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Thank You, Readers

I like to imagine us five, maybe seven years in the future. We’re at some social event—maybe a wedding—or hanging with family during the holidays. Sharing life updates and talking about the news. Inevitably someone will mention 2020 and what a strange, pivotal, surreal, and challenging year it was. About…

Historical Research; The Key to Making Readers Believers

Remember the days of sitting in a library going through old books, looking up facts in almanacs and hoping you had the right place and the right time? It seems now those days have gone the “way of the DoDo” to quote an Indiana Jones villain. To be honest, I…

Cassandra Complex

With booming sales for classic works like 1984 and The Handmaid’s Tale, dystopian fiction has enjoyed a recent resurgence. These are stories in which a protagonist rebels (often unsuccessfully) against a brutal society inflicting suffering and injustice on its citizens, often in the name of some utopian ideal. Is this…

You Can't Miss the Library: Making Fantasy Worlds Accessible

Stark land sweeps from the buildings atop the hill. I’d liken farm fields to skirts. This vista is too sharp for that. These are nature’s tassets. Narrow stone paths and hard-packed trails wind between sod roofs. This is a place with the brutality of Lord of the Rings or Game…

THE INSIDE SCOOP: Quick Books - How to Write Fast

Currently, for my publisher, I produce a book every two weeks. No, these aren’t five-hundred page doorstopper novels. They are fantasy and science fiction written for a specific audience. They are novels none the less and churning them out quickly has gotten me attention. Mostly, writers and readers ask me…

FORGOTTEN TOMES: Shakespear and His Novel Plays

To most people in the United States, reading Shakespeare is required reading. Furthermore, a vast majority would recognize the names even without opening the pages of the author’s work. The characters have transcended from the pages and they’ve become public domain in more ways than just the literary. Romeo and…

FORGOTTEN TOMES: Morris's Breeder

One of the least successful films from Bruce Willis is Hudson Hawk. People expected a story in the vein of Die Hard. Instead, they got a black comedy, heavy on cynicism and even self-deprecation. It didn’t help that the Studio had marketed it as an action film when they should…

A Novel Approach: Setting and Time Period

by Tim Sunderland

There is a time and place for everything in your novel. Setting has two components – place and time. Together, they are considered a fundamental ingredient of fiction along with plot, character, theme, point-of-view, and style. The setting of a novel gives readers a mental picture of the world your…

TOPSHELF KIDS: Battle With The Wither King

by Tim Sunderland

I’ve spoken with many kids about Minecraft––no big surprise––but I’ve also spoken with them about writing their own stories. And a couple of things emerge as constant themes: Kids want to write their own stories. Kids don’t know how to write their own stories. So I put together some materials…

THE INSIDE SCOOP: No Character Is Off-Limits

I’ve often heard publishing experts encourage writers to make their protagonist likable. We are supposed to make these Katniss and Frodo types who sacrifice everything for other people. Those are wonderful characters but there are other realities, ones where the protagonist is a coward. Where they make wrong decisions. Where…

THE INSIDE SCOOP:What in the Book-World Was I thinking?

This is my world, and I’m making it just the way I like. That statement would accurately describe my mindset when I created my book world for my first series. That world then spread through four more series. As authors, we know that creating worlds that readers can escape into,…

FORGOTTEN TOMES: THE CARDINAL SINS

The Cardinal Sins is a beautiful novel published in the early 80’s by Andrew M. Greeley. The plot is about two lifelong friends, rich Kevin Brennan and poor Patrick Donahue who decide to enter the seminar, but the family status is only the first difference between them. For Kevin, becoming…

FORGOTTEN TOMES: Ancient Manual of Love

Back in the early days of Playboy, the magazine contained short stories and serious articles by the likes of Kurt Vonnegut, Ray Bradbury, Margaret Atwood, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Ian Fleming and many other respectable authors. There was a time when it was believable for people to claim “I only buy…

A Novel Approach: Character Development

by Tim Sunderland

As a writer, you will become a student of human nature. The question of whether the average human being has fixed characteristics or simply acts on impulse using a string of antidotal actions sown together in a random order has long been debated. Are people born with the fixed set…

A Novel Approach: Conflicts vs. Stakes

by Tim Sunderland

No matter what kind of novel you’re writing, no matter the genre, your story will not be memorable without trouble. Even love stories and kids' books have conflict. And every great story begins with some level of conflict. While a novel doesn’t necessarily have to include conflict on the first…

A NOVEL APPROACH: Writing a Bestseller

by Tim Sunderland

In this issue, we focus on just a few of the fundamentals that I believe every writer needs to rely on as they progress in their journey to becoming a bestselling author. I’ll take a leap of faith and say that the reason you’re reading this right now is because…

TOPSHELF MARKETING: Store Decor & Staffing

by Becky Katsikas (lifetime)

Do you want to change the look and feel of your store and don’t know where to start? Don’t fret TopShelf Magazine is here to help with some useful store decor advice. Have a Beautiful Space - Whether it's a big or small space, try to make your store memorable.…

A NOVEL APPROACH: Planning Your Book

by Tim Sunderland

To outline or not to outline. That is the question. Is it better to create a plan or just cliff-dive into the rough seas of novel writing? Some writers will tell us they never start a novel until they have ten scenes plotted on a timeline with character sketches for…

TOPSHELF KIDS: Getting Kids to Read & Write

by Tim Sunderland

I love hearing from teachers and parents and am thrilled when I hear how excited many kids are to read my books. It seems like Minecraft and my characters, especially Gameknight999, has ignited some excitement amongst students about reading and writing. I’ve heard from many teachers and parents about how…

AMERICAN BOOKSELLER: Vroman's Bookstore

by Tim Sunderland

Allison Hill’s most memorable moments as CEO of Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena, CA, include the many authors who have done reading’s and book signings at the establishment, which opened its doors more than 120 years ago. Her favorite, however, is when Bill Clinton made an appearance after the publication of…

THE INSIDE SCOOP: Reviews: The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly

The book review. It is often the instrument used to spear the author’s dinner and then also spear the author. It is the author’s bread and butter and also the mold that rots the bread. It is the elevator to the top and the escalator to the basement. Are you…

THE INSIDE SCOOP: Writers Conference

I’ve just returned from a three-day conference in Las Vegas. This writer conference was put on by Michael Anderle and Craig Martelle and it wasn’t exactly what I was expecting. It was more. To describe all that I learned about books, marketing and writing would take up all the pages…

THE INSIDE SCOOP: GET THEM WHILE THEIR YOUNG

Scroll the feed on Instagram and you’ll come to a few conclusions. They might be: she definitely shouldn’t be wearing that, is that dude out of his mind, and holy batman young adults love their books. I follow more than a few book addicts on Instagram and they all happen…

AMERICAN BOOKSELLER: Northshire Bookstore

by Tim Sunderland

Ask Chris Morrow, the second-generation owner of Northshire Bookstore in Manchester Center, Vermont, about his competition. He bypasses Barnes & Noble, even though there is one ten minutes away from the second Northshire store in Saratoga Springs, New York. Instead, Chris cuts straight to the meat, and at the same…

AMERICAN BOOKSELLER: Paperback Plus Bookstore

by Tim Sunderland

Every Friday night from the first week of June to the middle of September, the city of North St. Paul, a small suburb of Minneapolis, packs 8,000 people into a two-block area of downtown. The event: the History Cruzer Car Show. But for the community of readers and writers in…

FORGOTTEN TOMES: Getting to Know Your Classics

As a native Spanish speaker growing up in Honduras, my list of required reading classics included some names you may be familiar with, like “The Hunchback of Notre-Dame”, or Homer’s “The Iliad.” Of course, “Don Quixote de la Mancha” is a given. Beyond that, the list comprised some local writers,…

FORGOTTEN TOMES: Frankenstein versus Dracula

Many horror films refer to the monster as Frankenstein—an often misconception—but along with the wrench, other creatures populate the cinematic pantheon of horror. The most popular of course are Count Dracula, the mummy, and the werewolf. Frankenstein and Dracula are based on eponymous novels that were published in the late…

FORGOTTEN TOMES: Reading the other Trojan Horse

Spanish author Juan José Benitez took the world by surprise in 1984 when he published the novel Caballo de Troya or Trojan Horse. The book is a rarity in many ways. It's a diary that's narrated in the first person. In the first section the author, who’s a character in…

TOPSHELF MARKETING: Let's Talk Shelf-Talkers

by Becky Katsikas (lifetime)

Put yourself in your customer’s shoes. What makes you want to buy something? Did you decide to watch a movie because you liked the title? Or buy a car because the color enticed you? Most likely, not. Customers make purchases based on research, need, and recommendations. Sometimes if I can’t…

AMERICAN BOOKSELLER: We Visit Powell's Bookstore

by Tim Sunderland

San Francisco used to be the catch-all for everything edgy on the west coast. No longer so. Now the City by the Bay is the home to pricey hipster restaurants, the financial center of Silicon Valley, and real estate values so high that residents get nosebleeds when they pay the…

NAVIGATING INDIEWORLD: Books on Trial

Let’s face it. People are judgmental. They are going to judge every aspect of your book starting with the title and the cover. If the title doesn’t stand out, the readers will pass on by without a second glance. Tease and tempt potential buyers with your wording, drive them mad…

THE INSIDE SCOOP: Covers That Sell

Whether setting up a display to entice readers or creating a cover from scratch, there are a few things booksellers should know about book covers. We are all aware that readers judge books by their covers, but that doesn’t mean just any ole book cover will sell. When I created…

FORGOTTEN TOMES: Literarily Meeting Bond

It’s dark times for fans of the most enduring movie franchise of all time. Much like 2016 was the “Year without the Doctor” for fans of Doctor Who, the James Bond fans have seen nothing since 2015´s Spectre. Plans for a new movie are in pre-production limbo, a most fearsome…

TOPSHELF MARKETING - World-Class Customer Service

by Becky Katsikas (lifetime)

Customer service defines your business and ultimately determines its level of success. You may have a rare item that someone would like to purchase, however, because of a poor experience, or the poor experience of a friend, that customer may decide to purchase online instead of through your venue. Not…

FORGOTTEN TOMES: The Library Is Still Where It’s At

There’s a meme making the rounds on the web with a message about how Google can give you a 100,000 answers, but only a librarian will get you the right one. Despite its snarky slant, the maxim makes a valid point. One that resonates with many readers, especially people desperate…

THE INSIDE SCOOP: Does Publishing Need Gatekeepers?

The other day I read an article that went viral by a traditionally published author. Her main point was that in publishing we need gatekeepers on all published books. The whole article kind of felt like communism, if I’m going to be completely honest. This author was obviously trying to…

THE INSIDE SCOOP: Virtual Bookclubs

Book clubs have always been a popular way to draw people together who have a common love for books. However, times have changed, and people are busier than ever. Finding the time for readers to congregate at the library or bookstore is not an easy job. However, that desire for…

TOPSHELF MARKETING: Mailing Lists & Promotions

by Becky Katsikas (lifetime)

MAILING LIST - How do your customers find out about the current promotions you offer? Customer mailing lists are one of the most effective ways to keep in touch with customers and improve the profitability of your business. The people who sign up for your list are giving you permission…

Why Thrillerfest Is Right For You

by Trev Adams (lifetime)

by Jon Land Okay, I know what you’re thinking: how I can I know a particular writer’s conference is for you, when I don’t actually know you? Point taken and, as the former Vice President of Marketing, and current Chair of the Marketing Committee, for International Thriller Writers, the sponsor…

TOPSHELF MARKETING: Creating the Ultimate Bookstore Experience

by Becky Katsikas (lifetime)

For someone who loves books, there is no place more exciting than a well-designed bookstore. Shelves upon shelves of stories and characters yet to be discovered. So, how do you make it easier for customers to find these inspiring stories and characters? Here are some techniques – “secrets” – that…

What Ever Happened to Happy Sci-Fi?

by Trev Adams (lifetime)

by JN Chaney Anyone who goes to the movies or reads any science fiction is probably familiar with at least one dark dystopian story. Whether or not your selection includes The Hunger Games, I Am Legend, or Wool is besides the point. You've probably been exposed to the genre, which…

Cliffhangers AND the Secret to Life

Hello Booksellers, Authors, and Readers. I am here today to discuss cliffhangers, why I’m a jerk and also give you a secret that has brought me fame and riches. Now first, a little about me. I’m the author who symbolically enjoys leading you over to the edge of a cliff.…

Being a Captain Is Hard Work

Captain No Beard’s refrain that being a captain is hard work is woven into each one of the ten books I have written in the series. I didn’t plan for him to say it, but the world weariness is something both the captain and I have shared many times in…

Could Indie Authors Be Making a HUGE Mistake?

by Becky Katsikas (lifetime)

An author can spend countless hours and thousands of dollars giving their books away on sites like BookBub hoping that it will boost their rank enough for readers to find them on Amazon, and still, that may never be sufficient to create the attention needed to sell books. All the…

THE INSIDE SCOOP: Dreaming Fiction

“I had the strangest dream,” my friend told me the other day. “It was like I was watching an action movie.” “You should write it down,” I told her. She scoffed at me. “It was just a stupid dream.” If Stephanie Meyers said that then there would be no Twilight…

An Overnight Success

I've wanted this for so long. It's been a dream of mine since I began writing on a yellow notepad in junior high. I, officially, have a literary agent. Wow. Sounds amazing. I'm in the club. I did it. I got noticed and it's quite an interesting story. A few…

Pay It Forward

Last night I attended a Local Author Showcase at my library, where I shared the stage with ten neighbors, including my own son, (author Michael Phillip Cash) who all have written and published books. Each author was invited to get up and do a five-minute spiel about anything they choose.…

TopShelf Founder Shares Decades of Experience with Booksellers

by Becky Katsikas (lifetime)

“Would you like fries with that?” was my first job, at 14-years-old. I was so proud, so excited to be working at McDonalds for $3.15 an hour. I rode my bike five miles, to and from work, every day. It was around the same time, I started mowing lawns for…

I Get Blamed for Everything

The other day a nice woman told me I made her cry. It wasn’t long after that that a lady told me I almost ran her off the road, making her nearly have an accident. And today I got an email. It was short. It said, “Sarah, you’re cruel.” I’m…