Friday, August 28, 2009

How To Prepare Your Manuscript for Publication

by Phillip Crum

When self-publishing, be sure to work with someone with experience in preparing manuscripts for print. There are a number of critical steps in preparing your book for publication.

Page Size

If your book is to have illustrations, tables or charts, it’s important that you decide page size early on. For example, if you want the final dimensions of your book to be 5.5” by 8.5” (which is one of the standard sizes), you’ll have to make sure any charts or illustrations you include will be clear and easy to read. Keep in mind too that some photos become a bit washed out or fuzzy when reduced to this size. And don’t forget that a book of these dimensions has an even smaller area for text. When footers, headers, margins and gutters are accounted for, your text area can be as small as 4” by 6.5.”

Fonts and PDF Settings

It’s important to have a good understanding of fonts and special characters so there will be no surprises when your book goes to print. Even though most printers now accept PDF files, all fonts have to be embedded. It’s best to limit your text to two or three fonts. If you include scientific characters or equations in your book, check with your printer to make sure they will reproduce properly. Match your PDF settings to your printer’s requirements for the best result. When self-publishing, it’s a good idea to become familiar with PDF files and how there are used.

Margins and Gutters

If you don’t set your margins and gutters properly, the finished product will look unprofessional and be difficult to read. One of the biggest mistakes first time authors make is not using generous gutter settings. The gutter is the space between the text and the edge of the page as it becomes part of the binding. If the gutter setting are too small, the reader has to press down (flatten) the middle of facing pages in order to read all the text. Not only is this frustrating for the reader but it can damage your book. Improperly set gutters can end up costing you’re an entire reprint. It’s very important for you to get a proof copy of your book before printing and check the gutters carefully.

Don’t Rely On Your Printer To Correct Things

Self-publishing means that you have to keep a close eye on every step of the printing process. More and more printers are using systems that are automated to some degree. In the first stages of printing, your manuscript may be checked for compatibility by a machine (computer) rather than a human being so it’s important to prepare your files per the printer’s instructions. It’s also important to know that printers assume your book is prepared exactly they way you want it to appear. Typically, they won’t make any changes not matter how blatant the mistake may be. Once again, requesting a proof copy is critical and can save time and money.

Don’t forget the cover (and spine)

The inner content (text) of most books is printed in black and white. Most covers, however, are printed in color and are more of a challenge for the designer and printer. Printers vary widely when it comes to the proper specifications for printing color covers.

The first consideration is the size of the cover and the necessary “bleeds.” Bleeds is a turn that means the amount of color that extends outside (bleeds over) the trim of the cover. In other words, if your cover was in red, you would need an additional ¼” of that color outside the trim dimensions. This ensures that the color will still continue all the way to the edge of the cover should the book not be cut to the exact size.

The second consideration is the type of colors used on the cover. Most printers require that a designer use only CMYK colors. CMYK stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black which make up a four-color process. Each color that appears is a percentage of these four colors. Some printers do not allow “spot” colors which fall outside the four-color process.

Creating the book’s spine is another area where self-published authors and their designers make costly mistakes. The general rule is your book has to have at least 120 pages to create a spine wide enough to include the book’s title and other information (even at 120 pages, you’ll have to use a very small font to fit the width of the spine). As examples, a 100-page book has a spine of .25,” a 250-page book has a spine of .583” and 300 pages equals .688.” Make sure your spine can easily read when your book is sitting on a shelf.

When self-publishing, you’ll have to attend to many details when it comes to preparing your manuscript. Learn as much as you can about the process.

Phillip Crum is the Chief Idea Officer of MarketingMeasure located at 2414 Arbuckle Court Dallas, TX 75229, and is committed to the idea of helping small business owners do a better job of finding their next customer or client. He and his two sons,Tyler and Preston, also own a Sir Speedy Printing franchise and employ those additional capabilities in the overall marketing services menu of offerings. Phillip can be reached at 214-213-7445, or

Book Size: How It Affects ….Everything

by Phillip Crum

It’s very important that you, as a self-publishing author, educate yourself about the details of having your book printed including choosing the proper size. Some printers will print and trim your book to almost any size but most stick to three or four common sizes. These are 5” by 8,” 5.5” by 8.5,’” 9” by 6” and the “standard page” size of 8.5” by 11.” The largest size is usually reserved for books with a lot of photos, music books that contain sheet music, or workbooks and education materials.

In order to include the title of your book on the spine, the final page count must be at least 120 pages. When self-publishing, don’t forget this important rule! Even at 120 pages, you’ll probably be limited to using a 6- or 8-point font on the spine—probably not large enough for the title of your book to be read across the room. And a book this size will look a little anemic compared to other books on the shelf.

Perhaps the most important factor in book publishing (especially self-publishing) is the appearance of the final product. A book of 200 pages is substantial enough in size to include the title on the spine and to measure up, side by side, with other books. If you have a low page count, choose the smallest dimensions you are comfortable with. A difference in one-half of an inch in page size roughly equals ten pages. In other words, reducing the size of your book (either vertically or horizontally) by a half-an-inch, will add about ten pages to your total page count.

Are books with more pages more expensive to print? Not necessarily. As a self-publishing author, you have to keep a close eye on how your money is spent. There are many factors that contribute to the printing costs of a book. For example, how they are bound, if they include color, the type of paper used and the number of books ordered. All things remaining the same, more pages means more money. But as an author, you should never compromise your book to save printing costs. In other words, write the book you want to write—don’t “leave things out” just to reduce printing costs. If you are self-publishing, there are other ways to save on printing costs.

A book’s size is a factor in it’s sales numbers. As mentioned above, larger-sized books are usually photo galleries, work books or books containing sheet music (e.g., a music book has to be large enough to be read when placed on a music stand). If your book is mostly text, a smaller size is recommended. Self-published business books and self-help titles can benefit from a smaller size as they are often carted around in backpacks, luggage, and carry-ons. Think about who will be buying your book and how they will be using it. Make it as easy as possible to get the most out of your self-published title.

Shipping prices tend to vary by carrier so make sure you compare prices and stay up with the latest fee increases. As a self-published author, it may be wise to choose a printer who will ship your books for you so you can concentrate on promoting your book.

Phillip Crum is the Chief Idea Officer of MarketingMeasure located at 2414 Arbuckle Court Dallas, TX 75229, and is committed to the idea of helping small business owners do a better job of finding their next customer or client. He and his two sons,Tyler and Preston, also own a Sir Speedy Printing franchise and employ those additional capabilities in the overall marketing services menu of offerings. Phillip can be reached at 214-213-7445, or

Cover Design: How The Right Cover Design Affects Sales

By Phillip Crum

Cover design is a creative endeavor and thus a very subjective area. One person might love a cover design while another will think it’s way off the mark. If everyone has a different opinion about a possible cover design, how do you choose a design that gives your self-published masterpiece a true chance at success?

First, the design has the reflect the book’s contents. You might be surprised how many self-publishing authors are not aware of this. Yes, your book’s cover needs to be attractive and eye-catching, but not at the expense of confusing those who are looking to buy it. A cook book should not have the image of freeway traffic on the cover nor should a book about white water rafting have a cover with images of a pet store. When self-publishing, it’s important to minimize your artwork and maximize your message.

Book publishing is all about image and your cover is no exception. Let’s take a book about bicycling for example. An obvious choice would be a person sitting on their bike, adjusting their helmet as they get ready for a ride. But you could also choose an image of a bicycle wheel with spokes or a bike racing jersey arranged with a water bottle and riding gloves as your cover image. They all convey a different message. The first could be about riding as a personal activity, the second (the picture of the wheel) could be about bike maintenance and the third cover, about competitive racing.

The next consideration is what text (words) should appear on the cover. Obviously, you want to include the title of your book, but the cover is a good place for a subtitle as well. When self-publishing, many authors fail to create a subtitle. It’s a great opportunity to provide more information about what your book is all about and a well-written subtitle can increase sales. When designing the cover for your self-published book, don’t forget to include your name! You want to be noticed and recognized and have your name associated with your book as its author. And someone wanting to buy your book may only know (or remember) your name. Finally, for the cover, you might consider including a few bullet points, information about what’s inside or include a banner that tells of a special offer to those who purchase your book. Book publishing is all about delivering a message in the most effective way possible.

Don’t forget the back cover and the spine. The back cover typically includes a bio of the author, testimonials from those who have read the book, and other descriptive subtitles. If you are marketing your self-published book to be sold in retail stores, you must include a box for your UPC sales code. Typically, these boxes are white, approximately 2” by 2” and located near the bottom margin of the back cover.

Finally, take care when designing the spine of your book. Your book will probably spend a good part of its life on a shelf with other books so make sure your book’s title can be easily read from a distance.

When you self-publish, it’s important that you follow these guidelines. People do judge a book by its cover!

Phillip Crum is the Chief Idea Officer of MarketingMeasure located at 2414 Arbuckle Court Dallas, TX 75229, and is committed to the idea of helping small business owners do a better job of finding their next customer or client. He and his two sons,Tyler and Preston, also own a Sir Speedy Printing franchise and employ those additional capabilities in the overall marketing services menu of offerings. Phillip can be reached at 214-213-7445, or

How To Incorporate Illustrations, Charts and Tables Into Your Manuscript

By Phillip Crum

When you self-publish, you often have to do some, if not all, of the work of finding or creating illustrations, charts, and tables for your book. Even if you hire someone to do this for you, here are some guidelines for achieving professional results:

As a self-published author, you may have access to the designer of your illustrations. If so, get the best image quality possible. This usually means getting as “close” to the source of the illustration as possible. In other words, get a copy of the original illustration if you can. A copy of a copy, or a file that has been converted to another format, may be of less quality. 300 dpi (dots per inch) or more is recommended (more is better).

Print all your illustrations, charts and tables in black and white. Color illustrations (in the body of a book) are very expensive to reproduce and as self-publishing author, you may not have the budget for color. Keep in mind that a vibrant illustration with separate, distinct colors may look quite plain in black and white. For example, a medium blue and a medium red may have the exact shade of gray when converted. The more colors in your illustration, the more chance for the black and white result to be indistinguishable. If you self-publish, it might be wise to use a program like Photoshop which has the option of converting color to grayscale, which in some cases can improve the appearance of a black and white illustration. If you use black and white, be sure to include a caption that fully explains what the illustration represents.

Make sure your charts and tables are small enough to be placed within the page margins. Many books are 5.5” by 8.5” which leaves the page size (within the margins) approximately 4.5” by 7.” It’s not recommended to reduce the size of a chart or table when placing it on the page. Create and format them at the proper size, then place them in the book. Just because you are self-publishing doesn’t mean you have to learn things the hard way!

Include figure captions and titles and number then sequentially. Most illustrations can benefit from a caption and so can charts and tables. Typically, the title of a table is in the first row (header row) of the table and includes the title and table number. The title is often in bold type and the header row a light shade of gray. If you are including medical or scientific tables with special characters, check with your printer to make sure they will be printed properly. Some fonts do not support special characters. All book publishers know this and you should too.

A mistake some self-published authors make is they fail to number their illustrations or they number them out of sequence. When writing and editing a book, and reorganizing charts, tables and illustrations, it’s very easy to place them out of sequence. This is very frustrating to the reader and will keep your self-published title from being recognized as a professional, industry-standard effort.

Finally, make a reference in the text for each table, chart and illustration. And once again be careful when editing your book. Make sure your text references are near their corresponding illustrations.

Phillip Crum is the Chief Idea Officer of MarketingMeasure located at 2414 Arbuckle Court Dallas, TX 75229, and is committed to the idea of helping small business owners do a better job of finding their next customer or client. He and his two sons,Tyler and Preston, also own a Sir Speedy Printing franchise and employ those additional capabilities in the overall marketing services menu of offerings. Phillip can be reached at 214-213-7445, or

How To Create an Index

by Phillip Crum

First of all, not all books have or require an index. Typically, medical, scientific, academic, and educational books contain a detailed index to help the reader find information on a particular topic. An index is also important if the reader wants to focus on one area of study at a time. Biographies often contain an index to help inform the reader where and how the information was gathered.

If you are self-publishing, you may already be using a program that will help you create an index. If you are using InDesign for example, you can create an index “on the go” by highlighting and selecting key words and phrases as you work on the text. It’s important that you mark each instance of the word or phrase so when the index is assembled, the proper page numbers will appear for each entry. Once the index is (automatically) generated by InDesign, you can edit the index as you would a normal page.

No matter how you choose to build your index, the first step is to make a list of the key words and phrases you want to include. This takes some time and a great deal of thought and planning (although some self-published authors wait until the book is complete before deciding what will appear in the index). You might start by choosing 10 to 12 words or phrases that absolutely have to be included, then look for other words that can be used as subheads for each main entry. When that process is complete, you will have discovered other words and phrases to include. Book publishing is all about details so take your time building your index entries.

Another option is to manually create your index. This is not as overwhelming as it sounds if you have already created your list of key words and phrases. One advantage of manually creating an index is you get to pick and choose your entries more carefully than having the software do it for you.

Another option is to hire a professional indexer to create your index for you. They use indexing software to help them assemble the index but a lot of the work is still going page by page searching for key words and phrases and thus, their services can be quite expensive (if you self-publish, you may not have the budget for an indexer). Also understand that indexers usually specialize in one type of manuscript. For example, only indexing medical or scientific titles. Sometimes, if you work hard on your search, you can find a college student interested in self-publishing who is willing to index your book for much less. Or you might be able to talk your editor into creating your index.

Before you decide on whether or not to include an index, take a look at a number of books in your genre to see if other authors included an index in their books.

Phillip Crum is the Chief Idea Officer of MarketingMeasure located at 2414 Arbuckle Court Dallas, TX 75229, and is committed to the idea of helping small business owners do a better job of finding their next customer or client. He and his two sons,Tyler and Preston, also own a Sir Speedy Printing franchise and employ those additional capabilities in the overall marketing services menu of offerings. Phillip can be reached at 214-213-7445, or

Manuscript Preparation: What Goes In The Front of a Book?

By Phillip Crum

As a self-publishing author, it’s important to include the proper pages in the front matter of your book. The front matter book consists of the title page, the copyright page, the table of contents, a disclaimer notice (if needed), the foreword, an acknowledgments page, a preface, and dedication page. Each of these pages serve a special purpose and some are legally necessary. If you are acting as the publisher (of your self-published book), you should still list your name or your company name as the book’s publisher.

The title page typically contains the title of the book (and subtitles if any), the authors names, and the name of the publisher. The table of contents can be up to three or four pages and most often contains the chapter number and its title, and the page on which each chapter begins. Be sure to update your table of contents as your add to or edit the text. The copyright page includes the date of copyright, the copyright notice, the author’s and publisher’s name. If you are self-publishing, you may want to include your website name and email address. It’s fine to include this information and it may actually help the sales of your book.

Take note of the spelling of the word foreword. This page is exactly what you’d expect—a few words about your book before the text begins. This page in the front matter is usually written by someone other than the author that is seen as an authority on the subject matter of the book. The foreword can act as a recommendation to read the book or why the self-published author is qualified to write the book. When self-publishing your first book, it might be hard to find someone to write a foreword for you but a little coaxing sometimes does the trick. Note: don’t make the mistake of many first-time, self-published authors and call this page the forward. It shows a lack of knowledge and is confusing.

The preface. Here, you can talk a bit about why you wrote the book and express your desire that the reader enjoy your book and find it helpful (if it’s a business or self-help title, for example). It’s not necessary to include a preface, but it’s a good chance to create a personal relationship with the reader. And a chance to explain something about your book that the reader might not be aware of.

Most books have an acknowledgments page where the author thanks those who helped them get the book to press such as editors, proofreaders, designers and printers. (If you are self-publishing, you’ll probably know these people personally.) You can even mention the support of your family if you like (writing a book does cut into family time).

Finally, the dedication page is simply that—you are dedicating the book, and all the work that went into it, to someone of great meaning in your life.

One final thought. It’s quite common to number the pages of the front matter in Roman numerals. And the body if the text is numbered with numerals. That way, you can number the first page of your first chapter with the numeral 1. If you are self-publishing, these kind of details can make a big difference and allow you to compete with traditional book publishers.

Phillip Crum is the Chief Idea Officer of MarketingMeasure located at 2414 Arbuckle Court Dallas, TX 75229, and is committed to the idea of helping small business owners do a better job of finding their next customer or client. He and his two sons,Tyler and Preston, also own a Sir Speedy Printing franchise and employ those additional capabilities in the overall marketing services menu of offerings. Phillip can be reached at 214-213-7445, or

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Why I Have a Problem with Lulu

Many authors have asked me why I have such a problem with Lulu. I hope this post makes it more clear.

From Lulu’s Retail Book Cost Calculator:

6 x 9 – B&W – Perfect bound – 100 pages

According to their calculator, if you wanted to make a $1.00 royalty, it would look like this:

Retail royalty: $1.00
Lulu fee: $.25
Manufacturing cost per unit: $3.50
Retail markup: $4.75
Total Retail Price: $9.50

Here is the problem with this. All lulu is doing is setting your book up with (LSI) to facilitate this transaction.

Here is how it would look with LSI if you went direct:

Retail royalty: $2.35
Manufacturing cost per unit: $2.40
Retail markup: $4.75
Total Retail Price: $9.50

The only thing you need to work directly with LSI is an ISBN and press ready cover and text according to their specs available on their website.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Timelines, Schedules, and Distractions - Questions and Answers to Increase Your Writing Productivity

By Meggin McIntosh

If you've ever heard, "I make sure I write at least 1000 words (or other amount) each day" or the statement, "I write from 8 to noon (or some specified time) each day" - and wondered if this is good advice, consider this:

There is no absolute. This is a matter of style (as well as being conditional on a number of other factors). With that being said, there is wisdom in specifying the time you will write or the number of words you will write. One is not better than the other, but having a specific goal is important. Note that I said, "specific goal." It is more attainable (because it is more tangible) to work toward a particular number of words or to write for a particular amount of time than it is to have as a goal, "I will have this section of my article (dissertation, precis) written today. That's too 'fuzzy.'

Now, what about getting distracted when you write? Has that every come into play for you? Maybe you have found (or believe) that you can write for 15 minutes (maybe) before you have to switch focus. It is possible that you have noticed that email is the usual way you switch focus! It's possible that you tell yourself, "Yikes. This is not good to be doing. Maybe I need to find a new way to switch focus, even for a couple minutes, and then get back to writing. Maybe I should be getting up and walking around for a few minutes...or what about switching my focus to another writing project? Or wait, I know, maybe I should just move away from the keyboard, take pencil and paper, and write down ideas?"

Believe me, not only have I heard these conversations from others, I have had them in my own head. Here are four tips to assist you:

  1. Turn off your email altogether. Email has made all of us highly distractible and we have to be diligent about avoiding that self-distraction.

  2. If necessary, log out and/or disconnect from internet access. For example, think about the times when you have taken your laptop somewhere that doesn't have internet access or it's too much of a pain to hook it up - and so you know how uncomfortable (and sometimes panicked) we feel. This gives you a sense of the need to break our addiction to distracting ourselves with email (and believe me, I am HIGHLY familiar with this one personally).

  3. Begin to work up from 15 minutes of uninterrupted writing time to 20 minutes over the period of a week. Then the next week, go to 25 minutes, and so on until you can work uninterrupted for, say, 45 or 50 minutes (which is long enough. After that, most people need to - and should - get up, stretch, go to the bathroom, and get a drink of water). To help facilitate your increase in focused time, use a timer that is set for 15 minutes one day then 16 the next and so on. Just make it a little game and sure can do it!

  4. Break your writing down into smaller pieces - e.g., writing 5 tips for ____ and then working just on explain one of the tips at one sitting - is another way to get your writing moving forward even though you are doing it in 15, 20, or 25 minute spurts.

You're smart. You're educated. You're committed to reaching your goals. I know you can set goals for writing and keep yourself focused long enough to reach them. Prove me right!

If you want additional ideas for keeping your writing moving forward, be sure to consult the Life of E's blog:

Topics ranging from writing to productivity to speaking to teaching to coaching to business set-up and more are featured there.

And, to make sure you are productive in your personal and professional life, you'll want to access the resources at

(c) 2009 by Meggin McIntosh, Ph.D., "The Ph.D. of Productivity"(tm)

Through her company, Emphasis on Excellence, Inc., Meggin McIntosh changes what people know, feel, dream, and do via seminars, workshops, writing, coaching, & consulting.

Article Source:,-Schedules,-and-Distractions---Questions-and-Answers-to-Increase-Your-Writing-Productivity&id=2709251

Friday, August 14, 2009

Why You Shouldn't Have Your Books in Major Bookstores!

By Kelly Margaret Wallace

If you've been in a Barnes and Noble, Borders, Books-a-Million, or other big chain bookstore you've probably noticed that they have a lot of books. A whole lot. Unless your book can sing and tap dance right off the shelves and into customers' hands, do you really think you have a chance of selling many books through these places? Here are some facts about these chains that many authors aren't aware of and what you can do about it.

Your Book Must Be Returnable To The Publisher

Yes, in order for your book to occupy a few glorious inches on the shelves of your local Barnes and Noble or any other big chain, your book must be returnable to your publisher. No big deal, you say? Well, suppose one of these chains puts in an order for five thousand books.

Although that sounds pretty great, it isn't when you look deeper. It doesn't actually mean you've sold these five thousand books. What it means is that it's available, right along side millions of other books, if and when someone happens to pick it up, like it, and buy it.

After a period of time your unsold books get sent back to the publisher, usually in pretty bad shape since they've been thumbed through or kicked around for awhile. How could you or your publisher resell them? You probably couldn't give away these battered books. The bookstore gets their money back and you don't get royalties on them.

Big Bookstores Get Deep Discounts

These chains get your book at wholesale, usually at a discount of 40% or more off the cover price. If and when you get your small royalty, which is around 5% to10% on print books, you're getting royalties on this discounted price, not the original cover price. Of course, some publishers may work differently, but this is very much the norm.

Smaller Book Stores Equals Bigger Profits

Get your book into smaller independent bookstores, even smaller chain stores, that specialize in your type of book. There are Christian bookstores, Metaphysical bookstores, and bookstores that specialize only in sci-fi or romances.

By getting your local area stores that specialize in your topic to sell your book you have a much greater chance of it getting into the hands of people who are interested in your type of book.
Don't Stop With Bookstores There Are Other Places To Sell Your Books

Think of any place that could be interested in what you've written. Say you wrote a book on teaching old dogs new tricks. You could talk to owners of pet stores, veterinarians, and groomers.

Offer workshops or speak for free at libraries, community centers, and groups related to the topic of your book in exchange for being able to offer your book for sale after the meeting or class.

By thinking that the only way to make it as an author is to get your book into the biggest stores in town you're holding yourself back and may be in for disappointment. Don't leave sales up to your publisher. By taking control of where your book is sold and concentrating on smaller businesses, you have a far better chance of making a name for yourself and selling more copies.

Author Autobahn - The Fast Lane To Book Marketing And Promotion!

You spent a lot of time writing your book, doing the research, and bringing it to life. You've gone through the editing process and have gotten it published. Now you're expected to go full-throttle with promotion? That's where we can help. Each member of Author Autobahn is a previously published author with the know-how you need to boost book sales and get noticed. You get the most bang for your buck, the very best and most up-to-date online advertising, promotion, marketing and sales services-guaranteed!

Let us shift your book promo into high gear!

Article Source:!&id=2411163

Getting Into Bookstores

By Penny Sansevieri

Let's face it, regardless of the odds we authors still want to get into bookstores. But if you've been having a hard time with this, take heart. It's getting harder and harder to get into stores but not impossible. We're going to look at some of the possibilities here.

First, it's important to understand the pressure stores are under right now. With the increased focus on publishers to get their authors out there, bookstores are being given most of their marching orders by their corporate office. Bookstore shelf space is bought and paid for by the New York publishers making getting on the shelves or display racks a bit tricky if not impossible. So here's a game plan for those of you trying to survive outside of the traditional market.

1) Get to know your local store. I know this might sound obvious but you'd be surprised how many authors don't really know the people in their local store. The thing is if you know them, they know you and when you're ready to promote your book they might be more open to having you in their store if you have taken the time to get to know them.

2) Start to follow the types of events they do at the store. Get an events calendar or get on their email list. You'll start to see trends emerge. For example they might have an independent author night you could participate in. Also be cautious for big releases like the recent Stephanie Meyer events many stores had planned. If you are trying to capture the attention of a store when they're in the middle of a major book launch you're likely to get ignored.

3) Buy a book. Don't just wander the store trying to make friends: shop there. Support your local stores regardless of whether they are a chain or independent. You'd be surprised what a difference this makes when you're trying to get to know the folks who could book you for an event.

4) Book signings are boring, offer to do an event instead. Events are a draw, book signings aren't unless you're a celebrity. Plan to do a talk, educate, entertain, or enlighten. This will a more attractive pitch to the bookstore and will draw more people to your talk.

5) Get to know the local authors in your area and then offer to plan events for them. Here's how this works. Bookstores are inundated with local authors asking for a time slot but what if you went to the bookstore manager and said that you'd be willing to coordinate a once a month event featuring all the local authors. The bookstore could just refer all local Independently published authors to you, you could coordinate this and guess what? Not only are you helping the store but guess who's getting a monthly showcase in their store? You. You can do this with more than one store if you have the time but keep in mind that with cut backs often one store manager will oversee a few locations so you might only have to go through one person.

6) If they won't let you coordinate a monthly event, suggest that they have an Independent author night if they haven't already started this. If they have an Independent author night you should definitely participate, it's a great way to gain exposure not to mention network with some local people.

7) Try as best you can to funnel everyone to one store to purchase your book. If you're having a tough time getting shelf space (and aren't we all), funneling folks to one store might prompt that store to keep a few copies of your book on hand. Whenever you do local speaking or media, let them know by name and address where they can get your book. Stores have been known to take in books that they're getting lots of requests for, regardless of how they are published, so if you're sending people to one store instead of fragmenting them to a bunch of different ones you could start building an ongoing interest in reorders.

Getting into bookstores isn't impossible but it does require a dash of creativity. Keep in mind that if bookstores aren't receptive despite after you've tried the tips in this article then maybe you're sitting in a tight market. Areas like Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago might be tough areas to get noticed because these are often the first stops traditional publishers seek when planning author tours. If you're near those areas try looking outside of the city for alternatives that are often overlooked by New York. If that doesn't work for you then consider non-bookstore events. Over the years we've planned events for our author in all sorts of non-bookstore venues such as: video stores, electronics stores, gyms, even grocery stores so if events are your focus, keep an open mind and remember: often the biggest piece of getting an event in a bookstore are the relationships you build with them.

Penny C. Sansevieri is a book marketing and media relations specialist who coaches authors on projects, manuscripts and marketing plans and instructs a variety of coursing on publishing and promotion. To learn more about her books or her promotional services, visit
To subscribe to her free ezine, send a blank email to:

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Thursday, August 13, 2009

How to Get Books into Bookstores

By Mayra Calvani

If you’re a small press author, trying to get your book into brick and mortar stores can be one of the hardest tasks to accomplish. If you’re a POD author, chances are close to impossible unless you deal with independent local bookstores which usually are more flexible and open to helping local authors. But as a rule, big chain stores won’t stock a POD book, mainly because of lack of returnability and the poor (and mostly unfair) reputation of print on demand books.

But, as I said, small independent bookstores are more open and flexible and more willing to take a small risk with a an unknown author. Though it is true that most people (about 52%) shop books at big chain stores, here your book will be lost amidst thousands. In a small bookstore, however, you competition will be less because there are not as many books on the shelves. Of course, most people go shopping for their books at the big chain stores, thus their popularity.

If you want to market your book to bookstores, the first thing you need to do is to locate them. You also need to decide which type to contact. You may want to contact bookstores by genre or geographical are. If you live in Los Angeles and your book is a mystery, for instance, you may want to contact all mystery bookstores in your city first before moving to other geographical areas.

To locate bookstores you may check:

*Yellow Pages Directory in your city.

*Yellow Pages Directory on the Internet.

*The ABA Bookstore Directory:

*The American Booktrade Directory (you may check this at the library).

Another easy way to locate bookstores, but which costs money, is to rent a mailing list. For $40, you may obtain a mailing list of the top 700 independent bookstores at

Once you have a list of the bookstores you wish to contact, there are some guidelines you should keep in mind before getting in touch with their owners:

*Prepare an attractive brochure or media kit, which should contain your contact information, book information, an author’s bio, a book description or blurb, review quotes, and mention of any awards. If you don’t know how to prepare a brochure or media kit, please make sure to do a research on the internet first. Amateurish material will be toss in the trashcan, you can be sure of that.

*Some owners prefer a brochure, others a sample copy of the book. You should also include a personal letter (not generic!) introducing yourself and your book. Keep it brief and professional—never brag about the magnificent qualities of the book. The book must speak for itself. If you have any rave review quotes of your book, the place for these is on the brochure or media kit. Many bookstore owners like handwritten letters or post-its. The ‘personal’ aspect of this will make you stand out. Of course, it’s always a test, and the reality is most material received by owners ends up in the trash can. But the more personal and professional you are, the better your chances to succeed. Alan Beats, of Borderland Books, says, “Sending a well thought out cover letter with a review copy. The quality of the cover letter is very important. If it's poorly written or has grammatical errors, I won't even look at the book. The letter will get major plus points if it is clear that the person writing it has researched our store and if it's address to me directly.”

Some bookstore owners prefer to be sent sample copies by the publisher itself instead of the author. These people will not consider a publisher legitimate otherwise and will not stock its books.

*Don’t phone. Bookstore owners are too busy and don’t like to be bothered by desperate authors over the phone. “The worse thing to do is to bug us about it after you’ve sent it,” says Del Howison, owner of Dark Delicacies, a bookstore specializing in horror. “We’re not a critiquing service so we’re not going to give you a rundown on what’s good and bad about it. There are plenty of editors out there who will do that for you.” Howison prefers a sample copy of the book instead of a brochure.

*Make sure your book is relevant to the store. If your book is a novel about witches or vampires, you won’t have any luck with a Christian bookstore! Make sure your time and resources are not going to waste.

*Keep a record of your contacts and marketing efforts to use in the future for other books.

Though most marketing experts out there keep insisting that bookstores are not the best places to market your books—and though this may be true—there’s one thing for sure: nothing beats seeing your book in a bookstore shelf!

Good luck!

©2007. Mayra Calvani / All Rights Reserved.

Mayra Calvani is an author and book reviewer. Visit her website and subscribe to her free monthly newsletter, The Fountain Pen, at

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How to Stay Motivated As a Writer

By Lonnie Ezell

It's a beautiful summer evening. A slight breeze is blowing. You would love to go outside and enjoy the day. Yet, you have a deadline for your current novel, so you're chained to the computer.

No matter how much you love to write, some days it is very difficult to stay motivated. That's normal. Especially for fiction writers, many whose deadlines are self-imposed, it is too easy to let the day slip, thinking that you will get back to it tomorrow. I know. I've been there.

What is a writer to do when you need to get your words, but sitting in front of the computer is the last thing you want to do?

Nine Tips to Stay Motivated Here are nine simple tips to help keep you going when you find your motivation flagging.

  1. Remind yourself why you enjoy writing. Maybe you're writing because you love finding out what happens next. Or perhaps it's making the puzzle pieces fit together into a seamless plot. Take a few moments and write down the reasons. Revise it until you can feel the passion in the words. The make a couple of copies and post them next to your computer, by your bathroom mirror. Wherever you will see it frequently. Then make sure to stop every time you pass it and read it at least once.
  2. Make sure your writing space is comfortable. Whether you write at the kitchen table, or in an extra closet, take some time to make sure it's a comfortable space that you enjoy being in. Nothing will keep you from writing like having to write in a place you hate. Hang pictures, or buy new cushions. Find creative ways to make the area as inspiring and inviting as possible.
  3. Change your writing area. Sometimes, a simple change of location while you're writing can be enough. If it's a beautiful day, take the laptop outside and enjoy the breeze. If your house is too noisy, maybe a trip to the coffee shop, or the book store, is what you need.
  4. Use a different tool to write with. If you normally write on computer, you might try switching to pen and paper. If you like using writing software, exploring a different program may kick the writing juices into gear. By switching how you write, plan, or research, you will use different muscles (or parts of the brain) that may help your mind make new connections, or connect you to memories of different times that will help get the spark going.
  5. Reward for yourself. Bribery can work wonders when you're trying to motivate yourself. Plan an outing with friends, but only allow yourself to go once you've hit your goal. Or buy yourself that new CD that you were wanting as a reward for meeting your goal. Just make sure you don't cheat and buy it before you've met the goal.
  6. Picture the novel finished. Writing can be a lonely endeavor, and a novel can seem like a huge task at times. By picturing the finished project, you help inspire yourself to make it that far. You can take a few moments, close your eyes, and visualize a big box of books hot of the presses. Every time you're at the bookstore, find where your books will be on the shelves, and picture it there. You can make a fake book cover to wrap around another novel and keep it sitting next to your writing space.
  7. Alternate projects. If you're avoiding writing because you don't know where the next scene is heading, it might do you good to start working on another project. You can alternate back and forth between them to keep the creative juices steadily flowing.
  8. Make a habit of it. Just as you will keep doing something that you know is bad for you, making writing a habit will ingrain that pattern into you so that it feels wrong when you don't do it. Like Pavlov's dogs, your mind will kick into gear faster (and quite often, early!) when it knows that it is time to write.
  9. Join a writing group. Whether online or off, talking with others that share your same interests will help keep you motivated. You might discover a new technique or idea that you want to try out. But make sure to keep friends and activities that don't involve your hobby. they are essential for a healthy mindset.

Lonnie Ezell is a fantasy thriller author whose work has been getting high marks from writers like NY Times Bestselling author Michael A. Stackpole and readers like yourself. He has put together a breakthrough online course that teaches you how to write a novel in the simplest, fastest way possible.

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5 Little Mistakes That May Stamp STALE On Your Book and How to Correct Them

By Earma Brown

Have you eaten stale crackers, recently? Not long ago, I rushed into a little neighborhood grocery store to grab a few things. One of the items I grabbed was a box of crackers. I rushed home, prepared dinner, pulled out the box of crackers and bit into one. It was stale! You know; it tasted like paper, dry, no crisp. The salt had even lost its saltiness.

Speaking of stale, are you making the mistakes that stamp S.T.A.L.E. on your book? If you're anything like the writer was when she first began writing books, you could be making some simple mistakes that will hinder the success of your book.

No worries; now you don't have to make those same mistakes, you can put a stop to little mistakes that make your book writing S.T.A.L.E. in a big way. Here are 5 mistakes and how to avoid them written into a S.T.A.L.E. acronym. Put them into action and receive trailer truck loads more book sales and triple times the success you were expecting.

1. Soul Mistake: Book written with no soul or passion. Write with all the professionalism you can muster but write from the heart. Write with passion; write with soul. Strategically place your statistics and famous quotes but don't be stuffy with your language. Your readers may think you are talking down to them if you use too many technical terms and professional jargon.

2. Teachable moments. Book written without utilizing teachable moments. There are two main reasons people read. One of those reasons we read is to be educated. Take advantage of the teachable moments from your life. It will make your book more interesting. Remember, the stale cracker moment above. The author tied it in with the staleness our writing can have.

3. Amplification Mistake: Book written with no dramatic stories or illustrations. It's true the details are important. But in book writing the details can be boring. Make your book eventful. Focus on the events. Then amplify or turn the volume up on the events of your book. Do include the details but dramatize your stories or embellish your stories as much as you can.

4. Life lessons: Book written with no practical applications. Use your life lessons in your book. Educate your readers with the lessons you've learned along the way in life. Don't get me wrong; don't bog your reader down with your personal details. Sprinkle them in with good taste. Make sure you strategically place them so they make sense in the flow of the book. An author friend created a life lesson section with a practical application of each main chapter principle.

5. Empathy Mistake: Book written with no personal connection with reader. Do you connect with your reader emotionally? You should express empathy with your reader and their problems. Empathy is the capability to share and understand another's emotions and feelings. It is often characterized as the ability to "put oneself into another's shoes." Let them know you've walked where they've walked. Or you are in close relationship with someone who has and you understand their feelings and emotions.

Without writing a compelling book filled with: passion and soul, teachable moments, dramatic stories, life lessons and an emotional connection your message may never reach the audience it's destined to reach. Avoid writing a S.T.A.L.E. book filled with the mistakes above; capture the interest of your audience and get your book read. Best wishes for your success as an author!

Don't wait any longer! Remember, there's an audience waiting to read what you have written. Why not get started writing your book manuscript today? Do you need additional help to write a compelling book that avoids any S.T.A.L.E. writing mistakes?

Do you need additional help to write a compelling book filled with your information? Visit here How to Write a Book to receive FREE 7 lesson mini-course Jumpstart Writing Your Book and Book Writers Kit! From Earma Brown the Book Writing Coach at

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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Using Pen Names - 5 Good Reasons Why You Should Do It

By Jo De Jong

People often think of using pen names as an unscrupulous thing to do: why is the author hiding? what does he or she have to hide? is there something dishonest afoot? While some of these questions could, indeed, have unsavory answers, here are five good reasons why writers do and should use pen names.

1. Branding

Branding means establishing a reputation by way of a readily recognizable name. When you have done this, readers will likely read your material when they encounter it, read about you when they see your name, and seek you out as an author. Or, they might do the opposite if they don't happen to like your work. This is true whether you write fiction or nonfiction.

If you plan to have web sites in several diverse niches, it's better to be known as an authority in each niche rather than a jack-of-all-trades who knows only a little about any one of them. You can brand yourself in each niche by using a different pen name for each and using it nowhere else.

2. Disguising your Gender

If you are a female writing about professional football, you might not be seen as credible. If you are a male writing about natural childbirth, you probably won't be seen as credible, either. While this isn't necessarily so, why take the chance when using a pen name eliminates the issue?

In either case, your knowledge may be equal to that of your opposite-sex colleagues, but human nature won't allow you into the club; gender bias is real.

3. When Anonymity is Safer

If you write about controversial subjects or things that violent people find threatening--drug dealers, for instance--exposing yourself is a needless risk. Many writers have come to grief because their identities and whereabouts are known. The recent unfortunate experiences of journalists in violent countries proves the validity of this one.

4. When Your Real Name is Not Easily Pronounced

People like 'easy,' and they like to be able to 'think' the pronunciation of your name. If they can't do that, they aren't likely to remember it--or you--and probably won't remember how to spell it, either. Certainly, any author wants to make it easy for his readers to tell others about his work, the expectation being that he would gain more readers. You won't get any word of mouth advertising if readers can't talk about you.

5. When You Just Want Privacy

In the event that you should become a 'famous writer' and you don't want to be hounded when out on the town, a pen name separates the public you from the private you. To many, perhaps most, people, fame is desirable and they seek it, but there are also those who simply ply their trade to earn a living, and living, to them, is not sharing your personal life indiscriminately.

In an effort to be memorable, don't create bizarre pen names. Pinkand Whitesheets or Cando Itall are not good choices! Neither should you choose a name that could be subject to ridicule, dark humor, or sexual innuendo; guess what human nature will do with those. Remember that your name will be permanently attached to your writing and your writing will be 'out there' forever. Choose wisely.

Jo de Jong

A modern day Don(a) Quixote riding to the rescue of the written word.

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Make Your Writing Readable

By Gail Pruszkowski

The first rule of writing might be "show don't tell" but the second is surely "use active verbs." Almost every book I own on writing stresses the use of active voice over passive. Read on to find out the difference.

Verbs have two voices, either active or passive. When you use active voice, the subject performs the action and verb expresses the action. For example - Gail opened the book. The subject is Gail, the verb is opened and the object is book.

When you use passive voice, the subject becomes the passive recipient of the action. For example - The book was opened by Gail. The passive voice will have a "double verb" - a form of the verb "to be" and the past participle of another verb, often ending in "ed" as in "was opened." Generic verbs such as - is, are, were, was, be, being, been, be, had and have - don't convey much and passive voice can make a sentence confusing. Active voice is short, direct and easier to understand.

Sometimes it's okay to use passive voice such as when the reader doesn't need to know who performed the action. Example - The building was erected hundreds of years ago. The doer of the action is unknown or unimportant.

If you look for the forms of "to be", you can see where you are using passive voice. Microsoft Word 2003 provides an easy way to check for readability and passive voice. Just go to the Tools menu and click Options, then click the Spelling & Grammar tab. Select the box for Check grammar with spelling. Also select the Show readability statistics box. Click OK. Highlight the document you want to check. Click the abc icon on the toolbar, hit F7 or go to Tools and click Spelling and Grammar. Word will check your highlighted document, and then display information about the reading level.

You will get a box that displays counts for words, characters, paragraphs, and sentences. It will also show averages for sentences per paragraph, words per sentence and characters per word. Under the readability section, there are three useful statistics. First listed is the percentage of passive sentences - the closer to zero you score the better. Next is the Flesch Reading Ease score, which is rated on a 100-point scale. The higher your score, the easier it is to read your writing. Last is the Flesch-Kincaid Grade level. It rates on a US school grade level. If you score a 7, then a student in the 7th grade will understand your writing.

This is only a tool and there is so much more that goes into good writing. But it may provide some useful information that will help you improve what you've written.

Gail Pruszkowski reviews for "Romantic Times BOOKreviews" magazine and her work has been published in the "Cup of Comfort" Anthologies.

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Saturday, August 8, 2009

How to Improve Your Writing - Constructing Main Plots and Sub Plots

By Merrill Heath

Have you ever considered how the plots were constructed in your favorite novels? Do you look for formulas or plot structure in the novels you read? If you're a writer, do you diagram your plots so you know when to focus on the main plot (MP), character development (CD), or your subplots (SP1, SP2)?

I think most authors say they don't use a formula or plan their plots out in too much detail. They say things like "It's too restrictive, limits creativity, even takes the fun out of writing. If it becomes overly structured it's too much like writing a term paper or a book report instead of a novel."

Well, this may or may not be true. That probably depends on the writer's personality, experience, talent, and so forth. One thing is for sure - the authors who churn out one novel after another have a structure they follow. It may be subconscious, but it's there nonetheless. You can prove this by diagramming a couple of their novels. They follow a pattern that moves from main plot to subplots, back and forth, in such a way that you don't get lost or forget what's going on. As I said, the really experienced writers just kind of know to do this and don't need to keep the structure in mind. But the beginner or novice generally needs help keeping everything running smoothly. The good news is that it's really easy to do and can even help you avoid getting blocked. Let's look at some numbers to illustrate the point.

By industry standards, a novel is 50,000 words or more. The word count varies tremendously but most popular fiction runs about 250 pages in print. That computes to roughly a 300 page manuscript. With an average word count of 250 per page in manuscript format this computes to 75,000 words. Obviously, these are rough estimates since these numbers can greatly vary depending on the amount of dialogue, descriptive content, paragraph length, etc. But these are good averages to work with. Plus, the math is easy.

Within all those words the writer has to develop his characters, throw them into some kind of situation or plot, and add some additional material which will be one or more subplots. A good rule of thumb for allocation is 65-25-10. 65% devoted to the main plot (MP). 25% devoted to subplot one (SP1). 10% devoted to subplot two (SP2). If we continue with our math this breaks down to 48,750 words (195 pages) devoted to MP; 18,750 words (75 pages) for SP1; and 7,500 words (30 pages) for SP2. Character development occurs throughout and is generally not included as a separate word/page count.

The key is to concentrate on MP while weaving SP1 and SP2 into the storyline without getting too sidetracked. You don't want to be away from any of your plots so long that the reader forgets what's going on. In creating the structure you can actually map it out, chapter by chapter. You want to loop back to your SPs every four or five chapters, depending on how long your chapters are. This not only gives you some direction on what you need to be working on next, it also helps you keep the action connected.

One more point about structure. You can work on each plot separately if that works for you. Then you simply go back and weave them all together. This is a great option if you find yourself with writer's block. If you're bogged down with MP, write for a few days on SP1 or SP2. This also helps you come up with twists and turns and foreshadowing and hooks that will keep your reader turning pages.

The next time you read a novel, or watch a movie for that matter, look for the MP and SPs. The MP will be the major conflict that drives the story. One SP will deal with a relationship, usually romantic, in which the main character is involved. The other SP will be a device for character development, typically it involves a little humor and levity, and may not be directly tied into the MP. It will be very evident if you look for it.

Merrill Heath is an author who has a strong desire to "pay it forward" by helping other authors improve their craft. For mor information on his novels and current projects visit his blog at:

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Viewpoints in Fiction Writing

By Chris L. Smith

One of the first things a reader will notice when they pick up a new book is the viewpoint the story is set in. There are three basic writing viewpoints: first person, second person, and third person. First and third person are by far the most popular.

How the reader reacts to your story will immediately be triggered by the point of view they are seeing the story. Who is telling the story? Every story is told by someone and how the story is told is very important to getting the best message across to the reader. So let's take a look at the viewpoints so you can decide which is the best way to convey your idea.

First Person: This viewpoint comes directly through the main character's eyes. "I lifted the baby from the stroller" is a simple example. First person allows a writer to directly engage the reader with the main character's thoughts and reactions. It allows a detailed and secretive look into their deepest desires. This can be an extremely useful tool, but has its drawbacks. The biggest being the story is primarily told through one set of eyes. For writers it can bog them down into one frame of mind. With careful attention, first person can be a wonderful way to write a book.

Second Person: This viewpoint is told from the "you" standing. "You walked down the street to the waiting car". While second person is not used much, it can be effective in small parts of a book like a prologue. For the reader, it drives home the point of being involved with the story.

Third Person: Probably the most popular viewpoint is third person omniscient. This is a panoramic view of the characters and scenes throughout the story. Most books by Stephen King are written in this style. With very complex plots or a plethora of characters, third person is the best choice for enveloping your complete idea.

When an idea first crosses your mind, a viewpoint can immediately become associated with it. But you should take the time to consider which viewpoint can show your story the best. Finding the proper "voice" is just as important as the original idea.

Chris Smith is an avid writer with over ten years of experience in the literary world. On his site, he offers free help to any writer. Each day a new short story is published on the site with a direct link to a discussion and feedback forum. Anyone can submit a story to be published on the homepage. There is absolutely no cost.

Other resources such as literary agency lists and in-depth critiques are also available for free. If you want to push your writing to the next level, it's the perfect place for you.

For more information head over to the homepage at

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Writing - It's All in the Conflict

By Cindy A Christiansen

I've been judging romance contest entries again. I have found several mistakes that I continue to see over and over. Interested in knowing what they are? Well, I am only going to cover one in this article - conflict. I'm not talking about your garden variety arguing, bickering or fighting. That's not the kind of conflict I'm talking about. I'm talking about floods, deaths, commitments, fears, love, ambition. The list goes on. Without conflict life might be easier, but it certainly wouldn't be as interesting.

Obviously, conflict motivates your characters as well. They have to have a plan of action but then something gets in their way. Give your characters strong goals to work on through the book. An author just can't tell a story about this or that. Let's face it, we all can't be Seinfeld. But even on that show the characters are going to do something and then an event happened. The important part to remember is that life doesn't just happen. Head your characters in a direction and then throw a bucket of water at them.

There are three main types of conflict you can toss at your characters: circumstantial, personal and relationship conflict. Let's discuss each one:

1. CIRCUMSTANTIAL. What circumstances are your characters going to be involved in? Are you going to fling them into the path of a hurricane? Involve them in a car wreck? Maybe their circumstances are of a personal nature. Maybe a grandfather dies and leaves his granddaughter the family farm but not without conditions. Maybe your character wants to leave town but can't because someone is trying to stop him. These circumstances must disrupt the lives of your characters. It changes their course. It creates urgency to the situation. It keeps the book moving, and it is usually where the book begins. Something happens to change the life of your character and the conflict just continues.

2. PERSONAL. Who doesn't have personal problems? Your characters should too. You should know your characters inside and out - their actions, emotions, dreams, past experiences, fears, likes and dislikes. You might not use every detail in the book, but we are, after all, what we've experienced in our lives. You need to know what makes all of your characters tick, what motivates them, and what baggage they carry around that makes them who they are. You must figure out what it is that drives your characters. Fear, love, excitement, greed, or hate?

In most of the entries I've judged, the characters wander around letting whatever occurs to them be their life. How often does that happen in real life? Your characters have to have goals just like we do. For example: Your character has a big presentation at work. He needs to go to a meeting and persuade his clients to buy Brand X. If they sign with him, he will get a raise and he will be able to buy his parent's property out from under his conniving, greedy brother.

Great! Your character has goals - the presentation, getting to work on time, making the presentation, getting the raise, buying the house before his brother. It is then the author's job to put conflict in his way. For example: His boss forgot to tell him the meeting has been moved up to tomorrow morning. He spills milk all over the presentation and then the power goes out before he can reprint it. His annoying neighbor dropped her cell phone in the toilet so she comes over to borrow his, and he can't get rid of her. He goes out to his car and it has a flat. He steals a car to get to the meeting because nothing or no one is going to stop him from pinching his parent's property out from under his brother.

Whoa! Now you know just what kind of character you really have. See all that conflict? See all the situations your character will need to make decisions about? The choices they make will be affected by the character's beliefs, emotional state and past baggage. This is the bread and butter of writing. It is all of this conflict that will lead you down the road to your character's epiphany. Yes, I said epiphany. Yeah, I didn't know what it was at first either. When your character works through all the conflict, he will come to some sort of conclusion - an epiphany. In our story, the character will probably come to the conclusion that it was not worth killing his brother over.

The main conflict I see missing in the contest entries I've read is the personal conflict. In our example, it's what made the character so willing to steal in order to keep the property from his brother. It's that internal conflict you find going on within yourself over certain issues. Your character's need it too. Use all five, and even sixth, senses to let your character experience life.

3. RELATIONSHIP. Is there a person on this planet that doesn't have issues with at least one other person? Give your characters that kind of conflict as well. Whether it is a mean villain or the next-door neighbor, there is always going to be human conflict. In a romance there has to be a conflict of relationship between the hero and heroine that keeps them from getting together.

This type of conflict includes: different values, different ambitions, money, egos, mental issues, prejudices, etc. Here are some more specific examples: He's a cop and she's been accused of a crime. He's driven by loyalty to his family but she wants him to give up the family business to live in Paris as an artist. He's consumed with revenge against the Ewings and she's a Ewing.

Relationship conflict doesn't just happen in romances. It separates families, friends, business partners, and even countries.

So there you have it. Conflict. Those are pretty complicated webs your characters are weaving, but what a fantastic story it will be. Remember with each scene you write, you need to include at least one type of conflict that will advance the story along the plot line.

Cindy A. Christiansen is a multi-published author and a member of Romance Writers of America. She teaches on-line workshops on writing romance novels.
To find out more, visit her website at:

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How to Build a Writer's Marketing Platform

By Lisa A Mason

As a writer, are you interested in building a marketing platform? There are some important things you should know in order to do this successfully. No matter what type of writer you are, the difference between being unknown and well known lies in your ability to create influence.

You need to have a platform that communicates your integrity, credibility and expertise in your particular field. The Internet makes it easier than ever to achieve this goal but you have to know how to do so effectively.

A strong writer's platform might include your web presence, media contacts you have, articles you've published, books or ebooks you've written, public services you offer, public speaking opportunities, classes you teach and more. These are all ways you make a name for yourself and make your works known to the public and your readership.

You can build your writer's marketing platform by recognizing the ways that you can get noticed and create a presence for yourself and then taking the proper steps needed to achieve this. You might build a website, edit an existing site, volunteer for opportunities, using article marketing to advertise and participate in social media sites.

Find the methods that work for you and then make the investment to have them work for you. The benefits abound and may include more sales, increased media exposure, blog buzz, invitations to speak or participate in interviews, book deals, increased book sales and much more.

Once you have established your platform, you just need to allow it to work for you. It will work 24/7, even while you are sleeping to advertise the good word of what you can do.

Lisa Mason is a freelance writer with a specialty in Internet content and SEO articles and the author of How to Earn a Living Writing for the Internet as well as two poetry anthologies and a how-to poetry book. She has written thousands of articles, hundreds of ebooks and thousands of website pages and related content.

Professional wordsmith for hire: gamer, wife, mother, entrepreneur, published poet, co-owner of game guides company, public speaker and Internet business consultant. You can learn more or follow Lisa's blog from her website

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Thursday, August 6, 2009

Secrets Of The Amazon Best-Seller List

I have had many authors ask me about the Amazon Sales Rank and what it means.

Beyond the standard explanation offered by Amazon there are numerous theories floating around the net. The following article is one of the better explanations of the system based on observable experimentation.

Secrets of the Amazon Best-Seller List

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Five Techniques Necessary to Good Writing

By A. W. Guerra

Many of us mistakenly assume that the process of writing is one hundred percent inspiration and zero percent perspiration, but that's just not the way things really are. Admittedly, there's a bit of inspiration necessary to any good story, but that's not what I'm talking about here. What I'm going to highlight are five solid techniques necessary to good writing.

These five are tried-and-true and well-known among just about any writer who's gone through the process (either by trial and error, or in a classroom setting) of putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard, these days) with the aim of turning out -- at the end -- a product that says something in a cogent and understandable manner.

This could be a work of fiction, or a technical journal article or just about anything in between. What matters here is that anything that's worthy of being written well has within its DNA one or all of these techniques. Let's take a quick look at each one:

#1. All good works of writing contain description within them, and it's just what it means. A writer uses it to help a reader "see" what the writer himself is trying to say. When done well, the reader can hear, see, taste, smell and even feel what the writer or the writer's characters also hear, see, taste, smell and feel. When you write description, keep in mind the goal of assisting the reader in being better able to understand the people, places and things contained within the story.

#2. The process of informing, explaining and clarifying a writer's thoughts and ideas in a written piece of work is more formally known as exposition. You most commonly see expository writing in newspapers, magazines and non-fiction books, especially. Exposition is a way to offer the reader a window into your ideas and thoughts as a writer.

#3. Writers many times will use the act of narration when trying to tell a real story. Narrative writing is all around us, and we see it evident in stories that have characters, a setting in which the characters interact, a time frame, a problem and also the various attempts at solving that problem. Novels and bedtime stories quite often use narration as their storytelling device, as do movie scripts and stage plays.

#4. Whenever a writer is engaged in trying to change others' points of view on a subject, he or she is engaging in persuasion to do so. Usually, a writer will bring out facts and opinion in an attempt to try to bring a reader around to a certain way of looking at things. Politicians, in their speech making, attempt to employ persuasion all the time. You can also see it used in editorials and letters to the editor of a newspaper.

#5. The last technique commonly used by writers is the process of compare and contrast when it comes to producing some piece of work. In it, writers will point out or highlight the similarities and differences between something(s) or some topic. We use comparison to show others what is alike or in common, while we contrast to show what isn't alike or not in common. An example of this would be how we traveled across the country in 1920 versus how we do so today.

When you're interested in communicating your ideas, as a writer, more clearly and cleanly, you'll almost subconsciously use one, two or even all five of the above techniques almost without knowing it, once you know how to properly use each individually. So take some time to practice or learn a bit more about each and then try them out in your own writing!

A. W. Guerra is a retired military officer, current writer and also author who presently pens articles and posts for over 15 personal websites and blogs, including WriteWell Communications. This blog, at, is dedicated to teaching the mechanics and processes involved in learning to write well. He may be reached through his personal website at

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Think Like a Soap Opera Writer to Create Compelling Content

By Cheryl Antier

Want to create compelling content that draws people to your blog or Website like bees to honey, peanut butter to chocolate or people to the scene of an accident? Then it's time you ignore all the "good, solid advice" you'll hear from well-meaning writing instructors and coaches. Instead, it's time to start thinking like a soap opera writer to create compelling content so that visitors to your Website or blog come thronging to see what's coming next...

In case you've never watched a soap opera (or at least won't admit it in public...) let me show you what I mean...

In this week's episode, Jack falls for Sally, who is married to Robert, who is in reality a spy for a foreign government... And while Mary lies in her hospital room, fighting for her life and that of her unborn child, she begins to remember the car accident that sent her to the hospital... perhaps never to walk again... and the driver of the car... it couldn't have been him... could it?

Okay, I'm exaggerating... a little.

The point is, millions of people tune into these shows every single day - and have, off and on, for over 30 years now.

Which means the writers must be doing something right.

Why do people watch them, and more than that, get completely caught up in the make believe lives, loves and disasters?

Because they're exiting... compelling... the characters are larger than life, fighting for what they believe in, daring to the do the things we wish we could do, living the kind of lives (minus all the hatred, attempted murders and downright corrupt behavior of the meanest characters, perhaps)... that we wish we could live.

But more than that, the writing reaches us on some deep level, touches into our own hopes and fears, wishes and dreams, wants and needs...

So how does your content measure up?

If it's a little flat compare to a soap opera, keep reading - because I'm going to tell you how you too can create content that keeps your readers coming back for more...

Lets start with what you readers need...

What are they really looking for when they come to your Website or blog?

Do they want excitement? Inspiration? Advice? Encouragement? Information?

The list could go on and on. The point is... whatever it is they're looking for, it's your job to give it to them.

What kind of Role Do You Play?

Are you the hero? The teacher? The advisor? The rock star? Knowing what role your readers expect you to play is very important. Not only in the tone and voice of your content, but also in your company's brand experience.

And although that's the topic for an entirely different article, it's important that you give your customers what they expect when they interact with you, and that they get the "entire experience" of your brand.

70% of the work and research that goes into your content should come from your research into what your customers want, and into making sure you're giving your audience what they want.

The other 30% should be the delivery...

And that's where thinking like a soap opera writer comes in. Soap operas are long, often complicated dramatic stories that are broken down into smaller stories and even smaller chunks of time...

Here's an example...

According to soap opera digest, the show "Days Of Our Lives" was first aired in 1965 on NBC. The storyline focuses on the trials and tribulations of the Horton, Brady, and Di Mera families and other residents of the fictional town of Salem...

The show is written so viewers can get caught up in a particular story line very quickly, and without needing to know the past history. Instead, you can sit down and figure out quickly who the hero or heroine is, who is up to no good, and what struggles are taking place.

When you're writing your content, are you writing it so that someone can get caught up in your words right away - without needing to know all about you, your history or your entire business model?

The next thing soap opera writers are brilliant at is creating a sense of drama, of tension in their story lines...

Now it might be a little easier for a soap opera - because you've got all those deep, dark, basic emotions seething, and burning and boiling just beneath the surface... passionate glances across a crowded room, hot stolen kisses and the dark desires of forbidden love...

Which admittedly can be difficult to insert into your sales or marketing materials.

But there are ways of doing it if you take the time to think about it, and write like a soap opera writer.

Tension comes from unresolved emotions or issues. It comes from problems and pain. It comes from wanting something we don't have.

These are all things you can use in your writing.

And of course, in every good soap opera, there comes a time when the story line must end, and we get to experience the power and joy in the triumph of good over evil, and celebrate as true love wins out.

But not for long. Because usually even as the music soars and the camera moves for a close-up of our lovers, and we watch as their lips part, their eyes start to close and they move into each other's arms share true love's kiss...

...A dark and somber figure moves out of the shadows, radiating hatred and plotting the downfall of one or both of our main characters...


So our feelings of tension, start to mount again... So we're suddenly thrust back into the stress of the new situation...

Because things would get pretty boring, pretty quickly if everything was always perfect, if the sun always shone, if the birds always sang, if the ending was always happy - like in a Disney movie.

So here again is where you can take your cue from the soap opera writers.

Because whatever you're writing about... Whatever barriers you're helping your reader to blast through... Whatever problems you're showing them how to solve... Whatever skills you're teaching them...

Eventually you will have written as much about the subject as you can - or want to.

And it will be time to end that particular story line.

Which leaves your reader wondering... Wait a minute! Is that all there is? But what happens next?

...Where's your cliff hanger?

What are you going to say to get your reader to come back for more?

That's the last bit of advice you can - and should - learn from the soap opera writers.

Always have a cliffhanger... Give them just a hint of what's to come... The next big villain in their lives, or their career, or their business...

The next problem they're going to be pitted against. A problem that you... might... just have the solution for... If they stay tuned for the next episode... (cue the music, fade to black...)

Cheryl Antier is a professional writer and the director of the Writer's Business Academy. To find out more about how you can create the kind of content that will keep your readers, clients and customers coming back for more, visit the Writer's Business Academy and sign up for our free monthly newsletter as well as tons of free resources for writers, authors, coaches and anyone who writers their own content.

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Saturday, August 1, 2009

How To Write Like A Journalist – 4 Key Elements

By Nazvi Careem

Journalists are taught how to write news, which means writing no-nonsense copy that gets to the important information as quickly as possible.

In a hard-hitting news story, there is no room for opinion, advice, humor or commentary. Most importantly, you should dispense with flowery writing and twinkling prose. It is not a literary masterpiece that is going to impress your readers. It is the information you give them.

A news story is a stripped-down article that tells your readers what happened or who said what. Great news writing is as much an art as stringing together priceless prose for an elegant novel or thought-provoking poem.

And the best news writing involves the simplest words and the most basic of sentence constructions. You would be surprised at how much difficulty some rookie writers get into in trying to perfect this straightforward formula.

Journalists write to a set pattern most of the time. It is a tried and tested format that is pretty much unchanged for many years and successfully outlines key information in the correct order.

While journalists in different organizations around the world may tweak the formula here and there, news writing, by and large, involves for elements.

1. Angle – A news story without an angle is like pizza without cheese. Try biting into a pizza minus the cheese and all you get is …a sandwich. When you learn how to write like a journalist the first thing you should be taught is how to identify angles, which in effect is your topic and is the reason you are writing an article in the first place.

2. Introduction – Often called intro or lead, this is your first one or two paragraphs of your news story. While an angle defines what you are going to write, your intro is actually going ahead and putting it into words. Intros employ the who, what, when, where, why and how concept in order to get your story out quickly.

3. Quote – Almost all news stories have some sort of quote. A quote humanizes the story and also provides it with authority. The best kinds of quotes support what you write in your intro. Quotes should have the full name and title of the person being quoted. Less ideal is “reliable source” or “spokesperson” but sometimes it is unavoidable. News articles can be written without a quote but this is not ideal.

4. Attribution – Following on from quotes, you should do your best to make sure events are attributed to somebody, especially if you were not at the scene. In court reporting, this is of utmost importance, which is why in these types of stories you may see phrases such as “the court was told”, “he told the court” and “the court heard”.

News writing is not like informational articles. In a news story, you solve the problem as soon as possible. “How to” articles may identify problems and then offer a solution. In news writing, however, you do not have time for this.

By learning the news writing formula, you can bash out 300 to 500-word articles within 15-30 minutes. After all, when you are working against deadline, you have no choice. The news just HAS to get out.

Nazvi Careem is an experienced journalist, writer and writing coach who has written for newspapers, magazines and global news agencies such as Reuters, Associated Press and Agence France-Presse. To download a free extract from his book on the secrets to writing news, check out his website dedicated to news writing

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