Writers: Enter Writing Contests

These words of wisdom by Annie Oakley
were made into a needlepoint, framed,
and now hang above my desk. I follow
them every day.

By Linda Wilson

If you read last month’s post, “Writers: Let Mistakes Be Your Teachers,” https://www.writersonthemove.com/2021/08/writers-let-mistakes-be-your-teachers.html, you will know that recently I entered my first picture book story in a contest and won! The only thing was that I forgot a niggling little detail: that the story had to be unpublished. During the time it took to receive the contest results, I published the book. Painfully, I had to disqualify myself and someone else won the prize. Bottom line: I got so involved in publishing the book that I’d forgotten about the contest until it was too late.

Never fear! If we indie authors have anything, we have determination and just plain guts! As a positive remedy, I vowed to enter other contests, and more importantly, I vowed to enter a new story in the contest that I forfeited next year.

Lists Don’t Cut It

The first thing I did was submit a few of my works in four contests. I thought I would keep track of the entries in a list. Quickly, I realized the list did not work. Since then, I have made a chart: much better.

On this chart I have sectioned off the contest name, date entered, deadline, date winners are announced, submission information, the folder where I’ve saved the info, and contact information. Some of the contests are not open yet, so I’ve noted the opening dates and cross-checked the dates by putting them on my daily calendar. In all, I have collected information for ten contests.

Where to Learn about Contests

Here is the list of the contests I have researched so far that appear on my chart. Check them out. I was amazed to find that quite a few of my works fit into the various contest categories.

Moonbeam Book Awards: https://www.moonbeamawards.com/

IPPY Award—Independent Publisher Book Awards: https://www.ippyawards.com/

CIPA EVVY Award: Colorado Independent Publishers Association: https://cipabooks.com/cipa-evvy-awards/

ICL Awards: https://www.instituteforwriters.com/writing-contests/

Searchlight Writing for Children Award: https://www.searchlightawards.co.uk/

PNWA: Pacific Northwest Writers Association Contest: https://pnwa-contests.webflow.io/

Southwest Writers Contest: https://www.southwestwriters.com/2021-call-for-submissions-sww-annual-writing-contest/

New Mexico Book Coop NM-AZ Book Awards: https://www.nmbookcoop.com/

Foreword Reviews Awards: https://www.forewordreviews.com/awards/

The Sky is the Limit

I have just scratched the surface. I haven’t even looked into what SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) has to offer. And as you can see, in some cases I've stuck close to home as a resident of New Mexico. But it’s a start. There is an entry fee for each contest, some steeper than others. I have budgeted what I can afford and then am going for it.

I’m sure I’m preaching to the choir here, but entering contests is a great way to practice submitting professional manuscripts that agents and editors expect, as is encouraged by the Institute of Children’s Literature. Referring to the Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards, the organization’s site explains that, “As our society has gotten more complex and growing up has become more complicated, children’s book authors and publishers have risen to the occasion, creating books that not only celebrate the joys of childhood, but also help kids and families deal with its challenges. The Moonbeam Awards will recognize and reward the best of these books and bring them to the attention of booksellers, librarians, parents and children.

For the 2021 Moonbeam award, somehow my entry did not appear in my submission. I didn’t know that until Director Jim Barnes was nice enough to email me to request that I attach my submission in my return email to him. I was most thankful for his concern so that my entry would not be overlooked.

Entering these contests has taken time and effort, but it has given me a new outlet to vet my work. Who knows if any of my stories will win any contests? The best part of it is, if they don’t, I am spurred on to continually improve my stories until they are worthy of becoming winners in the eyes of discerning judges, and finally in the minds and hearts of my readers, who deserve the best that I can offer.

Photos by Linda Wilson

Annie Oakley quote: Jotted down and kept close to my heart ever since,

from the Garst Museum and National Annie Oakley Center, in Greenville, Ohio.

Linda's current WIP is the picture book,
Waddles the Duck: Hey, Wait for Me!
 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, https://www.amazon.com/author/lindawilsonchildrensauthor. Secret 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 https://www.lindawilsonauthor.com

Location, Location, Location: Researching Place - Part 3

by Suzanne Lieurance

Whether you’re writing fiction or nonfiction, you need to get the facts correct when it comes to the location where your story or article will take place.

In this month’s post about location (read Part 1 and Part 2 of this post for more tips about researching location), you’ll learn how to travel to locations in the past and how to capture the essence of a specific location even if you have never been there.

Travel the Past

Writers can’t actually travel back in time to see what a location was like long ago.

Or can they?

Never underestimate the power of museums.

When Suzanne Hilton was researching her book The Way It was—1876, she found a way to see how the World’s Fair in Philadelphia would have looked that year.

“At the Franklin Institute, there was a perfect scale model of the entire World’s Fair of 1876. By scrunching down and looking through the gate, I could see the layout as a person entering the fair would,” Hilton explains.

“Museums, libraries, and archives are treasure houses of old newspapers, diaries, and photos,” said Jeri Chase Ferris, who writes biographies and historical fiction. “I’d say every one of these was an absolute necessity when researching the locations where my subjects have lives.”

When writing about a specific place in an earlier time in history, many writers find it helpful to use diaries from that period.

Many historical societies have a variety of diaries, according to date.

Hilton suggests, “The University of Georgia put out a book called American Diaries in Manuscript, 1580-1954, A Descriptive Bibliography. It’s an index to diaries not published, their dates, and where I the United States they can be found. I’m not sure you can still buy one, but it’s a real find.”

When Debra McArthur was researching her book about the Dust Bowl, she took an unusual approach for obtaining primary sources.

McArthur was a college instructor in the Midwest at the time, so she figured there were people around who had firsthand memories of the Dust Bowl or knew someone else who did.

To find them, McArthur created a flyer describing her project and asking for help.

She placed the flyer in the college library and other high traffic areas throughout the campus when the college was having its alumni weekend.

Author Marty Crisp is another writer who likes to visit the location if at all possible.

“In the case of a book I wrote that is set in England in 1599, I couldn’t of course find 1599, but in England, I came pretty close!” she says. “I went to old manor houses and palaces searching for the perfect setting, and when I found it, it was practically a ruin. It was a manor house built in the 1580s and stripped down to its walls, but it was so much easier to furnish with imagination than to strip out all the 1700s, 1800s, and 1900s things in other old houses that were in better repair.”

Capture the Essence

Author Wendie Old has been lucky enough to live within driving distance of most of the locations where her subjects lived and worked.

“I visit, take pictures talk to people there, take the tours and listen to the patter of the guides. Just the way things are said can be different, special, catchy,” she says.

“Although it’s not possible sometimes to visit the sites I write about, I certainly try,” says Nancy Ferrell, who has lived in Alaska. “There’s nothing like actually being there and, once there, having some exciting, hands-on experiences that help me transfer that excitement to my readers.”

When Ferrell wrote The U.S. Coast Guard, she arranged through the rear admiral to fly in a search-and-rescue helicopter in Sitka, Alaska, where she could take photographs from the aircraft.

Even popular fiction series like Sweet Valley or Baby-Sitter’s Club are set in definite locations.

Writers have to know what the neighborhood is like where these characters live, what the town looks like, and so on—they have to create fictional towns that have the feel of real towns.

Sarah Verney has written for several series.

“There’s usually a series bible that describes the characters’ personalities, physical descriptions, and even their houses and the towns they live in,” says Verney.

For the Silver Blades and Sweet Valley stories she wrote, Verney found that the town descriptions included locations like “favorite stores, the pizza parlor, ice cream shop, the ice rink, the school, of course, and any place else the characters might hang out.”

For her book Gratefully Yours, about a girl who rode an orphan train from New York to Nebraska in 1923, Buchanan thoroughly researched Nebraska, but as the deadline for completing the manuscript neared, she began to feel uneasy.

“It would be immediately apparent to anyone who lived in Nebraska that I was a fraud, I was sure. I panicked,” she says.

She told her husband she had to go to Nebraska.

He politely pointed out why she couldn’t go right then, so the book was published without Buchanan ever setting foot in Nebraska.

A week after the book came out, an older woman told Buchanan that she had grown up on a farm in Nebraska.

“I don’t know how you did it,” said the woman, “but you captured it. This is where I grew up.”

“I was thrilled, of course, and flattered, and so relieved,” says Buchanan. “It was important to me to make the story believable, and also as accurate as possible.”

As you’ve learned from this 3-part post, there are all sorts of ways to research location.

Yet, it doesn’t really matter how you conduct your research—just so you convey the reality of the place.

As Hilton says, “I’m an avid researcher because some 10-year-old kid can tell if I’m guessing, and I don’t want that to happen.”

For more writing tips, be sure to visit writebythesea.com and get your free subscription to The Morning Nudge. Once you're a subscriber, you'll also have access to a Private Resource Library for Writers.

Suzanne Lieurance is the author of over 35 published books, a freelance writer, and a writing coach.

Autopsy of a First Novel

Contributed by Bonnie Cook

From its beginning in 2013 as a disembodied voice whispering in my ear, “Nothing ever happens in Oysterville,” my novel and I have been on a journey.  
I’ve always had an aversion to pretentiousness.  Well, my version of pretentiousness.  Phrases like ‘eats like’ and ‘I’ll do the fennel salad’ make me cringe.
For the longest time that was how I felt about the word ‘organic.’  Until it happened to me. Kind of how a friend’s opinion on undocumented citizens changed once her daughter’s husband turned out to be undocumented.  
Well, my new YA novel, Just Eve, was organic.

I was drifting to sleep and the whisper in my ear startled me. I had no idea from where it came or the story I would tell, but I knew where it would begin.

And from that inspiration a story grew.  

To be honest many stories grew, because Just Eve had three ugly stepsisters. When I look back on these drafts there’s hardly even a family resemblance, but something interesting happened.

The early drafts provided background that was necessary for me to understand my characters.  To know where they came from, secrets they held, quirks that made them unique.  It allowed me time to put to paper things I needed to know.  Often times the telling was slow and dull and even rambling.  And the rambling parts? Road trips that will be used in later novels.

I know my process was not efficient. Beginning with a story arc, character profiles, plot construction and story outlines might have cut my writing time in half.  And nine years is a long time.  But I learned so much in this writing process, in the slogging through, rewriting, dumping, and I am finding that my second novel is the recipient of all that hard work. It is coming along at a faster pace and with greater clarity.

This process has given me insight into myself as a writer.  It has given me confidence in my ability to grow, to learn, to change course.  I trust in the inspiration I get through meditation, intuition, and in the hard work of just plodding through and getting words on paper however they sound at first.  I found a supportive writing group that helped me focus on the story I wanted to tell, and I learned to trust my own voice while staying open to constructive criticism.
And so, yes, have a map.  But do not be afraid to meander off the path. Who knows where it will take you?


BG Cook lives the life of a nomad as she divides her time between London, California, and Minnesota - always on the lookout for new adventures and new inspiration.  She loves family, travel, yoga, all things spiritual, and curious minds. As a public-school educator for many years, her first love may always be teaching, but… she has fallen in love again! Follow her on Instagram @entradanotebooks and check out the first novel in The Entrada Notebooks series, Just Eve.



Where to Find Writing Ideas
Are You Too Busy?
Writing Tips from Story Genius 



Is Book Publishing Like a Sprint or a Marathon?

By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin
Many writers want to publish a book. From my many years in publishing, I find few of them have thought about whether the process of publishing a book is like a sprint (something with a burst of speed) or a marathon (steady and consistent to complete the task). I often see authors who want to sprint to publication or sprint to get a book contract or a bestseller. Reality is that often it takes consistent, hard work to produce anything of excellence—the writing or the marketing. Authors are not overnight successes but instead spend years in the trenches faithfully working to get their work noticed and sold.

Recently a young author outside of the U.S. wrote and asked if a decision had been made on his manuscript. It had been less than two weeks since I had corresponded with this author and it took a number of emails until he gave me what I needed to submit his work. I told this author if he wants a “no, thank you” then I could do that right away but if he wants a “yes” with a publishing contract then that takes patience and time.

While there are many keys in book publishing, in this article, I want to emphasize four important areas.

1) You Need A Great Product

Too many authors want to dash off something and rush it into the marketplace. I've seen it in my own work and the work of others. Haste often makes waste or mistakes. Take the time to write an excellent book or book proposal. The book proposal is your business plan for your book—whether you are writing nonfiction or fiction—whether you are self-publishing or traditional. You need a plan and it is important to build the plan with a great manuscript. The writing has to be excellent. You need others to affirm that excellence before rushing it to the market. 

The devil is in the details. Are all of the details in place for your book before you take it to the marketplace? Does it have a great title? Does it have an attractive cover? Does the first page make me want to turn to the second page? Does the copy on the back cover, draw me to going to the cash register? Another author sent me a full-color children's book which had no descriptive information on the back cover. Yes it had a barcode and the name of the publisher but nothing to draw me to buy the book. It is a huge omission and lowers the standard for this product. Don't make these basic errors because you are eager to get your book to the market.

2) You Need to Build an Audience

You've poured a lot of energy and effort into your book. Will you have readers or people who want to read your work—and who are excited about it that they tell others? When someone tells another person about a book, that is called “Word of Mouth.” It is golden when it happens and takes work from the author. As an author you can't lean on your publisher to market your book and build your audience. You have to take your own responsibility for marketing your own book. I understand the reluctance—and I've been there too but I tell every author as an acquisitions editor at Morgan James that they have 80% of the responsibility. Our publishing house will sell the book into the bookstores but all of those books can be returned if the author doesn't promote their book. 

I have much more detail and many more ideas in Platform Building Ideas for Every Author which is free (click on the image). 
3) You Need to Have Patience

The majority of book publishing is not quick. You send your material to editors and agents yet do not get a response or receive a response months after your submission.  The reality is that it takes time to build consensus among colleagues to issue a book contract or to make a contract offer to publish. As a writer you want to follow-up and make sure the editor or agent received your material and everything is in process. But in contrast, you do not want to push because most of the time when you push, you will nudge that professional toward sending you a polite “no thank you.”

Instead of pushing for a decision, you are better to begin another project. Write a one page query letter for a magazine article. Pitch a magazine editor to assign you to become a columnist. Begin a new book project or book proposal. This effort will remove your focus on the project which is under consideration. 

4) You Need to Have More Than One Project

If you have more than one proposal or one book, you will be less anxious about the submission and be able to shift your focus to the new project or new writing assignment. It will increase your own productivity in the writing world. 

How do you view book publishing? As a marathon or a sprint? I'd love to have your comments or any other way I can help you with this process. As an acquisitions editor, I'm constantly looking for good books to publish. Don't hesitate to contact me and my work contact information is on the second page of this link.

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. He lives in Colorado and has over 190,000 twitter followers

Techniques for Cultivating Creative Writing Ideas by Deborah Lyn

Make cultivating ideas part of your writing process. Creative writing needs inspiration—motivation will follow quickly to get that personal essay, story, or novel written!

“To stimulate creativity, one must develop the childlike inclination for play.” And
“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.” Albert Einstein.

Whether we write fiction or non-fiction stories, growing our list of project ideas is vital. As our list grows and our process expands, we’ll foster descriptive writing techniques. We will use sense words—sight, sound, smell, taste & touch to enhance our writing.

So let’s get playful!

The “What If” game is great for exploring ideas outside the box.
“What if I could…?”
“What if my hero…”
“What if I had made a different _______________ choice?
“What if someone found out…?”
Continue to ask “What Ifs” to use now or later for inspiration.

Be curious with “Why” questions:
“Why a story instead of a poem?”
“Why set it in the country rather than a metropolis?” Rural vs City dwellers
“Why not write from a different perspective.
•    How would my favorite author describe this?
•    How would a four or five-year-old describe this scene?
•    Describe a scene from a fast-moving train or flying in a single-engine plane, or better yet, a helicopter.

•    Use story structure basics, then branch out to make it original, even inventive: A character struggles to overcome a problem, and meets with eventual success.
    -Jane Austen used this format to create great original variations. She borrowed and created new.
    -Heidi is another example: orphaned children journey to find a home
    -It’s a Wonderful Life, classic Christmas movie
    -Cinderella: cruelly and unfairly treated, in the end she’s the heroine

•    Try using TV listings, or movie synopsis as prompts to stimulate ideas
•    Magazine and online images can be great writing prompts, for story or free writing
•    Folktales retold your way
•    Coming of age struggles, confusion, and solutions
•    Contemporary prince or princess in love with a commoner
•    A school for superheroes to rescue ______________
Keep building your ideas list.
It’ll be hard to keep-up with the rush of thoughts!

Good practice points for a satisfying writing life:
•    Don’t wait for inspiration. Do something you love, 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 rules, whatever works to stay playful!
     -Forget mistakes. You can fix them easy enough on the next draft.

Just Write!
Try Stuff, First Get It Written, Revise the Next Draft

See post: WOTM: 9.17.2021 Read Well, Creative Writing Resources, by Deborah Lyn Stanley

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: https://deborahlynwriter.com/   

Visit her caregiver’s website: https://deborahlyncaregiver.com/
Mom & Me: A Story of Dementia and the Power of God’s Love on Amazon

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Using Psychology to Write Characters

By Mindy Lawrence

One of the first writers I fell in love with was Edgar Allan Poe. His gothic horror latched on to my mind. I was powerless to save anyone from going over the precipice. He not only got into the heads of his characters but also into the heads of his readers.

Using psychological information to reach out and grab your audience can create unforgettable characters that burrow into the psyche. Questions you can answer to create memorable protagonists and antagonists include:

What are my characters afraid of?

Is your character afraid of water and has to take a trip at sea? Is your protagonist raised by a family that strongly believes in hell and tortures them with the fear of going there? Fears like these can drive characters to do what they might not have done without their unconscious psychological upbringing. Decide what triggers those in your novel to fear.

What do my characters hate and why?

Did your protagonist or antagonist grow up in a household that hated cats? How about people or another religion or background? Making your characters try to overcome their faults (or carry through with them) can drive your story.

What are my characters’ oddities and what caused them?

When I think about oddities in characters, I think about Ignatius Reilly in A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole. In the first few pages, we get a snapshot of Ignatius that we picture in our heads throughout the entire book. He hates so many things. He writes his worldview in Big Chief notebooks. He’s obviously unsound of mind but winds up solving a crime by accident.

What backstory affected my characters?

What does the character(s) go through before the story begins that causes them to react as they do? Were they raised in a cult? In poverty? In a well-to-do family? All this affects the way the character thinks and acts.

Is there any salvation for my character(s) or is the story destined to follow the path it takes?

Like Captain Ahab in Moby Dick, does his hate doom him from the beginning? Or like in Lord Jim does the main character find his own salvation and come to terms with his actions?

Characters that remain in our heads come from good development. Consider building your story using psychology to grab your reader, maybe forever.

Take some time to dig into the minds of your creations.

LINKS (For those not hyper, just copy and paste into your browser.)

Character Development Fears

Imagined Human Beings: A Psychological Approach to Character and Conflict in Literature

What Really Drives your Characters?

The Psychology of Character

How to Diagnose your Character

How to Craft Characters Scene by Scene


Mindy Lawrence is a writer and artist based in Farmington, Missouri. She worked for the State of Missouri for over twenty-four years and has retired to her sumptuous home office where she’s writing, doing calligraphy, and making a mess. She has been published in Writers Digest magazine and interviewed by All Things Considered.



Podcast Guesting: 10 Ways to Find Podcasts Where You Can Pitch Yourself

There's nothing like sharing your enthusiasm for your projects through a podcast. When you are interviewed - whether it's on camera or audio-only - you get to share your expertise, as well as talk about your books and your business. Plus, it's so much fun!

As an extrovert, I love interviewing - I host the #GoalChat Twitter chat, #GoalChatLive show on Facebook and LinkedIn, and The DEB Show podcast - and being interviewed. 

The challenge for authors, experts, and entrepreneurs is finding good podcasts, along with hosts who ideally share your interest, values, and energy.   

Last month, I wrote about how to be a good guest on a podcast, video show, or blog. In this post, I will share tips for finding podcasts to pitch.

But I am getting ahead of myself...

Here are 10 Ways to Find Podcasts to Pitch 


1. Check Your Podcast Player. What podcasts do you listen to? Are any of them a good fit for you as a guest? As a fan of a podcast you pitch, you are at an advantage, since you know the show.

Get Recommendations. You can ...

2. Ask Your Friends. Who has a podcast? Who listens to podcasts? 

3. Post to Social Media. (Same questions as #2.)

4. Ask Hosts. The podcast community is small. After you are interviewed, see if the host can recommend you as a guest to any friends.

5. Check Your Peer's Media Pages. See where your friends, as well as your competitors, have been interviewed.  

6. Suggest Podcast Swaps. Interview your peers and ask that they do the same. 

Do Podcast Networking

7. Join Facebook and LinkedIn Groups. There are plenty of social networking groups dedicated to matching podcasts with guests. Do a search. 

8. Sign Up for Podcast Matchmakers. Options include 

9. Go to Podcast Meetups. Groups, such as Speakers Playhouse and Podcasters Connect & Collaborate, run the speed-dating version of podcast pitching. 

10. Attend Online Mixers. Meet new people, so you can expand your network. You never know who the people you meet know... Then go back to #2 and #3.

* * *

Before pitching a podcast, be sure to listen to at least a few episodes. You want to have a sense of the person you are talking to and their beliefs. For instance, if you are a vegetarian cookbook author, the Meat America Podcast would not be a good fit. (Yes, a googled it. That podcast does exist!)

Once you find a podcast you like, write a review, tweet about it, and interact with the host on social media. That way, when they receive your pitch, it will not be from a total stranger.

When you pitch, you want to stand out. Be sure to personalize your email: call the host by their (spelled-correctly) name and reference something specific as to why you like the show. Share who you are, why you are a great fit for their podcast, and talking points. Bonus points for referencing your social media following and how you plan to promote the episode.

* * *

When you pitch yourself to be on a podcast, let your enthusiasm shine through. After all, you are doing the hosts a favor, as they are always on the lookout for great guests! 

* * *

What's your best tip for finding podcasts to pitch? Please share in the comments.

* * *

Debra Eckerling is the award-winning author of Your Goal Guide: A Roadmap for Setting, Planning and Achieving Your Goals and founder of the D*E*B METHOD, which is her system for goal-setting simplified. A writer, editor, and project catalyst, Deb works with entrepreneurs, executives, and creatives 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 and Purple Pencil Adventures; founder of Write On Online; Vice President of the Los Angeles Chapter of the Women's National Book Association; host of the #GoalChat Twitter Chat, #GoalChatLive on Facebook and LinkedIn, and The DEB Show podcast. She speaks on the subjects of writing, networking, goal-setting, and social media.

Writers on the Move Contributor Carolyn Howard-Johnson Talks Book Covers

 To One Degree or Another

Why and How Your Book Cover Is Always Your Business 

Most authors start dreaming about their book covers well before their manuscript is ready to publish. They start paying attention to what they encounter of the internet, which is often more disinformation than something they can or should use. One of the least helpful tells them that if they are going the traditional route, they should expect their publisher will not welcome their ideas or expertise (if any exists) to be used under their trademark. In fact, an effort on the part of the author will be an annoyance. Basically, they are told to butt out. Actually, the professional thing an author should do when they have a question is to ask—in the publishing process or—even better—in the contract-signing process.
My series of books for writers is a case where these naysayers were wrong. The publisher of Modern History Press made an effort to work with the book cover designer I used when I was self-publishing the series. We ended up with his designer and both publisher and designer accepted most of my suggestions or helped me understand why it wasn’t viable. In fact, occasionally they asked me for ideas or suggestions.
That is the reason authors—no matter how they hope to publish or how they end up publishing—will benefit if they start considering what their book cover should look like beyond what they see in their dreams.
Here are five things that an author can do to better prepare them for whatever role they play in the publishing process:
1.     We can learn a lot about what makes a good book cover by just looking at the best of them--in airport bookstore windows and in our favorite bookstores.
2.     We can learn a lot about what not to do by looking at book covers on Amazon where they are often only thumbnail size. I got a reminder about the importance of bookstores as I was scrolling through the books offered on an online book promotion service as I was trying to decide which books to retweet to my 40,000 plus publishing industry followers. I had to bypass many that might have otherwise worked for me but for lack of a prominent author's name on the cover. A cover must feature the name of the author big enough to be seen from a distance or in an image shrunk to accommodate the layout needed for online bookstores’ formats. That author name should be defined by color, outline, font style and more to be read. You’ll see some with the authors’ name in three-dimensional gold foil! Keep in mind you, the author, may one day be a star and it will be your name people remember, not necessarily the title of the book.
3.     Even poetry and fiction authors should watch how poorly (and well!) some book covers use subtitles. It’s a good idea to jot down ideas that occur to you and put them into Notes or some other file.
4.     Pay attention to the way front and back covers blend into the design of the spine. Having a hard delineation for what can be an imaginary line can cause big problems for a printer. (You may end up publishing independently and will be ahead of the game if you’re aware of this before your select your professional designer. You will be her or his partner and boss.
5.     Pay attention to the covers of already-published books in your genre. It will teach you what you like and what to avoid. 

So here is the new book cover of my recently published  second edition of my booklet "Great Little Last Minute Editing Tips for Writers" (Modern History Press). I broke the "rules" and suggested a larger author name for my problematical name, a very, very long one. I quickly learned, all my “advisors” had been wrong. Victor Volkman, the publisher, was able to magically improve it by using what is widely regarded as the most easily read font of all, Times New Roman, using more contrast in color, and choosing a font that doesn't take up a lot of space—that is the letters are naturally narrower than in some other fonts. And he did it by using a readily available font—no special, expensive font design needed! And we were able to keep the retail price of the book down by using an appropriate image from an online catalog. They are sometimes reasonably priced, but they are often free. You’ll probably have to poke around a bit on image services to find the perfect one for your book.

Note: I am fussy about what I called “canned images.” Some authors select something that other authors found useful, many others. See the suggestion about paying attention to books in your genre that have already been published.
Now you can do this for the next book you publish with Kindle Direct Publishing or anywhere else that offers handy (and frugal!) cover templates. Remember what I tell my clients. "You may love Stephen King.  But quick! Name all of his books. OK, name three." You can see that your readers remember you better than they remember your titles--even if you are as famous as King. 
Carolyn Howard-Johnson brings her experience as a publicist, journalist, marketer, and retailer to the advice she gives in her HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers and the many classes she taught for nearly a decade as instructor for UCLA Extension’s world-renown Writers’ Program. The books in her HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers have won multiple awards. That series includes The Frugal Book Promoter and The Frugal Editor which won awards from USA Book News, Readers’ Views Literary Award, the marketing award from Next Generation Indie Books and others including the coveted Irwin award. How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically launched to rave reviews from Jim Cox, Editor-in-Chief of Midwest Book Reviews and others:
“How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically [and other books in the series] could well serve as a textbook for a college Writing/Publishing curriculum.”

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Foreshadowing in Fiction


Foreshadowing is a literary device used to make the reader wonder. It gives the story a sense of mystery or anticipation. It can also create tension.

According to Literary Devices, using this device, “a writer gives an advance hint of what is to come later in the story." (1)

Foreshadowing is a great device to keep the reader involved in the story and the characters.

There are a number of foreshadowing strategies. Below are four of them.

An Approaching Event

An example of this type of foreshadowing is in “Walking Through Walls.” Wang (the protagonist) listens as his friend, Chen, tell how neighboring warriors kidnapped his sister.  

The reader surmises or anticipates that there will be an upcoming battle to rescue Chen’s sister.

The Pre-scene

A pre-scene hints at something on the horizon.

Another example might be a new student entering a classroom and another student eyes him up and down. Nothing else happens in that particular scene.
The reader automatically anticipates there will be trouble between the boys down the road.

In an article at Novel Writing Help, “a pre-scene is simply a smaller version of a larger scene to come. They are not significant by themselves, but they imply that there is something more spectacular waiting to happen right around the corner.” (2)

The Loaded Gun

This strategy is attributed to Russian author and playwright Anton Chekhov.

He said, "If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on a wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it’s not going to be fired, it shouldn’t be hanging there." (3)

This type of foreshadowing doesn’t have to use a gun; it could be any object.

For example, suppose a boy is cleaning out the attic of a hundred-year-old home for a neighbor. He finds an old corroded coin. He absent-mindedly shoves it in his pocket.

The reader knows that coin is significant and expects something to happen pertaining to it in the story. If the writer is smart, she will fulfil the reader’s expectation.

The Prophecy

With this type of foreshadowing, a glimpse of misfortune to come from something that happens is given to the reader.

As an example, the albatross is a sign of good luck if seen by sailors. With the reader being privy to this knowledge, a sailor sees one fly over his ship at the midway point on every voyage he’s on. But, on this particular voyage, there is no albatross to be seen.

The implication to the reader is that there is going to be trouble for this sailor and this voyage.

Don’t Overdo It

While adding foreshadowing to your fiction story is an effective writing device, you don’t want to overdo it.

In an article at NY Book Editors, it explains that “to balance your story, there needs to be revelations and circumstances that catch the reader off-guard. If your reader is in a constant state of analysis [over foreshadowing], your pacing will suffer. To strike the perfect balance, introduce hints but then jolt your reader with something unexpected.” (4)

If you’d like to read more about foreshadowing and your fiction writing, check out the references below.

Foreshadowing is an excellent literary device when used properly. As mentioned early, it creates reader anticipation among other things.


(1) https://literarydevices.net/foreshadowing/
(2) https://www.novel-writing-help.com/examples-of-foreshadowing.html
(3) https://www.writingclasses.com/toolbox/ask-writer/whats-this-business-about-chekhovs-gun
(4) https://nybookeditors.com/2018/03/how-to-foreshadow-like-a-pro/

This article was first published at:


Karen Cioffi is an award-winning children’s author. She runs a successful children’s ghostwriting, rewriting, and coaching business and welcomes working with new clients.

For tips on writing for children OR if you need help with your project, contact Karen at Writing for Children with Karen Cioffi. And, check out Karen's The Adventures of Planetman picture book series.


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