Aug 29

The Great First Impression Book Proposal

Today, I have a review of an important book for authors. If you intend to submit your nonfiction book or novel to a publisher or literary agent, you need a book proposal. I found this book super-helpful.

The Great First Impression Book Proposal: Everything You Need to Know About Selling Your Book to an Agent or Publisher in Thirty Minutes or Less
Author: Carolyn Howard-Johnson
Publisher: Modern History Press; 2nd ed. edition (September 15, 2019)
ISBN 13: ‎ 978-1615994816
ISBN-10: 1615994815
Reviewed by: Karen Cioffi

While I first read Carolyn Howard-Johnson’s book, The Great First Impression Book Proposal: Everything You Need to Know About Selling Your Book to an Agent or Publisher in Thirty Minutes or Less,” years ago, the author came out with it in an audiobook format – great for those who’d rather listen than read. As with the book, it has everything, plus even more tips, advice and insights you’ll need to write a book proposal that will do what it’s supposed to… get you in the gate.

The author starts by explaining that a book proposal is a cross between an outline, a resume, and a media kit. Then in six easy-to-follow chapters, Howard-Johnson explains exactly what to do and how to do it to create a proposal that will impress a gatekeeper.

The guesswork is gone, and without having to study a full-length book or take a class.

Along with how to write the proposal, this audiobook includes advice on formatting the proposal and what to add in the marketing section to let the publisher or agent know that you intend to help market your book and how you’ll go about doing that.

It also has examples and lots of resources. If you’re thinking of pitching a nonfiction book, “The Great First Impression Book Proposal” is a must.

About the Author

Carolyn Howard-Johnson’s several careers prepared her for promoting her own and others’ books. She was the youngest person ever hired as a staff writer for the Salt Lake Tribune-A Great Pulitzer Prize Winning Newspaper. Howard-Johnson’s experience in journalism and as a poet and author of fiction and nonfiction helped the multi award-winning author understand how different genres can be marketed more effectively. She was an instructor for UCLA Extension’s renowned Writers’ Program for nearly a decade and earned a certificate from that same school’s Instructor Development Program. She turned her knowledge toward helping other writers with her multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers, including her flagship book The Frugal Book Promoter and her favorite, How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically. The Frugal Editor won the Next Generation Indie Best Book Award. Howard-Johnson was honored as Woman of the Year in Arts and Entertainment by California Legislature members Carol Liu, Dario Frommer, and Jack Scott. Carolyn is a popular presenter at tradeshows (retail and writing) and writers’ conferences and has lost count of her radio show guest spots. Born and raised in Utah, Howard-Johnson raised her own family in sunny Southern California.
To read Carolyn’s full bio and purchase the book or audio, visit:

The reviewer, Karen Cioffi, is an award-winning children’s author and children’s ghostwriter. She is also an author online platform instructor with WOW! Women on writing and Editor-in-Chief of Writers on the Move. You can check out Karen’s books at:


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: Please put “Children’s Writing” in the Subject box. Or, give me a call at 347—834—6700.

Feb 11

5 Rules of Writing a Children’s Book

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Children's Writing TipsAs a children’s ghostwriter, I’m usually working on multiple children’s book projects every day. This usually includes weekends.

I also have a family and work part time outside the home. So, my plate is

Juggling all the time, I thought about what it takes to write, not just children’s books, but other genres as well.

Here is my list of the 5 most important factors to writing a children’s book, if you really, really want to be a children’s author:

1. Make the time.

This would seem like a no-brainer, but you seriously need to prioritize your writing.

Using me as an example, there are just so many hours in the day. When you’re juggling life, family, and multiple clients (currently 11), something has to give.

So, you need to ask yourself one important question:

Do you really, really want to be a children’s author?

If you do:

– Can you get up an hour earlier to get some writing in?
– Can you stay up an hour later?
– Can you squeeze in some time when your baby is napping?
– Can you write during lunch, if you work outside the home?
– Can you shoot for just 2500 words per week?
– Can you spend time writing on the weekends?
– Can you use the time you’d be on social media on writing instead?
– Can you use the time you’d be watching TV on writing instead?
– How about during doctor visits, dental visits, etc.?

It’s about prioritizing. It’s about making your desires important enough that you’re willing to struggle for them … to work for them.

I’ve been so busy the last few years that I’ve let my own writing go on the back burner. A possible solution to this is to think of myself as a children’s book client who I need to, must, write for.

It’s about making the time, no matter what you have to do.

2. Know what you’re doing.

I’ve written about the importance of learning how to write before you jump into writing a children’s book. But it’s so important I’m putting it in this list.

While you should learn about writing no matter what genre you want to write in, with children’s writing it’s essential.

Learn proper grammar and punctuation for writing. It will make a world of difference in how your book appears.

Learn what’s appropriate for young children. Don’t write scenes that could cause a young reader to do something dangerous.

An example of this would be having a young protagonist playing in the street or sneaking out of the house at night.

You also need to learn about how a manuscript should be formatted?

I’ve seen self-published children’s books with no line spaces between paragraphs.

Shame on the author for not doing the research to make the book at least look professional. And, more shame on the self-publishing service that formatted it for her.

3. Don’t wait for the muse to come knocking.

As a professional writer, I know that the only way the muse will come for a visit is when you have your butt in the chair and are engaged in writing your story.

Every now and then I’ll get a client who gives me a story idea or some notes on a story and I’ll sit back and wonder how on earth will I turn what I have into a publishable story.

I don’t sit back very long.

I start writing.

Once you start writing, it seems your brain takes over and the words appear. Those words turn into paragraphs and chapters.

I think everyone has a muse and s/he’s sleeping in your brain until you focus on your story and actually write. Somehow that wakes the muse up.

4. You’ve got to be observant.

Again, this is true of any writing, but it’s especially true for children’s writing.

Children have their own language.

If you’re able, watch children at play, in a discussion, playing sports, doing school work, eating, etc.

Pay attention to how they move, what they say, how they say it, they’re facial expressions, their mannerisms, how they dress, if they’re a bit older, around eight and up, how they wear their hair. Pay attention to pretty much everything.

You want to make your children’s stories believable even if you’re writing fantasy or science fiction. A way to help do this is to make the children in the story believable.

If you’re not in a position to study children in real life, study them in movies and on TV.

5. Read in the genre you want to write.Reading in the genre you write gives you lots of information, especially if the books are recently published by real traditional publishers.

You’ll learn:

– How to write dialogue
– How to format paragraphs and chapters
– How to structure sentences
– Appropriate story lines
– Story structure
– How to create believable characters
– How to structure picture books, allowing for illustrations to help tell the story

The list goes on and one.

Go to your local library and get 10-15 books. Once you’re done with them get another 10-15 books. Keep going.

Another trick is to write the text in some of these books. It tricks the brain into writing ‘good’ books. Keep in mind this is just to study them.

One important thing to remember though, reading books and writing text doesn’t take the place of learning how to write. These tools just supplemental writing tools.

So, if you’ve been thinking about writing a children’s book, take these five rules into account and get started today.

Children's ghostwriter

Whether you need rewriting or ghostwriting, let me take a look at your story. Just send me an email at: 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 story today!

Nov 11

Traditional Publishing – 4 Advantages to Consider

Submit your manuscriptWhile most everyone is hitting the self-publishing road, including most of my clients, there are some authors who yearn to be published through a publishing house.

Before I go on though, let me clarify what traditional publishing is as I just had a query from a new author who wasn’t sure about it.

Basically, traditional publishing is when you submit your manuscript to publishing companies that will PAY YOU to publish your book.

If the company thinks your book will be a good investment, they’ll give you a contract. It could take a year to two years for your book to actually get published.

Traditional publishing houses INVEST their money, time, and effort into publishing your book. You don’t pay them for anything!

These companies make their money back, and hopefully a profit, through your book sales.

The reason the term ‘traditional publishing’ is getting confusing is because a lot of services are labeling themselves as such while they’re really not.

So, again, if you have to pay a company even a dime, they’re not a traditional publisher.

Okay, back on track.

Some advantages to traditional publishing:

1. Recognition and validation.

When a publishing company thinks your manuscript has what it takes to sell, when they’re willing to back it up with their financial support, that’s validation.

You can jump around yelling, “It’s really good!” You’ve gotten approval from people in the industry.

This is not to say that some self-published books aren’t really good. But, if you need personal validation, getting it from a traditional publisher or literary agent is the way to go.

2. You have a team of professionals behind you.

Aside from very small publishers, you’ll have the benefit of professional editors, book designers, illustrators, and so on polishing your manuscript till is shines.

Companies that ‘help’ you publish your book (self-publishing services) don’t usually hire a professional staff. I’ve seen terrible editing and illustrations from some of these companies.

Tip: If you’re self-publishing, make sure you check out the portfolios of any service or individual you’re hiring to help you publish your book. And if you’re thinking of using a service, review their books before jumping on board. Check the books carefully.

3. You’ll get marketing help.

A publishing house wants to sell your book, that’s how they make their money.

While smaller publishing companies don’t really do too much in regard to marketing, you’re listed on their site which will have its own readership. This will broaden your marketing reach.

And, if they attend book fairs and such, you’ll have the opportunity to have your books displayed.

Any little bit of ‘extra’ marketing is helpful.

As the companies get bigger, they offer more marketing help. But, keep in mind that whether you’re working with a small, middle, or large publishing house, you’ll still need to promote your own books.

4. Opportunity comes with traditional publishing.

If you’re inclined to take advantage of your traditional publishing credit(s), you can use it to:

a. Write more books and seek traditional publishing.
b. Submit articles to magazines.
c. Offer your own writing services.
d. Give workshops.
e. Teach a class (online or off).

Getting a contract from a publishing house or signing on with a literary agent does give you some clout. It’s kind of like a stamp of approval.

Children's ghostwriterWhether you need rewriting or ghostwriting, let me take a look at your story. Just send me an email at: 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 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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Oct 08

Traditional Publishing and Self-Publishing – The Differences

Self-Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing

It seems the publishing waters are getting murkier and murkier.

I think the most significant difference between ‘real’ traditional publishers and services that are NOT ‘real’ traditional publishers (vanity presses, self-publishers, and others) is the cost. This is aside from ‘quality’ in many cases.

If you are submitting to a ‘real’ traditional publisher, you will NOT PAY A PENNY.

What the ‘Real’ Traditional Publishing House Will Do

Let’s suppose that the publishing house, after they’ve read your manuscript, decided to give you a contract. They’ll then take your manuscript and request revisions if needed. After that it’s on to editing and proofing. They do it all and use professional writers.

Once the manuscript is polished, or possibly while it’s in the process, the publishing house will have the illustrations, layout, design, and covers done. The publishing house will cover all expenses.

You will pay nothing.

The publishing house gets its income from the sales of your book. The publishing house wants to sell your book.

You will get a royalty from the sale of each book. And, unless you’re with a major book publisher, you won’t get an advance on royalties.

The royalties are usually somewhere around 10 percent. It may be higher for ebooks. And, you may get the royalty quarterly or less often.

So, while you don’t have to pay a penny, you likely won’t get rich from your books.

What Does Self-Publishing Services Do?

Self-publishing services will also do everything you need done to publish your book. BUT, you will pay for each service individually or in a package.

You’ll pay to have the book edited, proofed, formatted, layout, illustrations, and so on and so on and so on.

While you get most, if not all, of the money from the sale of your books, there’s no guarantee that you’ll recoup the cost of self-publishing.

These services make their money from you, the author. They have NO vested interest in you selling a single book. Again, they’ve already made their money.

Another important aspect of self-publishing a children’s picture book or chapter book is you will need illustrations. This will be an added cost.

NOTE: Picture book illustrations can be expensive and you’ll need a bare minimum of 12 – 14 interior and a cover. You might also want a back cover illustration.

Interior illustrations can run from $80 per to $500 per. It depends on the illustrator you work with. Book covers are usually double the cost of an interior illustration.

I’ve had clients who have paid upwards of $10,000 for illustrations for one book.

Usual Time Frame of ‘Real’ Publishing Houses

The other thing that’s distinctive about ‘real’ traditional publishers is it can take 16-24 months for your book to get published (available for sale) from the time you sign your contract. This is especially true for picture books.

And, keep in mind that it takes that long after you’ve gotten a contract, if you get a contract; there are no guarantees. Don’t forget to include the time it takes for researching publishers, submissions, rejections, and repeat.

Yes, you have to be patient. But, again, you pay nothing. And, you have the clout of a traditional publisher behind you.

Time Frame for Self-Publishing Services

I think this can be anywhere from a two-weeks to four months, or so, after you have a polished manuscript. The four+ months would be if children’s illustrations were involved.

It can be pretty quick!

Quality of Traditionally Published Books

I’ve self-published and I’ve traditionally published. And, I’ve read many, many, many books in my niche. ‘Real’ traditionally published books are usually of a much higher quality.

This goes from the cover illustration to the interior illustrations, to the editing, to the formatting, and so on.

A big reason for this is the quality control that goes into a book being published with a traditional publisher. The illustrators and editors are professionals and do quality work.

Quality of Self-Publishing Services

While you can have the same services done through self-publishing, you’ll pay for each of the services offered. The down-side is often the writers, editors, and illustrators working for these companies are less than qualified or professional.

This is just the way it goes. The service needs to keep its costs down.

So, be super careful when choosing a self-publishing service.

Which Is Better?

This question is a personal one.

It could be you’ve tried to get a traditional publishing contract, but it just didn’t work out. This may not mean your book isn’t good, it means the publishing industry in overwhelmed with books.

Chicken Soup for the Soul received 144 rejections before getting a contract with a small publisher.

Or, it could be you have the ‘I want it now’ publishing syndrome. The thought of having to wait even six-months or a year to get your book published is more than you can handle.

I personally think if you have the time, try traditional publishing first. Even if you’re impatient, give it six months. You just never know.

If you feel self-publishing is the way to go for you, GO for it.

While there are lots of less-than-professional services out there, there are also some good ones. You’ll have to do your homework. Research services. Review some of their books.

Below are two articles that may be helpful:
- (Sorry, couldn’t get the URL to hyperlink.)

Also, the last link from The Alliance of Independent Authors’ Advice Center links to The Watchdog Desk and Choosing the Best Self-Publishing Services for You.

No matter what publishing path you take, you want a quality published book. You want a marketable and saleable book.

You want a book you’ll be proud to be the author of.

What are your thoughts on traditionally publishing and self-publishing?

Traditional Publishing Royalties
Should You Pay to Publish

Children's ghostwriterWhether you need rewriting or ghostwriting, let me take a look at your story. Just send me an email at: Please put “Children’s Writing” in the Subject box.

Or, give me a call at 347—834—6700

Let’s get your book in publishable shape today!


BE a Better Writer by Writing More

Book Marketing – You’ve Gotta Have a Blog

Writing Success – Focus, Determination, and Perseverance

Nov 06

Traditional Publishing and the Author Platform – Be Realistic

Book marketing

Best sellers happen to unknown authors. Getting on the New York

Times Best Seller list happens. Breakout books happen to new authors.

But . . .

Yes, of course, there’s a ‘but.’ Statistically speaking, about 80% or more of all books don’t succeed.

Every new author needs to enter the publishing arena with open eyes. She needs to be realistic as to what’s required of her and what her chances are.

So, how do you help increase your chances of getting your book to succeed? How do you create a successful writing career, even if you don’t have a breakout book?

3 of the Most Important Tips to Effective Author Platform Building and Book Marketing

Whether you landed a book contract or not (if you’re self-publishing these three tips are just as important, if not more so):

1. You absolutely need an author website. And, it needs to be optimized.

Optimization means having the right domain name, the right website title and subtitle, using keywords, optimizing your blog posts, creating the ‘right’ web pages, using optimized images, and so on.

Another key optimization trick is to keep your website simple: easy to read, easy to navigate, and uncluttered.

2. You need an understanding of how to market you book.

According to the February 2013 issue of The Writer, “The slam-dunk team” article explains, “Publishing houses want a business partner, someone who’s going to work hard from the get-go, tirelessly promoting, working connections, and never saying no to an opportunity.”

Do you know how to blog effectively? Do you know about creating a subscriber list and using email marketing for more sales? Do you know how to work social media marketing to increase website traffic, boost authority, and boost sales?

These marketing strategies are all part of an optimized author/writer platform – they’re considered inbound marketing. While it’s all must-know-stuff, it can be easy to do.

There are lots of online opportunities to learn these skills. One super-effective and super-reasonable tool is this 4-week e-class through WOW! Women on Writing:
Build Your Author Platform in 4 Weeks

3. Put your website and new found knowledge to work.

It’s true there is much involved in building your platform and book marketing, but once you get the hang of it, it will become second-nature. Think of it like a puzzle. You have to put the pieces together before you get the results you want.

Have an optimized author website; create an Amazon Author Page; get book reviews; blog your way to traffic; use email marketing to promote new releases; and use social media marketing to widen your marketing reach.

Give your publisher what she wants: A book marketing savvy author.

4. This is a bonus tip:

According to just about all expert book marketers, including Chuck Sambuchino and Jane Friedman, you need to have all your marketing strategies in place before you even start submitting to book publishers or literary agents.

So, if you’re writing a book or you’re in the submissions process, be sure to get your author platform and book marketing strategies in place.

Be able to tell a publisher or agent that, YES – you can help market your book.


Send me an email ( or give me a call at 347–834–6700.

Let’s discuss your project.


Writing for Children – 4 Simple Tips
The Outline Method of Writing (Are You an Outliner?)
The Book Summary – Five Must-Know Components

Sep 18

Writing – 6 Essential Steps to Publication

Writing for publication

There are a number of articles and posts discussing whether it’s important to have a degree in writing in order to be successful in your writing career. The articles that I’ve read all agree that it is not necessary. But, there are at least 6 essential steps you will need to take to reach the golden ring of traditional publication.

The first three steps are important to both traditional and self-publishing!

1.  Learn the craft of writing

While it’s not essential to have a degree in writing, it is essential that you learn the craft.

You can obtain this knowledge through a number of avenues, such as:

a.    Become a part of a coaching program or club. Just make sure the instructor or coach has the necessary credentials to teach or guide.
b.    Research blogs and sites that offer instructional articles on the genre you are writing in. You can also find articles through the article directories.
c.    Attend writing conferences. Even if you can’t go in person, or can’t afford to go, there are a number of free online conferences that offer great workshops, networking, and even pitches to publishers. One such conference is the Muse Online Writers Conference.
d.    Join a critique group that has new and experienced writers. Critique groups are a great way to learn the ropes. The experienced writers will provide a kind of one-on-one tutoring. Through the critiques you receive you’ll begin to notice your common errors and how to correct them. Through the critiques you give, you’ll be able to pick up on errors much quicker. All this will help you to hone your craft and become a confident writer.
e.    Read books about writing, self-editing, and books in the genre you are writing. Study these books.

2. Write and keep writing

Remember the old expression, ‘practice makes perfect.’ It’s important to make time to write every week, whether it’s daily or specific days, or even if you have to squeeze it into your schedule. The more you write, the more comfortable you will feel about writing.

3. Read your work, proofread your work, self-edit your work, revise your work…repeat

This is where you apply the information you’ve reaped from Step 1. After you think it’s ‘really’ good, submit it to your critique group. Then repeat Step 3. When you think it’s perfect you’re ready for Step 4.

4. Submit your work

In this step you can take two paths:

a.    Submit your work to an experienced editor. This is the path almost all writers will advise you to take. The editor is trained to spot things that you and you’re critique group will not. Yes, it will be an expense, but there are some reasonable and experienced editors out there that you can take advantage of.
b.    If you cannot afford an editor, be sure to carefully read a book about self-editing, print your manuscript out and go over it with a fine tooth comb. When you feel confident that it’s as good as you can get it, start submitting it to publishing companies and/or agents.

5. Read publishers’ guidelines carefully

Along with reading them carefully, you need to follow them carefully. Publishers have more submissions than they can handle, if your submission doesn’t meet their guidelines it would be highly unlikely it will avoid the trash pile.

5A. Do your self-publishing research

If you’re self-publishing and aren’t sure how to get your book published and distributed, do some research. A lot of these companies offer packages so be careful. Find out exactly what they’ll be doing for you. And, be leery of marketing packages. Usually they’re a waste of money. You’re better off learning the marketing ropes yourself and jumping in.

6. Persevere

It’s not necessarily the best writer who gets published and has a successful writing career…it’s the writer who perseveres. Writing can be a long and arduous road and is usually filled with a great deal of rejection. But, if you work toward your goal, learn your craft, and keep moving forward, you have what it takes to become published.


Why Hiring a Ghostwriter for Your Children’s Book is a Good Idea
Writing to Get Published – 5 Power Tips
Writing for Children – Character Believability and Conflict

Need Help With Your Story

Let me take a look at it. I’m a working children’s ghostwriter, rewriter, and editor. I can turn your story into a publishable and saleable book.

Shoot me an email at: (please put Children’s Writing Help in the Subject line). Or, you can give me a call at 834—347—6700