Category Archives: blog chat

How fast can you read?

There is SO much out there that I want to read and so little time to read it all. It’s one of the universe’s sick jokes. I thought Ken Kalfus summarized it perfectly in the beginning of this piece for the New Yorker.

So wouldn’t it be great if we could squeeze all that reading into our schedules? If we could read a page by just glancing at it? There’s no shortage of speed reading books and websites that claim to be able to drill this skill into you. And of course there are apps that help you speed read too.

A lot of these sources relay a lot of the same information. Focus and block out all distractions. Don’t read sentences more than once. User your peripheries and track your place with a finger or pointer. Don’t vocalize the words in your head, which I am pretty sure is impossible NOT to do.

These are all good tips, but do any of these sites offer any substantial improvement? While I can’t answer that definitively, I can point you to this Slate speed reading piece about the plausibility of speed reading and information retention rates.

So what do our readers think? Any tips you’d like to share?

Take the test here to see how you stack up. I got 567 wpm (and 3/3 answers). Challenge extended.

Tell us how we’re doing

A while back (a year, maybe more—my conception of time is shockingly horrible, bordering on nonexistent), Sharon did a blog post asking for feedback from our readers. What we heard was eye-opening to say the least.

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All of it was informative and very helpful—and I believe it led to a better year in blogging for DGLM and our readers. So I will do so again here. Let’s call it our year-end review.

What do you guys enjoy about our blog? What keeps bringing you back for more? What would you like to see us do differently, do better?

This is your chance for some input. Our readers are important to us, and we want to blog about what you want to read about. So please, don’t hold back. What’s on your mind?


Author blogging

Yesterday morning, I met up with one of my clients, Shandy Lawson, for a general catch-up meeting. One of the items on the agenda was Fiction Locker, a website he started to encourage young writers. I’ll get my shameless plug over with right now—it’s a great site, with plenty of writing options for those over 19 as well, so please check it out!

And actually, shameless plugging dovetails nicely with a little piece I saw today via Facebook from The Book Designer about the 5 Marketing Mistakes That Beginning Fiction Writers Make. In particular, I was struck by Number 3, Maintaining a Blog to Attract New Readers. It seems like obvious advice, but with Twitter and Facebook, I sometimes feel like the good old fashioned blog gets overlooked. And Jason makes a good point that the key to successful blogging is to provide quality material that connects with the right people, i.e., people who would then buy your book.

At the same time, Jason rightly cautions against using your blog as pure promotion, (or shameless plugging—he got me there!) which brings us back to Fiction Locker. Now, I know Shandy has a genuine interest in encouraging young writers, and the focus of Fiction Locker is squarely on helping teens find their voice. But at the same time, Shandy and other contributors are YA authors… and if readers want to check out their books, great!

In other words, here’s a good example of a blog that delivers meaningful content to the right people. But I’d love to know—are there other author blogs out there that you think do a good job of connecting?


Your turn.

We have a lot of fun with our blog posts around here. Whether we’re drooling over the latest book swag or marveling at the latest technology that’s changing our industry, this blog serves as a great place to share what we’re thinking.

But it’s not ALL about us, you know. And we love it when you get involved in the conversation, like the important discussion sparked by Jim’s post yesterday.

So I’m turning the spotlight on you for a minute. Let us know what YOU want to read about. Do you want more or less…

Or hankering after something else altogether that we’ve never thought to post about?!

Leave a comment below and maybe, just maybe, your DGLM blog wish will come true.

Insider tips on how to successfully turn your blog or idea into a book

While this is a complex and challenging question in a complex and challenging market, a friend and editor at Chronicle Books, Kate Woodrow, gets to the heart of the matter in this insightful piece culled from a recent conference panel she was on. It gives some advice from the inside on the book development process, and more importantly from an author’s perspective, what makes a successful pitch. Chronicle is a publisher we do a lot of business with, and they are very creative when it comes to developing nonfiction books from brands or blogs, so it’s worth a read.

A number of the tips Kate shares about developing a saleable book concept apply to fiction writers as well. Like researching and reading your competition. It seems so obvious, but it bears repeating and often. Knowing your market and what’s out there is incredibly important. And no typos! In this moving-so-fast culture we all inhabit, it’s way too easy to hit send before triple checking your work. But if you’re serious about getting published, then take the time to get it right the first time.

One point that Kate doesn’t address but that’s been coming up a lot in my blog-to-book conversations with clients and editors is that the more targeted book concepts seem to be working better now given the competition in the market. Having a great idea is still imperative, even if you have a big blog to support it. That’s something that’s a bit different than it was even six months ago. There was a long stretch where publishers were snatching up books from bloggers at a rapid pace. That has slowed down considerably, and now it’s even more important to think through and develop a commercial, accessible concept that is supported by your blog, but not necessarily the topic of your blog. For example, I just sold a single subject book on avocados by a food blogger. Her blog is a lot more general, but there is a section on avocados because it’s a food she loves and writes about often, so we felt the idea of narrowing the focus of her book was a smart one.

Hope you find some takeaway here that’s helpful. And good luck if you choose to go in this direction!



When the nominees for the National Book Award were announced this week, I was embarrassed to note that I’d read not one of the fiction shortlist, not even Tea Obrecht’s  widely praised Tiger’s Wife. I was pleased to see that small presses (Bellevue, University of North Carolina Press) were represented among the nominees, and I looked forward to the pleasant possibility–dim though it may be, given my to-read pile– of getting hold of these novels. Thus, it was with dismay that I read Laura Millers piece in Salon in which she accuses the National Book Award of being “irrelevant” on the grounds of its “esoteric” choices. Miller argues that the NBA should instead help the people “who can find time for only two or three new novels per year read something significant.”

While I don’t dispute her claim that most of the nation neither knows nor cares about publishing industry buzz, I would submit that the reading public—whether pointy-headed out-of-touch intellectuals or occasional book buyers in search of a good read–has little difficulty encountering the season’s Big Books. Geoffrey Eugenides’ The Marriage Plot, one of the novels she singles out for having been passed over, is everywhere. The same was doubly true of Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom (cover of Time Magazine, anyone?).

Miller might dispute the judges’ choices on the basis of merit (having read none of them, I can’t comment on their worthiness) but to be categorically dismissive of these selections, which she likens to the “literary equivalent of spinach,” seems not only unfair, but absurd.  We all know that book promotion and review coverage are in short supply, so if the NBA sets out to cast a wider net than what the media serves up, how is that a bad thing?

What do you think?


Is blogging worth it?

Oh, don’t worry, readers. I’m not going to abandon you, so no need for tears. Clearly, blogging is worth it for us here at DGLM, and I’ll explain why in a bit.

Earlier this week, I was intrigued by this blog post from author Livia Blackburne (via Galleycat). In it, she wrote about the major issue that blogging authors have: they often wind up writing not for their readers, but for other writers. It’s a great community to become a part of, but I’ll be honest, it’s not exactly what agents and publishers had in mind when we so fervently recommended that every author needed to be blogging. In fact, if you’ve heard me speak at a conference in the past year, you’ve probably heard me talk about authors finding the right ways to promote their books online–and I’ve suggested that most authors not blog. If your posts are only going to reach other authors, I honestly don’t think it’s worth the time to maintain a blog, since that time could be spent doing something more effective to either reach readers or create something new. It’s all about audience, and authors often lose sight of exactly who that is.

But Livia took things one step further in a follow-up post, suggesting ways in which authors might actually reach out to their readers directly. She even references a DGLM client who has done an amazing job of developing an audience all on his own, John Locke. Early on, he figured out who his reader was, going so far as to create a psychological profile, and then crafted blog posts to appeal to that reader. It may seem calculated, but it’s smart. (And, for anyone writing commercial fiction, it’s important that your books appeal to that same reader, though that’s for another blog post!) For those of you writing fiction and blogging, I suggest it’s something that you very seriously ponder.

So, back to us. We actually thought about our audience when we retooled our blog a while back. We discussed who our readers were: aspiring authors, clients, and a smattering of other people. We now focus our blog posts to appeal to those groups, which has raised our blogging profile. We’ve got a more cohesive, more appealing product. We’ve improved our reach by understanding our audience.

For those of you that blog, have you thought about audience? Are you building a blog following by reaching out to your readers?


Two great tastes that go great together

I think it goes without saying that I love books. People who work in publishing certainly don’t do it for the money or for their health! But I also love television. A lot. I’m a fan of new TV, syndicated reruns, classic television, campy television, shows from my childhood, shows from long before my childhood, and new shows that only children should be watching (where are my Spongebob fans?). Work keeps me on a pretty strict TV diet, so I’ve got time for about an hour of TV, not including my going to sleep with Friends on in the background. Seriously, I have a hard time sleeping if Joey, Chandler, Ross, Rachel, Phoebe and Monica aren’t there. Sad, but true. And, a couple of times a year, I get together with some publishing friends for a little outing we call “TV Night.” We don’t watch TV–that would be too easy.  Instead, we endlessly analyze the minutiae of Battlestar Galactica, try to untangle the meaning of LOST, recount just how many times we cried during Friday Night Lights, and debate the merits of Cougar Town (which may be the most divisive show on TV). We also have some drinks, chicken wings, french fries, and if we’re lucky, pigs in a blanket. What can I say? It’s an exclusive club.

So when our TV Night founder sent us all a link to this clever blog which combines images from iconic TV shows with oddly appropriate quotes from books, I felt vindicated. All that time we spent talking about TV was not wasted, and in fact, we were clearly intellectuals for taking the time to dissect it. Our TV watching was not rotting our brain, but was rather teaching us new things about storytelling. We finally had some blog confirmation that we were as smart as we thought we were.

Now if only we’d come up with the idea for the blog!


Blog chat live!

by Jim

Next week, you’ll all have the opportunity to join the agency’s first live chat. Yours truly will be available for an hour from 3:00-4:00 Eastern on Thursday the 18th to answer any questions you might have about pretty much anything—how to write a query letter, the state of the marketplace, what we’re looking for, what makes us run away screaming, and pretty much anything you can come up with. The one thing it won’t be is a place to pitch your book—that’s what email’s for.

This is going to be a test run for the chat system. We’re not really sure how many of you will be able to make it, so we’re going to keep it general and see how it goes. If it’s a hit, we’ll be looking to do it regularly and maybe add more specifically themed chats in the future. (If you have requests for particular themed chats, please let us know below!) So be sure to stop by and make me feel popular!

The chat will be live right here, and if you want to sign up now for a reminder, you can do so in the box below!