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Sunday, May 30, 2010

Year's Best Posts for Writers... So Far

by Mike Duran

Whether it's finding an agent or finding your voice, the web is full of helpful tools and advice for authors. Here's ten of my favorite articles I've encountered so far in 2010 and some snippets from those posts.

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Wake Up and Smell the Coffee, Rachelle Gardner --
"There is no magic bullet, there's no advice I can give you that is somehow different than what I tell everyone else. If you want to get in the game, you're going to have to keep doing the work. When you're getting lots of rejections with no feedback, it usually means you're not even close. What are you going to do to change that? You can't keep doing the same old thing and expect different results. Let go of excuses. ("They don't like my topic" or "I'm an unknown.") If your writing is terrific and you’re telling a compelling story, somebody is going to recognize it."

Ten Rules for Writing Fiction, The Guardian --
"You most likely need a thesaurus, a rudimentary grammar book, and a grip on reality. This latter means: there's no free lunch. Writing is work. It's also gambling. You don't get a pension plan. Other people can help you a bit, but ­essentially you're on your own. ­Nobody is making you do this: you chose it, so don't whine."

How Essential is an Online Presence to a Writer's Career?, Jody Hedlund --
"There are times when we writers look at the social media sites negatively—especially when they distract from quality writing time. But we can no longer stick our heads in the sand and hope Facebook, Twitter, and other social media go away. If we hope to succeed in marketing, then we MUST go to where people are congregating. And that happens to be online—in a really big way. And it’s only getting bigger."

Do Authors Really Need to Promote Their Own Books?, Mary DeMuth --
"I wish I could just be discovered by osmosis, but that has not happened. It’s a constant financial struggle to be a writer. (Most authors make about 80 cents a book.) And if I want to continue to do what God has uniquely gifted me to do, I need to sell books. Publishers won’t take further risk with me if I don’t. With all the creativity involved in penning a book, the bottom line is the bottom line. Publishing is a business. And like it or not, I am a businesswoman. Just as a company who rarely believes in their product enough to promote it will ultimately face financial difficulty, a writer who neglects promotion will usually see decline—in sales, in offered contracts."

The "right" way to attract blog followers, Simon C. Larter -- "If I were speaking to you over a couple of martinis, I’d make jokes, be sarcastic, and occasionally lapse into real literary discussions, but I sure wouldn’t be rabbiting on about Hemingway and Faulkner all
the time. Who wants that? It was when I booted pretension to the curb that people started coming by my blog more often. Let the freak flag fly, I say. You’ll feel freer, and your readers will have more fun."

The Odds of Getting Published Stinks -- And Why You Shouldn't Care, The Purple Crayon Blog --
"With hard work on writing, market research, creativity, and perhaps some luck (though luck can be made. . .), a writer eventually can hope to reach that "winner's circle" of publishable manuscripts. If done over and over again, which experienced writers can do, there will come a time when a writer's manuscript is the one that's selected. But is getting to 200-1 the best a writer can hope for? No, and this is why the odds truly don't matter."

How to Craft a Great Voice, Nathan Bransford --
"At its heart, voice is about style. And not just style in the sense of punctuation and how the prose looks on the page (though that can play a role), but style in the sense of a flow, a rhythm, a cadence to the writing, a vocabulary, lexicon, and slang the author is drawing upon. A voice can be wordy (William Faulkner) or it can be spare (Cormac McCarthy). It can be stylish and magical (Jeanette Winterson) or it can be wry and gritty (Elmore Leonard). It can be tied to unique locations (Toni Morrison) or it can be almost wholly invented (Anthony Burgess). But whatever the flavor of the writing, a good voice has a recognizable style."

Should You Create a Facebook Fan Page? (And If So, When?), Jane Friedman --
"Unless your name/identity is immediately recognizable, you'll have to coerce people into becoming a fan or 'liking' your page. That means asking all of your current friends to become fans, which puts you in a yucky position... It's not as appealing to fan or like someone's page. (Just speaking a general truth here.) It takes a higher level of dedication to sign up for what is essentially someone's marketing page on Facebook—and most people aren't using their fan pages very well."

More on Critique Groups, Chip MacGregor -- "A lot of potential writers are simply too sensitive. As a writer, you need a place to bad, so that you can learn to be good. So if your ego is too fragile to allow someone else to read your work, it's time to learn this lesson. Allow yourself to be bad. Give somebody else (preferably not your mom, your spouse, or your best friend) the permission to be honest with you about your writing."

the online art of developing your author brand molecule global microbrand thing, Justine Lee Musk --
"When a key element to survival on the Web is authenticity, and when a key element to a successful brand is its level of engagement, can anybody else ultimately be responsible for defining (to the extent that it can be defined) and marketing (to the extent that it can be marketed) the brand of…you?"

* * *

Okay, that's my list and I'm stickin' to it. If you know of any exceptional posts for writers, whether they involve craft or career, please feel free to provide a link in your comments. And no shameless plugs for your own stuff ( unless it's very good).

The Day I Faced My Failure

Marcia Lee Laycock lives and writes from Central Alberta Canada. Her devotionals have been widely published and are endorsed by Mark Buchanan, Phil Callaway and Jeanette Oke. Her novel, One Smooth Stone won her the Best New Canadian Christian Author Award in 2006. A sequel will be released soon.

This time of year makes me a bit jittery. It’s that time when people ask, “Do you garden?” I take that question personally. I guess it’s a hold-over from my Yukon days, but I always have the feeling the person is really asking, “What are you good for, anyway?” The question always makes me squirm because I’m not good at gardening. I inherited my mother’s black thumb. I’m death to fruits and vegetables.

Not that I haven’t tried. For twelve Yukon summers I dutifully planted rows of cabbage and broccoli, peas and lettuce. Once I replanted three times when late frost hit, only to have it all wilt from an early one in August. With a season of twenty-four hour sunlight, the plants that survived grew furiously but so did the weeds. A neighbour once drove by, honked and called out – “Tendin’ the weed bed, are ye?”

I wanted to give up, but at the end of each summer, I harvested what had managed to survive. I was thankful there was a grocery store in town. We surely would have starved if we’d had to live on what I could grow.

When we moved to Alberta, I anticipated the “game” would go on. When spring arrived I dutifully got out my spade and tested the ground in the back yard. But, oh, woe is me, it was full of roots! The large old cottonwood in the corner of the yard had spread its thick underground fibers far and wide. My husband took a turn at the spade but could find not a single spot suitable to till. Such a pity.

Having an excuse eased the guilt, but I feared my failure was apparent to world. When friends asked if I wanted their harvested leftovers I always said yes, with thanks, but had that nagging suspicion they were pitying me. I knew I was a failure. So did they.

Then one day, a friend asked if I’d like some potatoes. Seems she’d planted way too many and they all grew wonderfully (of course!). My family and I spent a morning digging up her potato patch. It was one of those special times - a glorious morning with the smell of earth freshened by rain and the delight of children’s voices in the crisp fall air. But the most wonderful part was the look on my friend’s face as we loaded the boxes of tubers into our vehicle.

“I just love being able to do this,” she said. “Thanks for coming out.”

The power of her words hung in the air around me for days as a simple truth sank in. There were things I loved doing that could be a blessing to others. I don’t have to be good at everything. It’s okay to be a failure at gardening.

1Peter 4:10 says – “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” My friend did a great job of that the day she invited us to her potato patch. On that day I started admiring the work of people with green thumbs, without feeling guilty. They have that gift. I have another.

I cultivate words, tilling until there are no weeds, pruning away the excess so the fruit can shine through. God’s gift to me has blessed others as, like my friend with the potato patch, I’ve administered the grace and passed it on to readers all over the world. I no longer feel guilty about my black thumb, or about the many things I can’t do that others can. I feel blessed by what I’ve been given and how God has used it to bless others.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Book Borrowing

I recently took a very brave step—I lent out all my favorite books to one person--someone I've never tested to see if they return books. Normally, if someone asks to borrow my books, I start them out with a volume or two that I could live without, and if I get it back, they more borrow more. If I get all my books back consistently enough, they may borrow anything.

I'm not as nice as others. Recently, someone lent me two newer hardbacks--Francine Rivers and Beth Moore. My friend said, "Return them if you if can, but if you don't, or if you lend them to someone else, that's okay too. They're the Lord's books anyway."

How can you not love that attitude? She's obviously learned that once it leaves your doors, you might never see them again. I suppose it easier to give permission to lose your books and hope they are doing someone good, than to feel annoyed that they never came back.

So since I'm thinking about this, I thought it would be fun to see how many books we're currently borrowing:

An Amazing Fundraiser/Concert/Event and You're Invited!

With names like Karen Kingsbury, Mercy Me, Amy Grant, Diamond Rio, Hawk Nelson, David Crowder Band, Point of Grace, Veggie Tales, etc. you know this is going to be an extraordinary event. Check out the website (by clicking the logo) for dates and cities. I'll be signing copies of Crossing Oceans at the Rockingham event. Hope to see you there!

Btw, $10.00 of every ticket goes to support your favorite charity.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Author Evan Drake Howard ~ Interviewed

Author bio:

After growing up in Washington state and living for four years on the island of Guam, Evan Drake Howard moved to Massachusetts to study at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and Boston University School of Theology. An American Baptist pastor since 1981, he published the nonfiction books Rekindling the Hope of the Manger; From Sacrifice to Celebration; Centered in God; and Suffering Loss, Seeking Healing. Since 1997 he has been focusing on writing fiction, and Guideposts Books will publish his debut novel, The Galilean Secret, in May 2010. He and his wife Carol have been married since 1978 and have two teenage sons.

Plug time. What book or project is coming out or has come out that you’d like to tell us about?

Guideposts Books is publishing my first novel in May—THE GALILEAN SECRET. The story is set in both the present and in the time of Jesus. The main character in the contemporary plot is a Palestinian Muslim man who must decide whether he can love an Israeli Jewish woman. He makes a dramatic discovery that links his story with that of a first century Jewish woman trapped in a love triangle with two brothers. As the two stories progress, the main characters in the contemporary plot make a second discovery that empowers their quest for love and has crucial implications for the search for peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

Tell us about your journey to publication. How long had you been writing befor
e you got the call you had a contract, how you heard and what went through your head.

I had published four nonfiction books for medium-size Christian publishers before I felt called to write fiction. My first attempt at writing a novel took me seven years, but although I eventually found an agent and had a nibble from one publisher, the book was never published. I began working on The Galilean Secret in December 2003; now it’s being published six-and-a-half years later. Based on my earlier frustration with finding an agent and publisher, I only half-heartedly searched again when the new book was finished. I was spiritually and emotionally exhausted from the process and decided to self-publish The Galilean Secret, which was then called The Lost Epistle of Jesus. When the self-published version came out, it was met with mostly disinterest and indifference, so I didn’t do much with it for a year. Then, to my
surprise, the religion writer of The Providence Journal, in Rhode Island, where I live, published a substantial and very positive review of the book. Based on the interest that that article generated, I got busy organizing an online marketing campaign and three months later began to query agents again. This time several responded, and I received the call from a major New York literary agent on September 8, 2008. That call filled me with an indescribable feeling of elation that still sends chills up my spine when I think of it. A few weeks later, my new agent sold the book in Brazil, and then a couple months after that, to Guideposts. To this day I sometimes have a hard time believing that this dream has really come true. It has been a thirteen-and-a-half-year journey of inspiration, struggle, heartbreak, and, in the end, amazing grace.

Do you still experience self-doubts regarding your work?

Yes, every time I sit down to write, but one of the reasons I feel at home as a writer is that the self-doubts don’t discourage me. They motivate me to keep working at it so that I improve.

What’s the worst mistake you’ve made while seeking publication?

Sending out my first manuscript before it was really ready. Doing this only increases the frustration associated with seeking publication. If you don’t get published, you feel devastated, but even if you attract the interest of an agent, it will probably be the wrong agent making a deal with the wrong publisher.

What’s the best advice you’ve heard on writing/publication?

Read the books, take the classes, and attend the conferences that teach you the craft of writing fiction, and then surround yourself with solid, reliable critique partners that will help you make the manuscript truly publishable before you send it out.

What’s the worst piece of writing advice you’ve heard?

That it’s really important for novelists to have a platform and spend a lot of time on marketing. If you produce compelling work, the novels will break through and find an audience in an organic way. Although some marketing work is impossible to avoid, I think it distracts novelists from their most important task—honing their storytelling skills.

What’s something you wish you’d known earlier that might have saved you some time/frustration in the publishing business?

Early on, I didn’t know enough about the elements of good storytelling and how to identify the presence or absence of these elements in a manuscript. If I had spent more time on learning to tell a good story and less on trying to get published, I would have saved myself lots of time and frustration.

Do you have a scripture or quote that has been speaking to you lately?

I think often of a quote by the French novelist Andre Maurois, who said that the need to express oneself in writing springs from an unresolved inner conflict. Writing is a quest to find answers for my questions, doubts, and fears; it’s a process of struggling with the darkness and finding some light in it and sharing it. The quest is therapeutic for me and hopefully for my readers too.

Is there a particularly difficult set back that you’ve gone through in your writing career you are willing to share?

When I had produced an unpublished manuscript and a self-published novel that was met with indifference, I really wanted to quit. I went through an excruciating period in which I earnestly tried to give up writing fiction but I couldn’t do it. My wife found it especially hard to accept that I wanted to keep trying. This struggle led to a dark night of the soul that was very scary and painful.

What are a few of your favorite books? (Not written by you.)

April Morning by Howard Fast; A Separate Peace by John Knowles; Moby Dick by Melville; The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck; Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell;
Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton; The Chosen by Chaim Potok; The Man From St. Petersburg and Jackdaws by Ken Follett; The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseni.

Can you give us a view into a typical day of your writing life?

At this point there is no “typical” day because I balance my writing with a full time job as a pastor and with my family responsibilities. I grab time when I can amid other activities, but when I’m able to free up days of time, I write from morning until late afternoon, break for dinner, and write for a couple more hours in the evening.

If you could choose to have one strength of another writer, what would it be and from whom?

I love the descriptive abilities of classic writers such as Hemingway, Faulkner, and Dostoevsky. I have a long way to go in developing the skill of description and how to work it into the story in a natural, unobtrusive way.

Do you have a dream for the future of your writing, something you would love to accomplish?

I dream of developing as a novelist with each book, of having my writing bring insight, hope, and encouragement to my readers, and of seeing my audience steadily grow. Ultimately my dream is to help the Lord change the world for the better, at least in some small way, through my writing.

Was there ever a time in your writing career you thought of quitting?

See my answer above about an especially hard time.

What is your favorite and least favorite part of being a writer?

I love all aspects of the research and writing process, but I have a strong aversion to the self-promotion that authors are expected to do.

How much marketing do you do? Any advice in this area?

I am doing all of the expected things—a Web site, Facebook page, Twitter presence, etc. But I really believe that the best marketing a novelist can do is tell a great story. That’s where I plan to focus.

What do you think about the argument that CBA writing is substandard compared to ABA books?

I don’t tend to buy into blanket comparisons of this sort. I think that books should be evaluated one by one, not lumped together in a generalized way. I have read outstanding stories in both markets, and I have also encountered trite, poorly written stories in both. In the end, reading is a highly subjective undertaking.

Parting words?

Thanks so much for giving me the opportunity to share these thoughts, and for all that Novel Journey does to promote good books and authors. If you love to write and feel that God has called you to this work, persevere through the hard times and they will make your success all the sweeter when it comes. All of the struggles and hard work are definitely worth it in the end.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Bedsores & Deadlines

When I signed with Tyndale to publish my debut, Crossing Oceans, it was only half-written. It had taken me a year and a half to write the first half, but I only had four months to write the second.

I never thought I could do it. But by God's goodness, I turned it in with two weeks to spare.

Now, I find myself on a far tougher deadline. I'm down to two and a half weeks to write the last 1/4 of my sophmore novel, Dry as Rain.

I'm still working part-time as a nurse, I'm a wife and a mom to 5 and I'm doing interviews, book signings, you name it to promote Crossing Oceans. You've heard me say it before, but it's worth repeating, you only get one chance to debut, make it count.
As if all of this pressure wasn't enough, I'm reminded from little industry birdies that an author's sophmore novel can make or break her career. You have all the time in the world to write your first novel and so it's edited, critiqued and written to perfection, but if your sophmore novel is a dud, the common belief is that no matter how good your debut was, readers will not be picking up your third.

Talk about pressure. Man.

So, how am I coping with the stress of this deadline of doom? I'm praying of course. Praying a lot and believing God will do for me again, what He did for me before.

I'm waking up, and parking my butt in the spot I've worn on the couch, with my trusty laptop resting on my legs dawn to dusk every day. Sure I'm getting bedsores, these things are to be expected, but somehow, someway the girl who writes one chapter ever two weeks when she's not on deadline is now producing a chapter a day, (most days).

You'd think my writing would be suffering, wouldn't you? It makes sense that it would. Oddly enough, it's not. One surprising thing I learned from writing Crossing Oceans was that fast or slow, pressured or not, you can't tell the difference between the chapters I slaved over and ones that flew from my fingertips with speed and ease.

The best scene of Dry as Rain, (my sophmore novel in progress), is the one I wrote in a day, sent to my crit partner, Ane Mulligan, had her shred it and tell me "no, ma'am". In about an hour I rewrote it, and sent it back to Ane's rave reviews.

Nonetheless, even when you're someone who works well under pressure, deadlines suck. They stress me out, make me bite my nails, hiss at my kids, ignore my husband, and gain weight, but the work itself is not suffering even if my bed-sore covered bottom is.

Funny what you can do when you have to.

I'm curious how you all handle deadlines. Do they stess you out? Do you find you make a way to meet them somehow? Do you find your work suffers from pressured writing?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Guest Blogger ~ Vickie McDonough on Developing Characters

Award-winning author Vickie McDonough has lived in Oklahoma all her life, except for a year when she and her husband lived on a kibbutz in Israel. Vickie has had 18 books and novellas published, and historical Christian romance is her favorite genre to read and write. Vickie is currently the ACFW treasurer, and a founding member of WIN, an ACFW chapter in Tulsa, OK. She is a member of RWA, CAN, Women Writing the West, and OWFI. She is a wife of thirty-four years, mother of four grown sons and grandma to a feisty four-year-old girl. When she’s not writing, Vickie enjoys reading, gardening, watching movies, and traveling. To learn more about Vickie’s books, visit her website.


I’ve often been asked how I create the characters in my books and generally respond, “That’s a tough question.”

It is tough, because like a baby in a womb, a character will start as a tiny idea, then grow and develop as I spend more time thinking about him or her. They sometimes develop because of the plot. Say my character is a marshal—this is probably a good time to mention I write mostly historicals. A marshal is brave, tough, not afraid to put his life on the line, so it’s safe to assume he’s probably an Alpha male. Tall, strong, self-reliant, and a protector of the innocent. Can you imagine a Beta male as a marshal? Think computer geek with a gun. It reminds me of that old Don Knotts’ movie called The Shakiest Gun in the West.

I’m not saying you couldn’t have a Beta male as a marshal, but that would be a whole different type of story, probably about a man learning to conquer his fears to protect the people he cares for.

Some writers use character sheets with long list of questions to develop their characters, while others use tests like the Myers-Briggs or The Four Temperaments. What I’ve found that works best for me is a book called The Complete Writers Guide to Heroes and Heroines: Sixteen Master Archetypes by Tami D. Cowden, Caro LaFever, and Sue Viders.

The word "archetype" was coined by Carl Jung, who theorized that humans have a collective unconscious, "deposits of the constantly repeated experiences of humanity.... a kind of readiness to reproduce over and over again the same or similar mythical ideas...." This shared memory of experiences has resulted in a resonance of the concepts of hero and heroine that transcends time, place and culture. Jung called these recurring personalities archetypes, from the Greek word archetypos, meaning “first of its kind.”

Author Tami Cowden states, “These archetypes are not the inventions of my coauthors and me – they have existed for millennia. All we did was name and describe them, and then gather examples from an assortment of cultural media.

Heroes and Heroines promotes that there are 8 male and 8 female archetypes.

The Chief
The Bad Boy
The Best Friend
The Charmer
The Lost Soul
The Professor
The Swashbuckler
The Warrior

The book gives a complete description of each archetype, including their strengths and weaknesses, which I’ve found extremely helpful in developing 3-D characters. The Warrior is an archetype I’ve used in several books, such as Luke Davis in The Anonymous Bride. Here’s a brief description of

The WARRIOR: a noble champion, he acts with honor. This man is the reluctant rescuer or the knight in shining armor. He's noble, tenacious, relentless, and he always sticks up for the underdog. If you need a protector, he’s your guy. He doesn’t buckle under the rules and he doesn’t go along just to get along. Think Clint Eastwood in Dirty Harry, Russell Crowe in Gladiator, Mel Gibson in Braveheart.

You can see how this type of archetype would work well for a marshal, a determined rancher, or detective.


The Boss
The Seductress
The Spunky Kid
The Waif
The Free Spirit
The Librarian
The Crusader
The Nurturer

An archetype I often use for a heroine—think of Jack (Jacqueline) in The Anonymous Bride—is The Spunky Kid. (For those of you who’ve read my book and are saying, Jack’s not the heroine—just wait until the third book comes out)

The SPUNKY KID: gutsy and true, she is loyal to the end. She is a favorite of many writers, and for good reason. You can’t help but root for her. She’s the girl with moxie. She’s not looking to be at the top of the heap; she just wants to be in her own little niche. She’s the team player, the one who is always ready to lend a hand. Think Meg Ryan in Sleepless in Seattle, Melanie Griffith in Working Girl, Mary Tyler Moore in The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Whoopi Goldberg in Sister Act, Fiona in Shrek.

So, after I’ve thought about my character some and what they will be going through during the storyline, their character begins to take shape. By then, I know which archetype they are and can use the book to help me develop them further.

Another aspect of Heroes and Heroines is that it shows you toward the end of the book how the different male and female archetypes will clash and mesh. This is fabulous info! Let me show you how I used this to plot a book I haven’t yet sold. It’s called Gabriel’s Atonement.

Gabriel is a gambler, and he’s a Chief archetype. He’s knows what he wants and goes after it. He’s decisive and can read people well. On the negative side, he’s stubborn, usually unsympathetic, and has learned to get what he wants by using the System rather than being a rule-breaker. He is well-liked among his peers, but doesn’t have a close friend. If challenged, he tends to be amused rather than angered.

Enter Leah, my heroine, who is—no surprise here—a Spunky Kid. She’s a single mother with a young child, a rebellious teen sister, and a grandfather who is ailing to care for. She is reliable and supportive of others and never looks for a handout. Her gutsy perseverance makes up for her lack of experience.

So…Gabriel has accidently killed Leah’s husband, and when he discovers the dead man has a wife and young son, he seeks to return the money he fairly won from the man. Leah doesn’t believe her no-account husband had any money and refuses Gabe’s help. He’s determined to help her whether she wants him to or not. Enter conflict.

He believes his work (gambling) is important, where she believes in God and family. But, when the chips are down, The Chief and Spunky Kid are there for each other. He realizes she is someone he can depend on, while she discovers he’s a man who follows through when others don’t. A grudging respect develops. He learns she can’t be bullied into doing anything she doesn’t feel is right, while her positive outlook on life and her humor bring laughter into his world for the first time in a long while.

I could go on, but I hope I’ve shown you how Heroes and Heroines can help you develop your characters. This isn’t the only book out there that writers find helpful, but it is the one I’ve used the most.

The key is knowing why your characters do what they do. What motivates them? Tami Cowden states, “Any archetype can do anything – the question will always be why.”

For a little fun, which archetype do you think these commonly known movie characters are?

Leonardo DiCaprio in Titanic
Harrison Ford in Raiders of the Lost Ark
Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz
Kathleen Turner in Romancing the Stone

Leonardo DiCaprio in Titanic - Charmer
Harrison Ford in Raiders of the Lost Ark - Swashbuckler
Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz - The Waif
Kathleen Turner in Romancing the Stone - Librarian

Check yourself into the Texas Boardinghouse Brides series by Vickie McDonough, where you’ll meet Luke Davis, marshal of Lookout, Texas, who flippantly tells his cousin he’d get married if the right woman ever came along. When three mail-order brides are delivered to Luke a month later, he’s in an uncomfortable predicament. How will he ever choose his mate? Rachel Hamilton’s long-time love for Luke is reignited with his return to town. So when three mail-order brides appear, she panics. Will she find the courage to tell Luke that she loves him? Or take an anonymous part in the contest for his hand?

Monday, May 24, 2010

Kathy Carlton Willis~The Difference between an Agent and a Literary Publicist

Today’s Novel Journey article is by Kathy Carlton Willis, wife to Russ, pastor’s wife to many, author, editor, publicist and a certified CLASSeminars speaker. Kathy Carlton Willis Communications encompasses her many passions. Learn more about how she reflects Christ as she shines the spotlight on others at: or

Often in my travels, I’m confused for an agent or I’m asked what’s the difference between what I do and what an agent does. Maybe you’re curious, too.

First, let’s look at the similarities.

Literary Agents and Literary Publicists:

  1. Are cheerleaders for you and your projects—they want to see you succeed.

  2. Tell others about your work in hopes of connecting you to the ones who will help you get to the next level.

  3. Sometimes provide career-counseling advice, to coach you as you strategize steps to attaining your goals.

  4. Often help you doctor your book proposals to make them sing before submitting them to acquisitions editors and others.

Literary Agents are unique in that:

  1. They are focused on presenting your book proposals to acquisitions editors and publishers with the hope of attaining a book contract for you.

  2. They are paid a commission-style fee, often 15-20%, for arranging these deals, and for mediating any future communication between the authors and publishing houses.

  3. They often carry a heavier client load than publicists, due to the nature of their role. Publishing houses can take a while to decide on proposals, so the agent moves on to pitching other clients while waiting for responses.

  4. They often know more legalese regarding contract law than what is required of publicists to know.

  5. Their databases are filled with contacts in the publishing world, including what each editor is looking for at any given time.

Literary Publicists are unique in that:

  1. They are focused on selling YOU rather than your projects. This involves pre-book contract branding and post-book contract media publicity.

  2. They are paid by the hour or by the campaign, by the author or by the publishing house, depending on the agreement.

  3. Independent publicists carry a limited client load so they can handle the hectic demands of networking with media during all those newsworthy moments.

  4. They know the ins and outs of book promotion and marketing.

  5. Their databases are filled with contacts in the media world, including how each media rep prefers to be pitched (e-mail, fax, phone call or mail).

I’m in the position of assisting clients with writing their book proposals and their books, so I have a little more invested than some publicists who focus more on the post-release publicity. Because of that, I can often act as a liaison to connect authors with publishing houses prior to them attaining an agent. We’ve found that agents are more likely to pick up an author once they know the proposal is being considered at the publishing board committee meeting, or perhaps even being extended a contract offer. My clients ask me why they even need to “throw away 15 percent” to an agent if I’ve already helped them get a deal—why not just get an attorney to consult on the contract? I recently e-mailed this reply to a client asking this very question:

Most say it’s worth the 15% you pay to an agent in exchange for what you get in return. Not just their legal knowledge of reading the contract, but having enough industry knowledge to know what SHOULD be in that contract, what CAN be negotiated (not just your pay, but different rights that need protected or discussed, like international rights, e-book rights, your percentage of discount on purchasing the book for your book table, etc.). Even great attorneys don’t know industry standards for the publishing world unless they deal with it every week.

It’s not that you can’t trust this publishing house to offer you a respectable deal—it’s just that this is a BUSINESS and they are in the business of trying to save as much money as they can by offering low—especially to a first time writer. An agent can negotiate a better deal for you. An attorney won’t do that. They will just tell you if it’s okay to sign the dotted line.

The truth is, many writers end up finding their own book deals, rather than their agents, but they still are willing to have the agent do the negotiating and all the follow up that happens AFTER the contract is signed. An agent’s work isn’t over when the contract is signed—there’s so much to do that slips through the crack if you don’t have an agent to have your back every time you have a dispute over things like edits, cover design, production deadlines, etc.

So, while it’s not essential—and you certainly CAN hire an attorney familiar with literary contracts, I would recommend acquiring an agent to represent your best interests.”

Sunday, May 23, 2010

It's Historical

Got a joke for you. It’s historical.

Okay, let’s hear it.

Here goes:

An 18th-century vagabond in England, exhausted and famished, comes to a roadside inn bearing the sign
George and Dragon. He knocks.
The Innkeeper's wife sticks her head out a window. "What want ye?"
"Could ye spare some victuals?" he pleads.

The woma
n glances at his shabby, dirty clothes and shouts, "No!"
Undeterred, the man asks,"Could I have a pint of ale?"


"Could I at least use your privvy?"


"Might I please...?"
What now?"
the woman screeches.
"D'ye suppose," he asks, "that I might have a word with George?"

That’s supposed to be funny?

I didn’t say it w
as hysterical, I said it was historical. But you know what else isn’t funny?

I’m almost afraid to ask. What else isn’t funny?

We’re almost halfway through the O
UT OF THE SLUSH PILE, Novel Journey’s Fifteen Minutes of Fame Contest, and you haven’t entered yet!

Well, I suppose that true. What category is coming up next?

June 10 is the deadline for Historical Fiction. That covers the WWII era and before.

Does that include all historical fiction, even romance?

Yessireee Bob. Even the mushy stuff.

ell, I just might have to put a spit shine on my first chapter, whip up Ye Olde Synopsis, and email them both to

Make sure to do
wnload an entry form and send it in with it.

Oh, yeah. Can’t forget that. Do you think I might win?

You certainly won’t, if you don’t enter.

True enough.

Hey, do you know who designed that big round table King Arthur was famous for?

No, who?

Sir Cumference.

That wasn’t funny, either.

Sorry. How about t
his one:
A barber, a m
instrel, and a bald man are on the road together. When night falls, they’re nowhere near a town, so they have to sleep out in the open. Because of the danger of highwaymen, someone has to stay awake to keep watch. The barber volunteers for the first shift, but he soon gets bored. To pass the time, he shaves the minstrel’s head. When his watch is over, he wakes the minstrel, who pats his head and exclaims, 'That barber is a real idiot. He woke up Baldy instead of me.'

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Novel Journey Recommends

This week I am recommending two memoirs that are similar to Angela's Ashes.

The Invisible Wall, by Harry Bernstein

The premise of this book didn't grab my attention straightway; a street in England, one side Jewish, the other Christian, on the eve of WWI. But then you open the first page and learn that Mr. Bernstein is a natural born story teller. Before you know it, you're caught up in the saga of a poverty-torn street in England and its occupants struggle for dignity.

Just as amazing is the that the author was aged 96 before he published. We've covered a lot of journeys on Novel Journey, but that has to be one of my favorite ones. Not only did he finally publish at 96, but he is now multi-published. I'm so glad he succeeded because his voice and talent shine.

The Glass Castle, by Jeanette Walls

Bleed on paper--that's the advice writers are often given. Jeanette Walls surely did when she turned around and confronted her past, finding both its sweetness and its sorrow.

I'd heard of the Glass Castle, but was unable to pin down what the book was about. All I kept hearing was, "Trust me, read it." Someone else said, "It's a memoir but it's written like a novel, the way I wish I could write a novel." So when I had a chance to pick up a copy, I did.

What touched me with this book was its frank honesty. So many times we write things slanted towards our current worldview. A good example of this is how many historical novels have characters that believe modern ideals rather than those of the novel's day and age. This memoir manages to do what so few writers manage . . . she shows the worldview she had as a child, without her adult views interfering. It is quite a feat.

There is a richness these two memoirs offer writers, the ability to capture the human struggle with honesty. We are taught that our villains and heroes should not be two dimensional . . . but more like in real life. If you want to see how that can look on paper, memoirs are essential.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Author Gwen Faulkenberry ~ Interviewed

Author bio: Gwen Ford Faulkenberry lives and writes in the mountains of Ozark, Arkansas, where she’s a stay-at-home mom and an English professor. She also plays the piano at her church and raises goats. Her other books include two devotions, A Beautiful Life and A Beautiful Day, and a novel, Love Finds You in Branson, Missouri, which will release in 2011.

Plug time. What book or project is coming out or has come out that you’d like to tell us about?

I have a novel called Love Finds You in Romeo, Colorado, released in December of 2008, a devotional called A Beautiful Life that came out in January 2009, and another one called A Beautiful Day, which was released in January 2010. I have just been contracted for a new novel, Love Finds You in Branson, Missouri, to be released in 2011.

Tell us about your journey to publication. How long had you been writing before you got the call you had a contract, how you heard and what went through your head.

My first book was a gift book called God’s Heart Through You. I was asked to write it in 2005 by a friend who worked for The Aim Group. My second book was a novel I wrote in lieu of a dissertation when I was getting my master’s degree. I was beginning to shop it around when I got an invitation to submit a proposal to Summerside Press for their Love Finds You line. I submitted the proposal in November, and in April I got the official contract. I was very, very excited to be one of the first four authors for the series. It was truly an honor.

Do you still experience self-doubts regarding your work?

Yes. Not to over-spiritualize everything, but a verse that comes to mind is Philippians 3:3: For we…worship God in the Spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and put no confidence in the flesh. I pretty much know I can’t do anything worth anything without Him.

What’s the worst mistake you’ve made while seeking publication?

My story is kind of unique in that publication sought me. I am eternally grateful to my friends at Summerside for giving me a break.

What’s the best advice you’ve heard on writing/publication?

My first writing job was at DaySpring Cards, and during my first week there I met with the heads of all of the departments in the Creative building. The art director at that time, Paul Higdon, looked me in the eyes and said, “Do the best work you can do here, where you are, every day. Because one day you will go on to do other things besides cards, but the connections you make here will follow you the rest of your life.” At the time I thought that was a bit of an odd thing to say to a person he’d just met, but it turned out to be prophetic.

What’s the worst piece of writing advice you’ve heard?

It’s not one piece of advice, but a pervading school of thought that proposes following a strict formula rather than writing as the spirit directs.

What’s something you wish you’d known earlier that might have saved you some time/frustration in the publishing business?

I think early in my writing journey I undervalued the benefits of writing classes and seminars. For me, at least, there’s a delicate balance between craft and inspiration. If anything, I err on the side of inspiration. From studying great literature as well as listening to great writers and teachers, one can gain tools that are really needed for honing the craft, and it doesn’t mean you’re not inspired. It just means you’re not ignorant.

Do you have a scripture or quote that has been speaking to you lately?

This has nothing directly to do with writing, but I’ve been through a season of disappointment with church lately, and the other day as I was feeling rebellious and critical and unloving I came across 1 Peter 2:17: Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king. Ouch.

Is there a particularly difficult set back that you’ve gone through in your writing career you are willing to share?

When I wrote my first novel in graduate school, I sent a proposal for it to an agent who asked to see the rest of the manuscript. I knew that was a good thing so I got really excited. Then, after seeing the rest of the manuscript, that agent sent me a rejection letter. I was devastated. I remember sitting in the porch swing with my sister-in-law blubbering about it, saying my novel was horrible, no one would ever want to read it, and I was going to throw it in the trash. She told me in a loud voice how ridiculous that was after one rejection, how that thinking was from the devil and not God, etc., etc., and basically pulled me back from the brink.

What are a few of your favorite books? (Not written by you.)

I am crazy about books and I have eclectic tastes. I teach English at a university, so I read a lot of classics and my favorites are the Victorians (especially Jane Austen, George Eliot, the Brontes, Thomas Hardy). I also love Atonement by Ian McEwan, To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee, A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway, and anything by C.S. Lewis, Philip Yancey, Elisabeth Elliot, Jhumpa Lahiri, Annie Proulx, Edith Wharton or Flannery O’Connor.

What piece of writing have you done that you’re particularly proud of and why?

I did a character study once of a law professor while I was sitting in her class. I think that was probably the best thing I did in law school.

Do you have a pet peeve having to do with this biz?

Yes. I’m afraid I don’t like much about the “biz” of writing. I like to write.

Can you give us a view into a typical day of your writing life?

On a typical day I’m taking care of my family and then writing at night when they’re all in bed and the house is quiet.

If you could choose to have one strength of another writer, what would it be and from whom?

Wow. Only one? I would love to have the intellectual and emotional precision of Ian McEwan. When he creates a character, he seems to crawl inside his/her skin. It’s almost scientific, like he sees impulses and thoughts and motives under a microscope. He seems to know his characters better than they could possibly know themselves.

Do you have a dream for the future of your writing, something you would love to accomplish?

Yes; don’t laugh. I dream of writing the great American novel and winning the Pulitzer Prize. But of course I also dream of weighing 130 pounds.

Was there ever a time in your writing career you thought of quitting?


What is your favorite and least favorite part of being a writer?

My favorite part is those moments of inspiration when words just seem to dance out of my heart and mind and onto the page. I also love meeting people whose lives have been touched by something I’ve written. It always surprises me, and it’s a very humbling, amazing experience. My least favorite part is the business of writing proposals, sending them in, waiting, and of course—the dreaded rejection.

How much marketing do you do? Any advice in this area?

I do anything my publisher and publicist ask me to, anything my agent suggests, and anything else I can possibly manage without driving my family too crazy, like speaking at events, book signings, and interviews.

What do you think about the argument that CBA writing is substandard compared to ABA books?

I believe that is true, at least in recent history. However, I believe CBA is getting better because Christian readers are starting to demand smarter stuff. I hope to be part of a movement that raises the bar for CBA fiction and nonfiction. In my opinion, followers of Christ should be the most excellent, creative writers in the world.

Parting words?

Buy my books! : )

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Bad Week, Good Words

It’s been a bad week. The day before yesterday my last living aunt passed away. Her name was Liz, and she was a hoot. If you’re old enough to remember Phyllis Diller or Carol Channing you’ll have a general idea of how much fun she was. I’ll miss her so. Then yesterday I had lunch with a friend whose wife just filed for divorce. My friend has a drinking problem, and his wife decided she can’t take it anymore. After lunch I spent time with another hurting friend whose only child is down to one last hope—an experimental therapy—to beat his cancer.

Meanwhile, I have to write 1,000 good words today, and do it again tomorrow, and every other day until September if I’m going to meet the deadline on my next novel. But with so many troubles all around, lately it’s been all I can do to write 500 good words a day.

The word count isn’t the real problem. I’ve been at this writing game a long time. I’ve written amidst the distractions of airports, coffee shops and shopping malls. Even with all of this emotional turmoil I could probably still deliver 5,000 or even 10,000 readable words a day. But good words . . . aye, to quote the Bard, there’s the rub.

It’s tempting to lose focus and begin to wonder why I bother. In a world like this, excellence in the arts can seem like such a trivial pursuit. Indeed, never mind excellence, the reason art matters at all is sometimes questioned. With grief, loneliness, addiction, pain and fear all around us, what’s the point of literature? Why paint? Why sculpt? Why dance, or act, or sing? Why not devote oneself to something practical instead?

Near the end of the book of Job, after that unfortunate man has lost his children, his fortune and his health, after he has suffered the interminable counsel of well-meaning friends who insist he somehow brought disaster on himself, after he has come perilously close to blasphemy while demanding an accounting from his creator, after all of that, Job finally encounters God. Strangely, when God appears it is not with explanations. Job learns nothing of the reason for his suffering. He gets no answer to Rabbi Kushner’s famous question, ‘Why do bad things happen to good people?’ Even so, in the end Job is satisfied. God appears, and Job says, “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.” God appears, and his appearing is enough for Job.

My friend Brad, a professor at a well-known college of fine art, tells me it’s been fashionable for many years in the art community to question the existence of beauty. Not to question beauty’s definition or value, understand, but to question its very existence. One person finds Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d'Avignon lovely, while another person thinks it’s ugly. In the world of art theory this divergence of opinion has sometimes been taken to mean beauty is nothing but a social construct.

It is an old idea. It is the lament of Ecclesiastes. Everything is meaningless under the sun. Yet not everything, for Job saw God and that was enough.

Once I suffered from severe depression. Like Job I cursed the day of my birth. I was saved from the temptation of suicide by snowcapped mountains, golden birches, and the sparkling Milky Way. I was saved by reflections of God’s beauty.

I don’t mean to say God is beautiful. No mere adjective applies to him. St. John tells us “God is love.” God is beautiful in exactly the same way. Like love, beauty is God’s essence. Beauty does not describe God; it is the fact of God. It is his glory, his weight, the very thing the prophet Moses begged to see on Sinai.

The gospels tell a story of a woman who poured very expensive perfume on Jesus. His disciples were indignant. "Why this waste?" they asked. “This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor."

And what was Jesus’ reply?

"Why are you bothering this woman?” he asked. “She has done a beautiful thing . . .”

Beauty exists because God exists. To reveal beauty is to reveal God. Therefore, if our art is beautiful, if we struggle to write good words instead of merely readable ones, then sometimes, just for an instant, God appears and God’s appearing is enough. In a world of grief, loneliness, addiction, pain and fear, no act of man could be more practical than that.

Athol Dickson’s novels have been favorably compared to the work of Octavia Butler (Publisher’s Weekly) and Flannery O’Connor (The New York Times). One of his novels is an Audie Award winner. His most recent novel, Lost Mission, is his fifth novel in a row to be selected as a finalist for the Christy Award. Two of his novels are Christy Award winners. Athol lives with his wife in southern California.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Guest Blogger Deborah Vogts

When most people think of doing book research, they immediately think of historical research. Those who write historicals have my deepest admiration. But contemporary authors have to do research for their stories as well. That's what I'd like to share with you today.

Every novelist must "jump" into their characters' skins, and that often means we must learn things we don't already know. How do we do this? The Internet is an invaluable tool, as is your local library or bookstore. Sometimes, though, your questions can't be answered that way and you have to go to your "source." Often that means interviewing someone by email, by phone, or in person. For an introvert writer who spends the majority of her time in front of a computer, this can be terrifying. Believe me, I know, as I still fight my fear of admitting to someone that I'm an author. After all, they might look at me like I'm an alien, or worse, they might try to bite off my nose, or laugh at me . . . or sneer.

Okay, so what sort of research might a contemporary author need to do? Below are a few things I did for the books in the Seasons of the Tallgrass series, published by Zondervan.

In my first book, Snow Melts in Spring, the opening scene is one where a horse is terribly injured. Right off, I had to know technical terminology, and not only that, but I had to create a scene that was accurate and believable, not just something that looked good on paper. To get it right, I contacted a handful of veterinarians, asked them a bunch of detailed questions all the way down to possible accident scenarios, which would create the type of injuries needed for the story. I even shadowed one small animal vet for a day in order to get a feel for what a "day in the life" might look like for my character who was also a vet.

I also needed to know something about football. Again, not my specialty. For this research, I went to the children's section of the library and checked out an armload of books. Here's a good tip to know: Children's books are easy to read and they are chock full of valuable information. I also watched a lot of football games on television and asked my football loving friends and family hundreds of questions--all so I could write two or three scenes with authenticity.

It matters.

For my second book, Seeds of Summer, which releases the end of May, I needed to learn about the Miss Rodeo America competition because my main character, Natalie Adams is a former Miss Rodeo Kansas and first runner up Miss Rodeo America. My research for this story included visiting with those at the Miss Rodeo America headquarters, as well as interviewing and questioning the current MRA at that time, Miss Amy Wilson, Miss Rodeo America 2008.

The highlight of this research culminated when I met and visited Amy at her home in Colby, KS. Amy was a joy to work with and is such a lovely person. My visit to her home was an unexpected blessing, as she shared some special moments from her time as Miss Rodeo Kansas and then as Miss Rodeo America.

I learned that Miss Rodeo America has a host of sponsors who shower their queen with lovely gifts, some of which include: a wardrobe of Wrangler Jeans, Justin Boots, Bailey Hats , fully tooled Court’s Saddle with custom Miss Rodeo America conchos and an official Miss Rodeo America trophy buckle from Montana Silversmiths. Accompanying the perpetual Miss Rodeo America tiara made by Landstrom’s Original Black Hills Gold Creations, Amy was given a wardrobe of matching jewelry. These items, along with other prizes were presented to her throughout her reign.
To see some pictures of these items, please visit my blog post here.

For my current project, book #3 - Blades of Autumn, I'm having to learn about running a cafe. So guess what? I've been visiting small town cafes and asking the owners lots of questions. Research such as this never ends, but taking the time to do this for your stories might mean the difference between someone loving your book or tossing it against the wall because it wasn't accurate. Sure, you'll never please everyone, but by doing the necessary groundwork, you'll at least know you did everything within your means to bring accuracy to the story.

Again, it's important. Your readers will thank you for it.

Blurb for Seeds of Summer: When opposites attract, sparks fly--like an electrical malfunction. That's what happens when former rodeo queen Natalie Adams meets the new pastor in Diamond Falls.
A heart-warming contemporary romance set in the Flint Hills of Kansas where a former rodeo queen abandons her dreams in order to care for her deceased father’s ranch and her two half-siblings, only to realize with the help of a young new pastor that God can turn even the most dire circumstances into seeds of hope. Spanning the Seasons of the Tallgrass, each story in this series reveals the struggle of the people who live there and the dreams they have for the land until they come full-circle in a never-ending cycle, just as man comes full-circle in his understanding of God.

If you'd like to read a snippet from Seeds of Summer, I invite you to visit Country magazine, which recently did a feature interview with me for their April/May issue. While there, you may also enter your chance to win one of my books. This book giveaway ends May 31.

Deborah VogtsEmporia State University studying English and journalism, Deborah developed a love for the Flint Hills that has never faded. In writing this series, she hopes to share her passion for one of the last tallgrass prairie regions in the world, showing that God’s great beauty rests on the prairie and in the hearts of those who live there.
Visit Deborah at her web site or Country at Heart blog to learn more about her research for Seasons of the Tallgrass series.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Kathy Carlton Willis~Are Book Reviews Effective?

Today’s Novel Journey article is by Kathy Carlton Willis, wife to Russ, pastor’s wife to many, author, editor, publicist and a certified CLASSeminars speaker. Kathy Carlton Willis Communications encompasses her many passions. Learn more about how she reflects Christ as she shines the spotlight on others at: or

Are Book Reviews Effective?

Recently an author asked me if I thought book reviews were effective. Some novelists are beginning to think it’s a waste of time to secure reviews for their books.

I know it’s difficult for authors to read some of the less-than-stellar reviews, and so perhaps they are eager to jump on the “book reviews aren’t effective” bandwagon. My advice for anyone being critiqued is taken straight from talk show host Bonnie Hunt, “Don’t let praise go to your head, and don’t allow criticism to affect your heart.”

There are certain ratings-savvy consumers who study what they want to buy next before they buy it. Not just books. Look at how well Consumer’s Digest does. What do the experts say about appliances or home office equipment? And then there are auto magazines that rate various auto models, giving reviews that help potential consumers dream and yes, purchase their next vehicle. These reviews open up conversation among people looking for different features in the product, so they might come to different conclusions based on their perceived “needs” and “wants.” (This is how reviews can go viral!)

Movie viewers read reviews before they decide which tickets to get. And then there are parents who read reviews to help screen books, movies, and video games for their teens and children. Reviews are everywhere. And certain types of consumers are tuned in to these reviewers. I don’t think it’s just authors who read book reviews. Not from the research I’ve seen.

There are those who buy books on a whim—maybe the cover looks neat, or the author is a favorite, or it’s on the sales rack. But others use their book-buying dollars on books others tell them they should buy. Especially if they purchase online such as amazon or other online bookstores, they probably read several reviews before they click “buy.”

Sometimes it’s a 2 out of 5 rating that convinces a consumer to buy a title—because what was a negative to the reviewer is a positive to the reader. This shows that it’s not just the highest reviews that influence purchases.

If you talk to all the major publishers, they are still forking out lots of dollars sending books to various reviewers. Money speaks. If they found this tactic ineffective, they would cut back on this part of their marketing budget. If anything, they are ramping UP their exposure to reviewers. Every publishing house and publicity firm has a widget reviewers can post, saying they review for such-and-such company. It seems they are spreading a bigger net, not a smaller one.

I’m pretty open-minded—I don’t want to spin my wheels doing something that is ineffective. If I found book reviews to be ineffective, we wouldn’t recruit them. But I do think they work. Between regular book reviews and blog tour reviews, we send out approximately 35% of our sample books for reviews. The rest goes to media and niche marketing. I’d say that’s a pretty good indication that we believe they work.

How are Book Reviews and Endorsements Different?

Reviewers do not have to be celebrities to write good reviews. Endorsements, on the other hand, are secured with name-recognized experts and celebrities who have a realm of influence. Endorsements are often used to not only influence consumers, but also media coverage. Reviewers are primarily providing a service to those considering purchasing the book.

Who Writes Reviews?

Book reviewers write reviews. That sounds simple enough. But now with the ease of sending reviews to online bookstores, consumers also write reviews. They enjoy having a voice to recommend or critique a title. So now potential readers have a choice. They can read what the professional reviewers say about the book. Some of these reviewers only write positive reviews (they believe in the mantra, “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all”). It seems natural that these reviewers feel a loyalty to the one who provides the review copies, so they withhold mentioning any disappointments in the book projects. Even these slanted reviewers won’t write anything that isn’t true; they just abstain from mentioning flaws. Consumers tend to be less savvy at the skill of writing glowing reviews, but they write honest ones. A mixture of both professional reviews and consumer reviews is the best balance for authors.