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Right Writing News, August 31, 2007, Issue #29
August 31, 2007

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Table of Contents

1) Launch of a new Ebook, Writing for the Christian Market
By W. Terry Whalin

2) Those Brutal Numbers
By Randy Ingermanson

3) Master the Business of Writing
By Jim Denney

4) The Unwelcomed Teacher: Adversity
By W. Terry Whalin

5) 6 Times for Building Book Buzz with Technology
By Sandra Beckwith

6) Online Book Publicity Workshop

7) "Pacing and Pressure"
By Kristi Holl

8) Free Ebook Teaches About Email Newsletters
By W. Terry Whalin

9) Avoiding--and Recovering from--Mistakes
By Kelly James-Enger

10) The Foundations of a Winning Children's Book
By Laura Backes

Launch of a new Ebook, Writing for the Christian Market

By W. Terry Whalin

Over the last few months, I've been writing a new Ebook, Writing for the Christian Market. If you are wondering how to break into the Christian market, I will show you step-by-step in this Ebook.

Many writers have no idea where to begin in the Christian market. I'll show you how to start with magazines and build your body of work until you are writing books. There are many details in this Ebook. Learn more of those details and order the book at:

To launch this Ebook and answer your questions about the Christian market, I'll be holding a live teleseminar on Wednesday, September 5th. You can ask a question and receive a free copy of Straight Talk From The Editor, 18 Keys To A Rejection-Proof Submission at: .

Also I've arranged a "mystery guest" to participate in the teleseminar. This guest is an editor at one of the best places for you to break into the Christian market. He will tell us key pointers about how to catch his attention.

To learn more and ask your question about writing for the Christian market, go to: . I look forward to your participation in this world-wide event on Wednesday, September 5th.

Those Brutal Numbers

By Randy Ingermanson

In the last few months, it seems like everybody has been quoting the same set of horrifying numbers, a group of sales figures for books in the year 2004.

Why 2004? Because that is the most recent year for which reasonably accurate statistics are available. Yes, really. The book industry is highly computerized,and you might think that current sales numbers should be readily available to anyone who asks for them.

Think again, Virginia. Getting accurate sales numbers from a publisher is harder than getting a reflection from a vampire. So that's why nobody knows last year's numbers, or even the year before last. What surprises me is that the numbers for 2004 are available.

Here are some of those brutal numbers.

In 2004, about 1.2 million books were in print.

80% of those books sold fewer than 100 copies.

98% sold fewer than 5000 copies.

Only a few hundred books sold more than 100,000 copies.

About 10 books sold over a million copies.

A little scary, no? Makes you want to go into some safe, surefire business, such as lion-taming or tornado-chasing.

The numbers aren't QUITE as bad as they look.

One fact to remember is that a LOT of those books were self-published by authors who couldn't find a royalty-paying publisher. So they paid somebody to print up a bunch of copies that wound up in the garage where they will mold in peace for all eternity. Self-pubbed books account for many of those eighty-percenters that sold under 100 copies.

You should also remember that not all of those 1.2 million books were actually PUBLISHED in 2004. In recent years, the number of books published per year has been around 160,000 to 180,000.

Once a book gets published, it stays in print for several years. Towards the end of its life, a book that once sold well may be selling only a few dozen copies per year. That accounts for the rest of those books that sold under 100 copies.

Despite those two caveats, if you fiddle around with those numbers, you can see that only a bit more than 10% of the books published in any given year will sell over 5000 copies.

Feeling better now? I didn't think so.

Any way you slice those numbers, they're bad news. Horrible news, in fact. If you can figure out how to make a living by writing books that only sell 5000 copies apiece, then you need to get a life, a wife, a mortgage, a car, and a few other amenities such as shoes.

As a matter of fact, most writers DON'T make a living writing books. An editor friend of mine recently told me another horrifying statistic. Walk into any bookstore, look around at all the books there, and imagine their authors are all crammed into the store. Now guess how many of those authors earn their living writing books.

Go ahead and think about that for a second before you read on. Make a guess. How many authors earn a living writing books?

The answer is about one percent. That's not "one percent of all the authors who write a book." That's "one percent of authors who get published by royalty-paying publishers and have their books sold in regular stores." A large percentage of all authors these days are actually self-published authors, who DON'T get royalties and DON'T get their books in regular stores. That means that substantially LESS than one percent of all authors make a living writing books.

A few authors, of course, do immensely well. But most authors don't.

Those are the brutal numbers, and I don't think they'll change anytime soon.

What's an author to do (other than go flush your head down the toilet)?

If those numbers demoralize you enough that you decide to quit writing, then you probably should. If you are writing for the money, then you're like Humphrey Bogart, who claimed that he went to Casablanca "for the waters." In a word, you've been misinformed.

But if writing is in your blood, then you can't quit. If you're one of those wretches who would write even if they didn't pay you, then you're in exactly the right field.

You may still be thinking that there's got to be a way out. All you have to do is get published by one of the big players, right? Surely those big publishers are going to market your book effectively, won't they?

Well, possibly -- but probably not. Remember that big publishers are big because they publish a LOT of books. The marketing and publicity folks at those publishers typically have FAR more on their plate than anybody could handle. (If you don't believe me, talk to these people. They are way overworked and anything you can do to lighten their load will make you a hero.)

The truth is that even if your book gets published at the biggest of the big publishers, it likely won't get the push it deserves because there isn't enough money, enough time, or enough workers to do the job.

It's the same story at mid-size publishers, at small publishers, and at tiny publishers. From what I can see, every publisher in the world overworks and underpays its employees. Vastly.

The problem really boils down to the following two facts:

* A book will not succeed without good marketing.

* Publishers put most all of their marketing efforts behind the successful books.

If you put those facts together, you'll immediately see that your book will only succeed if it begins life with a successful marketing plan that YOU create and implement. As soon as your marketing plan starts to succeed, your publisher will start to put time, energy, and money behind it. Then your book has a chance to really take off.

So it's back to that question: What's an author to do?

An agent friend of mine recently reminded me of something I told her a few years ago. I barely remember saying it, but she is quite positive that I told her once at a writing conference: "I hate marketing. I'm no good at marketing. I don't want to market my books."

Guess what? I've changed my tune -- so much so that I can hardly remember saying that. These days, the truth is that I like marketing. The fact is that I'm good at marketing. And I most definitely want to market my books. Matter of fact, the only books I would consider writing these days are ones that I know how to market effectively.

Attitude is everything. You can decide that you hate marketing and that you won't do it and that you prefer to write books in the 99% that sell poorly. Or you can choose to like marketing and commit to learning all you can about it. It's really up to you.

You can choose your attitude to marketing. You can change it if you've had the wrong attitude. You get to decide.

My challenge this month is very simple: I dare you to DECIDE that you're going to get good at marketing. I dare you. You don't have to take any particular action yet. All I'm daring you to do is to commit yourself to a marketing mentality. Commit to only writing books that you intend to market the heck out of. Commit to success in your writing.

Or you can always go tame lions. It's your choice.
Award-winning novelist Randy Ingermanson, "the Snowflake Guy," publishes the Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine, with more than 9000 readers, every month. If you want to learn the craft and marketing of fiction, AND make your writing more valuable to editors, AND have FUN doing it, visit: Download your free Special Report on Tiger Marketing and get a free 5-Day Course in How To Publish a Novel.

© 2007 Randy Ingermanson. Used with Permission.

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Master the Business of Writing

By Jim Denney

In the Moorfields section of London is a street now called Milton Street. But before 1830, it had another name: Grub Street. Famed as a hub for impoverished literary hacks, Grub Street was once described by Dr. Samuel Johnson as "much inhabited by writers of small histories, dictionaries, and temporary poems." Dr. Johnson should know. After quitting his poorly paid job as a schoolmaster, he served a stint as a Grub Street hack himself, before rising to literary prominence in the mid-18th century.

Today, Grub Street is a metaphor describing all of us in this honorable but underpaid community of working writers. By "working writer," I mean a person who is a full-time, freelance writer by trade. A "working writer," as I use the term, is not someone who has a job with a newspaper or magazine, and draws a paycheck every two weeks. I'm not disparaging such people, because they certainly do work and they certainly do write. But my definition of a working writer is one who gets paid by the piece or by the contract, who draws no salary or benefits, and who is completely self-employed.

I'm a Grub Streeter myself--cheerfully and proudly so. Writing is my day job, and I wouldn't have it any other way. So here are some more thoughts on how to master the business of writing for a living:

• Keep multiple projects in the pipeline. I rarely have fewer than three projects under contract at a time. I stagger the deadlines, usually three months apart. Sometimes I write a book straight through, start to finish, in a solid stretch, eight to twelve weeks. But usually I "leapfrog" between books. I may work four to six weeks on a sports book and send the first batch of chapters to my collaborator. While he's reading those chapters, I jump over to one of my own novels or a nonfiction book for a few weeks.

Toggling between projects every month or two keeps me fresh, keeps my interest from flagging, keeps me from going stale and getting bored. It also helps me to space out the publishers' advance checks to give me a stable cash flow.

While I'm working on projects already under contract, I'm also writing new proposals and developing new book ideas. It's important to schedule projects on a long-term calendar (I schedule book projects with deadlines as far as two years out). I keep my writing calendar handy, right next to my computer, and revise it as needed. When scheduling, it's important to allow space between books for rewrites and revisions, unexpected delays, reading and correcting proofs, promotional efforts, and vacation times.

• Cultivate contacts. Some say it's not what you know, it's who you know. I say it's both. First, you've got to be good at what you do; second, you've got to let people know you are good at what you do. So take control of your craft, and become a great writer. But also take control of your career by getting to know as many different kinds of people as you can: publishers, editors, writers, and influential people in all walks of life. You never know where your next sale or winning book idea may come from.

When you build a network of relationships, you create an environment where the lightning of "good luck" is more likely to strike you. Of the sixty-plus books I've written to date, only a few have been sold to an editor who didn't know me. In almost every case, I either knew the editor or knew someone who knew the editor.

But first I had to be good at what I do. I had to know my craft. To be successful, it's not enough to know a lot of editors; it's much more important that the editors know me--that I deliver excellence, I deliver on-time, and I can be trusted with a hefty advance.

How do you build a network of relationships? For writers, who live and work in solitary confinement, networking takes extra effort. We have to make the effort to get out of our lonely cells and out into the community of writers, editors, publishers, agents, and other contacts. The Internet can provide a certain limited level of contact through bulletin boards and websites. But a much more effective way is through writers' workshops and conferences.

When you attend a conference, meet as many people as you can. Don't be shy about approaching conference speakers--they enjoy talking to people who want to write. And remember that it can be just as helpful to make friends with other attendees as it is to become acquainted with the pros. There are many workshop attendees who can critique your work, inspire you, and introduce you to valuable contacts from their network of relationships.

An important rule in networking is the Golden Rule: Be as generous in helping others as you would have them be generous unto you. Exchange contacts, favors, resources, ideas, and information. You never know which of your wannabe writer friends might suddenly hit the bigtime--and would remember your many acts of kindness by introducing you to a high-powered agent or editor.

• Study the markets. Shape your writing for the particular publishing house or magazine you wish to write for. Research the market online and in-person at your local bookstore. Find out which books lead the field--and study them to understand why. Study the magazines to find out what kinds of articles and stories are the most saleable and why. When you make an intense study of the market, you not only learn how to target your work to fit a particular editorial slant, you also immerse yourself in the moods, modes, and influences of that market, which help to make you a better writer--and a better-selling writer.

Familiarize yourself with publishers' wants, contact information, submission policies, and ranges of payment by consulting the latest edition of Writer's Market (published by Writer's Digest Books, available at any bookstore or in the reference section of your library) and by following the market updates in the magazine Writer's Digest. If you write in a specialty market, be aware of specialized information on your field in such books as Novel and Short Story Writer's Market, and Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market. Most book publishers and magazine publishers post their writer's guidelines on their websites; or you can request writer's guidelines by mail (send an SASE).

• Ask for the money. According to the National Writers Union, only 15 percent of working writers earn over $30,000 a year. But there's no reason why you should remain in the bottom 85 percent. Many writers starve needlessly because they lack the confidence to ask for what's coming to them. Elmore Leonard, best-selling author of such thrillers as Get Shorty and Glitz, says, "Fifty percent of writing is asking for the money. If you can't ask for the money, you have no business being in business."

The highest-paid freelancers tend to work in the business field, largely in advertising and public relations. The mid-level field is magazine and book publishing. The worst-paid field is freelance journalism--newspapers are notorious for exploiting and underpaying freelance "stringers." But generalizations are meaningless. The truth is that if you are skilled, hard-working, savvy, and have confidence in yourself, you can make good money in even the lowest-paid sector of the writing industry.

Be aware of the many different ways writers are paid: contractual advance plus royalties; flat fee (work for hire); by the word; by the hour or day; and on retainer. The best form of payment by far is an advance plus royalties, because that means you own an asset with a virtually unlimited upside potential. As long as the book keeps selling, you keep making money. If you can write a book that never goes out of print, you'll never have to worry about money for the rest of your life.

Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles, Fahrenheit 451, and The Illustrated Man have remained continuously in print for the past half-century. Og Mandino's The Greatest Salesman in the World has never been out of print since it was originally published in 1968, and has sold over 16 million copies. And The One-Minute Manager by Kenneth Blanchard and Spencer Johnson has remained in print since it first appeared in 1982, selling over 10 million copies.

When you are starting out, you generally don't have the leverage to demand many concessions from a publisher. That's okay. That's what the phrase "entry level" is all about. You are paying your dues and building your list of credits. But once your dues have been paid and your reputation has been established, it's time to be confident and assertive. Dare to negotiate. Ask for the money.

For current guidelines on what to charge for practically every kind of writing under the sun, consult the "How Much Should I Charge?" section in the latest edition of Writer's Market. Advertising copy, speechwriting, books, magazines, Internet webpages--whatever writing you do, it's covered in that section.

Whenever possible, charge a lump sum for the project. Don't charge by the hour. The reason is obvious: If you write quickly and produce efficiently, you will be rewarded for your speed. The writer who charges by the hour actually penalizes himself or herself for working efficiently, because the faster you work, the less you make. You should always structure your rates in such a way that you have an incentive to work efficiently and make more by working smarter.

Jim Denney has more than 70 books to his credit and has been a fulltime freelance writer since 1989. His titles include Answers to Satisfy the Soul and the "Timebenders" science-fantasy series for young readers (beginning with Battle Before Time). Visit Jim's website at This article is adapted from his book Quit Your Day Job!--How to Sleep Late, Do What You Enjoy, and Make a Ton of Money As a Writer, copyright 2003 by Jim Denney. You may order Quit Your Day Job! from, Barnes & Noble, or your local bookseller. You may also order directly from the publisher, Quill Driver Books, at 1-800-497-4909.

© 2007 Jim Denney. Used with Permission.

The Unwelcome Teacher: Adversity

By W. Terry Whalin

This teacher shows up at the most inopportune times and demands your attention. When he arrives will you see it as an opportunity or an obstacle? I've already revealed the teacher in my title: adversity. No one that I know in publishing is immune to it yet it continues to teach valuable lessons.

This week, Harvey Mackay writes about adversity and the way perseverance is a key to success. I loved this line in his column, "We must push through the adversity we face. If we don't, we will be poorly prepared for winning. People are successful because they face adversity head-on to gain strength and skill. They don't take the path of least resistance. Adversity is a powerful teacher." Then a bit later he wrote, "When you get discouraged, when you seem unable to make it, there is one thing you cannot do without. It is the priceless ingredient of success called relentless effort. You must never give up. Success cannot be achieved without experiencing some adversity." I hope you will read his entire column because it is filled with pointed quotable insight.

As one of my projects for the week, I've been preparing to launch a new product. I mentioned using Sound Forge to brand a couple of my workshops for the bonus items. I could not get these files into my shopping cart or figure out how to deliver them. I persevered and tried many different ways--without success. Finally at 2 a.m., I gave up and the next day I turned to a friend who is much more knowledgeable about these audio files and asked for his insight. It turned out I was using the default setting on Sound Forge which saved the audio file in the highest possible quality. There is a direct relationship between the size of the file and the quality of the audio. As the quality is higher, the file size increased. I lessened the quality of the audio and the file became more manageable or something that I could deliver to the customer. I've played the files on my computer and can't tell any difference between the high quality and the lesser quality. While I don't have all of the details completed, I know I can deliver the product to the customer and once again my perseverance has paid off.

Many people are amazed at the volume of my body of writing work. I didn't do it to amaze anyone. I'm convinced there are better writers and communicators in the marketplace who have published fewer books and written for fewer publications. I am doggedly persistent to work through the challenges of the day and discover the solutions.

As you think of your writing life, which way are you headed?

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6 Times for Building Book Buzz with Technology

By Sandra Beckwith

Successful authors know that generating book buzz involves more than getting their book title into magazines and newspapers or appearing on radio or TV talk shows. They need good word-of-mouth marketing working for them and a strong online presence.

To do this, they support their more conventional book publicity efforts with campaigns that tap the power of everyday technology to generate book exposure. Here are six unconventional steps they're taking that you can incorporate into your book marketing campaign.

1. Use your e-mail signature to sell. Include your book title and cover and a "Buy Now" button linked to a product purchase page at your Web site or at a popular online retailer like Make sure the link takes people to a page that has enough book information to help them make a purchasing decision.

2. Blog in an existing online community that allows you to make connections. Social networking sites and are popular because they allow members with shared interests to connect more easily. Use the sites to widen your circle of influence so you meet people who might be interested in your book now or later. Irene Levine, PhD, is using her Facebook page to get young women interested in her forthcoming book, Fractured Friendships. Levine's book research involves an online survey ( ); she was able to generate more than 200 survey responses from a younger demographic using Facebook. Do you think those 200+ women will be interested in the book when it comes out? You bet!

3. Create a compelling, useful e-zine or e-newsletter on your book's topic and use it to create a viral marketing campaign. Make your newsletter content helpful and informative and subscribers will forward it to others – who will subscribe and forward their issue to still more people. The newsletter you're reading is a great example. Each month, Terry Whalin compiles the best content he can find to keep you moving forward in the writing business. It supports sales of his latest book on how to write book proposals by showing – not telling – you that he's knowledgeable about the book publishing industry.

4. Make a direct connection between your online presence and your book. Your Web site URL needs to represent your book, not your name or your company's name. If you have created a page for your book on an existing site, put the book title into the page's address: And while we're talking about Web sites . . . don't forget to make your contact information easy to find. If it's not, you risk missing an opportunity for a big interview. One of the students in my online course, "Book Publicity 101: How to Build Book Buzz" (, was recently a guest on CBS's popular "Saturday Early Show" because a producer was able to find her Web site and then easily locate her contact information.

5. Explore and capitalize on the latest technology. Turn a PowerPoint presentation about your book into a "book trailer" – a promotional video – with Windows Movie Maker and upload it to You'll get a URL for the video that you can use on your Web site and include in your e-mail signature.

6. Look for interview opportunities with online longevity. Approach radio stations that archive interviews online. Do podcasts. Ask bloggers to interview you. A blog Q & A I did to promote one of my books led to a guest blogging gig with someone else whose blog also reached my target audience. In addition to generating more book exposure, I made a few friends – that's the best part!

Appropriate and innovative use of technology can give you a competitive advantage in the highly-competitive book buzz environment. If you find it intimidating, get help. Ask a tech-savvy friend to set up systems for you or hire a specialist to do it. Once you master the tools, you'll wonder why you didn't try it sooner.

Sandra Beckwith is a recovering publicist and the author of two publicity books. She now teaches authors and others how to save money by generating buzz themselves. Sign up for her free Build Book Buzz e-zine at

© 2007 Sandra Beckwith. Used with Permission.

Online Book Publicity Workshop Helps Authors Build Buzz

Got a book coming out you want to hype? Has your publisher's publicist moved on to other projects? Do you have a book in stores that you know deserves more media attention than it's getting? Are you working on a proposal that would benefit from a better understanding of what you can do to promote your book? You need "Book Publicity 101: How to Build Book Buzz," a dynamic online course taught by a veteran publicist and author.

Offered October 1-26, 2007, the class is taught in a forum format, with lessons and homework assignments posted online in a private, password-protected forum. The highly-interactive course covers:
· How to create a book publicity blueprint you'll be excited about
· The single secret most authors don't know about generating ongoing media exposure
· The most effective and cost-efficient publicity tactics
· How to generate buzz online using virtual book tours and other techniques
· Radio and TV producer hot buttons
· How to bring an energizing new level of creativity to your publicity efforts

Students receive instructional materials and resources and complete weekly assignments that help them discover how easy it is to create book buzz. Student interaction on the forum enhances the learning experience by offering fresh perspectives and new ideas for all participants while instructor guidance and input takes your work to the next level. A free-for-all Q&A corner lets students get answers to questions not covered in the course materials, making this a highly-personalized learning experience for nonfiction and fiction authors.

Registration is $129 for Freelance Success subscribers and $149 for others.

The class is taught by Sandra Beckwith, a recovering award-winning publicist, publisher of the free e-newsletter Build Book Buzz, and author of three books, including Streetwise Complete Publicity Plans: How to Create Publicity That Will Spark Media Exposure and Excitement. Although published in 2003, Streetwise Complete Publicity Plans continues to remain in the news years later, thanks to Beckwith's book publicity efforts. She has also successfully publicized the books of others. Subscribe to her free Build Book Buzz e-newsletter at

Registration is limited to 20 students; deadline for registration is September 28, 2007 .

Register at; send course inquiries to Beckwith at

iUniverse, Inc.

"Pacing and Pressure"

By Kristi Holl

When I started writing, my personal fantasy included sitting before a fireplace, hot chocolate in hand, eyes half-closed as I played with an idea. After the idea had simmered sufficiently, I penned each carefully crafted sentence. My deeply touching personal essay or short story, finished a week before deadline, would reside on my antique roll top desk, awaiting final (unhurried) touches before submitting it to my eager editor.

A fantasy, yes. But to be a successful writer, must I give up entirely the dream of relaxed writing? Must I live at the frantic pace that has become so common?

Modern Malady

Studies show that people are working longer hours and with more intensity--but are they working smarter? We writers have been hit by the technology bug, using it to save time so we can produce more. To work faster, we use electronic organizers, laptop computers, cell phones, fax machines, the Internet and e-mail. Faster, faster, faster! (Don't get me wrong. I also use a cell phone, scanner, laptop for travel, and the Internet to research and e-mail. I love it all--in its place.

However, in many cases, the use of all this technology has only served to increase the frantic feeling among writers. ("I can find guidelines, query and submit manuscripts online, so I can send a query every day." "Hurry and fax those contract changes." "I'd better write on my laptop instead of napping on the plane.") It's a myth that all this frantic hurry is worth it, in terms of extra work accomplished. On the contrary, bosses today know that when their employees work at a frantic pace, it means lower morale, poorer decisions being made, and a loss in the ability to think clearly and creatively. If you're a writer, take note. You're both the boss in charge and the employee.

What's the Rush?

Comedian Stephen Wright said, "I have a microwave fireplace. You can lie in front of it all night in only eight minutes." I'm afraid many writers have the same attitude about their writing, only we expect to produce microwave novels and magazine articles. And when we submit them electronically, we expect responses from editors that day or that week.

So what's the answer to all this frantic writing to get more done faster? Believe it or not, the answer is to slow down.

Slow and Steady

We all remember the story of the tortoise and the hare. At the starting line of the race, the hare takes off, leaving the tortoise in the dust. The hare, soon exhausted, lies down to nap, confident that he has the time to rest and still win the race. In the meantime, the plodding tortoise (who paced himself) never stopped. The tortoise won the race. (He probably enjoyed the trip too, stopping to smell the roses along the way.)

We, too, need to slow down if we're going to enjoy the process of writing. Our busy minds--crammed with ideas for future projects and blog posts and website updates--are like hamsters running circles on their exercise wheels. Spinning like crazy, we're often going nowhere. Cluttered, over-active minds can give us the illusion that we're busy, but prevent us from actually accomplishing anything.

The Experience of Time

In order to pace ourselves in our writing, we have to slow down our thinking processes. "But I don't have time to do that!" you protest. "You don't know my schedule or my deadlines!"

Actually, the busier you are, the more important this concept is. First, our perceptions about time (how much or how little of it we have) is a product of our own thinking, not the actual clock. Don't believe me? Recall the last time you were meeting your best friend for lunch. You got to the restaurant on time, but she was twenty minutes late. How long was that twenty minutes? (So aggravatingly long that you nearly starved, right?) On the other hand, imagine that you're the one running twenty minutes behind and trying to get to the restaurant. How long is that same twenty minutes while stuck in traffic or trying to find a decent parking place? (Gone in the blink of an eye!)

So slow down your thinking when you're writing. Our experience of anxiety and stress when writing (resulting in internal pressure, often followed by procrastination) comes from getting caught up in our rapid-fire thinking. We try to do two or three things on our To-Do list at once, or we think of past or future events, instead of concentrating on the writing task at hand.

Speed Up or Calm Down?

Try thinking like a tortoise the next time you feel frantic and pressured or you have procrastinated on your writing. S-L-O-W D-O W-N. Live in the present moment, and from one present moment to another. Calmly take one part of the writing task at a time. Think. Take your time. You'll experience more satisfaction in your writing and (believe it or not) you'll get more writing done.

Pacing can be your best time management technique. It immediately reduces the internal pressure as you write. Without the stress and pressure associated with writing, we no longer feel the need to procrastinate. It all works together.

So try being a tortoise in your writing, just for a week, to see what happens. Do you accomplish more--sometimes a LOT more by the end of each day? Just as important, was there added enjoyment in your writing? Then slow down--and create the writing life you want!

Kristi Holl is the author of 34 middle-grade books, both fiction and nonfiction, plus one book for writers, Writer's First Aid. Look for her nonfiction book What's a Girl To Do? this September and the first four Boarding School Mysteries in the spring, all from Zonderkidz. You can read more about Kristi and her work at

All Rights Reserved. Used with Permission

Free Ebook Teaches About Email Newsletters

By W. Terry Whalin

Almost every day I receive pitches from writers who have great dreams and desires for their writing. Some of them have worked hard on their own writing craft and the idea that they are pitching. It is evident to me as I look at their proposals or manuscripts. Yet many of them are missing the critical ingredient. You can call it platform or visibility in the marketplace or a network or connections. No one outside of their own social network knows them. They have curled up with their keyboard and produced a masterpiece in their view--without a market.

In many ways it's a shame because they have passion yet little understanding about how to build that visibility. One recommendation that I have made frequently (and here it comes again) is to begin building a newsletter list. Yes there are millions of ezines online. You have to be wise about how you focus such an ezine then deliver great content issue after issue on a consistent basis. If you take some of these steps, over time you can build your audience.

Last night I was talking with an author about his nonfiction book proposal. The idea seemed to have merit and he was writing to a real felt need that he saw around him. Yet he has no market visibility or promoted expertise in the area that he wants to write. The best course of action in my view is to begin a newsletter and a website to start building that momentum.

I've found a free 150–page ebook resource called Email Newsletters 101, A Small Business Reference Guide which covers many of the basics for starting an excellent newsletter. I read this resource and it offers sound advice that any writer could immediately use--whether they already have a newsletter or want to know about starting one.

Avoiding--and Recovering from--Mistakes

By Kelly James-Enger

There's nothing worse than making a mistake--especially a stupid one. Last week, I turned in a story for a steady client of mine. The piece was on common health conditions and how to prevent them--simple, right? I researched and wrote the piece, reviewed it, proofed it, and turned it in. I was positive I'd given the editor what she wanted.

Except I didn't. I misread the contract, and covered only three out of the four medical conditions I was supposed to write about. The fourth was close, but not quite--and I didn't realize it until she pointed it out in an email, asking me (very nicely) to follow the terms of the contract.

Well, duh. What a rookie mistake. I felt like an idiot, and worked all afternoon to correct the story, and turned it in the next day. By the way, I still met my deadline--that's one of the advantages to turning things in early.) But after all the work I did, the research and double-checking my facts and statistics, I made a stupid mistake.

I don't make mistakes often, but it does happen. As a writer, how can you recover when you screw up?

First, apologize. Don't try to blame someone else, even if someone else is partly to blame. Say, "I'm sorry," and mean it.

Next, figure out how you can correct the blunder. If you're not sure how you can do that, ask your editor or client. In this case, I had the opportunity to address the problem immediately and turned the story around in 24 hours. My experience has been, the faster the better.

If you can't correct the mistake (say, a story's already run with someone's name misspelled), do what you can. Apologize to the source and look for ways to prevent the problem from happening again. I worked for an editor early in my career who would rewrite my stories, invariably introducing factual or grammatical errors. I wouldn't see them until they were in print. After several incidents, I simply asked the editor if I could review the galleys (the laid-out pages of the magazine before they go to print) before the magazines were published. She agreed. Problem solved.

Finally, you've taken steps to reduce your chances of making another mistake and flogged yourself with guilt for a while, let it go. Much as I hate making mistakes, I have to admit they do happen once in a (great) while. They're not a reason to beat yourself up for weeks or worse yet, give up on freelancing altogether. There's a motto often quoted on, a website for writers, that fits this situation: "Eat cookies. Move on." In my case, it's M&Ms, but the message is the same.

Read more about how to address writing crises and write boost your writing income in Six-Figure Freelancing: The Writer’s Guide to Making More Money (Random House, 2005), which is loaded with practical advice to help you make more as a nonfiction freelance writer. More info at

Freelance journalist Kelly James-Enger is the author of Ready, Aim, Specialize! Create Your Own Writing Specialty and Make More Money (The Writer Books, 2003.) She can be reached through her website at:
© 2007 Kelly James-Enger

The Foundations of a Winning Children's Book

By Laura Backes

In honor of our 17th birthday, we thought it would be fun to reprint an article from the very first issue of Children's Book Insider, published in May, 1990.   Back then, gas was under a buck a gallon, I had most of my hair and Laura was still really, really smart.  She proves it in this article, which is every bit as applicable now as it was in 1990....


It's a common misconception that picture books are easy to create. The audience is young (and presumably easier to please) and the stories are short. The truth, in fact, is that writing a strong picture book offers many problems and challenges for burgeoning authors.

Children do not believe everything they are told in books. However, young children are willing to suspend their disbelief if the story is good enough. As long as the characters are convincing, they can be anything from elves to personified toys. And as long the characters are occupied with the same concerns as the reader, the child will remain involved in the story.

Because picture books have short text (average length is 32 pages) any flaw in plot is glaring. One badly written picture book paragraph can be the equivalent of 10 poorly written pages in an adult novel. To avoid problems that commonly trip up new authors, keep these key points in mind when developing your story:

* There must be a thread of logic running through the plot, regardless of content. If your main character is a girl who has shrunk to the size of a mouse, don't have her pick up an apple and put it in her pocket.

* Once you develop a character, keep that character consistent. If Max the Bat is afraid of the dark on page 1, don't have him enter a cave on page 4 without him feeling some trepidation.

* Children will lose interest in one-dimensional characters. Give your characters humanistic traits a child will care about; humor, emotions, physical description, even if they're animals.

* Don't sacrifice the story for plot. If a picture book plot is too complex, the characters will simply exist to move from point A to B, without any story development in between. The plot should unfold as a result of the characters' personalities and the setting of the story, rather than manipulating the characters to fit the plot.

* Plots should rely mainly on action and emotion, rather than intellectualization. Large blocks of dialogue between characters (unless it's very funny) will slow the story down. Keep in mind: The illustrator must be able to create a new picture for each page, so the characters have to move around.

* Minimal wording has the best effect. Use concrete images and eliminate unnecessary words. It is the job of the illustrator to read between the lines and expand upon your text.

A great way to test your story: Before sending it to an editor, have someone else read the story to a child. Watch the child's reactions; if he or she fidgets or appears distracted, you haven't held the child's attention. Also, have an adult read your book, but don't explain the story beforehand. Flaws are more evident to a reader if he or she doesn't know what to expect.

About the Author: Laura Backes is the publisher of Children's Book Insider, the Newsletter for Children's Writers. For more information about writing children's books, including free articles, market tips, insider secrets and much more, visit Children's Book Insider's home on the web at

Copyright 2007, Children's Book Insider, LLC.
Reprinted with permission.

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