Doree Shafrir knows Startup culture.

This is immediately obvious when reading her first novel, Startup, out now and gracing more and more must-read lists every week. It’s laugh out loud funny as well as a well-observed critique of the tech culture we follow as closely as celebrity news these days. Doree and I spoke about Startup on the show, as well as her experience in the tech world at Buzzfeed and other places, her surprise at realizing she wanted to write a novel instead of a non-fiction book and much more. She’s a smart cookie and I was thrilled to learn that she’s already dreaming up more books so those who fall in love with Startup hopefully wont’ have long to wait before we read more from her.

We also got into character, the ways it feels different to write fiction than journalism, writing a story from multiple character perspectives, and the blow by blow process of writing and selling Startup to a publisher. If you want to know what it’s really like to sit down with an idea and turn it into a book, this is your episode.

Listen up on iTunes | Startup | Doree’s website | Instagram | Twitter

Discussed in Episode 56 with Doree Shafrir:

  • How to make characters feel real
  • Doree’s process of getting to know her characters
  • The ones that didn’t make it into the book
  • The freedom of creating characters
  • How journalism helped create good characters
  • The movement from the euphoria of endless possibility to crafting the story
  • The difference between characters telling the story and the reader being inside the action
  • The decision to make the action happen now instead of as something that’s remembered
  • Being surprised by the book being a novel instead of non-fiction
  • How the idea first showed up
  • Beginning with a side character to get into the world
  • Getting trapped in re-writing
  • Getting a multiple perspective structure right
  • Selling the book as a partial manuscript- the pros and cons
  • Writing a timely book, and the last minute edits when Vine disappeared
  • Getting input from 20-somethings
  • LA vs. NYC tech culture
  • The amusing cross-over between imaginary tech in the book and tech that appeared in real life
  • The cult of the introvert
  • Being over 30 in the tech world
  • A new book on the horizon, perhaps…


This episode is brought to you by The Story Intensive, now open for enrollment, with Caroline as a TA option. Learn more and sign up here!

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Once you sell a book, you’re going to have to sign a book contract.

Thanks to Autumn coming on the show, this doesn’t have to be a terrifying process. Every writer who has come on the show has emphasized book contracts as something you need to understand before you sign. I don’t know about you, but despite the fact that the majority of my friends are lawyers, I wouldn’t feel comfortable reading and signing a contract without some help. Autumn speaks in simple language in this episode and clarifies all the areas you’d need to understand and the areas you need to consider before signing a contract.

In this day and age of eCourses, eBooks, and spin-off options for books, there is a lot more to a contract than just royalties and hardbacks and paperbacks. This is the beginning of a conversation you’ll want to have with a lawyer yourself when it comes time to publish your book. This can apply as well if you’re self-publishing as it’s possible you will get picked up from there for print rights or if there is a movie in the offing, a la The Martian. I promise this episode is just as fun to listen to, even if the content is more practical. Autumn is delightful and very passionate about supporting authors. Get ready to feel a whole lot more confident when you sell that book one day. Hopefully, you can feel that day getting closer already.

Listen up on iTunes | Autumn’s Website | Podcast | Facebook | Twitter

Discussed in Episode 55 with Autumn Witt Boyd:

  • Why you need a lawyer who specializes in IP and, ideally, publishing and creative fields as well
  • The need to clearly define the book you are writing from a contract perspective
  • Publishing contracts are specific to the publishing house
  • Deciding what rights the publisher will have
  • What rights there are: paperbacks, TV, film, podcasts, eCourses, etc.
  • Other pieces that may be up for negotiation: audiobook rights, cover design, book layout for visual books
  • The negotiation process and how it differs between publishing houses
  • The difference between fiction and non-fiction contracts
  • Pitfalls to look out for in contracts
  • What happens if the publisher buys the proposal and not a finished manuscript
  • Handling changes between proposal and delivering a manuscript
  • Why you should not sign away your copyright to the publisher
  • How a lawyer fits in to the writer, publisher, and agent relationship
  • The difference between hiring a lawyer for a flat-rate project or on retainer
  • The skinny on multiple-book deals and how they work
  • The dynamics of the book advance
  • The difference between intellectual property and “the book.”


This episode is brought to you by The Story Intensive, now open for enrollment, with Caroline as a TA option. Learn more and sign up here!

  • June 17, 2017 - 02:15

    AC K. - Excellent 43-minute audio podcast that summarizes book contracts and what typical red flags to watch out for!

    I would have included a reminder to both US-based and international authors to make should they register their manuscript’s copyright with the US Copyright Office BEFORE shopping it around; do NOT rely on the “poor man’s copyright”! In fact, I wouldn’t even trust the publisher to register my book!ReplyCancel

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Manjula Martin is fearless.

She gets to the heart of the matter: why don’t writers get paid like other professions? Why does everyone expect to read content for free or very little money these days? Why don’t we value writing the same way we value other work? And why is making a decent living considered “selling out” in some arenas. Manjula has been exploring the topic of money and writing in numerous forums, from her blog “Who Pays Writers?” a collection of rates that writers can submit anonymously about writing jobs they have worked, to her anthology “Scratch” that collects thoughts from a who’s who of today’s writers on the topic.

This has been a taboo conversation for ages. People were expected to feel grateful to get their work published at all, whether or not they got money for it. But why is writing a career that is so undervalued? Manjula and I dive in to some of these topics and hopefully get you excited to read her book, which collects essays and pieces from both prominent and new writers on the topic of making money from the written word. It’s a must-read and this episode is a must-listen if you want writing to be a career, rather than just a fun hobby.

Listen up on iTunes | Scratch: the Book | Who Pays Writers? blog | Manjula’s Website | Twitter

Discussed in Episode 54 with Manjula Martin:

  • Day jobs and writing on the side
  • Finding the stories that aren’t getting told
  • The conundrum of the MFA
  • Why don’t Masters degrees talk about the money?
  • Class issues around money and career
  • The danger of only certain people being able to afford being storytellers and what it does to the stories that get told
  • The shift from being able to work full-time and still write on the side- how today’s society is eliminating this option
  • The shortness of cultural memory
  • How to create an anthology
  • Wanting to hear from a variety of voices and levels of experience in the book
  • What it’s like to edit 33 writers
  • The importance of false deadlines
  • Looking at debt as an invetment
  • The fact that even rich and really famous writers are still insecure
  • Working on a novel and a gardening book
  • The unicorn day job
  • Keeping the romance going in a less than ideal world.
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Jade Chang looked at the economic crash of 2008 and saw a novel.

This is just one of the many miraculous things about her. While the rest of us were running around like maniacs and freaking out, Jade started to see an idea come into form. What if a family lost everything in that crash? What would that look like? What if this character she had in her head was a self-made man who was crushed under the weight of what happened at that time? The answers to these and many other questions became The Wangs vs. The World, out in paperback this week and one of the most noteworthy books of last year.

I knew I had to speak to Jade after reading the book and laughing, feeling touched, amused, and heartbroken throughout reading it. It is a very special book for certain. So when I was lucky enough to meet her at a book event she led the q+a for, I grabbed the chance to invite her. I know I say all the episodes of the show are my favorite, but this one is absolutely my favorite as I share it with you. I had been dreaming about a discussion on character, and this one got so deeply into all of the aspects of character I find fascinating. I hope you all love Jade as much as I did. She’s a wonder.

Listen up on iTunes | The Wangs vs. The World | Twitter | Facebook

Discussed in Episode 53 with Jade Chang:

  • What people want to find in a book
  • What it’s like getting reviews on your book
  • From the inner world of Goodreads
  • How to avoid the inner critic when writing
  • Why it’s best to write for nobody
  • How writing is both fun and miserable
  • The strange difficulty of summarizing your book
  • Finding the voice of the characters
  • Writing a different kind of immigrant novel
  • How journalism prepared Jade to write fiction
  • Starting from an idea and an emotion
  • The outlining process
  • Why plot was not a big topic of conversation ever
  • The importance of Google maps
  • The beauty of writing about family dynamics
  • How your intentions change throughout a writing project
  • What authors ask of their readers
  • How to write in crazy times
  • Setting books in moments of crisis
  • The importance of flaws in characters
  • Showing characters as both amazing and vulnerable
  • Dreaming up the next book.

This episode brought to you by the Story Intensive. Sign up here.

author photo: Teresa Flowers

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Bari Tessler is all about shining the light on money, and books are no exception.

But first, a moment to celebrate! As we reach episode 52, we come back to the very first guest who ever came on the show, Bari Tessler. One year ago, I launched the Secret Library Podcast as Bari was preparing for the publication of her book, The Art of Money. Now, a year later, we’ve come back around and are talking to Bari again.

This time, we talk about what it takes financially to publish a book. Most would-be authors dream of making money right away from big book deals, but the reality is often different. With her usual generosity and candor, Bari shared the ins and outs of the book deal, the agreement she had with her co-writer, and what it took to get this book out in the world. This one is a must-listen.

Celebrate with us! Please do let us know what your favorite episode was this past year in the comments. It means so much to hear from you.

Please do share the podcast with others and leave us a review on iTunes so more people can find the show. 

Listen up on iTunes | Bari Tessler’s site | The Art of Money book | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

Discussed in Episode 52 with Bari Tessler:

  • Money conversations around the book contract
  • Figuring out what phase of life and business you’re in when deciding to publish a book
  • Why Cheryl Strayed put over $50k on her credit card while writing Wild
  • The finances of working with a co-writer
  • Working with a street team to promote the book
  • The beauty of book selfies
  • How royalties work
  • How having a book out impacted the bottom line of her business
  • Tracking publication numbers and the advantages of a smaller press regarding reporting
  • The emotional experience of returns
  • The connundrum of Goodreads vs. Amazon
  • Pondering future books having had this one out for a year
  • June 6, 2017 - 15:43

    My book’s first birthday! The 30 reasons I’m celebrating … - Bari Tessler - […] 14. Getting a crash course on the finances of writing a book. As a first-time author, I had a lot to learn! I needed to pay my co-writer, Angela Raines, take into account photo shoots and marketing costs, negotiate my advance, and on and on. Thank goodness for Body Check-Ins! (I go into the full story about the financials in this interview with Caroline Donahue.) […]ReplyCancel

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