"Book Reviews as Tools of Promotion," by Mayra Calvani

Book reviews are one of the most effective tools of book promotion. In fact, some experts consider reviews to be the most effective tool.

For librarians, top review publications such as Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, Booklist, School Library Journal, etc., play a vital role in the selection of titles. Reviews are the strongest criterion for selection. While it’s true booksellers look at different criteria when making a decision about which books to stock, reviews are a tremendously useful and helpful factor, especially when in doubt or when the author is unknown. Pre-release review publications like the ones mentioned before play an important role in the selection of books, allowing bookstores to order titles in advance of their official release dates, thus making them available to the public immediately after their release. Online reviews are particularly important when selecting titles from small presses or unknown authors who often don’t get reviews in the major pre-release publications.

The fact is, most people read reviews. Reviews and readers go together like wine and cheese. Before spending money on a book--especially in the case of expensive hard covers--most people turn to reviews to get an idea of the book’s quality and whether or not there’s a recommendation. In this age of computers when almost every person has a PC at home, it’s easy for booklovers to access the Internet and read book reviews. With the rise of so many niche review sites, book blogs, and readers sharing their reviews on sites like Amazon, it’s popular to read reviews. Also, the more reviews about a book, the more buzz and exposure.

Do you read reviews before purchasing a book? Do you have a favorite review publication or website?


--Mayra Calvani writes fiction and nonfiction for children and adults and is the co-author of the award-winning The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing. She’s had over 300 stories, articles, interviews and reviews published both online and in print, in publications such as The Writer, Writer's Journal, Acentos Review, Bloomsbury Review, Mosaic, and Multicultural Review, among many others. A reviewer for more than a decade, she now offers numerous book reviewing workshops online. She also offers workshops on the art of picture book writing. Visit her website at www.MayraCalvani.com 

How to Avoid the Feeling of Isolation by Conducting Author Visits by Donna McDine

Your writing career is moving at a steady pace, but from time-to-time, the feeling of isolation overwhelms you.  What is a writer to do to get one’s self out into the world of the living, but not neglect your writing goals?  One of the best ways to get yourself known locally as a serious writer would be to participate in author visits to elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools in your area - depending on what genre you write for. Also check out your local library and bookstores – they too may be interested in having you conduct an event.  Presenting your short story or non-fiction article for children’s magazines can be fun way to present the creative writing process to children of all ages without overwhelming them.  And since you are writing for children, why not spend time with them? 
It can be daunting to research school visits, considering the Internet comes up with over 2 million hits when typing in “School Author Visits.”  Why not check out the following resources:
1.      Local Schools –Contact an elementary school in your area and find out whom you need to present your school visit request to.  The school secretaries are happy to point you in the right direction, whether it is the principal, PTA or program coordinator of the school.  IMPORTANT: Keep in mind you don’t necessarily need to have a published book to conduct a school visit.  You may be able to present a published short story or non-fiction article to the class.  In addition, let the school know that you can meet with respective teachers and conform the event to coincide with their ELA State Assessment Guidelines.
2.      Network with fellow writers – We are all cheering for one another and I’m sure your network would be happy to discuss their ideas of school visits.  If you are just starting out, the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators – http://www.scbwi.org, has a wealth of information on all topics for writing for children.
3.      Local Librarian – I have had wonderful success in becoming “buddies” with my local librarian.  They are a chock full of information when it comes to conducting events for children.  You never know, they may be so impressed with your initiative that they may request that you conduct a visit at their library.  What better way to keep children inspired to read by meeting a local writer living in their midst?
4.      Local Bookstores – Approach the manager or owner to see if they would be interested in having you conduct an author visit.  If they are, obtain their guidelines for conducting such a visit and tell them that you will get back to them with your proposal / school visit kit.  Be sure to leave your business card with them.
Put yourself out there…it will not only be fun for the children but for yourself!

Bio: Donna McDine is an award-winning children's author, Honorable Mention in the 77th and two Honorable Mentions in the 78th Annual Writer’s Digest Writing Competitions,  Preditors & Editors Readers Poll 2010 Top Ten Children’s Books, Global eBook Awards Finalist Children’s Picture Book Fiction, and Literary Classics Silver Award & Seal of Approval Recipient Picture Book Early Reader ~ The Golden Pathway.

Her stories, articles, and book reviews have been published in over 100 print and online publications. Her interest in American History resulted in writing and publishing The Golden Pathway. Donna has three more books under contract with Guardian Angel Publishing, Hockey Agony, Powder Monkey, and A Sandy Grave. She writes, moms and is the Editor-in-Chief for Guardian Angel Kids, Publicist for the Working Writer’s Club, and owner of Author PR Services from her home in the historical hamlet Tappan, NY. McDine is a member of the SCBWI. Visit www.donnamcdine.com.

Wishing you all the best,
Donna McDine

4 Ways Writers Can Replace Procrastination With Action

I am a procrastinator. That's not a great trait for a writer. So for my fellow procrastinators out there, here are some things you can try to replace procrastination with action.

  1. Stop trying to find time to write and make time I work a full-time job. After that job ends (and sometimes during) I'm responsible for the care, keeping and schedules of two non-licensed teenagers. Oh, did I mention I'm married, so there's also husband's needs in the mix too? Finding a consistent time is difficult. So I decided that when I have 15-20 minutes, I'll write. I can't always wait for an hour, but that's okay. I write when the time presents itself. 
  2. Just write it down Sometimes I avoid writing because I'm just not enjoying the words in my head. Consequently, I avoid writing them down. One day I read somewhere that those words were blocking the good ones. If we write down the words we don't like, it opens up our mind for better words to pour forth. So write them down and get them out of the way.
  3. Give yourself a prize Who doesn't love a treat? Motivate yourself with a small treat for each day you actually put words on paper. It works for me. Try it!
  4. Be accountable I let my accountability partner know when I'm supposed to be writing. She then has the right to quiz me to see if I stuck with my commitment. I don't want to lie to her or disappoint her, so  I make myself write. If you don't have an accountability partner, I urge you to find one.
My last piece of advice is this: Don't fail prey to the procrastination bug and not implement any of these tips. They are easy and worthwhile. You'll be glad you took action.

Marietta Taylor is an author and speaker. She is the author ofSurviving Unemployment:Devotions to Go. Marietta is a monthly blogger at the Go ask Mom Blog at www.wral.com. Her tagline is Mom of Teens. She was also a contributing author to Penned From The Heart Vol XV. Marietta has a bachelor's degree in Biology from the University of Illinois-Chicago. Visit Marietta at www.mariettataylor.net or www.marismorningroom.blogspot.com or email her at maritaylor@mariettataylor.net.

The Secret

What do you do when a big secret just happens to come to light and you aren't even thinking of your story? How do you keep that secret from exploding to a full-on reveal?

This happened to me just recently in my wip - Imogene: Innocense Lost. I discovered a secret, not about Imogene who the story is supposed to be about, but about her mother who is on the quest to save Imogene. The secret has blown up in my head and I'm very anxious to get it written but I can't. Once the secret comes out, the dynamic of the story changes drastically. It will no longer be about saving Imogene but saving Sarah Beth and the story is about finding Imogene first and foremost.

The biggest problem is that not even Sarah Beth knows the secret yet and I'm afraid once I put the secret on paper (or on the computer in the story somewhere - writing scenes as they come to me this go round since this is not like anything else I've ever written) that the story takes on a completely different meaning. I need to get Imogene's story written before entangling her mother's story and therefore, the secret will have to just keep niggling me until it's finally right to write it. The secret actually reveals a good bit about Sarah Beth that I didn't know before (my characters were still a bit two dimensional as the story really hasn't taken hold in my head and gotten to the point that I can just write from beginning to end). Maybe if I do a character chart for Sarah Beth, the secret can be put there for now and when it's time to work it in, it will be fine.

I just don't know what to do with this secret and this style of story now since I'm exploring new waters for me. If you've had a secret just pop up in your writing and have kept it a secret until just the right moment, please drop me a line and let me know how you handled it. See you all in the postings - E ;)

Elysabeth Eldering
Author of Finally Home, a YA paranormal mystery
"The Proposal" (an April Fools Day story), a humorous romance ebook
"The Tulip Kiss", a paranormal romance ebook
"Bride-and-Seek", a paranormal romance ebook
E's blog
E's website

What Inspires You?

By Kathleen Moulton
Some writers are inspired by watching people. Others are inspired within their own imagination (where Sci-Fi just has to come from!) Still others draw inspiration from uncovering information in other times and places. And only hearing a word can spark a title and an idea for a novel.

Me? I am inspired by nature. No, I am exhilarated!

Recently, I was talking to my son, who is a Border Patrol Agent in Texas. I was telling him I woke up that morning hearing a cardinal.

“You heard it?”

He thought it was strange that I would know what a cardinal sounded like.

I had been trying to bring cardinals to the feeder for a few years. When I heard it, I bounded out of bed, grabbed my camera, and peered out the window. I’ve also been known to slip on a pair of boots donning only a cami and sweatpants, and crunch along the snowy yard to capture frozen, crystal droplets hanging on branches. I can’t help it. The sun makes them so beautiful!

Yup, that’s how much I love nature. I’m just wired that way.

I often use the beauty (and the not-so-pretty) outdoors to connect with a point I make in my writing. The visual touches me so deeply and it pushes the words I have inside out on paper.

What inspires you? Soak in it. Allow it to take you places you thought you could never go. Something is resonating inside you and you may not even be aware of it. We’re so busy with our heads down and focused on accomplishing our goals that if we’re not careful, we can miss our uniqueness that will make writing easy. Everyone is different. We can learn from each other but sometimes we learn too much and find that we are trying to imitate what works for someone else.

We’re all inspired by nature to a certain degree, but don’t necessarily think my inspiration will be yours. What is in you will find its way out. It’s quite a natural process that will suddenly occur to you.

Discover yourself!
Kathleen Moulton is a freelance writer and nature lover. She is married, has 8 children, ages 10-28, and has been homeschooling for 25 years. You can find her passion to bring encouragement and hope to people of all ages at http://kathleenmoulton.com/

The Virtual Book Tour (a primer and example)

I know all about online book tours. Right now I'm smack dab in the midst of one.  You know about them too, because you're here, reading this blog post, and with any luck, you'll be participating in the process shortly with your retweet or share.  The VBT as those in the know like to call it, is an absolute must for any book marketing campaign these days for a number of reasons.  The first is that anything you do online has lasting value - people will continue to come back to it again and again, long after your book signing at the local bookstore (if you've still got one) is a distant memory.  The second is that they're generally inexpensive and ecologically sound (especially compared to in-person events that require fuel to get to). The third is that they're wide reaching - you're not limited geographically and can reach readers in your target market from all over the world, and connect with those readers intimately, even personally (during my last tour, one reader who said they loved my book is now a firm friend, even though she lives in a different country to me).  It's a great way to launch a new book, which is pretty much what I'm doing here with my novel Black Cow, but it's also good for generating buzz and getting things moving on an existing book - maybe six months post-launch, or a year post-launch.

So how do you do it?  You start by identifying a number of blogs with an audience that matches your target.  I've got 20 in mine but that's probably a little excessive!  Try 10.  Mix it up by choosing a range of blogs, a webinar or two, some radio shows, and maybe a few review sites.  Then query them with an offer (it usually helps to offer your book). Begin setting up dates and times as responses come back (I use Excel and Google Calendar to keep track of mine), and when you've got enough positive responses you're ready to begin touring.  It sounds easy, and it is, though the process takes time and the only way to do it right is to query each stop individually, specifically tailoring your offer to them, offering something unique and of value to each host.

At this point you can begin advertising the tour. Put the dates on your blog, tweet it, set it up as an event on Facebook, and start the buzz. Then comes the fun part - you have to write your blog posts.  If you're promoting a new book, then already well-used existing blog posts won't do - you'll need to write new, fresh, relevant ones just for the tour to draw in readers, since that's the whole point of it (that's why 20 is, ahem, excessive).  Get your posts to your hosts at least a week prior to the posting date and include all graphics and some suggested tweets for them. They're doing you a favour so make it easy for them.  Add a giveaway or two and you're on.

Online networking is critical in the book world and whatever you do to help others will definitely come back to you, so be generous in your support of other authors and generous in your own hosting and you'll find the process of gathering stops for your tour relatively easy. 

That's it!  But before you go, please take a little moment to re-tweet this one (use #blackcow), comment, or share it on Facebook, and you'll go into my draw to win one of a number of autographed bookpacks, electronic sets, and limited edition signed promotional items like magnets, stickers, books, bags, and postcards.  And don't forget to invite me to your tour - I'm looking forward to it.

Magdalena Ball is the author of the newly released novel Black Cow. Grab a free mini e-book brochure here:  http://www.bewritebooks.com/mb/BlackCow/BlackCow.html
or visit the Black Cow booksite.

What I Learned From the Movie "Young Adult"

I recently saw the movie "Young Adult" starring Charlize Theron. The premise: a writer of young adult novels returns to her small hometown to woo her high-school ex-boyfriend. Only problem? He's married with a newborn baby. Not exactly the recipe for a fairy-tale romance. But the screenwriter is Diablo Cody, who wrote the smart and quirky movie "Juno," so I went to see "Young Adult" with pretty high hopes.

Well, suffice to say it didn't live up to my expectations. After the movie ended, a woman sitting in front of me turned around and addressed the theater: "What did y'all think? I was not impressed." Still, I believe there is something to learn from every experience, so here are some writing take-aways I got from "Young Adult" that might be helpful to your own writing, too:
  • Write anywhere and everywhere. In the movie, we see Charlize Theron's character working on her young-adult novel in coffeeshops, restaurants, in her bed and at her desk. When she checks into a hotel, the first thing she does is plug in her laptop. That said, I was annoyed by the portrayal of her getting incredibly drunk every night and waking up hungover, yet still magically being able to finish her book. I think the drunken artist/writer is one of my least favorite cliches. I also didn't agree with the way the movie depicted the YA genre as shallow, uncomplicated, and easy to write. If classic books like Catcher in the Rye and To Kill a Mockingbird were published today, they would be considered YA.
  • Be mindful of your details. Charlize Theron's character constantly eats junk food throughout the movie, and a lot of it -- a family-sized meal at Kentucky Fried Chicken, pints of Ben & Jerry's ice cream, liters of Diet Coke. Yet she remains supermodel-thin and looks down on other characters from her hometown for being "fat." There is no way she could eat that way and look the way she does!
  • Avoid stereotypes. Charlize Theron's character returns to her small town, and her stereotypes about "small-town people" are reinforced. The comic-book lover is a "boring loser" who paints model action figures and lives with his sister. The women her age all got married at twenty and never left town. They wear tacky sweaters and have no idea who Marc Jacobs is. It would be one thing if this was just how Charlize Theron's character saw these people -- that would fit well with her character -- but that is not the sense we are given from the film. Case in point: a scene towards the very end, when one of the young women who lives in this small town asserts the stereotypes to be true: "People here are all fat and dumb." As someone who now lives in a small Midwest town, I personally know this is not only completely untrue, it is also offensive and, in terms of writing, sloppy. Push past stereotypes! Deepen your characters!
  • Have your characters grow. This is perhaps the biggest problem I had with the movie "Young Adult" -- Charlize Theron's character doesn't grow or change from beginning to end. She is immature, narcissistic, and self-centered when we meet her, and she is the same way when the credits roll. It's fine if you choose to write an unlikeable character, but even unlikeable characters should have likeable sides to them. The best characters, in my opinion, are nuanced people. What makes me care about and root for a character is seeing them grow and change, hopefully for the better. Charlize Theron's character certainly had plenty of room to grow, yet she didn't take any steps forward, not even baby steps. I left the theater thinking, What was the point of that?
Have any movies -- good or bad -- taught you something about writing? I'd love to hear your comments!

Dallas Woodburn is the author of two award-winning collections of short stories and editor of Dancing With The Pen: a collection of today's best youth writing. Her short fiction has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize three years in a row and her nonfiction has appeared in a variety of national publications including Family Circle, Writer's Digest, The Writer, and The Los Angeles Times. She is the founder of Write On! For Literacy and Write On! Books Youth Publishing Company and is currently pursuing her Master's degree in Fiction Writing at Purdue University, where she teaches undergraduate writing courses and serves as Assistant Fiction Editor of Sycamore Review.

Don’t Depend 100% on Your Publisher

By Terry Whalin (@terrywhalin) In 2007, America’s Publicist Rick Frishman invited me to participate on the faculty of MegaBook Marketing Uni...