Monday, February 22, 2021

Why It's Called The Slush Pile

By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin
Every writer pitches their ideas to literary agents and publishers. I've listened to many of these pitches personally at writers conferences and I've received stacks of these submissions as an editor and agent.

In a matter of seconds, I can tell if something is going to be worth reading and considering. Yes, seconds. Millions of submissions are in circulation at different offices. The editors and agents are actively looking because it is their business to find fresh talent and publish authors.
I've received many unusual submissions. The number and variety of these submissions grew that I started a file in my desk and labeled it, Strange But True. Recently, another one landed in my mail box. Just to be clear, I've worked at Morgan James Publishing for eight years. Our primary mailing address is in New York City. This handwritten letter was addressed:
Manuscript Review Committee
Morgan James Publishing
9457 S. University Blvd, Suite 621
Highlands Ranch, CO 80129
It came to my personal address yet it was addressed to the “committee.” OK. I opened it and thankfully it has an SASE (self-addressed stamped envelope). The letter (typed) began, “Dear Sirs,” Why would you address a single editor to his personal mail box with the plural Dear Sirs?
First paragraph: “If you could hold in your hands, this moment, the most urgent, significant, consequential revelations of the century, a manuscript so meaningful as to rival the Holy Bible of old, a manuscript containing the most sacred and controversial heavenly truths ever bestowed on the eath (she meant earth); would you publish it?”
OK, this paragraph is engaging yet full of exaggeration. It is in many respects over the top.
Second paragraph: “This manuscript exists. _______ is about 900 pages of the most sacred words of the holy angels of God. This is a powerful, dynamic manuscript from a heavenly perspective, not a mortal imagination. These are deep, thought-provoking, intelligent, inspirational words which will invoke an indelible emotion in the reader. Some will tremble in the soul. Eyes will fill with tears as they recognize these are actual truths of angel's wisdom. This is not another “angel book.”
A typical nonfiction book (which this claims to be) is 40 to 80,000 words. The world of books and magazine looks for the word count--not the page count. Estimating 200 words a page, this manuscript is 180,000 words or over 700 pages of a typeset book. That fact alone is enough to get this instantly rejected. The author has no concept of the challenges of book production or the difficulties that such a large book will mean to any publisher--much less thinking about the contents. I'm speaking only of the word count. It is way beyond the normal range.
Whenever as a writer you submit your material to an editor or agent, you only have one chance to make a good first impression. I answered questions about book proposals in a free teleseminar. This teleseminar launched my Write A Book Proposal training program. In 12-weeks, I teach step-by-step how to craft a book proposal and sample chapter which will gather the right sort of interest.
Every writer needs to learn all they can to make the best possible impression on the agent or editor. They are searching for a champion who will move their idea through the publishing process and they will ultimately get their book published and into the marketplace. As for this “submission” to the Manuscript Review Committee, it will only land in my “Strange But True” Manila folder. My hope is my article gives you an explanation why unsolicited submissions are called The Slush Pile. Rarely do you find something golden in there but it is possible and hope springs eternal. 
Are you targeting your submissions to the right editor or literary agent or leaping into their slush pile? Let me know in the comments below.

Wonder why the unsolicited submissions are called The Slush Pile? This prolific editor and author explains what type of submission might be in this pile. Get the details here. (ClickToTweet)

W. Terry Whalin is an acquisitions editor at Morgan James Publishing. His work contact information is on the bottom of the second page (follow this link).  He has written for over 50 magazines and more than 60 books with traditional publishers. His latest book for writers is 10 Publishing Myths, Insights Every Author Needs to Succeed. Get this book for only $10 + free shipping and over $200 in bonuses. One of Terry's most popular free ebooks is Straight Talk From the Editor, 18 Keys to a Rejection-Proof Submission. He lives in Colorado and has  190,000 twitter followers

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Marketing Tips for Writers



Marketing Tips for Writers, by Deborah Lyn Stanley

Promotion is sharing what we find important with people who appreciate hearing about it. Marketing is about the reader; who are they and what are they are looking for? The answers help develop your target market and competition awareness.  

It’s all about getting readers to find your writing.

This path helps guide to best planning. Whatever stage you’re in, it’s always a good time to outline and review our Marketing Plan. Whether you write fiction or non-fiction, consider where readers would find books or articles like yours, and make sure they can find yours as well.

Ways to market & promote —
Make the task frequency doable, choose what works for you:
•    Create your web-presence, aka an author’s website—your platform
•    Blog actively & often
•    Collect the best keywords and category designations for search optimization—in bookstores, online searches, and for your web-presence
•    Social Media posting—choose the social media platform that works best for you.
       -LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter
       -Post often using images and videos
       -Always link back to your website post/page
•    Create a newsletter and use email blasts each month or at least quarterly
•    Start a Podcast: see link below for details to get started.
•    Publish an audiobook
•    Some suggest blogging daily is the best. I suggest listening to your readership and follow their patterns. I become annoyed receiving daily posts overloading my email and unsubscribed when it occurs. Also, daily blogging doesn’t work with my schedule.

Critical Details for Reader Searching & Finding your book or article:
•    Genre, choose the most applicable genre listing—listen to your readers and where they search
•    Price to fit the market
•    Metadata is also a vehicle for promoting your work. Metadata is information about your book, the title, sub-title, sales description, categories and author bio. Optimize its use.

Find the perfect promo fit. Make marketing work for you consistently.

Book List & Podcast Link:
*Successful Self-Publishing & How to Market a Book by Joanna Penn

*The Frugal Book Promoter by Carolyn Howard-Johnson 

 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:
Available on Amazon --- Mom & Me: A Story of Dementia and the Power of God’s Love ||

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Sunday, February 14, 2021

Lexile Reading Levels for Self and Small Publishers of Children’s Books

 Lexile Reading Levels for Self-published and Small Publishers of Children’s Books

Did you know children’s books should be “leveled” for reading classes? Yes, most teachers and libraries check the Lexile level of books before purchasing. Why is that? A Lexile level is an approximate reading level for a student, which may vary from the grade level.  You have probably seen statements such as, “This book is recommended for children ages 6-8.” Publishers find age information is by having the Lexile level ( determined to include this information in their book listings for authors on sites such as Amazon. It is easily found where the page numbers, IBNs, and so on are found on book sales pages. Self-published and smaller publishing houses may also take advantage of reading levels assessed by the Lexile Framework for Reading. Authors may have to add Lexile levels to Amazon and other online book descriptions themselves.

Lexile Reading Levels for Self and Small Publishers of Children’s Books is a rather extensive site and so here is an explanation of the different site sections. A parent page, educator page, education companies & publishers, and the departments of education page can be found using the menu. Also, books may be looked up in the find a book area. Lexile level grade-level charts, an analyzer, growth planner, Lexile career database, Wordlists, and a Measures manager are included. Listening levels are a new feature on the site. Spanish book levels are also available on the site.

Many States Have Memberships for Their Residents

Because reading levels are critical to student understanding and success, many states have already joined the site. I live in Minnesota, and my membership is free. A teacher friend of mine lives in New York and also has a free membership. The annual cost is only about $18 if an author lives in a state without a membership. Even with a free membership, though, the site offers an extensive amount of information.

The reasons authors should be aware of this site while writing includes the following:

1.     An author may copy then paste up to 1000 words in the analyzer to determine the Lexile level. Full sentences should be entered before clicking the analyze button. A Lexile level range will be given, although not certified and is only an estimate. The overview column will list the longest sentence and recommended books at the same level. The indicators column will include decoding, vocabulary, and patterns. The vocabulary column will select up to ten words from the text that can help inform instruction. See this page for more information. (

2.     Leveled word lists may be downloaded from the site and used to inform authors as they write.

3.     If an author creates curriculum or teacher resources for his or her book, the teacher assistant area provides state standards. I can look up Minnesota state standards. I have written two math storybooks and created student work pages for them, so I check the math standards information.

4.     Lexile Tools for Find a Book allow searching by author, keyword, ISBN, grade level (easy, just right, and challenging), or by measure (a number) or a Lexile Range.

5.     When looking for comp titles to submit a manuscript, this site is also beneficial for finding such titles.

6.     Book level labels may be downloaded for books placed on “my shelf” and printed, if interested.

The Most Important Reasons to Consider Using Lexile Measures

However, an important reason for an author or small publisher to use this site is to get their books leveled. I did so and received levels for about $35 a book. For another $10, a vocabulary list is provided. At the beginning of each book sales page description, I added the Lexile Level number so teachers will see that first. Many teachers and librarians will look for Lexile levels first thing.

The second important reason for authors or small publishers to seek Lexile Levels is because the books are searchable online and in school and library catalogs. A member may make a bookshelf on the site and add books. I  put the books I authored on my bookshelf, although they may be searched by individual title. Links may be shared in blog posts, social media, and press releases.

I hope you found this information useful!

Thank you for reading, Carolyn Wilhelm

Author and Owner of The Wise Owl Factory

Carolyn Wilhelm is the curriculum writer and sole owner of 
The Wise Owl Factory site and blog. She has a BS in Elementary Education, an MS in Gifted Education, and an MA in Curriculum and Instruction K-12. As a retired teacher of 28 years, she now makes mostly free educational resources for teachers and parents. Her course about Self-Publishing from the Very, Very Beginning is available on UDEMY. Her children’s books are available on Amazon and Barnes and Nobel sites.

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

#FebruaryReset: Ten Tips to Restart Your Year

The beginning of the year is always an exciting time. New Year + New Goals = New Years Resolutions. 

Yet, oddly, as ramped up as people are on January 1st, many abandon their goals by February 1st. When they make little or even no progress in the first month, they figure, "That's okay. I'll try again next year."

News flash: You don't need to wait until the New Year to reboot your goals. Every day, week, and month is the opportunity for a new start. 
Here are 10 things you can do for your #FebruaryReset:

1. Read your goals from January 1st. Refresh your memory of what you set out to achieve. 

2. Rewrite your goals for the year. What stopped you from getting started? Was there an impossible something on your list? Something you forgot to include? You can take items off that original list, and add new things. Just make sure you have a mix of easy wins and stretch goals to keep things interesting.  

3. Set personal goals. Most people concentrate only on professional goals. Whenever you achieve a personal goal, you are more productive and happy, which enhances your professional life. The opposite is also true. Personal and professional goals elevate each other, so pay attention to both. 

3. Post your goals in a place where you will see them every day. Out of sight is out of mind, so  ... keep your eye on what you are working toward. It helps!

4. Clean up your workspace. File papers, shred envelopes. Make your work environment as user friendly and inviting as possible. 

5. Clean out your closet. Or a room in your house ... or your garage. Clearing out actual clutter will help clear your mind.

6. Review your social media profiles. Make sure your picture is current and your experience, motto, and mission are up to date. 

7. Do a digital cleanse. Go through your inbox and unsubscribe from email lists you never get a chance to read. Also, take the opportunity to remove unused programs and archive old files.

8. Introduce healthy habits. Find an exercise you enjoy, and schedule time to take part regularly. Find new healthy meal options. Cook more. Eat out less. And drink lots of water. 

9. Schedule goal-time, me-time, and downtime. Treat the time you spend working toward your goals, treating yourself, and chilling out as sacred as the time you spend working for other people. Whether it's an hour every other day or an hour a week, it doesn't matter. Put these invaluable appointments in your electronic calendar ... and keep them! 

10. Give yourself a break. You can't do everything all the time. Sometimes life gets in the way of pursuing your dreams... you can't punish yourself when you get off track. If you fall off the goal-wagon, just get up, dust yourself off, and start again.  

Need more inspiration and motivation? Every day in February, I am posting a new #FebruaryRestart Goal on @TheDEBMethod social media.

Best of luck on your goal journey. To your success.

* * *

So, what is your best #FebruaryRestart tip? Please share your advice in the comments.

Debra Eckerling is the author of Your Goal Guide: A Roadmap for Setting, Planning and Achieving Your Goals. A writer, editor, and project catalyst, as well as founder of the D*E*B METHOD and Write On Online, Deb works with individuals and businesses to set goals and manage their projects through one-on-one coaching, workshops, and online support. She is also the author of Write On Blogging: 51 Tips to Create, Write & Promote Your Blog and Purple Pencil Adventures: Writing Prompts for Kids of All Ages, host of the #GoalChat Twitter Chat and #GoalChatLive on Facebook, and a speaker/moderator on the subjects of writing, networking, goal-setting, and social media.

Sunday, February 7, 2021

Book Review || The Story Within: New Insights and Inspiration for Writers

The Story Within: New Insights and Inspiration for Writers by Laura Oliver, MFA, Reviewed by Deborah Lyn Stanley

Today I’m sharing another one of my favorite, most helpful books. Laura Oliver’s book has done as promised for my writing practice.  Writer’s Digest recommended Laura Oliver’s book; I grabbed a copy and spent time reading, taking notes and absorbing Laura’s message.

Laura’s delivery style is refreshing and upbeat. As a published author, Laura teaches fiction and essay writing to university students.  We are all fortunate to have access to her instructional messages in this book. The book includes tips, delving into why we write, lessons to go with the flow of your story, the significance of journaling deeper, and guidance for growing skills.

Journaling deeper is my favorite message of Laura’s. I must be more diligent to journal, free write, and dig deeper into the heart of my stories. 

The Goal of the book is to build a writer’s confidence and to just begin writing; no need to know the whole story first. 

I highly recommend this book. It’s refreshing and empowering with insights that inspire our writers' journey.

Thank you Laura Oliver!


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:

Facebook: Deborah Lyn Stanley, Writer



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Thursday, February 4, 2021

Carolyn Howard-Johnson Tells Authors How to Pretty Up Their Review Copies Before Sending Them



 So a Reviewer Said Yes. Now What!

By Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of the multi award-winning

HowToDoItFrugally series of books for authors

Sighhh. I so hate to see an author or publisher send out bare-bones review copies to a reviewer who has committed to reviewing a book.

Here are a few ideas from my newest book from my HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers, How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically, to dress that copy up a bit. The idea is to help your reviewer without violating ethics standards.

•   Affix a review label to the inside front cover of the review copy you are sending. It should have all your book’s key data: contact information including name, phone, fax, email, and website. This can be done on a 3.5 x 5 inch label. Print enough for your projected needs.

•   Enclose a media kit or a help sheet (sometimes called a sell sheet) about your title. It should include your media release. It might explain the benefits of your book or why someone would be interested in reading it and a bio of the author. Include the same information on this as the review label mention above. By doing this, you assure that your reviewer has the information he or she needs and that your name is spelled right. Further, if you include a nice synopsis, you may even be able to influence the reviewer to highlight what you find most valuable about your book.

•   Enclose a cover letter stating that this review copy is being sent in direct response to their request and how to reach you if they need any additional information. This information can also go on the outside of the envelope you are using to send your ARC. Do not say that say it is “requested material”, though, unless it is the truth.

•   Send the reviewer a brief e-mail and remind him/her of the request and that the copy is on its way. Double-check the address you have at that time.

•   Some reviewers, bloggers, and other media outlets use the information you send verbatim. In the third edition of the The Frugal Book Promoter now published by Modern History Press, I advise that your media kit include a review with permission for them to cut and paste exactly as it is. Be sure to give them guidelines for its use from both you and the original reviewer (Midwest Book Review, as an example, always extends permission for unlimited use as long as they are credited.)

•   Let your contact know—as part of the letter and the release and even the review slip—that interior art, cover art, and/or author photos are available electronically or as black and white glossies. Make the cover of your book and an author photo available on your website so they can be downloaded in either color or black and white, in either high or low resolution.

•   Don’t try to talk the reviewer into an e-copy if he or she request real paper.

Oh, yeah. Don’t forget to send a thank you for the review. Even if you weren’t that charmed with it. It’s a reviewer’s right to say what they want, although I always advise reviewers to tactfully send a book back if they feel compelled to slaughter it.

More About the Author



Learn more about how to make your book into a classic with forever reviews in the, How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically: The ins and outs of using free reviews to build and sustain a writing career. It’s fat, but it has a great index so you can find specific aspects of the review process from managing Amazon reviews to writing reviews of books you love.

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. All her books for writers are multi award winners including The Frugal Book Promoter and The Frugal Editor including awards from USA Book News, Readers’ Views Literary Award, the marketing award from Next Generation Indie Books and others including the coveted Irwin award. The newest in the series, How to Get Great Reviews Frugally and Ethically, was launched as part of a promotional program to more than 20,000 new readers. All are available in print or as e-book. Learn more at .

Monday, February 1, 2021

The Foundation of Every Children’s Story


 While every story starts with a good idea, that’s not enough to make a good story.

Your idea, while possibly the cornerstone of the creation, is only part of the foundation. There are other elements needed to make a fully developed story.

To give you an example of this, a protagonist wants to take guitar lessons. He does and becomes a good guitar player. Your message is to show children they can do the same.

Why would someone want to read about a character taking lessons to learn to learn to play the guitar or any other instrument?

But suppose something stops the protagonist or gets in the way of the him learning to play.

This gives the story idea substance. It gives it conflict.

Below are the basic elements that create a story foundation.

1. The idea.

As a children’s ghostwriter, clients come to me with a number of ideas. But, they’re just ideas. They’re not stories.

An idea could be a child wants to become an astronaut.

Again, this isn’t a story. But it is a key part of the foundation of a good story.

2. The problem, the conflict.

Every children’s fiction story must have a problem or obstacle that the protagonist has to overcome.

The conflict drives the story.

According to Now Novel, “conflict is at the heart of all stories.” (1)

Going back to the guitar scenario, suppose the protagonist has started and stopped a number of hobbies or sporting activities. Now his parents refuse to invest in a guitar and lessons.

This creates a problem for the protagonist – how is he going to get a guitar and afford to pay for lessons. Or, if he’s a younger protagonist, how will he convince his parents that this activity will be different. He’ll follow through with it.

3. The struggle.

There needs to be a struggle - the protagonist needs to attempt and fail at reaching his goal.

In children’s writing, three is the general rule for attempts. On the third try at achieving his goal, the protagonist finally gets it. He’s triumphant.

If the protagonist gets what he wants in one try, it doesn’t drive the stakes up. It’s too easy.

A reader turns the pages to follow along with the struggles. It’s the struggles that strengthens the connection between the protagonist and the reader. This makes the reader feel like the final victory is his too.

4. Growth.

The story has to be about more than just the initial idea. It has to be about more than just incidents in a story.

Writing coach Suzanne Lieurance notes that, "an incident is simply a series of actions and occurrences in a character's life. But these things don't change the character."

By the end of the story, the protagonist needs to have developed or grown in some way.

- Maybe he becomes wiser.
- Maybe he learns to stand on his own two feet and overcomes what he must to accomplish what he wants.
- Maybe he learns it’s okay to be different.
- Maybe he learns there’s more to him than he thought.
- Maybe he figures out there are things more important than riches and power.
- Maybe he learns the importance of friendship.
- Maybe he learns the importance of being honest.

This list could go on and on.

Character growth is essential to a good story.

5. Be subtle.

Your story should be written so that the reader will see for herself the message you want to convey.

I’ve seen many story endings where the reader is hit over the head with the message.

Let the message be subtly weaved throughout the story. And, know that the reader is savvy enough to get it.

These five steps are the foundation to your children’s story.

Keep them in mind when writing yours.



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. She is also an author/writer online platform instructor with WOW! Women on Writing.

You can connect with Karen at:


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