Ask an Expert: A Conversation with Bryan Robinson on How to Build a Successful Author Brand (Without Burning Out)

It’s important for authors to protect their mental health; like any other job, failing to care for your mental wellbeing can result in serious burnout. As an author and a psychotherapist, Bryan Robinson understands the unique challenges authors face when caring for their mental wellbeing. Robinson has successfully published numerous titles about combatting both workaholism and burnout, and taking care of yourself, including Chained to the Desk (4th edition – 2023), #Chill: Turn Off Your Job and Turn on Your Life (2019), and Daily Writing Resilience (2018). Today on the blog, he’s sharing some of his top tips about how to build a successful author brand, while caring for your mental health.

  1. What’s your top piece of advice for writers when it comes to mental health?
    When you receive a rejection (and you will; every great writer has), don’t take it personally. You can’t have an up without a down, a right without a left, a success without a failure. Writing success is built on writing failure. That’s how you learned to walk. You fell down a few times when you were a toddler before you could walk and run on your own. Your mindset is essential for your success. So remember rejection and success are a package deal.
  2. Are there certain groups or resources you recommend for writers to help them protect and improve their mental health and wellbeing?
    My book, DAILY WRITING RESILIENCE is exactly for that. It has 365 readings to deal with all the obstacles writers encounter on their literary trajectory. Also joining organizations such as International Thriller Writers or Mystery Writers of America and conferences such as Killer Nashville are supports every writer needs to develop resilience and stay in the game. It’s a lonely enterprise and support is essential to boost your self-confidence.
  3. What’s something you wish someone had told you as a debut author?
    Your book isn’t as great as you think it is, but you can make it great with the right attitude, persistence, and skill. Perseverance is as important or more important than a well written book. Too many debut writers give up because they can’t take the hard knocks. If you want to see your writing in print, never give up, keep learning, and take that towel you want to throw in, wipe the sweat off your brow, and keep on plugging away. And you’ll get there.
  4. You are an expert at branding yourself as an expert. Why is “branding” important (particularly for nonfiction authors)? What tips would you offer to other writers who are seeking to publicly “brand” themselves as experts in the subjects they are writing on?
    You have to have a platform, credentials, or extensive experience to be an expert. Sometimes that takes years of schooling or years of practice so that you truly are an expert. If you don’t have one, the first step is to develop your platform by working as a consultant or a writer gratis to get the experience under your belt part. Then you have to promote yourself. That’s the sticky part. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. If you have a book, your expertise is part of the product. If you shy away from talking about yourself and your skills out of modesty, you’re sabotaging your branding. Of course, you have to be discreet. Nobody wants to hear someone drone on about how much they know about something. But you need to find that line where you feel comfortable promoting yourself without carpet bombing people with the promotions.
  5. Bonus: In your opinion, what does it mean to be a “successful” writer?
    It’s a life dream. When I was seven, I wrote stories to get away from a dysfunctional childhood. A teacher teaches, a doctor heals people, a realtor sells everyday. A successful writer writes everyday, not just on a whim. A successful writer pens their craft because they are passionate about writing, not because they want to be famous or rich. If you lose your passion and don’t consider it as a job, you’re dead meat.


Bryan E. Robinson is an author, psychotherapist, and Professor Emeritus at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He is Chief Architect Officer (CAO) of ComfortZones Digital, Inc. He is a regular contributor to Killer Nashville Magazine, The Big Thrill, Thrive Global, and He has authored forty nonfiction books, including his latest, the 4th edition of Chained to the Desk (2023) and #Chill: Turn Off Your Job and Turn on Your Life (2019). His books have been translated into fifteen languages, and he has written for over one-hundred professional journals and popular magazines. He has won two awards for writing and has lectured across the United States and throughout the world. His work has been featured on every major television network. Way DEAD Upon the Suwannee River has been made into a pilot for a television series under the name of Limestone Gumption, and he has completed the second novel in the series, She’ll Be KILLING ‘Round the Mountain. Robinson maintains a private clinical practice in Asheville, North Carolina and resides in the Blue Ridge Mountains with his spouse, four dogs, and occasional bears at night.

For more information, visit his website: and


Ask an Expert: Should Authors Join TikTok?

“BookTok” (the reader community on TikTok) is showing up everywhere these days–but is it “worth it” for authors to join TikTok to promote their books? Stephanie Cooke is an award-winning writer, editor and author of the “Oh My Gods!” graphic novel duology and Paranorthern: And the Chaos Bunny A-hop-calypse, and she’s been growing her following on TikTok since last year (and you can follow her at @helloc00kie).

Today on the blog, she’s opening up about how being on TikTok has impacted her author career, what she’s found rewarding and challenging about the app, and her advice to other authors who are thinking of joining TikTok to promote their books.

1). When did you join TikTok?

2021, coinciding with when my first books came out. I felt like I wanted to try to reach younger audiences that aren’t as prevalent on other apps I use like Twitter.

2). Why did you initially join TikTok–what was your motivation? Did you always intend to use the platform to promote your books?

Yes, exactly. I was very wary of using yet another app and the learning curve involved there but I really wanted to try to promote and grow my audience. I also wanted to help people interested in creating comics and graphic novels find out about the process and what’s involved in it.

3). What kind of attitude did you perceive in your offline reading community (friends, agents, publishers, editors, publicists, and/or other authors) towards TikTok when you first joined? Were people excited about the platform? Nonchalant? Dismissive? Unaware of it entirely?

I think a lot of my friends felt wary of it in that they didn’t want to learn a new app and try to build a following from scratch. Also not everyone wants to be on video and that can be hard to find a niche for yourself there when that’s not your thing. I don’t think anyone in my professional circle was actively against it but I definitely didn’t know of a lot of people on it when I decided to try it out.

4). How did your TikTok content change over time? Among the videos you posted, which “type” did you find attracted the most engagement/attention from users, readers, and fans?

I still think that a lot of my videos are a little more niche. I am prone to talking a lot (being succinct is not a strong suit of mine) so you need to want to learn about the industry for some of my videos. I get engagement on my shorter videos and when I kind of do goofier things based around my geekier interests though. I think my content is largely the same, though with the caveat of it’s getting better as I learn more.

5). Has TikTok made an impact in your author career? If so, how?

I’m not sure! It’s definitely connected me with some new fans, authors, and peers which I don’t know that I would’ve come across otherwise. And I’m definitely watching and learning other creators as they grow their followings and get their books in front of people. But it’s still a bit of a learning curve for me and I struggle with putting myself out there sometimes.

6). What do you enjoy most about using TikTok as an author? What do you find the most challenging?

I love connecting with the other creators and authors on there. I’m an avid reader too so seeing what everyone else is doing is always a blast. For me, the most challenging thing is coming up with content to regularly post there. I definitely overthink it and want to plan things out but I know a lot of people just basically throw things against the wall and hope that something sticks…which is an approach I should try more.

7). What advice would you give to other authors seeking to use TikTok to promote their books?

Don’t be closed off to it! While it might not ultimately be for you, it’s a fun tool that can connect you to different audiences and it’s a lot of fun to explore (albeit sometimes a bit of a rabbit hole…)

Ask an Expert: A Conversation with Natalie Lakosil about being a literary agent

So many authors ask us: Are literary agents necessary, and how do they actually land a contract with a good one? Today on the blog we’re sitting down with Natalie Lakosil, who began her career as a literary agent at the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency and Bradford Literary Agency before joining the Irene Goodman Agency in 2021.

For over a dozen years she has championed and helped to build the careers of numerous award-winning, critically acclaimed and bestselling authors. Natalie represents adult nonfiction, adult cozy mystery/crime, female-driven thrillers, upmarket women’s/general fiction, illustrators, and all ages (picture book, chapter book, MG, YA) of children’s literature, both fiction and nonfiction.

Natalie shares how she got started in her career, what she’s looking for as a literary agent in the books she represents, and her advice to authors seeking representation.

In your words, how would you describe the role of a literary agent, in terms of your relationship with both the author and the publisher?

I would say that I am the industry professional with a birds’ eye view who is there to advocate for the author (the editor works for the publisher, at the end of the day). I’m a translator and problem-solver, and I’m there to think of everything in the context of career and industry for the author. I’m a connection-maker, a bridge between all the other ancillary publishing professionals (such as book-to-film agents, merchandise agents, publicity, ghostwriting, etc). And a project manager.

How did you become a literary agent?

When I was twelve, I was writing, and my mom bought me Jeff Herman’s Guide to Editors, Publishers, and Literary Agents. I decided then I’d be a literary agent. In college, there was a local agency hiring for an internship, and I applied and got it; after I graduated I reached back out to see if they had any job openings, and they did!

Do you specialize in any particular genres?

I do a little bit of everything, really! However, my list is at this point about 70% children’s (0-18). I’m actively building up my adult nonfiction list, however, and I hope to be 50/50 children’s and adult.

What criteria do you use when selecting authors to represent?

I have very commercial taste, so I’m looking for a great hook with amazing execution. I think voice is most important – I can fix plot. If the hook is there (it’s marketable and going to stand out) and the writing is there, and I have a vision for the plot, I’m in.

What advice would you give to authors who are seeking a literary agent?

A lot of agents cite voice as most important, so I would recommend diving into as many resources as possible to strengthen that area of your craft. What I typically see needs development are interiority and detail. Read as many books as possible in the area you’re writing, and when you query, remember that you’re looking for a business partner – so sell them on why your book will stand out in the market. You’re not inventing a market, you know there is one, but how is your book filling a need?

And, of course: perseverance! It’s the hardest thing, but truly, never give up.


Ask an Expert: A Conversation with Thomas Judd on audiobook narration and voice acting

Ever wondered what it was like to be an audiobook narrator and voice actor? Today on the blog we’re sitting down with Thomas Judd, a talented vocal artist who has narrated over 180 audiobook titles, including books by George Orwell, Bernard Cornwell, James Patterson, David Mitchell, Georgette Heyer and Anton du Beke–as well as titles from our sister company Books Fluent like One Must Tell the Bees: Abraham Lincoln and the Final Education of Sherlock Holmes by J. Lawrence Matthews, where Judd’s performance was highly praised by critics and reviewers. Judd’s audio drama work includes Six Degrees of Assassination (Audible), 2000AD and The Noise (Penguin) and he’s done cmmercial voiceover work includes Fiat, Channel 4, The Times.

Judd shares how to be a great audio narrator, how he got started in vocal work, and how he brings audiobooks to life with the power of his voice.

How did you get into audiobook narration?

I was steered in the direction of audio while I was at drama school. I took part in the BBC Radio Carleton Hobbs competition, and when I graduated a tutor of mine advised me to get in touch with an audiobook studio she had recorded at which was based in Bath, where I’d studied at university. In the meantime, I was spotted performing at Liars’ League, which is a live event in London where actors narrate new short stories by writers. After that I was invited to record my first audiobook and twelve years later here I am!

Can you please tell us more about the other kind of acting and voicework you do/have done?

My background is in theatre, and I do a lot of Shakespeare. My wife runs a company called Open Bar which performs Shakespeare in Fuller’s pub gardens across the south of England. This year I’ll be playing Petruchio in The Taming of the Shrew. I’ve also done VO commercials and audio dramas – I was part of Penguin’s 2000AD audio adaptations last year; I got to play a villain in a Judge Dredd adaptation, which was a lot of fun.

If you were speaking to an aspiring voice actor right now, what attributes would you tell them they need to succeed in the audiobook/voice work industry? What makes a “good” narrator / voice actor?

Firstly, you need a voicereel – that’s absolutely essential. I started out with a couple of them – one specifically for narration, and another with some commercial stuff. Because I didn’t have any professional credits, I just recorded anything I thought suited my voice and once I’d done some professional jobs I put those on there.

I’ve never had a voice agent (I’ve tried!) so I don’t think that’s essential, particularly in the audiobook world. I wrote and wrote, and once the work started coming in, I was able to write to more people and I built contacts that way. It’s definitely possible to succeed as a self-represented VO.

I think of narration as being very similar to any kind of acting performance – it’s about clear storytelling and engagement with the listener. I often imagine I’m just reading to someone else in the room. Sight-reading ability is important for working consistently, because the more fluent readers will always be asked back. And be nice!

You’ve narrated nearly 200 audiobooks (wow!). What do you find challenging while recording audiobook narration? What about it do you enjoy the most?

It demands so much stamina, which you wouldn’t necessarily expect from something that involves sitting down all day! The brainpower that is required is exhausting, and I’ve definitely felt this more recently now that I have two young kids who don’t let me sleep as much as I used to. I tend to spread narration days over a longer period now so that I’m fresher each time.

I absolutely love being a narrator. I get to read and tell so many fantastic stories, I get to play all sorts of characters I would never get to play on stage or TV. I grew up doing impressions, voices and characters so continuing that is definitely my favourite part of the job.

What is something you aspire to do with your acting/vocal career that you haven’t done yet?

I would love to do more drama and radio. I’ve done a few projects where several actors are in the studio together, and it’s so much fun.

Follow Thomas Judd on Twitter: @tjudderman.

Ask an Expert: A Conversation with YA Author Dahlia Adler on How to Edit an Anthology

Today we’re sitting down with Dahlia Adler, author of the YA novels Cool for the Summer and Home Field Advantage, a Buzzfeed books blogger, and editor of four anthologies that reimagine the stories of Edgar Allen Poe, Shakespeare, and various fairy tales. Dahlia gives us an inside look at what it takes to edit an entire anthology, how to get involved in an anthology project, and what she loves best about YA.

1. You’re a YA author, Buzzfeed books writer, and the editor of four (!) anthologies. What is it about the YA genre that appeals to you, as both a reader, editor, and a writer?

I love how much life changes in those young adult years, how big the feelings are, how fascinating the transition is as you gain more independence and try to balance the increased responsibility you want with the increased responsibility you don’t. You can and do make massive mistakes that feel catastrophic but generally aren’t. It’s just such a fraught, exciting, marvelous time, with so many possibilities, and so many relationships to explore, and I love getting to live it again a thousand different ways. (Which is easier to say as an adult who knows that This Too Shall Pass.)

2. You’re the editor for the anthologies His Hideous Heart (a Junior Library Guild selection), That Way Madness Lies, and your newest release, At Midnight (Flatiron Books, 2022), plus the forthcoming Out of Our League (Feiwel & Friends, 2023) with Jennifer Iacopelli. How did you “get into” editing anthologies?

It was such a wild, whirlwind thing. I posed the question on Twitter “What would you choose if you could pair any author to retell any story?” and a teacher named Jaclyn (hence the dedication) came up with the idea of a Poe anthology. I tweeted about loving the idea but particularly loving it for two of my favorite psychological thriller authors, and before I knew it, I had an incredible lineup of authors tweeting at me that they wanted to join in. I filled in the rest of that lineup, and it felt so obvious to me after seeing the response to it that there needed to be another one, reimagining work by another author who was at least as widely read. And so on. As far as I can tell, anthologies are to me the way tattoos are to other people: so painful to undertake and yet as soon as you’re done, you want to do another one.

3. How are writers selected for an anthology? Who does the selecting — the editor, the publisher, or someone else?

The answer has varied a little bit for each one of mine. In the case of His Hideous Heart, since I put that together before having a publisher or even an agent, that lineup was completely selected by me. The next one was definitely more collaborative–we went out to lunch, discussed a long list of authors I’d provided plus some suggestions of hers, reached out to a bunch, and then kept drawing and redrawing the lineup as it filled in to make sure we had an even amount of tragedies and comedies in addition to diverse representation. At Midnight was similar to that, but it’s definitely the one with the biggest publisher input in the lineup; three of the authors already work with my editor, and she thought they’d be really great for this collection in particular. (She was correct!)

4. What advice would you give to authors who want to contribute to an anthology?

Be loud about your passions, and don’t be afraid to put out there that contributing to an anthology is something you want to do; I’ve found a whole bunch of contributors this way. If you don’t have any publishing credits, it’s going to be particularly challenging to be considered, but you can always be more proactive and do searches for anthology calls (I mean this literally–put it in your search bar on Twitter); they happen all the time. And if you are contributing, try to be responsive, hit deadlines, and promote the anthology; your editor is already wrangling so many people, and it makes such a big difference when your authors move things along smoothly and help with the publicity.

5. Should a writer already have an established platform (a book release, social media presence, etc) before seeking to contribute to an anthology, or can they contribute at any time, even as a relative unknown?

There definitely are collections that’ve featured relative unknowns, and some actively seek them! The two ways in which this generally happens are 1) someone involved in the anthology (editor, agent, publisher) is familiar with them and their writing, or 2) there’s a submission call, which is rarer for traditionally published anthologies but I’ve definitely seen happen at least once or twice a year these past couple of years. Since I don’t have time to go through submissions on top of the other stories, putting out a call isn’t part of my process, but it’s certainly worked for other anthologists! That said, it’s going to require more work on your part to do that (ordinarily, stories aren’t written for traditionally published anthologies before they sell), and you certainly can’t get “discovered” if you have literally no presence or network, so I do recommend at least a basic presence on the social media site(s) of your choice and a very basic website that showcases any writing/passions you may have and also makes clear how to contact you.

6. What kind of stories do you enjoy reading (either short stories or novels)?

I read all across the board, but I definitely have favorites, specifically contemporary romance, thrillers of all subgenres, and mysteries. His Hideous Heart was such a delight to put together because I was able to just tap most of my favorite authors of thrillers, horror, and dark fantasy, and since I’m such an avid reader of those genres, that took about two seconds. As you may have guessed, I also quite love retellings, especially if they’re taking on something I haven’t seen before. And I am a massive sucker for foodie books; if it’s about a cooking competition, I’ve already read it and loved it. In general, I love books where the protagonists are really, really nerdy about their passions, whether that’s cooking, sports, fandom, crafting, or what have you.

7. When you contribute a story to the anthology you’re editing, does someone else edit your contribution?

Always. I have a beta reader for each story before I turn it into my editor, and then she edits it as well. Of course, for Out of Our League, having a coeditor works out nicely, and Jen and I edit each other’s stories before sending them in.

Bonus: In your opinion, what does it mean to be a “successful” writer?

Success is a tricky marker, because it’s easy to say something like “When you make enough at writing to go full time,” but first of all, people have different professional aspirations, and second of all, how much it takes to go full time is very different depending on where you live. Personally, I think that if you’re finding readers and enjoying what you’re doing, you’re doing A-OK.

Dahlia Adler is an editor of mathematics by day, a book blogger by night, and a Young Adult author at every spare moment in between. She is the editor of the anthologies His Hideous Heart (a Junior Library Guild selection), That Way Madness Lies, At Midnight (Flatiron Books, 2022), and Out of Our League with coeditor Jennifer Iacopelli (Feiwel & Friends, 2023). She is also the author of Cool for the Summer. She lives in New York with her family and an obscene number of books.

Ask an Expert: A Conversation with Jenna Noll on How Impacts Indie Authors and Booksellers

Today we’re sitting down with Jenna Noll, a software developer with, an online platform that allows you to purchase audiobooks in a way that benefits your local bookstore. The site features audiobooks from indie and traditional authors alike, and has partnered with thousands of booksellers. Jenna gives us an insider’ss look at the audiobook industry via, and reveals the best way for authors to promote their audiobooks on the site.

1). What is your role at What do you do?

I am a software developer on the small but mighty cloud team. I work on the website and the backend. A recent fun project I worked on was customizing the homepage so that if your bookstore has added bookseller recommendations, their picks will show when you visit the site.

2). How does benefit indie bookstores?

We see ourselves as a technology partner to local bookstores. Through our tech and bookstore partnerships, we enable readers to buy audiobooks through their local bookstore, rather than through a big, impersonal company.

We split profits with local bookstores (50/50) and currently partner with more than 10,000 booksellers at more than 1,600 partner bookstores based in the US, Canada, and online.

3). Can indie authors get their books featured and sold on (even if their books are available on other platforms like Audible)?

Yes! We love seeing indie authors’ audiobooks on! If authors are producing their own audiobook, the best way to get them on is to work with Authors Republic.

If authors are not producing their own audiobooks, they should talk to their publisher about making the audiobook(s) available on For more information about audiobook accessibility and avoiding Amazon Exclusive contracts, check out our blog.

4). What suggestions would you make to authors (indie or traditional) who want to get their audiobook featured on

Great question! First of all, we suggest they visit Once they’re ready to promote their audiobook, they should read over the ideas and tips collected here:

One fun option for authors is to curate a playlist. They can just complete a quick form, and we’ll create a custom playlist that they can share on their channels. This is a good opportunity to support other authors, as well as their favorite bookstore.

We also encourage authors to become affiliates so they can earn commission on sales of audiobooks (including their own), while driving sales for bookstores at the same time.

5). How has the pandemic affected subscriptions/usage of from audiobook listeners, as well as participation from bookstore and publisher partners?

The pandemic has made a big impact on audiobooks in general. In 2020, there were double-digit audiobook sales increases, according to The Audio Publishers Association’s annual survey—67% of audiobook listeners said that one of the reasons they enjoy the format is because it reduces screen time.

It was also a big year for, as we offered another way for people to support their local bookstores while staying safe. We saw a 202% increase in monthly members. The pandemic also made it necessary for booksellers to be flexible and become well-versed in technology; we saw a 48% growth in bookstore partnerships, and a 398% increase in amount paid to local bookshops.

Overall, 2021 was a time of healing, growing, and learning how to thrive in our “new normal.” You can check out our annual report here for more details of the past year’s impact.

6). What kind of audiobooks do you enjoy listening to? Tell us some of your faves!

I love listening to big, well-researched nonfiction audiobooks! Some of my favorites are:

Empire of Pain by Patrick Radden Keefe – this audiobook is about the history of the Sacklers, the family that owns Purdue Pharma, and their ties to the opioid epidemic. It is so informative and gripping! I couldn’t stop listening.

The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson – this book is about the great migration of black southerners who left the south from 1915 to 1970, seeking better lives and opportunities. It closely follows the stories of three individuals through the whole book, and intersperses stories of many others along the way. I learned so much from this one, and the writing is superb.

How the Word is Passed by Clint Smith – Clint Smith traveled around the country and beyond to explore America’s history of slave ownership. For each historical site he visited, he recounts the conversations with people he met. It feels deeply personal and reflective, and still remains accessible and informative. I highly recommend it!

Yearbook by Seth Rogen – I did not consider myself a huge Seth Rogen fan until I listened to this. It had me cackling nonstop. It was fun to learn more about Rogen’s experiences in Hollywood, and his life before he made it there. Listen to it when you want to laugh!

7). Do some genres fare better as audiobooks on than others? If so, what are the three “top” selling genres on the site?

This was a fun question to figure out! Outside of our more general genres of fiction, nonfiction, and literary fiction, our top-selling more specific genres are Biography and Memoir, Social Science, and Fantasy.

Last year we also looked at the top-selling audiobooks in each genre – you can find the blog post with the results here:

One of my favorite ways to browse the site is to look at the bestsellers for different genres. You can get to the genre-specific rankings by visiting our bestsellers list, and then using the buttons at the top to find your favorite genre.

Ask an Expert: Interview with BookToker Azanta Thakur @AzantaReads on BookTok and BookTalk

Today on our Ask an Expert series, we’re excited to sit down with BookToker Azanta Thakur for a conversation on why TikTok is transforming publishing, and the future of readers and authors on social media. Azana is an avid reader and literary advocate who has created a substantial platform on TikTok (aka “BookTok”), with more than 17,000 TikTok followers on her account @azantareads, and more than 5,000 followers on Instagram. She is also the founder of BookTalk, a new digital conference that is connecting authors and readers like never before.

Learn more about Azanta, BookTok, and BookTalk below, and follow Azanta on social media:
BookTalk /

When did you first get involved in BookTok? Were you a Bookstagrammer prior to joining TikTok, and if so, what prompted you to branch out to BookTok?

I’ve been on Bookstagram since November of 2018 and joined BookTok in January of 2021 after landing on BookTok on my personal for you page. I had been avidly following BookTokers like @lluuuuuuu_ and @aymansbooks for a few weeks and after seeing how quickly people had connected over their shared love of books, I decided to make a couple of videos. I still consider Instagram my true main platform but because I have more followers on TikTok, I tend to focus more on my content on TikTok now.

Which genres / types of books do you enjoy reading the most?

I’ve been an avid YA fantasy reader for years and I don’t see myself growing out of that any time soon, especially with all the new fantasy books entering the market being inspired by different cultures. As a teenager, I read mostly western-inspired and Eurocentric fantasies because that’s what I had access to but now there are books like Witches Steeped in Gold and A Song of Wraiths and Ruin and the upcoming The Keeper of Night that span across the world. At the end of 2020, I started broaching Adult Fantasy as well as Adult Romance. I’m still working through my intimidation of adult fantasy books but these days, I find myself gravitating towards more romance books than fantasy. They’re fantastic to help work through reading slumps!

What types of BookTok content do you enjoy creating the most?

Although they’re far and few between, I love making my little skits. I love to incorporate hijab jokes in them because I just get a kick out of them and those videos are when I feel the most creative and although I’m not normally a very funny person, I find them hilarious. I’m a very big proponent of creating content that I myself would consume and one day, when I find some more time, I’m going to get back to making more of those minute-long skits!

What are some misconceptions that you’ve seen people have about BookTok / TikTok in general? What do you think people don’t understand about BookTok?

I think for some reason people think we get paid a ton of money to promote books. Sure, some of the bigger BookTokers do get paid, whether it’s via views or via contracts with publishers/sponsors, but it’s nothing like booktube/YouTube in general. Most of us don’t get paid at all, and if we do, it’s a small remuneration here and there. All the books I promote are ones that I truly love, enjoy, and recommend. Another misconception that I’ve seen a lot of people have lately is that BookTok is a harsh, critical place with constant drama. And while yes, there tends to be a lot of discourse surrounding constructive criticism, calling someone out (politely) to do better — especially when it’s related to race and diversity in publishing — is not drama. BookTok is not only a place to partake in the bookish community and celebrate our collective thirst over fictional characters but also a place full of educational opportunities!

What advice would you give to authors who are interested in joining TikTok to promote their books?

Interact with BookTokers/readers in your comments — people love it! Be sure to use trending audios and partake in trends if you want to promote your videos and turn on your Q&A for readers to ask questions. Don’t be afraid to reach out to larger BookTokers to introduce yourself if you’re a new author, as well!

What is BookTalk? How / why did you found BookTalk?

Thank you so much for asking! I founded BookTalk back in March of this year as a way to bring together the community we were creating on BookTok and Bookstagram by connecting authors, readers, and those in the publishing industry. I set out to create a weekend full of events and panels — think Yallwest, but smaller, virtual, and focused on debut/newer/authors from marginalized backgrounds. I reached out to several of my mutuals a few months ago, asking them to come on board and help with this massive project, and thus, BookTalk was born!

How did this year’s BookTalk conference go?

Honestly, BookTalk 2021 hit every single one of the goals we had set out to do. The night before we announced BookTalk in May, the Leads and I sat down together and defined our versions of success. We collectively agreed that we would be “successful” if we managed to introduce a new author and a new book to even just one reader and helped them connect with other readers. Over the course of the weekend, we received several messages from participants saying exactly that — how they were so excited to read these new books and how many friends they had made. We created a community for readers, by readers, and I could not be more proud of it.

Where do you see BookTalk going in the future?

There is so much potential with BookTalk and I hope to take it to the lengths I see in my visions for our organization. We will obviously continue our summer virtual event full of author panels and activities for participants and we hope to expand from one to two weekends for 2021. Beyond our event, we eventually have the goal of doing an in-person event in addition to our virtual one, as well continuing with events throughout the entire year to build hype for books. We will continue to bring BookTokers and Bookstagrammers onto our team so that we can create collective content for readers and we hope to introduce a book club, a podcast, and other platforms to promote authors on.

Ask An Expert: Interview with Book Cover Designer Eric Labacz

Ask An Expert: Interview with Book Cover Designer Eric Labacz on Great Book Cover Design Trends in 2021 and Beyond

What design elements contribute to a great book cover design? And what book cover design trends are popular in 2021 and beyond? Today on our Ask an Expert series, we’re sitting down with book cover designer Eric Labacz, who has created some of our most eye-catching and popular cover designs for our sister publishing company Books Fluent. Eric shares what key elements make for timeless, great book cover design, how genre should influence cover design, and some of the biggest cover trends we’re seeing right now.

What do you enjoy most about designing book covers?

Hands down the creative process that is involved in communicating certain details about a book in a unique way that urges readers to explore it further.

How long have you been a book cover designer? How did you get involved in this industry?

I have been designing covers for four years now. Prior to that, I worked for an agency and worked as a Senior Designer and Art Director in the toy, video and food packaging industries. In 2016, I decided to create a home-based studio and I was fortunate to connect with a local publisher a year into it. She started giving me cover projects and I instantly fell in love with cover design. I decided to put all my efforts into connecting with other publisher and author clients and, four years later, here we are.

In your opinion, what are the key elements of great book cover design?

Well, of course, you need the title, the subtitle if it pertains, and the author’s name, but the difference between a so-so cover and a great cover are how those elements are creatively arranged along with imagery and color. An interesting and engaging composition, a focal point that intrigues the reader and eye-catching colors are some elements of great covers.

Should a book’s genre influence a book’s cover design? If so, how does genre influence design?

Absolutely. Readers who are looking for a new book expect to see certain design criteria which communicate the genre to them. If you were in the business of selling toasters, would you sell them in boxes that have a picture of a blender on them? Absolutely not. At the end of the day, you would have a lot of confused, angry customers. Similarly, you don’t want your non-fiction book on furniture making to have a romance-styled photo of embracing lovers on the cover and vice-versa.

Genre definitely affects the choices I make regarding the types of images, fonts and colors to use on a cover and how to arrange them. I need to get a reader to look at a cover and think, “Ok, this is scary, or this is funny or this is very suspenseful” and educate their decision-making. Going back to my favorite part of cover design, it is such a fun challenge to figure out how to communicate a genre using collectively understood images and meanings, but do it in a way that is different, clever and makes a statement.

What are some of the biggest trends you’ve noticed in book cover design in 2021?

One of the big ones I’ve noticed is what I call modern retro. There seems to be this love affair with combining all things 70s and 80’s with modern elements and I really dig it.

Another one of my favorites from the past few years is the trend of partially obscuring and affecting individual title letters as they interact with a cover image. I see that continue this year as cover designers continue to push the boundaries of how we read letter forms and I really enjoy it.

I have been noticing a lot of really bold, bright colors and patterns this year as well as the continuing trend of titles taking up the entire cover. SVG fonts have become really popular over the past few years and their use continues too. The SVG format allows for fonts to appear in different transparencies and I see them a lot on covers now. They have a hand painted or drawn feel.

The use of minimalism on covers will always be with us and I see designers play with it to keep it current.

I also see the continued trend of combining imagery with silhouetted forms. Designers are pushing how they interact with one another and some of the results are really interesting. Lastly, I have been really enjoying looking at new illustrations on covers and watching how digital illustration techniques continue to change. I see a lot of unique, gritty-brushed and textural illustration styles right now and I see it continuing as digital drawing software and apps continue to evolve. It’s some pretty exciting stuff.

Learn more about Eric Labacz, and see more of his awesome cover designs, at Learn more about publishing your book with Books Fluent at

Ask An Expert: Interview with Editor and NYT-Bestselling Author Emily Colin on Why Editing Transforms Writing

As we continue our Ask an Expert series, today on the blog we’re sitting down with New York Times-bestselling author and editor Emily Colin, author of The Seven Sins Series, The Memory Thief, and The Dream Keeper’s Daughter. Emily shares how she brings a story to life through the various stages of editing, and brings a writer’s perspective to why editing is essential.

1). Can you tell us a bit about your editorial work?

I do a wide range of editorial work—from developmental editing to copyediting to proofreading. When I work as a developmental editor, I take a deep dive into all of the elements that bring a novel to life: setting, pacing, point of view, dialogue, plot, description, characterization, tone…you get the idea. I may suggest that the author revisit the catalyst for the story, beginning the book in a different place; tighten a saggy middle; deepen the theme; give us a more nuanced sense of characters’ emotions; step up the pace; make some changes to resonate with the market…it all depends on the project. If the manuscript is based on historical events, I’ll do a bit of research to make sure those are reflected accurately. Of course, if I notice inconsistencies or errors in spelling or grammar, I’ll mark those—but that’s not my primary objective. My role is never to change the author’s voice, but rather to make sure that the manuscript is dynamic throughout, the characters are vivid, the dialogue resonates, the plot moves along at a nice clip, and the prose shines.

When I take on a copyediting job, my role is very different. By the time a manuscript comes to me to copyedit, it’s ideally already gone through the developmental editing process. As a copyeditor, I do my work based on a style guide—typically, the Chicago Manual of Style—and a dictionary, usually Merriam-Webster. As I copyedit a manuscript, I’ll make sure that it adheres to both of these points of reference when it comes to spelling, hyphenation, capitalization, and all manner of other minutiae. I’ll also suggest that the author rephrase certain sentences if I feel they’re awkward and could be more concise. If the manuscript is non-fiction or based on historical events, I’ll fact-check to make sure there are no glaring errors, and doublecheck any links included in the book. I’ll also peruse Works Cited pages to ensure the formatting is correct, and doublecheck any quotes for accuracy.

By the time a job comes to me for proofreading, it’s already gone through a developmental edit and a copyedit. In fact, it’s generally been formatted by the designer, and is coming to me as a final step before going to print. At this point, no major changes should be needed. As a proofreader—again, relying on the Chicago Manual and Merriam-Webster—I’ll doublecheck for spelling errors, typos, and missing words; make sure that the page numbers in the table of contents match those at the beginning of each chapter; ensure that the line breaks occur appropriately and that there are no extra or missing spaces between paragraphs; and, if the manuscript is non-fiction, doublecheck references, facts, historical figures’ names, links, and anything else that might possibly contain an error.

2). What is your favorite type of editing?

Of all three of these, my favorite is probably developmental editing, since it gives me the opportunity to work closely with the author to help them hone their creative vision and make their manuscript the best it can be.

3). What would you say to authors who are still in the beginning stages of polishing their manuscripts, and who are on the fence about whether or not copyediting or proofreading are necessary?

I would say that copyediting and proofreading are always necessary. If you’re working with a traditional publisher, this is part of the package—and the same person doesn’t usually copyedit and proofread a given manuscript. It’s ideal to employ two different individuals for each stage of the process, since one will invariably catch something the other’s missed. No matter how hard a copyeditor or proofreader tries to be eagle-eyed, something always slips through (much to the chagrin of every editor out there).

If you’re independently publishing your book, then the responsibility falls to you to make sure your manuscript looks professional—and the last thing you want is for a reader to be humming along, loving your story, only to be jolted out of the world you’ve created by a glaring typo on page fifty-two.

The thing is—no matter how many times you’ve read your manuscript, as the author, you’re not ever going to be able to catch everything. You’re too close to the project. On top of that, unless you’re familiar with guides like the Chicago Manual, there are some details that will fall outside your wheelhouse. This is why it’s great to employ folks who do this for a living, so you can get back to what you really love—writing your next book.

4). You are a New York Times-bestselling author, and you’re releasing the latest book in your celebrated Seven Sins series on August 3. As an author, how do you find the editing process? What part do you enjoy the most? What part do you find the most challenging?

I’m an odd author, in that I love editing even more than writing. To me, it’s like arranging a room to achieve perfect feng shui, once you’ve already invested in all the furniture and decorations. I adore revisions and tend to tear through them rather quickly—far more quickly than the writing itself. One of my favorite parts of the process is to get feedback from my editor and see what I can do to incorporate it into the story. Writing is so solitary, the moment I actually have someone else giving me suggestions on how to make my books better, I get ridiculously excited!

I’m also a fan of searching for words in my manuscripts that serve no true purpose, such as “just,” “really,” or “seemed.” I have a list of about ten words that I tend to overuse every time I write, and I use MS Word’s Find and Replace function to search for and eliminate them. This results in a far cleaner—and leaner!—manuscript than I had to begin with. Depending on what genre I’m writing in, I’m always aware of my target word count based on what the market will bear, and so this part of the process is a relatively painless way of hitting my goal.

As a final step, before sending a manuscript to my agent or editor, I’ll upload it to an app called Voice Dream Reader and listen to it. When I hear my manuscript read aloud, I often catch repetition, small typos, and other things I miss during physical read-throughs.

In terms of what I find the most challenging, it’s likely killing off my darlings—those scenes I adore, but that don’t necessarily move the manuscript forward. If left unchecked, I have a dreadful tendency to let my characters wander around bantering and kissing for far too long. Trimming those sections always hurts my heart—but it makes the manuscript stronger in the end!

5). Do you hire someone else to copyedit and proofread your own books?

Since all of my books have been traditionally published, the publisher has handled the copyediting and proofreading—though of course, I’ve proofed my galleys! Though I make every effort to deliver as clean a manuscript as possible (see above exhaustive efforts), the final responsibility doesn’t rest on my shoulders (thank goodness).

The one exception to this rule is UNBOUND: STORIES OF TRANSFORMATION, LOVE, AND MONSTERS, the young adult anthology I co-edited (and contributed to), which came out this past February. Since that was published as part of an authors’ cooperative, I did copyedit and proof it—and my co-contributors can attest to the fact that I read through that bad boy no fewer than thirty times!

6). How do you balance your editorial work and your writing life?

This can sometimes be challenging. If I’m on deadline for a book, I have to be careful about what editorial projects I take on. I need to be realistic about what I can accomplish and not over-commit. This was harder when my career first began, but now I generally have a good sense of how long something will take me to accomplish—unless the editing project turns out to be far more complex than I anticipated.

7). What new projects (either writing or editing) are you looking forward to?

Oooh, great question! I’m excited to finish writing the third book in my Seven Sins trilogy, as well as to complete the revisions on a women’s fiction manuscript that’s been in the works for some time. The two projects are incredibly different, so vacillating between them gives me a bit of whiplash—but it’s never boring, that’s for sure!

As for editing, I’m always excited when a book comes across my transom that’s something I would’ve loved to read anyhow. For me, that’s often a manuscript that incorporates some element of romance, fantasy, mystery, science fiction, or an unexpected glimpse into history.

8). In your opinion, what does it mean to be a “successful” writer?

I don’t think there’s a single definition for this. It truly depends on the person. Finishing a book is a massive accomplishment and should be celebrated! Beyond that, every writer has different goals. For some, it’s simply about seeing their book in print, holding the physical volume in their hands. Others feel like they’ve arrived when they’ve walked into a bookstore and can find their novel or memoir on the shelf. For still others, it’s about hitting a particular financial goal, winning an award, or making a bestseller list.

For me personally, I feel like I’ve succeeded when I hear from readers who’ve been moved in some way by the stories I’ve told. When they say my books have helped them through difficult times, made them laugh or cry, or even kept them up all night turning the pages, I feel a tremendous sense of happiness—and awe, that I get to do this for a living. Without my readers, I wouldn’t have a career. I’m grateful for them every single day.

Emily Colin’s debut novel, THE MEMORY THIEF, was a New York Times bestseller and a Target Emerging Authors Pick. She is also the author of THE DREAM KEEPER’S DAUGHTER (Ballantine Books). Her young adult titles include the anthology WICKED SOUTH: SECRETS AND LIES and the Seven Sins series, both from Blue Crow Publishing, as well as the anthology UNBOUND: STORIES OF TRANSFORMATION, LOVE, AND MONSTERS (Five Points Press). SWORD OF THE SEVEN SINS, the first book in her Seven Sins series, was a Foreword INDIES Award finalist, a #1 Amazon bestseller, and was shortlisted for the 2021 Manly Wade Wellman Award for North Carolina Science Fiction and Fantasy.

Emily’s diverse life experience includes organizing a Coney Island tattoo and piercing show, hauling fish at a dolphin research center, roaming New York City as an itinerant teenage violinist, helping launch two small publishing companies, and working to facilitate community engagement in the arts. Currently, she finds joy in teaching classes for the Writers Workshop at Authors Publish and working as a freelance editor. Originally from Brooklyn, Emily lives in coastal North Carolina with her family. She loves chocolate, is addicted to tiramisu, and dislikes anything containing beans. You can find her trying to do yoga, with her nose buried in a book, or getting dragged down the block by her over-enthusiastic dog, Moo. Visit her at, on IG at @emily_colin, or get a free short story at