Friday, October 29, 2010

THAT, Marketing and Pricing

Helen Wilkie puts out emails called Word Trippers. I've mentioned this before. She sends twice-weekly tidbits on correct writing or speaking uses of words. Today she addressed a favorite of mine. I eliminate the word "that" whenever possible. Most times it is not needed. Example: He told his employer that he would be absent. We commonly use similar sentences when speaking. However, if we wrote like we speak, no one would read. Boring! Now read the sentence without "that." Does it mean the same? Whether you are writing, critiquing or speaking, think about leaving out the word "that." It cuts down on your word count!

I mentioned at my writer's group I'm working on a marketing plan. (Notice I left out the word "that!") One writer suggested I take advantage of a free mentoring program at the Small Business Development Center. You must go to the one in your location. In other words, I can't use the one in Loveland, Colorado but must go to the Fort Collins center. On their website,, they have a form to fill out first under counseling. Then they set you up with a mentor. They also offer classes to help with marketing plans and, of course, try to get you to take one.

When I mentioned this to my son last night he related an author's experience. Seems a reporter approached a bestselling author and asked how she could get started. He asked if she'd taken any marketing classes. She snipped her negative answer. He said, "Well, you notice this is a bestselling book, not a bestselling writer." Any author needs to know how to market in today's publishing world. I'm on my way to learning.

Which brings up another problem. As a first time author, I, in good conscience, can't charge for classroom presentations or other speaking engagements. I thought I'd do a year of free first. I checked several local authors' websites for their pricing. In emailing a few, I learned they started by giving freebies first also. Then as they received recommendations and built their reputation, they charged. The key is reputation. Debbie Dadey related how one author didn't really want to give many presentations so he raised his prices. He received more requests. Upon asking the schools why, they told him he must be better than people who charge less.

Charging is a two-edged sword. If you don't charge, they think you aren't any good. If you do charge, the schools can't afford you. However, I discovered schools do have money for presentations; you just have to have the right connection. Another author suggested to the schools how they partly cover the author cost through book sales. Schools get the books at a 40% reduction. If they sell books, they reap the profit.

Any comments??? 

Monday, October 25, 2010


I'm a day late and a dollar short this week with my posts. The last week was filled with volunteering and the annual St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Craft Fair. I'm a tole painter as well as flower arranger and decorator of special projects. Last year the fair raised $21,000 so we aren't the typical "little old lady" group. This year's inventory amounted to less than last year so the profit won't be as much. However, it took up three of my days. Tomorrow we'll culminate the event and donate leftovers to nursing homes and other craft sales.

To catch you up on book progress, the Charles Russell book should be in route to the printer soon. I've been working on a Frederic Remington book. Today I emailed the Amon Carter Museum with a list of paintings/sculptures I want to use. Should have done it before writing the manuscript. Actually, I did check their website and found the pieces I wanted to use. Today was a different story. We'll see if they still own them.

My advice is to check before writing. I may discover I've included some items the museum no longer owns and will have to start all over or at least delete some pictures and add others. Hopefully they'll get back to me quickly.

Even though the week provided little writing time, I managed to write two pages of the manuscript and an article for a small town paper on Sunday. The month is almost over - YEA! I'll have more time in November provided our two trips don't interfere. I'll babysit my twin grandsons November 3rd through 6th. Visit a Dixieland Jazz Festival in Clearwater, Florida, Thanksgiving week. Should have an article idea after we visit the Circus Museum and see my husband's father's picture with the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Band.

In the meantime I'll get a head start on Christmas decorating and baking. Since my husband has knee surgery on December 21st and comes home on the 24th, I should have plenty of writing time at the end of 2010 and beginning of 2011.

When I counted up my submission for 2010 last week, I discovered I'd met my goal of one a week. I know many other people submit much more, but that was my goal. Not all received acceptances, however, one included a book. Guess my time was well spent.

What writing goals do you make? Be reasonable. Don't expect miracles. But keep plugging along.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Marketing Plan - bookmarks

I am anxious to get started on a marketing plan for my new book, HOW THE WEST WAS DRAWN: COWBOY CHARLIE'S ART. A friend, LeAnn Thieman, and I plan to meet to go over what she's learned about marketing plans while writing her self-published books and for Chicken Soup. When the marketing is up to the author, one gets pretty creative.

I'm not sure what plans Pelican has for marketing my book. However, I plan to start with bookmarks, some pins to wear and PowerPoint presentations. The presentation is about done. Since this book is a "looking at the art" of Charles Russell, I include questions to encourage looking as well as activities. To make the presentation an extension of the book means I'll use different pictures, add some biography, and include a few activities from the book.

Since I don't have Microsoft Publisher, I searched the Internet for ways to make bookmarks. Try using the Microsoft Word Tables program. Here are some directions.

1. Open a blank document in Word
2.  Click Insert on the menu bar and Tables
3. Select 3 columns and 2 rows.
4. In Word 2007, which I have, place the cursor in the first column and row. Right click your mouse. Scroll down to "table properties."
5. Click the row tab and set the height at 2".
6. Click the second row, right click mouse, and table properties. Set this row to 5". They suggested 4" but I like the 5" better.
7. Place your cursor in the first column. Right click your mouse and go to table properties.
8. Click the column tab.
9. If you have a picture of your book, click the top row/column, insert menu, and select picture.
10. Browse your pictures and choose the one you prefer.
11. Size the picture to fit by double clicking it and, at the top right of the menu bar, set the size you want.
12. Now copy and paste the picture into the other two columns.
13. Now place the cursor in the lower row, first column.
14. Add your text in any format or colors you choose.
15. Copy and paste into the other columns.
16. You can either print it yourself, on card stock or a heavy paper of your choosing, or take it to Kinkos or another printing company and they will print and cut for a nominal fee.

I hope I've printed all the instructions. If you have a problem, make a comment to the post and I'll get back to you. Good luck.

Friday, October 15, 2010

"ing" words

"It's hard to soar with eagles if you write like a turkey!" I laughed when I read this quote in Don't Let Your Participles Dangle in Public. Sometimes I reread my writing and wonder what "turkey" wrote that!

I didn't really find anything in the book about "ing" words besides the discussion on participles. Course, I didn't read the whole book either. I don't remember where I first learned about "ing" words, so, I'll just give my take on the subject.

In some instances the words can actually be the verb. Check your sentences. Anytime I read a manuscript in my critique group, I search for inactive verbs, "ly," and "ing" words. Many times the verbs are passive but can be changed to active simply by changing the participles. Along those lines, most adverbs or adjectives are unneccessary. Take them out and make the verb stronger and active. 

With all my concentration on the elimination of  "ing" words, my editor changed my manuscript and added a couple. My critique group and I got a good laugh out of that.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Participles plus a newsletter by Dr. Judith Briles

Dr. Judith Briles is a guru of self-publishing. A member of Colorado Author's League, she puts out a newsletter filled with writing and publishing information, the all new AuthorU Newsletter, The Resource.  It is 17 pages of authoring and publishing information. You can join her newsletter list by clicking on her name. 

I have a grammar book called DON'T LET YOUR PARTICIPLES DANGLE IN PUBLIC. Its definition of a participle is "A word formed from a verb that is used as an adjective. It ends in ing. A dangling participle is defined as "a modifier that is positioned in the wrong place in a sentence (usually dangling at the end) to properly modify what it's supposed to." We saw examples in my last post that were actually at the beginning of the sentence.

On page 5.24, the book states that a dangling participle appears often as the first word of a beginning phrase to modify something it doesn't. Therein lies the problem we faced in the last post. Example: Sitting on my mother's lap, the circus was more enjoyable. It sounds as though the circus sits on the mother's lap, i.e. a dangling participle.

The problem, according to this book, can be solved by the skeleton rule: (1) head (who/what), (2) body (did/does/do what), (3) feet (to whom/what, (4) fluff (when, where, why how?) "Even if you put fluff up front, make sure your head comes before your feet." Example: (when) On arriving at the airport, (who) I (did what) met (to whom) my friends (where) at the gate.

Several examples demonstrate the ease with which you can create a dangling participle as well as how to correct them.

Friday, October 8, 2010


What is syntax? I sometimes get caught using words in the wrong order in my writing. It is an easy mistake.

Syntax is the order of words in a sentence. An example from Helen Wilkie's twice weekly Word Tripper is: "While cycling along the street, a big dog suddenly jumped in front of me." Who is cycling, the dog or the person? How do you correct the reference? Change the order of the words.

Any noun following the introduction which includes the "ing" word, must refer to whatever/whomever is performing the action. In the example, the dog is the cyclist. Wilkie offers these solutions:  "While cycling along the street, I saw a big dog suddenly jump in front of me." The I refers to the "ing" word. Or "As I was cycling along the street, a big dog jumped in front of me." If you go back and look at the original example, you know something is wrong.

My college A Functional English Grammar says syntax is "The study of the relations of words to one another." It also calls the order of words described above as a form of "Dangling Participle." For instance, "Burning brightly, we watched the flames dance up the chimney." Here, too, the understanding is confusing. What/who is burning? "We" refers to the burning. But are "we" burning? Of course not. The noun following the introduction with the "ing" word is not burning.

My writer's group knows I am death on "ing" words. I'd rather a writer say exactly what they mean, In that case, many "ing" words aren't necessary. Action verbs can take their place. The last example could be changed to: We watched the bright flames dance up the chimney. Omit the phrase completely. We already know the flames are burning. I added bright to enhance the sense of "seeing." 

Next I'll have to explain more fully a Dangling Participle. Or, perhaps, address more kinds of "ing" words.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Controversy Continued

I guess controversy can't be avoided at times. It follows you wherever you go. This morning in my Bible study class a woman had just heard of the protest over an art exhibit at the Loveland Museum/Gallery. She went on and on and hadn't even seen the piece in question. When I spoke up telling her I'm a docent at the museum, her opinion of me changed to the negative. Long story short, she apologized and we discussed the situation and disregarded her first emotional response.

How would you handle controversy over something you'd written? I wrote an article on the exhibit that was published in a small local newspaper last Thursday. The editor's husband is in the Bible study class. He and I discussed it briefly. I wondered if I should write something this week that neither defended nor supported the exhibit but explained the situation. His attitude was to probably ignore it. That, too, was my first response. Instead, I think I'll go ahead with my original plan and write an article on the King Tut exhibit at the Denver Art Museum. Hopefully, no one can protest anything in that show. It is history along with artifacts found in the grave. Then again, someone might protest the fact the grave was disturbed.

No matter what you write about, someone could find fault. Have you written in innocence something that created a stir? How did you handle it?

A note on networking. While listening to music at a Dixieland Jazz Festival over the weekend, I read and studied Frederic Remington, the next subject in my HOW THE WEST WAS DRAWN series. Several people commented on my reading. I explained. One woman wanted more information. I gave her my card. Well, actually, I found out I'd left my cards at home and had to improvise with information on the back of someone else's card. Which prompts me to remind you - always carry writing business cards. I've been caught without them twice now. Add some extras in your checkbook in case you leave the holder/cards at home. Put a few in anything you always carry with you on trips whether it is in your suitcase, wallet, checkbook or make-up bag/shaving kit!

Saturday, October 2, 2010


I hope I would never write anything that would cause a controversy. But when writing about art, one never knows who will be offended. Take for instance the following.

Thank goodness a friend emailed early yesterday morning that the Loveland Museum/Gallery where I volunteer made the headlines of the Loveland paper. I live in Fort Collins so don't take that paper. I checked out the article online. I discovered a protest would be held at 10 a.m., exactly when I was to enter the museum.

I don't handle controversy well and would have been totally rattled. I called the museum and explained why I would not volunteer that day. No way did I want to confront a reporter. They take things out of context and no matter what I'd have said, it would have been wrong. They totally understood.

The museum's current show houses works by one artist I don't even care for so I stay away from his work when talking to visitors about the show. One piece is offensive to me as well as others. However, that piece is 7" by 7" so not likely noticed by most people. At any rate, I stayed away.

When writing about art as I do, I may run into someone who is offended by an art work. I choose wisely and carefully. But who knows what can happen.

What I'm trying to say is be very careful what you write for publication, how you say it and where you publish it.