Reach More Readers: Go Bilingual

Soon my picture book, Tall Boots, will be
available in English and Spanish

By Linda Wilson  @LinWilsonauthor

While presenting programs about stories from my books at schools and libraries, I’ve gotten to know many students and teachers, some from EL (English Learner) classrooms. The EL students’ reading needs are being addressed with dual language books, or side-by-side books, for ages K-12. Many more books are needed. My experience could be because I live in the American Southwest—New Mexico. But the need is more widespread than that. According to the article in My Class Tracks, “How Many People Speak Spanish in the US in 2023:” As of 2022, around 42.5 million individuals in the US speak Spanish as their native tongue, accounting for 13.4% of the total population. Additionally, there are 12.2 million bilingual Spanish speakers living in the US.” I think we can all agree that this number will only grow.

The Need is Strong

Dual language books, also called side-by-side books, parallel texts, parallel textbooks, or interlinear books, are books that offer “two different languages on the same page with the second language being a translation (comparison) of the first.” 

According to the article, “The Case for Bilingual Books: 4 Ways Dual-Language Books Can Boost Biliteracy in Young Children,” by Melissa Taylor, March 18, 2021, in  the English learner (EL) student population is surging. “Parents are searching for ways to promote their heritage language, the language their children speak at home with them.” Taylor goes on to write, promoting a child’s language spoken at home “is not easy because, as many immigrant parents know, students lose their heritage language skills soon after starting school . . . Studies show that if the heritage language is not supported in school and at home, children can lose their ability to communicate in their first language within two to three years of starting school.” And most important to children’s authors, she writes: “Studies—backed by my first-hand experience—show that bilingual books are a critical tool.”

Where do we Come in?

What better way to meet the needs of EL students than to offer our books to them in both English and Spanish? If you need to find a translator, there are many companies that offer translation services to choose from. You can find these companies by googling, “Where to find Spanish speaking translators for my children’s book.” The cost, according to Google, is anywhere from $0.08 to $0.18 per word.

A guide book, “Your Helpful Guide to Book Translation,” offers advice on how to translate a book:

  • Establish an end goal—Why translate your book into another language?
  • Determine your target market.
  • Hire a professional translation service.
  • Have your book edited and proofread.

In my case, I was fortunate enough to meet a middle school teacher whose first language is Spanish. She agreed to translate my picture book, Tall Boots, as a first project. If we succeed, we will work together on all my books. 

A friend, who is fluent in Spanish, suggested that I have our translation reviewed and possibly edited by a professor at the University of New Mexico, or another expert in the field, for Spanish grammar, as she said Spanish grammar is tricky. 

The company, 1000 Storybooks, that has formatted and illustrated Tall Boots and my latest picture book, Cradle in the Wild, has agreed to take on this project. They will create a new picture book to include Spanish text, using the original artwork in the current edition of Tall Boots.

If you don’t know Spanish, don’t let that stop you. I don’t know Spanish myself. I do believe that our bilingual books will be welcomed, and that we will be able to find help reading the Spanish texts to students from the teachers, teachers’ assistants, and even the students themselves. Just think how many more students our books can reach when offered in English and Spanish. And how many more students will enjoy our stories and learn the message that our books send. 



Linda shares her picture book, A Packrat's Holiday:
Thistletoe's Gift, at a presentation in
Alamogordo, New Mexico
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

Celebrating the 3rd Edition of The Frugal Editor with a List of Resources

Recommended Reading, Listening,
 And Help from 
The Frugal Editor

By Carolyn Howard-Johnson


   I am celebrating the release of the third edition of the second book in my HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for Writers with peek at the Appendics for visitors to Karen Cioffi’s #WritersontheMove blog. It’s a list of recommended reading for authors, some of them oldies but goodies, some new. It is a way to express gratitude and underscore my belief that reading one book on any how-to topic for the publishing industry is never enough because there is no more frugal way for a newbie to learn more about a new career. A great book with notes in the margins is much, much less expensive that classes from respected writers’ schools. And there is no better way than to learn more about publishing than from experts who have been there, done that, and care enough to have taken time from that trajectory to share with other authors.


In the Appendix of The Frugal Editor, you'll also find lists of the agents who contributed to the chapters on writing picture-perfect query letters, a short list of common errors, sample query letters, sample cover letters and even writing aids. Here are some recommended books, books I have read and found something new and important for my work in progress (WIP) or surviving the expectations of the traditional world of publishing. The editing process can be so much fun it become as addictive as chewing gum. Like chewing gum, there are some great benefits.



Lapsing Into a Coma: A Curmudgeon's Guide to the Many Things That Can Go Wrong in Print--And How to Avoid Them, by Bill Walsh.



Barbara McNichol, editor and writer, was introduced earlier in this book. Learn more about her at


Dr. Bob Rich, an Aussie who can bring a worldwide sensibility for the English language to titles that would benefit from that expertise. Find him on Twitter @bobswriting.


Grammar and Style

AP Stylebook by Associated Press. This is the better of two major stylebooks for those who write for newspapers and other print and online media.


Bryson's Dictionary of Troublesome Words: A Writer's Guide to Getting It Right, by Bill Bryson.


Chicago Manual of Style by the University of Chicago Press Staff. It’s the go-to source for authors of books as opposed to online or print media.


Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation, by Lynne Truss. For the author who doesn’t mind following strict grammar rules assiduously.


Far From the Madding Gerund, by Geoffrey K. Pullum et al. Those of you who are thinking what the heck is a gerund? are the ones who should be reading this.


Garner's Modern American Usage, by Bryan A. Garner, is complete and excellent for Americans. Choose the more formal style choices this book offers to avoid riling the ire of gatekeepers like agents and publishers. 

Grammar Snobs Are Big Meanies: Guide to Language for Fun & Spite, by June Casagrande. Use this book when you want to argue with an editor, not when you want to impress one. A more formal tome for that purpose is The New Fowler's Modern English Usage (Fowler and Burchfield)It isn't nearly as entertaining, however. And authors (as compared to freelance writers) probably won’t learn as much from it.


The American Heritage Book of the English Language is available only in hardcover and is expensive, but you’ll find features in it you love.


Perrin and Smith Handbook of Current English has been around so long you might find it in a used bookstore. When you’ve read it, you’ll know the difference between temerity and timidity—or at least know to look them up. “Half knowing a word may be more dangerous than not knowing it at all” is the kind of truth you’ll find within its pages.


The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language. A classic.


The Elements of Style, Fourth Edition, by William Strunk Jr. , E. B. WhiteRoger Angell. Do not read this until you fully understand the difference between a style book and a book of grammar basics.


The Describer's Dictionary: A Treasury of Terms & Literary Quotation, by David Grambs. Keep this one forever and add your own notes when you visit museums and other places where you might encounter words you don’t know.


Craft of Writing

Writing Dialogue by Tom Chiarella is a must-read because poor dialogue technique is a glaring tip-off to editors and publishers that a manuscript is written by a beginner who has not taken the time to learn our craft. Mini review from me: This book has everything you’ll ever need to know about writing dialogue.


Writing for Emotional Impact: Advanced Dramatic Techniques to Attract, Engage, and Fascinate the Reader from Beginning to End, by Karl Iglesias. Authors of books can learn a lot from great screenplays. 


Custom Dictionaries

Many professional organizations will share their print conventions with authors—from medical terms to lists of shady trees. Just ask. 


You’ll find my recommendations for frugal learning for other aspects of publishing in all the books in my HowToDoItFrugally SeriesToday we’re celebrating the release of The Frugal Editor’s third edition and, because blog posts must be more limited that books, it is only a taste of the resources you will find in it.) Nevertheless, a good place to start is to subscribe to this blog so you get their articles directly to your email box and when they arrive do a search using each contributors names. Most of them have at least one how-to book for you to consider.



Carolyn and her husband Lance edit
his how-to book for immigrants.

          That would be me, as well as the name of the book I am celebrating today. In its first edition The Frugal Editor (the book) was subtitled Put Your Best Foot Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success. I wrote it because I needed a text for the class on editing I would soon be teaching for UCLA Extension’s Writers’ Program. At that time (2007), available books on editing didn’t cover what all writers needed including self-publishers. It turned out to be the winningest book in my series of books for writers. 

I also write fiction and poetry and I think my favorite award for them was an honorable mention from Writer’s Digest for my first full book of poetry, ImperfectEchoesI love #sharingwithwriters as a presenter and with visitors who frequent blogs like this one. So this bio comes with huge thanks to Karen Cioffi, owner of this Writers on the Move and many others who are celebrating with me.

3 Reasons You Need a Blog if You're a Children's Writer

by Suzanne Lieurance

Many children's authors have websites these days.

But not all of them have a blog.

Yet, whether you're a world-famous children's author, or you're just starting to write for kids, you gotta have a blog.


Because a blog will:

1. Help you get in the habit of writing regularly.

And even the posts to your blog should be well-written with a little pizazz—which will be excellent writing practice and help you become a more disciplined writer since you'll want to post to your blog at least once a week or preferably 3 to 5 times a week.

2. Help you establish an online readership.

You'll be providing readers with helpful and/or interesting information each time you post to your blog.

Information people will begin to look forward to reading on a regular basis.

If you're an established children's book author, children and adults who read your books will look to your blog to find out what's new with you.

They'll want to know your current writing project(s), new books you have coming out soon, and information about author visits you might offer to schools, libraries, etc.

And, if you use your blog to build a mailing list, you will be able to contact people on your list, so they can preorder an upcoming book, or be the first to know where you will be doing a book signing or other event.

It's too difficult to keep a website updated on a daily basis with this kind of information, but it's easy to update your blog.

3. Help you establish yourself as expert in the world of children's writing and publishing.

Even before you are published, you can interview more experienced children's writers and post these interviews to your blog or write reviews of new children's books.

This information will tell readers you know "what's what" in the world of children's publishing, and it will make you more credible to editors and agents, too.

These are just a few of the many reasons to start blogging if you're a children's writer.

Try it!

For more writing tips and resources, get your free subscription to The Morning Nudge at

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

Learn more about her products and services at

Should I Self-Publish?


By W. Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

I could see the resolution in the eyes of this author across the table from me when she said, “I’m going to self-publish.” 

We were meeting at a conference (pre-pandemic) and talking about her manuscript. I liked the shape of her proposal, her title and the energy that she had put into her book idea. In just a few minutes, I could see the potential. I acquire or find books for one of the top independent publishers. We spent the next few minutes exploring why she wanted to self-publish. I’ve heard these words from other authors:

“Everyone is doing it.”

“Isn’t this the best way for any author to get started in publishing?”

“I want to get it out quickly while the market is hot for my topic.”

“I don’t want to give up my rights to a publisher (and the control).”

Without a doubt, no matter what direction you decide to publish, just entering the field is challenging. I’ve been working with books for decades and yes, every book is filled with unique challenges.

Before you take the leap into self-publishing, I encourage you to move forward armed with a bit of reality: “According to the latest Bowker data (Publishers Weekly, February 20, 2023), 2.3 million books were self-published in the US in 2021, which was the third year in a row that more than two million books were self-published. This is the number of new titles that received an ISBN from Bowker. Several years ago Bowker stopped releasing the numbers of new titles that were not self-published, but a recent industry estimate is that each year “between 500,000 to 1 million . . . new titles are published through traditional publishers” Here’s where I got this information with much more detail: The 10 Awful Truths about Book Publishing.

Anyone with a computer (and everyone has a computer) feels like they can get a book published.  I understand some of their motivations. I often tell authors that making books is easy. Now selling those books you make—that is a completely different story. Statistics have proven the average self-published book sells 100-250 copies during the lifetime of the book.

Many companies are happy to take your money and make books (and a number of those companies are scams). In fact a prominent large Christian publisher has a self-publishing imprint. I’ve seen some poorly created books from this publisher. While on the surface it looks like an “easy” way to get published. The reality is something quite different. You are not really working with that publisher (giving money to them for the referral yes). In the production, you will be working with people in the Philippines (part of why you speak with a different person each time). The books will not be sold inside any brick and mortar bookstores (poorly distribution—a key consideration). And, the parent company (something they will not tell you about) has many different imprints and produces over 20,000 books a year (anything from poetry to porn). Yes, these companies are a scam preying on uneducated writers. I’ve met several authors who have unnecessarily spent $20,000 with such companies which is tragic because they will never sell enough books to recover such an investment.

To be fair, every publisher has unhappy authors and complaints. It’s part of the publishing landscape. Yet some companies have many complaints which should be a red flag to potential authors. 

One of the best ways to learn about complaints is to use Google and type in “NAMEOFPUBLISHER + complaint” and see what you learn.  Ask questions about what you discover and listen to the answers. Occasionally I field complaints about Morgan James and have answers but authors have to take the initiative and ask questions (your responsibility).

From my experience, the best publishing involves working with a team and involves cooperation, give and take. To get this experience, you have to write a book proposal. I believe even if you self-publish, you should write a proposal because this document will become your business plan or blueprint for your book. To help writers, I wrote Book Proposals That $ell. Writers have used my book to get an agent, get an advance and much more.

Or you can write an excellent manuscript and skip the proposal if you send the book to me for possible publishing. For eleven years, I’ve been working with one of the top independent publishers (Christian owners but not all Christian books). Our books have been on the Wall Street Journal bestseller list over 100 times. This fact alone demonstrates broad distribution not just online but selling in brick and mortar bookstores.

On the surface, publishing looks simple but in reality is complex with many decisions and variables. I encourage you to watch this 36-minute video master class where New York Times bestselling author Jerry B. Jenkins asked me a number of questions—including about publishing. Keep learning all you can from every possible source and reach out to me if I can help you.


Everyone is self-publishing. Should you? This prolific writer and editor gives his insider’s perspective. 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.

Purposeful Writing


Purposeful Writing: Use Freewriting by Deborah Lyn Stanley

Purposeful writing is knowing why we are writing and who we wish to serve. What is special about our writing that readers can’t just get from the next blogger?

At a loss of what to write? Need to generate ideas? Or, do you want to tell your message in a unique way? I suggest you consider freewriting the topic you have chosen, or one that is your favorite. Make a list of prompts for yourself to use for freewriting, and several photos that tell a story.

Start writing and watch the topic come alive!

Once we have our article drafted, we’ll review it for clarity, grammar improvements, plus description changes to stronger verbs and nouns. Read it aloud. Consider any changes you wish to make to the point of view.

Let’s take a closer look at how to use freewriting to inspire your article or story:
1) Choose prompts that kindle your writing, be it a word, a phrase, or a poem that stirs up a memory or your imagination.
2) Make it fiction, a true story, or part of a memoir.
3) All freewrites are good, there is never a perfect freewrite!
4) Write whatever comes to your mind. It doesn’t have to make sense, just keep writing for ~20 minutes. Write the story you see in your mind’s eye.
5) You are writing for yourself as a starting point for your topic, then you will develop the topic it to get your message across and flowing.

More info about freewriting:

The Write Spot – Jumpstart Program  (See the “Blog” for prompts)

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:   
Visit her caregiver’s website:

Mom & Me: A Story of Dementia and the Power of God’s Love is available:
on Amazon

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Carolyn Howard-Johnson Gives Writers Nine Reasons To Love Amazon

Nine Big Reasons To Learn To Love Amazon

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


Remember the little greeting card girl who looked like Pipi Longstockings? She put her hands on her hips, stamped her little foot, glowered out of the card at her audience and said “Get Over It!” That’s a little like I feel when I hear an author complain about Amazon. Not that I don’t understand their complaints, even sometimes agree with them. What worries me is that sometimes these authors resort to boycotting Amazon which leads to their selling their books out of their garages…or worse. Though what you might have heard about Amazon may be true, but we authors still need to take the advice of Pipi’s look-alike and “get over it.” For the good of our books. If you are one of those authors, here’s why Amazon is good for your book and by extension, good for your peace of mind, and, yes, good for your book sales


1.     Amazon sells far and away more books than any other online 
bookstore. And far and away more books than all traditional bookstores in the US combined.

2.     Amazon provides easily accessed associate sites from Japan to the UK that let you sell your books overseas—even if you haven’t sold foreign rights to your book.

3.     Amazon provides a search engine arguably second only to Google’s—especially if you view this statistic from the standpoint of an author or publisher. Your prospective reader can find you by typing your name, title, or important key words like your genre into the search window.

4.     Promotion packages like Amazon’s Vine Program are available for getting reviewed by their top reviewers. Some are free, some are costly, but they all work.

5.     Amazon offers an author profile. You can even feed your blog and Twitter stream to it and so your readers know more about you instantly. If you don’t have a profile page, go to and explore how you can add all your books to it and a knock-out biography, too.


Tip: I include a shortened URL in my e-mail signature that takes my contacts directly to my Amazon author profile.


6.     Amazon offers all kinds of ways to promote your book on a dedicated buy page where your readers get to buy your book, often with one click. That page includes:

o    Add-on features that let you highlight your credentials by choosing the best categories and subcategories for Amazon’s logarithms to find and rate your sales numbers against other similar books. (To make the most of these, the author must promote bestselling ratings when they achieve them—perhaps on Twitter.)

o    A new feature is available on your Kindle buy page. It is called “Amazon Plus.” Either the author of a book or its publisher may add five enticing quotations from your book and illustrate each with an arresting image of your choice for entry. Find the A+ entries my publisher (Modern History Press) added for the Kindle version of The Frugal Editor or any of the other books in my HowToDoItFrugally series to get ideas for your own book(s). (It works equally well for books of fiction.)

o    There is a place on your buy page to install an author- or book- related video.

o    The “What other customers buy after they’ve reviewed this item…” feature may feel uncomfortably competitive, but it connects your book to other top sellers on Amazon as well as others’ books to yours.


7.   7.  Amazon’s Kindle Select marketing program is free if you can see your way to committing your book as an Amazon exclusive for ninety days. After that period is up, you can publish at Smashwords or anywhere else you want to and you can make marketing hay with the Select program when your book is released.

8.    8. Amazon offers an annual contest for e-books in partnership with some of the biggest names in publishing.

9.   9.  When you publish new editions, Amazon offers a widget (gadget) for your backlist book’s buy page that directs readers to your new editions. See how one leads you from the second edition of my The Frugal Editorto the new third edition at my buy page. (Find it a little below the title of the book at the top of the page.


Tip: You may enter some typical “back of the book” features on your buy page yourself. That includes the more about the author, your favorite review, and more. Do watch this important page for changes. Amazon adds features to it and also taketh away. (It’s also the place that lists your book sales ratings. 


Don’t Forget: When your book becomes a bestseller in the ratings (or highly rated in its genre!) that news can become highly convincing marketing material for your book. You’ll find a screen shot of one of the ratings Modern History Press recently made for me during the release of the third edition of The Frugal Editor at the top of this blog page.


About the Guest Blogger


Cover image supplied by Amazon on their new Series Page


Carolyn Howard-Johnson is a frequent contributor to this #WritersontheMove blog. Her The Frugal Editorwas just released in its third edition from Modern History Press. It is the second multi award-winning book in her multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers. Find it on Amazon in paper, hard cover, or as an e-book at the new Amazon page especially for series . (That’s a new Amazon feature, too!) This new edition has been fully updated including a chapter on how backmatter can be extended to both help readers and jumpstart book sales.

If you liked this post, you’ll find more on marketing books in the third edition of Carolyn’s The Frugal Book Promoterthe flagship book in her how-to series for writers.

Nourishment Goals

Nourishment Goals

As a writer it's essential to keep yourself balanced, this includes nourishment in your fuel, relationships, surroundings, and work. Achieving your goals expert Debra Eckerling offers help.
It's important to set nourishment goals. When you nourish yourself - mind, body, and spirit - you are way more productive. 

In April, I had a wonderful conversation about Nourishment with Natasha Feldman, Nosh With Tash and author of The Dinner Party Project; Michal Levison, a speaker, cookbook author, and founder of Seasoned Moments; and Nicky Pitman, Director of Shemesh Farms, a social enterprise that offers community and employment for those with diverse abilities. 

Natasha, Michal, and Nicky talked about their connection to food, the relationship between nourishment and community, how they nourish themselves, and much more.

Nourishment is "being able to live a life that’s fueled by your community," Natasha says. According to Michal, "You don’t sit down to eat vitamins and minerals; you sit down to enjoy a meal. Nourishment is the holistic view of how food makes you feel." Nourishment is "what fills you, what fuels you," Nicjy believes.

Nourishment Goals 

  • Natasha: Set up a dinner party. Make it monthly/weekly! 
  • Nicky: Go outside and take a breath – breathe deep, long, and take a moment to feel the elements. Do it daily-ish or multiple times a day. 
  • Michal: Try to take a lunch break every day! Step away from your work and sit at a table, preferably with another human being. Spend 20-30 minutes or longer. Take mindful bites. Build up to a daily routine.

Watch our conversation.

Final Thoughts 

  • Michal: Savor all the moments; you can savor a meal, a conversation, a relationship. It’s an important way to get in touch with gratitude. 
  • Nicky: Stay open to what nourishes you, and allow what nourishes you to change. 
  • Natasha: Food – like everything else you do in life – should be fun. Enjoy it!
Nourishment comes in many forms. And proper nourishment starts with taking the time to refill your mind, body, and spirit.

* * * 

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

* * *

How do you nourish 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  #GoalChatLive aka The DEB Show podcast and Taste Buds with Deb. She speaks on the subjects of writing, networking, goal-setting, and social media.

Author Lessons from the Past: Oprah's Book Club



Lessons from the Past


When Oprah Tolled the Bell for Her

Book Club 



By Carolyn Howard-Johnson


Once upon a time not so very long ago,news reverberated not only through the literary book community but throughout the entire book world. The first message I read was cryptic: Oprah would no longer recommend book titles on a monthly basis. I was devastated.  I wanted to know more.

I turned to The New York Times.

Oprah was quoted: “It has become harder and harder to find books on a monthly basis that I feel absolutely compelled to share…”  Now I was just plain confused.

Did Oprah mean it was harder because there are none out there to choose from? 

I can’t believe that. If rumors are true, her slush pile makes Mt. McKinley look puny. I visualize two floors of readers in a building the size Grand Central Station. Toiling nearby are young lit majors all, feverishly combing through what they “think” might impress Oprah enough for them to submit a recommendation. I see them as incredibly eager to please and not too keen on making mistakes; they naturally turn more and more to the recommendations of the time-honored publishing houses and reviewers and everyone knows those guys haven’t taken any risks on new authors for at least a couple of decades.

This of course, is my opinion, but I think if readers go back over her selections for the last few months before she quit way back then they might smell the same stagnant book-breath that I have: Jonathan Franzen of New Yorker, he of “most ungrateful artist of the year” fame, is among those chosen. So are at least three titles by Toni Morrison, at least two by Bill Cosby. Others include the totally “unknown names” of those times—Joyce Carol Oates, Isabel Allende, Maeve Binchy, Elizabeth Berg and Barbara Kingsolver. And, yes, those quotation marks connote irony. 

At first—you know—when it was easy to find “good” books—Oprah’s picks were authors of little renown. She chose novelists with important things to say and a unique way of saying them and didn’t give a T-tinkers darn who published the book or if the author’s name was known to anybody. It is said that her well-intentioned program became inundated with hopefuls. So are those the authors that come in such short supply these days of the indie-author craze? 

I’m sorry. I get diverted. I was saying that I am confused. Was finding a good book with a literary slant harder because books that fit Oprah’s priorities were becoming rarer? I happen to know that several large publishers of the time (then called embarrassingly “vanity” publishers, a term that reeks of #bookbigotry!) were flooding her offices with boxes full of their mostly poorly edited books as part of a “promotional program” they charged unsuspecting authors upward of $300 to present to her. It was unlikely, but there might have been a real diamond among the unformed hunks of carbon in those boxes! Unformed hunks with poorly designed covers by the cartsful would not have attract her attention or even the attentions of her those assigned to find the best available in the pool of new talent. 

To my knowledge, Oprah did not open those boxes. I certainly hope she did not mean that books of worth were not out there, then or now. I prefer to believe—after all, she has done for readin’ and writin’—that she is saying that her book selection program got out of hand. It was too expensive, to unwieldy, too fraught with personalities and personal agendas–to put up with it anymore. That is what I hope she was saying.

The reason I long for that interpretation is that I think she was doing the right thing and I would like the literary world to focus on that, not on the idea that she has no confidence in America’s pool of new talent. I would like the publishers and reviewers and readers to consider what she may very have well seen for herself—that the club had, in the last few months, lost the discovery quality it once had. It certainly wasn’t only the Franzen snafu. Each time a new selection was announced, I rather absently wondered where all the new blood, the new themes, the special warmth had gone. Her choices seemed to throw up the bylines of those we had already seen, those who needed no more  exposure than they already had (see the list above). It had been a long time since an obscure press or name appeared on her list and I don’t think it is because none of them had published worthy books.

In other words, Oprah was selecting books that her audience needed no “help” in finding. These were books that would have made it to the New York Times list on the momentum of their authors’ names and their publishers’ names alone—no help was needed from Oprah, thank you.

So if the expense and red tape of Oprah’s program got out of hand, and the service she was providing was deteriorating to more of the same provided by every other top ten list in the country, then she exercised the same savvy aptitude for decision making that has propelled her to the top of her field. If she is saying, “This is enough. It isn’t doing what it is supposed to do,” then I applaud her.

Trouble is, the industry missed Oprah and so do those few outstanding authors out there twisting in the wind—the ones who, without the Book Club’s support (as it was originally conceived)—will never, ever be discovered. 

I understand Oprah is back again, though it doesn’t seem she is as active as she was. Let’s just say she may have missed the best time to shoutout the good books that might have done some great good in trying times. Or we can say that what has been said before. American Greed got the best of us. We are all at fault. Desperate authors looking for the easiest way to be recognized. Celebrities like Oprah doing the best they could but missing the perseverance quotient. And some really spammy publishers who finished off the glowing possibilities of discovery we all hoped for. 


More About This #WritersontheMove Contributor

Carolyn Howard-Johnson brings her experience as a publicist, journalist, marketer, editor, 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. She is celebrating the release of the third edition of “The Frugal Editor” in her HowToDoItFrugally Series of books published by Modern History Press, with more on the way. The first and second editions of that book won awards from USA Book News, Readers’ Views Literary Award, the marketing award from Next Generation Indie Books and the coveted Irwin award. The new edition is full of updates and the stuff the publishing world keep throwing at us authors--the new stuff you need to know. She loves #SharingwithWriters anywhere she can find them. Thank you, #WritersontheMove! 



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