What Can YOU Say About Querying?

Monday, September 30, 2013
I left the crazy world recruiting in the financial industry and found myself (after a decade mind you) still scouring resumes, cover letters, and checking references as I was the Director of Operations at a busy call center. With my eyes closed (and probably in my sleep) I can tell you what to do and what not to do when job hunting. Here I am in the writing world (and loving it by the way) and I find it ironic how authors can make a cover letter sound so special. “I sent out 4 queries last month” someone will say during a conversation about goals and publishing – and doesn’t that sound very special indeed? Of course, it is…but because I’m new to this world, I had to find that out for myself.

What’s a girl to do when she isn’t sure what all the fuss is about? Well, she turns to her smart phone when no one is looking…

Google pointed me in the right direction and ultimately I found the October 2010 issue of Writer’s Digest which explained the basics of mastering a query letter. The article is very helpful, but I was astonished how closely it matched everything I already knew about writing a cover letter:

• Know something about the person you are sending the letter to (use their name instead of something generic)
• Summarize what it is you have to offer (in the case of a query, tell them about your book – in the case of a cover letter, tell them what you bring to the table for the job)
• Make a comparison (talk about similar books – or if you’re applying for a job, talk about an experience at a similar company where you excelled)
• Say something about yourself (people like real people…you are more than just a query or a cover letter, aren’t you?)
• Promise a follow up – and follow through on it! (Whether a query or a job hunt, you’re going to follow up with a phone call, another email, a letter, etc… in a certain period of time, right? Let them know what your intentions are!)

So – now we know how to write a query or get an employer’s attention with our cover letter, right? Well, Google brought up another good point that I feel only YOU (Dear WOW! Readers) can answer for me: DO LITERARY AGENTS REALLY READ THEM?

What has been your experience? When you speak to a literary agent, have they actually read your query? How do you know if they read it or not? What do you recommend to other writers as they set out on their journey with querying?

Thank you in advance for your help and comments; that's one of the things I love about authors - the community is so encouraging of one another!


Crystal is a church musician, business owner, active journaler, writer and blogger as well as a dairy farmer. She lives in Reedsville, Wisconsin with her husband, two young children (Carmen 6 and Andre 5), three dogs, two rabbits, four little piggies, and over 200 Holsteins. Crystal and her husband, Mark, are hoping that by the time you read this they will be holding their newest addition, a little boy named Breccan! You can find Crystal blogging at: http://bringonlemons.blogspot.com/
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That's Really Telling in Disguise

Sunday, September 29, 2013
How would you show this? Tell us! :)
Something I've been thinking a lot about lately is the old show vs. tell advice that we all hear and give in critique groups and online classes. It is true that showing what a character is feeling or doing is more interesting to read than being told by the author. It's also true that showing usually takes more words and more thought than telling. But one other point I've been thinking about lately and discussing with my online students and critique group members are sentences where we, as writers, think we are showing, when we are actually still telling.

For example:  Amy's face showed her enthusiasm.

What does that mean exactly? I'm guessing Amy is smiling--probably a big smile that includes her entire face with her eyes opened wide even. So, why don't we just say that?

Saying that a face shows enthusiasm is not showing, it's telling. If I was critiquing your story, I would probably write in a comment in the sidebar: "And this looks like???" I would rather you write a sentence like:

Amy grinned and opened her eyes wide. 

Now, I can see Amy showing her enthusiasm.

Here are some more examples of this point that I've seen lately. How would you fix these? (Really, I would love to read your ideas in the comments)
  • Andre looked tired.
  • You could see the tension in her body.
  • Monique was always ready for an adventure.
One other thing I'll point out--it is impossible to write an entire novel (or even a short story perhaps) where you have shown 100 percent of everything. If you do this, your novel will most likely be SLOW and HARD TO GET THROUGH. You will have to tell some things. I read an article recently, and I wish I could remember where exactly, that mentioned your writing should be about 80 percent showing and 20 percent telling. For example, it's okay to tell the reader that Bob is Amanda's uncle--you don't have to show that by showing the family tree--that would take too long. But if you want to let the reader know that Amanda is angry with her uncle, then show us: Amanda cursed Uncle Bob.

photo credit: Emerald Lake Joe Kopp ( http://www.joekoppart.com/seascapes-and-water-scenes.html)

So, how do you handle showing vs telling in your work? Can you fix my three sentences above?

Margo teaches for the WOW! Women On Writing classroom. Her upcoming classes are Writing a Novel with a Writing Coach: One on One Instruction (10/4), Writing Short Fiction for Children and Teens (10/7), and Writing a Children's or Young Adult Novel (10/15). For more details, go to the link: http://www.wow-womenonwriting.com/WOWclasses.html  .

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Some Research Recommendations

Saturday, September 28, 2013
After writing my book, I moved my notes
and printouts into this sturdy file box.
Photo Credit | Elizabeth Humphrey
In one of my previous WOW! The Muffin posts, Elizabeth McBride asked:
"Please talk to us about the research process, when it is necessary to use primary sources, and when one can use secondary (or even more distant) sources. I would love to hear about how you kept yourself organized in that process and determined how and when you had enough sources (depth) as well as a broad enough exposure of the topic to cover it all satisfactorily. I tend to go farther than necessary and I'd like to hear someone else's thinking on these topics. Thank you!"
Primary sources? 

Yes. In the book that I was writing I used a number of different sources. When there were areas that I felt out of my depth, I researched as much as I could and, at the same time I tried to locate approachable sources. So, in researching nutrition, I would spread my net wide (within my subject of gluten-free eating) and try to pinpoint the knowledgeable folks to talk to so my knowledge would increase. My primary sources were people I would interview, but I would also read blogs to get a good sense of any trends.

Secondary sources?

Yes, I used a number of secondary sources. I started, oddly, with my cookbooks to see if there were any sources that they relied on to create their food philosophy--or what drove them to write the book they did. I definitely used a lot of books, books, books! (The library and bookstore were both my close friends during the research period.)

I didn't need to delve into much murkier waters than books and journals for the information I needed, which was fortunate as there were times when I felt I was swimming in information.

Some other ways I researched and the tools I used:
  • I also accessed a lot of websites for organizations and used Evernote to keep those notes and resources straight.
  • I set up a Google Alert and that helped to keep me current, especially when an FDA rule was approved during the author review period.
  • As an alumna of a university, I can research using their online library resources--for free.
  • I carried around a notebook designated for the book. I would take notes or clip articles and file them away.
  • I started a notebook that was numbered with each chapter number and filed information specific to that chapter for easy access.
When it comes to research I think we all fear that we've gone too far. But I don't know any other way because how do I know what's too far until I've left the research and moved into the writing.

One example, sometimes you input information that your editor will feel was covered enough in another section or, as sometimes happens, is not the direction she wants the book to go. So, if you hadn't done that research, you might never have gone down that path. But you felt it was important at the time you were writing it.

I'm in the middle of the author review period and still having a blast.

Any other questions about the process? I'm happy to answer. If not, then next time I'll jump off into another writing topic.

Do you have anything to add to what you use to help you research?

Elizabeth King Humphrey is a writer and editor in North Carolina. She recently enjoyed a tech-free kayak trip, which she plans to repeat periodically to help unplug!

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Friday Speak Out!: My Baby’s First Outings, Guest Post by Sheila K. Collins

Friday, September 27, 2013
Somehow I got into the habit of referring to my memoir as “my baby.” Last year I even teased my pregnant daughter-in-law that I wanted to have my baby before she had hers because I’d been pregnant longer.

She beat me by a whole year. As it turns out, Warrior Mother was released on my granddaughter’s first birthday, August 28, 2013. Now I’m getting to learn what happens for a writer when her baby has finally been birthed.

Like a new mother of a human baby, the arrival of the offspring is just the beginning of a new author’s life. This is not the season to give oneself over to shyness or uncertainty. Both books and babies need lots of tender loving care after they arrive so that eventually they can live on their own. And that’s what we wish for our creations, that they will someday be able to live without us.

“So what now?” People ask. “What’s your next writing project?” That question feels like someone asking my daughter-in-law on the way home from the hospital, “So what now? When will you have your next baby?” I am continuing to write but at this point my writing skills are being used in the service of the baby I’ve just had.

I’m busy exploring ways to introduce my new offspring to friends, family, and community. Since my book is autobiographical, I’ve been a frequent visitor at the post office, mailing signed copies to some of the people who appear in my book, people whose stories have been important in the telling of my own. I’m gifting copies to people who helped to midwife this baby; to edit and advise, to read early drafts, to endorse, and to provide encouragement when it seemed I would be in labor forever. As all successful published writers can attest, it takes a couple of small villages to bring a new entity into the world and help it find its place in it.

Moving toward sharing Warrior Mother with people who don’t know me personally, I’ve been collaborating with my son on the creation of a book trailer. Like a movie trailer, we hope this minute and a half excerpt will entice people to purchase a ticket to the experience of reading the book. Our collaboration, going through family pictures that illustrate some of the events described in the book, has turned out to be, for each of us, an extension of the healing that took place for me throughout the process of writing the book. Now, as I prepare to use my skills as an improvisational artist and “perform the book” in my hometown and at an independent bookstore in Scotland, it won’t be long before I’ll be able to see the impact my baby will make in its readers’ lives.

* * *

Sheila K. Collins is a dancer, social worker and improvisational performance artist. In Warrior Mother: Fierce Love, Unbearable Loss and Rituals that Heal (She Writes Press), Sheila shares how she got through the loss of two of her grown children. See Sheila in action with her performance troupe at TedX Pittsburgh, friend her on Facebook, and Tweet her @SheilaKCollins.

Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!

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Magazine Query Letter Success Story

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Because I’m a visual learner, reading examples of query letters that actually nabbed assignments in magazines and newspapers is always of great interest to me. So for today's post, I dug through my old files and found a query that landed me my first assignment with The Writer back in 2009. Enjoy!

Dear Ms. (Name of Editor),
As a freelance writer, I do not hide the fact that I am a magazine junkie, and I particularly enjoy reading magazines like The Writer that offer helpful, informative tips for my career in a straightforward format. In recent issues, I enjoyed Julia Tagliere's article on how to write about friends and families without alienating them in the process (October), as well as Debbie Geiger's advice on how to use social-networking sites more efficiently in freelance writing (August).

After I had my first child six years ago, I began reading every book I could get my hands on about freelance writing so I could learn how to develop a career that would allow me to set my own hours. Like many aspiring parent writers, I sent off a few article ideas via snail mail to the big parenting publications like Babytalk, Parents and Parenting. For the most part, I never got any responses back, except for one horribly photocopied stock rejection letter that almost crushed my dreams of writing about parenting forever.

However, I took some of those same queries and sent them out to a few local regional parenting publications, and within a few months, had made several sales. For the next few years, I wrote locally and even got a job as a stringer for the daily newspaper. Eventually, I took a job as an associate editor at the regional parenting publication that had given me my first break, where I made a startling discovery -- there was a lot more opportunity for publication in regional parenting publications than I had originally thought.

I always take a special interest in the "Market Focus" of your publication, and I've noticed there is one market in particular that hasn't been profiled in the past two years -- regional parenting magazines. Like me, many writers think if they don't live in a city like Atlanta, they really don't have any business writing for Atlanta Parent. Not so, I realized. Regional parenting publications may have a much lower pay scale than the nationals, but most writers have a better shot of getting published in these magazines, and if they market themselves properly, they can generate a steady reprint income. I'd like to propose a 1,200-word article titled "Writing for the Other Parenting Magazines" for your "Market Focus" section. In the article, I will discuss the types of articles and essays regional parenting publications seek, the importance of checking editorial calendars, lead times, reprint possibilities and evergreen topics many of these publications seek each month. "Writing for the Other Parenting Magazines" will also include a sidebar titled "Five Ways to Sell a Parenting Article in a Regional Publication."

I am a freelance writer whose work has appeared in numerous regional parenting publications. I am a former associate editor of Charlotte Parent and also a contributing writer at www.iParenting.com.
My article, "Alternative Treatments for Autism," recently took first place honors in the magazine  feature article category of the 2009 Writer's Digest Annual Writing Competition. I am including the clip in the body of this e-mail.

I look forward to hearing from you regarding this article idea.

I'd love to hear your query success stories!

Renee Roberson is an award-winning freelance writer and editor who blogs at Renee's Pages.
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Reeling in Readers (Or Is Your Bookmark Working For You?)

Wednesday, September 25, 2013
I often end up published in anthologies, getting an armload of great books in the bargain. And then I wonder how I can get those books out there to readers.

I’ll do a couple giveaways on my blog, promoting the book when it first comes out. And I’ll send a few as gifts, depending on the occasion (Happy Birthday/Father’s Day/Anniversary!) But as for book signings, it’s difficult to talk my way into a major chain, which is the only bookstore option we have left in my area.

One must get creative in finding book-selling venues, so I was pretty excited when (divine) inspiration struck. After I came across a flyer for our church’s fall festival, it was just a matter of convincing the festival coordinator into giving me a booth.

Next, I turned to my friends in the anthology-writing business, asking for book-selling suggestions. And goodness, they had so many wonderful suggestions! When I read, “get bookmarks” over and over and over again, I got the message.

I needed a bookmark. But first, I had to decide what I wanted my bookmark to do. I was paying that little rectangular piece of cardstock to work for me, and I wanted to make sure it got the job done.

I also knew in another month, I’d be getting another box of anthology books (from a different publisher). And to be honest, I have quite a few boxes of books in my office storage unit (also known as “under the bed.”)

So I needed something that would promote me, as well as work for any book. Something like a business card, but also a functioning bookmark.

I could make my own bookmarks, I thought, designing a specific card for each specific book. That seemed like a lot of work—and dang, writing’s hard enough without throwing in arts and crafts. But still, I was on to something. I could design a “fill in the blank” bookmark! I needed more space for that information, so I switched to a postcard. When I finished the design, I’d included the following information:

Front Side:

· My professional byline and a writing tag line (I use a fishing theme on my blog and I incorporated this theme into the card and its graphics)
· “A Latest Release” fill-in-the-blank line

Back Side:

· My photo and website address/contact info

Obviously, I want to sell books at this event. But I also want to hook readers, readers who’ll drop in to my blog and follow me on my publishing adventures. Because I know there’s a swell chance that those readers will buy whatever book I’m lucky enough to reel in next!

(And P.S. If you have any suggestions for book-signings or bookmarks, I'd love to hear 'em!)

~Cathy C. Hall

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Interview with Deirdre Woytek, Spring 2013 Runner-Up

Tuesday, September 24, 2013
Deirdre is an attorney whose days are filled with legal writing. Outside of work, she tries her hand at many types of creative writing, and is most fascinated, and challenged, by writing stories that truly seem to come to life off of the page. She feels that her winning entry, Writer's Block, is a good example of that. Deirdre currently spends what free time she can find in a screenwriting course with the University of California—Los Angeles, and hopes ultimately to embark on a second career as a screenwriter.

Deirdre received a B.A. from Boston College and a J.D. from Creighton University. She lives in the NASA area of Houston, Texas, with two young daughters and a Golden Retriever. Please enjoy Deirdre’s playful little tale, Writer’s Block, and come back to visit with the author.

WOW: Hi Deidre, congratulations on your winning spot in our 2013 Flash Fiction contest and welcome to WOW! I’m curious, after a day spent researching and writing legal papers how do you recharge for a night of fiction?

Deirdre: Sometimes I don’t! I try to write after the kids go to sleep, but sometimes I’m just too tired, so I get up early to write instead. Either way, I make the time because I am compelled to write, and am a happier person on the days when I have done so.

WOW: Writing, motherhood, and a demanding career—how do you balance all of that?

Deirdre: I try to be efficient at my job so that I can leave my work at the office. My kids come first at home, but because creative writing is so important to me, I find the time to fit it in. I realize, too, that there are times when my children can play happily while I’m typing away nearby. Sometimes my younger daughter sits next to me and writes her own stories or screenplays.

WOW: How fun, another budding writer in the family!
Deidre, how has your screenwriting course influenced your fiction writing?

Deirdre: It has forced me to be more succinct. I have a tendency to be verbose, even in my legal writing, and that doesn’t work for screenwriting. Screenwriting has challenged me to be a better writer. It has also rejuvenated my desire to write.

WOW: What catalyst launched you into screenwriting?

Deirdre: I have been interested in a career in film or television for as long as I can remember. My father was a writer and producer for broadcast news, and he encouraged those interests. Although I grew up to pursue law, I have always chosen jobs that allow me to write and research almost exclusively, and written fiction on the side. A couple of years ago, I learned that an old college friend was writing for children’s television. It occurred to me then that it is not too late to pursue my dreams. As writing is my proven strength, I decided to take a screenwriting program at UCLA to see how I’d do. It turns out that I have a knack for it, and that screenwriting is a great fit for me. I am now pursuing it as a second career.

WOW: Flash fiction is a bit of a stretch from screenwriting; what did you like best about writing Writer’s Block?

Deirdre: It was my first attempt at humor, so I was very interested in what kind of feedback I’d receive. But mostly, it was fun. It made me smile, and I’m thrilled that it makes others smile, too.

WOW: It’s a fun little story; thank you for sharing it with us. We look forward to seeing your work on the big screen!
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Authors and Teachers Coming Together

Monday, September 23, 2013
Recently I was helping to organize a family reading festival. Children’s authors who had participated in the past had an unusual (I
thought) comment. Throughout the whole day not one teacher had approached them about a school visit. Many teachers attend the festival, some schools even have their own table with literary-themed activities for students.

As many children’s authors will tell you, live events such as school visits are one of the best ways to connect with readers. So why aren’t young readers and authors connecting in this way? With the help of comments from both teachers and authors I’ve come up with a few tips.

1. Information – It turns out only 25% of the authors involved in our festival had information about school visits on their websites – even though almost all of them were open to school visits of some type (some had restrictions on distance traveled, etc.). So get that information into cyber-space! And if you’re participating in something like a reading festival it doesn’t hurt to have a flyer with the information that teachers and other interested people (homeschoolers, librarians, etc) can pick up off your table or you can hand out to teachers so you can book that next event.

2. Money – Teachers’ budgets have been slashed from next to nothing to nothing. But if a school is in your area why not consider an abbreviated form of your visit that focuses on the school with a goal of pre-selling a certain number of your book as opposed to collecting a speaker’s fee? Point out that they don’t have to sell just to their school community but can also sell to the community at large. Other things such as visiting two nearby schools in one day or scheduling a visit when you’ll already be in the area can allow you to take a portion off your fee and still make the day worth your while.

3. Plan an Event – Yes, it seem overwhelming but with the help of a few other authors it can be manageable. Because after all, children (and parents) are more likely to come out for an event where they can meet 10 authors as opposed to just one. So befriend the other authors in your area and find a spot – a library, shopping mall, school, Y and find out if they’re willing to host an event or allow you to “piggyback” off an event they’re already planning.
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Writing Science

Sunday, September 22, 2013
As a nonfiction writer, I’ve had the opportunity to write about both genetics and geology for young readers.  I’ve written about disease in horses and the biology of sharks.  While I also write history and crafts, science topics are often easier to sell because there is less competition. If you want to write science for young readers, here are five things you need to know:
  1. Kid Friendly Topics.  Whether or not a science topic is kid-friendly is going to depend on your audience.  If you are selling it to an education market, it obviously has to be educational. Kids don’t mind learning something new, but for their selection a topic needs to be fun and fascinating.  There is more overlap between educational and fun then you might think but you have to know which aspect to emphasize when you approach the publisher.
  2. Respect Your Reader. Whether you are writing about chemical reactions within the sun or the biomechanics of flight, you cannot write down to your audience. They may be shorter, they may have less life experience than you, but kids are smart.  When they are passionate about a topic, they can be scary smart like Boyan Slat, the 19-year-old who has invented a way to clean the plastics out of our oceans. Write down to this market and there is no point in submitting your work.
  3. Talk the Talk.  It may be tempting to avoid the jargon that often accompanies a scientific topic, but if you’ve ever known a three-year-old who adores dinosaurs or a five year-old fascinated by rockets, you’ve heard them use the terms themselves. If you want to play on this playground, you better come with the right toys and in this case that includes the buzzwords and lingo that show you are in the know.
  4. Build Bridges. Jargon is good but if your reader doesn’t already know the topic, you must be reading to frame concepts in terms your readers understand.  When I wrote geology, I compared stratigraphy to layers of cake and icing. Find something your audience knows and use it to help them cross into the world of your topic. 
  5. Seek Professional Help. When I’m writing about a field other than my own, I need to make sure I didn’t skew any of the facts when I made the work more accessible.  Every scientist I have ever approached has been willing to review my writing for free. 

Writing science is a great way to put your work into the hands of young readers who are eager to learn all about the world, past, present and future.  You just need to know how to get your work into their hands.

Sue Bradford Edwards is teaching Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults in the WOW! Classroom this October and November.  
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Friday Speak Out!: Requested Material, Guest Post by Beth Cato

Friday, September 20, 2013
As I prepared for my first writers' conference back in 2008, I encountered a tip: buy a rubber stamp that says "Requested Material." That way, when you're sending out expected manuscripts and contracts, the agent or editor knows you're not part of the slush. I didn't have a single publication to my name, but my brain swirled with happy dreams. I had a finished novel that I knew--absolutely knew--was going to snare an agent during my pitch session. I had to be ready.

In a matter of hours, I ordered myself a custom, self-inking stamp for "Requested Material." I'd get to use that thing in no time. Right?

I attended the conference. I had two requests for the partial of my novel--yay! Publishing contract, here I come! However, the agents wanted the submissions by email. I was happy to save some money, but it also meant my brand new stamp didn't get used. Ah well. They'd need my signature eventually.

Months passed. The agents never responded. The reality of the whole writing life set in. There were no shortcuts. No stamping opportunities, either.

In despair, I trunked the novel. I devoted myself to short stories instead. Rejections trickled in. Then--finally--an acceptance, for a nonfiction story to a big publisher! I printed out my contract. Tears filled my eyes when I used that "Requested Material" stamp for the first time.

It's silly, really, that using a rubber stamp can mean so much, but it did. It was validation after a ton of rejections. My work was requested, expected--respected. Sure, I wasn't using the stamp to fulfill my ultimate goal of a novel contract, but this acceptance would boost the skinny bio paragraph in my query letters.

I kept writing and submitting my work. The stamp gained a sheen of dust, but every few months, I'd pull it out for another short story contract. I wrote another novel. The angels sang in chorus the day I signed with a literary agent. I kept working. Months passed. I slogged through another novel. Meanwhile, the rubber stamp was being used on a more regular basis for story contracts.

Then, it finally happened.

The journey took five years. Five years, hundreds of rejections, and more tears than I can count.

On July 4th of this year, I signed my novel contract with a big six publisher. And you better believe that I had that rubber stamp on hand and ready to go. Vivid red ink emblazoned the front and back of that priority mail envelope, the words there for all the world to see: "Requested Material."

Maybe the infrequent use was a good thing, as the ink is still as bold as when I bought it. Fine by me. I hope to get plenty more use out of that stamp in the years to come.

* * *
Beth Cato's stories can be found in Nature, Flash Fiction Online and Daily Science Fiction. HarperCollins Voyager will release her steampunk novel THE CLOCKWORK DAGGER in late 2014. She's originally from Hanford, California, but now resides in Arizona with her husband and son. Her fiction, poetry, and tasty cookie recipes can be found at http://www.bethcato.com.

Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!

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Ten Things I’ve Learned Four Months After Publishing My First Novel

Thursday, September 19, 2013
I’ve been publishing short stories since 2007, but this year my debut novel King of the Class was released by a small literary Vancouver publisher (www.nonpublishing.com).
I’ve received many questions from debut authors mostly asking "what worked." Here are ten things that worked for me:

1.Target freelancers for reviews. I spent hours emailing publications I felt shared my target audience. Hands-down most of them ignored me or sent me polite ‘no’ emails. When I discovered the freelancers who sell regularly to these publications, I had far more success. Find them by clicking on contributors’ names.
2.Only no means no. Perseverance works. No answer does not mean no. Once in a while I’d get an email: “Good for you for not giving up. I was so busy with X, but now I’d be happy to read your book”.
3.Everybody knows somebody. At first I only asked some friends for contacts in the media industry. I learned to ask everyone. Do not pre-judge. You need reviews, so ask everyone about their friends in the media industry.

4.Expect nothing. I was wrong to assume some people would happily forward emails, post on Facebook and generally help spread the word about King of the Class. Meanwhile strangers I met online and others I barely knew went the extra mile (thank you again!) for me. Assumptions will only cause needless disappointment.

5.You can’t do it all well and simultaneously. I received many well-meaning tips to use every social media, hire a publicist, you get the idea. Try new things, but ultimately do what you are good at and what you enjoy and not all at once.

6.Don’t forget to write. Writers write. Turning yourself into a full-time marketer is OK temporarily (set a real deadline), but don’t lose your identity or risk your health to sell one more book.
7.Update all previous posts. The links are already there. Don’t waste them. If you’re a writer who has previously published articles and blog posts, email those editors. Every one I contacted was happy to update old posts with my book link, even posts that were years old.
8.Fortune favors the bold. Don’t fall into the trap of ‘how can I possibly ask them’. You have no idea what any publication takes into consideration when they are approached. Try them. I did and received a few pleasant surprises.
9.It can be hard to internalize that your control is limited. The only recipe for success is to enjoy what you’re doing, regardless of the outcome. See it as an adventure and lower your expectations.

10. Use Linked-In. I read the contacts of my contacts until my eyes were falling out of their sockets. Yes, it’s tedious. I limited it to ten hours. When I found someone who might potentially give me a review, I asked my contact for an introduction and met with success.


Join one of Green's upcoming WOW! classes:

~Learn how how to craft story ideas into flash fiction in her
Flash Fiction Workshop  starting September 30, 2013. You'll focus on carving your work down to its essence, while still conveying meaning through the successful interplay between character, conflict and theme.

~Learn how to layer your writing with literary devices in her Literary Devices Workshop starting September 30, 2013. Through short readings and in-class assignments, you'll learn how to create suspense, tension, change the pace, deepen and control your writing through the use of devices from repetition to personification. This class is suitable for anyone working on a novel, short story, memoir, essay or life story.
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INDIEstructible: Inspiring Stories from the Publishing Jungle, edited by Jessica Bell (Review)

Wednesday, September 18, 2013
INDIEstructible: Inspiring Stories from the Publishing Jungle is full of essays from authors who have either self-published or signed with a small press. Jessica Bell, whom we've featured here before with her Nutshell series (Show and Tell in a Nutshell, Adverbs and Cliches in a Nutshell) and The Book (a novel), has compiled and edited these wonderfully inspiring pieces, where writers explain why they chose to self-publish while others simply want to share their writing journey or help you to learn from the trenches.

Depending on where you are in your writing and publishing journey, one or more of these authors will inspire you--even if you are traditionally published and by a big press because one message rang out time and time again--you must write for the love of it. Writing is supposed to be enjoyable!

Another cool thing about this book is that all of the proceeds are going to BUILDON.org, which is a movement which breaks the cycle of poverty, illiteracy, and low expectations through service and education. Check out Build On's website here to see all the positive things this movement is doing for kids and teens. And INDIEstructible is only 99 cents for the e-book! You'll get so much more out of this book than 99 cents worth, trust me--and so do the kids you are helping!

One of my very favorite essays in the book is by an author I didn't know before I read his piece. He was so funny, and he made semicolon jokes--I love grammar humor! The author, Briane Pagel, made me laugh out loud while I was reading this book on the treadmill, and the guy next to me kept looking over like I had a problem. So, I find another indie author hysterical--what's wrong with that? Briane is a lawyer during the day. He doesn't write much for money (or so he claims. . .LOL), but he writes for fun, for passion, and he's good at it. Although his essay is probably the longest in the book, I loved every word of it. And I even bought one of his 99 cent books afterwards. (I hope he doesn't read this to see I'm a big fan--how embarrassing would that be?!).

Jessica Bell
Former WOW! blog tour author, Jadie Jones, the author of the YA fantasy MOONLIT (WiDO press), which is another book I love, had an interesting essay, sharing her writing journey and publishing timeline with us. She started out querying agents, had to re-write her book, and more, until she finally saw Moonlit a reality with the amazing WiDo press.

To see the entire list of 29 authors who wrote essays, you can go to the book page here on Vine Leaves Literary Journal's website. You will probably recognize some of the names because these are writers who are out there in the trenches every day: sharing their stories, visiting blogs, being active on Twitter and Facebook, and publishing their work. Every essay is heartfelt and meaningful--if you 're even considering self-publishing or a smaller house, buy this book (it's only 99 cents and helps kids!) because the information in it is from real people who have had real experiences.

In the introduction, Jessica states, "The purpose of this book is to inspire you to consider indie publishing, i.e., self-publishing or small press. Each of us has our own path. Each of us has our own voice."

INDIEstructible is inspiring and SHOWS us in these essays that each writer truly is unique and special!

To purchase INDIEstructible: Inspiring Stories from the Publishing Jungle, go here for the different forms.

Review by Margo L. Dill; check out her blogs at http://www.thelitladies.com, where she's THE SANDWICH LADY, and http://margodill.com/blog/, where she blogs about children's books because she's also a children's author!
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Interview with Clare Thompson-Ostrander Spring 2013 Flash Fiction Contest Winner

Tuesday, September 17, 2013
Stop over at the Spring 2013 contest page and read Mercy by Clare Thoompson-Ostrander. Then join us for a closer look at her story and why she decided to take the plunge and enter a writing contest.

Despite writing her first story when she was in eighth grade, Clare Thompson-Ostrander never shared her work with others. That soon changed. After taking a writing class right here at WOW!, Clare submitted a story to our quarterly flash fiction contest.

Looks like it paid off!

Currently, Clare is a professor of developmental writing at a community college. She feels privileged working and writing alongside her students; Clare thinks they are her greatest inspiration. Her most supportive and encouraging readers are her six sisters, her brother, and her parents. Without them, her stories would still be stuffed in boxes.

Clare lives in Massachusetts with her husband, her daughter, and her puppy.

WOW: Welcome to The Muffin, Clare, and congratulations! How exciting! Let’s jump right in and talk about your story. I am interested in how you developed the theme of the piece.

Clare: Most of the stories I write revolve around navigating relationships. I began writing the story "Mercy" to explore the theme of forgiveness inside of a relationship. I imagined the most difficult situation a couple could face, losing a child. As the characters in the story emerged on the page, I followed the narrator through her emotions of guilt and anger. These two emotions made it almost impossible for her to forgive her husband for introducing her boy to hunting, or to forgive herself for being alive when her little boy is not. I also wanted to explore the role of hope in a tragic situation like the one she faces in the story. I wondered about how she would move on. What form of hope would allow her to move on? Lenny's character is meant to be the glimmer of hope. He makes her laugh and this helps her recognize that her way of thinking is misleading, and that may be the small start she needs to heal and move on in her life. When I imagine Lenny beyond the story, I see him as someone who helps the narrator rediscover herself so that she and her husband can heal from their terrible loss.

To build on the theme of forgiveness, I set the story as a chance encounter at a community college because I teach at a community college. My colleagues and my students are very diverse and just about every day I have chance encounters that take me to new places. I wanted the story's turning point to be based upon a chance encounter. Chance encounters are so rich for gaining insights into emotions like forgiveness. I actually got the idea for having Lenny's character wear biker clothes and boots with bullets from a chance encounter with a student. The student asked me for directions on campus and I noticed his boots. They had a round of bullets around the ankle and I thought that's a great detail for Lenny.

WOW: That’s so cool! And, Lenny’s boots with the bullets offer an interesting element to the story. I’m doing to start paying attention to footwear! As a teacher, I look for the lesson or “moral of the story” I want students derive from a piece. What's the one take-away you want readers to discover or learn from your story? For me, it's that people make snap judgments based on stereotypes and often, people jump to the wrong conclusion.

Clare: I like your take-away about snap judgments. I think you are right. The narrator makes a lot of snap judgments and I think we all do, especially when we are not in a healthy place to accept others and see them for who they really are. I also hope people who read the story feel as though they've been let inside a woman's struggle to find forgiveness. Forgiveness is such hard work. It is wrapped up anger, resentment and guilt. When a person's head is full of these emotions, it's especially difficult to see how forgiveness can lead to hope and acceptance. The narrator's encounter with Lenny is her first step to getting out of her own way so that she can heal.

WOW: And that healing process is extremely important. I also like that Ginny decides to take a class, even if it’s to appease the counselor. Speaking of classes, your bio mentions that you took a WOW! class. What is one writing principle you learned and applied to this particular piece?

Clare: I took Gila Green's Flash Fiction course. As part of our course work, we had to incorporate an allusion. I had written "Mercy" before I took Gila's class, but I revised it to help me complete the allusion assignment. I used an allusion to the relationship between Virginia and Leonard Woolf. I liked how the allusion helped me portray the narrator's grief in a deeper way. I think Virginia Woolf found much needed hope inside her relationship with Leonard Woolf, so I thought the allusion worked for my story. In my story, "Mercy," I wanted to show how the narrator, Ginny, finds hope, almost against her will, when she meets Lenny. Gila was wonderful in helping me shape this allusion. She provided great feedback. In the end, I liked how adding an allusion transformed the story.

WOW: Sounds like a successful class . . . and story. (smiles) What advice would you offer to other writers contemplating entering a contest?

Clare: I have been writing stories for most of my life, but this is the first year I've tried to publish a story. I entered the WOW contest last winter and made the final round of judging. I found some hope there and tried again in the spring with "Mercy." I was amazed my story was chosen! Since then, I've sent two more stories out to magazines to see what will happen next. I will always write stories whether they are published or not, but having a story published by WOW has inspired me to take more chances. It's a great feeling. My advice to writers would be to not wait on taking chances. I wish I had taken a chance years ago.

WOW: Great advice. (Writers, what are YOU waiting for?) What projects are currently on your agenda?

Clare: I am currently revising a novel I have written. The novel is about a young woman's recovery from a brutal rape. The story follows her journey as she forms the relationships that allow her to heal and move on. I've been working on the novel for almost ten years! In between teaching full-time, being a mom and wife, I write stories and work on the novel. Writing the novel has been the most rewarding creative experience in my life. Every time I devote my energy and time to the novel, I like it even more. The characters are a deep part of who I am because for so long they've "lived" inside of my head. I know them very well, and it may sound crazy, but I'll miss them when I finally finish the novel.

WOW: I’m sure you will. Thank you for talking to our readers today, Clare, and once more, congrats!

Interview by LuAnn Schindler. Read more of her work at her website

The next session of Gila Green's Flash Fiction course begins September 30. 

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Cynthia Briggs, author of Pork Chops & Applesauce, launches her blog tour!

Monday, September 16, 2013
& giveaway contest!

Pork Chops & Applesauce: A Collection of Recipes and Reflections is about much more than an irresistible recipe for apple dumplings. It also tells the stories that make the recipes special even beyond how they taste…the cake that was made when a son returned from war, the lemonade  that led to a successful lemonade stand, the cookies that were a little boy’s favorite. Perhaps the best thing about this cookbook is that it will start you thinking about the stories behind your family’s favorite recipes. What better way to tell a family’s story than by punctuating it with the thing we all share: food. This is an unusual cookbook that won’t just make you head for the kitchen; it will also make you laugh and cry.

Paperback: 193 pages
Publisher: Author House (July 14, 2004)
ISBN-10: 1403381658
ISBN-13: 978-1403381651
Twitter hashtag: #CynthiaCooks

Pork Chops & Applesauce: A Collections of Recipes and Reflections is available as a print book at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and IndieBound.

Book Giveaway Contest:
To win a copy of Pork Chops & Applesauce: A Collection of Recipes and Reflections, please enter using the Rafflecopter form at the bottom of this post. The giveaway contest closes this Friday, September 20 at 12:00 AM EST. We will announce the winner the same day in the Rafflecopter widget. Good luck!

About the Author:

Cynthia Briggs, also known as the “Apple Queen,” has had a life-long enthusiasm for mastering the art of cooking and baking. Inspired by women of kindred spirits, she believes through sharing our recipes and food we engage in an ongoing connection with others, weaving unique bonds we carry with us through our lives.

A food columnist, Cynthia’s popular newspaper food columns (over 200 of them) have appeared in various publications since 1999. Her work has also appeared in New Mexico Magazine, New Mexico Woman, and Funds for Writers, as well as several Chicken Soup books. She has talked "food, writing and techniques for living a more gratifying life" on radio and TV, at rotary clubs and women's associations, and at schools and universities.

Cynthia was born in eastern Oregon where she lived near her grandparents' farm. Later she raised her own children on a small farm in western Washington where she experienced daily "mis-adventures" of family life in the country, which she often writes about in her books, stories and columns. Her young family inherited nine well-established, and prolific apple trees with their farm leading to Cynthia’s royal nickname. She later moved to New Mexico where she mastered something new: peppers and southwestern cooking.

Find out more about the author by visiting her online:

Cynthia Briggs’ website: http://www.cynthiabriggsbooks.com/

Cynthia Briggs blog: http://www.cynthiabriggsblog.com/

Twitter: @CynthiaCooks

-----Interview by Jodi Webb

WOW: I popped over to Amazon and a search for cookbooks came up with 100,242. That is a lot of books to choose from. How do you make your book stand out from the crowd?

Cynthia: The double genre, memoir and cookbook, is what makes Pork Chops & Applesauce appealing; some readers like the stories, others are drawn to the recipes and there are those who enjoy its combined elements. The stories are nostalgic and the recipes vintage so it speaks to all our roots whether we hark from Seattle, Dallas or New York City.

It also takes readers on a journey to small town, Middle America where it feels like home. This applies even if we were raised in a high-rise in Chicago or perhaps even more so because we grew up in the heart of a large city. People long to visit the past because it is grounding. I am not saying they want to move back in time and stay but it is settling to visit and retrace our steps.

Recently, I have noticed a new trend with young adults who are interested in what we were doing "back then" and Pork Chops fills that particular gap for the younger generation. Pork Chops is like spending the day at the County Fair with an iPhone in your hand; you get the best of yesterday and today. I like to think Pork Chops brings people back to a reminiscent time of shared values and life experiences with recipes from the 60s, 70s and 80s as an added bonus.

WOW: Why did you choose to write essays to accompany your recipes? Do all your cookbooks have the accompanying story element?

Cynthia: With me, wherever you find a story a recipe is not far away. For example, 'Summer and Blueberries Go Hand-in-Hand,' tells of going to pick blueberries for putting in the freezer for the winter. Soon upon arriving at the blueberry patch, we encountered a huge snake. We fled the blueberry patch screaming with barely enough berries to make Summertime Blueberry Salad.

Pork Chops & Applesauce is not just a cookbook. In fact, the stories draw readers more than the recipes, and some publishers consider it a "gift" book rather than a cookbook. Events and food usually go hand-in-hand when living in a farm environment so the arrangement of a story accompanied by a recipe fell into place for me.

Although Pork Chops is my only book where the recipes tie into a story, the nostalgic food columns I wrote for newspapers in past years had the same format, and my blog has a Stories category with this format.

WOW: How does creating a cookbook/essay book work? Do you come up with stories first and then find recipes to complement them or do you come up with a list of recipes and then write stories to complement them?

Cynthia: Combining a cookbook with personal essays has worked well for me. It surprises people to see stories and recipes in the book. Even though I tell them it is a cookbook with stories, they frequently do not realize what I am saying until they open the book and see for themselves. Then they say, "There are stories in here too!" When they make this discovery on their own, they generally ask me to sign the book so they can purchase it.

I like to tell the story of an elderly woman at an outdoor fair that purchased 18 copies of Pork Chops & Applesauce largely because of the discovery element in the book. In one story, I asked 'Do you remember the day your husband proposed marriage'? That simple question grabbed her heart. She told me a heartfelt tale of her husband proposing to her in one of the many love letters they exchanged during World War II. It was clear she was still deeply in love with him even though he had long been deceased. She bought a copy of Pork Chops for everyone in her family to remind them of the long, happy and devoted life they shared.

I always come up with the story first and then I match it with a recipe. Many of my recipes have an adventure attached to them so I have an automatic fit.  The recipes are a mix and match of family, friends, recipes from very old cookbooks and my own renditions. Most recipes are mine and some originally came from someone else but they have my spin on them. There are a few recipes I thought were mine until I got deep into writing Pork Chops; I was surprised they originated from someone else's kitchen with nary one ingredient change. Those required citing and written permission.

WOW: What a sweet story about the World War II bride. When I read your book the story about cooking for your mother-in-law rang a bell with me. Except it was the first time I made supper for my soon-to-be husband. Things did NOT go well. But he married me anyway! We all cook (with varying degrees of success). Because it's such a universal action do you find you have a lot of contact with readers?

Cynthia: People love to share their recipes and stories. I used to participate in arts and craft shows where numerous passersby had a story to share. They love telling about their grandpa instructing them on how to organize a tool shed or about gathering eggs for Grandmother so she could bake their birthday cake. My readers frequently send me recipes, sometimes with a brief attached story. ASK CYNTHIA A QUESTION is a feature on my blog that generates inquires and questions.

WOW: Do you do any type of writing aside from cookbooks?

Cynthia: Maintaining my blog and website keeps me in the cooking and story-writing genre. Memoir is my first love so to speak because with reminiscing I can go back and touch my childhood, or my children's, and then go digging for old tried-and-true recipes that we all relished in preparing and sharing. It is a lovely place for me to visit, but in reality, there are other things to write.

My personal essays overflow into writing for the Chicken Soup for the Soul series. By this fall I will be in seven of their books. Last year Woman's World Magazine published one of my stories. I have written book reviews and been published in numerous on-line e-zines like Funds for Writers, The Nest and Cincinnati Coupons. I teach memoir writing and how-to-get-published classes; I enjoy coaching budding writers. Variety in writing is my spice in life.

WOW: Tell us how your writing first began.

Cynthia: It began with seeing a toy typewriter in a store window when I was 8-years old. I interviewed people to get the neighborhood scoop for my Chicago Kid News and set-up a newspaper operation in the sunroom of our second story apartment. I told Mom I needed the toy typewriter so my stories could roll off the press. The typewriter showed up just in time as a birthday gift but the newspaper business was short-lived because soon after getting the typewriter we moved back to Oregon. I typed on the toy typewriter until it literally fell apart.

My writing went on the back burner for many years while I raised my family. In 1999, I started writing a nostalgic food column (a story with an accompanying recipe) for a newspaper in South Seattle and I have been writing ever since.

WOW: Many cookbooks are self-published. How did your recipes go from the kitchen to publication?

Cynthia: Pork Chops was self-published out of necessity. I found a literary agent who loved my writing and my creative bent but she wanted me to write something very different from what I loved writing about most: cooking, baking, family and friends. I probably threw good sense to the wind when I followed my heart to self-publish Pork Chops & Applesauce but I've never regretted my decision.

WOW: What are you working on now?

Cynthia: Maintaining my website, blog and newsletter keeps me hopping. In recent years, my goal has been to submit more articles to magazines, which gives me a variety of subjects to play with. I am always submitting stories to the Chicken Soup for the Soul folks. My biggest challenge right now is getting a mini-mystery (yes, it is fiction) published in Woman's World Magazine. I have had two mini-mysteries rejected, but that is OK because I write for the journey and the destination.

WOW: I think I may have to post that quote above my desk “I write for the journey and the destination.” Make sure you keep us updated on your mystery career and we’ll let you know how we do trying your recipes!

----------Blog Tour Dates

Monday, September 16(today!) @ The Muffin
Stop by for an interview with Cynthia Briggs and a chance to win Pork Chops & Applesauce and put some kick back into your cooking!

Tuesday, September 17 @ Rural Moms
Do you want a recipe that shouts "time for autumn"? Stop by for Autumn Apple Dumplings, just one of the many recipes in Cindy Briggs' book Pork Chops & Applesauce.

Thursday, September 19 @ Cmash Reads
Think you're the only one who has had disasters in the kitchen? Cynthia Briggs, food columnist and author of Pork Chops and Applesauce stops by to share a few of her crazy kitchen mishaps.

Tuesday, September 24 @ Shockingly Delicious
Don't miss a chance to win a copy of Cynthia Briggs' Pork Chops and Applesauce. Shockingly Delicious will also feature one of Cynthia's recipes.

Wednesday, September 25 @ Thoughts in Progress
Stop by to learn more about Cynthia Briggs and her cookbook perfect for the fall season: Pork Chops and Applesauce.

Thursday, September 26 @ Kaisy Daisy’s Corner
Apples, apples and more apples! Read a review of Cynthia Briggs' cookbook Pork Chops and Applesauce and enter to win a copy.

Friday, September 27 @ Read These Books and Use Them!
Want to spend quality time with your kids? Cynthia Briggs give some tips on cooking with your kids and the opportunity to win Pork Chops and Applesauce.

Wednesday, October 2 @ Words by Webb
Don't miss a review of Pork Chops & Applesauce and Jodi’s pick for recipes perfect for bake sales and other events with your children.

Monday, October 7 @ Mrs. Mommy Book Nerd
Stop by for a chance to win a copy of Cynthia Briggs' cookbook Pork Chops & Applesauce. You'll find some great recipes for your holiday get togethers.

To view all our touring authors, check out our Events Calendar. Keep up with blog stops and giveaways in real time by following us on Twitter @WOWBlogTour.

Get Involved!
If you have a website or blog and would like to host one of our touring authors or schedule a tour of your own, please email us at blogtour@wow-womenonwriting.com.

Book Giveaway Contest:
Enter to win a copy of Pork Chops & Applesauce by food columnist, Cynthia Briggs! Fill out the Rafflecopter form below and/or leave a comment. We will announce the winner this Friday, September 20th!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck!
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Interview with Publisher Mike O'Mary of Dream of Things

Sunday, September 15, 2013
Dream of Things is a book publisher and online bookstore. Dream of Things publishes anthologies of creative nonfiction and book-length memoirs. I have had the pleasure of working with and getting to know Mike O'Mary, founder of Dream of Things, and am excited to share this interview with all of you. Mike's dedication and positive attitude are refreshing and he is a pleasure to know (and I learned a lot more in this interview)!

WOW: Mike, how did Dream of Things come to be? How and why did you get started in publishing?

Mike: I started Dream of Things because I love creative nonfiction, and I wanted to publish anthologies that fill the gap between the Chicken Soup anthologies, which I regard as short and sweet, and the Best American Essays, which tend to be longer form. So the goal for Dream of Things anthologies is to publish essays that are not short and sweet, but short and deep.

One day I read an essay that I liked very much, and when I contacted the author, she told me the essay was an excerpt from her memoir. One thing led to another, and I ended up publishing Everything I Never Wanted to Be by Dina Kucera. Dina’s memoir has sold 15,000 copies to date—a real “home run” for a first-time author with a small press.

Today, Dream of Things focuses on memoirs and anthologies of creative nonfiction that align with our mission to publish “distinctive voices, meaningful books.” We publish 3-4 books per year.

WOW: Mike, what a great first time experience! How fabulous for both you and Dina! That's a great story and it's understandable why you would continue after such a success.

Can you give us the short version of your submission process and provide a link that would be helpful to authors who are interested in partnering with Dream of Things?

Mike: The submission process is pretty straightforward. There is a list of anthology topics on the Dream of Things website. If you want to submit an essay (2,500 words maximum) for one of those anthologies, you can submit it via an online form on the website.

For a book-length memoir, I ask authors to submit their best 20 pages. If I like what I see, I’ll ask to read the rest. You can submit the 20-page excerpt via the online form.

Here are some key links:

Dream of Things anthology topics: http://dreamofthings.com/workshop-2

Dream of Things submission guidelines: http://dreamofthings.com/guidelines

Dream of Things form for online submissions: http://dreamofthings.com/submission-form

WOW: As you know, I've worked closely with some of your authors on their blog tours and they all speak very highly of you, your process, and Dream of Things in general. It sounds like you've got a great system that works well.

What else sets Dream of Things apart from other companies?

Mike: Dream of Things is a “traditional” press in the sense that it is not a vanity press. I don’t believe an author should have to pay to be published.

But Dream of Things is also very “nontraditional” in some ways, mainly because the role of the publisher has changed. In a world where self-publishing is a viable option, the publisher has to go above and beyond what the author can do on his or her own. So to me, it’s about providing quality control and marketing expertise.

When I say “quality control,” I’m talking about things like professional editing, cover design, interior layout, e-book conversion, etc. Yes, you can self-publish. But if you’re going to do so, you’d better hire a professional editor to edit your work, and a graphic designer to do your cover and interior—and even then, you will have to grapple with the stigma of being “self-published.” So one of the things a good publisher can do today is to provide the author with the “umbrella” of an imprint, which ideally serves as the equivalent of a Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval. And, of course, we’ll take care of the traditional things like getting the book produced and distributed.

More important, today’s publisher needs to be the author’s partner when it comes to marketing and promotion—because even if an author self-publishes a book and does it right, the author’s work is only half done. The author still faces the daunting task of marketing and promoting the book, and that’s very hard to do on your own.

Case in point: Don Dempsey self-published his memoir, Betty’s Child, and he did everything right: he hired a professional editor…he paid for cover design and interior layout…he arranged to have his book professionally printed and distributed…he even got some good reader reviews—people compared his book to Angela’s Ashes and To Kill a Mockingbird. But the book didn’t sell.

I saw that Don had a good book—and I also saw that it wasn’t selling. So I asked Don if he would consider allowing me to become his publisher. He agreed, we released a revised edition in February, and six months later, his book is in the hands of thousands of readers and he has 125 glowing reader reviews on Amazon. The difference is that we worked together to promote the book.

The other thing I’ll say is that Dream of Things is in it for the long haul. A lot of publishers are done marketing/promoting a book after six months or so. Then it’s time to get on to the next book. But at Dream of Things, I’m constantly looking for additional ways to promote or advertise a book. Everything I Never Wanted to Be was released in November 2010, but I just did another big promotion and newsletter advertisement (in BookBub) in August of 2013.

WOW: I'm glad you explained that with Don Dempsey as the example. I was curious as to why he had self-published first and then gone the traditional route. It all makes much more sense and it sounds like a happy ending for Dempsey and Dream of Things (and you know I love a happy ending)!

What can you tell us about marketing and different ways you help authors like Dempsey get in front of readers?

Mike: It’s very challenging for a small press or a self-published author to get noticed. But I believe e-books and the Internet go a long way toward “leveling the playing field.” That’s why Dream of Things is very aggressive about marketing the e-book edition of a new book. I release the e-book edition simultaneous with or shortly after releasing the print edition, I price the e-book aggressively, and then I promote the heck out of it via websites and e-newsletters.

(Note: People sometimes ask about the royalty on print vs e-book. It varies from publisher to publisher, but at Dream of Things, we pay a royalty of 10% of the cover price on trade paperbacks, and 50% of net receipts on e-books. So on a $15 paperback, the author receives $1.50. On a $2.99 e-book, the net receipt to Dream of Things is about $2, so the author receives $1. Obviously, the author gets more per book on the paperback, but in most cases, the volume of e-book sales more than makes up for the lower royalty per book.)

Here are some other suggestions for getting your book in front of readers:

  • Do a blog tour. I regard a blog tour as a foundational piece of any book’s marketing plan. You may not see an immediate impact on sales, but it helps to set a baseline for awareness of your book, and ideally results in reader reviews. Several of my authors have done WOW! blog tours.
  • Get reader reviews. Reader reviews are pure gold, so do everything you can to get family, friends and colleagues to post reader reviews on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads, and elsewhere.
  • Use Amazon’s KDP Select program. There are pros and cons to the program, but the main thing is that you can use it to offer the Kindle edition of your book for free for a few days. It’s an excellent way to get your book into the hands of hundreds (if not thousands) of readers, which ideally leads to good word-of-mouth, more reader reviews, and PAID downloads.
  • Use websites and e-newsletters that target e-book readers. There is a cottage industry of websites, blogs and e-newsletters built around e-books. They cater to people who own Kindles, Nooks, iPads and other e-reader devices, and they represent some of the most cost-effective ways to reach potential readers. BookBub, Kindle Nation Daily, and Kindle Books & Tips have worked well for me, and there are dozens more that you could try.

WOW: No wonder you are so busy! It sounds like a lot of behind the scenes work is going on when you work with an author. I'm very impressed with how you embrace so many different types of social media.

You've already shared a lot and I appreciate your openness and honesty. What additional words of wisdom can you share with someone who wants to take their story to the next level and become published?

Mike: Peer review is very important. Have other people read and critique your book before sending it to a publisher or agent.

I think it’s also important to be a part of a community. The WOW! community is a great place to start. For memoir writers, the National Association of Memoir Writers is a great organization. I also encourage people to check out Jerry Waxler’s Memory Writers Network, which has hundreds of essays, interviews and book reviews intended to help memoir writers.

The most important thing I can tell you is that if you want your manuscript to stand out with a publisher or an agent, you need to make your book work on multiple levels. I see lots of memoirs that are well written, and do a good job of conveying the author’s experiences. But that’s not enough. The book needs to go beyond that. So think about how your book will be “categorized.” Yes, it will be categorized as a memoir. But ideally, it could also be categorized as a “self-help” or “motivational/inspirational” book. And in the best of all worlds, it will also be structured and read like a novel. Two great examples are Swimming with Maya by Eleanor Vincent, and Leaving the Hall Light On by Madeline Sharples. Each memoir deals with a tragic event—but each goes beyond that event to be a tale of healing and inspiration.

WOW: Mike, readers are going to think I paid you for such an endorsement of WOW! tours—I really want to thank you; you're so sweet. Working with Dream of Things and your authors (like Donald Dempsey and Eleanor Vincent) has truly been my pleasure!

Anything else you'd like to share for readers and/or authors before we call this a wrap?

Mike: This is a great time to be an author. There are more options than ever before when it comes to getting published. There are lots of indie presses out there, and you also have the option of self-publishing. So there is nothing to keep you from getting published!

With all of those options, it’s important to do your homework. Self-publishing is a viable option, but it’s a lot of work and it’s tough to go it alone. So make sure you know what you’re getting into.

And when it comes to indie presses, I feel it’s even more important to do your homework. What is their area of expertise? How long have they been around? How have their past publications sold? How do they distribute their books? What kind of marketing support can you expect?

Again, it’s a great time to be an author. There are many possible routes to publication. Your most difficult task may be deciding which is the best for you.

WOW: That's fabulous advice, and I myself have a goal of publishing by the end of 2014 so I personally thank you for all your insight and transparency. Thank you so much for all you do!


Interview by Crystal J. Otto

Crystal is a church musician, business owner, active journaler, writer and blogger as well as a dairy farmer. She lives in Reedsville, Wisconsin with her husband, two young children (Carmen 6 and Andre 5), three dogs, two rabbits, four little piggies, and over 200 Holsteins. Crystal and her husband, Mark, are expecting another son any day now. You can find Crystal blogging at: http://bringonlemons.blogspot.com/
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