Monday, December 20, 2021

Merry Christmas, Writer!

My family claims I am hard to buy for, an observation obviously proves they don't know me very well. A writer is one of the easiest/cheapest creatures to shop for. To prove my point, I made a list of Dollar Tree, a store noted for it's every-item-a-dollar sales model, purchases that would warm the writer heart and fill a gift bag (also available at Dollar Tree) for under twenty bucks. 


Can a writer ever have enough notebooks? I say absolutely not. Notebooks with inspiring quotes. Spiral notebooks. Composition books. The Dollar Tree has them all.  

Coffee Mugs

Fill one with coffee or for a plot twist, use it for tea or hot cocoa. 

Hair Clips/Hats/Scrunchies

For the writer who doesn't waste time doing their hair. 


Ambience. It's a cool word and a comforting inspiration. 


Warm toes lead to a warmed-up, ready to write brain. 

Pens & Pencils

Whether you're going for cute or straight-up function, you can find an assortment in the store. You can even get pencils, highlighters, or markers for the perfect writer tool kit. 


Perfect for plot notes or character cards. You can even get rubber bands, folders, or organizers to keep all of your cards straight. 


Why? Because it's chocolate. 


Or tea. Or hot cocoa. Remember to think outside the pot, you're a writer.

Healthy Snacks 

Treats to fill you up and keep you going. And they fit neatly into your desk, one excellent writer gift you can't buy at the Dollar Tree.  


Pictures, plaques, magnets...look for the inspiration, it's everywhere!

Monday, December 13, 2021

Why Book Reviews Are Important and Where to Find Them

One of the most important aspects of a book is the reviews. They can make or break a new release. Reviews affect Amazon rankings. They affect findability on Goodreads and BookBub. They influence potential buyers and readers. And where they really shine is on the back cover, inside the eBook, in ads and promo materials such as bookmarks, and on retailer sites.

Traditional publishers are usually responsible for sending out review copies. Often smaller publishers will coordinate with their authors, sending ARCs to reviewers suggested by the author. If you are self-published, this task will fall squarely on your shoulders.

Prepublication reviewers such as Publishers Weekly and Library Journal require an ARC or galley many months prior to the book’s release date. These reviews are aimed at the industry (booksellers, libraries, and wholesalers) rather than the buying public.

Below are examples of prepublication reviewers:

• Publishers Weekly
• Kirkus Reviews
• Library Journal
• Booklist
• Foreword Magazine
• New York Times

There are many smaller reviewers as well, both in print and online. Magazines, small publications, genre fan sites, and book bloggers all review books. Some of these will review a title even after its publication.

Below is a selection of databases that list reviewers:

The Indie View
Book Sirens
Book Review Directory
100 Best Book Review Blogs
Kate Tilton’s Book Bloggers
Publishing…and Other Forms of Insanity (sci-fi/fantasy)
The Reading Tub (middle grade/YA)
Through the Looking Glass

Look for any reviewer that accepts your genre. Read their submission guidelines and note when they like to receive copies and in what format. Many reviewers now accept eBooks. Be sure to make a list of those who could provide a blurb for your book, such as experts or celebrities. Most writers know other authors who write in their genre and that’s a good place to go for blurbs.

Understand that while a reviewer might accept a copy of your book, this in no way guarantees a review. It doesn’t guarantee a positive review, either. However, you won’t get any reviews if you don’t send out any books.

Reviews are probably the most important marketing tool for a book. Make sure you get your book into the hands of reviewers 3-6 months before publication date so you can use those reviews to promote your book. Remember, you can’t get any reviews if you don’t send out books!

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

The Best of...Carolyn Howard-Johnson


Carolyn Howard-Johnson is a frequent help to the IWSG with her blog posts and newsletter tidbits that offer writers advice that is entertaining, helpful, and easy to digest.

My copy of The Frugal Book Promoter

One of the many great things about Carolyn's books is she takes into consideration all avenues of publishing. Whether self-published or traditionally published, there is advice specific to each situation. Whenever I read one of her books, whether it is the Frugal Editor or the Frugal Book Promoter, it's with a highlighter, pen, and notepad ready. There is something to take note of on every page. 

To thank Carolyn for all of her help with the IWSG, this "Best Of" post is our thanks. 

Here are some of our favorite Carolyn lists and snippets of advice. 

Suggestions for preparing yourself to be the best publicity partner around. (From Carolyn's January 2014 IWSG post.)

1. Join organizations like IBPA (Independent Book Publishers Association) where you’ll learn to understand the world of publishing from every angle—your, that of your publicist and that of your publisher. And get the support you need along the way.

2. Subscribe to newsletters sent out my experts in the field of publishing. Dan Poynter, John Kremer, Penny C. Sansevieri, and one of my favorite publicity gurus Joan Stewart are all online resources for getting online information that isn’t rooted in myth and gossip. You’ll learn tons from my Sharing with Writers newsletter, too. Subscribe by sending a SUBSCRIBE message to

3. Take a class in public relations. The only way I know how to avoid drastic mistakes in choosing a class is to patronize your local college or attend writers’ conferences sponsored by universities.

4. One of the most frugal ways to learn a new skillset is to read. Most of those who publish free newsletters like the ones I mentioned above have books that will get you off on the right foot. Find mine here.

A list of the best way to help your writer friends. (From Carolyn's August 2019 IWSG post

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.)

Tips on Monetizing to generate additional income (From Carolyn's August 2019 ISWG post) 

1. 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. 
2. Accept only professionally produced ads. 
3. 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. 
4. Limit the number of ads to just a few. 
5. 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.
6. Don’t undersell your ad, especially if you already have an extensive platform. 

Best advice from Carolyn throughout the years from her April 2017 post

"Authors! We are ultimately responsible for our own careers."

So, start studying up and get to work! 

The Frugal Book Promoter, Third Edition! 

This multi award-winner, now in its third edition,  celebrates its 16th Anniversary as the flagship of Carolyn Howard-Johnson’s HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers. For only a few cents a day the third edition of The Frugal Book Promoter assures your book the best possible start in life. The author was inspired to write this book full of nitty-gritty how-tos for getting nearly-free publicity for her UCLA Writers’ Program class. A former publicist, journalist, and retailer, Carolyn shares her professional experience as well as practical tips gleaned from the successes of her own book campaigns. She tells authors how to do what their publishers can’t or won’t and why authors can often do their own promotion better than a PR professional.

Since its first release almost two decades ago, this book has won multiple awards:


Winner USA Book News Award 

Runner-up in the how-to category for the Los Angeles Book Festival 2012 awards

Global Ebooks Award Honorable Mention

Silver Medal from Military Writers Society of America

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

December 2021 IWSG


Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG.

December's Optional question is: In your writing, what stresses you the most? What delights you?

Many thanks to our awesome co-hosts for the December 1 posting. PJ Colando, Diane Burton, Louise – Fundy Blue, Natalie Aguirre, and Jacqui Murray, you guys rock!

Greetings Fellow Insecure Writers,

2021 is winding down. (Pause for disbelief and a head shake.) We've made it through another year of global turmoil. (Pause for a pat on the back.) I hope that all of us in the IWSG have made it to the end of this year better than simply surviving. I hope we've all made it to the end with our faith in humanity still in tact and that we all found at least a few reasons to smile in 2021. 
How about you? Can you think of some glimmer of sunshine that shined on you in 2021? If you can, share it in the comments. If you haven't. I'm sorry. (Pause for virtual hugs.) Fell free to also share your  griefs in the comments too, because we care. That's the hallmark of the IWSG. It's not just a group for the nuts and bolts of writing, we also care about the concerns that cause our insecurities too.

Now for the IWSG news and info:

Juneta Key is now the Instagram Admin. If you have an Instagram account, be sure to follow. Juneta will be sharing group info, updates, and I'm sure will be sprinkling some fun writerly stuff in here and there.

And be on the look out! January is coming. That means we will have new anthology winners to be announced and the Twitter Pitch is coming!

The next #IWSGPit will be in January 26, 2022, 8:00 am - 8:00 pm Eastern Standard Time

Support your fellow insecure writers. Our December IWSG Goodreads Book Club Member Reads are below. Answer this month's poll on December 9th; check-in December 16; and discussion day December 23rd.

This month's book picks:
Being Human by Patricia Lynn 
Falling for the Villain by Kim Elliot