Interview With Daniel José Older, Author of the “Shadowshaper” Series, “Dactyl Hill Squad” and More!

daniel jose older photoDaniel José Older penned his first novel in 2009,a manuscript that would be rejected forty times and eventually put on hold as he gained inspiration for creating other stories. This story is Shadowshaper, the YA bestselling series praised by New York Times (“magnificent”); Kirkus Reviews, “a must”; and Publishers Weekly, “exceptional.” And yes, there will be another installment of the thrilling sci-fi fantasy.

Of course So Booking Cool asked Older to give advice to writers who are experiencing what seems like endless rejection, which also prompted an insightful conversation about the different states of rejection, and which of them are useful. “It can feel very circular because you feel like you’re getting nowhere,” the former paramedic said. “But if your focus is really on the craft and becoming a better writer, then the rejections will get you to that goal.”

Even as an accomplished author, Older’s goal remains to improve and write better books. He believes it is critical as a writer to self-reflect, work on the craft, and trust the gut.  “When we’re talking about your gut, what that really means is you understand the beating heart of your story better than anybody else. You may not be able to put it into words…usually the heart of a story is not an elevator pitch; it’s a little more complicated than that; it’s almost poetic and that’s why it takes the whole book to get to it.”

Listen to the full interview to learn about the upcoming projects he’s excited about, including the highly anticipated Dactyl Hill Squad (Arthur A. Levine Books, Scholastic), his new Skillshare class, the gadget he uses to create his magic, his favorite sci-fi and fantasy works, Octavia E. Butler, and more! Visit his website for more information.

Review: “Authority Marketing” by Adam Witty and Rusty Shelton

authoritymarketingAUTHORITY MARKETING: HOW TO LEVERAGE 7 PILLARS OF THOUGHT LEADERSHIP TO MAKE COMPETITION IRRELEVANT, Adam Witty and Rusty Shelton. ForbesBooks, $16.95 (160p) ISBN-13: 978-1946633132
Publication date: May 3, 2018

While many modern business-related books stake claim to having the “answers” few actually deliver. An exception to this trend is the recently published Authority Marketing by Adam Witty and Rusty Shelton. The authors assert in this world of social media, branding, and hypercompetition, the paradigm has shifted from product-centered marketing and personality-centered marketing to “authority-centered” marketing; thus, they have developed the formula: Expertise + Celebrity = Authority.

In short, according to the Witty & Shelton: Effective Authority Marketing involves a strategic process of systematically positioning a person as the leader and expert in his or her industry, community, and marketplace to command an outsized influence and edge on competitors.

The authors cite seven pillars of Authority Marketing (and dedicate a chapter to each one): Branding and Omnipresence; Lead Generation; Content Marketing; PR in Media; Speaking; Events; and Referral Marketing. During the course of these chapters, Witty & Shelton provide compelling anecdotes to illustrate concepts so the reader “gets it.” The language is straightforward, not stuffy, and the authors don’t write as if they are being paid by the number of words (or syllables for that matter).

An example used to illustrate the point of personal branding made by the authors is their mentioning of David Meerman Scott who decided to insert his middle name to distinguish himself from the numerous David Scott(s) across the globe. Think noted sports journalist, Stephen Smith—I mean Stephen A. Smith. Witty & Shelton also discuss the importance of “owning” your media presence, keynote speaking, writing a book, and using Twitter—strategically!

Authority Marketing’s strongest attribute (inarguably) is its intent on being written as a “how to” instead of being a jargon-laden, academic treatise overrun by “analytics” and theoretical constructs. The book is a must-read (excuse the cliché but it applies in this case) for college students (regardless of major), entrepreneurs, and people who want to go from being “dreamers” to being “doers.”

Reviewed by Professor Clifford Benton

Interview With Alessandra Balzer, Co-Publisher of Balzer + Bray!

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When Alessandra Balzer was fresh out of Colgate University, where she majored in French Literature and minored in English, she took her first job at HarperCollins as an editorial assistant. Years later she would become co-publisher of her own imprint at the same company. Balzer and Donna Bray, a fellow HarperCollins colleague, were both experienced and eager to become entrepreneurs. In 2008, they launched Balzer + Bray. 

Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy, The Hate U Give by Angie ThomasThe Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth, Beyond the Pond, authored and illustrated by Joseph Kuefler, I Am Enough by Grace Byers, illustrated by Keturah Ariel and Leah on The OffBeat by Becky Albertalli are among just the few of the New York Times bestselling, critically-acclaimed and award-winning titles that Balzer + Bray have published.  Many of these titles have also become feature films, including The Hate U Give, which is slated to hit the big screens in October. “We like to do books that are risk-taking, when it’s appropriate, and when it offers a new voice and perspective,” Balzer told So Booking Cool.

Balzer is excited for the forthcoming titles at her company, including Kheryn Callender‘s second book and first YA novel, This Is Kind of An Epic Love Story (due in the fall) and writer and screenwriter Ben Philippe‘s Field Guide to the North American Teenager. “Thank goodness we’re finally seeing more different voices represented in children’s books and we have a long way to go still,” Balzer said. “[Field Guide] is an important book because it’s about a black boy having love stories, friendships, and drama, like anyone else. And I feel like we need a lot more of those.”

Balzer, whose publishing career spans 24 years (including a tenure at Disney Hyperion), worked under the tutelage of Katherine Tegen (Katherine Tegen Books, HarperCollins) and Nancy Siscoe (Knopf Books for Young Readers, Penguin Random House). She went on to edit titles that became National Book Award Finalists (Sold by Patricia McCormick, The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich; Clementine by Sara Pennypacker and Marla Frazee)  Caldecott Honors (Mo Willems),and Newbery Medal-winner Crispin: The Cross of Lead by Avi, to name a few.

Listen to the full interview to learn more about publishing, Balzer’s advice for aspiring book editors, such as the pros and cons of specializing in one genre and being involved in multiple genres, the inspiration behind of I Am Not Enough, her favorite projects, and more! For more information, follow the co-publisher on Twitter.

Interview With Deborah Gregory, Author of The Cheetah Girls!

DeborahGregoryHeadshotAs a child, Deborah Gregory‘s life circumstances required her to utilize her reading and writing skills for the benefit of her illiterate foster mother. It is the reason she says she became a writer and author. “If she had told me ‘make me laugh,’ I’d be a comedian. There’s no question about it. She controlled my every thought and movement,” she told So Booking Cool. This is just one of the compelling realities of The Cheetah Girls creator’s life. She revealed that she discovered the details about her paternal side, which included learning that she has a half-sister who resides in New York like herself. What’s more is she searched for her mother for 20 years.

The Cheetah Girls, a story that follows the lives of a young, ambitious girl group who also happen to be close friends, is close to Gregory’s heart. “I’ve never had a circle of friends, and that’s what these girls were to me,” she said. As a child she fantasized about being in a singing group, though she says she wouldn’t have pursued it because she can’t sing. She may not have boasted a talent in music, but even prior to having a bestselling series, she found success as a runway model, fashion designer, entrepreneur (she owned two boutiques in New York City) and award-winning journalist. Each of these areas of business proved instrumental in the development The Cheetah Girls.

Gregory knew Andrea Davis Pinkney from their days of working at Essence magazine, who would acquire and edit The Cheetah Girls, which would expand into a beloved franchise (three high-rated films, soundtracks, sold-out tours, dolls, etc.) Gregory’s success naturally resulted in her writing another book, Catwalk.

Listen to the complete interview to learn more about Gregory, foster care, therapy, how Destiny’s Child helped influence The Cheetah Girls, the girls who covered the original books, including former girl group, Before Dark, her thoughts on the film adaptation’s Hollywood casting, advice for authors, her upcoming projects and a lot more! For more information visit her website or Twitter .

Interview With Emma Dryden, Founder and Principal of drydenbks!

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When Emma Dryden was among the many publishing professionals who got laid off in 2009, she allowed herself time to regroup and ultimately took matters into her own hands. Just a year later, the praised drydenbks was launched. Dryden utilized her expertise and connections as a longtime publisher at Simon and Schuster and founded her own consultancy service for children’s books, in which she supports authors, illustrators, publishers, and agents. Her clients also include those thinking of joining the consultancy field. In other words, she still gets to live her passion every day, and has now worked in the industry for more than 30 years.

P1050536Emma posing with her book What Does it Mean to be an Entrepreneur? that she co-wrote with by Rana DiOrio, illustrated by Ken Min

“I urge people not to undervalue themselves,” Dryden told So Booking Cool.

The English graduate’s books have been awarded by many including a John Newbery Medal and Honor, Caldecott, three Coretta Scott King awards (author, author honor and illustration), New York Times Best Illustrated Award and Edgar Allan Poe, just to name a few. She credits the authors she’s worked with for these honors. In addition to running her company, Dryden is also an author and speaker, and hopes to expand into the podcast world.

Listen to the full interview to learn more about drydenbks and how you can become a client or start your own consultant business, perseverance, her thoughts on children’s television, the mistakes she made earlier on in her career as an editor, her favorite adult series, and more! For more information visit her website.

Interview With Carrie Thornton, Editorial Director of Dey Street Books!

carriethorntonEven before amassing a 20-year career in book publishing, Carrie Thornton, editorial director at Dey Street Books (HarperCollins) had a fondness for editing. The English Language and Literature graduate was a literary magazine, newspaper, and peer editor at school. “I realized I was probably a better editor than writer,” Thornton says. A part of her job, she tells So Booking Cool, is paying attention to what is going on in the world. “We [editors] have to be real students of culture and what the reading public responds to.”

While Thornton works on a variety of titles, she specializes in high profile nonfiction, many of which have been bestsellers and critically-acclaimed including We’re Going to Need More Wine by Gabrielle Union; Kate Hudson‘s Pretty Happy and Pretty Fun; Amy Poehler‘s Yes Please; A New Model by Ashley Graham;  Every Little Step by Bobby Brown; Meet Me in the Bathroom by Lizzy Goodman and the upcoming (and second) memoir-inspiration by Bobby BonesFail Until You Don’t: Fight Grind Repeat.

“I’m not interested when it comes to people who want to do books just because they’re famous,” Thornton says. “…The person has to have something to say or they have a story that needs to be told, and they have a great way of telling it. I respond to heart and soul, truth, and authenticity.”

Check out the full interview to learn more about editing, such as the different types of editing, how to effectively pitch as a publisher at book auctions, the art of self-generating projects, the importance of paying attention to the marketplace, and so much more!

Interview With S&S Digital Marketing Manager & Angela Yee Book Club Partner Tasha Hilton!

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Yesterday we had the pleasure of speaking with Tasha Hilton, the Digital Marketing Manager at Atria Books, about her career in publishing and her role in the Angela Yee Book Club: Kickin’ it From the Stoop. She originally worked as a digital marketer in the entertainment industry before deciding she wanted to expand her horizons, leading her to pursue publishing and join Simon and Schuster in June 2016.

Hilton oversees the social media campaigns for Atria’s list, including the New York Times bestseller, I Can’t Make This Up: Life Lessons by Kevin Hart. Working on Hart’s book was an ideal partnership, according to Hilton, who says the comedian-turned-established author’s team and the Atria team made for a cohesive collaboration. Hilton also discusses the marketing strategies behind Empire star Taraji P. Henson’s Around the Way Girl memoir.

Our interview also discusses the upcoming Angela Yee book club meeting, which will discuss the New York Times bestseller and Kirkus Review Best Book of 2016,  Nobody: Casualties of America’s War on the Vulnerable, from Ferguson to Flint and Beyond by Marc Lamont Hill.  The event, in which Hill is scheduled to attend, will take place at its headquarters, the WOODstack Ivy store in Brooklyn, on September 27 at 6PM. For more information, visit http://kickinitfromthestoop.com/.

Check out the full interview to hear why the book club and working at Atria is important to Hilton, her advice for aspiring publishing professionals, her insights on marketing in general, and her upcoming books, including Black Girls Rock! by the awards ceremony and company’s founder Beverly Bond.

Interview With Joy Peskin, Editorial Director at Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers!

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Joy Peskin is the editorial director at Farrar Straus Giroux (FSG) Books for Young Readers, an imprint at the Macmillan Children’s Group, where she manages a department of editors and edits her own titles–a career Peskin describes as “the best of both worlds.” The esteemed editor has worked at Penguin Random House (her first publishing job was at Puffin) and Scholastic prior to joining Macmillan in 2012.

Peskin knew she either wanted to pursue social work or publishing when she was in school, where she majored in sociology and edited her school’s paper.  She was also a writer. She enrolled in the industry-regarded Columbia Publishing Course and landed a job at Course Crafters, an education development program for English learning.

Check out our full interview with Peskin, as she talks to So Booking Cool about children’s books of all ages, Viking’s executive editor Kendra Levin, her advice for aspiring executive editors and editorial directors, and more!

Interview With Senior Editor at Simon and Schuster, Christine Pride!

Christine2Like many publishing professionals, Christine Pride, a senior editor at Simon and Schuster, did not know there were opportunities for bookmaking, i.e, publishing. Pride earned her Bachelor’s in Broadcast Journalism at the University of Missouri-Columbia and then worked at a non-profit organization catering to disadvantaged mothers.

It was during her four-year tenure at the organization as a Public Relations Associate and Director of Development and PR that she connected with a literary agent who also served as the chairwoman at the organization’s board of directors. Pride, a book enthusiast since childhood, became intrigued by agenting and pursued the industry she has now worked in for over ten years. She edits book club/women’s fiction, memoir, and some narrative nonfiction.

https://soundcloud.com/jewel-be/interview-with-senior-editor-at-simon-and-schuster-christine-pride

Hit play to learn more about Pride and her publishing trajectory, which includes Random House and Disney Hyperion, working as an editorial consultant, ghostwriting, her upcoming titles, such as entrepreneur, Joy Mangano’s memoir, Inventing Joy: Dare to Build a Brave & Creative Life (Jennifer Lawrence portrayed her in the film Joy) and her advice for aspiring publishing professionals. Visit Pride at her website http://www.christinepride.com/

Interview With Publishers Weekly’s Associate Editor John Maher!

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John Maher, award winning journalist and the associate editor at Publishers Weekly recently talked to So Booking Cool about overseeing the web and print version, and social media of the trade company, his trajectory from pursuing music to poetry, writing, and seeking publishing jobs to becoming a reporter, and the book launch for the infamous alt-right English political commentator Milo Yiannopoulos.

For those of you unfamiliar, Simon and Schuster (S&S) pulled the publication for Yiannopoulos’ book after a series of controversial events that have offended many, including the publishing industry.

https://soundcloud.com/jewel-be/interview-with-publishers-weeklys-associate-editor-john-maher

Maher published the open letter  by Joy Peskin, editorial director at Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers (Macmillan) in response to S&S. Press play to listen to the candid and insightful interview with Maher and learn more about the industry insider. The New York-based writer has written for a host of publications including, Kirkus Reviews and The Long Island Herald and is co-editor of The Dot and Line, an online publication focused on the art of cartoons. Visit Maher at his website http://sittingoncarfenders.com/