? I don’t have any one “dream” manuscript — although I’m currently looking for historical fiction similar to Sarah’s Key set in a period before WWII. Outside of specific plot elements, I’m looking for a good handle on plot and pacing, writing that doesn’t need to be heavily edited, and a style that is accessible to even the casual reader. To me, the ideal author is one that is not only supremely talented; they also have to be open to constructive criticism, able and willing to do a lot of leg work to market and publicize their book, respectful, and professional.

Could you share any pet peeves or significant ‘no-no’s’ when it comes to sending out a query or giving a pitch? Does it make a difference if it is for fiction or nonfiction?

Cassie Hanjian:  For both fiction and nonfiction queries, writers should take care to proofread and pay special attention to the spelling of the agent’s name and the name of the agency. Spelling my name or that of my agency incorrectly signals either apathy or a lack of attention to detail — qualities I’m definitely not looking for in an aspiring author. I view the query letter as a representation of what I’ll find in the manuscript; if there are lots of spelling/grammar errors, or if the letter is unfocused, I can only assume I’ll find more of the same in the actual sample. It’s also important to remember to succinctly describe the central idea of the book in the pitch — I need to have a clear idea of what I’m going to read before I actually take the time to do so.

Out of curiosity, when did you decide that you wanted to be involved in the publishing world? Was there a specific inspiration?

Cassie Hanjian:  (Laughs.) I decided I wanted to pursue a career in publishing when I was sixteen years old. I had an English teacher who had just moved to the area; her husband’s job forced them to relocate. She had previously worked at Houghton Mifflin as an editor in their educational division. I was an avid reader from a very young age, and when I heard that you could actually work with books for a living, I was sold. From that point on, I never thought about doing anything else.

One of the genres you represent is New Adult which seems to be trending in the publishing world. I am sure you counter misconceptions about what it is and what it is not. How do you explain the differences?

Cassie Hanjian:  Yes, there are quite a few misconceptions out there about New Adult, which I think, in large part, is due to the fact that the publishing industry has yet to come up with a standardized definition. Many people have stuck the New Adult label on a variety of things: YA Crossover, erotic romance, etc. When I try to succinctly explain New Adult, I usually compare it to YA: YA is about discovering who you are; NA is about discovering your place in the world.

What’s your take about romance in upmarket women’s fiction…necessary, nice or not needed? What do you see happening for 2015 in women’s fiction and what really grabs you?

Cassie Hanjian:  Romance is not a requisite in upmarket women’s fiction — or even commercial women’s fiction for that matter. Women’s fiction covers a wide range of issues and topics; sometimes a romantic element is integral to the story’s telling, and sometimes it’s not. Because the women’s fiction world is so varied, it’s hard to predict any one thing that will rise to the top this year, but I’m looking for family sagas with an element of mystery or suspense and emotionally wrought narratives about traumatic events or difficult life decisions.

Being a history buff and seeing you represent historical fiction I can’t resist asking…do you have a favorite time period?

Cassie Hanjian:  I love historical fiction set between the Renaissance and the Enlightenment — there is so much natural human drama in those centuries, that these stories naturally lend themselves to intricate and imaginative plots. If I had to pick one period in particular, I’d have to go with the Elizabethan period.

Anything you are definitely not looking for?

Cassie Hanjian:  I don’t represent children’s fiction or speculative fiction of any sort.

And last question…if you could give three ‘words of wisdom’ for our attendees, what comes to mind?

Cassie Hanjian:  Can I have five words? Start with an elevator pitch. Boiling your book down to one succinct sentence to start, whether in a query letter or during an in-person pitch, is often more effective than trying to explain all the intricacies of your plot, concept or thesis when you have limited space or time.

Thank you so much for taking the time out and we look forward to seeing you soon!

Cassie Hanjian
Prior to joining Waxman Leavell as an agent, Cassie held positions at the Park Literary Group, where she specialized in author support and foreign rights, and at Aram Fox, Inc. as an international literary scout for publishers based outside the United States. She holds a B.A. in English/Creative Writing from the University of South Florida, a Graduate Certificate in Publishing from the University of Denver’s Publishing Institute and an M.S. in Publishing from Pace University. Follow her on Twitter: @cjhanjian

Areas of interest/representation: New Adult, commercial and upmarket women’s fiction, historical fiction, psychological suspense, cozy mystery, contemporary romance, parenting, mind/body/spirit, inspirational memoir, narrative nonfiction focusing on food-related topics and cookbooks.
Tammy Burke, GLVWG member, 2011 conference chair and past president, has published over 400 articles in daily newspapers, newsletters and regional magazines. As a journalist and also with helping with the GLVWG “Write Stuff” conference she has interviewed a wide-range of literary agents, publishers, authors, state and local government officials, business and community leaders, everyday folk and celebrities. Currently, she is in the revision stage for her first YA fantasy adventure book, Uriah’s Window, the first in an intended series. When not writing, she works in the social service field, fancies herself a student of the fantastic and mundane, and is a fencing marshal in the Society of Creative Anachronism (SCA).

Meet Sunbury Press’ Owner Lawrence Knorr!

by Tammy Burke


Reposted from

How delightful having you back at the “Write Stuff” conference again! And wow! Is it coming up fast. Anything new and exciting you can share regarding you and/or the Sunbury Press?

Lawrence Knorr: Yes! It is an honor to be asked back. It is hard to believe two years have passed since the last time! Sunbury Press just completed its best year ever from a sales perspective. We continue to grow and succeed in a very tough, competitive environment. We are celebrating our tenth year in business in 2014 — but I can tell you it feels like 100 years! We’ve transformed ourselves twice in that span — caterpillar, cocoon, butterfly — what’s next? Most recently, we have seen ebooks peak, their growth rate slowing, while independent bookstore sales have picked up. While our Amazon business has continued to grow, other channels are growing faster. We have dubbed 2014 our “Year of Collaboration” focusing on ways our 120+ authors can experience better results by helping each other and by working together in teams. So far, there has been a lot of positive energy. We also opened, February 1, our first company bookstore in Mechanicsburg, PA, where our headquarters is located. Our goal was to provide a storefront for all of our books — and a venue for our authors to meet the public. We really want to be an important part of the local community for our local and regional authors — and provide another option to our more far flung partners. It’s a great place to meet prospective authors and to talk about books with the general public.

Based on your webpage, I understand the your company holds a “Continue the Enlightenment” mentality from the 18th century and the “Age of Reason.” Could you expand more what that means to you and to the Sunbury Press?

Lawrence Knorr: “Continue the Enlightenment” is a motto that represents our mission statement. Simply put, we are a publisher of diverse categories, but we are always seeking to bring new perspectives and voices to the marketplace. The Enlightenment was about a new order of things — not unlike what is happening in publishing today. The old order governed by a strong center of control is being challenged by more democratic ideals. This is what the independent publishing movement is all about — whether doing it yourself or with an independent publisher. We are experiencing an era of rapid democratization of the publishing industry. If only Hugh Fox had lived a little longer! I’ll never forget the day he called me – Hugh Fox – one of the founders of the Pushcart Prize. He revealed he was dying of cancer and offered me the opportunity to publish his remaining works. He said Sunbury Press was exactly the kind of publisher he was looking for. I was very grateful for his offer, and encouraged him to spread the dozen or so works around to other presses, keeping two of them for ourselves. Hugh liked the motto, and we think it is very appropriate at this time.

What was the motivation to start the Sunbury Press? What makes it different than other publishing companies?

Lawrence Knorr: I started the company in 2004 because I wanted to publish some family histories. I didn’t want to pay someone else to do it, so I embarked on figuring out how. While this was only ten years ago, it was when vanity presses were a cottage industry and print on demand and ebooks were in their infancy. I just wanted to sell some books at cost to family members. But, I really enjoyed it and realized I could publish other books — not just my own. Two hundred and twenty titles and one hundred and twenty authors later, we have really grown thanks to our business model and our philosophy. We are different for several reasons:

1) We are very tech-savvy. My wife and I both have long careers in IT and understand the Age of Content and the importance of search engines, ecommerce and mobile commerce.
2) We do NOT charge for services. Many publishers are experimenting with vanity, hybrid or subsidy models. We refuse to go in this direction, instead making our money by selling books.
3) We have editors working for us as employees of our company. We take quality very seriously.
4) My wife and I are also photographers and digital artists, able to design book covers, marketing materials, graphic designs, web content, etc.
5) We are “generalist opportunists” — working in a broad number of categories. We understand the advantages of breadth and scale to the economic sustainability of an enterprise.
6) We love what we do. I really enjoy working with authors to bring their work to the marketplace. It tickles the soul.

I was wondering…Is there anything in particular you are looking for in an author and his or her manuscript?

Lawrence Knorr: Quality Manuscript + Motivated Author + Publisher = Success

We are always looking for high quality manuscripts — in a variety of fiction and nonfiction categories. Quality is more than just well-written / grammatically correct. Quality is about fresh ideas, new found truths and entertainment. We like material that brings value to our readers.

We like to gauge an author’s motivations. Gone are the days of sitting at a typewriter, mailing a box of paper to a publisher and then waiting by the door for the checks to arrive. Authors need to be involved in their success. While we provide editing, design, formatting, ebook creation, printing, distribution, marketing, etc., we do best when authors are out and about advocating their work and promoting themselves. We are an ideal option for authors whose work is good enough not to have to pay to publish — who want to be writers and not start their own publishing businesses. Most writers are not business savvy. We bring the business expertise to the mix.

Anything you’d like to see more of? Anything you’d like to see less of?

Lawrence Knorr: Thankfully, the vampire craze has past. There’s probably a metaphor somewhere in that regarding the publishing industry! We are always looking for more history and historical fiction — more clever YA and more entertaining police procedurals and mysteries. We like good literary fiction too! We’ve had a lot of inquiries about poetry — something we rarely publish.

Do you work with authors to help them increase sales? Or do you allow them to do that for themselves?

Lawrence Knorr: We generate our revenue exclusively from selling books. So, we are ALWAYS looking for ways to sell more books — whether a new channel to open, a new retailer to call upon, a new country to access, or an author’s activities. As I stated in the opening, we have dubbed 2014 the “Year of Collaboration” and are seeking new ways to collectively leverage our scale. There are opportunities for Sunbury Press authors to go beyond our activities and their individual efforts — to work together within a category or region.

I understand you have authored eight books on regional history. Could you tell us more about them? What were their inspiration.

Lawrence Knorr: Where did I ever find the time? My early books: “The Descendants of Hans Peter Knorr,” “The Relations of Milton Snavely Hershey,” “The Relations of Isaac F Stiehly,” “General John Fulton Reynolds,” “The Relations of Dwight D Eisenhower” and “The Hackman Story” were family history / genealogy focused. I wanted to write about my relations — a very deep and rich history linked to important people and events in Pennsylvania and the nation. While researching at the Lancaster County Historical Society, I also stumbled upon the journal and letters of my great uncle David Bear Hackman, describing his adventure to California for the Gold Rush. I edited and contextualized this treasure into the book “A Pennsylvania Mennonite and the California Gold Rush.” My more recent works have been collaborations: “Keystone Tombstones Civil War” with Joe Farrell and Joe Farley — about famous people buried in Pennsylvania who played a part in the Civil War and “There is Something About Rough and Ready” about the village in the heart of the Mahantongo Valley at the center of that region’s Pennsylvania Dutch culture. I have several other projects under way for release in the coming years: “The Visiting Physician of Red Cross” – about the career of Dr. Reuben Muth of Red Cross, PA (I have his collection of visiting doctor records from 1850 to 1890), “Palmetto Tombstones” — about famous people buried in South Carolina, “Scheib of Shibe Park” — a biography of the former Philadelphia A’s pitcher — and youngest American Leaguer ever — Carl Scheib of Gratz, PA.

Being born and raised in the Susquehanna Valley myself I was wondering if you’ve done anything regarding Sunbury, particularly the Hotel Edison or Lewisburg?

Lawrence Knorr: We borrowed the name Sunbury from the town in Pennsylvania because it was near the Mahantongo Valley — and I liked the name. But, that’s about as far as it goes. We have yet to publish anything about Sunbury, the town in Pennsylvania or nearby Lewisburg. However, our book “Digging Dusky Diamonds” by John Lindermuth is about Shamokin, PA and the nearby coal regions. Our best-selling “Prohibition’s Prince” is about the famous moonshiner Prince Farrington from Williamsport, PA. Our “Keystone Tombstones” series spans the entire state and often touches on historical figures from the Susquehanna Valley.

Do you have favorite time period and place regarding history?

Lawrence Knorr: I teach Comparative Economic and Political Systems at Wilson College once a year. I really enjoy teaching this class because it allows me to span economic history from classical times to present. My favorite time periods / places are the Roman Empire in the first few centuries AD and 19th and early 20th century America. I am intrigued by our industrialization in the early 1800s — and the entrepreneurship and personal responsibility that was present. Most of the people living today would feel very insecure without their comforts, insurances and government safety nets. I long for that time when individual hard work and creativity could amount to something tangible — and when we relied on ourselves, our families, our religious institutions and our communities.

What did you like best about holding the office of president for MidAtlantic Book Publishers Association (MBPA)?

Lawrence Knorr: I was honored to be elected the President of MBPA for one year. I met a lot of great people, including my predecessor Mary Shafer. My goal was to make sure our organization survived the struggles it was going through and could become sustainable. The new team that formed was very motivated to do so, and they continue on without me. Unfortunately, the demands of my growing business prevent me from volunteering at this time.

Your digital photography is quite beautiful. I particularly enjoy your vibrant use of color. How long have you been practicing this art and I’m curious…how many book covers have you designed?

Lawrence Knorr: Thank you! I’ve been a photographer since I was 12 years old. I began showing my work in 2006, after a local gallery liked my attempts at “Photo Impressionism.” I was one of the pioneer artists who was trying to make photographs look like paintings. My work has been shown around the country and has won awards — and is in collections and even a museum or two. While I have not been as active at showing my work, I have designed over 100 book covers over the last three years. My wife says they are getting better! I really enjoy doing it, and most of the authors are very pleased with the results.

What are your thoughts on selling internationally? Do you find that foreign bookstores cater to the same reading choices as here in our area?

Lawrence Knorr: We sell our books in at least a dozen other countries — UK, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Japan, Australia, India, Mexico, Canada, Brazil, Taiwan … even Lebanon! We’re developing expertise in foreign rights as well as foreign distribution. We have found the rest of the world lags the US in eBook adoption — and still have a very strong book retailers. We’ve had the most success in the UK, for obvious reasons – but have also broken through where our titles touch on target markets.

I want to thank you for taking time out for this interview, Lawrence. We look forward to seeing you soon!

Lawrence Knorr has been involved with book publishing for fourteen years. His company, Sunbury Press, Inc., headquartered in Mechanicsburg, PA, is a publisher of trade paperback and digital books featuring established and emerging authors in many fiction and nonfiction categories. Sunbury’s books are printed in the USA and sold through leading booksellers worldwide. Sunbury currently has over 120 authors and 200 titles under management.

Lawrence has taught business and project management courses for ten years, and is the author of eight books. He is also an award-winning digital artist, and has designed dozens of book covers . Lawrence is the former President of the MidAtlantic Book Publishers Association (MBPA)
Most interested in U.S. & World history and other nonfiction (sports,
professional, hobbies) — also historical fiction, mystery/thriller.

Will consider YA fiction, contemporary and historical romance, horror (no
vampires), literary fiction.

Not looking for children’s picture books and poetry at this time.
Tammy Burke, GLVWG member, 2011 conference chair and past president, has published around 400 newspaper and regional magazine articles. She has interviewed state and local government officials, business and community leaders, everyday folk and celebrities, in addition to helping write scripts for over a dozen television commercials and writing various business communications. Currently, she is in the revision stage for her first YA fantasy adventure book, the first in an intended series. When not writing, she works in the social service field and is a fencing marshal in the Society of Creative Anachronism (SCA).

Meet Paranormal and SF Author Phil Giunta!

by Tammy Burke


reposted from

Hi Phil,

How exciting to have one of our own teaching at this year’s “Write Stuff” Conference and what intriguing sessions you’re teaching!

I have to admit, the description for your “Time Management for Writers” session gave me a sheepish moment because…well…I admit it, sometimes I’m terrible about getting off FaceBook! I’m wondering if we might get more of a teaser about what you’ll be sharing with us? I wouldn’t mind a teaser about “The Differences Between Writing Novels and Short Stories” too…please. 🙂

Phil Giunta: My focus with “Time Management of Writers” will be guilt. Yes, guilt…and why you shouldn’t necessarily feel it when you don’t achieve a specific word count per day or find yourself unable to spare time on a daily basis or the words just don’t flow when you finally find that hour or two. Writing time can also be spent in other ways. Editing the previous day’s work or research are also valid uses of writing time.

“The Differences Between Writing Novels and Short Stories” seem obvious, right? One is short, the other is long and that’s all folks, goodnight! Yet there are writers who have a challenging time keeping to word counts. Why is that? Well, there might be differences in the amount of characters needed to tell a story, the level of character development, character points of view, timeframe, pacing, and plotting. With novels you have a bit more elbow room than in short stories.

However, there are no absolute hard and fast rules for much of what we’ll talk about and I definitely look forward to audience participation. I stake no claim on omniscience. Every writer has his or her own unique methods and experience and I find that many writers are eager to share, which I encourage.

Your first book “Testing the Prisoner” presents an interesting combination about a person’s innermost psychology and the paranormal. Seriously creepy stuff here. How did this story idea come to you?

Phil Giunta: Testing the Prisoner began as a story of a broken family, child abuse, and—eventually—forgiveness. Suffice it to say that I have some personal experience in these matters and wanted to write a tale for all of those dealing with the same pain to let them know that they are not alone.

However, as I began writing the outline, my fondness for the paranormal crept in and I realized that it would be more dramatically told as a ghost story. So we have Daniel, our protagonist, estranged from his abusive mother for over a decade. On the night he learns of her death, he finds himself haunted by an angel and a demon. He soon learns that each is a manifestation of his own personality. They battle for one purpose—to convince Daniel to either forgive his mother or not, thereby determining the fate of her soul. The victim has now become the judge, jury, and potential executioner.

Yes, it’s creepy. It’s also emotional and dark, but is not personal experience often the source of an artist’s creativity? I recently read an article on The Creative Penn blog by Eric Praschan called “Using Real Life Fear and Pain to Springboard Your Story” and I firmly agree that if you can imbue in your characters the same emotions you felt while enduring a similar tribulation, the story will gain verisimilitude and truly reach your readers’ hearts.

Out of curiosity, how did you first become interested with ghost stories and the paranormal? And may I ask, have you ever been part of a paranormal investigating team such as the one your heroine Miranda Lorensen had?

Phil Giunta: I’ve always loved an atmospheric, suspenseful ghost story. Think of The Sixth Sense, What Lies Beneath, Stir of Echoes. By its very nature, the paranormal removes certain boundaries and in doing so, allows a writer to create scenarios and explore emotions not always possible in other genres.

Ironically, other than Edgar Allan Poe and very few others, I rarely read paranormal fiction. SF is my first love and I am an avid reader of books from the golden age of SF (Asimov, Bradbury, Clarke, Heinlein, etc) and just beyond that era (Bova, Ellison, etc). In fact, I’m developing an SF novel right now.

I can count on one hand how many paranormal investigations I’ve participated in and even those were years ago. I was never part of an organized group, just a few curiosity-seekers with still cameras and voice recorders.

However, like any good writer, research was in order when it came to writing By Your Side. The television series, Ghost Hunters, and other shows provided some assistance to that end.

Miranda had been a last-minute addition to Testing the Prisoner as Daniel’s old flame who also happened to be a psychic-medium. During a dinner scene, she mentions to Daniel that she belongs to a group of paranormal investigators. That, along with many other aspects of her character, led me to write By Your Side as a spin-off novel focusing on Miranda, her abilities, her team, and her life. Daniel’s story ended, but Miranda’s continues.

I understand “Testing the Prisoner” is on Podiobooks and “By Your Side” is on Prometheus Radio Theatre. Can you tell us a little bit about what these are and the benefits you are seeing by being a part of it?

Phil Giunta: A bit of background: My publisher for both novels is Firebringer Press, started by Steven H. Wilson. Steve created The Arbiter Chronicles, a podcast SF audio drama featuring a full cast of voice actors and earning him both the Mark Time and Parsec awards. Since he loves audio and has been podcasting for years, Steve encourages his prose writers to record their own audio books.

Prometheus Radio Theatre is Steve’s podcast site where listeners can, free of charge, listen to episodes of any full cast audio show that he has produced as well as audio books written and read by those published via his imprint, Firebringer Press. Audio books are serialized; typically one chapter per week. offers all audio books free of charge. The site was founded by Evo Terra and Tee Morris. Tee, also a Parsec award winner, was the first writer to serialize a novel as a podcast audio book and Evo coined the term “podiobook”. Hence, the site was born and now hosts probably thousands of audio books. Evo and Tee also wrote Podcasting for Dummies. Many popular writers have their work on Podiobooks such as Scott Sigler, Nathan Lowell, and others.

The largest benefit I’ve seen is promotion and exposure. Though we give away the audio books, they have generated sales of the ebooks and paperbacks from supportive listeners. As I’m still a newbie, I’m not yet seeing stunning sales as a result of the audio books, but like anything worthwhile, it takes time. I’m focused on the long tail.

Beyond the above reasons, reading for audio is simply great fun, albeit time intensive for longer works. Listener feedback is often immediate. So far, I’ve been fortunate to receive many positive comments on my audio books.

Testing the Prisoner’s audio book had its first run on Prometheus Radio Theatre before being uploaded to Podiobooks. By Your Side will eventually end up on Podiobooks as well.

I understand you wrote fan fiction in the 1990s. Could you tell us a little about how this helped your writing and career? Do you think this contributed to writing the short stories in the ReDeus anthologies?

Phil Giunta: These are two excellent questions and yes, they definitely relate. For those who need a definition of fan fiction (or fan fic), it is simply fans of already-established universes writing their own stories based on those characters. To me, fan fic was a great training ground to hone my writing and storytelling skills.

Between 1995 and 2003, I wrote short stories in the universes of Star Trek, Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and several others. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive, but by 2003, I wanted to move on and pursue original stories with an eye toward getting published.

Couple that with the fact that for 20 years, I’ve been attending SF conventions in Maryland where many of my favorite media tie-in writers are guests. In the early years, I would take my stack of Star Trek comics and novels and have them signed by folks like Peter David, Michael Jan Friedman, Bob Greenberger, Howard Weinstein, and others.

Many of these writers would take the time to offer writing advice to me personally as well as host writing workshops and discussion panels at the conventions.

Flash forward to 2012. I received an email from Bob Greenberger in June inviting me, and several other writers that attend the Maryland conventions (including Steve Wilson as he and Bob are longtime friends), to contribute stories to the ReDeus series (more details about ReDeus in the next question). Bob knew I had published my first novel a few years before and was now including me on a dream project. I was, and still am, deeply honored.

So in two ways, writing SF fan fic definitely helped me contribute to the ReDeus series. I was already adept at the short story format and I had become friends with one of the series creators, which leads us to…

Speaking of Crazy 8’s ReDeus (the anthology depicting the world’s mythological gods returning), mythology has always been one of my favorites! Do you have a favorite pantheon? Can you tell us how this anthology started?

Phil Giunta: I’m not sure of the exact year when the project began, but the series is the brainchild of Bob Greenberger, Paul Kupperberg, and Aaron Rosenberg. The premise: what if all of the ancient gods from every pantheon returned at once? How would they look upon us now with our cars, aircraft, technology? How would they reinstate themselves as absolute rulers over their old domains?

I was only able to participate in the first two volumes (Divine Tales and Beyond Borders). By the time the third book was open for submissions, I was on deadline to finish recording the audio book for By Your Side, working on a novella, and about three months away from my wedding. Alas, I could not commit to Native Lands.

As for my favorite pantheon, I wrote about two: the Tuatha dé Danaan of Ireland and the little known Gaulish gods (of the Gaul Empire). I had so much fun with both stories that it’s challenging to pick a favorite. I will say that Irish mythology has a wealth of characters to choose from whereas much of Gaulish mythology has been lost in comparison.

It is my understanding that ReDeus will continue. So I hope to have an opportunity to return.

I understand your anthology, which you edited and contributed to, is launching this August. Congratulations! Could you tell us what it’s about?

Phil Giunta: I am so very proud of this. In 2011, I asked Steve Wilson if he would consider publishing a collection of SF, Fantasy and paranormal stories written mostly by as-yet unpublished writers. I had specific people in mind, some of whom started in fan fic, but had gone on to write original material. They just needed an outlet. My hope was that Firebringer Press could provide that opportunity.

Steve and I would also contribute tales, along with fellow Firebringer author Lance Woods. The plan also called for one illustration per story provided by Allentown artist Michael Riehl, who would also create the cover art.

Steve agreed on the condition that I serve as editor. 2012 was spent gathering and editing stories and writing three of my own. It was a wonderful experience and I could tell immediately that we had something special building here. We ended up with 13 fantastic stories from 8 writers.

The manuscript was submitted in February 2013 and accepted in October. The artwork is nearly finished as I write this, and Somewhere in the Middle of Eternity is set to launch at the Shore Leave convention on August 1 in Maryland.

I love your blog, Phil, especially the blurb paragraph about what you’ll find and then all these COOL links. How did you come up with that?

Phil Giunta: Thank you! Well, when I started my blog back in 2010, I simply needed material. I started with author interviews (including many of the aforementioned writers) and book reviews as well as SF convention news and announcements about my upcoming publications. Of course, I still do all of this, although the author interviews have dropped off a bit. Those will pick up again as part of promotion for our anthology.

At one point, I noticed that fellow GLVWG member Jon Gibbs had a feature called “Interesting blog posts about writing” each week on his blog. So, I stole the concept from him. Hi, Jon, hope you don’t mind!

I began scouring the interwebs for cool articles about the craft of writing, the business of publishing and the controversies that occasionally erupt (as when Joe Konrath takes someone to task or a vanity press like Author Solutions is caught fleecing writers…again).

Now, the collection of cool articles has become a weekly routine, though it’s potluck as to which day I post them.

And last question… so what’s next on the docket for you?

Phil Giunta: I have a novella-in-progress that will detail the first manifestation of Miranda Lorensen’s psychic-medium abilities when she was six years old. I consider it her origin story. The second draft is currently finished and awaiting revisions.

My medical SF story “First, Do No Harm” was accepted into a digital anthology called Local Magic by Antimatter Press. It is their first publication and is due out in Spring 2014.

I’m just starting to outline a SF novel regarding the journey of a generational ship, carrying the survivors of a dying Earth, across the galaxy in search of another habitable planet.


A Pennsylvania resident, Phil Giunta graduated from Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia with a Bachelor of Science in Information Systems and continues to work in the IT industry. His first novel, a paranormal mystery called Testing the Prisoner, debuted in 2010 from Firebringer Press. His second novel in the same genre, By Your Side, was released in 2013. Phil has also narrated the audio version, available in podcast episodes at Prometheus Radio Theatre:

In August 2012, he was among an exclusive group of authors selected to participate in Crazy 8 Press’s new venture, ReDeus, a collection of anthologies depicting the return of all the world’s mythological gods. The series was created and edited by veteran authors Bob Greenberger, Aaron Rosenberg, and Paul Kupperberg. Phil’s short story about the Celtic gods, “There Be In Dreams No War”, was featured in the premiere anthology, ReDeus: Divine Tales. He followed up with “Root for the Undergods”, a tale about the gods of the Gaul Empire in ReDeus: Beyond Borders.

Phil has recently finished editing an anthology titled Somewhere in the Middle of Eternity for Firebringer Press to be released in 2014, and is currently working on a paranormal thriller.

Visit Phil’s website:


Tammy Burke, GLVWG member, 2011 conference chair and past president, has published around 400 newspaper and regional magazine articles. She has interviewed state and local government officials, business and community leaders, everyday folk and celebrities, in addition to helping write scripts for over a dozen television commercials and writing various business communications. Currently, she is in the revision stage for her first YA fantasy adventure book, the first in an intended series. When not writing, she works in the social service field and is a fencing marshal in the Society of Creative Anachronism (SCA).

Meet Sarah LaPolla, associate agent from the Bradford Literary Agency

by Tammy Burke


reposted from

Hi Sarah,
How delightful we have the good fortune of having you back at the GLVWG “Write Stuff” Conference! I believe last time you were out I was the co-conference chair for Kathryn Craft and James N. Frey was our keynote. How are you?

Sarah LaPolla: Thanks so much for having me back! I’ve been doing very well since the last time I was at Write Stuff. A lot of changes – in a good way. I’ve been continuing working primarily with YA fiction, but I sold my first adult urban fantasy and my first middle grade last year. The biggest change has been my new agency, Bradford Literary Agency.

What are you liking best about the move?

Sarah LaPolla: The agency move was a huge decision I made last year, but I know it was the right one. I had been working in foreign rights, primarily, at Curtis Brown, and it was an area of publishing I loved. But, I wanted to focus on domestic rights and build a client list of my own, which I was able to begin doing at Curtis Brown. The experiences at working both places have been quite different. I think what I’ve enjoyed most about the move is that I’ve been able to make my list more diverse and have the time to focus more on what “type” of agent I want to be. Do I want to be totally specialized in a few areas or do I want to expand based on my tastes? Do I want to give in to trends or work on more timeless genres? These are questions I’ve been asking myself since I switched agencies, but I don’t know if that has anything to do with the agency specifically. It’s more that I’m growing as an agent, and Bradford just happens to be the new home to guide me during this new phase of my career. It’s pretty exciting! Plus, Laura Bradford and Natalie Lakosil are amazing women, and I am so proud I get to join their team!

Based on other interviews, I know you originally wanted to be an editor. What made you decide to be an agent? On that line, what is the most favorite part of your day (as an agent)? What do you find most challenging? And do agents really work 12-16 hours a day?

Sarah LaPolla: It’s true; back in my youth I dreamed of being an editor. I knew I wanted to be on “the other side” of publishing even while I was studying creative writing in college. I carried that with me to my MFA program, which I entered, again, because I wanted to be a better writer and editor, but without any real drive to be a (capital W) Writer. When I got to New York, I almost immediately starting applying to editorial assistant positions, and the HR departments at various Big 6 publishers were nice enough to humor little 22-year-old me. I spent over a year getting rejected until I remembered most people do unpaid internships first. That’s how I fell into agenting. I didn’t really know what an agent did. They weren’t something we learned about in creative writing classes, and Twitter wasn’t a thing yet. But, I knew they meant “publishing!” so I interned at a small agency that represented books I didn’t read, then I interned for an agent who represented books I loved. By the time I was actually qualified for a paying job, I knew I wanted to stay with agenting, and lo and behold, Curtis Brown, Ltd. needed a foreign rights assistant. So here I am!

My favorite part about being an agent is finding that manuscript that reminds me why I wanted to work with books in the first place. I like being reminded that I can help others read this manuscript that no one else has read before. Another nice thing about agenting in the post-digital era is that agents have taken on a very editorial role, so I still get to use those creative skills I love using. But, yes, it is true we work 12-16 hour days. I’m never not working. Whether it’s emailing editors and clients, making submission lists, reading clients’ manuscripts, editing, reading queries, reading requested manuscripts, doing conferences, or just thinking about what I want to find next – my job is never technically “over.” I try to create boundaries. I check my email all the time, but I don’t make it a habit to send emails after 8:00 or on weekends. Queries, however, are pretty much exclusively answered on nights and weekends. But I try to get to them during work hours as often as I can so I can have what the kids call “a life.”

So could you give us a quick backstage look regarding what it’s like to be an agent? Maybe two or three things most writers probably don’t know.

Sarah LaPolla:
1) We don’t just read all day. We like saying we get paid to read for a living because it’s kind of true, but that’s not actually reality. I rarely-to-never read during business hours. My nights and weekends are devoted to reading, and that includes client work, requested material from potential clients, and queries. Our clients and the work we do on their behalf are our first priority. If you’re wondering why your query is being answered at 3AM on a Saturday or why it’s taking us a month to read three chapters, that’s why.

2) Agents edit, but we don’t have to. To be clear, most agents are editorial and will work with their clients on revisions (sometimes more than one) before submitting a project to editors. The current market has practically demanded that manuscripts be as retail-ready as possible even before editors consider them. But, at the end of the day, agents pitch manuscripts and editors edit them. When we edit, we’re putting in hours (if not months) of free labor that is not a required part of our job description. Please remember that before complaining that an agent isn’t “editorial enough.”

3) No one wants to reject you! Agents have this reputation of being “gatekeepers” who burn our slush piles, but the truth is that most of our clients started in our query folder and we continue to find people we love in the slush pile. We don’t dread opening new queries. We hope we’re going to find something amazing. We look for reasons to request a project, not to reject it.

I enjoy your Glass Cases blog and I’m sort of hesitant to admit I could really relate to “Aren’t Real Writers supposed to put writing ahead of everything else?” from your post “On Being a Real Writer.” Out of curiosity, how is your writing panning out in 2014 so far?

Sarah LaPolla: Thanks for asking! I felt pretty good about my own writing toward the end of last year, but I haven’t had much time to myself in 2014 yet. Like I said in my blog post, I don’t put writing ahead of everything else. There are things I do put writing ahead of, but my career isn’t one of them. Even if I do ever finish a novel I think is worth querying, I could never give up being an agent. My clients are too important to me.

Could you tell us what your favorite book was when you were a kid? Is it still your favorite? Do you think it influenced what you look for now?

Sarah LaPolla: As a kid, I’d have to say the Fear Street Saga by R.L. Stine. I was a big Fear Street kid, but the Saga trilogy were my favorites. Yet, I can’t say with confidence that those books influenced what I look for now. It helped shaped my love of reading and books in general, though. As a teen, my favorite book was The Perks of Being a Wallflower and it remains the most important book I’ve read (on a personal level). That book has absolutely shaped my taste in literature, specifically with character types and overall themes in YA.

If your dream submission landed on your desk this moment, what would it look like? Would there be anything that would make you walk away from it? What would you say is the most important part if a submission is not quite perfect but caught your attention?

Sarah LaPolla: The thing is, I have no idea what my dream submission looks like because it doesn’t exist. I won’t know what I fall in love with until I read it. I know what genres and styles I’m drawn to and what I’m usually not a fan of. Beyond that, I just want something that surprises me. Something with depth. Something that matters. Something I can’t stop reading.

The most important of a submission is showing an agent that it stands out in the market, no matter what the genre is. Nothing is perfect and everything needs revision. Agents are good at seeing potential, no matter how slight. If we see something worth working on, we’ll keep reading.

What would you like to see more of? What would you like to see less of?

Sarah LaPolla: I’d like to see more originality. While most premises have been done before, writers still need to bring something new to their genre. Otherwise, why do we need that book to be published? With a lot of queries I receive, I end up thinking, “this seems fine, but I can re-read 4 or 5 books that are just like it instead.” I want to see fewer manuscripts that are already in bookstores and more of what I didn’t even know I wanted.

And finally, what three pieces of advice would you give to writers looking for representation? And looking to pitch?

Sarah LaPolla: Have patience and understand that rejections are not personal. Querying and pitching are about telling an agent what your book is about and who you are as a writer, and they’re about finding the right agent for your work. Don’t waste your time getting mad at the ones who weren’t enthusiastic about your projects. Appreciate feedback when it’s given, but don’t expect it, and don’t feel obligated to revise based on one agent’s advice unless you agree those changes will make your book stronger. You’re not just pitching your books to us; we’re pitching our vision for your books to you. A rejection just means we didn’t have a vision for you, but that doesn’t mean another agent won’t have one. It’s about being a good match on both sides.

Sarah LaPolla joined Bradford Literary Agency in May 2013. Prior to joining Bradford Lit, Sarah worked for five years in the foreign rights department at Curtis Brown, Ltd., and became an associate agent there in 2010. She received her MFA in Creative Writing (Nonfiction) from The New School in 2008 and has a B.A. in Creative Writing from Ithaca College. She runs a writing-focused blog called Glass Cases ( and tweets about writing, publishing, and pop culture at @sarahlapolla.

What she’s looking for:
Sarah represents YA and adult fiction. On the adult side, she is looking for literary fiction, science fiction, magical realism, dark/psychological mystery, and upmarket commercial and/or women’s fiction. For YA, she is interested in contemporary/realistic fiction that doesn’t shy away from the darker side of adolescence. YA sci-fi, horror, mystery, and magical realism are also welcome; and she would love to find a modern Judy Blume for the MG market. No matter what genre, Sarah is drawn to layered/strong characters, engaging narrators, and a story that’s impossible to put down.


Tammy Burke, GLVWG member, 2011 conference chair and past president, has published around 400 newspaper and regional magazine articles. She has interviewed state and local government officials, business and community leaders, everyday folk and celebrities, in addition to helping write scripts for over a dozen television commercials and writing various business communications. Currently, she is in the revision stage for her first YA fantasy adventure book, the first in an intended series. When not writing, she works in the social service field and is a fencing marshal in the Society of Creative Anachronism (SCA).

Meet Agent Monica Odom from Liza Dawson Associates!

by Tammy Burke

reposted from


Hi Monica,

We are delighted you will be joining us at this year’s GLVWG “Write Stuff” Conference! Looking over your information, I can’t help but think what a well-rounded and fascinating background you have. Not only a firm education (English, Publishing, Film Studies and Journalism) but a wide range of practical experiences including finance, social media, websites, community development and editorial matters along with being backed by a prestigious agency.

I understand you came to be an agent a little differently than most and, in fact, (based on an earlier interview I stumbled on) had an earlier goal to become an editor. Could you share a little of your story about how you became an agent? Was there a deciding moment?

Monica Odom: As I was about to graduate with my Bachelor’s, a professor whom I’d met with for career advice forwarded me an internship listing for a literary agency. I must admit, until that point I did not know literary agenting was a thing (and the same goes for a lot of people, I’ve realized). I just knew I wanted to work with books outside of the academic realm. I graduated, got the (unpaid) internship, and worked with them for about six months before I was referred to my current company. I started at LDA as an assistant, and imagined that I would stay there until I was able to find something in editorial at a house somewhere (mainly because that’s what I had heard was the apprenticeship process for getting into publishing). It wasn’t until a couple of years in that I began to entertain the idea of me getting more involved editorially at LDA (since I’d been hired for finance and admin, and not editorial). Since I’d done a good job of managing my other responsibilities, and since I had expressed such a passion for agenting (especially after learning a ton about the business with my hands-on position), Liza was happy to let me start accepting queries and taking on clients. The deciding moment was probably when I took The Role of the Literary Agent class with Gail Hochman during my NYU program, and heard her describing all of the things I’ve ever wanted in a career.

Out of curiosity, what was it like to intern at the MTV Networks’ Public Affairs department? Do you find similarities between a public affairs department like MTV’s and what writers should be doing regarding press and marketing media platforms?

Monica Odom: I interned at MTV in 2009 and it was my first internship (and my first in the big city!). I loved going into the Viacom/MTV building and feeling like something magical was happening behind all of those closed doors. But actually, a lot of my time there was spent doing research and building communities (and this was before businesses were on the social media bandwagon). I was also responsible for the Obama report during our weekly meetings, where I described how Obama’s new presidency was affecting young Americans. So the department was very politically minded. One of my best memories from MTV is a buzz-building marketing stunt a group of interns and I did on the Today Show. A group of us had to wear t-shirts with a cryptic message written on them, and our mission was to get on camera. We ended up meeting Meredith Viera and Matt Lauer, and got a great plug for the mystery campaign. I love this story, because it was such a cheap yet effective and organic way to build buzz, and in publishing we are always looking for affordable buzz-building!

I know as an agent you have to be reading practically all the time. Do you ever get a chance to read for just pleasure and if yes, what types of things do you read?

Monica Odom: I do get some time to read for pleasure! I’m in a book club (we call ourselves the Lovely Ladies), and we try to do a book a month. Right now we’re reading Jennifer Egan’s A VISIT FROM THE GOON SQUAD (my selection!), and we use Google+ and Google hangout to talk about the book if we can’t all meet in person that month. I think it is super important to keep your personal tastes fresh and to keep reaffirming or challenging those tastes, being an agent. I occasionally try to sneak an extra “for pleasure” book in between book club books, but my grad school readings usually prevent me from that! Still, I consider myself very lucky for having a job that demands a lot of reading.

One of the descriptions you used for what you are seeking (and which I found quite attention-grabbing) are “writers with big ideas that push the boundaries of storytelling and its traditional forms.” Could you give us an example of this?

Monica Odom: I took the class New Fiction Formats in grad school with Jacob Lewis, who was working for Figment at the time. In the class, we discussed a bunch of different projects that were so amazing, yet so different from traditional formats. For example, a man created a fake Twitter account named @mayoremanuel, and would tweet as the mayor who was currently running for office in Chicago. He basically assumed this alter ego, and there were enough tweets to eventually put them together as a book, called The F***ing Epic Twitter Quest of @MayorEmanuel. The thing is, these tweets actually tell a story about a fictional character. I think this is so original, and so fun, and I want to be an agent who helps interesting projects like this come to market. I think I am well positioned as a younger agent to be a bit more open to new and interesting projects like this, and I’m hoping to let creative people feel more able to think outside-the-box (or outside-the-book!).

Do you think women’s fiction is growing as a genre…either in popularity or in subject matter?

Monica Odom: I do think women’s fiction is a growing genre, and I also think the topic areas that constitute women’s fiction are changing. In popularity, yes, because women are ever more a growing group with purchasing power. I also think ebooks have given women’s fiction a good push, with the boost in romance and thriller titles. A major shift that is happening lately, I think, is the backlash caused by the lack of women writers on bestseller lists. Women’s fiction is a popular genre, and women can’t always accept a book about women written by a man. I think the real shift that is happening is a growing support for women writers, writing about and for women, because that’s what many readers (many women) want to see more of. And I’m all for it!

Do you have any pet peeves regarding story? Do you have any instant likes?

Monica Odom: I’m not really crazy about romance, or female characters who are driven solely by a love interest. I’m also not into things like eating disorders or body issues, really. I’m really drawn to stories about family, especially siblings. I love magical realism (I’d love to find the next NIGHT CIRCUS) and literary fiction. I’m a sucker for a great voice, too. My first client’s MS was signed based on her high concept and her amazing voice, so that’s definitely something I am looking for.

You are open to some nonfiction such as history. Being a history buff myself I can’t help but wonder, is there a time period which you draws you the most?

Monica Odom: I’ve always been drawn to post-Civil War U.S. history. I do love WWII stuff, but it’s a bit overcrowded of a market and tough to differentiate (but I’d still take a look!). The Mad Men era is a time period that I’d love to see an MS based in. I’m also very into Civil Rights era things and African American history. And I swear I should’ve been alive during the 70s (think American Hustle), because the period from 1960-1980s fills me with wonder. Probably because I’m a 90s kid. My interest in world history would just depend on the topic area, and less so the time period.

Since you prefer authors who have strong social media platforms, would you consider anyone who is still in the learning curve of social media?

Monica Odom: Of course! I’m the social media manager for our agency, and I work very closely with our authors on their social media. I’ve found that most authors have some knowledge about social media, but many have varying degrees of experience. So it’s less helpful to send out an informational packet, and more helpful to do a social media audit and to sit down and talk to the author about what terrifies them about social media. I’m a believer that agents and agencies need to be more involved nowadays than ever before with their authors’ marketing campaigns, especially since helping an author navigate and build their social media followings may help sell their book to publishers. Also, I would rather be the one, as the agent, guiding my author through the process and answering their questions, than say, a marketing person at a publishing house who may not have time for that author once the book is out for awhile. So, yes, I think everyone can use some social media help, and writers shouldn’t be discouraged if they’re not super savvy online.

And last question…. Based on your experiences, if you were to give three “pearls of wisdom” on what you should do, or better yet, what you should NOT do when giving a pitch, what would they be?

Monica Odom: My pitch pearls of wisdom are:

1) Don’t mention that your mom or your friend loved the book. It’s silly.

2) Currently, I generally do not accept queries for books that have already been self-published. I really do work closely with my clients editorially, and I think the agent is an important layer of the editorial process. By already self-publishing a book and then querying, the text is already out in the marketplace, and I’m not able to provide any editorial feedback.

3) Don’t compare yourself to some huge prolific author (yes, such as Tolkien). I understand that you’re trying to position yourself, but it suggests you’ve done little research if the only comparable author you can come up with is a legend. It’d be great if you instead listed a couple of midlist or debut authors similar to yourself who had done well and who you consider comparable to your writing.


Associate Agent Monica Odom joined Liza Dawson Associates in 2010. She is also the agency’s manager of finance and social media. Monica graduated summa cum laude with a B.A. in English from Montclair State University, and is now a candidate for her Masters in Publishing from New York University. Prior to joining LDA, Monica interned at Joelle Delbourgo Associates, New Jersey Business Magazine, and MTV Networks’ Public Affairs department.

Interested in representing: Monica is building her client list with a focus on literary fiction, women’s fiction and voice-driven memoir, as well as a focus on nonfiction in the areas of pop culture, food and cooking, history, politics, and current affairs. Monica is looking for writers with big ideas who push the boundaries of storytelling and its traditional forms. She is especially interested in writers with strong social media platforms who have something original to say.

Tammy Burke, GLVWG member, 2011 conference chair and past president, has published around 400 newspaper and regional magazine articles. She has interviewed state and local government officials, business and community leaders, everyday folk and celebrities, in addition to helping write scripts for over a dozen television commercials and writing various business communications. Currently, she is in the revision stage for her first YA fantasy adventure book, the first in an intended series. When not writing, she works in the social service field and is a fencing marshal in the Society of Creative Anachronism (SCA).

Meet Mary Shafer the Indie Navigator, Indie Publisher, Award-Winning Author, and More!

by Tammy Burke

reposted from

Hi Mary,

Can I just say wow! How impressive the number of “hats you’ve worn!” From award-winning author to marketing consultant to indie publisher and professional speaker (and illustrator, freelance graphic designer, art director, etc.) …everything in the publishing industry from what I understand except distribution. I’m so glad you are taking part in this year’s conference!

Mary Shafer: Wow, thank you! I think in another point of view, the only thing impressive about my background is apparent. ADD. Truth is, I’m a true Gemini and I get bored very easily. Also always afraid of missing out on something if I don’t learn and try everything that catches my interest. Up till now, that has always kind of hurt me in a world where specialization is most rewarded, at least financially. But with the weird turn the publishing industry has taken in the past decade, having this diverse skill set has actually helped, and that’s one reason I launched Indie Navigator — because I remember what it feels like to be in that place where you know what you want to do, but have no idea where to start or how to get there.

I would imagine those taking your pre-conference workshop Indie Publishing Intensive better bring a notebook so they can capture all this excellent information you have listed. I was wondering if we could get a bit of a teaser on some of the things you’re covering?

Mary Shafer: Sure. Actually, I do encourage those who learn better by writing things down (as I do) to take notes. But for others, it’s not necessary. I always prepare very thorough handouts for each of my presentations, as well as making my Powerpoint decks available as PDF downloads for all attendees. I just post the download URL at the bottom of each slide so people can copy that down and that’s about all they really need, because I put any handouts, examples, etc. in the same folder they access for the slide deck download.

That said, here’s a bit of what they can look forward to in my Indie Publishing Intensive, which I’m really excited about. I’ve presented all the elements before, but never all together in one time and place. So this will truly be intensive — I’m thinking of it as more of an Indie Publishing Bootcamp, with the exception that we’re not actually going to go through any hands-on workshops. It’s just going to be an insane amount of real-world information — not hype or vaguely disguised wishfulness — shared in a four-hour afternoon. But I guarantee that anyone who’s been on the fence about whether or not to become an indie publisher won’t feel that way when it’s over. They will know what to truly expect as an indie/self-publisher, and will either feel energized and excited by the challenge, or will save themselves a lot of time, effort, money and heartache by resolving to seek a traditional publishing deal because they realize they’re just not cut out to be a publisher themselves.

What I’m going to cover includes content from several of my more popular narrated slide presentations. I’ve broken out the process into three steps: Possibilities, Publishing and Promotion.

Possibilities will explore in detail what to expect if you decide to take the traditional publishing route and, alternatively, if you decide to self-publish. This is the amalgamation of these presentations I currently give to writing and indie publishing groups:

  • I Finally Finished My Book…Now What? – Options for modern authors
  • 21st Century Books: What Is A Publisher, and Should I Become One? – Telling it like it is; the good, the bad and the ugly

Publishing will outline the very real considerations of what it means to actually be a publisher: setting up your business structure; choosing whether to publish only your own work or that of others, as well; apps and other technology that can help you manage day-to-day operations; sourcing vendors, etc. It encompasses some of the content of my presentation.

  • Digility: Digital Agility in Publishing – bit technical, laying out important considerations for someone building a modern publishing house from scratch

Promotion offers guidance in the nitty-gritty of publicizing and marketing your publication products and authors – arguably as important as offering a quality product in potential for success. It includes content from these presentations I often give at writer’s conferences:

  • Getting Published Ain’t For Sissies – Marketing for Nonfiction Authors: Finding your niche, building your author’s platform, effectively employing guerilla promotion tactics, creating a killer press kit, mastering modern technology to serve as your 24/7 personal publicity agent, and anticipating, identifying and leveraging trends.
  • Takin’ It to the Tweeps: Twitter for Authors and Independent Publishers
  • Your Book’s Website: Separate or Connected – Explores the advantages and disadvantages of single author/book sites and separate sites for each title inside a whole publishing web presence strategy
  • Online Newsrooms: What You Need and How To Build It – A step-by-step tutorial on this most important yet often neglected element of any successful author and publisher website

As you can see, it’s truly an exhaustive amount of material, but that’s what an intensive is about. Attendees may leave feeling a bit overwhelmed, but they will no longer face the dizzying confusion of wondering what they should be paying attention to and what lies ahead of them depending on the route they choose. Plus, they’ll be able to refer back to my handouts and slide downloads again and again. I tried hard to formulate a way to share the hard-won knowledge I wish I’d had when I faced the need to become an indie publisher. I don’t want anyone to have to struggle that way.

One the things you mentioned in your bio is that you share what you know so other authors and indie publishers don’t have to learn the hard way too. (And thank you for that, by the way) I am curious…what do you typically find as the top three most common mistakes?

Mary Shafer: Among authors and would-be authors seeking publishing deals, the top three mistakes I see are:

  1. Failing to invest themselves and perhaps a bit of money in making their manuscript as polished and fully edited as possible before turning it in to the publisher or publishing it themselves. (I consider this a cardinal sin, frankly. There’s no excuse for turning in or publishing shoddy work other than laziness or lack of caring, both of which reflect not just on that author but on all authors and indie publishers.)
  2. Failing to build a promotional platform for themselves as an author “brand” before ever approaching a publisher.
  3. Not understanding the publishing process, resulting in their having unrealistic expectations of the experience.

For indie publishers, I think the top three errors I see would be:

  1. The same as #3 above: lacking an understanding of what to realistically expect from being a publisher because they don’t really comprehend the entirety of what’s entailed in present-day book publishing. Far too many would-be publishers are still stuck in the last century when it comes to grasping how drastically this industry has changed in the past 10-20 years.
  2. Overestimating their own knowledge, skill sets and capacity to get the work done. There are few fields in which it’s so critical to know what you can do well on your own, and what parts of each project you’d be better off delegating to someone with the right mix of skill and experience.
  3. Underestimating the start-up costs in money, time and energy it takes to become a truly successful publisher.

I’m certainly not pointing any fingers—I’m as guilty as the next person in not having really known what I was doing when I first got started as an indie publisher almost 10 years ago. But I have a rather unique background that provided me with the exact mix of diverse skills that allowed me to survive all my dumb decisions.

It is both fascinating and inspiring to hear tales of the “blissfully unaware” overcoming the odds — like the success you had marketing your first book when, at the time, it wasn’t expected to earn out. What did you do that perhaps others haven’t or didn’t do?

Mary Shafer: In addition to the relatively unusual skill set I just referenced, I’m also lucky to be a quick study. When I’m in focused mode, I can take in a great deal of information at once, process it quickly and almost immediately integrate it into current projects and apply it in place of less-than-effective activities I would previously have used to get a job done. Not unsurprisingly, this typifies why indie publishers are able to be successful in today’s ever-evolving book industry: we’re small, and so much more agile. Our lack of overhead and the structural inflexibility that plagues larger organizations allows us to adapt quickly to the rapid changes that have characterized book publishing for decades now. Other advantages I had were that I am a proactive seeker of new information, and I have the courage of my convictions. If I know I am capable of doing something, I just don’t listen to the naysayers.

In the case of my first book, though, I must admit that I wasn’t up against that — I simply didn’t know the prevailing conventional wisdom was (and still is) that first-time authors are pretty much expected to fail. This isn’t nastiness on anyone’s part, it’s simply an acknowledgment of how much work it is to create, publish and market a book. Happily, there are many first-time authors not just succeeding, but doing so at a level unprecedented before the rise of digital technology. My entire reason for doing the presentations I do is to dispel that myth. Yes, odds are against the first-time author, but that’s mostly because the majority of them are woefully ignorant, unprepared, arrogant, lazy or all of the above. Anyone who doesn’t fit that stereotype in fact has a good chance of succeeding not only with their first book, but also in the long term!

You mentioned a new “Wild West” of publishing. I like that term. Could you tell us some of the opportunity that’s available?

Mary Shafer: I call it that because, just as on America’s frontier in the mid-1800s through the turn of the 20th century, the industry is without most of the “laws” that governed it for centuries. There are no longer any hard-and-fast gatekeepers and exclusionary forces that served for so long to keep people out of publishing. The Internet has largely democratized access with a still-proliferating array of publication/distribution platforms, marketing and promotion services and tools, and apps to handle almost any business operations function. Provided people are willing to self-police against inadvisable business practices, poor production values and bad customer service, there’s no reason they can’t create and sell books very successfully to an international audience of repeat buyers.

Is it easy to determine if someone should consider self or indie publishing?

Mary Shafer: If it were, GLVWG would not have had to hire me to give this intensive. 🙂

I understand being in a Category 3 storm as a child along with having two tornadoes (yikes!) pass by either side of your house during the early 1990s left you with a bit of a weather obsession. How much do you think these experiences led you to the writing and publishing of your award-winning “Devastation on the Delaware: Stories and Images of the Deadly Flood of 1955?” Also, I’m curious, what does a Skywarn Weather Spotter do?

Mary Shafer: Just to be clear, I was not in the main circulation of Hurricane Alma as a child, only in the outer bands — so I never experienced true Cat 3 storm conditions. But what I did was certainly bad enough to have made a lifelong impression. And yes, I do absolutely believe these brushes with Nature’s most violent forces played a large part in forming my weather obsession. SkyWarn is a program of the National Weather Service that trains volunteers from age 14-100 to recognize conditions amendable to severe weather and to use established criteria to spot and report actual severe weather conditions to local NWS offices. This is far easier and more immediate to do today, with smartphones that allow us to call in our observations or to report via a mobile Internet interface. You can learn more at

I understand there is a story behind how “Word Forge Books” came into existence. Could you tell us a little bit about when, and maybe more importantly, how you decided to create it?

Mary Shafer: I had begun writing my book under contract with a new indie publisher in Doylestown in 2003, with guidance from a trusted colleague and friend who was, at the time, affiliated with the non-profit organization. Two years later, as I was in the final revisions of the manuscript, I was informed that the publisher had been forced to go out of business, leaving me with no publisher and no rights to my own work, since I’d already been paid a partial advance. Two wonderful friends/business clients of mine who supported my project graciously donated the $2,500 for me to buy back my rights, for which I’ll be eternally grateful. However, by that time it was far too late to find another publisher if I were to make my goal of publishing in time for the mid-August, 2005, anniversary of the flood, which I was going to use as the publicity “hook” on which to hang the launch of the book. Realizing that I had most of the experience and know-how I needed to get the book published, I decided that rather than throw away the three years I’d invested in the project, I’d just publish it myself. And so Word Forge Books was born. I named it as a division of The Word Forge, my freelance copywriting and marketing consultancy business.

It’s worth noting that in 2005, Facebook was just being born, most folks didn’t yet even have a website or know what a blog was, many weren’t yet even fluent on email, and was just getting on its feet. There was no Kobo, Smashwords, GoodReads or any of the other online tools that now make getting a book into the hands of readers such a relatively easy process. As has happened more than once in my career, my needs were ahead of the market, so I plowed ahead using the tools I had at hand. I try not to think now of all the money I poured into that pioneering effort and just try to be happy for my colleagues who won’t have to go through that now, when they try to do the same.

Less than a year ago, you started “The Indie Navigator” so you could focus on the consulting work on publishing…presumably one of your favorite parts. Could you tell us about that deciding moment and what you envision for its future?

Mary Shafer: It wasn’t any earth-shaking thing, really. I just finally realized that the majority of my new consulting clients in 2011-12 were authors and indie publishers, and that it would be far easier for me to brand myself that way. After all, one must take one’s own advice, no? So I found my market niche and am now working on building the Indie Navigator brand among those professionals. As for the future, I’m trying more to envision simply success, without too much detail around what that means. I’m learning, albeit slowly, that even though creative visualization (my way of manifesting what I want from my life) usually works best when it’s very detailed, sometimes those details can be limiting when they’re taking place in an industry changing as rapidly as publishing is. SO I’m just remaining open to following the needs of my market right now. I don’t need to lead the market — that’s an expensive and exhausting place to be, I’ve discovered. I’m happy simply helping people not make the same mistakes I did, and hopefully making their publishing experiences as rewarding and enjoyable as possible.

Last question, with as many “hats on your head” do you still have time to write? And if yes, what are you currently working on?

Mary Shafer: Sadly, I don’t have much time to write anymore, and that’s one thing with which I struggle these days. Still, I have had some success the last two years using NaNoWriMo as the disciplined framework upon which to work up to nearly 26,000 words on my novel-in-progress, “Lonely Cottage Road.” It’s a Civil War-era historical romance with a slight paranormal twist, whose theme is the importance of honoring the creative urge. How’s that for vague? It’s my first novel, and I’m looking forward to having more time to work on it as I consolidate some of my other obligations in the near future. I’ve recently finished some rather large volunteer commitments that had become tremendously time- and energy-consuming, and I’m also re-tooling how I make my living to produce more income in less time. We’ll see how that goes.

Meanwhile, as I do all that, I’m also laying the groundwork for a novel series called “The Storm Diaries.” It features the adventures of forensic meteorologist Stephanie “Stormy” McLeod, her special needs dog Oogie, and her best pal, metal detectorist T.J. Tanner in solving cold-case mysteries around severe weather events. This series will allow me to combine my three great passions — severe weather, treasure hunting and animal rescue — into what I hope will be a long-running novel series that will allow me to make a living while writing off as a business expense my research trips to the National Severe Storms Laboratory and the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma, and my own storm chasing tours. You can learn more at, and follow me on Twitter at @stormdiaries, where I often live-tweet severe weather events all over the US. You might wonder why I’m doing all that so long before the first novel even comes out. I’m taking my own advice and building my author platform ahead of time so that when it’s time for the book to come out, not only will I have a ready-made market to promote to, I’ll even be able to fund the first printing with pre-orders!

Thank you again, Mary, for taking the time for this interview! I look forward to seeing you at the conference.

Mary Shafer: Tammy, thank YOU for the good questions and your willingness to write up the interview. I hope I’ve been helpful and not too overwhelming. Also looking forward to meeting you at The Write Stuff!

Mary Shafer. The Indie Navigator, is an award-winning author, indie publisher, marketing consultant and professional speaker. She shares what she learned the hard way with other authors and indie publishers, so they don’t have to make the same mistakes.

Entering book publishing in 1990 as an art director, Mary developed experience in most facets of the industry, including editing and marketing. By 1993, her first book was published by a mid-sized indie publisher. As a first-time author, her book wasn’t even expected to earn out. Blissfully unaware the odds were stacked against her, she used what she knew about marketing to tirelessly promote her book. It eventually went into three printings, selling 15,000 hardcover and earning her some attractive royalties. Her second hardcover came out in 1995, and her first self-published book sold out its entire first run of 2,500 copies in 42 days. Now in its second, updated edition and sixth printing, it has sold more than 6,000 print copies to date and is about to come out as an eBook.

In 2013, she launched The Indie Navigator brand to allow her to concentrate her consulting work on the market she knows best, publishing. She doesn’t want other authors to have to make all the painful mistakes she’s made, but believes that despite all the upheaval, this is the most exciting time to be a small, independent publisher and self-published author. In addition to her consulting work, she presents at writers conferences, to writers groups, publishing organizations and online to help authors and small publishers recognize the great potential for success in the new “wild west” of publishing brought on by technological innovation and the resulting changes in the marketplace.

Mary brings her knowledge and experience to every project she works on with her Indie Navigator clients (


Tammy Burke, GLVWG member, 2011 conference chair and past president, has published around 400 newspaper and regional magazine articles. She has interviewed state and local government officials, business and community leaders, everyday folk and celebrities, in addition to helping write scripts for over a dozen television commercials and writing various business communications. Currently, she is in the revision stage for her first YA fantasy adventure book, the first in an intended series. When not writing, she works in the social service field and is a fencing marshal in the Society of Creative Anachronism (SCA).

Meet Melba Tolliver, GLVWG president & Founders Panel moderator!

by Tammy Burke

reposted from


GLVWG “Write Stuff” Conference always offers so many varied choices. It’s sometimes hard to pick which thing to do and this year is no different. One of the new items on this year’s docket is Friday night’s Founders Panel hosted by GLVWG President Melba Tolliver.

Not only will you “meet the catalysts behind the dynamic group we call GLVWG” but you’re likely to get a personalized look at how changes in the writing world affects how a group evolves in response.

And that is a great way to get ideas percolating on an individual basis along with the obvious exposure to really fascinating stuff! President Melba Tolliver joins us today to give a glimpse behind the Founders Panel.

Hi Melba,

What a fascinating topic this year’s GLVWG “Write Stuff” Conference has for Friday night with the Founders Panel. I’m sure many will love to getting a real look at how our dynamic history unfolded.

First of all, who’s brain-child was it adding this to the conference docket? Will it be anything like GLVWG’s November program? Who is slated to be on the panel? Could you share a teaser of some of the things we might learn?

Melba Tolliver: The circumstances of GLVWG’s beginnings is a fabulous story and the telling of it in a panel discussion at our November meeting inspired Brenda Havens, WS co-chair and me to reprise it as one of the Friday evening events.

Hard to believe now, given the size of GLVWG’s current membership, but the group’s first meeting was called to order in a living room. Two good friends and very determined writers, Lorraine Stanton and Annie Kelleher, had spent a lot of time researching writers groups, and decided to start one of their own after cherry picking what was best about other organizations. Annie told me that she and Lorraine conceived GLVWG in the fall of 1992 and birthed it in Lorraine’s living room with 3 other writers the following spring. A month later, as word spread, they had a dozen members and it was clear that Annie and Lorraine had tapped into the hopes and aspirations of folks like themselves in the Lehigh Valley who loved writing.

At our November meeting, four of the very earliest GLVWG members, Deb Maher, Peggy Adamczyk, Joan Zachary and Jill Peters entertained us with tales of those early meetings, describing some of the concerns on the minds of the personalities who set the tone for the group early on. They also remembered some of the first Write Stuff conferences—really luncheons—at the Bethlehem Club.

GLVWG has had its ups and downs over the years suffering growing pains and overcoming what Annie calls “Founder’s Disease”, a malady that strikes when people who start an organization are reluctant to see it change. The November panelists shared their various insights on how GLVWG dealt with challenges in the past and how it might meet new and different ones going forward. One issue raised during the Q&A involved the fiction and non-fiction factions within GLVWG, whether both are equally served in a group whose members write across many genres.

Time was way too short and we could have spent the entire 90 minutes on changes in the book and publishing worlds never anticipated by the early GLVWGers. We’ll get into more of this, allowing more time for Q&A in what is sure to be a lively conversation. Deb Maher, GLVWG’s first president, and Peggy Adamczyk, who’s bringing her remarkable archive of GLVWG newsletters, will be back for the WS panel. Kathleen Coddington, former GLVWG VP, treasurer and librarian, and a writer with a passion for history, myth and magic, will join them.

I understand you are moderating the panel. Can you tell us a bit of your history with GLVWG? How did you discover the group? What drew you in?

Melba Tolliver: The late Bill Marley introduced me to GLVWG, suggesting I sign up for the WS conference in 2009. That did it. I joined the group and made my conference experience the first post on my new blog. I wrote about chatting with keynoter, Matt Birbeck, an award-winning investigative journalist and author, whose book on Sammy Davis, Jr. had brought him a movie deal.

When GLVWG librarian Rachel Thompson went on the road and and asked for a volunteer to take over for her I was happy to do it. I later moved on to be secretary and now president of the group.

What do you believe is the greatest thing a writer can get out of GLVWG?

Melba Tolliver: Support. Support. Support. Whether it’s a critique group or the Writers Cafe, you can get and give feedback on works-in-progress. In our morning programs or afternoon workshops members can educate themselves on any number of relevant topics and even serve as presenters themselves if they have expertise in a given area. A lot of networking happens in our group when members pick each others brains, exchange skills, or find a writing partner. If someone wants to volunteer to fill a leadership role, they can go for it and find benefits for themselves while helping the group. I like it that GLVWG provides so many opportunities to get and to give what’s needed.

With being a member for five years, holding offices such as librarian, secretary and president, you have had an eagle’s eye view of how the organization has grown and changed. What do you think are some of the biggest or most profound evolutions?

Melba Tolliver: I’m especially pleased that GLVWG has stepped up efforts to educate members about the tremendous changes in the book and publishing worlds. The late Bill Marley, Bart Palamaro and David Miller deserve much of the credit for keeping us current about independent author publishing. The technology has changed everything, even the way we in GLVWG communicate. Email, sharing through our blogs and social media was stuff not available to our founders. Not that I think we’re well served by everything available to us in this digital age. For instance, our library became obsolete when members quit borrowing books, turning instead to blogs and other resources for help with craft and research. So we reluctantly sold off most of our books (they found good new homes) and closed the library.

Thank you for undertaking the office of president this term at GLVWG. What do you think is the most important part of the office? How would you like to see GLVWG evolve?

Melba Tolliver: Keeping track of the various tasks of the board and making sure everyone knows in a timely manner what’s going on is what I find most demanding as president. I’d like to see us developing more partnerships with other entities. For instance, I recently attended an evening at East Stroudsburg University as it closed out its One Book One Campus year. They had chosen as their book “The Other Wes Moore” by the author of the same name who gave a wonderful, inspiring talk. The audience—ESU students and an entire HS class–put aside their cell phones and other devices to pay attention. I sat there amazed and wishing there was a way GLVWG could help support a program such as this.

We have so much talent in GLVWG, I’d like to come up with more ways to share it.

If memory serves me, wasn’t there recently a Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group Day in Easton?

Melba Tolliver: Last fall I made requests of the Easton mayor and Northampton County supervisor. Both responded and created proclamations for each of five GLVWG founders or early members (Stanton, Kelleher, Maher, Adamczyk and Barbara Haines Howett) acknowledging them and noting the work of GLVWG on its 20th anniversary. Additionally, and to my pleasant surprise, Mayor Salvatore Panto proclaimed November 23, 2013 Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group Day in Easton.

One thing my years of reporting taught me: it pays to ask (about and for nearly anything) the worst that can happen is you get a “no” and sometimes no response. So I’ve become pretty practiced in my asking skills.

Thank you so much for taking the time for this interview, Melba. GLVWG is such a diverse, dynamic and growing entity. It will indeed be a real treat for our conferees to interact with our Founders Panel.


Ladies of the Borobudur
by one of GLVWG’s earliest member –
Barbara Haines Howett


Melba Tolliver. Her writing has appeared in the newspapers Akron Beacon Journal, Amsterdam News, USA Today; the magazines Black Sports World, Good Housekeeping, Unique NY, Networking. A longtime broadcast journalist she has written news and features for ABC, WABC, WNBC, News 12 Long Island and the Food Channel. She has served as writer-in-residence at Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, NY; Howard R. Marsh Visiting Professor of Journalism, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; journalism teacher, College of Old Westbury, NY. Her honors include NEH Fellowship, University of Michigan; NY Urban League’s John B. Russwurm award; NY Association of Black Journalists’ Lifetime Achievement award; NY Women in Communication’s Matrix award; Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters, Molloy College, NY.


Tammy Burke, GLVWG member, 2011 conference chair and past president, has published around 400 newspaper and regional magazine articles. She has interviewed state and local government officials, business and community leaders, everyday folk and celebrities, in addition to helping write scripts for over a dozen television commercials and writing various business communications. Currently, she is in the revision stage for her first YA fantasy adventure book, the first in an intended series. When not writing, she works in the social service field and is a fencing marshal in the Society of Creative Anachronism (SCA).

Meet Don Lafferty, Chief Marketing Officer of Mingl Marketing and social media guru!

by Tammy Burke

previously posted on


Hi Don,

I am delighted to hear you will teaching a pre-conference workshop THE ESSENTIAL ELEMENTS OF EVERY AUTHOR’S ONLINE MARKETING STRATEGY. Our attendees are sure to gain so much insight! I remember leaving one of the monthly Liars Club Coffeehouse for Writers meetings with my head spinning with the wealth of good information after hearing you talk about the optimal ways to use Twitter for marketing. And I see that social media isn’t the only thing listed which you will be covering during this workshop. I hope everyone brings a notebook!

I was wondering if you might whet our appetites even more by giving us an example or two about the workshop.

Don Lafferty: Facebook is the eight hundred pound gorilla of social media. Seventy-five percent of Americans are logging into Facebook for on average, more than fifteen minutes a day. So it makes perfect sense to start your social media strategy with a Facebook author page to build community in much the same spirit that we build an email list.

But Facebook has stacked the deck against us, depressing the number of people who see our posts to somewhere between one and three percent of the communities we’ve all worked so hard to build.
So how does an author reach the people who have made a deliberate decision to connect with their Facebook page without breaking the bank on Facebook ads?

I’ll cover that in my seminar.

With the dizzying, ever-growing plethora of choices in social media networks, how does an author know in which ones to invest their most valuable possession – Time?

I’ll go through a step-by-step evaluation to help you determine which social media channels are best for your writing goals and the most efficient, effective ways to manage the time you spend tending to them.

Have you ever changed someone mind’s from believing social media and time management shouldn’t belong in the same sentence to understanding its value?

Don Lafferty: It’s always prudent to weigh the value of the investments we make in the goals we want to accomplish, in fact, it would be foolish not to. I don’t see that I’m changing anyone’s mind as much as giving them the facts they need to make a decision within their comfort zone. Time management is essential to every part of our careers, but information is the key to setting this balance in everything we do.

Changing direction for just a moment…The Liars Club is a wonderful group of Philly-area writers who pay it forward in the writing community by offering advice and free events. How did you become a part of this? What do you like best?

Don Lafferty: I became part of the Liars Club when my good friend, Jonathan Maberry, invited me to join. That’s the short answer. The long answer starts just like every other writer’s journey – with a passion for storytelling and a knack for stringing words together. Eventually those two things brought me to The Writer’s Corner in Doylestown where I met Maberry. Within three years, using Jonathan’s platform as my test lab for MySpace, Facebook and Twitter, we were among the pioneers of the use of social media for writers.

When the original eight Liars decided to invite more people to join, Maberry – who’s always on the lookout for a win-win – brought me in as a way to elevate the overall social media savvy of the group.

Being part of the Liars Club has opened so many doors for me as a writer, a speaker and a marketing consultant, but, at the risk of sounding corny and trite, the friendships I’ve made through my association with the Liars Club trump every other awesome thing about it. Being a part of the community of support for aspiring writers that has grown around our activities is something I could have only dreamed of when I walked into the Writer’s Corner back in the spring of 2005.

We’ve seen social media grow and change. For one, the teenage crowd seem to be moving away from FaceBook and are using Snapchat. What are your thoughts about the evolution of social media? How important is it to know what is likely to be trending as you’re trying to reach your optimal audience? What do you believe are today’s most advantageous social media sites?

Don Lafferty: Tammy, I’m surprised all the time by the innovative ideas people are coming up with to slice and dice the social media landscape into new and innovative ways for people to connect, share and collaborate. The evolution of social media is going to continue to drive toward a more seamless user experience, where the boundaries of a media channel will no longer be an impediment to sharing and discovering new things right where you are in the palm of your hand, or using a wearable device like Google Glass.

The importance of keeping pace with the changes in social media is critical to people who do what I do, but it’s not easy. My clients depend on me to have a solid understanding of the various social media channels, and in turn I depend on specialized experts to sift through all the latest and greatest shiny objects so I can figure out if and how to incorporate them into a client’s strategy.

For writers, there are a few social media channels that are no-brainers, like Facebook, Goodreads, Google Plus and maybe Twitter. After that, it all depends on what the writer writes, and where their target connections are playing in social media.

For example, a cookbook author should be on Pinterest. Maybe even Instagram. But a creative nonfiction author probably wouldn’t get much traction for their work in a community like that.
A writer’s content will dictate the social media channels into which they should jump.

You have an interesting blurb on your company’s website about how in 2005 you realized the marketing potential of social media after having daughter-assistance creating your own MySpace page. Presumably, this was one of the first steps which led you to becoming a social media guru. Could you tell us a bit about this? Also, I was wondering if there was a particular catalyst which inspired you to become the Chief Marketing Officer of the digital marketing agency, Mingl Marketing Group?

Don Lafferty: You’re absolutely right, Tammy. About a year after I became a regular attendee of what would become the Coffeehouse for Writers, Maberry orchestrated a competition designed to pit two groups of writers against each other to see who could successfully pitch and sell a nonfiction book first.

In the end, I wound up on a team with Kerry Gans, Jerry Waxler, Keith Strunk, Jeanette Juryea and Carron Morris. We decided to pitch a book about all the ways the Internet had changed how people were able to connect.

We decided to write about business, medicine, romance, and sex among other things, so when we divided up the research, I drew the research on Virtual Communities, which at the time, was Myspace, Xanga, LiveJournal, listserves and Yahoo groups. I went home from that meeting and asked my then, ten and twelve year old daughters, to show me how to get on Myspace. Once I started to play around with it, my marketing brain exploded with ideas for authors and small businesses to connect to the people in their target demographics at a level never seen before.

This was 2006, before the term “social media” had even been coined. Back then, writers didn’t build platform by blogging, but by working in the field and writing magazine articles, so I set about querying all types of markets to write about the uses of Myspace for marketing. By 2008 I was in business and the next year I left my full time job to pursue a full time career as a freelance social media marketing consultant. As the business grew I eventually had to form a company to scale up, and Mingl Marketing was born with the help of my partners, Ron Musser and Mike Gospodarek.

Do you find more differences than similarities between what small businesses should use with social media versus a writer looking to increase his or her readership and book sales?

Don Lafferty: Huge differences. [Most] writers are people. [Most] brands are not. The relationships people have with authors are very different from their relationships to brands. Although both types of relationship can be quite passionate, an author is the brand and rarely has professional branding consultants, PR consultants and marketing and communications professionals vetting their content. Consequently, an author can make connections in social media channels that will foster loyalty in readers in a way that brands can rarely accomplish.

But there is a dark side to this, and we’ve all seen it. An author whose core message is “Look at me! I’m so cool! Buy my book! Look at me! Buy my book! Oh, and politics! Come to my book signing! And bring your whole family! Oh and religion! And buy my book! Did you buy my book yet? Because I have a new one coming out in 9 months, so hurry!”

You get the picture.

Just out of curiosity, how does one go from testing guidance systems for the B-1 bomber program in the 1980s to being described as “one of the strongest technical communicators in the business?”

Don Lafferty: Because I have always been a writer and I’ve always sought out adventure. These have been the main themes of my life since I was a teenager.

I joined the Air Force to see the world, and it was one of the single most important and beneficial decisions I’ve ever made, but even in the Air Force, I wrote for the base newspaper, wrote almost every piece of important correspondence for almost every one of my superiors and became responsible for narratively documenting many of our test protocols and internal manuals. So even though I spent my days flying, I spent my time on the ground writing about the work we were doing.

Upon my discharge from military service, the best paying jobs I had offered to be were sales and marketing positions where I spent most of my time telling stories. By the age of twenty-six I was routinely speaking to large audiences and wherever I worked, I was the guy that had to craft important written correspondence.

So my time in the military gave me a solid background in technical writing, but I was already a writer before I got there.

Could you tell us more about your fiction writing?

Don Lafferty: I am all over the place with this. I love to read genre; horror, crime, and noir specifically, and I love to write that too, but the past couple of years I’ve taken a turn toward what I know – family life, relationships and the tangled web in which so many people live their lives.

I prefer short form at this time in my life because I know what it takes to write long form and I’m just not ready to make that commitment, but I have that to look forward to. I hope.

And last question…is there was one solid piece of advice you tend to share when asked “How do I become successful?”

Don Lafferty: Seek the company of successful, positive people in the field where you endeavor, and when you find them, listen carefully. Contribute. Support, don’t hate. And be kind.

Do not expect success to find you. You need to chase it as if your very life depends on it, because it does.


Don Lafferty’s short fiction has appeared in NEEDLE MAGAZINE, CRIME FACTORY MAGAZINE, SHOTGUN HONEY and a number of other markets and anthologies. He’s written corporate communication, marketing and advertising copy, and feature magazine articles.

Don is a regular speaker, teacher and the Chief Marketing Officer of the digital marketing agency, Mingl Marketing Group. He’s a member of the Liars Club, the social media director of the Wild River Review, and serves on the board of directors of the Philadelphia Writers’ Conference.

Tammy Burke, GLVWG member, 2011 conference chair and past president, has published over 300 newspaper and regional magazine articles. She has interviewed state and local government officials, business and community leaders, everyday folk and celebrities. Currently, she is in the revision stage for her first YA fantasy adventure book, the first in an intended series. When not writing, she works in the social service field and is a fencing marshal in the Society of Creative Anachronism (SCA).

Meet Jennifer R. Hubbard, YA author!

by Tammy Burke


Reposted from

Hi Jennifer,

It is such a pleasure having you join us as one of our conference faculty this year. With three YA novels, submissions in Willow Review and North American Review, and a short story in the 2011 anthology Truth & Dare under your belt, our conferees are sure to gain wonderful insight from you.

Jennifer R. Hubbard: Thank you! I’m looking forward to being there.

I am curious, your first two novels, The Secret Year and Try Not To Breathe, are written in a male point-of-view…did you find that challenging? Is a female POV easier? Or doesn’t it make a difference? Also, do you come up with your protagonists first or the story idea?

Jennifer R. Hubbard: I grew up around men and boys. I have male relatives, friends, coworkers, and a husband. I grew up reading the work of male writers. So I have many models for a male voice. Besides, all characters are people first.

I have both male and female characters in my head. In the short stories I published before I started publishing novels, about half my main characters were male and half female. The protagonists and story ideas show up together; each story seems to have its natural main character.

With the Young Adult market being so popular I have to say what a brilliant idea to offer two sessions, Part 1 and Part 2 of Teen Voices: Writing YA at the conference. Can you give us a teaser on how one finds an authentic YA voice?

Jennifer R. Hubbard: One advantage most of us have is that we’ve been teenagers. We’ve lived those years. While external fashions and technologies change over the generations, emotions and watershed experiences don’t; we can tap into that.

I like that your protagonist, Maggie, in Until It Hurts To Stop has the same hobby, hiking, that you do. (I peeked on your website). Does any of Maggie’s hiking experiences coincide with yours? Have you ever known any one like Raleigh Barringer, the ringleader bully from your story?

Jennifer R. Hubbard: I did borrow some of my own hiking experiences for the book, such as the rattlesnake encounter, and a very windy mountain summit where I resorted to crawling.

Raleigh isn’t based on any single, real-life person. But I think we’ve all known bullies. Raleigh doesn’t have much patience with people, and she feels better about herself when she’s asserting her own superiority, cutting other people down. She has had problems of her own, but unfortunately it hasn’t led to her being very empathetic, so far.

I’m also curious, does hiking help you when working on story ideas?

Jennifer R. Hubbard: Absolutely. I try to take a walk, even a short one, every day. Often my mind will solve a writing problem while I’m walking, but it’s good to get exercise in any case.

I like that you tackle real issues teens face such as bullying and suicide. What has been the inspiration to write on these topics?

Jennifer R. Hubbard: They’re important issues, and they are things that people really face. But I don’t write about a topic unless I think I have something to say about it, and something that’s maybe a little new or unusual take on the subject. For example, in Try Not to Breathe, I wanted to focus on what it’s like for a character to put his life back together after a suicide attempt. In Until It Hurts to Stop, I wanted to focus on the long-term effects of bullying, the way it can affect people’s thinking and their relationships for years afterward.

I understand that you’ve been writing since you could hold a crayon. Can you remember the gist of any of your early creations? Also, what were some of the first stories which captivated you and which ones have stayed with you?

Jennifer R. Hubbard: I think I wrote one about Christmas, and I was so young that I had no sense then what time of year Christmas was. I set it in July and had people eating corn on the cob. I used to illustrate my stories with crayons and staple them together.

I read everything I could get my hands on. In addition to the children’s books my parents gave me, and that I found in the library, I raided the family bookshelf in our living room. It contained, among other things, a first-aid manual, a book of photographs, a book of poetry, and my mother’s nursing-school textbooks. I read everything even if I couldn’t understand it. I still have the poetry book. It was produced in 1969, and has this psychedelic neon cover.

Could you tell us a little bit of KidLit Authors Club and YA Novelists Pushing the Boundaries of the Genre? What are your thoughts about synergy among writers?

Jennifer R. Hubbard: The Kidlit Authors Club ( is a group of authors from the mid-Atlantic region who work together to promote, market, sign, and sell our books at stores, schools, libraries, conferences, and festivals throughout our region. Doing book signings can be such a lonely business; through the club, we can do group events instead. It’s more fun, and it offers book shoppers a wider variety of books. Because there are so many of us, we can almost always muster some writers to do any event we’re invited to. Our authors write for kids of all ages, picture books through young adult, so we can do events for many different age levels. Teaming up together this way has given us more opportunities, as well as giving more flexibility to the stores and libraries and schools. It has enabled us to support one another in many ways, personal and professional.

YA Outside the Lines (, subtitled “YA Novelists Pushing the Boundaries of the Genre and Writing from the Heart,” is a group of YA authors who do a joint blog. (I also have my own individual blog at Holly Schindler coordinates YA Outside the Lines. We have a topic each month, and we each have a certain day of the month to blog on that topic. I like it because it only takes a one-day-a-month commitment, and readers get to see so many different takes on each topic.

I highly recommend authors finding other authors: whether for critique groups, swapping professional tips and information, doing promotional events together, or just giving emotional support and mentorship. This is a tough profession, full of uncertainty and rejection. It is immensely helpful to find other writers to share the journey with.

What advice do you think is most important for writers to know?

Jennifer R. Hubbard: Read a lot. Write a lot.

Last question…What is next on the horizon for you?

Jennifer Hubbard: I have three books out there right now, and my works in progress are at various stages of completion.


Jennifer R. Hubbard lives and writes in the Philadelphia area. Her short fiction has appeared in literary magazines including Flashquake, Willow Review, and the North American Review, and children’s magazines including Cricket. In 2010, Viking/Penguin began publishing her contemporary young-adult novels.

The Secret Year, a story of a boy coping with the tragic end of a secret relationship, was on YALSA’s Quick Picks List and the Indie Next list. Try Not to Breathe, in which a boy recovering from a suicide attempt befriends a girl with many questions and many secrets, received starred reviews from Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, and Library Media Connection. Jennifer’s most recent novel is Until It Hurts to Stop, about a formerly-bullied girl whose nemesis moves back to town.

When not writing, Jennifer is usually hiking, reading, or at the library. Online, she can be found at


Tammy Burke, GLVWG member, 2011 conference chair and past president, has published over 300 newspaper and regional magazine articles and has interviewed government officials, business and community leaders, everyday folk and celebrities. Currently, she is in the revision stage for her first YA fantasy adventure book, the first in an intended series. When not writing, she works in the social service field and is a fencing marshal in the Society of Creative Anachronism (SCA).

Meet “The Art of Falling” Author Kathryn Craft!

by Tammy Burke
[originally posted on GLVWG conference blog ]


Hi Kathryn,

What an exciting year for you with having your first book THE ART OF FALLING recently released and already going into its second printing, and having a second book WHILE THE LEAVES STOOD STILL due to be released next year. Congratulations! It is indeed a special pleasure to see “one of our own,” who has been a GLVWG “Write Stuff” Conference Chair herself, experience such an exceptional debut.

KATHRYN CRAFT: Thanks so much Tammy! The book was only six days past its publication date when I found out that it was selling beyond expectation, and that they were going back for the second printing. If my agent and the publisher hadn’t already had several back-and-forths on it when I discovered the email thread, I wouldn’t have believed my eyes! A dream come true.

THE ART OF FALLING uses a masterful and brilliant format threading a dual story — Penny’s present, trying to figure out how to live with her 14 story plummet, and a look at her past and her choices which put her on the balcony that fateful night. I’m curious, what was the deciding factor which made you tell the tale this way?

KATHRYN CRAFT: I discovered it by accident. My first opening showed Penny out on the ledge about to take the fateful plunge, and due to its high drama I suppose, this incarnation placed third in a state-wide novel opening contest. But I couldn’t sustain the tension. The question raised by this incident is “Oh no—will she survive?” The reader turns the page, sees Penny wake up in the hospital, and yep—question answered. Book over.

Important lesson learned: the story question must sustain the reader until the end of the book. And so began the intense period of learning about story structure that resulted in my work as a developmental editor and prompted the Incite Me! workshop I’ll be teaching before the conference.

Turns out the fall wasn’t the inciting incident: it was waking up afterward, and what Penny decides to do with that. The baker on whose car she landed, her hospital roommate, and the doctors all want to know how she parted from that balcony, but Penny doesn’t have the energy or the will to face it—she wants to know how she’ll move again, and live up to her disappointing body’s zest for life.

At this point I realized I had two strong story questions: what happened to make Penny fall from the very height of her dream career, and how would she make something of this extraordinary second chance from rock bottom? These questions “incited” the story’s two story lines, which I then interwove. Only at the end of the book, when Penny has healed, can she face the missing piece: that fall.

An inciting incident is rarely straight-forward. Because it must set up the entire book its facets can be difficult to craft. In the pre-conference workshop we’ll take a good hard look at this crucial story element so everyone can appreciate its ability to bind the reader to the protagonist for the length of the entire story.

I find it ironic that your protagonist, Penny, who is easy for a reader to get a deep sense of, never has a physical description written in your book. How did you do that? And why?

KATHRYN CRAFT: Although I employ hints from various characters as to what Penny looks like, I am not big on physical description in general, unless it adds depth to the characterization or pushes along the story line. But since I orchestrated the cast of secondary characters according to their differing relationships with their bodies and food, I do describe them to some extent.

Penny was different. Obviously, since she has an aberrant body image, what she looks like might seem to be of utmost relevance—but she’s an unreliable first-person narrator, so we wouldn’t be able to believe her anyway. I recognized an opportunity for the reader to enter the story more deeply by contributing his or her own body bugaboos to Penny’s body. I look forward to speaking to book clubs and hearing people argue about what Penny looks like!

In my mind, the Penny that needs expression isn’t about the parameters of her body. It’s the tender creative core that wants to find its way to the sun—and in that, Penny could be any one of us.

Do you think paying it forward by being a part of the writing community, such as previous board positions with GLVWG and now, the Philadelphia Writers’ Conference and the new Women’s Fiction Writers Association, has helped with your writing career? Also, what advice would you give someone new to volunteering and may be shy?

KATHRYN CRAFT: I met my own writing partner, Linda Glaser of Ithaca NY, at the 2005 Write Stuff conference. Linda is far from an extrovert, but knew she needed to emerge from her solitary writer’s life if she stood a chance of seeing publication. Her goal was to go to a different regional conference each year and try to meet a few people. That didn’t work out so well—she kept coming back to The Write Stuff year after year.

We ran the Friday reception differently back then and I remember Linda strolling in and asking quietly if this was an event tied to the writing conference. I said yes, but apologized that it was only for volunteers. She said, “How can I help?” and I went to get her a name tag. Working side by side we discovered similar interests and agreed on a trial manuscript swap—and the rest is history.

When I ran for my second term as GLVWG president, I overheard someone in the back of the room say, “What is she, a doormat?” I could only chuckle to myself, because here are the facts: thanks to my volunteerism I have tons of friends who are writers and friends who are agents and editors and friends who are published authors that have mentored me in numerous ways in thanks for hiring them; I’ve had opportunities to be on TV, radio, and speak at libraries; I had the chance to start programs that met my needs for learning craft and networking and reading in public; eventually I learned to the point that I could pass that knowledge along to others through critique and as an independent editor and by teaching my own workshops; my mentoring has earned me loyal readers. All of that made me a better writer, and even more, a writer who understands the publishing business.

I can see absolutely no downside to working alongside other writers to keep our literary community thriving.

It might just be me but I’ve seen more information on beginnings and middles but not as much for endings. I was wondering if we could have a little teaser about your upcoming session LAST WORD ON ENDINGS?

KATHRYN CRAFT: That’s what I thought, Tammy, and that’s why I developed this workshop. What author hopes that her reader will close the back cover, push the book away, and say, “I was curiously unmoved”? Not me! I don’t want to settle for anything less than “joyous,” “heart-warming,” or “gut-wrenching.” A story is first and foremost an emotional experience and I for one want that emotion to fill the reader like a satisfying meal rather than escape with one quick burp.

Here’s my teaser: if people are saying your ending falls flat, chances are the main problem lies much, much earlier in the book. 😉

You co-authored THE 7 DEADLY SINS OF SELF-EDITING with Janice Gable Bashman which was published in Writers Digest Nov/Dec 2012 and made their top articles for 2013. Congrats on that too! So out of curiosity, which of the 7 are you most guilty of, and how did you overcome it?

KATHRYN CRAFT: Tammy, you are the devil herself for asking! I’d say that from the start my main problem was gluttony—overstuffing the story with irrelevant conflict and tension. This was an outgrowth of an early piece of well-intentioned advice I’d heard, that “story is conflict.” While it’s true that without conflict there is no story, that quote is only part of the picture. I’ve now learned that story is about a “certain kind of conflict”—and having learned that lesson I am now sensitive to seeing the same issue in other manuscripts.

As a developmental editor at along with running semi-annual writing retreats, what do you find to be the most common mistakes writers make and what advice have you given most frequently?

KATHRYN CRAFT: I developed the specialty in developmental editing because of the overwhelming number of issues I see related to the same basic issues of storytelling structure. These issues manifest in predictable ways: fizzling tension, irrelevant conflict that pops the reader out of the story, lack of character orchestration, and a lack of cohesion that only a concerted focus on or subconscious adherence to premise can provide. The writer may have lost interest in her own story! I love nothing more than helping that writer deepen character motivation, raise the stakes, align the structure, and set her on fire to improve her manuscript.

Last question, Kathryn, what is next for you?

KATHRYN CRAFT: Next up is a story I had begun drafting as a memoir about my first husband’s suicide during the many periods that The Art of Falling was out on submission. Due out from Sourcebooks in Spring 2015, WHILE THE LEAVES STOOD STILL, is the story of a tense ten-hour standoff between one desperate man ready to take his life and the police, while the three women who loved him most, and the larger community, grapple with how best to find hope.

Thank you again for doing this interview! And all the best successes your way!

KATHRYN CRAFT: Thanks Tammy!

Kathryn Craft is the author of two novels, marketed as book club fiction, from Sourcebooks:The Art of Falling, and While the Leaves Stood Still (due Spring 2015). Her work as a developmental editor at, specializing in storytelling structure and writing craft, follows a nineteen-year career as a dance critic (Morning Call, Allentown, PA). A former GLVWG president and Write Stuff conference chair, she now serves on the board of the Philadelphia Writers Conference and as book club liaison for the Women’s Fiction Writers Association, hosts writing retreats for women, and speaks often about writing. She is a contributing editor at The Blood-Red Pencil blog and a monthly guest at Writers in the Storm with her series “Turning Whine into Gold.” She is a proud member of the Liars Club, a Philadelphia-based group of novelists supporting independent bookstores, literacy, and other forms of paying it forward. She lives with her husband in Bucks County, PA. Representation: Katie Shea Boutillier, Donald Maass Literary Agency.


Tammy Burke, GLVWG member, 2011 conference chair and past president, has published over 300 newspaper and regional magazine articles and has interviewed government officials, business leaders, everyday folk and celebrities. Currently. she is in the revision stage for her first YA fantasy adventure book, the first in an intended series. When not writing, she works in the social service field and is a fencing marshal in the Society of Creative Anachronism (SCA).