Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Writing a Successful Children’s Series – 3 Key Elements


This is Part2 of writing a children's series. And, if you’re a children’s writer of chapter books, middle grade, or young adult you can write one.

To write a series, you need three things:

1. Strong characters

In a ‘live’ workshop, Scholastic senior editor Matt Ringler noted that the most important element of a series is a strong character.

According to Ringler, the Goosebumps series is a perfect example of characters that people care about. This makes them want to read the next book in the series, and the one after that, and so on.

This is what makes a series successful.

2. Strong plot

Plot is also important, of course you need a good story. But Ringler finds strong characters trump plot.

3. The hook

Your story as always needs to grab the reader. It needs to hold his attention.

I can see you shaking your heads. Of course, you need these elements.

But, with the series it needs to have them consistently to keep the momentum moving forward.

So, how do you write a successful story?

According to Ringler, the most important aspect to writing a successful story is to do your research.

- Look in libraries and book stores. See what’s getting published and study those books.

- Look at similar titles in the genre your write and in the age range.

- Paying attention to comparative titles are crucial. Who published them? Who edited them?

- Know the format for the genres. This includes the word counts, age group, word levels, and so on.

- Read in the genre you write. Read at least 40 books in this genre. If you find this boring or you hate doing the research then you shouldn’t write in that genre. The research should be the fun part.

- Know what the editor edits. Know the genre he works in. If he edits chapter and middle grade books, don’t send him your picture book.

- Check out the editor’s website and try to find him on social media. You can also check Publisher’s Market Place and Book Shelf. The information you get from this research will give you a better idea of what he’s looking for and possibly how to approach him.

Next is to write and keep writing.

- Join a critique group to get other viewpoints (eyes) on your story.

- Revise, edit, slash, cut, and even start over if need be.

- When you’re finished with a project, start on the next one.

Ringler emphasized that the more books you have out there, the more potential you have for visibility and sales. If a child likes a book, she’ll want more of that book in the form of a series.

How do you know if you’re a successful series writer?

Most series have four books, some have six. This is usually the max of a successful series.

Then there is the phenomenon. These books skyrocket way beyond expectation.

Think “Harry Potter,” “Goosebumps,” “Twilight,” “Puppy Place.”

“Goosebumps” has been around over 20 years and the original author, R. L. Steiner, is still writing them. As a standalone series, it may be one of the reasons for its phenomenon success.

“Puppy Place” is on its 54th book.

And, “Harry Potter.” Enough said.

But, again, these are the exception to the rule.

How do you measure success?

Personal Success:

- Making extra money to supplement your income
- Support yourself with your writing
- Living comfortably
- Making the BIG bucks (this is exceedingly rare)

You’ll need to decide which of these meet your criteria for success.

Critical success:

- Positive reviews
- Starred reviews
- Grants and award

If you’re just starting out, don’t let bad reviews hinder you. “Goosebumps was originally slammed by reviewers. So was “Star Wars.”

Longevity success:

- A long lasting career. The ability to continue publishing.
- Consistent desire for more books from readers, libraries, editors, etc.

Promotional success:

- Public recognition (not usual)
- Direct outreach to kids to help promote reading
- A bigger platform for more visibility

Book sales success:

How many books do you need to sell to be considered successful?

Ringler gave an example of a new author, Author1, who had a 10,000-book print run. He ended up selling 20,000 books. The book was considered a BIG success.

In a second example, a new author, Author2, had a 100,000-book print run. The publishing house expected his book to be a hit. But, he only sold 20,000 books. This book was NOT a success. The publishing house lost money on this author.

In example two, if Author2 wants to pitch another book to that publishing house, they’ll think twice about giving him a contract.

So, success can be relative. Both authors sold 20,000 books, but one was considered a success, the other wasn’t.

I love the example Ringler gave. It's something I hadn’t thought of and certainly puts sales success in perspective.

Summing it up:

This wraps it up for two-parter. If you write chapter books, or middle grade, or even young adult, consider turning your story into a series. There’s definitely a market for it.

To read the first part of this two-parter article on writing a series, go to:
Writing a Children’s Book Series – Different Types

This article was originally published at:

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 check out her books at:

You can connect with Karen at:




Sunday, April 4, 2021

Pros, Cons, and a few How-Tos on Writing Interviews

By Carolyn Howard-Johnson
If you follow Writers on the Move, you may already know that I love Q&A articles a la Ann Landers. It’s a hangover from my journalism days when I was given the job to edit The Great Ann’s column each day for space requirements. It was a lovely lesson in life, writing, and the ways of the publishing industry. These days I love to use Q&As when my readers send me questions using the contact form on my website at Here’s one on writing interviews with a few tips that help with just about anything you do as a freelancer:
QUESTION: I’m a new author and have been asked to do interviews for a pretty high-powered blog and don’t want to embarrass myself. Do you have any guidelines for me?
ANSWER: One of the things I notice about really great interviews is that the question and answers are short. And when I am asked to do interviews, the interviewer often suggests short answers and sometimes gives me a preferred word count for my answers.
When I was writing for a newspaper back in the dark ages I learned that it is an editor’s privilege—in fact their duty—to edit interviews and other material like wedding stories submitted to me. I don't do interviews for my blogs, but if I did, I'd tactfully—gently—let the interviewee know that I might need to edit it for style purposes or length. That way, they aren't surprised when they see interview answers that aren't exactly what they submitted.  
Another thing. This comes straight from my journalism classes: When we're wearing a journalism hat, we aren't required to let an interviewee (or informant) review, check, or otherwise monitor what we have written. We have a free press. So, you aren't obligated to run what you have written by your interviewee. You may choose to ask them to check for accuracy. And there are some benefits to that. It’s a process akin to having a sharp-eyed editor. It’s a great way to begin to build a relationship otherwise known as networking. But there are downsides. Are you willing to change a viewpoint or retract an edit you have made (like shortening an answer) to benefit the readability of your interview?  
Check out Time magazine's interviews. They're usually on their back page and they aim at information, but also try for a little spice, humor, or originality of language—even controversy. Your blogger will appreciate it if you can come up with an image that they might use, too. And it will always benefit you if you add your own short bio or credit line. You have more control of what will go into it if you do it for her. It will save your editor work if she is rushed (and they usually are!)  Be aware, though. She may do some editing of her own on it! That’s her privilege!
More About Today’s Writers on the Move Contributor


Carolyn Howard-Johnson brings her experience as a publicist, journalist, marketer, editor, 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 including a class on editing for self-publishers. The books in her HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers have won multiple awards. That series includes  The Frugal Book Promoter and The Frugal Editor which 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. How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically launched to rave reviews from Karen Cioffi, The Article Writing Doctor,





Thursday, April 1, 2021

Writing a Children’s Book Series - Different Types


I attended a ‘live’ workshop through SCBWI (before the pandemic). This one was with Senior Editor Matt Ringler with Scholastic. He’s in the series department for chapter books, middle grade, and young adult.

If you write in these genres, you’ll want to read on!

In case you weren’t aware, Scholastic is the only publisher that deals solely with children’s books. One out of every three children’s books is sold by Scholastic.

That’s pretty impressive.

Scholastic sells their books through their publishing houses, the Scholastic Reading Club, and Book Fairs. They sell to 35 million children in more than 130,000 Fairs across the country, annually.

Okay, that’s enough about Scholastic, now on to great children’s writing tips.

Children’s books have specific age groups:

Early chapter: 6-8 age group
Chapter books: 7-10 age group
Middle grade: 8-12 age group
Young adult: 12+ age group

Ringler noted that in the ‘early chapter’ books, the rules are stricter. Getting the ‘reader level’ right is essential as are using age appropriate words.

He also noted that ‘young adult’ is not a genre, it’s an age group. The reason for this is that book stores have limited space for books and they separate children’s books by age.

What I found very interesting, is a series doesn’t have to follow through with the same characters.

The series could focus on a particular theme, maybe sports. Or, maybe the series focuses on a particular setting or time period, or other.

This gives the series writer great flexibility and freedom.

And, did you know that there are three different formats for children’s series?

1. The continuation.

The books in this format continue with the same characters and often the same situation, like in the Harry Potter series. These books are dependent on information in the prior books – you need to read them in order. You need to know what happened in the previous books to keep up with the story.

2. The standalone.

The books in this format don’t reference the prior books at all. You can pick up Book5 and be good to go. You don’t need any prior information to make sense of the story. And, they aren’t in any kind of sequence.

These books are independent of each other.

An example of this type of series is “Goosebumps.”

Ringler mentioned that when dealing with a standalone series, branding is super-important.

Getting the logo and cover design just right is necessary to help make the series a success. It needs to be easily recognizable as that series.

To get it just right takes months. All the departments involved need to be on board and approve it.

3. Sequential, but not dependent.

The books in this format are in order (sequential), but they’re not dependent on what happened in the previous book.

I think the editor mentioned that the “Puppy Place” series falls in this category. But, there was a lot of information, so please don’t quote me on this one.

Where does an editor get his projects from?

Ringler finds manuscripts from:

- Agents: they pitch their clients’ stories to him.

- Authors: existing Scholastic authors will come to him with another book they’ve written.

- Colleagues: other editors in Scholastic may get a manuscript that isn’t right for them but think it would be just-right for Ringler.

- Book Clubs and Book Fairs: they’ll need specific books for specific fairs. For example, focusing on the month of April, they want an April’s Fool book.

- Self-generated: these are ideas Ringler gets on his own. It may from browsing books stores, watching a movie or TV, or other.

Once the story is found, what’s the purchasing process?

This is the same for all editors. If they find a manuscript they’re passionate about, it goes to the Acquisitions Dept – everyone gets involved in the decision to purchase the story, or not.

Ringler noted that he can get rejected for a number of reasons:

- Scholastic has a similar book in the works
- They feel there’s not a market for it
- They just don’t like it
- Other reasons

The editor needs to fight to have his book chosen. It can take a year or more just to buy a book if things work out in the editor’s favor.

Once the book is actually acquired, there are five steps that need to take place:

1. The editor goes over the first draft manuscript. This phase is about concept, story, clarity, etc.

2a. After the editor is done, it goes to the copyeditor for line editing. This phase is about grammar, punctuation, spelling, fact checking, and so on.

2b. Next, it’s on to character design. The illustrator will come up with a number of character designs that will be reviewed. The decision as to which should be used will be made.

3. Then it’s on to interior layout and design. The font to be used, where the illustrations are placed, the chapter heading style, and so on happen during this phase.

4. The fourth phase is where it’s all put to together with the cover, back cover, front matter, and so on. The book finally gets published at the end of this phase.

After about 18-24 months of contract, the author finally has a published book.

I’ll have more on writing a children’s series with Matt Ringler April 7th, next week.

This was originally published at: 

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:



Branding Checkup

Perseverance Pays Off

Read as a Writer



Sunday, March 28, 2021

A Writer's Bucket and Mop List

"The key is not spending time,
but in investing in it."
                               Stephen R. Covey

What is the first thing you want to do in the morning when you get up? If you’re like me, you want to write. But there are so many other things to do, even for retired folks like me! Often, writing—composing—doesn’t happen until nighttime when the dishes are done and the house is quiet.

Throughout the day while wishing I could be writing, I dream. My dream goes something like this (in order of preference):

 I could write right now if only I had:

  • an on-call massage therapist
  • a nanny (when I still had kids at home)
  • a maid
  • a cook
  • a secretary
  • a research assistant
  • a dedicated media specialist
  • an errand runner
  • a personal trainer
  • a gardener
  • a dog walker

Then when nighttime comes, I realize I am all those things. I do something from most if not all the items on my list every day. 

Make Your Life Your Inspiration

A humorist writer friend of mine once told me about challenges her husband faced at his job. About what was going on with each of her three sons. About her own life and lack of time to get anything done.

But she told me she wouldn't trade her life for the world. If it weren't for the angst in her family, she wouldn't have anything to write about.

I've never forgotten my friend’s insight. It's a lesson I cherish every day. If I had too much time to write, my need wouldn't be as urgent. I may not be as motivated. I may not have those few hours of pure bliss to look forward to each day.

Once I tried doing nothing but write all day, every day. I soon found that my life became so narrow, the energy I had once stored up for writing projects had withered away. I ran out of ideas. My page became as blank as my life.

Balance. That is the answer. Find a proper balance and that will solve everything. Good luck with that. Balance turned out to be as fleeting as my sapped energy. I discovered lopsided is good. My solution: create space to write. Take time out each week to work on writing projects. Though even this plan sometimes seems impossible, if we stick to a schedule, no matter how small it may be at times, eventually we will finish our projects and go after publishing our work.

Gains and Losses

Since recently “putting to bed” a few book projects, I realize I am teetering on the brink of marketing them and jumping into my next writing project(s) with both feet. Here is the short version of what has happened to my life as I endeavor to reach my future writing goals.


  • The many friends and acquaintances I've made that will surely remain a part of my future.
  • The sharpening of my skills.
  • Learning new things every day.
  • Being motivated enough to stay up late and still get up early.
  • The fun of sharing my hopes and dreams with others.
  • The feeling of accomplishment at completing such a challenging task as writing a book.
  • Keeping other interests alive to strive for less lopsidedness and more balance.
  • How much I've grown from reading and learning about different people and subjects.
  • Emotionally I feel I've grown, too, for it seems that understanding our own emotions and others' emotions is part of writing.
  • Being an entertainer.
  • The sheer fun of having an audience.
  • Enjoying the feeling of joy inside at all that writing has given me.


  • No more time for sewing or photoscrapbooking.
  • Little time for socializing; having to say no to invitations to join clubs, play bridge, or loll around the pool.
  • Free time to simply curl up with a good book or watch TV, or do nothing.
  • Everything I do has to have a purpose in order to squeak out time to write.

Live a Life of Gratitude

The list of gains is long, losses is short. Like my humorist friend, I wouldn't trade this life for anything. Let us be grateful for the lives we've been given, which have brought us so willingly to the page and all we’ve gained from it, over and over again. 

Photo: By Linda Wilson

For more about time management visit:

Secret in the Mist, Book 2
of the Abi Wunder Mystery series
will be available soon.

Linda Wilson lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She has two daughters who inspired her stories when they were younger. Linda is the editor of the New Mexico Society of Children’s Writers and Illustrators newsletter, and has written posts for the Writers on the Move blog since 2013. She is a classical pianist and loves to go to the gym. But what Linda loves most is to make up stories and connect with her readers. Find out more by visiting Linda’s website at

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Book & Baby: The Complete Guide to Managing Chaos & Becoming a Wildly Successful Writer-Parent - A Review

by Suzanne Lieurance

Most professional writers have a list of their favorite books about writing.

Here’s a new book that’s going at the top of my list.

It’s called Book & Baby: The Complete Guide to Managing Chaos & Becoming a Wildly Successful Writer-Parent by Milda M. DeVoe.

This book might seem like an unlikely choice for me since my children are long grown and I now have a rather quiet household with just my husband and me.

But it offers tips and advice that any writer—at whatever stage of their life—can benefit from.

For example, all writers face periods in their lives when they don’t have long stretches of time for writing.

This book helps any writer see how they can write in short periods of time, or even make time out of no time.

The book also gives suggestions and advice on how to manage your money, sleep, and energy so you can be present for your children and still write your book. It also covers:

° Finding an Agent
° Book Tours
° Accountability
° Social Media for Writers with Kids
° Writing with an Empty Nest
° How to Apply for Grants
° And more

Milda M. DeVoe created this book as a guide for anyone who wants to be a successful writer and parent. She is the founder of Pen Parentis, a collective that brings well-known authors—who also happen to be parents—together to discuss writing, parenting, and advice on combining the two.

Throughout the book, you’ll find excerpts from the Pen Parentis’ salons that answer questions on how to be a writer-parent at every stage of parenthood. It’s like an informative peek into the lives of these writers with insights that any parent can instantly relate to. For example, one writer says, “Becoming a parent refined me as a writer. Sure, it took away my time to create, but now I create with verve and purpose.”

The quote I related to the most, however, was this one: “My kids give me my best material.”

I think this is true for most any writer-parent.

Learn more about Pen Parentis at

And get the book at

For more writing tips, be sure to visit and get your free subscription to The Morning Nudge. Once you're a subscriber, you'll also have access to a Private Resource Library for Writers.

Suzanne Lieurance is the author of over 40 published books, a freelance writer, and a writing coach.

Monday, March 22, 2021

How to Get a Wealth of Social Media Content

By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

Where do you get your content for your social media? Is it all your own material or does it come from others?

People in publishing are looking for writers with excellent content. I’ve been on twitter since 2008 and tweeted over 58,000 times. My following has grown from zero (no followers) to over 190,000. How in the world do I determine what to have on my social media feeds and why do I never run out of new content?

Haphazard and rare use of social media never works. To develop a following, you need to be putting out good and consistent content. I use a free tool Hootsuite to schedule my tweets throughout the day. Each communication is focused on my audience and readers (who are writers or people interested in publishing). Your target audience will be different but you must have a specific target.

Collect content and images. I subscribe to a number of blogs and newsletters who are in my target market I read these blogs and learn from them. Also I use these articles as content for my social media. As I find each one, I take a few minutes each day and add them to my Hootsuite releases for the days ahead. I keep the title of the article and attach the image from the article (since images get more social media attention).

When it comes to my tweets, I’ve developed my own structure for my daily game plan for my posts. Yours will be different but take the time to develop a structure. With this structure in place, your search for content is focused and deliberate. For example, I begin each day with a quotation and an image (often of the person quoted). Many people love these quotes so they are shared and retweeted. 

At the beginning and the end of the day,  I will point to my own resources such as blog posts (over 1500 posts in my blog) or free teleseminars or other personal resources. I keep a small plain text file with these posts and recycle them on a regular basis. In the middle of the day, I have new content from the articles and blogs and newsletters that I regularly read. I do not automatically take every post from these newsletters. With each one, I’m focused on my audience and asking,” Is this material a good fit for my reader?” If the answer is no, then I do not include it.

From my experience, there is an abundance of resources to add to your social media feeds. It’s part of the reason I tweet at least 12 times a day. It continues to draw new readers and older readers.

The consistency and quality will draw people to your work. Yes this is platform building 101 but necessary for every author. If you need more information about platform building, then get my free Ebook on the topic.

As you have a wealth of social media content, the consistent effort is important and will pay off for you. You don't have to be on every social media channel. Pick one or two and major on that particular channel.


Follow these tips to have a wealth of social media content. (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. He lives in Colorado and has over 190,000 twitter followers

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Marketing Is Engaging With Readers, Be Findable


Promotion and Marketing is about the reader; it’s engagement. We aim to draw readers’ attention to our books and articles. How do we reach each other? It starts with a commitment to be findable. Writers must have a web presence. We must be searchable.

Further, when found, we must deliver consistent content.

Readers have little time for complicated searches, so stay findable with content value. Make good use of Keywords in your post and book titles. Be bookmarked, making it easy for readers to keep coming back.

Tips for search-ability:
1.    Optimize your use of Metadata, Keywords, & Descriptions for Search Engines
    a.    Metadata is information about your book, the title, sub-title, sales description, categories & author bio.
    b.    Keywords refer to a word or phrase that is associated with your book or your blog post. To develop a list of keywords, write a list of all the words and phrases that you consider associated with your post or book. Be as specific as possible. Your reader will appreciate this as they search the internet. (For social media, we can use hashtags # for more group visibility.)
    c.    Develop your keyword or phrase list by searching Amazon with your keyword ideas and note the results. This will help you target your best keywords.
    d.    Use your keywords in titles, too
    e.    Once you have selected your keywords, incorporate them into your Metadata information.

Tips to stay connected with your readership:
1.    Develop and maintain an author’s website
2.    Include a Blog on your website, post often—at least every 2 weeks
    a.    For additional traffic, would guest posting work for you? Maybe you could trade guest posts with a writing friend. Your byline will appear with a short bio and a link to your website/blog when you guest write for another’s blog.
    b.    Things to consider: Do the themes of the blogs enhance each other? Would your readership find value in both your blog and the guest’s? Don’t send your reader away: rather build-up both sites.
    c.    Start by noting the blogs you follow.
3.    Get involved with Social Media platforms that suit you and your themes and link back to your website URL each time you post
4.    Create a newsletter, send it to your email list and post a link on your social media pages
5.    Expand your book’s availability by including an audiobook
6.    Consider creating a Podcast series, start with the theme most meaningful to you
7.    Consider Books2Read  and Universal Book Links  as a vehicle for readers to find your books. Universal Book Link (UBL) is a single URL that you can use to promote your books/eBooks.

Marketing is Engagement with Your Readers
Deliver Content

Book List:
* How to Market a Book by Joanna Penn

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

Facebook: Deborah Lyn Stanley, Writer

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