Monday, April 21, 2014

What Makes Writing Great?

What is the secret to great writing?


Tight writing?

Good editing?

Engaging prose?

A heart full of ideas?

An active imagination?

Smart critique partners?

A flair for putting the right words together?

I believe it takes a friendly, liberal blend of these ingredients to produce great writing. While individuals might differ in their opinions, one element remains constant. We must engage the reader.

Perhaps poet Matthew Arnold had the right idea when he said,

"Have something to say, and say it as clearly as you can. That is the only secret."

Writing for ourselves is a wonderful - even therapeutic, activity.  Most writers, myself included, would still write if no one ever read our work. However, if we desire to reach others, to be published, it is crucial to provide reader appeal. Easier said than done, but doable with patience and a healthy combination of the elements listed above.

A Spring Contest

Want to practice some great writing? Check out the 83rd Annual Writer's Digest Competition. WD is offering great prizes with categories that include fiction, non fiction, children, poetry, inspirational, and more. Early entry deadline is May 5, 2014. Find details here.

A Break

I'll be taking a break until May 11, 2014 as I need to work on my next book, do some spring cleaning, and just take a breather. See you soon!

Do you agree with Mr. Arnold? Would you add any items to the list above? What are your secrets to great writing?

Happy writing,

Photo credit: Stock Exchange

Monday, April 14, 2014

Steps to a Great Book Launch by Carol J. Alexander

Author Carol J. Alexander knows a bit about book launches. Her latest ebook, Homestead Cooking with Carol was released in January and has caused quite a stir (no pun intended!). It boasts fifteen five star reviews already. Readers are thrilled with Carol's friendly, down to earth style, helpful advice, resources, and recipes. I was pleased when she suggested sharing her book launch experience. Whether you have aspirations of writing a book or not, I think you'll find Carol's tips and insight inspiring.

Steps to a Great Book Launch
By Carol J. Alexander

Labor Day, 2013 marked the beginning for me. That weekend, while vacationing with my sister in Denver, I started my book Homestead Cooking with Carol: Bountiful Make-ahead Meals. I didn’t intend to begin while at my sister’s. I enrolled in a class to get this thing done and that is when the class began. 

From start to launch, the process took five months. I didn’t begin from scratch, though. I began with a handful of blog posts that I thought would make a great book. The instructor helped me to turn them into something folks would buy. If you’re interested in a class in micro-publishing, check out the offerings of Christina Katz

This post isn’t about the process of writing an e-book that sells; it’s about how to get that book in front of the masses, in front of those folks that will pay for your hard work. So follow along as I take you on my journey to launch.

Have a Tribe

In 2007, I began a blog. I had no interest in blogging. I did it because I read in Writer’s Digest that writers need a platform. The platform that I’ve worked to build since that time is what sold my book right out of the chute. 

I don’t have big numbers. A few thousand, total, if you add my email list with my blog and Facebook followers. But I capitalized on those numbers, and those relationships, when it came time to spread the word. If you don’t have a tribe, it’s foolish to think that your book will be found among the millions of others on Amazon’s shelves.

Collect Testimonials

When I had a final draft, I contacted folks in my niche and asked them to read my book and give me two to three sentences I could use on my sales page. I asked every day folks, and I asked top name bloggers. Once I had the testimonials, I created emails to send out to my list and I created the landing page for my website.

Soft Launch

Before the digital version was ready, I did a soft launch of the PDF version to just my tribe. I had a giveaway for a free copy on my blog; I offered a special introductory price just for my followers; and I hosted a Facebook party to talk about homestead cooking. By doing this, I was alerted to anything that needed adjustment (like pesky typos) before the digital conversion. The soft launch also helped me to earn the money I needed to pay for BookBaby to handle the digital distribution.

The toughest part in the process of a book launch is waiting on others. I wanted to launch my book in time for the Christmas shopping season. That didn’t happen. The hardest part was waiting on BookBaby, and then for it to hit Amazon shelves. Use this waiting time to get your ducks in a row. It will pay off later.

Hard Launch

For the launch in digital formats, I had a team of 18 bloggers waiting to do a blog tour. Some of them simply reviewed the book. Some interviewed me, some tried out recipes. As soon as I saw the book on Amazon, I emailed them to get reviews up. You want as many reviews on Amazon as you can get before anyone goes to buy your book. 

We started the tour the next Monday and it ran for two weeks. Every day on Facebook I announced the next stop in the tour. The bloggers shared with their tribes, added the reviews to blog hops, and pretty much went out of their way to promote my book. They did this because they wanted to help. It goes back to those relationships I built over the years. These folks also know I will do the same for them when they need it.

Also during the launch, I hosted a teleconference to discuss homestead cooking. It was another way to connect with readers, promote the book, and build relationships.

Ongoing Promotion

Book promotion never ends. I have a review/interview scheduled for a national magazine. I write related magazine articles and mention the book in my bio. Also, make sure you create an author page on Amazon and list it in your email signature. Just this week an editor offered me a regular cooking column because she saw “cooking” in my email signature.

Shortly after my soft launch, I noticed a huge spike in blog traffic. A major blog had linked to my granola post and it was driving a lot of folks my way. To capitalize on that traffic, I created a little ad for my book and dropped it at the end of every one of my food-related posts. "For more homestead cooking ideas like this one, get a copy of Homestead Cooking with Carol: Bountiful Make-ahead Meals." I hyperlinked the ad to my landing page.

Print launch

I’ve had a lot of requests for a print version of Homestead Cooking. I’m looking into the possibilities. When that happens, I will have another launch event to get the word out. I will also have books to carry in my bag wherever I go, to sell at conferences, to give as gifts.

A few more random tips that helped me:

  • Make a checklist of absolutely everything, even minor things that you could forget.
  • Test everything: every link, every page, everything.
  • Do not do technical tasks late at night when you are tired. Things that involve coding, setting e-junkie parameters, uploading, downloading, or things that require a fresh mind. If you do, and a reader finds your mistakes, thank her/him profusely. 
  • Send out winning copies from giveaways promptly. When you send out those copies, ask for an Amazon review.

That’s about it. I’d be happy to answer any questions in the comments. Or if you have a success to share, please let us hear about it, too. :)

Visit Carol:

Her website 

Her blog

Amazon author page

Buy Homestead Cooking with Carol

Great advice, thanks Carol, for sharing with us. Wishing you all the best!

Do you have any questions for Carol? Do you have a "tribe"? Are you part of one?

Have a great week,


Friday, April 11, 2014

Book Review - A Beauty So Rare

A Beauty So Rare

by Tamera Alexander                      
Bethany House 

Due to difficult circumstances, Eleanor Braddock is forced to sell her family home and move to Belmont Mansion in Nashville where her Aunt Adelicia lives. Eleanor and her father must depend on her Aunt’s generosity until she can get established and make a living. This is no easy task, especially in post Civil War Tennessee. Making matters worse, her father suffers from dementia brought on in part by his son’s death during the war.

Marcus Gottfried has a secret; his noble roots extend overseas to Austria. He is working in Nashville briefly prior to returning home to assume his expected royal duties. He is enjoying his time in the states - for the first time in his life, he’s able to make his own way and work in his chosen field of architecture. His father and fiancĂ©e, however, are pressuring him to return to Austria sooner rather than later.

Nearing her 30th birthday, Eleanor has long since given up hope of getting married. She’s accepted the fact that she’s plain and practical, not to mention tall, and looks ahead to what she believes God has called her to do.  Marcus and Eleanor meet at Belmont; their first meeting does not go well. Eleanor thinks Marcus is arrogant and too good looking for his own good. They form an unlikely friendship, though, finding they have more in common than they thought.

I liked Eleanor immediately. I cannot say the same for Marcus, but I hoped he would grow as the story progressed. (He did!)  Ms. Alexander has a flair for creating genuine characters, ones you cannot help but care about, especially as the plot thickens. Their struggles, insecurities, and triumphs nearly leap off the page. I like that. Another thing I enjoyed - I learned much about the post Civil War days in Nashville due to Alexander's attention to detail and accurate research.

Alexander masterfully weaves a journey that teaches Eleanor and Marcus about life, disappointment, and love. They learn much about themselves and others in the oft frustrating yet rewarding time they share together.  The combination of a rich plot, setting, and characters add up to another success story to Alexander’s credit. She is an author you can count on to deliver an engaging tale every time.

A Beauty So Rare is available at:

Bethany House


Note: I received a free ecopy of this book from Bethany House for honest review purposes only.

What are you reading this weekend?

Happy weekend,


Monday, April 7, 2014

"The Little Engine That Could!" by Jennifer Brown Banks

Jennifer Brown Banks stops by today to share her wit and wisdom as only she can. I trust her words will encourage you as they have me. :)

My Life as a Metaphor
How I Became “The Little Engine That Could!”      
(And you can too)
By: Jennifer Brown Banks

I’ve always been known to “dance to a beat of a different drummer.”

So, it stands to reason that my blogging approach would follow suit.

Initially, I had some false starts. I used the direction that other popular Bloggers before me had ventured, as a navigational “G.P.S.” system of sorts. But, doing so caused a few detours.

Though I studied their work, remembered their advice, and sought to emulate their success, I realized that the journey I was to embark upon had to be mapped out for the most part, by me. After assessing my options, I decided upon the road less traveled.

Little did I know that my story would become symbolic of “The Little Engine that Could.”

Here’s why…

I was smaller in size than many of the other Bloggers in my niche; yet, I felt just as compelled to share my message and my gifts.

I believed that power was not defined by size, but by impact. I didn’t allow myself to be intimidated. When I sought to guest post around the blogosphere, (as the experts advised), I targeted award-winning sites and famous folks: Pro Blogger, Men With Pens, Daily Blog Tips, and the Well-Fed Writer. They all gave me the green light and ultimately accepted my submissions. Though I was a small player, I managed to have my work presented on some pretty major stages.

The moral of the story here: You can too. In the words of Eleanor Roosevelt, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

I didn’t travel in the fast lane.

My blog’s pace was a bit slow, but steady; the growth was organic. There were no tricks, no gimmicks, no give-aways to get people to sign up. I merely tried to add value to the blogging community. I interacted with my readers, and I kept moving forward; even though at times I felt overlooked and passed up.

The moral of the story here: Blogging is a journey, not a destination. Keep chugging along.

I “spouted” in an authentic way.

Political correctness aside, I shared my own personal truths: whether it was about my relationship with chocolate, or my relationship with God. My views didn’t always mirror the majority, but they always reflected what was in my heart and based upon my (humble) experience.

The moral of the story here: In a world of far too many phonies, avoid “lip syncing”; develop your own true writer’s “voice.”

I said no to SEO.

According to the experts, without Search Engine Optimization, my Blog would be as invisible as a woman trying to get her fellow‘s attention during the Super Bowl. Still, without it, folks have managed to find me, and I’ve garnered some unexpected attention along the way.

The recognition includes…but is not limited to:

* Sybil Chavis, at Possibility of Today, (and a Harvard Graduate) recognized me in her “60 of the Best Minds in the  Blogosphere.”
* Blog World featured me in their “16 Brilliant Bloggers” Series.
* I was selected in the “Power 100” compilation of the Best Blogs for Modern Writers in 2013 by
* And recently my site was chosen as one of the Top 25 Writing Blogs by Positive Writer.

The moral of the story here:

Sometimes we have to be our own designated “expert.” Trust our gut.

We must chart a course that takes into consideration our goals, our strengths and weaknesses, our lifestyle, and our own personal dreams.

It’s the only way to stay on track, gain ground, and go the distance!

Are you on board?

Jennifer Brown Banks is a veteran freelance writer, ghost writer and pro blogger. Her Blog, Pen and Prosper, was recently recognized by, among “The Power 100”---the best sites for modern writers in 2013.   

How about it, are you on board with Jennifer?

Happy writing,


Photo credit: Stock Exchange

The winner of the chocolate giveaway is Keith Wynn. Congratulations Keith! Thanks to everyone who stopped by!