August Writers' Forum 2020

This is my 250th Blog Post!

Can Writers Authentically Write About Cultures Other Than Their Own Cultures?

Are Editors Responding to Submissions During Coronavirus?

The August 2020 Writers' Forum - Writing Craft Help, Book Marketing Tips, and Publishing Industry News


It’s my 250th Blogiversary! Help me celebrate . . . do you want to win a great book?

I began blogging the year my first book was published . . . that was 2014. I started out sporadically at first and then began blogging twice per month, finally making the leap to (nearly) weekly blogging in 2017.  And then in 2018, I added the popular Writers’ Forum collection of monthly articles about writing craft, industry news, and book marketing.

To help me celebrate my 250th post – I want to give away some ebooks!!

1. For a chance to win, I’m asking you to comment on this blog. That’s an easy way to enter a contest, right?? Ah – not so fast – I’m asking you to write something specific in your comment: Please let us know which topic(s) you have appreciated reading or learning about on this blog.  

2. Four winners (from those who comment) will be chosen randomly to win their choice of one of these ebooks below: (These are some of my favorite books!)

NOTE: Contest closes at noon on Tuesday, September 1 at which time the four winners will be chosen.





Can Writers Authentically Write About Cultures Other Than Their Own Cultures?

This article caught my eye because this is a topic that’s been consistently in the news – at least in the book/publishing world. I like how Phyllis Zimbler Miller (in a guest post on the Joylene Butler blog) approaches this discussion. She writes, “I do not intend this blog post as a political essay. Rather the post is a jumping-off point for a discussion about this especially relevant question now.” She goes on to say that for her, “writing about other cultures includes experiencing those cultures,” and she gives examples of what she means. She makes some excellent points about stories which might never have been written if an author had been limited to writing about only the culture/background they came from. Give it a read HERE . . . don’t skip the comments, those are equally interesting.

Are Editors Responding to Submissions During Coronavirus?

Denise Massar on Jane Friedman’s blog walks us through her experience querying during the coronavirus. The short of it is that you SHOULD go ahead and submit your work if it is ready rather than waiting for the ‘perfect’ time. She gives you some good suggestions, including why your online platform matters. (There’ll be more on platform later in this blog.)


Five Questions to Ask During Chapter One Revision

Kristen Overman gives five succinct tips for making sure your story’s beginning is engaging and properly introduces the conflict in your novel. She emphasizes that elusive thing called ‘voice.’ I love these tips because we only have a short time to make a great first impression on editors or agents! 

What Your First 50 Pages Reveals

Susan DeFreitas discusses the importance of promises (made to your readers) and the pacing within your first 50 pages. She also talks about backstory and narrative tension. Yes, those first 50 pages need to accomplish a lot! See how your first 50 pages stacks up HERE.

Writing Descriptions

Amy Holland of the Good Story Company jumps takes on the topic of how too much description can bog down our story’s pace and also slow the writing process (as we attempt to craft the perfect description.) I usually advise in writing workshops that you need to trust your readers and leave some things to their imaginations. Read her full article HERE.

Plan Your Mystery with Plottr

Zara Altair gives us a tour of the plotting tool, Plottr. I am in the middle of writing my first true mystery and the need for proper plotting is a constant pressure . . . dropping in cues and clues for the reader without giving too much away. It’s hard to stay organized. I don’t know if I will jump into using Plottr, but I thought this was a very detailed review that might help others.


7 Steps to Building a Writer Platform from the Ground Up

DiAnn Mills on defines writer platform and lists the 7 elements of one . . . Brand, Craft, Social Media, Goals, Organization, and Marketing/Promotion. Brand is often an elusive concept . . . her definition is lovely: “A writer’s brand is a red carpet of introduction to welcome readers and industry recognition.” You’ll benefit from reading the article no matter where you are on your publishing journey. Check it out:

What Type of Online Presence Do You Need?

Jen Petro-Roy covers the right way to have an online presence as an author, addressing social media and whether you should have a blog or newsletter. This is a good tutorial to build on the 7-steps platform building in the previous article. 

Take My Course: Building Your Online Author Image

This course is a guide to creating an engaging, professional, and consistent online image across multiple platforms. How you present yourself online is a key component to your success as an author. The first impression people form about you will often come from digital sources like your website, social media accounts, book sales’ websites, blog and more. Check it out HERE

Or if you want to make sure that your online image is presenting you and your work in the best possible way, hire me to do a professional audit of your online image. Learn more here.

Book Cover Re-designs: A Pro Offers 7 Before and After Examples

I put this article in the pre-launch category because if you spend time at this stage to make sure your cover is properly designed, you might not be stuck with doing a redesign later. Alexander von Ness showcases these 7 (quite miraculous) transformations with explanations of what was done and why!! Love this!


The Book Review Dilemma: How to Get Readers to Review Your Book

Creating a review strategy is essential to any book launch. This article from the Writers’ Connection website will help guide you through setting up that strategy by identifying who (and how) you will reach out to reviews. Don’t skip this step!

Why Every Author Needs a Book Sales Funnel and How to Get Started Today

In the previous article, one of the suggestions to get more readers and reviewers is to create a book sales funnel. Is that phrase new to you? You’ll want to read this Brian Berni guest post on Kimberley Grabas’ Writer Platform website where he defines what a book sales funnel IS and how to create one that delivers new readers. This is a step-by-step tutorial that outlines the many options for creating a funnel.  

5 Common Book Press Release Mistakes (and How to Avoid Them)

Your press release is a key part of the media kit that you’ll use to gain attention during (and after) your book launch. Sandra Beckwith’s tip list is an essential read to avoid mistakes with this important document. Read it here.


Book Promotion: Do This Not That – August 2020

The Book Designer website has a recurring article entitled “Do This Not That” which I have previously featured here. Amy Collins’ article this month gives such great advice on adapting to the NEW NORMAL (Gah – I kind of hate that phrase even though I am using it here.) Collins writes that she was catching herself saying “when things return to normal.” Read her tips for developing a NEW PLAN! Good stuff! 

5 Fail-Safe Strategies for Selling More Books

Dave Chesson is always on point with his advice and this list is a perfect example of that. Here he explains the importance of and, better yet, shows you how to select the right keywords, categories, cover designs and address why blogging and having an email list matter A LOT! Great advice – read the whole article HERE.

How to Market Your Book to Teens

Do you write upper middle grade or young adult novels? Then you need to read Hayley Zelda’s advice on how to reach the hard-to-reach teen audience. Smart tips, although, I have to disagree with how well Wattpad can work for everyone. Read about my Failed Wattpad Experiment.

Promote Your Book with a Roundup Article

Thank you Sandra Beckwith for this detailed article that makes book promotion just a little more fun and likely to succeed. When you include your book with a group of similar stories—based on a well-thought-out category—you’re doing a service to readers and other authors, along with helping to market your own book. Sandra gives some great list ideas beyond the typical ones we see frequently like Beach Reads, Great Books to Read on Vacation etc…

I’m so doing this soon!! Read about it here:

How to Do Honest and Legal Giveaways as an Author

Chrys Fey analyzes the ins and outs of crafting a great (and legal) giveaway or contest to help promote your book. Yes, there are rules! You need disclaimers that protect you from challenges and also follow the rules for different social media platforms. It’s a lot to keep track of, but this article can help.

How Your Book Price Impacts Your Ad Results

The BookBub Partners blog posted THE article this month that I had been hoping to find for ages—A true analysis of how your book price impacts your ad results. The constant dilemma between pricing and click through rates with no real guidance was frustrating. Carlyn Robertson gives us the details in click through rates and sales conversion at different price points and also addresses what happens when the price is listed right in the ad. Very interesting for anyone doing active book marketing on either BookBub or Facebook (or anywhere you control the ad creation.) Read it HERE.


5 Basic Rules of Social Media

The Social Media Just for Writers website is fabulous. You should bookmark it! These 5 rules are great and a little funny – in a ha/ha way – not a strange way. Read the whole article HERE for a deeper dive into authenticity, being a social butterfly, playing nice, and being willing to ignore some folks.

Top Twitter Stats for 2020 (Infographic)

I love Social Media Today’s posts and infographics. If you’re curious about Twitter’s demographics and usage, click HERE to view the infographic.

Best Social Media Post Lengths for Higher Engagement in 2020 (Infographic)

Also from Social Media Today, here are the lengths your posts ought to be . . . have your posts been too short? Too long? Now you can fix this engagement issue.

Happy Writing (editing, marketing, and more!) - Valerie  


Congrats on your blogiversary, Val. I enjoyed your comparisons of self-publishing vs. traditional publishing.

My favorite feature of your blogging is the Writers Forum because you do an excellent job of curating worthwhile articles from all over the internet. Thanks and keep up the great work.


Thanks, Chris! I like compiling the Writers' Forum each month. I learn so much from it, too! :) - Valerie

Love the Writing Craft articles. Always helpful! The First 50 Pages and Chapter One Revision articles are particularly helpful to me right now.

Hi Rita -- I'm so glad those are helpful to you! ahhh revision -- editing!! So much work! Good luck! - Val

250! Congratulations!
You provide so much valuable information. I especially love the writing tips. So much content in quick snippets.

Thanks, Angie! There's so much information out there to try to sort through. I figured if I was feeling overwhelmed than other writers probably were too! - Val

Happy blogoversary!!!
My fave thing I've learned from you is all the comparisons of self-publishing vs. traditional publishing.

Hi Megan -- Yes, there's so much to sort through!! I'm glad that discussion helped you. - Valerie

Hi Megan -- Yes, there's so much to sort through!! I'm glad that discussion helped you. - Valerie

Love your book reviews. Book recs by authors/writers whose work I enjoy take priority on my TBR list.

Hi Amanda,
Thanks for commenting! I'm glad you like my book reviews! It's time to write up my favs this week from my July and August reads.
- Valerie

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