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 http://www.labaczdesign.com. Learn more about publishing your book with Books Fluent at https://booksfluent.com.

Books that celebrate the bonds of sisters for National Sisters Day

Growing up, I always wanted a sister (apologies to my brother), because I imagined that basically meant you had a best friend who lived in the same house as you. Now that I’ve grown up a little, I understand that sisterly bonds take work, and are more complicated than I thought as a child, which makes them even more important! These books celebrate the relationships between sisters, in all their messy, complex glory!

Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott: A classic for a reason! Grown-up Meg, tomboyish Jo, timid Beth, and precocious Amy. The four March sisters couldn’t be more different. But with their father away at war, and their mother working to support the family, they have to rely on one another. Whether they’re putting on a play, forming a secret society, or celebrating Christmas, there’s one thing they can’t help wondering: Will Father return home safely?

Yolk, by Mary H. K. Choi: A funny and emotional story about two estranged sisters and how far they’ll go to save one of their lives–even if it means swapping identities.
Jayne and June Baek are nothing alike. June’s three years older, a classic first-born, know-it-all narc with a problematic finance job and an equally soulless apartment (according to Jayne). Jayne is an emotionally stunted, self-obsessed basket case who lives in squalor, has egregious taste in men, and needs to get to class and stop wasting Mom and Dad’s money (if you ask June). Once thick as thieves, these sisters who moved from Seoul to San Antonio to New York together now don’t want anything to do with each other. That is, until June gets cancer. And Jayne becomes the only one who can help her.

In the Time of the Butterflies, by Julia Alvarez: It is November 25, 1960, and three beautiful sisters have been found near their wrecked Jeep at the bottom of a 150-foot cliff on the north coast of the Dominican Republic. The official state newspaper reports their deaths as accidental. It does not mention that a fourth sister lives. Nor does it explain that the sisters were among the leading opponents of Gen. Rafael Leónidas Trujillo’s dictatorship. It doesn’t have to. Everybody knows of Las Mariposas — the Butterflies. In this extraordinary novel, the voices of all four sisters speak across the decades to tell their own stories, from secret crushes to gunrunning, and to describe the everyday horrors of life under Trujillo’s rule.

My Sister, the Serial Killer, by Oyinkan Braithwaite: Korede’s sister Ayoola is many things: the favorite child, the beautiful one, possibly sociopathic. And now Ayoola’s third boyfriend in a row is dead, stabbed through the heart with Ayoola’s knife. Korede’s practicality is the sisters’ saving grace. She knows the best solutions for cleaning blood (bleach, bleach, and more bleach), the best way to move a body (wrap it in sheets like a mummy), and she keeps Ayoola from posting pictures to Instagram when she should be mourning her “missing” boyfriend. Korede has long been in love with a kind, handsome doctor at the hospital where she works. She dreams of the day when he will realize that she’s exactly what he needs. But when he asks Korede for Ayoola’s phone number, she must reckon with what her sister has become and how far she’s willing to go to protect her.

Sense and Sensibility, by Jane Austen: Marianne Dashwood wears her heart on her sleeve, and when she falls in love with the dashing but unsuitable John Willoughby she ignores her sister Elinor’s warning that her impulsive behaviour leaves her open to gossip and innuendo. Meanwhile Elinor, always sensitive to social convention, is struggling to conceal her own romantic disappointment, even from those closest to her. Through their parallel experience of love – and its threatened loss – the sisters learn that sense must mix with sensibility if they are to find personal happiness in a society where status and money govern the rules of love.

Stalking Shadows, by Cyla Panin: Seventeen-year-old Marie mixes perfumes to sell on market day in her small eighteenth-century French town. She wants to make enough to save a dowry for her sister, Ama, in hopes of Ama marrying well and Marie living in the level of freedom afforded only to spinster aunts. Marie laces some of the perfume delicately — not with poison but with a hint of honeysuckle she’s trained her sister to respond to. Marie marks her victim, and Ama attacks. But she doesn’t attack as a girl. She kills as a beast. Marking Ama’s victims controls the damage to keep suspicion at bay. But when a young boy turns up dead one morning, Marie is forced to acknowledge she might be losing control of Ama.

Here Comes the Sun, by Nicole Dennis-Benn: At an opulent resort in Montego Bay, Margot hustles to send her younger sister, Thandi, to school. Taught as a girl to trade her sexuality for survival, Margot is ruthlessly determined to shield Thandi from the same fate. When plans for a new hotel threaten their village, Margot sees not only an opportunity for her own financial independence but also perhaps a chance to admit a shocking secret: her forbidden love for another woman. As they face the impending destruction of their community, each woman–fighting to balance the burdens she shoulders with the freedom she craves–must confront long-hidden scars.

In Her Shoes, by Jennifer Weiner: Meet Rose Feller, a thirty-year-old high-powered attorney with a secret passion for romance novels. She has an exercise regime she’s going to start next week, and she dreams of a man who will slide off her glasses, gaze into her eyes, and tell her she’s beautiful. She also dreams of getting her fantastically screwed-up, semi-employed little sister to straighten up and fly right. Meet Rose’s sister, Maggie. Twenty-eight years old and drop-dead gorgeous. Although her big-screen stardom hasn’t progressed past her left hip’s appearance in a Will Smith video, Maggie dreams of fame and fortune — and of getting her big sister on a skin-care regimen. These two women, who claim to have nothing in common but a childhood tragedy, DNA, and the same size feet, are about to learn that they’re more alike than they’d ever imagined.

The Ones We’re Meant to Find, by Joan He: Cee has been trapped on an abandoned island for three years without any recollection of how she arrived, or memories from her life prior. All she knows is that somewhere out there, beyond the horizon, she has a sister named Kay, and it’s up to Cee to cross the ocean and find her. In a world apart, 16-year-old STEM prodigy Kasey Mizuhara lives in an eco-city built for people who protected the planet and now need protecting from it. With natural disasters on the rise due to climate change, eco-cities provide clean air, water, and shelter. Their residents, in exchange, must spend at least a third of their time in stasis pods, conducting business virtually whenever possible to reduce their environmental footprint. While Kasey, an introvert and loner, doesn’t mind the lifestyle, her sister Celia hated it. Popular and lovable, Celia much preferred the outside world. But no one could have predicted that Celia would take a boat out to sea, never to return. Now it’s been three months since Celia’s disappearance, and Kasey has given up hope. Logic says that her sister must be dead. But nevertheless, she decides to retrace Celia’s last steps. Where they’ll lead her, she does not know. Her sister was full of secrets. But Kasey has a secret of her own.

Silver Sparrow, by Tayari Jones: Set in a middle-class neighborhood in Atlanta in the 1980s, the novel revolves around James Witherspoon’s two families–the public one and the secret one. When the daughters from each family meet and form a friendship, only one of them knows they are sisters. It is a relationship destined to explode.

The Most Fun We Ever Had, by Claire Lombardo: Marilyn Connolly and David Sorenson fall in love in the 1970s, blithely ignorant of all that awaits them. By 2016, they have four radically different daughters, each in a state of unrest. Wendy, widowed young, soothes herself with booze and younger men; Violet, a litigator turned stay-at-home-mom, battles anxiety and self-doubt; Liza, a neurotic and newly tenured professor, finds herself pregnant with a baby she’s not sure she wants by a man she’s not sure she loves; and Grace, the dawdling youngest daughter, begins living a lie that no one in her family even suspects. With the unexpected arrival of young Jonah Bendt — a child placed for adoption by one of the daughters fifteen years before — the Sorensons will be forced to reckon with the rich and varied tapestry of their past.

The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls by Anissa Gray: The Butler family has had their share of trials — as sisters Althea, Viola, and Lillian can attest — but nothing prepared them for the literal trial that will upend their lives. Althea, the eldest sister and substitute matriarch, is a force to be reckoned with and her younger sisters have alternately appreciated and chafed at her strong will. They are as stunned as the rest of the small community when she and her husband, Proctor, are arrested, and in a heartbeat the family goes from one of the most respected in town to utter disgrace. The worst part is, not even her sisters are sure exactly what happened. As Althea awaits her fate, Lillian and Viola must come together in the house they grew up in to care for their sister’s teenage daughters.

Atonement, by Ian McEwan: On a hot summer day in 1935, thirteen-year-old Briony Tallis witnesses a moment’s flirtation between her older sister, Cecilia, and Robbie Turner, the son of a servant and Cecilia’s childhood friend. But Briony’ s incomplete grasp of adult motives — together with her precocious literary gifts — brings about a crime that will change all their lives.

Here’s Why Guest Articles are Important for Authors

How to Use Guest Articles to Build Your Author Brand

Developing your author brand can feel like a long and confusing process. It’s difficult to know where to begin or what to focus on. After all, there are so many options—countless avenues to explore! It may help to start with something you, as an author, are already familiar with: writing.

What are guest articles, anyway?

You may have experience blogging regularly on your website or sending out email newsletters to your subscribers. While these are important and worthwhile strategies, this isn’t quite what we’re referring to when talking about guest articles. A guest article (or guest post) is usually any piece of writing an author produces that is published on a third-party hosting site—a medium (website, newsletter, magazine, etc.) that does not belong to the author.

Most hosting sites will want first-publication rights for an article, meaning they want content that was written exclusively for them. So, unless they specifically approve a reprint or an excerpt, any article you submit should not have appeared anywhere else before, in print or online.

In addition to first-publication rights, most sites are looking for the following in an article:

  • Originality. What are you saying that hasn’t already been said?
  • Expertise. Why should you be the person who says it?
  • Timeliness. Why does this matter now?

You may feel limited by this at first—especially if you’re used to blogging on your own terms—but there’s actually a lot of flexibility here! The term guest article is really an umbrella category that encompasses a wide array of content, from casual blog posts to formal op-eds.

How do I find the right media outlet to share my article?

Researching the right outlet to approach will take a bit of time. While there’s no one-size-fits-all method for finding a perfect match, you can narrow your focus by considering a few key elements, each of which relates to your author brand:

  • Style. Do you prefer a more casual or formal style? What adjectives would you use to describe your writing?Newspapers usually feature academic, journalistic, opinionated, and of-the-moment pieces. Blogs, digital magazines, and niche newsletters often share more laid-back, relatable, humorous, or specialized articles from guest authors.
  • Audience. Who do you want to reach? Who could benefit from hearing your message?If your article offers writing advice, it would be wise to contact magazines and websites that cater to fellow writers. If your topic is highly specialized, try pitching specific publications that reach readers in your field of expertise.
  • Message. What topics do you feel passionate about? What conversations are you always having with friends, colleagues, and fans?You don’t need me to tell you that your message is a huge part of your brand. You likely have a few main themes that come up in your writing, or several talking points you lean on during interviews. That being said, while it’s important to have cohesive messaging, it’s also OK to branch out into new territory every now and then. Follow your passion and your interests!

How do I pitch a guest article?

First, double check to make sure the media outlets you want to approach publish articles from guest authors. Read a few pieces and take time to explore the outlet. Confirm it’s a good fit for you in terms of style, audience, and message.

Second—and I cannot emphasize this enough—check for submission instructions! Newspapers, magazines, and blogs often have their instructions clearly listed on their website. Submission requirements vary from outlet to outlet. Some may want to see a full article already written, whereas others may prefer to see a list of potential topics you can write on. It’s important that you adhere to these guidelines in order to have the best chance at success.

Third, follow up. Unless their guidelines say otherwise, it should be OK for you to check in if you don’t hear back within a week or two.

How do guest articles benefit me as an author?

Ah, the million-dollar question. Guest articles do require some heavy lifting from you as a writer, but you’ll certainly reap the benefits! These articles are designed to help you:

  • Reflect your expertise. You’re an author, and that means you’re an expert, both in terms of writing craft and the topic you write on. Publishing articles can help you secure your place as an authority in your field.
  • Reach a new audience. Getting your writing published with a new media outlet exposes your work to a new audience, connecting your message directly with readers who may not have heard of you or your book yet!
  • Get your name in front of readers. This is obvious, right? Publishing guest articles is especially helpful for authors who are between book releases and want to keep their name on readers’ radars in the interim.
  • Improve your SEO. If you’re able to link to your website or social media accounts at the end of your article, that can help improve your search engine optimization! Once your article is published, you can also link back to it on your website. This way, you’ll be driving traffic in both directions.
  • Help others. One of the many goals of writing is to help others. So, share your expertise and wisdom—make the world a better place!
  • Become better acquainted with your message, passions, and talking points. While you’re helping others, you’re also helping yourself. As you dive deeper into your favorite topics and begin to crystallize your message, you may find it easier to do various other authorial tasks, such as answering interview questions or writing social media posts.

At the end of the day, guest articles shouldn’t feel like a dark cloud looming over you. They are a fun opportunity to play to your strengths, explore your interests, connect with new readers, and solidify your branding. And, since they don’t necessarily need to be published around your publication date, you can start writing articles and pitching them anytime. Why not now?

Books Forward July 2021 Newsletter

Check out the latest newsletter featuring our award-winning authors and industry news. This issue celebrates a NYT-bestselling author, features upcoming book releases, recent media coverage and much more!

Read the July 2021 newsletter here!

What to read when you’re still thinking about Mare of Easttown

Books you’ll love if you’re still not over Mare of Easttown

I don’t know about you, but I became obsessed with Mare of Easttown and came up with all sorts of theories of how it would end. Now that it’s over and all has been revealed, my hunger for thrillers and crime are at an all time high. So if you are looking for something to fill the void, check out some of these books!

1. The Trespasser by Tana French: French is a master of the genre and you’ll root for the tough female detective Antionette (very Mare-like) as she works to solve the murder of a pretty blonde who everyone assumes was killed by her lover.

2. The Chestnut Man by Soren Sveistrup: This thriller is full of twists and turns as a kidnapping and a series of gruesome murders are found to be linked through handmade dolls made of chestnuts. The author is the creator of the hit show The Killing, and his ability to create suspense will leave you on the edge of your seat. I literally couldn’t put it down.

3. The Vera Stanhope series by Ann Cleeves: These books follow detective Vera Stanhope as she works to solve various crimes in the seaside town she grew up in. All of these books are perfect for crime lovers wanting to connect with a character over time. The backstory of Detective Stanhope and her connection to the town are revealed slowly, much like the slow-burn of information about Mare in the show.

4. Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn: If you are looking for family drama mixed with murder, this book is right for you. Complicated relationships and past traumas come to a head in this book that was also turned into a television miniseries.

5. The Alienist by Caleb Carr: This is a classic crime novel all about young people being murdered and a group of people using profiling to come up with a suspect for the first time successfully. There are a couple twists in this novel that feel very Mare of Eastown that you will enjoy.

6. The Whisper Man by Alex North: Much like Mare of Easttown this book takes place in a small town, Featherbank, where past murders by The Whisper Man are brought back into the light as a young boy vanishes. The two detectives, Amanda Beck and Pete Willis, have to confront the past in order to save the boy before it is too late.

7. My Sister, The Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite: This book also looks at the question: “What would you do to protect the ones closest to you?” as a sister grapples with the knowledge of her sister’s murderous habit.

8. And Now She’s Gone by Rachel Howzell Hall: This story follows Grayson Skyes as she relentlessly looks for a woman who has disappeared, Isabel Lincoln. The more she searches, the more she uncovers about Isabel’s past secrets. A cat-and-mouse game between two smart women.

9. If You Tell by Gregg Olsen: This one can be hard to read because it is the true story of three sisters living in a house with an abusive and murderous mother. Like Easttown, it evaluates the lengths people go to in order to protect themselves and their family. Definitely not for the faint of heart.

10. The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware: A much more straightforward mystery novel with a female protagonist who is finds herself in prison for a murder of a child she swears she didn’t commit. The twist at the end is what makes it a perfect fit for this list.

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 www.emilycolin.com, on IG at @emily_colin, or get a free short story at emilycolinnews.com.

 

Did your book’s publication date shift? Here’s why that’s OK

I, for one, hate change. I’m a planner and a list-maker, and switching gears makes me dizzy. Checklists, deadlines and color-coded markers are the backbone of our society, sure, but when plans change, it’s better to adapt than to fight it out.

Why do publication dates change?

Publication dates can shift for a variety of reasons. However, it’s important to keep in mind that in every case, your team may suggest a date change because they believe your release would be more successful on a different day. Your team knows that publishing a book is more often a marathon than a sprint. While detours may add a mile or two to the journey, they can also better prepare you for crossing the finish line.

Here are a few common reasons for moving a book’s release date:

Production Delays: From editing and designing to printing and shipping ARCs, a lot of work goes into production, and there are often several eyes and hands working on a book all at once. A thorough publishing process opens up the possibility for delays. Editors often factor time into their schedule for a few things to go wrong. Even so, if a snag is hit in one department, it may cause others to fall behind too.

Unforeseen Circumstances: The pandemic is one of the most monumental unforeseen circumstances we’ve encountered in a while. Due to its impact on travel, many books that had planned in-person book tours had to adjust their schedules. To see some of the hundreds of altered publication dates, check out this spreadsheet from Publishers Weekly.

Competition for Media Attention: Say the planned publication date for your book was set for Election Day, or a similarly newsworthy date. As the day approaches, and you realize the impending media frenzy, your team may decide to move your release date out in order to give it a better shot at securing publicity.

Catching the Trend Wave: Book releases can also shift to earlier dates on the calendar! Typically, this is because your team is looking to capitalize on a seasonal or topically relevant trend that would help your book reach a larger audience.

How to make your date change work for you

If you haven’t begun promoting the book yet, it will be relatively easy to make a radical change, should you choose to do so. You can switch from a summer release to a fall one, for example, which was the route many publishers chose in light of the pandemic.

Or, if you’re simply recovering from a small production delay, your date may only shift back one or two weeks. In any case, let your publicist know about your date change ASAP, if they aren’t already in the know. This will be important as they begin to create press materials and organize their outreach to the media.

What if promotion has already begun using the old date?

If you’ve already begun promoting the book, a date change may feel a bit more stressful. Rest assured, though, it’s still manageable!

First, you’ll need to let your publicity team know ASAP about the new date. Your publicist may need to update interested media contacts, and they’ll want to have the correct information for their pitching moving forward.

Plan to spread the word of your date change on social media–here is where a pinned tweet may come in handy! A pinned tweet allows you to showcase one tweet at the top of your profile page, so it won’t get buried at the bottom of your feed over time. Pinning a tweet about your date change will make sure that it stays on your readers’ radars. If you’ve never pinned a tweet before, here are some helpful tips from Business Insider.

Also, be sure to make any necessary changes to your website and Twitter and Facebook banners. You may need to have new graphics made accordingly.

If you are using an email newsletter to keep friends, family, and fans updated, you should send out a special announcement of the date change as well.

What if readers forget about my book or lose interest due to the delay?

This is a valid concern, but it’s equally possible for the delay to translate into added anticipation for the release!

When in doubt, get creative: ask yourself what you can offer to readers that will be sure to keep your book on the forefront of their minds. This will likely look different for every author depending on your audience’s needs, but here are a few options to get you started:

You can plan a special giveaway in the interim, such as offering free signed bookplates to your audience. Or, you can set up a FB Live chat for your would-be pub day, where you play a few games and answer questions from your followers.

In the end, publication days may change, but our love for a good book never will.

 

Red white and blue book covers to read for Flag Day

The Wolf and the Woodsman by Ava Reid

In the vein of Naomi Novik’s New York Times bestseller Spinning Silver and Katherine Arden’s national bestseller The Bear and the Nightingale, this unforgettable debut— inspired by Hungarian history and Jewish mythology—follows a young pagan woman with hidden powers and a one-eyed captain of the Woodsmen as they form an unlikely alliance to thwart a tyrant.

Other People’s Children by R.J. Hoffmann

In Other People’s Children, three mothers make excruciating choices to protect their families and their dreams—choices that put them at decided odds against one another. You will root for each one of them and wonder just how far you’d go in the same situation. This riveting debut is a thoughtful exploration of love and family, and a heart-pounding page-turner you’ll find impossible to put down. 

We Are the Brennans by Tracey Lange

In the vein of Mary Beth Keane’s Ask Again, Yes and Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney’s The Nest, Tracey Lange’s We Are the Brennans explores the staying power of shame—and the redemptive power of love—in an Irish Catholic family torn apart by secrets.

Libertie by Kaitlyn Greenidge

Inspired by the life of one of the first Black female doctors in the United States and rich with historical detail, Kaitlyn Greenidge’s new novel resonates in our times and is perfect for readers of Brit Bennett, Min Jin Lee, and Yaa Gyasi. 

The Final Revival of Opal and Nev by Dawnie Walton

An electrifying novel about the meteoric rise of an iconic interracial rock duo in the 1970s, their sensational breakup, and the dark secrets unearthed when they try to reunite decades later for one last tour.

Mrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner

Jo and Bethie Kaufman were born into a world full of promise. Growing up in 1950s Detroit, they live in a perfect “Dick and Jane” house, where their roles in the family are clearly defined. Jo is the tomboy, the bookish rebel with a passion to make the world more fair; Bethie is the pretty, feminine good girl, a would-be star who enjoys the power her beauty confers and dreams of a traditional life. But the truth ends up looking different from what the girls imagined. Jo and Bethie survive traumas and tragedies. As their lives unfold against the background of free love and Vietnam, Woodstock and women’s lib, Bethie becomes an adventure-loving wild child who dives headlong into the counterculture and is up for anything (except settling down). Meanwhile, Jo becomes a proper young mother in Connecticut, a witness to the changing world instead of a participant. Neither woman inhabits the world she dreams of, nor has a life that feels authentic or brings her joy. Is it too late for the women to finally stake a claim on happily ever after?

Blood Orange by Harriet Tyce

A disturbing, toxic and compelling novel that explores the power of fear and desire, jealousy and betrayal, love and hate, BLOOD ORANGE introduces a stunning new voice in psychological suspense.

The Shape of Thunder by Jasmine Warga

Cora hasn’t spoken to her best friend, Quinn, in a year. Despite living next door to each other, they exist in separate worlds of grief. Cora is still grappling with the death of her beloved sister in a school shooting, and Quinn is carrying the guilt of what her brother did. On the day of Cora’s twelfth birthday, Quinn leaves a box on her doorstep with a note. She has decided that the only way to fix things is to go back in time to the moment before her brother changed all their lives forever—and stop him.

Behind the Red Door by Megan Collins

The author of the “suspenseful, atmospheric, and completely riveting” (Megan Miranda, New York Times bestselling author) debut The Winter Sister returns with a darkly thrilling novel about a woman who comes to believe that she has a connection to a decades old kidnapping and now that the victim has gone missing again, begins a frantic search to learn what happened in the past.

Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas

International phenomenon Angie Thomas revisits Garden Heights seventeen years before the events of The Hate U Give in this searing and poignant exploration of Black boyhood and manhood.

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Ifemelu and Obinze are young and in love when they depart military-ruled Nigeria for the West. Beautiful, self-assured Ifemelu heads for America, where despite her academic success, she is forced to grapple with what it means to be black for the first time. Quiet, thoughtful Obinze had hoped to join her, but with post-9/11 America closed to him, he instead plunges into a dangerous, undocumented life in London. Fifteen years later, they reunite in a newly democratic Nigeria, and reignite their passion—for each other and for their homeland.

Sure, I’ll Be Your Black Friend by Ben Philippe

In the biting, hilarious vein of What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Blacker and We Are Never Meeting in Real Life—comes Ben Philippe’s candid memoir-in-essays, chronicling a lifetime of being the Black friend (see also: foreign kid, boyfriend, coworker, student, teacher, roommate, enemy) in predominantly white spaces.

Miss Benson’s Beetle by Rachel Joyce

It is 1950. London is still reeling from World War II, and Margery Benson, a schoolteacher and spinster, is trying to get through life, surviving on scraps. One day, she reaches her breaking point, abandoning her job and small existence to set out on an expedition to the other side of the world in search of her childhood obsession: an insect that may or may not exist–the golden beetle of New Caledonia. When she advertises for an assistant to accompany her, the woman she ends up with is the last person she had in mind.

The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory

A groomsman and his last-minute guest are about to discover if a fake date can go the distance in a fun and flirty debut novel.

Tokyo Ever After by Emiko Jean

Izumi Tanaka has never really felt like she fit in—it isn’t easy being Japanese American in her small, mostly white, northern California town. Raised by a single mother, it’s always been Izumi—or Izzy, because “It’s easier this way”—and her mom against the world. But then Izzy discovers a clue to her previously unknown father’s identity… and he’s none other than the Crown Prince of Japan. Which means outspoken, irreverent Izzy is literally a princess.

Big Girl, Small Town by Michelle Gallen

Meet Majella O’Neill, a heroine like no other, in this captivating Irish debut that has been called Milkman meets Derry Girls.

A Woman is No Man by Etaf Rum

This debut novel by an Arab-American voice,takes us inside the lives of conservative Arab women living in America.

The Break Up Book Club by Wendy Wax

Breakups, like book clubs, come in many shapes and sizes and can take us on unexpected journeys as four women discover in this funny and heartwarming exploration of friendship from the USA Today bestselling author of Ten Beach Road and My Ex-Best Friend’s Wedding.

A Lowcountry Bride by Preslaysa Williams

When Derek begins to fall for the lovely Maya, he knows there’s no future. But destiny has its own plans, and these two lonely people with big hearts discover that coming home to love is the best gift life can give. 

The Chosen and the Beautiful by Nghi Vo

Nghi Vo’s debut novel The Chosen and the Beautiful reinvents this classic of the American canon as a coming-of-age story full of magic, mystery, and glittering excess, and introduces a major new literary voice.

Meet Me in Another Life by Catriona Silvey

Like satellites trapped in orbit around each other, Thora and Santi are destined to meet again: as a teacher and prodigy student; a caretaker and dying patient; a cynic and a believer. In numerous lives they become friends, colleagues, lovers, and enemies. But as blurred memories and strange patterns compound, Thora and Santi come to a shocking revelation—they must discover the truth of their mysterious attachment before their many lives come to one, final end. 

Oligarchy by Scarlett Thomas

Hilariously dark, Oligarchy is The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie for the digital age. Scarlett Thomas captures the lives of privileged teenage girls seeking to be loved and accepted in all their triviality and magnitude. With the help of her diet-obsessed classmates, Tash must try to stay alive―and sane―while she uncovers what’s really going on.

Act Your Age, Eve Brown by Talia Hibbert

In Act Your Age, Eve Brown the flightiest Brown sister crashes into the life of an uptight B&B owner and has him falling hard—literally.

Infinite Country by Patricia Engel

For readers of Valeria Luiselli and Edwidge Danticat, an urgent and lyrical novel about a Colombian family fractured by deportation, offering an intimate perspective on an experience that so many have endured—and are enduring right now.

Rodham by Curtis Sittenfeld

From the New York Times bestselling author of American Wife and Eligible, a novel that imagines a deeply compelling what-might-have-been: What if Hillary Rodham hadn’t married Bill Clinton?

Big Books to Read on the Longest Day of the Year

Summertime is the best time to read. With the weather finally getting nicer, we’re called to our back porches, parks, and beaches to enjoy the summer heat. But us readers know that these hours spent outdoors are a perfect time to read our books. What better way to spend the longest day of the year with a super long book? If you’re looking for a big book, look no further. These eight novels might seem too long to tackle, but they’ll also keep you intrigued the entire time.

The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon – 827 pages long

The House of Berethnet has ruled Inys for a thousand years. Still unwed, Queen Sabran the Ninth must conceive a daughter to protect her realm from destruction—but assassins are getting closer to her door.

Ead Duryan is an outsider at court. Though she has risen to the position of lady-in-waiting, she is loyal to a hidden society of mages. Ead keeps a watchful eye on Sabran, secretly protecting her with forbidden magic.

Across the dark sea, Tané has trained all her life to be a dragonrider, but is forced to make a choice that could see her life unravel.

Meanwhile, the divided East and West refuse to parley, and forces of chaos are rising from their sleep.

The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson – 1007 pages long

It has been centuries since the fall of the ten consecrated orders known as the Knights Radiant, but their Shardblades and Shardplate remain: mystical swords and suits of armor that transform ordinary men into near-invincible warriors. Men trade kingdoms for Shardblades. Wars were fought for them, and won by them.

One such war rages on a ruined landscape called the Shattered Plains. There, Kaladin, who traded his medical apprenticeship for a spear to protect his little brother, has been reduced to slavery. In a war that makes no sense, where ten armies fight separately against a single foe, he struggles to save his men and to fathom the leaders who consider them expendable.

Brightlord Dalinar Kholin commands one of those other armies. Like his brother, the late king, he is fascinated by an ancient text called The Way of Kings. Troubled by over-powering visions of ancient times and the Knights Radiant, he has begun to doubt his own sanity.

Across the ocean, an untried young woman named Shallan seeks to train under an eminent scholar and notorious heretic, Dalinar’s niece, Jasnah. Though she genuinely loves learning, Shallan’s motives are less than pure. As she plans a daring theft, her research for Jasnah hints at secrets of the Knights Radiant and the true cause of the war.

A Little Life by Hanya Yanigahara – 720 pages long

Brace yourself for the most astonishing, challenging, upsetting, and profoundly moving book in many a season. An epic about love and friendship in the twenty-first century that goes into some of the darkest places fiction has ever traveled and yet somehow improbably breaks through into the light. Truly an amazement—and a great gift for its readers.

When four classmates from a small Massachusetts college move to New York to make their way, they’re broke, adrift, and buoyed only by their friendship and ambition. There is kind, handsome Willem, an aspiring actor; JB, a quick-witted, sometimes cruel Brooklyn-born painter seeking entry to the art world; Malcolm, a frustrated architect at a prominent firm; and withdrawn, brilliant, enigmatic Jude, who serves as their center of gravity.

Over the decades, their relationships deepen and darken, tinged by addiction, success, and pride. Yet their greatest challenge, each comes to realize, is Jude himself, by midlife a terrifyingly talented litigator yet an increasingly broken man, his mind and body scarred by an unspeakable childhood, and haunted by what he fears is a degree of trauma that he’ll not only be unable to overcome—but that will define his life forever.

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke – 1006 pages long

Sophisticated, witty, and ingeniously convincing, Susanna Clarke’s magisterial novel weaves magic into a flawlessly detailed vision of historical England. She has created a world so thoroughly enchanting that eight hundred pages leave readers longing for more.

English magicians were once the wonder of the known world, with fairy servants at their beck and call; they could command winds, mountains, and woods. But by the early 1800s they have long since lost the ability to perform magic. They can only write long, dull papers about it, while fairy servants are nothing but a fading memory.

But at Hurtfew Abbey in Yorkshire, the rich, reclusive Mr Norrell has assembled a wonderful library of lost and forgotten books from England’s magical past and regained some of the powers of England’s magicians. He goes to London and raises a beautiful young woman from the dead. Soon he is lending his help to the government in the war against Napoleon Bonaparte, creating ghostly fleets of rain-ships to confuse and alarm the French.

All goes well until a rival magician appears. Jonathan Strange is handsome, charming, and talkative-the very opposite of Mr Norrell. Strange thinks nothing of enduring the rigors of campaigning with Wellington’s army and doing magic on battlefields. Astonished to find another practicing magician, Mr Norrell accepts Strange as a pupil. But it soon becomes clear that their ideas of what English magic ought to be are very different. For Mr Norrell, their power is something to be cautiously controlled, while Jonathan Strange will always be attracted to the wildest, most perilous forms of magic. He becomes fascinated by the ancient, shadowy figure of the Raven King, a child taken by fairies who became king of both England and Faerie, and the most legendary magician of all. Eventually Strange’s heedless pursuit of long-forgotten magic threatens to destroy not only his partnership with Norrell, but everything that he holds dear.

Ducks, Newburyport by Lucy Ellmann – 1020 pages long

Latticing one cherry pie after another, an Ohio housewife tries to bridge the gaps between reality and the torrent of meaningless info that is the United States of America. She worries about her children, her dead parents, African elephants, the bedroom rituals of “happy couples”, Weapons of Mass Destruction, and how to hatch an abandoned wood pigeon egg. Is there some trick to surviving survivalists? School shootings? Medical debts? Franks ’n’ beans?

A scorching indictment of America’s barbarity, past and present, and a lament for the way we are sleepwalking into environmental disaster, Ducks, Newburyport is a heresy, a wonder—and a revolution in the novel.

It’s also very, very funny.

The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton – 848 pages long

It is 1866, and young Walter Moody has come to make his fortune upon the New Zealand goldfields. On the stormy night of his arrival, he stumbles across a tense gathering of twelve local men who have met in secret to discuss a series of unexplained events: A wealthy man has vanished, a prostitute has tried to end her life, and an enormous fortune has been discovered in the home of a luckless drunk. Moody is soon drawn into the mystery: a network of fates and fortunes that is as complex and exquisitely ornate as the night sky. Richly evoking a mid-nineteenth-century world of shipping, banking, and gold rush boom and bust, The Luminaries is a brilliantly constructed, fiendishly clever ghost story and a gripping page-turner.

House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J Maas – 803 pages long

Bryce Quinlan had the perfect life—working hard all day and partying all night—until a demon murdered her closest friends, leaving her bereft, wounded, and alone. When the accused is behind bars but the crimes start up again, Bryce finds herself at the heart of the investigation. She’ll do whatever it takes to avenge their deaths.

Hunt Athalar is a notorious Fallen angel, now enslaved to the Archangels he once attempted to overthrow. His brutal skills and incredible strength have been set to one purpose—to assassinate his boss’s enemies, no questions asked. But with a demon wreaking havoc in the city, he’s offered an irresistible deal: help Bryce find the murderer, and his freedom will be within reach.

As Bryce and Hunt dig deep into Crescent City’s underbelly, they discover a dark power that threatens everything and everyone they hold dear, and they find, in each other, a blazing passion—one that could set them both free, if they’d only let it.

1Q84 by Haruki Murakami – 925 pages long

Brace yourself for the most astonishing, challenging, upsetting, and profoundly moving book in many a season. An epic about love and friendship in the twenty-first century that goes into some of the darkest places fiction has ever traveled and yet somehow improbably breaks through into the light. Truly an amazement—and a great gift for its readers.

When four classmates from a small Massachusetts college move to New York to make their way, they’re broke, adrift, and buoyed only by their friendship and ambition. There is kind, handsome Willem, an aspiring actor; JB, a quick-witted, sometimes cruel Brooklyn-born painter seeking entry to the art world; Malcolm, a frustrated architect at a prominent firm; and withdrawn, brilliant, enigmatic Jude, who serves as their center of gravity.

Over the decades, their relationships deepen and darken, tinged by addiction, success, and pride. Yet their greatest challenge, each comes to realize, is Jude himself, by midlife a terrifyingly talented litigator yet an increasingly broken man, his mind and body scarred by an unspeakable childhood, and haunted by what he fears is a degree of trauma that he’ll not only be unable to overcome—but that will define his life forever.

Author: Simone Jung

Interview: Serenity Gerbman–The Southern Festival of Books

The Southern Festival of Books is a large annual book festival that is celebrating its 33rd year in Nashville, Tennessee this year. Today on the blog, we’re sitting down with Festival Director Serenity Gerbman to learn more about how virtual events have transformed the literary event circuit, the secrets of running a successful book festival, and how authors can make the most of festivals and events.

Serenity Gerbman

1). What is The Southern Festival of Books?

The Festival is a celebration of reading and the written word, bringing together readers and writers both in person and online. Our mission is to engage readers of all ages and interests in the joy of reading and in lifelong education. It is entirely free to the public.

2). What is your role with the festival, and how did you get involved?

I am the Festival Director as part of my job as Director of Literature and Language Programs at Humanities Tennessee. My first career was in journalism, where I spent 10 years working for local newspapers. A good friend recommended me for a position at Humanities Tennessee, and my role there has evolved over time.

3). What challenges and new opportunities did the pandemic create for the festival, and how did you adapt?

Everything changed! Rather than our usual three-day Festival in person, we held a 10-day online Festival in 2020, and will hold a hybrid Festival of both online and in person events in 2021. The big challenge for us, like many, was in getting educated as a staff quickly in how to hold online events. We have an incredibly talented program officer, Patrick Shaffner, who guided us through that process and made the online Festival work seamlessly. The opportunity for us has been in seeing how successful online events can be. We are now partnering with a different library in the state every month for an online author event that they present. Many people can now attend these events who were limited before by time, distance, and finances.

4). What kind of planning and work goes into creating a book festival?

It’s a year-round process. Beginning in the winter months, we’re reviewing catalogs, meeting with publishers, reading forthcoming books, and thinking about programming that will be exciting and engaging for readers. Beginning in early spring, we meet regularly with our full events team on site logistics and preparation. As is probably true with all events, we do our best to attend to every tiny detail in advance, as preparation makes an event run smoothly. When the Festival begins, we go into event mode and handle and adjust to issues and changes as they happen.

5). What advice would you give to authors and aspiring writers to get “the most” out of a book festival, signing, and/or speaking events?

If you’re new and haven’t yet built an audience that knows you, be realistic in your expectations and remember that you are there because you’ve already accomplished something tremendous. Be courteous with your co-panelists and moderator. Watch your speaking time. And then, relax and let the audience see the passion that drove you to write your book. Readers are generous and curious souls.

6). Will you do the festival online again this year? Was attendance still pretty good at the online event?

We had really strong attendance for the online event last year, and we will be doing a hybrid event this year, with both online and in person programming. Although attendance at online events is dipping this spring as people experience screen fatigue and are able to go back out into the world, we think that online events have a lot of potential and will continue to be with us in some form or another. The in person dates for us are Oct. 9-10.

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

To me, a successful writer is anyone who has created the circumstances for themselves that allow them to keep writing. It is a difficult, solitary creative process. If you’re doing the work and are determined to keep getting better, you’re successful. Most people don’t get that far. Everything after that, from finding an agent to pitching to sales to bestseller lists to awards, is business.

Learn more about The Southern Festival of Books here: https://www.humanitiestennessee.org/programs-grants/core-program-overview/southern-festival-of-books

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