Thursday, August 22, 2019

Dear O'Abby, Do I Need to Pick my Own Editor?

Dear O'Abby,

I was lucky enough to get offers for a call with several agents recently. One of the agents I talked to said she only submits manuscripts to editors on a list made by the writer, she doesn't do any list-making herself. Tbh I hadn't thought that far ahead and if she had asked me I wouldn't have known what to say.

As a querying writer, should I have a list of editors prepared?

Best wishes,


Dear Bemused,

This is not something I've ever heard of before.  In my experience, agents usually put together their own list of editors to pitch any of the books they acquire to.  They have existing relationships with these people and meet with them regularly to keep on top of what they are looking for.  In fact, one of the main reasons you want an agent is because they have access to editors an writer doesn't have on their own.

An author can't be expected to know who the right editor for their book might be.  Sure, you can find the name of the editor of book you love or one you feel is similar to your own, but that doesn't necessarily mean that editor will be looking for a book like yours.  Maybe they already have a similar story on their list.  Maybe they have stopped looking for books like the one you read because they sense the market is cooling for that type of story.  Maybe they don't even work for that publisher anymore.

These are the things an agent should bring to your partnership, the things they are the expert in.  And once you both feel the book is ready to go out on submission, she should be able to show you the list of editors she is going to pitch it to.  She should also explain the reasons why she's choosing these editors and how she's going to pitch the book to them.  This is the point you need to decide if you want to hear all the feedback she gets on your project as it comes in, or if you'd rather just hear if they passed or were interested.

I think there should be an opportunity for you to make a suggestion if you have some information or a relationship with a certain editor, or a very strong feeling about a particular publishing company you feel would be perfect for your book, but the onus should not be on the author to decide who the book is submitted to.  That's the agent's job - what you will be paying her for when the book sells.

So, I see that particular question as being a red flag.  The agent's job is to know the editors at various publishing houses and be on top of their likes and dislikes.  Any agent who asked me to do her job for her, is not an agent I would want to sign with.  If she doesn't want to do this very basic function of her job, who knows what else she might decide she doesn't want to do?

X O'Abby

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Luke Dalton's Debut Author Spotlight #NewBook #20Questions at Operation Awesome

Debut Author Spotlight from @JLenniDorner on @OpAwesome6

The Nightmare's Truth by Luke Dalton

1- Which of your tattoos is your favorite and why?

My favourite tattoo? That’s a tough one! Probably Anubis on my right forearm because ancient Egyptian mythology is one of my oldest fascinations. This piece also holds personal weight as I had it inked shortly after a relative ended his life. It reminds me to treasure each moment… plus it’s cool AF.

2- Would you please, in 160 characters or less, give a #WriteTip ?

Be wary of any advice which deals in absolutes. The only thing black and white about writing is the words printed on the page. ‘Rules’ are more like guidelines.

3- What ignited your passion for writing?

I think my passion for writing was always there, even at 6 years old writing about a fish called Freddy. But that passion became palpable when I realised how therapeutic and eye-opening the writing process could be and how much I could grow with my stories.

4- How are you supporting #IndieAugust?

I’m a bit late to the #IndieAugust party, and still (guiltily) working my way through the #IndieApril books I grabbed (oops!). That said, I've made a couple of new purchases from this month's tempting selection, and will be providing opportunities for my fellow indie authors to shout about their work and reach a wider audience.

5- What's your Twitter handle, and do you have two or three writer friends on there to shout-out to for #WriterWednesday ?

My handle on all my social media channels (Twitter, IG and Facebook) is @LDaltonAuthor. Shoutouts to @ladybrooklynn, @dzintrasullivan and @VillimeyS for being brilliant authors and even better humans.

6- Would you share a picture with us of your book on summer vacation?

While I might not have had a summer holiday to take my book on, a certain dedicated beta reader dragged The Nightmare's Truth all over New Zealand with him. These are some of my favourite snaps.

7- What are your thoughts on how some publishing companies manage print and ebooks coming out on the same day with presales on Amazon, even though it's impossible for Indie authors using KDP to do so?

Amazon KDP is a terrific platform, but the inability to link eBook and print books for presale and simultaneous release is madness. People expect professionalism and this limitation makes that goal unnecessarily tough for us indie authors. With my debut, I had a presale set for the eBook and hit publish on the print copy 48 hours before the intended release date (as Amazon advised). I think my print book was live 19 hours later… something along those lines, anyway. This meant some quick reacting to spin suitable announcements and, while it worked out fine, straying from the position of professionalism like that grated at me. Amazon really need to fix this, there’s no reason for it. KDP has the functionality built in already, it should be an easy update and would make a huge difference to indie authors everywhere.

8- What most motivates you to read a new book?

Recommendation from those I trust is the most sure-fire way to motivate me to a new read. I don’t like to judge on the reviews of strangers, cover designs or blurbs… but it happens, too. I like to look for books with more to offer than entertainment alone, so that’s another safe bet to sway me to read if I get that impression at first glance.

9- What is your favorite book by someone else, what's the author's Twitter handle, and what do you love most about that book? #FridayReads book recommendation time!

I'm so terrible at choosing 'favourites', so I'm going with the latest Indie book I read
Author name:Dzintra Sullivan @dzintrasullivan
Title: Once Upon a Death
Love because: I'd recommend Zee's latest book to anyone who enjoys supernatural tales woven into reality with style and skill. Dzintra nails everything in this mystery. Plus, come on, the reaper wears a Mickey Mouse watch - that's too priceless to pass up!

10- Who is currently your biggest fan? What does that person love most (or "ship") about your debut novel?

A few people jump to mind as my potential biggest fans, but I’ll have to go with the one who has officially labelled The Nightmare’s Truth as their favourite book. Her name’s Emma, and what she loves most about it is how it drew her into the characters' stories and lives, making her feel like she knows them all personally and really drawing her into their journeys.

11- What emotions do you hope your book will evoke for the reader, and is there a particular scene you hope will resonate with readers?

I do my best to charge my work with an array of emotions, from those which lift and warm a hopeful heart to those which crush you mercilessly under their heel. Overall, though, I hope to evoke feelings of self-confidence and reflection in my audience. I want them to question the good and the bad for true meaning and character evolution. There are too many scenes I could mention which I hope resonate with readers, and too many I’ve been told by fans have resonated. I don’t want to give any spoilers, I guess you’ll have to have a read and find out!

12- Do you have a favorite place?

Although I've visited some fantastic countries with breathtaking history (Italy, I'm looking at you!), my favourite place to be is the incomparable Download Festival. Come (frequent) rain or shine, that music festival strengthens my spirit like nowhere else in the world. Every time I'm there I feel like I'm home, living for 5 days with the most wonderful extended family of rock loving, genuine nutters.

13- How do you hope your book will help readers in their life?

I put my characters through the emotional ringer. I tear lives apart, collapse worlds on my characters, and take you on the journey of re-discovery – of their known and unknown strengths. Writing this story helped me to overcome depression and become who I am. I seasoned it with truths I’ve learned and existential notions which, I hope, all combines to help readers identify, find their own strength and stand up for it. I want my audience to realise they’re not alone, that none of us are, and that there’s always a way forward (even in the face of an impending apocalypse).

14- What is the most memorable trait or visual oddity of one of your characters?

The first which springs to mind is a character called Dante. He’s a powerful and savage immortal whose face becomes horrifically burned by an alchemical fire during the story. This fuels his rage to new heights through his inability to heal the wound with his own power and self-inflicted sense of deserving such gruesome scarring as punishment for his failures. This is his character art.

15- In what ways are the main characters in your book diverse? #WeNeedDiverseBooks

I aim to mix ample diversity into my storytelling, while also never labouring the point as I feel this is where the line blurs and it becomes about trying to be diverse, rather than it simply being a natural part of the story and character lives. In my main roster we have 3 female leading roles and many characters from across the world of varying ethnicity. I show characters with clear feelings of profound love for same-sex characters (romantic and non) and include numerous themes centred around the acceptance of our differences and diversity and the need for us all to stand as one - the human race.

16- Who is your favorite book review blogger?

Oh wow, a favourite book review blogger? But there's so many talented reviewers out there! I think I'm going to have to say @wendy_wanner, because her review of my debut gave me so much confidence when I was still worried that my only audience would be family and friends. That was a big turning point for me.

17- What was the deciding factor in your publication route?

The deciding factor for me going self-published was creative control. I didn't want anyone else to have a say in the stories I could or couldn't tell. I knew that was the only way I could tell my story how it needs to be told. Plus I loved the idea of making it happen while flying solo, no pitching or waiting for acceptance, just running with the dream and self-belief. I don't like having to rely on other people to get things done, so self-publishing felt the most natural fit.

18- Why do you think readers should write book reviews?

Book reviews are the BEST way to help an author whose work you loved. Even a few short words of appreciation can be enough to bring a whole host of new readers to the story, and that's a pretty sure-fire way to guarantee you're going to get MORE stories from this author. Essentially, you're boosting awareness, whether it's with a full or short review, or even a 5 star rating on its own. You're becoming part of the story's story, and that's pretty badass if you ask me!

19- Do you have one question or discussion topic which you would like the readers of this interview to answer or remark on in the comments?

What entices you most to a new story as a reader? What do you NEED to see or feel to drop everything and say, "I HAVE to read this book, NOW!"

(and for my fellow writers, same question but also from an author's perspective - what draws you to write a new story?)

20- Anything else you would care to share about your book and yourself?

Well, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that I have a new book out this month on the 21st... HANG ON, that's TODAY!

It's a standalone short story set in the same world as my debut, The Nightmare's Truth. I wrote it to be (mostly) friendly to anyone fresh to the series, with as few spoilers as possible. I'm taking part in the Amazon UK Indie Storyteller Awards with it, so any support you guys can offer in the form of shares, purchases and reviews would mean the WORLD to me. I turn 30 next month and am so pumped to have released 2 books before then (#goalcrusher) and they're actually announcing finalists of the KDP competition the day after my birthday, too. Crazy timing or destiny? You decide.

You'll find a purchase link and extract from my new short story, Graveyard City on my website -
And while you're there, you can treat yourself to a sample of the first 3 chapters of The Nightmare's Truth -

Also I appreciate you SO much for taking the time to read this interview. Thank you all, and a special thanks to J Lenni Dorner. Mr Dorner; bro, homie and Operation Awesome Interview Guy. I'm super grateful for this opportunity!

The Nightmare's Truth by Luke Dalton

Monday, August 19, 2019

Experiencing life as a writer

Have you noticed that since you've been serious as a writer, you experience things differently than you did before?  Amren Ortega wrote about this here on the OA blog, about how living abroad taught her about writing fantasy.

My family took the train to the beach this past weekend.
We try to go 1-2x each summer.  Since I've been writing my novel, the things I remember have become more detailed.  This year I noticed little details about the train [shiny wheels, several frayed seats],
the sound the bathroom door made when it clicked shut and a different click when the lock was turned, all the little squeaks and groans when the train was moving, and I eavesdropped on conversations more than I did before.  One man was unpleasantly judgmental about everyone who walked by him.  Ugh.

From the beach [in addition to watching my own family play], I remember specific swimsuits, a mother with tattoos who carried her nervous toddler into the water, a large black man [must have been over 6 feet tall and more than 250 pounds] holding the hand of his 3yo son as he jumped into the waves, and a cute pug.

What types of details have you noticed since you've been writing that you wouldn't have noticed before?

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Dear O'Abby, how do I keep my book from being pirated?

Dear O’Abby,

I recently did a Google search on my book title and discovered it’s available on several pirate book sites. I issued take-down notices where I could, but I don’t feel like I’ve even scratched the surface of this problem. Do you have any advice?



Dear Pirated,

Unfortunately piracy is rampant in this digital age and it’s almost impossible to stop. Even major operations to take down pirate sites tend to end in failure with the site popping back up weeks or days later with a slightly different name or web address.

But don’t despair. It may look like your book is available in a million places, but in actual fact, many of these sites are just a cover for something else. I don’t advise clicking on your book title to find out, but often the book jacket (or movie poster if it’s a film site) is just a portal to a porn site or, even worse, a virus or phishing operation.

If it actually is a book pirating site, it is often difficult to find any contact details to issue a take-down notice. I’ve also come across sites that state they won’t accept take-downs from a gmail address or other common email providers. Given how quickly these sites pop up and down, you can spend a lot of time issuing take-down notices without it doing much at all.

On the one hand, you can look at priacy as being a positive thing – people are reading your book after all. But on the other hand, you’re not receiving royalties from those readers. And if you are with a publisher, and your book isn’t racking up sales, they may be unwilling to publish another one of your books.

You can argue that the kind of people who pirate books are unlikely to pay for it anyway, and eyeballs are eyeballs, but this isn’t actually the case.  Piracy has a devastating effect on many writing careers with authors getting dropped by publishers for poor sales, series not being completed because the second or third book doesn't sell as many copies as the first, and all because people are illegally downloading the books.

Having good security on your book is an obvious move, but unfortunately pirates can strip DRM in seconds if they know how.  You can individually watermark any files you send out pre-release which will at least let you know where there is a breach in security and who you can't trust.  But by then, the book is already out there, and once it's on one site, chances are it will show up on another and another.
I wish I had better news for you, but in a world where people expect to be able to get whatever they want for free with the click of a mouse, other people are willing to give them just that.  Without any thought about how it might affect the actual owner of that IP.  

If you're looking for a bright side, if people are looking for your book on these sites, at least it might bump you up the Google search rankings a little...

Does anyone else have any good advice about avoiding piracy?  If so, drop it in the comments for us.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Keita Nagano's Debut Author Spotlight #NewBook #20Questions at Operation Awesome

Debut Author Spotlight from @JLenniDorner on @OpAwesome6

The Sea of Japan by Keita Nagano

1- Is this your American debut novel, the first one you're publishing here? What prompted you to publish it here instead of in Japan?

Yes, except for my self-published book on Amazon, “Rachel Assigned to Tokyo.” I have been acutely aware of the gap between Japanese people’s understanding of American culture versus Americans’ understanding Japanese culture. My life mission is to get my fatherly country and motherly country closer by even one more inch. As such, I had felt I should write a book in English someday. Besides, the size of the book market is much larger here than the one in Japan.

2- Would you please, in 160 characters or less, give a #WriteTip ?

Write less to express more. All authors in the world tend to write more, but the modern readers are not tolerant of too much writing or beyond the reasonable descriptions. They want to imagine between the lines, between the scenes. As such, cutting the lines is important work. It’s a long road for me to master it, but I am getting to grasp how to do it. The rule is if you are not sure, you just cut it. Then, read it through. If it still seems make sense, your cut was legitimate and good one.

Show, don’t tell. But don’t be afraid of telling, either. Nobody prefers reading your tell to show. Show is the joy of read. However, as a matter of “writing law,” in order to fit the story into the right size, you have to deploy tell when you need to move the story onto the next event.

3- What ignited your passion for writing?

I think it’s a desire to be connected with my readers. Everyone has their voice. Some people are good at talking, but I’m not good at it. I found that writing fiction is the best way for me to share my voice. Yes, it may not be practical to spend more than 2000 hours sharing my voice while others may take 30 minutes to orally tell a story. But if it’s an important voice, and when you find the best methodology for you, you opt out of all other options.

4- How often do people point out that you look like actor Victor Garber?

(Laughter!) Never. I don’t deserve him. He is much more handsome and more than 6 feet tall. I am 5’5”.

5- What's your Twitter handle, and do you have two or three writer friends on there to shout-out to for #WriterWednesday ?

I don’t do Twitter these days. I do FB and Instagram.

6- Would you share a picture with us of your book with a dog?

7- Have you held the jobs of teacher or fisher? If so, did that help in writing the book? If not, how did you research those roles for the book?

As a teacher, yes, but not professionally. As a fisherman, not at all. Therefore, I have spent significant time on research, especially into fisheries. I rode on several commercial fishery boats. Also, I have been to many commercial fishery ports both in the US and Japan. As people say, seeing is believing. I would say, you have to believe yourself by seeing before making the readers believe.

8- What most motivates you to read a new book?

I always read two books simultaneously. One for my joy, one for my training.

9- What is your favorite book by someone else, what's the author's Twitter handle, and what do you love most about that book? #FridayReads book recommendation time!

Author name:Michael Connelly @Connellybooks
Title: The Lincoln Lawyer (It’s series)
Love because: In addition to its legal-crime drama quality, you can feel how much the author loves living in Los Angeles. I learnt from him that if you love particular venues, use their real names. Readers will find it more real and fun. I did that in my book. It’s full of real names in their real locations. If you Google them, you’ll find them. By the way, it was announced that CBS would start developing episodic dramas of The Lincoln Lawyer.

10- Who is currently your biggest fan? What does that person love most (or "ship") about your debut novel?

My publisher, Brooke Warner. She has been in the book publishing industry for more than 20 years and she kindly believed in my story. She loves my book because there are no other books displaying this much originality. As a publisher, she always wants to avoid same-old, same-old books.

11- What emotions do you hope your book will evoke for the reader, and is there a particular scene you hope will resonate with readers?

My book has a typical tension ramp-up towards the end. If people say, “I cried during the final scene,” I will be super happy and filled with gratitude. If people say this is a tear-jerking book, I will be thrilled.

12- Do you have a favorite #bookstagram image or account/ profile?


13- How do you hope your book will help readers in their life?

Loss does not mean someone is gone. The loved one is ever present, even if you lost them. Just like the firefly squid dive in the book. They generate billions of blue lights in the dark ocean to give birth to new lives, but they dive to die.

14- What is the most memorable trait or visual oddity of one of your characters?

Due to the sorrow of losing both her parents, Lindsey developed her unusual photographic memory. With that, she nurtured her card counting skill at casinos.

15- In what ways are the main characters in your book diverse? #WeNeedDiverseBooks

Maximum diversity. For example, in the English dictionary, the word “fisherwoman” doesn’t exist, but my main character has become one. Or, even with the great success of American food culture, there are almost zero shops serving pastrami or corned beef in Japanese eateries. But my main characters are bringing authentic New York Style deli foods to Japan.

16- Who is your favorite book review blogger?

John Pistelli

17- What was the deciding factor in your publication route?

The publishing company is relatively new, but the publisher has got a strong voice. I met her at the San Francisco Writers’ Conference and became a fan of her. I explained my story, she requested my manuscript, and later on she gave me an offer. So, everything is out of human, in person, connection.

18- Why do you think readers should write book reviews?

This book publishing industry is falling. But I’ve heard more and more people would like to write than read. As such, someone should explain the joy of book reading. That’s the stimulus package for the industry. It’s the review, not the book, that would drive their appetite for the good books.

19- Do you have one question or discussion topic which you would like the readers of this interview to answer or remark on in the comments?

Thank you for the opportunity. So, here is my point. I didn’t believe much in translations. They sound too foreign for me. That is why, even though English is not my mother tongue, I started writing this story in English from scratch. Because the story is set in Japan, it’s literally a foreign story to some extent. But my question to your readers is how successful or unsuccessful my strategy has been to you. Compare the translated books you have ever read, is my book still far from you, or close enough for you?

20- Anything else you would care to share about your book and yourself?

My goal is to produce a book people simply cannot put down. That is the joy of reading, isn’t it? I will write more until I die.


The Sea of Japan by Keita Nagano

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

#FirstPageImpressions 08/13/19

It's been a while, but...

#FirstPageImpressions has been on vacation, but now we're back! 
That first page is so important, and I hope this event will provide some solid feedback that will help you improve your work. I'm so excited to see your first pages! All age categories and genres welcome :)

Here's how to participate:

1. Comment on this post and at least one other post from this week by Thursday, August 15, 2019 at 12:00 pm EST.

2. Leave your email address in the comment or have it available on your Blogger profile. (If you don't, I can't find you to give you your critique!)

For a rules refresher, please visit this post.

The winner will be announced in the comment section of this post on Thursday evening. Best of luck!

Monday, August 12, 2019

Library summer reading program

Ahhhh.  Back-to-school season.  Remember that Staples commercial playing "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year"?  Moms and dads are smiling and dancing.  The kids are frowny.  LOVE IT!
In SoCal where I live, the first day of the school year in some districts is this week!
When I was in school, waaaaaaaaaaay back in the last century [literally], it always started the Tuesday or Wednesday after Labor Day.  Here's a really informative CNN article about why the school year now usually starts before Labor Day.

My local library hosts a Summer Reading Program which runs mid-June to mid-August.
Anyone can sign up, even adults.  Prizes include free books, games, puzzles, and other fun stuff.  Here's a puzzle one of my kids won last year:
Yes, he did finish it
The first year I participated, I won the grand prize!  An iPad Mini.  I still use it today to read e-books.

Do you, or your kids, participate in a summer reading program?  Tell us in the comments!

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Dear O'Abby: How do I get more reviews?

Dear O’Abby,

I’m a published author with four books released, but sales are slow and despite working really hard to get reviews on Amazon – which I have been led to believe are the key to good sales – they are really hard to get. The reviews I’ve had have been good, mainly 3-5 stars, but there just aren’t enough of them to have much impact. Do you have any advice on how to get more reviews and therefore more sales?

Best wishes,


Dear Reviewless,

Getting reviews is hard, I know. For my last book, I wrote over 100 emails to book bloggers, sent out numerous review copies, and still only received a handful of reviews in return. It’s a little soul destroying, particularly when you’d rather be working on your next book instead of pumping out email after email with little return.

There are services that offer to help find reviewers for you, but be careful of these and do your due diligence before dropping any cash. It is against Amazon’s rules for you to pay for reviews and some of these services are pay-to-play and you may end up spending a lot of money for reviews that Amazon will remove right after they’re posted. This includes offering any kind of gift or incentive in exchange for reviews, even offering a review to another author in return.

Personally, I have used two different review-finding services, one of which was excellent value for money, the other, less expensive, but also less effective. Predictably, the next time I wanted to use the excellent service, they were booked up over a year in advance, so were not available at the time my book was being released.

There are also a number of free sites where you can offer your book for reviewers. I have had zero success with any of these, but they’re free, so even if they don’t generate any reviews, at least it’s not costing me anything other than the time to fill in the online form.

I have read that targeting the top Amazon reviewers who review similar books to your own is an effective way to generate reviews, but have not tried this myself. I had a look, but so few of the top reviewers had contact information available, it felt like something that would be more time consuming that it was worth. If anyone has tried this, I would be interested to know if it paid off…

Another thing I’ve heard about is adding a page at the end of your book urging readers to leave a review if they enjoyed the book. I’m not self-pubbed, so can’t do this, but if you are, this could be something that helps remind readers to leave a review.

You should also remind your fans to do so. If you have a mailing list (and you should), you will send out regular newsletters to people who have signed up because they already like your work. These people are your strongest allies and it’s important you use them effectively. Offering free review copies to these people is not effective because as your fans, they are likely to buy your new book anyway. But they are the people who will talk about your book and raise awareness of it. Use them to create advance buzz and be your street team in letting people know your book is coming, and that you’re looking for reviewers.

Keep track of who reviews your latest book so you can reach out to them again for your next one. Some reviewers state in their guidelines they are not open to reviewing unless they’ve worked with an author previously, so these relationships are important. So are the relationships you build with other writers. You can ask your beta readers and critique partners to review your book when it is finally published. You can ask your editor and copy editor. You can ask your cover designer.

Long story short, getting reviews is hard. It’s time consuming and there are really no short cuts. You just have to do the work, reach out to as many people as possible, and nurture the relationships you build this way.

If any of our blog readers have come across any great way to get more reviews, please post them in the comments.

Hope this is helpful, and good luck!

X O’Abby

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Stephanie Jimenez's Debut Author Spotlight #NewBook #20Questions at Operation Awesome

Debut Author Spotlight from @JLenniDorner on @OpAwesome6

They Could Have Named Her Anything by Stephanie Jimenez

Today's spotlight shines a debut author who has already become a best-seller!

1- "Sleeping In" is my favorite song by The Postal Service. What's yours?

My favorite song by the Postal Service is Nothing Better and seeing Jenny Lewis perform it with Ben Gibbard this summer at the Forest Hills Stadium in Queens, New York was a real highlight of my life.

2- Would you please, in 160 characters or less, give a #WriteTip ?

Enjoy the writing because it’s the best part of the process. Don’t pay attention to trends. Have courage and keep your faith in your own voice.

3- What ignited your passion for writing?

I started writing as a teenager when I was unsure of basically everything except my passion for writing. I started a Blogspot with a friend from high school and we posted poems religiously. It was the first writing community I ever had. At fifteen and sixteen, I understood the value of writing in community.

4- What organizations might you suggest to those who want to help the humans being detained for allegedly committing a possible misdemeanor in the US?

I’m not sure I understand this question—however, as someone who works in the nonprofit world and actively donates, I can gladly direct readers to my favorite organizations. If you want to support organizations that are doing good work to reform prisons, consider donating to the ACLU or The Marshall Project. If you want to support organizations that are helping migrants at the border right now, consider donating to RAICES Texas, No More Deaths No Mas Muertes, and Immigrant Families Together. If you want to donate to support reproductive rights and justice, donate to (link: http://Rewire.News) Rewire.News, the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, the Doula Project.

5- What's your Twitter handle, and do you have two or three writer friends on there to shout-out to for #WriterWednesday ?

My twitter handle is @estefsays! And absolutely, would love to shout out Loan Le (@loanloan) and Sandra (@kumwongsandra)

6- Would you share a picture with us of your book in the city?

7- Do you have a tip or piece of advice to offer today's teenagers?

Don’t be afraid of asking for help. I know you got things under control but trust me—there are people out there who can bring you to even greater heights.

8- What most motivates you to read a new book?

I’m interested in the way women have been surviving and even excelling in the world. One moment, I’m reading about an early 19th century Mexican American woman botanist and explorer, and the next I’m devouring a nonfiction book about the young women in America who were coerced into giving up their children to adoption before the passage of Roe v. Wade. I love reading books that open me up to new worlds and perspectives. As an author of fiction, I have a peculiar and unexpected soft spot for memoir. Vivian Gornick’s memoir Fierce Attachments, Angela Morales’ The Girl in My Town, and a very big coffee book about the lives of pioneering women in the Midwest are some of the books that have captivated my imagination and inspire me to revisit my fiction with renewed energy.

9- What is your favorite book by someone else, what's the author's Twitter handle, and what do you love most about that book? #FridayReads book recommendation time!

Author name: @d_lazarin
Title: Back Talk
Love because: the stories are so painfully beautiful and real!

10- Who is currently your biggest fan? What does that person love most (or "ship") about your debut novel?

My biggest fan right now is Sarah Gonzalez. She just hosted one of my launch events at Mil Mundos Bookstore in Bushwick, Brooklyn. One of the things she told me at the event is that she was able to see herself in my book. That was a compliment I truly could have never anticipated when I first started writing They Could Have Named Her Anything. It’s an honor to hear that each and every time.

11- What emotions do you hope your book will evoke for the reader, and is there a particular scene you hope will resonate with readers?

If my book helps anyone become the slightest bit more empathetic to young women, and especially young women of color, I would consider that a big win.

12- Do you have a favorite #bookstagram image or account/ profile?

I love Lupita Reads. (@lupita.reads). Follow her for the best of the best book recommendations!

13- How do you hope your book will help readers in their life?

There are so many unexpected ways that a book can change not just your life, but the lives of people you love. Already, I’ve been approached by people who are buying the book for their brothers, sisters, nieces, and friends. If my book has the potential to heal, strengthen, or foster a relationship, that would be a gift.

14- What is the most memorable trait or visual oddity of one of your characters?

My character doesn’t have a visual oddity exactly, but she does have name that becomes one of the central anxieties of the book. Her name is Maria Rosario, and the way her relationship to her name evolves is a hint to how I chose the title of the novel.

15- In what ways are the main characters in your book diverse? #WeNeedDiverseBooks

My novel’s protagonist is a seventeen-year-old Latina living in New York, and her family are comprised of Latin American immigrants of varying generations. Maria struggles to fit in at her elite and mostly-white private school, and one of the reasons she struggles so much is because she can’t conceptualize her identity outside of the few representations of Latinidad available to her. All she knows of Latinidad are worn stereotypes—ways of seeing herself that are imposed on her by other people. If there’s one reason why it’s so important to have more representations of people of color in books and the media, it’s because a multitude of representations will help us become who we most fully are. They allow us to visualize new possibilities for ourselves and each other. They provide a new way of imagining our place in the world.

16- Who is your favorite book review blogger?

The Debutante Ball, a blog that I am part of, is a fantastic blog devoted to promoting debut authors. Every week, the blog hosts a guest interview in which we get to hype up another author we admire. And during the rest of the week, we post writing tips and advice!

17- What was the deciding factor in your publication route?

I published with Amazon Publishing’s literary fiction imprint Little A. I actually hadn’t known that Amazon published books until my agent first started sending out my novel to editors. When I found my editor, I knew immediately that she was the right person for the project. That first edit call, only a few weeks after we first sent her the manuscript, solidified my belief that she fully understood the vision of the book. And on top of that, Amazon provides some incredible marketing opportunities. Because of their First Reads program, my book has been promoted to so many more readers than it would have if I had gone a more conventional publishing route.

18- Why do you think readers should write book reviews?

I think leaving reviews is the best way to do other readers a favor. Our internet culture too often seems to feeds off negativity. Writing a review for a book you enjoyed is like the literary equivalent of planting a tree. You are doing something good not just for the author but for the world—for other readers who might now also discover the book and love it as much you do.

19- Do you have one question or discussion topic which you would like the readers of this interview to answer or remark on in the comments?

My book is very much about names, about who has the power to name, and the way we love or reject our names, both our birthnames and the ones given to us later. I would love readers to tell me the following: Do you love your name? Have you ever been ashamed of it? Tell me the story of your name.

As a Lenni-Lenape, the Name Giver gave me my true name, but it was much later in my life. I picked J because (long story) a form had to be filled out. I didn't know it is traditionally spelled with a superfluous "ay" tacked on. And then added Lenni as a middle name, because I thought the question was about my tribe, and people almost never say Lenape correctly. I'd love to learn more about names, too! Especially how some people look at a name and know things about the person. Where or how is that skill learned, and how accurate is it?

20- Anything else you would care to share about your book and yourself?

Stephanie Jimenez is the author of They Could Have Named Her Anything. She is a former Fulbright recipient currently based in Queens, New York. Her fiction and non-fiction have appeared in the Guardian, O! the Oprah Magazine, Joyland Magazine, The New York Times, and more. Her debut novel THEY COULD HAVE NAMED HER ANYTHING came out in August 2019 from Little A Books. You can find her at (link: or follow her on @estefsays Twitter and Instagram at @estefsays.

They Could Have Named Her Anything by Stephanie Jimenez

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Camp NaNoWriMo, Procrastinator's Edition!

How did everyone’s Camp NaNoWriMo go? Personally, I forgot about it entirely, although what with moving halfway around the world, I probably wouldn’t have had time for it anyway.

Image result for camp nanowrimo

So…I’m doing Camp NaNoWriMo this month! My goal is to prepare for this year’s November NaNoWriMo by writing a page of brainstorming ideas every day for my YA historical fantasy I’m calling Project Julie. So far, I’ve got five pages of ideas. For the most part, it’s just “what if X” and “I like the idea of Y” because the general idea for Project Julie is so new. Keeping the manuscript on a low simmer on a back burner in my mind has been really helpful, and I keep coming up with little ideas here and there. Hopefully by the end of the month, I’ll have enough started to get me going in November!

Did this slip anyone else’s mind? If you were on the ball and got some work done last month, how did it go? Tell me about it in the comments!

Monday, August 5, 2019

What are you reading that's new for you?

Thank you to everyone who participated in our poll and suggested genres for our next Pass or Pages.  You are all awesome!

While we consider the results and decide the next genre [genre reveal August 27!], let's pause for a mid-summer break.
Or mid-winter for our down-under readers.

What book are you reading right now?  I'm reading something that's entirely new for me - a humor book called FOOD:  A LOVE STORY by Jim Gaffigan.  I'm reading on audio, read by the author!  Admittedly, I wouldn't call his voice riveting, but he has a way of delivering jokes deadpan, which makes it extra funny.  I'm about two hours in, and three times I've almost had to stop the car because I was laughing so much I thought I might crash.

What have you read recently that's new for you?  Tell us in the comments!

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Dear O'Abby: Do I Need to Pay a Beta Reader?

Dear O'Abby,

I've recently finished revising a novel based on feedback from a critique group and feel like I'm ready now to get another layer of feedback.  I've been looking for beta readers to get this, and was surprised when one of the people I reached out to asked to be paid for it.  Is this normal?  Should I expect to pay for a beta read?



Dear Strapped,

No. This is not normal.  Beta readers are usually fellow writers or people who like reading in your category and can articulate what they think the problems are with your book.  In my experience, beta reading is usually a reciprocal thing - I'll read your MS if you read mine - but it doesn't have to be.

Certainly, it's a nice gesture if you give a copy of the finished book to the person who beta read for you, and you can thank them in the acknowledgments section of the book. But I don't believe you should pay actual cash money.

That said, if you are wanting a significant amount of feedback, and perhaps some line editing as well, then there might be a case for paying someone to read your MS.  But in that case, I think the line between beta reading and editorial work is somewhat blurred.  You would definitely expect to pay an editor and often the differences between what a beta reader and an editor do are quite small.  I certainly do little line edits in manuscripts I beta read just because I can't help myself if I see a spelling, grammar or other minor error.

But I don't ask to be paid for the beta reading I do just because I will mention if you have a comma in the wrong place as well as telling you the MC needs to be more active in solving their own problems, or a secondary character is just annoying, not endearing, or that I feel like the whole of chapter 23 is completely redundant and slows the pacing.  I just hope that when my next MS is ready to be seen, you will do the same for me.

Hope that's helpful!  And good luck with your manuscript.

X O'Abby