Sunday, November 28, 2021

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

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

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

Tip #1: First Sentence, First Page

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tip #2: Type out your Favorite Picture Books

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

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

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

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

Tip #3: Create a Polished Book

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Sources:

https://www.weareteachers.com/21-of-the-best-opening-lines-in-childrens-books/  

https://dragonflytransitions.com/why-the-dragonfly/

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!
Linda Wilson, a former elementary teacher, has published over 150 articles for children and adults, several short stories for children, and her books, Secret in the Stars: An Abi Wunder Mystery, and A Packrat's Holiday: Thistletoe's Gift, which are available on Amazon, https://www.amazon.com/author/lindawilsonchildrensauthorSecret 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

Thursday, November 25, 2021

Record Your Family’s Holiday Stories

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone in the USA!

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

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

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

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

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

Try it!


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

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

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

Sunday, November 21, 2021

Why You Should NOT Be Making Publishing Assumptions

 

By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Creative Writing Practice

 


 Creative Writing Practice by Deborah Lyn Stanley

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

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

Following a class through www.ed2go.com, I purchased Writeriffic II to continue creative writing studies, increase my self-confidence, and to find my writer's voice.

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

https://evashaw.com/writeriffic-ii-creativity-training-for-writers/

Second:
Writing the Wave by Elizabeth Ayres

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just Write!
Love the Process

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

Mom & Me: A Story of Dementia and the Power of God’s Love is available:
https://www.amazon.com/Deborah-Lyn-Stanley/
& https://books2read.com/b/valuestories




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Saturday, November 13, 2021

Reading Bad Writing or “It was a dark and stormy night"

 

 By Mindy Lawrence

Instructors and other professionals always tell us to read the best books and the best writers to learn from their examples. We need to find out how stories and articles are constructed by those who write them well.

Not so fast. We can learn from failures, too.

Bad writing is a bore. It takes the reader out of the story and makes them cringe. Yet, if you are writing yourself, those bad stories can be a training tool to keep your work from sharing the same fate. When you read bad writing you will see:

Overuse of adverbs
Using the same word over and over again
Underdeveloped characters
Point of view shifts
Writing descriptive passages that have no end
Lack of effort in writing the story
Lack of editing
Using cliches

There are many more examples, but you get the idea. Learning where others go wrong can keep YOU from straying down the same path. Mistakes gives writers a heads-up about what NOT to do. Don’t throw adverbs around like confetti. Don’t use the term “road” only but also use “highway and “path.” Don’t write two paragraphs instead of a three-sentence word-picture to describe something small. For HEAVEN’S SAKE EDIT!

Do some research on bad writing and read a bad story. You’ll learn what NOT to do.


Links for additional information:

Can We Learn from Bad Writing?
https://jamigold.com/2015/08/can-we-learn-from-reading-bad-writing/

Why I Like to Read Bad Writing, Paul Sterlini
https://writingcooperative.com/why-i-like-to-read-bad-writing-1f8df55390c9

4 Ways Reading “Bad Writing” Can Actually Make You a Stronger Writer, Dana Sitar
https://thewritelife.com/reading-bad-writing-can-make-you-a-better-writer/

3 Good Lessons to Learn from Bad Writing, Daphne Gray-Grant
https://painepublishing.com/measurementadvisor/3-good-lessons-to-learn-from-bad-writing/

=


Mindy Lawrence is a writer, ghost blogger, and artist based in Farmington, Missouri. She worked for the State of Missouri for over 24 years and moved to Farmington in 2020. She proofread the Sharing with Writers newsletter by Carolyn Howard-Johnson and wrote “An Itty-Bitty Column on Writing” there for ten years. She has been published in Writers' Digest magazine and interviewed by NPR’s All Things Considered.
 

 


 

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Unique Holidays: Don't See Anything You Like? Create Your Own


Writers and authors need to always be marketing! That means, developing a platform, such as a blog, podcast, or video series, and spending time on social media. So many places ... but how do we find new things to post? 

News, interviews, trivia, lists posts, and essays make for great content. But one of the best places to spark creative ideas is holiday calendars. Yes, traditional holidays work too. But I am a fan of creating content around unique holidays, like those found on HolidayInsights.com.

For instance, for writers, there's National Tell A Story Day on April 27, National Punctuation Day is September 24, and National Novel Writing Month is November. There's actually a whole list of writer holidays

Plus, there's The Nibble for food holidays, On-this-day.com to identify special days that relate to your books and/or business, and Positively Woof's Pet Holiday Calendar for those with a pet ... or pet-centric themes in the life or businesses.

Once you find your holiday ...

1. Brainstorm Content Ideas
2. Write your text 
3. Gather images
4. Construct your posts
5. Release 
6. Rinse and repeat
7. Be sure to keep a content calendar to track all of your ideas
 
While there are menus of holiday possibilities everywhere, what happens when you can't find a holiday that meets your needs? Simple. Create your own. That's what I did!

Let's go back to National Novel Writing Month. As we approached November, I found myself wanting to commit to some sort of monthly challenge, but didn't have the time for NaNoWriMo. 

I asked myself what I wanted to do more of in November. The answer: Dance! And #DaEvDaNo - Dance Every Day in November - was born.

First, I checked Twitter to research the hashtag. I created an image. 
Then, I put up a post on LinkedIn and started Tweeting about it. 

When creating or tagging onto existing holidays, the trick is to keep things simple. You don't need to overcomplicate things to come up with amazing content! You just need to do it.

Looking for new ways to put yourself out there? Uplevel your creativity and share your spin on an existing celebration ... or create one of your own!

* * *

What's your ideal unique holiday? ANd how do you use it to support your business? 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.


Friday, November 5, 2021

The Joy of Writing or A Story About Ash McGrath and Writer's Digest


This is a story about what I might have missed without Writer’s Digest and the kind of authors it inspires.

It is a story that might have never been told—or at least a story I might never have heard. It is a story about the great feeling of winning. It is a story applauding the kind of loyalty Writer’s Digest inspires (including me for I have been reading it for decades!) But mostly it is a story of just one of those readers.



My memories of this event are a bit fuzzy. It happened at least a year after I had entered my latest book of poetry, Imperfect Echoes, in a Writer’s Digest contest and probably a month or two after the Writer's Digest issue announcing winners had disappeared from the newsstands. I had received a beautiful critique from one of the contest judges and after that...well, nothing. I have learned not to mourn losses but to look for the positives in them. So, I excerpted a lovely blurb from the critique and moved on.

Enter Ash McGrath. She is a friend I have seen only in online images. I think she knew me because I have displayed my how-to books for writers in a book fair sponsored by Valerie Allen's AuthorsforAuthors group for years. As an author of marketing books, I understand that frequency is important to any campaign; as a realist, I know that one can't expect marketing for a series of nonfiction books for writers to cross genres for a book in another genre. So when I received a tag on Facebook from Ash that offered me her copy of the issue that announced winners of the contest I had entered my book in...well, I was puzzled. And thrilled. And appreciative.  I gave her my address but didn’t dare to expect to see it in my mailbox any time soon. These are busy times. Online friendships are often fleeting. Ash's writers group is mostly made up of writers who live 3,000 (at least!) miles from me. I had never presented at their writers' conferences--or even attended.

Shame on me! I underestimated the generosity of authors. I underestimated not the reach of Writer’s Digest but the loyalty of its readers. I underestimated the connection we writers often have with one another based the simple fact that we write. When I asked Valerie Allen, the director of several book fairs and conferences in Florida I mentioned before she said, “We call Ash our ‘Conference Ambassador’ because she volunteers at all of our events.”

I call her my writing angel. Her copy of Writer’s Digest is now my copy of Writer’s Digest. It means more to me because the memories it holds are layered. It lives on a bookshelf in my office I keep for writing successes. It’s a little like a vision board. I sometimes peek at what I have stowed on that shelf to keep me moving forward during my most discouraging times.

Let me introduce you to Ash.
She signs her emails: “Ash” Ashley McGrath

And then—to make us all aware of one very important thing in her life, she adds:
“UnabASHed by Disability”

I shall never underestimate the ties that bind author-to-author again. Or to include those ties among the many joys of writing.

My best to all Writer’s Digest’s grateful authors out there, And special thanks to Ash McGrath.
Carolyn Howard-Johnson



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.  


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Monday, November 1, 2021

Submitting Manuscript Queries - Be Specific and Professional


  

By Karen Coiffi

All writers face the dreaded query. Did I put enough information? Did I put too much? Did I have a great hook? Am I submitting to the right publisher?

These are just a few questions that run through a writer’s mind when mailing, or clicking the send button for the query. So, how do you answer these questions and the many others that go along with the job of crafting a query?

Well, the first simple response to this question is to READ the publisher’s or agent’s guidelines. Okay, that’s not accurate-you need to STUDY and FOLLOW those guidelines precisely.

Items to watch for when reading those guidelines:

1. What genre does that particular publishing house, agent, or magazine publish?

2. Does the publisher/agent accept simultaneous submissions?

3. Is there a specific word count involved if querying for articles?

4. Does the publishing house accept unagented queries?

5. Does the magazine only accept specific themes, if so, is your article on target?

This list is not complete, there are obviously more items to watch out for. So, we go back to the main rule for querying: FOLLOW the GUIDELINES!

But, following the guidelines is just part of the querying process; you also need to know some inclusion essentials.

Six rules to use that will help you create a winning query:

1. Be professional. Writing is a business just like any other-treat it as such.

2. Be sure to include your contact information: address, telephone number, email address and website.

3. If you were referred by someone include it in the query. Every little bit helps, but be sure it’s a referral from someone the editor actually knows.

4. Write tight – be specific and jump right in. You want to provide enough information to warrant the editor to want more, but you need to keep it to one page.

5. The first paragraph is the pitch-within a couple of sentences you need to hook the editor or agent. The second paragraph is about you, again keep it brief and include your credentials. The third paragraph is your conclusion; thank the editor/agent for his/her time and mention if you are enclosing a SASE and if the query is a simultaneous submission.

6. In regard to your bio: Limit personal information unless it adds to your credentials as a writer qualified to write for this publisher.

A good way to practice for queries and pitches is to write a one sentence out of the ball park description of your manuscript. This will help you to think and write tight and choose the perfect words to hook the reader and convey the essence of your story.

This article first appeared at: https://karencioffiwritingforchildren.com/2015/07/13/submitting-manuscript-queries/

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

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

You can check out Karen’s books at: https://karencioffiwritingforchildren.com/diy/

 

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