Every aspect of my life has been in upheaval for the past few months. I was avoiding blogging for so long because every day was so unsure, for awhile, I didn’t know what I could share or report that wouldn’t change within the next twenty-four hours. I think, finally, though, the dust is settling. I’ve fallen into a new semi-regular routine and, upon review, am comfortable enough to announce that this is how things are and how they’re going to be for awhile. Here are the results:

I gave up on my WIP. This was really hard to give up, because the first few chapters were some of the best writing I’ve ever done, I think. The problem was that I don’t think I realized how hard and unpleasant this particular WIP was making writing for me until…I started a new WIP and the words, characters, and story are appearing like magic and writing is fun again and I’m starting to rebuild my confidence that I am a writer and I write well. I’m hoping that this new book will build up my writing and imagination muscles so I’m able to attack that first WIP again, someday. But in the meantime, I’m completely charmed by this new WIP and I hope, in two months, so are my beta readers. I’m writing more and more regularly, averaging about 1,000 good, worth-keeping words a day. It’s not much, but it’s regular and gratifying. The new WIP is slowly growing; it’s hard, emotionally, to be at the beginning of a new project again when I think about how I have no completed project under my belt, when I think about the fact that I am completely starting from scratch, again, but it is what it is. I’m spending about 50% less time with my face glued to some screen connected to the internet which has, to my surprise, spiked my personal daily happiness an amazing amount. With less internet, I get more things done, things that weren’t getting done before and were causing me huge amounts of anxiety. Yes, this means I’m falling behind in my blog reading and writing. Yes, it means I’ve fallen behind with my email correspondence and other people are annoyed that I am not responding to their emails right. this. very. second. But it’s been so freeing and pleasant and it’s working for me so, that’s that. I’m commuting less, significantly less, and less times battling New Jersey roads and New Jersey drivers has made me infinitely happier. Why less commuting? I got a new job. I’m now Coordinator, Content Development at HarperCollins Publishers. [insert fangirl screaming here] There are so many good things at the new job that I can’t even list them all without sounding like a huge, snotty brag so I won’t go there except to say I love what I do and the people I’m doing it with and I lovelovelove all the books I’m able to read. On that note, I’m reading up a storm but being really picky and choosy about what I read, only reading books that I believe will be truly excellent. Putting a higher value on my personal reading time has made me happier too. As always, feel free to share your awesome reading experiences and become my friend on Goodreads. On another note, I’m eating in a completely new and entirely healthier way. I’m exercising regularly.

Honorary first day photo. Training at the HarperCollins NYC office!

I think what it all boils down to is that I’ve taken care of a bunch of personal stuff and I’m left happier than I’ve been in a long time. I’m emotionally steadier and I’m much healthier, both emotionally and physically. It feels like what I imagine a detox feels like. I didn’t even really realize how crappy I was feeling for so long, didn’t even realize how stressed out I was in my “normal” routine, didn’t realize how much all of this was negatively impacting my writing, which in turn made me feel even crappier, didn’t realize I was trapped in this huge ugly cycle of disappointment, until I got to this new place where the grass really is greener. I keep breathing the air and waiting and waiting and waiting for things to decline and decay, just a bit, but they don’t. Things really are better, and they’re staying better. I just want to let out a huge sigh of relief that not everything has to be as hard as I was beginning to believe it needed to be. There’s this amazing calm that’s come over me as I spend every day chipping away at several of my goals, where every day is actually a unit of progress in the right direction for so many things.

So, after that little personal ramble…Happy President’s Day to you! I hope things are going well in your worlds as well! I’m going to spend today’s holiday writing, reading, cleaning, and watching some of the massive amounts of snow outside my window melt. I’m going to eat some amazing lentil soup I made on the snow day earlier this week. I’m going to go to the gym tonight and listen to an audiobook. I’m going to pay a few bills and get a few things checked off my to-do list. It’s going to be fantastically relaxing and my WIP will be a little closer to being a real thing on my hard drive. I can’t wait :]

Book Releases, Blog Birthdays, and Graduation Anniversaries

How great is this dog’s birthday cake??

May was a big month: the blog turned two [throws confetti in air], it marked two years since I walked down the aisle at Bloomsburg in a cap and gown, and on top of all those awesome reasons to celebrate, my very first book published.

On the social media sites, I’ve been seeing that a lot of friends and colleagues are in the midst of graduating with Master’s degrees, something I detoured, and it made me think about where I would be if I had taken that path instead. I’m pretty happy with my self-designed MFA in Non-Fiction Writing (note: not official. Just what I’m personally calling it. Still only have a formal BA degree!) because really, when you think about it, the time and research investment I made in this book was equivalent to an MFA. As much as I love learning and education, my real goal is to be a writer, so I’m happy that I spent the past two years working on what has become a published book. I prefer that path for myself.

Referencing Neil Gaiman’s “Make Good Art” speech, as I’m wont to do, I think focusing on my writing, rather than another degree, is helping me get closer to my mountain. Hopefully the next two years will yield something even more wonderful. (An agent, another book contract, a published YA novel…? I’d be so happy with any and all of the above. On that note–off to more novel revisions! I need to perfect the manuscript in order to shop the manuscript!)

On the blog front, The (Writer’s) Waiting Room has more than doubled in followers and views since this time last year, which is a lovely feeling. It’s been great connecting with an ever widening community of writers!

(Image: July 1922, Flickr Commons, Library of Congress.)

On Killing My Darlings and the Most Author-Friendly Way to Buy a Book

The book is done. All the photograph permission forms have been signed, the copyediting changes made, the final page proofs approved. As we speak, the book is at the printer, making 1,200 neatly bound, neatly stacked copies of my little paperback.

It’s done.

This book, as you will see it, as I will hold it in my hands, ended up being something quite different from what I expected it to be. As some of you know, I originally developed a soft spot for Arcadia Publishing when I stumbled across a copy of Yardley, an installment in their Images of America series. It was my dad’s hometown, where he was born and raised in the early 1930s, and as I flipped through, many of the images illustrated stories I had grown up hearing, over and over again, like a broken record. There was the steep hill, with the elementary school at the top, where my dad had rode down on his scooter, the bolts and screws popping out as he descended, until it and he was a broken mess at the bottom. There was the girl he had taken to his senior prom. There, smiling, was the public school principal who had beat my dad, day after day, trying to break him of his left-handedness until he finally became ambidextrous. There was the duck farm where my grandmother would get their Christmas dinner. And then there, sitting cross-legged in the front row, wearing his Boy Scout uniform, was the unmistakable face of my father. He was probably no more than eight, but from the handful of surviving family photographs, I recognized him, without even needing to look at the caption for confirmation.

That moment was really special for me, because my dad had died of cancer two years before, and he would never be able to tell me those stories again. Not only that, but the fact that he was preserved in this published book and without doubt on other people’s bookshelves–it was a form of preservation beyond the limitations of my own family. No matter what happens, my father will never be erased from history.

When I started work on this book, I wanted to provide that same magical feeling to other readers. I wanted someone, somewhere, to suddenly get smacked in the face with an image of someone they loved. Whether they were a nurse, a doctor, a volunteer, a student, or a patient at Philadelphia State Hospital, I wanted to give their families something that illustrated their moment in history.

But it wasn’t meant to be. Due to copyright restrictions, I ended up having to blur many of the faces in the book. Not just patients–which I would have understood, to protect their privacy–but also the faces of nurses, doctors, people beaming at the camera. I’m not ashamed to admit that I cried when I blurred out some of their faces, because I felt like after unearthing some of these long-lost photographs from the depths of archive obscurity I was turning around and burying them all over again, burying their story, hiding them, disguising them, taking away their chance to be remembered in history. Many of these people, with their expressions–some hilarious, some sorrowful–became full-blown characters to me, and it was, at times, like killing my darlings.

Copyright law is a messy, complicated, and at times completely impractical thing. In one case, I couldn’t track down the copyright holder of this really amazingly haunting 1940s lithograph by Robert Riggs of a mental ward at Philadelphia State Hospital (his most famous work, titled “Psychopathic Ward.” Really, it’s amazing, I’m begging you to click through and look at it). This is simply because, in the extensive network of surviving family members and art dealers and museum archives, the information got lost somewhere along the line. I talked with one family member on the phone who was terribly sad about it. She explained that, were Robert Riggs alive, he would have been thrilled for me to include it in my book. As an artist, he and many others like him, are being pushed into obscurity, because the tangle of copyright laws surrounding their work and the associated fear of possible legal retribution have, essentially made it too hard to reproduce or display their art.

I could go on forever about my opinion on copyright laws, but really, my point is that this book wasn’t turning into what I had thought and hoped it would be. I was crushed with disappointment. As it sat with the publisher, getting polished up for publication, I mentally pushed the book from my mind and tried to focus on my next project.

But I read over the page proofs a few weeks ago, with fresh eyes, I realized that though it wasn’t what I had originally wanted it to be, the book had in fact become something much better. It is so much more than a local story, of interest to a handful of Philadelphia residents and the families of those portrayed in the photographs. The terrible conditions at Byberry in the 1940s, which were exposed in a 1946 Life magazine article, fueled a national mental health reform movement that improved hospital conditions across the country. Byberry ended up being the birthplace of the National Mental Health Foundation.

The research, if I may say so myself, is impressive: it is the product of dozens of interviews with former staff members and the ancestors of former patients (so many people welcomed me into their homes, dug up old scrapbooks, spent entire afternoons reminiscing with me) and weekends upon weekends upon hours upon hours of archival research at the Swarthmore College Peace Collection, where I read the actual, original, handwritten diaries of conscientious objectors stationed at Byberry during World War II. I can’t even explain to you how excited I was when I was trusted to touch these and read these, flipping through the pages of their impressions of the wards. It felt a little bit like when I touched hieroglyphics when I visited the Great Pyramids in Egypt. If you’re a history fangirl like me, there’s really nothing as awesome as seeing and touching history. My research was also heavily dependent upon archival research (again, weekends upon weekends, hours upon hours) done at the Temple University Libraries Special Collections Research Center, the Philadelphia City Archives, the Pennsylvania State Archives, and the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, among others. All of this research has resulted in a book unlike any other.

And though when I was doing it, it felt like I was blurring every face, it’s really just a small percentage of the 200 total photographs in the book. And beyond the blurring, this book provides an unprecedented inside look at the hospital’s ice cream parlors, beauty parlors, woodworking shops, libraries, baseball fields, dairy cows, and bowling alleys.

But I think my absolute favorite thing about this book is the fact that never before has there been a published history of the Philadelphia State Hospital at Byberry. And now, with my book, a history exists: spanning from its early farm colony days in 1906 until the doors closed permanently in 1990. (I was only one year old!) When I was researching, I came across hundreds of people–on news threads, online forums, and blogs–desperate for information about their relatives who had been patients at Byberry. They only had scraps of information–a family story about their illness, told in hushed tones, a name, a possible death date. They wanted to know what had happened to those relatives, many of whom entered Byberry and never left. In a way, my book is a history of the faceless, the nameless, the undocumented, the forgotten. I hope it gives as much comfort to those relatives looking for information, clues regarding what their relative’s experiences might have been like at the hospital, as I found in my father’s photograph.

I learned so much while writing this book and had so much fun researching it. The book developed into exactly what it was supposed to be and I believe I wrote it exactly the way it needed to be written. I’m so flipping proud of this book and I can’t wait for you all to read it.

On that note, I wanted to mention the most author-friendly way to purchase a copy, if you’re so inclined. All that research I had so much fun doing, and all those photograph permissions I had to get were expensive. Actually, it was mindbogglingly expensive, and almost restrictively impossible on my salary, especially considering the fact that I didn’t get an advance for this book. (Common in non-fiction publishing.) Until a relative stepped in and offered a personal loan, I really didn’t think I was going to be able to finish writing the book. The quality of the images I was able to afford to include, therefore, is largely thanks to her. It was an investment I don’t regret making, because I’m proud of the history this book effectively preserves. But, that said, I do have to pay back that loan (no interest, of course, I’m so lucky to have such great and supportive family members!)

Here’s the nitty-gritty:

Total expenses (photograph permission fees, archive travel costs, etc.): $2,266.70

My contract dictates that I get a normal royalty rate of 8% per book, which, by my calculation should be about $1.75 per book. And on the first print run–who knows if we’ll even ever go to a second print run–there are only 1,200 copies to sell. If the print run sells out, I’ll make about $2,100. I won’t even break even on the loan.

However, I’ve bought 200 copies at a 50% discount from the publisher and can sell them as I please, though I am bound by my contract to sell them at full price, $21.99 (I know, Amazon and Barnes and Noble have a discount war going on, and are offering the book at somewhere around $14.00 right now.) But this means I get a 50% royalty rate on these 200 copies. That’s about $10.99 per book. If I manage to sell all 200 copies, I’ll make $2,199 and I’ll kick in the remaining sub-$100 to pay back my relative in full.

[Updated July 3rd, 2013: I have been notified by my publisher that my calculations were incorrect. Though the royalty rate is, indeed, 8%, it’s 8% off the net, which means I can actually expect something closer to 80 cents per sold book.]

The book will be published on May 20, 2013. If you’d like to preorder a signed copy from me, you can order through PayPal.

Buy Now Button with Credit Cards

For those of you I know and love and am dear and geographically near to, I can hand deliver! Or, if you prefer, checks, money orders, and cash are options. Email me at to discuss this method of payment further.

I’ll be absolutely thrilled if you buy a copy of my book wherever–online or at a bookstore. But if you can afford the full book price and would like to help me out, I’d really appreciate it. I never wrote this book with a goal of making money–it was always about the history–but breaking even would be nice!

[hugs everyone who read to the end of this extremely long blog post]

Switching Careers: Leaving Law for the World of Words

Publishing Advice


Name: Erynn Im-Sato
Current Title: Sales Rep, Proprietary and Display Marketer Sales
Hometown:  Torrance, California
Graduated From: UC Santa Barbara, 2005
Currently work and live: HarperCollins Publishers, New York

My path to publishing:

I was an English major in college and I thought I wanted to be a journalist or editor. My first job out of college was at a local surf magazine in Santa Barbara but then decided I wanted to pursue a more lucrative career in law instead. I moved to San Francisco and worked at a law firm for a year before having an honest conversation with myself and admitting I wanted to go back to the world of words. In my state of quarter-life crisis I rationalized a move to Paris to study French language and English literature in preparation for the GRE, but came back to the US knowing I wanted to work with books. So I moved to New York, enrolled in the Columbia Publishing Program, networked with publishing professionals, got a job at HarperCollins, and have been here for almost five years now.

How I found out about my first publishing job (or internship):

I met a HarperCollins HR rep at the Columbia Publishing Program career fair. I requested an informational interview which turned into an offer for Harper’s rotational program, where I’d be given the chance to try out all the different departments. After three weeks with the Harper Perennial marketing team, I got an offer for a full-time position with the special markets sales team.

What my typical day looks like:

I now work on the proprietary sales team in the special markets department. We create custom-edition books for customers such as Costco, Barnes and Noble, and more. I create and pitch new titles and package ideas. I manage projects from conception through design, production, editorial, and author approval. And I also blog at, talking about life, books, and cool places where books are sold.

What I love most about my job:

Getting to talk about books everyday with people who love books just as much as I do.

Advice on Breaking Into Publishing

  • Network. You can network via social media by following companies on Twitter and their blogs. And you can also network in person by going to to MeetUp events like NYC Literature Nerds, The Publishing Point, eBooks, eReaders and Digital Content Publishing. Try to meet as many people in the industry as possible.
  • Read outside your comfort level. If you’re a fiction heavy reader like me, get some non-fiction books under your belt. Check out young adult, mass market, etc. Browse bookstores, keep an eye out for trends and interesting book packages.
  • Be up to date with industry news. There are tons of resources like the free daily newsletter Shelf Awareness.

Connect with me!

Twitter: @ErynnImSato



Falling in Love with Publicity and Publishing

Marnise's Publishing Advice

Welcome to the guest blogging series, So, You Want to Work in Publishing, where publishing professionals share their personal stories of how they broke into the industry. The guest bloggers and I hope that you find our stories encouraging, informative, and helpful in your own path to a publishing career.

If you’re a publishing professional interested in contributing to the blog series, feel free to contact me at

Today, I’m so happy to welcome Marnise, someone I actually met through this very blog series! She stumbled across the series, loved it, and connected with me on LinkedIn. When reviewing her profile, I was so interested in her experiences–Publicity? Awesome. Working remotely? Even more awesome! Doing it all while juggling a full college course load? Impressive!–and I’m so happy she was willing to share her story about how she pursued and even created her opportunities. Marnise’s story is a great example of how valuable social media can be when trying to break into the industry.

Name: Marnise Tucker
Current Title: Associate Publicist, Entangled Publishing, LLC. & Editorial/Publicity Intern with Publishing Trendsetters
Hometown:  Hartford, CT
Currently enrolled in:  Post University, B.A. in Marketing
Currently work and live in: I work from home (remotely)

My path to publishing:

Originally I was interested in interning at a literary agency and studying to become a Literary Agent. As in life, sometimes things don’t always go as planned. My first internship at Euterpe YA Books, an imprint of Musa Publishing, actually ended up being heavily focused on PR and publicity work. At the end of the 6 month internship my interest in publicity was piqued. With publicity in mind, I searched again for internships. I was lucky enough to find exactly what I was looking for. I began interning with Entangled Publishing in mid-August and I love it. It was completely different from what I was expecting but at the same time, thrilling and fun.

How I found out about my first publishing job:

I actually found out about the internship with Entangled through twitter. When I first became interested in publishing, I took the initiative to finding like-minded individuals. Being that I lived away from the big publishing scene, I decided the best way was to connect with people online. I must have followed every literary agency, editor, publicist, and author that you could find on twitter. I made a habit of reaching out to industry vets, asking them about their companies, their latest projects and just making connections. You would be surprised at just how many publishing internships are posted on twitter.

I found my most recent internship by putting myself out there and simply asking if Publishing Trendsetter’s would be interested in a remote intern. As it turns out, they were interested!

What my typical day looks like…

I absolutely love working remotely. Just because you don’t live in NYC doesn’t mean you can’t work in publishing or publicity. At Entangled I spend my day’s liaison with my author’s, my publicity team, and the media. I create blog tours, garner press, and promote, promote, promote!!!! I love working with my author.

With Publishing Trendsetter’s I research industry news for a column I run, as well as other special projects as they come in. Be sure and check out “5 Top Publishing News Stories of the Week” for a summary of weekly industry news.


Connect with me!

I would love for you all to connect with me on Linkedin and Twitter! @marnisetucker

Let me know you stopped by!

So, You Want to Work in Publishing…in Singapore

Jennifer's Publishing Advice

Name: Jennifer Lien
Current Title: Publishing Editor at Taylor & Francis Group
Hometown: Waterloo, Canada
Graduated from: University of Waterloo, Class of 2011; Joint BA in Political Science and Social Development Studies, Diploma of General Studies in Social Work
Currently enrolled in: University of Toronto, Joint MEd with the Sociology of Education department and the Comparative, International & Development Education Centre (part-time).
Currently work and live in: Singapore

My Path to Publishing:

Growing up, I was a happy bookworm. My favourite way to spend time was to curl up in my room for hours on end with a pile of library books for company. Choosing English Literature as my college major and publishing as a career might have seemed natural next steps but I had developed a keen interest in political science after taking a particularly thought-provoking class during my senior year of high school (never underestimate the power of a good teacher!) At the time, double majoring in political science and social work seemed a practical choice. After all, I didn’t know anyone in publishing and had no idea how to break into the industry. So, my path diverged for a while.

I was also enrolled in a departmental co-op program at university, which means I completed four for-credit internships during the course of my studies. Three of these I were at an independent boarding school which peaked my interest in international and comparative education, especially in the cultural contexts of OECD stars Finland, South Korea, and Singapore. I applied for and was accepted for a Master of Education at my dream school but was still unsure of how to turn my interests into a career. When I heard from a friend of a friend that a research centre out of the National University of Singapore was looking for interns, I emailed the Director of Research an application, and was accepted for a six-month paid placement.

Deferring my grad school acceptance, I flew to Singapore one month after graduation. The Research Assistant position was multifaceted and I assisted with everything from courseware development to funding proposals. During the year, the Director saw potential in my case study write-ups and presented me with a dream opportunity. She had a book project and asked if I was interested in working with her on the research and writing. My job description gradually segued into working on the book full-time which reignited my desire to work in publishing.

How I found out about my first publishing job:

While I had no experience in publishing, I decided it couldn’t hurt to ask the editor of our book if there were any entry-level openings with the publisher Taylor & Francis/Routledge. There happened to be one with the Journal’s team who were looking for a Publishing Editor. After two rounds of interviews, for which I had done hours of research, I was thrilled to be offered the job! In retrospect, I think they found my experience in research and in higher education environments very relevant but what convinced them to offer me the job was the intensity with which I had prepared for the interview!

What my typical day look like…

Our Singapore office is our main editorial hub in APAC. This means I work across Science and Technology, and Humanities and Social Science subject areas. My day-to-day tasks primarily depend upon my inbox but in general my role involves preparing reports for meetings with editors, managing our social media accounts and several databases, assisting with the organization and execution of roundtables and social events for editors/authors, researching potential journal starts and acquisitions, analyzing citation and sales data, and so on. Working in Asia is very exciting and my role has so far proven to be an ideal marriage for my passions in research and education.

Connect with me!

LinkedIn; twitter; wordpress:

The book project:

How a Lifelong Love of Books Led to a Publicity Job

Publishing Advice

Name: Caroline Nitz
Current Title: Publicity Assistant at Henry Holt & Company, an imprint of Macmillan
Hometown: Northfield, MN
Graduated from: St. Olaf College, 2011
Where you currently work and live: I live and work in Manhattan.

Your Path to Publishing:

Like many in publishing, I was an English major without the slightest idea what to do with it. I knew I didn’t want to teach so I just decided to bury myself in books and figure out the rest later. It wasn’t until late in my junior year of college that it finally occurred to me that I could be a part of the industry that produced the books and magazines I’d been devouring all my life. What better way to spend my time, I thought, than surrounded by words and people who love them as much as I do?

I took to Google and discovered the summer publishing programs at NYU and Columbia. I applied to both for the summer after graduation, got into NYU, and quickly accepted. Three days after tossing my cap in the air, I hopped on a plane bound for New York.

NYU’s Summer Publishing Institute was a challenging, eye-opening, and educational six weeks. I gained a basic understanding of both magazine and book publishing, met some wonderful people, and laid a foundation on which to build my career. I wasn’t able to find a job in New York at the end of the program but I found an editorial internship at a magazine publisher in Minneapolis almost immediately after returning home. Four months later, I had some published clips, a byline in Minnesota Bride, an offer to stay on as a freelancer, and a nagging urge to get back to New York City.

A few months later, I had a serendipitous offer from a childhood friend: a one month sublet near Columbia University while she did a research trip for grad school, giving me the opportunity to job hunt in New York City for a solid thirty-some days. From there, it was a whirlwind. An alumni event led to a handful of connections in the publishing industry, which led to an interview, and then a job offer. Never underestimate the power of networking!

What does your typical day look like?

Every day is different. It’s a mixture of sending books to reviewers and producers, writing press releases, compiling mailing lists, tracking media coverage, and brainstorming for future publicity campaigns. We’re planning for books that don’t come out for months at the same time that campaigns are in full swing, so it’s important to be able to juggle!

Connect with her:

LinkedIn is easiest.