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 ( but especially my Frugal Editor ( and the fun little booklet, Great Little Last Minute Editing Tips for Writers (, 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 ( 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.




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 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 Copy, also from Modern History Press. You can get all Carolyn's books at the How to Do It Frugally link above.



L. Diane Wolfe said...

There are so many query letter suggestions and rules that writers often skimp on the editing properly part itself. Great tips, Carolyn.

Terry Whalin said...


Thank you for these great insights about first impressions for writers. As my wife often tells me, "You only have one chance to make a good first impression." It is true and writers need to take these valuable insights to heart and use it with every submission.


Karen Cioffi said...

Great tips, Carolyn. I like the one about avoiding internal thought italics in the synopses sections of your marketing tools or in the sample chapters you must include. Have never used them in promotional material, but I'm sure a lot of author don't know them shouldn't. Thanks for sharing!

lastpg said...

As always, your tips are invaluable, Carolyn, and written in such a fun way. Thank you for your excellent post. I will need to pick up your new book--I have all the others. :)

deborah lyn said...

Carolyn, thanks for writing this fantastic little addendum to The Frugal Editor. I love it. Great points and great chuckles too!

Carolyn Howard-Johnson said...

Sorry to be late, all of you. I still am not getting notices when peeps comment on this blog. Any suggestions? Love your wife's motto, @Terry Whalin, My mom had a winner, too. "You'll never know you could have won if you don't try." It applies to lots more than contests. Hugs to all of you.

Carolyn Howard-Johnson said...

Sorry, but does anyone know who @lastpg is? I just clicked and got a Google bio with nothing on it. So here is a special one of my #FrugalBookPromoTips if you see this, @lastpg. Run on over to Google and let us see you and know a bit more about you. If any of the other #WritersontheMove contributors know who this is, please pass this along. I would like to thank her.

Debra Eckerling said...

Great points, Carolyn. You spend so much time crafting a book ... and a book proposal. Never coast through the query. :)

Carolyn Howard-Johnson said...

@WTerryWhalin, thank you for the share. I tried to answer you on Facebook but my Facebook is hung. Always appreciative of your support!

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