AuthorFest: 'Like having a friend in the business'

Honesdale. The expert speakers agreed that traditional publishing is a dead end, and gave a wealth of information on how to make it in an industry that has become much more dynamic. As one of them said, "You can't ignore Amazon."

| 21 Nov 2019 | 05:42

Authors, playwrights, poets, and aspiring literary hopefuls descended on AuthorFest 2019, the yearly signature event of the Authors Alliance held at The Cooperage Project in Honesdale on Nov. 9.

Three main presentations were packed to the brim with professional insight, giving the real skinny on the publishing business. It really was like “having a friend in the business.”

The first presentation, "Writers Road Map," dealt with some of the pitfalls on the road to publication. Barbara Taylor talked about the steps in getting her first book -- "Sing in the Morning, Cry at Night" -- published. Her second book, "All Waiting is Long," was just published and has received accolades from Publisher’s Weekly and The American Library Association. Taylor is now working on a third book. She learned to embrace positive rejections, and emphasized the importance of hanging out with fellow writers.

A panel of four aspiring writers did a humorous presentation that illustrated the steps in the writing process. They were Donna Consiglio, a humor writer; Lillian Corrigan, a spiritual writer; Jennifer Plaza, writer of high fantasy novels and stories; and Miranda Swartwout, a witty, heart-centered writer.

Carol McManus is a professional communicator par excellence, in addition to being president of the Authors Alliance. She's an author, speaker, radio host, and serial entrepreneur.

She is often called “Lady LinkedIn" because she has mastered the art of networking on that site and is happy to coach others. McManus is on the board of the Milford Readers Festival (AuthorFest is often referred to in Pike County as "RAW North") and has written several best-selling and award-winning books. Her latest, "Reinvent Yourself at Any Age," will be out in early 2020.

McManus's presentation, “Back Door Secrets to Amazon,” was nuts and bolts informative. Her totally user-friendly Power Point handout was ingenious. It included mini-screen shots of the slides, and write-on lines for the listener’s notes next to each screen shot.

“You cannot ignore Amazon," McManus said. "Seventy percent of all books are purchased online, and 50 to 70 percent of those sales are on Amazon.”

She then took the audience step-by-step on how to promote your book on Amazon and be successful in publishing.

Editors, agents, and Amazon

The highlight of the evening was the dynamic duo of Suzanne and Bob Levine. Together, these two professionals presented a panoply of information borne out of their knowledge and experience on almost every aspect of the publishing industry. They are among the founding members of the Milford Readers and Writer Festival.

Suzanne was the first editor of Ms. Magazine, and a writer, speaker, and recognized authority on women, families, and changing gender roles. She has written a number of important, best-sellers and blogs in AARP, Huff/Post 50 and Next/Avenue.

Suzanne stressed the importance of having an editor review your book before sending it to an agent.

“Writers all need the input of a trusted editor," she said. "Even if you don’t like their suggestions, at least the writer can acknowledge that an area needs work.”

Bob has been both an attorney and literary agent for many celebrated authors. He has represented all major areas of the media and entertainment industry. Bob has led workshops at the San Miguel Writers’ Conference & Literary Festival and more recently has been following the electronic book revolution and the rise of self-publishing as a viable alternative to traditional publishing.

“Traditional publishing is no longer the way to go," he said. "It’s a business of hits for a few celebrity writers, but the mid-list books don’t sell."

He said Amazon is the best thing that has ever happened to publishing. "There would be no publishing if it weren’t for Amazon," he said.

This Q&A session was moderated by Michelle Oram, a member of the Authors Alliance and herself an author of a children’s book and CD, “Songs of the Woods.” Oram is completing her memoir and self-help book about the healing powers of music.

The Authors Alliance encourages all writers and aspiring writers to become members. See the sidebar for its schedule of events for 2020.

For more information about the Authors Alliance, visit

2020 Authors Alliance schedule:
Tuesday, Jan. 21: 10-11:30 a.m.Workshop: Writing query letters and pitching to agents
Sunday, Feb. 9: 2-5 p.m. Book to film, showing and discussion
Friday, March 13: 7-9 p.m. The rhythm and rhyme of poetry
Saturday, May 16: 12-5 p.m. Meet the literary agents
Saturday, July 11: 10 a.m-2 p.m. Authors on display
Thursday, Sept. 24: 7-8:30 p.m.Workshop: Spark your child with a pencil & paper
Saturday, Nov. 14: 2-7 p.m. AuthorFest 2020