Sunday, January 31, 2010

Creative Writing for Kids: Easy Classroom Tips for Teachers

Creative writing for kids is one of the most challenging and fulfilling aspects of the classroom. Many teachers who are not writers may struggle to explain the nuts and bolts of writing in relation to the imaginative and creative process involved in making a story. Children may also not grasp the solid hard work involved in creating the structure and plot of a good story. Here are some easy classroom tips to make the creative writing process both successful and fun.

Writing can be one of the most rewarding and fulfilling experiences of your life. There are many reasons a person decides to write: to share their life’s experiences, to tell a good story, to express the feelings and situations of others … the list is endless. Some people even write just for fun. I wrote my book The Secret of the Sacred Scarab because I visited Egypt with my two nephews and wanted to write a short story to help them remember a special time. To my surprise, the short story turned into a book, and then a book series. So, you never know what’s going to happen once you begin!

Any good story is composed of a really gripping plot and realistic, believable characters.

How To Choose a Great Story Topic: You may think, “But what can I write about?” Write about what you know best, or what excites you, or what you enjoy. You’ll find that when you are really keen on something—it can be an activity, a place, an event, or a person (real or imaginary)—it becomes easier to write. Do you love reading about faraway exciting places? Then research a place you find interesting and set your story there. Do you enjoy mysteries? Think about something that’ll keep people guessing. Are you good at a skill or a sport? Set your story around a character with those abilities.

Plot Comes First: Everyone has their own ideas but I believe the plot should come first. What’s the point of great characters if they sit around and don’t achieve very much. So, step one, write your plot down in a few words (that’s all you need). “My story is about … who manages to … and goes on to ….” Example from my book: two cousins go to Egypt with their aunt Isabel and their Gran and are given an ancient scarab that plunges them into a whirlpool of exciting events. I have my two main characters, two secondary characters, a great location (open to all kinds of amazing events), an important object, and … well, the amazing events are up to my imagination.

How to Construct your Storyline: Structure is very important otherwise you’ll end up writing away like crazy but forget some vital detail here and there, and your story will fall to pieces. Sit down and draw your storyline—remember, you have already written it down in a few words. You may not stick to it exactly, but it’s important to map out where the story is going. You don’t want to give away the plot too soon, or tell the reader everything all at once.
So begin with a simple 3-point system: the Beginning (your hero appears—what is he doing? What does he want to achieve?); the Middle (something will happen to him and he has to …? ); the Ending (your hero resolves the situation). From those three vital points you will fill in your other plot points—how did… why did… what happens next…

Make Your Characters as Interesting as Possible: Tip: take them from real life examples. You could write about someone like yourself, or else model the characters on friends at school, teachers, or other people you know. The dialogue between your characters is also important because that’s one place to develop the plot line. Their interaction will reveal the chain of events as the characters work out various situations. Don’t forget to break your dialogue with various activities so that readers don’t get bogged down in lots of talking but no action.

Make Your Information to the Reader as Interesting as Possible: You can do this by weaving it into the story. Don’t say that it’s cold. Get your character to shiver because he left his jacket at home. You can set the scene around your characters by using adjectives and adverbs to enhance your descriptions and actions but don’t overdo it. The reader is also going to use his or her imagination, so don’t overload your writing with too many descriptions. At the same time, your reader is not in your head so you have to help the reader along by using your five senses to engage theirs: sight, sounds, touch, taste, smell. Is your hero in a hot, exotic climate? He (or she) will be sweating, the sounds will be different, the taste of the food unusual etc. Is your heroine (or hero) in a strange place – what is she experiencing? e.g. confusion, anxiety, excitement, or curiosity? Is she hungry or thirsty? You will create the environment for your readers so they appreciate exactly what the hero is experiencing.

The Hard Part: If you love what you’re writing about, and you trust your imagination, then writing will be as fun and exciting as you can imagine. However, two important elements must never be forgotten: research and grammar.

Research will be necessary whether your story is set in the real world, or if it’s an imaginary, fantasy, or sci-fi land. Make notes before and during your writing process. Your heroes are likely to be around your own ages, so think about how they are going to get places and achieve things. If they are travelling, are they alone (not likely) and will they need assistance (possibly)? If they are in a foreign country then make sure your facts are accurate. How did they get there, who are they with, and how are they going to accomplish their task/challenge? If it’s a fantasy setting, then make sure you don’t lose track of your characters and the various places and items found in your fantasy world. Make your own research notes relevant to your fantasy land.

Grammar and Spelling are very important otherwise your readers will never get through the first few pages. They’ll get bogged down in bad grammar and terrible spelling, so make sure you use your spelling and grammar check on your computer (if you’re using one) and your dictionary and style guide (if you’re writing by hand). In any case, you’ll have to check everything yourself because sometimes computers will accept a word that is spelled right, but is actually the wrong word for the sentence or context.

A final piece of advice: writing should be fun and exciting. Just enjoy yourself and let your imagination take you to places you only ever dreamed of…

Friday, January 29, 2010

Writer's Block: Imagined or Real?

Writers block: does it exist? Anyone who has ever experienced it will nod their head vigorously and say yes, of course it does. Other writers will smugly say they have never experienced it. There are differing viewpoints on exactly what one should call the phenomenon of when ideas grind to a halt, plots get stuck, and why one just can’t seem to move the action or the characters forward. Advice to Writers offers some interesting viewpoints of writers from Toni Morrison to H.G. Wells to Irving Stone on what they consider to be writer’s block and what to do about it. Some are very amusing.

Whatever one does or doesn’t like to call it, many authors get to a point where they’ll do anything except sit down and write their book. Carrie Lofty, a romance writer with a passion for history, has a new take on an old problem: it's called 'fiddling' and when writers don't want to write, they fiddle. Let's hear it from Carrie who has the solution to the writer’s habit of ‘fiddling!’

Are You a Fiddler?
By Carrie Lofty

I like to think that I've been writing romance since I was 13, but that wouldn't be entirely accurate. Although I finished a romantic screenplay at that age, I wouldn't complete another work of romantic fiction until September of 2006. In the interim, I wrote a series of fantastic, incomplete 100-page attempts. Some didn't even make it to 100 pages. I might finish a few chapters, or a chapter … or a scene.

To say that I hit a wall would also be inaccurate. I've never had writer’s block. After all, the ideas were always there. And that was the problem! I would dive headfirst into a new idea only to be distracted, a few days or weeks or chapters later, by a newer and shinier one. My husband threatened to stop listening to my writing discussions if I changed stories again.

This carried on until that fateful summer in 2006 when my husband flew to Virginia for an internship. I stayed behind in Madison, Wisconsin with our two daughters, who were then aged two and three. I wanted desperately to finish a novel so that I, too, could have a career that would take me around the country. And more importantly, I wanted to prove it to myself that I could finish. I couldn't stomach the idea of being a wannabe who always talked a good line, but never actually finished their “some day” novel. What I had been doing was obviously not working. I would write a chapter—then print it out, eviscerate it, revise it, reread it.

In essence, I was a fiddler.

After the initial burst of inspiration wears off and the hard work of actually finishing a 300+ page novel begins, hesitant writers are left with only one recourse: to fiddle. Revising, creating note cards, reading craft books, rereading—all of these can be useful skills and techniques, but only if they are used productively. I was using those same techniques to delay. After all, it looked like I was working!

I believe it stems from fear. The new, bright, shiny, beautiful idea in your head can be an intimidating muse to live up to. While first drafts are messy and unwieldy, the idea in your head looks more like a polished novel or a big-screen movie. The contrast between those two—what you’re attempting to create and what you imagine—can be so dissonant and daunting as to cause a fatal case of fiddling. It's fatal to your chances of finishing a book, that's for certain.

How did I break the cycle?

I started with a very reasonable goal. I would write 1000 new words every day. No matter what. Rain, shine, cyclone—no excuses. The first night was the hardest. I wanted to go to bed. I wanted to give up, go back, and mess with what I had already written. But I persevered. After days of practice, and then after weeks of success, those 1000 word slogs began to add up. I finished my first draft in 88 days.

Granted, revising the sucker took four months. I was still learning, and that first draft was truly horrible. But I had done it. I had finished my thought. I had resisted the urge to fiddle. What's more, by the time I typed “the end,” the beautiful bright-and-shiny idea that I'd started with didn't glow quite so fiercely. It didn't hold as much appeal. I had moved the flawless “one day” idea out of my head. Now it was a tangible “that day is now” novel. My sense of accomplishment and pride was far outweighed by distress about how many revisions it still required.

So…are you a fiddler?

Do you have so many ideas, all of which you hope to get to “some day”? Do you often start a project, only to abandon it part way through in favor of a newer, better idea? Do you obsess about research and character backgrounds, or reread and revise chapters—all to the detriment of producing new words?

Then I would suggest that you need an intervention. Set yourself a small, reasonable goal to produce new words every day. No matter what. Do not reread what you wrote the day before. Once you’ve filled up your pages, you can go back and fiddle to your heart’s content. And if a new, fantastic idea comes along, use it to motivate yourself into finishing this idea first.

That’s my take. I hope you glean wonderful things from it. But just like eating healthy or exercising or quitting smoking, the real impetus to make lasting changes in your writing habits begins with you.

Carrie’s witty and observant reflections on life can be found at her website and if you’re fascinated by historical romance that takes risks, then check out Carrie’s latest book Scoundrel’s Kiss (and enjoy!).

Some Top Advice

Alan Rinzler (Consulting Editor) has a great post that suggests perhaps one of the reasons you can’t finish that novel is because your plot is not clear. His advice is simple and clear: get your outline right.

Matthew Stibbe (writer in chief at Articulate Marketing) suggests that concentrating on writing will get you over your hurdles and offers 22 ways for staying focused on your writing.

Have you overcome your writer’s block? Got any great suggestions? Please let readers know.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Why Children Don't Enjoy Reading

Living in South Africa where many children are still struggling with reading and a poor level of education, the problem of literacy in my home country affects me deeply as an author. Around one fifth of the population of 48-million people are still illiterate.

As all parents know, books, reading, and comprehension skills are paramount in the development of their child’s learning abilities and imagination, and indeed to life learning and understanding of the world. But you know all that … so, how does one change a non-reader into an avid reader? Don't leave it up to school and the teachers. Literacy is so important that it is every parent's duty to make sure their child reads and (hopefully) enjoys it.

There may be a number of reasons why your child isn’t keen on reading. If you’ve ruled out physiological problems with eyes and attention span, then it could just be your child perceives books as ‘boring’ and reading a chore. How do you change this?

Capture the imagination of your child. You’ve seen how a child will sit for hours working out a game or puzzle that intrigues them. Excitement and interest are the keys to getting your child into those bookshelves. Take a look at what makes them light up, what makes them talk excitedly. You want to hold their attention, sustain their interest, and create a hunger for more and more books!

Children follow by example so if you’re a reader, now make a point of your child seeing you read—except read (with avid interest) something you’d like them to read. Don’t put the television on as a matter of course. Rather sit with a book so they become curious as to what could possibly keep you so occupied. It’ll be natural for them to want to see (read) what has kept you so captivated. You can fuel this by exclaiming how much you can’t wait to continue the book if you have to interrupt with dinner or other commitments.

Choose topics your child is interested in, even if it’s Miley Cyrus’ biography. Textbooks or school reading books may not be the spark to ignite your child’s imagination. Your child may also not be interested in the classics you loved as a child. It doesn’t matter what they read, as long as they read. Age appropriate magazines (get a subscription addressed directly to your child) are also suitable. Collectibles such as ‘part series’ (science, the planets, animals, music/pop stars) are also very good and keep the child’s interest ongoing.

Invite your child to read with you. “I think you’ll like this!” is a wonderful inducement to make the child feel special—something he or she can share with a parent makes the child feel important. Together you can enjoy the marvellous world contained within those pages. Your child will find your enthusiasm infectious. (You could even let them ‘help’ you with one or two words you might be struggling with.)

Be innovative. For example, reading to each other or acting out the various characters’ parts will make it fun (children love acting), and if another parent or enthusiastic family members are the audience the ‘cast’ have to work hard to entertain. You could spend some time beforehand polishing your skills together, reading alternate paragraphs, or picking particular characters. This is a great moment to show off your Repertoire of Funny Voices as well. Make it more memorable by having a special dinner and getting your child to write out ‘invitations’ to the rest of the family.

Shared laughter is an incredibly bonding and uplifting experience. By now your child should start seeing reading as a fun experience. Later on they will develop their own tastes and read on their own. For parents interested in literacy issues, visit  a great blog Parents and Kids Reading Together for tips, ideas and advice.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The ABC of Agents

Rick Frishman always has a clear, concise way of explaining things and when I read this information in his newsletter, I thought, "What better way to explain agents?" The role of the agent seems to be a complex one and many authors are not quite sure exactly what their role is. Some authors even end up being ripped off by unscrupulous individuals. Read on and be advised.

How Agents Work:
Literary agents fill two primary, and often overlapping, roles. They serve as both their clients' Sales representatives and as their literary advisors. In order to sell their clients' work, agents read it, assess it, and advise clients on its quality and market potential. They also create strategies for its sale for publication. Agents identify potential publishers and offer their clients' writing to publishers, negotiate publishing contracts and monitor publishers' contract compliance. Good agents constantly position their clients and work with publishers and the media to build their clients' careers.

Agents' Compensation:
As compensation for their services, agents receive a percentage of the gross income from the publishing agreements that the agents obtained. They essentially function as commission salespersons who act as middlemen or vendors to sell their clients' writing to publishers. What does this mean to you? At present, the standard percentage for literary agents is 15 percent of all income that authors receive from the sale of the book and its subsidiary rights. Unless otherwise stated, this amount is calculated on gross sales on the book's cover price. Agents also usually receive 20 percent on foreign sales, and some are getting more. They receive more for foreign sales because they have to co-agent with colleagues abroad.

Reasonable and Unreasonable Charges:
Many literary agencies also charge for certain expenses such as photocopying, postage and long-distance telephone calls, which are reasonable. However, some may charge for marketing, travel and administrative expenses, which can be expensive. Reasonable expenses that you should expect to pay are those that your agent must lay out to represent you and submit your work to publishers. The expenses you are charged should be the same that all of your agent's other clients pay. Before you sign with an agent, get a list of all the expenses you will be charged and try to get an idea of how much they should run.

What To Do About Expenses?
Here's a good tip: When you negotiate a contract for an agent to represent you, insist on a provision that gives you the right to approve all expenditures over a stated sum, say $50. Unless unusual circumstances exist, you should not agree to pay for ordinary phone calls and other basic administrative expenses. If a provision is included in the contract that requires you to pay a percentage of the funds you receive for office, administrative or managerial expenses, think twice, because those tasks are normally part of the agent's job. If the agent insists, put a dollar cap on those expenses. And whenever your agent requests or deducts expenses, request an itemized statement of those costs.

Contracting with an Agent
At a certain point, most agents will insist that you give them the exclusive rights to sell your writing; they will ask you to sign an author/agent agreement. This point varies from agent to agent, but many won't give you much of their time until you sign. Your agreement with an agent should specify that it applies only to a particular book or project. It may contain an option for your next book. If you create spin-offs or new, revised, or updated versions of the agented book, the agent who negotiated the original deal will be entitled to share in revenues received.

Reprinted from "Rick Frishman's Author 101 Newsletter"

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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Better Book Readings For Kids

I recently gave a book reading at a local Montessori school here in Johannesburg for a middle-grade audience eager to find out more about my book. My previous reading at a literacy centre had been great because the teacher organized a fancy dress parade and the kids had worked on some creative writing to read to me. All the children arrived in Egyptian costume with poems and prose for me to hear. There was such fun and excitement that much time was taken up with the judging of the writing and the costumes. I read a chapter, they loved it, and that was that.

This time I wasn’t going to get off so easily. This particular teacher asked if I could chat to the kids about creative writing, plots, characters, and structuring a story of their own. I had recently written a blog post on that very subject, but writing and explaining it out loud to kids are two different things. My task that day was somehow to initiate a discussion on creative writing and to use my book to illustrate my points. I discovered that using simple but effective items to enhance your topics adds interest to the reading and contributes to the fun!

I had already turned to my book and website illustrator Lori Bentley for some ideas on accessories such as bookmarks and postcards to give away. Lori’s ideas were so stunningly effective that I was able to tell the assembled kids the entire story of the book and discuss creating a plot just by using the bookmark. I hope you’ll read Lori’s account of how she came to create her magnificent illustrations.

Some ideas to enhance your author readings for kids at schools, libraries, or bookstores:

Chat to the teacher, librarian, or organizer in advance and find out if they’d like an educational theme (a school probably will) or an artistic theme such as kids coming in costume, doing their own illustrations of your book’s themes, or even some creative writing to read out aloud.

Encourage the organizers to put a mention in the local newspaper or community press. Often newspapers will send a photographer along for some local newsworthy events. This will help spread the word about your book. You should also publicize it using your own social media outlets.

Bookmarks and postcards are a fantastic yet simple and cheap way to promote your book. If your book is illustrated, you can (like Lori did) use thumbnails on the bookmark, with tantalizing hints of the plot outlined next to each picture. Postcards are effective with the book cover image on the front, a brief plot synopsis on the back, and don’t forget to include either your contact details or author website or the book’s website details. Parents will want to know where they can buy your book if your reading is not at a bookstore.

Posters are also cheap and effective to promote your title. If you’re having some kind of contest then a signed poster is a great prize for an excited child. Don’t forget to give one to the venue hosting your book reading. A school or library will definitely put the poster up in the venue. That way your book will linger in their minds long after you have gone.

Have a pen ready for the unexpected. I was astounded that all the children at the reading wanted to have their bookmarks signed so be prepared for that as well. Remember, to your audience you are an amazing creature – a real live author – and that’s incredibly exciting for them. They’re going to want a little piece of the excitement to take home. This is particularly pertinent if you are reading at a bookstore because parents will more than likely purchase the book right there and the child will want you to sign it.

A visual impact is important. If your book is set in a different location and you have photographs then take them along. Kids love to know where something ‘really happened’ and images are important. If you have artifacts related to your book, even better. A bit of ‘show and tell’ will fix your book in every child’s mind if there is more to it than just words. (I have some painted papyrus so was able to use those pictures to explain how the ancient Egyptians made paper.)

• Once you’ve had your initial intro, discussion, and answered questions, you can focus on the book reading. Choose the most exciting chapter possible. Kids don’t have to know everything in advance and a brief outline of the story will be enough. Using my bookmark, the kids chose the image of the giant cobra menacing my two heroes for a riveting 20-minute read. (Have your glass of water at hand – you’ll need it!)

During your reading make sure you interrupt yourself to ask the kids questions such as “Where is so-and-so place?” or ask them if they know what particular words mean. My book is set in Egypt so talking about an exotic country was great, and asking them to explain words like ‘sarcophagus’ kept us busy. You’ll find plenty of interesting material in your own work. You can also keep an eye on their level of concentration.

Don’t forget to thank the organizers for inviting you to read and give them your business card so they never forget you. After all, you’ll be reading your next book there, won’t you?

A captivating book reading is an excellent way to create interest in your book, the kind of interest that remains unforgettable because it is both innovative and fun. Come up with creative ideas of your own based on your book’s themes and what resources you have available.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Benefits of Book Awards

This is an unexpected blog because I was actually going to talk about something else. However, I just received news that my book The Secret of the Sacred Scarab was a winner in the 2009 Readers’ Favorites Book Awards. My book has received two finalist nominations and a winner slot for 2009. I believe in the value of book awards when marketing your book/s so I thought a good topic would be to highlight the benefits of entering book awards and competitions.

• When thinking about marketing your book, don’t forget to consider book awards and competitions. Why should you enter? For some people it seems a bit daunting; the idea of competing with so many other writers can be off-putting or a challenge they don’t want to meet. However, a vital point to consider is that it’s not so much about winning as being seen.

Competitions broaden your author profile because people in the industry will read your book. Very often you are asked to send in more than one copy, which means several people will be reading your book, and those people are in the book industry in some way or other. Or else you can submit your book for multiple categories in one competition, thus broadening your readership by judges.

• Even if you don’t win, you may get a Best Runner-Up, a Finalist or an Honorable Mention, and that’s the kind of detail you will put in your press release, on your author sites and other social media you use for marketing. Besides that, the organizers of the book competitions will include all the books that have made it to the stage of being mentioned in their press, online and publicity details. This is because they also need to add to their profiles, enhance their press releases and create a positive impression of the awards. In addition, they send out press releases to thousands of subscribers and opt-in media representatives, journalists and bloggers.

Awards ceremonies are also sometimes part of the competition and that’s when publicity increases if you are a lucky winner or finalist in your category. Many competitions also link their awards ceremonies to a Book Fair, giving winners and finalists an opportunity to actually meet publishers, agents, editors and book sellers.

Don’t panic if your book is not printed yet because some competitions accept manuscripts as well.

• Often cost is a consideration because there is usually an entrance fee and some competitions require more than one book. In that case, consider what competition will be best for you in terms of target audience. Have a look at previous winners to decide if this is the right competition to showcase your book.

I have included a list of the top national competitions that are worth entering. There are even more when you consider regional and state competitions. You can find more by subscribing to e-zines and publishing newsletters.

Mom’s Choice Awards; Readers Views; Moonbeam Awards; Foreword Magazine Awards; Eric Hoffer Award; Nautilus Book Awards; USA Book News Awards; Indie Book Awards; Writers Digest; Indie Excellence Awards; Independent Publishers Awards; Readers’ Favorite Awards; International Book Awards.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Kids' Book Series: Good Idea or Think Again?

Developing a children’s series is both rewarding and taxing for the author, and possibly gratefully welcomed by parents whose children suddenly discover a hero they can relate to and whose actions keep them riveted. Isn’t it wonderful when your child begs, nay, commands you to go out and buy the next in a favorite series because they ‘absolutely have to know’ what is going to happen next. There are many children’s series on the market currently and perhaps many adults are reading them as well as their children. Developing a children’s series is not an exact science and not a guaranteed road to writing success.

Sometimes an author will start out with an idea, and try to stretch the story over several books, but to no avail. They discover that when a story is done … it’s done! On the other hand, an author may find that the story takes off and grows into something that spills over the last two words (“The End”) and shapes itself into another and then another and then another book, before winding down to a great final climax. Yet another scenario is when the author creates a set of characters that have several adventures, each one clearly contained with a storyline. The characters have a particular history or set of circumstances to retain the familiarity for readers. Readers keep coming back for more action.

Can a writer tell if the story has the potential for a series? The plot will evolve naturally if the characters are appealing, and if their personal growth and development hold the readers’ attention. Again, appealing characters are not worth anything if the action and conflict are not compelling. There has to be a perfect marriage between plot and characters to sustain the strength of a series.

So why do children love an exciting series? A gifted author will be able to create characters that readers can relate to and either love or hate. The readers get to know the characters well as the action evolves and, as each book comes out, can explore something new about their heroes.

Characters become friends to the avid young reader, who shares in the hopes, dreams and choices the character makes. Readers are amazingly loyal to their favorite characters, even though they may often disagree with the character’s choices. A good writer can explore these further, enabling readers to begin to make their own choices, especially in a moral dilemma or emotional conflict.

Parents who make the time to read with their children, or who are interested in their children’s book choices, will be able to discuss these issues further. It’s a great way of dealing with ‘sticky’ issues because the discussion is less focused on the child and more on a fictional character. It may be easier for a child to express an opinion if discussing a topic via a character’s choices.

Sensible advice: Amy Allgeyer Cook at Indedebut2010 gives 5 excellent reasons why a first-time author should NOT start out with a series. "But wait a moment," I hear you ask, "aren’t you marketing your own book as the first in a series?" Yes, although I hadn’t planned on that initially. I thought I’d create lots of exciting, unrelated adventures for my heroes. But just after the halfway mark in Book One, things changed and the mythology behind the story grew and grew into almost a story on its own. It was then I surrendered and said to the characters, "OK, you win, it’s a series." Whereupon they all burst into mad cheering, especially the ones who made it into Book Two.

Perhaps writers shouldn’t set out to ‘create’ a series but rather let an original good story develop, allowing the characters and plot potential to determine the end result.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Blog Tours: Do They Work?

When I began marketing my book, one of the first things I read about was having a blog. I confess it has been the last on my list of marketing musts, simply because I didn’t understand blogging, couldn’t understand how it would help me as an author, and hey, it looked so complicated. Then in October 2009 I read a rave review about a blog tour organized by Women on Writing. I contacted them and was given a comprehensive outline of how the tour works, what was expected of me, and what results I could expect from the tour itself. It all sounded good so I dived in. I was impressed by the professional and caring attitude of my blog tour organizers, who gave me step-by-step instructions as well as a blog guide to terms and jargon (especially for newbies like me).

Was it a success? Resounding! Yes, in my opinion blog tours do work for authors and here’s why:

Massive exposure to an audience you possibly would never have found on your own. Each blog stop has its own followers. There are also people who enjoy following the complete tour, so new blogs get new readers, and you, the guest, get a whole lot of attention.

You are invited to write posts about yourself, your work, your book, and your writing techniques that give more interesting angles to you as an author. I felt challenged in a positive sense because many of my blog hosts asked me for posts relating to kids’ literacy, making reading more interesting for kids, how to get kids back into books, how to write for kids. It was great!

Within a short space of time those blog posts start appearing on other people’s blog pages, pop up in Google Alerts, and there is a general spread of awareness as more and more people either follow the blog tour post by post, or simply pass on the information they have found through their own feeds. This can also be through emails, Twitter, Facebook and other social sites. When people enjoy something, they comment on it.

Book giveaways are a wonderful way of getting people to comment and participate in the tour. Your blog tour hosts usually arrange this; you have to get the books to the hosts first.

• If people enjoy reading about you they may ask the blog tour organizers to add you to their blog as a guest post. I gained a few more stops on my tour once people began reading my posts.

What you can do to maximize your success:

Send a personal email to all your blog hosts in advance thanking them for the opportunity to appear on their blog, and confirming date, time, their blog address, topic of the post, and when they can expect the information. Make sure they receive your post well in advance.

Have a look at each blog on your tour and get a feel for the tone of it. Is it intellectual, chatty, quirky, fun, formal, etc? Tailor your post to reflect the tone of the blog.

If you are sending giveaway or review copies of your book, make sure this is done well in advance and confirm with your blog tour organizers that the hosts have received their copies.

Make sure you visit each blog stop for a few days afterwards to reply to comments. Your blog tour organizers will usually get the ball rolling by commenting first. Make it easy for yourself by setting an email request for when comments are made on the various posts. This will help you stay in touch.

Blogging is a very personal way to develop new readers, fans, and friends, and to meet people interested in your work. Contact Women on Writing for more details.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Get Your Game Plan Going

Top marketer Dana Lynn Smith has some good advice for writers embarking on their writing goals for 2010 in her Top Three New Year's Resolutions for Writers. If you're still dithering around (a bit like me) without a clear schedule in sight, she has three solid tips to offer (yes, just three) that will help you streamline and organize your writing schedule and ultimate goals.
  • Develop a solid book marketing plan. Don't just do a bit of this and that every now and again. You'll get results when you know what to expect from certain actions.
  • Set weekly and monthly goals for your promotional acitivities. This includes finding time for actual writing. So many writers get sucked into social media updates or marketing that actual writing takes a back seat. You can't be a one-book wonder!
  • Make time every day to promote yourself and your work. This creates consistency and regular online mentions.
To make your task even easier Dana has a fantastic book marketing plan giving you a step-by-step outline of how to proceed. Easy as pie!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Getting Passionate About Life & Purpose

The Savvy Book Marketer has some great advice for anyone starting new projects in 2010 and this is particuarly helpful for would-be writers contemplating turning their dream into a reality, or people who are dithering about what their goals really mean to them. Allison Maslan is the author of Blast Off! The Surefire Success Plan To Launch Your Dreams Into Reality. Her advice will help you make your projects happen. Here are some of the topics she covers.
* Getting in touch with what really matters to you in the world and in your life. What moves your passions or really stirs you?
* Gathering your thoughts and focusing your energy toward these ideas. Find a way to involve yourself in this activity.
* Exploring several possibilities before settling on one. However, if one really moves you, then go for it!
* Connecting with other people on a regular basis who are passionate about these ideals or activities.
All this applies to authors so head over to The Savvy Book Marketer and read more about Allison.

Monday, January 4, 2010

10 Reasons to Have a Blog

If you're new to blogging (like me) you may not think that having a blog is necessary. There are ten good reasons anyone can think of as to why they shouldn't bother with a blog - too much like hard work, already have so many other sites and social media options to update, etc. However, some words of advice from marketing guru Joanna Penn will give you ten reasons why you should have a blog, and why you should bother with one. Building your platform as a writer, building a following or an audience for your book/s or products, creating a wider profile on the internet are just some of the good reasons outlined.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Best 2009 Marketing Tips Good for 2010

As every author knows, marketing is the key to getting your book out there. So many tips, articles, videos, information, guidelines ... the list is endless. However, Tony Eldridge has come up with a fantastic list of the Best of 2009 Marketing Tips that'll carry you into 2010, with great advice and info from marketing gurus such as Phyllis Zimbler Miller, Angela Wilson, Dana Lynn Smith, Joanna Penn, Jane Friedman and Penny Sansivieri, and many others. Read and enjoy, and don't forget to share your tips with others.

Friday, January 1, 2010

It's 2010! Time for my Blog

It's the first day of the new year 2010, and D-Day for my blog. I've been procrastinating, putting it off, doing everything else I could imagine (including cleaning kitchen cupboards), just so as to avoid what everyone has been telling me I need to have this past year - a blog! Why? It seemed to be so difficult, harder I imagined than doing loads of really mind-boggling research. Behold the dinosaur has really got with the program. I have really enjoyed looking at other people's blogs and thinking, "Wow, what a great design. Hey, look at all the cool gadgets and widgets on their site. Such fantastic articles!" ... and wondering how I could do it. Don't let me fool you for one minute. I have been faithfully subscribing to Copyblogger, The Blog Squad and Denise Wakeman's wonderful posts so you'd think I would actually know a bit about blogging by now. Here goes, here's my first blog of January 1, 2010, and may there be many more!