Ask an Expert: What is “Ghostwriting”?

What is ghostwriting, how does one become a ghostwriter, and is ghostwriting “cheating?” Today, on the blog we’re sitting down with Mallory Burgey, a professional fiction ghostwriter who is giving us a peak behind the curtain at this mysterious and often misunderstood job.

What exactly does it mean to be a freelance fiction ghostwriter? What does your job entail?

I’m sure this answer is different for everyone who answers it, but for me, I work with small, independent publishing companies. I am hired to turn a provided 10,000-word outline into a full-length book. In my case, I ghostwrite under a pen name. There is no “real author” publishing the books, but rather a team of people who create the outlines, edit, and do the marketing to publish and promote the books. I am just another member of that team!

I receive an outline and have the opportunity to read through it and provide notes and feedback. I’m lucky that I have a lot of creative freedom to change things to better suit the story. Then I write! I work in chronological order, starting with chapter one and writing ~5,000 words per day until the book is complete. Occasionally I will do edits when I’ve written something that isn’t quite how the client imagined, but that is rare.

How many books have you ghostwritten?

I don’t have an exact number to offer, but it is definitely over 100 books at this point. It could be as high as 150, but it would take me a long time to go back and count! In the five years I’ve been a ghostwriter, I’ve written everything from short stories to 18,000-word novellas to 125,000-word novels. Early on, I was working on three projects per month to make a decent wage. At this point, I work on one project at a time and exclusively write novels.

How does someone get “into” ghostwriting?

Again, I’m sure this answer is different for everyone. For me, I went the freelance route. There was a window of time after college (I received my BA in English and Creative Writing) where my husband and I moved to a new state and had no clue how long we would be there. The thought of hunting for a job to potentially leave it in six months felt ridiculous, so I made some accounts on freelance sites and job hunted. I was privileged enough to be in a position where we didn’t *need* for me to make money to survive, so I was able to freelance for pennies for a couple months to build up my resume. With more experience, I could ask for a better rate. From there, I built up a loyal, stable base of clients and have had constant work ever since.

Do you write under your own name as well?

I have yet to publish anything under my own name, but that is definitely the plan! Working full time with two small children keeps me busy, but my long-term goal has always been to write under my own name, as well. Hopefully sooner rather than later! Even then, it is very likely I’ll continue ghostwriting. Momma’s still gotta eat!

What are some common misconceptions about ghostwriting?

The misconceptions about ghostwriting are innumerable and run the gamut. I’ve heard it all! People think I’m being cheated by my clients when my name isn’t on the cover of the books I ghostwrite. Or they think I’m not a “real writer” because the ideas are generated by the person who writes the outline. There are other people who seem to think I’m some kind of rare, superhuman writer because I can pump out 5,000 words per day.

When stuff like this comes up, I make it clear that I signed a contract. I’ve agreed to write a certain number of words per day or per week, the same way other people agree to work a certain number of hours. I am not being cheated when I get paid for the work I agreed to do, and I am not sad when my name is not on the cover of a book I wrote. That’s the deal! Yes, I put real thought and creative energy into writing the books I work on, but the idea belongs to someone else (in this case, to the independent publishing company I work for). There isn’t the same emotional attachment there that exists with my own personal writing projects. And while I can admit writing 5,000 words per day is impressive, money is a great motivator. Knowing I get paid per word is the kick in the pants I need to sit down and get the job done every day. At the beginning of my career, I could pump out 10,000 words per day, which is unfathomable to me now! I attribute it to my twenty-something, pre-kid brain power. Thirty-year-old me does not have that same energy!

What would you say to those who think that it’s “dishonest” for someone to put their name on someone else’s writing?

This is definitely one of the big misconceptions about ghostwriting. I can understand how some readers feel cheated by the idea of a ghostwriter. A lot of authors can attest to the fact that readers often equate them with their art. They believe an author writing about a character who has a certain background or feelings about a situation must have that same background or feel that same way. For the reader, authors can be intimately tangled with their understanding and experience of a book. In some cases, this is true! Especially when looking at memoirs or fiction books about incredibly heavy or socially relevant subject matter. But in most cases, it isn’t that deep. Usually, the books that people know are ghostwritten include celebrity memoirs. Do we really expect people who are top of their field in acting, singing, athletics, etc. to also be good writers? No. That would be unfair to us mere mortals. Plus, when it comes to celebrities, we are paying for a story full of hot gossip, not their writing ability. Other ghostwritten works are decades-long series like Goosebumps or Nancy Drew where it would be difficult for any one person to keep up with the quick publishing timeline. Then there are a slew of genre books like the ones I work on. I love genre books (give me all the romance, thrillers/mysteries, and fantasy), but they are primarily books meant for entertainment. If the ghostwriter gets paid and the reader is entertained, I don’t see any problem with it. Now if people still feel cheated, it’s pretty easy to suss out which books might be ghostwritten, so do your research and avoid those.

Optional bonus question: What do you think it means to be a “successful” writer?

A successful writer is a person who has written something and is proud of it. That is the cheesy, cliché answer, but in this case, I stand behind the cheesiness one-hundred percent! At one point in my life, I thought I would only be successful if I published a book that topped bestseller lists. Now, I’m really content knowing I write books that bring people a few hours of entertainment. They don’t know I wrote the book, and I don’t care. My goal was to be paid to write for a living, and I’ve made it! If I one day top bestseller lists, that would be amazing, don’t get me wrong. But I feel like a success right now. I hope the same feeling for any writer, whether they get paid for it or not.

Best practices for influencers working with publicists

I’ve been a Bookstagram influencer for six years now. Throughout that time, I’ve worked with many different publishing houses, promoted books to my audience, reviewed some lovely and incredible new favorites, and made some strong relationships with publicists. The experience of working with a publishing house to help promote a book is incredible. I feel like I am really helping authors and their books get the recognition and love they deserve.

When I became a publicist, I finally got a chance to see what goes on behind the scenes. I love helping authors promote their books and one of my favorite ways to do it is reaching out to influencers and sending them books in exchange for a post. With platforms and communities like BookTok and Bookstagram, it is a great way to reach a large audience and share some buzz about an upcoming book!

While posting about a book isn’t required, publicists do send books to influencers in the hopes they’ll cover it on their page. There’s a silent exchange between the two groups that all culminate to one big goal: helping an author’s book receive some great coverage online.

Seeing how both sides of the email exchange work, here’s a few helpful best practices for influencers to keep in mind when working with a publicist:

Request books that you’ll want to read and promote

If you’re like me then you probably collect books that you hope to get to in the future. I’m always tempted by all the intriguing blurbs and authors putting out new books I haven’t heard of! But it’s also good practice to remember what you’ll actually want to share with your followers. Request the books you’ll have time to read and review and that will avoid the messy scramble to post when it comes time to post.

If you don’t have time to review the book, a spotlight always helps!

The best part of publicity is that there’s so many kinds. Reading and reviewing the book is always a great option, but life sometimes gets in the way. In those cases, you can always opt to do a spotlight instead! Include a little bit about your excitement for the book, share the book on pub day and congratulate the author on this occasion, or share the synopsis in your caption. The options are endless! You can also share a reading list of books on your TBR or maybe even a book mail post sharing your excitement for a new story.

Stay in contact with the publicist

While most publicists keep an eye out for all the coverage a book receives throughout the campaign, it’s always helpful to share the links with them. This extra step not only helps the publicist out, but also gives the publicist encouragement to share more books with you in the future. Building that working relationship with a publicist will come in handy when you see something you’d like to request!

It’s okay if you’re not able to post on pub day

As an influencer, I have a separate calendar I keep to coordinate all the books and their pub days. This ensures that I share or read the books by that date, but sometimes things fall through the cracks. And that’s okay! The great thing about publicity is that it is ongoing, and while a book may have already published, there’s always room for more promotion!

Share your post across multiple platforms

Another great thing about social media is how you can connect your platforms together. If you’ve posted your review on Goodreads, you can quickly send a tweet telling your followers! Why not also share your Booktok post on your Instagram account or even on your Facebook feed! The more eyes on a book, the better and all that social media sharing helps boost your follower count as well.

Avoid sharing negative book reviews with the author

Not every book is going to be for every reader and sometimes you’ll request a book that you didn’t like. That’s okay and that’s the brilliant part of being an influencer; people trust you for your honest opinion. If you do end up disliking a book, go ahead and share your thoughts. Just keep in mind that the author may not want to see it and avoid sharing those thoughts with them. Book reviews are mainly for readers to find out more about a book!

Are preorder campaigns “worth it” for authors?

Preorder campaigns are all about offering incentives for readers to purchase books in advance, usually in the form of some kind of bonus material, like exclusive swag and/or signed books. But are preorder campaigns “worth” the time and expense of doing them? New York Times bestselling author Joan He is known for her creative preorder campaigns for her YA novels Descendent of the Crane, The Ones We’re Meant to Find, and Strike the Zither. Today on the blog, we’re sitting down with her to discuss if the book sales and reader appreciation that result from preorder campaigns are “worth” the time, effort, and expense of putting the campaigns together. Plus, we get an inside look at some of the creative preorder campaigns she’s put together! 

Did you do a pre-order campaign for Descendent of the Crane

I did (details as to what it contained here: 

My strategy at the time, that I didn’t realize was a strategy until later, was to make sure every item was high quality, and as tailored to the book as I could make it. I think personally illustrating the cards added a personal touch—something that I still try to maintain now, even though I outsource the art—because I want to make it feel like a gift to readers. 

I do think that it takes extra effort to remember to preorder something, as opposed to more organically finding it on a shelf. And I want to say ‘thank you’ for that! 

The other thing that made the campaign stand out was the robust international component. Even though these sales don’t help with US lists, readers are still readers when it comes to word of mouth. 

What role, if any, have your publishers played in your pre-order campaigns?

My publisher offered to help with the actual mailing, but I actually declined so as to keep my international component, which can be hard to do through publishers because of legal issues.

How effective do you find pre-order campaigns to be in your experience? Are the early sales “worth” the time and effort you put into promoting pre-orders?

I think the “worthiness” is probably the inverse of how much your publisher is doing. 

I do think Descendent of the Crane was more worth it in that readers might not have discovered it otherwise, in a Barnes & Noble per say, compared to The Ones We’re Meant to Find which had a more robust push from the publisher and better brick-and-mortar distribution. 

At the same time, I don’t think The Ones We’re Meant to Find would have listed [on the New York Times bestsellers list] without preorders—so hard to say. Also, for me, it’s always worth it because I genuinely enjoy making and designing the swag.

A preorder campaign probably isn’t worth the swag costs/time/effort, assuming you’re able to expend those of course, if you can’t figure out how to make yours stand out or if it’s just not something you want to do.

Ask an Expert: How to Make the Most of Your IngramSpark Listing

If you’ve published with IngramSpark, or if you’re considering it, you may be wondering how to capitalize on this publishing method to your advantage. Today on the blog, IngramSpark representative Deon McAdoo is giving us the answers. Deon promotes growth to the IngramSpark platform by educating independent authors and publishers on how best to utilize Ingram’s Print-On-Demand services for bringing a new book to market and maximizing global sales. Today’s he’s sharing that insight with us!

What are ways authors can make the most of their IngramSpark listing, both free and paid?

Making sure you have the most robust metadata will help boost an author’s discoverability. Also, investing in Facebook, Google, and Amazon ads will increase traffic to your listing.

What’s the most common mistake debut authors and new publishers make in setting up their publishing account?            

Setting their returns status. Many authors will set their books as returnable without fully understanding that they are responsible for paying back Ingram for the wholesale cost of their book.  Also, they forget there is an additional $3 per book delivery charge if the book is set as return-deliver. 

What if I’m an author just wanting to publish a story for family and friends–is there anything I should do differently or perhaps consider skipping when it comes to publishing?

You can use IngramSpark as a printer to print the necessary copies you need for your family and friends. This option allows the author to make more money by selling directly to their consumers.

What are some new developments at IngramSpark that authors should know about and get excited for?

Our new reporting suite has been a long time coming, and we’re almost ready to release our new dashboard to all IngramSpark users. The updated dashboard includes new dynamic graphs, an IngramSpark Subject Sales Rank, heat map by region, and so much more.

Can I set up my print book with IngramSpark and other Self-Publishing services?

IngramSpark has a non-exclusive contract. You can publish your book through IngramSpark where we print and sell it through our global distribution network. Also, you can publish your book with any other self-publishing platform as long as you own your ISBN.

Ask an Expert: A Conversation with Wes J. Bryant on Editing Tips from an Author-Turned-Editor

When should an author hire an editor? How much “pre-editing” should an author do before sending their manuscript off for an edit? Can authors professionally edit their own manuscripts?

These are some of the many editing questions we’ve heard from authors over the years, and today on the blog we’re getting answers from professional Books Fluent editor and published author Wes J. Bryant, who has a unique understanding of editing from “both sides of the desk.”

Wes is the coauthor of the book Hunting the Caliphate: America’s War on ISIS and the Dawn of the Strike Cell, a first-person account cowritten alongside the former ground force commander of Iraq, retired Major General Dana J.H. Pittard.

An accomplished editor, Wes details what authors should consider before turning in their manuscripts for a professional edit.

How does your background as a published author influence your perspective as an editor?

Great question! First, it gives me a passion for helping shape and polish the work of fellow authors. In my own published work, I’ve had some great editors and then I’ve had some who clearly didn’t put a lot of effort in, or maybe didn’t know what they were doing—the difference is very easily noticeable. And it’s very disappointing as an author to get your manuscript back and feel like the person who was supposed to help you either didn’t care about your work or shouldn’t be doing editing. I am adamant about putting the same effort into every job that I’d want someone else to put into my own work. Second, I’m able to take lessons learned from my own published material—what I thought went great, and what I’d have changed in hindsight—and apply those lessons to my editing jobs.

What’s one of the most common, seemingly simple edits you come across that most authors overlook?

Well, maybe this isn’t that “simple,” but it’s very common: I’ve found that many authors tend to over-capitalize. Proper nouns abound! In non-fiction, you have to figure out when your word usage constitutes a proper noun and when it does not (sometimes it varies, given the context) and so, it’s a little challenging at times. Fiction is a bit easier but also tricky, because a fiction writer, depending on the material, often has the flexibility of being able to “make up” their own proper nouns. Think of a fantasy novel and all the different beings or races and whatever else you can conjure up in your own world. But that can still get to be too much. You have to read through your own work from a reader’s perspective and ask yourself honestly how it reads. Lots of capitalizations hurt the flow. That may be one of my “isms” as an editor, but I’m sticking to it!

What should an author consider before turning in their manuscript for a professional edit?

Running your own edits and proofreads before handing it in for professional editing will likely give you a better end-product. I’ve had jobs where the work was very rough, and arguably could have been cleaned up a little more by the author before going to professional editing. As an editor, I’m happy to do any of the work necessary. But if I spend much of my focus on fixing a lot of fairly simple mistakes as I go through a manuscript, it will naturally detract from some of the other polishing I might otherwise do. Not intentionally by any means—simply as a byproduct of being bogged down with all the fixes.

Do you find it easier to edit someone else’s work, or your own?

It is far easier to edit others’ work, without a doubt! I have become a staunch proponent of the idea that every author—no matter how great—needs more than one outside pair of eyes and objective editing. I near-obsessively edit my own work and yet, every time I hand it over to someone else especially an experienced editor, there are inevitably things that I somehow missed even going over it a hundred times, or suggestions that never dawned on me for things like clarity, brevity, rearranging a section, etc.

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

Well, what is successful always comes down to how you define success. I think that, culturally, the most common idea of success as a writer is how many books or other publications you’ve sold, or whether you had something go mainstream or even turn into a movie or television adaptation. That is certainly a measure of success. But the truth is that there is some very subpar content out there that still makes a lot of money and has great financial return. It’s not always about the quality of the writing or material. Sometimes it’s more about who it was marketed to, or who it was written by.

But I define success differently. To me, success as a writer means that your words have had a positive impact on someone, somewhere, at some time. Through the words you crafted, you communicated something that had an enriching effect in the world, be it by invoking wonder, by relaying information to make someone better informed in a subject, by making someone feel a powerful emotion or experience, or even just by entertaining and immersing a reader into a made-up world. To communicate anything that carries a real, enriching impact, that’s success to me. The handful of messages I’ve received, or in-person encounters I’ve had, where someone thanked me for what I wrote and relayed how it enlightened or helped them in some way or that my words had an emotional impact—that is like gold and means more than any proceeds or royalties (although, those are nice too if they come in!).

Wes J. Bryant is a retired master sergeant and former special operations joint terminal attack controller in the elite special warfare branch of the U.S. Air Force. He is an author, editor, and defense analyst with focus on foreign policy, counterterrorism, and extremism, and works as a defense and aerospace professional specializing in advanced communications technologies. Wes holds a Bachelor of Arts in Asian Studies from the University of Maryland, a Master of Professional Studies in Publishing through George Washington University, and is currently pursuing his Master of Science in Business and STEM studies through George Washington University. He has contributed to such outlets as the Washington Post, New York Times, Politico, Military Times, Insider, Task & Purpose, Real Clear Defense, and the Institute for Irregular Warfare and Lieber Institute for Law and Warfare at West Point, and has been a guest contributor on BNC News. You can follow him on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @wesjbryant, LinkedIn, or visit his site at

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.