Thursday, December 1, 2016

Have You Ever Wanted to Write for Kids? Try Tara Lazar's Picture Book Challenge in January

The former PiBoIdMo has its new name!
As of December 27, 2016, it is now "Storystorm,"
taking place in January!
You know NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). But did you discover PiBoIdMo? It took place in November up until 2016 when it was bumped to January 2017. (Tweet that!) Organizers promise this event will be given a new name, but as of this writing, that new name has not been announced yet. (Once announced, I just might edit this post and add a new image...whenever that info is released. But I want to post this info in December so you'll have it if you want to participate come January.

I discovered PiBoIdMo last year. (That's Pie-Bo-IDE-Mo.) It's short for Picture Book Idea Month.

If you've ever had an interest in writing picture books for children or writing other books for kids, or if you're looking for something new and interesting to put your creative energy into, or if you just need a brain-break, you might look into participating in this challenge. (Tweet that!It's free to participate, of course.

I learned about PiBoIdMo last year, in 2015, when my author friend, Karen Whiting, mentioned it in an email loop for writers. I participated on a whim and had a great time with it. I had many projects going and wanted a break. Plus, secretly, I've had a number of children's books in mind to write for a long time. I hoped it would help me make headway on them. (Tweet that!)

Creator Tara Lazar says, "Tired of watching novelists have all the fun in November with NaNoWriMo, I created PiBoIdMo as a 30-day challenge for picture book writers."

Previously held in November alongside NaNoWriMo,
starting in 2017 Tara Lazar's PiBoIdMo has moved to
January and will have a new name -- unknown 
at the time of this post!
The original idea for PiBoIdMo was for writers and illustrators to simply jot down one concept for a picture book each day.  (Tweet that!) Thirty days later participants would have "30 bright & shiny new ideas" to spur them to create new books for kids. To "win," participants end the month with at least 30 new picture book ideas and sign the PiBo-Pledge confirming they completed the challenge.

The founder, Tara Lazar, posts daily during the event with guest posts from successful children's authors, illustrators, and editors. I found these guest bloggers very helpful and inspiring. I learned a lot about the children's book industry through them. Tara Lazar also offers give-away prizes.

What does it mean to "win"? This if from the FAQs:

Simply end the month of November with at least 30 new picture book ideas! Then you can sign the PiBo-Pledge... confirming you have completed the challenge. Those who register AND sign the pledge are eligible for prizes, including a consultation with a literary agent, a professional picture book critique, original signed art, plus much more!

PiBoIdMo Participant, Author Karen Whiting:

I mentioned above that I learned about PiBoIdMo from my author friend Karen Whiting. I thought it would be fun to do a quick interview with her about her experiences with the challenge:
Karen's new Christmas book!

BAW: Were any of  your published children's books inspired during PiBoIdMo? 

Karen: The One Year My Princess Devotions was inspired at that time quite a few years ago. It released in 2013,

BAW: Any struggles to participating in PiBoIdMo?

Karen: Wile doing the PiBoIdMo I received a few contacts different years, including Christmas is Coming, Waiting is Hard!, which released September 2016. That cut short my completing the challenge as I needed to get writing.

BAW: Do you recommend eating more pie during PiBoIdMo?

Karen: I would avoid pie at that time because it’s so close to all the holidays -- in fact for me doing it helps keep me away from food! A good diet plan is to focus on creating new ideas and chatting with friends about their ideas.

BAW: What inspires you? Any inspirational tools you'd like to share?

Karen: What inspires me? I like to look at calendar dates at Brownielocks (any month) like Elephant Day in September and others. I just look at random days on their calendar. Those spark my imagination. (Tweet that!)

And the SCBWI group in Maryland where I lived until this spring has a celebration outing at the end of the month that adds to the fun as we get together and laugh about lame titles and encourage one another on the fresh ideas.

BAW: Thank you, Karen, for sharing your inspirations!

More PiBoIdMo Info:

  • Is there a registration?
In previous years registration in on Tara Lazar's site beginning late in the month previous to the event and continuing a few days into the event month. Watch her site for dates and instructions.
  • Any prizes?
Those who register are eligible for prizes.
  • Must participants tell their title ideas to win?
No. It's on the honor system. If you say you have thirty new ideas, they believe you.

Look for them on Facebook here:

For me, sometimes I just need a brain-break. So I'm thinking I'll participate again next month, which will my second time.  (Tweet that!)

I'm planning to schedule time at the bookstore perusing picture books for inspiration.

And I want to make a goal to read thirty picture books during January. That's one per day. I have some here at home which I haven't read yet. The rest I'll get from a library so I don't go broke. (Tweet that!)

What about you? Do you plan to take part in PiMoBiMo ... or whatever it's going to be called now?

Related Resources: 

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

How to Pitch Conference Directors on Teaching a Workshop

Dianne teaching a workshop for writers at the
Colorado Christian Writers Conference
Estes Park, Colorado, May 2011
I'm often asked how I got started teaching at writers conferences. Usually the one asking  is doing so because he or she would like to be on faculty at a conference. I'll answer the question of how it happened for me. Then I'll give you tips on how you might ask a conference director to put you on staff.

I'm betting my answer to the question, how I first got on faculty at a conference, is fairly unique. The first time for me, I did not ask to teach. I wasn't comfortable standing in front of a classroom teaching -- public speaking made me nervous. So instead I told God, "If you want me to teach, then instead of me asking the conference director, I'd like you to have the conference director ask me. If that happens, I will know it's from you and I'll say yes."

Now, I had attended this particular conference for at least fifteen years and had never been on faculty. So imagine my surprise when only a few weeks later the conference director contacted me and asked me to teach a workshop.

What could I do? I had to say yes, didn't I? Well, hey.  If God was asking me to teach a workshop, then he would just have to help me do it, too, don't you think?

Since then I've taught lots of workshops at several conferences. The more I do it, the less nervous I am.

If you're nervous about public speaking, I highly recommend you check out Toastmasters International and find (or start) a club near you. (Tweet that!) This group helped me immensely.

But what if God doesn't open a door for you? How do you ask to get on faculty to teach workshops at a writer's conference? (Tweet that!) If I had to do it knowing what I know now, here's what I'd do:

Find out when to pitch your workshop ideas

Send a polite email to the conference director asking when would be the best time to send some workshop ideas. (Tweet that!) I'm on faculty about every other year at the conference I first taught at, the Colorado Christian Writer's Conference, held in May. From what I can tell, now is the time to pitch that director. I know she'll start putting the spring conference together before Christmas, so I want to pitch her before that so she'll have my info in mind when she's thinking about her conference.

The same director also gives a conference in August, the Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers Conference. I know to give the director time after a conference to rest, clean up, finish the book work, etc. (Tweet that!) So I think it's best not to pitch right after you get home. Give the director some time to breathe.

If it's a conference you are attending (it's a really good idea to attend the conference you want to teach at!), then you might ask the director while you're there when she would want you to send her workshop ideas.

Prepare several pitches:

Meanwhile, brainstorm and prepare your workshop ideas. (Tweet this!) Don't just send one idea. Giving conference directors three or four options to choose from helps them shape the conference they want and gives you a better chance of success. They might even want you to teach more than one workshop (which saves them on costs for bringing in more faculty).

Here are some tips to think about when you are picking your possible workshop topics or brainstorming your ideas:

Make it useful.

I've heard some pretty boring pitches. I've also heard some pitches to teach information that is so basic probably most people there already know that much. You have something useful and unique that others need. What is that?

Check your motives. You don't want to be the person who seems to just want to be at the front of the room speaking. It's not about you. It's about:
  1. your workshop attendees and serving them (Check out my article about serving others through your writing: "Writing for Publication and ...Servanthood.");
  2. your conference director and serving her overall goals for her conference.

Make it unique. 

Why should the director pick your workshop? (Tweet that!) Remember that a lot of other people are wanting to be on the faculty too. Your pitch is competing for a limited number of workshop slots in the conference. So what do you have to offer that isn't already being offered routinely?

Alternatively, what "holes" do you see in your knowledge base or in the usual conference offerings? If there is something you need to know but nobody is teaching on, maybe you can research that topic, find helpful answers, and offer that information in a workshop. In your pitch, let the director know you've needed this information so other writers probably do too.

In other words, instead of thinking about what you want to teach, think about what this audience needs or wants. Then match that with what you can offer.

Make it short 

Write a one-paragraph (a short one!) description of the workshop you envision. Give a solid overview of your idea as well as some of the topics you'll cover. This is your pitch that you'll send with your business-letter type email to the conference director.

Then also write and send a one-sentence description to go in the conference brochure.

Make sure you have the credentials.

If you haven't yet sold a book to a publisher, don't pitch a workshop on how to get multiple book contracts. Duh, right?

Also, if you've only done it once, think twice. There may be some topics where if you've succeeded once it's a major accomplishment that you can talk about. Other topics, though, need the experience and success of more than a one-hit wonder. In other words, getting a book contract from a large, respected publish is a great accomplishment. However it may take doing that more than once to know if it was your concepts which other people can employ that made it happen and will work for them.

Think about what you have experienced. What have you learned? What knowledge do you have to share that will help or interest others? Is there enough info there to teach a 45 minute (or two-hour) workshop?

Under Promise / Over Deliver

Whatever you promise the conference director in your pitch, make sure you can and will deliver what you promise...and more.

You may be asked for...

Recently I heard a writer ask another conference director what she wanted from people who pitched her workshop ideas to teach at her conference. She said she wanted to hear you teaching. She asked for a CD or an MP3 recording. You might want to be prepared in case a director asks you for a recording of you teaching a workshop.

Many of the conferences where I've taught record workshops and give the presenter a free copy. If yours doesn't give a free one, ask politely if that can be included.

Of course if you haven't taught a workshop anywhere yet, this is a problem. Perhaps you could ask to teach to a local writer's group or club and record that.

When You're Invited...

You'll need a photo for the web site and brochure. You'll probably receive a contract to sign. You may be asked for a bio to put on the web site. You will probably be asked for a lot of activity. Be sure to respond promptly with quality items.

Add Value for Your Audience

As you prepare your outlines for the workshops you might teach, think about adding value for those in your class.

At the very least create handouts - something for your attendees to take home. Perhaps you can give away other products of value to your students (that doesn't cost you a lot): maybe a checklist to help them implement your strategies when they get home, or a list of resources.

You'll be giving far more than your workshop presentation. People will want to hang out with you, ask you questions, eat a meal with you, talk, tell you about their projects, etc. The conference you're speaking at may schedule you to meet with conferees one on one during hours when you're not teaching. You may be asked to critique manuscripts attendees bring or send in advance. Some conferences expect you to do these things when you're on faculty and it's all included in what you're being paid. Other items you may get paid an additional fee for doing some items, like critiques.

Add Value for Yourself

Think about what you would like your students to do when they get home. Would you like them to buy your books on Amazon? Visit your blog? Then put your Amazon page (short URL), web site, blog URL, etc., on all your handouts. (Tweet that!)

During your class, circulate a sign-up sheet for your newsletter. You can input their email addresses yourself when you get home and your newsletter app will send them a confirmation to opt in.

Think ahead about what could benefit you, and then create sign-up sheets or whatever you need for that. But of course always remember the purpose of the workshop is for the benefit the people attending, not you!

If you don't have books published, make other products to sell on the faculty tables or bookstore. More than a dozen years ago I created five helpful pamphlets for writers with my teachings on several topics. These continue to sell well at conferences where I teach, adding to my income, and I've since made some of them into e-books so more writers can benefit from them. All because I wanted to offer something of value at conferences.

Avoid these Turn-offs 

I've experienced:

  • Workshop leaders walking in late.
  • Coming completely unprepared.
  • Talking about nothing but themselves.

I still have a bad taste in my mouth and am reluctant to purchase those authors' books.

When you're asked to be on faculty at a conference, this is a time to give, not to take. Give to your conference director and give to your workshop attendees. (Tweet that!) Give to others at the conference. I'm betting you'll end up receiving more than you give in the long run.  And chances are good you might get invited back.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

May I Have Another Cup of Creativity, Please?

Are you still learning about yourself? I tend to think I know me and then I'm astounded (or confounded) when I discover something new. Actually it's not something new. It's something that has been there all along but I'm just now identifying it. Such was the case recently.

I have a hunch this is not just about me. My hunch is that it probably applies to all creative-type people. But you can let me know if I'm right on that. And if you're educated in this area or have read up on it, you may already know this. To me, it was a revelation.

What I've finally figured out is:  I seem to have a limited amount of creativity in me per week.   Tweet that here:Tweet: I've finally figured out I seem to have a limited amount of creativity in me per week. #AmWriting 
Once I've used this week's creativity, it's gone. That's it. That's all there is. No more. Until next week.

It took me a long time to grasp onto what was happening with me. It started when I noticed that every Wednesday seemed to be a "down" day for me. I don't mean down in the dumps; I mean I just couldn't seem to get anything done. I'd go great guns on Monday and Tuesday, accomplish a lot, and then came Wednesday and I couldn't seem to get anything done at all. Thursday would pick back up again and Friday could be a good day of solid work. And if I don't have any obligations for Saturday, I work that day too and so my Friday - Saturday can be as productive as my Monday - Tuesday.

But what about those Wednesdays?  What's happening there?

When I first started noticing my "down Wednesdays," I went through what I'm guessing is probably a fairly normal cycle. I scolded myself. I pushed myself. I determined to do better. I promised myself I wouldn't dilly-dally. I swore I wouldn't mess around and waste time. I bribed myself ... I would treat myself if I accomplished a certain list of things on Wednesday. Nothing worked.  (Tweet it: Tweet: I couldn't make myself #write. I scolded myself. I determined to do better. I bribed myself. Nothing worked. )

The next Wednesday would come and same thing: No matter what I told myself or tried to trick myself into, I just couldn't manage to get much done.

I have a new theory. 

It's not that I'm being lazy or goofing off. My new theory is that we can only do so much creative work (or possibly other types of work too) before we run out of ... whatever you want to call it. Creativity? Energy? Gumption?  Tweet it: Tweet: My new theory: we can only do so much creative work before we run out of creativity. What do you think, #writers?

I kept asking the creativity / energy / gumption gods:

May I have another cup of Creativity, please?

The answer was clear:

No.  You may not.
You may not have more creativity. Sorry.

So I stopped scolding myself. It's a real thing. I can give myself a break. It's okay! Once I spend my creativity on something, that's it. It's gone. There is no more.

Wait until next week. Then I'll get another dose.

I meet with another writer-friend a couple times a month. Recently when we met at Starbucks I lamented, "I only get so much creativity per week. I can't force myself to conjure up any more. If I spend it all on the blog, I have nothing left."  (Tweet that!)

She nodded. She not only understood, she agreed.

So, now that I recognize the reality that I only get so much creativity per week, what can I do with that bit of information? Here are some thoughts:

Take care about where you spend your creativity.

I think sometimes we spend our best creative juice on the wrong things.  (Tweet that!)

For example, many times we work for other people. Whether it's helping out a friend with a free critique or blog post, or doing social media or other tasks for pay to make ends meet, we're spending our week's worth of creativity. Then when it's time to work on our own project -- that magazine article, book chapter, or screenplay -- we can't seem to get going on it.  (Tweet that!)

That's because we've spent our creative energy on somebody else's project. If we spend it all doing work for others, there's nothing left for us.

If this is where you are, this post may be of more help: "When Writing Makes You Feel Tired, Anxious, or Stressed."

Or we may work on our own projects that aren't the most important. I tend to do this when I think I'll do all those "other things" first, clearing the way to spend large amounts of time on my current big, fun priority project. But by the time I finished all those "other things," I've got nothing left.

Another place where I'm good at spending my creative capital is on worthy projects that require my regular attention. For example my Bible prophecy blog. I love blogging on that topic. And in these days we're living in, there's a never-ending supply of topics to write on. Each week I thought I'd quickly write the week's three posts and then move on to my priority writing project. But it hardly ever seemed to work that way. Those three posts would always take longer than I'd want them to. And when I was done, I couldn't get going on my priority project.

So I'd switch it up and work on my priority project first and then at the end of the week I'd be in an anxious panic because I needed blog posts and didn't have any prepared ... and had no energy or time to get some done.

At the first of the year I put that blog on hold. What a relief! I've learned I only have so much creativity in me and when it's gone, it's gone. Although I hated to put my prophecy blog on hold, it has been a time of rest for me since I did. And I've been able to get more writing done on my priority projects.

So, my writer friend, I encourage you to think about this. How are you spending your creativity?

Spend it wisely. It's like an allowance. That's all you get. Once you spend it, you don't get any more until next week.  (Tweet that!)

Be creative about what you do with your down days.

So if it's true that we are going to have some days when we can't get anything creative accomplished, or at least very little, what can we do with that?

For me, I'm able to do other tasks that don't require as much creativity. There are so many other things that we must do as professional writers besides writing or brainstorming or creating. We can give our creativity a rest by doing other "business" tasks.

Here are some examples of what I might spend that "down" day on:  Tweet it: Tweet: #Writers: When you're having a creatively  
  • Catching up on emails.
  • "Mindless" tasks, such as cleaning my office or needed filing.
  • Reading emailed newsletters and the linked articles that sounded so interesting. These are usually writing-related, so I'm growing and learning as a writer.
  • Researching those points I need to know when I go back to writing.
  • Creating marketing items that don't take much creative capital but are fun (and needed), such as making a new book trailer at or a new marketing image of a book cover at
  • Creating "share squares" to use on social media, such as a great quote from one of my books on a beautiful photo background using or
  • Creating a new header for Facebook or Twitter.
  • Loading some posts to go live in the future on my Facebook Page or on Hootsuite for Twitter.
  • Updating a web site, blog bio, or Amazon author page bio.
  • Going to Starbuck's and having a passion iced tea. (Just kidding.)

Anything that is more automatic or business-related rather than having to create, as in putting words on paper / screen, is much easier for me to do on my down days. The creative projects listed above are fun, not hard creative work.

There are so many other things a writer needs to do besides write, the list of non- or less-creative items we can be working on is truly endless.

What would be on your list of things you need to do when you're having a creatively down day? Why not go ahead and make a list? Why not allow yourself to work on these on your down day? Be sure to include some fun things. Our work on down days should not be drudgery or we'll not want to take a day when we really need to.

Get more done on your creative days.

I truly believe I'm getting more done creatively since I've discovered my new theory on a limited amount of creativity each week. And I'm not scolding myself when I'm not able to make progress on a priority project. I give myself a break and know I'll be able to do more the next day.

Does your creative energy ebb and flow?

Which days do you have the most creative energy? 

Which hours of the day are your best for creating words on paper / screen?

How can you use this information to boost your creative output (while giving yourself a break)?

"May I have another cup of creativity, please?" 
To Tweet this, click the birdie:Tweet: May I have another cup of creativity, please? #Writers:

Thursday, September 1, 2016

How to Set Up Your Amazon Author Page

My Amazon Author Page at
In my July post I wrote:
"Don't have an Amazon author page?! We're going to talk about that next month." 
That would have been August but July got too busy and I didn't get that post done. So let's revisit that idea this month.

I touched on Amazon author pages in my January 2015 post, "25 Free Ways to Market Your Book." (See #2 in that article.) But this month let's go more in depth in how to set up your Amazon author page.

How to Know If an Author has an Amazon Page

When you are looking at books on Amazon, pay attention to the name of the author. Sometimes it's a link. Sometimes it's not. When it is a link, that indicates the author has an Amazon author page set up. Obviously when you click the link, it takes you to the author's page.

When the author's name is not a link, that author has not set up his or her Amazon author page. (Or it's possible they have but that book is not linked to it. If this is the case for you, add that book to your Amazon author page.)

You Must Have a Book on Amazon

Before you may have an Amazon author page, you must have at least one book for sale on Amazon. If you don't, this would be a great time to write an e-book and upload it. See my series of posts "How to Make Your Manuscript Into a Kindle E-book on Amazon (for Free)I posted in February, March, April, and May 2016. (Links are at the bottom of this post.) 

If you have contributed to a compilation book or anthology, such as a Chicken Soup for the Soul book or another independently published compilation, and if it is available on Amazon, that counts and you can create an Author page. (Tweet that! Tweet: If you have contributed to an anthology and it's available on Amazon, you can have an #Author page. Here's how:  ) You may need to contact Amazon and ask them how to set up your page from a compilation. Let me just say...

I set up my Amazon author page about 15 years ago so I don't remember the details of how I did it, and no doubt details have changed. But it should be fairly easy for you to figure out from

Amazon's Author Central

To get started, go to Or you can go to your book on Amazon (or other books) and find the small down-pointing arrow next to the author's name which indicates a drop-down menu. Hover over that and you'll see where it asks, "Are you an author? Learn about Author Central."

It's going to take you Amazon's Author Central. This is where you will open your Author Central account with an email address and password.

Once you do that you'll find the "Welcome to Author Central" page with instructions and links to more how-tos. Click the "Help" button in the upper right beside your name to get right to the basics.

Also on this page is "Author Central News" where Amazon posts news and updates about it's programs.

Once you're in your Amazon Author Central account, you can click on four options across the top of the page. Your:
  • Author Page
  • Books
  • Sales Info
  • Customer Reviews.

Click on "Books" to find the books you've authored and connect them to your Amazon author page. Simply click the yellow "Add more books" button, search for you book, and there you go.

The Sales Info tab has sub-menus for your:
  • Sales Rank: Shows each of your books and where they rank on Amazon. This will show green and a rise when you sell a book. That's exciting!
  • Author Rank: Your overall ranking on Amazon. Like a golf score, the lower the number the better. I heard a long time ago if you're under 100,000 that's good. If you're just starting out you won't be that low, but as I've published more e-books that sell regularly I've been in that zone consistently...which is really cool.
  • Nielsen BookScan: Shows when a hard copy of your book sells and in which geographic location. Not all book sales are recorded here since not all bookstores are connected to the Nielsen BookScan. But it gives you a good idea of where sales are taking place. If you advertise in a certain region or hold an author event in a certain location you may see those sales reflected here.
At the Customer Reviews tab you can see all the reviews on your books on Amazon. You can sort them by title, by most recent, etc. It's an easy way to see if you have any new reviews.

Finally, you can click on Author Page and set up many options on your page.

What to Set Up on Your Amazon Author Page

It's pretty easy to figure out what you can do when you get there, but let's just go over what you can set up on your Amazon author page:


Of course you've seen author's bios on Amazon. This is where the author was able to enter that information. You probably already have a bio you've written for another project (or the back of your book). If not, write one now. 

I think shorter is better. Only a portion will show on your author page before visitors must click to read more. So put the most important info up front. (Tweet that!Tweet: Only a portion of your #AmazonAuthorBio will show on ur #author page so put the most important info up front. More: Plan it as if what shows will be all that your readers ever read.

Let your personality shine through. Readers enjoy that.

Whenever you need to update your bio or wish to change it, come back to your Amazon Central account to do so.


Are you writing a blog? You can connect it here and your latest posts will automatically show up. Pretty cool huh?

This is a great way to direct your book readers to your blog to read more of what you write. It's also a great way to increase your blog's readership. (Tweet that!) 


Are you planning a booksigning? Putting together a live author event? Attending a writer's conference or book expo? You can enter the location, hours, description of the event, and which book you're featuring here. It's similar to an event on Facebook. (Tweet that!) 

I've used this several times. I have it listed on my "to do" list when setting up an author event. It's hard to gauge whether it brings in a bigger crowd to author events. I wonder how many authors actually use this feature on Amazon ... or even know it's here. If we remember to use this feature perhaps Amazon visitors will become aware of it and check it more often.

Now that I've encouraged you to use this Events feature, I want to also caution you. As authors we should think about our personal security and that of our families and homes before we tell the whole world exactly where we will be and when. (Tweet that!) Of course we want to attract as big a crowd of book buyers as we can. But we need to somehow balance that with not telling burglars we're traveling and our home is empty and waiting for their visit. Women traveling alone may not want to let the world know the details of where they'll be and when. In the current climate in our nation, if your book might be controversial, you might want to be cautious about posting the location and hours of your event.

Have you ever thought about this?

I don't know the answers to this dilemma, but part of the solution might be:
  • Don't post that "we" (your whole family) will be traveling to an event. Say "I" will be there and let people think your strong, armed husband / family is at home guarding the house.
  • Booksignings
  • Don't post your travel plans, such as when you're leaving or arriving. 
  • Don't Instagram yourself in the airport or post elsewhere photos, videos, and comments until after you get back home. 
If you'd like to set up a live author event in a bookstore but don't know how, have no idea where to start, or simply want to hear my tips, experiences, and suggestions, check out my e-book Booksignings.

Author Page URL

When your Author Page is created, Amazon will give you a URL here. You can suggest a change if you want to. Make it easy to remember.  (Tweet that!) 

Copy and paste this URL into a place where it is easy for you to access, such as in a Word document or, better I think, an Excel document where you keep all your links (for each of you books, blogs, etc.).

Also keep it written and handy when you do radio interviews so you can state it easily. Keep it simple so people can remember it. The few times I've done TV interviews I've been asked for information to put at the bottom of the screen as I talk. Your Amazon author page is a one-stop shop for all your books (assuming they're all on Amazon) so let your audience know how to find it.

If you wish, create an easy-to-remember short URL on

What will you want to do with this URL? If you need ideas, I'll list some below under "What Can You Do With Your Amazon Author Page?"


Add your author photo of your smiling face. A book sales expert told me a nice photo creates a "relationship" with the reader. Relationships are key to book sales. (Tweet that!) 

This is the same reason you should have your smiling face on the back cover of every print book you produce and in the back matter of your e-books.


You cannot put a YouTube video on your Amazon page. Plus, Amazon has a lot of rules for what they do not want you to include in your video. Be sure to review those guidelines before you try putting a video on your site.

To find those guidelines, click "add video." A box will open with basic guidelines including this one:

I'm thinking I shouldn't upload my book trailer videos I've made on because the Animoto logo is embedded at the end. Also not allowed are "comments relating to book reviews and content visible on the Author Page and detail pages" on Amazon.

Amazon states:
You can share video interviews, book signing videos, and other videos with readers. Your videos should focus on specific features of your books or your experience as an author. Uploading Videos
I never thought to take a video at an live author event. I may think about staging that (getting permission first) next time I hold one.

Right now I'm thinking we could just talk to our laptop cameras and tell potential readers interesting information about ourselves or our books, why we wrote it, that sort of thing. We could also "stage" an interview: type the question on a slide for the video then look off camera and answer as if we're answering an interviewer.

How to Create a Video for Your Amazon Page

If you want to create such a video, use your laptop camera. Upload the video to YouTube and edit it.

While you cannot upload a YouTube video to your Amazon author page, you can save it in an Amazon-supported format and then upload it! (Tweet that!) To do that go to your Video Manager on YouTube and click the drop down menu arrow next to "Edit." Choose to save your video to your computer as an MP4 file. MP4 is one of the supported files on Amazon so you can then upload your MP4 file from your computer to your Amazon author page.

(Hmm. Now that I've figured all that out, I may have to try it myself and write a whole post on this topic! Wouldn't that be fun?! I'll work on it when I have time.)

What Can You Do With Your Amazon Author Page?

Here are some ways you can use your Amazon author page URL:
  • in your email signature, 
  • in Tweets, 
  • in an occasional Facebook post,
  • in all your social media bios (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.).
  • Link to it on your blogs and web sites. 
  • Be sure to put it at the end of your book trailers.
  • Include it on your business cards. 
  • Put it in your guest posts on other blogs and... 
  • your bio at the end of your magazine articles. 
  • Include it in the back matter of every book you write. 
Anywhere you advertise yourself, your books, or your brand, you should include an easy link to your Amazon author page because your page will list all your books that you have available for sale (on Amazon). With one click visitors can go to the detail page of any of your books and purchase it. (Tweet that!)

One More Tip...

If you're writing under a pseudonym, you can also open an Amazon author page for your pseudonym. (Tweet that!) You can do so from your regular author page; you don't need a separate account. But to everyone viewing your pen name page there will be no connection to who you are unless you put it there.
You can manage up to three Author Pages this way, though they will not be associated in any way on  Managing Your Bibliography

If you haven't yet set up your Amazon author page, or if there are some steps here you haven't yet completed, why not do so today?

Or if your Amazon author page has been set up for a while, why not schedule some time to update your bio, list an upcoming event, add a new photo, connect a new blog, or create a new video?

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Writing for Publication and . . . Servanthood

Writing for publication means serving your reader.
I had some "life" happen recently that meant I wasn't able to prepare the post I had planned for August 1. So a wise friend asked if I had something I could re-run. Yes! I remembered this article I wrote a few years ago, back when this blog was a newsletter for subscribers only. I thought this might be a really good article to run this month. Sorry it's a bit late, but life happens. And when life happens, it's important not to miss it.

So, I hope you enjoy this re-run article.

Writing for Publication and...Servanthood

I had a couple of interesting conversations with writers lately. One lady contacted me because she noticed the local writers group and she was thinking she might like to join. Though I encouraged her to come to the writing group, she seemed shy and uncertain. Finally she confessed what was really on her mind:

She said she wasn't sure it was right to call attention to herself through writing. She was concerned about becoming prideful about writing in a way that would be unbecoming for a Christian. (Tweet that!)

I had to be careful in my response, because I didn't want to laugh out loud. That might have come off as rude.

Will You Be a Famous Writer?

I asked her what she meant about calling attention to herself. She looked confused. I asked her if she thought if she started writing that everyone would then know her and she would be famous. (Tweet that!) She kind of, sort of indicated yes.

I asked her if she had read any magazine articles lately. She said yes. I asked her who wrote them. She said she didn't know. 

I wondered if she'd read anything else lately. Articles online? Newspaper? Book? Would she have remembered any of these writers' names? My bet is if she could have remembered any, it would have been the name of a book's author.

Then I told her, Look, if you start writing, chances are extremely thin that you'll become famous. Most people won't even notice your name on a magazine article. I'm convinced the only people who read bylines are other writers. (Tweet that!) ("Oh, look! My friend Linda got an article published in here. Good for her. Wait a minute. How'd she do that? I wanna to do that.") (Tweet that!)

Publishing is Like the NFL

This lovely Christian lady was all worried about calling attention to herself and becoming sinfully prideful. But what are the chances of her actually drawing that much attention? I told her it's like playing in the NFL. A lot of kids start out wanting to be a star in the National Football League, but first you have to make the team. Then you have to make the high school team, the college team, and then win a spot on a professional team. Only a few people actually make it that far. And when you do make it that far, there are only so many slots on a team and only so many players can be chosen to fill them.

Publishing is similar. There are only so many slots available for writers. There is only so much room for so many articles in a magazine. (Tweet that!)

There are only so many slots in a publishing house for so many books to be published. (Tweet that!) 

And when you get to that level, you're competing with professionals.

So where is your level of skill in writing? Are you at a professional level? If yes, then keep submitting. 

If not, what do you need to do to get there? Work out more in the gym? (Write more.) Get with a Trainer? (Find a writer or group who can teach you?) Practice your skills? (Practice your skills?!)

Why Do You Want to Writer?

After I told that nice lady that she would probably never have to worry about becoming sinfully prideful because she'd probably never be famous, I ask her why she wanted to write. I don't think she really knew how to answer that question. (Tweet that!)

Will it Serve?

I had a second conversation with a different writer who, basically, wants to write what she wants to write. She has something she wants to say. It's important stuff to her and she wants the whole world to know it and so she wants to tell the whole world. 

Well, okay, that's all good and fine. But is it something anyone else wants to read?

Will it help the reader? Will it serve the reader's wants or needs? Or is it just a demand that somebody listen to what she has to say? (Tweet that!)

You see, so many people think the reason to write for publication is to become really famous and to make a lot of money. Other people want to be heard, to be listened to. But all of these reasons are filled with "I wants":

I want to be famous. 
I want to be rich. 
I want to be listened to. 
I want to tell. 
I want to be known for telling you this. 
I want to be heard. 

If you're writing for publication, this is never going to work. When we write for publication, we're not writing for ourselves; we're writing for someone else: our reader. (Tweet that!)

The way to write for the reader is to SERVE the reader. 

You think you have something to say? Okay, will it serve the reader? Is it something the reader wants or needs to hear or know? If not, then the writer is only serving him/herself.

I know what you're thinking: "Yes, but I'm writing because I have something to say! And it's important."

Yes, of course it is. It's on your heart, or it's in your mind, and you want to share it so badly. And that's fine, because often we want to share what we know because we know it will serve other people. It's a fine line, but it's a line.

I know what some of you are thinking: "But I don't have anything important to say. I just want to tell stories [or write articles, or fill in the blank ______ ]."

It's About the Reader

Listen to me. Are you listening? You do have something important to say. Especially if you are a Christian. You do have something to say that people in the world out there need to hear. (Tweet that!)

So what's the difference? When writing for publication (not for yourself--your journal, your exploring, your own benefit), our writing should be about the reader.  Not, "What do I want to say that I want everyone to hear?" But, "What do I have to offer that will help my reader?" (Tweet that!)

This is the Servanthood of writing. (Tweet that!) And you can sum it up in this question: "How can I SERVE my reader?"

As an example, my aim with this e-zine [now a blog] is to serve those who read it. It's not about me. Sure, there are times I mention what's going on in my writing life... That's because I believe many of you are interested in what I'm up to--and if you're not you can skip that part. But the main purpose of this [blog] is to help you, to serve you, to help you become the writer you want to be--whether that's published or just a better writer or whatever you're longing for.

If you're not getting published, maybe you can take a look at this area of your writing and see if there's room here for improvement. Editors are interested in serving their readers. You need to not only serve your reader, but serve your editor. But I guarantee you, if you're serving your reader, then you're serving the editor.

How Do You Want to Serve Your Readers?

So this month as you write, how do you want to serve your readers? What do you have to offer that will help your readers? (Tweet that!)

Now don't give me that "nothin'" answer. I know better. Especially if you're a Christian--because you have a knowledge of the One. 

But Christian or not, you have information for a magazine article that would help someone. You have an experience that taught you something that would help someone else. You have a story with a message that will bring someone closer to God. (Tweet that!)

The delightful thing about writing is that our serving can be done in infinite ways, unique to each of us--which satisfies the longings of our souls to write and be heard. (Tweet that!) But in the end, it needs to be for and about the reader, not the writer.

If you have this attitude of Servanthood, you'll never worry about becoming sinfully prideful, because it's not about you. It's about the reader. And for the Christian writer, it's about Christ.


If you are a #writer, it's all about serving your reader.  Click to Tweet

The "Servanthood" of #Writing.  Click to Tweet

The way to write for the reader is to SERVE the reader. Click to Tweet

Friday, July 1, 2016

Ways to Market Your Book - Amazon Followers and Giveaways

See the yellow button under my photo?
That's Amazon's Follow program.
Please Follow me on Amazon!
In the previous post we talked about how to get reviews for your book posted on Amazon, Goodreads, and elsewhere. In the four posts before that, from February to May, we walked through the process of getting your book up and running on Kindle. This month, whether your book is on Kindle or is a print book, we are going to talk about some exciting programs Amazon has made available which can help you market your books.

These programs are Amazon's "Followers" and "Giveaways" programs. (Tweet that!) Let's talk about Amazon Followers first, and then we'll talk about Amazon Giveaways.

Amazon Followers

Amazon launched its Follower program in July 2015. If you haven't noticed it, log in to your Amazon account, go to your own author page or the page of an author you'd like to follow, and click the yellow follow button under the author's image. You can see the yellow Follow button under my photo in the image above.

Don't have an Amazon author page?! We're going to talk about that next month.

Amazon does not let us know how many Followers we have. There's no way to find out. However to know that you have at least one, you can follow yourself.

Just what does it mean to have Amazon Followers? Amazon will send out a message to your Followers whenever you release a new book.  (Tweet that!)

You Might be Invited to Talk to Your Amazon Followers

Also, Amazon might invite you, the author, to send out a personal message to your Followers. (Tweet that!) Right now this feature is by invitation only. However I have been invited to send that message several e-books I've released in the past year.

The invitation from Amazon comes in an email. The subject line of the email says something like "a question about your book." When you open the email, you'll see Amazon is asking if you'd like to send a message to your Followers. Obviously it's a no-brainers to take advantage of this opportunity.

At first I didn't really know what to write in my message, But I studied what some of the other authors have written and used that as a guideline.I try to keep my messages short. And I try to use all the best practices I know about selling to customers. (Now that's a huge topic for another time. Or another e-book.)

I have noticed a few things about these messages Amazon sends to our Followers:
  1. My message goes out to my Followers a few days after I write it. (I know this because I follow myself so I get my own messages.)
  2. Apparently Amazon sends the messages from authors out even at later dates. I have received messages about books that came out quite some time ago after following authors.
  3. You can edit the messages you send. I assume then the edited message will go out to new Followers.

It's my understanding that not all authors are invited to send a message to their Followers, so it's possible you may not get that invitation. If you don't, it doesn't mean you've done something wrong, made Amazon mad at you, or Amazon doesn't like your book, as I've heard some authors speculate. I think it's just a program that is developing. Maybe Amazon's algorithms analyze how many books an author has available, how many sales, how many Followers ... in other words, how active the author is. I don't know, I'm just guessing.

How to Get Amazon Followers

So the question I'm sure your wondering about is, how do we get Followers? (Tweet that!) I've been letting my contacts know they can Follow me on Amazon by putting a notice in my email signature line: "Please follow me on Amazon" with a link to my Amazon page. I put the same info in a Tweet that goes out regularly. We can also put a notice on Facebook occasionally.

Another way -- perhaps the best way I've found so far to gather a lot of Followers -- is to use Amazon's Giveaway program. We will talk this more in a little bit under Giveaways.

Related Articles on Amazon Followers:

Here are a couple of articles I found helpful where you can learn more about Amazon Followers:

Amazon Giveaways

In 2015 Amazon started its Giveaway program. This year Amazon added e-books and products "fulfilled by Amazon" (FBA) to its Giveaway program. Go to Amazon and look at a produce, perhaps your book or e-book. Scroll down below the reviews. Look for a button that says "Set up an Amazon Giveaway."

This is a great program for authors because we can give away our own books and it becomes a great advertising tool. (Tweet that!)
"During the week that a contest runs, traffic to the product pages for the giveaway prizes increases by more than 40 percent in weekly growth, Amazon said."  Geek Wire
Another way authors can use Amazon's Giveaway program, is to give away something that compliments their book. (Tweet that!)

How Amazon Giveaways Work

I ran my first Giveaway in May in the week before Mother's Day. I chose to give away two copies of my print book Deliver Me.

Here's how an Amazon Giveaway works: First you will purchase the products that you're going to give away. Amazon will charge you for the estimated taxes and shipping. Amazon will also run the entire Giveaway. And when it's over, they will ship the prizes to your winners.

Now that Amazon has added e-books to its Giveaway program, it's very easy and inexpensive for an author to run a Giveaway for his or her own e-book. We still earn the royalties on the e-book, so the cost is very low. (Tweet that!)
"Authors can reward entrants with their work in eBook form, so they pay no shipping fees." Geek Wire 

How to Set Up an Amazon Giveaway

Setting up an Amazon Giveaway is fairly simple. Click on the "Set up an Amazon Giveaway" button. You will see three choices for types of Giveaways: random, lucky number, first come first-served. I chose the random and had decided to give two copies of my book as prizes. 

When I set up my Giveaway, I kept getting an error message and it took me awhile to figure out the problem. In the second box under "select a rule for winning," it seemed to me that box was already filled in according to how many prizes I had selected. So I just let it stay as it was. But I couldn't move past this page because I kept getting an error message. I finally figured out that I had to fill in a number in that box. 

I had no idea how many participants I would have in my first Giveaway so I had no idea what number to put in that box. I finally decided on 200. That meant my participants had a one in 200 chance to win. Once I figured out to put a number in that box, I didn't get an error message and I could finish setting up my Giveaway.

I didn't know if 200 would be a low number or a high number for my first Giveaway. Now I wish I would've set a higher number because I hit more than 200 on the second day, I think. Next time I plan to choose a much higher number -- say 2,000.

Next you can choose a requirement for everyone entering your Giveaway. This is what makes sponsoring an Amazon Giveaway a real gem for authors. (Tweet that!) There are five choices that you can select from: follow you on Amazon, follow you on twitter, watch a short video, watch a YouTube video, or no additional requirements.

I selected the requirement to Follow me on Amazon. I had 267 participants before Amazon shut down my Giveaway because all the prizes had been given away. So presumably I now have 267 new Followers on Amazon.
"Authors using Amazon Giveaway can require contest entrants to follow them and their books on Amazon. The feature has resulted in 300,000 new Author Follows since it launched, Amazon said."  Geek Wire
If you want to build up your Twitter platform, you might want to choose the requirement to follow you on Twitter.
"To date, this feature has generated over 2.8 million new Twitter followers, Amazon said." Geek Wire
I haven't yet tried making a short video or YouTube video, but I can see how that would be tremendously valuable for authors. Can't you?

You will need to choose the duration of your Giveaway. You can choose from one to seven days. I read in an article that for some products you can choose up to thirty days if your Giveaway includes an e-book. I haven't yet seen that option for myself yet, but then I haven't tried a Giveaway with an e-book yet.

On the next page I was surprised to see that I needed to set up the Welcome page. You will also need to name your Giveaway. You can upload an image. I used the image of my book. Duh.

Messages to Your Amazon Giveaway Participants!

Then you have the opportunity to write a welcome message to everyone entering your Giveaway. You get from 10 to 250 characters.

After that you get to write a message for the win page and a separate message for the lose page, also 10 to 250 characters. All of these messages can be of great value for authors to market their books and to speak directly to their readers.

Finally, you have the opportunity to limit who sees your Giveaways. You can reduce the likelihood that participants will share your Giveaway with their friends. I wasn't sure what to do with that. But since I was trying to reach the widest audience to let them know about my book Deliver Me, I did not choose that limiting option.

The next page is where you check out and actually purchase the items that will be given away. Once you've created your Giveaway it cannot be changed.

Let People Know About Your Giveaway!

It takes a little time at Amazon to go live, but when your Giveaway is up and running Amazon will send you an email which will include a link to your Giveaway. You will have a Dashboard where your Giveaway is listed. When I have wanted to review my Giveaway, I've had a hard time figuring out how to find my Giveaway Dashboard. So far I have been able to find the link in my browser history. There is supposed to be an easier way but I haven't figured it out yet.

Your Giveaway will have its own link. This is the link you need to share so people can find your Giveaway.

As always, if you don't let people know about it, no one will know it's there. Use Twitter, Facebook posts, other social media, and email to tell people about your Giveaway. (Tweet that!)

Use a hashtag like #AmazonGiveaway. And don't forget to provide the link to your Giveaway in each of your Tweets and posts! 

A Few More Details About Amazon Giveaways

Amazon takes care of everything else. They make sure that people enter only once according to their email address. They do everything to run your Giveaway, and when it's finished they ship the prizes you've already paid for to the winners.

I wish Amazon Giveaways could be set up in advance, however that option is not available. So you have to be thinking about when you want your Giveaway to run and be ready to set it up on the day that you want it to start.

Amazon Giveaways are not connected to you as an author. Anyone can run them using any product on Amazon that allows it. In the same way anyone could use your book as a Giveaway ... which is not a bad thing for an author! (Tweet that!) It might be a good practice to suggest that to people or organizations that our book compliments!

I think Amazon Giveaways can be a powerful way to gain Followers on Amazon, Twitter followers, or to speak to potential readers and book buyers. How might you use this feature to promote your books? (Tweet that!)

One of the articles I read suggested authors might run an Amazon Giveaway during an Amazon Countdown promotion. (Tweet that!) This would generate even more traffic and attention to your book. And an added benefit would be that the cost to you as the Giveaway sponsor would be less when you're buying your own book on sale.

(An Amazon countdown is a sale you can run if your book is an e-book in Kindle's "Select" program. For more information see the benefits of participating in Kindle Select.)

Related Articles on Amazon Giveaways:

Here are a couple of articles where you can learn more about Amazon Giveaways and how they can benefit authors:

If you'd like to know when I'm running specials on my books and e-books, please subscribe to my newsletter. You'll get notices when I'm releasing a new book, when my books and e-books are going to go on sale, a few Freebie documents to help you, and more:

This month, why don't you have fun building up your Amazon Followers? Think about setting up a Giveaway to promote your book or e-book.

Related Articles: