Showing posts with label e-publishing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label e-publishing. Show all posts

Conflating Promotion, Children's Lit and Promotion

Article Children’s Promo

Formula for a Long-Lasting Promotion

E-Book + E-Gift + Cross Promotion = Great FREE Promotion for Children’s Books

By Carolyn Howard-Johnson,
Author of the multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers

The 4th of July seems like a good time to talk about children’s books, to celebrate children's book, to give author of children's literature a little support. In a discussion I had with one of the longtime subscribers to my SharingwithWriters newsletter, Wanda Luthmam, author of The Lilac Princess, she said, “Of course the thing that is different for children's authors is that the product is for children yet the purchaser is an adult.”

Because Wanda is absolutely right, one of the best kinds of promotion is one where children’s authors cross promote.  That means partnering with other others, sharing lists. Forming groups where you cross-tweet one another’s tweets that point out benefits of each children’s book to the parents cause kids won’t be on Twitter, not yet at least.  

One of my favorite promotions—the one that lasted longer and was more “keepable” than any other I’ve done—utilized cross promotion. Here is a case study of that promotion straight from  my multi award-winning The Frugal Book Promoter. I have adapted it slightly to be more meaningful for children’s authors.

The anatomy of a free e-book might be just what you need to make one work for you. The free e-book I published as a cross promotion with other authors was one of best, most long-lasting promotions I’ve done. Let’s call it the new math for free publicity. It is: E-book + E-gift = Promotion. Oops. Error. Make the answer FREE promotion. However, it would be better if we slotted in another element: + Cross Promotion.

I met Kathleen Walls in an online group. She asked more than two dozen authors from several countries to contribute to an e-book that would be given away. Her idea, Cooking by the Book could be used as a gift of appreciation to the support teams it takes to edit and market a book and to the legions of readers who cook but had never read any of our other books. Children’s authors could use exactly the same idea (or adapt the basic steps to another theme). Here’s why. 

Authors who had at least one kitchen scene in their books (children’s authors might have a household cooking scene or just something foody going on in the plot like lollipops, ice cream cones—even apple trees!) were invited to contribute to Cooking. Each author’s segment begins with an excerpt from that scene. The recipe comes next, and then a short blurb about the author with links so the reader can learn more about the authors and their books. When children’s authors adapt the them, they might adapt the recipe segment to something else that would appeal to parents like the psychological benefit their child will get from reading the book. 

This e-tool was a cross-pollinator. Contributing authors publicized it any way they chose as long as they gave it away. Here are some of the ways we used to distribute Cooking by the Book
  • Some offered a free e-book as part of a promotion and let people e-mail them for a copy. This is the least techy approach and it allows personal contact with readers. It also allowed us to collect and categorize our readers’ e-mails to use in later promotions.
  • Some set up an autoresponder that sent our e-book directly to our readers’ e-mail boxes when they sent requests to an address we provided. This automated approach requires little but promotion from you after you’ve once set up the responder. I sent the first chapter of my novel using, but it could as easily been a full e-book.
  • Some contributors sent readers to their Web sites where they found a link to download a .pdf file of our free e-book. E-books distributed like this are more effective if they include an offer or call-to-action—perhaps a discount on a series of your books—within its pages. If I did a promotion like this again, I’d include a contributor page in the backmatter that listed each contributor, her book’s title, and a direct link to an Amazon Kindle edition. The side-benefit for this is that traffic to your site soars and that helps your search engine optimization (SEO). 
  • ome contributors let others distribute our e-book as a gift to their clients, subscribers, or Web site visitors—either with a purchase or as an outright gift. When you use this method, you get to set the guidelines for its distribution because you provide the free e-book.
  • If we were doing this promotion today, we could offer our free e-book through To make free e-book editions work for you, your book must include ads, links in the text, or both to entice readers to your Web site or to buy your other books.
  • You may find other ways to distribute your e-book or alter these processes to meet your needs. You could even give out business cards or bookmarks at children’s bookfairs that give the links to the free e-book you are offering.
Contributors to our Cooking by the Book benefited from their efforts and from contacts with other authors. It turned out that we had some superior promoters among us:
  • Most of us set up a promotional page for the cookbook on our Web sites. 
  • One promoted it in her newsletter. 
  • Mary Emma Allen writes novels, but she also featured the cookbook in the columns she writes for New Hampshire dailies The Citizen and The Union Leader.
  • David Leonhardt incorporated the cookbook into a Happiness Game Show speech he delivered over a dozen times.
  • We all gave away coupons offering this gift at book signings. Because e-books cost nothing to produce, they can be given to everyone, not just those who purchase a book. Some made bookmarks featuring this offer.
  • I put an “e-gift” offer for Cookbook on the back of my business cards.
  • If we were doing this promotion today, we’d all blog about it and use Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and other social networks.
  • We treated the promotional book like a real book. We got blurbs and reviews. Reviewer JayCe Crawford said, “For a foodie-cum-fiction-freak like me, this cookbook is a dream come true.” That review popped up in places we didn’t know existed. 
  • We used them as e-gifts to thank editors, producers, or others online.

Our most startling successes came from sources we had no connection to at all. The idea for using a promotional e-book like this was featured in Joan Stewart’s The Publicity Hound, in Writer’s Weekly, in the iUniverse newsletter and more. They probably found it especially newsworthy because it worked so well for writers of fiction. Your book themed for the parents of children might appeal to popular psychology Web sites or others—depending on the theme.

When I queried radio stations for interviews with angles related to this cookbook, I had the highest rate of response I’d ever had, and that was in competition with a pitch for my novel This Is the Place just before the Salt Lake City 2002 games and an intolerance angle on the same novel right after 9/11.

Each year Mother’s Day beckons us to repeat our publicity blitzes, because, if you haven’t noticed, mothers tend to do lots of cooking. Almost any e-book that appeals to mothers of young children could also benefit from Mother’s Day promotions.

Hint: I love services like and for publishing both e-books and paperbacks, whether or not they are to be used as promotions. You can probably do everything yourself and absolutely free except for the copies you buy and the extra services, if you prefer to have that help. I also like that you can put your own publishing company’s name on the book—in other words, develop your own imprint. There are even templates for covers there. If this feels kind of publishing feels scary at first, I can coach you through the first one and you’ll be set forever more. Contact me through the contact page on my Web site.

Special E-Book Offer: I offer a free e-book for subscribing to my Sharing with Writers newsletter. Find the offer on most pages of my HowToDoItFrugally Web site, upper right corner. Everyone is your cross-promotion pool could do the same thing.

Here’s another idea from Wanda. She says “At my events, I invite children to my table to make a free craft that is book-theme related. While they are working, I talk to the parent about the benefits of the book and reading.”


Today's blogger, Carolyn Howard-Johnson, will soon have a children's picture book ready to submit to her agent. It's about the feisty squirrel who is bent stealing tangerines from her tree. 

Carolyn is not known for writing children's literature. She 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. All her books for writers are multi award winners including both the first and second editions of The Frugal Book Promoter and her multi award-winning The Frugal Editor won awards from USA Book News, Readers’ Views Literary Award, the marketing award from Next Generation Indie Books and others including the coveted Irwin award.

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 eighty-nine 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 Web site is 

Online Editors - Which to Use?

Common sense and publishing experts all stress the need for careful editing before submitting for publication. And no matter how experienced you are in doing your own editing and proofreading, there is always room for another eye on your work.

The odd typo or missing punctuation mark pops up even in the best-edited books from famous authors and prestigious publishing firms.

But--and this can be a big but when you're starting out--editors cost a fair amount.  If you're only earning minimal royalties per book, you would need to sell 1000 copies at least to afford an editor. Add another few hundred sales to pay for a designer cover. And you may well be working at a loss, considering the average number of copies sold per book is said to be around 500.

So if you need to go the self-editing route, read your work aloud. That helps you hear where words are missing, misspelled, or where the dialogue sounds unnatural. At least use the grammar and spell checker options provided by Word.

Do your best to provide a manuscript that

  • a) follows all the guidelines laid down by your prospective publisher and 
  •  b) is as free of errors and as perfect as possible.

I don't think I have ever read a perfect book. Readers are forgiving up to a point but too many misspellings and awkward grammar mistakes get between a reader and the story.

And that leads to bad reviews. Amazon, too, is threatening not to publish poorly presented work. So, enter the robotic editor.

Try Online editors

Interestingly more and more online editors are appearing. And these can do a good job of catching things you  missed. Though, like those that tackle translation work, they are certainly not infallible.

Four that I looked at in the past month were EditMinion,  from Dr. Wicked--remember his Write or Die? ( A software download that punished dilatory writers with a shocking noise or even by deleting words if ever you stopped writing for too long to think.).

EditMinion is in beta at the moment, meaning it is still looking for bugs to iron out before its official release. But it looks for all the things most editors focus on when reading--too many adverbs, passive verbs, weak words, cliches, obtrusive dialogue tags, word echoes, homonyms and poorly placed prepositions.

I also liked Ginger. It is a great app but may not be for you if you hate seeing your errors highlighted as you go. As well as spellchecking. proofreading, and grammar inspection, this one gives suggestions for rephrasing sentences.

After the Deadline like the others offers a demonstration version on its website. I inserted the introduction to this article and it picked out one example of passive voice--which I dispute--and suggested provide was too complex a word. Its suggestions were "give" or "offer."

Grammarly is perhaps the best known for its browser extension which is well reviewed by many writers. Again it is free , checks against grammar rules, lets you know the reasons for its decisions. See what you think.

Download Warning

Be careful with any downloads to your computer or browser. Free software can come bundled with toolbars or allow search systems which do not agree with your computer. Keep reading to check exactly what is being downloaded.

My Avast antivirus and Comodo firewall complained hysterically when I tried to download some of these. Is it worth it? I'd find at least one of them very handy. The choice is yours. Let me know if your computer says no :-)

But at least try out the demonstration pages and see what you think. As good as a real person or not? For me, people are best. But the robots do an excellent back up check on tired days and can suggest interesting changes.

Anne Duguid
Anne Duguid Knol

A local and national journalist in the U.K., Anne Knol is now a fiction editor for award-winning American and Canadian publishers. As a new author, she shares writing tips and insights at Author Support

Her Halloween novella, ShriekWeek is published by The Wild Rose Press as e-book and in print  included in the Hauntings in the Garden anthology. (Volume Two)

Revisions for Out of Print Books

I have the pleasure of featuring author and writing instructor Kelly McClymer today, and her topic is tweaking books for digital publishing. This is something many of us authors are thinking of doing and should do.

Revisions for Out of Print Books
By Kelly McClymer

I've been a writing instructor for over a decade now. One quote I offer students early on is "Writing is revising." This is an oft-repeated quote and I cannot find an original attribution for it. Nevertheless, I offer it because I believe it.

However, it used to be that there was an end to that revision. It was called publication. Sure, some famous authors like Stephen King could go back and release an uncut version of The Stand, after he had amassed a lot of clout. But the typical authors received their box of printed books with awe and joy for two reasons: cradling the finished book; and knowing they could not "fix just one more sentence."

E-publishing changed all that, as I discovered when I began to re-release my out-of-print historical romance series in e-book form. The books had to be scanned, edited, proofed, and formatted. And, oh, by the way, while I was fixing the scan errors, why didn't I just tweak a word or two here that sounded off to me. And hadn't a reviewer complained about this scene? Didn't I think she was right? Long story short: I've been working on these five backlist books for a year. Only two are out, although three more are shortly to follow and all five will be available by the end of May.

What took me so long? In short: Book Two of the five in the series. Readers and reviewers had pointed out that my hero was, well, wimpy.

I begged to differ, but when I read the book, I saw their point. As this was back when published meant "done." I had just suffered a bad case of "wish I had."

I happily tweaked the books that didn't need too much tweaking. The stories I loved, Miranda and her duke in The Fairy Tale Bride; Hero and Arthur in The Unintended Bride; Romeo and Juliet (yes, really) in The Infamous Bride; and especially my favorite, Helena and Rand in The Next-Best Bride. But when it came to Valentine and Emily, I did not know how to approach Valentine.

Then my daughter got engaged and I started a 50 day promotion to help pay for wedding costs. It became important not to have The Fairy Tale Bride up there all alone, looking forlorn. So I finally tackled Valentine and his wimpiness.

To be clear, he isn't wimpy. He's perfectly happy to put his life on the line for his Lady Emily. He just knows he can't provide a luxurious life for her, and that's a problem because he's seen what living hand-to-mouth has done to his mother.

How to show that, though, when I had an opening like this:

Emily woke as the carriage slowed. "Must we stop?"

Valentine shook away the doubts that had assailed him in the gloom of their long night's run for the border. "The horses cannot go on much farther unless they are fed and watered‚ and I cannot let you starve."

She pressed her lips together a moment, then flashed him a brave smile. "I wish it were done."

"It will be soon enough." He kept his voice firm as he asked, for the hundredth time, "Are you certain of this, Emily? I am willing to wait until your father sees reason."


Don't you just want to shake that wimpy ditherer? Right. Not a good way to start. However, it is also not a great idea to shovel a bunch of back story into the midst of an elopement. Explanation slows the story. The end.

What to do? I dithered for a year (yes, this is probably why I didn't notice that it was unwise to open with a hero in mid-dither). At last, I had an epiphany: change the point of view from Valentine to Emily. After all, she knows what he is worried about, and it is part of why she loves him -- he puts her welfare above his own. Gratifying, except when it keeps a couple apart, right?

So I made a relatively simple change in the opening (and in many other spots in the book, to be fair), and suddenly the hero's spine that I always saw became clearer on the page.

Can you see it better, through Emily's perspective?


He sat forward and looked into her eyes, as if he would look through to her very soul. "Are you certain you can bear the gossip you will suffer when society hears of our elopement?"

Silly man. How could he not see the truth in her eyes. She touched his cheek. "It will be for the briefest of times, as you well know. And once we have settled and begun our family, we shall become yesterday's news and quite too boring to gossip about."


If it still seems unclear to readers, though, I can always go back and revise. After all, "writing is revising." Right? Oh dear.

Kelly McClymer is hoping that fate is sending her a message by allowing her to release her out-of-print Once Upon a Wedding series in e-book form just in time to earn a little money to pay for her daughter's wedding. Read all 50 reasons she owes her daughter a nice wedding on her website in the "Confessions of a Turtle Mom" series. Not to mention, if her daughter hadn't gotten engaged, Kelly might still be revising "just one more thing."

Karen Cioffi is an award-winning children's author and children’s ghostwriter as well as the founder and editor-in-chief of Writers on the Move. You can find out more about writing for children and her services at: Karen Cioffi Writing for Children.

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