Thursday, May 28, 2009

Interview with NYT Bestselling Author and Publisher Deborah Smith

I'd hoped to include Deborah's interview during the Virtual Writers' Conference last week. Since I just got the interview today, however, I wanted to go ahead and post it. I think it will be a welcome addition to the conference articles, and I hope you enjoy it.

Gayle Trent: How did you make the transition--or, I should say, addition--from NYT bestselling author to publisher?

Deborah Smith: About ten years ago I sat with a group of old friends, all veteran authors with long track records at the big New York houses, and we bemoaned the lack of places to publish some folksy Southern short stories we wanted to write. It was like in the old movies where Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney get a great idea for a Broadway show but they've got no theater so they get all their pals together and put on a show in a barn (complete with amazing music, costumes and sets).

We decided that maybe we could put on a show in a barn.

So five of us pooled our pocket change, wrote a collection of stories, titled it Sweet Tea and Jesus Shoes, printed a few thousand copies, and started learning how to be publishers instead of merely authors. To our amazement, "STAJS," as we abbreviate it, made money, sold out its first printing, and was picked up by a big New York publisher for reprint.

Stunned with glory, we formed BelleBooks. Now, ten years later, we've slowly but surely published more than two dozen books in a variety of styles (including two illustrated hardcover children's books) and are now entering a big new phase with a new imprint, Bell Bridge Books. Starting in 2008 we added a lot of new titles, and this year we'll publish nearly a dozen books. So our list is taking a giant leap forward.

I left my last New York publisher about four years ago and began publishing my women's fiction novels through BelleBooks instead. While I miss the bigger paycheck and the vast distribution of a major publisher, I love having control over all aspects of the process, including cover art and marketing. Now, if there are mistakes, I know where to point the finger of blame. Right at the mirror.

Friday, May 22, 2009

"Alien Conspiracy" by Selden Smith

"Alien Conspiracy" is an excerpt from the memoir, My 91 Year Old Pregnant Mother hilarious and tender musings from a daughter's years caring for her elderly parents with Alzheimer’s by Selden Smith

Now the heart has taken on the vestige of caring for its parents. The beating heart in my dad belongs to my mom; the beating heart in my mom belongs to my dad. My heart so unavailable has surprisingly found a home with my parents. Does this mean I’ll never date again and will end up the spinster sister? But wait, I just realized that I am already the spinster sister. I am too old to be anything else. My heart has taken on my parents’ frailties, their hopes and dreams lost amid the ruins of a long life in the midst of a home forged by obsessive collecting and storing in any drawer, closet or pocket anything that may have a use in the next one hundred years.

I carry their baggage to give them room to be old and uncluttered. It doesn’t work mind you, the WW II generation will carry every bit of baggage they have until they drop. Not a scrap is wasted. Every piece of paper, a napkin that becomes so thin you can see through it and every leftover is used until it sits on the plate quivering, begging to be thrown into the garbage because it is old and wants to be put to death. Toilet paper is used so sparingly by my parents you’d think it was gold from Fort Knox. The amount my mother allows herself in a day is simply embarrassing. She always complained that my sister and I would have to marry rich to keep ourselves in toilet paper.

My parents collect everything. Especially my father, his room is filled with thousands of books and at least two hundred of them are Bibles. There is only a small pathway through his room in which the ceiling is held up by bookcases. Actually, I’m almost sure there are no actual walls, just fortresses of bookcases, papers, pens, pencils, paperclips, dirty socks, which could be worn again, book bags and candy wrappers. It is a danger zone perpetuated by the grabbing handles of trillions of plastic bags, not to mention the half full Styrofoam cups.

When they travelled, my father always had to carry several bags full of books and a Styrofoam cup full of coffee, which he usually spilled down the front of his white pants and shirt. This used to send my mother’s blood pressure off the chart as she tried to control the mess that followed my normally impeccably dressed father everywhere until Alzheimer’s took over his gray matter. He also had macular degeneration and couldn’t see the mess on his clothing without the stream of different magnifying glasses that he pulled from his many bags. One had a light, one had a special magnifying circle and one the handle kept falling off of, until my mother duct taped it back together again.

You can never throw anything away, as soon as you do you will need it. The reality is, as much as I hate to say it, it’s true. There I said it, go ahead, and call me an old lady spinster winch.

But I do have a theory of the scientific sort about the elderly. Aliens are using our elderly to create a takeover of the world or at the very least the United States. The hoarding of brown bags, plastic bags, soiled napkins, over eight million Styrofoam cups, which are deceiving as they hide inside of one another procreating and filling the trunks of cars and every crevasse that has an open space. Any void that is susceptible to being filled with a wadded up plastic bag and Styrofoam is actually a conspiracy by aliens who are using the old ones to take over this planet.

One day, I opened the trunk of the silver Buick Le Sabre and plastic bags with minds of their own exploded out into the wind travelling on torn handles for legs. Then I knew for sure, a gong will sound throughout the landfills, the salt mines and the trunks of Le Sabres’ everywhere. Elderly driver’s trunks will pop open and the plastic bags will spring to life, Styrofoam cups will sing as they whistle through the wind and the planet will be over thrown by plastic bags and Styrofoam who are collectively awakened as the enslaved Le Sabres of the world unite amid the den of honking horns and watch helplessly as plastic and Styrofoam take control of the world.


Besides being the author of My 91 Year Old Pregnant Mother hilarious and tender musings from a daughter's years caring for her elderly parents with Alzheimer’s, Selden Smith is an actress, artist, filmmaker and breast-cancer survivor.

An Agent's Time by Jessica Faust*

Why are there never enough hours in the day? I know everyone feels this way and I’m certainly no different, however as I watch the submission piles grow and the equeries come in I sometimes wonder what I do all day. How come I can’t get any of it done? So out of curiosity I tracked myself. How long do things actually take around here. Keep in mind this is not necessarily one day’s list, but an idea of how long different projects might take me.

Reading and responding to 25 equeries: 1 1/2 hours on a Sunday morning

Reading and editing the first 100 pages of a client’s next project, including sending it back with a letter: 3 hours

Reading and editing a client’s proposal (synopsis for three books only): 1 hour

Attending the BookEnds weekly meeting: 45 minutes

Reading daily publishing news that comes to me through email: 10 to 20 minutes (depending on how many links I click through)

Breakfast with a client: 4 hours (including travel time)

Introductory phone call with an editor newly assigned to my client: 15 minutes

Receiving a phone call from an editor with an offer: 10 minutes

Calling and telling a client that she’s just made her first deal: 15 very excited minutes

Read Publishers Weekly: 20 minutes

Writing a blog post: 20 minutes

Brainstorming phone call/career discussion with client: 1 hour, 20 minutes

Reviewing a contract from a publisher: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Lunch with an editor: 3 hours, 30 minutes (including travel time)

Career planning conversation with client: 40 minutes

So there you have it. A peek into what I do with my time.

*This post originally appeared at on Friday, November 21, 2008.

As a literary agent and cofounder of BookEnds, LLC, Jessica Faust prides herself on working closely with her authors to make their goals come to fruition. Her areas of expertise include historical, contemporary, fantasy, paranormal, and erotic romance, urban fantasy, women's fiction, mysteries, suspense, and thrillers. In nonfiction, Jessica specializes in current affairs, business, finance, career, parenting, psychology, women's issues, self-help, health, sex, and general nonfiction. While open to anything, Jessica is most actively seeking unique fiction with a strong hook, and nonfiction with creative ideas and large author platforms.

What Is a Book Proposal for Nonfiction Writers by Jessica Faust*

Welcome back everyone and Happy New Year! I can tell by my inbox that many of you have made a New Year's Resolution to get your book out on submission this year and for that reason I think today's post and tomorrow's are awfully timely.

One of the nice things about being a nonfiction writer of self-help or how-to books is that you can almost always sell on proposal. Isn’t that a beautiful thing? In other words, you don’t need to write the entire book to find an agent or a publisher. However, writing that proposal can be just as difficult as writing the book. Writing the proposal is all about marketing and positioning and sometimes not so much about the book. But what is a good book proposal? What do editors and agents expect and what can help make your proposal rise above the rest?

We do have short guidelines to a book proposal on our Web site, but I thought I’d give you a peek into what I give my authors, the insider's look into the work I make my clients go through before I submit anything to publishers. In other words, what do I mean when I ask for an overview, author bio, sample material, and a table of contents (toc).

In no particular order and definitely in your own voice and style, a nonfiction book proposal should contain the following elements:

1. Overview

The overview tells the editor, in brief, what your book is about. If you are writing your overview in paragraph form I would suggest you write no more than one or two pages. While it’s true we want to give the editor as much information as possible, we also want her to know that we can be concise. Think of advertising. We don’t want to read pages and pages on the new Apple iPod. An advertisement grabs our attention because it highlights only those most intriguing points. Your overview is really an advertisement for your book.

If one of your biggest marketing or advertising points is you as the author (which it should be), your credentials and the work you do (in other words, your platform) should be part of the overview. In fact, it should probably be one of the biggest pieces of the overview.

Other good points to include are:

#Timeliness of the topic—is it something that’s in the news a lot lately?

#The market—are there 85 million potential buyers for your book?

#The one thing that makes your book stand out from all others.

#Details about the approach you intend to take.

#Special features such as charts, checklists, photos, etc.

2. Author Bio

This could quite possibly be the most critical piece of your book proposal. If there’s one reason, more than any other, that editors are using to reject nonfiction, it’s because of the author’s platform, or lack thereof. When writing your author bio it’s critical that you have made yourself look like the Dr. Phil of your particular subject. We no longer live in a day when freelance writers can make it big writing books. It seems that everyone wants an already established author. Someone who can make this book a bestseller without any work from the publisher.

Again, this is a sales piece, and because of that it’s important to organize your author bio with the most intriguing and exciting information first. We don’t really care if you went to Harvard or not. We care whether or not you can sell this book to thousands of people. Therefore, who are you and what makes you an expert on this subject, and, most important, what gives you a national platform? Do you give workshops? Presentations? Do you teach at Harvard (much different than having attended)? Have you been featured in national magazines, on TV or radio? Do you have a number of major media contacts interested in your subject? Teach at a local community center? Mention as much as you possibly can and highlight the big stuff—the stuff that gives you national recognition. We would rather have you mention too much and have you edit it down than find out after the proposal has already gone out that you are a regular columnist for Time magazine and simply failed to mention this to us.

3. Marketing

Next to the author platform and subject, this is probably the third most important piece of your proposal and actually goes hand in hand with your platform. Not only does the publisher want to know whether or not there is a market for the book, and how big it is, they want to know how you can bring this book to that market.

Some of this might be a repeat from the author bio; however, it should be written more extensively. While you might have mentioned in the author bio that you speak nationally, in the marketing section you are going to expand on that and tell us how many people you speak to and on what subjects. Do you have a speaking schedule for the upcoming year (or two)? Make sure to include it with your proposal. Have you already been featured in major national magazines and newspapers? Mention this and include clips.

Don’t waste a lot of time talking about what you could do or what the publisher can do. Mention instead what you are already doing. It’s easy to think that we can all write articles for major magazines, but unless you’re already doing that there’s no guarantee that you can get published in them. Just because you think your idea should get attention from media sources doesn’t mean they’ll agree. Everyone can make their book a bestseller if they get on Oprah, but don’t even bother mentioning this unless you’ve been on Oprah before. Everyone will take the time out to do whatever publicity or talk show circuit the publisher can get for them, so this doesn’t make you special. What does make you special are the things you’ve done or the columns you write that already get you noticed.

In addition to showing what you can do to market this book, you want to prove that there is a market for this book. Statistics can help. Do you have a Web site with 100,000 subscribers? Did Dateline do a piece on just the topic you’re discussing, or on you? Was there a Newsweek article on you or the subject? Are there organizations all over the country that your book pertains to?

Other things to consider mentioning regarding market:

#Statistics on the size of the market and the extent to which it’s growing.

#Demographic information.

#Media sources you have a connection to—reporters, columnists, etc., in your Rolodex.

#Do you have a foreword writer already—a big name?

#Do you know of an organization that’s already agreed to buy copies of the book when it’s published? Include this information and how many copies.

4. Competition

Probably the second biggest reason an editor will reject a nonfiction book proposal is because of lack of competition or too much competition. Are there other books on the market similar to yours? Don’t be afraid to talk about that fact, but most important, prove how your book stands out from them. When doing this it’s important to see it from the editor’s point of view. I know that we all think your book is different, but the truth is that bookstores are going to shelve it next to other, similar books. So how is your book going to distinguish itself from others? In other words, if readers are only going to read the title and back of the book (probably something similar to your overview), what makes your book shine? Look back to your bookstore activity and the number of books next to yours on the shelf and use this as a guide.

While it’s not necessary to name every competitive title, it is probably a good idea to list the top three or so and show how your book is different. The key here is to present your differences. If an editor likes your book her next job is to present it to the rest of the editorial staff and sales department and convince them that your book is worthy of publication. By giving her ammunition, such as the point of difference between your book and others, you are helping her sell your book. In addition, doing a comparative analysis shows the editor that, in fact, you are an expert and know your competition. She will assume, as we will, that you know all of these books intimately and have read them.

*** Don’t ever think that by not mentioning competitive titles you will trick the editor into believing that there aren’t any. Editors who buy in a certain genre—yours—know the market and know just as much about the competition as you should. They read the books and reviews and regularly scour bookshelves. Therefore, it’s better to be up front in your proposal and prove why your book is different rather than leave it to an editor’s imagination.

5. TOC and Chapter Summaries

The TOC (table of contents) might seem obvious, but it’s amazing how many people will submit a proposal without one. This is a simple way to give an editor another overview of the book. It’s also the first thing most readers (and editors) will look at when they open a book. If you feel that your TOC warrants cute titles, that’s great. We always want something that makes your book stand out, but it’s important that the title headings clearly describe what the chapter will be about. We shouldn’t have to try to guess. When writing your TOC don’t forget to include any appendices or other supplementary material you intend to include (charts, sample forms, etc.).

Chapter summaries are chapter-by-chapter breakdowns. Including this allows the editor to see how you intend to approach the material and also gives her an idea of your writing style. Chapter summaries are what allow nonfiction writers to submit on proposal rather than with the entire book. When writing your summaries remember to include all of the information that makes your book different and intriguing. If you intend to include charts or photos in a particular chapter, mention that, and, if possible, mention what they will be of.

One important note about chapter summaries: They are the first real impression the editor has of your writing style—so make them shine. Chapter summaries should be fun to read an exciting (as long as you intend for your book to be fun to read and exciting). Please don’t start each one with, “Chapter one will include . . . ” Put your voice into it and make them read as if they were the chapters themselves. The most successful book proposals read like the book, not as a boring outline of what the book could be.

Chapter summaries should be anywhere from one paragraph to five pages long (each).

6. Sample Chapters

Sample chapters are the icing on the cake, and we all know that bad icing can ruin a cake. We should probably stop using the word “sample” when describing the chapters you intend to send out with your proposal. While these are meant to give the editor a sampling of how your chapters will be written (style, voice, and tone), they should be submitted as if they are going straight to publication. In other words, they should be perfect. Like the rest of your proposal the grammar, punctuation, and style should be impeccable. There shouldn’t be any typos and the tone you’ve written the samples in should be indicative of the tone your entire book will be written.

When choosing which sample chapters to write don’t just automatically go to the first. What chapters are your strongest and most intriguing? Write those. After all, your goal is to grab someone’s attention, so why would you submit the most stagnant chapter?

At a minimum, your proposal should include two to three sample chapters or two sample chapters and an introduction. Of course, what you submit can always change depending on your proposal. It might be helpful to discuss this with your agent before getting started. Whatever you decide, think of this: we have seen editors reject a proposal because there wasn’t enough material submitted. From an editor’s perspective it looked lazy, as if the author was unwilling to do the work required to sell the book—which doesn’t bode well for the future. It’s always better to have too much material than too little.

7. Publicity

This is obvious. Supply your agent with newspaper and magazine clips, tapes of radio and TV performances, copies of articles you’ve written or been interviewed for. Etc. Again, it’s better to send too much rather than too little. Your agent can always weed through it and decide what are the most important pieces.

Extra Things to Consider

When all is said and done there are a few extra little tidbits we’d like to add:

#There’s no right or wrong to writing a proposal. Use this as a guide, but don’t forget to add your own personal flare. We’ve sold many, many books and no proposal has truly been like the one before it.

#Page numbers—make sure your proposal has page numbers. I’ve actually had editors complain about this.

#Spelling, typos, and grammar. We can’t stress this enough. If you don’t think you are a strong enough writer or self-editor, consider bringing in someone else to work with you. If you need suggestions ask your agent.

#Extras—do you have an author photo? It can’t hurt to include it.

#Do you plan to include photos or illustrations in your book? Mention that and roughly how many. And always, always include samples.

#Sample news pieces—Did Newsweek do a cover story on just the topic you’re writing about? Include a copy.

#Title—this is the very first thing an editor looks at when reviewing a proposal, so let’s give them something that grabs their attention and yet says clearly what the book is about. Believe it or not we’ve had editors very interested in a book, but before even bringing it to an editorial meeting they called to see if they could change the title. This might be something you and your agent can brainstorm on together.

Have fun with it and good luck!!!

*This post first appeared at on Monday, January 5, 2009.


As a literary agent and cofounder of BookEnds, LLC, Jessica Faust prides herself on working closely with her authors to make their goals come to fruition. Her areas of expertise include historical, contemporary, fantasy, paranormal, and erotic romance, urban fantasy, women's fiction, mysteries, suspense, and thrillers. In nonfiction, Jessica specializes in current affairs, business, finance, career, parenting, psychology, women's issues, self-help, health, sex, and general nonfiction. While open to anything, Jessica is most actively seeking unique fiction with a strong hook, and nonfiction with creative ideas and large author platforms.

An Interesting Thought on "Rules" by Jessica Faust*

A lot of comments lately have blasted agents and editors for all of our rules. We stifle authors, we cause nothing but problems, and we’re rude to boot. I debated a discussion on rules because I have a feeling I’m going to get blasted for it, but a client of mine pointed out that what makes my blog work are my honest answers and the honest comments I get from my readers.

So here goes . . .

There are seemingly a lot of rules in publishing, but if you’ve ever heard me speak or read enough of my blog posts I think you’ll know that I’ve repeated again and again that those rules are not rules and should not be seen as such, but should be looked upon as guidelines. One of the most frustrating things for me about being blasted for all of our rules is that so many of them are created because authors ask for them, and so many more are not rules I’ve put out but rules authors impose themselves.

I am constantly asked for more clarification, for more rules. Authors want to know a secret to getting in the door. How do you write the perfect query letter, how do you write the perfect synopsis, and how do you write the perfect book? I cannot tell you that. I can give you hints, clues, examples, and critiques. I can do my best to help you along the way, but there are absolutely no rules. You’ve said it yourself, agents impose rules but then sell books that break them. When asked how to write a query letter or a pitch I can give you tips on what I’ve seen that’s worked for me. Does that mean it will work in the same way for another agent? Not necessarily, because it’s all subjective. This is the same for resumes and resume cover letters. You can read a resume book and see hundreds of examples. They might all work for you or they might not. Ultimately, when reading the advice of agents you need to pick and choose what resonates with you.

Reading our blogs should be done in the same manner you read revision letters from critique partners, agents, or your own editor. You need to see what worked and didn’t work for other people and see how it resonates with you. Then you need to make your own decisions. Making smart, professional, and personal decisions are in the end what the only rule should be.

Part of this entire rules thing is that authors often take what we say as an absolute. My comment last year on saying thank you in a query letter is a perfect example. In trying to help one particular reader tighten her thank-you (and granted, I should have used a different tone) I was barraged with criticism and read all over the Internet that if you thank me in a query it is an automatic rejection. What?!? Come on. Do you really think I’m that narrow-minded and obtuse? I will take the blame for the tone I used and I guess I should have explained myself in a kinder, gentler manner, but to have it so blown out of proportion is crazy. I’ve learned as the blog goes on what voice works best for me and my readers and tend not to be snarky anymore (or not much). However, that was certainly not a rule. It was a piece of advice relating to one particular query letter.

So my advice to you . . . take what you read on all agent, editor, and publishing blogs with a grain of salt. We give the best advice we can from our own knowledge base. We have few rules and only guidelines. And while we’d prefer you email a query letter, there are plenty of you who include a page or two of your work, and, you know what, I do read them.

This business is hard enough. Coming up with amazing ideas and writing them with near perfection is not easy, and I know that, I really do know that, so to let these so-called rules get you down is crazy. There are plenty of other things about publishing to get us all down.

*This post originally appeared at on Friday, June 20, 2008.


As a literary agent and cofounder of BookEnds, LLC, Jessica Faust prides herself on working closely with her authors to make their goals come to fruition. Her areas of expertise include historical, contemporary, fantasy, paranormal, and erotic romance, urban fantasy, women's fiction, mysteries, suspense, and thrillers. In nonfiction, Jessica specializes in current affairs, business, finance, career, parenting, psychology, women's issues, self-help, health, sex, and general nonfiction. While open to anything, Jessica is most actively seeking unique fiction with a strong hook, and nonfiction with creative ideas and large author platforms.

Introducing Jessica Faust and Kim Lionetti

Jessica Faust

As a literary agent and cofounder of BookEnds, LLC, Jessica Faust prides herself on working closely with her authors to make their goals come to fruition. Her areas of expertise include historical, contemporary, fantasy, paranormal, and erotic romance, urban fantasy, women's fiction, mysteries, suspense, and thrillers. In nonfiction, Jessica specializes in current affairs, business, finance, career, parenting, psychology, women's issues, self-help, health, sex, and general nonfiction. While open to anything, Jessica is most actively seeking unique fiction with a strong hook, and nonfiction with creative ideas and large author platforms.

A veteran of publishing, Jessica began her career in 1994 as an acquisitions editor at Berkley Publishing, Macmillan, and Wiley, where she had the unique opportunity to acquire and edit both fiction and nonfiction. Jessica takes her editing experience to the agency, where she works closely with her authors to create the best possible proposal submissions.

You can contact Jessica directly at

Kim Lionetti

After eight years at Berkley Publishing, Kim Lionetti left her position as Senior Editor to join BookEnds in March 2004. In her editorial work, Kim enjoyed overseeing an eclectic list comprised of romances, westerns, mysteries, nonfiction, and general fiction. While at Berkley, Kim was responsible for creating several successful mystery series and developing nonfiction project ideas, such as The Science of Vampires by Katherine Ramsland, Cannibal: The True Story Behind the Maneater of Rotenburg by Lois Jones, and Jigsaw: Piecing Together a History by Anne Williams. While she enjoys bringing some of that variety to her agenting life, her particular areas of interest are women's fiction, mystery, true crime, pop science, pop culture, and all areas of romance.

Most important, Kim is looking for fresh voices in the fiction she takes on and fresh ideas in nonfiction. Given her extensive editorial background, she enjoys helping authors shape their work into more marketable products and seeing their writing as part of the "bigger picture."

You can contact Kim directly at

How Can I Be Represented by BookEnds?

So often we hear about authors caught in the middle of publishers who don't want to see their work if they are unagented and agents who don't want to see their work if they haven't been published. What's a writer to do? Luckily you've found BookEnds, a literary agency accepting queries from both published and unpublished authors.

As you might imagine, there are a lot of benefits to hiring an agent. An agent has contacts in publishing and knows exactly who might be interested in your particular book. An agent also understands the publishing contract and will make sure that you get the best deal possible. And most important, an agent can help you achieve your career goals and help you plan for what's ahead. BookEnds agents provide the added bonus of years of editorial experience in major publishing houses and can assist you in making your book the best it can be before it goes to the publisher.

As a member of the AAR (Association of Authors' Representatives), BookEnds does not charge reading or evaluation fees. In an attempt to run a "greener" business, BookEnds is no longer accepting unsolicited proposal packages.
To query BookEnds, please e-mail only one agent directly at:

Jessica Faust

Kim Lionetti

and include the word "query" or "submission" in your subject heading.

All snail-mail queries should include a SASE and can be submitted to:

BookEnds, LLCAttn: Agent (please specify agent)
136 Long Hill Rd
Gillette, NJ 07933

BookEnds is currently accepting queries from published and unpublished writers in the areas of romance (and all its sub-genres), erotica, mystery, suspense, women's fiction, and literary fiction. We also do a great deal of nonfiction in the areas of spirituality, new age, self-help, business, finance, health, pop science, psychology, relationships, parenting, pop culture, true crime, and general nonfiction.

For more information on how to successfully put together a proposal and query, please see the FAQs page.

BookEnds agents do reply to all submissions and queries, including e-queries, and hopes to do so in a timely manner. Our response times are traditionally 10 to 12 weeks on requested partials or fulls, 2 to 4 weeks on e-mail queries. If you havenÕt heard from us after that time has passed, please feel free to drop us an e-mail with the following information: which agent the submission was sent to, the date it was sent, the title, and the author name.

*****Please Note:

BookEnds does not handle children's books, science fiction, short fiction, poetry, screenplays, techno-thrillers, or military fiction.

While BookEnds agents will do their very best to respond to every submission in the proper SASE, they are not responsible for SASEs returned for improper postage.

Our e-mail service's spam filters are growing more aggressive by the day, and unfortunately even properly addressed e-mails are sometimes mistakenly identified as spam and deleted. If you haven't received a reply to an e-mail query after a reasonable amount of time, your best bet is to resubmit your query via regular mail.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Blog Tours 101 by Jodi M. Webb

My mom is annoyed at me. Again. It drives her crazy that I have a job that she’s never heard of and she can’t explain to her friends. I’m a Blog Tour organizer. So, for my mom and everyone else who is a little fuzzy on blog tours here’s the scoop.

Definition: Blog tours are like book tours but, instead of going from book store to book store, you go from blog to blog.

Question: But what do you do once you get there?

Answer: There are lots of options. The owner of the blog (blogger) can post their review
of your book, an excerpt, or your book trailer. They can post a video, podcast or written interview they do with you, give away your book, or run a guest post. A guest post is a short piece (500 words) you write about your book and writing, your life, or even something like baking cupcakes or traveling to foreign countries.

Question: What are the advantages of a blog tour?

Answer: You don’t have to get out of your jammies. Okay, there are other things. Bloggers have followers that automatically receive an email or feed of their blog posts everyday. They can guarantee you that these people will get info about your book as opposed to book store events that may only attract 8 people (sadly I know this from personal experience). You won’t be traveling here, there, and everywhere wasting gas and time you could be writing. And, since most bloggers archive their posts, visiting a blog is like a book store event that lasts forever. Visitors could read about your book tomorrow, next week, even next year. They can also instantly visit your website, blog, book trailer, and even purchase your book immediately through your publisher’s website or They can also blog, Twitter, or email friends about this great new author—you!

Question: What blogs should I include in my tour?

Answer: Obviously, blogs that have a lot of visitors or regular followers. But they also should have to be your target audience. For example, if you wrote a romance novel and you stumbled across a super-popular blog called skip them. Most romance readers are female, we’ll have to assume that most readers of are male. In the real world visiting would be like writing a romance and having a book event at man’s clothing store.

Question: So I should only approach blogs with many followers?

Answer: No, there is an exception. Let’s pretend you’ve written a niche book directed at a very specific group—how about women writers. If you find a general blog for women called with 20,000 followers and a blog for women writers called that has 10,000 followers definitely go for You know that all 10,000 of their followers are your target audience. With you don’t know how many of the 20,000 are writers. This is where the Internet can work to your advantage. Although there are no bookstores dedicated to OCD, raising environmentally aware children, or only books set in the South, there are popular blogs dedicated to them.

Question: Can I set up a blog tour myself?

Answer: Yes, but…(you knew there was a but, didn’t you?) there are some disadvantages.

1. If you’re working from scratch it will take you some time to discover the high traffic blogs that welcome blog tours. Also, some blogs prefer to work only with organized blog tours that can assure them they’re being offered a quality book.

2. You might visit a few clunker blogs that you have problems with: they forget to post your review or something else.

3. It’s tough to be both the thrilled author and the tough marketer who is pestering a blogger to get the post just right. It’s nice to have a middleman (or woman).

4. Organized blog tours often announce your blog tour to a larger group, offering you additional publicity.

Jodi M. Webb is also the author of Pennsylvania Trivia: Weird, Wacky, and Wild(Blue Bike Books) and hundreds of articles in magazines such as Grandparents Magazine, Christian Science Monitor, PTO Today, and The History Magazine. If you want to know more about WOW Blog Tours you can reach her at .

Storycasting - Interview with Jeff Reid is the creation of Jeff Reid, of Mesa, Arizona. Late 50's, long-married, stable employment; proud husband, father, and grandfather. I'm the oldest guy among my friends who is active on Shelfari, Facebook, and Twitter. I'm an engineer, so straight-line thinking works great, but I'm also an inventor with three U.S. patents, so I sometimes think outside the box. Although we've had dogs and cats and fish and mice, we're too independent to put up with a pet right now - but I sure like to visit kittens and puppies! I cry with good books, good movies, and good friends of both genders. I still play guitar and sing to my honey, read constantly, and want all my favorite books to be made into good movies.

VWC: How did you come up with the idea of making a website where authors and readers can provide a fantasy cast for books?

JEFF: I arrived at the website idea with two book series particularly in mind: the Harry Bosch novels by Michael Connelly, and the Crawford of Lymond novels by Dorothy Dunnett. I expected to see a website doing this "fantasy casting" thing, and was disappointed to find only text postings on a few author and fan sites. I gathered a few supporters, and we launched Storycasting in May of 2008. Our first author to cast, that very day, was Catherine Ryan Hyde. The site is always free and non-spamming, but we do limit members to 13 and over.

VWC: What drives authors to want their books on your site?

JEFF: Well, the main request drive so far has been the readers. We get contacted every day by readers who want to have fun casting an author's works. After the books are in the system, we contact the authors and give them the opportunity to cast their own work. The authors then send their fans through a blog post or Tweet. But many authors discover the site simply as a reader, and then ask to have their own works added.

VWC: Where does Storycasting fit in the book promotion picture?

JEFF: Storycasting probably won't drive initial book sales (yet), but it does give fiction authors a fun way to link with fans - and it's free. It's not really about the current book, but about the next book; and if you can get the fans to invest time and imagination into your characters through a casting process, you can hook them for that next book. Some organizers, like, even suggest using the fan base as an investor base for an indie movie push, and it helps to start with fans who are already thinking "movie".

VWC: What are some of your favorite books, and who do you see in the main character roles?

JEFF: Except for when I was finishing my degree, I read 15-30 novels a year, including everything by Robert Heinlein and Stephen King. Starting with Harry Bosch, I wanted Kevin Spacey - he seemed the right kind of heroic, bitter, lonely misfit; wanting - but bad at - relationships. And he's not a tall guy, because Bosch was a tunnel-rat in 'Nam. These days I'm reading more romance, urban fantasy, and sci-fi.

VWC: You mentioned your hope that literature teachers can use Storycasting to inject some "movie fun" into books. Have you had any success stories from teachers yet?

JEFF: We've had a few teachers send a whole class to cast a work, but they didn't comment at the site, doing all that in the classroom instead. The next version of the site will have a "Teachers Start Here" link, with some lesson ideas. However, most teachers and librarians simply don't know the site even exists. We think that all group reading programs could benefit from the site, including classrooms, reading groups, book clubs, and the "One Book" community reading programs.

VWC: How can authors get their books listed on Storycasting?

JEFF: Send an email to, and Holly Hughes will summon The Crew to start putting them in. Each author also gets an Author login, so that the system will let them cast their own works "authoritatively". We'll put anything on the site for which we have an author, title, and synopsis. That includes poetry, video games, short stories, graphic novels, and podcasts. If it tells a story and has a cast, it should be on

VWC: What are your plans for BEA? Are there any particular authors you hope to connect with?

JEFF: In the last year, nearly 100 authors have come on and cast their own work, and I'm checking with all of them to see who's going to BEA. I have good relationships with several of them, and with the reviewers and promoters who help us make contact with the author community. I'll also meet with any author who wants to see me and get their stuff on the website.

Using Contests To Promote Your Writing by Gayle Trent

When my book of parenting anecdotes came out, I thought a contest would be just the thing to garner local publicity. Still, what kind of contest could I come up with that would appeal to both young people and adults? How could I make the publicity worthwhile? I knew I had to develop something unique, something with good prizes, something people would actually enjoy; and I knew I had to tie it in with a book signing.

The book was due out in October of 2001, so when I took my children to the movies in July, I took note of what family movies were getting ready to come out. "Brother Bear" was too soon, "Elf" was too late, but "The Cat in the Hat" was right on target. I decided that a Dr. Seuss Write-Alike Contest would be a perfect tie-in to the movie.

I spoke with a local cinema manager, told him about the contest and arranged to sign books there the opening weekend of "The Cat in the Hat." I agreed to give the cinema thirty-percent of sales (less than the commission of most bookstores), and the cinema manager agreed to donate movie tickets to the contest winner. In addition, I asked other local businesses to participate in the contest. A spa donated a thirty-minute massage. A children's clothing store gave a $25 gift certificate. A candy store donated a candy bouquet, and a gift basket delivery service donated a child's gift basket. Papa John's donated one pizza per month for an entire year, Dairy Queen donated a cake, and Pizza Inn donated children's buffet meals. In addition, I gave away journals and copies of my books. There were enough prizes to award first, second and third place prizes. Everyone benefited from the publicity from the local newspaper. Every sponsor was mentioned in the contest announcement and again in the follow-up article announcing the winners.

At the cinema, I had door prize drawings for hardbound journals and other small prizes. I signed Friday from 3:00 p.m. until 9:00 p.m. and on Saturday from 10:00 a.m. until 9:00 p.m. I won't tell you it was easy to be at the cinema for that long because it wasn't. I will tell you that it was a successful signing. To further their movie promotion, even "The Cat in the Hat" itself joined me for awhile on Saturday! My children were delighted. They didn't know (or care!) that the cat was actually a girl from the library. I met a lot of great people-many who simply wanted to know what I was doing selling books at a movie theater! Some of those people bought books. One young man bought a book for his sister who'd just had a baby.

Having a contest is an excellent way to get your "advertisement" in the paper twice-as I mentioned above, to announce the contest and then to announce the winners. Think about how much cheaper it is than taking out two ads proclaiming, "BESTSELLING KIDS BOOK by John Smith available at buymybook." Plus, it's a lot more fun!

Issues To Consider:

1) What is your purpose in having a contest?

- Is it to publicize your books, company, etc.?
- Is it to find fellow writers?
- Is it to get names for your mailing list?
- Is it to build community goodwill?A well-orchestrated contest can do all of the above.

2) Will your contest be international, national, regional or local?

- If local or regional, you might enlist other businesses to donate prizes. Be sure to follow up with thank-you notes and include those businesses in all your advertising and promotions.

- If national, you will have more entrants; but consider the amount of time it will take to go through the entries, ship the prizes, etc. I once had an international contest that was simply a drawing. The winner was to receive a copy of my latest book and a box of chocolates. The winner lived in England, and the shipping cost as much as the prize itself! That's fine if it's something you've considered ahead of time. Keep in mind that if you announce your contest on the Web, your entrants could come from anywhere.

3) Can you tie your contest in to some event?

- Think outside the bookstore! In the example above, I tied my contest in with a movie. Can you tie your contest in with a local festival? A holiday? A particular group? For example, if you've written a book about dogs, you might have a signing at an animal shelter and give a portion of the proceeds to the shelter. Your contest could consist of a drawing from the names of people who adopted pets on the day of your signing, and they could win something that would complement their interest. Be sure and hold your event on a premium day, so coordinate your efforts with those of the animal shelter.

Whatever you decide, be creative, be unique, and have fun!

* * * * * Speaking of Contests * * * * *
Comment on this post and be entered to win an autographed copy of the above-referenced parenting anthology, Laughing and Learning: Adventures in Parenting. Or, if you'd prefer, you may request a file download of The Writer's Planner. Entrants' names will be listed at, which will then choose a winner. Good luck!

Make Sure You're Holding the Right Cards by Debbie Allen

Seven Secrets of Writing a Book that Sells by Penny Sansevieri

It's one thing to write a book, it's an entirely different thing to write one that's a saleable, viable, marketable product. Ensuring the success of a book is something even the biggest publishers have never been able to guarantee. Mitigating circumstances, flash trends, and world events will all affect buyer preferences. That said, there are still ways to leverage the sales-factor in your favor and here's how you do it.

Know your readers. We're not just talking about whether your readers are male or female. You'll want to know myriad factors about your audience. How old are your readers (age range)? Are readers married, single, or divorced? Where do your readers reader live (generally)? What do your readers do for a living? What other books/publications do they read? Develop a profile that includes where they shop, what clubs do they belong to, etc.These elements will help you incorporate these aspects into your book *and* help you unearth salient marketing opportunities (i.e., publications and stores).

Know your market. What's the market like for your book? Is there a trend out there you're positioning yourself towards. Are you reading all the publications related to this topic/trend? Are there any "holes" out there your book could fill? What's the future for this market/topic? For example, let's say you're a fiction writer looking to publish chick lit. Go to any bookstore and you can't help but spot the cutsie, pink, cartoonish covers. Many thought this trend was dying out, but it has recently seen another surge. What do you know about trends related to your book/topic/audience?

Similar books. What else has been published on your topic? Have you read all ten books in your category? If you haven't, you should. You'll want to know everything you can about what's out there and how it's being perceived in the marketplace. It's never a problem having a similar topic. When I published No More Rejections - Get Published Today, I knew there were other books out there on marketing. I read them all--then angled my book differently.

Getting and staying current. What's going on in your industry today? What are some hot buttons? What are people looking for? What's next on the horizon for this topic/audience? If you can't seem to gather this information through traditional channels, why not survey your target audience? There are a number of places to run free surveys, Survey Monkey is one of them:

Follow the media. What's the media talking about these days? Keep track of media buzz--what they're paying attention to and what they're writing about. Delve beyond the front page of your paper to the second or third page and see what's filling the pages. If you can get your hands on out-of-state papers, do a comparative review. Do you see a trend in coverage? Is there something that seems to be getting more buzz even if it's on page six?

Talk, teach, listen. One of the best ways I've found to get in touch with my audience was to teach a class and do speaking engagements. When I was putting together my book, Get Published Today, I found that the classes I taught provided valuable information for creating a great book because they put me directly in touch with my audience!

Timing is everything. When do you plan to release your tome? Are you releasing around a holiday or anniversary? Could you take advantage of any upcoming event and/or holiday for your book launch?

BONUS: Ready to market your book? Contact us for a free copy of our Reader Profile, send an email to:


Penny C. Sansevieri, CEO and founder of Author Marketing Experts, Inc., is a best-selling author and internationally recognized book marketing and media relations expert. Her company is one of the leaders in the publishing industry and has developed some of the most cutting-edge book marketing campaigns. Her company researched, developed and implemented the first comprehensive Internet publicity campaign called The Virtual Author Tour™.

Create a Book Trailer on a Shoe-String by Jeff Rivera

This report was submitted by John Kremer of Book Market & Book Promotion: Creating Bestsellers. Visit John's site to subscribe to his free Book Marketing Tip of the Week e-mail newsletter and to read other free author reports like the one below. John's site features marketing tips, author resources, publisher resources and other information.

And now: Create a Book Trailer on a Shoe-String by Jeff Rivera

Had I known my book sales would skyrocket from creating a web movie trailer of my novel, I would have done it a long time ago.

We live in a very visual multi-media world and it is important to, quite frankly, get with the times. People’s attention spans seem to have shortened and since we live in what I call the A.D.D. Generation, it is important in order to grab their attention about your book to do something that will shock them or appeal to their need to be entertained.

With very little money for advertising (virtually nothing) I knew that the bulk of my audience would need to come from online. I knew the potential for a mass of readers could come from the internet, I just needed to find them.

First of all, you need to know exactly who your audience is. I know, I know, you say your “book appeals to everyone,” and I’m sure that’s true but what you need to do is focus your energy on one type of reader. Whether that’s classified by careers, age, beliefs? Close your eyes and imagine your reader. What does he or she look like? How old is she? What is her age?

If you’re writing a novel and you can’t figure it out, just ask yourself who your main characters are? They are most likely the same demographic that your market is. Even if your main character is a Hodgebodge from the Planet Neptune in the 25th Century. How old is Hodgebodge, oh it’s 400 years old? What is that in human years? Is it a he or she? It’s both? Well, then appeal to the feminine side because most booksellers say females make up the bulk of their sales.

My novel is a coming of age love story called, Forever My Lady. It’s about a Latino juvenile delinquent that struggles to turn his life around while in prison boot camp. And although I knew the story was universal and could easily appeal to a cross-over audience, I knew I had to make sure my web trailer appeal to Latinos and not just any Latinos, teens or young adults and not just teen or young adult Latinos but urban young adult Latinos that were bilingual and most likely Chicano. Be as specific as you possibly can and appeal specifically to them.

I went to websites and message boards appealing to that group and studied them for awhile. What were they talking about? What music did they listen to? What did they like? Not like? And having come from a background of writing screenplays, I designed a cinematic movie web trailer for my book that would appeal to that demographic.

I wrote it out in a half page script form, more like a list of what shots go next. And since I did not have the funds to go out and shoot a movie, I knew that we would be using mostly still shots and music.

I hadn’t the foggiest idea how to do a web trailer, but I knew that it would need to be in Flash so I put an ad on in my area and other areas for someone to do a web media trailer. My budget was small so I let them know that right off the bat in the ad. I also let them know that I would provide a link to their company on the site and you know what? I must have had 50-60 responses overnight. I went through and checked out all the responses and finally chose one called that read my script and put it together. We did go back and forth several times until it was just right but within 3-4 days Jason Dedon of had it completed.

Now I needed music. Top directors in the film industry often say that the soundtrack is 51% of the movie. I agree and I needed music that would appeal to my demographic. I really wanted to work with Latinos because it’s so important to give opportunities to groups that are under-represented. So I put an ad on a message board for one and I included a link to my web trailer. I got several responses. One already had the perfect music done and he emailed it to me. I sent it off to and told them exactly what part of the music I wanted and within a few hours the entire web movie trailer was done and on my site.

The response from the public was unbelievable. It gave fans of my book something new to look at and new readers found it intriguing enough to read the first chapter, send the link to their friends, and buy the book. My sales for the novel have gone up over 30% since I put the web media trailer on my site and I cannot recommend it enough.

Jeff Rivera is the author of the award-winning novel, Forever My Lady. This self-published book recently sold to Warner Books. He also is available to design a movie web trailer for you. To find out more, visit him on the web: or email him at

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Interview with Karen Syed

What is a Spiritual Writer by Joyce Anthony

Before we can discuss spirituality in our writing, we need to define the word spiritual. Webster, in 1913, states that the word spiritual comes from the Latin word spiritualis, meaning breathing, wind. He defines spiritual as “of, relating to, consisting of, or affecting the spirit”.

In more recent times, it has been spiritual has been defined as “having to do with deep feelings and beliefs, including a person’s sense of peace, purpose, connection to others, and beliefs about the meaning of life.”

Both of these definitions describe the path a writer takes when writing what they most enjoy. Every word we write reflects our inner sense of what is right and wrong. It shows how we think of the world around us and the people that inhabit that world. It is rare to find a writer who’s main characters to not hold values and beliefs similar to their own. We may have minor characters differ from us on a spiritual level, but look at your main characters, examine what they believe at the very basic level—do you see your own beliefs?

What we write also affects the spirit, the spirit of those who read our words. It doesn’t matter whether someone likes or dislikes what we have written—t has, in some way, touched that person, awakened emotions deep inside that enabled them to make the decision as to what that piece means to them and their lives.

If you are writing what you are passionate about, you are writing spiritually. Your soul, or spirit, that which is in essence your very life’s breath, is reflected in your words. It is this writing that is your best, for it is your truest self. Look at what you write carefully. Does it reflect your true self? Are you following the path your spirit has laid before you, is your passion coming through.

Ask yourself: Do my words flow freely? Would I be upset if someone were to mistake my main character’s beliefs as my own? Do I feel I have given all in my writing? Does my writing create some strong emotion—regardless of what one? If you can answer yes to these questions, you are a spiritual writer—regardless of what genre you write.


Joyce A. Anthony is a Pennsylvania-born writer who shares her home with a passion for writing, photography and life in general. Joyce has a Psychology background which she uses in her role an bipolar expert on She has written numerous articles on parenting and mental health issues. She has published one short story previous to Storm. While not writing, Miss Anthony spends time homeschooling her son, doing genealogy research and working on her photography. In between times, she advocates for homeless and abused animals and abused children. Joyce is in the editing stages of her next book, a non-fiction piece entitled Spirit of the Stallion and has two other nagging at her to get them written.

Multiple Voices of a Story by Tabitha Olson

Voice. I’ve heard many people describe and define this, and it always seems to be different each time. Some people said it was how clearly the characters came through. Some said it was how clearly the story itself came through. Others said it was how the author used her own voice to carry everything to the end.

I say this: it’s all of these things. Which makes Voice one of the biggest aspect of writing, and also one of the hardest to understand.

Voice applies to many different aspects of a story. It’s in the characters, the plot, the setting, the time frame, and the author. And Voice comes out through each chosen word, each image created, and each sense invoked. And it’s all different, depending on which part you’re looking at.

Voice of the main character.
Whether the story is told from first or third person, the strongest Voice makes every word sound like it comes from the main character. This is his story, after all, and he should be able to tell it however he wants. After all, everyone is different with different storytelling skills. How does your main character do it? How can he tell his story such that the reader gets lost in it, even forgets himself at times?

Sometimes this Voice sounds like the character is talking to himself. Sometimes it sounds like the character is talking to the reader. However he comes across, the strongest Voice is when the reader feels like the character is speaking directly to him. So, words like heard, saw, noticed, realized, remembered, etc are not words that evoke strong Voice. They don’t evoke anything, actually. They don’t create a consistent visual, trigger a strong emotion, or make the reader feel like he’s a part of the story. Choosing words that show what a character sees and feels will generate a stronger Voice than telling us what the character sees and feels. I’m crossing over into show vs. tell a bit here, but so much of writing is connected that it’s impossible to separate aspects completely.

Voice of the story.
What kind of story is this? Is it humorous? Suspenseful? Introspective? Notice I am not listing genres, but rather I’m listing the different ways your story comes alive. A fantasy can still be humorous. A mystery can still be introspective. It’s all in how your characters choose to carry out the story.

So, for humor, choose words and incidents that will bring a smile to the reader’s face – and I’m not just talking about dialogue. Perhaps your character has a scathing wit, or perhaps he has the worst, most ridiculous luck in the world. For introspective, don’t bore your reader with paragraphs of rambling thoughts. Instead, inject that introspection in key places where it adds the most to the story.

But the most important thing here is that your story’s Voice must begin on page one, then carry through to the end.

Voice of the setting or time frame.
Where does this story take place? New Yorkers use different words and dialect than southerners. Rural Midwest has a completely different culture than California. London speech doesn’t sound remotely like Australian. Present day actions and reactions are not the same as actions and reactions a hundred years ago. When you choose your setting and time frame, choose your words and actions such that it’s obvious when and where your characters are.

For example, red lipstick and sweater sets were popular in the fifties. Train travel was the fastest way to get around in the early 1900’s. The expectations of men women were different twenty years ago. Each of these things matter, and it also matters to use the words and actions popular during your time frame. Otherwise the reader won’t be able to immerse himself.

Voice of the author.
This is you, but it’s not necessarily you talking to the reader. I think this is the most nebulous of all aspects of Voice, because this is the underlying piece of you that goes into all your work, that comes from all your experiences in life. Unless the reader knows you really well, it’s unlikely that anyone will be able to pinpoint exactly when and where your Voice is coming through, but the authenticity of everything you say will make the overall Voice ring true.

This crosses into writing what you know – that is, writing what you’ve experienced in life, not what you can learn through research or imagination. These are the pieces that make you who you are, and they must go on the page. To some, this is one of the scariest aspects of writing, because it’s the part we lay bare to a whole world of strangers. Kind of like running around naked. But, without it, the whole story could fall flat.

These aspects of Voice are essential to every good story. The more compelling the Voice, the more compelling the story. I’ve heard more than one agent or editor stress how important Voice is, so it’s definitely important to bring it out.

But how do we learn to harness that Voice? Well, I can’t tell you how to find yours because each Voice is different. I can only tell you where I found mine. And it was hunkered down inside me, hiding in all the things I thought about but never shared.

So, if you’re still looking for your Voice, or you’re looking for ways to strengthen it, then start looking deep within yourself. I’m betting it’ll be staring right back at you.


Tabitha Olson is the author of Royal Rose, Believing is the Hardest Part and Puzzling Faith. Visit her online at

The Plot Thickens by Donis Casey

If your cast of characters are the ingredients of your novel, the Plot is the recipe - how you put all the ingredients together and the way you order events to create suspense and interest. E.L. Doctorow said, “The plot is a journey. Driving a car at night you can only see as far as the headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”
The Hook - When you are reading a novel for the first time, when do you first say, “Hmm! How interesting!” If you’re Steven King, people are going to cut you a lot of slack about the beginning of your novel, but if nobody every heard of you, you must to create the most interesting beginning you can. Grab them right away. A good strategy for a beginning mystery author is to open with the murder or the crime scene. In a way, your story is starting in the middle. A lot has happened before we get there. You have about three pages to suck your reader in before she decides whether or not to continue.
The Clues - Dole out your clues like breadcrumbs through the forest, leading your reader on. We want to keep ‘em guessing. Generally the sleuth gets his first clues from the crime scene - physical clues. How is the victim lying? Is the room a mess? Did she fight, try to run? Then expand to an investigation of the victim. What was going on in her life? What was she involved in that may have gotten her killed?.
The Obstacles - It wouldn’t be much of a story if the sleuth simply observed the crime scene for a moment before announcing “ “It was Colonel Mustard in the library with a candlestick.” There must be obstacles that are keeping the sleuth from solving the mystery right away Things are not as they first appear. He learns by trial and error, so he follows the wrong trail for awhile. How can you misdirect him? Is the cause of death confounded? We thought he froze to death, but it turns out there is a bullet in his brain. Is blame focused on the wrong person? Get your hero into trouble and don’t get him out too soon.
The Side Story - Just like side characters, a side story adds depth. Janet Evanovich said she thinks of the side story as a braid that weaves in and out with the mystery. The side story may or may not have anything to do with the murder, but the reader won’t know if it does or not. ______________________________________________________________________
This Changes Everything! - This is an event that happens in the big bad middle of the story. One giant obstacle, or a piece of information that comes to light that shows the sleuth is on the wrong track. Something happens to take the sleuth right back to square one. This raises the stakes for the reader. Laura is found shot in the face and dead on the floor of her apartment. Detective MacPherson cannot discover a single reason for Laura’s murder. He is sitting in her apartment, pondering the problem, when the door opens, and who should walk in but Laura! Oh, No! Laura isn’t dead! Then who was the dead woman, dressed in Laura’s clothes and lying on the floor of her apartment? But now, at least, we are set up for the escalation and headed in the right direction.
The Escalation - As you get near the climax, it’s time to pick up the pace. Answer more questions. Use more dialog and less description, because dialog moves fast. Use shorter sentences, increase suspense, increase the danger to your sleuth. ______________________________________________________________________
The Climax - This is what everything has been leading up to, when everything comes together, the AHA moment, the payoff, the showdown. This is when we find out whodunnit. This is when the sleuth confronts the killer and they duke it out. When Spade gets Brigit to spill the beans before the police arrive and arrest him for murder. And remember, it all has to make sense. Don’t cheat your reader. Always play fair. Did the sleuth honestly find the answer using the information provided? Or was it just dumb luck?
A Satisfying Ending - Which leads us to, a satisfying ending. Justice has to be done. Doing justice doesn’t always mean that the killer is caught by the law or goes to jail, or is even punished, but the right thing has to happen. In Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express, the right thing happened when the evil victim was murdered, and Poirot covered up for the killers. Tracking down the clues is what gave you your plot. Letting your reader see right prevail is what gives your reader a satisfying ending in a mystery.
Donis Casey Author of the Alafair Tucker Mysteries from Poisoned Pen Press, including The Sky Took Him, January 2009.

Don't Discount the Small Publisher by Ruth Hartman

Everyone has to start somewhere. And most writers would like to start big. Skip all the seemingly unnecessary steps of getting published. I was like that, too. I sent manuscripts and queries to all the big, well-known publishing houses and magazines who published children’s stories. I waited. I waited some more. I never heard back from most of them. The others replied, but only in the negative.

I’d been scouring the Book Markets for Children’s Writers from the front cover to the back index. I highlighted. I turned down pages. There were notes in my scraggly script all over that book. One such publisher had the turned-down page, the highlighted details, and my scraggle-marks. But I didn’t send anything to them. I kept holding out hope for the biggies. The waiting and rejection wore me down. That publisher, Pipers’ Ash, just didn’t seem like it had anything to offer me. Or rather, I didn’t think they’d like anything I had to offer them. But, I reasoned, if they say no, what am I out?

I e-mailed them a 25 word query. Not an easy task, but that’s what their guidelines ask for. My query was for a short story I’d written about a girl with OCD. I happen to know a lot about that subject since I suffer from the illness myself. I heard back quickly. With a rejection. I read over their e-mail as I dejectedly slumped in my chair. I went on to submit to others publishers, but without much hope.

A few days later, I came across the Pipers’ Ash guidelines that I had previously printed out. As I held the papers in my hand, I was ready to toss them into the trash. A phrase caught my eye: “Topics such as adoption, abuse, etc are better suited to our True Life Series section.” It was then that I realized what I held in my hand. I went back and re-read the rejection e-mail they had sent me. “OCD” was substituted for “Adoption, etc.” I began to re-think my mission. Why couldn’t I write my story of OCD? I’d never thought about it until that moment. I re-emailed with that query and was given the go-ahead for a synopsis. First I had to figure out what a synopsis was. Off to the bookstore I went to find books on the subject. Armed with pad of paper and research books, I tackled my very first synopsis.

After I e-mailed it to Pipers’ Ash, next came the request for the complete manuscript. Their True-Life books are much shorter than traditional books, so I was only looking at 25,000 words or so. Only? I’d never written that many words at one time. Ever. I was, truthfully, more than a little panicked. Truth be told, I didn’t expect them to request my manuscript, so it hadn’t been written yet. I learned my lesson the hard way: write the story before you submit it. Or at least have most of it written. I started from page one. The only thing that made the writing of my story go quickly was that I didn’t have to do any research. The subject was me. My life. What I had endured while I battled with my OCD nemesis.

From my initial query for a children’s story, to publication of my book, “My Life in Mental Chains,” only took from July to November of 2008. Yep, you read that correctly. I know that seems like an impossibly short time frame, but keep this in mind: Pipers’ Ash is a small, non-profit publisher in England. They only work with a few authors at any given time. This affords them, and the fortunate author who works with them, the advantage of doing things more quickly. Yes, I realize it’s not one of the biggies. But you know what? If I hadn’t taken a chance on a small publisher that a lot of people have never heard of, I might not be able to say today, “I am a published author.” And in my mind, that would be a personal loss for me.

So, if the big publishers aren’t opening their large front gate for you, take a chance on a small publisher’s porthole. I did. And it was the right decision for me.


Ruth Hartman is a writer of fiction, humor, and stories for children. She is also a licensed dental hygienist. She lives in rural Indiana. Ruth has a degree in Science/Dental Hygiene from the Indiana University School of Dentistry. She also earned a diploma from the Institute of Children's Literature for "Writing for Children and Teenagers."

Self Publishing by Patricia La Barbera

Have you thought of self-publishing, but you were hesitant because you didn't know anyone with first-hand experience?

Whenever I do something new, from changing doctors to enrolling in a class, I always prefer to have a reference from somebody I know. Since I didn't know anyone who self-published, I did some research about the companies. I learned that there are a lot of them, and I quickly got information overload.

I considered using CreateSpace, an inexpensive self-publishing subsidiary of Amazon, but the author has the responsibility of formatting the book. I felt that was beyond my expertise.

Ultimately, I chose Booksurge, a full-service company and also a subsidiary of Amazon. I don't work for Booksurge, and I'm sure there are other reputable companies, but I just happen to know about this one. Their basic package is reasonably priced.

Marketing is a special challenge for self-publishers. Booksurge has various tools to make it easier. I chose the extra options of a press release and a video book trailer creation and distribution service. Booksurge placed my book on Amazon. The Kindle version is there, too, another option I chose.

I'm very pleased with the quality of the book, and their customer service is excellent. I can't guarantee that you will have the same experience, but I'm very happy that I chose Booksurge. Their website is


Visit Patricia La Barbera at to learn more about her book, THE CELTIC CROW MURDERS.

Internet and Social Media Marketing Tips for Authors by Teresa Shaw

Whether your publisher is handling your marketing or you are flying solo, you need to use the internet to further any and all marketing and publicity efforts. The problem is there are so many avenues you can take, that it is easy to become confused and overwhelmed.

You can spend serious amounts of cash buying books on internet marketing, or hiring marketing experts, which, depending on your goals and your wallet, you may do. But before you spend one dime, let’s look at the some of the things you can do yourself that involved little to no money, just time.

Because seeing is believing, I am going to use two well-known writers as examples. The first, William Hazelgrove, is a literary author of four novels. His latest book, Rocket Man, was published in December of 2009, and it is the techniques he is using to promote the book on the Internet that we will be examining.

The second author is J.A. Konrath, who writes Lt. Jacqueline "Jack" Daniels thrillers, with the latest, Cherry Bomb, being released July 2009. Mr. Konrath uses many different techniques to market his work, which makes him another great example for author marketing.

Your Home on the Web

First, let’s look at websites and blogs. There is no doubt that you must have one or both, preferably while you are writing, and most definitely way before you approach a publishing house.

Bill Hazelgrove’s website is basic, just listing his work, articles of interest, and links to where else on the web you can find him. He dedicates a page each to “The Attic” (Hazelgrove is well-known for being the author who writes from Hemingway’s Attic), his books, his blog, and essays that he writes for PageOneLit, a literary newsletter as well as other media outlets. Hazelgroves site has no glitz or bells and whistles, it speaks to those who are interested in him and his work, and I suspect it is self-built, meaning he didn’t spend a fortune hiring a professional company to design and build it.

J.A. Konrath’s website is also simple and clean, with pages dedicated to his bio, news, a discussion forum, his blog, buying links, give-aways, photos, a great guide for newbie writers that covers everything from writing to publishing with a large section dedicated to marketing, and his alter-ego Jack Kilborn. Mr. Konrath did not build the site himself, electing instead to use a design group named AuthorPromo to handle design and development.

Each of these sites are revolve around the author and their work, and have lots of links to other places on the web where you can find out more about them, or interact with them directly and indirectly. You can not succeed on the internet without a home. Consider your site or blog the hub of a wheel from which all other links and activities connect. Keep your home up to date and fresh, and reward your visitors richly, as each and every one is a potential loyal reader.

Using Media Outlets for Promotion

Hazelwood uses article directories and media outlets to promote his name and his work. is an easy way to get exposure. You will notice if you visit Hazelwood’s article section that his essays are not about Rocket Man, but instead cover news, politics, technology, arts and entertainment, and book marketing. These are his thoughts, and they offer a good way to allow his readers to get an inside look at the man. Should his article readers enjoy his thoughts, there is every chance they will follow the links in his bio to his website, where they will find his books available for sale.

eZineArticles is but one article directory on the internet. There are hundreds of others, and you can choose whichever you like the best. Just make sure you choose a well-known directory that does not want ownership of your content, and that can potentially supply you with a steady stream of readers.

Hazelgrove also uses SpeakWithoutInterruption (where he is also an editor) to promote his articles and ideas. SWI is an international magazine that promotes different writers and their views. You will notice at the top of the article there is a hyperlinked photo of Hazelwood that connects to his website, as well as a mention of his book in his bio. There is also a really neat tool at the bottom of all his posts called ShareThis. By incorporating a ShareThis button, Hazelwood’s readers can share any article they enjoy with their peers on wide variety of social media sites, as well as through email and text messaging. This is a fine way to garner user generated exposure, as well as introduce yourself to a new readership!

Konrath uses different mediums to reach readers. By using Squidoo, Konrath is able to reach out to potential readers that may not have found their way to his niche yet. His lens revolves around his books, but also includes links to other places where a reader can get to know more about him and his books. Squidoo pages are easy to set up and use and you can create as many new lenses as you want, say, one for each book you write.

Konrath also has a Wikipedia page. Wiki’s rank very high in search engine results, and can potentially introduce Konrath to a huge amount of people. Wiki’s are not written by the person they are about, so you will need to enlist the help of someone should you decide to go this route.

If you visit Konrath’s blog, you will also see that he uses Amazon’s blog, Crimespace, Goodreads, RedRoom, and Shelfari to increase his exposure and introduce new people to his work. Some of the outlets he uses are specific to his genre, but there are many genre specific outlets, so no matter what you write you should find one if not several that will meet your needs.

The most important thing to take away from this review of media outlets is that each writer has included links to many, if not all of the outlets they are using. This creates a circle of exposure, allowing any visitor to one outlet, find you on many outlets.

Social Media

If you don’t already have a Twitter, Facebook or MySpace account, get one. Now! These platforms are some of the most popular today and will allow you to reach out to millions of users. Millions.

Twitter is becoming extremely popular, and is very easy to use. Once you set up your account, you can use Twitter Search to find authors, writers, ghostwriters, agents, publishing houses. Also search for ‘readers’ and ‘booklovers’ as many people use these words in their profile, and are on twitter to get to know their favorite authors better.

Follow those who look interesting, and are tweeting about topics you enjoy. Use ‘listening’ tools like TweetBeep to track who is talking about you and your work, and reach out to them. Keep your fellow tweeters up to date on your writing progress, any publishing news you have and even any setbacks you experience. Unlike other social media outlets, Twitter gives real time feedback and results.

Facebook is a great way to promote your work and create relationships. Use Facebook to create a home base for your fans, interact with readers through updates and messages, and to promote your blog, twitter account and website. MySpace, like Facebook, is easy to setup and start creating connections. It works much the same way as Facebook, but generally reaches a younger audience. These social media outlets have chat and private message capabilities, but are generally not considered real-time. Whoever subscribes to your Facebook/MySpace page will get notifications when you update your page, and with each platform, your fans can comment on your updates. There are applications that extend the functionality of Facebook, like the Twitter application, that posts your tweets to Facebook account which will save time. TweetDeck is very useful for keeping up with conversations, and it now features a Facebook integration that allows you to update your status and see your friends updates as well.

How you use these tools will dictate your popularity. Your readers want to hear from you but they won’t stay loyal if you are just slinging your latest book release or review in their face. One of the most effective uses I have seen with Twitter is where an author talked about his day, wrote his daily completed word count in his tweet and counted down to the day of his book release. Something as simple as this made me follow him and keep track of his accomplishments. I felt kind of connected to him, knowing that he had days where he struggled for the words just as much as I do. Needless to say, I bought his book.

Konrath tends to submit funny one-liners to his tweeple and Facebook peers. He keeps us laughing, and interested, and of course up-to-date with his travels and work.

Hazelwood hooked me when he posted his video of Hemingway’s attic. I connected with him on some level and bought Rocket Man not long after seeing the video. Hazelwood doesn’t always use social media tool to the best of his ability, as he tends to post a ton of links at once which can be overwhelming. His links are almost always to his articles, with little to no actual personal messages. To me, his saving grace comes from the fact that he has twice answered me very quickly after I contacted him. In other words, he isn’t talking to his readers on a daily basis, but he does interact when called upon to do so, which is a great attribute, and one that will keep me as one of his loyal fans.

That’s another aspect of using the Internet to its fullest. When you use social media tools, your fans feel connected to you unless you do something to push them away. Keep your profiles updated with the latest happenings in your world, even if it just means tweeting about your son’s soccer game. We all want to know that our favorite writers are human and they deal with life just like we do, on a day to day basis. Keep it personal, invite us into your world so we can share in your accomplishments and get even more satisfaction out of purchasing your work.


Teresa Shaw is a full-time ghostwriter who works part-time as an internet and social media expert. She has helped companies small and large find their home on the web and make the best use of internet tools to gain exposure and increase popularity. Follow Teresa on Twitter @ and connect with her on Facebook.

Little Creek Books - Tammy Robinson Smith

Little Creek Books
A division of Mountain Girl Press
Bristol, VA

Coming July 1, 2009

Little Creek Books is a cooperative publishing venture between publisher and author.
We will begin soliciting submissions from all genres beginning July 1, 2009.
Before submitting a manuscript, you must email us a chapter outline of your book, a one page synopsis of the plot, and your marketing plan.
Email for more information.