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26. Do You Have an Editor-Repelling Email Address?

email addressBy Linda Formichelli

I get a lot of emails from writers. And lately, I’ve been alternately dumbfounded, confused, and frightened by some of the email addresses I see writers using. Addresses like:

  • flowergigglepot@yahoo.com
  • littlemissflashythang@aol.com
  • onebrilliantauthor@gmail.com
  • writrgrrl7113@hotmail.com

(Don’t worry, I changed these addresses…they’re not the actual ones.)

And I wonder: Are writers using email addresses like these to correspond with editors? And how is this affecting their acceptance rate — and their careers? It is physically hurting me to think that otherwise great writers are killing their chances at an assignment for such a ridiculous reason.

(Yes, I know some people have separate, throwaway addresses they use just for subbing to lists, but I assume some of these writers are using these addresses for their writing businesses too.)

I wrote a blog post in 2007 about the poor writer who was reamed out by a source for her email address. But clearly this public service announcement bears repeating.

Your email address is often the first thing an editor or an interview source sees from you, and that first impression of you is seared into their brains. They might read a brilliant pitch from you, but they can’t forget that the email address you sent it from was snarkmom2008@yahoo.com.

I asked four editors — three from national mags and one at a trade pub — what they think of cutesy or just plain confusing email addresses. Here’s what they had to say:

“I find email addresses like that unprofessional. We like the language in the magazine to be fun and conversational, but I expect writers to take their jobs as seriously as I take my own, and that means having a business email address. If someone has a silly one, it makes me thinks she’s still in college and doesn’t have the experience to write for me. Ones that tout being an amazing writer are possibly worse: I don’t think Ann Patchett, for instance, would advertise herself as “geniuswriter123.” A good email address includes something recognizable about your real name!”
–Sarah Smith, senior editor at Redbook

“Well, it straddles the line between being clever and just being silly and unprofessional. The line is a bit blurry, but I’d say this: If the address looks as if it’s referencing a legit business which the writer has started as part of his or her writing/content enterprises, then fine. Meaning ‘TheContentChick’ could be fine. But ‘LittleFlashyThing’? C’mon. Save that for your friends. Only your closest friends.”
–Former editor at a national general-interest magazine.

“Would I turn down a great query due to a wacky email address? No. But these types of addresses lack professionalism, and that’s important if I don’t know you and you’re pitching me for the first time. I’d recommend using a professional-sounding email address for corresponding with editors and colleagues, even if you decide to keep your fun one for friends and family.”
–Peggy Bennett, former editor at Entrepreneur

“I do think the email address a writer uses is important. Part of the writer’s job is to secure interviews with people to whom the writer ostensibly has no connection. In that context I believe, it’s far less likely for a person to respond to an unprofessional email address than one which is straight-forward. Email address which are cute or contain a double entendre can easily be misinterpreted and may not afford the writer the level of respect he/she deserves from the interviewee.”
–Editor at a food industry trade magazine

Okay, so it’s clear: Choose a professional handle for your email address. You know, like your name or the name of your business.

But after talking with these editors, I wondered if the domain name had any effect on how editors perceived the writers. I’ve heard that having your own domain name is the best — for example, yourname@yourname.com — but what about other domains like Gmail, Yahoo, AOL, and Hotmail?

The editors I asked agreed that for some reason they couldn’t pinpoint, Gmail addresses are acceptable, but ones like Yahoo, AOL, and Hotmail are looked upon less kindly. Here’s what one editor had to say:

“I agree about Hotmail, even though I have it. I’m so embarrassed that I still use it. A lot of people feel that way about Yahoo too. Absolutely not AOL. But Gmail seems fine to me; I wouldn’t think twice.”

I’m not sure why this would be the case, but it is what it is. So at the very least, if you don’t have your own domain name, sign up for a free Gmail account, with a professional handle like your name, that you use just for pitching editors and contacting sources.

Your email address is part of your branding, and you should put as much thought into it as you do your query letters and letters of introduction.

How about you — have you ever seen a crazy writer email address? How did you choose your own writer email address? How have editors responded? Share your stories in the Comments below! (Please don’t share other writers’ actual email addresses, for privacy reasons.)

photo by: Sean MacEntee

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27. Free Trailers

How to make a great trailer for your book without spending any money. 


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28. Finding Your Other Markets

This article also appears at writersrumpus.com. While your book is percolating in your mind, in revisions or sketches, or under the scrutiny of your crit group buddies, you can explore ways to build your publishing credentials. Magazines and other media can be valuable, shorter-term ways to get your work seen. Here’s a more-or-less “out there” […]

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29. 2 Ways to Make Sure Editors Are Impressed By Your Clips

surpriseBy Linda Formichelli

You’d think sending an editor a published clip or two would convince them that you can pull off the article you’re pitching.

But guess what? An editor may actually be leery of the clips you send.

Why? Because too many clips are actually crappily written articles that were edited to perfection by the writer’s editor. So the person you’re pitching doesn’t know if the clip represents your work — or the work of a great editor. Anyone can get lucky by landing a single assignment, so your clips prove nothing.

Then, you make things worse by sending a bunch of clips from different publications. You’re hoping to show off the fact that you’ve been hired by lots of pubs. But what the editor sees is that no one invites you back to write a second time.

So what to do? Can’t you ever make these freakin’ editors happy?

Here are my two tricks:

1. If you have them, send multiple clips from the same publication.

This shows that your writing is good enough that editors hire you to write for them again and again.

If you want to showcase your versatility, send a couple clips from one publication and then another one or two from other markets.

2. Send your final drafts.

This is a big one: Instead of sending in links to your published articles or PDFs with the beautiful layout and graphics in place, send the editor the ugly Word files of your articles as you handed them in.

That way, the editor can see that you turn in nice, clean drafts.

I came across this secret by being lazy. I wanted to send an editor a particular clip but didn’t have a PDF — and sure as heck didn’t feel like scanning it in.

So I sent my Word file and told the editor, “Here’s a clip from X Magazine. This is the article as I turned it in — so you can see what my writing looks like before the editor does his magic on it!” (Notice how I turned a negative into a positive?)

Believe it or not, the editor I was pitching loved this, and I started using this tactic regularly.

Clips aren’t about the layout and graphics. Sure, they look nice, but they’re just window dressing on what an editor actually wants — a snapshot of your writing.

But if you’re going to be sending ugly Word files, why not just send in unpublished work that you write up as clips? It’s because the fact that you were actually published shows that you know how to work with an editor, understand deadlines, and have been through — and survived — the editing process. So published clips are key, even if you’re sending in a plain vanilla Word doc.

How about you…have you ever sent an editor an unconventional clip? What happened? Let us know in the Comments below.

P.S. I’m thinking of running one session of Write for Magazines this year; if I do, it will probably be in May or June. This is the 4-week query writing class that has landed students in Woman’s Day, Spirituality & Health, GRIT, Washington Parent, E: The Environmental Magazine, Pizza Today, and more. If you want to get the details when I have them settled, become a member of my email newsletter list!

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30. School Presentations

Tips to get you invited back to schools. 


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31. Social Media Platforms

Agents weigh in on whether you need one or not. 


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32. Self-Promo and Marketing Materials that Work

Industry Life


Erin Bowman

My sequel comes out in week and I’ve noticed a drastic difference in the amount of self-promotion I did this year compared to last year. For my debut, I tried everything, mainly because I didn’t know what worked and/or what was worth spending money on. But looking back, some of those things I did for Taken had a very small payoff. Some of them had a small payoff and managed to drain my wallet and energy at the same time.

So I wanted to take a moment to chat about the marketing materials and self-promo that I think gives you the biggest bang for your buck. These are the things I did for Frozen this year, and at least for the foreseeable future, I can imagine doing them for all my books to come.

Forget business cards as an author. All you need are bookmarks. They hold all the same information as a business card, but they have a very functional purpose. (Can you remember the last time you saved a business card someone handed you?) Furthermore, bookmarks are fantastic marketing tools both pre- and post-launch. Stick them in any ARCs or finished copies you mail out. Give them to readers at book signings. Leave small batches at your local library and/or bookstore. Carry them with you everywhere (in your purse, car, etc). You never know when you’ll run into someone who asks what you do. If they seem interested, give them a bookmark.

promotional materials, bookmarks

A well designed bookmark should introduce both you and your book. Here’s the info I make sure to include on any bookmarks I order:

  • Book cover
  • Release date
  • Author name
  • Publisher logo
  • Author website and/or twitter
  • ISBN, space permitting
  • Blurbs, space permitting
  • Tagline, space permitting

Like many print products, the larger your order, the less you’ll pay per bookmark. If your budget’s tight, bookmarks might feel like a hefty investment upfront, but I swear by them. If I could only budget for one type of promotional material for my next book, I’d go with bookmarks every single time. (My bookmarks for Frozen are shown to the right.)


I mail these to local libraries and indies within a one hour radius of my home. For some people, that radius can result in a lot of establishments. It’s about 200 for me, and I realize that might be a bit more than some people can handle. Trim your radius down to a half hour, or hand select 20-30 libraries or bookstores you’d like to target most.

promotional material, postcardsThe front of your postcards should contain all the info that exists on your bookmarks. (Mine for Frozen are again shown to the right.) The back should be BLANK. Why? Because you need room for stamps and addresses, but also because you’re going to handwrite a note to the library/store. These businesses see a lot of promotional material, much of which gets tossed directly into the waste basket. But if there’s handwriting on your postcard, it will be read.

Your message should be short and sweet. Saundra Mitchell has fantastic advice when it comes to postcard marketing, and I tweaked her proposed messaging to work for my needs. Like Saundra, I have booked a ton of library visits from postcard contact, so I know this method works!

And lastly…


If your publisher only gives you one or two ARCs, this method probably won’t be an option. But if you’re like me, and you get 10-15, that’s more copies than you know what to do with. Take two copies and hand deliver them to your local library and local indie. Take another 3-5 ARCs and plan a series of giveaways on your blog.

promotional materials, ARCsThe key to a succesful giveaway is exposure. Yes, only a small handful of readers will win a copy, but over the course of the giveaway, word-of-mouth will hopefully put the book on hundreds or thousands of people’s radar.

If you give away all the ARCs in one giveaway, I suggest having the giveaway run for at least a month. Another option is to run several giveaways back-to-back, each with one ARC up for grabs. With either route, considering asking readers to tweet or blog about the giveaway for an additional entry. Rafflecopter is a free service that helps collect and moderate entries, as well as draw winners, and I can only speak positively of it. (It’s that widget tool you often see here on Pub Crawl for our giveaways!)

If you don’t have a personal blog, or just want a super hands-off option, try goodreads’ giveaway service. You specify the prize, how many copies you’re offering, end date, and the territories you’re willing to ship to. Goodreads will handle everything else, including drawing winners and providing you with their mailing addresses.

Once you have your winners, don’t forget to send the prizes using Media Mail. This special USPS rate is available for  parcels that are books only. Send ‘em anywhere in the US for around $3!


So that’s it–my suggested 3-part marketing plan! Timing wise, I recommend ordering bookmarks about 3-4 months prior to launch. Stagger any ARC giveaways in this same timeframe. Postcards should be mailed out about one month before your book hits shelves.

There’s lots of other stuff you can do (blog tours, preorder contests, custom swag, and on and on), and they do indeed help. But for me, they sucked a lot of time and enthusiasm, and I’ve chosen to focus most of my energies on bookmarks, postcards, and giveaways moving forward. If you’re pressed for time and/or pinching pennies, I suggest considering one or all of these options yourself.

Done other types of self-promo that was super successful? Seen marketing materials you thought were incredibly clever? Tell us about them in the comments!

Erin Bowman is a YA writer, letterpress lover, and Harry Potter enthusiast living in New Hampshire. Her debut novel, TAKEN, is now available from HarperTeen, and FROZEN releases 4/15/14. You can visit her blog (updated occasionally) or find her on twitter (updated obsessively).

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33. Writing honestly from your true passions

The myth that publishers have stacks of manuscripts  and that writers have to line up in a long queue was deflated by Jennifer Bacia during her talk at the Gold Coast Writers Association meeting . ‘Actually, that is not the case’ she stated. According to Jennifer, publishers are always looking for something that will make […]

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34. I Started a Small Press (and Then Things Got Weird)


The author in repose.


I tried retail for a while, and that was fun, in the way that puking on yourself at a family gathering is fun: you have a story. After a time, though, it stops being a story you laugh at and starts being one that you cry over. Usually into a beer. Next came moving furniture. For a time, that was good, physical work. I genuinely enjoyed it. And the stories I heard there, man, the meat of my second novel is mostly that. My imagination’s not that good. But then here comes nature and that heavy time and all of a sudden my back is in ruins and I got sick of carrying marble armoires up three flights of stairs. Then came restaurant work. That was fun.

Through all of this, I wrote. My first novel dropped in that weird interim before I started the moving job, when I was living in my car. The second hit and I was getting these royalty checks, but aside from the first one (which paid my rent), it wasn’t paying my rent. It hit me: “I’ve gotta find a way to make a living off of words or I’m going to die.”

I’ve been a fan of crime fiction since before I can remember. It started with Ellroy. I read White Jazz and threw my hands up and hollered. You can say this much with so little? I was hooked. I got the classics in, then I got voracious with it: Mosely, Sallis, Willeford, Pelecanos, Westlake, Parker, on and on.

I loved the opportunity crime fiction presented to peer into the human condition, and the (usually) clipped, no-bullshit delivery. What I didn’t like were the formulas, the staunch sexism, the rampant racism. I really wanted to carve something out that could represent everything that makes crime fiction beautiful, minus the stuff that made me cringe. That, and I didn’t want to sell hot dogs anymore.

I gathered a nice group of brilliant writers, who for whatever reason decided to hook me up with some manuscripts. I started a Kickstarter (pause for groans) in which I detailed five books my new indie press would put out, and—wonder of wonders—people thought it looked cool. I got the money and I was off to the races.

Sort of.

The books were edited and designed and off to the printers. They dropped, and then there I was. Floating.

There were many times I’d go out to my porch and smoke a cigarette and my house would shake as the trains rolled by out across the road, and I’d wonder what I could do to actually get people to look at these titles, to pick them up. I’d gotten a massively talented artist (Matthew Revert

) to do all of the covers for them, and they really popped. I’d sent out some review copies to places I thought would dig them.

Still waiting to hear back from most of those places.

I got tired of sitting on my hands. I took the books and grabbed a friend and hit the road. We went from Oklahoma to Wichita to Denver to Salt Lake City to Boise to Seattle to Portland to Sacramento out to the Bay to Los Angeles to El Paso. We performed in punk squats and abandoned warehouses and bookstores and back alleys. At one performance we lit a mannequin head on fire while I paced the floor with paint on my feet, tracing a chalk outline of an eye, rambling about a cyclops. At another I read the audience the end of my first novel and ripped out each page and burned it as I went. Though I didn’t sell copies at every stop, I talked to as many people as I could about the books. And I noticed an uptick. We live in an age of social media noise and rampant void screaming. There’s only one way to get things going, especially if you live in Oklahoma: you have to get out there and talk to people.

You have to ask them to dance.

There are other things you have to remember, too. Running a small press, it’s important to utilize social media, despite my prior assertion that it’s a dying medium. You have to be a person online, first. I see folks every day, inviting me to their “book releases,” which are really just Amazon launches of e-books. That’s annoying. You’re more likely to see me posting pictures of my dog, or complaining about how I could really go for a cigarette (quitting is tough, but, hey! nine days) than you are to see me talking about the books or writing or editing. The first reason is that places like Facebook and my blog are my escapes. The second is that you just turn into a spambot and fade into the background, and good luck swimming out of that lagoon.

Another thing: finances. Be careful. Keep your receipts. Where I live, there are crazy tax breaks for small businesses. Make sure you know exactly what you owe your authors. If you don’t pay them right, everyone will know, and you will be ostracized. And rightly so.

On the topic of writers: they are, for the most part, a funny bunch. They care about this stuff. So they’ll have things to fix, last-minute requests, bizarre neuroses. You have to learn to bend, to understand that your voice is not the voice. And if they want changes, you make them. Mark Twain once said that a novel is never finished, only abandoned, and I think that’s true, but Broken River authors abandon their children with a packed lunch (complete with smiley face note written on napkin), surplus army jacket, mace, a Swiss Army knife, and one of those flashlights you put on your head. And a ‘mommy loves you’ and a peck on the cheek. God love them for that. They care. And you have to, as well. If you don’t, well … you know.

I’m not a father so I don’t really know what I’m talking about here, but I’m assuming there’s a feeling you get when you hold a baby for the first time. Does it get real? I figure it gets real, then. When you spend months and months eating tuna from a can and pecking at a keyboard and making sure the kerning and keeping and hyphens and headers look right in InDesign, and then you send it to a printer and they send you copies and they are physical, real objects, resting there, looking up at you, you can almost see these big blue cartoon eyes, these helpless things that need you. So, you start to feel an obligation.

When you start a small press, you lack resources, usually. And that should make you hungry. You need to provide for these babies. Your authors, they spent years writing these things, invested their lives into them. Now here they are. Your responsibility. You’ll want to quit, lord I know you will, because the whole thing is so big, like pressing your body up against the edge of everything. But you have to get out there, you have to keep your mind right, and you have to make people sit up and take notice. You didn’t pull a sword out of a stone; no one ordained you the Chosen One. You chose you. It’s your responsibility. So go do it. If you love something, take that big Christmas dinner in your heart and break it down into MREs and dish it out to every person you meet, in small, manageable doses. They’ll feel it. They’ll know you’re down.

And then, you ask them to dance.



J David Osborne lives in Oklahoma with his wife and dog. He’s the author of two novels, a freelance editor and the editor-in-chief of Broken River Books. Please query at jdavidosborne@gmail.com.

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35. Can You Force People to Buy What You’re Selling by Wearing Them Down?

My 6-year old son will ask me if he can watch a movie. Not once. Not twice. Not a few times. He will ask me continually, for hours, until he gets the answer he wants, which is supposed to be, “Yes! You can watch a movie RIGHT NOW.”

Eventually that’s the answer, because it becomes too much trouble to keep saying, “I’m thinking about it.” At some point I have to start thinking about other things – or at least pretend that I am.

His ability to not take “No” for an answer is partly inherent and partly learned. Partly inherent, because I think all children are born with the intuitive gift of wearing parents down. Partly learned because I almost always allow myself to get worn down and eventually give in, which he knows.

In sales and marketing, it doesn’t work the same way. Sure, you can wear people down until you get a response, but it’s not usually the response you want, which is “Yes, I’ll buy/try/attend.” Instead of wearing people down so they give in, you end up annoying them so they hang up, unsubscribe or avoid you.

I’ve experienced this in retail from the time I was a teen, working at the mall. We were pushed to attack all customers coming in, pestering them until they bought something or left. “Can I help you?” was never enough. We had to employ religious cult tactics, continually asking leading questions (Are you looking for a poster? A framed print? Is it a gift?), never accepting “I’m just browsing” as an answer.

Which was perfectly wrong, because we chased a lot of people out of our store.

The perfectly right thing to do is to leave browsers alone and let them browse all they want. Browsing isn’t the opposite of buying, it’s a gateway to buying.

Remind them you are there to help every now and then. Eventually, they will know what they want and they will more likely come to you to get it.


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36. Can You Force People to Buy What You’re Selling by Wearing Them Down?

My 6-year old son will ask me if he can watch a movie. Not once. Not twice. Not a few times. He will ask me continually, for hours, until he gets the answer he wants, which is supposed to be, “Yes! You can watch a movie RIGHT NOW.” Eventually that’s the answer, because it becomes […]

0 Comments on Can You Force People to Buy What You’re Selling by Wearing Them Down? as of 1/1/1900
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37. Book Trailer, Interview, and Review of an Interesting Book

president hatI’m lucky enough to be on the web in three different places this week.

First, I reviewed a really interesting book, for adults but teens could read it too, titled, The President’s Hat. It was translated in English from French, and is a modern-day fable about a man who finds President Mitterand’s hat in the 1980s at a restaurant, and it brings him good luck and confidence. To read more about the plot and my thoughts on the book, go here: http://www.news-gazette.com/arts-entertainment/local/2014-03-23/top-notch-book-about-special-hat.html

Next, I revealed my book trailer for my new YA book, Caught Between Two Curses, on my critique group’s blog, The Lit Ladies. I feel so lucky because I WON THE BOOK TRAILER from Castlelane, Inc., and I would recommend them to anyone who needs help with marketing, covers, and more. Check out my awesome book trailer (it’s only one minute long) and more info about Castlelane here: http://www.thelitladies.com/winning-a-book-trailer-for-caught-between-two-curses-and-announcement/

And finally, I was interviewed by Hannah, a college student who is pursuing a degree in the publishing industry. She asked me about working for WOW! Women On Writing and other publishing related questions. Here’s what I had to say about working in publishing and where it might be going in the next five years: littlemissbookie.blogspot.com/2014/03/interview-with-margo-dill_7293.html

Until next time! :)

Happy Reading!

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38. Pinterest for Authors and Illustrators

How authors and illustrators can use Pinterest to market themselves and their books. 


0 Comments on Pinterest for Authors and Illustrators as of 3/26/2014 4:03:00 PM
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39. 99 Problems, But a Book Ain’t One (plus a giveaway!)

110912_Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen_BB_AB_0136by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen

As an author, I look forward to my next book release the way parents look forward to the birth of their child. After all, the release date is a birthday of sorts—the day my creation is real to everyone, not just me! If you’ve ever known someone expecting twins, the excitement is even higher—though, the fear associated with the event is also heightened.

This year, I’m having the publishing equivalent of quadruplets:

duckduckmoose orangutangled

snoringbeauty tywrecks

Like I said, I’ve got 99 problems, but a book ain’t one.

I get it. To have her problems, you might be thinking. After all, too many things publishing is a far better problem than too few. Or none at all. But there are problems created by my multiple birthing. Here are a few things you might not consider when praying for a year like this:

  • The whirlwind of marketing becomes a tornado.
    Since January, I’ve done three blog giveaways (the first was a DUCK, DUCK, MOOSE package of a book, a book, and a package of magic erasers, the second was a piece of Aaron Zenz’s original art, and the third is the autographed book we will give away here on this blog) with a fourth one coming up. I’ve done 42 Skype classroom visits—not including the 14 I have scheduled for the TYRANNOSAURUS WRECKS launch. I’ve flown to a conference in California and done a bunch of signings. I’ve revamped my website, I’ve had educator guides created, I’ve read the books so many times I have them memorized. And on the 7th day I rested…except, not really. Remember, all these marketing things are in addition to my regular job of writing, revising, preparing workshops, creating professional development. Oh, and raising all my kids.
  • orangutangsbyaaronToo much of anything is good for nothing.
    As much as we want to see our books in print, publishing is about more than just personal accomplishment—t’s about sales. While my ego might be excited by multiple books out at the same time, the market is another story. Have you ever heard of market saturation? Economic theory says in a given market, only so much growth can be supported. For authors, that means there are only so many new books a consumer will buy at a given time. Having too many books at once can actually reduce the probability that a fan will buy all of them, just because he may not want to buy more than a certain number of books within a short time period. This principle also extends to recognition. It’s highly unlikely that you’d have multiple books nominated for a given award in the same year. So you’ve increased your overcall competition by competing with yourself.
  • The “what have you done for me lately?” problem.
    Let’s face it—people are basically raccoons, distracted by whatever is new and shiny. And if you have a bunch of books come out at once, chances are, that will be followed by a long gap until your next release. But a book only keeps it’s “new car smell” for a finite amount of time. When something else new and shiny comes along, you won’t be able to compete and the raccoons will move on.

So, who still wants to have lots of books published at once? And who doesn’t?

Well, let me tell you a secret—it’s not up to you.

For the most part, publishers work on their schedule. And their concerns aren’t your concerns. So books may come out slowly at regular intervals, or they might appear all at once. As authors, we don’t have much say in this.

So how do you deal with this? How can you turn all these negatives into something positive for you?

I’ve given you the problems, so let me propose some solutions:

  • Find your overarching narrative.
    Whenever I have a book release, I take the details of its inspiration and craft a storyline that matches to a theme. For example, every night at bedtime in my house, my kids go nuts. My son, especially, when he was younger, he refused to sleep—no naps, no bedtime, no nothing. He was absolutely convinced I was going to do something awesome. This became the backstory for CHICKS RUN WILD, and I’ve introduced the book to hundreds if not thousands of readers by telling this story. With each of your books, you should be creating a narrative as well—but when you have multiple books at once, think of an umbrella narrative that talks about all the books. For example, DUCK, DUCK, MOOSE and ORANGUTANGLED are both about having bad days (though they resolve that issue differently). When I talk about them together, I tell my audience about taking bad days, mistakes, blunders and turning them into inspiration. They’re also both about friendship, and the different ways your friends can help you get through a rough patch. When you have one narrative, that message starts to represent you as a brand instead of the individual products/books. And at the end of the day, you want fans of your brand, not just your book.
  • Coordinate efforts.
    When you start marketing one book, leave yourself openings to market the others. For example, when I was booking release day virtual visits for SNORING BEAUTY and I had too many requests, I offered the folks I couldn’t schedule in March a spot on the TYRANNOSAURUS WRECKS release day. So instead of having to start from scratch for the next release, I’ve got some legwork done already.

sudiptabookmarkUse this principle in your marketing materials, too. Having bookmarks printed? Think about designing something that works for all your new releases. Making postcards? Create a “New for 2014” card instead of individual designs.

Just breathe. As I said before, in the grand scheme of things, having too many things published at once is the better dilemma to have. Because if you’ve got to have 99 problems, at least a book ain’t one.


Thank you, Sudipta! This is all good to know since I will be having two books released in 2015! Yikes! TWINS! Somebody boil some water!

Do you have any questions or comments for Sudipta? Leave a comment below and you’ll be entered to win a signed copy of one of her 2014 books, YOUR CHOICE! (And a tough choice it is!)

Also be sure to visit Sudipta’s awesomely nerdy blog, Nerdy Chicks Rule.

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40. Author Platforms

What it means, and doesn't mean, when agents and editors talk about having a strong author platform. 


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41. Tips for Reaching Readers

People, I am soooo chuffed about today’s post. We have two guests here to talk about a topic that can’t be discussed enough, in my opinion: how to reach readers. I have only recently met Katrina, but Fiona and I met eons ago at Critique Circle. She was one of my first ever critiquers, and her work. is. amazing! She always has great advice to share, and today’s sampling is no exception…


Courtesy of ReneS @ Creative Commons

I must say, I (actually, we because my good friend Katrina is also here) am absolutely thrilled to be invited over for a guest post today on Writers Helping Writers, and I’m looking forward to talking to you all in the comments section!  I wanted to talk about a topic concerning each and every writer, no matter their genre: reaching readers. This is something I think every writer worries about in today’s oversaturated market.  With so many books, video games, movies, and technological advances out there now, every writer has to fight for their corner of the market.

But how?

It occurred to me lately when talking to a fellow writer that authors often focus on promoting their books, their stories, and themselves.  But is that what a reader truly wants?  Of course, yes, you want to build your brand, get known, and sell your books, but that isn’t truly what will connect you to readers.  If you want to connect with readers (and thus the market) then you need to dive into the reading community and discover what it is they love/hate/don’t care about in the book world.

Recently, Katrina and I decided to set up a debate website – a place where readers can come and debate about literary topics from all genres, including other book related topics.  Why did we do this?  Because if you don’t invite the reader in and give them a chance to air their views about topics they care about and you don’t listen to what they have to say, how are you supposed to reach your target audience when you write your books?  How are you supposed to know the market?  And I know the word market strikes terror into all writers, but it’s nothing more than readers and what they like to read, and thus, buy.  Not as scary as it sounds. 

So what is the key to getting that agent, landing that book deal, or hitting the bestsellers list?  Write a good book people want to read.  That’s what they tell you.  Sounds mysterious, elusive, and out of reach.  Of course, there are those who just intuitively know how to do it (and to those people I take my hat off), but for the rest of us mere mortals, there are concrete steps we can take to break this down so we can achieve the same ourselves.  Now, assuming you have honed the technical side of your craft (since you’re here at Writers Helping Writers, I’m guessing you have already!), let’s look at what you can do to make sure your work hits the mark: 

  • Find a way to get in touch with readers who read the type of books you read.  Don’t just hit up the writing websites.  Go and find fan sites (a treasure trove of information) and search out online clubs.
  • goodreadsLook on Goodreads and Amazon, etc., and read the reviews.  Actually READ the reviews.  Then read the book.  And see how the reviews stack up against the books.  We’re always told to read widely in our given genre by agents and editors.  But we’re not told about this gem: if we read books, then carefully read their reviews, that information can teach us a lot about what the reader wants.  Trust me, it does.
  • Screen Shot 2014-03-05 at 3.35.59 PMSearch out other interests within your target audience.  Amazon is amazing for this.  Pick a book you think is in the same vein as yours.  Then scroll down to see what books the customers who bought this book have also bought.  Learn what ticks people’s like list and you’ll start to see how your book fits in, too (or doesn’t—and this can help just as much as knowing if it does fit in, because rewriting is always a wonderful thing).
  • Pool resources.  We all have writer friends and critique partners.  But when it comes to research we tend to close ourselves off a little.  Talk with each other, and half the workload.
  • Book club.  I know, I know.  Old fashioned.  But so valuable.
  • Ask.  Yes.  That simple.  Ask readers.  Whether you are commenting on a blog, on twitter, on Facebook, wherever, it doesn’t matter; the concept is the same.  Ask people what they like to read.  When someone says they loved or loathed a book, ask them why. 

There are a lot of different avenues for meeting and talking with readers, but sadly, as writers, we tend to block ourselves off to the writers-only community.  And yes, writers are readers too and you should never deny yourself access to the writers’ world.  But if you don’t reach out to the thousands of other readers out there, then you’re missing a huge opportunity to build your knowledge of the market.

At the end of the day, writing is designed to touch a reader’s heart or life in some profound way.  Taking the time to learn what they care about (or don’t) will pay dividends when it comes time to write or revise your work.

Fiona_McLarenFiona McLaren is agented for her YA novels by Jamie Bodnary Drowley of Inklings Literary Agency, and works full time as a freelance writer, ghost writing books and writing articles, short stories, short scripts, and much more.  She is the co-founder of the DEBATE IT! website, where readers discuss literary topics close to their hearts.  She would love it if you came to debate with everyone over there!  She can also be found blogging at The YA Bookcase and YATopia.  You can also find her on Twitter


Katrina is represented by Jamie Bodnar Drowley of Inklings Literary Agency for her adult sci-fi novel.  By day, she’s a mild mannered accountant, but, by night, Katrina is an active writer, critique partner, and intern.  As a co-founder of the DEBATE IT! website, Katrina works with Fiona to encourage healthy debate and conversation between readers of varying genres and styles.    


The post Tips for Reaching Readers appeared first on WRITERS HELPING WRITERS.

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42. Let Books be Books by Keren David

Beautiful Girls...Brilliant boys? 
I'm on deadline, so this post will be brief. In fact I'm over deadline, and I've reached the gibbering stage of madness where words and storylines are swirling around my head in such a bewildering fashion that I despair of catching them all. 
So, let me quickly commend the Let Books Be Books campaign to you and urge you to sign the petition, which calls for children's publishers to take 'Boys' and 'Girls' labels off colouring, activity and sticker books.
As the campaign says: 'Children are listening, and take seriously the messages they receive from books, from toys, from marketing and the adults around them. Do we really want them to believe that certain things are off-limits for them because of their gender? They’re not ‘getting it wrong’ if a girl likes robots, or if a boy wants to doodle flowers. These artificial boundaries turn children away from their true preferences, and provide a fertile ground for bullying.'
I'd go further and ask that publishers think carefully about all the books they publish for children of all ages and ask if gender specific  covers are really necessary.  Too often the message goes out to children that books about girls are off limit to boys, and vice versa. That adventure and action is for boys, and relationships are for girls. That a 'pink' book written by a woman is somehow not serious. 
The book that I'm struggling to finish is about love. It's about love from a boy and a girl's point of view. It's also about expectations and freedom, including the freedom to love who you want.  My hope is that it'll appeal to all sorts of readers, and I have great confidence that my publisher will  market it accordingly.
 Do you feel that marking books for 'girls' or 'boys' helps to write and sell them? Is it inevitable? Or can this campaign just be the start of real change in the world of children's books? 

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43. Promo Friday: How Do We Sell EBooks Without All That Time-Sucking Stuff?

This past week was IndieReCon. Yeah, I know. I should have mentioned it earlier. I think I did on Facebook. Or maybe Twitter. I'm not sure which. And that's sort of what this post on promotion is about.

On Day One Michael Alvear contributed a piece for the conference called How to Sell E-Books without Falling into The No-Value, Time-Sucking Vortex Of Blogging, Tweeting, And FaceBooking.
Alvear's extremely readable premise is that blogging, tweeting, and Facebooking are valueless time sucks for eBook writers. If he's correct, I'd argue that they're also valueless time sucks for any kind of writer. 

Alvear is talking specifically about Kindle eBooks here. He also suggests strategies that writers should concentrate on instead of social media to sell eBooks on Amazon. I wish he'd given more information on how, though.

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44. Self-publishing And Web Presence

Since I've been maintaining the Connecticut Children's Literature Calendar, I've been noticing an odd little quirk regarding the web presence of some of our local self-published authors. While it is common for self-published authors to have websites and blogs as sophisticated as anything you'll see in the world of traditional publishing, as well as Facebook pages, Google+ accounts, and Twitter feeds, it's also not unusual to see some self-published authors who have done nothing at all to market themselves on the Internet. I'll see authors making appearances at bookstores and when I try to find some information on them to link to within the CCLC, there is nothing. If I make a big effort (and I shouldn't have to--really, I shouldn't), I may find a small article in a local paper about Joe/Josephine Blow having published a book. And that's it. But sometimes I don't even find that.

What's going on here? you may ask. I certainly did.

In some cases, we may be talking about very inexperienced writers who are living the write-it-and-they-will-come fantasy. They may not realize that writers need to do something more than publish a book in order to find readers.

In other cases, we may be talking hobbyists, people who just want the experience of seeing their names on a book. Though why those folks are then making an appearance at a bookstore is a mystery. 

In either case, if they sat down and tried to come up with a plan to make it difficult for readers to find them, they couldn't do better than what they're doing, which is nothing.

I, of course, am interested in children's and YA writers for my children's literature calendar. I have occasionally come across writers who have chosen ambiguous titles and covers for their children's books. Unless the bookstore clearly labels these authors' events for children, and sometimes they don't, potential visitors/buyers can't even tell what age group the book is for and, thus, whether or not they're interested. If, on top of that, these authors have no web presence, there is no way to determine what their work is or who it is for.

Now, yes, traditionally published authors may not market themselves professionally, either. But the situations I have stumbled upon have all involved writers of the self-published persuasion.

I've had to put in some extra time and effort tracking down these people this past year. For the sake of my own work, I've recently made a couple of decisions: 1. If I can't find an obvious children's author's website immediately, I will list the event with no link for the author. 2. If I can't determine from the bookstore's marketing that an author has written a children's book, I can no longer justify taking the time to hunt down that information. That author's event just won't be listed.

Not only do these authors miss opportunities to connect with readers because they haven't put in the work to market themselves on the Internet, they also miss opportunities for professional networking. It isn't necessary to do every single form of Internet marketing, but it's hard to understand why someone wouldn't do at least one thing.

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45. Media Kits

It's easier to get publicity if you can give out a media kit. 


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46. Publishing a Book is Only Half the Battle. Now Try Marketing It.


Promotional Product Marketing for Samuel T. Moore of Corte Magore. Mood Magnets.

A friend of mine suggested I re-write a previous post I made here on my blog.  We had much dialogue about marketing and publicizing a book.  He told me that very few people understand that, while a major a coup, publishing a book is winning only half the battle.  He suggested I write about what I have been doing, specifically, to get the word out about my picture book app, Samuel T. Moore of Corte Magore, particularly since I’ve taken a somewhat unique, albeit varied approach, in such a short time.  Given my almost twenty years of marketing experience, owning at running a promotional marketing company, Tagsource, perhaps I do have something to contribute in helping others on marketing and brand messaging a children’s picture book.  I don’t know.  But believe me, even with my professional background in marketing, even I’m still feeling my way.  All that said, in just three months, I do feel I’ve made significant progress, and hopefully you can benefit from my experiences.  So what did I do?

I hired a Publicity Agency:

I knew that I needed to get the word out exponentially, and to the masses, and the best way to do that was for me to hire a publicity agency, right off the bat.   After thorough research, I selected Smith Publicity, a global publicity firm, and contracted with them on an initial, six-week publicity campaign.  Special thanks to Lauren Covello, Publicist, at Smith Publicity for her work on publicizing, Samuel T. Moore of Corte Magore.  With the help of Smith Publicity, I’m happy to announce we are off to a great start!  During and even after the campaign, Smith delivered some interesting results.  The most notable:  InformationWeek asked me to be a contributing, bi-monthly writer covering the educational and mobility segments on their online digital publication.  As a busy executive, I have to look at the investment of time and weigh the ROI on the writing obligation.  For me, this was a no-brainer.  InformationWeek is one of the world’s largest information technology publications.  They have over 220,000 subscribers and receive something like 2.4 unique visitors to their website each month.  My profile picture and bio will be positioned on their website with each article I write, which will link back to my businesses and my book.  Publicity turned marketing.  I like it.  Not to mention, this “writing gig” is a major bio booster.

In addition, Smith Publicity lined-up numerous radio and print article interviews for me.  iMedia interviewed me about approaching technology use for children.  Recently, I wrote a bi-line article for Today’s Parent, “Coming Soon to an Electronic Device Near You.” Today’s Parent boasts a readership of over 100,000 site visitors a month, and the article included a blurb about me and the book.  I have also enjoyed being on various talk radio programs. I really enjoyed this particular radio interview on Tots and Technology on IMI Tech Talk with Tom D’Auria. (Move ahead to about the twelve-minute mark to bypass all the tech news at the start of the show.) I am in the process of putting all my radio interviews up on SoundCloud, so stay tuned for links to all of those. This interview with Derrell Connor on 620 WTMJ Wisconsin Talks was another one of my favorites, if you haven’t heard it yet.   In addition, I’ve been interviewed on the Kim Pagano Show, Manchester University’s radio program, and several other programs throughout the country and Canada.  The goal is, with each interview, people will act and download my book.

I Collaborated with Connected and Celebritized People Who Helped Me Produce My Book:

Aristo Media, the publicity agency who represents Robby Armstrong, the Nashville star who wrote and produced my book app’s original Americana-style musical score, pressed news about Robby’s involvement with Samuel T. Moore of Corte Magore. That press release went out to many country radio news outlets, and the release has cropped up all over the web!  It was pretty neat to see Samuel T. Moore of Corte Magore mentioned on a CMT site! Country Pulse also wrote up a nice story called, “Catch a Rising Star,” about Robby and mentioned his collaboration on my book.  You can read about Robby on his website, here.  In addition to Robby Armstrong, I selected Mr. Steve McCoy, a renowned radio broadcaster to narrate the book.  Steve boasts a huge fan base and has a lot of clout in the world of broadcasting.  Mr. Doug Lawrence and Mark Ceccarelli, both notorious, original storyboard directors for SpongeBob SquarePants, co-illustrated my book.  When I produced my book, I knew that each of these unique collaborators would have vast networks of their own.  I wanted to cast my personal net out as far as it reached through my own network, but I knew that having networked, connected people working on my book would do nothing but bring more recognition to my project.

Something Interesting Happened, I Became Perceived as a Bit of an Expert:

All the above results made me considered to be somewhat of a tech expert. Recently, I was asked to write a bi-line article on app development :  http://www.beginningiosdev.com/app-case-studies/children-book-app.  Circle back to the radio interview on Tots and Technology, being interviewed for the iMedia article on kids and technology and how much is too much, and then being asked to write on mobility topics for InformationWeek.  It’s all connected, and an outcome I wasn’t expecting.

I Put My Experiences to Work:

I’m a marketing entrepreneur, a conversationalist and a networker, and I put all that experience to work for me.  I set up a Facebook page where I dialogue with my fans, and tweet about my book and experiences via @toniaallengould. I converted my existing blog to an author’s page and changed the domain to www.toniaallengould.com.  There, I continuously press new articles about my road to publishing and authorship.

I’m in the throes of being scheduled to speak at an elementary school that has recently moved to an iPad only curriculum, and really do hope to start working with children on writing and going after their dreams, and will invite the press to be there whenever I have a speaking engagement.  I can’t wait to spend more time in the classroom with kids engaging them about reading!

Through marketing efforts, the book made it to the 2nd Best App in the App of the Week Contest at iHeartThisApp. This is a parent/teacher/peer voting opportunity and you can help by voting anytime for the book by clicking the link above. Sam also reached the Top 100 Books in the App Store list for iPad, which in my elated and humble opinion is a major feat, given the legions of books out there! Today we are #100! Oh what it would be like to reach #1!

Even better, Samuel T. Moore of Corte Magore just got a 5-Star Video Review at Give Me Apps where also the reviewer mentions the great functionality and the collaborative efforts that went into the book. At one point in the review, he describes the animation as “something that almost looks like a Hollywood movie!” Here’s their Blog Review as well. Right after the review, Best Preschool Books, put Sam on their list! That’s some really great news and hopefully will continue to help me reach my target demographic, children ages 4-8.

Hard Work:

As you can see, I have a lot of great things in the works after just three months since my book app went live in the App Store on iTunes. Writing a book is one thing, getting it published is another, and marketing and publicizing a book is still another. I can honestly say—it’s all hard work.  I can’t tell you if I’m doing it right.  I can only firmly say, at this juncture, that I’m laying down some important groundwork.

P.S. I’m Still Marketing: 

If you don’t have an iPad, and want to hear the book, you can download the full, narrated book with music here.  If you do have an iPad, you can download my book in the App Store at iTunes.  Next up?  I hope to have a hard copy, conventionally printed book published in 2014.

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47. Why You Should Write for Free–and Like It

laptop woman happyBy Linda Formichelli

For years I’ve been preaching to new writers: Know what you’re worth! Demand to be paid fairly! Don’t write for free!

And now here I am, telling you it’s good to write for free.

Am I crazy?

No. I changed because the industry has changed. When I was starting out in 1997, there were no content mills and bidding sites offering writers $15 per 750 words, or blogs paying $20 for an extensive post.

So when I said “Don’t write for free,” I meant, “You should be snagging $500 for a feature article.” Not “Don’t write for free…at least get a few pennies for your efforts.”

Also, in 1997, there was a lot less competition and even a newbie writer had a chance to break into big markets and land impressive clients. Today, thanks to the Internet, the competition is stiff and writers with more samples have a better chance of landing gigs. Another reason many aspiring writers flock to the el cheapo clients. “What an easy way to get samples!” they crow.

The bad news is, better-paying writing clients don’t take samples from content mills, bidding sites, or crappy-looking blogs seriously. There’s no barrier to entry (pretty much anyone can write for one of them), writers need to crank out words too fast to do their best work, and even a great writer’s work is surrounded by mediocre (at best) writing from other cheap scribes.

So I’m changing my stance on the whole issue:

I believe it’s better to write for free temporarily, on your own terms, than to write for pennies for a content mill or bidding site client that doesn’t value your skills–and won’t make a good sample anyway.

There, I said it. Now let’s explore the whys and hows.

Why Free Is Awesome

I’ve become a big fan of writing for nothing. Here’s why.

1. It feels good.

As you’ll see below, I recommend writing for free for causes you care about. For example, several years ago I was a volunteer writer for the SPCA’s newsletter. That’s gotta feel way better than writing gratis for some company that hopes to earn lots of profit from your free work.

2. You get to choose your clients.

Landing free gigs is much easier than pitching low-paying clients. After all, the first is, “Hey, I’d love to write a post for you for free to help build my portfolio” (who can say No to that?), and the second is, “You say I’m competing against hundreds of writers for this low-paying assignment? Let me bend over further for you, my liege.”

When it comes to getting those first samples or building your reputation in a new field, free is more of a sure thing.

3. You can make demands.

When you’re writing for free, you have more control over what you’ll do and what you’ll get in return for your efforts. Of course, your client will have standards and specs you’ll need to adhere to, but you have more leeway to ask for a byline, negotiate the deadline, or request PDFs of your work.

4. Your writing will kick butt.

When you’re writing for a cause or business you love, on a reasonable timeline, you get the chance to show off your creativity, writing skills, and ability to generate ideas. Those are the kinds of samples you want in your portfolio.

5. You only need to do it a few times.

With the content mills, bidding sites, and blogs that pay yucko rates, it’s easy to fall into the trap of churning out assignment after assignment, because the only way to make good money is to write in volume.

Soon, you’ve forgotten that you only started writing for cheap to get a few samples, and are caught in the vicious cycle of mill work. And the longer you do it, the harder it is to climb out.

When you choose to write for free to get clips, you’re able to set limits on how much you’ll do. For example, you may decide you want to become a pet blogger, so you’ll write for free for two animal-related nonprofits and your local independent pet supply store and then use those samples to go after well-paying pet gigs.

When You Should Write for Free

Here are the three situations where you may want to offer your writing services gratis.

1. You have no samples at all.

You’re a rank newbie and have zero writing credits to your name. In this case, it makes sense to do a few free gigs to build your portfolio.

2. You’re looking to break into a new field.

Say you’re a health writer but you’d like to write more about entrepreneurship. You have plenty of samples showing you can write fluently about gluten intolerance and the dangers of Crossfit, but when it comes to business writing–you’re starting from scratch. This is a good time to write for free.

3. You want to switch things up.

Maybe you’ve written dozens of articles or brochures or case studies, but you’ve never written a blog post–and in your heart you really, really want to become a paid blogger.

Blogging is an entirely different skill, and you’ll need to prove you’ve got what it takes. Do a little writing gratis and soon you’ll have blogging samples to show to your prospects.

Who to Bestow Your Free Writing On

The last thing you want to do is offer the gift of your writing to some greedy conglomerate that’s going to turn around and make thousands off it–a business that can actually afford to pay writers. That would make you feel all angry and sad at the same time.

Instead, try approaching:

1. Non-profits.

Chances are, there’s a cause you believe in that has a non-profit organization attached to it. For example, check out charities at Charity Navigator [www.charitynavigator.com], especially their list of Top 10’s–like “10 Highly Rated Charities Relying on Private Contributions,” “10 Highly-Rated Charities with Low Paid CEOs,” and “10 Charities with the Most Consecutive 4-Star Ratings.”

2. Local small businesses you frequent and love.

That little shop downtown that sells handmade soaps, your local co-op grocery store, and the café you visit three days per week that serves farm-to-table cuisine–these can make great prospects for your free writing.

3. Friends and relatives who are getting their businesses off the ground.

This is a super way to gain writing samples while helping your loved ones. And, they’re the most likely of all the types of clients to give you free rein on your work!

What You Get From All This

You’re not writing for free for your health, right? You want something out of the deal.

Of course, you’ll get samples. But also be sure to request:

1. Credit.

A byline on an article or blog post, or credit on other types of written materials, will give your sample more credence.

2. Testimonials.

Let your client know that in exchange for your free writing, you expect them to write a testimonial you can run on your website and use in your marketing materials.

3. Recommendations.

Ask the client if they can recommend you to any of their colleagues–preferably ones who pay for writers.


Okay, now you have two or three samples. It’s time to stop writing for free.

Use those samples to land paying gigs. After all, now you can say, “I’ve written attention-grabbing, effective posts for X, Y, and Z.” That’s what you were after, and now you have it.

Offering your writing skills for free–if you choose the right clients and do a great job–can lead to writing work that pays so well, you’re not even tempted to bother with the content mills, bidding sites, and junky blogs.

How about you: Have you ever written for free in a strategic way? How did it work out for you? Let us know in the comments below!


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48. Why Agents Reject 96% of Author Submissions

Heather HummelAuthor Heather Hummel specifies 5 problems that cause 96% of submissions to be rejected by agents and offers solutions for each one in this article. The problems she addresses are:

  1. Failure to follow submission guidelines
  2. Genre confusion
  3. Your query letter sucks
  4. Nonfiction is a different beast than fiction
  5. Spelling and grammar

Heather is a “photonovelist” who combines a love for photography with writing. Her published works include two novels, two non-fiction titles, and essays.

Of course, fixing the problems Heather lists are no guarantee of making it into the magical 4%. The nature and perceived marketability of your story still control the outcome. Back when I was submitting to agents I assure you that I made none of those errors yet, despite “I love the writing” responses I got, I also got “I don’t know where to sell it” responses.

Ah, well.

FtQ cover 100WSeeing as how my FtQ writing book is subtitled "Crafting a novel that sells," perhaps it won't be totally inappropriate to include here a new review titled "One of the best" that I found on Amazon.

"This is one of the outstanding "how to" books about writing. It is full of meaningful examples and clear, concise explanations of what to do, what not to do, and how to improve one's writing. So many books on writing promise to teach but the few lessons contained in the work are lost among too many words about the author, the point being made, or the author's experiences. FTQ is more like a handbook that you can refer to over and over without having to slog through hundreds of words that obscure the point being made. I keep it right beside two other favorites, Self Editing for Fiction Writers by Dave King and Renni Browne and On Writing by Stephen King.I highly recommend this book for aspiring writers and for experienced writers."

For what it’s worth,


© 2013 Ray Rhamey

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49. T-shirt Marketing 101

©2014 Sparky FirepantsT-shirts are one of the best ways to get your company’s name into the world. Probably the best.

Of course I would say that, I’m a t-shirt guy. If I were a billboard guy, I might tell you to plaster your marketing message on Sunset Boulevard. But I’m a t-shirt expert so I’ll stick to that.

Okay, besides having a built-in motivation for evangelizing about t-shirts, I do have some solid reasons (and experience) to back it up. Pull up a chair and let Uncle Sparky lay it down for you.


Billboards rank pretty high on the visibility scale. Literally. So that’s wonderful, but one problem with billboards is that they’re stationary. You have to pin your hopes on people going by them and looking up (instead of texting, like 34% of drivers).

A T-shirt is fantastic for marketing visibility because the person wearing it is a moving billboard. Your marketing message is seen at the mall, the grocery store, the gym, and a bar, potentially all on the same day – for the same money. We’ll chat more about money in a moment.

Plus, it’s much more comfortable to wear a t-shirt than steel scaffolding and lights. You’ll have to trust me on that.

More Bang for Your Buck

Do you know how much custom printed t-shirts cost? Most people don’t. That’s because prices can range widely. All the variables in your design, colors, printing method, and quality of shirt make it hard to give a generic example. You can probably guess that my advice to you is to not go cheap. Of course you should squeeze the most value you can out of the deal. Just make sure you get the best quality you can afford. If you wind up with a box of shirts nobody wants to wear, you just blew your marketing budget on dust rags.

When you factor your costs for your t-shirt marketing campaign, think about this: You pay for it once, but it keeps on sending your message for years.

Everybody Wears T-shirts

Quick, name someone you know who doesn’t wear t-shirts.

Okay, I know. There’s always that one stubborn holdout who swears, “I never wear t-shirts.” Hmm. Right. Well, the toilet has to be cleaned sometime, yes? I’ve never personally cleaned a toilet in a VanHeusen button down. I’ve cleaned one with a VanHeusen… okay, perhaps a story for another time.

Whether or not there are these rare t-shirt-eschewing humans walking among us, admit it: T-shirts are frikkin’ everywhere. According to a survey, about 81% of the US population will wear a t-shirt by the time of the next presidential election. So it makes sense that you should put your marketing message on them.

Don’t Just Brand it. Make it Cool!

There are certain brands and logos that people will always wear on a t-shirt. Coca-Cola. Apple. Orange Crush. Vans. Those lucky brands, right?

There are even a few local brands that can get away with a logo-only tee, like that burrito truck that’s always slammed at lunchtime.

If you aren’t one of those brands (be honest with yourself), you can’t just stick your logo on a shirt and expect it to get the same mileage. As a marketing manager, you might get tipsy over the idea of wearing the Harvey’s Insurance logo on your chest. Harvey might. Maybe his mother. The rest of the world, not so much.

So you have to come up with an idea for your shirt that goes beyond plastering a logo on cotton. Make it interesting and fun, something other people would actually wear. That’s a tall order, I know. Think about your customer base and what they might find funny or just cool. Be careful with humor, though. Stay away from religious, sexist, racist, or political jokes. Even if you think your customer base will find it funny, tread carefully there. Your company’s name will be on it, and you don’t always get to pick who wears it.

Which reminds me – yes, do put your company logo on the shirt. Just don’t make it the centerpiece unless you’re an established brand. Sorry, Harvey.

Because We’ve Been There

Over the years, we’ve made too many marketing mistakes to count. We learned the hard way. These days, in our custom t-shirt business, we see plenty of really smart people about to make the same mistakes. Thankfully, we’re always ready to draw from our personal lunch box of stupid and help them make a better choice. Well, we try.

 Questions? Comments? Leave them below or email us at sparky@sparkyfirepants.com. And don’t forget to share this post. Sharing is caring.

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50. The wave of the future?

“What is it?”

“It looks like a Disney princess movie!”

“It sounds like a Planet Earth episode.”

Well, not exactly, but not far off the mark, either.

Disney and author Jennifer Donnelly (A Northern Light, Revolution) are collaborating on a multimedia fantasy project set to debut in early May. The WaterFire saga is projected to include four novels, an enhanced e-book, a theme song, and an extensive website with video clips — in short, a franchise on a Disney-sized scale.

What we actually received, inspiring oohing and ahhing as well as the comments above, is a nifty little gadget created by PIM, or Printings in Motion.

photo 1 The wave of the future?

Imagine a BLAD with marketing specs on the back — and inside, an embedded screen about the size of an iPhone’s. Open the cover and video begins playing: Deep in the ocean, in a world not so different from our own, live a people of the water…

photo 2 The wave of the future?

Buttons allow you to select between a book trailer and a “making of” short. It even came with a USB cord to charge it and/or play the videos on your computer screen.

donnelly deep blue The wave of the future?Series-opener Deep Blue begins with Mediterranean Sea mermaid princess Serafina’s prophetic nightmares on the eve of her wedding. As the books go on, several mermaid princesses from other regions will be introduced as they fight together to protect merfolk from an “ancient evil” and impending war. In the making-of video, Donnelly says that Disney sent her a “comprehensive mermaid bible” about the characters and their cultures; she expanded upon their sketches and outlines as she wrote. It’s a bit disconcerting to think of well-respected author Donnelly taking so much direction from Disney.

PIM’s other clients include Yahoo!, HP, and Heineken. Will publishers — and presumably film studios, app developers, etc. — without The Mouse’s or Mercedes-Benz’s global reach be able to afford this technology to market their products? (As Roger exclaimed, “Good lord, how much did this cost?”) Is PIM the Next Big Thing in marketing, or a flash-in-the-pan fad?

Perhaps more importantly: is this PIM marketing ploy a little too much? And will the WaterFire books — with their clear Disney stamp — live up to it? Only time will tell.

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The post The wave of the future? appeared first on The Horn Book.

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