Monday, September 16, 2019

Back to the Basics

Years ago, as a newbie writer, I thought a story had to fall like fairy dust from the sky to the page or else I was a failure as a writer. If it wasn't coming to me like magic, I was obviously a talentless hack. But then, as I rubbed elbows with fellow writers and read helpful tips from famous writers, it finally occurred to me- writing isn't simply talent. It's also hard work paired with education.

I have been the slush pile reader for several writing competitions this year and I couldn't help but think as I read the entries that there was a lot of talent in all these stories, but sometimes, something was missing. They were good, but not yet good enough. I will admit, as a writer, I cringed when that thought went through my head. I mean, I have personally heard that more times than I can count and I surely don't want to be turning into one of those people who tell writers this is good, but not good enough.

So, how does a writer go from good to good enough? Personally, I'm still studying and learning, but in analyzing the ones that didn't emerge from my slush pile, I can say it was mostly for a lack of the basics. There might have been a great voice, but the plot was weak. Great characters, but no conflict.

That's when I decided for this week’s IWSG post, I would recap what I think are the most important elements a story- for other readers and for my own better WIPs too.

The Basics:

1.       Conflict. Conflict raises the stakes. Without any trials for characters to face, there would be no character growth or plot arc (beginning, middle, end). But conflict doesn’t have to be Rambo-esque. Person vs. person can simply be the interpersonal frustrations of two characters (most every romance ever).  A character can also have conflict with nature (To Build a Fire), fate (Harry Potter), self (Fight Club), society (The Hand Maid’s Tale), technology (Blade Runner), or even the supernatural (It).

2.       Theme. Our high school English teachers weren’t wrong—a story needs to have a point. Be it a moral lesson or a comment on relationships or society, there needs to be a reason for someone to take the time to read the story.

3.       Characters. Duh, right? How is there a story without characters? Since that’s a given, let’s go a bit deeper. Flesh out those characters. Who are they? What’s their back story, even the tidbits you’ll never share. What are their hobbies, pet peeves, favorite color? Make them real. Add some flaws. Then make them grow (AKA character arcs). If they’re staying static, either you have a flat character who isn’t meant to inspire, or you need to dig deeper.

4.       Setting. It’s more than just the time and place. Used wisely, it sets the tone and adds dimension to the story. In my Coulter Men series, the first book is about an independent single mom who lives on an island; book two, the hero is an isolated, barren-souled man living in Montana; book three the heroine is hiding her identity and living a lie in the heart of Washington, DC.

5.       Point of View. Who is telling the story? Probably the person the writer wants the reader to most identify with. I will often shift POV from the guy to the gal to get a he said/she said sort of banter going. In order to maintain some mystery, it’s often better to hold the POV cards a bit tighter. If the reader knows every thought of every character, it could be like setting unwrapped presents under the Christmas tree. What’s the fun in that?

Those are a quick rundown of my favorite. What elements of a story do you think are the most important?

Picture credit:
Image by Tumisu from Pixabay

Don't forget to join in the IWSG Book Club discussion on Goodreads.

Our August/September book is Forest for the Trees: An Editor’s Advice by Betsy Lerner.
Discussion Fun Day will be September 25, 2019.
Until then, enjoy this freebie created by one of our book club moderators, Juneta Key: Story Study Checklist (Click on the link to open and then save the PDF to your computer.)

Want to try your hand at flash fiction? Enter the WEP challenge!

Check out the WEP Challenge Here

                          Don't forget! The Twitter Pitch is coming. Polish up those manuscripts. 

Monday, September 9, 2019

How to Self-Publish and Market a Book: KEYWORDS

Hank Quense on Keywords

Keywords are frequently referred to as tags.You may not be aware of this, but search engines don’t care about your book title.  It’s true if you enter your book title or your name into a search engine, the results will include your book and your name. 

Readers will often search for a book using the name of a best-selling author but readers can’t enter the title or the name of a new self-published author since she and her book have achieved little recognition so far. 

Another way readers will search for a book is by using a short descriptive phrase such as ‘fantasy quest’ or ‘regency romance’.  These are known as keywords and this is the situation where you want your book to appear in the search results.  To accomplish this, it is vital that you develop a set of keywords that will ensure your book title will show up in the reader’s search results.

The keywords you want to use are ones that readers in your genre will use when browsing for a book.  These keywords are not necessarily what your book is about: they are the terms a reader will type into a search engine.  

Let’s say your book is a fantasy novel filled with elves and dwarfs.  You may think ‘dwarfs’ and ‘elves’ would be great keywords.  They are not.  A reader looking for a fantasy novel won’t use them.  Instead, he will search for terms like ‘fantasy adventure’ or ‘fantasy quest.’  Consequently, it is important for your marketing efforts that you develop a relevant set of keywords. 

Google has a free keyword planner you can use to help generate your keywords.  You can access it using this link:

Another free keyword tool can be found here:

Here is a trick you can use on Amazon.  In the search box, start to type a keyword.  Amazon will auto-complete and show you its most popular keywords.  As an example, type fantasy into the box.  By the time you finish typing ‘fantasy’ you’ll see some keywords that may be relevant.  

Keep typing and add the word ’adventure’.  Now you’ll see better keyword suggestions.  You’ll have to develop your keywords before you upload your book to a packager.  If you have a publisher, they will develop the keywords for you.

Your keywords can also be used with blog posts about your book.  On your blog post, there is space to enter all the keywords you developed.  This will assist search engines in finding your blog post.  

To repeat: keywords are important.  Spend time to develop the correct set.

Once you get a set of keywords, you can use them in a variety of ways.  Besides the packagers and blog posts, you can embed them into your book blurb and your short and long synopsis.  Search engines love this usage. 

As an example, here is the blurb for my new novel The King Who Disappeared before I generated the keywords:  ‘A long time ago, Bohan was a king.  But that was before the sleep spell.  Now that he’s awake again, it’s time for revenge.’

The keywords I used are: fantasy adventure, fantasy quest, fantasy humor, fantasy comedy.

Using these keywords, I modified the book blurb to: ‘A long time ago, at the beginning of this fantasy adventure, Bohan was a king.  But that was before the sleep spell.  Now that he’s awake again, it’s time for a quest to get revenge. Fantasy humor doesn’t get better than this.’

~ ~ ~
This article was taken from my new book, How to Self-Publish and Market a Book
Hank Quense writes humorous and satiric sci-fi and fantasy stories. He also writes and lectures about fiction writing and self-publishing. He has published 19 books and 50 short stories along with dozens of articles. He often lectures on fiction writing and publishing and has a series of guides covering the basics on each subject.  He and his wife Pat usually vacation in another galaxy or parallel universe. They also time travel occasionally when Hank is searching for new story ideas.
How to Self-Publish and Market a Book will be available on September 15, 2019, at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashword, Kobo (H
ank’s website: ( Hank's Facebook fiction page:

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

#IWSG The Insecure Writer's Support Group Post Day - Location, Location, Location!

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer - aim for a dozen new people each time - and return comments.

The awesome co-hosts for the September 4 posting of the IWSG are Gwen Gardner, Doreen McGettigan, Tyrean Martinson, Chemist Ken, and Cathrina Constantine!

Location! Location! Location! We all know that this is a real estate mantra. When it comes to property, location is everything.

So what's this got to do with writing?

Every month, we announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG post. These questions may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience or story. Include your answer to the question in your IWSG post or let it inspire your post if you are struggling with something to say.

Photo by Tyler Nix on Unsplash

September question: If you could pick one place in the world to sit and write your next story, where would it be and why? 
Would it be some faraway, exotic location?

Or maybe a location that would be the actual story setting?

Or is your sweet spot the local coffee shop, where you spend many hours bringing your story to life? 

  Some Unusual Writing Places of Famous Authors

Gertrude Stein avoided tiresome shopping expeditions by dropping off her partner and then parking up her Model T Ford to write.
Nottingham born
D.H. Lawrence loved writing al fresco, leaning on pine trees in New Mexico and great firs in Germany’s Black Forest. “The trees are like living company,” said Lawrence.
Maya Angelou
wrote in hotel rooms, requesting that everything be removed from the walls, in order to avoid distractions. She brought note pads, a dictionary, a thesaurus and a Bible in order to write, plus sherry and cigarettes for a little ‘down time’.
Agatha Christie constructed her plots in a large Victorian bath tub.
Some interesting and quirky writing spots!

Today is the closing date of the Annual IWSG Anthology Contest. You still have a few hours to submit your story!
Genre is middle grade historical – adventure/ fantasy and the theme is voyagers.

The IWSG needs co-hosts for October through to January 8. If you're interested then leave a comment or send an email.
If you haven't co-hosted yet, give it a go. It's a great networking opportunity.

The IWSG Twitter Pitch is coming up soon.   Polish those pitches and have them ready to go. You just never know who may be watching.

There are
loads of exciting activities happening at the IWSG Goodreads Book Club
Discussion Questions, Discussion Day Poll,
Quizzes, Giveaways, Freebies

So what is your ideal location to sit and write your next story?
Have you submitted to the annual anthology contest?
Are you interested in co-hosting for the monthly blog hop?
Getting ready to polish your Twitter pitch?
Do any of the IWSG Goodreads Book Club activities catch your attention?
Happy IWSG Day!

Monday, August 26, 2019

If You're Only Going to Master 10 Literary Devices, Let it Be These Ones

James Joyce’s Ulysses takes place over the course of a single day, but it’s notoriously chock-full of literary devices. Weighing in at over 700 pages long, it’s a masterclass in writerly tricks, with the intimidating heft of a brick. Joyce seems to have never met a literary device he didn’t love, a fondness that made him the bane of many English majors’ existences — but also a celebrated genius. The good news is, we don’t all have to be James Joyce. There’s no need to frantically stuff your novel with every literary device you can think of, in the hopes that it’ll turn it into the next Ulysses. Still, it’s good to have a handful in your bag of tricks — they can punch up your prose, and make your readers unable to look away from your skillful weaving of plot and theme. Just don’t overdo it. If you’re only going to master 10 literary devices, let it be these ones!

1. Simile

Try this one on for size: writers are like chefs, and literary devices are like their seasonings. If that’s true, then the humble simile is definitely like salt. It’s simple and versatile, and you probably need less than you think — just a pinch can add an irresistible savor to your language. You can use similes to add clarity to your narration, and they can also liven up your characterization: the kind of comparisons your protagonist uses in dialogue — or just in her thoughts— can tell the reader a lot about her personality, background, interests, and even mood.

2. Metaphor

If simile is salt, then metaphor’s pepper: they make a natural pair. Metaphor is just about as universally useful, but because it makes comparisons directly, it’s got a bit more kick. You can even use metaphors to enhance the more complicated flavors in your cooking — by which I mean, themes in your writing — by extending them, elaborating on a comparison to evoke greater emotion and truly engage the reader’s imagination.

3. Symbolism

Novels make statements about abstract concepts — but they don’t make them abstractly. Instead, broad generalities like freedom, love, and growing up are fleshed out and animated through character and plot. Symbolism is an indispensable tool in that process: it takes the abstract and gives it texture, shape, and color so that readers can see and feel it instead of coldly grasping it with their intellect. For instance, instead of droning on about the protagonist’s fear of death, you could represent it symbolically with a raven he always seems to see in moments of dread.

4. Motif

Symbols and motifs have a lot in common — both help you get your theme across. But because motifs recur throughout your narrative, they have the added benefit of making your story feel coherent and satisfying. Motifs are also common in visual art. Imagine the effect of looking at an immensely complicated, dizzyingly beautiful tapestry, with a certain repeating element — say, a dove. Seeing that bird appear again and again in the gorgeous chaos of the tapestry will help you make sense of it and appreciate its beauty all the more.

5. Imagery

This sort of thickly descriptive language plays to the reader’s senses, grounding them in the universe you’ve created using vivid visuals. It’s the key to taking your novel from a list of events linked by causality — something like a news report — to an immersive experience like a whole world, something the reader won’t want to leave.

6. Irony

Irony is often misunderstood — its core meaning is one of distance between how things seem and how things are. Maybe we’re clear on the fact that the brave swordsman who saved the princess is really a woman, but Her Highness has no clue (dramatic irony). Or perhaps the conquering hero we’ve followed throughout his training randomly dies of the flu (situational irony), or the narrator refers to a fatal accident as a “slight mishap” (verbal irony). Sure, it can get a little complicated. But if you use irony correctly, it can do so much for you: build suspend, encourage reader investment, and give your writing a more profound quality.

7. Juxtaposition

Like irony, juxtaposition is also a device that plays with opposites. Here, two seemingly opposing things are placed side-by-side: life and death, prince and pauper, fire and ice. They’ll illuminate each other by their proximity, and the aesthetic effect can be very striking, like a visual pattern in contrasting hues.

8. Flashback

Mastering the flashback will give your writing a cinematic quality. It lets you control exactly when readers get access to the information they need to make sense of the story: you can dole it out in drips, making them hang onto your every word. Flashbacks help build suspense, giving you a gripping story full of immediacy.

9. Foreshadowing

Want your readers to think you’re a genius? Foreshadowing is the literary device for you! By seeding your story with hints at how things will pan out, you’ll wow them when they get to the end — and those seeds suddenly bear satisfying fruit. Foreshadowing shows your total control over the narrative, and mastering it will make your conclusions feel earned.

10. Interior monologue

Why do people even read fiction? Being able to get inside someone else’s head is a big part of the appeal. It’s certainly an advantage of our chosen medium over film: when it comes to showcasing a character’s thoughts, no voiceover narration or facial closeup can compare with a simple interior monologue. This device offers direct access to the contents of your characters’ minds, making them more knowable to your readers than even their closest friends. It’s the perfect recipe for emotional investment in your story, and the cherry on top of what should already be extremely strong prose — especially if you’ve taken this advice to heart.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Ten Ways to Support Other Authors

At the core of this group, it’s all about support. Writers and authors face rejection at every turn and we need someone in our corner. Sharing our writing with the world is scary. Terrifying! It helps to know others have our back.

Here’s ten ways you can support your author friends:

1. Be a critique partner. We all need help polishing our manuscripts. As a critique partner, we also learn a lot about our own writing in the process.

2. Mark the book as ‘Want to Read’ on Goodreads. That helps it get noticed more. Plus vote for it if it appears on a Goodreads list.

3. Offer to host the author on your blog during his virtual tour. Either ask for a guest post or send interview questions. Even just a feature on release day helps spread the word.

4. Sign up to be on the author’s street team. You’ll promote on multiple platforms and get all sorts of cool bonus goodies.

5. Promote it on Facebook. Post notifications of the book’s upcoming release or host a Facebook party.

6. Promote the book on Twitter. Send out Tweets about the book – with an image. Retweet the author’s book tweets.

7. Promote the book on Instagram. If you have a review copy, take pictures of it. Same with Pinterest.

8. On release day, announce the book to your followers, friends, family, and fans, whether online or in the real world. Let them know they need to buy this book. Tell your local library and bookstore to order it. Hound them if you have to!

9. Buy the author’s book! Even if you got a free review copy. Years ago, Carolyn Howard Johnson said that was the number one thing you could do to support an author.

10. Review the book. Goodreads-Amazon-iTunes-Barnes and Noble – wherever! Just leave a review or at the very least a star rating. The book will get more notice with more reviews. Just make sure it’s an honest but not overly negative review. (If you’re out to slam other authors, you are in the wrong line of work.)

We all need to support each other and celebrate one another’s accomplishments.

And something else cool happens as a result – others will support us when we have a book release.

What other ways can you think of to support an author?

Monday, August 12, 2019

Sell Ads to Help Finance Your Self-Published Book or Promotional Book

By Carolyn Howard-Johnson, 
author of the multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally Series 
of books for writers

I hate the word “monetize.”  
And I especially don’t like it when this word (it’s really ugly, isn’t it?) is mentioned in the same breath with books. But I’m going to talk about it anyway because, if authors do it right, using ads in their books or other promotional materials can subsidize the cost of publishing a book, costs like great editing, great cover design, and great indexing that they often scrimp on. 
Most every author is self-publishing something themselves these days. If not their books, then e-books or white papers that help them promote their work. Many of these books—are perfect for paid ads and ads in barter. You might also think about trading an ad for another service you need like a blog tour, book cover art, or printing. 
So, even if you do hate the idea, I’m asking you to keep reading. It’s important because many authors never make the money they spend of self-publishing back in royalties or even back-of-the-room sales. Read it with an open mind. You might change your mind, or you might think of way to adapt the idea to your needs and thus help assure a more profitable career as an author. And—trust me—you will discover at least one way you’ve seen back matter ads in books for a long time—all the way back to high school.
Ads in the back matter of books are becoming more accepted (and more ethical), if they are focused on the book’s target audience. Not too long ago, the LA Times reported Amazon puts ads in some Kindle readers and that they then sell them at 18% less than the ad-free device ($114.00). I figure they got that wrong. They might sell them for more because they can enhance the perceived value if the ads  include a discounted offer or essential free resource for its readers. 
Ads in disguise have been used in literary journals and other books for years. They usually come as an order page or a list (subtle or not-so-subtle) of related books that might interest a reader. Your high school yearbook featured pay-for ads, but they called them “sponsors.”  
So, if you decide to put ads into your books, how would you do it? 
~Offer ads or sponsorship in the backmatter of your book. Be sure your offer includes the ways the ad will benefit the advertiser or sponsor including how you will feature your benefactor in social networking you’ll be doing during the launch. 
~Accept only professionally produced ads. 
~Accept only ads that would interest your target audience. Be prepared to refuse some with the “not quite right” phrase that literary journals use to reject submissions. 
~Limit the number of ads to just a few. 
~Encourage ads that give discounts or freebies to benefit your readers. In fact, you could offer a discount on the price of the ad to those who do.
~Don’t undersell your ad, especially if you already have an extensive platform. 
Did I mention that when you use ads this way, your reader benefits. They learn about new resources and special discounts and those discounts may easily pay for the book (yours!) your reader just bought?  Ahem. 
If you are uncomfortable with this idea, start small. Start using ads only in your promotional e-books. Then move on. Eventually your readers may benefit from ads in your full-fledged, honest-to-goodness paperback or hardcover book!  
PS: Anyone with a product (yes, books are products!) or a service that would appeal to readers of The Frugal Book Promoter may e-mail me ( for details of how we might partner on something like this for one of my new releases. I’m planning to update my little booklet, Great Little Last-Minute Editing Tips which is for sale to be used as an inexpensive thank-you greetings or gifts for writers but is also given as a little extra when writers sign up for my newsletter. Spaces are limited. 
Carolyn Howard-Johnson is a novelist, poet, and the author of the multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers ( That site includes a huge, free section of Resources for Writers. She also blogs writers’ resources at Writer’s Digest 101 Best Websites pick

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Dog Days of Summer

So dogs get their own days in summer? One might think cats would be offended, but cats think they own every day, so probably not. So since it is too hot to walk the dog on their days or even mow the lawn, what is it you can do? Writing? Yeah. Wait on that a few seconds. Blasphemy. I know. There are a few other things first.

You can keep those entries coming and make sure yours is all polished and ready to win. Less than a month left to get it in. Are you entering? Have you entered?

The 2019 Annual IWSG Anthology Contest is now open for submissions!

Guidelines and rules: 

Word count: 3500-5000

Genre: Middle Grade Historical – Adventure/Fantasy

Theme: Voyagers

Submissions accepted: May 1 - September 4, 2019  

Need some clarification on the genre?
Middle grade – suitable for 9 – 14 year-old children.
Historical – it must have historical aspects and be set in a time before 2000 or earlier. It just needs to be set in the past. Adventure/fantasy – the subgenre can be either adventure OR fantasy. The fantasy genre is acceptable as there are many ancient cultures and times that believed in supernatural occurrences.

It also never hurts to polish those pitches and have them ready to go. You just never know who may be watching.

Or prepare yourself for posting your entry for RED WHEELBARROW between August 21 - 23.

Or you could just answer the optional question. If you answer it would that mean it isn't optional? Probably not. Would that be two questions? I guess that makes three. Right. Here it is.

Has your writing ever taken you by surprise? For example, a positive and belated response to a submission you'd forgotten about or an ending you never saw coming?

And if you want one more thing, you could check out the going ons of the IWSG Instagram account. Or you could going on about my use of going ons. Did it twice. Whoopsy!

Are we done yet? Not quite. Where have you to go? It's too hot. Oh, you still want to write? Well then I better finish up. For our final task, please welcome Juneta Key to the IWSG admin team.

Juneta Key writes SPECULATIVE FICTION, and loves fantasy and all its subgenres, the paranormal, mythological and space opera. In 2019, she entered into a partnership with another Indie author as co-owner of Stormdance Publications, to create fun, quality themed anthologies, especially about grumpy old gods. She’s one of seven founders of the Storytime Quarterly Blog Hop founded in 2015. 

Also let's give a round of thanks to the awesome co-hosts for this month's posting. Renee Scattergood, Sadira Stone, Jacqui Murray, Tamara Narayan, and LG Keltner!

Do you plan to participate in any of the above? Has your writing ever taken you by surprise? Enjoying the heat? Getting any writing done? Tired of my questions?

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Competition Among Writers

Let's talk insecurities. As writers, we know all about rejection. If you're working, you're getting some rejection from somewhere...unless you've made a deal with the devil.

For everyone else, It happens. But knowing that still doesn't make it enjoyable. As a rejected author I'm always torn between whether I'm the one who stinks, or if the heartless jerk on the other end of my query is to blame.

But I've been that jerk, so today, I want to take a closer look at rejection from the perspective of the one delivering it.

Occasionally, I'll offer my reader services as a slush pile reader or a contest judge. Wearing that hat gives me a much different perspective on rejection. There's one hard truth: the competition among writers is brutal.

Okay, so you're thinking...duh, that's what everyone keeps saying. Trust me, I had the same thought. But once you're in the position of having to choose a single story from a stack of them, you realize (with deep guilt) that you are rejecting good stories simply because you can't choose them all.

It's like walking into a book store with limited cash in your pocket. You can only buy one book. How will you choose? It's your turn to be the bad guy...

Don’t forget the Insecure Writer’s Support Group Annual Anthology Contest is open and taking submissions! 

Genre is middle grade historical – adventure/ fantasy and the theme is voyagers.

Monday, July 22, 2019

How To Score Book Reviews

In the world of indie publishing, nothing gives you street cred like good book reviews. Maybe your blurb simmers with the wit of Oscar Wilde; maybe your cover art provokes spontaneous tears because it’s Rothko levels of sublime. All that’s no substitute for a real, live reader liking your book — and liking it so much they go out of their to share their excitement with the world. For potential ebook buyers, reviews furnish social proof. They show off how popular and vetted your book is and offer insight into the sort of people who liked it, making would-be readers wonder if they might like it too. You might be tempted at this point to buy praise — or start spamming your book’s Amazon page with adulatory sock-puppets. But there’s no need to take shady shortcuts. Instead, just follow these tips, and you’ll be scoring book reviews the ethical way.

1. Define your audience

You know your book from cover to content — after all, you wrote it. But now it’s time to think about how it comes across to people who weren’t around for the writing process. To get the reviewers you deserve, you have to know your audience — there’s no point hawking Louboutins to a shopper looking for soccer cleats, or tempting a would-be tractor-buyer to drive away with a Corvette instead. You can start working at the level of genre: My book is for sci-fi readers. But your thinking will have to get more fine-grained than that. Try to picture your perfect reader: how old they are, what they do when they’re not nose-deep in your book. Most importantly, try to imagine what else they like to read. This step is arguably the most important part of defining your audience: naming your comp titles — books that read comparably to yours — so that fans of those books can become fans of your books. Think hard about how your project fits into the greater publishing ecosystem, and you’ll be able to fine-tune your target audience, going from “sci-fi fans” to, say, “YA readers interested in works of Afrofuturism with a strong female lead.”

2. Identify the right reviewers — and pitch them

You’ve got a strong sense of your audience. Now it’s time to target the subset of that audience able to furnish you with glowing reviews — the ones who run the book blogs. First, do a sweep through a directory of book reviewer blogs, keeping an eye peeled for those that seem to fit into your niche. Next, think about your comp titles and track down where those books were reviewed. To streamline this process, you can also try submitting to a service like Reedsy Discovery, a book-marketing platform that shops your book out to reviewers for you. Now you’ve got a list of promising reviewers who A) work in your genre and B) have a demonstrated preference for works like yours. At this point, you’re ready to make contact with reviewers and pitch them your book. Make sure to look over each blogger’s policy to make sure you’re contacting them the right way — for instance, not cold-emailing them when they want you to fill out a form. Make sure to customize your pitch for each reviewer — the last thing you want is to sound spammy or boilerplate. Reference their past reviews to demonstrate that they’re more than just a faceless source of free publicity to you, and pull out those comp titles to prove you’ve done your homework on the market.

3 Draw them in with giveaways

Giving your book away for free can be a great way to get more readers lining up for it, trailing reviews in their wake. Luckily, Goodreads makes it easy to list a giveaway, and the data says it pays: according to book marketer Thomas Umstattd, 750 people enter the average Goodreads giveaway, and 45% of the lucky winners end up leaving a review for their prize. By doing a giveaway, you’ll be generating much-needed buzz: even bookworms who don’t win a copy are now more likely to add your book to their bookshelves. If Goodreads isn’t your scene, you can also offer your book through LibraryThing — their Member Giveaway interface gives you a real-time look at exactly how many users are making requests for it. You can also use freebies as reader magnets to, well, draw readers in and start building a fanbase. If you’ve got an entire series in the pipeline, for example, consider making the first installment perma-free in exchange for emails — and be sure to put a note in the back matter asking readers to leave a comment on your book’s Amazon page. Because they didn't have to give up a cent, they’ll be that much more willing to pay you with their time, offering glowing — or at least, honest — reviews.

Monday, July 15, 2019

#IWSG - Writing in the summer or How to legally ignore your children.

For some, it's always difficult to carve out time to write. There are always a hundred or more things we need to be doing and writing seems to take a backseat.

Then...summer break from school arrives.

There is a constant buzzing noise going on in your ears.

It's your child(ren).

They want [insert food/attention/time/a ride/permission/attention/answers/food/attention/etc. here].

Again and again.

So, how can you balance your writing with your family?

Bribery. It's an old-fashioned notion.

Promise the park. Promise new books. Promise fast food. Promise ice cream. Promise the movies. Promise cash.

Do whatever it takes to get a few hours to yourself and write those words.

Okay, maybe that's not the best advice, and, honestly, kids aren't cute and young for long, so do your best to balance the time you spend with your children and the time you need to write.


Interested in our next Twitter event? Use this LINK to get more information!

The next #IWSGPit  will be in January 15, 2020
8:00 am - 8:00 pm Eastern Standard Time

Our annual anthology contest is now open! Use this LINK to find all the details!

The 2019 Annual IWSG Anthology Contest is now open for submissions!

Guidelines and rules:

Word count: 3500-5000

Genre: Middle Grade Historical – Adventure/Fantasy

Theme: Voyagers

Submissions accepted: May 1 - September 4, 2019  

Need some clarification on the genre?
Middle grade – suitable for 9 – 14 year-old children.
Historical – it must have historical aspects and be set in a time before 2000 or earlier. It just needs to be set in the past. Adventure/fantasy – the subgenre can be either adventure OR fantasy. The fantasy genre is acceptable as there are many ancient cultures and times that believed in supernatural occurrences.

Monday, July 8, 2019

What's Up?

The answer to that question, "What's Up?" is A LOT!

There's a new anthology contest that is open and taking submissions now. The main genre is Middle Grade Historical Fiction with the sub-genre of Adventure/Fantasy. If you're sharpening your pen and want to enter, take a look at the SUBMISSION GUIDELINES AND RULES. 

WRITE IT. EDIT IT. PUBLISH IT. Is working with #IWSG and they're getting some excellent submissions to their contests. In June, the theme was The Caged Bird, and thirty writers entered. While it was a hard contest to judge, Nick Wilford managed to winnow the "short list" down to three winners. You can click on the badges to read the winning entries, but you might also enjoy reading some others. The list is HERE.


If you didn't enter last time or you want to enter in the next contest, here's the theme and a link to the SUBMISSION GUIDELINES. Jump in. It's a lot of fun to participate.

Have you checked out IWSG on Instagram? Tyrean Martinson keeps our members and followers up on all that's happening.

Although our next Pitch Party isn't until January, you might want to put it on your calendar and start thinking about what you'll pitch and how you'll do it so it catches a publisher's or an editor's eye!

We are also looking for one more admin to join the team! If you are interested, please email us. Must be active member of either the blog hop or Facebook. 
Email - admin @

So do you think you'll enter something for the IWSG's next anthology? How about the August WEP? Do you have something in mind for the Red Wheelbarrow theme? Are you on Instagram? If so, we hope you'll follow us. Are you thinking about pitching your story in January? And are you interested in joining the team?

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

A Sizzling First Wednesday in July

It's July, so now we're cooking! 

Temps are up, fall is beginning to look darned good, but we need to take time and celebrate
HOT #IWSG Wednesday.

Thanks Alex!

And it's not too late to visit all of the great July hosts and say hello:

Young Adult Books
The Question of the Month is "What personal traits have you written into your character(s)?" The question is optional, so I'll opt to answer it as best I can. 

There may be a few of my quirks lurking in the Princess of Las Pulgas. Carlie tends to be stand-offish when she's hurting, and I've been told that's my strategy as well.  In Sudden Secrets, one of my friends thought my MC technique for managing stress seemed similar to mine. Cleo ran to escape thinking about her situation; I hike--guess that's close.

I'm not much like Hutch in Double Negative, but Fat Nyla and I share a lot with each other. I wrote one scene to re-enact a moment in my life, but in the book I got it right and punched the jerk in the nose. Score one for Nyla. Score one for me--just a little late.

My snarky self comes out in Sliding on the Edge, I'm afraid. Shawna cops her bad ass attitude to cover up a lot of insecurity. I've been known to do exactly that. I'm better at dealing with those insecurities now that I'm "matured." My mother would be so grateful.

Monday, June 24, 2019

#IWSG - The right pitch at the right time: good news from a #IWSGPit event!

The Insecure Writer's Support Group is pleased to introduce Charly Cox, who was offered a publishing contract after participating in our #IWSGPit event in January 2019! Please give her a warm welcome as she shares her story with us today!

When I first began writing, there was a little voice that insisted on intruding and whispering: What makes you think you can do this?

Whether you’re just beginning this journey, or like me, you’ve been plugging away for a few years amassing piles of rejections so high you don’t really want to admit how many there are, I’d wager you, too, have felt fear, defeat, self-doubt, or even impostor syndrome. For me, there are times the fear and self-doubt are so strong, I freeze even when my characters are telling me exactly what to write.

You might see how a site called Insecure Writer’s Support Group might appeal to someone like me. But, here’s the thing—until January 2019, I’d never heard of them. But, I’ll get to that.

It’s important to share your experiences with those negative voices because feeling these things means you care and want to succeed, that you’re willing to fight for it. Use those emotions to help guide you.

Because the fact is, writing is hard. It’s discipline. It’s getting your heart stomped on by rejection. But, it’s also handing a new world over to someone else. It’s finding a way to stand up and dust yourself off…repeatedly. It’s learning to trust, to recognize and appreciate constructive criticism that helps better your craft.

 It’s learning to keep on keeping on.

It took almost a year to write, edit, and revise (a billion times) my first novel. And as the rejection pile grew, I researched, studied, and refined. I’d heard it’s rare for a first novel to be published, so I kind of set mine aside, and wrote another. Different genre, different age group. And I queried my heart out, adding to my pile of rejections. But, I’d also heard it could take three, four, or even five novels before one was published. So, I wrote novel number three and spent two years querying it. And even though, for the first time, agents were requesting more material, rejections kept flowing in, each one another stab in the heart.

And, while I didn’t believe Novel #1 would ever see the light of day, every once in a while, I’d dust it off and send it out.

It was during one of those times I ran across other writers talking about this #IWSG Twitter event. Like I said, I’d never heard of this group, so I checked out their website to see what they were all about.

And discovered a smorgasboard of links, encouragement, and well—support. The first thing I did was pin the site to my taskbar for easy access.

As for the Twitter event, I almost ignored it because I wasn’t prepared. But, another little voice nudged me, and with a ‘what the hell attitude,” I took bits and pieces from everything I’d learned during past events and sent off pitches for all three novels.

To be honest, I wasn’t expecting much. So, imagine my surprise when I received a coveted ‘favorite’ for… Novel #1. I kept my excitement to a minimum because this was still a long shot…but, at least it meant I was doing something right, and every little bit of encouragement is worth clinging to!

After I researched the publisher, I made sure every ‘i’ was dotted, every ‘t’ crossed. Then, I inhaled deeply and hit send.

And forgot about it.

That’s right. I honestly forgot it was out there. Until one day in March, I opened my email to find a message from Keshini Naidoo at Hera Publishing. I clicked on it, assuming it was another rejection for a different novel, so, it took me a second to realize, “Hey, wait a minute. This is the opposite of a rejection!”

I must have read that email a hundred times. And then I read it to my husband who assured me I wasn’t imagining things. Then, I read it to my son who said, “That sounds promising.”

So, I answered all the questions Keshini asked and hit send again. Even then I didn’t allow myself to become too hopeful. After all, I’d heard stories.

In fact, full-fledged panic with a new set of doubts wiggled in. Did I respond too quickly? Not quickly enough? Did she hate what I said?  I made myself sick. My poor husband had no idea what to do with me. I didn’t know what to do with me.

Six weeks of correspondence passed between us (and yes, those silent in-between times were difficult (waiting is hard, folks!) before the official offer finally came in May—a three-book deal for a series stemming from my very first novel. I was elated, excited, and absolutely terrified! I thought Holy crap. What if I can’t do this? To which my son said, “You’ve already done it; you’re just going to do it again.” (Isn’t he the best?)

I’d like to tell you everything has changed, but the truth is, writing is still hard, even with a fantastic editor with crazy good ideas and suggestions, and self-doubt still creeps in sometimes, sabotaging my efforts and holding my brain captive.

What I can say is I’m happy I didn’t give up. And, if I’m being completely honest, if it hadn’t been for my husband, my biggest cheerleader, and my son (who is the world’s best plot-hole finder and fixer-suggestor), I might’ve quit long ago.

As it is, I’m still finding it hard to believe that this is actually going to happen—October 2019, to be exact.

All of this to say: KEEP ON KEEPING ON. And when you have those days when you’re wondering what the heck you think you’re doing, remember, it only takes one. And when the time is right, you and that one will find each other.  

Charly CoxAs for me, I’m sending out a collective group hug to the creators of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. My gratitude is heartfelt, and I credit you for the path that led Keshini Naidoo and Hera Books to me. 

Thank you for recognizing a need and setting up a place for writers like me to share their hopes, fears, failures, and successes. You all rock!
Charly Cox
P.S. If you get a chance, check out my website (a work in progress, but I’m getting there).
Twitter: @Charlylynncox

Thank you and best of luck, Charly!

Interested in joining our next event? Use this LINK to get more information!

The next #IWSGPit  will be in January 15, 2020
8:00 am - 8:00 pm Eastern Standard Time

Our annual anthology contest is now open! Use this LINK to find all the details!

The 2019 Annual IWSG Anthology Contest is now open for submissions!

Guidelines and rules:

Word count: 3500-5000

Genre: Middle Grade Historical – Adventure/Fantasy

Theme: Voyagers

Submissions accepted: May 1 - September 4, 2019