How to Publish Your Book — Some Tips From Smart Women

Once upon a time, I went to college. I say “once upon a time” because it’s been nearly six years since I stepped through the Arch into Northwestern University for the very last time. College feels like a lifetime ago. I wasn’t a writer yet. I didn’t even know I wanted to be one.

But Northwestern is what set me on the path to becoming a writer. If I’d gone to NYU Tisch, or some other musical theater conservatory program like I’d wanted, maybe you’d see me singing on Broadway or in the movies–or more likely, waiting tables. Instead, I went to NU, where Professor Breslin told me in no uncertain terms that my future happiness would be determined by my freedom to write.

There are a lot of famous writers who went to my alma mater. George R.R. Martin is a living legend. Veronica Roth was my year. Talk about intimidating.

So imagine my surprise when Northwestern University’s Medill Club of New York – that’s the alumni club for Northwestern’s top-ranked school of journalism – invited me to speak on a panel about publishing. The day The Guardian compared Paladin to Game of Thrones was a highlight of my writing career, but to be clear, I’m well-aware I’m no George R.R. Martin!

The panel – called “How to Publish Your Book” – took place this past Monday in front of a full crowd. I was joined by Marysue Rucci, editor-in-chief of Simon & Schuster; bestselling author Maria Murnane; editor Whitney Frick with Flatiron Books; literary agent Renee Zuckerbrot; and our moderator, author and editor Christina Bryza. Every single one of these women are Northwestern alumni, which is pretty dang cool. They’ve also all been incredibly successful in their careers, and it was as much a learning experience for me as it was for the audience.

I stuck out a little bit like a sore thumb as the one representative of nontraditional digital publishing. Maria, my fellow author on the panel, had self-published her work but was eventually picked up by a traditional publisher, an imprint of Amazon Publishing. Hopefully the diversity of our experiences benefitted the audience.

I did come away from the panel with a few key takeaways that I think are valuable for all aspiring writers, no matter what path you want to pursue.

I remain a huge advocate of Wattpad as a platform both for growing and established writers. As part of prepping for the panel, I reached out to the good folks at Wattpad for some up-to-date stats on usage of the app. Did you know that a new user joins the app every second??? That’s crazy! There are also over 100 million uploads on Wattpad – so if you think it’s easy for your story to get noticed, think again. That’s a whole lot of competition—more competition than on Amazon Kindle.

Marysue Rucci, the editor-in-chief of Simon & Schuster (one of the big four publishing companies), addressed a question that I think just about every single aspiring writer on Wattpad has asked: if your story is published online first, does that mean a traditional publisher won’t be interested?

Her answer? Publishing online is not a barrier to getting traditionally published. In fact, publishers actively seek talented online writers. And now you know.

Another question that came up is whether it is better for debut authors to query newer literary agents (assuming you’re going the traditional route). The assumption there is that newer agents have lighter loads and more time for you.

While there is some truth to that – a newer agent will likely have more time for handholding if your manuscript isn’t in perfect shape – there is no reason to limit your search. All agents are open for the right author and story—even the ones who say they’re closed to submissions. To quote Renee, our agent panelist, every agent wants to be able to say, “I found him out of the slush pile.” Every agent is in search of the next big thing.

But – just to give you some perspective – Renee estimated that she gets an average of 100-120 queries PER WEEK…and she accepts “very few.”

Whitney Frick, the editor with Flatiron Books, provided even more clarity on the number of layers between writing a manuscript and getting an actual book deal. Most editors at publishing houses accept submissions only from agents (and even then, the submissions pile up). If the editor gets a submission she likes, she then has to pitch the book to her editor. A conversation also needs to happen between the sales and marketing team. The author and agent usually has to come in and meet face-to-face so everyone can make sure there is good chemistry. I had no idea the process was so complicated.

Another useful piece of advice? According to Marysue, the first paragraph of your book is the most important thing you will ever write. She said she can usually tell within 5 pages if she’s going to fall in love with the rest of the novel.

The biggest overall takeaway from the panel – whether you choose to follow a traditional or nontraditional publishing path – is that writing a brilliant story is the number one key to success (easier said than done, eh?). You can have the best platform in the world, but if the quality of writing isn’t there, your book won’t sell.

As most of you know by this point, Paladin goes on sale Thursday, May 14 (here’s my not-so-subtle transition). I’d like to think that, despite having used a non-traditional publishing platform, I’ve written a quality story. It will be interesting to see where my Wattpad journey will take me.


There’s been a lot of buzz on Wattpad of late about what constitutes good criticism–what should and shouldn’t be allowed in a writing critique; who can and should give a critique vs. who shouldn’t.

Here’s my stance on the matter: there’s no such thing as a bad critique.

Okay, let me qualify that a little. Personal attacks on the author or death threats (yes, I’ve seen one or two on Wattpad) should not be permissible. But other than that, anything goes. A reviewer can say they hate a character, they hate the writing, they hate the description, they hate a word, they hate the whole damn story. At the end of the day, both story reviews and critiques are a matter of opinion. You can’t have a wrong opinion.

Don’t get me wrong–getting a bad review or a harsh critique stings. I say I love getting criticism–and I do on an intellectual level–but when someone tells me they hate an aspect of the story or something doesn’t work for them, it hurts my pride. Sometimes. Other times, I want to hug the reviewer for pointing out something obvious that makes my story that much better. To the Paladin reader who told me that “White Castle” was a stupid name for a castle, I thank you. I totally didn’t make the connection to everyone’s favorite square-shaped burgers.

The Long Road to Publishing; Wattpad Annual Block Party & Free Giveaways!

Wow—I can’t believe it’s been over a year since I updated this thing. Bad author Sally. But—at least I update you with big news.
Those of you who read the last chapter installment of Paladin on Wattpad know that I decided to pursue a different path, discard the rewrite I was working on, and focus on making improvements within the original story. I decided to put my faith in you, my readers, and my gut instinct, that the original plot—though not without flaws—was worth keeping.
It’s been my dream for a few years to see Paladin as a “real” published book – a book you could pick up and read in your hands and thumb through the pages. A book you can download for any kind of device – whether you’re reading on Wattpad, Kindle, Nook, etc.
I’ve set really high standards for myself – the Paladin I publish in “the traditional way” needs to be the best possible version of my writing. I’m pouring my heart and soul into improving the overall quality of not just the writing, but the depth and richness of the characters, and the aspects of the books you’ve come to love. And of course, because I can’t help myself, I’ve added in a few new twists and turns 😉
The road to publishing is a long one—I’m still making edits as we speak (what the heck am I doing blogging??? I should be working on Paladin!). But finally, finally publishing is on the horizon – I’m targeting an official book release for this spring. Yes, there will be print copies. Yes, there will be e-books. You guys, I’m so beyond excited.
I’ll provide more updates (here and elsewhere) as I get closer to the publishing date, and share all the specific details. In the meantime, I can update you on my participation in the Wattpad Annual Block Party during the month of February, where different Wattpad authors are being featured in a special book (download it here: every day. My day is February 21st – I’ll be posting a behind-the-scenes look at Paladin featuring all your favorite characters.
The reason this is relevant to publishing? Well, there’s a HUGE (and I mean HYOOOOGE) raffle that anyone can enter. I’m giving away a whole lotta stuff – a signed canvas blowup of the cover of Paladin, two signed copies of the cover, and naming a future character after the winner. But the most exciting giveaway (in my opinion) is that I will be giving away a free advanced copy of Paladin (signed by yours truly).
To enter, all you have to do is visit the link below and log in through either Facebook or your email.
Also, I highly encourage you to come check out my post on Feb. 21st(again, here:, because I will be announcing the coolest reader contest I’ve ever run ever (pardon my babbling, but I’m psyched). Besides, you can also say hi to Braeden!
Thanks as always for your amazing support…hope to see you on the 21st.

Struggling with Tragedy

I wanted to write a post about writing, about publishing, about editing. I have an update on that front, and I try to treat this blog not as my personal diary, but as a place to share my writing journey specifically. And I will share my editing/publishing update. But it will have to be in another post.
Three days ago, two bombs went off in Copley Square in Boston, MA at 2:50 pm ET. I was in my office when it happened, several cities away, worrying about a client crisis that in retrospect, wasn’t much of a crisis at all.
I haven’t been able to stop thinking about the Boston Marathon bombing since it happened. I’m not inspired to write, I’m having problems concentrating at work, and I find myself fighting back tears at totally inappropriate times.
I don’t know why I’m so affected by this tragedy. It’s objectively upsetting, but there are lots of tragic events that are upsetting. When soldiers or innocent civilians die in warfare, that is upsetting. When people die in a natural disaster, like the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, that is upsetting. But none of those tragedies felt personal.
The Boston Marathon bombing feels personal.
I do not live in Boston, though I know several people who do. My former colleagues work in an office on Boylston Street, which runs through Copley Square. My college roommate and her boyfriend live in downtown Boston, and her boyfriend ran the marathon on Monday. He’s a serious athlete and a talented runner, and finished well before the blasts went off. My former colleagues are rattled but fine.
As many of you know, I’m a New Yorker, or I am as of three years ago (I’m originally from a snooty town in Connecticut, for those of you who care). Boston is the closest big city to NYC, and I’ve been there often; in fact, I was there two weeks ago on business. Jon Stewart, of Daily Show fame, described the relationship of our cities best:
…New Yorkers and Boston obviously have kind of a little bit of a competition. Often, the two cities accusing each other of various levels of suckitude. But it is in situations like this that we realize it is clearly a sibling rivalry, and that we are your brothers and sisters in this type of event. 
 These bombs did not go off in my city, but they very well could have. Everyone’s aware of that–if you go to Grand Central, the train station is crawling with uniformed men and women carrying serious-looking guns. There are cops in NYPD blue at every intersection. It could have been us, and we are afraid.
Two Novembers ago, the runners in the New York marathon came over the Queensborough bridge and passed through 59th Street. I’m not a runner — in fact, I loathe running — but I came out to watch as a spectator. I live right around the corner from the bridge, and the marathoners run through here every year. It’s either mile 13 or mile 16 (I can’t recall which) — the middle of the race, and far from the most exciting — but there’s an amazing energy in the atmosphere that’s indescribable. There’s a relationship between the spectators and the runners, though we are strangers to each other. And though I may not be a runner, I am always inspired by the men and women who push their bodies to the limit. I’m a powerlifter myself, and I imagine that crossing the finishing line of any marathon is as incredible a feeling as lifting hundreds of pounds. It’s not just the endorphin rush; it’s the sense of accomplishment. 
In writing fiction, the experts say to give the antagonist a motive. Nobody’s pure evil, they say. Every evil act must be rationalized. But then something like the Boston Marathon bombing happens, and I cannot fathom a possible rationale. If I were the editor of this story, I would call for a rewrite. This atrocity is too evil, too illogical, I would say. It doesn’t make any sense. Don’t murder the 8 year old child, the beautiful, smart young women with their futures ahead of them. Your readers won’t be able to bear it.
Perhaps the reason the bombing feels so personal to me is the advent of technology. During 9/11, we saw the towers burn and collapse from afar. The screams were muted, the dead and dying out of sight. 9/11 felt personal to me, too, but I knew people who worked in the World Trade Centers, and my father was scheduled to leave on a plane from NYC that day. I could see the smoke from the pile of rubble where the towers used to be from my hometown beach across the ocean.
But thanks to smartphones and social media (thanks might be the wrong phrasing), anyone can relive the horror of the Boston Marathon. There are countless videos of raw footage on the internet, personal accounts and eyewitness photos.You can watch the orange fireball burst through the crowd and you can hear the sonic boom of the explosion. You can see the trail of blood across the sidewalk and you know the faces of the victims, and you’ve seen up-close shots of their missing limbs and shrapnel-torn bodies.
I’m still grappling with my feelings about the whole event. I’ve both lost my faith in humanity and regained it. Lost because I wanted to believe that humanity was not capable of such pointless evil. The Boston Marathon is a truly global event, attended by runners and spectators from around the world. The bomb did not just strike Americans that day; it struck people of every nationality. One of the three people who died was from China, attending Boston University to pursue a graduate degree in statistics. All of China mourns her loss, as do we. The world mourns with us. I don’t know what the bomber’s intended outcome was, other than to strike fear into our hearts. But to what end? The Boston Marathon is supposed to be a joyous event, a celebration of the enormous potential of humanity. Why would anybody want to ruin that? The man or woman who did this to the city of Boston is not human, no matter what is in his/her DNA. 
But something amazing happened in the midst of all this tragedy. Cops, bystanders, amateurs, ordinary people became heroes in the wake of the blast. When a bomb goes off, the logical reaction is to run away. But these heroes ran to the aid of the victims who were caught in the blast. They removed debris and fencing out of the way in record time. They made makeshift tourniquets out of waist belts and clothing and used napkins from Starbucks to staunch victims’ bleeding.  Those tourniquets saved lives, doctors at Boston hospitals said. Uninjured runners, who’d already run over 20 miles, kept running all the way to the hospital so that they could donate blood. So many volunteers donated blood that the Red Cross tweeted “thanks” and said they had sufficient supplies to treat every bomb victim.
One of my favorite pictures from the marathon is of former New England Patriots (to my non-American readers, the Patriots are one of the best football teams in the NFL) player Joe Andruzzi rescuing a woman who could no longer walk.
These people, these heroes, are a testament to man’s potential for good. They restore my faith in humanity. It is cruelly unfair that the actions of one evil human (although perhaps more if this is a coordinated act of terror) can offset the goodness of so many others. I try to avoid profanity in this blog, but here I think it is warranted: I hope they make the fucker who did this pay.
I’m sorry for the off-topic ramble, but as much as I want to share my latest Paladin update, I had to write this first. It’s somewhat cathartic to put my pen to paper (or my, er, keyboard to MS Word). This blog will resume normal programming tomorrow when I give you another very big update on publishing/editing Paladin. Thanks for bearing with me on this one.

Digital Hollywood Content Summit

Helloooo, readers!  I have been absolutely remiss in keeping you guys updated. I don’t really have an excuse, other than 1) I’m recovering from a horrible cold and 2) ironically (after my last post on the blog), I am now dating someone who is not Braeden or Tristan. I find him distracting.
Let’s get the super quick writing updates out of the way. I’m hopped up on cold medicine, so I find it incredibly amusing to give you an update in the form of a sports scoreboard.
Agents Pitched: 4
Responses: 2
Rejections: 1 
Requests for more: 1
So the good news is that one of the four agents I pitched expressed interest in reviewing a partial manuscript. The bad news is, I’m now back in waiting mode. According to the experts at Wattpad (and by experts I mean the professional writers community), it could take anywhere from 1 – 3 months before I hear back from the agent with my partial. Time to pitch some more agents, methinks.
On to bigger and better (well, more interesting, at least) things…As a lot of you know, yesterday I was a speaker at the Digital Hollywood Content Summit here in New York City. Below is the (unflattering) photographic evidence:

The name of my panel was…brace yourself…Fiction and Non-fiction in New Forms: Authors and Technologists Discuss Online Publishing and Using New Tools for Storytelling. It’s a World of Boundless Possibilities, Time for a Deep Dive!

…Longest panel name ever. A point the moderator (the fabulous Laurie Viera Rigler, author of Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict, unfortunately not in this photo) brought up as well. Directly to my left is author Brittany Geragotelis, who you might be familiar with from Wattpad. Her story is pretty amazing — after 9 years of rejections from traditional publishers and literary agents, Britt decided to publish her story, Life’s a Witch (which I’m reading on my Kindle now), to Wattpad. Within a year of publishing, she had 18 million reads. That’s crazy! I’m excited to be nearing 2 million with Paladin. Anyway, long story short, many of her fans started asking her where they could buy her book…and of course she had no answer, since Wattpad is free. She self-published, actually, before landing a book deal with Simon & Schuster, a Big Six publisher. Not just any book deal, mind you — a three-book deal for six figures. That’s a lot of money, people, even if you live in overpriced NYC! 
On the opposite side of the table from me is Jacob Lewis, the CEO and founder of, a site that is somewhat similar in nature to Wattpad. Like Wattpad, writers can publish their work to Figment and still retain ownership of their work. Figment describes itself as “a community where you can share your writing, connect with other people who love to read, and discover new stories and authors.”  Interestingly, during the panel discussion, Jacob said Figment has more content than it does readers. Figment seems to have a lot of strong relationships with big name publishers and authors, and they often have “Spotlight Books” that are new releases from these folks. Jacob is the former managing editor of The New Yorker and an editor for Conde Nast portfolios before starting up Figment. He also mentioned that he self-published a book, which he described as a “fucking nightmare”<–that’s a direct quote, and a particularly interesting insight for me, as I’m considering going this route with Paladin.
The panel ended up focusing primarily on how to use nontraditional platforms like Wattpad and Figment as a marketing platform. According to both Britt and Jacob, publishers are paying a lot more attention to websites like Wattpad and Figment these days, and consider them a viable tool for reaching an audience and building a fan base.  Publishers see a lot of value in having a large and vocal Wattpad fan base.
Britt said her publisher, Simon & Schuster, has a good relationship with the folks at Wattpad (by “folks” I mean the Eva Lau’s and Maria Cootauco’s of the site) and they encourage her to regularly engage with her Wattpad fans.  She wrote a 90-page supplement exclusively for Wattpad (and free, obviously) after her book had been traditionally published — and her publisher loved that she did this, and better yet, that they didn’t have to pay her for it!
But how do you convert your Wattpad fan base — who is accustomed to reading for free — into a paying readership? That challenge is something else we discussed, and I mentioned a few anecdotal examples of authors I’ve seen struggle to translate their success into $$$.  Britt said that she and her publisher are fully aware that it’s unlikely that all 18 million of her readers will go out and pick up her book. Part of that is because many Wattpadders are young and don’t have access to a credit card, so their parents serve as a barrier to making the purchase. The other battle to wage — and perhaps an easier battle to win — is that of readers who’ve already read your book for free. Why should they now pay for a copy?
What Britt does is try to appeal to them as a writer. Wattpadders understand how much effort goes into writing a book…months and months if not years of work. Don’t you deserve to be rewarded (financially) for your work?
On that note, one of the audience members, a film producer, asked Britt and me if we’d ever considered going the kickstarter route — in other words, raising funds through crowdsourcing to support our writing. Both Britt and I responded in the negative — Britt because self-publishing via CreateSpace is free, so really there is no need for outside funding, and me because I’m clinging on desperately to the hope of traditional publishing.
The film producer then made this point: publishing a book might be free, but you don’t get any money for writing it…at least not until after it’s published. In that regard, it’s absolutely impossible to make a living as a full-time writer unless you’ve got a few published books behind you.
The truth is, for the time being, I don’t want to be a full time writer — but that’s a whole post in and of itself. Britt does…well, is, a full time writer, but has the benefit of that six figure book deal to support her. Definitely food for thought though, for those of you who are interested in pursuing writing as a full time career. 
The panel was 45 minutes in length, so I could go on forever about the various insights discussed, but in an effort to avoid boring you to death and to minimize my ramblings while on cold medication, I’ll just recap a few quick additional points of discussion:
  • Both Britt and I think responding to comments and messages — every message you receive — is the best way to build a fan base on Wattpad.
  • Britt is all in favor of multichannel marketing — she drives her readership to her various social platforms, like her website, Wattpad, Twitter, and even YouTube (her fiance is a social media guru so together they’ve made some cool makeover-focused videos that tie into her book)
  • Jacob says the Big Six publishers will soon become the Big Three. We already saw Random House and Penguin merge; expect HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster to merge in the next year or so.
  • We discussed paying attention to publishing trends — for instance, paranormal romance is very in right now. Personally, I think it’s important to not get too caught up in trends, because they can be fleeting. I figure it takes one to two years to write a book…do you think if you start writing a Hunger Games-esque dystopian today it will still be cool in 2015? I don’t know.

And with that, I am going to rest my weary head (I’m really milking this sick thing for all I’ve got). At some point, there may be a podcast available, which I will share with anyone who is interested. You know I love hearing from you, so if you have any questions or comments about anything in this blog post (or anything in general), type away in the comments section below!


Thank you to everyone who voted on their top three favorite quotes! I would not have been able to make a decision without your help.

Without any further ado, the quotes I will be providing Wattpad for my featured spot are…

#5. I owe humanity a debt, for what I am and what I’ve done.

#12. Friends didn’t eat friends, even if they were a little deranged

#17. If this were a fairy tale, I’d be my own damned knight.

As a special thanks, I will be sharing the never-before-posted new first chapter of Paladin on the blog later today.