Friday, July 30, 2010

Writing Tips

 Ever been caught trying to decide which word to use like effect or affect? Strunk and White's grammar book is great along with many others on the market. However, I learned at an SCBWI schmooze last week a quick and easy way to learn one tip at a time is to sign up for Helen Wilkie's Word Tripper writing tips. Twice a week she sends you a writing tip via email. Recently she sent the following which I already knew but found the Bonus Tip interesting and informative.

Word Tripper for July 15, 2010
"Lead, led - The verb "lead" (with a long "e") means to show the way. "The guides lead a hiking group every Saturday." The past tense of this verb is "led" (with a short "e") They led the hike yesterday"

Bonus tip: When you create an adjective out of several words, whether or not you hyphenate it depends on whether it comes before or after the noun it describes." She uses this example "Send me an up-to-date list." The noun is after the adjective. Now, "This list is up to date," puts the noun before the adjective.

My critique group mulls over these kinds of writing problems often. I'll suggest they join this Word Tripper newsletter. You might gain from receiving it also. To subscribe, click on her name above.

Although my website isn't quite finished, you might like to check it out. You'll see some of my articles along with information about my upcoming picture book, HOW THE WEST WAS DRAWN: COWBOY CHARLIE'S ART. I also have a teacher's guide for using the book. Just log on to Hope to see you there.

Monday, July 26, 2010


Two Writing-Roads followers suggested where to find more information on networking. Pat Stoltey suggested the following article, She also said Google "Facebook for Writers," "Twitter for Writers," or LinkedIn for Writers" to identify articles on networking through social media. So far, the articles I found didn't lay out a guide for marketing/promoting on social networks. I want to know which groups I should join. How to join them. Basic information. Perhaps you'll be able to find better information than I did.

ProBlogger as suggested by Charmaine Clancy requires paying a fee - something like $5.95 a month. Her profile on her Wagging Tails blog/website lists hundreds of blogs to consider. The link is on this page.

One article on networking I read said not to discuss business at a cocktail party. I disagree. Granted, pitches are not appropriate if not requested and when in a group. However, finding out if an editor is open for submissions is a perfectly good question to ask. In talking with Ben Barnhart of Milkweed Editions, he volunteered information about Milkweed's submission manager and said he was open to submissions. Needless to say, I sent a query/chapters right after the conference.

Use good taste when approaching editors whether it be at lunch or a cocktail party. I sat with an editor from Fulcrum one year at a conference. She asked what I write. I explained it wasn't something her publisher did but she didn't care. She asked again what I write. The next year when I attended her presentation, she commented that she remembered me. Later that day I pitched to her. She gave me extra attention and tried hard to get the manuscript accepted. Eventually it was rejected. But I appreciated her extra effort and told her so.

I've also attended conferences where one person monopolized the luncheon conversation with their pitch. I wonder if the editor felt it was as rude as I considered it. Lunch is a good time to find out more about the editor/agent, not only what they like to read but personal information which makes us writers more comfortable talking to them. We discover they are people just like us.

Even though I've said how hard it is for me to approach editors/writers/agents, I try to remember they are people like me. They have a job to do and are, most often, willing to talk to you. Force yourself to approach them but do it respectfully and with concern for those around you. Pitches are for one on one. 

Friday, July 23, 2010

1st Author Panel

The Northern Colorado Writer's 1st Author Panel went very well last night. I made some good contacts as I believe the other three authors did. Jim Davidson and Kevin Vaughan are collaborating on a book about Jim's climbing experience on Mt. Ranier when he lost a friend after the two fell through a snow bridge into a crevasse. Lindsay Eland's Scones and Sensibility was released in December, 2009. It's about a girl who thinks she should have been born in a more romantic time like that of Pride and Prejudice. I look forward to reading each of their books and wish them all much success.

After each author related information about their writing and publishing story, the audience of about twenty-five people asked excellent questions. Kerrie had to call a stop or we'd have gone overtime. Then we had time to mingle and network.

Networking is the name of the game whether it be through a meeting like last night, a conference or through online social networks such as Facebook, Linkedin, or Twitter. I have trouble networking in any venue. Thank goodness one school media specialist came up and introduced herself. None of the authors felt they utilized their online social networks enough. I personally need to get better at it.

Another form of networking is following blogs. Following quietly, according to Kerrie Flanagan the director of Northern Colorado Writers, does no good. You must make comments so your name gets in front of other readers. I try to ask a question that encourages readers to comment at the end of my blogs. Once more people get connected to me, perhaps there will be more comments and helpful hint for writers.

At conferences approach editors, agents or other writers during cocktail time or sit with them at lunch. I have forced myself in the past to do both with good results. When I pitched to one editor, she commented she remembered me from lunch the previous year. She asked to see my manuscript and took it pretty far up the publisher's ladder before the marketing department rejected it. Another time an editor, during a conversation at aconference cocktail party, said he was open to submissions even though I'd not given my elevator pitch. In each case you have the opportunity to say in your query or cover letter that you've met the editor/agent and when. They then give you a little more consideration.

I Googled networking but came up with job networking. Of course, a writer is selling himself and his writing which amounts to a job. Perhaps you know of a good article on networking you can share.

Monday, July 19, 2010


A writer must write. Just because one book is sold doesn't mean the author waits for the next step in publishing that book and does no writing. I've started promotion research, PowerPoint presentations and an article comparing the work of Charles Russell with that of Frederic Remington. However, like most writers I need several projects in the works at once. To prevent writer's block (not sure I've ever experienced that), I need motivation.

To read some articles on writer's block go to It lists articles on many writing subjects including writer's block and motivation. These two links take you to specific articles on their website - and

Although good information, none of my motivation solutions were on those links. I first went to the library and checked out several books including children's for research on what publishers are printing and adult for pleasure. Then I cleaned out a few file drawers and found enough to keep me busy for years - old unpublished articles to tweak, possible reprint articles to market, unused research for other books/articles and an idea file. I filled a recylce bin with duplicate copies and old magazines. Course, in the process, I covered part of the floor with stacks of file folders still needing attention, but, I discovered my writing choices are many.

I'm a believer in "a messy office indicates a creative mind." The piles aren't that bad, I can still see the floor and part of my desk's top.

Along with those stacks, I have the piles of reading material from the library or my own book shelves on subjects to consider .I bought several from Amazon on Remington and am trying to find a focus for a book on his works. However, I don't want to fall into the trap of completely duplicating the Russell book. A new challenge. What might my publisher want in addition to what I've sold them?

Here are some questions to ponder about your writing and motivation. By what means do you motivate yourself to write? Do you get writer's block and how do you solve it? Have you recently discovered a wealth of writing opportunities in your own files? Can you remarket old articles? Have you perused the library for ideas? Have you read books similar to what you want to write? Have you looked into new releases and found holes of what might be needed for books or magazines?

Get busy. Publishers are waiting for good material to print.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Promotion continued

How can you promote your book? I'm making a list for HOW THE WEST WAS DRAWN: COWBOY CHARLIE'S ART.

I've searched all connections I may have - book clubs, library, museums, golf league, crafts group, relatives and writer's organizations to name a few. Should you do those presentations and signings for free?

Book signings definitely are free with hopes of selling some books. What about other signings? I belong to Colorado Author's League. An email request came through before I had a book contract asking for twelve authors to speak at a school in Denver. The other day I received another call-out for the same school from CAL again. It seems the curriculum coordinator only received a few volunteers. The same day, SCBWI posted her request. Volunteers may be the key word.

In other words, the curriculum coordinator is asking for twelve authors to present - one author a month - for only sales of their books. She advertises, sends out press releases and whatever she can to bring in an audience. The after school program usually draws from 50 to 100 parents and children. Their tight school budget does not allow for payment to the authors. I volunteered.

Some authors never do school visits for various reasons - time, talent, personality or distance. I'm not sure how they help the publisher promote their book or if they have good sales. Each author must promote in her/his own way.

As a first book author, I don't feel I can require a fee. If the school allows book sales, what more can I ask? I've read that the first three presentations should be free and then expect payment. I know if a person doesn't charge for their expertise, they are often considered less valuable. Still, at this point, I can't require each child buy a book or a classroom pay a fee. Although my book offers the tools with which to view other art works in addition to those shared Russell pictures and I want to spread that knowledge, I still can't insist the children buy books. 

Instead, I'll present a teaser PowerPoint presentation in hopes of creating their interest in a purchase. I'll find as many places to present as I can. This book is really not just for children. Adults will glean ways to involve their children with art. I know because when I read my manuscript to my critique group, they were more like children than adults trying to find the hidden objects or answer my questions.

Determine how you want to promote your book. But remember, just like you tithe donations, think about tithing your promotions. For every paid performance, consider giving one away.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Author Book Promotion

I've spent the better part of today surfing the Internet on ways to promote my first book. Believe me, there are plenty of ideas out there. Just Google "Promoting your Book." Then choose any of the links. You'll find something you can use whether it is a new book or one you published two years ago. One article told a story of someone making a best seller's list and increasing sales a year after publication.

I'll list a few of the ideas I found. First of all be in contact with your publisher's promotion department. Learn what they plan before you jump in and take over. Many ideas I found deal with self-publishing but some address how to help the publisher promote your book. All ideas work for publisher generated books.

1. Start locally. Contact as many local media as possible. Create interest in an interview with you even if you have to write an article yourself. Don't depend on a press release but pass them a hook that gets them interested in your book.

2. Identify your audience. Before an attempt to promote, decide which audience best suits your book. In my case, audiences include children, parents, museums, elementary classroom teachers, libraries, parenting and senior magazines and history teachers even as high as middle school. Under each of those headings I could add organizations which support the audience - PTA, school media managers, library associations and magazines. There are many more to consider.

3. Make your own advertisements. Create business cards and bookmarks focusing on your book. You could even make bumper stickers with the name of your book or a personalized T-shirt to wear while grocery shopping. Style a license plate holder with the name of your book or your book's website. Contact local bookstore event managers to line up a book signing. Design a button that advertises your book and wear it constantly. One of the Chicken Soup books that carried two of my stories sent each author buttons to wear. They created a lot of interest.

4. Book signings. Don't just sign books. Prepare a presentation to tease the audience into purchasing your book. In my case, I've already planned a PowerPoint presentation. If that isn't possible, I'll take a Russell print and do some of the activities from the book.

5. Be sure you have an elevator pitch ready to answer the question "What is your book about?" On our cruise, several new acquaintances questioned me. I have a short description that I think creates an interest.

6. Network. Don't pass up any opportunity to speak or network with organizations such as book clubs, churches, Newcomers. Drum up your own speaking opportunities.

7. Write magazine articles about your book subject. I've sold articles on playing games in an art museum. I think I'll remarket the articles and include information for buying the book to play some of those games at home with your children/grandchildren.

8. Here is a small list of blogs or websites with information pertaining to promotion - an interview with John Kremer on promotion, platform, networking and speaking - No BS guide to promotion - similar to above but with several focuses - an article on promotion

Whether promoting a new book or an older release, consider bumping up interest in the ways I've suggested or those from the websites.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Home again

We returned from the cruise to Alaska and I can't remember what day it is. Thursday went by in a blur. Got up too late to golf. Friday sped by. I almost fell asleep when the gallery was empty during my four hour volunteer shift. So, here I am - late again - with more information on writing.

I'm trying to learn to operate my website. I've written a bio, a front page and added my new book. Check it out at I have to set up a page for kids and then perhaps I'll be finished for a while. Code Sail Corporation is a friend who is really easy on me. He helps a lot and doesn't get upset when I ask dumb questions. 

Promotion involves communicating with any organizations to which you belong. For instance, I advertised the July 22nd 1st author panel with my SCBWI Northern Colorado group. Meeting is 6:30-8:30 at the Northern Colorado Writer's studio next to Chico's in the Foothills Mall area. I informed my golf group in case anyome might be interested in attending. The price is right - only $10. Any blog readers in the Fort Collins area are welcome. I plan to bring props!

I've also set up my first book signing. The Loveland Museum/Gallery where I serve as volunteer Docent Coordinator will print it in their catalog of events when the time comes. I'll prepare a PowerPoint presentation to go along with the signing to interest more people.

I learned from a teacher friend who I should contact at school districts. Once school starts, I'll work on that. The Pelican Marketing Department will also contact schools. I may be busier than I expected but, hopefully, all my promotion will generate more sales.

Be mindful that publishers now expect authors to help in as many ways as possible. Their staff budgets have been cut so any promotion done by the author is appreciated. Think how you might market your book.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Pelican Final Submission and more

We returned from our Alaskan cruise tired from late dinners and late night Dixieland Jazz music by three bands. Although we loved the cruise, we now need to recuperate and get back in gear.

The mailbox contained the Amon Carter CD I’d been expecting. That means I’ve worked all day on producing all the documents Pelican Publishing requires for final submission of HOW THE WEST WAS DRAWN: COWBOY CHARLIE’S ART.

Besides the special CD format of the single-spaced manuscript I downloaded, I included the introduction telling how to use the book, dedication, book description, bibliography, timeline, credits page and the pictures. I printed two double-spaced copies of the manuscript and copies of permissions.

I was surprised to learn Pelican listed my “new contract” on their Facebook page. I guess the marketing trail has already begun.

Actually, it will begin on July 22 when I sit with three other writers on a panel of “first book” authors for the Northern Colorado Writers group. I’m hoping for a good turnout even though I haven’t books to sell at this point. I’ll be included in Pelican’s 2011 Spring catalog.

I’d like to also write a flyer of how to incorporate the book into school curriculums that I can hand teachers after a presentation. I have a head start with all my museum docent experience and the introduction I wrote for the book.

I’ve ordered books from Amazon on Frederic Remington. In other words, I’ll be working on a similar book with his art as the subject. As soon as Russell gets underway, I'll querry Pelican on Remington.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed that someone will now show interest in my other children’s books - a picture book on moving toddlers, a fictional autobiography of one year my father kept me against my will in Chicago when I wanted to live with Mom and brother and an adventure fiction book where three kids go "through the picture frame" of Georges Seurat's pointilist painting and encounter many Paris attractions/obstacles while trying to capture the painting's monkey.

Plan now for your future books. Write an introduction, description or jacket flap, dedication and timeline if writing non-fiction.