VBT Author Reviews Expanded Edition of Frugal Book Promoter

Reviewed by Magdalena Ball

The Frugal Book Promoter: Second Edition:
How to get nearly free publicity on your own or by partnering with your publisher
by Carolyn Howard-Johnson
Paperback: 416 pages, August 25, 2011
ISBN-13: 978-1463743291
Also available for Kindle

It doesn't matter how many books you've published. Self-published or traditionally published, gaining publicity is always tricky, always critical, and always a moving target. If your budget is limited, it's even harder, and perhaps, even more imperative. Enter Carolyn Howard-Johnson, the queen of frugal promotion. Her frugal books are pitched at the modern writer: time poor, financially parsimonious, and publicity hungry. The Frugal Book Promoter is the jewel in the crown. As with the first version, The Frugal Book Promoter is full of ideas, strategies, and tips for promoting your book cheaply, in innovative and effective ways, but it has been updated with a much greater focus on new technologies, the all-important social networks, and a range of strategies designed to help authors with less commercial offerings such as poetry and fiction.

Of course the book is rich with classic techniques too, such as media releases, query letters, and a whole fantastic chapter pulling together a media kit. There's information on using bylines, writing a biography, obtaining endorsements and blurbs, distribution of releases, obtaining reviews, tradeshows, book fairs, setting up a website, and many more 'must-do' items that have really become part and parcel of any author's promotional toolkit. Ignore this kind of stuff and unless you win some kind of book lotto, your book will almost certainly fall into the obscurity that is an ever-present risk of modern authordom. What I like best about Howard-Johnson's book is the simple, informal prose which is both warmly reassuring ('of course you can do this'), and deceptively intelligent. The reader is encouraged and reminded of his or her own innate capabilities even as they're goaded onto to raising the bar:

You’ve been practicing PR most of your life. Getting along with family. Impressing a new boss. You’ve been a customer and know why you like some products and businesses better than others. All it takes is some examination of the processes that influence you to get a grip on public relations—even on marketing as a whole.

The new version also contains a chapter on some of the most current topics, including information on blogging, working Amazon, using social networks, and even some common pitfalls to avoid in blogging and networking. Howard-Johnson totally practices what she preaches, so her advice comes directly from her many years of experience, and is rich with innovative ideas to minimise the time involved and maximise the input through such things as integration and cross-linking, clever use of soundbites and re-tweetable tweets, setting up a "Quotable Quotes” page on your Web site (I love that one), using RSS, and many other novel ideas. Throughout the book there are links, anecdotes, worked examples, and excellent templates including queries, a sample media release, blog entries, invitations, and even a tip sheet.

No, you don't really need a copy of The Frugal Book Promoter. You could hire a publicist for $100 an hour, or organise a retainer for anywhere from $1,500 to $20,000. But if you're looking to do your own publicity, or to augment your publishers and don't have the kind of budget that can support a publicist, or you simply want to do the legwork, connect with your reading public, and do your best to ensure that your wonderful work of art reaches a maximum audience, then this book is really the self-promoter's bible. You don't have to read it cover to cover, although it's certainly accessible and enjoyable enough to do so. The book is well-referenced and perfectly designed to enable the frugal author to dip in once a week and pull out a new publicity idea to try, or to use as a reference when it's time to pull together a marketing plan for your book, or at that moment when you need to write a press-release and want a template and guide, when you're looking for ideas to maximise your book signing. Whatever kind of promotions you want to do for your book, you're sure to find it in The Frugal Book Promoter. Howard-Johnson makes it all sound simple, and provides such easy instructions, that you'll want to go out straightaway and get to it. Put simply, The Frugal Book Promoter is the best guide around for create interesting, fresh, inexpensive, and relatively easy promotion for your book, whatever the genre.

~Magdalena Ball runs the popular review site Compulsive Reader and is an award-winning author and poet in her own right.

BSP - Finally Home cover available

Thanks to Heather Paye, illustrator, book layouter and cover designer extraordinaire, I have a cover for my YA paranormal mystery (front cover at least), Finally Home. Check out my blog for the cover and leave a comment to let Heather know what you think of it.


Back blurb: It isn't just history against progress - it's daughter against father, or is it? Find out what secrets Kelly learns as she works to preserve an historic house in a small town that will help her bring her father Finally Home.

Final book should be between 200 and 250 pages. It will be self-published using createspace as well as in all ebook formats (kindle, nook and smashwords). Release date is tentatively around the 25th or so of October.

Elysabeth's bio: Ms. Eldering is the award winning author of the Junior Geography Detective Squad (JGDS), 50-state, mystery, trivia series. Her stories "Train of Clues" (to be re-released in the near future), "The Proposal" (no longer available in print), "Tulip Kiss" (no longer available in print), and "Butterfly Halves" (no longer available in print) all placed first, second, or runner up in various contests to include two for Armchair Interviews and two for Echelon Press (Fast and .... themed type contests). Her story "Bride-and-Seek" (also no longer available in print) was selected for the South Carolina Writers' Workshop (SCWW) anthology, the Petigru Review. Ms. Eldering makes her home in upper state South Carolina and loves to travel, cross stitch and crochet. When she's not busy with teenaged children still at home, she can be found at various homeschool or book events promoting her state series and soon to be YA paranormal mystery. For more information about the JGDS series, please visit the JGDS blog or the JGDS website. For more information about Elysabeth's other writings, please visit her general writing and family blog or her website.

Writing for Children: Submissions to Contract to Book Promotion to Career Part 2

Welcome back! Yesterday was Part 1 of "Writing for Children: Submissions to Contract to Book Promotion to Career" and today we have the rest of the article, numbers two to four.

So, without further ado here are the next three tips.


2. The Contract 

If you do your homework, your manuscript will eventually find a home. Don’t let initial rejections, if you receive them, deter you. A published writer may not be the best writer, but she is definitely a writer who perseveres.

Read your contract carefully, if you don’t understand something, ask for an explanation.

After you sign a contract, you’ll be ‘put in queue’ and at some point begin editing with the publisher’s editor. From start to actual release, the publishing process can take one to two years.

3. Book Promotion

A couple of months prior to your book’s release, you should begin promotion to help with book sales. This will involve creating an author website and platform - your will need to create visibility for you and your book.

After your book’s release, you will want to take part in virtual book tours, do blogtalk radio guest spots, school visits, and all the other standard book promotion strategies. You can take this on yourself, or you can hire a book promotion service or publicist.

You can check out these articles for book promotion tips:

Book Promotion: The Foundation

Book Promotion: Creating an Informational Funnel

Book Promotion: 20 Strategies that will Broaden Your Reach – Part 1

Book Promotion: 20 Strategies that will Broaden Your Reach – Part 2

4. A Writing Career

Now, you’ve got your book and you’re promoting it like crazy (this is an ongoing process). The next and final step is to repeat the process. You don’t want to be a one-hit wonder, so hopefully you’ve been writing other stories. If not, get started now. On average, an author writes a book every one to two years. 

Along with keeping up with writing your books, having published books opens other writing opportunities, such as speaking engagements, conducting workshops and/or teleseminars, and coaching. There are a number of marketers who say your ‘book’ is your business card or your calling card; it conveys what you’re capable of and establishes you as an expert in your field or niche. Take advantage of these additional avenues of visibility and income.

To read Part 1, go to:
Writing for Children: Submission to Contract to Book Promotion to Career Part 1

Until next time,
Karen Cioffi
Author, Ghostwriter, Freelance writer, and
Editor for 4RV Publishing

Member of the Professional Writers Alliance, the International Association of Professional Ghostwriters, and the National Association of Independent Writers and Editors.

Karen Cioffi Writing and Marketing
Linkedin: http://www.linkedin.com/in/karencioffiventrice
Twitter: http://twitter.com/KarenCV

Walking Through Walls 

Unlock Your Creative Spirit: Play With Playdough

When was the last time you set aside a portion of your day to be creative?

No, I don’t mean being creative to brainstorm ideas for a work meeting. Nor am I talking about using creative thinking to come up with the perfect gift for your significant other’s birthday. And no, I don’t mean being creative in thinking of new ways to motivate your kids to eat their vegetables or study for the SATs.

What I mean is, when was the last time you set aside time to be creative ... just for the sake of being creative? Simply for yourself and your spirit?

Remember when you were a kid and you could spend hours absorbed with a wad of brightly colored playdough? In playdough world, your imagination takes you to a place where an orange snowman is commonplace and a three-horned fire-spouting monster takes shape before your very eyes.

If you feel like your writing life is stuck in a rut, I have a solution that won’t cost much money or take much time: go back to playdough world.

Grab a wad of playdough and roll it into a ball. Feel its texture between your fingers. Don’t think; don’t worry; don’t question yourself. Enjoy the moment. Just see what shapes and figures emerge from your imagination.

This can help your creativity in multiple ways. You might find yourself making sculptures that relate to your life – maybe you’ll make figurines of your family and friends, or create a visual 3-D diagram of a problem you’re facing. Perhaps you’re feeling frustrated and rolling the clay into a ball, then pounding it flat, will feel like a release.

Visualize your negative energy trailing out of your body through your fingertips into the playdough. Then, pound it away. Do this multiple times until you feel rejuvenated.

Even if you don’t sculpt objects that relate to your life, you’re still allowing your mind to roam free and explore various ideas and possibilities. Just see where your thoughts take you!

A good exercise when you are done sculpting with playdough is to spend five minutes writing stream-of-consciousness style in a journal. Don’t censor yourself; don’t edit; don’t even think too much – just write, for five minutes, without letting your pen leave the paper. You might be surprised what thoughts, emotions, and new ideas turn up!

At-home recipe for playdough:

  • 3 cups four
  • 1/3 cup salt
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 cup water
  • 7 drops food coloring.
Mix dry ingredients with oil. Add food coloring to water and mix together. Add water to flour/salt/oil mixture slowly – about 1/4 cup at a time – and mix together with a spoon. Once you’ve added all the water, knead the dough with your hands until texture is smooth. Enjoy!

Bio: Dallas Woodburn is the author of two award-winning collections of short stories and the editor of Dancing With The Pen: a collection of today's best youth writing. She has written more than 80 articles for national publications including Family Circle, Writer’s Digest, CO-ED, Justine, and The Los Angeles Times and her plays have been produced in Los Angeles and Ventura, California. Her short fiction has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and the Dzanc Books "Best of the Web" anthology and has appeared in a variety of literary journals including Monkeybicycle, Arcadia and flashquake. Dallas is the founder of the nonprofit organization “Write On! For Literacy” that has donated nearly 12,000 new books to disadvantaged children. She hosts frequent writing contests, teaches writing camps for kids, and is Assistant Fiction Editor of Sycamore Review while pursuing her MFA in Fiction at Purdue University. Contact her at her website www.writeonbooks.org or blog http://dallaswoodburn.blogspot.com.

Writers Helping Writers: On the Value of Literary Friendships

As the Editor-in-Chief for the website The Compulsive Reader, I get about a hundred review requests a week.  Of these, maybe one will be accepted.  Not because ninety nine of those aren’t good books, but because we simply don’t have the people power to read and review everything out there.  And there is so much out there.  How do we filter?

For me, I try to filter on quality.  If a book strikes me as being, in some way, extraordinary, I’ll try to take it on, even if I’m already overloaded (and I am; I am).  All writers are my ‘fellow writers’.  We are all plying our trade, and most of us doing it in conjunction with a day job, families, and a ton of other commitments.

 I want to help everyone.  But I can’t.  Every now and then, someone I “bump into” online will strike a personal chord with me.  We’ll ‘bond’ in a virtual sense, and keep up the conversation, continuing to support each other’s work, and communicate our triumphs and losses.  I think you could call it friendship, though perhaps not quite in the conventional sense.

When the time comes when one of my friends needs a review, back cover quote, some advice, or help with promotion, I’ll be there.  Why?  Isn’t this a kind of literary favouritism?  Does it really help?  I believe it does.  Here’s why:
  •  A healthy concern for those who have similar talents, ethics or who are members of our family/social circle is part of what it means to be a human.  We can’t help everyone.  But we can, and should, help those that we care about.  It’s the bedrock of our social existence. Some might call it nepotism, especially if family is involved (and I have a rather artistic family – we all support one another), but I agree with author Adam Bellow (In Praise of Nepotism, Doubleday, 2003) that nepotism, when combined with meritocratic principles, can be a positive force.  
  • According to Bowker, over one million (1,052,803) books were published in the U.S. in 2009.  Of these books, a large number of titles won’t sell more than 100 copies.  There are many more books on the market than book buyers.  Most book buyers will purchase books based on familiar names.  Emerging authors need all the help they can get to simply get their titles noticed amongst the hype and names that dwarf them, but few of us can afford the publicity powerhouse that big names get as part of their publishing packages.  Supporting one another is one way to help redress the already negatively skewed balance.

  • As professional writers, we treat what we review professionally, regardless of whether it was written by someone we know or a stranger.  So when I review a book by a friend, I review it in the same objective (as objective as any book review can be – we always bring in our tastes, biases, and perspectives) way that I would review any book.  I don’t always give my friends glowing reviews.  It isn’t easy, but I have occasionally had to refuse a review, or have had to publish a review which is negative.  That happens.  Friendship doesn’t mean I compromise my integrity, otherwise my review or support would have no value.  What it does mean is that I’m willing to give your book some priority in my crowded stack. 
  • Writing can be a solitary occupation, but promoting a book isn’t.  Being in a position to help someone whose work is superb is inherently gratifying.  We are all disciples at the altar of the well written word, and promoting excellence wherever you find it is a privilege.  That said, the production of my first novel, Sleep Before Evening, found me in a position where lots of people were needed to help me get the word out.  I got a tremendous amount of support, and in this dog-eat-dog world where money and celebrity often rules over quality, that support helped me as much emotionally as it did in terms of my book’s success. 
Writing novels is a mug’s game, at least in the beginning.  It can be immensely gratifying, but it is also painful, hard work. Helping one another is also part of the game. Without the support and community of like-minded authors, there’s simply no way to get one’s foot in that tiny crack of the promotional door.  The more we help others, the more we help ourselves.  Social networking is the hottest buzz around for writers, and the kinds of networks we develop, with people whose work we admire, helps define who we are.  

So why not offer your writerly support to someone today.  Offer to do a review, host their guest blog, go out and buy the book of someone whose writing you admire, or just mention their work in your blog.  It’s the kind of good deed
that will come back to you.  

Magdalena Ball runs The Compulsive Reader.She isthe author of the poetry books Repulsion Thrust and Quark Soup, the novel Sleep Before Evening, a nonfiction book The Art of Assessment, and, in collaboration with Carolyn Howard-Johnson, Deeper Into the Pond, Blooming Red, Cherished Pulse, She Wore Emerald Then, and Imagining the Future.She also runs a radio show, The Compulsive Reader Talks. Find out more about Magdalena at http://www.magdalenaball.com

Diagramming for Grammar

How many of you remember diagramming sentences in elementary school? Where you shuffled, with great trepidation, to the chalkboard to draw a straight line and bisect it to show the “subject” (noun) and “predicate” (verb). And then the diagonal line(s) underneath one or more of those words to show “modifiers.”

I have to make a confession—I liked diagramming. Although some have likened it to a mathematical equation, I see it more as putting pieces into a jigsaw puzzle (I’m not mathematically inclined, but I do like puzzles).

It is easy enough to figure out “The horse galloped” or “The cat hissed.” But what about “John’s horse galloped around the paddock and then ran into the woods.”

Oh my. Now you’re getting into lines underneath the lines beneath the subject/predicate line. And where does “around the paddock” go? OK, maybe that’s easy enough (under the verb galloped seems logical).

But where does the rest of it go? And why do we care? Do we need to know how an airplane is designed before we fly? Do we need to know the terms and parts of a sentence before we write?

Well, yes and no. You don’t need to know the terms “participle,” “gerund,” or “appositive” to write well. But sometimes you need to know the rules before you can venture into breaking them.

According to Kitty Burns Florey, author of Sister Bernadette’s Dog Barking, diagramming was introduced in 1877 in the textbook, Higher Lessons in English, by Alonzo Reed and Brainerd Kellogg to “reform the cold-blooded murder of the English language.”

Florey writes, “By promoting the beautifully logical rules of syntax, diagramming would root out evils like ‘him and me went’ and ‘I ain’t got none,’ until everyone wrote like Ralph Waldo Emerson, or at least James Fenimore Cooper.”

Florey also asks a teacher who is presently teaching diagramming to her seventh graders, why?

“‘It just makes grammatical ideas clearer,’ she says. ‘It’s a tool for teaching them how to construct a sentence correctly.’”

“Does it make them better writers?”

“She dismissed the idea. ‘Maybe it will make them better editors, but it does not improve their writing.’”

Aha. Maybe that’s why I’ve ended up as an editor!

And as for making my writing better, maybe something subliminal in the back of my brain helps me draw upon my diagramming experience to decide questions like whether to use “he” or “him” as the object of “who.”

Who knows?

What are your experiences with diagramming and what did you learn from it?

A native Montanan, Heidi M. Thomas now lives in Northwest Washington. Her first novel, Cowgirl Dreams, is based on her grandmother, and the sequel, Follow the Dream, has recently won the national WILLA Award. Heidi has a degree in journalism, a certificate in fiction writing, and is a member of Northwest Independent Editors Guild. She teaches writing and edits, blogs, and is working on the next books in her “Dare to Dream” series.

To Market To Market

We write because of our passion for words or maybe we want to educate others, motivate, or just entertain. Whatever the reason, we write because we love it. 

Some people may write for their own private enjoyment, but most of us want millions to enjoy our hard work. Unfortunately, that means we have to get out there and market our books and ourselves. It would be great if they all lined up around the block at our book signings or packed the house at one of our book readings. 

However, if you are just starting out there is a good chance that’s not going to happen. You are going to have to push up your sleeves and get busy.

I'm not on the New York Times bestseller list... just yet, but I have picked up a few tips along the way.

  • Don’t think just bookstores for signings. Who are your characters? Do they like to cook? Have a book signing in a kitchen store or the grand opening of a new restaurant.

  • I sell children’s books.  You’ll find me at children’s boutiques, festivals and grand openings of any type of company that caters to children’s activities.

  • Are your books geared towards female readers? Pair up with women who do home shows. Think Pampered Chef, Mary Kay and so on. Around the holidays your books may be just the last minute gift they were looking for.

  • How about a workshop? Have something you can teach your readers? My books are geared toward getting children to move during the story, to use their imagination and their bodies to bring the story to life. I give workshops on health, exercise and nutrition. I sell most of my books at these events. Even if you don’t feel like you could give a workshop; you could pair up with an expert. Romance novels your niche? Pair up with a marriage counselor for a free workshop on building a better marriage. Murder mysteries your passion? Pair up with a police officer or marital arts expert to give a free seminar on protecting yourself.  Maybe poems are your thing. Pair up with a chocolate shop and have a tasting and a reading around Valentines Day. 

  • The only limitation is your imagination.

 “There is no use trying,” said Alice;  “one can’t believe impossible things.” “I dare say you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

By: Martha Swirzinski, author, presenter and teacher

Is Traditional Publishing the Gold Standard?

Traditional publishing vs self-publishing has become an issue for a number of writers. Some authors believe that unless they can attract the attention of a traditional publisher their work is no good. They see self-publishing as a cop-out.

Others find the process of finding an agent and publisher debilitating and not one that furthers their growth, but rather stymies their talents until they give up in frustration.

So what's right?

I don't believe there is any right answer. If the author truly believes that they've failed unless they have an agent and a contract from a major publisher, then that's what they should try to do.

On the other hand, there are many opportunities for growth in the area of self-publishing. From cover design to text editing and marketing, it's your baby and you're free to do whatever you can to make it grow.

My personal preference is for self-publishing. I enjoy all the creative aspects of producing my book. If I'm not satisfied with the cover, it's my job and I can redo it. I have complete control over editing. If I find problems in one edition, I can fix them. I don't have to petition the publisher and then wait for a decision on whether the publisher will agree to make the changes.

My theory is that it's my name on the book, and it reflects badly on me if there a serious errors.

However, I do understand that validation is important to some authors. They want an agent and a publisher so they can feel they've arrived. In the end, they may make a lot more money that I will, but will they have the same fun and challenge?



Nancy Famolari's Place: http://nancygfamolari.blogspot.com/

Books by Nancy Famolari are available on Amzaon.com
       Murder In Montbleu
       The Lake House
       Unwelcome Guest at Fair Hill Farm
       Winner's Circle

What Is Near Future Sci-Fi?

Steampunk is a recent sensation and is a sub-genre of science fiction and speculative fiction that often incorporates elements of fantasy. The setting is usually late 1800s Victorian Britain.

Futuristic inventions and innovations are powered by steam and introduce conflict that help drive the stories and often lead to alternate historical paths.

Steampunk generally tends to be less dystopian than its literary cousin cyberpunk.

H. G. Welles and Jules Verne were masters of using fictional machines that took their audiences on a magical mystery tour without having to leave the comforts of their home. These writers were far ahead of their time.

Today we see an emerging genre similar to Steampunk called Near Future Sci-fi.

Instead of using futuristic steam powered machines in the present setting, we see potential breakthroughs in physics, technology, biochemistry, and nanotechnology leading the way.

Near-future science fiction is set in the present day or in the next few years.

Elements of the setting should be familiar to the reader, and the technology may be current or in development. Stories about theoretical physics, nanotechnology, genetics, and techno thrillers often fall into this category.


Einstein-Rosen Bridges, or wormholes as they are commonly known. In a nutshell, wormholes are theorized and predicted portals though the space-time continuum. The term ‘wormhole’ gets its inspiration from the idea of a worm traversing from one side of an apple to the other side. The idea is that if a worm could tunnel through the apple to the other side, then a shortcut would be established.

In the same sense, a wormhole through the space-time continuum could theoretically allow matter, including people, to be transported through a hole from one point to another such as Los Angeles to Boston. For now, wormholes are filed under theoretical physics as a proposed theory, something physicists believe may be true about our universe but have yet to prove it in a laboratory under rigorous conditions.

Hollywood likes to fantasize and sensationalize wormhole concepts and place the setting in the future, develop strange characters with pointy ears, and (gulp) use wormholes for time travel, which simply is not a practical or realistic use of wormholes. But they make for a good story nonetheless.

However, using a wormhole to punch through the fabric of space (length, width, and height) is far more realistic. In fact, governments, militaries, universities, large global conglomerates, and the guy working in his garage have committed larges sums of time and resources to discovering a breakthrough in practically using wormholes to travel through space, even if it’s a short distance such as from one side of the laboratory to the other side.

We know space is already curved. If space can be folded like a piece of paper, then punching a hole through the two pieces can make a shortcut, or a wormhole.

Wormholes (also called Star Gates and Jump Points in fiction) are seen everyday in children’s TV programs such as Pokeman, Dragon Tales, Dinosaur Train, and Fairly Odd Parents and shows like Stargate, Sliders, and the Star Trek series among countless other shows. They’re also in popular movies such as Déjà Vu (Denzel Washington), Jumper (very cool movie), the Terminator series, and Contact (Jodie Foster).

After a cursory glance of my kids DVDs I see two movies with wormholes: Princess and the Frog and Meet the Robinsons.

Author: Stephen Tremp.

Publicity is FREE: 15 Commandments for Getting In on the Ride

By Carolyn Howard-Johnson



A huge retailer once said that advertising works, we just don’t know how, why, or where it works best.

What we do know is that advertising’s less mysterious cousin, publicity, works even better. It is the more reliable relative because it is judged on its merit alone and carries the cachet of an editor’s approval. It also is surrounded by the ever-magic word “free.” The two are easily identified as kin.

These two often walk hand-in-hand and yet they can be incompatible. The editors of good media outlets will not allow the advertising department to influence them. Still, in an effort to be completely impartial they reserve the right to use advertiser’s stories editorially if they deem them newsworthy.  That is why it is helpful to use advertising in a vehicle that plays to the audience you would like to see standing in line for your book. This paid-for exposure then becomes an entrée to the decision-makers. A contact in the advertising department may be willing to put a news release on the desk of one of his editors, maybe even encourage her to look at it.  There are no contracts, but it does sometimes work. If you’re going to try this route, choose a “little pond”, a bookish brochure or an “arty” weekly so that the dollars you spend will be noticed.

Sometimes a magazine or newspaper will run a special promotion called advertorial.  These are sections where you pay for an ad and then the newspaper assigns a reporter to cover the story you want told. The article carries some of the prestige of editorial copy—that is the general reader may assume the article has been chosen only on its merits because of its copycat character. The writer or editor you meet will can be approached when your have something exceptional.

Still, advertorial isn’t exactly FREE. If FREE sounds more like the fare that will serve your needs, carve out some time to do it yourself and follow these 15 commandments:

Educate yourself: Study other press releases. Read a book like my The Frugal Book Promoter: How To Do What You’re Publisher Won’t (www.budurl.com/FrugalBkPromo). Be sure to find the sample media releases and other writer’s tools in the Appendix.

Read, read, read: Your newspaper. Your e-zines. Even your junk mail, a wonderful newsletter put out by the Small Publishers of North America (www.spannet.org) and one called The Publicity Hound (www.publicityhound.com.)  My daughter found a flier from the local library in the Sunday paper stuffed between grocery coupons.  It mentioned a display done by a local merchant in the library window. My second book, HARKENING: A COLLECTION OF STORIES REMEMBERED, became a super model in their lobby and I became a seminar speaker for their author series. Rubbish (and that includes SPAM) can be the goose that laid the golden egg.

Keep an open mind for promotion ideas: Look at the different themes in your book.  There are angles there you can exploit when you’re talking to editors. My first book, THIS IS THE PLACE is sort of romantic (a romance website will like it) but it is also set in Salt Lake City, the site where the winter games were played in 2002 and, though that’s a reach, I found sports desks and feature editors open to it as Olympics © fervor grew and even as it waned because they were desperate for material as the zeal for the games wound down.

Cull contacts: Develop your Rolodex by adding quality recipients from media directories. The Web site http://www.gebbieinc.com/ has an All-in-One Directory that gives links to others such as Editor, Publisher Year Book, and Burrell’s. Some partial directories on the web are free and so are your yellow pages. Ask for help from your librarian—a good research librarian is like a shark; she’ll keep biting until she’s got exactly what she wants.

Etiquette counts: Send thank-you notes to contacts after they’ve featured you or your book. This happens so rarely they are sure to be impressed and to pay attention to the next idea you have, even if it’s just a listing in a calendar for your next book signing.

Partner with your publicist and publisher: Ask for help from their promotion department—even if it’s just for a sample press release.

Publicize who you are, what you do: Reviews aren’t the only way to go. E-books are important promotion tools and Twitter is big news right now (find me at www.twitter.com/frugalbookpromo). Katy Walls, author of “The Last Step,” coordinated an “anthology” of recipes from authors who mention food in their books (yes, some my family’s ancient recipes from polygamist times are in it). It is a free e-book, a promotional CD, and great fodder for the local newspapers. If you’d like a copy, e-mail me at HoJoNews@aol.com. Use it as a cookbook and as a sample for your own e-book promotion.

Think of angles for human interest stories, not only about your book but about you as its author. Are you very young? Is writing a book a new endeavor for you? Several editors have liked the idea that I wrote my first book at an age when most are thinking of retiring, that I think of myself as an example of the fact that it is never too late to follow a dream.

Develop new activities to publicize:www.MyShelf.com. Get charities involved. Think in terms of ways to help your community.

Send professional photos with your release: Request guidelines from your target media. Local editors won’t mind if you send homey Kodak moment--properly labeled--along with your release. Some will use it; it may pique the interest of others and they’ll send out their own photographers. It’s best, however, to send only professional photos to the big guys.

Frequency is important: The editor who ignores your first release may pay more attention to your second or twenty-fifth. She will come to view you as a source and call you when she needs to quote an expert.  This can work for novels as well as nonfiction. I received a nice referral in my local newspaper because I am now an “expert” on prejudice, even though my book is a novel and not a how-to or self-help piece.

Follow Up: Shel Horowitz, author of Marketing Without Megabucks (http://www.frugalfun.com ), reports that follow-up calls boost the chances of a press release being published. Voice contact builds relationships better than any other means of communication.

Keep clippings: Professional publicists like Debra Gold of Gold & Company do this for their clients; you do it so you’ll know what’s working and what isn’t.

Evaluate: One year after your first release, add up the column inches. Measure the number of inches any paper gave you free including headlines and pictures. If the piece is three columns wide and each column of your story is six inches long, that is 18 column inches. How much does that newspaper charge per inch for their ads? Multiply the column inches by that rate to know what the piece is worth in advertising dollars. Now add 20% for the additional trust the reader puts in editorial material.

Set goals: You now have a total of what your year’s efforts have reaped.  New publicist-authors should set a goal to increase that amount by 100% in the next year.  If you already have a track record, aim for 20%.

Observe progress: Publicity is like planting bulbs. It proliferates even when you aren’t trying very hard. By watching for unintended results, you learn how to make them happen in the future.

Carolyn Howard-Johnson is the author of THE FRUGAL BOOK PROMOTER: HOW TO DO WHAT YOUR PUBLISHER WON’T (www.budurl.com/FrugalBkPromo ), now in its expanded second edition. For a little over 2 cents a day THE FRUGAL BOOK PROMOTER assures your book the best possible start in life. Full of nitty gritty how-tos for getting nearly free publicity, Carolyn Howard-Johnson shares her professional experience as well as practical tips gleaned from the successes of her own book campaigns. She is a former publicist for a New York PR firm and a marketing instructor for UCLA's Writers' Program. Learn more about the author at http://HowToDoItFrugally.com .

How I wrote my novel

How I Wrote My Novel, mostly sitting at my computer, plus a relatively small portion of it by hand in a succession of notebooks …

I just signed a contract with MuseItUp Publishing for my tween sci-fi novel, “Relocated,” so this feels like an appropriate time to talk about how I came to write it.

I am a 'way back sci fi fan. I selected Robert A. Heinlein's “Farmer in the Sky” for my tenth birthday, and at that point I was already a fan. I've continued to read copious amounts in the many years since. In spite of that, I had backed away from attempting to write my own sci fi story.

Last September I decided that I would write a sci fi novel for NaNoWriMo, which takes place every November. I decided to write a novel for kids, and I made my main character fourteen. Then I had to plan my novel and build my world. Or, in my case, build my world and plan my novel.

I'm always telling myself stories in my head, and some of them took place on alien planets. I'd done a fair amount of thinking about my alien society, and a couple of things had really sparked my imagination: shared responsibility and mutual support rather than rules and laws, and four-person relationships. I did a lot of thinking about the spiritual life, diet, landscape, literature, art, and music. Why, you might ask? Because I like that stuff. In fact, I ended up writing 30 poems “by” an ancestor of one of the characters in the book as part of Robert Lee Brewer's November poem-a-day chapbook challenge. Eight of them ended up in the novel itself. I also wrote a story, sort of a folk tale that I managed to work into the book as well.
For various reasons, I wanted my aliens to be close to humans in appearance. I made them tall, slender, and dark skinned. I wanted them to look distinctive, and I was tired of pale, beautiful aliens. I wanted dark, beautiful aliens.

After that, I made notes about the novel itself. I made notes about the setting, my main character's motivation and character arc. Most of that was good. I ended up renaming his father, as an early reader told me his original name was too much like that of the main character. The plot and most of the secondary character went out the window once I started writing; I kept a lot of the direction of the story, but the details ended up quite different. The nature of the plot that Keth uncovers changed. The adult characters involved in the Terran/Alien romance changed. Dad's character changed, as did that of his boss, Brad. All of the kids other than the main character were new. I had fifteen plot points, I threw all of them out the window.

And after Nano was over, I let the novel sit until January. Then I started revising. And revising. And revising... but, hey, that's what happens when you start writing without much of a plot outline.

Writing for Children: Submissions to Contract to Book Promotion to Career Part 1

The foundation of writing for children, or any genre for that matter, is to learn the craft of writing. In regard to being a children’s author you will need to learn the specific rules and tricks to create appropriate stories with age-appropriate words and storylines.

Once you have taken the time to hone your craft and have critiqued, revised, and edited your manuscript to a polished state, it’s on to the next phases of the traditional children’s writing path: submissions, promotion, and a writing career.

1. Submissions

Before you think about submitting your work anywhere, be sure you’ve completed the necessary steps to learn the craft of writing. You’re manuscript needs to be as polished as you can possibly get it.

Submissions can fall into two categories: those to publishers and those to agents. In regard to submitting to agents, in a Spring 2011 webinar presented by Writer’s Digest, agent Mary Kole advised to “research agents.” This means to find out what type of agent they are in regard to the genre they work with and the agent platform they provide: do they coddle their authors, do they crack the whip, are they aggressive, passive, involved, or complacent. Know what you’re getting into before querying an agent, and especially before signing a contract.

Here are a couple of sites you can visit to learn about agents:


The same advice works for submitting to publishers also; research publishers before submitting to them. Know which genres of children’s books they handle and the type of storylines they’re looking for.

Whether submitting to a publisher or an agent, always follow the guidelines and always personalize the query. There may be times the guidelines do not provide the name of the editor to send the query to, but if you can find that information, use it.

According to Mary Kole, it’s also important to know how to pitch your story. This entails finding the story’s hook. Agents and publishers also want to know what the book’s selling points will be and what successful books it’s similar to. In addition, they will expect to be told what your marketing strategy will be. It’s a good idea to create an online presence and platform before you begin submissions; let the agents and publishers know you will actively market your book.

Along with the story’s hook, you need to convey: who your main character is and what he/she is about; the action that drives the story; the main character’s obstacle, and if the main character doesn’t overcome the obstacle, what’s at stake.

Ms. Kole recommends reading “the back of published books” to see how they briefly and effectively convey the essence of the story. This will give you an idea of how to create your own synopsis.

When querying, keep your pitch short and professional, and keep your bio brief and relevant. You will need to grab the editor or agent and make them want to read your manuscript.

Here are four tools you can use to help find a publisher or agent:

•    Writers Market: Where and How to Sell What You Write
•    Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market: Over 700 listings for book publisher’s, magazines, agents, art reps, and more
•    Guide to Literary Agents: Where and How to Find the Right Agents to Represent Your Work
•    WritersMarket.com: Online resource to help you sell what you write

Karen Cioffi is an award-winning children's author and children’s ghostwriter as well as the founder and editor-in-chief of Writers on the Move. You can find out more about writing for children and her services at: Karen Cioffi Writing for Children.

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And, get a copy of WALKING THROUGH WALLS (a middle-grade fantasy adventure set in 16th century China. Honored with the Children’s Literary Classics Silver Award.

Tips for Creating Subplots in Middle Grade Novels

by Suzanne Lieurance   If you’re writing a middle grade novel, you want to include at least one or two subplots. Subplots in fiction are sec...