Jun 26

Get the Reader Interested ASAP

You may have an out-of-the-ballpark manuscript, but if you don’t get the reader interested within the first sentence or paragraph, you may lose that reader.

Those first sentences are so important, Jacob M. Appel (author of over two hundred published short stories) notes, “agents and editors, if not impressed after a sentence or two, will read no further.” 

So, what are some strategies to get the reader’s interest peaked at the get-go?

1. The first sentence should offer a distinctive voice and introduce the main character (MC). It might also provide the setting and needs to grab the reader.

In the chapter book fantasy, Walking Through Walls, the first sentence lets the reader know who the main character is, and based on his name, it helps establish the culture. It also establishes the setting and brings in sensory details:

“Wang bound the last bunch of wheat stalks as the sun beat down on the field.”

2. Within the first paragraph, the conflict and setting should be established. It should also convey the point of view (POV). This is especially important when writing for children.

The rest of the paragraph continues:

“Sweat poured from the back of his neck drenching the cotton shirt he wore. I hate doing this work. He hurled the bundles on a cart. ‘Father, the bales are stacked. I am going home; it is too hot.’”

This first sentence shows the conflict and POV. The language also sets the tone of the story. The dialogue has no contractions as it’s set in 16th century China, giving a specific flavor to the story.

If the paragraphs are short, the grabbing can continue into the second paragraph.

3. The second paragraph of Walking Through Walls sets the main character’s POV/character:

“Twelve-year-old Wang longed to be an Eternal. He craved wealth… and power. Spending his time learning about these mystics took his thoughts away from the certain fate of slaving in the wheat fields all his life, like his father.”

The reader now knows Wang’s age and his desire to become an Eternal in order to gain wealth and power. He does NOT want to follow in his father’s footsteps.  

The plot is set.

In under 100 words, the reader has all she needs to know, and hopefully, it’s enough for her to want to go with Wang on his journey to become an Eternal. 

Summing it up.

The opening of your story is the portal into the world within the pages of your book. If those pages are grabbing enough, you’ve hooked a reader to the end.

An article on Masterclass advises: “Consider the central theme of your story idea and brainstorm ways to distill it down to a single sentence.” That can be your opening sentence. 

Here are a few famous first sentences:

Call me Ishmael. (Moby Dick by Herman Melville)

It was bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. (Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell)

All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. (Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy)

Mr. and Mrs. Dursely of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. (Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling)

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness... (A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens)

All children, except one, grow up. (Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie)

In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. (The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien)

"Where's Papa going with that ax?" said Fern to her mother as they were setting the table for breakfast. (Charlotte's Web by E.B. White)

There was no possibility of taking a walk that day. (Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte)

When he was nearly thirteen, my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow. (To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee)

In our family, there was no clear line between religion and fly-fishing. (A River Runs Through It by Norman Maclean)

Under certain circumstance there are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea. (The Portrait Of A Lady by Henry James)
I’m a working children’s ghostwriter, rewriter, and coach. I can help turn your story into a book you’ll be proud to be author of, one that’s publishable and marketable.

Contact me at: kcioffiventrice@gmail.com. Or, you can give me a call at 834---347---6700

Or, if you’d rather do-it-yourself, check out my book, How to Write a Children’s Fiction Book.
Writing for children tips
What exactly does it mean to show rather than tell in your writing?

Tips to Overcome Writing Procrastination

Children’s Writing and Information Dump

Social media sharing
Jun 19

Writing and Marketing – Keep Things Manageable

I saw a great illustration on the importance of small steps on LinkedIn. 

It showed two ladders, one had the rungs very far apart - too far to be able to step up. The other ladder had the rungs close enough together to be able to climb up the ladder.

It’s steps small enough to be manageable that will allow you to complete each step and keep moving forward.

Shaun Hick said, “If you concentrate on small, manageable steps you can cross unimaginable distances.”

WRITING	

So, how might this apply to writing?

Well, if you’re a new writer and want to be a novelist, it may be best to start with short stories.

It’ll give you the opportunity to see how a story rises, peaks, and descends into resolution without the pressure of writing a full novel.

You’ll also be able to see how to create an engaging character and how the character arc works.

The same holds true if you’re writing for magazines.

Instead of shooting for a major publication, why not try for a small one first. 

Not only will it ease the stress, but you’ll have a much better chance of being accepted.

It’s getting tougher and tougher to get writing contracts. Do all you can to be a step ahead. You’ve got to do the work.

It’s important to keep things manageable.

Small steps help you keep moving forward. 

If you make your steps too big, like the rungs on the first ladder, you won’t be able to manage them - you won’t be able to move forward. It’s best to make them bite-size, doable. This goes for goals too.

BOOK MARKETING

Every author needs to know about book marketing.

Well, let me clarify a bit. Authors need not just be aware of book marketing, but they need to actually work at it.

As with writing, it’s important to create manageable book marketing steps

You might first create a plan. Here are the first few steps to include: 

1. Create a quality book. 

This means knowing at least the basics of writing, including story arc and character arc.

2. Create an author website or have someone do it for you.

Whether you intend to self-publish your books or are seeking an agent or traditional publisher, you absolutely need a website.

Here’s an article on what you need on your author website.

3. Create social media accounts and USE them.

If you don’t already have accounts, get started today. Social media drives traffic (people) to your website.

Create posts on your website and share them to social media. 

You can also create CTAs (call to action). An example is below.
4. Create an Amazon Author page.

You’ll include the books you have for sale on Amazon.

You might also consider creating a Goodreads account.

5. Create an email list.

This is called email marketing and it makes your marketing personal. It’s the only book marketing strategy that allows you to connect personally to your readers / subscribers.

This creates loyal fans and is a great way to sell your books directly.

You’ll need an email service and a CTA, but it’s not difficult to do.

For a helpful resource on exactly how to build your subscriber list, check out Email Marketing Right V2.

Summing it up.

This is the bare minimum basics for book marketing. 

Don’t let it feel overwhelming. Take it one step at a time and do it in manageable steps. Like Hick’s said, if you do it in manageable steps, you’ll be amazed at the things you can accomplish.

Remember the tortoise and the hare story?

A slow and steady pace and keeping your steps manageable is what will bring you to your goal.
Writing Help
I’m a working children’s ghostwriter, rewriter, and coach. I can help turn your story into a book you’ll be proud to be author of, one that’s publishable and marketable.

Contact me at: kcioffiventrice@gmail.com. Or, you can give me a call at 834---347---6700

Or, if you’d rather do-it-yourself, check out my book, How to Write a Children’s Fiction Book.
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Jun 12

Writing Productivity: The $25,000 Question and Meditation

Writers' Focus and Productivity
Sometimes the moons and stars align and information that is relevant to your life bombards your week, directing you onto paths you should take.

Well, this happened to me.

Time management is one of my ongoing struggles, as with probably most of you reading this.

So, what do you do?

How do you create more hours in the day?

How do you accomplish all the writing and marketing tasks you must, aside from keeping up with everything else in your life?

Ah, the $25,000 question.

Here’s how to keep your writers’ focus and boost you writing productivity:

Productivity Strategy Number One – Keep a List and Stick to It

I found a great site (JamesWedmore.com) that offers some very useful content.

Interestingly, the post I read on this site pertained to being productive.

This was the fourth article I came across within a few days dealing with time management, prioritizing, and productivity.

Part of the content discussed a $25,000 lesson by public relations and efficiency expert Ivy Lee.

The story (true, just not sure of the exact account) goes that Charles Schwab, steel magnate, wanted to increase his company’s efficiency, so he contacted Lee.

Lee requested 15 minutes with each of Schwab’s managers.

Schwab asked how much would it cost.

Lee told him that after three months, if he saw productivity improvement, he could send Lee whatever he thought the training was worth.

Three months later, Schwab sent Lee a $25,000 check.

This was back around 100 years ago. According to DollarTimes.com, that would now be worth a little over $500,000.

So, the $25,000 lesson?

It’s reported that Lee said to write a list of six must-do items that each manager needed to accomplish the next day, in order of importance.

Whatever wasn’t completed that day would go over onto the next day’s list of six must-do items.

According to JamesClear.com, Lee instructed:

-At the end of each day, write down the most important things you have to do the next day.

-Number them in the order of their true importance.

-The first thing the next morning, start working on an item Number 1, and stay with it until completed.

-Move on to item Number 2 until this task is completed, do the same with the remaining four.

-At the end of the day, move any items not completed to the next day’s six must-do items.

Don’t worry if you don’t complete everything on the schedule. At least you will have completed the most important projects before getting to the less important ones. 

Pretty simple, right?

Simple and powerful.

Having a list of what you need to do gives you focus and that focus helps clear your mind, which in turn boosts productivity, allowing you to get the job done.

One thing James Wedmore said that I thought is also a good idea is to have a “brain dump” folder or notebook.

If something pops into your head that you don’t want to forget, put in in the ‘brain dump file.’

This too helps keep your mind clear of clutter.

I call my ‘brain dump file’ My To Do List.

If anything pops into my head, I open the file and type it in, leaving my mind free of the worry of remembering it.
Productivity Strategy Number Two – Meditate

If you make time for meditation, you’ll have more time.

I read this or something like it recently, but forgot where or who wrote it (if you know the author, please let me know, so I can give attribution). A case in point of information overload.

But, how can you have more time if you take time out of your already hectic day to meditate?

An article at HealthyBrains.org, noted that the average person has 70,000 thoughts per day.

Since there are 1,440 minutes in a day and 86,400 seconds, this means you’re having thoughts almost every second of every day.

Is it any wonder many of us have trouble focusing?

Meditation is another mind-clearing tool that allows the brain to take a breather.

It helps create a calmer you, thus leading to a more focused and productive you.

My acupuncturist, who was a neurologist in China and has been practicing Chinese medicine for over 40 years, says that the number one thing you can do for your health is to meditate.

Give it a Shot – Incorporate these two productivity strategies into your writing and marketing work week.

Every Sunday, make a list of the top six must-do items for Monday.

Don’t just breeze through your list of to-dos, take the time to think whether a particular item is REALLY needed.

Will it move your goals forward? Will it earn you money?

At the bottom of your to-do list for each day, add: TAKE 15-30 MINUTES TO MEDITATE. Even five minutes a day is better than none.

Do this for 90 days, as Lee instructed, and see what happens.

Then let us know – leave a comment!

Note: I also read that Lee sought Schwab out to propose he could increase his company’s productivity. Whether Lee sought out Schwab or Schwab sought out Lee, it worked.

This article was first published at: https://www.articlewritingdoctor.com/2015/10/are-your-writing-and-marketing-efforts-productive-2-productivity-tips/

References:
-http://www.jameswedmore.com/how-to-be-productive/ (link no longer works)
-https://www.fastcompany.com/3062946/this-100-year-old-to-do-list-hack-still-works-like-a-charm 
-https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/shahilla-barok/did-you-knowyou-have-betw_b_11819532.html
-http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/meditation/HQ01070
-https://in-housestaff.org/dont-time-meditate-hour-761

Need help with your story?
I’m a working children’s ghostwriter, rewriter, and coach. I can help turn your story into a book you’ll be proud to be author of, one that’s publishable and marketable.

Contact me at: kcioffiventrice@gmail.com. Or, you can give me a call at 834---347---6700

Or, if you’d rather do-it-yourself, check out my book, How to Write a Children’s Fiction Book.

Articles on writing for children
Raise Your Writing Standards

Read as a Writer

Traditional Publishing - Keep Submitting

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Jun 05

Literary Tropes: The Orphan

Contributed by Melinda Brasher

A trope is a common plot device, character type, writing element, etc.  I believe that many tropes are so common because they're popular, fun, and good—except that they've become so overused that they've lost some of their goodness.  These should be treated carefully and creatively.  Other tropes are simply a result of laziness or convenience.  These should often be avoided.

Whatever your opinion of tropes, they're fun to discuss.  

 Advantages of making your characters orphans:

-They can conveniently take off on adventures without any family to tie them down or make them look selfish and irresponsible for doing so.

-They don't have to constantly be interrupting the adventure and action in order to go home and visit their family or watch their niece's ballet recital.

-They don't have a support network already, so they'll need to depend more on themselves and their friends—perhaps new and unlikely friends.

-It forces young characters to solve difficult problems that normally their parents would solve.

-You have fewer characters to write.

-It provides a ready-made tragic backstory. ("My mother was murdered so now I'm a workaholic homicide detective who can't get close to people" or "I'm a delightful, sweet-tempered child who, for some strange reason, nobody has ever loved…until now.")

-It can provide motivation in the vein of, "You killed my father.  Prepare to die."

-The bad guy can't kidnap your character's family members in order to force him to do his will—which would, let's face it, be the logical thing for many bad guys to do.  But your character has no family, so…plot problem solved. 

-Orphanhood tends to go well with various "Chosen One" tropes.

-If the character doesn't even know who his parents were, you have various twist possibilities ("Luke, I am your Father!" or "Oh, I'm actually not a milkmaid but a princess!").

-Readers LIKE orphan characters, perhaps because we identify with the loneliness typified best by orphans, perhaps because we like underdogs, perhaps because it's interesting to think about what we would be like without the influence of our parents and families.  Whatever the reason, orphans in literature are popular.

Disadvantages of making your characters orphans:

-If you're not careful, it can easily come off as a convenient cliché.
-It can come of as lazy.
-It can come off as unrealistic.  

True orphans who grow up in horrible Dickens-like orphanages or in the dark side of the foster care system aren't always the sweet, innocent, well-adjusted people they are in old books.  Even true orphans do often have other family:  adoptive parents, biological uncles, cousins, grandparents, etc, and these would still provide kidnapping fodder for bad guys.  Some of this family might also be people your character could—and would—phone in a crisis.  So be careful not to write as if your characters grew up in a vacuum, even if both their parents have been dead for many years.

Where this trope appears:

The "Conveniently an Orphan" trope is VERY common in fantasy and science fiction, especially if you count characters who still have one parent alive:  Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Star Wars, The Belgariad, the Discworld novels, The Black Cauldron, half the fairy tales you can think of (though they may have one parent), The Wizard of Oz (though she has adopted parents she loves), The Hero and the Crown (still has a father), the Hunger Games (still has a mother).

Many other more mainstream books and classic works of literature also have orphans or characters with only one live parent.   Victor Hugo, Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, Louisa May Alcott, George Elliot, and various Brontes certainly partook.  James Bond is an orphan.  It's also common for the detectives in mysteries (especially TV crime dramas).  You'll see it sometimes in romances and women's lit and other genres.

And, of course, it's essential for sweet orphan stories like Anne of Green Gables (and Montgomery's Emily of New Moon), Annie, The Secret Garden and A Little Princess, Little Lord Fauntleroy (only one dead parent), Jane Eyre, A Series of Unfortunate Events, Heidi (though with a loving grandfather), The Boxcar Children, Pollyanna,  etc.  These are all great books, but you'll need a pretty original slant or some particularly compelling characters if you're going to do it now.

This post was first published at:
https://www.writersonthemove.com/2016/12/tropes-in-literature-3-conveniently.html 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Melinda Brasher is back in the United States after spending two more years in the Czech Republic among castles and forests and hiking trails.  Her most recent sales are to Ember and Double Feature.  Visit her online at http://www.melindabrasher.com.
Need help with your story?
I’m a working children’s ghostwriter, rewriter, and coach. I can help turn your story into a book you’ll be proud to be author of, one that’s publishable and marketable.

Contact me at: kcioffiventrice@gmail.com. Or, you can give me a call at 834---347---6700

Or, if you’d rather do-it-yourself, check out my book, How to Write a Children’s Fiction Book.
MORE ON WRITING FOR CHILDREN
Writing a Successful Children’s Series – 3 Key Elements

Writing a Children’s Book Series – Different Types

Villain or Antagonist - Is There a Difference?
May 29

Working with New Authors – It’s Not Always Easy

Six Common Writing Mistakes I Explain Over and Over

I’ve been working with a client on four picture books over the past few years. She loves the final product and keeps coming back, but she’s still making the same mistakes regarding her feedback on the drafts.

With every new section or draft I send her, she sends them back with notes and edits.

The reason it’s a little frustrating is because when I work with a client, whether ghosting or rewriting, I answer any questions they have. I also explain why changes she may want won’t work. 

I do this through the entire process of writing the story. So, the client is kind of getting writing instruction along with their story. 

Some of the most common writing mistakes I need to explain are:

1. You shouldn’t tell the reader; you should show her.

This is a bare-bottom basic. Don’t tell the reader that Lisa is mean and sneaky; show the reader through dialogue and action.

Example: When Brianna turned her back, Lisa grabbed Brianna's paper from the desk. Ha, now she'll be in trouble for not having the assignment.

2. It’s essential to limit adjectives and adverbs.

Instead of: Peter angrily put the book down.

Use: Peter slammed the book on the table.

You get the idea. You can always rephrase a sentence to make it less passive and more action-packed.

3. There needs to be conflict in a story, even stories for children.

According to Masterclass, “a conflict is a literary device characterized by a struggle between two opposing forces. Conflict provides crucial tension in any story and is used to drive the narrative forward.” (1)

The conflict doesn’t have to be life or death, but it must be significant to the main character.

In children’s writing, it could be moving and leaving friends. It could be losing a pet and desperately searching to find it. It might be wanting to be on the baseball team but not being good enough.

The conflict, the goal the main character has to reach, is what engages the reader and makes her turn the pages. 

4. The illustrations will show what’s not written in picture books.

A lot of new writers have a tough time grasping this aspect of picture book writing.  

You don’t have to say (tell) Alisha wore eyeglasses and had curly black hair. If you’re writing a picture book, the illustrations will show it.

If it’s a middle-grade or young adult story, you can use dialogue and narrative to show it.

Below is an example:

Alisha pulled a tissue from her backpack and cleaned her glasses. “Ah, that’s better.”

“Owww,” yelled Alisha as she pulled the comb through her curly black hair.

5. You shouldn’t hit the reader over the head with the message – the takeaway.

I get this one a lot from clients. They want to make sure the young reader gets what they’re trying to tell them with the story.

Kids are lectured to all the time; it’s important not to preach to them in picture books.

It usually takes a lot of convincing to get the client to understand the need to have a subtle takeaway.

6. There comes the point when the story is done. 

Thankfully, most of my clients are satisfied with my endings. 

Some, though, just can’t stop picking away at a good story. Mind you, not making it better, but just having a need to pick at it.

And there are others who will make edits, which, if they’re okay, I’ll incorporate into the story, and then they’ll turn around and want them out. Or, forget they wanted those changes.  

I’m not sure how many explanations are needed or how long it takes most authors to get the general idea of the basics of writing. I’m beginning to believe that some people just can’t comprehend it or they don’t want to.

Either way, it makes it challenging to write for these people, or let’s say it takes some of the joy out of the project.
I’m a working children’s ghostwriter, rewriter, and coach. I can help turn your story into a book you’ll be proud to be author of, one that’s publishable and marketable.

Contact me at: kcioffiventrice@gmail.com. Or, you can give me a call at 834---347---6700

Or, if you’d rather do-it-yourself, check out my book, How to Write a Children’s Fiction Book.
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May 22

Your Children’s Manuscript: Synopsis to Submissions

Before you decide to submit a story to a publishing house or literary agency, you’ll need a completed and polished manuscript.

This means your manuscript will have been edited and proofed. It should be in the best possible shape it can be.

Once this is done, you’ll move on to the next phase.

The Synopsis

Your synopsis is what your story is about. According to Jane Friedman, “The synopsis must convey a book’s entire narrative arc.”

It gives the editor or agent a quick look at the entire story, including the ending.

The synopsis is a sales pitch for your book, so it needs to be engaging (grabbing) enough to motivate the editor to want to read the manuscript or at least some chapters.

You’ll need a synopsis for your query letter.

Keep in mind that a synopsis is different than a description or back cover copy. While the synopsis reveals the ending, the description does not.

The description/back cover copy is intended to motivate the reader to read/buy your book. You should not reveal the ending in the description.

The Cover Letter

You’ll most likely need a cover letter if you’re writing a picture book, as most publishing houses want the manuscript sent along with the letter.

The cover letter won’t need as many details, as a query letter because the editor can quickly read the attached or enclosed manuscript itself.

You’ll need a query letter for chapter books, middle-grade, and young adult manuscripts.

The Query Letter

The query letter is similar to the cover letter, only it’s more detailed. The synopsis will tell the editor or agent all he needs to know to decide whether he’d like to see the manuscript of some of the chapters.

More about query letters:

Book Marketing and the Query Letter

The Query and the Author Bio

See below for an example of a query letter.

TIPS FOR SUBMITTING

  1. Study the publishing house guidelines.

It’s super-important to study the publisher’s website guidelines carefully.

Find out if they’re accepting manuscripts in your genre.

You’ll also want to know if they allow you to submit the entire manuscript. If they do, then you’ll use a cover letter.

If they only want a query letter, you’ll use a query letter without the manuscript.

The guidelines page should tell you everything you need to submit to that publishing house.

  1. Unsolicited manuscripts.

If you’re unagented, you need to be sure the publishing house you’re submitting to accepts unsolicited manuscripts.

Unfortunately, the big publishing houses don’t usually accept unsolicited manuscripts. You might consider smaller presses.

But it you’ve met an editor at a writing conference or workshop, or elsewhere and she requested your manuscript, then you have a invitation to submit.

  1. Find complementary books.

If at all possible, review a few of the publisher’s titles. If you can find one or two slightly similar to yours, mention it: I feel my story would complement ones already on your list, especially (title of book). Add it at the end of the paragraph where you’re requesting the editor to consider your manuscript.

The connection could be related to humor, school, social issues, sports, politics, friendship, family, etc. Just be sure not to make up a connection.

A good way to find out if a book is suitable for this is to read the book’s description on the publisher’s site or on Amazon.

If you can’t find any that your book will complement, leave it out.

In its place, put a brief sentence or two as to why you’re submitting to them. It may be that you love a particular title of theirs or something else.

If at all possible, try to make it personal as to why you chose their publishing house to submit to.

  1. The editor’s name you’re submitting to.

When addressing the individual you’re submitting to, try to find the actual editor’s name. You may need to contact the publishing house directly to ask for it. If you can’t find it anywhere, use “Dear Editor.”

  1. Simultaneous submissions or exclusivity.

If you’re submitting to multiple publishers at the same time, pay attention to whether they allow simultaneous submissions or require exclusivity.
If they accept simultaneous submissions, you can submit to other publishers at the same time; this should be limited to five at a time. Just be sure they each accept simultaneous submissions.

If they prefer exclusive submissions, you can only submit to that publishing house. They usually expect three months to decide on a project.

You may or may not receive a rejection letter within that time. Feel free to submit to other publishers after three months if you don’t receive one.

Either way, add a last line before “Sincerely,” mentioning whether it’s simultaneous or exclusive.

EXAMPLE: This manuscript is a simultaneous submission.

  1. The SASE.

If you’re using regular mail to submit your manuscript, include a self-addressed, stamped envelope. (SASE). The publisher’s site will advise whether to submit by email or regular mail.

  1. Submitting via email.

If submitting email, pay attention to whether the publisher wants the query letter and manuscript attached to the email or in the body of the email.

  1. Tools to use.

If you’re a children’s writer, it’d be a good idea to get the most recent edition of Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market.

EXAMPLE OF QUERY LETTER

Author name
Address
Phone number
Email 
Website

Date

Publishing House name
Address or Email (depending on how you’re submitting)

Dear, Editor’s Name,

At twelve years old, Wang wants to be rich, powerful, and famous. He’s done working in the wheat fields with his father. He believes becoming an Eternal will allow him to get what he wants, so he journeys to the Lao Mountains to find them. Becoming an Eternal apprentice is hard work with no benefits, so he decides to leave, but only after learning how to ‘walk through walls.’ With his new magic, he is intent on stealing from the wealthy. About to enter a rich man’s home, he stops. The lessons he learned as an apprentice flood over him. He journeys back to the Lao Mountains the next day to finish his apprenticeship.

Set in 16th century China, WALKING THROUGH WALLS is a 10,000-word chapter book based on an ancient Chinese tale. It is filled with magic, adventure, and subtle lessons on being a good citizen and a good friend.

I would like to submit my manuscript for your consideration. According to your guidelines, I’ve attached the first three chapters. I feel this book would complement other titles on your list, especially, XXXXX.

I’m a children’s author and ghostwriter with clients worldwide. I have three traditionally published children’s books and two self-published books. I have an established author/writer website, and I’m an author online platform instructor with WOW! Women on Writing.

Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,
Karen Cioffi
References:
https://marykole.com/how-to-write-a-book-proposal 
https://www.masterclass.com/articles/how-to-submit-a-book-manuscript-to-an-agent#how-to-submit-your-manuscript-to-an-agent-in-6-steps
I’m a working children’s ghostwriter, rewriter, and coach. I can help turn your story into a book you’ll be proud to be author of, one that’s publishable and marketable.

Contact me at: kcioffiventrice@gmail.com. Or, you can give me a call at 834---347---6700

Or, if you’d rather do-it-yourself, check out my book, How to Write a Children’s Fiction Book.
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May 15

Self, Indie, and Hybrid Publishing – Which is for You?

Most of my clients take the self-publishing road. It’s important, though, to understand what self-publishing means as there are other terms in the arena: indie authors and hybrid publishing.

It’s important to know the difference before jumping in.

Self-Publishing

Self-publishing is kind of a catch-all for anyone who writes a story and takes it through to publishing and distribution.

This includes formatting and designing the book, creating print-ready files and uploading to aggregators like IngramSpark and/or retailers like Amazon for distribution and sales.

This is not to say the author has to do everything herself, she may hire services to help with some of the phases.

All the costs are on the authors’ shoulders.

In this group, creating a book does not necessarily mean the author intends to sell it. It could be for family, friends, a specific event, etc.

This group is a mix of everyone who produces a book on their own whether for sale of not. It includes one-time writers and career writers.

It also includes less than professional writers, those who don’t take the time or put in the effort to learn how to write before putting their name on the book cover and publishing it.

The unprofessional authors in this group is why self-publishing still has somewhat of a stigma to it. There are a lot of terrible self-published books.

Indie Publishing

Originally, indie publishing was a term used for small publishers, like the home-grown, mom and pop publishers that filled in the cracks of the 5 large publishers. And it still is, somewhat.

Lately, though, the term is more in line with the author who does it all on his own.

According to Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi), “An indie author is a writer of fiction, nonfiction, or poetry books who self-publishes their own work and retains and controls their own publishing rights.”

You may pause here and question: Isn’t that the same as self-publishing?

The answer is yes and no.

Self-publishing encompasses everyone who takes control of publishing their book.

But indie authors specifically write and publish with the intent to make money, hopefully to make a living at it. They’re in it for the long haul and take pride in their books.

These authors spend the time and put in the effort to get it right.

-They learn how to write.
-They learn about the genre they’re writing in.
-They learn about revisions, editing, and proofreading their work.
-They learn the process of going through to publication.

This doesn’t mean they do it all themselves. The author may hire a formatter or a designer. And if writing a children’s picture book, she will hire a professional illustrator, unless she is a professional illustrator.

I’m sure some indie authors hire quality publishing companies to help them from formatting to publishing to distribution.

But they are in control and it’s a business to them.

Hybrid Publishing

Hybrid publishing is a newer publishing model.

This publishing path is a combination of traditional publishing and self-publishing. It’s a partnership between the publisher and the author.

The publisher is vested in the author’s success because they invest in the book by covering some of the expenses.

The author covers whatever the hybrid publisher doesn’t cover. How much depends on the company, so always read your contract.

Hybrid publishing provides a more affordable avenue outside of the traditional publishing road, which keeps getting more and more difficult to get on to.

It is important to be careful, though, as there are a lot of scam services out there. Some are vanity presses with a new title. It’s up to you to do your research and know who you’re dealing with.

Look for a service with a track record, one that knows what they’re doing and is in line with industry standards.

A tell-tale mark they’re legit is a quality service will publish under their own imprint with their own ISBNs.

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

Think carefully about how you want to enter the self-publishing arena.

Choose the type of publishing that will work best for you. Sometimes budget is the deciding factor, especially if you’re writing children’s picture books or even chapter books. These books need illustrations which can be costly.

If you take the hybrid road, look for a quality service. The same goes for self-publishing and indie publishing to work with.

There are probably more scam services than legit services out there, so again be careful.

References:
(1) https://www.allianceindependentauthors.org/what-is-an-indie-author/
(2) https://www.masterclass.com/articles/how-to-use-hybrid-publishing-to-get-your-novel-published#quiz-0

I’m a working children’s ghostwriter, rewriter, and coach. I can help turn your story into a book you’ll be proud to be author of. You can contact me at: kcioffiventrice@gmail.com. Or, you can give me a call at 834—347—6700

If you’d rather do-it-yourself, check out my book, How to Write a Children’s Fiction Book.

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May 08

6 Things a Writer Should Always Do

While there are a number of writing tips and processes, below are six of the most important for new authors.

1. Stop. Learn. Jump.

I see it much too often. Authors jump into writing and publishing a book without knowing a thing about writing. 

If you STOP and think about it, anything a person wants to accomplish needs a foundation and building materials to accomplish it.

Want to play the piano?

Guess what. You need to learn how to play.

Want to become an electrician or plumber?

Guess what. You need to learn how to do it.

Want to be in finance or become a nurse, a doctor? 

Again… you need to learn how to do it.

Writing is a skill; it’s a profession just like any other. 

This is especially true when writing for children. There are many additional guidelines to follow in the children’s writing arena.

This process involves spelling, writing mechanics, grammar, and so on. These are the foundation of good writing.

So, stop and think about what you want to do. Then take the time and effort, and if needed, spend the money to learn how to write. The next step is to jump in and write your outline or first draft.

2. Decide how you want to write.

I’m a pantser, usually. This means I fly by the seat of my pants. I jump in and start my story without an outline. I have an idea, then let the story and characters take me on the journey.

Now, this isn’t for everyone. And if you’re writing a novel, it’s probably best to have some kind of outline to guide you from point A to point B.

While I jump in with picture books and chapter books, I do use an outline for middle-grade stories. 

When you’re writing 30,000 to 100,000+ words, there are so many things to remember. It’s not wise to leave the details to chance; it will lead to mistakes.

There’s no right or wrong way to write in regard to outlining or flying by the seat of your pants. Just use whichever process you’re comfortable with.

3. It’s always a good idea to use character sheets (cards).

While character sheets are a useful tool, if you’re writing a children’s picture book of under 800 words, you shouldn’t need them. But beyond that, it’d be wise to create one for each character in your story.

According to Reference.com:

“The term ‘character development’ can be used in literary contexts to refer to the way in which a written character is described and fleshed out.” (1)

Creating your character is the process of adding factors like personality, family and friends, appearance, and the other elements that make your character believable and unique. Even your character’s name matters.

Character sheets help you keep all the details intact. If you forget something about a character, just check the sheet.

And if you create a new quality to the character, add it to the sheet.

4. Pause before acting on information you get online.

The internet lets everyone and anyone offer writing advice. Some of it is excellent, but some not so much.

Keep in mind that someone just starting out on the writing path may decide to give advice on her blog just to keep an active blog.

Be cautious and know who is offering the advice. It’s always best to take advice from an experienced writer with a track record.

5. Revise. Edit. Proof.

Revising, editing, and proofing is a must, but after you actually write the first draft. Let the first draft just flow – get the words down. 

Once you have the first draft, it’s time to revise. 

Revision is the major process in writing. It’s the fine-tuning of the overall story. This process is where you look at the story structurally and logically. It’s making sure all the elements of a good story are there. 

Once you revise the story and it’s where it should be, it’s on to editing.

Editing deals with sentence structure. It makes sure each sentence is structurally sound and understandable.

Finally, it’s on to proofing. 

This is where you get out your magnifying glass to check each sentence, line by line. The job here is to find typos, misspelled words, beginnings of sentences and paragraphs, and so on.

6. Get your work critiqued and accept feedback graciously.

If you’re a smart writer, you will have a critique group or at least one qualified person to review your work. Or you may hire a professional to review or critique it.

It’s just about impossible to see all the mistakes you might have made. Basically, your brain knows what you wrote, and that’s what it’ll see. 

In an article at Wired.com, psychologist Tom Stafford is quoted saying:

“The reason we don't see our own typos is because what we see on the screen is competing with the version that exists in our heads.” (2)

This is why it’s a good idea for a critique group or professional writer to go over your manuscript.

While it’s important to have your manuscript critiqued, it’s also important to accept any feedback graciously. 

This isn’t to say you need to incorporate everything you’re told into your story, but you should take the feedback to heart. If it makes sense, use it. If it doesn’t make sense, don’t use it. You know what your story is about better than anyone else.

(1) https://www.reference.com/world-view/definition-character-development-1a0cb87e27929d2d

(2) https://www.wired.com/2014/08/wuwt-typos/

Need help with your story?
I’m a working children’s ghostwriter, rewriter, and coach. I can help turn your story into a book you’ll be proud to be author of.

Contact me at: kcioffiventrice@gmail.com. Or, you can give me a call at 834---347---6700

Or, if you’d rather do-it-yourself, check out my book, How to Write a Children’s Fiction Book.
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Apr 24

Shaun the Sheep and Marketing with Animation

I’ve watched silent movies in the past, and a couple of the ‘oldie’ cartoons (e.g., Tom and Jerry) that had no talking. But I would never have thought a full-length movie for kids, without words,  would work in today’s dwindling attention span society.

Well, I was wrong.

Shaun the sheep has NO talking. No captions either.

The entire 1 hour and 25-minute cartoon movie conveyed the-grass-is-greener concept, conflict, obstacles, heroism, loyalty, and emotions. And, it did it all through actions, through animation.

I took my grandsons to the movie several years ago and the theater had lots of other grandparents with their grandchildren. Every child was captivated, the adults too. In fact, you forgot there were no words – no dialogue.

My 9-year-old grandson (at the time) who has ADD paid attention through the entire movie – and, he didn’t want to go in the first place, thinking it was a baby movie.

I was amazed, not only that it held his attention, but it held my attention. Me, who is always thinking of what I have to do next.

Quite an accomplishment.

This is the power of animation.

And, just imagine if an hour and a half animated movie can hold children’s attention, think how it will hold your readers’ and visitors’ attention on your website in short focused clips.

But, aside from my own viewpoints of Shaun the Sheep, there is research that backs up animation’s benefit in book marketing. 

Some Statistics

According to TippingpointLabs.com:

•	People are 64% – 85% more likely to purchase your product or service after watching an animation/video – that’s a significant boost to your conversions.
•	Visit lengths are another factor that gets a boost. Visitors will stay on your site at least two minutes longer with animation/video.
•	And, there’s the power of YouTube. You’re 53x more likely to get on Google’s first-page for search results by embedding video on your site. (1)

Along with this, another site that is now closed explained that, “Google, Yahoo, MSN, AOL are among the hundreds of Search Engines that give priority listings to websites that host video content.” Taking advantage of tags, descriptions, and any other kind of SEO strategies allowed when publishing the video is another avenue of search visibility.

If this isn’t enough incentive to jump on the animation bandwagon, think about the social media marketing aspect. Sharing and clickthrough rates are increased significantly with video.

Animated videos can be humorous, serious, entertaining, and educational.

Using animation in your marketing, specifically your blog posts, is a win-win strategy that you should be taking advantage of.

For the icing on the cake, according to Hubspot:

•	Ninety percent of the information the brain receives is visual.
•	The brain processes visual information 60,000 faster than text.
•	Videos in posts get 3X the inbound links than posts with only text.
•	Animation (visual content) increases engagement. (2)

If you’d like to try your hand at a free animation tool, go to PowToon.com and click on the FREE option.  (I’m NOT an affiliate, I just think it’s a great marketing tool.)

References:
(1) http://www.slideshare.net/tpldrew/steal-this-slide-ecommerce-video-conversion-rates-statistics
(2) http://blog.hubspot.com/blog/tabid/6307/bid/33423/19-Reasons-You-Should-Include-Visual-Content-in-Your-Marketing-Data.aspx

This article was originally published at: http://www.articlewritingdoctor.com/2015/08/shaun-the-sheep-and-marketing-with-animation/
Need help with your story?
I’m a working children’s ghostwriter, rewriter, and coach. Let me help turn your story into a book you’ll be proud to be author of.

You can send me an email at: kcioffiventrice@gmail.com to discuss your project. Or, you can give me a call at 834---347---6700

Let’s get your story in publishable and marketable shape today!

Or, if you'd rather give it a shot and do-it-yourself, check out my book, HOW TO WRITE A CHILDREN'S FICTION BOOK.
 
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Apr 17

Sell Your Books Face-to-Face

Contributed by Linda Wilson

Pre-pandemic, I was gearing up to arrange a book signing, school visits, and gather materials to sell my books in a booth at local events. At the same time, I was working on creating a viable platform that would introduce the world to MOI.

All that changed, of course, but we indie authors are forever optimists. I’m glad I had to wait. Now, another year smarter, I’ve come up with a much better plan than I ever could have had a year ago, one that I think will be attractive enough to interest local librarians, teachers and parents, and online readers.

Find your Platform: Explore your Deepest Desire

If you need to create a plan and an author platform on how to present yourself as a tour-de-force author, here is an idea. Explore what you’ve done in the past, what you’re doing now, or a skill you’d like to develop; use it as your focus and expand on it.

My focus has turned out to be puppets—a project I pursued when my two daughters were very young, under five years old. My idea at the time stemmed from my elementary-teaching background. I wanted to enhance my children’s creativity. That, and being involved in my children’s lives, worked. My daughters, now in their 30s, are both very creative.

The reason this idea of focusing on puppets hadn’t occurred to me until now is because my first book project was a mystery/ghost series for 7-10-year-olds. Puppets never occurred to me as perhaps in the back of my mind I must have thought that children that age wouldn't be interested in puppets. Rather, I devised a way to present myself in the classroom and at libraries by doing a science experiment, which would illuminate part of the Secret in the Stars story. The ghost in the story appears to Abi Wunder in a cloud. I would create a cloud. I thought of other types of presentations I could come up with, such as a presentation about honey bees, which is a prominent subject in the story. However, I didn’t have much confidence that these ideas would be attractive enough for me to be invited into schools and libraries.

Enter the realization that the one project, the Abi Wunder mystery trilogy, needed more. More book projects. I looked through my files one day and found several stories suitable for possible picture books. Two of these stories have now turned into completed picture books, currently being illustrated, and planned to be published sometime this year.

Expanding into picture books turned out to be key. I have collected the puppet plays and materials I saved from those past puppet presentations, and am creating a plan to write puppet plays from my picture book stories, create the puppets and materials (without a stage, rather the plan is to keep the presentations simple), and make a short list of the first places I would present these puppet plays, with the hope that requests for more presentations would follow. Of course, the Abi Wunder series would become an integral part of these presentations, both in person and online.

Selling Books Face-to-Face, by RJ Mirabal

RJ Mirabal, an adult and children’s author, and member of our SCBWI chapter in New Mexico, gave a terrific presentation on the ins-and-outs of selling our books locally.

After publishing an adult fantasy trilogy, the Rio Grande Parallax Series, a finalist in the NM/AZ Book Awards, in the science fiction category, RJ burst onto the children’s literature scene with the award-winning first book in a series for children, Trixie Finds her People, a story based on his rescue dog. One of five finalists in The Next Generation Indie Book Awards, an international contest honoring independent and self-published books, Trixie Finds her People won first place in the Animal/Pets category; and the book was also a finalist in the New Mexico Press Women’s Writing awards, a regional contest. The next Trixie book will be coming out sometime this year.

RJ’s new children’s series, Dragon Train, is about a dragon who makes an unscheduled stop in a small village because this dragon towing a train is dying of exhaustion. A curious young farmer runs down to the tracks to help her, which sets the young man and dragon on an epic adventure to gain freedom and happiness.  

Open up for Business in your State 

To open for business in your state, there are certain things you need to do. Here are a few examples from RJ’s presentation:

    -Register your business with the state; you will have to pay gross receipts tax for your sales.
    -You may need to register in your town or city, which might require a business license. RJ registered in Albuquerque, NM. Cost: $35.
    -Register your business as a sole proprietorship; you don’t need to register as an LLC.
    -Report your income on personal tax forms.
    -Create a name for your business. RJ's is RJM Creative Arts.
    -Obtain a PO box, a good idea to use as your professional address.

Create your Display:

    -Purchase a portable table and tablecloth to match the mood of your books.
    -Decide how you want to display your books, author swag, a bowl of candy, etc.
    -Have a full-color poster (11 X 17 is an economical size that can be printed at Staples) made to use as a table display.
    -Have a banner made, a long sheet of plasticized paper, to match the banner on your website.
    -Have pictures from yours books, characters, book covers made to display.

RJ has graciously agreed to provide a PDF from his presentation for anyone interested. You can contact him at rjmcreativearts@gmail.com. Learn more about RJ’s children’s books: https://rjthestoryguy.com.

Linda Wilson writes stories for young children. Visit Linda at https://www.lindawilsonauthor.com. Sign up for Linda’s quarterly giveaways. Choose your prize! 
Find Linda’s books at https://www.amazon.com/author/lindawilsonchildrensauthor.
Need help with your story?
Whether you need help with ghostwriting, rewriting, or coaching, let me take a look at your children’s story. Just send me an email at: kcioffiventrice@gmail.com. Please put “Children’s Writing” in the Subject box. Or, give me a call at 347---834---6700.

Let’s get your idea off the launch pad or your outline into a publishable and marketable story today!

Or, if you'd rather give it a shot and do-it-yourself, check out my book, HOW TO WRITE A CHILDREN'S FICTION BOOK.  
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