July Authors Forward Interview with L.S. Case and Jeannie Moon

Welcome to our Authors Forward series, where our innovative and talented Books Forward authors interview other great, forward-thinking voices in the industry.

July Authors Forward interview with L.S. Case and Jeannie Moon

Jeannie Moon is a USA Today bestselling romance author known for her Compass Cove and Forever Love Stories series. Married to her high school sweetheart, Jeannie has three kids, three lovable dogs, and resides on Long Island, NY.

1. Your Forever Love Stories and Compass Cove series have engaged readers in beautiful romances. How do you make your novels stand out from others in the genre?  

One of the most important things I’ve done is to create compelling characters that readers can connect with and root for. Whether a billionaire or a librarian, my goal is always to create characters who are relatable, flawed and easy to connect with. My other strength is creating a strong setting that keeps readers engaged in the story. Even in the Forever Love Stories when the super-rich take center stage, there’s a grounded feeling to the places they live and work. (Okay, maybe the mega-yacht in the first Forever Love Story was over the top, but it was fun.)

2. How has your approach to book promotion evolved since your debut novel? What’s your advice for young writers trying to build an author platform? 

In the beginning, I tried to do it all. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter… Don’t do that. It’s exhausting and a time suck. Find where your readers are, and use social media to connect with them on a personal level. Look for small reader events to attend, connect through local libraries. Last, I wish I’d paid more attention to my newsletter in the beginning. The popularity of social media platforms ebb and flow, but if you build your mailing list and send a message once a month, not just when you’re selling something, you’ll grow your fan base. 

3. What is the best investment you ever made in your writing? 

The best investment is the time I’ve spent with other writers as part of a local writing group or at small conferences and workshops. I learn from every class I take, but the time with other writers is priceless. Writing can be very isolating and building a community is the best thing I did for myself. 

4. What are common traps for aspiring writers?

Too much information can be a problem. Everyone has a theory about how you should write, about how to be more productive, about how to sell books, and I’m not saying advice is a bad thing, but too much can weigh you down. Find a process that works for you and let it evolve naturally. If you have reams of information, pick and choose what makes sense to you. If you attend a workshop and you come away with two or three tips that help your process, that’s fantastic. No “system” works for everyone. Trust yourself and your process. 

5. Have you ever resuscitated a shelved project? What made it more successful the second time around?

My very first book was 120,000 words long and was like a soap opera. At its core was a lovely romance, but it was buried in superfluous details and melodrama. It was rewritten several times, words were culled, and it did have interest, but it didn’t sell. In 2014, I went back to it, stripped it down, and re-envisioned the story. The Playing Field went from 120K to 45K words and became the novella, This Christmas. The reimagined version was character driven and emotional, and that’s why readers loved it. It was a reunion story, and focusing on the couple and their love story–not extra characters, jobs, or extraneous drama–made the book special. 

6. How can readers contact you and learn more about your upcoming projects?

The best place to find me is on my website, jeanniemoon.com. Readers can sign up for my newsletter, find my social media accounts, and see where they can meet me. It’s where I’ll announce new projects and book news.

How to write back cover copy

A book’s front cover should be eye-catching and inviting enough to compel a reader to pick up your book. But, that’s only half the battle! Without enticing back cover copy, your book — with its beautifully designed front cover — may go right back on the bookseller shelves. 

The back cover, though less glamorous than the front cover, does most of the work when it comes to convincing readers to pull out their wallet. So, it’s important to give it the attention it deserves. In this article, we’ll share a few tips for nailing your back cover copy.

Research what other authors in your genre have done.

After seeing what’s been working for your competition, you’ll have a better idea of the structure and style you should use in your own copy. This will vary depending on your genre. For example, fantasy and romance authors may rely more heavily on taglines to get their message across, whereas nonfiction writers may use bullet points for the same purpose.

Remember that researching does not mean copying. Even if you find inspiration from what other authors have done, you have to put your own spin on things!

Consider your target audience. 

What are your readers looking for? What keywords will draw them in — and which ones will push them away? 

For nonfiction authors, readers are typically looking to learn something new. Often, they are searching for an answer to a problem. Your copy should acknowledge the problem/question they have, and then promise to provide an answer. Tell your reader exactly what they will take away from the book.

For fiction authors, especially genre fiction, your copy might take inspiration from a movie trailer. You’ll want to showcase the suspense, drama, excitement and romance contained in your book’s pages. Readers should get a feeling for the emotional content of the book in addition to a basic understanding of the plot.

Start drafting.

As you begin drafting options for your copy, try to fit everything into one or two paragraphs and aim for 200-250 words. If you go over this limit, your potential buyer may feel overwhelmed.

Include a tagline.

A tagline is an optional way to hook your reader before diving into the full description. A tagline can be a short descriptive sentence or a memorable quote or phrase from the book. Here are a few examples:

From Sarah Winman’s “Tin Man”:

This is almost a love story.

But it’s not as simple as that.

From Ta-Nehesi Coates’ “The Water Dancer”:

A magical gift. A devastating loss.

An underground war for freedom.

Fom Lois Lowry’s “The Giver”:

“I have a great honor,” The Giver said. “So will you. But you will find that it is not the same as power.”

From Min Jin Lee’s “Pachinko”:

“There could only be a few winners, and a lot of losers. And yet we played on, because we had hope that we might be the lucky ones.”

All of these taglines are short and snappy, capturing the reader’s attention, and encouraging them to read on.

Include a review quote.

Either instead of, or in addition to, a tagline, you might include a review quote or testimonial from a respected source. This may come from a well-known author in your genre, from an expert in your field, or from a trusted industry source like Publishers Weekly or Kirkus.

Consider your author bio and headshot.

If you have room, you might feature a short bio along with your professional headshot on your back cover.

An author bio is most important for nonfiction authors, as this will give you the opportunity to establish your credibility and expertise. Be sure to state clearly what experience you have and why you are a good fit for writing on this topic. Space will be limited, so aim for 1-2 sentences or roughly 25 words.

Get feedback from your network.

At long last, you have a draft (or two or three!) complete. Consider sending it to your writing group or network of trusted friends for their feedback. Authors learn best from each other, so don’t be afraid to put yourself out there!

New team members: Books Forward June 2023 Newsletter

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

Read the June 2023 newsletter here!

June Authors Forward Interview with Sid Balman Jr. and James Wade

Welcome to our Authors Forward series, where our innovative and talented Books Forward authors interview other great, forward-thinking voices in the industry.

June Authors Forward Interview with Sid Balman Jr. and James Wade

James Wade lives and writes in the Texas Hill Country with his wife and daughter. He is the author of River, Sing Out, and Beasts of the Earth (winner of the 2023 Spur Award for Best Contemporary Novel) as well as the critically-acclaimed debut novel All Things Left Wild (winner of the MPIBA Reading the West Award for Debut Fiction, and the Spur Award for Best Historical Novel). James’s work has appeared in numerous literary magazines, and his novels have been featured by publications such as PopSugar, BookBub, Deep South Magazine, and the New York Journal of Books. 

Your novels – All Things Left Wild, River, Sing Out, and Beasts of the Earth – seem to share a common theme: the loss of innocence in characters swimming amid a pool of evil. In your view, is that the inevitable dilemma of the human condition? 

I think so. Mostly. Maybe. It’s certainly the dilemma of those humans who have been cursed with awareness and ambiguity both. I think the central characters (Caleb, Jonah and River, and most recently, Harlen) in each book are those types of people. They’re weighed down with guilt, but they’re also weighed down with this longing for inner peace. Their primary struggle is whether or not they can be okay with things not being okay. Ignorance is bliss, and none of these characters are ignorant, so they have a tough time finding solace– not just from the world, but from their own thoughts about it. It’s a great way for readers to connect with the characters and something you do a wonderful job of with the Laws and Zarkans in Seventh Flag, showing readers the tension and anxieties that exist within these families and the world they inhabit. 

Your central character(s) survive this crucible, a happy ending if you will. How do you square this in the nihilistic worlds you create in your novels?

Not to spoil things, but they don’t all survive. Some of the central characters make it. Some don’t. To your point, it speaks to what some folks would consider nihilism or randomness. I think it’s just realism. There’s a desire to create realistic outcomes, which means the main character can’t always survive dangerous situations. However, there’s also the goal of the novels, which in large part is to show how a character is changed by the circumstances they come up against. That’s tougher to do when you kill them off. But even for the ones who do make it through, there’s not always a happy ending waiting on the other side. 

God, or a divine force, is the one character that seems missing from your novels. Of course, writing a novel is an act of pure faith and folly, prima facie evidence that all novelists must have some form of faith. How does your faith, or lack thereof, impact your stories?

I’d argue that there is a God in my novels. Maybe a different God for each one, or maybe not the God most folks are used to seeing, but it’s there. The desert, the river, the Watchmaker. Wise old men and women. Innocent children. Love and grace and the hurt it takes to be human– to be alive.

The truth is I struggle with this world– with all of it, not just its religions and politics. And faith, or lack thereof, is certainly a part of that struggle.  Because I often write about the things I struggle with, it makes sense that faith and religion would make their way into my novels pretty frequently. I’m also a regional author, with all of my novels being set in Texas, and it’s only natural that the dialogue and worldview of many of my rural-Texan characters is centered around God.

I worry that I write too much about that stuff, or maybe use too much biblical allegory. That’s just part of who I am as a writer and as a person. I was raised Southern Baptist. I’ve read the Bible in its entirety several times and still reference it regularly. But because I approach it now in a literary context rather than as holy scripture, I’m able to access the storytelling techniques and beautiful prose without being beholden to a certain viewpoint. And ultimately writing a novel takes faith in yourself more than anything else. If outsourcing that faith to a deity makes you a better writer, then I’m all for it. But in the end, divine intervention or not, you still have to put your ass in the chair and get it done.

Only a ‘real’ Texan like you, as opposed to a Houston transplant from New York or LA gallivanting around Marfa in a shiny new pair of cowboy boots and a crisp Low Crown, could write about their state with such authenticity and gravitas. What is the ‘it’ about Texas that infuses your life and writing?

Texas is the perfect character. It has a little bit of everything, from a terrain or cultural or culinary standpoint. I grew up in East Texas where we’re more culturally aligned with the southeast than we are with the southwest. To think El Paso and Beaumont are in the same state seems ridiculous. Or Marfa and Gun Barrel City. Or Dallas and Fort Davis. So many places in Texas are unlike anywhere else, including the other places in Texas. I’ve worked at newspapers in rural Texas, worked at the State Capitol during the legislative session. I’ve driven across the state to cover high school football, to lobby for water conservation, and even to deliver beauty supply products to rural salons while I was in college (there’s a book in there somewhere). We’re as diverse a state as exists in this union, and no matter how much Texas is talked about, there’s still always more to say. I’ve been asked if I’ll ever write anything set outside of Texas and the answer is always, “why would I?”

Tell us a little about the book you’re incubating, and why your editor wanted a rewrite. An inevitable part of our process, but how does that make you feel. Do you push back, or simply go back to the drawing board? 

I’m working on a prohibition/great depression era novel set in a fictional East Texas town. The basic theme explores what folks will do to survive when put in precarious situations, and how our psyches are shaped by tragedy.

My biggest weakness as a writer is plotting. I like characters and landscape and conversation. If I could sell a novel where two characters sit in the woods and talk to each other about pain and anger and beauty and loss for three hundred pages, I’d do it. But my publisher, rightfully, wants action, pacing, plot, etc. so I tried to give that to them with the first draft. Get all the elements out there and let them decide which ones to develop more and which ones to cut or revise. That’s basically where we’re at now.

As for how edits and revisions make me feel, it’s twofold. First, I have incredibly thick skin. I’m lucky and grateful to be a writer, and I accept criticism as a reality of my very fortunate position. Second, I have to look at it as a business decision. My publisher is paying me. They have to sell the books in order to make any money back. I have to put them in the best position I can for them to succeed, and they let me know when I haven’t done that. That’s the business.

If I feel incredibly strongly about something, I’ll definitely push back, and they’re great about being receptive. But I have such severe imposter syndrome, that I usually don’t feel that strong about my work to begin with. That’s a confidence that I believe will come with time and experience. In my opinion, I’m still learning how to write. There’s no critique I can’t benefit from. Even if I don’t agree with something, it helps to see it through another person’s eyes. 

Ego can be a difficult thing to manage. You have to have a certain amount of ego to write anything in the first place, but then you have to immediately discard it when it comes to feedback and reception. 


Tips for scheduling school visits

A good option for YA and children’s authors, school visits are a perfect way for you to reach your audience directly, while meeting the influential teachers and librarians who purchase books for classrooms. 


We’ll be honest, scheduling these visits can be tricky. Schools are often hesitant (at best!) to allow self-published or indie authors to conduct visits. However, the more resources and information you can provide to the school, the more likely they’ll be to hear you out.

Before you reach out to schools, you’ll want to consider what type of event you’re interested in – an assembly, workshop, presentation, classroom visit, or some combination thereof.

Next, think about how you can communicate your expertise in public speaking or in working with kids. Do you have relevant career or volunteer experience that the school should know about? Do you have sample presentations you can share with them, or references from past events where you had a speaking role?

Now, consider what materials you can provide. Schools love when authors come prepared with educational materials like lesson plans, discussion questions, activities and worksheets for students. We recommend partnering with professionals like Rm 228 to develop these materials, as they will help ensure that your educational plans follow current curriculum guidelines.

Lastly, you’ll want to consider your speaking fee. Debut authors often waive their fee, with the understanding that the school will purchase a certain number of copies for their library. A “pay-what-you-can” fee is also a great way for debut authors to visit schools regardless of budgetary limitations.

Make the connection

Now that you’ve determined the type of event you want to offer, you’ll need to find the contact information of the school’s librarian. If you aren’t able to find any, search for the contact info of the principal, school administrator, or specific teacher in the subject and grade level that makes the most sense for you and your book.

When reaching out to them, be sure to share all of the information you prepared in an organized way. State clearly what type of event you’re hoping for, list your expertise, share relevant materials (PowerPoints, lesson plans, worksheets), and state your fee (if applicable). You should also link to your press release, and include the synopsis for the book you’re promoting. If you can, state briefly how the book connects to relevant lessons in history, geography, STEM, etc.

If you’re having trouble connecting with schools directly, you can also contact local bookstores to enlist their help in setting up school visits for you. Many stores have programs in place to do this, but in these instances, you will not be able to charge a speaking fee.


After the event, you should thank everyone for their time. Consider asking the teacher for notes on areas where the event could be improved. You can also ask the teacher/librarian if they’d be willing to act as a reference for you when booking visits at other schools.

Update your website

Once you’ve successfully booked an event or two, consider adding an “appearances” tab to your website to showcase the schools you’ve visited. Here’s a lovely example from author Kate Messner.

You can also add a “request a school visit” tab, where you include a contact form for teachers to fill out, as author J. Elle has done.


Booking school visits can take quite a bit of time and effort, but by being prepared and anticipating the school’s needs, you’ll be in a great position to build your network and increase sales, all while having a lot of fun!

What does it mean to be a NYT bestselling author?

For many authors, writing a book that becomes a bestseller is their dream goal. But what does it really take to become a bestselling author?

In the most broad strokes, you’ll want to sell at least 5,000-10,000 books in a single week in order to be considered by any of the major bestseller lists. Unfortunately, there’s no magic number of sales that will guarantee you a spot on a list.

And when you focus on the New York Times bestseller list in particular — which is perhaps the most well-known and considered by many to be the most prestigious — things get even more hazy. 

The NYT bestseller list isn’t representative of pure sales data alone. After all, recording every sale of every book within the U.S. in a single week is an impossible task. So, there’s some wiggle room as far as accuracy goes. But, there are also other factors that appear to work for or against certain books.

Right away in the against category, we have certain genres that are excluded from the list. At the time of writing this article, NYT states that “the categories not actively tracked at this time are: perennial sellers, required classroom reading, textbooks, reference and test preparation guides, e-books available exclusively from a single vendor, journals, workbooks, calorie counters, shopping guides, periodicals and crossword puzzles.”

If not all genres are created equal in the eyes of The New York Times, the same can be said about retailers. 

NYT has said it receives sales reports from some, but not all, independent bookstores, along with (we assume) major retailers like Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Since not all stores report to The New York Times, some sales may go unrecorded.

It’s also been rumored that diversity in sales will work in a book’s favor. The idea is that if sales are coming in from retailers in different regions across the country, and if the retailers vary from indie stores to big-box chains, this will increase an author’s chance of hitting the list.

This approach has caused some authors who sell the majority of their books on Amazon, and who appear to have met sales quotas, to question why they’ve not been featured in the NYT’s list. It’s possible that NYT favors sales from indie bookstores and that these carry more weight than sales via Amazon. This could be for legitimacy reasons, as NYT tends to be suspicious of authors or publishers who try to game the system.

As far as we know, a list of all indie stores that report to The Times is not publically available. That said, many authors will try to identify stores they believe report to NYT, and then they will arrange events with those stores, hoping to boost their rankings. 

There’s nothing inherently wrong with this strategy. It’s always a good idea to connect with indie bookstores, and if they happen to report your sales, even better! But, some authors have taken to more aggressive sales-boosting strategies that NYT frowns upon.

For example, some authors have admitted to purchasing bulk orders of their book from NYT-reporting stores with the intention of hands-selling them later on. But, if a book’s sales appear to be artificially inflated by bulk orders, The Times may not count those sales at all. Or, if they do, they’ll place a dagger next to the book’s title to denote that the sales numbers may have been given an unfair boost.

We get why authors are keen on making the NYT bestseller list. It usually results in increased sales and it’s excellent for branding. It’s an honor that you can carry with you throughout your career. Any book you publish in the future can have the words “NYT bestselling author” on it!

However, there are no shortcuts to making the list. Many authors who appear to have done everything “right” by getting the 5,000-10,000 sales they hoped for are left disappointed when they don’t make the list. 

Instead of making bestseller status your primary goal, try setting your sights on the stepping stones that may lead you there, such as building strong, lasting relationships with indie booksellers, or growing your fanbase and running a successful pre-order campaign. 

You may surprise yourself by all you can accomplish, and after each milestone achievement, you may even find yourself an unexpected bestseller. 

Meet us at Pennwriters: Books Forward May 2023 Newsletter

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

Read the May 2023 newsletter here!

May Authors Forward interview with Charles Salzberg and writers group

Welcome to our Authors Forward series, where our innovative and talented Books Forward authors interview other great, forward-thinking voices in the industry.

May Authors Forward interview with Charles Salzberg: The Birth and Extra-Long Life of the Monday Night Zoom Boys

Allow me to begin by outing myself: I actually enjoyed parts of the pandemic lockdown. Not all of it, of course, but enough to make me a little nostalgic for those halcyon days of never leaving my apartment for days at a time. As a freelance writer most of my adult life, I’d been rehearsing for this catastrophe for most but a gift for me. 

For a while, at least, it was “welcome to my world,” for all those non-essential workers who had to stay home. But it didn’t take long for me to change my tune to “Get the hell out of my world,” because suddenly, with everyone else in New York working from home, it wasn’t so special anymore.

But for me the one long-lasting, positive effect of the pandemic lockdown was stumbling into a regular Monday Night Zoom with four other writers: Reed Farrel Coleman (Long Island), Michael Wiley (Jacksonville, Florida), Matt Goldman (Minneapolis, Minnesota and Tom Straw (Connecticut). All are very successful crime writers, but Matt and Tom have also carved out a very impressive career writing for TV, mostly sitcoms like Seinfeld, Night Court, Nurse Jackie, and The New Adventures of Old Christine.

The pandemic is pretty much over now (not that anyone’s giving it the last rites, since I’m sure we’ll be living with it in one form or another for the rest of our lives), but the Monday Night Zoom Boys is still thriving. The only difference is now instead of every Monday night, it’s every other Monday night.

The Zoom has certainly changed my life for the better, but what about the other participants? And what’s behind this staying power? 

To get the Zoom in perspective, I quizzed my fellow Monday Nighters, in an attempt to answer these and other questions. 

How about we begin with general feelings about the Zoom from Reed Farrel Coleman and Matt Goldman, and I think what they have to say pretty much sums up the experience for all of us.

Reed Farrel Coleman: Our Monday night Zoom calls during the pandemic, bring two things immediately to mind: team sports, and family. If you ever listen to retired athletes talk about what they miss most, it’s usually the camaraderie, the sense that no one will ever understand you the way your teammates did because you shared a set of goals and values. Daniel Woodrell is a favorite author of mine and one of his driving themes is the creation of family out of circumstance. Those kinds of families have little to do with blood, but a sense of shared purpose and need. Enter Covid-19. While I was happy to be with my wife and son for the duration, I was deprived of my contact with my peers. Writing is a life full of aloneness if not loneliness. And while my family understands me, they can’t understand the life the way other writers do. Suddenly, no Bouchercon, no LCC, no Thriller Fest, no Sleuthfest … There was no hope for the occasional dinner or drinks with colleagues. Our calls gave me an anchor, something to look forward to besides a weekly masked and gloved trip to Costco. Though I doubt Charles, Mike, Matt, Tom, and I gave it much thought at the time, we were creating a team and a family. It was both a refuge and a forum, a place to understand and to be understood. If and when the calls do end, I will be like one of those retired athletes who understands the experience can never be replicated.  

Matt Goldman: I’ve been a professional writer since I was 24 years old. I wrote television for over thirty years. I made some great friends in that world. Life-long friends. But there is no television writing community on a large scale. I was blown away to discover the mystery writing community. It’s friendly and supportive from top to bottom.  When I attended my first Bouchercon (at age 54) I thought, “I’ve finally found my people.” But I only got to see them once or twice a year. And then after a few conferences, I found my diamond core of friends within the community. Mike, Charles, and Reed. (And soon Tom.) This happened just before the pandemic. Zoom turned that once or twice a year into once a week, and for that I’m so grateful. I think everyone should have a group of friends that is independent of their regular day-to-day life, whether it’s through a writing group or religious organization or sport or hobby or whatever. It adds a beautiful facet to life.

How did the Zoom start and how did you get involved?

Reed: You know, I’m not quite sure how it started, but Mike is the man who facilitated and for that we owe him.

Michael Wiley: Early in the pandemic Reed, Matt and I were Zooming and you (Charles) and Tom were Zooming separately. Reed suggested experimenting with a full-group Zoom, and we never turned back. Now, I like to think of us as a blended family.

Tom Straw: This iteration came as a sort of hand-off. You, Reed, and I had started a twice-monthly Zoom shortly after the pandemic lockdown. Prior to that, we gathered around Mystery Writers of America events, which led to Reed-led French Connection tours of Brooklyn that evolved into Brooklyn pizza tours then occasional steakhouse dinners. Zooming was a way to keep in touch and not go stir crazy. Reed was also cheating on us with another regular video chat with Matt Goldman and Michael Wiley. He suggested we cross streams, and we consolidated into our current party of five.

Did you take part in any other Zoom meet-ups?

Reed: I did for exactly two weeks, but I gave up after that. One of the participants was someone I didn’t much care for, and that person tended to dominate the conversation. It was also highly politicized and focused on the pandemic. The last two things I wanted to hear more about during those early days were politics and the pandemic. It’s testimony to our Zoom Boy meetings that we touched on those things, but never perseverated on them. What was great was that we never seemed to have an agenda.

Mike: Through much of the pandemic, I lived on Zoom. I Zoomed with family and friends. I did book events on Zoom. I taught Zoom workshops and classes. Zoom kept my world turning. But our Zoom group was the best of Zooms.  

Matt: The only other Zoom I participated in was for virtual book events.

Tom: I did Zooms for TV project development with my old colleague Craig Ferguson. Those were between my place in New England and his home in Scotland, so la-dee-dah, an international aspect. Even though the stated purpose of those was work, with Craig, there’s no shortage of laughter and horsing around. Let’s call those productive and fun. I also started semi-regular Zoom across another border with Canadian mystery author Linwood Barclay who was locked down at his home in Toronto. We’re no longer in isolation (at least not by decree) yet continue the rite roughly every two or three weeks because we enjoy our Zooms. As with Michael Wiley and Matt Goldman, Linwood and I have never met in person, so it’s a unique thing to spend regular time together—virtually— feeling as if we have actually met. 

Charles: I’ve been Zooming my writing classes pretty much from the start of the pandemic through the present. I also Zoomed the occasional meeting usually having to do with PrisonWrites, the New York Writers Workshop and MWA-NY (I’m on the board of the first two, and was on the local MWA board. I’ve also done a weekly lunch with my good friend Ross Klavan. For about a month or two there, in the beginning of the pandemic, we Zoomed our lunches. But as soon as the weather allowed for outside dining, we brought back in-person lunches.

Why do you think this particular Zoom worked out so well?

Mike: We freed each other from the nasty uncertainties and ugly politics of the early pandemic, and I like to think we still give each other a place away from the rest of our worlds. We don’t so much avoid the hard stuff – we’ve spent plenty of time on it – but we mostly tell stories, laugh, and talk about what we do more hours out of the day than anything else: writing. In The Decameron, a group flees from the plague to a deserted villa where they tell each other tales. Our Monday night Zooms have sort of been that villa.  

Tom: The beauty of what I’ve nicknamed the Magical Mystery Zoom with You, Reed, Matt, and Mike is how it’s like a gathering of old friends around the dinner table where nobody has to pick up the check. They’re relaxed, unpressured, and freewheeling. Which is remarkable since I never met Mike and Matt. Wait. I’m a big fat liar. On our first Zoom I learned that Matt and I both worked at Castle Rock, back in 1988-1990, as comedy writers under contract to develop TV pilots. However, we don’t remember meeting then. Frankly, I think Matt is bullshitting to keep me in my place, so I won’t consider myself “memorable.” Whatev. 

Matt: I think it works because we all value the same components of the conversation. What are we reading? What are we watching? How is our work going? And for me, who is the least experienced novelist in the group, I’m able to ask career guidance questions. But most of all I think we like each other. We do in real life and that carries over to Zoom. One Zoom topic is when will we see each other in the real world again.

Reed: For one, as I stated above, none of us seemed to come to the meetings with an agenda. We just went with it and were genuinely happy to see one another. In the beginning, it was also an escape from the reality of being trapped in our houses with our families or by ourselves. It satisfied the need for social interaction with friends. And since we all share a profession, it gave us a platform to discuss our works and to share stories only other writers could fully appreciate. And having been on many panels, we all understood when to talk and when to listen. There’s a lot to be said for that.

How did the pandemic affect your writing or reading?

Reed: I made a concerted effort not to include anything about the pandemic in my work. What it did, though, was supply me with additional writing time. I wrote three books in a period when I would have normally done two at most.  One of the great things about our Zoom is our occasional discussions of the process. I’ve picked up some tips from all of you gentlemen and getting a chance to be an early reader on occasion has been a real perk. 

Mike: The pandemic mostly reinforced habits I already had. Before the pandemic, I spent most of my days alone at the computer. During the pandemic, I spent most of my days alone at the computer. But I wrote more and read more. I did re-read plague books early on – The Decameron, Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice, etc. But we were spending our waking and sleeping hours living out that theme, and it got old, so I went back to the reading whatever books interested me – often ones someone mentioned in our Zoom meetings. Not Zoom itself, but definitely the conversations we’ve had about writing on Zoom.

Tom: My joke when we started Zooming was how the pandemic is making us all sit alone in a room, reading and writing. Exactly like before the pandemic.

Matt: The pandemic didn’t affect my writing much. It provided more writing time. It also could be discouraging—a book launch pushed a year, events were canceled, the publishing business was affected. But my day to day didn’t change too much. 

Charles: I wish I could say the pandemic and being home all the time resulted in writing more, or at least spending more time in front of the computer. But that would be a lie. I don’t measure these things, but if I had to guess I’d say I spent exactly the same amount of time writing (or maybe even less). I’ve always been a streaky writer, in the sense that I don’t have a particular schedule and somehow all that “extra” at home time was mostly filled up with things like reading, listening to true crime podcasts, and streaming all kinds of things. And this is where the Zoom Boys came in handy in the sense of all kinds of recommendations for movies, books, and streaming TV.

What made this Zoom important for you?

Tom: Camaraderie, of course. Remember, these started in lockdown, so at first, they were kinda like prison visits, seeing friends through glass (one or two of us may have even re-enacted a memorable scene from Midnight Express). But the way we roll, there’s always great conversation to go with the good company. We talk about our weeks, we talk about the news, we talk about what we’re watching and reading, there are plenty of anecdotes about life experiences both hilarious and shocking, and just enough about our writing. That’s a key thing for me. It’s not only that I like the dudes in the other four squares, I have deep respect for their writing and sensibilities. Therefore, I learn a lot. Either about craft or the bullshit-and-victories mix we all go through. We’re not a support group, not at all. But that happens on its own, I guess.

Mike: Before we started, I was already close friends with Reed and, increasingly, Matt. I knew you from conventions, and, though I knew of Tom, I hadn’t met him. I count our whole group now as great friends – a huge and unexpected gift from the pandemic. Our Zoom talks have kept me “in touch” with much of what matters to me.  

Matt: I get friendship and colleagues. When we go to a mystery writing convention, there seem to be thousands of mystery writers. And there probably are. But I live in Minneapolis, and although some wonderful authors are here, I don’t see them regularly. And because we’ve become such good friends, I feel like I can discuss anything in our group, whether it’s a book deal, a story problem, or a personal relationship.

Why do you think this particular Zoom works so well?

Tom: A likable, affable lot, these gents. Everyone brings varied experiences and perspectives, but shared values and interests. There’s always something to talk about. And most importantly, mutual respect (unless they’re hiding something from me!). 

Reed: For one, as I stated above, none of us seemed to come to the meetings with an agenda. We just went with it and were genuinely happy to see one another. In the beginning, it was also an escape from the reality of being trapped in our houses with our families or by ourselves. It satisfied the need for social interaction with friends. And since we all share a profession, it gave us a platform to discuss our works and to share stories only other writers could fully appreciate. And having been on many panels, we all understood when to talk and when to listen. There’s a lot to be said for that.

Why are we continuing the Zoom, even though the pandemic is supposedly over?

Mike: We’ve cut back, meeting every couple of weeks instead of every week. But the short answer, for me, is that I really enjoy spending time with you guys. Before we Zoomed, most of us might see each other once or twice a year – far too seldom. Now I get to hang out regularly with people I love to spend time with.

Reed: While there are a hundred reasons, the main ones are that we all really like and respect each other.

Matt: Silver linings came out of the pandemic. One is the normalization of video conferencing. Even the three who live in the New York area live far apart from one another.  Because Zoom now feels normal, it’s as if we’re in the same neighborhood and it’s easy to get together on a regular basis. The pandemic, through zoom, has damned geography. Which is wonderful. It applies to book events, too. When appearing at a bookstore, we can now reach hundreds or even thousands of people instead of tens.

Charles: The Zoom adds a little much needed structure to my life. I’ve been a freelance writer most of my adult life and the upside of that for me was always the flexibility of my schedule. But it also meant that most of my days are spent alone, in my apartment. Teaching always offered an opportunity to actually be among people, interesting people. But that changed with the onset of the pandemic. Not only was there the battle against isolation, but every day was the same day, in the sense that I’d have to remind myself every morning when I woke up, what day it was. That weekly Zoom indicated it was a Monday, and there was no better way to start off the week.


Do I need a press release for my book?

If you plan on reaching out to booksellers, librarians or media contacts, then you might benefit from creating a press release for your book! A professional press kit is the perfect way to organize your exciting news, author profile, and book information in a clear, concise, and eye-catching format that will tell media professionals and event organizers everything they need to know about you and your work at a glance.

In this article, you’ll learn the key elements that make a successful press release and why they are valuable.

The anatomy of a press release:

  1. Logo
  2. Headline
  3. Subheadline
  4. Dateline
  5. Introduction
  6. Body (1-2 paragraphs)
  7. Book specs (ISBN, pub date, etc)
  8. Author bio 
  9. Talking points
  10. Sample interview
  11. Contact details
  12. Media (images, videos)


Take a peek at this press kit to see how these elements are formatted


Insert your publisher’s logo or your brand logo at the top of the page. Even if you’re publishing independently, adding a logo to your press kit is a great way to make everything look sleek and professional.


Your headline should convey the most essential, eye-catching information about your news. Much like the headlines in the news or features sections of a newspaper, your headline should be catchy, specific and to-the-point. If you can tie your book release to current events, be sure to do so for added “relevancy” points.


Use this space to briefly share any key info that didn’t fit in the headline. This is a great spot to show off a powerful blurb, some notable statistics, or impressive award wins.

Note how the example press release uses this spot to convey a statistic: How a mother of six turned $5 into 5 million+ cupcakes sold


Here’s where you’ll include the city and state where you’re located. If you’ll be sharing your press release internationally, feel free to include your country as well. 


Your first paragraph should include the main gist of your news. It should grab the reader with why this book release is important. Ask yourself, What new ground am I breaking here? In what ways does this book contribute to a relevant conversation happening in the news? Be sure to include your book title, publisher, and release date somewhere in here! 


The main body of your press release will consist of 1-2 paragraphs. Use this space to elaborate upon your introduction, possibly including more in-depth details about the book’s plot. You can also use this space to:

  • elaborate on who your target audience is and why they’ll enjoy the book
  • share a powerful quote from you (the author) or from the book itself
  • share a unique review blurb (one that doesn’t reiterate what’s already been said so far in the press release)

Book Information

Here’s where you’ll share your book title, author name, publication date, publisher/imprint, ISBN, format (hardcover, paperback etc), price, and genre. Booksellers in particular will need to quickly access your ISBN and other book data, so be sure to format this so that it stands out on the page and is easy to find.

Author Bio

Drop in some more information about your accolades, publications, education, and personal life. Be sure to include a link to your website and social media pages if you have them!

For more tips, check out this article on writing an author bio that stands out.

Talking Points

This bulleted list is a quick, easy way for you to communicate the topics you would like to be interviewed about. Write 5-7 topics pertaining to your work, your book, and/or your field of expertise that you can elaborate on in an interview.

Sample Interview

The sample interview section helps media professionals pull quotes from you that they can use in an article. It’s also helpful for event coordinators to get a feel for what a Q&A during an event might look like.

Choose 5-10 questions and topics that reveal more about who you are and why you wrote your book. Answer those questions in a short paragraph (3-7 sentences).

Contact Details

Include your phone number, email address and website in the footer (and/or header) of your press release. If your publisher is going to help field media interest for you, feel free to include their contact information as well.


Studies have shown that media professionals are more likely to engage with press kits when they feature multiple images (and/or videos). At a minimum, you should incorporate your book cover image and author headshot into your press release. If you have other images or videos (TikToks, book trailers) to include, be sure to add a link or embed them into the release!

Your press release is the perfect tool to use in your outreach to media and events contacts. If you plan on reaching out to any media professionals via email, be sure to link to your press release. Or, if you’re stopping by a bookstore or a library near you, print out a copy of the press release to bring with you. 

As your career progresses, you’ll likely obtain more accolades, blurbs and media links. Be sure to go back and edit the release with this new information so it stays current!


The value of book bloggers, influencers and niche media

Authors, especially those who are new to publicity, often wonder: What is the value of coverage from book bloggers, influencers and other niche media? 

A fair question! 

The value in traditional media coverage (think: New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle) is obvious. These sources have wide-reaching readerships, and positive coverage from them will meet a lot of eyes and ears. Yet, they represent only a fraction of the bookish community and the media they consume. There are plenty of benefits to working with more niche media outlets, and oftentimes, these benefits fill in the gaps where traditional media falls short.

The numbers problem

A thought experiment: If media Outlet A has an audience of 1,000 and media Outlet B has an audience of 500, will a book review in Outlet A always lead to more sales? Though it may be tempting to work this out mathematically (if the likelihood of a purchase is 10%, I can expect 100 sales from Outlet A compared with 50 sales from Outlet B…) book sales never follow such solvable patterns. If Outlet A has more followers, but they are on the whole less engaged with Outlet A’s content, they’ll be less likely to make a purchase. By the same token, if Outlet B has a smaller – but more dedicated – following, coverage with them may leave a more meaningful impact on a larger number of readers. 

Consider an author who has written a book about fishing. A review in a niche hunting and fishing magazine may lead to equal or greater engagement than a review in a general interest publication with a larger audience because only a fraction of those readers like to fish.

Furthermore, a sale is a sale no matter how small! Even if a media link inspires only one person to buy a copy of the book, that’s one more reader than you had yesterday. Every new reader is a potential long-term fan, and every one counts!

General benefits

One of the goals of a publicity campaign is to build up online buzz by securing multiple media links for a book. That way, when someone hears about it and they search around, they can easily find plenty of positive reviews, mentions, and coverage. Most readers won’t check to see how many followers certain websites have; instead, they’ll be more interested in the content (“Wow, they really loved this book!”) and the number of links out there (“It seems like everyone’s reading this book!”).

Having all these links is also good for your SEO, as these sites often link back to you and instigate more google searches for your name and/or book title.

Bloggers often cross-post their reviews to Amazon and Goodreads as well, which is great for your brand, too!


Many authors who’ve been interviewed on national media in the past feel this should give them a one-up on the competition. Surely they’ll be a priority for future coverage right? Sometimes this is true, but unfortunately, a wide variety of factors can (and often will) stand in your way. 

If your previous interview was about a nonbookish topic, it’s unlikelythis will give you an advantage for a book-related interview. If you interviewed about a past book, but have since switched publishers or changed genres, that can be enough for producers to pass on future coverage.

Ultimately, this comes down to loyalty. No one can blame these media giants for being picky with their coverage. But what many authors seek are loyal supporters who want to cover all their work and follow them throughout their author journey.

This is why we love working with book bloggers and influencers – they are the most fervent supporters of authors! If they become a fan of your work, they often remain a fan for life. We’ve heard from some bloggers that they’d be willing to read outside of their preferred genre if the book is written by an author they trust, which we think is the ultimate sign of loyalty.

Additionally, influencers and bloggers will often follow you on social media, helping you grow your accounts, and they’ll spread the word about your work through online and in-person brag-sessions. There’s no better feeling than knowing that someone is out there championing you!

Don’t forget about the little guys

National media will always be on our bucket list, but we never want to forget about the bloggers and influencers who work so hard to keep the book community fresh, fun and full of joy. They do so much for authors, often for free and without thanks. So, be sure to show your support for these folks who promote new books everyday, simply for the love of reading!