Monday, April 22, 2024

Great Tips I Wish I Knew Before Writing My First YA Novel

By Jaire Sims

I decided to write and publish a Young Adult (YA) story when I was in high school. The process was exciting but had challenges along the way. Once I began writing my debut novel, it took almost ten years to self-publish my story, and the year after publishing, Getting By earned an award. While that's incredible, there are some things I wish I had learned about publishing before launching. I was a newbie, and in many ways, I still am. But I know a lot more now by trying to figure out the process of self-publishing a book, mostly on my own, leading me to create an online course on self-publishing to help writers streamline the process and save them time and money. It will also allow me to improve the release of my next book. With that in mind, I have some tips and suggestions for aspiring YA writers.

Researching the YA Market

Many writers start by writing a story they want to tell; as the adage says, "Write what you know." While that is fine, it's important to know if there's an audience for your story. Is it something readers will want to read? Otherwise, it will be tough to market and sell your book to audiences (though YA novels are popular among teen and adult readers.) But you still should know what makes a good YA novel. Do your due diligence by looking at market trends, researching recent successful YA releases, and seeing what stories such books tell. Then you can emulate elements at play in other successful YA books in your novel. If there's a story in you that you want to write, you don't have to compromise your ambitions to suit trends entirely. But depending on your goals, be mindful of what your target readers want to see in their YA books and find a compromise.

Building An Online Platform
One regret with my self-publishing experience is that I didn't establish a solid online presence before publishing my debut book. Now, I'm building my online platform with a blog and writing articles, expanding my email list by offering freebies to help aspiring YA authors, and collaborating with other writers in the community (like Ignited Ink!) to increase my visibility and attract my target readers. But it's an uphill battle. Marketing and selling a book after publishing without an established audience is challenging. Start building an audience as soon as you embark on your writing and publishing journey to build hype. Connecting to and engaging with the writing community is a great start, as many people would be willing to help you with your writing goals and champion your progress and success. Remember that no one is successful on their own, so it's good to seek help from people who may have knowledge that can help you early in the writing process and will spread the word when your story hits shelves!

Hire an Editor
New writers debate whether to hire a book editor for their manuscripts because of the cost (TLDR: do it!). Hiring a freelance editor was one of my best decisions. It's an investment that nobody should ignore. You risk launching a book that lacks polish, which can affect your reputation as an author. While many books have a few typos, readers don't mind if the story is good. But if it's riddled with mistakes, that will distract readers from enjoying your story. Moreover, an editor will smooth details in your story, like plot holes, character development, and other critical elements. To release the best version of your book, an editor's role is to help you improve the quality of your story, so don't skimp on one.

Beta Readers
After revising the first draft of my manuscript, I thought my editor was the only resource available. Now I know about beta readers and their vital role. But back then, I relied almost entirely on my editor's feedback to improve my novel. While I don't regret taking input from my editor (I received excellent feedback!), I wish I had contacted a few YA fiction beta readers first. They may have helped me improve my story further and boost my marketing reach after the fact. If you have just completed the first draft of your manuscript with revisions, have a few people beta-read and review your work before sending your story to your editor.

Creating a Marketing Plan
However you decide to publish your book, you need an effective marketing plan if you want your story in your readers' hands. A great story is not enough by itself anymore. In fact, there are successful books that may not have the best story premise or exceptional writing but are still bestsellers because of a great marketing strategy. Shocking though it may seem, I find writing and publishing a book is the easy part: marketing is the most challenging and what you'll spend most of your time doing. As a result, many writers outsource help to promote their novels. Thankfully, there are plenty of options to market and sell your book. But be aware that not all services deliver the results you are looking for. Also, don't choose a marketing service because someone recommends it. Research to see if these businesses have convincing reviews, look into their clients' successes, reach out to their clients for feedback, set up a preliminary meeting to connect, and then evaluate if it's a good fit for you. You can save money and energy by carefully vetting marketing services (and, honestly, anything you will outsource: editing, graphic design, etc.). When it comes to marketing, my final bit of advice is to start as early as possible to see better results.

Thoroughly Research all Publishing Options
Once you're ready to share your book with the world, you must decide how to publish it: traditional or self-publish. Whichever way you're leaning, evaluate your options before deciding, as either has many benefits and disadvantages. You'll want to pick the best method for you and your book. One of the reasons I chose to self-publish was to avoid going through the grueling and time-consuming process of reaching out to literary agents and traditional publishers, hoping they would like my book. Rather than risk facing countless rejections, I wanted to make my own opportunities and decisions, for better or worse. There are multiple self-publishing platforms available, and I decided to publish my book through BookBaby because their services fit my needs. Your publishing goals may differ from mine, so consider your objectives and evaluate your options before choosing the publishing route that will make the most sense for you and your book.

Set Realistic Expectations

You can save a lot of heartache by establishing expectations. To start, writing a book while balancing other responsibilities is challenging. Stick to a schedule, set aside time to write your story, and be realistic about the time it takes to finish a page. You should also understand the publishing industry and that it's competitive and often pretty subjective. Publishing houses rarely accept manuscripts upon the first submission, and many authors, even renowned ones, face dozens of rejections before being accepted. That's just part of the process, but you can use that as an opportunity to learn, improve your work, and persevere. Also, finding a literary agent and securing a publishing deal will take a while. If you're thinking about self-publishing, it takes time for first-time authors to make money. You will likely lose more money than you earn because of publishing and marketing expenses. But remember, your first book is the start of your writing journey, but you can lay the foundation of establishing yourself in the book marketing sphere and see success as an author for years to come.

Give Yourself Enough Time
Take your time, and do not rush through the process. Even though it took me years to publish my book, I'm glad I took my time with the publishing process. It's tempting to speed through so you can finally have it in your hands, but if you want to see any success with your book, you need to take your time and avoid skipping the necessary publishing steps.

Publishing comes with its ups and downs, but remembering why I wanted to write in the first place helped me persevere. I had a story in me that I wanted to share with the world. I published the best book I could write with the knowledge I had at the time. But it was so limited, and while I wish I knew more at the start, I did learn so much throughout that journey (check out my online self-publishing course if you're interested in learning more!). By keeping the above in mind, I guarantee you'll have a smoother process than me. If you have more questions about what I do or self-publishing, please find me on social media and reach out.

Jaire Sims lives, works, and writes where he was born and raised, in Chicago. After spending years with social anxiety and undergoing counseling, he was eventually diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum. Still, he overcame the challenges before him, graduating from Monmouth College with a Bachelor's Degree in Communication Studies. Off and on, he worked on and eventually published his debut novel, Getting By, named a finalist in the 2021 Next Generation Indie Book Awards. Jaire hopes to inspire and nurture aspiring authors and, through his work, champion marginalized voices facing similar struggles to him.

Monday, April 15, 2024

The Sweet Spot When it Comes to Word Count

You might not think about word count while crafting your masterpiece, but writers have to if they hope to sell their book. Publishers and agents are looking for a specific length. Readers expect genre books to be a certain length. So, it’s important to hit that sweet spot when it comes to word count.

Writer’s Digest gives a general breakdown for the average adult novel:
In short, word counts should be:
80,000-89,999: Totally cool
90,000-99,999: Generally safe
70,000-79,999: Might be too short; probably all right
100,000-109,999: Might be too long; probably all right
Below 70,000: Too short
110,000 or above: Too long

It also depends on the length of the story:
Short story under 7,500
Novelette – 7,500-17,500
Novella – 17,500-40,000
Novel – over 40,000

But what is a good length for each genre? After exploring over a dozen top websites, it became apparent that the range varies. Below is a list of multiple genres with a general word count range and an estimated sweet spot in parenthesis.

General fiction 70,000-110,000 (80,000)

Literary fiction 50,000-100,000 (80,000)

Romance 50,000-90,000 (75,000-80,000)

Mystery 70,000-90,000 (80,000)

Suspense-thrillers 70,000-90,000 (80,000)

Horror 70,000-100,000 (80,000-90,000)

Science fiction 70,000-125,000 (90,000-115,000)

Fantasy 90,000-150,000 (100,000-115,000)

Historical fiction 75,000-100,000 (80,000-90,000)

Chick lit 70,000-80,000 (75,000)

Westerns 50,000-80,000 (60.000-70.000)

Picture books 500-700 (600)

Middle grade 25,000-50,000 (35,000-40,000)

Young adult 55,000-80,000 (60,000-70,000)

New adult 50,000-80,000 (70,000)

Self-help 30,000-60,000 (40,000-50,000)

History 80,000-200,000 (100,000-150,000)

Memoir 50,000-80,000 (70,000)

Are there books that fall out of those word counts? George R. R. Martin and J. K. Rowling have multiple books that far exceed the average in their genres. But they are the exception not the rule and as established authors, they have a lot more leeway.

Now when your manuscript is finished, you’ll have a good idea if it falls into a good range for both publishers and readers. And you’ll know if you need to do some serious cutting. (Or flesh out the story more!)

Do your stories fall within range?

Wednesday, April 3, 2024

Long and Short of IWSG Day!


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. This group is all about connecting! Be sure to link to this page and display the badge in your post. 

And please be sure your avatar links back to your blog! Otherwise, when you leave a comment, people can't find you to comment back.

Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!

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

The awesome co-hosts for the April 3rd posting of the IWSG are Janet Alcorn, T. Powell Coltrin, Natalie Aguirre, and Pat Garcia!

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. 

Remember, the question is optional!

April 3 question - How long have you been blogging? (Or on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram?) What do you like about it and how has it changed?

Has spring sprung where you are yet? In some cases I guess that would be has fall fallen. Anyway, how many springs or falls have you gone through in blogland?

Been a good thirteen or so springs here. A lot has changed. There isn't the amount of bloggers that there used to be or the amount of posts there used to be from those still around. At least in many cases. I'm sure there are still some plugging away like they used to.

I enjoyed blogging and still do in some ways, but the only thing I really use these days is Instagram. I found many bloggers went there and that let's us stay in touch and such. Plus, I find it isn't as downward spiraling as Facebook or Twitter/X. 

How has blogging changed for you? Are you anywhere else more than you used to be? Still post the same amount? Been in blogland long? How many IWSG posts have you done over the years? 

I better stop. We are getting into too much math territory.

Enjoy the latest IWSG Day as you add another post to your count.

Monday, March 25, 2024

How Does a Writer Really Know When Their Manuscript Is Ready?

Welcome Mary Kole to IWSG again. This is such an uplifting and encouraging post filled with great common sense tips for writers.

Writing a novel or memoir manuscript is a labor of love. This effort requires a unique blend of passion, creativity, and perseverance that brings your story to life on the page. But once those final sentences are written, a daunting question looms like a shadow over the finish line: How do you know if your manuscript is truly ready for either submission to literary agents and publishers, or self-publishing? For aspiring writers and seasoned authors alike, this question sits at the heart of not just the writing process, but at the invisible transition from creator to published author. In a world where every word can be endlessly adjusted, how do you decide when it’s time to call your project really, truly finished?

Here's a comprehensive guide to help you make an important decision in this definitive moment in your writing journey.

Knowing When to Stop: The Art of Self-Editing

The first step is always the hardest. Once you’ve completed your first draft, the elation of this great accomplishment tends to quickly be replaced by the intimidation and complexity of the self-editing process. The art of revision is crucial to learn, it’s through this process that you mold your story to reflect its true potential. Begin by scrutinizing the structure and clarity of your narrative. Are your characters compelling and consistent? Are they relatable, deep, and flawed, with big needs and wants? Does the plot flow naturally via a sense of cause and effect, or are there gaps and logic flaws that need addressing? 

Every word must serve a purpose, every scene must move the story forward. Look for redundancy and tighten your prose. Remember, less is more when every word counts. Look out for unnecessary adverbs, adjectives, and prepositions that dilute the potency of your sentences. Often, the simplest phrasing is the most powerful. Be ruthless with your cuts. Furthermore, you should ensure that your characters' voices remain distinct and true to their nature. Remove any dialogue or action that feels out of step or is a clear plot contrivance.

Taking a Breather: The Power of Distance

After swimming in the intricate details of your manuscript, you need to take the critical step of getting away from the page. A breather allows you to return to the project with a fresh perspective, as if looking at your work through the eyes of a reader. A hiatus can bring clarity, highlighting potential issues that you’ve missed in the heat of creation or the organized puzzle of revision. Put your manuscript in a drawer or a digital lockbox, anywhere that you won't be tempted to peek.

There's no one-size-fits-all recommendation for how long your break should be, but a good rule of thumb is a few weeks at minimum. This allows time for your brain to reset and keep working on the story in a subconscious, “back burner” way. But don’t lose your creative momentum. Use this time to indulge in other pursuits or writing projects. Read books unrelated to your genre for fresh insight. Engage in hobbies. The goal is to fill your intellectual and emotional wells so that when you return to your work, you come back enriched and with new and focused ideas.

Seeking Feedback: Outside Eyes on Your Work

A writer’s creation is inherently personal, yet the finished product of a novel or memoir is intended for public consumption. There’s some inherent friction here, and getting quality feedback can bridge this divide. Connect with fellow writers who understand the challenge of the craft, or consider hiring a freelance editor. Fresh perspectives will bring forth strengths and weaknesses you may not have detected.

This process is important because writers are famously short-sighted when it comes to seeing their own work as an outsider might. But getting third-party feedback doesn’t have to be expensive. You can barter with writers, which will also nourish your sense of creative community. Join writing circle, attend workshops, or find online forums or Facebook groups where writers exchange feedback. When offering your own critiques, recall the kind of valuable input you want to see on your own work, and offer the same level of honesty and insight to your peers. An important byproduct of this stage is that you will learn things about your own writing when you see similar issues in others’ work.

If your budget allows, investing in a professional editor can provide a level of polish that few writers can achieve on their own. Editors bring an objective eye coupled with industry expertise that can elevate your manuscript to a publishable standard.

Research and Refinement: Understanding the Market

Publishing is both an art and a business. While you might not want to write to market initially, or get obsessed with what the market is doing while writing. However, it’s generally considered strategic to investigate the publishing landscape once you’re getting ready to submit or self-publish. What are some of the current trends? Any timeliness hook that you can leverage? How does your manuscript fit in? Research the tastes of the moment and consider how to position your story—maybe with an eye toward some current comparative titles—while maintaining its integrity. Balance is key—you want to be relevant without losing the essence that makes your work original.

Keep a keen eye on the books hitting the shelves. Analyze bestsellers, not to mimic them, but to potentially understand patterns—if these narratives resonate with readers, there's something to be learned from them. Of course, you shouldn’t chase trends at the expense of your creative vision, especially since your manuscript already exists in its more-or-less final form. Authenticity is your greatest asset. Infuse market awareness by making informed choices about genre, audience, and even the timing of your submission or release.

The Inflection Point: Submission or Self-Publishing

The pieces are falling into place, and now it’s time to consider your path to publication. Traditional publishing offers the backing of an established house, while self-publishing affords you full creative control. There’s no one right answer—the choice depends on your goals, resources, market knowledge, and the nature of your manuscript. (If you decide to self-publish, be aware that marketing is going to be the biggest challenge. Traditionally published authors are required to market their work, but they tend to have an easier time getting distribution to bookstores, libraries, etc.)

If you’re aiming for traditional publication, your job becomes to craft a compelling query letter and meticulously research literary agents who represent your genre and target audience. Submissions are a marathon, not a sprint. Patience and persistence are your allies in this pursuit. It just takes one yes, and if you’ve done the hard work of self-editing, getting feedback, and researching the market, you can consider yourself ahead of the rest of the writers in the submission trenches.

If you choose to self-publish, invest in professional cover design, formatting, and marketing. Build a platform, engage with your potential audience, and understand the self-publishing landscape to make informed choices about distribution and pricing. There is generally a steep learning curve as you learn the technology and techniques involved, but the tools that exist to help you have never been more robust. 

The Decisions Are Yours

There's no syllabus or formula when it comes to completing a manuscript, and every writer’s path is as unique as their voice and storytelling imagination. Trust the process, take your time, and remember that the final word on your manuscript's readiness should come from within. It's your creative conviction that ultimately decides if a manuscript is ready for the world.

Believe in the power of your story and the art of your craft. Know that every edit, every break, and every feedback round—from trusted friends to astute professionals—is a stepping stone toward reaching your manuscript's final form. When the project hits that perfect expression of itself in just the right way, you’ll feel it, deep in the marrow of your writing bones. Or maybe you’re just so sick of it after years of hard work that you can’t wait to get it off your plate. The former reason to submit or publish is obviously a little more compelling than the latter, but both are valid. When you decide that you and your project are ready, it’s time to share it with the world.

Photo Credit: Erin VonRuden (


Former literary agent Mary Kole founded Mary Kole Editorial in 2013 and provides consulting and developmental editing services to writers of all categories and genres. She founded Good Story Company in 2019 with the aim of creating valuable content—like the Good Story Podcast, YouTube channel, and Good Story Learning classes and resources—for writers of all categories and ability levels. Her Story Mastermind small group workshop intensives help writers level up their craft, and she offers done-for-you writing and ghostwriting at Manuscript Studio and marketing services with Good Story Marketing. She also develops unique and commercial intellectual property for middle grade, young adult, and adult readers with Upswell Media and Bittersweet Books (website forthcoming).

​​Mary has appeared at regional, national, and international SCBWI conferences, as well as independent conferences including Writer's Digest, Penn Writers, Writer's League of Texas, San Francisco Writers Conference, WIFYR, Writing Day, and dozens of others. She has guest lectured at Harvard, the Ringling College of Art and Design, the Highlights Foundation, and the Loft, and her classes can be found online at Writing Mastery Academy, Writing Blueprints, Udemy, and LinkedIn Learning.

She holds an MFA in Creative Writing and has worked at Chronicle Books, the Andrea Brown Literary Agency, and Movable Type Management. She started blogging at in 2009. Her book, Writing Irresistible Kidlit, a writing reference guide for middle grade and young adult writers, is available from Writer's Digest Books/Penguin Random House. She’s also the author of Successful Query Letters, Writing Irresistible Picture Books, and How to Write a Book Now from Good Story Publishing.

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Monday, March 18, 2024

Understanding the Book Publishing Contract

image from Pexels

Many writers dream of signing on with a publisher. That first publishing contract can be so exciting – and SO confusing.

Here is a list of terms, items covered, and what a new author needs to know before signing a contract.

The author usually retains rights and ownership to their work. Work for hire or academic works differ and the author may not retain the copyright.

The author grants the publisher the rights to publish the works.

The author pledges they are the sole proprietor of the work and is responsible for any violations of rights against the publisher by another party. The fine print varies, but it often falls to the author to defend against any violations.

The author agrees to deliver all components of the manuscript including script, images, footnotes, etc. within a certain time frame.

The publisher agrees to publish the work within a time certain frame.

Subsidy rights
These are rights outside of the initial book and include first or second serial rights, translations, foreign markets, movie and TV rights, audio rights, merchandising, book club rights, etc. These are negotiated into the contract with the author receiving some rights to no rights. (The author receives a percentage or the publisher keeps all of the profits.) Subsidy rights can be negotiated for with an agent. Without one and dealing directly with a publisher, an author must decide what they are willing to give up.

This is paid up front before the book is published and is often an estimation of royalties based on what the publisher expects to sell in the first year. No royalties will be received by the author until the advance has been covered in full.

The percentage for each format the author receives for each copy sold. The percentage will vary between print, eBook, audio, etc. Hard covers receive the highest, often 10% or more of net. (Not retail unless an agent negotiates a better deal.) Paperback and mass-market can drop to 7%. Electronic copies often net the best deal at 25-35%.

The publisher will deduct overpayments from future royalties or demand their return if exceeding a certain amount.

Author copies

The cost of books ordered directly from publisher by the author.

Statements and payments
How often royalties are paid by the publisher.

Reversion and termination
The rights of the publisher to terminate the book after X amount of years with a written notice to the author. The publisher also has the right to terminate before publication under some circumstances. Note that while the publisher retains the right to terminate, the author often DOES NOT. (Authors can request termination, but it is up to each individual publisher whether they will grant it or not.)

What happens if publisher closes shop.

Options on next work
The publisher gets first look at author’s next work, particularly in a series.

The publisher will list what they will do and what is expected of the author.

There are many other details – arbitration, infringement, inheritance, etc. – but the list above gives you an idea what to expect with that first contract. Always look it over carefully and hire an entertainment or publishing law lawyer if possible.

Have you signed a publishing contract? Are there things you still don’t understand? We hope this has helped!

Monday, March 11, 2024

Republishing My Book


Thank you C. Lee McKenzie for inviting me to blog here. I am happy to share my republishing tale. For three years my book was out of print and not available for sale except in second hand. The prices for books were astronomical. I was devastated and here is my story of how I was able to get it back out there into the hands of readers.

Many of you have been published by a traditional publisher and may or may not have been in my position. My book, If I Could Be Like Jennifer Taylor, was published in 2011 by MuseItUp Publishing as an ebook and later as a paperback. Three years ago my publisher sent me back the manuscripts on Word docs and told me she was going out of business. I had the rights to the text but not to the cover. So I went looking for a publisher for my book.

If you look on Amazon to see the rating and the reviews you will see they are very favorable. I have twenty-nine good reviews through the years. However, no publisher would do it. So I had to go with KDP Amazon, which gave me a good deal and threw in a free cover. I couldn't resist that and paid a little bit to get it republished.

We spent almost a year getting it done due to the fact that we couldn't decide on a cover. The one I had was not mine and I didn't like the morose girl on it. So we went back and forth and finally found the one I liked. Happy to say the editing of this book by Nancy Bell and Penny Ehrenkranz was so good there didn't need to be any changes at all to the original story. We did make it international print so now it has a Table of Contents and things have been moved a little bit.

Now the book has been launched in person and online and it is available on not only Amazon but Barnes and Noble and other outlets including maybe your local bookstore. I am extremely happy that the book has risen from the ashes.

As the years went by I wrote two sequels to it and it is now the first book of The Mill Valley High series. If you notice in the 2nd edition there is the first chapter of the second book in the series: Who Is Jennifer Taylor? which is not published yet but will be soon. In the meantime, I included that in the book and it is also available on Kindle Vella for free. I may be putting more chapters on Kindle Vella so check it out.

The wonderful part about this is that If I Could Be Like Jennifer Taylor has been launched both online and in person. I know a publisher in India who launched my book for me even though we didn't have a physical book yet and it was launched locally by my local library, Perrot Library in Old Greenwich, CT. At that book launch I again had no copies of the book. They are being published on Ingram and so a delay in shipping created this problem. No worries. I read an excerpt from my phone. I didn't get to sign any books, though. My copies came the day afterward. I had to laugh. In addition, my book is available at the local bookstore, Athena Books if you live in the area. You can also get it online at Barnes and Noble or ask for it in their store.  
The ebook will be out very soon. Unlike the first time when it was published first in ebook, this time the ebook was done after the paperback. I am so happy it is back out there and hope that it will be read by the middle school audience. 
Until the next time hope you are reading and writing and publishing if that's what you want to do. All publishing is cool now.

Wednesday, March 6, 2024


The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your 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. This group is all about connecting! Be sure to link to this page and display the badge in your post. And please be sure your avatar links back to your blog! Otherwise, when you leave a comment, people can't find you to comment back.

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

The awesome co-hosts for the March 6 posting of the IWSG are Kristina KellyMiffie Seideman, Jean Davis, and Liza @ Middle Passages!

Every month, we announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG posts. 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. 

Remember, the question is optional!

March Question:

Have you "played" with AI to write those nasty synopses, or do you refuse to go that route? How do you feel about AI's impact on creative writing? 

The quick answer to this one is, no. But I entered the synopsis I’d written for my next book and ChatGPT kicked out a great analysis for each character. I think this will be useful when I do some posts about these characters. I wish I’d done it earlier so I could have referred to it while I was writing the book.

I haven’t played with it more than that. It bothers me that it’s so fast and without error. I’m not happy about being upstaged by something without a heart.

Stop in at my new digs on Substack



Monday, February 26, 2024

Book Marketing Timeline

By Rose Cushing of Cushing Publishing

You need to begin marketing your book before you begin writing it.

As you are writing it

While it is being edited

Two weeks before release

Release Date

Post Release

Who is your target audience for your book?

What are your goals?

How many books do you want to sell? Break down by quarters.

What is your marketing budget?


Branding is incredibly important if you plan to be a writer for the long haul. You must remember you are branding yourself you are the company. Not the particular book you are writing, but you, as an author.

How would you define your brand? Give me 5 words to describe it.

You will need an author bio. Have you written one? You should look at about 150 words max.

How will you classify your book? What BISAC subject codes fit best?

Do you have an author website? Things you will need to include:

About the author, About the book, Blog, Contact, Homepage. Add pages as necessary.

Social Media Marketing

Choose two or three platforms that you know how to do well.

Create your content which should be a blend of memes, post, tweets, photos relevant to your book. Remember 20% promotional ads and 80% content that would be of interest to your readers, but not directly promoting your book. People like to get to know you. Include personal things like hobbies, likes, trips, etc.

Good to have a brainstorming session to create this type of content in advance.

Media Kit

This is one of the most important things for you to assemble. Media Kit should include:
1) Contact info.
2) Agent or Publicist name
3) Bio and photo
4) Promotional information such as FAQ, Media links, Press release, Graphics, ads, photos, things to grab readers attention
5) Author website
6) One Sheet

Review Strategy

Set a goal for how many reviews you would like to have after the first week of release. You will also need pre-printing reviews for your book cover and promotion. Think of who you will send an advance copy to obtain these.

What’s Next

Keep your momentum going.

Make sure you have your author’s page on Amazon up to date.

Increase your presence in social media groups.

Use your one sheet to call on local bookstores to set up your book tour.

Make a list of social media influencers, podcasters, etc. and contact them about your book. When you get a podcast interview or article done be sure to put the links on your website and social media pages.

Rose Cushing is an author, podcast host, publisher, television producer and documentary film maker. She loves horses, writing, marketing, and gardening. In her contemporary women’s fiction Chasing the Wind she takes us on a journey of life changing proportions from being a small-town journalist to an heiress traveling the world. Her debut novel will be available in October 2023. She also established Cushing Publishing, a small traditional publishing house in 2023.

Monday, February 19, 2024

I Wish I Knew Then What I Know Now


Previously posted on a different blog as a guest blogger.


 I began writing in prehistoric times, when dinosaurs roamed the earth and writers pecked on typewriters. I had no idea computers, software, hardware, printers and emails were waiting in the future.

One morning I woke to birds chirping and mammoths trumpeting and decided I wanted to be a writer. Except for a few well-received essays in high school and a handful of English courses in college, I had absolutely no background in writing. I didn't even know what a thesaurus was. I just knew I enjoyed creating stories.

The one thing I did have in my empty toolbox was a knowledge of books. I loved reading. I was a voracious reader. And while voracious may not work anymore to describe my reading, I still plow through several books a month. How can anyone not read? But I'm getting off topic. So armed with my ideas, I began to write. This was challenging on a couple of levels. Creating a story and getting it on paper. 

Today creativity is my major challenge. Then, getting words on paper.

Each typed page needed to be proofed before it left the typewriter and, unless you were a perfect typist which I wasn't, involved a lot of white paint--correction fluid--from a little bottled called Wite.Out. Wite.Out was a secretary's and writer's best friend. Yes, back in the dark ages, people were called secretaries instead of admin assists.

After typing  out the manuscript, which usually involved several hundred pages, came the rewrites. Say you did a serious change on page ten that involved adding a scene or scenes that ran into extra pages. If you were lucky, you only had to retype that chapter then go back and use your trusty Wite.Out to change the following page numbers of the rest of your manuscript. Yup, the good ole days.

Next step was finding a home for your story. Again, there was no computer to do a quick search of who wanted what. The Writer's Market Guide was, and probably still is for those who don't publish Indie, an invaluable tool. I spent hours combing through pages looking for the appropriate home for my genre.

After I drew up a list, I began to send out my stories. Remember this was still the ice age and typewriters and carbon paper still roamed the earth. There were no emails, no attaching three chapters and hitting the send button. Instead it was purchasing legal size envelopes, stuffing your letter and chapters inside and heading for the post office. Then waiting and waiting and waiting some more, for a response that sometimes never came. In that respect, things haven't changed have they? Oftentimes when you did get a response, it was a form rejection letter--something else that I imagine hasn't changed--and you started back at square one. Other times, the publishing company or agent wanted to see the entire manuscript. Then it was off to the supply store to buy a box to mail your manuscript in and have copies made. It was a fairly pricey and time-consuming process.

Researching was also more challenging than it is now. The information was there, but not at your fingertips. Instead or tapping a few keys and doing a search, you had to track down physical books, which usually meant hitting the library or a bookstore.

And there was no self-publishing unless you went vanity and paid for it.


Since those days I have added to my toolbox and am always on the lookout for new tools. I have a few that I'd like to share, which you may already know of and use.

For synonyms I use Power Thesaurus.

For covers: pixelstudio. I love this group They are so helpful and their prices are unbelievably reasonable

For those of you who make your own covers, trailers and or memes: Book Brush. or Canva. 


For general information and support for most aspects of writing and publishing, IWSG.

So, back to the beginning: If I'd known then what I know now, I would have probably waited a few years to start writing. 😀


Monday, February 12, 2024

Using Macros in Your Writing Process

 A more efficient way to write and edit - by Lynda Dietz

For every person who uses macros, there are probably at least two who have never heard of them or who think they’re too complicated—and therefore scary—to bother with. But have no fear! There are a good number of them out there, ready to install and use in Microsoft Word, that can help your writing.


What is a macro?

A macro is simply a string of computer commands that allows you to run a set of tasks easily and automatically. You can write your own, or you can install macros that have been written by someone who loves doing that kind of stuff.


As a fiction editor, I receive manuscripts that range from neatly formatted to mildly chaotic, and starting with a level playing field can make all the difference in the world. The distraction of having to stop reading every few minutes to change a random straight quote to a curly quote, or something equally tedious, can really slow down progress and break my train of thought.


Who can use macros?

Many book editors use macros to streamline the editing process, often as a “clean sweep” type of tidying before getting down to the nitty gritty of reading through a project. Others use them at the end of a writing session to clean up any lingering errors.


Writers can use macros too! They can be a helpful tool for writers of all types at any stage of writing.


If you’d like to start off with some simple macros you can get for free, Paul Beverley is the guy to go to. He has written hundreds of macros that are easy to use for writers in all fields, and not only does he make them all available for free—really free, not even a “sign up for my mailing list to get these”—he also provides tutorials on YouTube and in the macro downloads.


Wisely, Paul suggests starting slowly to get used to using the ones you need most. In his downloadable (and regularly updated) book, Macros for Editors, he breaks down the favorite macros based on user feedback, work type, and more. He also provides a “macro menu” that lists the macros by function, and also dates the newer macros, saying “the chances are that the more recent macros are (a) better programmed and (b) likely to be more useful.”


My most-used macros

As you’d expect, I have a handful of macros I’d rather not live without. As per Paul Beverley’s advice, I installed only one at a time, getting used to using each before installing another.


I’ve programmed most of my macros with the keys shift + alt + [letter] because I don’t tend to use the shift + alt combo for other things, and they’re often not assigned already on the keyboard.


My favorites are DocAlyse, ProperNounAlyse, MerriamFetch, SwapWord, CatchPhrase, and WordPairAlyse. I probably should say “my favorites so far,” since I plan to install more over time. If you’d like to find out more about what these six do and how I use them, visit my blog post “Using Macros in Your Writing Process” for the full explanation.


Benefits of using macros

If you’re a writer, one of the best benefits of using macros is that you’ll be able to clean up your document really well before hiring an editor. A cleaner manuscript can often mean a difference in editing costs.


Macros can ensure consistency when styling headers, spelling names, or formatting tables, to name a few applications. Macros don’t get fatigued when reading through a document, so you’re not as likely to miss anything.


Macros can help prevent repetitive use injuries by reducing the number of keystrokes needed for certain tasks. A few strokes may seem like no big deal, but they add up. Consider the macro EmDashUnspaced, which removes punctuation, adds an unspaced em dash and lowercases the next character. A two- or three-key combo to use the macro is far preferable to all that typing and removing.


Macros can help you speed through tedious tasks. There comes a point in every writer or editor’s life when the larger, hour-saving improvements have been made, and what remains are smaller improvements that may save seconds or minutes. But again, it all adds up.


Most of Paul Beverley’s macros provide a report in a separate document, so you don’t have to go through your entire doc to find highlighted items. You can examine only the ones you need to.


You can find the Macro Menu, which lists all the macros Paul Beverley has included in his macro book (so far), along with a description of what they do, right here. The menu is invaluable for when you’re starting out, listing macros by function and type.


Whether the macro takes care of something simple or complex, they’re well worth exploring. Find one you like, try it out, and I can almost guarantee you’ll go looking for another one that suits your needs.


Lynda has never lost her fascination with the written word, from her earliest years of reading the back of the cereal box at the breakfast table to reading manuscripts of up and coming authors. Book hangovers are a regular occurrence with no regrets. She copyedits in a variety of genres, both in fiction and creative nonfiction. She’s had a blog since 2013, where she encourages writers with advice and a healthy dose of silliness. She works with four assistants: her husband (The Bringer of Coffee), and three cats who are mostly worthless but very, very adorable.

ERE Blog






Wednesday, February 7, 2024

The Insecure Writer's Support Group Day and New #IWSGPit Date

It’s time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Time to release our fears to the world – or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post the first Wednesday of every month. I encourage everyone to visit at least a dozen new blogs and leave a comment. Your words might be the encouragement someone needs.

The awesome co-hosts for the February 7 posting of the IWSG are SE White, Janet Alcorn, Victoria Marie Lees, and Cathrina Constantine!

February 7 question: What turns you off when visiting an author's website/blog? Lack of information? A drone of negativity? Little mention of author's books? Constant mention of books?

#IWSGPit Twitter Party

The next #IWSGPit will be March 27, 2024.
10:00 am - 8:00 pm Eastern Standard Time.

Create a Twitter-length pitch for your completed and polished manuscript and leave room for genre, age, and the hashtag. On Wednesday, March 27, 2024, Tweet your pitch using #IWSGPit. If your pitch receives a favorite/heart from a publisher/agent check their submission guidelines and send your requested query.

Many writers have seen their books published from a Twitter pitch - it’s a quick and easy way to put your manuscript in front of publishers and agents.

For hashtags and guidelines, visit our #IWSGPit page.

Do authors really find agents and publishers through a Twitter pitch party? Yes they do! Dancing Lemur Press, L.L.C. has found FIVE authors from this event, including one of our best sellers, Damien Larkin.

So, get your pitches ready for March!

What turns you off when visiting an author’s site? Will you be participating in #IWSGPit? Have you had success with a Twitter pitch party?

Monday, January 22, 2024

The Most Common Reasons a Book Gets Negative Reviews

We're pleased to welcome Andrea Moran, Book Reviewer & Blogger at Kirkus Reviews. Be sure to see the special offer by Kirkus for the IWSG audience at the end of this post. 

Bravely putting a book out into the world is difficult enough without fearing a slew of unfavorable reviews. While you can’t please everyone who picks up your book, there are reasons many readers may have a negative reaction—and the good news is that most of those reasons are avoidable. Here are a few of the most common ones to consider when you’re writing and editing a draft.

1. The book is categorized in the wrong genre.

Readers don’t like to feel as though they have been tricked. So when a particular book is marketed as one thing but in reality is something completely different, there is probably going to be backlash.

This is particularly useful to keep in mind when choosing your book cover and other promotional blurbs. After all, you want to ensure that a gut-wrenching character study doesn’t have the color palette of a romance, or that a book that is 99 percent science fiction doesn’t have back cover text emphasizing a hard-boiled detective. Despite the common wisdom to the contrary, many people do judge a book by its cover—and are more than willing to share a bad review based on that judgment.

2. The main characters are unlikable.

While you can develop a protagonist who possesses a few character traits that are less than stellar, sometimes characters can be too unlikable. Obviously no one is perfect, but readers will have a hard time relating to (never mind rooting for) someone who is so full of flaws and negative traits that their common humanity gets lost. So go ahead, make some people in your central cast of characters delightfully marred—just don’t forget to imbue them with an occasional redeeming quality.

3. The ending is too abrupt.

No one likes reading a book that’s cut off before a proper ending. You may alienate readers who don’t like investing time in a book that never really ends or frustrate them with an ending that answers only some of the questions they have.

Even if this is the first book in a series, leaving it on an all-out cliffhanger is a risky move, and readers may refuse to invest more time reading the next book. It’s perfectly fine to leave some ambiguity, but there should be enough resolution to the main storyline that readers don’t feel slighted—or else they’re likely to air their grievances via a bad review.

4. The book hasn’t been edited well (or at all).

Nothing can derail a good book faster than lots of errors. Typos, punctuation mistakes, inconsistent formatting—these can leave a bad taste in readers’ mouths. Errors tend to distract readers from the main message of the book. This means all your hard work developing characters and a plot will likely be overshadowed if readers are continually pulled out of the story by a set of missing quotation marks or a misspelled word. Luckily, this is one issue that is easily avoided by hiring a qualified editor.

5. The stylistic choices are off-putting.

Everyone’s taste is different, but going for a less popular choice can sometimes backfire. The use of second-person narration—“You walk down the hallway,” for example—is rarely used in novels, which means it’s a bold and perhaps not highly advisable option when choosing your book’s point of view.

Similarly, readers tend to find choices like the excessive use of ellipses more annoying than illuminating. And if you’re going to use creative line spacing or other alternative formatting, make sure there’s a good reason for doing so. (If you need an example of how to do it well, look no further than House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski.) Readers are likely to leave a bad review if they feel the style is too out there or makes the book confusing—of course, whether that’s a fair assessment is another matter entirely.

6. The characters are inconsistent.

Readers become invested in a story’s characters, and that’s a good thing! But they can’t get invested when characteristics change from one chapter to the next. If someone’s whole personality revolves around a particular trait and that trait is forgotten about or betrayed simply for the sake of moving the plot in a different direction or throwing in a surprise twist, you are going to have some pretty annoyed readers. Characters are supposed to be complex, nuanced, and layered. They shouldn’t go against previously established trait markers that helped make them who they were to begin with.

7. The ending is unsatisfying.

Often, the hardest part of writing a story is nailing the ending. We’ve all read at least one book that was humming right along until the final act that, instead of sticking the landing, turned into one giant clunker. Readers who are left feeling unsatisfied with how the situation resolves (or doesn’t resolve) will likely feel motivated to leave a bad review that vents their frustration.

This doesn’t mean you can’t have an ending that is sad or unexpected or even a little ambiguous (but see number three!). It just means that the ending should fit the tone and lesson of the book as a whole. A romance novel pretty much requires a happy ending, for example, while a gritty character study should offer some semblance of personal growth at its conclusion—even if that conclusion isn’t necessarily a joyous one for all involved.

Andrea Moran lives outside of Nashville with her husband and two kids. She’s a professional copywriter and editor who loves all things books. Find her on LinkedIn.

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