Build Your Brand


Contributed by Margot Conor

While you are writing your novel, or even when it is just an idea in your head, start to build your brand. Research your genre niche. Put in a little time each day to seek out other authors who write in your genre and in the style you admire. Study what they communicate to their readers. Look at the websites those authors have created. Imagine who your ideal readers are and create a brand for them.

This is the key to everything, it is not for you, it’s for your readers, your fans. Everything you create is for them.

What is a brand?

This is your identity as a writer. It involves more than what you write. It is also about the visual presentation you create. Your online presence needs to be carefully crafted to present who you are. The images, backgrounds, typeface, the colors you choose the logo or banner you create.

It is all about creating a mood and evoking an emotion. Your style should be genre-specific and carefully crafted to appeal to your audience. People are visually stimulated; it’s why good covers sell more books.

You need to entice your readers with visual information which draws them into the world you’ve created. Do this magic in all the places where your author’s presence is available.

Potential readers or agents need to be able to find you when they do a Google search with your author’s name. The wider your presence the more professional you look. The more established your platform is, and the more engaged followers you have, the better. That is your goal.

How do you find engagement?

It may surprise you, but it’s not only by talking about your projects, or the book you just released. And it’s not only talking about your writing and marketing process.

Your fans will want to know who is behind the creation, and what you care about.

So, what you can offer in way of encouragement or advice from your personal experience about issues that others are curious or concerned about?

 Show your excitement or concern for topics that matter to you and them.

Make posts about things that you want to learn or have learned. Ask your audience questions and let them know their opinion matters to you.

Look for insights from more knowledgeable authors or experts. In this way, you will organically grow your audience and find a like-minded cohort of authors and readers.


Margot Conor has been writing for as long as she can remember, but it wasn't until the COVID lock-down that she had enough time to dedicate to the craft and bring something to completion. Having finished her first novel, she went through the grueling two-year process of editing. Now she has jumped into the author's world with both feet. She's preparing to debut her first novel, which means learning how to promote it. The last year has been spent attending many writing retreats, seminars, and writers' events. She also listened to presentations specifically on the topic of publishing and book marketing. She will be sharing what she learns with the reader.
Learn more about Margot at


Considering Both the Downsides and Upsides of Writing Reviews

Dear Writers on the Move Readers,


I am busily rewriting my How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically for a second edition from Modern History Press and ran across this short section I thought Karen Cijoffi’s subscribers and visitors should see before its release—especially since I benefitted in so many ways with the new addition to that book. It’s the part about using the reviewing portion of my marketing to access tradeshows and expos. At any rate, here is that excerpt. It is by no means the complete section on this topic; you get an advance peek. But if you follow me on Amazon’s Profile Page (they also call it an “Author Page”), you’ll be notified when it is released. 


You’ll love my list of what I call the “supermedia” for writers in that book, too.  (That the part of the media  that so many industry gatekeepers rely on for up-to-date publishing news.) No matter how we authors decide to use reviews, we all need lots of them—preferably the ones published in the most credible journals—as our books are released and beyond.

Very Best,


The first edition of How To Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically; 
thanks to reader Joy V. Smith for her Post-it Note image.


Consider Both the Downsides and Upsides of Writing Reviews

By Carolyn Howard-Johnson

Adapted from the coming second edition 

How To Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically


Before you decide to use reviews as an integral part of your book’s marketing campaign or making them an income stream for your writing career, take a exactly two minute to read this little post. Mary Gannon, deputy editor of Poets & Writers Magazine, says reviewers take “a lot of heat…for some free books, a few bucks, and a byline.” However, it’s usually only the most famous reviewers who are disparaged for their criticism and usually only the radical or caustic ones at that.


Many authors worry about lawsuits. They also worry about tax collectors since the books that reviewers get free must be claimed as taxable income. (Check with your tax accountant.) Neither threat is going to disappear, but you can help protect yourself from both by using a disclaimer in your review. The disclaimer might be official sounding or more casual. Something like this:


“Just so you know, I received a book (or e-book) in exchange for an unbiased and fair review. No fee was charged the author or the publisher.”


Reviewing others’ books does make a nice income stream for you because you’re probably already doing a lot of reading, anyway. With a little research you can pitch the marketing departments of publishers to review new releases you’d probably read anyway. (If you do, don’t be afraid to tactfully ask for paper ARCs if that’s your preference.) 


You can also ask publishers or online review sites you frequently review for frequently to write a recommendation for you represent them at expos and tradeshows you’d like to attend. That can save you the cost of an entrance fee and get you access to their media (press) rooms. Having a representative at these expos benefits them, too. You can hand out their  business cards (and yours!) to people you meet who might be interested in their review site and your badge will let you place a supply of their media kits to be distributed in those media rooms. (Do a search on “tradeshows” to read the parts in this book (the soon to be published How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically) where I discuss some of my experiences with this benefit.)


Here’s the nicest thing about making a review-writing decision: You don’t have to make a choice. You can have it all. You can write for pay sometimes as a legitimate freelancer for the media. You can write reviews to boost your brand sometimes. You can write a review as a gift for  authors you know or for authors whose work inspires you. Call the latter the golden-rule choice. The do-unto-others choice. The Karma choice.


Notice I did not suggest you start a business that sells reviews directly to publishers and authors. I cover that elsewhere in this book, but if you aren’t already aware of it—reviews paid for by anyone associated with the book are considered unethical for both the payer and the payee. It’s about credibility. It’s about keeping reviews believable. To put it more bluntly, it’s about avoiding anything that smacks of bribery or payola. 



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 both the third editions of both The Frugal Book Promoter and her winningest book, The Frugal Editor. They have won awards from USA Book News, Readers’ Views Literary Award, Dan Poynter’s Global Ebook Award, the marketing award from Next Generation Indie Books and others including the coveted Irwin award. How To Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically is still in its first edition but is being updated to include important information on artificial intelligence considerations.


Howard-Johnson is the recipient of the California Legislature’s Woman of the Year in Arts and Entertainment Award, and her community’s Character and Ethics award for her work promoting tolerance with her writing. She was also named to Pasadena Weekly’s list of “Fourteen San Gabriel Valley women who make life happen” and was given her community’s Diamond Award for Achievement in the Arts. 


The author loves to travel. She has visited ninety-one countries and has studied writing at Cambridge University in the United Kingdom; Herzen University in St. Petersburg, Russia; and Charles University, Prague. She admits to carrying a pen and journal wherever she goes. Her website is

Pitching Goals

It may be summer - and baseball season - but that's not the kind of pitching I am talking about.

Pitching - sharing your ideas, books, expertise in an effective and persuasive manner - is essential, no matter what your business. On a recent GoalChat, I discussed Pitching with Dave Bricker, Paula Rizzo, and Michael Roderick. Dave Bricker is a Business Storytelling Expert, Speakipedia; Paula is a Media Consultant and Trainer, Listful Living; and Michael is a Connector, Small Pond Enterprises. The trio shared what is pitching … and what it is not. Dave, Paula, and Michael also talked about how to create a pitch, as well as what it takes for you and your pitch to stand out and succeed.

What Goes into a Pitch 

  • Paula: The hook, the twist, and the takeaway 
  • Michael: Accessibility, influence, and memorability 
  • Dave: A pitch is a CAST Call: Conflict, agitation, solution, transformation, and then a call to action

Watch Our Conversation:


  • Dave: Stop talking about yourself and start talking about the person you are serving
  • Paula: Make a list of the questions you are always answering; a pitch is not about what you know, it’s what others care about 
  • Michael: Step out of the longest line; those are full of the people who do not think they have a shot and getting access. Instead, find innovative ways to do the outreach; you never know the amazing results waiting for you
No matter what your genre, format, or expertise, being able to pitch yourself to publications, audiences, and decision-makers is a skill that will serve you well.

* * * 

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

* * *

How do you pitch yourself, your books, and/or 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 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.

Early Lessons in the Yoga of Writing


Effort and Surrender and Writing


A personal yoga lesson, writing lesson, and review
by Carolyn Howard-Johnson



Yoga simply is. Like life. Like love. Like Writing. When we do it we may also connect. Eric Dinyer’s ethereal photographs in his Effort and Surrender published by Andrews McMeel, are aged like a Sienna landscape. They could easily be the route a beginner or a yoga sage might take to the next step. Or a writer takes to get creative juices started or to keep the I’m Not Good Enough Syndrome at bay. 

Way back in 2004 Eric asked me to write the foreword for this little treasure. 
An author-illustrator-photographer Dinyer has worked in the entertainment, music, and publishing industries with creative giants like Time-Warner Books, Columbia Records, Viking Penguin, St. Martin's Press, Doubleday, and Scholastic, as well as in publications such as Harper's, Newsweek, and the New York Times Book Review. He created cover images for Bruce Springsteen and Sting and illustrated The Breathing Field: Meditations on Yoga. And his request forced me to revisit my early experiences with yoga and I’m retelling a bit of it from the foreword for you so my writing fellows will understand why I think writers should give it a try, if they aren’t already in love with it..

I have been doing yoga since by brother directed me in a few poses.  I lay on a delicate patterned Oriental carpet before a fire in my mother’s home; he pointed my limbs in the proper directions.

            “Hatha Yoga” my brother said, “just poses…” He knew my atheistic tendencies.

            So, I did “poses only” until I saw light and knew.

            That was my only lesson.   

My yoga instructor did not believe that yoga should be uncomfortable or difficult but joyful. “Ignore those who say ‘No pain, no gain,’” he said.  “Stretch until it feels good.  Breathe until it feels better.”

Some poses came naturally. I have long muscles with little structure. Working them is like stretching warm Play-Doh. Dinyer’s photos of poses like The Plow are difficult for some but were easy for me. At 63 I was still doing that extension with variations, knees touching the floor above my head. Some poses like The Airplane he illustrates impart balance. My ability to do them improved as I practiced, mostly without my perceiving the changes because yoga benefits deliberately, leisurely.Some, like the Crane Posture require strength. I do not expect ever to achieve them.

Having said that, it does not matter to me. Yoga is not a contest with others nor with myself. I’m like that with writing, too. If practiced, it will progress. I eventually—perhaps after ten or twelve years—read (nay digested) Paramahansa Yogananda’s teachings but only when I was ready. His book materialized in the reading pile next to my bed. I still don’t know how that small volume came to be there.

I did not take expensive lessons, use special equipment, buy a Zen wardrobe or even set goals. All one needs for Yoga is willingness. I admit I ended up spending more money on things like writing classes, writers’ conferences, and reading, reading, reading on anything one needed for that like marketing. But I worked in breathing to increase the joy factor. I think it worked. I even wrote a poem about it:


Yoga is life.

                                    We see its splendor if we look

                                    Know its challenges when we choose to know

                                    Its comforts when we acknowledge them

                                    Recognize pain as a companion

                                    From whom we can learn or turn away

                                    It can quiet like the curve

                                    Of an egg in a bowl.

                                    It can be personal as a pulse

Or connect like a current.

                                    Life.  We select its ecstasies.


Such inspiration will surely move reader whether they choose Effort or Surrender or Writing—or all three. Yoga and writing is in the doing. Yoga and writing are very simply, life. 


 Carolyn Howard-Johnson is the multi award-winning author of fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry. She is also a marketing consultant, editor, and author of the multi award-winning #HowToDoItFrugally Series ( ) of books for writers including "The Frugal Book Promoter" (, and "The Frugal Editor" both offered in their third editions by Modern History Press. Others in that series are "How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically," and two booklets, both in their second editions also from Modern History Press. The booklets, "Great Little Last Minute Editing Tips for Writers" ( and "Great First Impression Book Proposals" ( are career boosters in mini doses and both make ideal thank you gifts for authors. The one on writing book proposals is also available as an Audio Book. "The Frugal Editor "(, was recently released in its third edition. It is the winningest book in this series for writers.  

Carolyn also has three frugal books for retailers including one she encourages authors to read because it helps them understand what is needed to convince retailers to host their workshops, presentations, and signings. It is "A Retailer’s Guide to Frugal In-Store Promotions: How To Increase Profits and Spit in the Eyes of Economic Downturns with Thrifty Events and Sales Techniques" ( In addition to this blog, Carolyn helps writers extend the exposure of their favorite reviews at She also blogs all things editing--grammar, formatting and more--at "The Frugal, Smart, and Tuned-In Editor" ( Learn more and follow it to get news on her new releases directly from Amazon at

Your Story's Setting - It's More Than Just Scenery


Contributed by Karen Cioffi, Children's Writer

Setting informs the reader of the time and place of your story.

It can include the period, the physical location, the climate, and the social surroundings.

But it can do a lot more.

An example of this is the middle-grade book Walking Through Walls. It’s set in 16th-century China, and speech, descriptions of behaviors, clothes, trades, food, and more all add to the authenticity of the time period.

This allows the reader to get a feel for the environment the protagonist lives in and helps immerse the reader in the time period.

Your setting descriptions can be powerful.

1. It takes a village to raise a child.

Okay, that tip #1 heading is a stretch.

What that means is it takes all the senses when describing setting. Don’t limit it to just one.

It seems the most authors stick to the scenery—what can be seen. While this is an important sense, the reader will become more involved if there’s more to ‘feel.’

To make your setting come alive, your fictional landscape, use as many senses as you can. You should include smell, touch, sound, and even taste if the story allows.

In Walking Through Walls, the protagonist Wang is walking home:

Wang ambled back to the cottage. He noticed his favorite flower, the lemon lilies, in full bloom. They draped the landscape. Hmm, they smell so good.

While that passage doesn’t go into detail, it brings the smell of the lemon lilies into the reader’s mind, bringing another sense into the picture.

Here’s another scene from Walking Through Walls:

Tired and hungry, Wang trudged through fog thick as porridge.

This gives the reader a bit more insight into Wang’s journey. Again, while it’s not explained in detail, the fog might have felt damp on his skin. Maybe it left beads of water on him. The reader has something more to picture and imagine than just a fog.

The senses can also help to bring backstory into the story. Through taste, smell, and even texture, the character can remember people or times from their past, enlightening the reader about important elements of the character’s history.

2. Use your character’s emotions to describe settings.

If your character is in a good mood or reflective, he will sense the world around him much differently than if he’s in a bad mood or angry.

Going back to Wang and the lemon lilies, if he’s happy, he might bend down and pick up one of the flowers, bring it up to his face, and take in the sweet odor.

If Wang is angry, he might trample over the lemon lilies, grumbling under his breath.

How the character reacts to or describes his surroundings will add an element of emotion.

3. Treat your setting like part of your story.

Your setting can create a deeper experience for the reader. Using rich details will help the reader dive further into the story, feeling like she’s there.

It helps the reader understand what the character is feeling and what he’s facing.

Here’s a passage from Walking Through Walls:

Slowly, his gaze traveled up and up and up until he could see no further. The mountain loomed above him like a never-ending wall. Its thick, giant trees left little space between them for a trail.

This gives the reader a pretty good picture of what Wang was facing, bringing the reader into the story.

4. Add just enough setting description.

Okay, you’re a writer, and writing every little detail about a setting may come easy. You might want to capture it from multiple views or describe every color.

Well, if you add too many details that aren’t important to the story, the reader may get bored and skim over that section.

This may lead the reader to wonder what other sections she’ll have to skim over.

While you want to keep the setting descriptions within limits, the description or detail you include should do more than show where the characters are, if at all possible. Think emotional state, symbolizing, evoking a memory, etc.

Going back to Wang, looking up at the formidable mountain foreshadowed the difficult journey he had begun.

Like the rest of the story, the setting description should move the story forward.
The setting and its descriptions help create a connection between the reader, the character, and the story.


If you’re writing a children’s picture book, you can ignore the above.

The illustrations in a picture book fill in all the setting descriptions. They show the emotions, surroundings, and characters… they show what the story text doesn’t say.

It’s a whole different writing experience.

This article was first published at:





Karen Cioffi is an award-winning children’s author, ghostwriter, rewriter, and coach with clients worldwide. If you need help with your children’s story, please visit Karen Cioffi Writing for Children.
A 250+ page book that will help you get started or finish your children's book.

And for those children’s authors who are self-publishing, you might check out WRITERS ON THE MOVE PRESS.

Build Your Brand

  Contributed by Margot Conor While you are writing your novel, or even when it is just an idea in your head, start to build your brand. Res...