Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Let’s Celebrate – Launching that New Book

            Weeks, months, even years of plotting words on paper or computer screen end at long last. The manuscript is submitted to a publisher and accepted. After a period of intense editing, the proof appears for another round of final editing. Finally, the book becomes a reality, and the author holds a copy of a marvelous book. Now, the time arrives to celebrate and launch that book with a party.
            A book launch takes more than a newly released book: It takes planning which begins before the book is released. So, let’s plan that book launch.
            First, we set a date. Due to problems which might arise, we will choose a date a month to two months after the supposed release date. If the book is related to a particular season or holiday, the launch celebration close to that time. For example, a book related to Christmas might be released in September or October but may be launched two or three weeks before Christmas.
            The second step is to select a crew to work the launch. The author is to be the honored guest during the event and will not have time to worry about serving the food or drinks or cutting the cake, etc. She or he must be involved in the planning, but once the party starts, greeting guests and signing books will the duties of the author. Therefore, we need people who will set up any refreshments and make sure empty dishes are replaced or refilled. Having people also help with those refreshments helps unless catering hasn’t been hired.
            Third, we need a place to have the launch. A place should have ample parking and be easy to find. It also needs to be large enough to handle a large number of invited guests, in case they all decide to attend. Facilities are needed for food storage and preparation, even if the location doesn’t have a kitchen. At least access to a sink and water is needed.
            Four, set a menu and know who is bringing what, unless the author is able to have the event catered. I have attended launches where almost a full meal was served. Others had finger foods, including little sandwiches, veggie trays, meat trays, desserts, and water, coffee, and punch for drinks. Having a quarter, half, or full sheet cake with the image of the book cover on the top frosting is a special way to honor the author and the book.
            Five, begin promotion of the book with notice that a launch celebration will be held (give date, location, and time) at least three months before the event.
            At least a month to six weeks before the event, invitations should be sent.
            The author and crew/helpers need to arrive at least one and a half hours before the event is scheduled to begin. Everything needs to be in place and decorated at least forty-five minutes before time to start. Be sure a table to set up for book sales (including a money box with change) and one for the author to sit to sign copies of her/his books. The books need to have a removable price tag on the back cover.
            Be sure someone helps organize the movement of people to the table to purchase books and to line up to have the author autograph copies. Helpers need to keep the food operation organized, too. Have someone who takes pictures.
            A successful launch party takes preparation and effort on the part of the author and any helpers, but a successful launch helps motivate the author to promote that book in other ways. It is a celebration to begin the life of that book.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

That Book Title Is Important

       Many writers invest blood, sweat, and tears into their manuscripts, but then they throw away the best way to grab a reader's attention: the title. Let's discuss some of the problems I've discovered with the names authors choose for their babies.

Why a Title Is Important

          Reader's first notice a book's cover -- especially the title. Since the title is one of the first things that a reader sees, then authors should choose a title that captures and keeps attraction. What mistakes do authors make when "titling" their books?

         Boring titles: A title that is bland and boring gives a reader no reason to open a book. For example, I have a children's book, part of a series, about a duck and his adventure riding the waves in the lake where he lives. The working title was Louie's Adventure: a Louie the Duck Story. Boring, bland, meaningless. However, after thinking about the title for many months, I decided I like Wave Excitement: a Louie the Duck Story better. The new title gives more color and "excitement" to the story. Since the book is the first of a series, I want "a Louie the Duck Story" to be part of the title in some way. I will ask the designer put those words in parentheses under the main title, but the ISBN info will include the title as given with a colon joining the two sections. To find an interesting title, consider the content of your book; ask friends; take ideas from other books, without copying any title; ask yourself what you would want to read.

 Confusing titles: Titles can be confusing in more than one way. A title needs to connect to the content of the book in some way, and it needs to make a reader want to discover the story inside the cover. A title that gives an impression that the content is about the old West and the content is about city life, the reader is confused. The artwork plus the title should entice a reader, not confuse him.

         Having titles that are almost the same can confuse a reader. For example, if the same author writes a variety of books that aren't a series but gives the books similar sounding titles, people are confused. They may think they have already read a book because the title is much like a book by the same author. However, the book they put back on the shelve may be the writer's new novel. What's New Today, What Today Brings, Why Today Is New all sound alike, and yet they may be completely different in content and ideas. Now, books in a series usually have something in the titles that ties them together, even if it's just the name of the series incorporated in some way.

         A title that is used by multiple books: Research any title you might want to use. If over three or four books by other authors have the same title, then your book will be lost among the others with the same title.

         Therefore, you do not want to confuse readers. You want your title to capture their attention and lead, hopefully, to a sale. But, how might you discover a good title for your book?
1. Use the name of your main character. example: Jane Eyre
2. Use a line or part of a line from your book. example: For Whom the Bell Tolls
3. Use the setting of the book for the title. example: Little House on the Prairie
4. Use a mysterious word or phrase as the title, the theme or inspiration of the book, perhaps. 

5. Use a balance of mystery and clarity.
7. Use a title that refers to the content.

         Remember not to neglect the title of your books. That title is important.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Writing Skills – Spread Your Wings

By Karen Cioffi

Writing has many different genres within the fiction and nonfiction realms. There are children’s, young adult, romance, mystery, fantasy, science fiction, poetry, memoirs, biographies, travel, health, food, magazine articles, business content, and much more.

It seems, most writers start off in one particular genre – with one particular set of skills. Often, they stay there. This may happen for a number of reasons, including:

- The genre is in their comfort zone.
- There’s an unwanted time element involved in learning a new writing style
- Fear stops them from venturing forward
- They just don’t think of the rest of the writing world around them.

Whatever the reason, the end result is that they may be missing out on another form of writing satisfaction and income. With today’s tight market, it only makes sense to take off the blinders and get the peripheral writing vision going.

For writers who are the children’s or article writing arena, contemplating writing a full length novel may feel overwhelming. It may feel impossible.

This is where you need to take a step back and think ‘simple.’ 

Rather than dismiss a project for fear it’s too big or because it’s out of your realm of expertise, think simple. Write blog posts on the subject, or possibly articles. You can also start with a short story if thinking about writing a novel makes you uneasy . . . maybe draft an outline.

Start small.

Don’t let the enormity of the project stop you—write one page at a time.

This philosophy goes for any new writing area you decide to step into. If the project itself feels too intimidating, think of it as a learning experience with nothing to lose. The new writing skills you learn will offset the time and effort invested.

It’s true that most writers only feel comfortable in one or two particular genres. It’s also true that they may excel in those genres, their areas of expertise. This is a powerful combination that will certainly keep writers from taking off the writing blinders.

But . . .

The writing arena is full of opportunities. Taking the time and effort to develop a new writing style will certainly be an asset in your writing career. If your piece is accepted and published, you will have another writing accomplishment to include in your writer’s resume, as well as another avenue of income.

There’s an expression: nothing ventured, nothing gained. Why not venture forth today and spread your writing wings.

Karen Cioffi is an award-winning author, ghost-writer, and online platform instructor with WOW! Women on Writing. For must-know writing and marketing tips, get free access to The Writing World.
You can connect with Karen at:

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Synopsis? What Disease Is That?

A Helpful Synopsis Outline -- The Five Step Synopsis

         The inability to prepare a synopsis hinders a writer from becoming traditionally published or having a chance to place in a writing contest. The following is one way to take some of the dread out of a synopsis.

         The synopsis, written in present tense, reveals the story arc from beginning to end in five (5) paragraphs, approximately 350 words.

One: The first paragraph describes who wants what and why (goal), and what stands in their way (obstacle).

Two: The second paragraph expands the situation. Introduces the antagonist (person or situation that blocks the protagonist). Shows the thoughts and emotions of the protagonist as they struggle against the antagonist.

Three: The third paragraph moves the protagonist closer to goal achievement. Hints at the possibility of failure.

Four: The fourth paragraph heads toward the goal post. A “red herring” might suggest that failure (not success) is imminent and irreversible.

Five: The fifth paragraph reveals the story resolution as the protagonist succeeds or fails.

If the author neglects to reveal goal, obstacle, and resolution in the synopsis, the manuscript sample pages will not be read. No agent will take the time to figure out the core of the story or how it might possibly end. The author has to show and sell them.)

Example of a 5-step  synopsis, written for Jack and the Beanstalk:                    

         Twelve-year-old Jack must save himself and mom from starvation when their country suffers a drought, causing crops to fail. Bossy (the cow) goes dry. Inexperienced at bartering, Jack swaps Bossy for a handful of “magic” beans which mom, in a fit of anger, throws out the window.

         The next morning, Jack discovers the beans have sprouted into a mile-high stalk. He climbs up and into another dimension. Timidly, Jack sneaks into a humongous castle. He cowers under furniture to hide from a nasty-tempered giant (the antagonist) who adds fiber and crunch to his bread by kneading human bones into his dough. Terrified that he might be captured, Jack grabs a gold coin and scoots down the beanstalk to safety.

         When mom heads for the market, Jack hurries back up the beanstalk to nab a goose that lays golden eggs (thereby ensuring residual income). The giant smells Jack, but can’t find him. Jack escapes by the hair of his chinny-chin-chin. Elated by his newly-discovered thievery skills, Jack decides to climb the beanstalk, one more time, to nab a special gift for mom.

         Jack sneaks back into the castle. So far so good. He grabs a singing harp and heads for the beanstalk. The harp rats him out and screams for help. The giant (murder and lunch in mind) pursues Jack down the beanstalk.

         The moment Jack reaches home, he chops down the beanstalk. It collapses and the giant smashes into the earth and disappears forever. They all live happily ever after.

ONE: Reveals who wants what and why.

TWO: Expands the situation, introduces the antagonist. The protagonist takes action to overcome the obstacle(s). He feels timid, terrified, and covers under objects to conceal his presence. He hurries home as soon as possible, clutching the stolen coin. Jack proves, at the moment, that the end (avoiding starvation) justifies the means (stealing).

THREE: The protagonist moves closer to goal achievement. The possibility of failure is introduced. Jack discovers he's quite good at stealing and pushes his luck. This paragraph hints at the potential for disaster.

FOUR: The goal post is in sight. But, the potential for failure and disaster for the human world loom on the horizon.

FIVE: Reveals the story resolution as the protagonist succeeds (or fails).

         This synopsis style is just one of many. Jordan Dane, best-selling author and dear friend, gave me permission to use her example and information. The message is, "Don't be afraid of writing a synopsis. Practice and soon you won't dread writing one at all."

Monday, February 13, 2017

Hello, Wigwam wins major award

     Just before Christmas, 2016, L. John Lawrence received notice that his novel Hello, Wigwam won the Military Writers gold seal award, one of the highest awards given to books about military life. The announcement he received is copied below:

Your book, Hello, Wigwam, received a GOLD Medal in the 2016 Military Writers Society of America awards young adult category. I am attaching the review to this email. Please use it any way you like. You will receive the medal and 100 stickers from Dwight Zimmerman sometime in the new year. Your award will be announced in a general email blast to the organization membership, in the Winter 2017 MWSA Dispatches magazine, on the MWSA website, and in a national media release. There will be no Awards Ceremony for 2016 winners.
As you know, 2016 was a transition year. The MWSA Awards Committee (Betsy Beard (Chair), Sandra Linhart, Carolyn Schriber(Author of the Year 2015), Bob Doerr (Author of the year 2013 and Vice President of MWSA), and I) revamped the entire program. The already stringent requirements were toughened further. Three judges read every book submitted and scored them based on content, visual, style, and technical criteria. The three scores were then averaged. To receive a medal, a book had to reflect MWSA's exacting technical standards as well has a high total score. If there was disagreement, the three judges met to discuss the books in detail. Books are judged to a standard, not competitively against each other. If you get the score, you get the medal. While this process took longer, we feel that it was worth the time to ensure that only the very best books submitted were recognized.
Best wishes for the holiday season and congratulations on your personal and professional achievement
with this work
Joyce Faulkner and Betsy Beard, MWSA Awards Directors
Joyce Faulkner
Betsy Beard
MWSA Awards Directors

     This award winning book can be found on the 4RV online bookstore ( and is available in hardcover and in paperback. It could also be obtained through regular bookstores and other online stores, such as Amazon.

      Two reviews follow, neither from Amazon:

     Literary Classics is pleased to announce that the book, Hello, Wigwam  by L. John Lawrence, has been selected to receive the Literary Classics Seal of Approval.  
     L. John Lawrence exhibits a true gift of the pen in his depiction of a young man who is swept into a world of blood and battle which is not without its ironically funny moments.  This riveting story is superbly written, displaying poignant moments interspersed with a healthy dose of satire.  Hello, Wigwam is recommended for a mature young adult audience and has earned the Literary Classics Seal of Approval.

Five-Star Review By Sandy Appleyard for "Readers' Favorite"
     Hello, Wigwam by L. John Lawrence is a wonderfully told story. The author describes, via a combination of anecdotes, quotes, and edge-of-your-seat life-like accounts, what the boy sees, feels and learns. The reader gets the sense that the young man is wholesome, likeable, and will always try to do the right thing.
     Hello, Wigwam is an entertaining read and is recommended to those looking for an interesting, educational, humorous, and thought-provoking novel about a young boy who becomes a man.

     Want to read a book that will hold your attention? Read Hello, Wigwam by L. John Lawrence.