Sunday, December 5, 2021

How Authors Can Learn to Love Amazon

 I get ideas about stuff to talk about in unexpected places. I assume that is not unique to my writing experience, but today something popped up in Facebook Memories feature I just couldn't resist passing along to my blogger friends. I think the major lesson to me (and from me! Ha!)  is that we can love to hate Amazon and other entities all we want, but it's more useful to our writing careers--both successes and enjoyment of them--if we don't listen to all the rumors of entities in the publishing world and find out for ourselves. In this case it is Amazon, but I constantly run into experiences even after decades of writing experience in several different disciplines (journalism, PR, marketing, blogging, and publishing in a variety of genres, etc.) that nudge me away from all the griping we hear on the web and elsewhere and onto doing what the basics of good marketing departments at great universities tell us to do. That is, make friends, network, and explore new possibilities.

Sooo, I had heard from several fairly reliable sources that Amazon wouldn't remove old editions of a book from their sales pages but decided to try one more time using the email feature at their Author Central to reach someone to ask for help. Here is my experience as posted on Facebook way back then--in probably about 2011.

"I just had the nicest telephone conversation with Amazon's Author Central. I had worked for two years trying to get the old edition of my The Frugal Book Promoter removed from Amazon via e-mail (I thought it would make it easier if they had all the ISBNs, etc in writing! Silly me! And, I admit to hating confrontation and avoiding it like the plague! )

"So the conversation goes like this:

"ME: "I understand I can't have the first edition of my The Frugal Book Promoter removed from Amazon even though it's outdated--by about a decade--but that I can add a new widget to that page to direct my readers to the new one."

"DANA THE WONDERFUL (At Amazon!):  "I'd be happy to do that for you."

"ME: Some chitchat including thank yous as she works. Then some magic words! "Too bad we can't just hide the old edition and get all 128 of the old reviews transferred to the multi award-winning second edition!" (Were "multi award-winning" the magic words?"

"DANA THE WONDERFUL: "Oh, we can do that!" Typing noises. "It may take 72 hours for that to happen but it's done."

"ME: "Really?"


"ME: Happy Dance. Huge Thank yous.

"Note: It obviously is worth the time waiting for a real person on the Author Connect (Author Central)  hotline!  Wish I had a recording of the conversation for you!"

Here's a disclaimer.  This is 2021,  NOT 2011. Amazon changes policies all the time as needed (or as they think are needed--I have seen them change back again). So if you are having this particular problem, try my method. But the real point of this post is to try it no matter what it is you want or need. In the past, I have had them...

1. Add several widgets to point to several of my books that were published in later editions.
2. To move reviews from earlier editions to later editions.
3. To remove early editions of e-books, but not paper books. Removing paper books interferes with their second market feature.
4. To fix or update metadata.
5. To get blatantly biases reviews removed. Amazon doesn't like this either and is working mightily to avoid it. There are all kinds of scammy approaches to reviews. In fact, I wrote a big, fat how-to book on reviews that includes a case study of sorts of Amazon vs. Scammy reviews.  We don't like to believe it, but there are actually fellow writers out there with an agenda and somehow believe that dissing their competition's books will be good for their own.  It is the third in my multi award-winning #HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers,  How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically at
6. It seems they have recently changed a wonderful feature they had where #authors and #publishers could add all kinds of helpful information to their buy page--everything from professional reviews to notes from the author. I told you they change all the time, but keep checking. Better still, keep asking. You might even run into my "Dana the Wonderful!"


More About the Writers on the Move.
Guest Blogger Howard-Johnson is the multi award-wining author of fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry. She is also a marketing consultant, editor, and author of the multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers including the multi award-winning The Frugal Book Promoter (, now offered by Modern History Press in its third edition.

Carolyn's latest is in the #HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers is How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically. 

She has two booklets in the #HowToDoItFrugally Series, both in their second editions from Modern History Press. Great Little Last Minute Editing Tips for Writers ( and The Great First Impression Book Proposal ( are career boosters in mini doses and both make ideal thank you gifts for authors.  

Carolyn also has frugal books for retailers including one she encourages authors to read because it helps them convince retailers to host their workshops, presentations, and signings, literally gives authors ideas on how to approach independent retails (including bookstores). It is A Retailer’s Guide to Frugal In-Store Promotions: How To Increase Profits and Spit in the Eyes of Economic Downturns with Thrifty Events and Sales Techniques ( 

Carolyn contributes to this blog regularly and  helps writers extend the exposure of their favorite reviews at She also blogs at all things editing--grammar, formatting and more--at The Frugal, Smart, and Tuned-In Editor ( Learn more and follow for news on her new releases direct from Amazon:

On Toni Morrison, Reviewers, and Other Sad Tales

On Toni Morrison, Reviewers, and Other Sad Tales


By Carolyn Howard-Johnson, multi award-winning writer of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry


(This is a reprint from a column I once wrote for a review website which is no longer living on the web, in part because of Covid. When I ran across it, I was reminiscing through the list of my columns. I took a minute to read it again because Toni Morrison is in the news…again! She is a target of another book-banning effort apparently because she tells the truth about slavery. This column isn’t about being “woke”—the word didn’t exist in its newer form back then. But generally speaking it iabout bias and telling the truth and, in some sense, about how writers are keepers of truths. I thought it time to let its little light shine. The BEA breakfast was probably about 2004-ish. Maybe it’s time to read from Morrison’s trove of wisdom once again. And maybe to pass whatever book—or books—you choose along to anyone who is unfortunate enough to have never read one of her books which is now being attacked for being too “woke!”)



Right after Toni Morrison's book, Love, was published, I heard her speak at Book Expo America (BEA). I paid $25 for the privilege of hearing her and other book luminaries speak before a packed house of booksellers, librarians, reviewers, and publishers who certainly weren’t there for the very light breakfast. I remember—and this may not be an exact quote—she said that her new book Love is a great book. Bravo! She is unashamed to acknowledge her own art just as she has taught her students to do over the decades. 


Later that year, I was stunned to read Lev Grossman’s review of Love in Time magazine. He indirectly accuses it of not being much “fun,” as if that is the direction all novels should take. He makes a couple of snide comments about how difficult it is to read and accuses her of being drawn to ugly people. I know he that he knows literature, that he knows great characters (and characterizations) are not necessarily pretty. And, get this! He says she gave way to some embarrassingly maudlin emotions. I asked myself, like what? Love? 


That was when I started asking myself why Mr. Grossman had turned from reviewer extraordinaire into The Shredder. The answer did not come to me until yesterday. My fellow author, Leora G. Krygier, author of a newly minted memoir, sent me a clip from the alternative newspaper, Village Voice. It spotlighted a Brown University study that surveyed The New York Times Book Review. The inquiry found:


·      72% of all the books reviewed by the New York Times Book Review were by men.

·      66 percent of the reviews were written by men. 


The editor of The NY Times Book Review, Chip McGrath, showed less contrition than Pete Rose. He said, “we don’t have any plans at the moment for changing how we review books,” and “I’m not convinced that we are guilty of a male bias—either consciously or un-.”  He went on to explain that the reviews staff has more women than men. So why more reviews by men? Could it be that when he used the word “staff” the term included support personnel rather than anyone allowed to write reviews? 


McGrath also said that The Times has been trying to use their women reviewers on more publicity-prone books. Really why would that be?


And here’s the trigger: He says, “more books are written by men than women.”


I’d like to know where he came up with that zinger. Is he including all those romances and erotica (probably mostly written by women unless names like Kristie Leigh Maguire are pseudonyms for more masculine types)? Does he actually have a count of all those books that are subsidy- and self-published lying around in his slush pile? It’s highly unlikely. If there is any such study that is reliable, I’d like to know just where they (and he) got that information? 


Naturally, that got me to wondering what Time magazine’s review of Morrison’s book would have been like if they had assigned a female reviewer.


After my award-winning novel This is the Place (now out of print) was published, a review of it was posted on This reviewer strenuously objected to what another reviewer had said, that my book was as surely part of the cultural past of Utah as Gone with the Wind was of the South. His objection was prompted by his belief that subtle discrimination and prejudices don’t count for much; they’re only important if they balloon to the dimensions of slavery or the holocausts. “Insensitive man,” I thought, practicing a little prejudice of my own. Two days later another reviewer, one of Amazon’s top reviewers—took him to task for his insensitivity, praised my book and lambasted Gone With the Wind. He, too, was a man. 


Which brings me full circle to how the possible, even probable, imbalance between feminine and masculine perspectives at the New York Times Book Review affects their coverage. Do I believe that disparity exists? Yep.(Do I believe it still exists? Yep!) Do I think it is warranted because it reflects the existing inequality in the publishing world? No. Do I think there really are more men writing than women? I’m not so sure. It may be. 

And therein lies the saddest tale of all.


PS from 2021: I also believe that in many ways discrimination of many kinds is worse today than it was when I wrote this column. Or maybe it’s simply that these days we aren’t trying quite as hard to avoid it. 


Carolyn Howard-Johnson is a multi award-winning author of fiction, poetry, and nonfiction. Her HowToDoItFrugally series of books has helped writers and retailers worldwide. Her newest book of poetry, Imperfect Echoes, ( was honored by Writer’s Digest. Learn more at

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Writing: Showing vs. Telling


By Karen Cioffi

Yeah, yeah, yeah . . . we’ve all heard of, or read about the showing and telling aspect of writing: you must show, not tell.

But there are those out there just beginning a writing career and may be uncertain as to the importance of this writing strategy.

Well, it’s important.

While there must be some amount of exposition in your story, it should be limited. Work to keep it short and sweet. And, be sure not to use information dump.

But, what exactly does it mean to show rather than tell in your writing?

Writer’s Digest gives some of the best advice I’ve read on this topic. It’s by author and editor Jeff Gerke and is especially helpful to new writers, but useful to us all:

“There’s a question you can ask of any passage you feel may be telling. You ready? Get the passage in front of you and ask this of it: Can the camera see it?”

How great is that?

Now, keep in mind that ‘the camera can’t see it all. Things like tastes, smells, sounds, won’t be visible in the camera, so use your discretion with this tool.

Okay, let’s look at an example of telling:

April walked around in a daze. She felt awful. Her husband left her with two little young children. She cried all the time. She felt overwhelmed, but kept doing the things she had to do. It seemed as if her soul ached, and she felt like screaming. She begged for God’s help.

Here’s an example of showing:

He wasn’t supposed to leave; we promised to stay married forever. April pulled the sheets from her bed and threw them to the floor. Doing the chores and taking care of the kids helped her hold on . . . she had to hold on.  How could he leave? Tears trickled down her cheeks. She bent forward with her head in her hands. Please, God, bring him home…please…please help me. Weeping softly in her hands, her body began to tremble; then, the tears gushed. An indescribable ache took hold – in the very depths of her soul – an ache in a place never felt before. A tortured scream crept up into her throat, ready to burst forth. She fell to her knees and buried her face in the mattress. Grabbing a pillow, she pulled it over her head. A blood-curdling scream erupted.

So, that’s the difference.

I made the telling example very basic so you could easily see how they differ.

Showing lets the reader feel the protagonist’s pain, or joy, or excitement. It conveys through action, internal dialogue, and dialogue. This creates a connection and prompts the reader to continue reading.

Sometimes it helps to draw from experiences to get the feeling and words you’re going for. You can also use TV and movies. Watch and study scenes that depict the experience you need to convey. Then, write what you’ve seen.


Karen Cioffi is an award-winning children’s author, a successful children’s ghostwriter with 300+ satisfied clients worldwide, and an online platform instructor with WOW! Women on Writing. For children’s writing tips, or if you need help with your children’s story, visit:

You can check out Karen’s books at:


Five Ways to Let Words Influence Your Writing Career

The Three Gates

Lexile Reading Levels for Children's Book

Sunday, November 28, 2021

Indie Authors: 3 Tips to Make Model Books Work for You

The Dragonfly has been a symbol of happiness, new beginnings
and change for many centuries.  The Dragonfly means hope, change, and love.
You’ve read as many books as possible in your genre. Taken notes and analyzed books you’d like to emulate. Collected “how-to” books for your library. Joined related organizations, such as the Society of Book Writers and Illustrators, SCBWI, which is important for children’s authors. Taken courses. Found critique partners who want to learn with you and support you. Attended webinars and conferences. Have become knowledgeable about your craft and the people active in it.

Turning to books written by some of your favorite authors can also be a helpful tool in your arsenal.

Tip #1: First Sentence, First Page

In the hands of a well-loved author, a reader is immediately drawn into the story from page one. It is known that agents and editors often know from the first sentence whether or not they will read on. 

My favorite first line is from Linda Sue Park’s book, When My Name was Keoko. Park’s first line encapsulates what the book is about in sixteen words:

“It’s only a rumor,” Abuji said as I cleared the table. “They’ll never carry it out.”

Immediately you’re asking yourself who are “they,” and what won’t they carry out? By the middle of page 3 the reader is given enough information about the characters, setting, and plot to sit back and enjoy the unfolding of the story from there.

“Where’s Papa going with that ax?” Charlotte’s Web, by E.B. White

“In the light of the moon, a little egg lay on a leaf.” The Very Hungry Caterpillar, by Eric Carle

“There is no lake at Camp Green Lake.” Holes, by Louis Sachar

I could go on. These books are so beloved and the first lines so good, one is compelled to read on.

Tip #2: Type out your Favorite Picture Books

You’re not going to copy the author’s work. That’s not the reason you would type out a favorite published picture book. Anyone who has ever tried to write a picture book like myself understands how notoriously challenging they are to write. Tricky can be knowing what words to write and what words not to write. The illustrations show half the story (or more than half in many cases). Personally, I enjoy typing out someone else’s picture book. I get to marvel at the pure skill of the author and get closer to the story I have chosen because I love it so much.

One of the most valuable books in my library is Creating Characters Kids Will Love, by Elaine Marie Alphin. Alphin’s book is a big help in explaining how to “show” rather than “tell” a story. There is a section from her book, The Ghost Cadet, about Benjy, the twelve-year-old main character. I’ve typed out sections of Alphin's book a few times to help me remember to “show” the action in my stories.

“His sneakers were braced against the roof’s shingles. Slowly, Benjy took one hand off the sill and gripped a lower shingle instead. Then he took a deep breath, told himself very firmly not to be afraid, and let go of the sill with his other hand.

There was a bad moment when his free hand couldn’t seem to find a shingle, but Benjy made himself stay calm, and finally his damp palm slid down one row of shingles and he hooked his fingers over the next one and held tight. After that, inching his way down row by row didn’t seem so terrible.”

Tip #3: Create a Polished Book

As a self-published author, I want my books to look as good as traditionally-published books. At the same time, I need to know how Indie authors create their books as models for my own.

Front cover: The illustration needs to show an overall idea of what the book is about. Here’s a tip: make the letters of your name larger than the title.

Back cover: I’ve seen self-published back covers show the author’s photo with their bio and maybe quotes from other authors about the author and/or about their books. My idea is to make my back covers look more like traditionally-published back covers. On two of my books’ back covers, I included a short blurb of the book, and on one included a cameo illustration from the story. For my third published picture book I included three terrific reviews that take up the entire back cover, with the suggested reading level. On each back cover I’ve included a bar code with the ISBN numbers that I purchased from Bowker. I have decided not to include the price in future books as the price fluctuates.

Front matter: For the Title, Copyright, and Dedication page, I created my own pages from information I gathered from various sources.

Chapter titles and page numbers: I love the nice touch of having a small illustration from one of the book’s symbols or some kind of design at the chapter head. For the page numbers I like to include a design if I can, such as in Tall Boots, the page numbers appear inside an illustration of a blue ribbon since the book is about a young equestrian going for a blue ribbon at a 4-H Horse Show.

Back matter: In each of my books I’ve included an “About the Author” and “About the Illustrator” section. In my picture books I’ve included a page of explanation about the topic in the book, such as in A Packrat’s Holiday: Thistletoe’s Gift, a page, “What are Packrats Really Like?” and a Glossary. Also included are media images of the front covers and short blurbs about my other books that readers can purchase

I’ve used the same principle of using models for everything else I’ve created. For my website, I took notes on ideas from the websites of other authors that I liked and created my own ideas that fit my platform. One idea I liked so much from an author’s website is to have a theme. My theme became the dragonfly, which appears in Book 1 of the Abi Wunder series, Secret in the Stars. The dragonfly symbolizes change and transformation. I thought that fit with Abi who goes from being a slightly overweight eleven-year-old who wasn’t athletic and pursued her love of art almost exclusively, to becoming a blossoming runner and swimmer and a downright good detective.

Ideas abound from other talented authors when preparing to sell our books at fairs and bazaars, making classroom visits, and everything else we do in our quest to write and market our books. We can take advantage of learning about these ideas and when given the opportunity, share our own ideas with our author friends in return.


Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!
Linda Wilson, a former elementary teacher, has published over 150 articles for children and adults, several short stories for children, and her books, Secret in the Stars: An Abi Wunder Mystery, and A Packrat's Holiday: Thistletoe's Gift, which are available on Amazon, in the Mist, the second book in the Abi Wunder Myatery series, and the picture book, Tall Boots, will be out soon. Visit Linda at

Thursday, November 25, 2021

Record Your Family’s Holiday Stories

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone in the USA!

But no matter where you live, as you spend time with family and friends this holiday season (in person or just via Skype, Zoom, or FaceTime), record some of your family history and those great stories that are told over and over again every time the family gets together.

Ask permission before you tape anyone's story or conversation, of course.

Tell them you want to record some of your family history as well as favorite stories from your parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. so you will never forget this information.

You just never know when you'll want to use some special snippet of your own family history in one of your books or short stories.

Plus, it's always a good idea to have your grandparents and parents sit down before a tape recorder and simply tell the story of their lives so you'll have this information to pass on to future generations.

Try it!

Suzanne Lieurance is the author of over 40 published books and a writing coach.

Let her teach you how to Write What You Know to Create a New Side Hustle.

And, for more writing tips and resources about writing, get your free subscription to The Morning Nudge.

Sunday, November 21, 2021

Why You Should NOT Be Making Publishing Assumptions


By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

We live in a hurry up world with limited time and resources. Are you making publishing assumptions which are limiting your publishing options? Admittedly there are many different ways to get published and thousands of new books released into the market every day.

For over nine years, I've been an acquisitions editor at Morgan James Publishing. As an acquisitions editor, I work with authors and literary agents to find the right books for us to publish. From my 25+ years in publishing and working with many types of publishers and authors, I know firsthand our model at Morgan James is different. In many ways, it is author-driven yet it has the team and consensus-building elements that comprise what makes traditional publishing work.

I've had the negative experiences in publishing. For example, a book proposal that I wrote received a six-figure advance. My co-author nor I saw the book cover or title before the book was published. In fact, there was a different title in the publisher's catalog than the printed book. The cover had a photo of my co-author that he didn't like. He didn't get behind the book in promotion and talking about the book—which every book needs if it is going to succeed. With the poor sales, the publisher took our book out of print in about six months. The stock was destroyed and I have some of the few remaining copies of this book.

While you may think this story is unique, I've often hear such experiences from others who have followed the traditional path. In this path, the publisher is in charge of the title, cover, interior, etc. They may show the author the information but at the end of the day, they feel like they have more publishing experience than the author so they make the decisions. The lack of author involvement from my experience leads to less author promotion and less sales. Some of these actions explain why 90% of nonfiction books never earn back their advance (a little talked about fact in the publishing community).

Recently a literary agent (that I had not worked with before) submitted a novel to Morgan James. As a professional courtesy when receiving an offer, he reached out to me to see if we were interested in the book. I had not spoken with this agent—the next step in the process of getting a Morgan James book contract. I tried to set up a phone meeting with the agent that day—and we arranged a time. At first, he downplayed the need for us to take the time to talk because he heard the model was a hybrid. Even the term “hybrid” means many different things in publishing. I was grateful this agent took the time to hear the details about Morgan James. Whether the agent does a deal with us or not, at least I got the chance to talk about the unique aspects. He did not discount the opportunity and assume he understood it.

Until an author submits their material and goes through the process, I don't know if they will receive a publishing offer from Morgan James. We receive over 5,000 submissions and only publish about 180 books a year—and of those books only about 25 to 30 are Christian books. We publish about 25 to 30 novels a year and about 25 to 30 children's books. The system is strong but not right for every author—and that is why there is a process.

Here's the basic principle that I'm emphasizing in this article: don't make publishing assumptions because of something you have found through a search or speaking with someone. Instead take the time to listen and read and explore. You will find some surprising opportunities if you explore them.  Behind the scenes, I've seen great integrity and transparency with Morgan James Publishing. If I can help you, don't hesitate to reach out to me. My email and work contact information is on the bottom of the second page of this information sheet.

Are you making publishing assumptions as you look at options? Tell me in the comments below.

W. Terry Whalin is an acquisitions editor at Morgan James Publishing. 
He has written for over 50 magazines and more than 60 books with traditional publishers.  His latest book for writers is 10 Publishing Myths, Insights Every Author Needs to Succeed. Get this book for only $10 + free shipping and over $200 in bonuses. On October 5th, his classic Book Proposals That $ell (the revised edition) released to online and brick and mortar bookstores. At the book website, you can get a free Book Proposal Checklist.Terry recently had an article about proposals in Publisher's WeeklyHe lives in Colorado and has over 190,000 twitter followers


Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Creative Writing Practice


 Creative Writing Practice by Deborah Lyn Stanley

At a loss for story ideas? How about randomness to boost you into new patterns of ideas?
1.    Open a book to any page, choose a word from the first sentence.
2.    Open another page in the same book and choose a word from that first sentence.
3.    Put your two words together — imagine a story or a poem.

Today, we’ll look at two creative writing strategies.
Writeriffic II written by Eva Shaw

Following a class through, I purchased Writeriffic II to continue creative writing studies, increase my self-confidence, and to find my writer's voice.

It is a great little book full of gems and encouragements throughout Chapters 1-19. Then practice follows with creativity assignments in Chapters 20-54—assignments designed for fun, taking risks and writing creatively.
Via Assignment #21, I wrote a fun story choosing Cinderella and Robin Hood as my protagonist duo. I added 10 words found in the dictionary—words new to me, ones I don’t commonly use.
It’s fun—try it!

Writing the Wave by Elizabeth Ayres

Elizabeth presents her creativity formula for building original creative writing projects through fun steps to gather story ideas.

As you work through the book, as I am, you will become aware of various techniques to generate raw writing material in layers. You will use boxes, lists, circles, step by step.

Then focus on our viewpoint choice and use it to launch into character descriptions. Thus, we’ll have raw material with potential.

As we travel though the book, we identify the main idea and develop it in an organized fashion with structure in Part 2.

With our piece in progress, we move on to Part 3 and troubleshooting the issues that have come up in the usual course of a project. Polish the work by adding life and strength to our text and expressions.

Creative writing with Elizabeth Ayres is a different way of working to generate new material, whether it is articles, stories, essays or books. Elizabeth teaches a step by step; don’t skip ahead method. Sometimes her language and approach seem like a foreign language. Keep traveling, jump but keep going (as I do). There is something to learn that likely will equip for better writing and ideas.

Good practice points for a satisfying writing life:
•   Don’t wait for inspiration. Do something you love, play, it will spark ideas.
•   Set aside your best time to write for 20-30 minutes, make it an appointment and keep it.
•   Let go of perfectionism! It defeats playfulness.
•   Change things up—write by hand, write on scraps of paper, be messy, break the rules, do whatever works to stay playful!
    Forget mistakes. You can fix them easy enough on the next draft.

Just Write!
Love the Process

Deborah Lyn Stanley is an author of Creative Non-Fiction. She writes articles, essays and stories. She is passionate about caring for the mentally impaired through creative arts.
Visit her My Writer’s Life website at:   
Visit her caregiver’s website:

Mom & Me: A Story of Dementia and the Power of God’s Love is available:

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How Authors Can Learn to Love Amazon

 I get ideas about stuff to talk about in unexpected places. I assume that is not unique to my writing experience, but today something poppe...