June Contest Voting

We have three whole entries in this contest. I suppose others could come in at the last minute. I will check in tomorrow morning and post them if they do.

Voting starts tomorrow (June 1) and goes through midnight on Saturday (July 7). Vote for ONE by leaving a comment that clearly indicates it is your vote on the entry post. Please tell us why you liked it.

If you click here, it will bring up the June contest posts and you can see all the entries on one page.

There will be two winners--Publisher's Choice and Reader's Choice. Since the entries are few, the same one might win both cheesy prizes.

Promo Contest Entry #3

Book: The Devil's Daughter

Teaser: Desi Black's parents are evil. She has just turned sixteen and it's time for her to go into the family business; the business of ruining lives and stealing souls. But Desi wants nothing more than to be good. Just like any other girl, Desi's dealing with homework, friends and boys, but somehow she's got to find a way to save those people her parents hope to ruin. In a world where evil is commonplace, how does a demon choose to do good? Desi will find a way. Or she'll die trying. I LOVE THIS!

Promo Idea: I'll make a commercial showing a teenage girl and her parents where they have an argument. But the argument will be 'backwards' – the parents supporting the bad thing, the girl defending the good. (Kind of like that one cell phone commercial? I liked that.) Accessible to anyone with an internet connection, the video would be short, tongue-in-cheek and really make people take notice and say “I wanna read that book!"

This one is do-able and financially practical. You Tube is great for this type of thing and viral video can really create a buzz for something. I'd want approval over the "script" and the finished video. And I'd want to have something that would drive people to watch it--some kind of contest of sorts. People sometimes need a little nudge. And we'd want everyone you know who has a blog to link to it in their sidebar.


Promo Contest Entry #2

Book: The Jump Boys

Teaser: Don't believe what the science books tell you, Jupiter is really a thriving community hidden from the view of marauding space pirates. Two adventurous boys, Jayce and Valen Jump, are as busy as any other students on Jupiter or elsewhere. Will they be able to settle a dare from an arch rival, solve a planet-wide mystery, battle space pirates and save a desperate family from disaster and have time to finish their homework? Enjoy a fast ride through this amazing world that's everything and more that you ever imagined Jupiter, and space beyond, could be. Sounds good. I'd like to read this one.

Promo Idea: I would provide all the buyers with their own jump drive, on which there would be a copy of The Jump Boys, a copy of the first chapter of the next Jump Boys book, and for fun, a little game called Graviton. The buyers would enjoy the game (it's consistent with the book), would love the portability of The Jump Boys copy and they'd love knowing that the next book was well on it's way and was just as good as the first book. They could stock their shelves with The Jump Boys with confidence knowing that the author was committed to the art and to the Jump Boys books to follow.

Great idea; would never work.

First, jump drives are way too expensive to give out to all purchasers of the book.

Second, unless you created/owned the copyright for Graviton, this could cause problems.

Third, giving away a free electronic copy of the book would allow readers to e-mail it to all their friends. Bookstore buyers won't like this and it would discourage some from stocking the book. (And before anyone says that all books have free readers via the library and people loaning them, yes, I know. But trust me, electronic copies have much easier availability and it hurts sales if it's not handled correctly. I know. I lost money on a project like this.)

Now, having a contest where say, twenty people could win jump drives by answering a trivia question from the book online...that would work. You could have a web-page style something on there (assuming you, as the author, or one of my in-house employees had the skills and time to create it). You could include fun interactive facts about the boys, planets, science, etc., maybe a couple of short stories that weren't included in the book, maybe out-takes, and some other fun stuff. I'd definitely put the first chapter of the next book on the jump drive--IF the second book was already written, submitted and accepted by me. (I've had way too many promised books fall through and never materialize.)


Blogging 101—Extra questions

I have a blog site, but no one reads it. How do I attract an audience?
Read this post and all the comments.

Do you think it's better to have a separate blog from your website or blog within your website? Or does it matter?
Whichever is easiest for you. But if your blog is separate from your website, make sure it has links back to your website that are obvious and easy to find.

Is there an advantage to blogging with others (i.e. Writers in Heels, Six LDS Writers and a Frog, etc.)?
Yes! More exposure. Their readers will read you on the group blog. If they like you, they’ll also start visiting your personal blog.

How do I [insert technical stuff here]?
With all the technical questions I'm getting, I'm starting to think maybe I should dump this blog and start one on blogging, etc. Oh, wait. That would make me a geek--a fate that should be avoided no matter what the cost. (sigh) Here are a few of the resource sites that I use:
Blogging Basics 101
Blogger Tips & Tricks
The Real Blogger Status

I'm fascinated that so many people can find time to not only write books/articles/stories, but also find the time to write consistently interesting and helpful blogs.
Priorities. It is Your Job as an author to promote yourself and your work.

I feel like I have nothing of interest to blog about. There are so many talented authors with so much more experience, why would anyone want to read something I've written on a blog? How can I offer anything of value to readers?
I’m sort of shocked by this question. The whole point of being a writer is that you have something burning inside, something to say. If you don’t have anything to say, then your novel won’t have much to offer either. If this is truly, truly how you feel, and not just a moment of discouragement, you shouldn’t be looking at writing as a career choice.

That's all I have about blogs. On to the next question...


Blogging 101—Driving Readers to Your Site

I may not get all the blogging terminology correct here because I’m new to blogging myself. Also, I am not a geek—at least, not on Wednesdays. But you’ll be able to get the general concept behind these ideas.

The most important thing about having a blog is to get your name and writing style noticed. If people recognize your name on the cover of a book, they’re more likely to buy it. Also, because repeat visitors to your blog like you, when you announce your book, they’ll be very likely to run out and buy it. Or at least check it out from the library.

The blogging community is one of your biggest assets when it comes to driving traffic to your own blog site. Here are some ideas:
  1. Find bloggers you like and ask them to trade links with you. You put their link in your sidebar; they’ll put your link in their sidebar.

  2. Comment on blogs. Lots of them. And don’t do it anonymously! When you leave a comment, readers can click on your name to go to your profile and from there, they can click on your blog. That’s too many clicks for me, so I also suggest...

  3. Create a signature with a link to your blog and post it at the bottom of every comment you leave.

  4. Join blogging communities. There are gobs of things out there you can join. Some are referral blogs (what are these things called?) which are basically lists of blogs that focus on a particular topic or area, or whose writers fit a certain profile—like www.ldswomenblogs.blogspot.com which Josi so graciously told us about in her wise use of the comments section on this blog. Some blogs sponsor short term programs, like a book club or something, and will let you sign up and participate. Join as many of these as you can. Post comments to all the other member’s sites. (Please post your favorite blog communities in the comments section.)

  5. Join forums. There are gobs and gobs of online forums. Join them. Post comments. Use your signature with a link back to your blog. (Please post your favorite forums in the comments section.)

  6. Personal e-mail—use your signature here too. Every personal e-mail that you send out should have a link back to your blog. Your friends want to know about your blog. They like you. They’ll support you.

All of these ideas (and many others that I hope readers will suggest in the comments section of this post) will get people to visit your blog. Keeping them as regular readers is another thing altogether.

The most important factor in building a regular readership for your blog is GOOD WRITING! Interesting, unique, entertaining, informative.


Blogging 101—Settings, Part 3

Before I start on today’s list, I forgot a setting from yesterday. It’s under “Publishing.” Send Pings—Yes. This notifies the web crawlers that you’ve added new stuff to your blog. The more often you add stuff, the higher you move in the search engines.

Template: If you are new to blogging, stick with a standard template. Find something you like, something simple and clean. Some templates let you adjust more fonts and colors than others. Edit HTML only if you know what you’re doing. (Save your code first.)

Links: In your sidebar, link to your website and any other blogs you participate in. You can also link to blogs of friends and other authors and often they will agree to link to you as well.

Labels: This feature works like an index. It lets you create topic categories. It invites visitors to read all your posts on a particular topic. If you're doing a personal/slice of life blog, limit your labels to a dozen; long lists are just...too long. Post them in your sidebar. (My list is too long, but I don't care. I'm not doing this for promotional reasons but to make it easy for you to read about particular topics.)

Pictures: Use pictures in your posts and in your sidebar as much as you can. Pictures invite people to read your blog. Some people do a “Picture of the Day/Week” which they change daily/weekly. This keeps your site active and invites the web crawlers. (See note on Pings above.)

Other pictures that are a must on your sidebar are:
  • a profile image—an attractive photo of yourself, or at least a cute icon.
  • covers of your books—WITH LINKS to where they can be purchased.
  • icons for any programs/rings/circles/whatever that you are a member of (discussed in more detail tomorrow)

Archive: There are several ways you can set your archive. Some are space savers and you may be tempted to use them. Don’t. Use the hierachical method because it shows your Post Titles in the sidebar, at a glance. Like the title of your book, the titles of your posts are important. They should stimulate curiosity, interest, invite readers.

Hit Counter: There are several free hit counters out there. I recommend adding one early on. This helps you track visits to your site so you can know if what you’re doing is effective. You can have it be invisible or you can display it on your blog (as I do; scroll down to bottom of my sidebar). Set it to count unique visitors, not page loads. Set the interval to 24 hours.


Blogging 101—Settings, Part 2

I’m using Blogger as my resource for the order in which I talk about settings. I am only discussing the ones that directly effect using your blog as a marketing tool for your writing. In Blogger, many of these settings have a question mark beside them that you can click on for more info. If you use a blog host other than Blogger, it probably has similar settings, but they might call them something else.

Add your Blog to our listings?
Yes, you want to do this. A reader may find you by browsing Bloggers list.

Show Email Post links? Yes. This allows readers to easily e-mail your blog to their friends, making it more likely for them to come read other posts on your site. (If you're worried about someone stealing your stuff, put a copyright notice at the top and/or bottom of every post.)

Show # posts/days:
Set this to at least 7. Visitors to your blog are a lot more likely to scroll down to read additional posts than they are to click a link.

Convert line breaks: Yes. This helps keep your post from running all together. In fact, do a double return at the end of each paragraph. This makes it nice and clean and easy to read.

Yes. Invite comments to your blog. People like to share their opinions. In fact, one of the best things that can happen is when your readers start a conversation between themselves in your comments section. That means they’re coming back, over and over again.

Who Can Comment? Unless you’re having a real problem with vicious posters, set this to allow everyone the ability to comment. You want to invite participation on your blog, not exclude people.

Backlinks: This allows people to link back to your blog from their blog. You very definitely want this; it increases your sphere of influence. Readers are much more likely to find your blog through a backlink than they are by simply surfing the Internet.

Show comments in a popup window? Yes. If a reader has to keep clicking to return to the main page, they will stop.

Enable comment moderation? Again, unless you are having trouble with vicious or nasty posters, this is not necessary. People want to see their comments posted immediately, not wait several days for you to check your e-mail, notice there’s a comment waiting, and approve it.

Show word verification for comments? Start your blog with this turned off. It’s annoying to have to type this stuff in and some people will not go to the trouble. If you start having problems with spammers, then you can turn it on.

Show profile images on comments? Yes. It’s fun to see the photos or icons that people use to represent themselves.

ARCHIVING Enable Post Pages? Post Pages give each of your posts their own unique web page, in addition to appearing on your blog's front page.* YES! This makes it much easier for people to include links to a specific post on your blog within their blog. You want this.
*quoted from Blogger

You want people to subscribe to a feed from your site. This makes it much easier for them to see when you’ve added something new and they are much more likely to come back when you do.

Also, it lets people put your site feed on their blog, for example, in the sidebar. That allows visitors to their blog to see the title and/or first sentence of your newest post. This is a good thing.

I have three more posts about blogging and then I'm done. Tomorrow I'll do Settings, Part 3, and talk about templates. Next I'll talk about driving readers to your site. Last I'll answer the questions I've received that don't fall into these categories.


Blogging 101-Settings, Part 1

If you're blogging for promotional reasons (and if you're an author or wanna-be, that should be your #1 focus), there are a few settings and other things that will make this easier for you.

Domain name: Choose your domain name carefully because you cannot change it later. Most people will come to your blog through a link. If they like what they see, they will bookmark it and return that way or via RSS feed. But for those few who will be typing in your URL (like a publisher or agent), please pick something that is easy to remember and at least slightly professional—like your name. Or if your blog focuses on a theme, something that reflects that. i-am-a-disney-princess.blogspot.com is not a good idea.

Blog Title: This may or may not be different from your domain name. It’s the same here on my blog. The title is what appears in the header of your blog. You can be much more creative with your title than with your domain name. Still, you want to present a professional image.

Description: This is where you explain what your blog is or why you are doing it. For example: Dedicated to helping LDS authors successfully navigate the LDS publishing world.

Profile: Your profile shares with the world some of the details of who you are. A lot of people are hesitant about including these details and you do need to be careful. But anything that you would include in the author bio of your book would be just as safe here.

I suggest posting your photo because people like to see who they’re “talking” to. It makes you seem friendlier and more approachable—both attributes you want to cultivate as an author. If you really don’t want your photo there, use the cover of your book or an attractive icon or a piece of clip art (like mine).

Take advantage of the “Extended Info” to invite readers most likely to relate to your site. List areas of interest that correlate with the focus of your books. When they visit other blogs, readers will click on the key words that correspond with their personal interests and your blog will show up on the list.


Blogging 101-Getting Started

I've been inundated with questions about blogging, so I'll be doing a short series of posts about where and when and how and all that jazz, with an emphasis on how best to use this to promote your writing career. This will be old hat for some of you who are experienced bloggers but I'm hoping you will jump in with your comments, opinions and tips.

Where to Blog:
If you have not yet started a blog, do a little research. Look at the blogs of people you know. Click on their blog roll (links to other bloggers) and notice what you like, what appeals to your eye.

There are several free or inexpensive blog hosting sites. The most popular are Blogger (this one; it's free), LiveJournal (free), Word Press (free and subscription versions) and Typepad (starts at $4.95/month). [If you know of others you'd recommend, please post the URL in the comments section.]

Each of these blog hosting platforms have their advantages and disadvantages. I chose Blogger because it was free and easy, and because several friends used it and were willing to help me get going. [Comments on which host you chose and why would be appreciated.]

Start Simple:
Most blog hosts have a variety of templates you can use. Pick one that is clean and attractive. Stick with the basics while you're learning. You can always fancy it up later on.

Blog Content:
There are many types of blogs, from a simple online diary to a full-fledged promotional focus. Here is a list of some blog types. Choose one that appeals to you or mix and match. It doesn't really matter what type of blog you choose, as long as you remember that people will be judging you and your writing abilities by your blog. If you want to promote your writing, I'd suggest a slice of life, general interest or a blog about writing and/or books, rather than the online diary or rant style. You might also consider doing book reviews.

Before clicking "Post," check spelling and grammar. Think about how your reading public and/or potential agents and publishers might react to what you're saying. Are you projecting the image you want to present to the world? Will a publisher reading your blog see you as professional and careful with your words? Easy to work with? Positive attitude? Interesting? Will your readers find you friendly? Fascinating?

Be very careful not to plagiarize. If you "steal" from someone else's blog, be sure to give them the credit and plenty of links back to their blog.

Be consistent. Post on a regular basis—daily or weekly. If you go too long between posting, readers will stop checking back.


Promo Contest Entry #1

Book: The Mummy's Tunnel

Synopsis: Teenager Jonathon Bradford accompanies his father on a research trip to Peru. There he hears the ancient legend of hidden tunnels connecting Machu Picchu to Lima. The Incas supposedly escaped the Spaniards by disappearing through the tunnels with their gold and sacred mummies. Jonathon doesn't believe the stories until a wrong step plunges him into the hidden labyrinth. There he finds the Inca mummies and the Lost Inca Gold. He also becomes a hostage in a deadly game where terrorists will kill to obtain the lost Inca treasures. I remember this from a previous contest, I think. Good idea. Hope you finish and submit the book somewhere.

Promo: Everyone loves chocolate, right? At the checkout counters of bookstores, set up ceramic pottery decorated with Inca symbols. Fill them with chocolate coins wrapped in foil. On one side of each coin have stamped or embossed, "Lost Inca gold found!" On the other side have the book's title and release date. (You can order customized chocolate coins for 10-12 cents each.) Good idea, but not financially practical. Promo items should cost maybe a penny a piece and there needs to be some control over who gets them--like, you only get one if you buy the book. Chocolate could also melt during shipping and then it would be a mess. Some bookstores like having things at their counter, but the like it most when it encourages customers to BUY things. This doesn't force the customer to act. Bookmarks are a good thing to have free at the counter because when a customer takes them home, they have them as a continual reminder to buy the book. But once they ate the chocolate, that reminder would be gone.

Shirley Bahlmann did something like this with one of her books, but the books came shrink-wrapped with a coin included with purchase, and it was metal, not chocolate. I hesitate to shrink-wrap a book because a lot of people like to flip through it before they buy.

Anyway, the chocolate idea would be a good one if we did something like this--have a pot of these candies as a virtual buried treasure. Visitors to your website would click to get an online treasure map that would have lots of promotional teasers and clues connected to the book. If they "found" the treasure by a certain date, they would be entered in a free drawing to win the pot of chocolate gold.


A Bouquet of Words

Do you ever receive manuscripts that have such "flowery language" that it feels like the author is intruding on the story? Do you ever read manuscripts where the language gets in the way of the story and it feels like the author is trying to impress you with his/her writing instead of simply telling a story? Do you publish them? What's your preference?
As a publisher, whatever is currently selling best. As a person, there is a time and a need for both--sometimes I want to soak in beautiful language. Sometimes I want a quick escape.

The technical term is "literary novel." It's hard to do well.


The Whitney Awards

I've already seen info about the Whitney Awards on several blogs.

I cannot express what a fantabulous idea I think this is. Spread the word. Tell every LDS author you know about it.

Here is a link to the press release.

Odds & Ends:
LDSBA: On another note, we're moving into the home stretch for the LDS Booksellers convention this year. It's August 15-17. I mention this because for the next 8 weeks, my life will be crazy and it will be my excuse if I miss a day or two here. (If you click on the LDSBA label you can read all about last year's convention.)

CONTEST: Absolutely no one has submitted any marketing ideas to the contest. No interest? Or are your insulted by the cheesy prizes?


Blogging for Readers

When do you think it's important to establish a web presence? Before you ever have hope of being published, after acceptance of your manuscript, or when the book comes out?

Do you think a blog is sufficient for a web presence?
When do I think wanna-be writers should establish a web presence? YESTERDAY.

If your plan is to publish, start marketing yourself now. When I have an author tell me he/she has a blog that's getting 100+ hits every day (that's unique visitors, not page loads), and hosts a forum with over 100 members, and has a monthly newsletter that her loyal following subscribes to, I sit up and take notice.

Anyone who reads your blog (and returns to read again) is a potential book buyer. If they have a relationship with you--even a virtual one--they are more likely to buy your book. In fact, I was at the local LDS bookstore today and bought two books, neither of which I would have ever purchased had I not already read and liked the authors' blogs.

A blog is sufficient up until your book is accepted. At that point, you'll want to create an official author website.


How Not to Query

I received a query letter this week that I want to share with you because it's an example of everything not to do. Most of you will know this already, but occasionally I get an e-mail from a blog reader that lets me know that some still need basic instruction. And that's okay. That's what I'm here for.

I am not going to poke fun at this letter because it's clear they are trying their best. It's not full of ego and attitude (my cue to poke as much fun as I want). Even though I'm fairly certain they will never stumble across this blog (they're not LDS), I have changed the details so that even they won't recognize themselves.

John Doe
123 My Street
My Town, XX


XYZ Publisher
My PO Box
My Town, UT

To Whom It May Concern:

I Am Currently Looking For A Publishing Company, For My Book, "Car Maintenance for Women"

This is my First Book, I will Appreshute Any INFORMATION You Can Give Me, Such as Proof-Reading, Typesetting and Such.

I Am Looking Forward to Hearing From You.

John & Martha

1. It's handwritten. That is not appropriate. If you've written a book, surely you have a computer and could use that to write the letter. If you've handwritten your entire book, you will need to hire someone to type it before you submit. They can type your queries as well.

2. No phone number. No e-mail address. No SASE. You have not made it easy for me to respond to you. It will now cost me approx $1.50-4.00* to reject you (postage, materials, payroll; $1.50 if my assistant does it, $4 if I do it myself). It upsets me when I have to pay to reject a query I should never have gotten in the first place. Sometimes, I don't reply.

3. My name is not "To Whom It May Concern." If you don't know my name and can't figure out how to discover what my name is, "Dear Acquisitions Editor" is a better choice. However, if you're writing non-fiction or historical fiction, I will assume that either you do have research skills but are too lazy to use them, or that you don't have adequate research skills, which calls your manuscript content into question. Not a good place to start.

4. I am an LDS publisher. It states that clearly on our website and all official materials from us. I don't know of any resource list that we are on that doesn't also state that. The title of the book makes clear that it is not an LDS book. Again, if you didn't do enough research to determine if we even publish your type of book, see #3. (Now, Car Maintenance for Mormons...uh, never mind.)

5. If we publish your book, why do you need information on proof reading and typesetting? We take care of that in-house. If you're talking about cleaning up your manuscript before submitting, it would be unethical for us to refer you to someone. Also, you never need to typeset your own book.

6. Spelling and punctuation mistakes in your query are not a good sign. Either you were not careful or you don't know any better. Both options mean that your manuscript will require too much editing for us to consider it. Also, if you had typed your query using any of the standard word processing programs, the spell and grammar checks would have cleaned that up.

7. Who the heck is Martha? Co-author? Include her name at the top and mention that you are co-authors in the letter. Spouse? Leave her off.

There is nothing wrong with being ignorant. If you've never done something before, there's no reason why you would know how to do it correctly. However, there is every reason to do a little research. Go to the library, pick a book--any book--on how to query and/or submit a manuscript to a publisher. One book, one afternoon of research, would mean the difference between being considered and an automatic rejection.

*41¢ postage, 6¢ letter, 1¢ envelope, 1.50 payroll (counting taxes, etc.) or $3.33 (what my company considers my time to be worth, even though they don't pay me that amount)


Utah Residency, Optional

An LDS publisher recently requested to see a rewrite of my novel. (Hang on. Is that "An" or "A" LDS publisher? I'm going with "An" since it sounds better.) [Say it aloud and use the one that fits.] Obviously they haven't offered a contract, but for the sake of fantasizing, I'm going to pretend they will. Since I don't live in Utah, how will this affect the marketing of my book? For example, book signings, school visits, etc. Also, are LDS publishers wary of taking on authors who live outside of Utah for this very reason? Thanks in advance!

Since the huge majority of LDS books and products are sold in the Utah/Idaho corridor, living somewhere else means you won't have easy access to multiple promotional signings. It also means you won't be able to do co-op events with other LDS authors--like workshops or community events or Ladies Night at Deseret Book before conference. Unless, of course, you're willing to drive/fly out for a week or two and hit all the bookstores who'll have you. (That will probably not be paid for by your publisher, so think about taking a working family vacation.)

If there's an LDS bookstore in your area, we will set up a signing for you there and at any other local bookstores that will let us in. If you're going on vacation to an area that has LDS bookstores, we can try to set up a signing. You can also do RS workshops or firesides locally and within neighboring wards/stakes.

You're on your own with schools, as is every author. Living in Utah doesn't mean an automatic pass into the schools. It depends on the type of presentation you'll give, the content of your book and your connection with the school.

Pretty much anything else can be done regardless of where you live--thanks to the magic of telephone, fax, Internet, and good 'ole USPS. Radio shows, book reviews, websites, blogs, online interviews, press releases, postcards, catalogs, etc. can all be done no matter where you live.

So, no. Publishers won't turn you down if you live outside Utah as long as you're willing to make the effort and do what is within your ability and budget to help promote your book.



Why do some LDS books have empty pages at the back? I just finished reading a book that had all of five empty pages between the end of the story and the back cover, and it got me thinking. Now I'm checking all my LDS books. Some don't have any empty pages, some have two, and some have three. There's no consistency among books by the same publisher, and no reason for it that I can see, so I was just wondering.

This is an easy one. Books are printed in "signatures"--that's one big sheet of paper printed on both sides, then folded to create the individual pages of the book. The most common signature holds 32 pages, so the number of total pages in your book will be a multiple of 32. Sometimes you can go down to 16, or 8, but that's not as economical.

So let's say the text of your book is 250 typeset pages. It would be printed on 8 signatures of 32, giving you a total of 256 pages. The extra 6 pages would be used as the title and copyright pages, table of contents, about the author, etc. But let's say your text only uses 245 pages. You'll have extra pages that you either need to fill up or leave blank.

I try never to leave extra blank pages. It's a waste of space. I'll add a half title, or a page or two of endorsements, or promo for the author's next book, or something to fill the pages.


June Contest

I have the attention span of a flea and I'm easily bored...You know what that means. Time for a new contest.

Over on Pub Rants this week (June 4-8), she's been talking about promotional things that authors do for their books. Some of the things her authors have done are great ideas. (I loved the alligator and the youtube examples.)

So this is the contest: Pick a book and develop a promo idea for it. It needs to be your book (existing, in the works or on a back burner) OR public domain (pre-1923). I need the title of the book, a short synopsis or teaser paragraph and ONE promo idea. You can enter multiple titles but only one promo per title. Be creative. If you have images of your book cover, promotional items, or links to websites/blogs, send those as part of the promo.

We'll have a Reader's Choice and Publisher's Choice, both of which will win a cheesy prize. (Last month's cheesy prizes were stickers and free promotional bookmarks that I swiped from my local LDS bookstore.) And I might throw in a few other categories, if the response warrants it.

E-mail submissions between now and June 30th. I will post them as they arrive. Voting will be July 1-7. I'll post the winners the following week.

Editing Induced Dyslexia

I've heard people say that if you read your story backwards it makes it easier to see the mistakes. Isn't that hard to do? I mean, reading the words backwards makes them different words, doesn't it? Even if you start at "The End" it would read, "Dne Eth." How can that help? Thank you. (yes, thinking up these questions is way more fun than folding laundry or cleaning boogers off the wall--please, don't have another contest like this for a while so I can get caught up with my housework!)

Ha, ha!

Actually, reading your manuscript out of context is a great way to look for mistakes. I generally take it one line or paragraph at a time (reading the line forward) from the end of the novel.

Another help is reading it out loud. To another person. When I read out loud to just me, I tend to ignore myself.

What are some other tips?


Dizzying POVs

Do you have a POV preference? Do many authors still use omniscient POV? Is there a proper way to use multiple POVs (or is it PsOV?) so as not to confuse the reader? I've read a book that jumped from POV to POV, sometimes in the same paragraph or sentence, and not only did I feel dizzy, I felt schizophrenic!

The story determines the POV. Some stories need to be first person, others need to be third. If you're not sure which your story needs to be, rewrite a couple of chapters in various POVs. Which one works? When you hit the right one, you'll know.

Yes, there is a proper way to use multiple POVs but I don't recommend it unless you know what you're doing. Someone help me out with examples--the only ones I can think of right off are ones that I'm embarrassed to admit I've read.

You cannot change POVs within the same sentence or paragraph. If you're going to do multiple POVs, you need to give some indication that you're changing, like a new chapter (my preference) or a *** or even an extra paragraph return.

[POV is Point of View. If you don't know the difference between various POVs, go to the library and find a writing book that talks about it. Study it until you can tell in the first sentence what a book is written in.)

I was talking to some friends last night and they reminded me of a couple of YA titles that handle changing POV well:
Flipped by Wendelin Van Draanen
My Angelica by Carol Lynch Williams
The View from Saturday by E.L. Konigsburg

Also, you can read some discussions of changing POV here and here. If you know of others, post them in the comments section.


He Said, She Said

I've been told that I over-use "said" and should use other words for variation. I've read LDS fiction that uses various speech tags. Yet, I've read and heard that "said" is the best tag to use because it's almost invisible to the reader and doesn't break the flow (the dialogue itself should "show" the mood, etc.). What's your opinion?

Just because other people do it, doesn't mean it's right.

With really good writing, you almost don't need speech tags because you can tell who's talking just by the words they use and how they put them together. But we use them anyway because we don't want the reader to get lost.

You can use "asked." You can use an occasional "yelled," "screamed," or "whispered." But please, please, please do not use "whimpered," "simpered," "laughed," "teased," or any of those other types of words. Unless you're writing a Harlequin Romance. Then I guess you can do it.

If you want to be taken seriously, use "said" as your speech tag 99% of the time and let your dialog or the movements of your characters show their emotions.


Contests with Cred

LDStorymakers recently had a First Chapter contest for conference attendees and Irreantum has a contest as well. If you enter one of these contests, or another one, and place in it, would it help to mention that in your cover letter?

It won't hurt. These are two contests that LDS publishers would recognize. I've read winning submissions from both of them and they are usually a step above the average slush pile submission.

However, I've seen lots of first chapter winners that fall apart in chapter four.


They Want You to What?!?

Some publishers want illustrations to accompany a picture book manuscript. If I'm not a professional illustrator, where can I find one? Should I consider finding an illustrator or just submit to another publisher who doesn't require illustrations with the text?

Who asks for that??!? It is so often NOT the case that a publisher wants you to find your own illustrations for a picture book that I'd say forget them and go with someone else. I'm thinking they just don't want to pay the extra money to hire an illustrator themselves. You really should not have to pay for an illustrator unless you're self-publishing.

Most publishers DO NOT want you to send illustrations with your picture book. Bad/mediocre illustrations can hurt a picture book more than bad/mediocre writing, so the publisher is going to want complete control over that. (I've purchased picture books with a so-so story because the pictures were gorgeous; but the only time I've ever purchased a good story with icky or boring pictures was Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown. I just don't love those illustrations.)

Picture book publishers have illustrators that they use on a regular basis, someone they know will be easy to work with. They will choose the illustrator that they feel matches the style and voice of the book. Sometimes illustrators are paid by the picture and sometimes they share in the royalty with the author.

Generally, the only time a publisher will even consider looking at illustrations provided by the author is if the author is also the illustrator, or if the author/illustrator insist on working together as a package deal.

And to give you an idea of how often I like illustrations sent in by the author (whether self-done or by a "professional" illustrator the author has chosen)--I have NEVER liked them.

Read more here.

I am Totally Messed Up

Did anyone notice that I posted the Friday Funny on Thursday? Thank you for not making fun of me in the comments section.

I completely blame it on the local Board of Education, who could have chosen to let kids out of school on a Friday, instead of on a Thursday.

I also blame it on my children who think they have better things to do the last few days of school and can't be bothered with actually attending class. They come and go at all hours of the day, making it feel like the weekend, when it's really not.

Can you imagine my consternation when I woke up this morning, thinking it was the weekend, and realized I had to go to work?! Geez.

So okay, you got the Friday Funny on Thursday and today you're getting...uhm...something else.