E-Books in a Public Library? by Natalie Giauque

I’ve been asked frequently how a writer goes about getting their print books into a library system. If a writer approaches the library, they’re often turned down. Donated books frequently go straight into the library’s bookstore. What’s an author to do?

If you’re published by a large national publisher, they should take care of this for you. If you’re with a smaller, regional publisher, they may or may not have the pull to get your books in. If you’re self-published, it’s nearly impossible.

The best way is to have card-carrying library patrons request the book. If a library gets enough requests, they’ll actively seek out the book.

But what about e-books?

Yes, some libraries have an e-book catalog that allows their patrons to check out e-books. Here’s what Natalie Glauque from the Salt Lake County Library has to say:

Interested in getting your LDS e-books into the Salt Lake County Library System’s E-book OverDrive Catalog? If you are a self-published author and have the rights to your books and would like us to purchase your books, please read the following:

Self-published LDS Authors: OverDrive works with Author Solutions and Smashwords for self-published titles. If authors make their titles available through these platforms, they can be expected to be available via OverDrive.

There is no action needed for Smashwords and Author Solutions. The authors just need to ensure that their distribution partner includes OverDrive as a distribution channel.


Have any of you tried this? Leave a comment and tell us what you think.

What’s the Best Approach to Promoting My Book? by Marsha Ward

So many times, that’s a question I hear from first time authors. Here’s my answer, and you may not like it, but it’s really the truth:

After you have announced your book to your friends via your email contacts, social media sites, and twitter, and have a short “signature” below your name in your email account, the best thing to do in the promotion/marketing arena is to write the next book and get it out there.

Yeah, I know that sounds weird, but I cannot emphasize this enough. Too many people with one book available are spending prodigious amounts of time trying in vain to influence sales, instead of writing the next book.

The thing is, the availability of multiple books/short stories/novellas is what seems to drive sales better than anything. And when someone spends all their time drumming up sales for their ONE book (and thus making a pest of themselves), what’s the good of it if—when someone reads it and wants more—there is no more work available?

There IS no good that can come of that situation. After the reader exhausts their search engine capacities and their patience and doesn’t find anything else by you, your name is then forgotten—once the distastefulness of the frustrating episode fades away.

DO make sure you have a blog that you update on some kind of schedule, if only once a month. Then you have an Internet presence, and you can give periodic updates on your work-in-progress (WIP).

DO make sure you have created your Author Page at Amazon (if your book is for sale there). Set it to post messages from your blog.

DO make sure you have created your Author Page at Goodreads. Set that one to post your blog messages also.

Then, go write the next book.


Marsha Ward was born in Phoenix, Arizona, and currently lives in a pine forest in central Arizona. Marsha is an award-winning poet, freelance writer and editor whose published work includes four novels, two collaborative non-fiction books on writing, a collection of prose and poetry, and over 900 articles, essays, columns, poems and short stories. Her novels, The Man from Shenandoah, Ride to Raton, Trail of Storms, and Spinster’s Folly have received rave reviews from both readers and reviewers. Her website is at http://marshaward.com, and she regularly blogs about writing and life at “Writer in the Pines,” found at http://marshaward.blogspot.com and “The Characters in Marsha’s Head” at http://charactersinmarshashead.blogspot.com. Find her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/authormarshaward.

Read to Write by Rebecca Talley

When I give my school presentations to young aspiring writers I always tell them that in order to write, they must read.

Of course, there’s no substitute for actually writing and no matter how many books you read, you won’t be a writer unless you write. But, the best writers are generally those who read.

You can read books on writing. There’s no lack of books on how to write and you need to be careful to read each one with a discerning eye. Some books will advocate one thing and others will insist you must do something completely different. In the end, you have to decide for yourself what works for your own unique writing style.

It’s extremely valuable to read books in the genre in which you hope to write. The more books you can read, the better. As you read, pay attention to how the author uses plot, characterization, setting, pacing, and description. Ask yourself if you think the author has successfully used different techniques and why, or why not. See if the author shows you the story rather than tells it to you. Watch for voice, style, and word choice.

To really understand a genre I recommend you dissect 5-10 books. Use a notebook and detail each entry with title, author, word count, and audience. Next, write a synopsis of the story. Include passages that you found particularly clever, or clumsy, and list reasons why. Keep track of the events and how they lead up to the climax. Examine how long it takes to get to the climax and how quickly the resolution comes.

After you’ve analyzed the books, you’ll find yourself automatically searching published books for these same things. In fact, once you start to examine books in this way, you’ll never read another book the same way again. The more you can understand what’s successful, and what isn’t, in books you read, the easier it will be to apply this knowledge to your own work.

Read books with the purpose of understanding why it was publishable and you’ll soon be on your way to publishing your own book.

Here are a few books I recommend on the art of writing fiction:



Rebecca Talley grew up in Santa Barbara, CA. She now lives in rural CO on a small ranch with a dog, a spoiled horse, too many cats, and a herd of goats. She and her husband, Del, are the proud parents of ten multi-talented and wildly-creative children. Rebecca is the author of a children’s picture book “Grasshopper Pie” (WindRiver 2003), three novels, “Heaven Scent” (CFI 2008), “Altared Plans” (CFI 2009), and “The Upside of Down” (CFI 2011), and numerous magazine stories and articles. Her newest novel, Aura, was released in 2012. You can visit her blog at www.rebeccatalleywrites.blogspot.com.

Organizing a Blog Tour by Charity Bradford

We all carry an idea of what our book release will look like inside our vivid imaginations. People will be cheering and falling over each other to get to the pile of books. Our names will be plastered on billboards and all over the internet.

We wish! Sometimes being a new writer is hard only because the reality is so different from that dream in our heads. People don’t automatically know we have a book for sale. Getting the word out can be a lot of work. However, there are some things we can do to make our book release amazing—for us and for our readers.

Blog tours are a great way to start spreading the word. As an added bonus, the more “stops” you have will drive you closer to the top of search engines. Blog tours don’t have to cost a lot of money. In fact, I didn’t spend a dime on mine (not including items for the giveaway on release day), and yet they can be inventive and fun for everyone involved.

Writers and book bloggers are often more than willing to help out with your tour if you give them enough notice. Why? Because it drives new traffic to their sites. Even though it’s a win/win situation, it’s important to remember that they are doing you a favor.

Here’s what I learned while planning my blog tour:

  • Start early. I started 4 months before my release date and managed to grab the last slot on the one blog I REALLY wanted to get on for my genre.
  • Be willing to help others regardless of whether or not they can help you. Remember how your mom used to tell you to be the kind of friend you wanted to find? Yeah, it’s sort of like that.
  • Use the resources that are out there. (See some helpful links below)
  • Be professional. Even though you are working through email instead of face to face, present yourself with confidence. Craft your correspondence with the same care you crafted your queries. Be honest with your expectations. Most importantly, when someone declines, say thank you and move on.
  • Be prepared with ideas for your tour such as guest post topics, games, giveaways, etc. I started with a list of 12 different pre-planned topics.
  • Don’t be afraid of trying something new. Just because you’ve never seen it done, doesn’t mean it won’t be perfect for you and your book.
  • Take some time to create good headers and buttons that draw the reader’s attention and give a feel for your book, or pay someone else to do so.
  • Keep good records of Who, What, When, and Where so you can deliver what you promised and answer questions when someone asks about “the plan.”
  • Work a little every day so you don’t feel overwhelmed. I ended up with 34 tour stops, which is WONDERFUL, but if I had to prepare all of those posts within a month I’d curl up and die. Because I started early, I was able to work on them over two months instead of weeks. Hopefully the posts were better because of that.
  • Be flexible. If someone wants to host you, but they don’t like any of the topics you pre-planned, be willing to write a post that fits their blog and readers. In the end, you’ll be glad you did.
  • Show your gratitude. These people have just become a part of your marketing team. Find a way to thank them sincerely. My favorite way to do this is to return the favor if they have a book coming out or offer a critique if they are still working on that first project. Marketing is as much about building friendships as it is selling books.

Perhaps the greatest thing I’ve learned from this experience is that I can do this. And if I can do it, so can you. Here are the links to sites that I found most helpful while planning my blog tour.

  • There’s a great new site called The Blog Tour Exchange. It pairs you with other writers in your genre so you have a few sites to swap tour dates with. Great jumping off point.
  • Pippa Jay has a huge list of Book Reviewers you can sift through.

Good luck and have fun!

Charity Bradford lives in Northwest Arkansas with her hubby and four children, and firmly believes a smile can solve most problems. The Magic Wakes(WiDo Publishing, 2013) is her first novel. You can read her blog at Charity’s Writing Journey.

Why Punctuation Matters by Annette Lyon

People joke that I’m the Grammar Nazi.

My critique group says that I know exactly how to use commas (and then they go comatose, and tweet about it, if I try to explain why a semicolon is correct on page 5).

For that matter, rumor has it that when they speak about our group and mention members’ strengths, they bring up punctuation as my strength.

While I do know my fair share of punctuation rules, I do like to hope that in the 12 years I’ve been there I’ve been worth more than fixing comma splices. 🙂

But yes, I do care about punctuation more than the average reader or writer. Why? Because it adds nuance and meaning that nothing else can. The same words can have a totally different meaning with a few different punctuation marks.

This is true with big issues like pacing, tone, and mood.

But to make my point, I’ll go a bit over the top.

First off, read Lynne Truss’s Eats, Shoots, and Leaves (the title of which is a punctuation joke). If you think punctuation is stale and boring, read that book. I read it on the treadmill and nearly fell off, I was laughing so hard.

Truss has several other titles, including picture books. I own one of them, and my kids love it. My third grader took it to school for show-and-tell. (And probably had to explain it to the class . . .)


To make my point about how punctuation can change meaning, here are three fun examples:

1) I’ve seen this one go around Facebook under the guise of, “Punctuation saves lives!”

Let’s eat Grandpa.
(I doubt he’s very tasty)


Let’s eat, Grandpa.
(Yo, Grandpa, dinner’s ready! I’ll race ya to the table!)


2) I saw this one in college during my nerd training (read: English major studies). The professor, a woman, wrote the following sentence on the board:

Woman, without her man, is nothing.

I was rather incensed. Until she changed the punctuation.

Woman: without her, man is nothing.

And then I laughed.

3) One of Lynne Truss’s books, Twenty-odd Ducks, includes a punctuation joke right on the cover with the title. With the hyphen, the title means, “roughly twenty ducks.” If you take the hyphen out, it means, “twenty weird ducks.” So the cover has twenty funky ducks: some that are striped, one ready to go snorkeling, and so on.

Even the subtitle has a play on punctuation: Why, Punctuation Matters

On each page spread, the book has the same sentence but with different punctuation (and therefore different meanings), plus illustrations to match.

You need to get your hands on a copy. Really. As proof, I present my kids’ favorite 2-page spread from the book. It’s gruesome, which may be why they love it.

The first page shows a king strolling near a group of girls bowing and throwing flowers at him as he says, “Ah, life is grand.” The caption reads as follows:

The king walked and talked. Half an hour later, his head was cut off.

The second page makes the whole thing read as one sentence, which changes the meaning drastically:

The king walked and talked half an hour after his head was cut off.

Above the caption: three illustrations showing the king decapitated and his head talking (“Why can’t I feel my lips?”) as his body walks around.

Hysterical, if you ask me. At the end of the book, Truss manages (quite brilliantly) to write an entire letter to a school teacher on one page and then changes the meaning entirely using nothing but punctuation on the other.

Convinced that punctuation matters? I hope so. At the very least, remember point number one: punctuation saves lives.

Annette Lyon  is a Whitney Award winner, the recipient of Utah’s Best of State medal for fiction, and the author of eight novels, a cookbook, and a grammar guide, plus over a hundred magazine articles. She’s a senior editor at Precision Editing Group and a cum laude graduate from BYU with a degree in English. When she’s not writing, editing, knitting, or eating chocolate, she can be found mothering and avoiding the spots on the kitchen floor. Find her online at blog.annettelyon.com and on Twitter: @AnnetteLyon.

Need a little extra grammar help? Get Annette’s grammar book, There, Their, They’re: A No-Tears Guide to Grammar from the Word Nerd.

A Picture Book: What Do I Do Next?

I am looking for advice on publishing an LDS children’s book.  My book is in the very early stages.  I’ve written a first draft, and have an artist who has agreed to do illustrations.  Everyone who has read the story has told me I should get it published (without me asking, and without them knowing I’m thinking about doing it).  I’m just wondering if you have advice on the process of publishing an LDS childrens book.  What publisher(s) do I send it to? In what format? Thank you very much.

The children’s picture book market is a tough one—especially in the small LDS niche market. This is because, in general, the cost to print them is higher and the expected return on investment is less.

To increase the likelihood of success, do your research. First, read a lot of picture books. Study the ones that are really popular and determine what makes them so.

Second, write a unique story that lends itself to unique illustrations.

Learn all you can about the process of publishing picture books. For example, did you know that most picture books are 32 pages long—and that includes the title page.

Formatting for submitting a picture book is different than a standard fiction book. Research that so it’s easy for the editor to see where page breaks should occur.

Also, most publishers hire their own illustrators. It’s rare that they’ll use your illustrator.

Once you’re armed with a good story and knowledge of the industry, go to Deseret Book and look at the LDS picture books they have on the shelf. Write down the names of the publishers and then start submitting.


11 Things Not to Do Before Your Book Launch

I ran across this article, 11 Things Not to Do Before Your Book Launch by M.J. Rose, last month. I’m not promoting her book because I haven’t read it, but these 11 tips are pretty good. Go read them, then come back here. I’ll wait.

One of the tips that I feel strongly about and regularly expound from a soapbox is this one:

10. Don’t put the “buy the book” links on an inside page of your website where no one can see them or hide them in a corner — it should never take more than 2 seconds for someone to figure out how to buy your book. It is not crass to make it clear how to buy the book that no one has ever heard of before and that you are trying to sell.

I spend a lot of time tracking down fiction by LDS authors for this site and trying to find links to author websites or blogs. When I do finally find a site, often there is NO—as in zip, zilch, nada— information about their book(s) on it!

That just makes my brain stutter.

I know I mention this a lot, but seriously, from the number of authors who are doing this wrong, I need to mention it AGAIN.

Don’t make it so hard to find out about your books!

Put cover images in the sidebar.

Add links to Amazon or Deseret Book or some place where the books can be purchased.

Make a post or a page with a large cover image, backliner text and other information to intrigue your reader, and put a link to it prominently in the sidebar or menu tab!

Seriously, with the ease of ebooks and self-publishing now, it’s a crowded field, and even more important that you do the minimal requirements to let people know that your book exists.


Writing a Great Book Review by Tristi Pinkston

It’s fun to write a book review. It’s fun to share opinions, to hear what others have to say, to find books that we otherwise might not know about, and it’s also a great way to bring traffic to your blog. No matter your reason for writing book reviews (it might even be for school, and not for the Internet at all), these tips should be helpful. (I say “should” because, really, I can hope that they are, but I can’t know for certain.)

I’ve been a media reviewer for about five years now, and I’ve developed a style that works for me. I’ll outline it below, and then you can tweak it to fit your own needs and parameters. It’s all right if you copy it step by step, too—whatever works best for you.

1. After I’ve read the book, I let it sit for a day or two and let it percolate in my brain. I think about the plot, the characters, the things I wondered as I was reading, the questions I felt were left unanswered.

2. When I sit down to write the review, I give a synopsis of the plot in my own words. Yes, you can use the text off the back of the book, but I personally prefer to write one of my own. It presents my interpretation of the book, rather than what someone else wants me to think about the book.

3. After I’ve written the synopsis, I will make a criticism sandwich. That is to say, I share something I liked about the book, something I felt could have been stronger, and then I close with another thing I liked. I rarely just praise without mentioning something I would have improved—I am a critical reader, and so I spot things. That’s just what happens when you work as an editor. You see stuff. I think it’s important that a potential buyer know for certain what they are buying. I also feel that the author can grow and strengthen their talents as they hear what they might have done better. But I also feel that writing in and of itself is a huge accomplishment, and I don’t ever want the author to feel slammed or harshly criticized. If I can’t be helpful, constructive, and edifying, then *I shouldn’t be critiquing. Simple as that.

4. And that moves us on to my fourth point. I try hard to keep my comments helpful and edifying. If I totally hate a book and can’t find anything good to say about it, I will contact the author or the publicist—whoever sent it to me—and I will explain to them that the book didn’t quite fit me, and that I’d like to pass it on to another reviewer. This is the most fair way for me to handle it—I don’t believe in ripping people up, but instead, I believe in allowing them to learn and grow from their experiences.

5. I always like to talk about how the book made me feel or the things it made me think about. That’s what makes the review unique to me. Anyone can post the text from the back of the book, but it’s hearing what the reviewer felt while they were reading that will sell the book.

6. I always, always include a purchase link to the book. The book review should tell about the book, it should tell how I feel about the book, and it should give my reader a way to buy the book when they are done reading my review.

In a nutshell, those are my tips for writing a great book review. Some reviewers like to include the author’s bio, or interview questions with the author, or book club-style questions. All of that is great. The main thing I can offer is this—be yourself and share how the book impacted you. When you do that, you will rarely go wrong.

*I do want to make one clarifying statement—there are some book reviewers who do like to mention all the negatives and things they didn’t like, and I’m not saying they shouldn’t do that. It’s their choice. I’m explaining what works for me, and every reviewer will have their own philosophy and their own take on what makes a review great.


Note from LDSP: Book reviews can make or break a book. Honesty is vital, and so is civility. I like Tristi’s take on this. Also, if you’re reviewing a book on your blog as part of a virtual book tour, or just for fun, it only takes a couple of extra minutes to post that same review on Amazon and GoodReads. Authors and publishers appreciate it!


Tristi Pinkston is the author of seventeen (and counting!) published books, including the Secret Sisters mystery series. In addition to being a prolific author, Tristi also provides a variety of author services, including editing and online writing instruction. You can visit her at www.tristipinkston.blogspot.com or her website at www.tristipinkston.com.

Publishing a Poem

Good Morning,

My name is [Bob]. I wrote a poem called, “[Bob’s [Poem]” . The poem was electronically filed online to the US Copyright Office in Washington, DC … where I paid $35.  Once it was copyright to the U.S. Copyright Office, I sent this information to the news media, and Oprah Winfrey, and CNN network, just to see their response.

Please tell me what you think about my … poem. [atttached] I would like to get the poem published. The information concerning everything about the poem is in the attachment.

Thank you!

I don’t review work here at this site. I also don’t help to get specific projects published—except for the Christmas Short Story Contest and their resulting anthologies.

In general, your best bet to publish a poem is through a magazine that publishes poetry. Go to your local library and look at the current year’s Poet’s Market or Writer’s Market. Look through that to find magazines that use the type of poetry you’ve written. Follow their guidelines to submit.

Where Do I Find an LDS Editor?

I asked myself this question last February and after looking at many sites in Utah and outside, too, I wasn’t able to find what I was looking for. All of the editing services I found were doing it the old-fashioned way of having the writer print a manuscript on paper and mailing it to them. They would then mark it up and mail it back.

I wanted someone who used the “change tracking” and “review/comment” utilities in most word processors to do the work. I wanted to just email the editor my document, have them mark it up and email it back and I then work the edits in the document, accepting some and rejecting others.

Finally, I went onto KSL.com and posted a job with these qualifications. I received about 25 hits of which five were qualified. I then sent them a document to edit and they sent it back. I made my choice from that.

It worked out very well. We went through the entire book and now it [self-published].

Makes me wonder how you do this.

I pretty much do it the way you described. Almost all my work is electronic until we get to the press proof stage.

As for finding an LDS editor, they’re all over the place. Editors: Want to put your links in the comments?

Writing Prompt: Let’s think Christmas!

Let’s do a Christmas writing prompt!

Hmmm, what should we do? Oh, I know! Write a short story that has something to do with Christmas. Any genre. Positive and family friendly. Maximum word count: 3,000.

Wait. This sounds a bit familiar.

Oh, that’s right! It’s time for the Annual LDSP Christmas Story Contest!!!

If you participate, leave a comment and let us know how it went. If you’re really brave, submit your story to our Christmas Story Contest! Deadline: November 30th! If you want, feel free to encourage your blog visitors to participate and link back here to this post.


(P.S. Yesterday was the official release date for Checkin’ It Twice, volume 2 of the best stories collected through these contests!)

Don’t Give Up! by Rebecca Talley

As writers, it’s easy to get discouraged. Don’t.

With housework, full-time jobs, kids, appointments, volunteer opportunities, political involvement, grocery shopping, caring for aging parents, feeding animals, going to school, or a multitude of other commitments that eat away at writing time, sometimes it’s hard to not give up.

Add in rejection letters, time spent waiting to hear from an editor or agent, lack of support from family members or friends, and dismal news about the economy and you might wonder why you’d want to keep writing.

It’s simple: We don’t choose writing, it chooses us. For those of us who write, writing is an integral part of who we are. We think about characters and plotlines while we shower, drive our kids to appointments, or wait at the doctor’s office. We have voices in our heads. We turn on the light in the middle of the night to record a dream in our writer’s notebook. We research exotic locales, poisons, and ways to steal money all in an effort to make our stories realistic.

We have sticky notes on the computer, the walls, the bathroom mirror. We interview our characters and ponder on their deepest, darkest secrets.

We live to write and write to live.

And the good news is that publishers need our manuscripts to stay in business. Though some publishers may be scaling back, books are still being published. New authors break into the market every year and existing authors continue to publish books.

Yes, the writing world is difficult. Writing a novel is strenuous work and takes time and dedication. Marketing that book is arduous and not only takes time and dedication, it also takes a great deal of patience and persistence. But, if your dream is to be published, don’t give up. Keep at it.
Someone once said that the difference between an unpublished and a published author is persistence.

Never surrender. Believe in yourself and in your work. Keep honing your skills and someday, you will see your name in print.

When you feel like giving up, what do you do to keep yourself motivated and believing that you’ll make it?


Rebecca Talley grew up in Santa Barbara, CA. She now lives in rural CO on a small ranch with a dog, a spoiled horse, too many cats, and a herd of goats. She and her husband, Del, are the proud parents of ten multi-talented and wildly-creative children. Rebecca is the author of a children’s picture book “Grasshopper Pie” (WindRiver 2003), three novels, “Heaven Scent” (CFI 2008), “Altared Plans” (CFI 2009), and “The Upside of Down” (CFI 2011), and numerous magazine stories and articles. You can visit her blog at www.rebeccatalleywrites.blogspot.com.

Dealing With Negative Reviews by Whitney Boyd

As an LDS author, my purpose in writing was to create a clean, fun, flirty chick lit book that would appeal to both LDS and non-LDS audiences. I wanted my books to be realistic to life, but not to have excessive bad language, explicit sex scenes or  anything too crude or vulgar. At the same time, I knew it couldn’t be a book that was all butterflies and roses. Life, even an LDS life, does not have people walking around saying “darn” and smiling in every situation. So, I wrote my books. I made them as clean as I could, but still realistic. Words like “crap” and “freaking” are words that I occasionally use and do not find offensive. Basically I kept everything PG according to my temple-recommend-holding-returned-missionary-living-in-the-real-world moral code.

Then the reviews started coming. There are three types of reviews, for those who aren’t familiar with it. The majority were super positive (which I love!). There were a few super negative (which make me cry. Seriously), and then here and there a couple of the blah in between reviews where they say “It was a good book, but meh.”  Now, here’s where this gets interesting. The negative reviews I received were written by both LDS and non-LDS people. The LDS people expected the book to be more LDS and “Molly Mormon”. They didn’t like the border-line crude language in parts, nor the implication that one of the secondary characters in my Hollywood novel was gay.  They felt that I, as an LDS writer, should have made the main character 100% LDS in every word and thought. On the other hand, the non-LDS commentors wanted the book to be more “Fifty Shades of Grey”. They wanted the characters to do more than just kiss. They wanted a book like hundreds of other romance novels out there.

I read these reviews and felt conflicted. Was I right in my purpose?  I wrote a clean, fun, flirty book that a lot of members and non-members love. But why then were there a few people that strongly disliked it?

It took a little while, but finally I had an epiphany… I cannot please everyone. Simple. As much as I want to be the most beloved author in the world, that is impossible. Even authors who have sold millions of copies of their novels, like Stephenie Meyers, Sophie Kinsella or J.K Rowling, have received negative reviews. I know a lot of LDS people who refuse to read the “Twilight” books because they don’t adhere to church standards. Then there are even more LDS people who love the books and the movies and think they are great.

So what’s the moral of this story? Write your book. Figure out who you want your audience to be. And then be proud. You created something that nobody else could have created! As President Roosevelt said, “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”

Whitney Boyd, author of TANNED, TONED AND TOTALLY FAKING IT and soon to be released ICED ROMANCE. You can read her blog at whitneyjboyd.blogspot.com.

A Snowball’s Chance in Marketing by Michaelbrent Collings

I recently received an email from someone on my “official Michaelbrent Collings Facebook Fan Page” (which is still kinda weird to have, truth be known), asking in essence what he could do to sell his books to more than just his close personal friends and family… and promising me a kiss on the lips if I could help him out.

Now, first of all, please let me be clear: if you know a famous author, or a successful author, or even a semi-famous or semi-successful author, this is generally not the way to get help.  It is considered “solicitation” in a lot of cases and is illegal in many states.  However, because he and I have had a lot of previous interaction and he buys all my books and seems nice and has never (as yet) tried to make a lampshade out of my face-skin, I answered.  And I thought the answer might be germane to others who have gotten over that huge first hurdle of getting a book published, but now face the surprisingly bigger hurdle of actually trying to sell the durn-dang-darn thing!

Rest easy.  It never gets easy.  I’m one of Amazon’s bestselling horror writers, nearly every book I write hits one of their major bestsellers lists and most of them stay there… and I still have to spend about 40% of my time doing PR work and getting the word out.  So it’s always going to be a job, folks.  But… well… here’s what I told my fan:

If you ever want to dissuade someone from helping you, promise them a kiss on the lips.

Seriously, the thing of it is that there’s no easy answer. It’s like rolling a snowball down a mountain, I suppose. The bad news is that at first… you have a snowball and it’s tiny and it rolls really freakin’ slow and you’re going to be coaxing it along every step of the way. Telling people you know about your book at parties, random gatherings, funerals. Telling people you DON’T know about it at bus stops, waiting in line at the supermarket, funerals. Carrying around business cards with your website on it. A great tactic I like to use is engaging people in conversation and then saying slyly, “So what kind of books do you like to read?” after they say anything I can use to segue into that. Like a statement about their baby, or the weather, or the fact that they hate reading. You basically have to hear everything as an invitation to talk about your writing.

This does not get you invited to the cool parties.

The bad news is, at the end of the day you still have to push that freakin’ snowball along constantly. The GOOD news is… the bigger it gets, the more surface area it has. And that means that eventually it will start picking up snow at a faster rate. Hopefully.

Again, there’s no easy answer. Talk to people you don’t know. Google book review sites, looking for folks that might be interested in reviewing your novel and offer to send them a free e-copy. Google podcasts and internet radio stations that might want to talk to authors of books like yours and send them your SHORT (like, three sentence) bio and offer to chat with them at their convenience. Push that snowball.

Patience. Work. Tenacity.


Now, again, this is not the fistful of flowers and sunshine that most people want to get when they ask about selling their books.  But the reality is that the hardest work starts when you type “The End” and turn off the computer.  The difference between a great author and a successful one is that the successful one knows how to get out and sell, to work the system and network and make contacts.  Anyone can do it, I think, but precious few people really want to.

Be one of the ones that does.


Michaelbrent Collings has written numerous bestselling novels, including his latest YA fantasy Billy: Seeker of Powers.  His wife and mommy think he is a can that is chock-full of awesome sauce.  Check him out at www.facebook.com/MichaelbrentCollings or  michaelbrentcollings.com.

Zombies? Oh, My!

I get really interesting emails here at LDS Publisher. Most of the time they are spam and I just delete them—but every so often, I just have to share. Like this one:

Hi there!

I stopped by ldspublisher.com earlier today and noticed you tend to write about zombies from time to time.  Because of that, I thought it might be worth it to share an article with you published by [redacted] with detailed information on how to prepare a barn or garage for the zombie apocalypse…

It goes on from there and includes a link to their website that features a company that builds barns and storage sheds.  I did a search on my site for “zombie” and really, there’s not much there. And none of them are me writing about zombies.


This is clever. They got me to click their link.

So what does this have to do with writing? When you’re brainstorming about marketing and promo material for your book, be clever. Tie your book into something that captures the interest of bloggers or other readers. Not necessarily zombies (although that always gets my attention) but anything that’s currently in the public eye.

What are some tie-ins that you seen or used that were a clever way to get some extra attention for a book? Tell us in the comments the title of the book and the tie-in.

Finding a Good Editor by Tristi Pinkston

Part 1: How to Work with an Editor

[LDSP note: So many of my clients have made a bad match with an editor. I once had a self-published author who approached me about traditionally publishing or distributing their book. After reading the first chapter, I told them they needed to have it edited. They told me they’d already spent $2000 on an edit. And it was horrid!!! Incomplete sentences, verb tense issues, punctuation… My heart just broke for them. Editing is very much a “buyer beware” situation. I am very glad Tristi wrote this post and I support every sentence 100%!]

Yesterday, I blogged about how to work with an editor. Today, I’m blogging about how to look for—and find—a good editor. Perhaps I went about that backwards.

As a note of explanation, yesterday’s post was applicable to every author, whether they are self-published or traditionally published. Today’s post will be most beneficial to authors who either self-publish or are looking for a freelance editor to help them prepare to submit traditionally—once you sign with a publishing company, they will assign an editor to you, so you will not need to search for one.

So, let us begin. You’ve finished your manuscript and you’ve sent it through some trusted readers. You’ve incorporated their feedback, and you are ready to send it to an editor. How should you go about this? What should you avoid?

There are some fantastic editors out there, some pretty good editors out there, and some (quite frankly) frightening editors out there. About ten of my clients were badly burned by their editors, came hunting for help in desperation, found me (makes it sound like they had to be desperate to end up choosing me …) and sent me the manuscript after their editor had worked it over. In each of these cases, I have been appalled at the kinds of mistakes left in the manuscript. No editor worthy of the title would ever have left a manuscript in that condition. So it is with that in mind that  I write this blog today—to help you avoid that kind of frustration.

How do you find an editor?

You can go on Google and do a search for freelance editors, but word of mouth always has been and always will be the best way to find a good or a service. People love to talk about their good experiences and their bad. Ask your author friends who they use and recommend. Ask them who they do not recommend. And after they have given you a name or two, ask them the following things:

1. Did the editor treat them well?

2. Did the editor charge them a fair price?

3. Did the editor turn the job around when promised?

4. Did they deliver the kind of edit they promised?

5. Did the editor make any mistakes in the edit, and if so, were they apologetic, or did they get defensive about it?

6. Did the editor explain things clearly? Were they open to questions, and did they answer them respectfully?

7.  If they could change one thing about their editor, what would they change?

After you’ve spoken with your friend and you feel good about the answers they gave, visit that editor’s website and find out the following things:

1. Have they posted a list of books they edited? Are you familiar with any of their previous work? Note: Some brand-new editors are awesome, so if they don’t have a huge list of titles. That’s not necessarily a bad sign.

2. Are their rates compatible with what you can afford, and are they reasonable? Reasonable: $1.00 a page is not unheard of for a new editor, while $3.00 is pretty typical for a seasoned editor. The amount of work that will go into the edit also comes into play—some editors charge a little more if the edit will be complex.

3. Do they offer a sample of their work? Many editors will do a few pages for free, or will do twenty pages for a reasonable fee. This gives you the chance to see if you like their style, but it also gives them the chance to see if they like working with you.

4. Do they work with your genre? This is key! Don’t waste your time querying an editor who doesn’t work with (or enjoy reading) the genre you write, or who doesn’t do the type of edit you need.

If you still like what you see, contact that editor and ask them any other questions that might have risen to the surface. These might include:

1. How long does an edit usually take?

2. Do you ask for money down?

3. How long do I have to pay my bill? What methods of payment do you accept?

4. What system do you have in place just in case one of us is unhappy with the arrangement? (The author should be happy with the editor, but the editor should also be happy with the author.)

5. When is your next available slot?

6. What format should I use when sending my manuscript?

Some of these questions might be answered on the editor’s website, but feel free to ask any others that might be important to you.

You may find the most awesome editor right off the bat and fall madly in love with them and never leave them, or you may find that search to be a little more tricky. To help weed out the editors who will not be as beneficial to you, I suggest:

1. Take them up on that free sample, if offered. If they don’t offer one, be gutsy and ask. Say, “My friend (insert friend’s name here) recommended you, and I’d like to see if our styles are compatible. Would you do a three-page free sample for me?” If they give you lip, they probably aren’t the editor for you anyway. If you don’t care for their style from those three pages, you can thank them for their time and be under no obligation to hire them.

2. If you get a sample back and it just doesn’t seem right to you, ask another editor for a sample, and send in the same segment. Then compare the two. Of course they’ll each point out different things when it comes to the subjective parts of editing, but they should both find the same typos, etc. If you find that the first sample doesn’t match the second and is missing several important corrections (or the second sample doesn’t match the first), that will tell you who is going to be the more thorough editor.

3. Google the name of the editor and see who might have posted positive or negative comments about them online.

4. Make sure you have an out if the editor didn’t come with enough recommendations to make you feel comfortable. Start with a fifty-page edit, and if you like what you see, finish it out. Any time you have doubt, start with a partial. You don’t want to get halfway through an edit, decide you can’t stand each other, still have money owing on one side or work owed on the other, and create a really awkward parting of the ways.

This needs to go two ways. If the author can’t work with the editor, or if the editor can’t work with the author, either one of them should have the option to pull out. But discuss this before you begin any work. Know what the parameters are for that type of situation.

Now, I’m probably making this all sound a lot more complicated than it really has to be. Most authors get referrals from their friends, they trust that editor, they work well together, and they don’t have any issues whatsoever. But we don’t all have author friends with great editors, or maybe that editor is booked and we need to find someone else. These tips will hopefully help you to narrow down what you need and aid in the search for that editor you will love to work with for years to come.

Tristi Pinkston is the author of nine published books, including the Secret Sisters mystery series. In addition to being a prolific author, Tristi also provides a variety of author services, including editing and online writing instruction. You can visit her at www.tristipinkston.blogspot.com or her website at www.tristipinkston.com.

How to Work with an Editor by Tristi Pinkston

Believe me, I know how you feel. You’ve written a book, it’s taken you months/years/decades, you have large chunks of it memorized because you’ve gone over it so many times, and when you look at it, you see a big pile of blood, sweat, and tears.

It represents all the nights you went without sleep, all the television shows you gave up, all the nights out with friends you missed, the stomachaches you got . . . you have given your all to this book, and now it’s time to turn it over to someone else. You’re tense. You’re nervous. You wonder what they’re going to say. You are, understandably, on pins and needles, and yes, you’ve got your barriers up a bit. You don’t want to get hurt, and so you go into the edit with caution. Again, believe me, I know. I’ve been there.

I’ve also been on the editor’s side of the table. Actually, quite a lot more than I have the author’s side—I have written 14 published books, but I’ve edited a couple hundred books, so the ratio is a little lopsided there.

I’d like to share with you some things I’ve learned about the editor/author relationship from both sides. It’s my hope to help you avoid some of the pitfalls that a lot of new authors (and myself) have encountered on their journeys.

1. The editor is not your enemy.

I have to tell you, I’ve had some clients approach me like they thought I was a lion, and that everything I said was geared specifically to hurt them. There was this one experience, a few years back …

The editor’s job is to take what you have created and help you make it better. That is the only thing on the editor’s mind. They don’t wake up in the morning, rub their hands together, and say, “How can I make my author miserable today?” You might feel wounded when they ask you to rewrite a sentence or to rework a character’s motivation, but in the end, they are doing their best to help you look your best.

2. The editor is usually right.

If you have chosen a good editor (and again, we’ll be discussing that tomorrow), he or she has done their research and they know what they’re talking about. You can put a level of trust in them that they have looked up the answer to your particular question and they are leading you in the right direction. Good editors double-check when they have a question. They ask questions of other editors as need be. They keep Google and Merriam-Webster and Dictionary.com up on their computers so they can be sure that what they’re giving you is their very best effort.

3. The editor is sometimes wrong.

Editors are humans, and humans make mistakes. There are times when your editor may make a correction that you know isn’t right. The way to handle this is to talk to them respectfully and explain your point of view, including links to your source, if available. If you have a good working relationship with your editor, based on the respect you show each other, you will be able to discuss it professionally and come to an answer that works for both of you.

Whenever there’s a disagreement, it’s important for both sides to share their feelings. Again, this should be done professionally, with the understanding that neither side is trying to be hurtful.

If you know you’re right, don’t hesitate to make a stand. Most editors are professionals and they will listen to you without the need for an unpleasant “discussion.” If you are proven wrong, be willing to concede the point.

4. It’s personal to the author, but it’s a job to the editor.

Editors take their jobs very seriously. They think about their authors, they’ll fall asleep mulling over plots, they might be out grocery shopping and all of a sudden realize that they need to go back and tweak that one sentence. They care very much about what they do. However, at the end of the day, they don’t have the depth of emotional attachment to the project that the author has.

The author knows that book inside and out. Like I mentioned above, it represents so much more to them than just the story on the page. They can look it at and say, “I remember the day I wrote that scene.”

When an editor makes a cut in a scene that’s very important to the author, it can feel like the author’s throat has been cut instead. It’s painful, especially when the author worked really hard on it. But keep in mind, the editor is making the suggestion based on what works for your story, and what works in the current market. Don’t take it personally. Step back and think of it from a different perspective. Be willing to consider that maybe it does need to go.

5. Ask Questions If You Don’t Understand

Your editor is there to help you, and if they make a comment you don’t understand, ask them to clarify. If they aren’t being clear, they aren’t doing the best job for you. Don’t feel stupid if you don’t get what they mean—they might use specialized editing terms you don’t know, or perhaps they are just approaching it from a different angle. Any time you are unsure what they are saying, ask for clarification. You should understand their viewpoint on every aspect of the edit.

6. You Are the Steward of Your Story

At the end of the day, this is your story. It’s up to you to decide how it should go. The editor is there to help you make it even better, but it’s your task to implement those changes. The trick is to understand what changes are absolutely crucial to make (I have had clients reject some very basic grammar and spelling changes … um, don’t do that) and what are, perhaps, more a matter of personal opinion. I urge you not to disregard good advice just because it’s not what you were thinking. Weigh everything that is said to you carefully. Put ego to the side and be willing to see your book from a reader’s perspective and from the market’s perspective. At the same time, know what’s most important to you and what you’re willing to sacrifice and what you’re not.

There are times when you will need to make a certain change in order to conform to what your publisher has asked. They might say to cut an entire scene that means a lot to you, or to revamp a plot line that is important to you. In a case like that, be willing to talk with them and see if you can compromise. Why do they want you to make the change, and can you arrive at a solution that will please both of you? Sometimes it’s a matter of making the motivation more clear, or heightening the conflict, or making the scene less filler and more usable content. Talk it over.

The editor/author relationship is one of the most important you will form in the writing industry. Authors need editors. Editors need authors . . . kind of hard to be an editor without something to edit. When both parties approach their jobs with professionalism, with an attitude of teamwork, with the willingness to put ego aside to work toward the greater good (and what greater good is there but an awesome book for the world to read), it can be an unbeatable combination.

Come back tomorrow when I discuss how to find an editor and how to make sure they’ll be a good fit for you.


Tristi Pinkston is the author of nine published books, including the Secret Sisters mystery series. In addition to being a prolific author, Tristi also provides a variety of author services, including editing and online writing instruction. You can visit her at www.tristipinkston.blogspot.com or her website at www.tristipinkston.com.

Pre-NaNo Plotting Prep

I have found that I do so much better at NaNoWriMo when I have a basic idea and outline ready to go. Nothing huge or in-depth, but just a bare bones sketch of what I want to write about.

I was googling for ideas and found this great blog post about outlining. If you need some ideas, or just a kick in the pants, go take a look:


P.S. NaNo starts in 12 days!

P.P.S. Are you doing NaNo this year? If so, let us know how to find you so we can all be friends.

What is Your Story Goal? by Rebecca Talley

The main character in a novel must have a goal. He must have something he works toward, something he desperately wants and if he does not obtain that something his life will not be the same.

Every novel should have a story goal and that goal should be clearly stated for the reader. In my novel, Heaven Scent, Liza is the main character. Her father has become obsessed with his career and has seemingly abandoned his family. Liza desperately wants her father back in her life. She wants her family to be as it once was. Throughout the book, she works toward the goal of trying to restore her family to its once happy state. In the first chapter, Liza clearly states this goal and she continues to restate it throughout the book.

Readers need to know what the goal is and what’s at stake if the goal is not obtained. Without a clear story goal, the reader gets lost and never fully engages with the story.

To determine the story goal you need to know what it is that your character wants. A new job? A husband? A child? A new house? Fame? Riches?

Once you know what your character wants, you need to know why. Why is this goal so important? What’s the underlying reason the character wants this goal? In Recovering Charles by Jason Wright the main character, Luke Millward, wants to reconcile with his father. His search to do so leads him to New Orleans in the aftermath of Katrina. Throughout the book, the reader wonders if Luke will be able to move beyond the past and repair his relationship with his father.

The story goal, or the desire to achieve it, propels the story forward. Without one, the story will flounder and finally fizzle. As a writer, you must be aware of the story goal and design smaller, scene goals that work toward the overall story goal.

Make sure your story has a clearly defined goal and you’ll not only have an easier time writing toward it, you’ll have readers anxious to read to the end to see if the character accomplished his goal.


Rebecca Talley grew up in Santa Barbara, CA. She now lives in rural CO on a small ranch with a dog, a spoiled horse, too many cats, and a herd of goats. She and her husband, Del, are the proud parents of ten multi-talented and wildly-creative children. Rebecca is the author of a children’s picture book “Grasshopper Pie” (WindRiver 2003), three novels, “Heaven Scent” (CFI 2008), “Altared Plans” (CFI 2009), and “The Upside of Down” (CFI 2011), and numerous magazine stories and articles. You can visit her blog at www.rebeccatalleywrites.blogspot.com.

Guidelines for Writing LDS Fiction by Karen Jones Gowen, WiDo Publishing

The LDS fiction genre encompasses everything from inspirational novels where characters accept the gospel and get baptized, to historical fiction about elements of Church history, and a whole lot in between.

The LDS fiction label can be a fairly clean novel written by an LDS author, with no Mormon characters or references, somewhat like the label “Christian fiction” might be given to one just like it. It can also be ascribed to a novel with some swearing or sexual scenes (not graphic however), but that contains Mormon characters and themes.

Surely there are books listed on Amazon under LDS Fiction that a reader might be offended by, and others that are so squeaky clean and spiritually uplifting as to be dull for those seeking the kind of conflict, tension and turmoil that a novel requires.

By now you may be thinking: But isn’t this a post on guidelines for writing LDS fiction? Then why is she essentially telling us there are no guidelines?

The fact is that ebooks have changed the guidelines. It used to be that LDS Fiction was what you found when you browsed an LDS bookstore.  The stores set the limits, sometimes restricting them so severely that shoppers got frustrated by the same formulaic genre.  Stores decide what they will or won’t carry. If it doesn’t suit them, they don’t order it.

For this reason, WiDo Publishing stopped accepting manuscripts that fit the strictest definition of LDS Fiction—Mormon characters and themes and squeaky clean. Reason being, there weren’t enough LDS bookstores around to sell them to, if you took Deseret Bookstores out of the picture. And other bookstores didn’t want “Mormon books.”

Hooray for the Kindle! We wish we could call up all those talented authors who submitted their LDS Fiction to us, because we can now sell it. In fact, it sells very well through the Kindle, which is how we distribute our ebooks.

Through the maze of inappropriateness that gluts their selections, LDS Kindle owners are desperately seeking clean fiction for themselves and their families. Even if it’s not “squeaky clean” or not strictly fiction, WiDo will label a book LDS Fiction if it fits three or more of the following criteria:

  1. It’s written by an LDS author.
  2. It contains Mormon characters.
  3. It deals with themes that are based on true principles.
  4. There’s restraint used in language and scenes, although we can’t always promise squeaky clean.
  5. We think LDS readers will enjoy it for all of the above reasons, and because they are seeking out the best books.

By these guidelines, Jewish author Mirka M.G. Breen would no doubt be surprised to see that her middle-grade novel, The Voice of Thunder, about two ten-year-old girls in Jerusalem during the Six-Day War, is categorized by WiDo as, among other things, LDS Fiction.

And those of you who sent us manuscripts we turned down back when “we can’t sell LDS Fiction,” please submit to us again. Because now we can.


About Karen Jones Gowen: Born and raised in central Illinois, the daughter of a Methodist minister from Indiana and a school teacher from Nebraska, Karen Jones Gowen has down-to-earth Midwestern roots. Karen and her husband Bruce have lived in Utah, Illinois, California and Washington, currently residing near Salt Lake City. They are the parents of ten children. Not surprisingly, family relationships are a recurring theme in Gowen’s writing. She is the managing editor for WiDo Publishing and the author of four books, all of which fit loosely into the category of LDS Fiction.

Karen’s website: karenjonesgowen.com

WiDo Publishing website: widopublishing.com

When Passive Voice is OKAY by Annette Lyon

Don’t use passive voice; use active voice.

Ever heard that writing rule?

It’s a good guideline, for sure, but like any writing rule, exceptions abound.

First, what is passive voice?

Passive voice shows up when something or someone is being acted upon rather than doing the acting. It’s usually a weak way to construct a sentence or a scene because your characters are like chess pieces being moved around and having stuff thrown at them rather than actually doing anything themselves.

Often passive voice can be changed with a little tweaking, and doing so almost always results in a stronger sentence.


Tom was hit by a car.

This is passive because the car is the one actually doing the action. Tom is the recipient of the effect.

The car hit Tom.

That’s active, but it’s still a bit telly.

Since the first sentence (Tom was hit by a car) was rather non-specific (ie telly), let’s do better on both counts. Let’s show AND use active voice:

A red Jeep squealed around the corner, its headlights staring Tom in the face. He dove for the sidewalk, but too late; the grill smacked into his torso, and tires rolled over his legs. A pop and a crunch, and then silence, save for Tom’s heavy breathing and a sensation of shock eclipsing the pain in his broken legs.

Now the car (or, the Jeep, since we’re adding specificity) is acting. Tom’s still on the receiving end, but the action is much better.

Passive voice is one reason writers are cautioned to avoid WAS constructions. They aren’t all passive voice (contrary to what some writers teach or have been taught, haha—that was passive voice), but it’s a clue that you might be dealing with it.

So here’s a fun detail: sometimes you WANT passive voice.

1) Use passive voice when the common sentence construction demands it and changing the sentence to active would call attention to itself. Such as:

He got arrested.

Sure, that’s passive, but it’s also the way that term is generally used. Pointing out that police officers did the arresting is kinda silly, and it would detract.

(Note that here and in many cases, it’s GET/GOT that’s the key for noting passive voice, not WAS.)

2) When you’re deliberately trying to avoid pointing out the person/thing who acted.

Pay attention to commercials or company communications: they rarely accept responsibility for anything, and they do so by using passive voice:

“We regret that your washing machine was improperly installed” keeps it passive and the focus on the washer.

They’d never say, “We regret that our technician installed your washer improperly,” because then the spotlight is on their shortcomings and gives the customer ammunition for a refund.

You can do the same thing in your writing. Mysteries are rife with passive voice when we don’t know WHO done it: “The victim was stabbed five times.” Trying to avoid passive voice there would feel a bit acrobatic and awkward to the reader.

Another case to use passive voice: when you’re deliberately trying to hide the person who is acting.

“Mom, one of the car’s headlights got smashed,” a teen says, and then slinks to their room, hoping Mom assumes it was a hit-and-run in a parking lot or something, even though the teen is the one who busted the light by driving into a lamp post.

Or when a teacher walks in to see chaos and says, “What’s going on here?”and the class replies, “The same thing that happens every day.”

(Careful not to point out that THEY are the ones doing whatever they shouldn’t be.)

To sum up:

  • Passive voice is when the sentence shows what is happening to who/what but avoids using the subject of the action as the subject of the sentence.Most of the time, passive voice is weak and should be avoided.
  • WAS/GOT tend to signal passive voice.
  • But not all sentences with those words are passive voice.
  • Use passive voice when you (or a character) want to conceal who is doing the action.

Okay, so let’s try it: After Thanksgiving, I’m amazed at how much pie GOT EATEN.

Ahem. (See? With passive voice, I admit to nothing . . .)


Annette Lyon  is a Whitney Award winner, the recipient of Utah’s Best of State medal for fiction, and the author of eight novels, a cookbook, and a grammar guide, plus over a hundred magazine articles. She’s a senior editor at Precision Editing Group and a cum laude graduate from BYU with a degree in English. When she’s not writing, editing, knitting, or eating chocolate, she can be found mothering and avoiding the spots on the kitchen floor. Find her online at blog.annettelyon.com and on Twitter: @AnnetteLyon.

Need a little extra grammar help? Get Annette’s grammar book, There, Their, They’re: A No-Tears Guide to Grammar from the Word Nerd.

Writing Fear by Michaelbrent Collings

As a horror writer, I am often asked where I get my ideas. (I’m also asked about the voices in my head—sometimes by the other voices in my head, which is weird—but that’s a whole other therapy session.) And the sad answer is that there’s no one answer. The ideas I get can come from anywhere: a radio piece I found interesting, a disturbing dream I had after too much hot sauce on my tacos, or just me watching a movie and thinking “they did that wrong.”

That being said, all of the scary things I write about have one thing in common: they scare me.

An example: my most recent horror novel, Apparition, has been on Amazon’s list of best-selling supernatural horror for months now. It’s about a family in which the mother goes insane and tries to stab her children to death. The father stops her, and she turns the knife on herself. Months later, the father is trying to cope with the loss of his wife, the kids are trying to get over it, they’re trying to heal… and the father starts feeling urges to kill his children. Hijinks ensue.

Now a lot of people have asked how a devoted family man (which I am) could come up with something so messed up… something that revolves around the destruction of a family. And the answer is, of course, that that is the reason it’s so scary. It is a story about the destruction of something I hold most dear. So how could it fail to be terrifying? Horror critics all over seem to agree with me (I’ll avoid the temptation to spew quotes about how cool the book is; besides, I’m sure you’ve already bought it by now).

The thing with horror is that it is a universal element of life. We are born crying, terrified of a world which suddenly shows itself to be much larger, brighter, and more daunting than the womb we think of as our universe during our early months. Boo-boos and owies are the stitching in the tapestry of our childhood. Adolescence is as purely terrifying a time as any I can think of. And then we grow up, have children of our own… and suddenly we fear for more than just our own selves.

I don’t mean to paint a maleficent picture here. The fear we all experience is just that: an experience. And we can either use it to tear us down, or we can create stories about it that meld us together like warriors against a dark invading army. We tell stories of terror so that we may come to control our fear. We whisper ghost tales around the campfire so that, come the dawn (and assuming all the campers have survived), we can clap hands and celebrate and draw tighter together as a community.

Fear is uncomfortable. But it is a fact of life. It is a facet of growth.

Where do I get my scary ideas from? From life. From the loss of the things most important to me. And so I tell stories about those things, in the hopes that by doing so I can ward off the losses, or at least cope better when they inevitably come. My stories of terror come from my own fear. But like many, they are really stories of hope. Tales in which I pray to be greater than the fear that I know must come upon me.

Halloween season is upon us. A month long celebration of all things dark and gruesome, a night of terror. But it is also a night of treats. We brave the darkness, we step onto paths decorated with the incarnations of our deepest fears… and in so doing, we may (we hope) win the prize.

Happy Halloween, everyone!


Michaelbrent Collings has written numerous bestselling novels, including his latest YA fantasy Billy: Seeker of Powers.  His wife and mommy think he is a can that is chock-full of awesome sauce.  Check him out at www.facebook.com/MichaelbrentCollings or michaelbrentcollings.com.

Writing Prompt: An Online Class

Once again I steal from John Waverly (aka Ferguson)…

John found some links to a creative writing class by Brandon Sanderson! (Yes, the SAME Brandon Sanderson that won last year’s Whitney Award for Best Speculative Fiction.)

So for today’s writing prompt—and preparation for NaNo—first go to John’s site and read his post. Then follow the links to one of Brandon’s lectures.

I recommend you choose one that features skills or areas where you think you may be weak or that will help you pre-plot for NaNo.

Let us know in the comments which class you watched, which you liked best, how it helped you, etc.

3 Things Authors Should Know about Publicity by Josh Johnson from Cedar Fort

First-time authors often think the biggest part of their work is done when they put the finishing touches on their manuscript with their editor and send it off to the printer. However, they don’t always recognize that they, as the authors, can promote their book and interact with fans and readers—in person and online—after their book comes out.

Here are a few quick things that we wish all new authors would learn about publishing and promotion.

1) The future is online, and the future is now.

For the last decade, media and bloggers have been emphasizing the importance of digital promotion and talked about how the Internet would revolutionize the way that people consume news, information and content. But guess what?  The future they have been predicting for years has already arrived. Yahoo News already has a greater readership than the New York Times!

Authors that want to promote their work and realize their potential need to be engaged with their fans online. Whether that means a blog or website, or even just social media fan pages like Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter, engagement online is key.

2) And I should care…why?

Author engagement in any shape or form is really essential to helping a book do well.  Establishing relationships with readers will keep them coming back for more and help spread the word to more readers. Authors really are the ones who will promote their book better than anyone else could.

There have been barrels of ink spilled about the importance of self promotion online, some worth reading and some not, but one thing authors need to know more than any other advice is how they’re going to present themselves as well as the what.

When doing interviews, guest posts on blogs, pitches to media, and even just talking to fans during a signing, authors need to keep in mind a single key message: “What am I telling my listeners, and why should they care?”

This key message should be their mantra. They know their audience more than anyone. What are they telling their readers that is unique about themselves and their work, and why should they, as readers, care?  It’s best to follow this message up with what fans should do about the message (buy their book), but that’s secondary.

3) Content rules all online.

When authors are promoting and engaging with fans, it’s important to be frequent in communication. That doesn’t mean there has to be a new masterwork post or update every five minutes, but they should be posting regularly enough, with enough original content, to keep their fans and audiences aware of their material online, and wanting to learn more about them. Authors can get creative with how they engage, but they should try to be original.

That’s it! Stick to these basics and authors will go a long way with online promotion. And just think, by being online at all, they are beating an awful lot of folks who still think that the digital future is tomorrow, when it’s actually today.


Josh Johnson works at Cedar Fort as a Marketing Publicist and Public Relations Author Representative. Cedar Fort, Inc. is a book publisher in Utah. We publish fiction, nonfiction, you name it. We love new authors. See our site for guidelines & new titles. You can also visit Cedar Fort at www.cedarfortbooks, Facebook, or Twitter.