Publishing U

Get Schooled on Getting Published

Publishing UAt Booklist, we usually concern ourselves only with the end product of an author’s efforts: the finished book. We read the books and then review them, offering librarians advice on what to purchase, what to recommend, and what the big books are likely to be.

But that’s not to say we aren’t also interested in how books are made. We do sometimes interview authors about their inspirations, their writing processes, and all the intangible things that don’t fit between the covers. We’re also aware many of our readers are interested in even more practical information. Rare is the avid reader who doesn’t feel they have a book inside, who finds herself wondering just what it would take to write and publish that book.

Our educational series, “Publishing U,” aims simply to share practical and inspiring advice from people who have learned how publishing works, from the authors we review to the editors who edit them to the agents who sold their books.


The Writing Process

100-Level Courses

Whose Opinion Do You Trust? Publishing U: Whose Opinion Do You Trust?

Trying to please everyone can torpedo your book. Agent Mackenzie Brady and author Hannah Brencher share some hard-earned lessons about staying true to your own vision as an author.

Plotting Middle-Grade MysteriesPublishing U - Plotting Middle-Grade Mysteries - featured

Best-selling author and Edgar Award winner Blue Balliett reveals her “hazardous” process for plotting mysteries—one that relies more on assembling the right elements than it does outlines and time lines.

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200-Level Courses

Controlling the Flow of InformationPublishingU: Controlling the Flow of Information

Award-winning writer Simon Brett discusses a topic he’s often asked about when teaching writing courses—one that’s especially important for mystery writers.

Writing Humor for Middle-GradersPublishing U - Writing Humor for Middle-Graders - featured

Gordon Korman (Criminal Destiny, 2016; Slacker, 2016), an author whose many middle-grade novels have consistently tickled the funny bones of his constituents, explains how imagining his readers, and meeting them, keeps his comedy honest.

Publishing U: Creating Suspense in Psychological ThrillersCreating Killer Suspense in Psychological Thrillers

Best-selling author John Katzenbach discusses the difference between grossing your readers out and making them wriggle in helpless anticipation.

Writing Killer Dialogue Publishing U - Writing Killer Dialogue

Library favorite and multiple award winner Catriona McPherson (Quiet Neighbors, 2016) shares her secrets for writing dialogue that keeps readers turning pages.

How to Write About Sex in Your YA Novel How to Write about Sex in Your YA Novel - featured

Christa Desir and Carrie Mesrobian, YA authors and co-hosts of The Oral History Podcast, offer heartfelt and indispensable guidance for authors wondering how to write about sex in their own YA novels.

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300-Level Courses

A Single Novel? A Trilogy? A Series?Publishing U: A Single Novel, A Trilogy, a Series?

How do you know where your book begins and ends? Novelist Leigh Bardugo and agent Joanna Volpe shine light on a common quandary faced by first-time authors.

Publishing U Historical Research and Making Stuff Up - featured

Historical Research and Making Stuff Up

Michael Grant, whose latest novel, Front Lines, goes on sale today, earned a rave review from Booklist’s Sarah Hunter. We’re delighted to share this fascinating look at how one writer does historical research for writing fiction—read on and see why you might want to follow his lead.


Getting Published

100-Level Courses

Publishing U: What Is a Query Letter -- and How Do I Write Mine?What Is a Query Letter — and How Do I Write Mine?

Agent Suzie Townsend offers her take on a commonly asked question—and her client, Alexis Bass, explains how she wrote the query that caught her agent’s eye.

Publishing U: What Age Is My Reader?How Old Is My Reader? When a Young-Adult Novel Is Actually Middle-Grade.

Agent Suzie Townsend dishes on the perils of mis-targeting your audience, and her client, MarcyKate Connolly, recalls the key insight that made all the difference in getting her debut novel published.

Publishing U - How to Meet People in Publishing When You Don't Live in New York - featured

How to Meet Agents and Editors When You Don’t Live in New York

Linda Joffe Hull (Sweetheart Deal, 2015), an author who lives in Denver, Colorado, explains why, when it comes to getting published, living in the middle of the country isn’t the end of the world.

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200-Level Courses

How Do I Find the Right Agent?Publishing U: How Do I Find the Right Agent?

Agent Kathleen Ortiz tells authors the slush pile isn’t the worst place to splash down. Her client, Virginia Boecker, warns authors not to sign with the first agent who says yes—at least, not without doing due diligence.

Publishing U: How Do I Pitch an Agent at a Writers Conference?

How Do I Pitch an Agent at a Writers’ Conference?

Literary agent Joanna MacKenzie offers practical advice on meeting with agents and editors at writers’ conferences, and considers the value of honing your pitch to perfection.

Publishing U: Getting Your Graphic Novel Published, Part1Getting a Graphic Novel Published, Part One

Cathy G. Johnson, author of No Dogs Allowed, and Gina Gagliano, Associate Marketing & Publicity Manager of First Second Books, provide two vantage points on getting noticed and building a relationship with the right publisher for your book.

Publishing U: Getting a Graphic Novel Published, Part TwoGetting a Graphic Novel Published, Part Two

Cathy G. Johnson and Gina Gagliano are joined by literary agent Jen Linnan for a peek under the hood of what makes a graphic-novel pitch stand out from the crowd.

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300-Level Courses

Publishing U: I've Got a Polished Manuscript...Now What?I’ve Got a Polished Manuscript, I’ve Got a Query, I’ve Got an Agent, Now What?

Agent Suzie Townsend and author Nikki Loftin talk about how an author can stay on track even when she hits an unforeseen roadblock on the winding path to publication.

Marketing Your Work

100-Level Courses

Publishing U: How to Host a "Book Shower"How to Host a “Book Shower”

Chris Goff, author of Dark Waters, describes a novel way to develop buzz around your newest book—and those of your friends.

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200-Level Courses

Publishing U: Making Your Debut at ALAMaking Your Debut at ALA

Debut YA novelist Amy Lukavics (Daughters unto Devils) shares her experience at ALA’s Annual Conference this past summer—and offers tips for other first-time authors.

Publishing U Getting Your Self-Published Book into Libraries - featured

Getting Your Self-Published Book into Libraries

Veteran librarian Katie Dunneback offers must-read advice for self-published authors hoping to see their book in library collections.

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300-Level Courses

Have a Soup Night

How to Build Community at Your Local Library AND Promote Your Work

Maggie Stuckey discusses the creative and library-centric programming she has been using to promote her book.

How to Ace School VisitsPublishing U: How to Ace School Visits

Make an impression with young audiences by optimizing for the Q&A and other tips on connecting with young audiences and getting discussions rolling during school visits, from middle-grade novelist Kate Milford.

Publishing U: A Crime Fiction Writer Explains How to Kill 'em at the LibraryA Crime Fiction Writer Explains How to Kill ’Em at the Library

Award-winning crime writer Brad Parks shares pro tips on one of the most important, but under-appreciated, avenues of publicity open to an author: the library visit.

Motivation and Inspiration

100-Level Courses

The Graphic Novel PregamePublishing U: Graphic Novel Pre-Game

Gina Gagliano, Associate Marketing & Publicity Manager for Macmillan’s graphic novel imprint, First Second Books, outlines some of the unique avenues available to graphic novelists, and explains how traveling them helps attract the attention of publishers.

Is It Too Late to Write That Book?Publishing U: Is It Too Late to Write That Book?

Agent Joanna Volpe explores an important question with two of her clients: author-illustrators Lori Nichols and Elizabeth Rose Stanton. As you’ll see, there are many paths to publication.

Inspiration for Aspiring Mystery AuthorsPublishing U - Inspiration for Aspiring Mystery Authors - featured

Rachel Howzell Hall (Trail of Echoes, 2016) offers some motivation and inspiration for aspiring mystery authors who have done their homework and are ready to become ink-stained avengers.

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200-Level Courses

Competing with TelevisionPublishing U Children's Books in the Digital Age

Tracey Hecht, author of the forthcoming book, The Nocturnals (Booklist reviewer Kathleen McBroom called it “humorous and well developed”) discusses the approach she and a team of writers took to write a middle-grade novel that could entrance even the most tech-savy kids.

How to Tell Other Writers You’re Happy For Their Success—and Mean It

life-without-envy-camille-deangelis-featuredNovelist (Bones & AllImmaculate Heart) Camille DeAngelis’ most recent book is a work of nonfiction designed to help its audience curb notoriously counterproductive—and, well, unbecoming—feelings of jealousy. We’ve asked her to explain just how she manages.


Switching Genres – and Audiences

Publishing U: Switching Genres -- and AudiencesIn an upcoming post, former adult crime-fiction novelist Derek Nikitas will explain how he switched genres and audiences to write sf for YA.



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300-Level Courses

Kwei Quartey Publishing U

How to Balance Your Writing Career with Another Job You Love

Physician/author Kwei Quartey (Gold of Our Fathers, 2016) explains how he balances medicine with writing and offers advice on keeping your boss, your publisher, and your inner bard happy at the same time.

Publishing U: Keeping It FreshKeeping It Fresh

Edgar Award–winning mystery writer William Kent Krueger discusses one of the signature challenges of penning a long-running series.



Open Call for Course Materials

If you’re in the business and have insight to offer, feel free to send pitches to [email protected]. We’re looking for posts 750–1,000 words long, each one focused on a single aspect of the path to publication. What does an editor do? How do royalties work? Is e-only publishing viable? How do I decide whether traditional publishing or indie publishing is right for me? What form of self-marketing is most effective? Those are just a few of the questions we’d be happy to have answered.