Lake Atitlan, Panajachel, Guatemala

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Guest post by Kate Palmer-- "The writing book that changed my life"

There are a handful of books I consider must-reads for anyone serious about getting published. Scene and Structure by Jack M. Bickham tops the list as the one book I credit with improving my writing the most.

Bickham was a student of Dwight V. Swain author of Techniques of the Selling Writer. His methods aren’t that different from Swain’s, and many are exactly the same. Bickham, however, is a gifted teacher.

Scene and sequel are referenced by many an editor and author. Bickham explains that today’s books must be written in scenes to appeal to the modern audience.

First, we must understand that scenes happen in real time. A scene is made up a goal (for the viewpoint character), conflict with about four twists and turns, and ends in a disaster for the viewpoint character. The disaster can take the form of

1.      Yes, she accomplished her goal, but . . . something that makes the situation worse, more complicated, etc.
2.      No, and furthermore . . . something that makes the situation worse, more complicated, etc.
3.      No
So the structure of a scene is:


A day before my book was scheduled for typesetting, I received a note from my editor asking if I could use more show and less tell in a particular chapter without adding a lot of words. I read through the chapter and nearly cried. It. Was. Awful. I had apparently skipped it entirely when I’d edited my book for scene and sequel according to Bickham’s structure.

The chapter consisted of several short vignettes which showcased character traits or provided information crucial to the plot. I knew I had to rewrite it according to Bickham’s scene structure to provide the show not tell my editor requested. I ended up merging three of those vignettes into one scene happening in real time with all of the characters present. Far from adding to the word count, this technique helped me to cut HALF of the chapter and still preserve all the critical information.

Each scene is followed by a sequel.

This is where the reader truly gets to know the viewpoint character. My main character is named Eva. My beta readers kept telling me they wanted to be inside Eva’s head more. When I started writing sequels according to Bickham’s method, my readers finally understood Eva’s motivations and actions. The structure of a sequel is:


This is where we see inside the character’s head. The character has just experienced a setback (the scene ending disaster) and will be feeling emotion first. What type and how long depends on your character. Next, the character will become a bit more rational in that he/she can think about what just happened and consider where to go from here. Naturally, your character will make a decision based on the emotion (first) and thoughts (second) he/she just experienced.

That decision will come in the form of action which will launch your character into the next scene complete with a new goal of what he/she needs to do next. Of course your character will meet with more opposition (conflict) that ends in disaster for the scene goal. Doubtless this will stir up emotions for your character who will then have to consider (think about) his/her circumstances and make a new decision for more action (new scene and goal).

And on it goes until a scene doesn’t end in disaster and some form of resolution is met for your character and you type The End.

I’ve only touched on a couple of key components taught in Scene and Structure by Jack M. Bickham. I highly recommend anyone serious about writing buy his book and read it with a highlighter. At least twice.

Thank you, Kate! For information on Kate Palmer's debut novel, The Guy Next Door,  please see her website,

Kate began her career as an elementary school teacher, but was soon promoted to full-time mom. She is the mother of six and lives in the country. Her husband is trying to teach her to be a farm girl. She can’t saddle a horse, but she knows how to butcher a chicken. After a day of chasing children, cooking meals, and doing laundry, she likes to escape into a good book.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Painted Horses

Okay, all you Rats, Toads and Moles out there, thanks for commenting on my last (399th) post and identifying yourselves. It was fun reading your comments! And just as expected, I couldn't wait long to post again. Especially since my husband and I had an adventure, and I have pictures.

And only an hour away from home, too-- the city of Ogden, the best kept secret in Utah. No crowds, no traffic, not a destination spot. But for us, it's our new favorite place.

Because among other attractions, how can you not love a city that has statues of painted horses lining the downtown streets?

I was going nuts seeing these horses, naming them, taking pictures, petting their darling noses. Like this pale one -- so cute I just wanted to take him home with me. Look at that sweet face! I named him Cute Horse, not very original but he was just too cute to be named anything else:

What do you think of Money Horse? Not my favorite because it seemed embarrassing for poor Money Horse to have dollar bills painted all over him, but still, it's a clever idea.

There are so many more, I didn't get pictures of them all. But you must see Dinosaur Horse!

 And then I love this one that looks so noble and grand and majestic--

It has our nation's founders-- Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, John Quincy Adams and two more I can't remember. It's very cool and probably my favorite.

Most tourists to Utah will see Temple Square in Salt Lake City, Zion's National Park, the Bingham Copper Mine, Park City, Moab and the Arches, the Great Salt Lake-- there is more to see in this great state than one could imagine-- but don't forget an out of the way place called Downtown Ogden, where the painted horses are waiting.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Zoology is a Limited Demographic

Write what you want but realize that if you write a book that has a very limited demographic-- a zoology textbook, for example-- that you're not going to get many Kindle sales. In fact, publishers determine how best to market your book based on the demographic.

And thus ends the shortest post of the month, because I am all alphabetized out. I can hardly believe it's the last post. It's been really fun to write 30 posts about The Making and Selling of Books.

Congratulations to all the A to Z-ers! I have the Linky List on my sidebar and plan to continue my blog visits following down the list. I've found some amazing new bloggers this month. This has been a fantastic Challenge this year. I have loved participating and being part of the hosting team.

And don't forget May 7, when we can all write a post reflecting about our experiences with the Challenge.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Giving it that something X-tra

                                                                    Go the extra mile

         do your best work
                        don't be satisfied with mediocrity

                  give it your all

                                                       work your butt off..........

if you want to get published and sell books.

                                                                               And having a bit of talent won't hurt either.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Why be a Writer

If you want to be famous then run for office and be a politician

If you want to be rich then become a plastic surgeon.

If you want to have people know your name then be a teacher.

If you want to make a difference in someone's life then have children.

But if you want to work alone, feel like a freak, be misunderstood, wonder what the point is, always come up short of time and money, while writing stories that bubble up from within about characters you have never met but are strangely in love with, then be a writer.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Voice and the Refining of the Author's Voice

If you want to make a book, like if you want your book to get picked up by a publisher who will invest money into editing, design, printing and marketing and all that, then you need to have an appealing and strong author voice.

By that, I mean that certain something that shines through the plot, the characters, the description and every other part of your story and comes to rest upon the reader in a pleasing way.

It is much like person to person communication. I can sit down and talk to you and may have something interesting and important to say but if you don't like my tone or my facial expressions or the way I constantly smack my lips while speaking or never make eye contact or talk with my mouth full then it's not likely you'll want to listen to me for very long.

Voice is like that. If it is clear and strong and true it connects with the reader, who will then be more than willing, even eager, to continue this journey of discovery within the pages of the book.

How to get a distinct author voice? There is one way and one way only. It comes with practice. Write write write and write some more.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Undercurrents of the Book Launch

Launching a book is comparable to launching a ship out on the open sea. Who knows what will happen out there on the great big blue ocean?

With every book launch, the undercurrents are there, positive or negative or some of both.

There can be undercurrents of jealousy how come her books sell better than mine
Of bitterness if only my publisher had done a better job with the cover or with marketing or with title choice
Of high hopes when Oprah calls....
Of despair nobody will buy it and if they do won't read it and if they do will hate it
Of  pure joy I'm published I'm published I'm published
Of doubt should I have gone with this publisher, should I have self-published, should I do more with my blog, should I be active on Kindle Forums
Of confusion I want my book to be successful but don't know what to do next
Of satisfaction this book is awesome and I can't wait to write another

There are many shifting and varied undercurrents that carry a book out into the wide open sea, where anything can happen.

Just remember as you're riding those currents to enjoy the journey!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Typesetting a Book

I don't know how to do typesetting but I appreciate those who do. It takes a certain kind of highly detail-oriented perfectionist to be a good typesetter.

Typesetting is key in making a print book. It comes after the editing and before the printing. It has to do with fonts, spacing, white space, chapter headings and things you don't really notice when picking up a book but that add to the enjoyment of the reading experience.

When the typesetter is done, the publisher will get a print-ready proof to look over, to send to the author for final review, and then, when all corrections are made, to submit to the printer.

Book is printed, voila! Another book is launched out into the world of happy readers.

Hooray for the skilled typesetter!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

S is for Saia, Submissions and The Soul Seekers

I ran a submissions contest a year or so ago on my blog for WiDo and one of the entries was from Amy Saia. It didn't win, but the submissions editor loved the first chapter!

At some point, Amy was asked to rewrite and resubmit. She worked super hard on it and got a contract for publication of her YA paranormal, The Soul Seekers to be released by WiDo Publishing on August 7.

And check out the very cool cover, designed by the author, the multi-talented Amy Saia.

When Emma’s father dies, she and her mother move cross country to live with Gran. Now the only constant in Emma Shay’s new life is him. Beautiful, silent, him—the mysterious guy at the library she secretly calls Superman because of his dark, good looks. Emma is puzzled and intrigued by this boy’s behavior. He speaks at her but never to her. He comes up to touch her hair and then suddenly leaves. An impulsive meeting between them uncovers a strange truth. Only Emma can see time-frozen William Bennett. Now it’s up to Emma and the gift she has tried so hard to deny to reclaim William’s soul. But ghosts can be very stubborn. He tells her to leave town and forget he ever existed. Not on your life, Superman.  

Set in Southern Indiana during the summer of 1979, The Soul Seekers is about one girl and the ghost only she can see. Can she bring him back from his purgatory, or is she doomed to turn into a ghost herself?

The Letter S is also for SALES, because I hope that The Soul Seekers gets lots of them!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Reviews and Reviewers

I love to get reviews posted on Goodreads and Amazon on my books, because then I know people actually read them. I'm always eager to know what people actually thought about them.

The first bad review I got really hurt. In fact, I got several early on with Uncut Diamonds. Ouch, ouch and ouch. They don't bother me now. In fact, sometimes I like to just go and look at them again: "hated it." "losey book." They make me smile. I think it's funny that someone found my book so horrible and even funnier that they felt such strong enough emotions to go to the trouble to post their two-word negative response.

I could spend hours scanning reviews on Goodreads and Amazon. Not on my books. I don't have enough of them to take hours, minutes maybe. I just like to read reviews. Some are gushing wonders, others horrible slams-- all for the same book!

One thing it shows is that there a whole lot of readers out there and they don't all like the same thing. It also shows that the more people are reading a certain book, the more reviews it will get of both good and bad variety.

Writers love getting reviews, especially glowing, five-star reviews. One of the very best ways to love an author is to post a review!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Quality Sells Ebooks

Sometimes in the rush to get a book to publication, quality can be compromised. It's especially tempting when self- publishing an ebook because downloading the file and clicking that button are just too easy.

Quality Control Check before publishing:

1. A fully-edited manuscript. (And even then, typos just have a sneaky way of slipping through. Grrr to typos!)

2. Formatting. Pay a professional to have it done right, it's worth it!

3. Cover. Your cover design should reflect the tone and genre of your story. Especially with online sales, the cover can make all the difference. It should look professional.

4. Description. I've seen book descriptions with misspelled words, missing punctuation, poor grammar, and I wonder what the book will read like if so many mistakes slip through a brief paragraph or two. The ideal description will make a person want to pay money for the experience of reading the book.

5. Details. Small details can enrich or (unfortunately) ruin the reading experience. Everything from typos and formatting to how chapter headings are designed, how paragraph breaks are done, whether or not the character names are suited to the story, and even comma usage. One or two departures from standard punctuation won't bother me, but when I'm into an ebook several chapters and notice repeated errors (like commas used for semi-colons and semi-colons for commas) it's a huge distraction.

A book must be so well-written, so thoroughly edited, so polished and professional that it really is a wonder when anyone tries to do it alone. Very few of the successful self-publishers do. They hire professionals to help them with all parts of the process to get that quality product readers want.

You want book sales? Don't forget the Q word!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

P is for Publishing

I have really enjoyed posting this month on the theme The Making and Selling of Books, because I am so passionate about the topic.

I like writing and publishing books. My own, of course, but it is also incredibly rewarding to have a hand in seeing other writers' dreams of publication come true. I love it love it love it. Having a career in publishing is the best job I could ask for.

I feel honored to be a part of  WiDo Publishing. I am proud of all the authors who have published with us. I've seen the hard work they go through to get their manuscript print-ready. The unveiling of a new release is just the most exciting moment ever. You can't help but feel like a new mama.

Clarissa Draper won a submissions contest on my blog a while back and now her wonderful mystery, The Sholes Key, will be released on May 1. I wasn't her editor but I'm still as proud as can be. I read an ARC and it's an absolutely brilliant book. I can't wait to see this baby launch upon its journey!

All across London, single mothers are vanishing. Margaret Hill, mother of two, walked out of her house two months before, never seen again. A month later, Carrie-Anne Morgans takes her two-year-old son for a walk in the park and disappears, leaving him alone in his stroller. Lorna McCauley leaves her London flat in the early hours of the morning to buy medicine for her sick child and does not return.

Newly promoted Detective Inspector Theophilus Blackwell is assigned the case of Lorna McCauley, which on the outside seems to be a simple case of mid-life crisis and child abandonment. Elsewhere in London, MI5 analyst, Sophia Evans, is working undercover to catch an animal rights group responsible for targeted bombings. As Sophia's case (and her personal life) fall to pieces, she receives a strange envelope in the mail. It contains a picture of Lorna McCauley's lifeless face along with a daunting code.

Now the police and MI5 are forced to work together to stop the murders, and Sophia must find her way into the terrifying mind of a serial killer.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

O is for Original Writing (not Original Ideas)

There are no original ideas. It's all been done before in one form or another. Don't let that stop you! What everyone wants is original writing. There's still plenty of need for that. It's hard to explain but we know it when we see it, right?

The turn of a phrase.

The twist of a plot.

The description that makes you stop and reread just because it is heartrendingly perfect.

A character who is so realistic you catch yourself wondering how he's doing long after you finish the book.

Original is the kind of writing that makes people love your story. It's what writers all strive to produce. It's definitely not easy but intensely rewarding--for both the reader and the writer--when it happens.

Monday, April 16, 2012

New Hampshire: A great place to be if you're an author

Some places are so fantastic at supporting their local authors. Others just seem to slam doors in your face. I'm not sure why this is. Why should the culture of one area be welcoming and rewarding to its writers, regardless of where you published, while others turn up their noses and act all high and mighty?

I wish I had a list and could divide states up into Supportive, Not, and It Depends. Not wanting to offend people from any areas or make grand generalities that I can't back up except to say, Well, yeah, anyway...I'll mention a few places that I know are in the Supportive category.

Top on the list is New Hampshire. While WiDo can't schedule a signing in some of the Barnes and Noble stores no matter what hoops they jump through, the stores in New Hampshire will actually work with you and let you in the door for a signing.

New Hampshire author G. M. Browning at the launch event for his high seas adventure novel, Cerulean Isle (WiDo, 2011)

Other of the smaller states on the Eastern seaboard are good to local authors as well, like Massachusetts, Vermont and Maine.When WiDo's sales team has called in these areas about stocking a new release, their first question is always, "Is it a local author?"

Another top state is Minnesota. They are super-supportive. They are proud of their Minnesota authors and will do book signings, newspaper interviews, generally whatever you ask if they can.

Nebraska is the same. I loved working with the local bookstores and newspapers when I planned my Farm Girl tour to Nebraska.

Texas is proud of Texas and Texans. Here's a copy of one of WiDo Publishing's books, written by Houston resident Paul Yarbrough, found in a local Houston bookstore. The guy holding up the book is my son who was visiting Texas recently with his wife and just happened to run across this while book-browsing.

A Happy Find: Mississippi Cotton by Paul H. Yarbrough (WiDo, 2011)

California is pretty good, too. But it's such a huge state that you can get lost there, so the smaller areas might be the best place to start. The economy is especially bad for California right now and many of the independents have closed. Still, if you're a California author, or have ties to the area, you should be able to schedule signings in a number of bookstores, if you can find ones that are still in business.

Colorado is pretty supportive as well but also falls into It Depends. Like where in Colorado are you talking about? Denver tends to be a bit snootier about it than smaller, rural areas.

What experiences have you had locally in working with your independent or chain bookstores?

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Marketing Books

The M word. That thing we authors must do if we want to sell any of our books.

My original plan for selling thousands of copies of Farm Girl was to get Costco to buy a whole bunch from WiDo, and I would do signings at the many local warehouses in Utah. My family knows most of the warehouse managers. One in particular loved my book and said, "I can see it on our tables." So could I. So could I.

There's a self-published author in my area named Mike Ramsdell who wrote a book called Train to Potevka. In 2007, he got it into one of the local Costco warehouses and in less than a year had sold over 100,000 copies while doing signings at Costco stores in the Western states. Now granted, Farm Girl isn't a memoir about a U.S. spy in Russia, but I figured if we did one-tenth of his sales, that would be decent.

Sometimes dreams do NOT come true. That can be a good thing. If it had gone according to plan, I would never have done the Nebraska book tour with my mom. Which turned out to be one of her dreams come true. Look how happy she is. At the age of 94, she went on a book tour across her home state of Nebraska.

 WiDo would not have gotten Farm Girl in independent bookstores from Vermont to California, because who needs little orders from little bookstores when you have Costco? And the WiDo sales guy wouldn't have made friends and developed relationships with booksellers who are still buying WiDo books and not just Farm Girl.

I wouldn't have gone after newspaper reviews because who needs reviews when you have Costco, right? I would never have started blogging or done anything online, because who needs social media when you have Costco? I would never have realized the need for an alternative online bookstore-- something cozy, exclusive, supportive to authors with generous profit margins for them. Who needs Celery Tree when you have Costco?

I don't like failure. It makes me depressed, angry, sometimes bitter, and always craving something with chocolate, butter and sugar, maybe with some peanut butter and/or walnuts thrown in for good measure. But once I get over all that and calm down, I'm thankful for the lessons of failure.

When marketing books, failure is important to show what works and what doesn't. Don't hate failure, don't hate marketing. It's all part of the game of selling books.

(This post was taken from a series I on planning a successful book tour that appeared on the Celery Tree blog.)

Friday, April 13, 2012

Legal Stuff in Making a Book

What about the publishing contract? Most of what's online seems slanted toward the writer's benefit, to help them navigate the legal ramifications of the publishing contract. It can be downright scary to grant someone else the copyright for your work. It's a big step, but necessary if you want to work with a traditional publishing company.

When you write something, you automatically own the copyright on it. In order for a publisher to create your book, you must grant him the copyright. A contract is the first step in making a book. The publisher or editor won't touch your work unless you grant them the rights to do so.

A contract is simply an agreement between two people. It doesn't need to be long and full of legal language that's impossible to decipher. It essentially consists of the publisher saying what they want from you, the writer, and you, the writer, agreeing to it or not.

It will say what the publisher gives the writer as part of this business arrangement. If you don't agree, they might adjust it. It never hurts to ask. If you do agree, then you sign and proceed with  this exciting venture of having a publishing company invest in you as a writer.

Behind every contract is people. Consider the contract carefully but also consider the people. Do you trust them, or not? If not, don't sign the contract. A person without integrity can manipulate any contract for any purpose, which is why lawyers are so busy. If you do trust them, sign and move forward, trying not to second guess everything that happens. It will be okay!

L is for Legal. (This is an A to Z Challenge post, not intended to go into great depth and detail about the topic.)

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Kitten Book that Never Happened

A group of us at WiDo had this great idea for a book. I'm going to share it with you since the book never happened and never will, because of reasons yet to be revealed.

Anyway, the idea was to have these big, glossy pictures of real kittens in costumes and backgrounds from history, a kind of entertaining, learning book for kids.

Napoleon Kitten
George Washington Kitten
Martin Luther King Kitten
Eleanor Roosevelt Kitten

There were all kinds of ideas for historical figure kittens and every one brought suggestions for costumes, for the way we'd pose the kitten, the background settings and the blurbs to go with each page.

It all brought more hilarious laughter as the ideas rolled forth, because what is cuter or funnier than a kitten?

The book never happened for these reasons:

1. We all knew it would be way more fun talking about it than actually doing the work.

2. My daughter who's into fashion design didn't want to make the tiny little costumes and fit them on to tiny little kittens. Plus, she is allergic to cats.

3. Our designer who would have had to put this all together was already behind on his work with real books that had actual authors and release dates.

4. It would have cost a fortune to do right and WiDo is a small press with an even smaller budget.

5. And there are already a zillion cute pictures of kittens out there.

Like this one, my personal favorite-- Charlie, from Old Kitty's Blog-- every day another cute picture of darling Charlie! I have such a cat crush on Charlie.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

J is for Jones Girl

I have conflicted emotions about my maiden name, Jones. Boys at school sometimes called me "Jonesy" and I hated that.

I think I have a boring author name. Karen Jones Gowen. There's no ring to it. No imagination. It happened when I wrote Farm Girl, the story of my mom as a girl growing up on a 1920's Nebraska farm.

She didn't want her name on the book as co-author. Since it was a sort-of memoir, I needed to use my real name and utilize the Jones as credit to my mom, right? Which is how I got my official author name. Once done is done, and now it's done.

Writers should think very carefully about what to put on that first book. To establish author recognition, you want the same name since life's just easier that way. It will go on your website, your blog, your Facebook page, and all the rest. Some use different pen names for different genres. I can barely keep track of my passport, I know I couldn't manage another identity.

Since Farm Girl needed my real, full name, I am now officially Karen Jones Gowen, Author.  If I had it to do over again, I'd choose something with more flair. I would be Samantha St. James or something like that. My daughter's author name is L.A. DeVaul. How very cool is that? She didn't even have to make it up, it is her real name. Lucky!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

How Important is the Internet in Selling Books?

If you're reading this, you're on the Internet. Probably have a blog, a Twitter account, a Facebook page and whatever tools you have chosen to utilize. It's not so much about selling as it is about building your online presence-- using social media to get out there and learn the publishing trends, meet writers, readers, editors, agents-- whatever it is you need to move your writing career forward.

These days, it takes more than just sitting at home with the laptop writing the books. A writer must understand the industry, the market, the options for publishing and distributing your book.

A few years ago, I was seeing this on publisher blogs: "If you don't have a way to get your book into the bookstores, then you won't ever sell more than a few copies to friends and family." I saw that over and over. In today's publishing climate, it's just a stupid thing to say. Anyone who makes that statement now shows their ignorance of the current book market.

It's great to get your book into bookstores but doesn't guarantee sales anymore than publishing your work as an ebook will. There are no easy roads to success. Getting a top agent or fat publishing contract doesn't guarantee success. Setting up a blog or tweeting your head off with links to your new release won't either.

The most successful authors will tell you that it isn't just one path that leads to sales but many.

Try whatever you can. Don't put all your eggs in one basket. Diversify. Experiment. Do spend a LOT of time on the Internet. Because when it comes to the selling of books and the making of money, the Internet is where it's all happening, baby. Plus, the best thing about the Internet is that it is free as well as effective.

Sure, it takes time to build a web presence and stay active online but everything has a cost. Don't get discouraged if there aren't instant results. Keep at it. Keep trying stuff. There's a lot to learn and to try, even for those who have been at it for years. New sites, new opportunities, new people keep popping up. Like I said, the Internet is where it's happening for writers and books. Time you spend on the Internet now can mean income later.

Monday, April 9, 2012

House, Home, Happiness

My husband and I have a large family. We planned it that way. And gave not a thought to overpopulating the world, which back in the seventies was a big concern. Is it still? Don't know and don't care. All our children are productive members of society-- doctors, nurses, missionaries, teachers, chemists, writers, publishers-- contributors. 

Because I spent so much time at home raising our family, it seems obvious that my first two novels would be based on these experiences. First came Uncut Diamonds, the semi-autobiographical novel about the beginning years (in the 1970's) of the fictional McGill family.

My second novel is today's H word:

Summary: In this sequel to Gowen’s debut novel, Uncut Diamonds, she follows sisters Cindy and Marcie as they reach a crossroads in their lives. Marcie pursues her dream of becoming a published writer while Cindy faces a terrible tragedy. Through faith, loss and the transcending nature of sacrifice, Marcie and Cindy must learn the incredible power that comes to families when they pull together to overcome challenges. Two women, one facing opportunity, the other tragedy. Can their bond endure?

More about House of Diamonds can be found on my website.

Today's H-word celebrates Home, Family, Happiness and House of Diamonds

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Gratitude for Today's Literary Opportunities

I can't imagine any writer bemoaning the fact of ebooks, self-publishing, KDP Select, editing services for hire, cover design services for hire, all the small publishers looking for good books to publish....*cough WiDo cough*

There used to be one or two very narrow roads to publication. Get an agent. Know someone in the business. Live in NYC and work for a publisher. Be a man. You thought it was bad ten years ago? Try being a woman writer in the fifties or sixties. Practically impossible to break into the market.

Now the path is wide and the roads are many that lead from word processor to publication. How can anyone who wants to write and publish their work not absolutely love the options out there now?

Today on G-day, I am grateful for the many options and opportunities available for today's writers of books.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Farm Girl: The Making and Selling of a Book

My first book, Farm Girl, was also the first book for WiDo Publishing. The book had been put together beforehand, with my son Billy as the editor and my son Don doing layout and design. My plan was to print up a few copies for my mom and for our family members.

After the investor chose it as a first release of WiDo Publishing, he did a large print run of 5000 copies. About half of those have sold. The investor was willing to try many things to get sales-- hiring a publicist, sending out copies for contests, paying someone to call bookstores and get orders. The idea was to try a lot of different approaches and eventually something would pay off.

It's been an interesting learning experience, because the entire publishing culture changed from when WiDo first began until now. Most of the things that we tried at first are no longer viable.

Calling bookstores? A waste of valuable time. Farm Girl sells more books on Kindle now than print.

Hiring a publicist? A waste of good money. More book sales happen through online blog reviews and the calculated use of KDP Select free promotions than through an expensive publicist getting a feature on TV, radio or in the newspaper.

Giving away free copies to teachers in hopes they'd buy more for the classroom? Ha! Teachers, like everyone else, are strapped for cash and will gladly take a free book, no questions asked, no commitment made. Period.

From the way books were printed in 2007 to the way they are sold in 2012, Farm Girl has led the way in change for WiDo. The lessons learned and experience gained from making and selling this first book have been invaluable. I believe that is Farm Girl's real worth as WiDo's first release.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Many Layers of Editing

One of the requirements for making a good book-- or making a book good-- is editing. A good publisher uses not just one editor, not just a proofread or a copy edit, but serious craptastic editing-- from after your manuscript is accepted for publication until the final proof is sent to the printer.

At WiDo,  I have been involved in all aspects of editing: reviewing submissions, line by line revisions with authors, copy editing finished manuscripts, and proofreading the typeset proofs. Once I had to re-edit a published book that had too many mistakes slip through and needed to be reprinted. If you have published with WiDo, I guarantee at some point I have looked at your manuscript along with about four to six other people.

That is a whole lot of editing that goes into one single manuscript. I absolutely LOVE it!! It's thrilling to see a project come together from the beginning. You take a darn good first submission and after a series of editing events along with some skilled design work, you have the polished, pretty, published book ready to sell.

There's a lot that goes into the making of a book. But the Big E-- Editing-- is key to making the writer's work shine. If you plan to self-publish, get yourself an English grammar and composition book-- in fact get several-- and study punctuation like your career depends on it.Okay, not just if you plan to self-publish. Nothing will get a rejection faster than a query letter full of punctuation mistakes.

When you're not sure about comma placement, go look it up. Don't just guess or rely on your Word Processor. It's okay to be casual and informal about all this when writing blogs and emails but in publishing, the rules of Standard English apply.

Comma placement, misuse of capitals, run-on sentences and countless other issues lurk between the lines to jump out and distract the reader who just spent good money on a book they expected to be polished and professional.

E is for Editing!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012


When Michelle O' Neill first contacted me about whether or not her memoir would be suitable for, I immediately resolved to buy myself a copy as one of my Celery Tree membership-required purchases. When Michelle sent us a print copy instead of an e-file, I read it in print, my favorite way to enjoy a book. I felt kind of bad getting a book for free that I had intended on buying.

Maybe someone reading this post who loves a good memoir will buy a copy, and I won't feel so bad. Because let me tell you, it is absolutely one of the best memoirs I have ever read. Seriously, if Michelle had sent this manuscript to WiDo Publishing, we would have snapped it up. I hope it's a screaming success. It certainly deserves to be.

Daughter of the Drunk at the Bar, the author's story of coming of age under the shadow of her father's alcoholism, can be found here.

I reviewed it briefly on Celery Tree, but a fuller review of this book can be found on Goodreads, here.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Celery Tree!

C is of course for Celery Tree, the online bookstore that everybody's talking about. Well, actually 4 people are talking about it, according to the Celery Tree Facebook page hehe.

Want to know more? Check out the website,

Follow the Celery Tree blog.

Like us on Facebook.

Especially if you are an author with a book to sell, you will want to check out Celery Tree!

Tomorrow, D is for the book Daughter of the Drunk at the Bar by Michelle O'Neill, a book for sale on that is absolutely fabulous.

And then we arrive to E for Editing. That thing that every book must have.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Books and Bookstores

Lately I've been reading on the Kindle. Sometimes I'll get into the story and think about it when I'm not reading. That's like a real book. Sometimes the Kindle book bores me and I never finish, again like a real book. I tend to get bored much easier with e-books than I do with print books.

I miss browsing the bookstore. Browsing the Kindle store doesn't feel the same. Borders, my favorite sort-of local bookstore, was a favorite destination. There's just something about holding a print book in my hand, I love it! I love the smell, the feel, the anticipation!

I miss the loss of bookstores in my area. But I'm glad there are still options for buying print books online. Besides my personal favorite ( of course) there are many other places to find great deals on print books. Amazon is awesome, because you can find literally any book that's ever been published, often at a cut-rate price. Shopping Amazon for used books is one fun trip.

I'm not of the school who believes that print books are dead or dying. And given the choice, I'll choose the print book over the ebook reading experience any day.

B is for (print) Books!

Friday, March 30, 2012

Writing for the Market vs. Writing for Art

Some writers find it easy to decide what to write about; it just comes naturally to them and flows onto the page. Others (and perhaps the majority) find that it takes a little longer to decide exactly what they'd like to write about; this stage could include story plans, character studies, and much more. The story may grow and evolve many times before a final version is settled upon. Another influence may be what is currently popular with the book-buying public: a fact that brings us to our main point here - is it ever OK to choose your subject matter and genre based on what is selling at the time, or is that nothing more than 'selling out'?

It's the age-old debate between Money and Art. For more on this discussion go here.....

(This is the final serious writerly post before I get really STUCK in the ALPHABET, pursuing the theme of the Making and Selling of Books.)

Sunday, April 1, is THE DAY, and that's no fooling hehe

Monday, March 26, 2012

Three Ways to Give Your Self-Published Book the Best Chance of Success

Writing an entire book is a huge achievement in itself, but as you likely well know, promoting it and making it a success is a whole different ball game. Thankfully, there are a few ways that you can ensure your book has the very best chance when it hits the virtual bookshelves.  

Follow a few simple tips and you’ll be able to have readers all across the globe glued to their leather sectional, just to get a glimpse of what happens next in your tale. Let's take a look at three of the easiest ways you can give your book a helping hand before and after you complete the writing process.....

(Please go here to read the rest of this article.)

Friday, March 23, 2012

Becoming a Full Time Writer

It's a common dream -- the time and means to be able to write full time. I used to fantasize about it, and then one day it just kind of happened. And I realized I was living my dream.

Of course I do other stuff too-- my husband and I have a little cookie business but that only takes a few hours a week. I maintain my online presence-- again just a few hours a week. Editing for WiDo takes a lot of time, but it's rewarding and stimulating, not exhausting and demanding like a full time, 40 hour a week job would be. Plus it's flexible and can be worked into my schedule. Then there's housework, laundry, bla bla bla I'm even boring myself now....falling asleep....

Still, I am not a full-time writer. Not yet. And it's nobody's fault but my own.

My biggest obstacle comes from within. I have the time, desire and opportunity to write, but I don't put even twenty hours a week into doing it. I spend a lot of time NOT writing and telling myself I SHOULD be. Really, some days I can hardly stand myself for the evilness of  my procrastination habits.

My second obstacle is the lack of social interaction. At a "normal" job, you have coworkers, people to talk to, bounce ideas off, new friends to make, a gossiping buddy to make the time go faster. But the full-time writing job is quiet, oh so quiet. The only other people who get what I do are here on the Internet, blogging about it like I'm doing right now. Sometimes the solitude of the writing gig gets to me and throws me off.

I'd like to claim full-time writer status but I'm still a hobby writer. Unfortunately, that's what I'll remain until I learn how to overcome my two biggest challenges-- Evil Procrastination and Too Much Solitude-- and just put in those hours. My goal is to spend a minimum of twenty hours a week on the actual writing.

Are you a full-time writer? A part-time writer? A hobbyist? A wanna-be? How many hours do you figure you spend writing? And what obstacles stand in your way?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

A to Z Themes

As I've been visiting signed up blogs, I notice quite a few are choosing themes for April. As an unorganized pantser, I'm rather impressed by this. My theme was going to be the alphabet.

There's a few ideas swirling around in my foggy brain. Last year I did literary terms, which was fun and simple, lending itself to short posts. (one of my requirements for A to Z'ing it)

What do you think of A to Z themes? Yes? No? Do you like blogs that stick to a theme for the month, or do you find it tiresome? And if you're participating, do you have a theme yet for April?

I'm leaving for Houston in two days, and when I return next week, I hope to bring back a theme!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Change: A Permanent Condition

Just when you expect things to settle down, something happens to kick it into high gear. Lately there's some changes going on over at WiDo Publishing that are moving and shaking the organization.

Among other things, our managing editor Kristine Princevalle is leaving, and I will be taking a larger part in the day to day operations of the business.

A year ago, we took on an intern, who is now working as a paid editor. With all of this, I am looking to find one or more new editing interns.

This is a part-time, unpaid internship, with the work and communication done electronically, requiring skills in proofreading, copy editing, formatting a manuscript for typesetting, and familiarity with Microsoft Word's editing features.

Anyone who's interested can email me at and we'll talk from there. It's a great opportunity to learn more about the publishing business and to possibly work into a paid editing position with an up and coming small press with big plans.

I'm excited about these changes. Feeling a lot of pressure some days, but that's what keeps us kicking, right?

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Made My Peace with Marketing

If anyone wants a quick education in how writers should market themselves online, go to this post. But it's not the post, it's the comments. When I posed the questions, my awesome, amazing and incredibly good-looking followers gave over fifty intelligent, well-thought out opinions on the conundrum of online promotion.

Seriously, whatever marketing answers you need are in these comments. I've pondered them at length and have finally made my peace with marketing.

It's my blog and if I want to talk about my books, my writing, my editor, my publisher, my pet projects like Celery Tree or the maple trees I planted last summer, then I can and I will. However, I like to consider your feelings. After two and a half years, I've got a pretty good idea of what you like and what you don't, so I try to respect that.

My author website contains plenty of information about my books, so I don't need to use my blog for that purpose. It simplifies things, and I like the arrangement--having my website for my book information and my blog for random whatever. I maintain the Celery Tree blog but this one gets the most traffic, so I'll occasionally write a post here featuring Celery Tree. Why should anyone care if I do that?

I'm involved with day to day operations with WiDo Publishing, and from time to time I post about publishing/editing/submitting information. I think writers enjoy those kinds of posts. Not that I'm promoting WiDo. A publishing company doesn't really need to be promoted. Submissions pour in just by the fact of its existence.

I no longer believe that blogging sells books. WiDo has authors who blog endlessly and others who don't at all. People buy what they want to read whether the author is blogging or not. It's more the cover, title, genre, quality, themes and story that sell a particular book, not the writer's online presence. I'm not saying blogging hurts, unless the blogger comes across as a big jerk, and it MAY help, but it certainly is no guarantee! It may not even be necessary.

This relieves a huge amount of pressure. I can now blog for fun and enjoyment and camaraderie rather than for promotional purposes. I've worked hard to develop an online presence and have benefited in countless ways, but selling books isn't top on the list.

Really, the way to sell books is to write the absolute best books you can write. And then write some more and more. I believe this with all my heart. One of these days, I'll write a novel that shoots to the bestseller lists and stays there for a really really long time. And it won't have anything to do with my online presence. It will be simply because I happened to write something that resonated with a whole bunch of readers and the word spreads and the rest is history. Or rather the future. Because it hasn't happened yet. But when it does, it will be about the writing not about the marketing.

Have you made your peace with marketing?

Friday, March 2, 2012

Sneak Peek into My Next Novel

The opening chapter of "Lighting Candles in the Snow"(to be released by WiDo Publishing, Fall 2012) is now posted on my website. What's this novel about, you ask?

Newly divorced Karoline London needs to find her normal again, as older sister Suzie keeps reminding her. But what does Suzie know about normal? After all, she has Rob, the perfect husband, and seven gorgeous children, while Karoline had six years married to a man tormented by addictions
When Karoline meets handsome Zac Kline, things just might be looking up. And then she discovers something about ex-husband Jeremy that changes everything.

Lighting Candles in the Snow is a story of hope and redemption, about new beginnings and fresh starts. It is about the weak finding courage, and how tragic events can create unbreakable bonds within families. Above all and despite everything, it is a love story.

Curious at all? I hope so! I invite you to go here and preview Chapter One. The comment section is open, meaning feedback is welcome. *grins happily*

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Working through the tough times to find success

Lisa Dayley's YA historical fiction book, The Frozen Trail, has sold thousands of copies since its publication in July, 2011, in both print and e-book format.

And the funny thing is that this book almost never got published. I asked Lisa to share her experience-- how she almost gave up, and what kept her going.

"The Frozen Trail resulted from a college creative writing assignment in 1991. It had proven popular with my class and family members, so I kept it and worked on it here and there. 

"I was very busy working and raising children so the manuscript went neglected for years. About ten years ago I suddenly found myself with a lot of time on my hands. The newspaper I worked for downsized, and I needed something to do. I dusted off my old manuscript and started writing again.

"Thanks to the Internet I was able learn more about my great-great-grandmother Emma Girdlestone and her trek across the country. She was the basis for the story. I put together a book of about 44 chapters that went from what I call the Rocky Ridge Experience, the most harrowing part of her ordeal, and ended with her second husband, my great-great-grandfather Ralph Smith, being called on a Mormon mission. 

"I self published the book and sold quite a few copies on my own. I was just thrilled to sell one!

"One day I got an email about a BYU Publishing Fair and decided to go. I took down three copies of my book and handed them out to publishers. I just wanted to say that I had done it but convinced myself that no one would give me the time of day.

"About six weeks later I got the shock of my life. WiDo Publishing wanted the first 14 chapters of my book! I thought I was seeing things and when I realized somebody had accepted my book I started screaming and crying. Everybody at work thought somebody had died, and one co-worker threatened to slap me silly.

"I started the long rewrite process.  I had no idea what I was doing. I sent the manuscript back and forth to WiDo for about two years. During that time I spent a considerable amount of time on my knees praying to get the story right (or is it ‘write’?).

At one point I was so discouraged I came just a mouse click away from asking WiDo out of the contract. I felt I just couldn’t do it anymore. I had been a journalist for 25 years and this creative writing was about to do me in. Creative writing is hard! 

"I don’t know what changed my mind other than the fact that I had spent my entire life dreaming of becoming a published novelist, and I wasn’t about to let the opportunity go.

"Finally, I decided to let the Spirit take over. After doing some research to see exactly what happened on Rocky Ridge and those involved, I would sit at my computer and write whatever came.

"Whether that was Emma herself, the Holy Ghost, or some other divine being, I just wrote what I believe was dictated to me. I had had a similar experience with this “dictation” with the first two chapters that seemed to really capture everyone’s attention. Some people refer to that as “channeling” where an unseen being is doing the writing, and you’re just the instrument being used to type it all in.

"I found that this giving in – rather than relying on suggested writing tools (and they are only suggestions) – really helped me get the job done. FINALLY.

"I am so very glad I stuck with it as the book has proven a best seller on Amazon. While it was written for everybody, children seem to really enjoy it. It is also catching on in the adult market.

"If anyone would like to talk to me about my experience, they’re more than welcome to contact me at"

Lisa, thank you so much for stopping by today and sharing your inspiring story!

About The Frozen Trail:

The Frozen Trail is a novella set in the American West. It is written in a simple, clear style, making it suitable for younger readers as well as adults.

In 1856 the Mormon pioneers trekked across the Great Plains in wagon trains and pulling handcarts, to find a new home safe from persecution. This is the story of one 18-year-old young woman, Emma Girdlestone, of the Willie Handcart Company, who faced starvation, frostbite, and death so she and her family could join their fellow Latter-day Saints in the Salt Lake Valley.

This work of historical fiction is dedicated to the members of the Willie Handcart Company. These courageous pioneers displayed commitment and heroism in the face of unbelievably harsh and brutal conditions while en route to Zion.

It is especially dedicated to Willie Handcart member, Emma Girdlestone, who left behind a legacy of bravery, fortitude, and faith; and who, 155 years later, managed to change the life of her great-great-granddaughter Lisa Dayley, the author of this book.

"The winter of 1856 was an intensely bitter one, and wind nipped cruelly at the pioneers of the Willie Handcart companies as they trudged their way across the frozen plains. The experiences and hardships faced by the pioneers of those companies is something difficult to put into words, and even more difficult to understand, but Lisa Dayley has somehow done just that." --Weekly News Journal, Mini-Cassia, ID

"A thrill to read, Lisa Dayley crafts a genuine pioneer story with just the right mix of fact and fiction. You’ll find this book hard to put down." ~Jay Lenkersdorfer, newspaper publisher and columnist

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Marketing Overload

Back when I began blogging, writers got online to:

Build a platform
  Find camaraderie among others of their own kind
 Learn about the industry
 Attract readers who might buy their books
 Procrastinate working on the novel
Impress agents and editors that they're serious about the business
Avoid face to face interactions with actual people

And in the last few years, it's morphed into must get online to:

Promote our books
Market our books
Tell everyone about our books
Put links to our books on our sidebar
Brag about our book sales

Not that there's anything wrong with that in moderation of course but it does get tiresome. And don't even get me started on the kind of feeding frenzy that Twitter and FB have become for those with books to sell. Still, these are our books and if we aren't passionate about them, then who will be? I guess.

Time for an informal poll! 

Have you purchased books based on a blog, blog tour, Twitter or Facebook announcement?

Ever been tempted to unfollow someone due to excessive promotional content?

Are authors the new spammers?

Am I overreacting, and should I just chill and accept that online marketing and promotional activities are an essential part of being a writer?

Friday, February 17, 2012

"Free on Amazon" Should you or shouldn't you?

Is Free the new .99? .99 ebooks don't get the attention they did a year ago since so many are listed at that price. With zillions of ebooks flooding the internet, how does one little book get noticed?

Recently WiDo Publishing did free promotions on their titles that are in the KDP Select program, which allows a book to be offered free for five days during its 90-day cycle on the program. In WiDo's experimentation with price adjustments and free promotions, it's the Free that makes the most money, while .99 is the throw-away.

How can "free" make money? Free for five days in a row, which is  how WiDo did it, can be quite profitable. Once the free promo ends, the exposure brings downloads well beyond the book's previous sales levels.

For instance, my book Farm Girl, which wasn't selling well on Kindle, had 18,588 downloads during its five free days. It got ten new reader reviews, all positive (yay!) and then continued on to 500 sales in the two weeks following the promotion.

It may continue selling well, it may not; but at least the little farm girl got some exposure and sales that she wouldn't have gotten otherwise. Since she was lucky to get five downloads a week before, we're talking 100 times the traffic. For an e- book that's not doing much, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain by doing a give-away. Print sales of Farm Girl also increased, as did ebook sales of Uncut Diamonds.

WiDo found similar numbers with its other free promotions, although not as extreme. Sales and rankings increased with the end of every free cycle. While some continued to climb, others returned to their pre-promotional ranking numbers. Price didn't seem to matter. Two books that were given the .99 price tag didn't sell any more after the promotion than those priced at $3.99.

Should you or shouldn't you take advantage of KDP Select's five day free option? I would say "Most definitely." Because Free can make money for a book that isn't making any, and it can make even more money for one that is.

Has anyone else taken advantage of Free on Kindle? I'd love to hear your experiences.