Saturday, April 9, 2022

Featured Productivity Tool: Write Your Win List

Want a sure-fire to stay motivated ... and productive? Start tracking your wins.  

As writers, we constantly have multiple projects at various stages of development. Things take a long time to go from idea to published work. It's easy to lose steam ... and lose faith. 

Stop waiting to write "The End" before noting an accomplishment. Track all of your wins. And start celebrating ALL of your accomplishments. 

How and Where to Track Wins

One easy way to track your wins is via your electronic calendar. Whenever you have a writing appointment, include the time - and the activity - in your calendar. Then, at the end of the month, if you don't feel like you've done enough, you can easily prove yourself wrong. All your progress at a glance. 

You can also track progress by creating a Win List. You can do this in an actual notebook, on a Google or Word doc - whatever makes the most sense for you. Then, at the end of every day, put the date at the top and write out one to three wins. At the end of the week, review your list and celebrate your wins. You can also do this whenever you need a pick me up!

Win Starters

Are you having trouble claiming wins? Here is a fill-in-the-blank list to get you started. Hint: Anything and everything can be considered a win. It just needs to be meaningful to you.
  • I journaled ## days/week 
  • I wrote/created/published /launched/released [this] 
  • I queried X agents/magazines/publishers
  • I did [this nice thing] that helped [this person/community] 
  • I did not complain about my neighbors
  • I learned [this] 
  • I read [that] 
  • I reconnected with [this person] 
  • I worked out ## days most weeks 
  • I cooked/baked/gardened 
  • I filled someone's expired parking meter
  • I pursued information on [something] that has always interested me 
  • I tried eating/drinking/watching something new
  • I survived 

Final Thoughts 

Motivation and productivity go hand in hand. The more productive you are, the more motivated you are to keep going. Keep an eye on your goals, and celebrate every step along the way. Remember, you can do it!

* * * 
For more inspiration and motivation, follow @TheDEBMethod on Twitter and Linkedin! 

* * *

What's your biggest win this week? This month? Please share in the comments, so we can help celebrate you. 

* * *

Debra Eckerling is the award-winning author of Your Goal Guide: A Roadmap for Setting, Planning and Achieving Your Goals and founder of the D*E*B METHOD, which is her system for goal-setting simplified. A writer, editor, and project catalyst, Deb works with entrepreneurs, executives, and creatives 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 and Purple Pencil Adventures; founder of Write On Online; Vice President of the Los Angeles Chapter of the Women's National Book Association; host of the #GoalChat Twitter Chat, #GoalChatLive on Facebook and LinkedIn, and The DEB Show podcast. She speaks on the subjects of writing, networking, goal-setting, and social media.

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Carolyn Howard-Johnson Shares Sell Sheet Secrets


By Carolyn Howard-Johnson,
multi award-winning author
of the HowToDoItFrugally Series
of books for writer

[Excerpted and abbreviated from a chapter on preparing review copies in my How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically, third in the multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally Series for writers.]
Over the years as I worked with clients, I realized that too many authors don’t know about sell sheet and many more undervalue the opportunities they afford. Sell sheets are generally thought of as fliers that get inserted into their free review copies, otherwise known as ARCs. They are printed with a very short pitch (otherwise known as a logline), the book’s metadata, a bio of the author that relates well to the theme or topic of the book, and maybe even a few blurbs (endorsements) the publisher or author has already collected. They act as a one-page website at-the-ready for reviewers.
When reviewers prefer e-books, few publishers or authors are savvy enough to send a sell sheet as an attachment with it or, better, rework the e-copy into the very front of the e-book itself. A few of the big publishers do that with a special ARC edition of their paperbacks, too.
Are you still wondering why they are so important? A great sell sheet helps the reviewer write the review easily and quickly. But more importantly, it can serve as a kind of guide for them by highlighting the points the publisher (traditional or self-publisher) feels most important. The reviewer is not obligated to follow these subtle suggestions, but they usually incorporate at least a portion of it in their reviews. It also helps the reviewer avoid making mistakes within the review itself.
Sell sheets can also be inserted into books used for other marketing purposes. Books sent to bookstore buyers, TV directors, schedulers, feature editors, librarians and more. When appropriate, publishers might add a subtle suggestion that reviews and blurbs are always appreciated or add a Post-it note to that effect. These marketing wonders may be called “sell sheets,” but they are beyond selling. They are useful, professional, and even courteous because they make it easier for recipients to do their work.
Ideally sell sheets should be printed in color on glossy paper, 8 ½ x 11, and may be printed on both sides.  Here is what they should include.
•    A book cover image.
•    A headshot of the author.
•    Include book and author awards. You're trying to convince people of the quality of the book and expertise of the author.
•    Know your audience and let the sell sheet reader know who that is. No book is for "everyone."
•    Include the BISAC subject heading in your metadata. You'll find them at These are the headings that bookstores and librarians use so you might as well do what you can to make their jobs easier when you are selling them on featuring your workshop or having a signing for you, too.
•    Your metadata includes:
        -Your ISBN, both 10 and 13.
        -The book's binding type (perfect, wire, comb, sewn)/
        -How the book might be purchased. (paperback, hardback, jacket, e-book).
        -The book’s dimensions.
        -The book’s page count.
        -When pertinent, include name of the illustrator, their awards, and short bio.
        -Don’t forget the retail price for both US, Canada, and others that may be pertinent.
    Let people know what the book includes:
            *Bibilography (My publisher is an avid fan of bibliographies for his nonfiction books because that are a mark of professional publishing.)
•    Include review quotes and endorsements, most important and credible first.
•    Include a short author biography. Keep it focused on the author's pertinent platform rather than how many children she has, unless the book is about raising children.
•    Include complete distributor information. That, by the way, is not Ingram, though that info should be there, too. If you don't have a distributor, do your research fast and try to get one that offers a sales force as well as distribution.
•    Include the publisher and how to order directly from them.
•    Mention the author’s speaking ability and the subjects they are qualified to speak on.
You can see that one side sheet will probably not accommodate all the required information. Use both sides. E-mail me at and I will send you a copy of a two-sided professionally produced sell sheet.
Hint: You can use sell sheets as fliers at fairs, when you speak and more. When you send out ARCs, you might choose to include the most basic info on a label applied to the inside of the front cover. That way, if the sell sheet gets separated from the book, the recipient is sure to have all the information she or he needs.
Don't forget to include a way you can be reached by e-mail. You DO want to be reached, don't you?


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. The books in her HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers have won
multiple awards. That series includes The Frugal Book Promoter  (third edition) and The Frugal Editor (second edition). They garnered 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 is the newest book in her HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers.
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 ninety-one countries before her passion was so rudely interrupted by Covid. She 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 website is

Friday, April 1, 2022

Plot Twists and Your Story


 By Karen Cioffi, Children's Ghostwriter

Plot twists are an established tool to writing intriguing stories, whether for books, movies, TV, or other. These helpful tools create a more engaging story for the reader.

According to Wikipedia, "A plot twist is a literary technique that introduces a radical change in the direction or expected outcome of the plot in a work of fiction. When it happens near the end of a story, it is known as a twist or surprise ending."

Plot twists stop predictability and can be used in any genre of fiction.

So, what does that mean?

Imagine your reader, midway through the book, saying to herself, “Oh, yeah, she’s the villain. She did it.”

This is predictability.

Sometimes this is a good thing. Some readers like to know what’s going on. They want the obvious.

But, lots of readers like being surprised.

Remember Thelma and Louise?

People were shocked with the ending. 

The main characters spent most of the movie desperately running from the police. When faced with the overwhelming and at times unjust criminal system, they chose freedom … in death.

It was different and completely unexpected.

Then there’s the classics of Edgar Allan Poe.

In “The Telltale Heart,” the protagonist kills an old man for an insignificant reason. He cuts up the body and hides the pieces under the floorboards in his house.

After a short while, he begins to hear a heartbeat … the heartbeat of the old man he just murdered, or so he thinks.

With the police there, being called by a neighbor who heard the old man scream while being murdered, the protagonist panics and confesses to the murder.

Poe did have a knack with the macabre.

Then there are the subtle writers like Kate Chopin.

In her short story “The Story of an Hour,” a young woman, Louise, feels oppressed in her marriage, possibly to the point of having heart trouble.

Louise learns that the train her husband was on had crashed and there were no survivors. Locking herself in her room, she began to feel elated … free.

After a while, her sister, thinking she's greifstricken, coaxes Louise out of her room and they walk downstairs. Just then the front door opens and it’s her husband. He didn’t take the train.

Louise drops dead.

Everyone thinks it’s from happiness at seeing her husband alive. The reader knows the truth.

Plot twists can vary and there are a number of them. The three most common, at least in my opinion, are:

1. The Red Herring

With this one, the clues to solving a crime all point to one particular character. The twist is he’s innocent of the crime.

The reader thinks that he’s got it figured out, then BAM.

2. Chekhov’s Gun

Chekhov is quoted as saying, “One must not put a loaded rifle on the stage if no one is thinking of firing it.”

Elaborating on this, S. Shchukin quotes Chekhov as saying, “If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on a wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it’s not going to be fired, it shouldn’t be hanging there.”

While the quote deals with a gun, it can be anything. The point here is to use details deliberately and effectively; they can lead to great plot twists.

3. Shift Suspicion

This plot twist has the reader thinking they may know who committed the crime, but then clues point to another character. Now, the reader isn’t so sure of who the villain is.

What to Look Out For

One thing to keep an eye out for when writing plot twists is to be sure the reader won’t see them coming. Well, at least the majority of readers.

To help do this, quickly think of possible twists your story can take.

If you can quickly think of them, chances are the reader will think of them too. Solution: Don’t use them.

At Writer’s Edit, it advises, “To combat predictability in your plot, try thinking about the complete opposite of every twist or turn you've noted down.” (1)

Along with this, it’s important that your twists are believable. Don’t randomly throw plots twists into your story to try to keep your readers on their toes. The reader won’t like it.

In a Writer’s Digest article by Rachel Scheller, it says, “Readers want their emotional investment to pay off. The twist should never occur in a way that makes them feel tricked, deceived, or insulted. Great twists always deepen, never cheapen, readers’ investment in the story.” (2)



This article was first published at:


Karen Cioffi is an award-winning children’s author and children’s ghostwriter, rewriter, and coach with clients worldwide. She is also the founder and editor-in-chief of Writers on the Move, and an author online platform instructor with WOW! Women on Writing.

Karen’s children’s books include Walking Through Walls and The Case of the Stranded Bear. She also has a DIY book, How to Write Children’s Fiction Books. You can check them out at:

If you need help with your children’s story, visit:


The Foundation of Every Children's Story

Writers - Make Your Blog a Powerful Marketing Tool

Why It's Called the The Slush Pile

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

10 Publishing Myths by W. Terry Whalin || Book Review by Deborah Lyn Stanley


  “10 Publishing Myths, Insights Every Author Needs to Succeed” by W. Terry Whalin

Published by Morgan James Publishing, Morgan James

“10 Publishing Myths, Insights Every Author Needs to Succeed” is a must read for writers no matter where you are in your writing career. Each Myth is real and presented in an inspiring move forward, practical argument, from a writer who’s been there.

Some of my favorite parts include:
1.    Take responsibility for your work,
2.    Create your own marketing plan and make it happen,
3.    A great way to start out publishing your work is to write for magazines,
4.    Every time you connect with an editor or agent you are making an impression—make it a good one!

W. Terry Whalin gives helpful recommendations and references to further your writing career. He talks about growing your skills by making a commitment to study the craft of writing by reading how-to books consistently, month by month. Take the long view of success, little steps to promote your writing and yourself over time.

I recommend this book for every writer and aspiring author.
It is loaded with practical tips and actionable direction.

Thank you, W. Terry Whalin for providing me a review copy of “10 Publishing Myths, Insights Every Author Needs to Succeed”. I was not required to write a positive review, I receive no compensation, and it was my choice to write this review. All comments and opinions are solely my own.

Find Terry’s Books:


W. Terry Whalin is an acquisitions editor at Morgan James Publishing. He has written for over 50 magazines and more than 60 books with traditional publishers.  His latest book for writers is  Book Proposals That $ell (the revised edition) released to online and brick and mortar bookstores. Jim Cox, Editor-in-Chief at Midwest Book Review wrote, “If you only have time to read one ’how to’ guide to getting published, whether it be traditional publishing or self-publishing, “Book Proposals That Sell” is that one DIY instructional book.” You can get a free Book Proposal Checklist on the site. He lives in Colorado and has over 190,000 twitter followers.

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:

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Monday, March 28, 2022

Writers: Believe in Yourself

"If at first you don't succeed
try, try again."
                                    William Edward Hickson
                        British poet, 1857

By Linda Wilson  @LinWilsonauthor

My first picture book, A Packrat’s Holiday: Thistletoe’s Gift, won first place in children’s fiction in the 2022 New Mexico Press Women’s Communications Contest. The book will now go on to compete in the national contest sponsored by the National Federation of Press Women. Also, last year A Packrat’s Holiday was a finalist in the Southwest Writers contest.

It is indeed an honor for this story to be recognized. Why? Because when I first started working on it about five years ago, the early drafts didn’t tickle my critique group’s fancy. Wisely, as we writers learn to do, I tucked the story away for better day. 

Believe in Your Inspiration

Thistletoe became a character for me after my family went on a white-water rafting trip on the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. My husband, two daughters and I slept under the stars at night, never bothered by insects due to the arid conditions. But we did have nightly visitors known to us only by their tiny footprints left in the sand by our sleeping bags in the mornings. Our guide told us our visitors were packrats scampering around in search of morsels of food and shiny objects to take back to their dens.

Before that trip, I hadn’t become acquainted with these adorable yet often pesky critters. When I learned about their habits— packrat nests look messy on the outside. But inside, nests are kept neat and tidy. Packrats love to collect anything that catches their fancy, left by picnickers, hikers, and campers. They especially like shiny objects, like pop tops and foil. Packrats are likely to drop an item and leave it for another more exciting find before they make it back to their den.

Off my imagination went.

Believe in Your Project

While rummaging around for a story idea much later, I came across the story. Take heart: I had learned a lot by this time. I recognized its flaws right away, and though the basic story idea didn’t change, I rewrote it using what I had learned. Again, I sent the story through many rounds of critiques, including a critique by a professional editor, a practice I highly recommend.

One of the joys of being a self-published author is getting to choose an illustrator. Karen Cioffi, founder of our blog, Writers on the Move, graciously sent me a list she keeps of illustrators who have been recommended to her. Nancy Batra is on that list, and the rest is history. 

Believe You Will Succeed

Do you love your story? That’s key. Like going to a party where the hostess is having fun then the guests will have fun, if you love your book, your readers will, too. Armed with this knowledge, knowing how much I loved this story, especially how it is enhanced by Nancy’s illustrations, I entered it into contests. VoilĂ ! I got the results I wanted.

Bottom Line: Go After What You Want

At one time winning contests seemed out of reach for me. A pipedream. Distinctions other authors receive. Perhaps experience helps writers realize that if they don’t try—if they don’t finish that book—if they don’t join SCBWI--the Society of Book Writers and Illustrators, a critique group, go to conferences, put themselves out there on social media—that dream may seem impossible to achieve. Take it from me: if you try and keep on trying, you will succeed. I’m living proof.

Here is my constant reminder to keep trying, a needlepoint a friend sewed for me that I had framed and that I keep on my office wall above my desk: 

Aim at a high mark

and you’ll hit it.

No not the first time,

nor the second,

and maybe not the third.

But keep on aiming

and keep on shooting

for only practice

will make you perfect.

Finally, you’ll hit

the bull’s eye of success.

                                                 Annie Oakley

For more information about Karen Cioffi, please visit:

Linda's next picture book,
Waddles the Duck:
Hey, Wait for Me!

will be out soon!
Illustrated by
Nancy Batra

Linda Wilson writes stories for young children. Visit Linda at Sign up for Linda’s quarterly giveaways. Choose your prize! 

Find Linda’s books at

Connect with Linda: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest

Friday, March 25, 2022

Freelance Writing Rates: What to Charge

by Suzanne Lieurance

As a writing coach, one of the questions I get asked most often by new, and not-so-new, freelance writers is, “What should I charge for my writing services?”

The trouble is, when I go over the current rates for different types of writing, most writers are reluctant to charge what their writing is worth.

Sound familiar?

If you’re a writer who has trouble speaking up when you think you deserve better payment, then you need to read the following:

The Renegade Writer: A Totally Unconventional Guide to Freelance Writing Success, by Linda Formichelli and Diana Burrell. 

This book will help you learn ways to negotiate for more money and better terms without feeling like you’ll ruin your relationships with editors and therefore risk your entire freelance writing career.

What to Charge: Pricing Strategies for Freelancers and Consultants, by Laurie Lewis, is another book that you’ll find helpful as you set your freelance rates. 

You can find it here:

This book is somewhat dated by now (it was published in 2000), but it still offers great tips on how to negotiate a fair price for yourself and your writing clients. Plus, it helps answer questions like, “Should I charge by the word, by the project, or by the hour?”

Art for Money: Up Your Freelance Game and Get Paid What You’re Worth, by Michael Ardelean, offers tips and tools to significantly grow your freelance business.

Name Your Price: Set Your Terms, Raise Your Rates, Charge What You’re Worth as a Consultant, Coach, or Freelancer, by Kate Dixon, will help you do just what the subtitle promises.

Also, check out these website resources:

Freelance Database by Contently

How Much Should Writers Charge Per Word or Per Project

And here's a post that helps blog owners know what to pay guest bloggers, so you'll find it helpful if you enjoy blogging:

How Much to Pay Blog Writers 


Once you've learned about pricing from at least a few of these resources, start marketing your writing services and charge what you're worth.

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 21, 2022

Don't Avoid This Writer Responsibility


By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

It was a life-changing moment and a revelation to my writing life. In 2007, I was a literary agent with, the Whalin Literary Agency, a small Arizona-based agency. Mark Victor Hansen, co-author for Chicken Soup for the Soul, invited me to Mega-Book Marketing University in Los Angeles. About 400 people attended this event with well-known speakers over several days. At that point in my writing life, I had written over 50 books for traditional publishers. Two of my proposals received six-figure advances and publishers made beautiful books and got them into bookstores. Yet my books were not selling and I had the negative royalty statements from my publishers to prove it. 

Throughout the conference, I listened carefully and took notes. One of the speakers was Jack Canfield who had just published The Success Principles. For years he has studied what it takes to be successful and I certainly wanted to be successful as an author. The first of his 64 principles is: “Take 100% Responsibility for Your Life.”

I didn’t want to take 100% responsibility.  I wanted to write the books and then have my publisher sell the books. Wasn’t marketing their responsibility? Didn’t they sell the books into the bookstore? I was writing excellent books and delivering them on deadline and working through each editorial process. But I was doing very little to market the books. I had a single website with my name but no email list, no social media, no blog or other type of writer’s platform. At Mega-Book Marketing University, I learned publishers make books and distribute them to bookstores. Here’s what I was missing and I learned: the author drives readers into the bookstore (brick and mortar or online) to buy those books. Ultimately, the author sells the books to the readers.

Like many writers that I meet, my expectations were unrealistic and I was not taking my responsibility as a writer. I made a decision to change. I started to blog and today my blog has over 1500 searchable entries in it. I began an email list (which continues to be a unique way to reach my readers).  Also I’m active on social media with over 190,000 Twitter followers and over 19,400 LinkedIn connections. For years, I post on these platforms 12-15 times a day.

If I’m honest, I don’t want 100% responsibility for my own success as a writer. Yet from my decades in publishing, I’ve watched many things go wrong in the publishing process. Good books don’t get marketed and go out of print. Editors change while you are working with a publisher. Those situations are just two of a myriad of things which can push your book off the rails in the wrong direction. I can’t control my publisher, my editor, my agent, my marketing person or ____. But I can control myself and my own efforts.

My acceptance of this responsibility means I have to continually grow and learn as a writer. It means I often take courses or read books and I’m always looking for new ways to build my audience and reach more people.  Thankfully as writers we are not alone. Others have shown us how they have achieved success. This path may work for me or it may not. There is no success formula used for every book to make it sell into the hands of readers. Instead there are basic principles others are using to build their audience and find readers. I have one certainty: it will not fly if you don’t try. I continue to take action—and encourage you to do the same. It’s the writer’s journey.


Are you looking for someone else to sell your books? This prolific writer andeditor has taken an unusual responsibility. Learn the details here. (ClickToTweet)


W. Terry Whalin, a writer and acquisitions editor lives in Colorado. A former magazine editor and former literary agent, Terry is an acquisitions editor at Morgan James Publishing. He has written more than 60 nonfiction books including Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams and Billy Graham. Get one of Terry’s recent books, 10 Publishing Myths for only $10, free shipping and bonuses worth over $200. To help writers catch the attention of editors and agents, Terry wrote his bestselling Book Proposals That $ell, 21 Secrets ToSpeed Your Success (The Revised Edition). Check out his free Ebook, Platform Building Ideas for Every Author. His website is located at: Connect with Terry on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

What Drives Your Publishing?

By Terry Whalin ( @terrywhalin )  Few people talk about this truth of publishing: it is hard. I’ve been doing it for decades and it is still...