Saturday, March 31, 2012

Promotion: Book Trailer for Rhino Crashes & Critter Classes

posted by Vivian Zabel  

     4RV Publishing recently released the fourth in the critter series written by Rena Jones, and the second in the series illustrated by Ginger Nielson. Rena created a book trailer to promote the book, which can be ordered from the 4RV Bookstore or found on online bookstores and brick 'n mortar stores.

     Let's watch Rena's latest trailer:

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Preparing for Summer Library Visits by Katie Hines

Summer is right around the corner, and with it comes the opportunity to showcase your book in a summer library visit. Most libraries have a summer reading program for kids, so if you have written a kid book, you should definitely check this out.

When my middle grade book, “Guardian,” came out (it was a January release that year), I was thinking of all the marketing ideas I had heard about. Because my book came out at this time of year, it was a great time to think about a library program to promote it.

The first thing I did was contact the children’s librarian at our local county library, which sports four branches and a bookmobile. We played phone tag for awhile--don’t give up! When we did get in touch, she was thrilled to have a local author to add to her summer lineup. One thing that was in my favor is that I didn’t wait until May or June to talk to the librarian, because by then, most summer reading programs already have all their slots filled. Most of the time, they’re finished with scheduling around March or April.

We set up times to make a presentation in each of the area branches, about an hour per visit. Scheduling early also meant that the librarian had enough time to purchase copies of my book to be available for checkout after the presentation was finished.

After the thrill of knowing I was going to sharing in the libraries, I was faced with the (for me) daunting task of figuring out what my presentation should entail! I was able to pick up an article/form from a friend that talked about the creative process and how to write fiction. So, I took that info and expanded on it, and had a few examples to show about each section. I figured I’d end the session by reading a chapter from my book.

What I didn’t realize is that my guests weren’t going to be all middle grade kids! Even with my first visit, which did have a bunch of middle grade kids, I quickly realized I was going to have to do something immediately to get the kids involved or they were going to go to sleep on me.

Fortunately, I had paper and pencils with me. I passed them out to the kids, and had them finish a sentence: I was sitting in the library, minding my own business, when suddenly... There was a lot of giggling and erasing. When the kids turned their finished masterpieces in, I made sure I read aloud each and every one of them. I also almost immediately abandoned a lecture format. Instead, I would share a few things, then ask the kids questions relating to what I had shared and what they thought.

My other library visits had day care centers bringing their classes in with them. That meant the kids were a LOT younger - kindergarteners and 1st and 2nd graders. What a switch up. But I had learned from my first visit, and not only did I have pencil and paper ready, but bookmarks to hand out and a cardboard treasure chest (my book talks about a treasure) filled with goodies. All this at the end of the presentation, of course.

The fun thing was that the teachers were reading my book to their classes, so the kids were familiar with it. I was then able to ask them about their favorite parts in the book, why they liked it and so forth. For these youngsters, I had to pare down what I was going to say, ask a lot of questions, and get the kids even more involved.

A highlight of my last library visit was that one little girl came up to me after the presentation and asked me if I would look at her writing and tell her what to do to make it better. Touched, I said, “Of course,” and gave her my business card.

So, although I don’t know that I made any direct sales from my presentations, I do know that my book (all six copies) was checked out pretty steadily throughout the course of the summer. I had a great time, learned a lot, and am looking forward to more library visit with my next books.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

5 Reasons to Love Ebooks - and Print Books

5 Reasons why I Love Ebooks (and print books, too!)
by Stephanie Burkhart

I bought my first ebook reader on 25 DEC 2009. It was a Kindle 2 and I loved how thin it was – that and the fact it could hold a ton of books, freeing up some of the space on my print book shelf. I can remember back in 2007, ebooks were gaining steam and since 2009 ebook readers have made great advances. The Kindle Fire, Barnes and Noble Color Nook, and iPad are all in color now allowing the reader to purchase magazines and save their favorite children's books on the reader.

I still have my Kindle 2 because I love the text to speech feature. I can listen to books in the car, but I love the versatility and color feature of the Kindle Fire. Not only that, most ebooks are very affordable.

I still love my print books, too. There's something about holding a book in your hand that brings you just that much closer to the story. Today, I thought I'd list my top 5 reasons for why I love ebooks and print books. Feel free to share your thoughts.

1. Ebooks readers are thin and convenient. I put my Kindle in my purse and whip it out whenever I find myself in a line.
2. Most ebook readers are affordable. Sony, B&N, and Kindle all have models under $100.00.
3. My Kindle has text to speech. I get to read my book on the way to work and going home.
4. Ebooks are generally priced lower and are more affordable.
5. Ebook readers hold a lot of books, freeing up shelf space.

The following books are available from 4RV as ebooks:

Aldric and Annaliese,
If Wishes were Fishes
A Wish and A Prayer
In My Bath
Lion in the Living Room
Prairie Dog Cowboy
Just Breeze

5 Reasons why I love print books:

1. There's nothing like holding a print book in your hand. It's an indefinable feeling that warms the soul.
2. I collect all my favorite authors in print. These are books that I'll cherish so I want a print copy.
3. You can have print books autographed.
4. I can underline and mark up my book all I want.
5. Print books make nice gifts.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on ebooks. Do you have a reader? If so, which one? What features do you like about it? Do you have your children's books on your reader? Why do you like print books?

Author Bio: Wanting a great adventure when she was 18, Stephanie Burkhart joined the US Army. After Basic and AIT, she shipped off to Germany. 25 years later, she's settled down in Castaic, CA and works for LAPD. She's married with 2 young sons. Her books with 4RV Publishing include: The Giving Meadow and First Flag of New Hampshire.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

"Ten Steps to Become a Better Writer"

Copyright © 2012 Joan Y. Edwards and her licensors

 1. Each time you write and rewrite, say to yourself, “I am getting better and better.” Have a special hat or shirt to wear when you are writing.

2. Write something. Rewrite it. Let it rest for 7 days (in a special place). Then get it out and read it over again. Think of ways to improve it.

3. Use the computer to write and rewrite your stories. That way you can save each changed version of the story with a date. Some people write better with pencil or pen. Honor the way you work best.

4. Read your story out loud. You may hear the mistakes you don’t see. Record it on tape and listen to it. Make notes of what you want to change.

5. Form a writing group with 3 other people. Listen to what others say. Ask them to tell you things they don’t understand in your story. Make notes. When you ask others if they like your story, be ready to accept a YES or a NO answer. You have to honor their opinion. If people don't like your story, it doesn't mean they don't like you. If someone tells you, if I was writing this story I would…you don’t have to do it. When people critique your work, they are giving you the gift of choices. Only use ideas that you agree with 100%. You as the author get to choose what feels best in your gut.

6. When rewriting, choose to change only those items you think will add to the story. You are the writer of your story. Ultimately, the choice of words in your story is up to you. Even authors who have had books published find things they want to change in their stories. Be pleased with how you have improved your story from the beginning. Be kind to yourself.

7. Read a book to learn more about the craft of writing. Look for skills you can use to improve your writing. Then revise your story again.

8. Reward yourself for each step you take. For each time you rewrite a story, put a penny in a jar, enjoy your favorite game, or serve popcorn as you read it to others. Don’t wait for someone else to reward you. Do it yourself.

9. Believe in yourself. Say, “I am a writer. I am an author. I am a published author. I am a paid published author. I am an author of a book on the New York Best Sellers list.”

10. Set your goals. “Hitch your wagon to a star. Take a seat and there you are.” Focus. Take steps toward your goal.Visualize yourself with the published book in your hands and the hands of thousands of readers. Don’t let anyone or anything stop you from your goal. If people say that you can’t do it, show them you can. Use your talents to reach your goal. Never give up, no matter what happens. You are the only one who can stop you from reaching your goal. 

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Walking Through Walls Honored with the Children's Literary Classics Seal of Approval

As a 4RV Publishing author, I'm thrilled and honored to announce that Walking Through Walls has been awarded the Children's Literary Classics Seal of Approval!

This is the second award for my fantasy adventure based on and set in ancient China: In January 2012, Walking Through Walls won 1st Place in the Editors and Predators Readers Poll, in the Children's Novel category!

I want to thank Vivian for taking a chance on my MG/YA fantasy adventure book.

To check out the amazing illustrations done by Aidana WillowRaven, reviews and more information on Walking Through Walls go to:

If you'd like to get your own copy for your children at home or in the classroom, click the link:

4RV Publishing Book Store

You can view the Children's Literary Classics Review of Walking Through Walls at:

Contests and Exposure

I recently had a guest post on my site by award-winning and multi-published (80+) author Nancy Sanders. Working with her publicists and publishers, she learned a thing or two about generating exposure for her books, and one great way to do this is through contests.

Obviously, each author will need to determine their individual marketing budget and see if contests can have an allotted amount, but even if you’re on a tight budget, there are things you can do to generate visibility.

Nancy suggests first making a list of those award sites you’d like to submit to, keeping the free ones up first. Then, follow the guidelines of each and enter you book.

Try to keep in mind that it’s not necessarily about winning. Nancy advises that just getting your book “in the hands of judges” is important in itself. Many of the judges are important people in their own literary circles.

To find out more of what Nancy has to say on entering contests go to:

You can also check out Nancy’s site for even more information:

Since, I think contests are an important promotional and visibility tool, I allotted as much as I could to enter those contests I thought would make a difference. Contests I entered the end of last year include:

Boston Globe Horn Books Award (No fee, 3 books)

SCBWI Golden Kite Awards (No fee, 4 books)

Newbery Medal (No fee, 2 books)

IRA Children’s and Young Adult’s Book Awards (No fee, 1 book)
International Reading Association

The Eric Hoffer Award ($50, 1 book)

USA 2012 Book Awards ($69, 1 book)

Children’s Literary Classics ($95, 3 books)

Notice that the first four award contests have NO fee. You can definitely be a cost-conscious marketer. And, again, whether you win no awards, or one, two, or three awards, it’s the exposure and having the book seen by influential people that’s as important as winning.

Just a side note: one librarian I spoke with mentioned that the Newbery is one of the 'biggie' awards. After that comes the state awards. So, check these contest areas out!

Learn about writing and marketing with Karen Cioffi at Sign up for her free newsletter, A Writer’s World, and get TWO free site-related e-books for subscribing. For professional and affordable writing services check out


Friday, March 16, 2012

Promotion: Book Trailer for Pony Strings & Critter Things

posted by Vivian Zabel  

      Pony Strings & Critter Things, the third in the Critter Series by Rena Jones, was released earlier this year. The first two books in the series (Lemur Troops & Critter Groups and Stork Musters & Critter Clusters) were illustrated by another artist, but her latest two were illustrated by Ginger Nielson.

     The following trailer, created by the author, gives us a teaser, awaking a desire to read the book for ourselves, as well as to youngsters in our lives.

     All of Rena's book can be found on the 4RV Bookstore

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Seeing Green

With St. Patrick’s Day around the corner, are you seeing Irish green? How about spring green, avocado or jade? Kelly, chartreuse or lime? Acid, celery or pond? How many substitutes for the word “green” can you make? I've got a list of 72!

Readers like to second-guess what’s coming next. The best writers throw surprises,don't they? It is the secret to what keeps us turning pages. It is our job to learn how they accomplish this feat. The best way I’ve found is to push past the first, second and third idea that comes to mind. Instead of using the word "green" for example, is there another word that fit the setting more precisely? One that will more completely capture the tone of your scene? Pond green might convey a stillness, or gloominess, to a "green" scene, whereas jade implies mystery. Lime adds zest!

If a description, action, characteristic, or mystery-solving plot point shows up high on your mental list, chances are good it will occur to your readers in a heartbeat, too. As a writer, we don't want to be predictable. Push to see what creative idea lurks brilliantly further down your list. While I agree with writing "How-to" books that discourage using adjectives and adverbs, writers can evoke memorable descriptions with an occasional powerful choice, as in "After raining all day, the summer-sweet lawn beckoned to the golfer who jumped from his armchair without further argument."

Beyond the Thesaurus

Scour bookstores for unique "wordy" reference books. Beyond the common thesaurus, there are many books crammed-full with words and ideas perfect for expanding our creative diction. A book of police terms sets the scene for crime writers, while a cookbook of old country recipes offers authentic language to write a story set in a one-room cabin.

While munching Irish soda bread or hot cross buns this weekend, challenge yourself to create banquet-worthy words for your next language feast!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Knowing your long term goals as an artist and determining the steps to take to get there.

by Aidana WillowRaven

In many ways, this topic can relate to most career paths, but today, I want to focus on my own field: cover art, illustration, and design.

One of my Twitter followers suggested a blog topic recently that sort of made me step back and think. Here is how the brief chat went:

@heyprettydivine asks me: @WillowRaven Where you see yourself progressing with your art career? Will you be a cover artist forever or will you move on and up?

I responded: @heyprettydivine On and up? There is something better than this? lol. This is why I went to art school to begin with. To be on/in books.

@heyprettydivine tweets: @WillowRaven OH of course! It's amazing, an ultimate dream for so many, but I thought that at such a young age u must nw hve new goals, too.

And after a moment's thought, I replied: @heyprettydivine I do have new goals, but they don't change WHAT I do as much as WHOM I do them for. Make sense?

Then I got to thinking a bit more. Although I knew from day one of my college training that I wanted to be a cover artist, my career path wasn't quite straight. It took quite a while to get where I am now, which is finally doing work I wanted to do when I started fine art classes at Norfolk State (then later at ODU).

Originally, my entire focus was on taking the courses I'd need to be a SFF book cover artist. I had a plan (which my professors and adviser hated ... lol), don't worry about the degree as much as the portfolio. I didn't say it was a GOOD plan ... lol. But in a lot of ways, that approach made me a more diverse artist. It also made it harder for me to get my career rolling. But first things first ...

I had decided to go to college and study art. I stared at my favorite book covers and figured I'd need to learn a lot about the human form, so I took life drawing classes almost every term. I also could see I needed painting and possibly design, since I was too cheap to pay a designer to clean up my art for print ... lol. So painting was also an every term class and design classes, which were not part of a fine art degree, were chosen as electives.

During my first term, I realized that was not going to be nearly enough figure work to accomplish my goal, so I added anatomy, animation, and seemingly non-related courses like anthropology, world religions, psychology, and astronomy to my load. 

I also added pottery and sculpture. I hung out in the studios after classes and watched the grad students work and had one on one conversations with professors about this you just don't learn in class, like copyright infringement and prejudices among the different art fields (which helped me to understand why so many of my profs hated that my goal was to be a scifi/fantasy cover artist).

I slaved myself out to those professors that did gallery showings and those that did what I considered practical things, like created brochures for the Norfolk International Airport.

My point is, I tried to learn it all. Everything I could remotely relate to becoming a fantasy and science fiction artist. I was in college six years and never earned my degree because in my mind, the portfolio was what got me a job, not sticking to a set curriculum. Youth!

Ten years go by ... I win a few awards in art shows. I sell a few computer print outs of my work for a couple bucks here and there. I even sell some work at scifi/fantasy conventions. Nothing big. And no book covers.The majority of jobs out there required my having a degree. I found out the hard way that most Art Directors are not artists themselves. More often than not, there isn't even an Art  Director doing the hiring, but an Editor who typically knows even less about art. They don't bother even looking at a portfolio without that degree.

What I also failed to learn in college was how to land a cover artist gig without a degree or any kind of business skills to start my own freelance business. So, I decided to finally take control of my ability to start my own art career and learn business. A few online courses, and before I knew it, I was being asked to illustrate a children's book.

Well, it's not scifi or fantasy, but it's a foot in the door. Suddenly, I realized I'd been cheated out of thousands of dollars and that my work, which I'd not been paid for, was profiting others. Not me. So more study had to go into fair and ethical guidelines for my industry. I had to find the right people to work with and continue building my portfolio, even though nothing I was doing had anything to do with my initial goal.

Don't get me wrong. I learned a lot on the journey. For example, I learned I like other genres. I LIKE doing book covers in general, not just scifi or fantasy. I LIKE illustrating for kids. That was never part of my college plans. 

I also learned that it takes time to build a name and reputation. You just can't be good. You have to be better and find someone who gives you a chance to show your worth. You have to build a professional portfolio, vs a personal one, because you're simply not legitimate until you have 50 or more published works. You need to learn your rights as an artist. You need to be willing to compromise. You need to do freebies on occasion (keep those to a minimum, or you earn enemies in the art community) and work cheap for a while. And most importantly: You have to figure out what your goals are and what you need to do to reach those goals.

Fifteen years after art school, and I am FINALLY doing what I SET OUT TO DO. So where do I plan to go from here? As I told @heyprettydivine, I have no intentions of changing what I do. I do hope to one day do at least one cover for a best seller. But if I never do, I am still doing precisely what I want to do.

What are your goals as an artist, and how do you hope to reach them?

Art Director & VP of Operations

Friday, March 9, 2012

Promotion: Book Trailer for First Flag of New Hampshire

posted by Vivian Zabel 

     Another new book from 4RV Publishing, coming out in March, is First Flag of New Hampshire, written by Stephanie Burkhart and illustrated by Ginger NielsonAidana WillowRaven created a book trailer to go with the book. After release, the book will be available through any bookstore and online as well as in the 4RV Bookstore.

4RV Publishing

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Writer’s Block is a Myth

by Robert Medak

Writers talk about Writer’s Block, it is just a term and nothing more.

Some writers may disagree with me. Writer's block occurs because the writer hasn’t paid enough attention to their research, or has a clear conception of their writing project. Before tackling any writing task, it is necessary to have a clear concept of what they are writing, albeit a story, and article, a synopsis, or pitch.

My favorite quote, which I use as part of my e-mail signature, is by Mark Twain that speaks volumes to me is, "The time to begin writing an article is when you have finished it to your satisfaction. By that time you begin to clearly and logically perceive what it is that you really want to say."

Before beginning any writing project, the writer should take the time to gather their thoughts about what it is they wish to accomplish with their writing project. This may be a difficult concept for some writers to comprehend, especially the beginning or unpublished writer.

There are different types of writers. I for one am a seat of the pants writer. Writing for me is to have a clear concept of what I want to say, than say it the best way possible for the reader to have a clear idea of what I am saying. I want to engage the reader and offer information that may help them in articles I write.

The bottom line is to have a clear idea of what you are writing, get it written down, then edit it or have someone you trust edit the work for you.

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Sunday, March 4, 2012

Book Marketing Strategy: Joint Ventures

By Karen Cioffi

There is a song, The Power of One, which conveys what one individual can accomplish and/or change. But, how much more effective is the power of two, or five, or ten, or 100, or more?

In a technical light, a joint venture (JV) is a partnership between two or more entities for a specific project and for a specified amount of time.

Quoting from, “According to the Commonwealth Alliance Program (CAP), businesses anticipate strategic alliances accounted for 25% of all revenues in 2005, a total of 40 trillion dollars.” So, it’s easy to see this strategy packs a wallop.

This is the concept behind joint ventures for book promotion, and they are very effective.
The idea is to hook up with other authors/writers and participate in JVs. What this means is an author has a new book coming out and wants to reach more than her individual mailing list and social networks, she joins forces with writer friends or acquaintances to promote the book for a ONE DAY Promotional Power-packed Special.

Suppose it’s your new book; you contact one to several authors who might be willing to put your prewritten promo on their sites and social networks, and (THIS IS THE VERY IMPORTANT PART) are willing to provide a freebie or a significant discount on a product or service to any one who purchases your book on that day.

According to book marketing specialists, Brain Judd and Daniel Hall, this has the potential to put your book on Amazon’s TOP HUNDRED list in one or more categories – just for one day’s promo.

Even participating in JVs has promotional benefits. I recently participated in a JV initiated by an author for her new book. For my participation I offered a FREE bonus gift, How to Create an Ebook.

I posted her promo content, along with my own, because I like to show my readers the marketing value in particular posts such as these. I then promoted the post to my social networks.

For a little effort and time, you can increase your visibility and possibly your subscriber list.

To have your participation be more effective, be sure to provide your links and offer your own products within your free offering. And, to create added value, you can allow the freebie to be shared, or portions of it reprinted with your tag/bio.

Another scenario for book promotion JVs, in fact a more popular one, is to be approached by publicists. This has happened to me several times and I usually participate for the visibility factor. The publicist will put out a wide reaching call for participants for his client. Obviously, the more on board the greater the promotional reach and punch. But, even on a small scale, this marketing strategy is a gem.

Learn about writing and marketing with Karen Cioffi at Sign up for her free newsletter, A Writer’s World, and get TWO free site-related e-books for subscribing, and ONE more just for stopping by. For professional and affordable writing services check out

Friday, March 2, 2012

What I've learned from television

by Vivian Zabel

     I watch many police, detective, and crime shows on television, often hoping to learn something I can use in my writing. Of course much of what I learn is what not to use, but all is part of learning.

     From CIS (all versions), NCIS, Law and Order, The Mentalist, Castle, and other various show, I've learned that most law enforcement people and criminologists are manipulative, lying, promiscuous, immoral, corrupt, and over-all dysfunctional. I wonder how any crimes can be solved when the people supposedly solving the crimes use their time to commit their own crimes or to try unwind their own twisted lives.

     Ahh, you ask for examples. In at least three shows (CSI Miami, NCIS, and NCIS LA), the protagonists take the law into their own hands and murder some bad guys, in other countries of course. They might have some twinges of trouble as results, but nothing drastic happens to them because of their actions.

     I'll admit NCIS is one of my favorite shows, but really. In real life, Tony would be up on charges of harassment and dismissed faster than I could spell harassment. He has become a caricature rather than a crime fighter. Enough is enough and really too much. If I had a protagonist in one of my novels like Tony, I would definitely not sell any copies. I'm a fan of Jethro Gibbs, usually, but, much as I would understand a character wanting to kill the murderer of my family, the writers really must be careful not to write when under the influence of whatever.

     From CSI Miami, I've learned to use appropriate body actions. People do not normally look off somewhere else when talking to a person, as the main character does on this show. As a result, I try to make the actions of my characters believable and appropriate.

     On all these shows, characters must play musical beds, apparently. What such behavior has to do with solving crimes, I have no idea. In this world of dissolving marriages, split families, people having trouble bonding with others, why do we need to see the lack of personal control extolled constantly on television? I could see an occasional incidence popping up, especially on the part of antagonists or red-herring characters, but according to television, all the protagonists, the heroes, are flawed to such a great extent that I don't know how they find the time or energy to do their jobs.

     No, characters shouldn't be "perfect," because no one is perfect, but few successful, productive people are so imperfect, so flawed, so unappetizing. Therefore, I've learned from television shows to work extra hard to make my characters believable.

     The same idea applies to plots: Plots should be believable enough that a reader can suspend belief enough to accept them. Television plots often are so unbelievable that anyone of a sound mind can't stretch his imagination that far.

      Yes, I have learned much from TV shows. Mainly I've learned what to avoid, but I still enjoy, for the most part, the shows and do pick up some helpful ideas.

4RV Bookstore
4RV Publishing