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Right Writing News, August 5, 2008, Issue #34
August 05, 2008

Welcome to the 34th issue to subscribers of Right Writing News. If you are reading this issue forwarded from someone, be sure and use the link below to get your own free subscription.

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Table of Contents

1) You Can Make A Difference
By W. Terry Whalin

2) A Resource For Platform Building

3) Use Your Book For Leverage
By W. Terry Whalin

4) Why Is This October Book Ranked So High?
By W. Terry Whalin

5) Write, Publish and Sell Your Book

6) The Danger of A Single Focus
By W. Terry Whalin

7) Writing Powerful Endings
By Laura Backes

You Can Make A Difference

By W. Terry Whalin

In these days of unreturned phone calls and unanswered emails (yes it happens to me too), at times, it's easy to wonder if you are making a difference. If so, where are you making that difference in the lives of others? From my experience, it will take a conscious effort on your part.

Are you learning something new? It seems like every time I turn around I'm gaining some new bit of information. What are you doing to be a good steward of that information and pass it on to others?

For example, in my agency, someone contacted me with a 190K novel--which is over the top too long. Go to this entry and follow the links if you want to know more about the expected length of novel. Why is this important? Because if you have a mass of material coming your direction as an editor or agent (and we all do), then one of the quickest ways to sort things into the rejection pile is based on word count. A huge manuscript is going to take a tremendous amount of editorial work to get it to the right length if it is too long. Several months ago, I rejected a novel on the basis of word length. Today this novelist came back and said she had managed to trim her 190K novel into 120K would I now take a look? I was flattered that she had taken the time and energy to cut her story and maintain plot lines and other things (according to her note). Yet it was still too long in my view to capture my interest. From my experience anything over 110,000 words is going to struggle to find it's place of publication in the marketplace. So it's not a good use of my time as an agent--and I told her so.Thank you but still no thank you.

Then I got another submission addressed to my personal mailbox, and misspelling Literary in the name of my agency. Yet on the inside the submission began, "To Whom It May Concern" and also did not include a title for their proposed novel. I could have just returned my standard rejection letter but I made a point to call it to her attention so she could change it in the future.

I recently wrote about Mark Levine's book on the Fine Art of Self-Publishing. I have personal connections to two of the Print On Demand publishers in the "Publishers To Avoid" section of the book. I could have ignored it but I didn't.

Instead I brought the information to leaders in each of these two publishers. One publisher had moved from the recommended category to the avoid category and when I told her about it she said, "Why whatever it is, we will fix it." The other publisher made the opposite choice with the information saying, "We weren't fairly treated and this book doesn't know what they are talking about."

Many years ago I learned that when you bring information to someone they have two choices. They can either resist and contend that you do not have the full picture, then make some excuse. Or they can make an effort to grow and learn from the situation. I try to take that latter road and grow as much as possible.

I continue to grow and improve. Recently I held a free teleseminar about book proposals at After the teleseminar, I changed the material into the replay mode--but the date remained on the front page (which is not supposed to happen). It could have thrown me off and stopped me from holding additional teleseminars. It hasn't. The date was also on the teleseminar I did with Andy McGuire (see the illustration).

I'm still going to be conducting more of these worldwide events. How do I know they are worldwide? The other night one of the callers on the phone was from Italy--a long ways from Scottsdale, Arizona. Note this teleseminar is now on replay mode. If you would like to hear it for free, simply fill out your first name and email address and write "no question" in the box and you will reach the replay page where you can download the full hour for your computer or iPod plus pick up the 90-page Ebook about book proposals

As you can see from this second illustration, my date problem has been resolved. Apparently I was missing a line of computer code some place and now my various teleseminars which are in replay are working.

My encouragement is for you to pass along the lessons that you are learning to others. You can make a difference in the lives of the people around you.

A Resource For Platform Building

The last time I wrote about platform, I received several vocal comments--especially from the fiction authors, who many times believe they don't need a platform. Yes, story is important but increasingly the better your platform, the more likely to sell your book.

In the last few days, I've read a new book from Stephanie Chandler called The Author's Guide to Building an Online Platform, Leveraging the Internet to Sell More Books. I just wrote a five star review for Amazon but wanted to also give you the insight from this review--then I have even more information from Stephanie Chandler. First my review:

Every writer has great dreams and aspirations of selling many copies of their published book. Stephanie Chandler gives you the real story about publishers. They can make beautiful well-crafted books but selling those books? That's a key responsibility for the author. THE AUTHOR'S GUIDE TO BUILDING AN ONLINE PLATFORM gives writers the critical tools to sell their books into the marketplace.

As Chandler writes at the bottom of the first page of Chapter 1: "The reality in the world of publishing is that without marketing, a book simply cannot be successful. And even if you have the biggest publishers on the planet behind you, it is unlikely that they will run your entire marketing campaign for you. You will still be required to do the majority of the work."

Publishers use the word "platform" a great deal and Chandler explains, "The formation of a platform is essential for publishing nonfiction and helpful for writers of fiction. A platform encompasses your ability to reach a broad audience before the book is even released."…"Authors of fiction and gift books aren't always required to have a platform first. But if you come to the table with one, your chances of getting published will be dramatically increased. Agents and publishers want authors who can sell books. Once you realize this and figure out how to demonstrate that you can do that, your future in publishing will be bright." (page 6)

In a no nonsense style, Chandler gives you the details to stand apart from the run of the mill book submission or published book author—because you will be motivated and informed to sell more books."

That was my review. Now I want to give you an article from Stephanie Chandler's website which will give you a bit of her writing style and a sample of the type of information in this book:

Create Passive Income Online: A Formula for Financial Freedom

By Stephanie Chandler

Passive income is money you make while you sleep. Real estate is the most traditional form of passive income, but the Internet has opened up opportunities for anyone who wants to generate revenue online. Following is a strategy you can follow to develop your own passive income business:

Create a Content-Rich Website.

Content really is king. Not only does it give your site visitors a reason to return to your site, but it gives the search engines plenty of reasons to index your pages. Load your website with articles, links and other resources. By offering free information, you can convert many of your visitors into paying customers.

Publish a Useful E-zine.

Online newsletters or e-zines are powerful tools for keeping your name in front of your customers. Pay attention to the e-zines you receive from other businesses. What do you like about them? What could you do better? Publish yours weekly or monthly and make sure it offers plenty of value. This is your chance to build a rapport with your readers while you soft-sell your products and services.

Develop Products to Sell.

Information products are powerful revenue generators. Product opportunities include books, e-books, special reports, teleseminars, workbooks, tips booklets, mp3 files and virtually and form in which you deliver information. Use your expertise to develop products that your site visitors need. Electronic products are ideal passive-income earners since once the product is created; it can continue to sell for years with little effort on your part.

Write Persuasive Ad Copy.

Once you create a quality product, you need to convince customers to get out their credit cards. Offer a list of product features, testimonials from others who have enjoyed the product, and appeal to your buyer's emotions. The key to successful ad copy is to identify the buyer's need and show them how your product will fill that need.

Automate Your Online Business.

The key to passive income is to minimize the amount of work involved. Instead of manually responding to every sale that you make or every inquiry you receive through your website, you can automate these tasks. Add a shopping cart solution to your site such as, a comprehensive shopping cart solution or, a service that automates electronic file delivery.

Implement Affiliate Programs.

You can sell other people's products and services directly through your website and earn a percentage from every sale. Find products and services that compliment the content on your site. Popular affiliate programs include those offered by, Google Adsense (, and Commission Junction ( Your shopping cart service provider may also allow you to implement your own affiliate program so that you can empower others to sell your products and services. You can also create affiliate programs through services such as Click Bank ( or Pay Dot Com (

Market Your Business.

Drive traffic to your site by spreading your website link across the Internet. Some strategies to employ include swapping links with other businesses, publishing articles online through services like and, submitting press releases through, and purchasing classified ads in industry publications. Try to do one to three tasks every day to market your business and soon your website traffic will begin to explode.

Continue the Product Development Cycle.

Be on the lookout for new product opportunities. Pay attention to what questions your customers are asking so you can create products that they need. Each new product should help increase your bottom line by generating new income streams and new reasons to advertise your business. Keep in mind that customers who liked your previous products will be more likely to purchase new products from you for years to come.

About the Author:

Stephanie Chandler is the author of several business and marketing books including FROM ENTREPRENEUR TO INFOPRENEUR: MAKE MONEY WITH BOOKS, E-BOOKS AND INFORMATION PRODUCTS. She is the founder of, a directory of resources for entrepreneurs and, a marketing company specializing in electronic newsletters.

You may recognize that I've been writing about a number of these elements through these entries on The Writing Life. Stephanie Chandler pulls this information into a worthy resource that I recommend: The Author's Guide to Building an Online Platform.

Use Your Book For Leverage

By W. Terry Whalin

Are you leveraging the power of your book to engage your reader? You may be wondering what I'm talking about since many people see the book as their end goal. These people are trying to learn the craft of writing and take the necessary steps to get their ideas into print--which is a great starting place in the journey.

The book isn't the end but it's the beginning in many regards. Repeatedly I've heard my friend Alex Mandossian say, "People do not make money writing books (true). People make money explaining books."

I've probably burst a few people's dream with those words about making money writing books. In the last few days, I've read Patricia L. Fry's excellent book, The Right Way To Write, Publish and Sell Your Book (more about this soon). Fry writes on page 14, "The Author's Guild has determined that a fiction book is successful if it sells 5,000 copies and a successful nonfiction book sells 7,500 copies." Arielle Eckstut and David Sterry write in Putting Your Passion Into Print that less than 10% of books published (yes fiction and nonfiction) ever earn back their advance. These statistics are the norm and you could break out of the norm but realize what you have to overcome and leverage to make that happen. While hope springs eternal, it is good to root your hope in reality.

I was stirred to think about this concept of leverage for books earlier this week with a thought-provoking post from Paul Mikos at Cumberland House Publishing. As Mikos wrote in his post quoting Michael Cader from Publishers Lunch another source that I will also use, "The book, Cader said, 'is the [most] meaningful place for you to have meaningful interaction with your readers…When I finish a book, I want to know what to do next… Can I write the author? … Is there a club? … If there's a Web site, don't just give me a URL, tell me what's good there.' [Cader's] larger message: 'Get your mind-set out of the book business and into the reader business.'

Mikos pointed me to read this article from the EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Noelle Skodzinski. Here's the paragraph from this article that I want to point out: "Books have a power, for many of us, unparalleled by television or movies. We grow strangely attached to the characters. I recently finished reading “Water for Elephants” and didn’t want the story to end. I wanted friends to read it, to share the experience. And I definitely want to read another book by Sara Gruen. Fortunately, the publisher was smart enough to tell me what other books she has written."

How are you leveraging this power in your own books and creating products which explain your book? Are you doing it through a regular newsletter where you connect to your readers? For example, several years ago I wrote Book Proposals That Sell, 21 Secrets To Speed Your Success. While the book is available instantly in an Ebook format, it is also in a paperback on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and many other places. It is important to give the book to people in as many different formats as possible. In addition, I created several products like the audio interview with eight top editors and literary agents in publishing called Secrets About Proposals. As another tool, I'm providing daily proposal coaching through another product, Proposal Secrets. Or I've provided an audio package of my teaching about book proposals called Editor Reveals Book Proposal Secrets.

Each of these products is an example of how I'm leveraging my book and focused on attracting readers and growing the audience. You can follow the same pattern.

Why Is This October Book Ranked So High?

By W. Terry Whalin

I am not a huge Seth Godin reader but I did mention one of his Ebooks several months ago. I know many people who run out and get his latest book. I've never purchased one of his books--until Tuesday when I forked out almost $18 to Barnes and Noble for a book which will not release until mid-October. Why? Because I wanted to be a part of the tribe.

Godin writes one of the most popular business related blogs on the Internet. Tuesday I happened to read his entry which asked, "Are you in the tribe?" Then I went to the page for the new book, Tribes: We Need You To Lead Us, on Amazon--and noticed that it was ranked #7.

Notice on his blog, Godin says he is announcing this exclusive group called a tribe on his blog and anyone who joins this exclusive group must be committed enough to advance order his book. If you purchase the book and email the information to a special address, then they will begin sending out invitations to this special place.

Godin is using his market wisdom to the max and building "a safe, well-lit place online where like-minded people can connect." Sounds like the height of social networking to me so I joined in and I'm looking for my special invitation and numbered badge.

I found Godin's Squidoo page, Are you in the tribe? and he begins, "INVITATION LIST CLOSES ON JULY 30 AT 11 am ET! After that, we'll have a waiting list, which we'll open as we think the tribe can handle the traffic." (Since this time off and on he opens the site so I recommend you try it)

Notice the exclusive nature of this group when he writes, "Members get a password and the privilege of meeting each other, posting thoughts, connecting to big ideas or projects and more. It will include excerpts from the book as well as a chance to contribute to a new jointly-authored ebook. The contents of the tribe forum won't be posted to the public until October, so it's really the only way to participate until then."

From the little I learned on Tuesday, this special page looks like it will be built on ning or the free social networking site that Marc Andreessen co-founded (and he's also co-founded well-known programs like Netscape.)

What intrigues me about Seth Godin's effort to get people into the tribe is that it involves the advance purchase of his book. The rank on Amazon mirrors the hoopla around the release of the last Harry Potter book which stood at the top of the Amazon rankings for months before it was released.

Can you learn something about book marketing from this effort? Is there a way to build advance enthusiasm for the release of your book?

Write, Publish and Sell Your Book

Recently I read Patricia Fry's book, The Right Way To Write, Publish And Sell Your Book, This book is packed with a realistic picture of book publishing. I wanted you to see my review: "As an author, a former book acquisitions editor and a literary agent, I want to know the straight scoop about the book publishing industry. It's often hard to find realistic information because even people in the business don't want to mess with the dreams and aspirations of writers and give them the straight scoop."

Patricia Fry in The Right Way To Write, Publish And Sell Your Book helps every writer understand the business aspect of books. I love what she wrote on page 15 at the end of the first chapter, "Too many authors fail solely because they give up. Authorship is not designed to be a hobby. It isn't something that you can successfully manage as an afterthought. It demands your full attention. Your future in writing and publishing is almost completely up to you. If you do the necessary research and work--if you exercise persistence, perseverance and patience while maintaining realistic expectations--you will experience success."

"Whether you are looking for insight about writing a query or a book proposal or wondering about print on demand and self-publishing or looking for some innovative ideas to market your books to specialty shops or libraries or even how to keep a record of your expenditures or manuscript submissions, Fry has packed a lot into these pages. No matter your level of publishing experience you can profit from a careful reading and even re-reading of this book."

Besides this review, I wanted to give you a taste of the contents in The Right Way To Write, Publish And Sell Your Book. Patricia sent me this article with permission to use it.

The Post-Publication Book Proposal By Patricia Fry

Did you go ahead and produce your book without writing a book proposal? Maybe you simply didn't know what a book proposal was or you didn't understand its value. And now you regret your decision. I have good news. It may not be too late to benefit from writing a book proposal for your fiction or nonfiction book.

Yes, I'm suggesting the post-publication book proposal--a document designed to help you:

* More appropriately identify your target audience. * Discover how to reach this audience. * Create a more realistic promotions plan. * Identify your book's hooks. * Continue to build on your platform. * Re-evaluate the focus and slant of your book. * Find new ways to build promotion into your book.

The post-publication book proposal is especially useful for authors of ebooks or those who have used POD technology, because they can easily make necessary changes. But, even if you have boxes and boxes of unsold books stored in your garage, you will benefit from writing an after-publication proposal.

Re-evaluate Your Book

Start by writing a one or two sentence description of your book. Is this the same portrayal you envisioned when you first wrote the book? Or has your original purpose or intent changed?

Tip: Use customer feedback to help you define your book.

Once you have succinctly determined the purpose, scope and focus of your book, you can more easily identify the appropriate target audience.

Who is Your True Target Audience?

You may have written your healthy eating book for the fast-food restaurant crowd, but have since discovered that healthy eaters are purchasing it.

It could be that book reviewers and sales statistics show that your female fantasy adventure appeals more to the juvenile and young adult market than adult chick lit fans.

There's no law against changing your proposed target audience. In fact, it is important that you re-evaluate your audience from time to time. Determine who is purchasing your book. Reexamine the story or text with a critical eye to more accurately pinpoint your ideal audience--those people who will gain something from or enjoy reading your book.

If you have written a book that is not well-received by the very audience you hoped to reach, either shift your promotional efforts to another audience or consider a revision. A major mistake many authors make is to write a book for an audience who really doesn't care.

Where Are Your Readers?

Identifying your audience is just part of the path to successful authorship. Now you must locate them so you can reach them through your promotional efforts. Maybe you've discovered that the largest audience for your guidebook to vacation retreats isn't the singles crowd, but businessmen and women. Where will you find these readers? Presumably, at business conferences, self-help workshops, civic organization meetings and travel sites. What sites do they visit, which magazines do they read? Promote accordingly.

Be careful about saying that your book is for every reader. A couple of years ago in St. Louis, I had a private consultation with an author who had attended my book promotion workshop. He said that his book wasn't selling and he wanted some promotional ideas. He told me that his book was for a general audience and it featured proof that there is no God. This--a mainstream book? I don't think so. I hope that I convinced this author that his audience probably consisted of people like him--scientists with the same theory, agnostics, atheists and some philosophers. I suggested that he would find his potential readers at the same Web sites he frequents, reading the same magazines and attending the same lectures. Can you see how a shift in his perceived target audience could make a positive difference in this author's bottom line?

Identify Your Book's Hooks

A hook is a concept or a theme that helps to attract your target audience--something that captures their attention. Perhaps you were only slightly successful in a quest to attract readers for your romance novel. After writing a post-publication proposal, you may realize that you have some hooks in there that you hadn't considered. For example, the fact that your story is set in New Hampshire during the Civil War adds two additional hooks. Perhaps you can promote this book to U.S. history and Civil War buffs. You'll probably discover eager readers all over the state of New Hampshire. If the story isn't too racy, it might be welcomed into public school curriculum. And you thought that women were your only audience.

Additional hooks for a nonfiction book featuring garden designs might be office garden designs, container gardening for apartment dwellers, regional gardening, etc. Do you see how you could promote to each of these demographics?

Continue to Build on Your Platform

It's never too late to build a platform. Ideally, you have your platform well-established before you publish your book. For your book on the new women-on-motorcycles trend, presumably, you are a lady biker. You've taken all of the instructional and safety courses--maybe you even teach them. And you have contributed several articles to Women Riders Now Magazine, Biker Ally Magazine and Women on Wheels. But there's more that you can do.

Establish weekend rides for women, start an organization, build a Web site, circulate a newsletter and sign books at bike shops, for example. Continue to build a reputation in your field through exposure.

Establish New Promotional Tactics

Your after-publication book proposal might reveal that you've been just skimming the surface of your promotional potential with your book. Maybe you've been promoting online, you're on, you have had a few reviews in the obvious places and you've done a couple of talks locally. Consider what more you can do. Write for appropriate magazines, solicit more reviews in publications related to the theme or genre of your book, approach the library market with your book, start blogging and do talk radio shows, for example.

If yours is a novel, get your name out there by submitting stories to magazines. Find print and digital publications that use fiction in Writer's Market (Writer's Digest Books), The Best of the Magazine Markets for Writers (Writer's Institute Publications), by doing a Google search using keywords, “fiction markets,” “literary magazines,” etc. And don't forget to consider those magazines that you like to read.

Snoop on Your Competition

What else is out there like your book? How are the other books selling? For those books listed in Ingram's database, you can check sales by calling, 615-213-6803 (have the ISBN handy). Also find out how other authors in your genre/topic are promoting their books. Glean this information by visiting author Web sites. Check out their blogs, personal appearance pages and contests or other activities they've launched on behalf of their books. Subscribe to their newsletter. You might even contact these authors to discuss promotional tactics such as piggyback marketing.

Make Changes in All the Right Places

For those of you who are struggling with book sales and who face a decision regarding a revision, and for authors with POD and ebooks, here are some ideas for building promotion into your next printing:

For nonfiction:

* Hire an editor. * Add an index. * Update facts, figures and resources. * Create a workbook either as part of the original book or to accompany it. * Add value by including more examples, tips, techniques, forms and/or anecdotes. * Consider fictionalizing your memoir or true story if you are virtually unknown. . * Include more people in your book. Interview old-timers for your local history, profile early pioneers, note your information sources, etc. * Soften the message. Avoid trying to change minds, hearts and habits.

For Fiction:

* Hire an editor. * Include more selling hooks--give a character diabetes, twins, a horse or amnesia, for example. * Include effective grab hooks--teasers and surprises in the storyline that make people want to keep reading. * Make your book more attractive. Washed out, muddy, uninteresting covers do not attract attention.

Competition for authors is at an all time high. According to Bowker, over 291,000 books were produced in 2006. And the instance of failure has also reached new levels. In 2004, there were approximately 1.2 million titles in print, and a whopping seventy-six percent of them sold fewer than 100 copies that year. (BISG) The Jenkins Group says that over seventy percent of all titles fail to make a profit.

Authors who treat the process of publishing like a business and consider their book a product, have an advantage. While professionals preach and cajole hopeful authors to write a book proposal as a first step on their publishing journey, many of you don't. The good news is that it may not be too late. If your book sales could use a boost, consider writing a post-publication book proposal. This could just mean the difference between a failed book and a successful one

Patricia has recently completed a 27-page ebook featuring the post-publication book proposal. Order your copy of The Author's Repair Kit at

For more information on writing a pre-publication book proposal, read The Right Way to Write, Publish and Sell Your Book or How to Write a Successful Book Proposal in 8 Days or Less by Patricia Fry.

Patricia Fry is a full-time freelance writer, speaker, literary consultant and the author of 28 books. She is also the president of SPAWN (Small Publishers, Artists and Writers Network). Patricia's hallmark book is, The Right Way to Write, Publish and Sell Your Book (revised second edition). Also you can follow Patricia's informative blog.


I hope from this sample article you can see the value with Patricia's materials and insight. Just this single article is packed with insight and worth several readings. This type of publishing insight can make a real difference in your writing life.

The Danger of A Single Focus

By W. Terry Whalin

"Focus, focus, focus," one of my friends said when I told her about the diverse efforts in my writing life. And she's right in that to complete anything successfully--and especially something the length of a book project--you will need to have a consistent focus on the project for days on end.

Yet in this entry on The Writing Life, I want to point of the danger of a single focus for your writing. I've met many writers who have only focused on their lengthy fiction project and never considered writing anything smaller like a short story or a nonfiction magazine article. Because of their single-minded focus, they have never experimented with the other writing forms to their own detriment. Why? They have failed one of the key ingredients for any successful writer and not built a body of work.

When someone looks into the volume of writing that I've done over the years, they often approach me wide-eyed and some times even say, "How in the world did you do it?" Yes, I've written for more than 50 printed magazines and published more than 60 books with traditional publishers--and my first book was released in 1992. I compare all of that writing to the way that you eat an elephant. You do it one bite at a time and you write the words one page at a time.

Almost 20 years ago, I was on the faculty of an East Coast writer's conference because of my role as a magazine editor. I flew into the Philadelphia airport. I had a couple hours of riding in a van to reach this facility and I sat in the back with one other faculty member--a literary agent. I had never met this person and we spent the time getting acquainted and talking about long-term goals for our publishing dreams.

During our conversation, this agent pointed out something that has become somewhat of a mantra for my own writing life. He said, "Every writer needs to build a body of work and just look at Jerry B. Jenkins." Both of us knew Jerry personally, the author of the bestselling Left Behind series. At that time, I believe Jerry had written 60 or 70 books or a large volume of material in print. His fiction writing was just getting started in those days. His specialty at that time was writing books for well-known people like Meadowlark Lemon from the Harlem Globe Trotters or the Evangelist Luis Palau.We marveled at the volume of writing which Jerry had in print--and it's much greater today.

"Jerry didn't just wake up one day and decide to write 60 books," the agent explained. "For years, he has been actively building a body of work."

It was a lesson that I've never forgotten and has driven the diversity of my own writing life. While I've written longer projects like books, I've also focused on writing shorter magazine articles and online Ebooks and many other types of writing. Each type of writing builds that body of work.

Throughout the publishing world--whether magazine or book or online--your experience weighs into the consideration process with the editor. The buzz or consistent phrase says, "Writers need to build a platform." Whether you write nonfiction or fiction, the platform or visibility in the marketplace is important because that's how you attract--and keep--readers.

What are you doing today to build your platform or your body of work? Are you balanced in your approach to your writing or have you fallen into the danger of a single focus without looking at the big picture?

Writing Powerful Endings

By Laura Backes

The first few lines of any story are the most important -- and often most difficult -- words you'll write. The next most challenging piece of writing is the ending. Once you draw your readers in and take them through your story, you need to leave them with a satisfying conclusion. Here, then, are some tips for writing powerful endings:

Fiction picture books: The story in a picture book must come to a natural, logical conclusion. The action should end at a definitive moment, with no plot points left hanging. The reader needs to be satisfied with the way the story ends; the main character (with whom the reader is identifying) must solve the conflict by the last page. The conclusion cannot be implied or left open; readers shouldn't have to choose between several possible outcomes.

Some authors try to sum up the message of the book in the last paragraph. If your story is well-written, the reader will know what the character learned without your having to blatantly spell it out. Once the action is over and the conflict resolved, the story ends. Anything beyond that point dilutes the impact of all that's gone before.

Chapters: Chapters must feel complete in themselves. Some of the best authors limit their chapters to one scene or event, starting a new chapter with the next scene. A powerful way to end a chapter is at a climactic moment in the middle of a scene. This causes the reader to want to turn the page and see what happens next, The most effective chapters end in the same way they begin: with action or dialogue.

Novels: Novels, like picture books, must have a complete ending. Your character faces a problem oar conflict during the course of the book, and once that problem is resolved the story ends quickly. Many beginning authors add a final chapter that shows how life returned to normal after the story took place; this is unnecessary information that takes away from the impact of the story's resolution.

Any subplots must be tied up before or at the same moment as the conclusion of the main story. The last chapter focuses on the main character and the sects of his actions. Show how that character has grown or changed in some way, but avoid preaching to your readers. This information can generally be summed up very quickly and dramatically with a short final chapter.

Articles: Think of the end of an article as a conclusion, rather than simply summing up facts. The final paragraph draws information from the body of the article and shows the reader why this topic is significant to him. The ending must relate to the initial premise of the piece, answering the questions posed at the beginning. The conclusion packs the final punch of the article, showing the reader why this information is important in the first place. Ending with an interesting quote or point can entice readers to further explore the topic.

Nonfiction books: As with articles, the end of a nonfiction book is the conclusion of all the information you have presented. However, with books you have an entire chapter to make your point. Many authors title their last chapter with a question, such as "Where Do We Go From Here?" or "What Does the Future Hold for the Amazon?" The body of your chapter will answer this question, drawing from the facts in the book and posing possible solutions. If you relate the subject to the reader's own life, he will continue to have an interest in the topic long after he finishes your book.

Endings are important. They are the final contact you'll have with your readers; your last chance to make an impression. Take time with your endings and write them carefully. A satisfying conclusion will not only make reading an enjoyable experience, but children will anxiously await your next work.

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 2008, Children's Book Insider, LLC.
Reprinted with permission.

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