September Writers' Forum

September Writers' Forum - The Best Book Event and Publishing Information in One PlaceIn my journey through the steps of independent publishing, refining my writing skills, and most recently completing a successful agent search, I’ve come across some excellent information, tips, tools, and shortcuts that I think would be beneficial to any writer. Once a month, I’ll share the “best of” information and news from the publishing industry as well as feature other authors and writing instructors with tips to share. I am incredibly thankful for the assistance and advice given to me from writing and publishing professionals and am happy pay that forward. On a professional level, I also use my publicity and editorial skills to aid other authors through my company Lost Lake Press.

October Book Events in Wisconsin

Well, hello October. You are going to be good to readers here in Wisconsin. I’m having a fangirl moment thinking about all the spectacular authors we have the opportunity to see this month.

At the top of my list is the Fox Cities Book Festival from October 9 – 15. Authors include Laurie Halse Anderson, Nickolas Butler, View the amazing list of authors visiting the 2017 Fox Cities Book FestivalLiz Czukas, Tricia Clasen, Patricia Skalka, and so many more. Check out the whole schedule here. Best of all this festival is free for the attendees.

Mystery to Me Bookstore, 1863 Monroe Street, Madison 

October 4 at 7 pm – Joal Derse Dauer and Elizabeth Ridley discuss Saving Sadie – How a Dog That No One Wanted Inspired the World

October 18 at 5 pm – Steve and Ben Nadler discuss Heretics at the UW-Madison Memorial Library, Room 126

October 19 at 7 pm – Debussy’s Paris – Piano Portraits of the Belle Époque by Catherine Kautsky

October 26 at 7 pm – Michael Stanley will discuss Dying to Live - a Detective Kubu Mystery.

A Room of One’s Own, 315 W. Gorham Street, Madison 

October 3 at 6 pm – Ann Leckie will discuss Provenance and Ancillary Justice.

October 11 at 6 pm – Meet Resmaa Menakem, author of My Grandmother’s Hands.

October 17 at 6 pm – Alex Lemon will discuss his novel Feverland.

Books & Company, 1039 Summit Avenue, Oconomowoc

October 5 at 6:30 pm – Join Brad Meltzer for an author talk and book signing.

October 6 at 7:30 pm – Michael Perry will present his monologues at the OAC Little Theater.

October 17 at 7:00 pm – Join Kathleen Ernst, author of the Chloe Ellefson Mysteries, for an author talk and book signing.

October 18 at 7:00 pm – A book signing and author talk with Mary Dougherty, author of Life in a Northern Town.

Boswell Books has a number of excellent ticketed events coming up in October. I’m posting the link to their event page now as they can sell out.  (Please note these are often in bigger event venues in the Milwaukee area.) See details here.

October 23 7 pm  - Scott Kelly, author of Endurance: A Year in Space, A Lifetime of Discovery

October 8  4 pm – Rick Riordan, author of Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard #3: The Ship of the Dead (and so much more.)

October 29 at 2 pm – Kate DiCamillo, author of La La La: A Story of Hope (and Tales of Despereaux and Because of Winn Dixie.) This event is co-hosted with Books & Company of Oconomowoc.

The 100 Most Challenged BooksAnd . . . we are in the middle of BANNED BOOKS WEEK.

Last month, I challenged you to read a least one book from the list of most-often challenged books through the years during the month of September. Have any of you read a banned book lately? Inquiring minds want to know. I feel like if someone tells me something is banned, it makes me want to read it even more. Right!!??

Featured Subject

Book Piracy (A personal experience this time!)

“Aargh!” Yes, talk like a pirate day was last week, but that was pretty much my reaction to finding my first book being pirated by shady book websites this month. I’ve previously Book Piracy - Top Tips on What to Doaddressed this problem back in February here on the Writers’ Forum, but at that time it wasn’t from personal experience. 

At first, I reported a few of these to Google using the “reporting pirated books” steps in this WikiHow article, which also has a number of great steps to take BEFORE you publish your book. Then I realized just how much time I was spending trying to take down these thieves. Was it worth it? I’m not sure. Dave Chesson on gives some of the same tips on what to do, but also cautions that sometimes it might not be worth the time. He does give step-by-step instruction on what to do to report these sites if you choose to continue. And finally, Bill Peschel’s article “How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love Ebook Piracy” put this all into perspective.

So, I’ve taken a deep breath and stepped back from internet policing duties. My time is better focused on creating new stories, and that’s a heck of a lot more fun anyway.

Pre-Publication Information

Book Cover Design

There are an infinite number of articles and guides about book cover design. We can’t discount the need for stellar cover design in your book’s overall success. But where to start??

Katie McCoach writes about first impressions and the things your book cover must do to entice the reader to purchase it. The Marketing Christian Books website makes some of the same points and talks about the importance of book covers to get readers to recommend your books to others. To get into the nitty gritty of design, read the Top 8 Design Tips for Self-Publishers by Joel Friedlander on the Book Designer website. (Note: This website is an amazing treasure trove of helpful articles on all self-publishing topics.) And if you are confident you want to be in charge of the design process, Nate Hoffelder lists 14 Sites for Making a Spectacular Book Cover on The Digital Reader website. My best advice is to find books in your genre and look at those that are most successful. Familiarize yourself with the design trends and see how you can incorporate those elements into a book cover that uniquely captures what your book is about.

Dashes & Hyphens - Quick Tips for WritersEditing Topics

I would have appreciated this article about em dashes, en dashes and hyphens at the beginning of my writing journey. It would have saved me a ton of time during the editing process when I had to fix these in my manuscript.  Make sure you know the difference between these three and how to use them.

I had to laugh when I read Ellis Shuman’s article about self-editing “These Words Have Got to Go!” . . . it seemed like Ellis was speaking just to me when noting commonly overused words and phrases. Take a look and see if you’re doing some of these same things.

Work and Writing-Life Balance

Many of us work full-time “day jobs” and then need to fit our writing into the evenings and weekends. Christine Bernard explains how she balanced these challenges in The Work / Writing Juggling Act and R.S. Mollison-Read does a great job with a short list: 5 Tips on Writing a Novel While Working Full-Time. And writer Tracey Kathryn encourages us to get away from the keyboard for physical activity in her article, "Exercise and Writing: Time Away from the Keyboard Boosts Writing Power."

The Value of Writers’ Conferences

Victoria Noe’s article “Rebooting my Writing Career at a Writing Conference” is a great piece of advice on how refocusing over the course of a few days (usually a weekend) and immersing yourself in the craft of writing along with our tribe of other writers can make a huge difference to our success. This article particularly resonated with me as I had just returned from the fall conference of the Society of Children Book Writers and Illustrators. While I was a presenter at this conference, I took the time to attend other sessions and came away with renewed energy and focus for my work in progress and the ability to see clearly the edits needed on a book that is about to go out on submission. Beyond the aspects of craft tutorials, which even seasoned writers need as reminders from time to time, the camaraderie with other writers is invaluable. Knowing that we all suffer from the same creative ups and downs is incredibly therapeutic and can give us the boost to maintain your persistence in this crazy industry.


Book Promotion Demystified

One of the smartest approaches to book marketing that I’ve read in ages comes from the IndieBRAG website. Author Florence Osmund gives excellent advice in her article “Book Promotion Goals and the Strategy Behind Meeting Them.”  These tips aren’t just for the indie author, many traditionally published authors do not get much promotional support from their publishers and need to educate themselves on the steps to effective book promotion. I appreciated this checklist from Belinda Griffin of the Smart Authors Lab as a helpful way to organize your promotional activities. Overall, both of these authors address the importance of an author platform as a component of your promotional efforts. That leads us to . . .

Your Author Platform – What Matters Most?Build Your Author Platform - One Piece at a Time

This question is always asked at writing conferences. What should my author platform include? (Or even what IS an author platform? --- for those at the beginning of their author journey.)

Glenn Miller says, “Your platform is your meaningful marketing presence, as much online as in the real world. It’s the sum of all your audiences and your authority. . .” in his article “Your Author Platform: The Hub and Spokes” on

This article is an excellent summary of what your author platform could and should include and what matters most. And the answer to that question varies a little bit based on what you write, but the approach of dividing up your author platform into a hub and spokes is visually helpful and (I think) makes the whole thing somehow less daunting.

Social media is always a necessary component of an author’s platform. There’s no way around it—we live in a digital age. However, which social media you use the most is somewhat subjective. I will argue that every author needs an excellent website, but after that your activity on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc… needs to be authentic and engaging (not overly pushy or only focused on selling.) If you’re time is limited (and who’s isn’t), pick the social media platform you like the most and use that primarily to engage with fans and potential fans. For instance, you could focus only on Instagram but have those posts feed over to Twitter and Facebook automatically, saving you a lot of time. I personally enjoy Facebook and communicate with other writers and readers there frequently. Not everyone shares my love for Facebook.

Author Deanna Cabinian lists four reasons why she’s stopped using Facebook in this article, but she doesn’t ignore social media entirely. She prefers Instagram—which makes a lot of sense as she writes young adult novels and will find more of her audience on that platform. (The age breakdown on social media platform use in 2016 from Pew Research might be helpful, depending on the genre in which you write.)

Crafting Your Media Pitch for AuthorsCrafting Your Media Pitch

I can’t stress enough how reaching out to traditional media needs to be part of your promotional efforts. This is one of my own areas of expertise as a public relations professional, so I love articles that guide authors through what can be an intimidating process.

First, read “Media Attention: 9 Ways an Author Can Get It” by Chris Well on the Bookworks Blog. He dispenses with some common misperceptions of approaching the media. Then you need to craft your hook and the pitch that will get attention. Penny Sansevieri talks about the Art of the Media Pitch and how to Craft the Perfect Pitch. This is easy-to-understand advice that will walk you through the best way to market your topic/novel. I love her HUH approach—make your pitch Hip, Unique, and Helpful. And finally, she reminds us that there’s a lot of value in approaching regional and local media in her article “Finding Readers Nextdoor: Network in Your Neighborhood.”  Yup—I’m a Penny Sansevieri fan and you should be, too!

I hope that these articles helped you on your writing and publishing journey!

Happy Reading & Writing, Valerie  



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