Sunday, September 27, 2020

Is an Indie Kirkus Review Worth It?

Part of the service of the “vanity” publisher I once worked with was a the inclusion of a Kirkus Review. I call the publisher “vanity” because I paid for a package that included editing, some promotion, promo materials, etc. Due to unscrupulous practices by this publisher, I canceled my account. I was able to retain the Kirkus review, which was received in 2018, and the files for the manuscript and exterior and interior illustrations, and eventually self-published my book, Secret in the Stars: An Abi Wunder Mystery.

But a dilemma soon surfaced. The Kirkus Review was not an entirely positive one. In that case, I had to make a choice. I could quote the positive comments in my promo materials, including the book cover, but Kirkus reserves the right to publish the entire, unabridged review on their website. Or, I could keep the review private. In that case, I wouldn’t be permitted to use any part of the review in my book’s promotional efforts. Instead, I could use the reviewer’s comments to help improve the book. I chose the latter, and continued revisions up until July 2020 when I self-published the book with Amazon. Once the book was out, in my search for reviews, I revisited Kirkus to see if a second review would be possible. Here’s what happened.

The Pros and Cons of a Kirkus Review

A traditional review starts at $425 and is promised within 7-9 weeks. I received a $50 reduction from an ad I found on Facebook for this type of reivew. An expanded review can be had for $575, and a picture book review starts at $350. 

According to authors surveyed for the Alliance of Independent Authors article, “Watchdog: Is a Kirkus Review Worth the Price?” by Giacomo Giammatteo, the benefits of purchasing a Kirkus Review are mainly:

  • A Kirkus Review lends credibility throughout the industry and by media and libraries.
  • Blurbs from the review can be used in marketing.
  • You can publish your review in Kirkus.com; it will be considered for publication in Kirkus Reviews and in Kirkus’s email newsletter, which is distributed to more than 50,000 consumers and industry professionals.

However, Giammatteo’s article points out drawbacks. The majority of authors surveyed for the article (16 out of 21) felt that the reviews were “not worth the money.” Why?

  • “The review didn’t produce sales.” Giammatteo points out that the review is not intended to produce sales.
  • A positive review is not promised, as stated in the Kirkus email I received, "there are no guarantees that the second review would come back more positive than the first."
  • Many authors Giammatteo spoke with felt that the reviews were not well written and weren't inspiring enough for readers to want to buy the book.
  • Much of the reviews are spent in rehashing the plot, which seemed unnecessary to the authors consulted for the Giammatteo article.

An Added Challenge in Applying for a Second Review on the Same Book

I bit the bullet and decided that my book needed credibility. So, I applied for a second review and hit a brick wall. I received a rather curt response indicating that “we cannot review the same book twice, but if you make changes significant enough to render the previous review obsolete, we will consider conducting a new review . . . we ask that you include a letter to our editor outlining the changes with examples and page numbers cited. Our editor will ultimately decide if the changes are significant enough to warrant a second review.”

Give me a challenge like that and I can’t pass it up. The review back in 2018 found five flaws that I admit were significant. I took the flaws seriously, and went through each one, editing them throughout the book. Much later after I had left my publisher, I decided it was an opportunity to do more work on the book. I had the book reviewed by professional editor and revised it even more, until finally publishing it in July.  Here is a condensed version of what the original reviewer found:

  • Author fails to fully explore Abi’s various supernatural abilities and their causes or connections.
  • Secondary characters pop up throughout for no apparent reason.
  • The villain is one-dimensional who does bad things without much explanation or repercussion.
  • Book has an overly complicated plot and undeveloped characters.

In my application for a second review, I listed each of the flaws in large, bold, letters, and then went about looking up the passages in the original manuscript and how I had changed them in the published version. In a nutshell, it was a tedious exercise at best, which took three days to complete. The deeper I dove, the more determined I got. The last comment is what made my blood boil over:

  • Accompany illustrations are simple and charming, reminiscent of the old Nancy Drew novels. They’re just not nearly frequent enough.

GRRR! This was supposed to be an indie reviewer. The maddening part was that an indie author pays for illustrations out-of-pocket. The number of interior illustrations and the cover illustrations were created with what I could afford at the time. Also I found insulting was the reviewer calling Nancy Drew novels “old.” As far as I know, Nancy Drew novels are still enjoyed to this day. I call that enduring, not old.

Many of the authors interviewed felt that their $500 would be better spent elsewhere. One comment suggested Chanticleer Reviews and Matt McAvoy's Book Reviews. Pubby also offers reviews. I tried Pubby's trial offer but declined to continue as I felt I don't have the time to devote to it. The best advice can be found in Carolyn Howard-Johnson's book, How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically, which I keep on my desk along with her other terrific books, such as The Frugal Book Promoter, and her other books.

My new Kirkus Review is promised by mid-October. I'm hoping it will be positive. No matter. This time around, I am going to use the positive parts--hoping there will be some--in my promotional material. Then I will have come full-circle with Kirkus. I hope my gamble pays off.

"You are now part of my world . . . forever."

Linda Wilson, a former elementary teacher and ICL graduate, has published over 150 articles for adults and children, and several short stories for children. She has recently become editor of the New Mexico SCBWI chapter newsletter, and is working on several projects for children. Secret in the Stars: An Abi Wunder Mystery, Linda's first book, is available on Amazon, https://www.amazon.com/author/lindawilsonchildrensauthor. The next book in the Abi Wunder series, Secret in the Mist, will be available soon. Follow Linda: https://www.lindawilsonauthor.com



Friday, September 25, 2020

Tips for Character Driven Description

 

 

Tips for Character Driven Description: Fiction and Non-fiction

Our stories or narratives include characters, and are stronger by using descriptive details that drive and support the topic.

When we first meet a person, we get a sense of who they are and perhaps their occupation. That happens through details we notice; how they dress, how they talk, the way they move or how they treat others. My hubby and I walk each morning. Several other neighbors walk daily about the same time. I can often recognize a neighbor before I can see them clearly, because I recognize the way they walk. I bet you have this experience too.

Our readers need to meet our characters in the same way. It’s up to us to shape characters in our stories by describing the details of how our character talks, moves and dresses. Does she speak with an accent? Does he limp as he walks? Is she a casual runner or one training for an event? Does she wear a big floppy hat as she bikes with her fluffy puppy in her flowered basket? Our characters further develop the scenes we paint for our readers.

Choose details that distinguish your character. What makes that character catch your attention? What gives the reader more information about that character? Does he have body language that expresses shyness, self-importance or condescension?  What is she wearing, a business suit or sweats? You get the idea.

Now pull from the sense words we’ve talked about for: sight, sound, smell, taste, and texture enhanced descriptions.

If the character you are describing has a minor role in the story, the details would be brief. The waitress serving a cup of hot chocolate might be a sweet young college student with bouncy blonde hair. And, that’s all you mention initially because, you’ll weave in more description as the story or narrative builds.

We give more clues to the reader through:
1)    Describing the environment around a character’s occupation and living situation,
2)    Noting the way people react to him or her,
3)    Plus, everyone has an inner layer of history; the details we readily see are clues to a person’s life. Consider which outward signs history might create, and describe those clues as you build aspects of your character’s life.


Book suggestions for writers:
Keys To Great Writing, Revised and Expanded, by Stephen Wilbers
Word Painting, by Rebecca McClanahan

Earlier Post links in this series—Descriptive Writing for Fiction and Non-Fiction:
Write it with Senses and POV Tips: https://www.writersonthemove.com/2020/07/senses-pov-tips-descriptive-writing.html
Tips for Figurative Speech: https://www.writersonthemove.com/2020/08/tips-for-figurative-speech.html 
 
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 writer’s website at: https://deborahlynwriter.com/   
Visit her caregiver’s website: https://deborahlyncaregiver.com/ 
Available on Amazon --- Mom & Me: A Story of Dementia and the Power of God’s Love
https://www.amazon.com/author/deborahlynstanley
Facebook: Deborah Lyn Stanley, Writer    https://www.facebook.com/deborahlynwriter/?modal=admin_todo_tour 

 

 

 


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Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Work-Made-For-Hire Writing: Five Reasons Writers Should Do It


 

By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

 
Over the years I've written several articles about Work Made for Hire contracts (follow this link to see some of them). Many writers run away from such work and refuse it. These people believe they are protecting their rights and want to publish royalty projects instead of selling all their rights to someone else.
 
My literary attorney has told me that I've signed more Work Made for Hire agreements than anyone she knows. I've also been a working writer in the publishing community for decades. The truth is sometimes it is better to earn the money upfront from a publisher rather than hope for royalties (which may or may not happen).
 
In this article, I want to give five reasons to write Work Made For Hire projects. I call them projects because they are not always books. Sometimes they are articles or white papers or any number of other types of writing. 
 
1. You Get Immediate Work. Often in the publishing world, you have to write your article or book with the hope that you will find someone to publish it. With Work Made For Hire, you have found paying writing work which you can do right away—and get payment.
 
2. You Get Paid for Your Work. Depending on what you negotiate in a Work Made For Hire agreement, often you get half of the money upfront. This fact helps your cash flow as a writer—especially those of us who write full-time.
 
3. You Can Build Your Reputation and Get a Writing Credit. Some Work Made For Hire is ghostwriting (no credit). On other occasions, my writing is credited. Sometimes this work appears in the tiny print on the copyright page. Other times my name appears on the title page of the book and not the cover. On other books where I've co-authored the book for someone else, my name appears on the cover as “with W. Terry Whalin.” To the publishing world, this “with” credit indicates I wrote the book. If you are new in the publishing world, this credit can be an important part of building your reputation in the publishing world.
 
Several of the children's books that I have published were Work Made For Hire. The finished children's books had high quality illustrations and were a beautiful finished product. In some cases my name only appears on the copyright line (small print) but in other cases, my name appears on the cover. How it turns out for you is all about watching the details of the agreement. Several of my devotional books which I wrote as a Work Made For Hire have sold over 60,000 copies (which is a great credit for any writer—and something I use from time to time). 
 
4. Provides A Way to Work for a Publisher. For many new writers, it's a challenge to publish with traditional publishers for your own work. Sometimes publishers need a writer to complete a manuscript in a short amount of time. Years ago I wrote a book for a publisher in a short amount of time and exceeded their deadline. My name is in the small print on the cover of this book and it continues to sell. When I checked a few years ago, this book had sold over 100,000 copies. As the other examples in this article, I wrote this book as a work made for hire and haven't been paid anything additional but it is a great credit for a writer.
 
5. In a hard environment, provides a way to seize an opportunity. I know some publishers are making cautious decisions about what to publish (for a number of reasons including the pandemic). This caution has made it hard for writers. Work Made For Hire is writing that will always be needed and is a way for you to seize the opportunity, get published and get paid. If you find it, my encouragement is for you to seize the opportunity.
 
Do you write Work Made For Hire or have you avoided it? Let me know in the comments below.
 
Tweetable:

This prolific editor and author gives five reasons to write Work Made For Hire. Get the details here. (ClickToTweet)


W. Terry Whalin is an acquisitions editor at Morgan James Publishing. His work contact information is on the bottom of the second page (follow this link).  His latest book for writers is 10 Publishing Myths, Insights Every Author Needs to SucceedOne of Terry's most popular free ebooks is Straight Talk From the Editor, 18 Keys to a Rejection-Proof Submission. He lives in Colorado and has over 200,000 twitter followers

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Time Swapping


Does this sound familiar?

"Some day, I am going to write my memoir ..."

"Oooh, next week, I am finally going to start that blog. Maybe ... "

"I really want to launch a podcast to promote my writing, but who has the time?"

The answer to that last question is, "Everyone!" With COVID rules, most people are working from home these days, which enables them to use time-swapping to increase their productivity!

Time-Swapping


Tell me, how long was your commute to work? Was it 20 minutes? An hour? And what are you doing with the time you used to spend walking, riding the bus, or driving to work? 

Use only a fraction of your weekly commute time for a passion project, side hustle, or even networking, and you will still make a dent in those often ignored back-burner goals. 
 
Here are 4 more ways to find time to work on your great American novel, screenplay, or passion project:

1. Driving Time. Even if you worked from home pre-COVID, you still had plenty of places to go each week from lunch meetings to the gym. Thanks to Zoom calls and video workouts, a lot of in-person events are now virtual. No more driving ... or even parking. With the time you save you can actually attend twice as many events each week.

2. Netflix Time. We all love our Netflix ... or Hulu ... or whatever our preferred platform for binge-watching after a long day. I'm not saying to get rid of binge-time, just shorten it. Binge one less episode a night, a few times a week, and see what you can accomplish during that found time. 

3. Your Prime Time. When is your prime writing-time? In the morning? Late at night? With family at home, you may be struggling for personal time. By extending your day - getting up 15 to 30-minutes earlier or staying up a little later - you can sneak in some productivity. Not sure which is your prime time? Try them both, and see what works best for you. 

4. Cooking Time. Whether you are a natural-cook or someone who took up cooking as a COVID-hobby, chances are you are eating out a lot less. One of the best ways to do food prep is to batch your cooking time. Pick one day a week to make multiple meals. You can easily freeze things like soup, spaghetti sauce, and casseroles, and pull them out later. I also love the Instant Pot as a productivity hack

To find time for those back-burner projects, you don't have to make sacrifices. You just need to be creative with how you spend and/or swap your time.


* * *

So, where do you find found time? And how do you use it? Please share your thoughts and experience in the comments.



Debra Eckerling is the author of Your Goal Guide: A Roadmap for Setting, Planning and Achieving Your Goals. A writer, editor and project catalyst, as well as founder of the D*E*B METHOD and Write On Online, Deb works with individuals and businesses to set goals and manage their projects through one-on-one coaching, workshops, and online support. She is also the author of Write On Blogging: 51 Tips to Create, Write & Promote Your Blog and Purple Pencil Adventures: Writing Prompts for Kids of All Ages, host of the #GoalChat Twitter Chat and #GoalChatLive on Facebook, and a speaker/moderator on the subjects of writing, networking, goal-setting, and social media.

Saturday, September 5, 2020

Carolyn Howard-Johnson Shares Frugal Book Promoter Tips and Myths

Editing IS Marketing:

Boning Up on First Impressions


By Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of the multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers

First impressions are important. We all are aware of that as we brush our teeth and try to unknot the rat's nests from the back of our hair each morning. In fact, first impressions are part of our marketing efforts, too. Whether we authors are trying to get an interview or a TV appearance or marketing our books using e-mail or social networks, editing is an essential part of that first-impression effort. Generally that first effort is a query letter or proposal. Thus editing equals great first impression. That makes it an integral part of a marketing campaign.


Here are a scattering of helps gleaned from my HowToDoItFrugally Series of books (https://howtodoitfrugally.com) but especially my Frugal Editor (http://bit.ly/FrugalEditor) and the fun little booklet, Great Little Last Minute Editing Tips for Writers (http://bit.ly/LastMinuteEditsII), just released in its second edition by Modern History Press,  
 
Five Editing Myths Waiting to Trip Up Your Campaign to Market Your Work
•    If your English teacher told you something is OK, it is.
(Nope. Language rules and style guidelines have changed since you were a sophomore.)
•    If a manuscript or query is grammar-perfect, you'll make a great first impression.
(No! Lots of things that are grammatically correct will annoy publishers, agents, and other gatekeepers like feature editors.)
•    Always use your Spell and Grammar Checker.
(Maybe. Some well-known editors suggest you don't use it at all, but The Frugal Editor gives you dozens of ways to make it your partner instead of your enemy.)
•    Your publisher will assign a top-flight editor so you don't need to worry about your manuscript.
(Maybe, but don't count on it. Besides you can be a better partner for an editor—whether she is assigned to you by your editor or you hire one for yourself-- if you know something about the process; you'll know better when to nix her suggestions! In any case, I suggest hiring an editor of your own before you submit your manuscript and you’ll love my Great Little Last-Minute Editing Tips (bit.ly/LastMinuteEditsII) for building the confidence you need to say no an editor no matter how professional she is.
•    Formatters and editors will take care of the hyphens, ellipses, and all the other grungy little punctuation marks that English teachers avoided teaching because they didn't know how to use them either.

(Chances are, you'll catch even great formatters and editors in an error or two if you know your stuff!)


Five Things to Avoid for a Pristine Query Letter
 
We are selling our work when we approach any gatekeeper, an editor, an agent, a contest judge. Here are five little things to avoid so you'll look like the professional you are.
 
    Don't tell the gatekeeper you always wanted to write. You can think of something more pertinent to your cause (and something more original!) than that.
    Don't use the verb "quote" when you want the noun "quotation." Some stylebooks will tell you that it's OK, but agents can be a picky lot. Use zero-tolerance grammar rules for your queries.
    Don't pitch more than one book at time. You want to give just one your best shot.
    Don't call your novel a "fictional novel." By definition, a novel is fiction.
    Don't overdo exclamation marks, question marks, or the use of sentence fragments. (Yes, fragments are acceptable when they're used for a good reason.).
 
Here's one last suggestion for fiction writers 'cause they're so often neglected when it comes to marketing. Avoid using italics for internal thought in the synopses sections of your marketing tools or in the sample chapters you must include. Italics are being used more and more these days, but using them often becomes a crutch that enables writers to avoid writing great transitions and point-of-view. The best agents and publishers will recognize it as such.

 

----


MORE ABOUT THE GUEST BLOGGER


Carolyn Howard-Johnson, an award-winning author of both fiction and nonfiction, a former publicist for a New York PR firm and was an instructor for the renowned UCLA Extension Writers' Program for nearly a decade. She is an editor with years of publishing and editing experience including national magazines, newspapers, and her own poetry and fiction. Learn more about the author at  https://howtodoitfrugally.com. Her The Frugal Book Promoter: How to Do What Your Publisher Won't won USA Book News' best professional book award and the Irwin Award. The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success TheFrugalEditor is top publishing book for USA Book News and Reader Views Literary Award. The Great First Impression Book Proposal: Everything You Need To Know To Sell Your Book in 30 Minutes or Less is a helpful little booklet available at at the link above and is now in its second edition from Modern History Press.  . And don’t miss another booklet Great Little Last-Minute Editing Tips for Writers: The Ultimate Frugal Booklet for Avoiding Word Trippers and Crafting Gatekeeper-Perfect Copyhttp://bit.ly/LastMinuteEditsII, also from Modern History Press. You can get all Carolyn's books at the How to Do It Frugally link above.

 





Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Learn to Write for Children - 4 Basic Tools



We all know how difficult it is to break into the business of writing for children. Whether you write fiction or nonfiction, it is a tough business and can be overwhelming for those just starting out. While all writing must adhere to certain guidelines, writing for children has additional principles unique to its genre.

To start, the words used in children’s writing must be age appropriate.

This may sound easy to do, but it can be a difficult task. There are also certain techniques and rules used specifically in writing for children, such as the Core of Three, sentence structure, and the time frame in which the story should occur when writing for young children. In addition, it’s essential to make sure your conflicts, storyline, and point of view are appropriate for the age group you’re writing for.

Along with this, there are general techniques for writing, such as adding sensory details, showing instead of telling, and creating an engaging story that hooks the reader right away, along with writing great dialogue and using correct punctuation.

This is just the beginning though, there is also the business of editing your work, writing a winning query, and following submission guidelines; the list goes on and on.

But, don’t get discouraged, there is help.

Here are four basic tools to get you started and guide you down the children’s writing path:

1. Children’s Writer’s WORD BOOK by Alijandra Mogilner is a great resource that provides word lists grouped by grades along with a thesaurus of listed words. This allows you to check a word in question to make sure it is appropriate for the age group you’re writing for. It also provides reading levels for synonyms. It’s a very useful tool and one that I use over and over.

2. The Institute of Children's Literature.

Read and learn about how to write for children. There are plenty of books and courses you can find online that will help you become a 'good' children's writer. The Institute of Children's Literature has an excellent reputation. 

3. The Frugal Editor by award winning author and editor, Carolyn Howard-Johnson.

This is a useful book for any writing genre, including children’s. It will guide you through basic editing, to getting the most out of your Word program’s features, to providing samples of queries. The author provides great tips and advice that will have you saying, “Ah, so that’s how it’s done.”

4. How to Write a Children's Fiction Book by award-winning author and successful children's ghostwriter Karen Cioffi.

Yes, it's my book, but it really is jammed packed with tips, advice, examples, and much more on writing for children. It also includes DIY assignments and touches on submitting your manuscript and book marketing.

I’ve invested in a number of books, courses and programs in writing and marketing, and know value when I see it. The products above have a great deal of value for you as a children's writer, and they are definitely worth the cost.

Remember though, the most important aspect of creating a writing career is to actually begin. You can’t succeed if you don’t try. It takes that first step to start your journey, and that first step seems to be a huge stumbling block for many.

Don’t let procrastination or fear stop you from moving forward - start today!


Karen Cioffi is an award-winning children's author and a working 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. Check out the DIY Page!

And, check out my middle grade fantasy adventure, Walking Through Walls, and my new picture book: The Case of the Plastic Rings – The Adventures of Planetman (the first in a three-book series):
http://4rv-publishing-llc.mypreview.site/karen-cioffi.html


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