Books, Books, and More Books

Milt Toby
Photo by Shiromani Kant on Unsplash

Recent surveys show that most ASJA members rely on journalism, content marketing, or a combination of both as successful business models. It is no surprise that writing books lagged behind other income-producing categories; that’s the state of the publishing market these days and a fact of life for individuals who make a living with their writing.

When the pandemic forced the cancellation of our annual in-person New York conference and a quick pivot to a summer-long virtual event, journalism and content marketing were the logical choices for the July and August topic tracks. But what about the third track, in September? Logic and survey results might suggest expanding the journalism and content marketing sessions to match our members’ interests, with a few craft and book-related programs added to the mix.

And that is the problem with surveys, even the well-designed ones. The questions often direct the answers.

Ask our members, instead, whether they have written a book but need advice about getting it published. Or ask whether they are working on a book, have a saleable idea for a book, or just want to write their first book. We’ve not posed those questions, but informal discussions and attendance for previous book-related sessions at our conferences suggest that ASJA members either already write books, or that they want to. For established authors or aspiring ones, our Books Track sessions are packed with valuable information.

Some highlights:

  • Memoir: Writing Our Worlds—Memoir is one of the most popular nonfiction genres, and this panel is packed with experts who know how to tell compelling personal stories. Moderator Vanessa McGrady is author of 2019 bestseller Rock Needs River, about her very open adoption, which included giving a home to the homeless birth parents. Christina Adams is author of two memoirs, including Camel Crazy, about how her journey to help her son led her to the mysterious world of camels and their caregivers. Shonda Buchanan, a much-beloved MFA instructor, wrote the award-winning memoir Black Indianabout her mixed-race family and their Michigan/North Carolina history. Also on the panel is attorney/agent Dana Newman, who will discuss the thorny legal aspects of memoir writing.
  • The Journalist’s Path into Biography—This session is for writers more interesting in telling the stories of others than their own. Moderator Beverly Gray is the author of two showbiz biographies: Roger Corman: Blood-Sucking Vampires, Flesh-Eating Cockroaches, and Driller Killers and Ron Howard: From Mayberry to the Moon…and Beyond. Her most recent book, Seduced by Mrs. Robinson: How The Graduate Became the Touchstone of a Generation, has frequently been called the biography of a film. Her panel, including agent Peter Steinberg, Viking Books editor Emily Wunderlich, and journalist, filmmaker, and biographer Laurie Gwen Shapiro will help you discover whether biography is the right field for you. Each speaker will provide insight into the process, with time to comment on individual projects.
  • How to Sell Books by the Truckload on Amazon—Amazon is a great place to sell books. Still, most authors (and publishers) fail to fully utilize Amazon’s free resources, including metadata, keywords, and the site’s back-end systems. This deep-dive class with Penny Sansevieri, founder and CEO of Author Marketing Experts, Inc., will show authors how to use proven marketing strategies on Amazon. Author of 18 books, including How to Sell Your Books by the Truckload on Amazon, 5 Minute Book Marketing for Authors, and How to Revise and Re-Release Your Book, Penny will discuss all the great ways Amazon can boost your bottom line.
  • Expertizing for Book Publicity—For successful journalists and authors, positioning yourself as an expert can be a remarkably successful marketing tool for your writing. But do you know how to work the publicity machine to position yourself as an expert in your field? Do you have the skills to publicize your book and your business? For over a decade, award-winning author Fern Reiss has taught corporate America, small businesses, nonprofits, and many individuals about how to get non-stop media attention. Learn how to “Expertize” and benefit from this kind of media attention in this session. More details of Expertizing and a preview of this session can be found at com and at
  • Publishing with an Academic Press—Authors often think that academic presses only publish textbooks and provide support for university professors in their publish-or-perish battles, but they’re wrong. Academic presses may not be the best choice for every author, but they can be a viable option for a variety of book projects. Explore the opportunities offered by academic presses as they expand their catalogs with me, ASJA Past President Milt Toby, as well as representatives from the University Press of Kentucky and successful academic press authors.
  • Book Contract Basics—No matter how many publishing contracts you’ve negotiated as a journalist or content producer, book publishing deals are a different beast entirely. Join attorney and longtime ASJA member Sallie Randolph, author of Author Law A-Z: A Desktop Guide to Writers’ Rights and Responsibilities, and myself for a discussion of intellectual property rights, the art of getting paid, warranties, indemnification clauses, and other mysteries found in contracts with book publishers and literary agents.
  • Also on tap during September are Meet the Masters sessions, including Jack El-Hai’s one-on-one interview with queer author and museum curator Hugh Ryan and Keep Them in Suspense! Storytelling Tips from a Thriller Novelist, Kristine Hansen’s conversation with thriller author Andrea Bartz. Still in the works are sessions on solutions journalism and self-publishing.

Conference and books track registrants also can sign up for free, on-topic “snack chat” discussions and join a track-specific Facebook page. More information about snack chats and the Facebook page will be available in upcoming emails.