Wednesday, 22 October 2014

The Artist Unleashed: DON’T MISS YOUR BIG MOMENT! (WHY YOU NEED A WEBSITE), by Lori Culwell

In case you haven’t noticed, Facebook has built a neat little widget called “Trending” that now appears on the right hand side of your news feed. This widget is supposed to act like Google Trends, informing you of the news that is popular around the world (or at least around the internet) at that moment.

Why am I telling you this?

Because, as a writer, there is going to come a time when you (the writer) will have the opportunity to be a part of a trending news topic. During this moment in time, assuming that reporters can find you and that your network is set up properly, you (and your work) will be featured on the world’s stage, you will set a crap-load of books, and you will pick up a ton of new subscribers/ followers.

My sincere hope for you is that when your moment comes, you’re ready for it. I have seen too many writers’ moments pass by while they stare helplessly at the “Trending News” box, knowing that this topic (and its publicity) is THEIRS and wondering why no one is calling them.

Here’s an example: a few years ago I worked with the author whose work was focused on fiction set in the Middle East. Specifically, she writes fiction from the perspective of women in Saudi Arabia, plus one non-fiction book about Osama bin Laden. We worked for months on her network, getting her email opt-in to work properly, optimizing her website for the proper keywords, and generally making it so her books were findable through her website. During this work, I repeatedly reassured her “This is what you need to do to make it so people who are interested in this topic can find you.”

She was skeptical at first. Long delays in making changes and answering my emails. Many conversations about how she didn’t want to be “working for free.” Many debates about how I was wrong, how she didn’t see the point in investing the money when she didn’t have the book sales to justify the expense. Luckily, her agent was paying me, so we pressed on, slowly.

Then her moment arrived, and nothing has been the same since.

Her moment, as it happened, was the killing of Osama bin Laden. During that specific moment in time, reporters were scrambling for information to fill out their stories, and my author appeared at the top of Google as an authority because of her book. Over the course of one week, she was interviewed over and over again, her site’s traffic exploded, her subscriber list increased exponentially, and she’s been consistently selling more books ever since.

“But wait!” you’re thinking. “I’m a Young Adult author, so my topics will never be trending in the news!” Next you’re going to tell me that YOU don’t need a website. Writers love to tell me how they don’t need a website/ don’t need to think of themselves like a business/ don’t need an email list/ don’t need to think about SEO. This is not a debate I even have anymore, because the fact is, your moment is going to come, and I don’t want you to miss it. I know I’m right about this because I’ve seen hundreds of authors have their big moment, and those authors are all across the map in terms of their subject matter and genre.

As an author/ artist/ entrepreneur, you are in the “create the supply then wait for the demand” business. The supply, of course, is what you make: that book you wrote, or the cool invention / problem solver that you came up with in a moment of inspiration, or coaching/ consulting/ design / SEO services that you offer. The demand is a little trickier to quantify. That is to say, how is a person who needs what you offer going to find you/ your book/ your services at the exact right time when they are ready to take action/ pull the trigger?

Here’s what it’s going to take to make it so everyone can find you when you (or the topic you write about) hits the news:

You need a website.

This website needs to be, and it needs to come up # 1, not only for your name, but for the topic about which you write (I’ll talk a little more about this later). To answer your next question, no, this cannot be a free website, because free websites have limitations, and businesses with limitations cannot grow. If you are wondering how to make your own website, I have a whole course I made about this, just for you, over at Everything else on my list is really just a sub-set of this extremely important and necessary element, so I’m going to put the points down as a sub-list.

a. Your website needs to have your books prominently displayed so people can find and buy them. If you don’t have any books yet, write some blogs so people can fall in love with your writing and offer you a book deal.

b. Your website needs to have a place for people to sign up for your email list. By “email list” I mean a real list service, like GetResponse or AWeber, or even MailChimp if you’re trying to save money. That list represents your customer base, and you should always be trying to grow it, period, full stop. This one element is probably the other thing I debate the most with writers, which is crazy, because of all the bestselling authors that I know, the ONE THING they have in common is that they all have large email lists. ALL OF THEM. The bottom line: if someone comes to your website, get them on your email list, then cultivate them until they become your customer. Grow your business!

c. Your website should have several ways to contact you that you actually check. Here’s another example: you write about anxiety. Anxiety gets into the news because someone famous mentions they have an anxiety disorder, and reporters now want to do stories on this. Reporters find your website. Reporters need to file stories by the end of the day, so they look for ways to contact you RIGHT THEN. If you are not on social media or you don’t check the email that comes from your website, you are going to miss that big moment. I have seen it happen.

d. Your website should rank in Google not only for your name, but for the topics about which you write. I am an SEO expert, but you don’t need to be one to make this happen. Just put a good description of yourself and your work on an “About” page on your website, and make sure that your name and your topic appear in the Title Tag of that page. Write regularly about your topic, consistently link over to that About page, and Google will figure out what you’re about.

The bottom line is: you need to always be ready for your big moment, and you do this by acting “as if” that moment has already arrived. Seneca famously said that “luck is when preparation meets opportunity.” Your work as a writer is basically one big audition, waiting for that moment to arrive. Make sure that you are ready with good quotes, a press kit, a photo of yourself, and links that work. Basically your job (if you’re not talking to a reporter or writing a book) is to get yourself ready for that moment.

I will be hoping to see your name in my “trending Facebook topics” sometime very soon!

DON’T MISS YR BIG MOMENT! (WHY U NEED A WEBSITE) by @LoriCulwell #Authors #Trending #SocialMediaMarketing

Here’s a little about me, in case you want to interview me for MY big moment: Lori Culwell is an SEO expert, a website consultant, and is the author of six books. She has worked on websites for some of the best-known companies in the world, including Apple, SEGA, Harley-Davidson, and Johnson & Johnson. In recent years, her company, Get Creative, Inc, has begun offering consulting and education to publishing companies with the express purpose of helping authors think of themselves as businesses.

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Monday, 20 October 2014

Happy 15th Birthday Mr. Lenny Lee! We Miss You!

The video below is of me miming to "Mr. Lee" by The Bobbettes, and was recorded as a special way to wish Lenny Lee a happy 15th birthday today, and to tell him how much we miss reading his blog! Where are you Mr. Lenny Lee?!

It's hard to believe that I met Lenny five years ago, when he was only TEN. He has been a part of so many bloggers' lives; loved and cherished dearly. These five years have meant a lot, as he's been through many battles with his leukemia. But he's a strong young man, and will forever be my indoor sunshine.

Lenny, I hope this video makes you smile. We miss you! And HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!


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Thursday, 16 October 2014

Top 7 Publishing & Writing Tips, by Samantha Verant

First, I’d like to thank Jessica for reading (and supporting) my memoir, SEVEN LETTERS FROM PARIS. I’ve known Jessica “virtually” for almost five years now. (I can’t wait to meet her in person one day!)

Not only is Jessica a remarkably talented author and a great friend, she is the go-to gal for writerly advice. So, today, in keeping with theme of my memoir, and Jessica’s amazing blog, I thought I’d post my top SEVEN tips regarding the crazy world of publishing and writing. Some of this advice you’ve heard before. And some of it applies to how I actually sold SEVEN LETTERS FROM PARIS.


Work on your craft. Connect with other writers. Learn the business, albeit traditional or self-publishing. Read in your genre. Build up your platform, your social connections. No matter how supportive she is – your mother is NOT a critique partner or a beta reader! And neither is your sister, spouse, or best friend. Put your work out there. Yes, with strangers. One of the best resources on the web to learn the business AND connect with other writers is Also, if you write middle grade or YA, check out Verla Kay’s “blueboards,” now located on The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators site:


Unless you are extremely rare (or an alien from the planet Wordsmith), your first draft will most likely be a steaming pile of cr@p. But you haven’t wasted your time. The great thing about writing is you can always dust yourself off and turn the page. Revise. Edit. Repeat. It took me four drafts and many revisions before SEVEN LETTERS turned into a saleable manuscript.


Take critiques with an open mind and never get angry. Let advice simmer for a day or two before sending off a scathing email. Your writing partners want the best for your story. When critiquing others, I always apply the sugar, salt, super-sugar method. (What’s good about the story, what needs work, and what totally rocks). Separate yourself from the story, especially if you’re writing a memoir. We’ve heard this time and time again: publishing is subjective. It’s true. And I think we can apply the same principals to bad reviews. Remember, people aren’t critiquing you. (If you ever receive reviews attacking you personally, these people have severe emotional problems. And we can’t fix them.)

Note: A friend of mine recently offered this advice: don’t focus on reviews or book stats; write your next book. (I’m about to cross this bridge. I’ll let you know how it goes.)

As for rejection, the first ones buzzing around in your inbox sting like an attack of malicious killer bees. Just remember, although there is pain, you’re not going to die. You’ll know you’ve become a seasoned writer when you can actually laugh at rejection. In fact, I received a rejection from an agent I’d queried one year earlier...the day I sold my memoir to Sourcebooks. Ha-ha-ha! Instead of responding, I opened up a bottle of wine. Cheers!


Whether you want to self-publish or ease (ha!) on down the traditional publishing road, I really can’t stress how important it is for you to hire a well-seasoned editor. I did. And it was the best decision I’ve ever made. My editor didn't change my voice, or fix grammar issues, or re-write my story. He asked me the hard-hitting questions. He suggested cuts. And additions. Things my alpha readers didn’t catch. I told him to “bring it on,” that I had thick skin, and could handle whatever he threw at me. We revised the manuscript again. We polished the book proposal up. Then, I enlisted an army of beta readers. Once I could no longer stand to look at my manuscript, I sent it off in the world, trying to land a new agent.

This didn’t happen.

It was then I decided to take my book into my own hands and I pitched SEVEN LETTERS to Sourcebooks. I figured if I didn’t sell the manuscript, I’d be in a much better position to self-publish. A few weeks later, the unexpected happened. Sourcebooks offered me a publishing contract, which I signed once I stopped doing a happy dance. A year later, they sold foreign rights to Random House Australia and, so far, translation rights to Lithuania and Bulgaria. So, yes, hiring an editor to fine-tune SEVEN LETTERS was worth every damn penny. But the work didn’t end there. My editor at Sourcebooks, Anna, and I revised my manuscript two more times before it was sent on to copy edits. Which brings me to my next point...


It took me five books and seven (there’s my number) years to land a publishing deal. Now, I have two books coming out within two weeks of one another. (Tangent: I’m probably the only author with a romantic memoir and a middle grade about mutant kids coming out at the same time. Who needs a pen name? The truth? It always comes out!) Once an agent/editor picks you up or you make the decision to self-publish, the work doesn’t stop. If you thought writing a book was time-consuming, just wait until you enter the marketing phase. There are endorsements to snag, events to plan, guest posts and interviews, and more. Look at what our friend, Jessica, has accomplished with her White Lady tour! (She’s on my blog today, which brings me to point six...)


Honestly, I’ve been in the midst of launching two books, so I haven’t been on the blog scene much. But I am here behind the scenes, offering my support to my network. I do what I can when I can. I buy books (when I have the money). I leave reviews. I sign up for blog tours. I critique my writing group’s manuscripts. There are about twenty-or-so people who I can call on when I need them, and, likewise, they can always call on me. We’re all in this together.


In sum, my publishing journey wasn’t easy and there were no short cuts. (Some people get lucky! We will lynch them later.) Along the way, I made many, many mistakes, and I broke a lot of rules. Alas, if you really want to be a writer, the most important advice I can give is: Never give up! Sometimes I call myself Seabiscuit. Thankfully, I found the right people who believed in me and pushed me forward. Now that I’ve earned my racing stripes, it’s off to the races. And, if I fall down, I’ll just dust off my knees and get back up. Giddy-up.

Twenty years, seven letters, and one long-lost love of a lifetime

At age 40, Samantha Verant's life is falling apart-she's jobless, in debt, and feeling stuck... until she stumbles upon seven old love letters from Jean-Luc, the sexy Frenchman she'd met in Paris when she was 19. With a quick Google search, she finds him, and both are quick to realize that the passion they felt 20 years prior hasn't faded with time and distance.

Samantha knows that jetting off to France to reconnect with a man that she only knew for one sun-drenched, passion-filled day is crazy-but it's the kind of crazy she's been waiting for her whole life.

Watch the book trailer:

Jean-Luc and Samantha in Paris 1989.


“A charming story, and a delightful tribute to the power of a good old-fashioned love letter.” ~ Peter Mayle, bestselling author of A Year in Provence

“Seven Letters from Paris is a real-life fairytale. You’ll be rooting for this bubbly American heroine and her prince charmant.”
~ Elizabeth Bard, author of Lunch in Paris: A Love Story, with Recipes

“Enchanting. A captivating real-life fairytale romance that will have you reading slowly so you can savor every delicious word. Castles included!”
~ Janice MacLeod, author of Paris Letters

“Seven Letters from Paris is a celebration of l’amour across cultures and across decades…Samantha Vérant embraces France, and her French love, with an all-American enthusiasm that is nothing if not infectious.”~ Hilary Reyl, author of Lessons in French

Buy the Book:

Photo credit: Stephen Fisch 
Samantha Vérant is a travel addict, a self-professed oenophile, and a determined, if occasionally unconventional, French chef. She lives in southwestern France, where she's able to explore all of her passions, and where she's married to a sexy French rocket scientist she met in 1989, but ignored for twenty years.

Connect with Samantha:
Web | Goodreads | Facebook | Twitter

You’re invited! Join Samantha at her “virtual” book launch event on Facebook tomorrow, where she’ll be giving away copies of SEVEN LETTERS FROM PARIS!

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Wednesday, 15 October 2014


Three-quarters through a critically-acclaimed young adult novel, a book that had completely taken over the spare minutes of my life for two days, I stopped reading. I not only stopped reading, I chucked the book to the other end of the couch. I even stuffed it back onto the shelf for a while. Suddenly, I hated that great book.


The author killed the dog.

The dog, people!

Dogs happen to be my favorite animal. I've had at least one all of my life. So when this dog, this wonderfully-developed, three-dimensional character, bit it, it broke my heart. Dog demises account for the reasons that I don't particularly like Old Yeller, My Dog Skip, and Where the Red Fern Grows either. When a dog goes to the Great Rawhide Factory in the sky, that's when I check out.

So this dog proved himself as a fantastic sidekick to the main character, man's best friend and all that. He was dependable, funny, and loyal as only the best of dogs can be, a true hero. All of the characters in this author's novels exude a vital rawness, and the relationship between these two particular characters stands as a testament to the author's skill at developing that fictional bond.

As readers, we follow the main character as he grows throughout a novel. And growth oftentimes happens when one experiences great hardship. The strength gained from these difficult situations - physical trauma, a bad divorce, and yes, even the death of someone close - infuses the character with the power to overcome, to defeat the dark force at novel's end. Think of the fictional heroes who lost Obi Wan Kenobi, Dumbledore, Beth March, ALL of those doggie companions, and how we ached for their loss. The main character embarks on the intended journey, sometimes with a mentor or sidekick, be it human or animal, and when that relationship suffers, it catapults the main character into a new realm of realization.

I struggle to put my character's through that angst. It doesn't come naturally, so I'm not slaying bodies and fragile psyches with glee as I write. On the contrary, the suffering I inflict tends to materialize throughout the revisions. It's almost like I'm preparing the character(s) one blow at a time (which seems even more cruel now that I think about it), and each revision raises the degree of suffering.

I did finish that book, by the way. I tried finding solace in another book on the same night I cursed the death of the dog character. But after grieving for him for a few days, I fetched the book off the shelf again. It was a great book after all, aside from that one gut-wrenching plot point. I got through it, even enjoyed the rest of the story.

So go ahead and pull out the stops on your stories. Don't be timid taking life-or-death risks with your characters. You might be surprised by the emotional weight of a scene when the unthinkable happens to one of your characters. As long as eliminating a character makes sense to the story, try it.

But please don't kill any dogs.


KILLING THE DOG: READING (AND #WRITING) GUT-WRENCHING SCENES by @dmalonebooks #TheArtistUnleashed #WriteTip #SelfPub

Dawn Malone is the author of BINGO SUMMER, a coming-of-age novel about a girl who struggles to fit into her new surroundings when her single-parent family is forced to flee town and the relentless media attention after winning millions in the lottery. A former newspaper reporter, Dawn has also written on a wide range of subjects, from a creole cooking school in New Orleans to award-winning irises in a Wisconsin greenhouse. Writing those articles and working other odd jobs over the years – cake assembly line worker, yogurt seller, substitute teacher − helps her develop the quirky characters that populate her stories. Her work has appeared in CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE SOUL: THINK POSITIVE FOR KIDS edition, Wisconsin State Journal, Highlights for Children, and many other magazines and newspapers. When she’s not writing, Dawn loves hiking when someone else carries her backpack.

Connect with Dawn:

Purchase Bingo Summer:


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Monday, 13 October 2014

How to Write Chapter Endings That Make Readers Want to Turn the Page

I'm over at Anne R. Allen's blog this week, talking about how to write great chapter endings.

Anne's also running a contest to win HOW TO BE A WRITER IN THE E-AGE, written by herself and top-20 bestseller, Catherine Ryan Hyde.

See you there?


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Wednesday, 8 October 2014

The Artist Unleashed: WHO MURDERED BLOGGING? by Jeremy Hawkins

First let me thank Jessica for letting me share a little bit more of me and who I am… or at the very least whom I want to be.

I am Jeremy and I run several sites, make art books, sell t-shirts and I am sure a few more things that I just cannot think of. I started most of my sites six years ago with the intention of offering my world to you the reader, sharing my crazy obscure thoughts, and well, hope to spring a few coins.

From a cocoon to a butterfly, from design after redesign I feel I can ask the question. “Who murdered blogging”? Because it's just not the same anymore, is it?

What was your intention, if you have started a blog, what was your goal… was it going to be a place you could vent, or was there a plan? Did you pull through? Was it worth it? Is it still worth it today? I think many of us are asking ourselves this question lately.

Social media and smart phones are the candy we all taste lately, and some gorge themselves to these pieces of technology. But most are into Twitter and Facebook nowadays. They're quick, easy. They don't have to spend too long reading.

I gave you the title like it was meant to be read “MURDERED”, such a strong word; that key word that means the killing of another human being under conditions specifically covered in law. In the U.S., special statutory definitions include murder committed with malice aforethought, characterized by deliberation or premeditation or occurring during the commission of another serious crime, as robbery or arson (first-degree murder) and murder by intent, but without deliberation or premeditation (second-degree murder)…

So where do we go from here, now that I have your attention… I know things scare me and things scares you too, but do we go in the dark basement with the flickering flashlight?

So, there are hundreds of blogs that come up every day, and the same amount are closing down, archiving posts, and disappearing in that dark basement. So I really wanted to know how you started your site, and how many years ago. Is it the same place you began? And how much life is left?

Someone asked me to describe the worst way too die, and I had dreams my whole life, so let me share one. By now you think me to be a crazy one, all this death talk, and dropping “MURDERED” in every once in awhile. So, my worst death scenario is this: drowning in mud within an open grave as it rains heavily, water filling to the top. This is a I dream I am consistently having.

My whole intention is too keep you on your toes, throwing the curve balls as you read this post, and I have to ask, has it been working? I hope I have at least got you thinking, because this post is really just one big long question. I am a normal guy who likes to get people involved with the things in my head … I am really not that dark. I love retro things, 80’s music, and gosh darn it … people like me. Well my therapist tells me so, and Lucy’s knows best…

So I guess my intention here is to ask YOU …have you MURDERED yourself? Have you been murdered by others? What is your biggest fear of death?


WHO MURDERED BLOGGING? by @iZombieJMH #TheArtistUnleashed #Blogging #SocialMedia

Connect with Jeremy:  

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Monday, 6 October 2014

Self-Publishing Advice: Reaching Readers With Your Own Book Catalogue

Need more ways to promote your work? Here's a new idea for you.

Over the weekend I was a guest on The Alliance of Independence Authors Self-Publishing Advice blog, talking about how to reach readers with your own product catalogue. The beginning of the post is below. Click here to read more.

Being an expat author and musician in Athens, Greece, I am not often given the opportunity to attend live literary events. To do so, I need to travel. And that is expensive. So I focus my efforts on reaching readers online, as it’s the most cost-effective and time-efficient promotional tool for me.

But recently, the organizer of a six-day cultural art festival called Art Links here in Athens contacted me about being involved in a couple of events there. I’m going to be a part of a poetry reading and a prose reading. Both events also involve a Q&A panel of authors and an opportunity to hand-sell my products.
Making the Most of Offline Opportunities

I thought to myself, Hand-sell my products? Really? I’m actually going to have the opportunity to talk to potential readers face-to-face and tempt them with my pretty paperbacks and CDs? Finally! I was excited, but then … extremely daunted.

I have a backlist of fifteen books and six albums. I would also have to carry a receipt book with me and be sure to write one up, on the spot, for every purchase (strict laws here). And considering there is likely to be an attendance of 50 – 100 people at each event, that would mean carrying a load of … how many books exactly? ... Continue reading HERE.

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