Monday, December 27, 2010

Selling Your Soul to Market Your Book

Photo by killthebird on Flickr

If you are a new author, you need to make smart choices about where to invest your marketing efforts without breaking the bank. If you have considered hiring a marketing expert, you need to know that what they guarantee is exposure, not book sales. YOU are your own best (and most motivated) marketing expert. Here are the most effective ways to market your first book...and a couple of things that usually don’t result in a lot of sales:


Radio Interviews: You may not sell a million books as a result of a couple of radio interviews, but it is a great experience. Be sure to get one of your interviews from the radio station's website as an MP-3 audio and post it on your own website.

Book Reviews: Get friends and family to post reviews of your book on However, you will probably find it difficult to get book reviews in a timely manner, so it is possible to hire a publicist to help you obtain book reviews (ask me who you should hire). Many people would not look at a book with only two five-star reviews. Definitely money well spent.

Also, as I have mentioned before, the inside-the-book program on Amazon is excellent. The plain and simple truth is that many readers won’t buy the book if they can’t look inside it, and if they don’t already know the author.


Email blast. You can easily spend around $250 on an email marketing campaign. Spending this kind of money with no way to measure and document the campaign’s success is not the best way to go.

I have also known an author who emailed her book cover and relevant information to all the libraries and independent bookstores in the United States and Canada. This type of campaign usually costs around $400 and results in little or no sales.

Remember--you need a good website, blog, and social networking site to connect with people. You also need to be willing to get out and speak to the public about your book. Keep writing things about which you are passionate, and then develop a marketing strategy that works. 

Monday, December 20, 2010

5 Attributes of a Title That Sells

Photo by azrasta via Flickr

An innovative book title should be distinctive and hook the reader. It is what makes a shopper grab your book from the shelf and open it to the inside flap to learn more. The jacket cover can finish the job of convincing him/her that your story is worth reading. Your job is to create a title that grabs the attention of the reader. Here are five things to consider when naming your book:

Catchy--Your book title should be catchy. A potential reader will often spend only 5 minutes in a bookstore grabbing a book on his/her lunch break, or on the way to catch a flight. An author needs to work hard to make the 30 seconds spent looking at the book’s cover turn into the decision to buy that book.

Fitting--Your book title should fit the book. It should give the potential reader a clue about what the book will be about.

Brief--Your book title should convey a message, but not be too long as to bore potential readers. They should be able to read your title at a glance, requiring no time at all for it to register with the brain. The DaVinci Code is a good example of a short title. Brevity is a virtue.

Compelling--Your book title should captivate the potential reader, initiating a response of interest and curiosity. Find intriguing aspects of your story that your readers can visualize, and then use those words in the title.

Unique--Try to make your title different from others. Do a quick search online to make sure that the title you are considering hasn’t been used before. Global Books in Print is an excellent bibliographic tool with millions of titles in its database. The more unique the title, the more it will stand out from the rest.

Don’t ever hesitate to rely on the expertise and editorial changes of your editor or publisher. They are your best resource when it comes to marketing and publishing.  Although creating the most marketable title definitely takes some work, having the right title can make a world of difference when it comes to book sales—because people DO in fact judge a book by its cover!

Monday, December 13, 2010

5 Writing Exercises You Can Do Every Day

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Writing exercises are an invaluable way to keep you writing every single day (even when you really don’t feel like it). There are many different writing exercises that you can do to keep the words and ideas flowing, but here are 5 simple exercises that you can do every day:

One of the best daily writing exercises is journaling. Keeping a journal is an easy way to express your writing goals and ideas. Journaling has been proven to be an effective way to brainstorm when you are at a loss for a writing subject.  Another good writing exercise is to describe a photo. Choose one photo or image each day and write about it. This challenges you to put your visual ideas into words.

You can also commit to writing a daily blog, if you don’t mind letting others read your thoughts. This is a good writing exercise, as long as you focus on quality writing and not on the blog development itself.  Another good writing exercise begins with a good book. Pick a book by your favorite author and take a sentence from it. Use that sentence as the start of a very short story and write one per day.

A fun writing activity is the “fortunately, unfortunately” exercise. Write a line that starts with “fortunately” and then write a line following it that starts with “unfortunately.” Continue this pattern through an entire page of writing. This exercise often makes you laugh, which helps make writing fun again.

These daily writing exercises can be done in less than an hour. Committing at least that much time each day can greatly improve your writing and benefit you as an author. So write on, writer!

Monday, December 6, 2010

3 Easy Ways to Improve Your Writing Skills

photo by Patrick Gage on Flickr

Even if you have a good grasp of basic writing concepts, you should always strive to be a better writer. While there are many writing clinics, boot camps and daily writing exercises awaiting your spare time, there are other ways to improve your writing that do not require great quantities of time and money. You should definitely work to develop your own process and use methods that inspire you, but when you are short on time and energy, here are 3 easy ways to immediately improve your writing skills:

One of the keys to being a good writer is to be an avid reader! Finding authors whose work you devour and love can teach you many things about how to write. You can learn what attracts you stylistically, what subjects really grab your attention, and conversely, what annoys you. Typically, the way to create your best work is to write about what you love, and there is certainly nothing wrong with emulating an author whom you admire.

Another effective way to improve your writing skills is to memorize correct grammar and punctuation rules. Not only does correct grammar show that you are professional and competent, but it will also make your writing look cleaner. A writing style manual is one of the best investments you can make to fine-tune your grammar and punctuation.

Finally, another effective way to improve your writing skills is to solicit a little constructive criticism from your friends and family. Select people that you can trust to intelligently analyze your work and who will give their honest opinions. While it makes you feel good to hear that you are an amazing writer, a candid evaluation is often the best way to recognize any flaws in your work and ultimately improve as a writer.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

What a Character!

photo by Trevor Patt of Flickr
Carolyn Schriber is a historian by training and profession.  Here she offers some tips on the use of character sketches.

Guest post by Carolyn Schriber

I am currently working on a new writing project.  I hesitate to call it a historical novel yet, since not much of it actually exists.  But I have a fascinating cast of characters  as ingredients in the brew that will eventually become a novel.  In 1861, a group of Abolitionists from Boston, New York, and Philadelphia set sail for coastal South Carolina.  Word had just arrived of a great Union victory at Port Royal Sound.  The Confederate inhabitants had been driven out of the coastal islands, which had been full of cotton and tea plantations.  White slave owners grabbed what they could carry and fled into the interior.  Their slaves, almost to a man, found themselves abandoned, and, to all extents and purposes, free. The Abolitionists hoped to offer their aid to these ex-slaves.  They brought food supplies, used clothing, books, Bibles, and the own eagerness to prove that slaves could be turned into productive citizens. 

The Abolitionists were a motley group.  One of their fellow passengers aboard the ship that carried them described them thus: "bearded and mustached and odd-looking men, with odder looking women."  Another  suggested that they were "broken-down schoolmasters or ministers who have excellent dispositions but not much talent." Such quirks mean that they are going to be fun to work with.  But my first problem is getting to know them as individuals, so that my readers can tell them apart.

This is where I find that compiling a character sketch of each person is an indispensable first step. To my delight, I have just discovered that the new version of "Scrivener," released just in time for National Novel Writing Month, provides a template for such sketches.  (If you are not familiar with Scrivener, the best writing software available, you owe it to yourself to check it out at ).  The template offers the following sections: role in story, occupation, physical description, personality, habits and mannerisms, background, internal conflicts, external conflicts and notes.   Here are some of the resources I use to compile this information for my works of historical fiction.

1. Since most of my characters are real people, I start with a general history text that describes the events I want to write about.  Plundering the index is a quick way to locate and identify such details as occupation and background.

2. My second resource is usually the U. S. Census. Any good genealogy program can quickly located any mention of the character in whom you are interested. I've been concentrating on such things as the family's economic status and my individual's place within the family.  Among the women I am looking at, I found one who was the only girl in a huge family of boys -- thus explaining, perhaps, why so many people comment on her masculine habits and interests.  Another was a nine-year-old-child when her mother died, leaving her to help raise four younger brothers and sisters.  No need to wonder where she developed her nurturing nature.

3. Photographs can reveal much.  One of my ladies  is a spinster, uniformly adored by the children she teaches but an object of scorn by many of the men around her.  Why?  Well, a single glance at her only formal portrait draws attention her unfortunately huge bulbous nose.

4. The character's own writings -- letters, diaries, journals, other publications -- complete the picture.  One of my characters is a preacher's wife.  I knew she was a singer and a teacher, as well as the leading force among the evangelical abolitionists.  I didn't fully understand her, however, until I discovered a book she had written about the evils of slavery.  It shows her not only as an intemperate zealot, but as a lascivious one at that. I might have missed that part of her character if I had not taken the time to compile a character sketch.

The template works equally well for fantasy, purely fictional characters, historical figures, and even the people involved in historical monographs. You must know your character very well before you can expect your reader to understand and identify with him.

Carolyn Schriber now writes Civil War novels.  Her latest release, Beyond All Price, is available from her Amazon Author's Page or from Katzenhaus Books.  You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.  E-mail her at

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Create the Writing Life You Want

photo by Djuliet of Flickr

By Marg McAlister

Ah, writing. For those of us who love to play with words, it's like standing in front of a smorgasbord, agonising over which delicacies to try. You can potter about with your writing as a thoroughly delightful hobby - writing wedding speeches, penning dreadful doggerel for people's birthdays, or writing stories to entertain your children. Or you can work at it, hour after hour, determined that your book is going to be the next bestseller. You can choose the writing life that's perfect for you now, then change direction later, as your circumstances change and your experience grows.


I'm going to work on an assumption here - that you actually like writing. (I can't imagine any other reason you'd be reading this article. If you don't like to write, why are you being such a masochist? There are thousands of other jobs out there that will suit you better. Stop reading this and go find one.) So, given that you like to write, you should now ask yourself: 'Do I like writing enough to do it full time, or do I want to keep it as a hobby?'

If you just want to keep it as a hobby, then you are relieved of a number of 'duties' already. Since it's a hobby, you don't have to earn money. You don't have to please editors. You don't have to be published. You can scribble in faint grey pencil on a table napkin if you want - nobody else has to read it. And best of all, you don't ever have to write anything except what you want to write!


Most of us are not in that situation. We either want to write as a paid hobby (which might also be known as 'part time writing') or we want to work towards a full time career. Let's look at 'part time writing' first, and assume that you wouldn't mind being paid for what you do. (At least in kind - a free book or meal in exchange for your carefully produced text.) If you want to be paid, then you are faced with a certain set of responsibilities. You have to make sure that the person paying you can read your work, so faint grey pencil is out. In fact, it's very likely that good clear word processing is in.

Hmmm... this is beginning to sound expensive. Suddenly it's taking money to make money. You have to invest in your career - in the form of hardware and software and consumables. You have to think about GST and that means a business name. Your part time writing career might take up more time, and cost more money, than you had expected.


But wait... you have more decisions to make. Are you going to concentrate on just one kind of writing (say, writing short stories for popular magazines) or are you going to peddle your words in any way that will bring in cash?

There are lots of people out there who require writers. They need wordsmiths to write their 21st birthday party speeches, or to put together smart resumes and application letters, or to create snappy promotional material for their business flyers. If you're happy enough to do all of these things and more, then you can certainly generate a part-time (or even full-time) income. Of course, you may have to advertise, and obtain business cards, and that costs more money... but don't worry: the better you become at what you do, the more your clients will do your advertising for you. ("Oh, you must get so and so to do your flyer; she's really good...")


Time to move on to the Serious Writer. Serious Writers come in two flavours: the ones who want to write the Great Australian Novel (or win one of the major literary awards for novels) and disdain networking, marketing, self-promotion and all those mundane things.

They are passionately committed to writing literary fiction, and if it takes twenty or forty years of living off relatives or typing at night after their day job, then so be it. Some of these Serious Writers can write like angels and will undoubtedly achieve what they want. Others never mix with anybody else and have no idea that their work is substandard or boring until they get their first rejection. (They may not realise even when they get their hundredth rejection.)


The other kind of Serious Writer is the one who is determined to make a success of writing, investing as much time, energy and cash as is needed. He is happy to network and talk to clients or editors and other writers. Sometimes this becomes a broad-based writing career - this person just loves words and crafting finished pieces of writing, whether it's fiction, non-fiction or promotional material. He is happy to be writing - any kind of writing!

Not everyone is happy to write whatever puts bread on the table. Some writers are content to do an assortment of fiction (mainstream, romances, or romantic intrigue, for example) or to target one specific genre - say speculative fiction - in both short and long formats. They spend time tracking down other aspiring writers in these genres, swap stories of near-misses and 'good and bad' rejections, and share the jubilation of finally getting a 'yes'. If you are determined to write only what you want to write, then don't give up your day job in a hurry - it might take a while and a few 'practice books' to get your first acceptance.
What you can do, right now, is determine the writing life you want-and start working towards it. Begin by asking yourself the ten questions below.

  1. Would I rather do any kind of writing than do other work? (If the answer is 'yes', and you know you handle words with creativity whether you're writing a short story or a letter to the bank, then a multi-faceted writing career might suit you.)
  2. Can I identify a range of writing that I would be happy to attempt? Is there a need for this writing? Can I provide a special service, or target a niche market?
  3. What kind of books do I like to read? Are these the kinds of books I'd enjoy writing?
  4. How much money do I need to spend on equipment or resources to start a writing business? If I haven't got this money, how long will it take me to save it or obtain it?
  5. How many hours can I devote to writing?
  6. Do I need a separate office and phone line, or can I share a computer with the family?
  7. What other commitments do I have? What other demands are there on my time?
  8. If I could choose any kind of writing at all to do, what would it be? Can I work towards this, even if I can't spend all my time on it now?
  9. Do I have a network of supportive people - friends, family and other writers - to help me achieve what I want? If I don't, can I find these people?
  10. What can I do RIGHT NOW to set my writing career in motion, or to start moving in the direction I really want?

(c) Copyright Marg McAlister

Marg McAlister has published magazine articles, short stories, books for children, ezines, promotional material, sales letters and web content. She has written 5 distance education courses on writing, and her online help for writers is popular all over the world. Sign up for her regular writers' tipsheet at

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

How the War of Words is Won

photo by DVIDSHUB on Flickr
by Mike Consol

Word combat is everywhere - especially in politics and business. Put the right words and phrases together and you control the story, or even win the election or turn your newest product into the next sensation. There is much at stake where wordplay is concerned.

Politically, republicans are better at this than democrats. (For the record, I'm a lifelong registered independent.) Democrats tend to be policy wonks offering professorial explanations of their policy positions. Republicans are more issue- and talking-point driven, more focused on word choice. Republicans also have a knack for boiling their positions down to simple principles.

A good example if the estate tax. The republicans hate it because it falls in a big way on the rich, a key component of their voter base. So they reframed the discussion by rebranding the levy the "death tax" - the implication being that the feds even tax you for dying. An appalling, if misleading, notion to everyday people. The strategy is working. The "death tax" was temporarily killed in 2009 and is currently not in effect, though it is scheduled to make a Lazarus-like comeback in 2011. The battle will rage on.

When democrats protested big tax cuts for the rich while the middle class got modest reductions, GOP members accused their rivals of promoting "class warfare," pitting Americans against one another. They made democrats look like troublemakers.

When assistance is extended to the poor republicans tag it "wealth redistribution," an allusion to socialism, which some claim is the democrats' secret agenda. Republicans have also got lots of mileage using the phrase "government takeover," particularly since President Obama was elected and went to work on health-care reform and new regulations for the financial industry.

Not that the democrats don't score their own points with word combat. Bob Dole's ill-fated run for president against Bill Clinton was sunk in part by the Clinton campaign's repetitive claims that the Dole platform included a "tax scheme" that would "blow a hole in the budget." People don't like schemes. It's a pejorative word that reminds them of Ponzi schemes and other fraudulent acts of financial betrayal. No one wants to be associated with that.

While running for president, Barack Obama made allusions to John McCain's age and potential for declining mental agility by constantly referring to McCain as "erratic," particularly after he had flip-flopped on a couple of his positions.

Democrats also scored big when they told voters that the "limousines are circling the White House" in an attempt by the rich to get the executive branch to veto legislation that would have made incursions into their bank accounts. That was a particularly visual reference, which always adds extra power.

All of those are examples of using the language in ways that increase the blow being delivered, to convey negativity. But even more often language is obfuscated or reframed to soften the impact of an organization's actions.

The military speaks of "collateral damage" rather than saying they accidentally "killed innocent people." It's simply too ugly, and too likely to turn the American populace against military action.

During the 1980s business quit using the word "fired" in favor of the more neutral "downsizing." Then they took it a step further by calling it "rightsizing," as if firing people was actually the right thing to do under the circumstances. The list goes on and on. No doubt you have a few of your favorites. The lesson is to choose your words carefully. They have power. They can spell victory or defeat.

Mike Consol is president of which provides corporate training seminars that teach verbal communication/presentation skills, business writing skills, and PowerPoint presentation skills. Consol spent 17 years with American City Business Journals, the nation's largest publisher of metropolitan business journals with 40 weekly newspapers across the United States.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Effective Media Interviews Generate Book Sales

Photo by A. Germain
Guest post by Michael Ray Dresser

Book marketing experts know that authors who get excited about landing an interview may lose sight of the goal, which is not to gain media interviews, but to sell their books, their products, their services or their point of view. And it’s sad, but true that an interview does not automatically generate sales. Effective interviews generate sales; ineffective interviews merely produce entertaining or idle talk.

The author who can generate sales from a television or radio interview is the author who knows how to communicate to any audience listening to that show. A book, a product or a point of view is sold when one listener “connects” with the guest because there is recognition of a common want, need or experience. Multiply those clicks of recognition and you multiply sales.

But, just the act of writing and publishing a book, a product, a service or a point of view does not successfully bring you to this point. There are steps to take.

The first step is Publicity; you need exposure; you need press releases, newspaper and magazine articles, book reviews and guest spots on Nationally Syndicated and local talk shows all over the country. Now you are out there. All dressed up and now what! Oops, now you have to be in front of an audience and talk and you now get your first interview!!!

And you prepare yourself. Of course you know that an interview is an acquired skill. It is a process with a strategy working toward a fixed finish line. You have to create your message in a way that is real for your audiences. They have to see and feel themselves in what you say. You now have to say it in a way that the audience can relate to, a way that allows your audience to experience themselves in your interview message. You now speak to your audience, “one person at a time” and to think of your interview as an intimate conversation with a friend and not a lecture to thousands. You speak to your audience…not at them and learn to always make sure that the effect or the result of your message will match the intent you have going in. You now go into an interview prepared for any question and be armed with the ability to bridge back to message no matter what is presented to you. Your audience is there to be informed. They are there to be persuaded and most of all to be entertained… if you don’t, you will be talking to an empty microphone. And always, always leave them “wanting more”.

Michael Dresser’s Communication Training will give you, the authors or the experts, the skills to learn how to use the media, and how to effectively convey your message. You will learn how to leverage interviews to create book sales, how to feel more comfortable on the air and how to relieve the stress and anxiety that can come with interviews. The secrets behind creating effective presentations whether it is on radio, television or a live venue are available and learnable. The consultation is free…the knowledge is invaluable!

· Don’t bury your message in entertaining talk.
· Tie your message to an image (story)
· Speak to your audience one person at a time
· Always leave your audience wanting more!

If you need advice on where to get low cost book publicity support, email:

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Lost For Words? Tips For Overcoming Writer's Block

Photo by Cayusa on Flickr

By Rob Ashton

It's a common dilemma. You have a really important document to write and the deadline is looming. You sit down at your computer to write it and - guess what - you're completely at a loss where to begin.

It's not as if your manager has suddenly sprung this task upon you or that you haven't given it any thought at all. In fact, you've proactively allocated time to write it, but you're already struggling and you haven't written a word yet.

You have a common case of writer's block. We've all encountered it and it always seems to hit when you're under pressure. But fear not, there are ways you can tackle and overcome it:

Identify the cause

There are two main causes of writer's block: fear and lack of information.

Let's deal with the fear factor first. People often approach putting finger to keyboard with trepidation - as if somehow once your words are on the computer screen they are cast in stone. Far from it. If you approach a writing task with the idea that it's better to get something on screen than not to write a single word, then you're likely to make some progress. It doesn't matter if what you write isn't perfect first time. You can always play with it later (although of course it always pays to plan your work; see 'practical tips for kick-starting your writing' below).

It's far better to get an imperfect report written today than to delay for another six weeks to achieve what you consider to be perfection. By then you'll have infuriated your manager, spent more time than necessary writing (and rewriting) and potentially lost the business.

Forage for information

It may be that you simply don't know what to write, because you don't have all the information you need. So go out and find it.

Do you know what your audience expects from this document? Do you have a good view of your readers' requirements? If not, then completing a reader profile questionnaire might help. (Here's one to download.)
If this kind of formal approach isn't for you, then simply ask some of your readers - or those close to them - some targeted questions. Often the responses you get may help to cristallise the issue for you and get to the heart of your document.

Make sure you've thought through your subject matter thoroughly. Brainstorm all the ideas and information you know already and then highlight where you need to do some more research.

But don't forage for information unnecessarily. You may be over-complicating the issue and you could tie yourself up in knots.

Practical tips for kick-starting your writing

Once you've worked out what's preventing you from writing and have filled any information gaps, you're ready to get going. Here are a few pointers to get you started.

* Write a rough plan. This helps separate your thinking from your writing and creates a logical structure for your document. It's also a great way to ease yourself into the actual writing.

* Do something different. Sometimes if you sit in front of your computer scratching your head for too long, you'll simply confuse yourself more and increase your frustration. So make yourself a cup of tea, have a chat with a colleague, even pop out for ten minutes if you can. It's amazing how a change of scenery can refresh your thought process. Who knows, while you're away from your computer, you might even get a flash of inspiration about how to start your document. Time out also helps to get you into 'action mode' for once you return.

* Set a time to start writing and stick to it, whatever happens. As this time approaches, you should feel a sense of anticipation and be ready to get going.

* Think about your intro. Often it's the first paragraph of a document that's the most difficult to write. So if you can think of an engaging way to start your writing, for example, using a historical info that contrasts what used to happen last year or last decade with what's happening now, that will kick-start the rest of your document. It will also grab your reader's attention and encourage them to stick with you.

* Impose a time limit on your writing. This usually works if all the above have failed. Say to yourself, I'll write for five minutes - and five minutes only. How bad can five minutes be, after all?

This method is amazingly effective, because often people speed up their writing and get into the 'flow' just as their five-minute limit is approaching - which obviously stands you in good stead for writing the rest of the document.

You need to be honest with yourself, however, if this method is going to work. Stop writing after five minutes if you're not getting into it and set another time to write for another five minutes. It won't take many more five-minute sessions before your writing truly starts to flow. We promise.

Emphasis is the UK's leading organisation dedicated solely to business writing training and consultancy.

For more information visit: today.

Rob Ashton is Chief Executive of Emphasis. Emphasis is the UK's leading organisation dedicated solely to business writing training and consultancy. As the leading business writing company in the UK, their trainers and business writing consultants provide adept, in-company writing training and consultancy to a huge range of private and public-sector organisations.

Would you like the Publishing Guru to review your book?  Send me an eMail:

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Start Your Book

Photo by iwouldstay on Flickr
Guest post by Daniel King
"Most everyone will agree that the getting started part is the most challenging stage in the writing process. First paragraphs, first thoughts, and first sentences are almost never the final ones that appear in your published manuscript. As you begin the writing process, it’s important to remain patient while maintaining vigilance and focus. Your dedication will pay off in the end.

As you sit down with paper and pen in hand, think about your writing goals. Why are you writing, what are you writing about, and who is your audience? While you’re tapping out words on your laptop, write to document your persuasions, your discoveries, your beliefs, and your greatest ideas. Write to influence, to inform, and to persuade.
While you’re brainstorming your first book, I have a few suggestions to help get the creative juices flowing. Take a piece of paper and answer the questions listed below. Your answers will show what topics you should focus on as you write.
- What is important to you?
- What do you think about?
- What do you talk about the most?
- What challenges have you overcome in life?
- What problems you have solved? 
- What topics do you know well?
- What is God speaking to you about?
Are you excited about influencing children, restoration, faith, love, music, or marriage? What subject do you think about the most? Every author should write a book on his primary focus. 
If you could talk to anybody about one thing, what would it be about? If you have five minutes left on the earth and you could talk about one thing, what would it be? This subject that you are passionate about is what you should write about.  
Daniel King is a missionary evangelist who has traveled to more than 50 nations talking to people about Jesus. He has more than 100,000 books in print. On October 19, 2010 he is hosting "The Ultimate Minister's Tool Box Conference" for anyone who wants to do something big for God. Watch this video for more info: 

Friday, October 8, 2010

20 Formatting Essentials For Your Manuscript

Photo by Dave Heuts

Guest post by KJ Hutchings

When submitting manuscripts to literary agents and publishers, you will generally need to use what is known as the "standard manuscript format". For many writers, this term is often unclear and can jeopardise their work being taken seriously. So, let's look at the twenty essentials for formatting your manuscript correctly:

  1. Always type your document - handwritten work is not acceptable.
  2. Make sure you use a single, clear serif font such as Courier or Courier New rather than Arial.
  3. The font size should be 12 point - not smaller or larger.
  4. Use double spacing - size two.
  5. Use only black text on a white background. Any other colours will make your text harder to read and will also look unprofessional.
  6. Many people submit their work electronically via email, but if you are printing out your manuscript, ensure you use good quality paper and only print on one side of each sheet.
  7. Make sure your name and contact details are at the top of the first page on the left hand side. Include the word count also (make sure this is accurate) at the top right hand side and put the title of your work half-way down the page in the centre. You need to write your name underneath the title. Then commence the document.
  8. If you use a pseudonym, write it beneath the title but keep your real name in the top left hand side of the first page.
  9. Ensure that your name, the document's title and page number (in that order) are on each subsequent page as right-justified headers. If the title of your work is long, you can usually just use a key word or two from the title instead of repeating it in full.
  10. All paragraphs must be left-justified and all right margins must remain unjustified.
  11. There needs to be a least a two centimetre margin all the way around your text. This is so that annotations can be written on the printed out copy.
  12. Do not insert any extra lines between your paragraphs - you want your text to be clear and easy to read.
  13. Indent the first line of each paragraph by one centimetre.
  14. If you wish to indicate a blank line in your text, insert the blank line and then add a further line with the # (hash) character in the middle. Then follow this with another blank line.
  15. Do not use any bold or italic fonts. To emphasise a piece of text you should underline it instead. Do not use any other unusual formatting.
  16. Insert the word "End" after your text. Place it centred on a separate line.
  17. Do not staple your pages together if you are submitting your work on paper. Ensure you package your work sufficiently so that it doesn't arrive at the agents or publishers crumpled and damaged.
  18. Agents and publishers receive many manuscripts each week. Competition is high and can be made worse if you send your work to an agent or publisher that does not handle your niche of writing. For example, you would not send a science fiction or romance story to a publishing house well known for its historical publications. Make sure you research agents and publishers thoroughly.
  19. Once you have selected your potential agent or publisher, check whether there are any specific formatting requirements for manuscripts for their particular market. If they state "standard manuscript format", this guideline can be followed.
  20. Always, always, proofread your work before submitting it! Spelling errors and unnoticed word omissions or sloppy grammar could seriously hinder your literary ambitions.
KJ Hutchings is the founder of KJ Language Services, offering editing, writing and proofreading services and advice on how you can make your English language documents the very best they can be. For more information, visit

Need book reviews?  Email: thepublishingguru(at)

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Incitement of a Repressed Honor Physics Student

 (spare-time book reviewer: thepublishingguru(at)

The suppressed, honor physics student within me stirred as I began to read Wondering About. Strumfels provided an engaging perspective regarding science, philosophy, and our involvement in this concoction known as life.I don’t agree with all of Strumfels’ conclusions.However, I enjoyed the stimulation of thought and found myself adjusting some personal beliefs.Questioning what you believe is a surefire method for solidifying one’s resolve.

Strumfels encourages us to return to the curiosity of our youth.Regardless of your preferred area of scientific study, you will find something to enjoy in this smorgasbord of analysis and rhetoric.The content includes imaginative prose covering organic chemistry, astrophysics, quantum mechanics, philosophy, and even forecasting what might be.While the material is dense, you will most certainly make discoveries that will rekindle fascination and wonder heretofore dormant within your mind.

Like Strumfels, my discovery of and interest in the sciences began at a young age.Strumfels’ curiosity continues.At one time I was going to pursue a career in electrical engineering.My life took a different path.Strumfels has renewed my passion for and curiosity with the plethora of paths to pursue that is science.It is so easy to get caught up in the busyness of life and forget the magnificence surrounding us.

David reminds us. Only 100 years ago, mankind was ignorant of things we now take for granted. Very recent scientific discoveries have brought us computers, the internet, atomic power, jet travel, space travel, and the eradication of disease.We can’t help but wonder how the discovery of DNA alone will affect the next 100 years.What a privilege to wander with David through this tome of science, philosophy, and humanity sure to be enjoyed by student and professor alike.

The product description mentions David’s battle with Asperger Syndrome. While I don’t discount the reality of this condition, I choose to believe David has maintained an innocent awareness of the world around him others have abandoned for inanity. I challenge you to meander through the pages of Wondering About and the unusual mind of David Strumfels.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Writing is Occasional Writing Pauses

photo by Eran Finkle

Guest post by Katherine Ploeger

Occasionally, writers suffer from what I call "writing pauses," which can be both annoying and frustrating.  Note that I don't call them writing "breaks," which has a more permanent feeling to the term, as in a complete stop of writing efforts.  I call them pauses because they are temporary. The challenges that cause the pauses must be dealt with and will be eventually overcome, but understanding the pauses can help you, the writer, get through them more easily.


Writing pauses are the result of external forces in a writer's life, ones over which the writer has little or no control.  An otherwise productive writing time with great momentum can suddenly come to a crashing halt for any number of reasons.

Maybe you must suddenly move, requiring time to pack and move rather than write.  The energy focus has shifted, and writing is not included in that focus.  Or perhaps you must take care of an ill or injured loved one.  Or maybe the 9-5 job suddenly demands weekends and evenings to complete the work, eliminating your usually sacred writing time.

Or maybe your home or family is involved in some natural disaster.  Let's face it: when your house is under water or in rubble around your feet, you're probably not thinking about writing your next article or chapter for which you have a book contract although your writer's mind will send you ideas saying, "This could make a great article, if I survive it."  But then, you might sneak in a few hours of writing as a relief from the overwhelming events in your present reality, just to save your sanity.

A writing pause is NOT writer's block or any other internally generated work stoppage.  Nor are the pauses voluntary; they must be endured until the challenges can be overcome and writing resumed.


The first action you can take is to determine the percentage of time taken, the severity and estimated duration of the writing pause.  Does this challenge require a full time effort, or can you sandwich some writing time in among the required tasks?  Will the challenge take a few days at most to solve, or are you looking at weeks or months?  If it will be a short, tolerable pause, you can accept it and deal with the challenges at hand, knowing you'll return to your writing soon.

If, however, the pause may be a longer duration, you can take other actions.  First, ask yourself if you can eliminate or delegate any of the tasks required in dealing with the challenge.  See if you can free up even a few hours a week to write: these few hours may save your sanity.

Second, if you can't free up any time at all, which is understandable in some situations, especially if the challenge is emotionally exhausting, then you need to simply accept the idea that your writing will be on hold for a while.  Once you stop struggling against the writing pause and take care of the challenge you are facing, you will have one less frustration to cloud your mind.

In the meantime, set up a file folder, computer file, or shoebox for notes of ideas you receive during this down time.  Write out the idea and date the page, then slip it into your filing system, to be dealt with when you return to your writing.  You can then evaluate these stray ideas for their value and usefulness, and you won't have lost them forever.

One last idea - an important one - is that you should not beat yourself up about not writing during a writing pause.  The challenges faced are usually not of your making, but you must participate and overcome them to return your life to as near normal as possible, so you can return to your writing.

When (not if) you are confronted with one of these writing pauses, stop and evaluate the situation and give yourself permission to stop writing until the challenge is resolved.  Then return to your writing with new experiences to use in your work.  Remember, everything can be used in your writing.  Everything.

Katherine Ploeger, MA, MFA, is a writer, editor, writing coach & consultant, and publisher. She writes practical, process-oriented publications for writers of all types. She publishes at Quilliful Publications ( Her latest book is Write That Nonfiction Book: The Whole Process. She also writes workbooks for writers. Two recently published are Common Writing Errors Workbook and Time Travel Workbook for Fiction Writers. She also offers lots of free and helpful information at her blog, Katie's Writing Notes at

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Time Management - How to Find Time to Write Your Book

photo by Toni Verdú Carbó

Guest post by Irene Watson

"I'd like to write, but I just don't have any time."

How often have we heard that, or even said it ourselves? The truth is that writing is extremely time-consuming. Beyond just getting words down on paper, we have to revise and polish them. The time and work involved can seem so overwhelming that we never get started writing a book.

But let's face some hard facts. First of all, most of us don't have a lot of time. Secondly, not having "enough" time is completely a myth. We all have enough time to write a book. It's not so much about time as it is about discipline, and discipline doesn't mean chaining yourself to the computer seven nights a week. It means seizing opportunities when they present themselves.

First of all, determine how much time you spend doing things that don't really matter in terms of the big picture? I'm not talking about things you have to do like dishes, or working at your job, or taking care of your children? I'm talking about things like watching TV. At the end of your life, do you want to say I've seen every episode of "Friends" or "CSI" three times, or that I wrote a book? Okay, granted, some TV shows are great, but how about when they are in rerun-do you watch them anyway? Or even if you want to watch your TV shows, do you really need to watch the commercials? Every hour of TV has about fifteen minutes of commercials. Use those fifteen minutes wisely and you can write a book in a year.

Writing does not require a disciplined schedule. It doesn't require the latest, finest computer on the planet. It doesn't require a fancy pen. It just requires a few minutes of thought here and there, and then later, tying those thoughts together.

Get a pen or pencil and some paper, or a laptop-whatever is comfortable for you. Go ahead and sit down in front of the TV, and when the commercial comes on, write.

If a big piece of paper or a blank computer screen is intimidating to you, use a smaller piece of paper. If it has to be a little 2 x 2" sticky note because that's as much space as you think you can fill, go ahead and use that.

The point is to break big things down into small things. Rather than chain yourself to a desk for three hours, give yourself three-minute writing spurts. Challenge yourself not to fill several pages, but just a small piece of paper. If you're using the computer, it's great if you can turn on the word count so you can watch it increase. Write 100 words. Then 500, or 1,000. Each evening, try to break the previous day's record. Make it into a game.

But you want to write a full book. I know, you're thinking, "I'll never get there at that pace."

Let's say a typical novel-200 to 300 pages-runs around 100,000 words. If you write 1,000 words a night, you'll be done in 100 days. If you only write 500 words a night, you'll be done in 200 days. Let's say you take off weekends. That's still 2,500 words a week, which is 40 weeks to 100,000 words-in less than a year, you'll have a rough draft for your novel. If you spend the next entire year revising it, you'll have a novel written in two years. Is two years really that long? Remember two years back? Look how fast that time went by. Think two years into the future-how exciting it will be to have written an entire book.

No book was ever written in a day-not one worth reading at least. Patience and determination will get the book done.

It doesn't matter if what you write is good or bad. If your goal is to write 500 words and those 500 words are badly written, at least you got them on paper. You can always fix them later. The main thing is to write them so they can be fixed. That's half or better of the struggle. Ernest Hemingway said he wrote one good page for every one hundred bad pages. Bad writing is no big deal. Only not writing is a big deal.

If you find you don't have time to watch TV, or to sit for fifteen minutes a day, use other parts of your day to write. Do you have to commute in the car? Then think about your book while you're driving. Become committed to using that time to write your book. You can buy a recording device to speak your book into and then you can later type it up. There's even software now that will type what you speak so you don't have to type it up yourself.

Do you have a lunch break at work? Go sit in your car and write during it. Do you have a job with little to do? Then use the time to write your book. Do you have a hectic job? Grab a sticky note and doodle an idea down to stick in your pocket and come back to later.

Do you have to walk the dog? Going for walks are great ways to trigger thoughts. Get a recording device to talk into while you're out walking. Or tell your dog your story-he's probably a good listener and won't give you any negative criticism.

Busy exercising at the gym? Think about your book while you're walking on the treadmill. Waiting at the doctor's office-carry a notepad to jot in while you wait.

Tired and need a nap? Then lay down and think about your book until you drift asleep-you'll be surprised how many times ideas will come to you before you fall asleep just because you let your mind rest for a minute-and wouldn't it be cool to dream about your book? If you have an idea and forget it later, don't worry about it-another, probably even better, idea will come.

Time exists all around us if we just take advantage of it. I firmly believe anyone who puts his or her mind to it can write a book. It just takes discipline-fifteen minutes a day is sufficient. Pick up that pen. The commercial is about to come on.

Irene Watson is the Managing Editor of Reader Views, where avid readers can find reviews of recently published books as well as read interviews with authors. Her team also provides author publicity and a variety of other services specific to writing and publishing books.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Write Fantasy That Sells!

Guest post by L R Saul

I frequently hear people ask, "Why is Harry Potter so successful?" I even find book reviewers and publishers asking it. They scratch their heads, baffled. But the success behind Harry Potter, and other very memorable fantasy books, is in fact devilishly simple. It's just a matter of knowing two secrets. So what are they?

I'm going to reveal to you, the mystery behind the success of Harry Potter. Its success comes from its use of, well... mystery. It is the many mysteries and hooks running through the entire series that pulls readers in and keeps them there. But why mystery?

The human being has an insatiable need for answers. Not one human being, of any age, is exempt from that. Not one! Think about a baby wanting know what happens if it pushes that red button on that toy. Or adults needing to know the source of that strange noise in the night. Or teens nervously chatting about that strange man lurking around the school yard and what he could possibly be up to.

It means that, just by cleverly utilising mystery, you have the power to appeal to human beings from one end of our planet to the other. Ask some very intriguing questions, and a reader will go with you anywhere you take them until they have the answers. Powerful and unanswered questions -mysteries - are some of the greatest sellers of books of all time. Mysteries in fantasy are no exception.

I often tell potential readers of my fantasy novels to just give me the first two pages. That's it. Just the first two. My goal is to hook them sufficiently, and then to keep on raising questions that will take them to the end. The secret to that is simply... mystery.

Mystery, however, shouldn't stand alone. And that leads me to the second secret of a successful fantasy novel: its message.

Mystery needs to pair with a message to make a great fantasy book. Think about Harry Potter, with its message of good versus evil, and the power of friendship and sacrificial love. It was a message that escaped no one, and in its amazing way, it bonded an entire generation of people as we all sat at our café tables or on couches and discussed our mutual love for, or curiosity over, the Harry Potter books.

Mystery isn't the only thing that has the power to carry a reader to the end. Unresolved personal conflict and deeper themes are just as effective. We need a resolution to those deeper issues so badly, that they will also pull us all the way to the last page. A character burning with a lust for revenge will carry us on until we either see that revenge carried out, or watch the character transform as the character forgives. Readers find it very hard to leave such intense personal conflict hanging.

Fantasy has the power to change you - whether through film or books. In fact, it has the power to change a whole generation, as Harry Potter did. Books should change you, so why should fantasy be exempt from that? There is the argument that fantasy is just escapism, and it should be left that way. But tell me, who amongst you didn't escape into the world of Harry Potter only to find yourself emerging at the end different somehow? You escaped because of the message, not despite it.

So write a fantasy book that can change the world; thicken it with personal conflict; make it about issues that mean a great deal to you; then make sure it intrigues us and asks questions we can't possibly ignore; and I guarantee you the world will read it... and love it. LR Saul is the author of several fantasy novels for adults and young adults, including Bloodline: Alliance and Bloodline: Covenant. When she's not writing books, LR Saul is thinking about books, reading books, editing books, teaching about books, writing articles about books, or trying to ignore books. To learn more about her or her novels, go to

Monday, September 27, 2010

5 Writing Tips From Professional Nonfiction Writers

photo by svenwerk

Guest post by Linda Aragoni

If you would like to be a better, more productive nonfiction writer, take some tips from journalists. Facing daily deadlines, they must learn to work efficiently in order to write effectively. To become a better nonfiction writer yourself, use these five tips from the pros.

Good writers do seat work.

Positioning your seat on the seat of a chair is the first requirement for improving your writing. You will not get better without working at it. If you must write on the job, or even if you blog as a hobby, you must do your seat work daily over a period of months or years.

Good writers keep their eye on the goal.

Before they write their first word, the pros determine who will read their work, what the reader already knows about the topic, what the purpose of the writing is, and what the reader should think or be able to do after reading. Setting out with your goal firmly in mind saves time. Your goal prevents you from doing needless work.

Good writers sweat the big stuff.

Professional writers concern themselves with having something to say and saying it clearly. They deliberate over the best way to organize the material. They debate ways to make the reading painless. They worry over every element that has potential to confuse or mislead a reader. Only then, when all the big stuff is right, do professional nonfiction writers worry about minor points of grammar and punctuation.

Good writers repeat success.

For poor writers, each new piece of writing is a new challenge. For good ones, a new piece of writing is more or less like previous ones. Journalists have a repertoire of mental templates for the kinds of writing they most frequently have to do. Instead of having to develop an outline and procedures for each new assignment, they have only to see what the new assignment demands that is different from their template.

Good writers avoid grammar problems.

Poor writers think they must have a thorough knowledge of English grammar to produce good writing. Professionals do not worry about grammar if they can possibly avoid it. Rather than use correct grammar that will distract readers, they will rewrite a sentence to avoid the issue.

If you aspire to be a good nonfiction writer, practice these five principles. Self-discipline and consistent effort on the most important writing elements will pay off.

Linda Aragoni, webmaster of, has spent most of her life writing, editing, and teaching nonfiction writing. She believes nonfiction writers are most efficient when they use a writing process that mimics what good nonficion writers do. Copyright 2010, Linda G. Aragoni. You may reprint this article provided the whole text, the author's name, the links, and this copyright notice remain intact.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

My Blog Post Writing Process

Guest post by Katherine Ploeger

As I have been writing more and more blog posts, I have found a routine that works for me, and I thought others might benefit from that information.

Each weekday morning, I start by drafting my post(s) for the day. I usually have a topic, and often I have a basic outline of points to include. Sometimes, I have to think about the points to be made and their best sequence. However, sometimes I have to go through my ideas folder to find an idea that resonates with me at that moment. I am always adding ideas to that idea folder.

Sometimes these drafts swerve and take detours, which, at the time, is not apparent to me while I am drafting. Others stay on topic beautifully. With a few, I run out of words long before I know the post is finished and rely on my subconscious to provide the words when I revise the next day.

And sometimes I get stuck. With one post I tried to write recently on publishing routes (the topic of a 7 hour seminar of a few years ago), the post simply would not condense into 400 words or even a multiple-post series. I actually started over three times before giving up, creating a folder for my attempts, and filing it for later use.

When I finish the draft, I print it out. I always revise from a printed copy; revisions from the screen often miss errors relating to ideas and writing quality. I put the printed copy aside, to simmer overnight.

I am a firm believer in "simmering" time, that time I take from the writing to let my subconscious work on the piece. When I return, I can see problems that were invisible while drafting. Revision could be spoken as "re - vision," or seeing the writing with new eyes.

I then revise the draft(s) from the previous weekday, which have been simmering overnight or over the weekend. Considering that no first draft is ever perfect the first time (which is especially annoying to perfectionists), the second viewing the next day, when revision takes place, is an essential step in the process. I always change a few words or ideas during revision. Sometimes I realize I have detoured and correct the content. Other times, I simply put aside the draft for more inspiration later. Most of the time I revise the wording, taking out words unnecessary for meaning, and publish it.

When I am happy with the post, I publish it on my blog and send it to EzineArticles for distribution. That often can take an hour or two, depending on the quality of that draft.

I have read of people whipping out a blog post in 20 minutes and immediately publishing it, and then I have read the results and shaken my head. If they had taken more time and allowed the draft to sit for a while, then revised it, the quality of ideas and writing could have been better.

So that is my blog writing process. I wanted to write this article (as I have thinking about it for a while) to reassure writers that taking time to create your best writing is smart, not a handicap or a waste of time. Taking time to draft, simmer, AND revise is the writing process. Each step is important and should be viewed as such.

I hope this brief article has helped you when thinking about your own timing and your writing process.

Katherine Ploeger, MA, MFA, is a writer, editor, writing coach & consultant, and publisher. She writes practical, process-oriented publications for writers of all types. She publishes at Quilliful Publications ( ). Her latest book is Write That Nonfiction Book: The Whole Process. She also writes workbooks for writers. Two recently published are Common Writing Errors Workbook and Time Travel Workbook for Fiction Writers. She also offers lots of free and helpful information at her blog, Katie's Writing Notes at

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Do You Have a Good Negritude?

Today, I was introduced to a new word by the TrueTwit Validation Service.  It was one of the words I had to type to validate that I was a human.

Negritude (an ideological position that holds Black culture to be independent and valid on its own terms; an affirmation of the African cultural heritage)

It was coincidental for me.  I happen to be in the middle of publishing a book with the title The Blended Church: The Emergence of Multicultural Christianity.  The author, Dehner Maurer, states there is one place in the United States that racism is more prevalent than any other - the church.

Here is a little sneak peek from the foreword by Dr. Myles Munroe.

"Martin Luther King, Jr. expressed his dream 'that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood,' and that his 'four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.'

Almost 50 years have passed since Dr. King spoke those words in the midst of a struggle to build bridges between races, and an honest examination will reveal that the yearning he expressed is still not fulfilled in our culture, especially in the church.  Tremendous advances have been made in race relations, to the extent that America’s first Black president occupies the Oval Office.  Minorities have moved past the doors of schools and executive offices of corporations.  The ethnic complexion of suburban neighborhoods has changed, but the congregations at a typical Sunday church service remain basically the same.  In addition to identifying churches as Baptist, Methodist and otherwise, we still describe them as 'white' or 'black.'

 In a first century world characterized by bitter racial, cultural, national and social hatred, the Christian church was a model of reconciliation and harmony.   Speaking of Christ and the church, the apostle Paul wrote: “For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility . . . His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility” (Eph. 2:14-16 NIV).

In this book Dehner Maurer presents a thorough and revealing analysis of the church’s failure to fulfill its divinely appointed purpose regarding racial harmony and prescribes practical and biblical principles to meet the problem.  He shows that true reconciliation goes beyond token integration and statements of equality to a spirit of unity and purpose.  Such a spirit begins in one-on-one relationships in which we view the other person as someone whom God loves dearly and for whom Christ died. Maurer enforces the principles he espouses with both biblical and contemporary illustrations, primarily from his own church situation.

People in pews and pulpits of all churches and races will profit from reading this book and implementing its teachings."
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