Showing posts with label Tips for writers. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Tips for writers. Show all posts

Learning to Love What Amazon Can Do for Authors


How Authors Can Use Public Relations Principles to Work with Amazon

By Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of the multi award-winning
HowToDoItFrugally Series of Books for Writers

I get ideas about stuff to talk about in unexpected places. I assume that is not unique to my writing experience, but today something popped up in Facebook Memories feature I just couldn't resist passing along to my blogger friends. I think the major lesson to me (and from me! Ha!)  is that we can love to hate Amazon and other entities all we want, but it's more useful to our writing careers--both successes and enjoyment of them--if we don't listen to all the rumors of entities in the publishing world and find out for ourselves. In this case it is Amazon, but I constantly run into experiences even after decades of writing experience in several different disciplines (journalism, PR, marketing, blogging, and publishing in a variety of genres, etc.) that nudge me away from all the griping we hear on the web and elsewhere and onto doing what the basics of good marketing departments at great universities tell us to do. That is, make friends, network, and explore new possibilities.
Sooo, I had heard from several fairly reliable sources that Amazon wouldn't remove old editions of a book from their sales pages but decided to try one more time using the email feature at their Author Central to reach someone to ask for help. Here is my experience as posted on Facebook way back then--in probably about 2011.
"I just had the nicest telephone conversation with Amazon's Author Central. I had worked for two years trying to get the old edition of my The Frugal Book Promoter removed from Amazon via e-mail (I thought it would make it easier if they had all the ISBNs, etc in writing! Silly me! And, I admit to hating confrontation and avoiding it like the plague! )
"So the conversation goes like this:
"ME: "I understand I can't have the first edition of my The Frugal Book Promoter removed from Amazon even though it's outdated—by about a decade—but that I can add a new widget to that page to direct my readers to the new one."
"DANA THE WONDERFUL (At Amazon!):  "I'd be happy to do that for you."
"ME: Some chitchat including thank yous as she works. Then some magic words! "Too bad we can't just hide the old edition and get all 128 of the old reviews transferred to the multi award-winning second edition!" (Were "multi award-winning" the magic words?"
"DANA THE WONDERFUL: "Oh, we can do that!" Typing noises. "It may take 72 hours for that to happen but it's done."
"ME: "Really?"
"ME: Happy Dance. Huge Thank yous.
"Note: It obviously is worth the time waiting for a real person on the Author Connect (Author Central)  hotline!  Wish I had a recording of the conversation for you!"
Here's a disclaimer.  This is 2022,  NOT 2011. Amazon changes policies all the time as needed (or as they think are needed--I have seen them change back again). So if you are having this particular problem, try my method. But the real point of this post is to try it no matter what it is you want or need. In the past, I have had them...
1. Add several widgets to point to several of my books that were published in later editions.

2. To move reviews from earlier editions to later editions.

3. To remove early editions of e-books from Amazon completely. (I didn’t have any luck with getting them to remove outdated but paper books, presumably because removing paper books interferes with their second market (used books) feature.

4. To fix or update metadata.

5. To get blatantly biased reviews removed. Amazon doesn't like this either and is working mightily to avoid it. There are all kinds of scammy approaches to reviews. In fact, I wrote a big, fat how-to book on reviews that includes a case study of sorts on the topic of Amazon vs. Scammy reviews. We don't like to believe it, but there are actually fellow writers out there with an agenda and somehow believe that dissing their competition's books will be good for their own. It is the third in my multi award-winning #HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers,  How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically at

6. It seems they have recently changed a wonderful feature they had where #authors and #publishers could add all kinds of helpful information to their buy page—everything from professional reviews to notes from the author. I told you they change all the time, but keep checking. Better still, keep asking. You might even run into my "Dana the Wonderful!"


Howard-Johnson is the multi award-wining 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 multi award-winning The Frugal Book Promoter, now offered by Modern History Press in its third edition. Carolyn's latest is in the #HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers is How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically. She has two booklets in the #HowToDoItFrugally Series, both in their second editions from Modern History Press. Great Little Last Minute Editing Tips for Writers and The Great First Impression Book Proposal are career boosters in mini doses and both make ideal thank you gifts for authors. The Frugal Editor, now in its second edition, is the winningest book in the series. Carolyn also has three frugal books for retailers including one she encourages authors to read because it helps them 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, Karen Cioffi’s WritersOnTheMove, Carolyn helps writers extend the exposure of their favorite reviews at She also blogs at all things editing--grammar, formatting and more--at The Frugal, Smart, and Tuned-In Editor ( Learn more and follow for news on her new releases direct from Amazon:



Writers On The Go


 Writers On The Go by Mindy Lawrence

A Refresher on Writing Bugaboos

Although most of us have had classes about grammar and usage, there are still times when we need a refresher on the use of certain words. We know them but how to use them sometimes slips our minds. Here are a few bugaboos and a refresher on how to use them.

Also, see The Frugal Editor (second edition) and Great Little Last-Minute Editing Tips both by Carolyn Howard-Johnson. Her books will enlighten you even more.

Whose vs. who’s
Both words are versions of the interrogative pronoun who.
Who’s is a contraction of who + is or who + has.
Whose means “belonging to whom,” and occasionally “of which.”


•    Who’s afraid of Frankenstein? (contraction)
•    Whose car is that? (possession)

Lie vs. Lay
You lie down, but you lay something down. The problem here is that the word lay shows up in both the past and present tenses. You only need a direct object with lay, you will know that the past tense is laid.

•    I would like to lie down and listen to the rain.
•    Lay the hammer on the table.

Me vs. I
If the people are the subject of the verb, you should use I. If the people are the objects of the verb, me is correct. To help you figure out whether to use me or I in a sentence, follow this hint.

Remove the other person from the sentence. If it sounds right, you’ve used the right word.

•    Jerry took I for a walk. (wrong)
•    Jerry took me for a walk (correct)

Pique vs. Peek vs. Peak
Pique means to stimulate interest. Peek means to take a look. Peak means the top of a mountain or something else high.

•    Reading about Frankenstein piqued my interest in monsters.
•    When I heard the noise, I had to peek out the window to see what it was.
•    She walked to the peak of the hill.

These are just a few of the words we often confuse. The more you write and edit or yourself, the better you will get on using these and other troublesome words.



Carolyn Howard-Johnson

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.


Strategic Creative Writing Tips


by Deborah Lyn Stanley

Consistent writing hones our skills and expands our experience—the key to writing success.

Creative writing is beneficial to all writers.
•    Enhances imagination and creativity
•    Shapes thoughts to logically create the plot
•    Growth of confidence
•    Clarity and skillful communication
•    Creates a change of pace and stimulates fresh ideas

The best suggestion is using creative exercises to foster imaginative stories & ideas that relate to people.
•    Include dialogue between characters to express relationships.
•    Give attention to Point of View.
•    Similes build images by comparisons.
•    Use a short narrative anecdote to develop your characters.
•    Ask yourself “What If” questions.
Just get into the flow and write! Later—review, revise, and polish.

Story starters can help us get going. Check the internet for: 1) Creative Writing Now/story ideas and 2) Writing Forward .

Read well to write well. Sample a new author’s work, go beyond blogs and social media to classical literature—there’s a wealth of written works to learn from and enjoy. Some things that standout to me include: plot and story structure, the flow of narrative and dialogue, and character development.

Our discussion of Commonplace Books (post #1 & #2) could be very useful.
In the first post, I mentioned—the essential commonplace book (or journal notebook) is your personal place for useful and informative content.  Post #2:  

It’s your idea book—uniquely yours, a central storehouse of knowledge. It is a helpful resource to gather your notes of wisdom, impressive sayings, and practical applications. As you read, capture an idea by making notes, scribbles, or comments. Let your commonplace book become your treasure store of ideas and wisdom. Organize it as you wish: diagonal snippets, vertical standout points, doodles and diagrams.

Nurture creativity. Devote time to this grand adventure. Here are a few ways to foster creative writing skills:
1.    Spark it with art projects or art field trips,
2.    Schedule writing appointments with yourself,
3.    Use writing text prompts or magazine images,
4.    Listen to music, write the story that comes to mind

Understand & Strengthen Your Personal Creative Process

Helpful Books & Links:
What is Creative Writing?  

Ready, Set, Write: a Guide to Creative Writing by Melissa Donovan

Writing the Wave by Elizabeth Ayres

Telling True Stories: Nonfiction Writer’s Guide–Multiple Contributors, Edited by M.Kramer & W.Call

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"




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Your Author's Photo - 7 Tips to Getting it Right

Last month I spoke a bit about writing your author's bio and mentioned the need for an author's photo as part of it. Today I thought I'd talk a bit about getting your author's picture just right.

Along with writing, I do a fair share of photography. I enjoy taking photos of the seasons as seen above, but I have taken an actor's head shots, as well as done some graduation, wedding and professional pictures for websites, etc.

However, I'm not photogenic at all! And like some of my clients, I freeze when the lens is turned on me. There are, though, some tricks to getting the best photo possible.

  • Tip 1: Your author's photo is part of your image - a big part. Make sure it is consistent with what you would like your reader to know or feel about you. Think about how you want to appear - edgy or romantic? Whimsical or serious? Natural or funny? Check out your favorite author's photos and see what they've done to create their image and then think about what you can do to make yours stand out.
  • Tip 2: What to wear. Wear a color you look good in. Black is slimming, but you may find that a bright color is great against your face. Stay away from busy patterns and bring at least one change of clothes and perhaps a scarf, tie or other accessory to try.  Keep makeup natural looking - there is no need to go heavy.
  • Tip 3: Your facial expression.  Practice your smile before your shoot. You want a smile that impacts your eyes and appears genuine - or if you are a mystery writer, practice your mysterious look. Determine which side is your best and make sure to let your photographer know.
  • Tip 4: Where to go. Once you have figured out the image part, this may be easy to determine. If you have a professional taking your photo, an indoor setting with some lighting, etc will work well. If you are asking a friend or family member to help you out, you may want to consider doing your photo shoot outside, as natural light will give you a better opportunity to get it right. 
  • Tip 5: The photo. You may want to try both close-ups and some that include your whole body. For close-ups: I recommend the chicken neck. Pull your shoulders back, stick your neck forward, tip your chin slightly down and watch as the extra neck skin and chins disappear.  Play with head tilts - in other words, after each shot move your head slightly. For photos that include more of your body: Stand with one foot in front of the other angling your good side to your photographer - this is slimming as well. Remember the chicken neck. Focus your gaze at a place just above the camera.
  • Tip 6: Take a bunch of pictures. With digital cameras there is no reason not to. The more photos taken, the better the chance of getting one you really like. Not only that, but with hearing the shutter click, click, click you might just start feeling like a movie star and relax and have fun. I've found that some of the best shots I've taken, many times, came at the end of a session when I'd shot a hundred or more photos.
  • Tip 7: Photo editing. There is plenty of photo editing software to help you refine your picture. My current favorite is PicMonkey. I use the free version and it does, generally, all that I need. I also use some of my iPhone's editing software and that works well too if I'm taking a photo on the fly. 
A number of years ago I heard an interesting fact about photographs - you can take a photo of almost anywhere and anything and if you hold up the original photo and a mirror image of that photo, most people can tell which one is the original and which the mirror image - even if they have never seen the place or item before. We apparently have an inborn idea of what images should look like - except that is when we look at ourselves. The reason, we only ever see ourselves in the mirror - so we only see the mirror image of ourselves. That's why our own photos, many times, seem a bit off. In the past I always felt that my personal photos were so awful and looked nothing like myself even when others raved over them - now that I realize I'm looking for something that no one else sees, I'm a bit more forgiving about them. 

Hope these tips will help you get the author's image that represents you, flatters you, and allows readers to easily recognize and remember you!


D. Jean Quarles is a writer of Women's Fiction and a co-author of a Young Adult Science Fiction Series. Her latest book, House of Glass, Book 2 of The Exodus Series was written with coauthor, Austine Etcheverry.

D. Jean loves to tell stories of personal growth – where success has nothing to do with money or fame, but of living life to the fullest. She is also the author of the novels: Rocky's Mountains, Fire in the Hole, and Perception. The Mermaid, an award winning short story was published in the anthology, Tales from a Sweltering City.

She is a wife, mother, grandmother and business coach. In her free time . . . ha! ha! ha! Anyway, you can find more about D. Jean Quarles, her writing and her books at her website at

You can also follower her at or on Facebook.

5 Tips to Writing Your Author's Bio

Writing your first novel is an endeavor that takes perseverance, but writing your author’s bio can cause the most loquacious of authors to freeze. What should you include? What can be left out? And most important of all, what do your readers want to know and that will encourage them to buy your book?

Here are 5 tips to writing your author’s bio.

1. Write your bio in the third person. While writing your novel you probably struggled here and there with the invisible critic that seems to be ever close. That critic rears up again when the time comes to write your bio, which is why it’s best to write your bio in the third person. This will create some distance and you may find it easier to talk yourself up.

2. Figure out what facts are relevant to your story. Where you were born or raised is probably only important if you are writing about that particular area. Telling about your previous or current career will also only be important if it ties somehow to what you have written. Degrees and education should be dealt with in a similar fashion. If they lend you credibility for your writing mention them, if not, leave that information out.

3. Always be sure to mention any awards, contests, or achievements related to your writing you have acquired. No matter how insignificant you may feel they are, they will show you are serious about your craft.

4. Are your characters quirky? Is that what brings them to life, if so use that same quirkiness when writing your bio. If you have a sense of humor that comes through your writing, find a way to share something humorous.

5. Your bio should be accompanied by your author’s photo. Give your photo some careful thought. For many of your readers, your photo will come to represent your brand. Do you want to be perceived as knowledgeable? Thoughtful? Funny? Brave? You may want to consider hiring a professional photographer and discussing the impression you wish your photo to give to your readers before you sit for your picture.

You will need two or three bios: a short one for queries and such, a longer one for your book cover, and sometimes just a one or two liner.  Read the bios of other authors before you begin and see what stands out to you about each. Which ones compel you to check out their work? Then write several versions and share them with other authors who can also help give you feedback. And remember, just like a resume, your bio should be updated regularly.

D. Jean Quarles is a writer of Women's Fiction and the co-author of a Young Adult Science Fiction Series. Her latest book, House of Glass, Book 2 of The Exodus Series was written with co-author, Austine Etcheverry.

D. Jean loves to tell stories of personal growth – where success has nothing to do with money or fame, but of living life to the fullest. She is also the author of the novels: Perception, Rocky's Mountains, and Fire in the Hole. The Mermaid, an award winning short story, was published in the anthology, Tales from a Sweltering City.

She is a wife, mother, grandmother and business coach. In her free time . . . ha! ha! ha! Anyway, you can find more about D. Jean Quarles, her writing and her books at her website:

You can also follower her at or find her on Facebook.

Honoring Your Voice

As a writer, your voice is one of your most powerful assets. Whether you write fiction, non-fiction, novels, screenplays, marketing copy, y...