Monday, December 13, 2010

A Must Read: The Writer's Guide to Psychology by Carolyn Kaufman

I met Carolyn Kaufman online through the forum several years ago. We hit it off right away and became critique partners, which has been a delight and blessing to me. Carolyn is a kick-ass writer with a brilliant mind.

When she said she was writing a non-fiction for writers about psychology, I was a little bit cynical because I assumed it would be one of those dry technical manuals full of psychobabble that I avoid like past-dated milk. When she sent the first chapter to me, I was amazed. It wasn’t boring or dry at all. It was fantastic. Beta reading chapters from this book was of far greater benefit to me than it was to Carolyn. I couldn’t wait for the next chapter to come.

I am so pleased she agreed to let me be a stop on her book release blog tour for THE WRITER’S GUIDE TO PSYCHOLOGY: How to Write Accurately About Psychological Disorders, Clinical Treatment and Human Behavior.

On this stop on her blog tour, Carolyn shares her advice for writers who aspire to publish. Be sure to check out the information on her book at the bottom of this post.

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What I’ve Learned: Advice for Writers Who Aspire to Publish--Carolyn Kaufman

1. Treat everyone well at every step along the publishing path.

That includes your crit buddies, agents and their assistants, editors, publicists, and anyone else you encounter along the way. How well you write is important, but I genuinely believe professionalism is nearly as important. If you’re arrogant, entitled, mean, petty, or refuse to be a team player, nobody is going to want to work with you. There’s a reason most authors’ Acknowledgements page is lengthy – they didn’t reach the finish line (of publication) alone.

2. Be open to honest feedback.

Realize that criticism of your idea or writing isn’t criticism of you. Also realize that you are not objective about your work, and that the only way you’re going to see those flaws that are hidden from you is to rely on other people. The only way you’re going to grow as a writer is to really listen and consider what others have to say – especially when their feedback isn’t all glowing. (In fact, if all you’re getting is glowing feedback, you’re not getting honest feedback. Everybody’s work has rough edges. And if you’re not getting honest feedback, it’s because you’ve somehow sent the message that you don’t want or can’t handle honest feedback. So take a step back and decide how important publication is to you. If you’re determined to get there, you need to find a way to hear and utilize constructive criticism.)

3. Control your image: be conscientious about what you share online.

This is a good general rule, but it’s doubly important when you’re trying to convince people – agents, editors, potential readers – that you’re a professional. Thanks to books (and films) like Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, we all know that Hunter S. Thompson was heavily into drugs and alcohol. Unfortunately, the same image might not do much for you if you’re writing YA or MG or even a nice nonfiction book on scrapbooking. Even if you are writing edgy material, you don’t want unsavory personal choices to overshadow your work, a la Jessica Simpson or Britney Spears.

4. Get excited about promoting your work – or at least be willing and able.

These days, more likely than not you will be handling some if not all of your book’s publicity. This usually begins even before you find representation, in that agents and editors are looking for writers (especially nonfiction writers) with a platform.

What’s a platform? Name recognition, a following, and/or proven expertise or celebrity. I have my doctorate in clinical psychology, which was certainly a boon in my quest to publish a writing/psychology book, but it wasn’t enough. I spent a couple of years building name recognition and a following through outlets like networking with other writers (my most important resource was the forum), websites ( and blogs (, by working with the media (I worked with a PR firm to reach journalists, and yes, that cost money), and by writing articles for syndication (which was a bigger deal a few years ago than it is now). And once my book was sold, I didn’t stop. I am verbal about letting everyone know I like to work with the media, and that I have a book coming out, which has led to additional opportunities, including television, invitations to speak, and even a regular blog at

5. Always be ready to promote your upcoming book, even early on.

You never know who’s going to be that crucial contact, so make or have business cards made, carry them with you everywhere you go, and don’t be shy about whipping one out and passing it over to anyone who might be interested. I’ve given business cards (which have my book cover and website address printed on the back) to everyone from news reporters to admired authors who were signing a book for me to people who heard me mention the book in passing and expressed interest, right down to people who were trying to figure out which business card stock to buy in Staples.

6. Get started on another book.

If your first idea doesn’t sell, move on to another one. The Writer’s Guide to Psychology wasn’t the first book idea I had – it was just the first one strong enough to grow into a true book. I’m extremely methodical about preparing a proposal – I spend months researching and writing, and I want to know exactly what’s going into each and every chapter – so I’m pretty committed to finding the book a home once I reach that stage. Other writers find it fairly easy to write up their ideas and send them out without doing that kind of preliminary work.

When you’re working so hard on one book – writing it, editing it, promoting it – it feels like your entire world. The truth is, though, that if you want to be more than a one-hit wonder, you will eventually need to write another book. Try to get that next proposal ready before everyone forgets who you are!

About The Book

References to psychological issues appear in thousands of books, television shows, and films, yet most of these portrayals are inaccurate in some way. (For example, a recent study claims that only 5 in 400 film portrayals of psychiatric treatment are on track.) The Writer's Guide to Psychology helps novelists and screenwriters, as well as producers and journalists, use psychology accurately in their stories. From how shrinks think to what electroshock therapy really looks like and why psychopaths kill, the book uses myth-busting illustrations from fiction and includes sidebars on things like character development, controversial and cutting-edge treatments, and common pitfalls to avoid.

What Other Writers Are Saying

Advance praise for The Writer’s Guide to Psychology is from great psychological thriller writers like Jonathan Kellerman and Jilliane Hoffman, and early reviews from the New York Journal of Books (who did not just one but two ), are extremely positive.

"This book should be in every writer’s professional library and every clinician’s too—whether writers or not," writes the first reviewer. "Succinct and clear, never becoming too esoteric or theoretical for the layperson to understand, [Kaufman's] skill in the writing craft is clear as she entertains as well as informs the reader with her snappy and conversational style." (

Adds the second reviewer, "Her depth of demonstrated knowledge in the field of psychology/psychiatry is extraordinary, particularly the methodology used to piece together the various components of the puzzle that makes this book a fascinating read... The style and information presented capture the reader from the first few pages of the book, leaving us wishing for more books by this captivating author." (

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Other stops on Carolyn’s blog tour can be found at these links: Murder By 4, Elana Johnson Blogspot, Christine Fonseca, Author.

If you do not see a way to read comments or leave one of your own at the bottom of this post, please click here: COMMENT


Mary Lindsey said...

Thanks for allowing me to be a stop on your tour, Carolyn. Nice test drive for my new blog!

Nancy Kay Bowden said...

I ordered this book as soon as Mary recommended it. I really look forward to reading and using it, Carolyn. Sounds very useful.
Congratulations, best of luck, and thanks for great advice.

Nancy Kay Bowden said...

And my copy just arrived tonight! :) Yay for the UPS working overtime during the holiday season! If I was wasn't Mother of the Bride on Saturday, I'd start reading it right now. (But you know I'll have to take a sneak peek.)

Carolyn Kaufman said...

Wow Nancy, congrats on your daughter's upcoming nuptials! I am honored you even found the time to order my book with all that must be going on! I hope you will find it useful, and that if you do, you'll be able to pass on the recommendation!

And thanks go, as always, to Mary, not only for having me on her blog but for being such a great friend and support!

Naomi Ruth said...

This book looks amazing. I will definitely have to buy it one of these days. I'm very excited for you, Carolyn! Congratulations on getting it published :)

Thanks for having this interview, Miss Mary. :D

Anonymous said...

Great interview!

I won a copy of your book from Danyelle Leafty's blog contest--I'm sooooo excited to read it! :D

Carolyn Kaufman said...

And I will get the book out to you ASAP, Laura! :-D