Create a Theme for your Author Platform

Thanks to Canva, I've created posters and flyers
that showcase the theme that runs through my books

By Linda Wilson    @LinWilsonauthor

Developing an author platform is a matter of finding the right balance that works for you. Advice given to authors is to experiment with the social media outlet(s) that you’re comfortable with, and expand from there. The important thing is to connect with your target audience. Some of the best advice for you to create an author platform plan can be found in Carolyn Howard-Johnson’s Frugal Book series, especially Howard-Johnson’s The Frugal Book Promoter.

What is an author platform?
According to, an author platform is how an author reaches their target audience. Ideally, authors need to find ways for readers to discover what they can gain by reading your book(s). Will your readers be entertained? Will they learn something? Have you offered them enough for them to want to come back for more? Read more of your books? A good start is to zero in on offering a need you can fill for your readers and find ways to get the word out. “It’s not uncommon for new authors to get a book deal based solely on their social media presence or blogging platform.” ( In a nutshell, here are the four steps Masterclass suggests to create an author platform: 

                • Create a website.
                • Publish articles on online outlets that specialize in your area.
                • Maintain social media accounts and keep the accounts current.
                • Explore other media ventures, such as discussing your craft with other authors on podcasts.

How to Create an Enduring Author Platform 
After posting blurbs and the covers of my books on various outlets such as Twitter and Facebook and making no sales, I had to stop and figure out why. I took a look at the body of work I had developed, four picture books and a chapter book trilogy, some still in development at the time, and unearthed a common thread. Perhaps I’m unique. Probably most authors have an overall plan worked out before they begin writing. But if you’re like me, you might be pumping out material with no common thread in mind. After much soul searching, I came up with a theme for my body of work, the message I want readers to remember after they read my books. Once I put my plan in place, visits to schools, book fairs, and more, have been fun and easy.

           • Decide what you want to impart to children in your works. What is the message you want to send that will remain with them after they finish reading your book(s)?
            • Come up with a sentence that encompasses your message. My sentence is not earth shattering and it sounds so simple. But I looked at my projects, as I said, some in progress at the time, and realized that my biggest desire was to show my young readers that they can extricate themselves from their screens and have fun pursuing outdoor activities. All of my books take place outside. My sentence, which I use in my advertising: Stories that Explore the Great Outdoors.
            • Promote yourself using your theme online and also by making local appearances. What can you offer children? I’ve found my most rewarding experiences are by sharing my books and programs with children in my town. So far, I’ve had great fun doing readings at local outlets, such as schools, libraries, and small businesses. I’ve put together programs that include puppets, collections of natural materials I’ve made through the years; have conducted treasure hunts, and have provided crafts that fit the books’ subject matter—anything that brings children close to nature.
            • Examples of my theme carrying through in my books: My chapter book trilogy, Secret in the Stars: An Abi Wunder Mystery: My character, Abi Wunder, learns that she has good instincts, can solve problems, and can learn to be athletic by swimming and hiking. In Secret in the Mist, the second book in the trilogy, to be published later this year, Abi learns how to ride a horse and bikes all around town.  My picture books, A Packrat’s Holiday: Thistletoe’s Gift, Tall Boots, Waddles the Duck: Hey, Wait for Me, and Cradle in the Wild: Each book takes place outdoors and leaves readers with a message, respectively: If you try, you will find the perfect gift for a loved one; with courage you will succeed at your goals; through trial and error you can save animals in trouble; and from a surprising discovery, you can think of a creative way to be a Nature Buddy, a person who understands nature and doesn’t interfere.

When you create programs and activities that revolve around the theme of your works, there you will find your reward. Hopefully, you’ll be making book sales along the way. But the true reward is seeing the light in children’s eyes as they get excited about reading your books and sharing in the activities you’ve created for them.
Here is the theme on a banner made by VistaPrint
 Linda Wilson writes stories for young children. Visit   Linda at Click the links for   free coloring pages and a puppet show starring   Thistletoe Q. Packrat. While you’re there, get all the   latest news by signing up for Linda’s newsletter. 

 Find Linda’s books at  Amazon Author Page.

 Connect with   Linda: FacebookTwitterPinterestInstagram


Writers - Find Something Unique to Offer

 by Suzanne Lieurance

If you're trying to earn an income as a freelance writer, you'll start making MORE money FASTER if you figure out something unique to offer a specific target market.

The easiest way to figure out what your unique offering and your target market might be is to consider your background, education, and interests.

For example, do you have a business degree? 


Are you an educator or a nurse? 


Do you have experience in finances or financial services?

Next, determine who you might serve based on your experience, education, and interests.

Once you figure this out, next decide how you will reach this target market. 

For example, the first thing you might do is set up your own blog and start creating rich content for it that will cater to your target market. 


Keep in mind though, that you probably won't earn a huge income from your own blog unless you're able to heavily monetize it and also drive a lot of traffic to it on a regular basis. 


So your blog will probably be an online portfolio for your blogging skills more than anything else. 


But that's fine IF you take the next step!

The next step is to find other businesses that serve your target market and offer your writing or blogging services to them.

You will find ads for writers and bloggers at online job boards and sites. 


But look for ads from specific companies for your target market instead of ads that say "we're looking for writers/bloggers for a variety of sites and topics." 


Generally, these kinds of jobs pay very little, and you want to be well paid for your education, background, and expertise.

Also, spend some time finding popular blogs of medium-to-large-sized companies and follow those blogs for a while to see the types of things they blog about and the way their posts are structured. 


Use these blogs as a self-study course to improve your own blogging skills until you feel you can blog just as well as the bloggers who provide the content for these sites.

Next, approach some of these companies (or others like them) and offer your blogging services. 


Show these companies that you have something unique to offer - your experience, education, and expertise in the area(s) that cater to their target market.

Bigger companies can usually afford to pay more for freelancers. 


They also expect to pay more for highly qualified individuals with relevant experience and expertise - and by this time, it will be very evident that you have this experience and expertise.

Don't settle for the low-paying freelance jobs that ANYONE can do. 


Instead, figure out something unique to offer a specific target market. 


Then aggressively promote your services to this target market.

Try it!

And for more writing tips and resources delivered to your e-mailbox every weekday morning, get your free subscription to The Morning Nudge.

Suzanne Lieurance is a freelance writer, best-selling author of over 40 books, and a writing coach. Check out her weekly group coaching program for writers, The Monday Morning Shove.


I Fought This Writing Responsibility

By W. Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

It was a life-changing moment and a revelation to my writing life. In 2007, I was a literary agent with, the Whalin Literary Agency, a small Arizona-based agency. Mark Victor Hansen, co-author for Chicken Soup for the Soul, invited me to Mega-Book Marketing University in Los Angeles. About 400 people attended this event with well-known speakers over several days. At that point in my writing life, I had written over 50 books for traditional publishers. Two of my book proposals received six-figure advances and publishers made beautiful books and got them into bookstores. Yet my books were not selling and I had the negative royalty statements from my publishers to prove it. 

Throughout the conference, I listened carefully and took notes. One of the speakers was Jack Canfield who had just published The Success Principles. For years he has studied what it takes to be successful and I certainly wanted to be successful as an author. The first of his 64 principles is: “Take 100% Responsibility for Your Life.”

I didn’t want to take 100% responsibility.  I wanted to write the books and then have my publisher sell the books. Wasn’t marketing their responsibility? Didn’t they sell the books into the bookstore? I was writing excellent books and delivering them on deadline and working through each editorial process. But I was doing very little to market the books. I had a single website with my name but no email list, no social media, no blog or other type of writer’s platform. 

At Mega-Book Marketing University, I learned publishers make books and distribute them to bookstores. Here’s what I was missing and I learned: the author drives readers into the bookstore (brick and mortar or online) to buy those books.

Ultimately, the author sells the books to the readers.

Like many writers that I meet, my expectations were unrealistic and I was not taking my responsibility as a writer. I made a decision to change. I started to blog and today my blog has over 1,600 searchable entries in it. In January, I found this article which says of the over 600 million blogs, I was one of The Top 27 Content Writers. I began an email list (which continues to be a unique way to reach my readers).  Also I’m active on social media with over 180,000 Twitter followers and over 19,400 LinkedIn connections. For years, I post on these platforms 12-15 times a day.

If I’m honest, I don’t want 100% responsibility for my own success as a writer. Yet from my decades in publishing, I’ve watched many things go wrong in the publishing process. Good books don’t get marketed and go out of print. Editors change while you are working with a publisher. Those situations are just two of a myriad of things which can push your book off the rails in the wrong direction. I can’t control my publisher, my editor, my agent, my marketing person or ____. But I can control myself and my own efforts.

My acceptance of this responsibility means I have to continually grow and learn as a writer. It means I often take courses or read books and I’m always looking for new ways to build my audience and reach more people.  Thankfully as writers we are not alone. Others have shown us how they have achieved success. This path may work for me or it may not. 

There is no success formula used for every book to make it sell into the hands of readers. Instead there are basic principles others are using to build their audience and find readers. I have one certainty: it will not fly if you don’t try. I continue to take action—and encourage you to do the same. It’s the writer’s journey.


Are you looking for someone else to sell your books? This prolific writer and editor has taken an unusual responsibility. Learn the details here. (ClickToTweet)

W. Terry Whalin, a writer and acquisitions editor lives in
Colorado. A former magazine editor and former literary agent, Terry is an acquisitions editor at Morgan James Publishing. He has written more than 60 nonfiction books including Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams and Billy Graham. Get Terry’s recent book, 10 Publishing Myths for only $10, free shipping and bonuses worth over $200. To help writers catch the attention of editors and agents, Terry wrote his bestselling Book Proposals That $ell, 21 Secrets To Speed Your Success. Check out his free Ebook, Platform Building Ideas for Every Author. His website is located at: Connect with Terry on TwitterFacebook and LinkedIn.

Focus on the Heart Writing


By Deborah Lyn Stanley
As you begin your article, blog post, story, or book, focus on its heart. Heart is what the reader wants and narrowing the focus is great for your writing. Plus, remember this is a draft, we will have ample opportunity to make changes and polish this first draft as we move forward with our piece.

Outlining first, last, or in-between? To outline is often a topic of discussion among writers. A few prepare a rough outline, with some detailing every chapter from the beginning through to the end. Mapping an entire book is rare, though some are successful at this type of  detailing. In my mind, the successful authors of this method have been cooking their book for some time. Their layout steps and the details within them flow more readily!

Since we discover much as we write, it appears the freedom of going with the flow of the story and the main character’s actions is best. I need an outline of some sort, even if it is just some guide points noted for the next day’s scene.

Satisfying stories are character driven: about people, weaknesses and strengths, best moments and failures. These hold interest as we identify with the characters.

It is the same for the writer. As the writer identifies with the character or characters, depending on the length of the project, we have more to say. You will find your voice there too, because the words flow naturally and reflect the writer. The syntax, rhythm, tone and pacing all make up voice. Aim for your natural voice, and you’ve found it!

Reading our work out loud is the hearing test. How about revising while listening to your-own reading of your piece?

Now for some fun story tips:
by Amanda Evans

A Drabble (100 words exactly), Short Fiction (500-1500 words), & Flash Fiction (commonly a 1,000-word limit.) These include a flow of events as beginning, middle, and end. Being acquainted with various structures can help us and resolve expected questions for readers. It’s about assisting the connection of events and noting significant points within the piece.

Seven story structures every writer should know by Reedsy (In essence, structure refers to the order and pacing of the events, a roadmap.) 
Now that we’ve established the most essential components of story, let’s look at seven of the most
popular story structures used by writers — and how they deploy these components.
1.    Freytag's Pyramid
2.    The Hero's Journey
3.    Three Act Structure
4.    Dan Harmon's Story Circle
5.    Fichtean Curve
6.    Save the Cat Beat Sheet
7.    Seven-Point Story Structure

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:


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Empowerment Goals

Empowerment and Fun are like peanut butter and jelly. They are fine solo, but even better together.  Whether you are working on a writing project or building a business, when you empower yourself - and add fun into the mix - you set yourself up for success.

During Women’s History Month in April, I hosted a wonderful #GoalChatLive on Empowerment and Fun with Bryce Batts, Carla Howard, and Deborah Pardes. Bryce Batts is a career coach and host of the Wine After Work podcast, Carla Howard is a change strategist, and Deborah Pardes is VP of Stories and Voices at Swell. The trio shared their own empowerment aha moments, as well as their thoughts on empowering yourself – and others, how to have fun, and much more.

According to my guests, empowerment is helping people find their natural gifts and supporting them (Carla), giving someone the confidence to go after what they want (Bryce), and being able to define your own success and knowing you are worth being listened to (Deborah).

Goals for Empowerment & Fun 

  • Carla: Do one thing for the next 30 days that will make you healthier (drink more water, go for a walk, read). It will positively impact you professionally, as well as personally.
  • Bryce: Write down your goals/dreams. Look at them often.
  • Deborah: Pick a buddy to be your accountability partner.
  • Deb: Gift yourself the time and space to figure out what’s next.
Watch our conversation.

Final Thoughts 

  • Bryce: Try new things; do something fun so you will feel empowered.
  • Deborah: Be easy on yourself.
  • Carla: Surround yourself with kind and ambitious people.
When you empower yourself, and have fun in the process, it shows in everything you do!

* * * 

For more inspiration and motivation, follow @TheDEBMethod on Facebook, Instagram, and Linkedin! 

* * *

How do you empower yourself? 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 goal-strategist, corporate consultant, and project catalyst, Debra offers personal and professional planning, event strategy, and team building for individuals, businesses, and teams. She is also the author of Write On Blogging and Purple Pencil Adventures; founder of Write On Online; 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.

What's New in the Publishing World


What’s New in the Publishing/Writing World
 By Carolyn Howard-Johnson
Author of the multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers


Image Courtesy Amazon's New Buy Page for Series
I know.


You are laughing. Everything is new in the publishing world, and in the last decade it’s moved faster than ever before. That’s probably the biggest reason that Modern History Press is publishing my HowToDoItFrugally Series of books in new editions, including the just-released Third Edition of The Frugal Editor: Do It Yourself Editing Secrets for WritersAnd that means that beyond the basics I had to decide what was new enough (and helpful enough!) for me to include in it. I mean, the second edition was already jam-packed with essentials needed way beyond grammar and craft needed by authors whether they self-publish or publish traditionally.


My publisher swears there is 50% more in the third edition than the second and we won’t even talk about the first! (Once published—gratefully—by Red Engine Press.)


So here is the new stuff that even those who read the second edition will find in this this new one. I hope you’ll find it well worth investing in the ebook. I promise you some surprises:


Why a Third Edition of The Frugal Editor?

It surprises people when they learn that grammar rules change over time. Or that what they learned in high school or advanced grammar classes in college is either passé or may not apply to fiction or to the publishing of books as opposed to the web and other media. It also surprises them to learn that a perfectly edited book is never perfect because there are always so many disagreements among experts. And even experts are often misinformed. Further, as my client base grew, I kept running into common misconceptions and outright annoying style choices that would never fly in the publishing world. Thus, a new edition of The Frugal Editor was a must! So here is a smattering of what is new:

·       The Third Edition has new “Editor’s Extras” based on my own school of hard knocks! (I think you’ll love seeing (and learning from!) the worst mistakes I made with my first publishing effort in spite of years as a journalist, PR professional, and writing instructor!)

·       Authors will love the all-new sections including:

o    Beta readers and peer reviewers

o    What you probably don’t know about custom dictionaries

o    Up-to-date rules for accommodating gender-specific and other cultural needs. I mean, are you using the LGBTQIA2+? When you need to be as politically correct possible? 

o    A chapter for word-lovers and poets

o    Quickie reviews of word processors. They’ve changed a lot over the years.

o    What even traditionally accepted front and back matter can (and can't)  do for your book sales, your career, and your readers

o    How to spot shady publisher scams

o    How and when to go for style choices for your book rather than rules.

·       The Third Edition of The Frugal Editor still includes the basics that make you into an on-your-own editor when you must be. Few writers other than Toni Morrison can afford to hire an editor for every query letter, every media release, every media kit, every blog post. So until your career is so star-studded you can afford a publicist and editor on a retainer basis, writers need to know both the basics of editing and the little-known secrets.

·       The third edition is still loaded with reader favorites like what authors need to know about book covers—but it’s updated!

·       New information helps with oft-misunderstood aspects of publishing like these:

o    Agents are a cantankerous lot. (Nope! In The Frugal Editor, twenty-one of the nation's best tell you their pet peeves and they do it in the best of spirits.)

o    If your English teacher told you something is OK, it is. (Language has changed since you were a sophomore. And your English teachers likely have no background in publishing, so apart from basic grammar, how much help can they be?

o    If a manuscript or query is grammar-perfect, you'll be fine. (No! Lots of things that are grammatically correct annoy publishers.)

o    Always use your Spell and Grammar Checker. (No! Some suggest you don't use it at all, but The Frugal Editor helps you make it your partner instead of your enemy.)

o    Your publisher will assign a top-flight editor. (Maybe, but don't count on it. The more you know, the better partner you’ll be for an editor!)

o    Formatters and editors will take care of the hyphens, ellipses, and all the other grungy little punctuation that English teachers avoid 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!)


More About Today’s Contributor


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. Both the first and second editions of The Frugal Book Promoter and The Frugal Editor are multi award-winners. The latter is her winningest book which includes awards from USA Book News, Readers’ Views Literary Award, the marketing award from Next Generation Indie Books and others including the coveted Irwin award. Her third book in the HowToDoItFrugally Series is How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically. It was released to acclaim from The Midwest Book Review and others.


“Careers that are not fed die as readily as any living organism given no sustenance.

Carolyn Howard-Johnson,

Website     Blog
E-mail: HoJoNews  @ AOL.  dot   com        Amazon Profile and Book List

Are Secondary Characters Needed?


Contributed by Karen Cioffi, 

Before I get into whether secondary characters are necessary, it’d be a good idea to become familiar with what secondary characters are and what they do.

A secondary character is any character in the story aside from the protagonist (main character) and the antagonist (villain or force in opposition to the protagonist).

As a side note, an antagonist doesn’t have to be a character. It can be an internal emotional or mental problem. Or, it can be an external force, such as a category 4 hurricane, that the protagonist must prepare for or fight to survive.

It’s important to mention also that there are two categories or ‘subclasses’ of secondary characters:

1. The supporting character.

A supporting character is a substantial part of your story. This character is part of the protagonist’s life and is usually there throughout the story helping move the story forward.

An example of this is Chen from Walking Through Walls. Wang is the protagonist, and Chen is his best friend. Wang bounces many of his problems off Chen, and Chen advises him. Chen is the voice of reason and calm, while Wang ‘wants what he wants’ and is impatient.

This friendship is an essential part of the story. It’s part of what makes Wang choose one course of action over another in the end.

Sometimes supporting characters can have their own subplot. Using Walking Through Walls again, Chen was chosen by his village to become an Eternal apprentice. His village was invaded by neighboring warriors, and his younger sister was abducted.

Supporting characters can be a catalyst for the direction the story takes.

Chen’s backstory also plays a part in the direction Wang takes in his character arc.

Along with this, supporting characters are essential to a book series.

Think of just about any series on TV (old or new): The Big Bang Theory; Superman; NCIS; Castle; The X-Files; even the MythBusters. You expect to see the supporting cast. You’d be disappointed if you didn’t see them.

2. The minor character.

A minor character is someone who may make a brief appearance in the story or is in the background throughout. This character gives the story more authenticity and dimension. There will most likely be various minor characters throughout a book.

For example, Wang and Chen are in an apprenticeship with other students in Walking Through Walls. These students help create a dimensional world for the story. But, while they exist and are mentioned here and there, they aren’t essential to the story.

A great example of a minor character is the taxi driver, Sylvester, from the, 1947 movie, “The Bishop’s Wife”. Sylvester was only in a couple of scenes, but he was memorable while adding nothing more than humor to those particular scenes.

Summing it Up

Getting back to the title question of whether supporting characters are important to stories, they are. They are an essential part of every story.

This post was originally published at
Secondary Characters – Are They Important?


Karen Cioffi
is an award-winning children’s author, and children’s ghostwriter, rewriter (editor), and coach with clients worldwide. She is also the founder and editor-in-chief of Writers on the Move, and an author online platform instructor.

Karen’s children’s books include “Walking Through Walls” and “The Case of the Plastic Rings,” and her DIY book, “How to Write Children’s Fiction Books.” You can check them out at:

If you need help with your children’s story, visit:  

Tips for Creating Subplots in Middle Grade Novels

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