Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Promotion: Media kits - why and how

by Vivian Zabel 

          Many people read or hear about media or press kits but don't know why one is needed or how to put one together. Since every author and illustrator should have a media kit, let's discuss why and then what should be included.

First of all, a few reasons why a media kit is needed:

1.  Many review sources request a media kit as well as a copy or two of the book to be considered.

2.  Often conferences and book festivals ask for a media kit for speaker and attendee publicity.

3.  Publicists need information for promoting an author or illustrator.

4.  Anytime an author or illustrator seek publicity through news media, radio, or television, the hosting entity would want a media kit.

5.  Libraries, schools, and bookstores often publicize visiting authors and/or illustrators. Providing them with a media kit helps them help promote. 

          Those are five reasons, but others exist. One important reason to have a media kit is the need to appear professional. Material can be presented physically or online as a PDF.
How to prepare a media kit:
            A media kit helps present needed materials for publicity. One can be assembled online or in a two pocket folder. A kit should include the following items:

 1.  a photograph of the author
 2.  reviews and summaries of books by the author and any news releases available
 3.  image of book cover
 4.  information about the book(s) being promoted with this kit
 5.  a writing resumé for the author
 6.  a bio of the author
 7.  any possible writing awards can be listed separately or included in the resumé.

            My hard copy media kit has a CD envelope (with the transparent window) on the front with a photograph. The window is facing the reader. The envelope is glued across the bottom of the envelope and about two thirds up each side. The flap can then be opened and closed so the photo can be removed and replaced.

            I put my name at the top of the front of the folder, printed in large font and in blue on a strip of neatly cut paper. Any color may be used, but the label needs to be large enough to read and be easily read.

            My online media kit has all the needed items in one folder.

            Anytime I need to provide information for media publicity, I can hand deliver or mail the kit. If the media source prefers an attachment emailed, I can attached any portions of the kit needed for that source. I have a PDF that includes all necessary components that can be sent as an email attachment.

          Anyone who would like to receive a PDF of what I included in my media kit, please email me or leave your email in a comment below.

Monday, June 27, 2011

When you are published -- please know you are

by Vivian Zabel  

          Did you know that when you post something on the Internet, it is published? That's correct. Even if you are a member of a writing site or review site, unless you restrict your items so that only selected members of that site can access your items, then you have published your work. Please don't try to submit to a publisher after that, unless the publisher will accept previously published material.

          Do I sound aggravated, angered, angry, boiling, exasperated, fuming, incensed, inflamed, infuriated, irate, livid, mad, pushed too far, riled, upset? I am. Publishers take for granted that submitters will submit only items that are not published elsewhere. In fact, the contract authors sign states that the material is not already used, not already published.

          Publishers should not have to research all the titles they accept to be sure the material is not already used. That is the responsibility of the writer.

          Want to be black-listed, to have your contract broken because you were dishonest? Try to pull a "fast one" on a publisher. 

          Occasionally, a publisher will re-release a book already published IF the author is upfront and the circumstances are such the publisher decides to do that. However, the author must be honest and tell the publisher from the beginning. The rights for the book must be released legally from the other publisher, all copies of the book must be destroyed, and the author must go through regular channels to have the book edited and to meet the new publisher's standards. Accepting a book for re-lease, though, is the choice of the publisher, not the author.

          No matter how many times the message is made public about "publishing" on the Internet, some people either don't read or listen or don't care. From this point forward, any manuscripts 4RV Publishing discovers has been misrepresented, whether accidentally or on purpose, the submission will automatically be rejected or the contract will be null and void. Any contracted author will be charged for any and all editing and other services done on the project by the time the misfeasance is discovered. Some publishers take legal action against authors, but we won't go that far unless under special circumstances. 

          Yes, the preceding sounds harsh, but a publisher takes a gamble that the company might make a profit on a book -- someday. The odds are already against a company, but when material which is already published is used, the likely hood of any profit is null and void.

          Please be honest, no matter which publisher you choose or which agent. 

4RV Publishing Catalog 

Wednesday's post will be about promotion again: media kits, why and how.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

An Overview of Children's Writing by: Stephanie Burkhart

My son, Joe, reading The Giving Meadow, my book with 4RV Publishing.

Here's a little of what I've discovered writing for children. I hope you enjoy.


Children love books. Whether it’s sitting down in mommy’s lap or curling up in a quiet corner to read, a good book gives them a grand adventure. However, writing for children is a lot more challenging than you think.

Typically, children’s stories are shorter and use simple language, but a short story may not be a good story. Here are some elements to keep in mind when writing for children.

One of the elements needed for a good children’s story is plot. It should be fun and engaging. Remember, today’s children’s books compete with TV, video games, Wii, and movies. Take children on an adventure in your book. Don’t be over simplistic. The story should follow a logical sequence of events that children should understand.

Keep in mind your plot should have some conflict as well. The conflict should be aimed at the age level you’re writing for. Conflict in children’s writing doesn’t need to be complicated. It can be an escaped cat, a move to a new town, or the first day of school. Just remember to bring the conflict down to a level that children can understand.

Also remember there are different age ranges and audiences in children’s literature. You want to gear your plot and conflict to suit those ages. You have board books, picture books, early readers, beginning chapter books, and young adult books. If you’re not familiar with these formats, you might want to do a little research. Read books in the targeted age range you want to write in. Talk to kids about what they like to read or don’t like to read.

Another element in crafting a good’s children’s story is characterization. Children have to be able to relate to the characters in the story. What helps is to keep the dialogue as natural as you can. (If you use any)

Another thing to remember is that a children’s story doesn’t have to tell a moral. It should first be fun and engaging to read. Also, a children’s book doesn’t have to rythme. Some writers haven’t mastered rythming and they may come up with a poor rythme scheme. Don’t force it. Remember a good book doesn’t have to fit into a series. Let a series be an outgrowth of a good character.

Overall, writing for children can be very rewarding, especially if you craft a story with a dash of adventure, a pinch of fun, and a tablespoon of character.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Your fans want to reach you, but can't meet you at a signing. Now what?

by Aidana WillowRaven

As I posted last week, keeping your website clutter free, and your portfolio, even your online portfolio clean, concise, and compartmentalized is very important when you rely on it for business or promotion.

But there are a few handy gadgets you may want to include on your website (there are many free website platforms out there), that make it easier for your fans or customers to reach you. Contact forms are good. Guestbooks. Social network widgets (like to your FaceBook or Twitter pages). Even blogs can be a means of contact.

You want the gadget to be easy to find, yet not obstructive or overpowering, so as not to detract from your site's main purpose.

One gadget I use is Live Help or Live Chat. It allows your site visitor to see if you are available to chat, and if not, to leave you a message that goes to your email. See:

If you notice, at the bottom of my main page, I have a couple network buttons, a membership button, the PayPal verified seal, and the little grey Live Help box (which shows that I am online right now). There is a copy of this button on my bio page, and the contact page (logical places for a browsing fan to look for ways to reach you).

Imagine you're just working on your computer, illustrating or writing, and the cyber phone rings (the chat window on your end rings like a phone). You accept the chat, and it's a fan!

Maybe it's a question about your book or characters, maybe it's a prospective buyer, or maybe it's someone wanting to hire you. You can use it as a 'meet the author/illustrator' tool, or whatever. And here comes the best part ...


Yes, free, folks. If you can place code on your site or blog, then you can have a free, private chat with up to five different people at once. 

It's not a forum window, though those can be fun and useful, too. And there is a pay upgrade available, but for your average needs, the free one fits right into a writer or illustrator's marketing budget.

If you think it may help your illustration or writing career, get one for yourself. Visit, and sign up. Oh, and they offer a lot more for websites than just chat windows. Look around. If you find it hard to find, here is the direct link: You'll see both the free Basic option, and the Premium option (which includes a fee).

If you wish to try mine first, give me a ring on my website. It's really fun. I think your fans will like it, too.

Art Director & VP of Operations
4RV Publishing

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Monday blues: Head in the Clouds syndrome: Tuesday Trivia: Wednesday Woes

They are all related in a way, those categories.  There are most likely several more you could add. They approach each other in varying degrees until they mesh and you and get on with your day of, writing, painting, wringing of your hands, and trying not to focus on things left undone.

One of the great mysteries of life is simply life itself. How do we fit into one lifetime all the things we know we want to do, the things we think we can do and the things
we are desperate to try but have not the energy, physical strength or time to attempt. What happens to the things we HAVE done but have become such faded memories that they fade slowly and inevitably into the past.

There is a secret here that is really no secret at all.  WRITE!  SKETCH!

You may not be planning the next great novel.   You may not be appearing on the Today Show with a silver or gold sticker on your newest book.  You may not be signing endless copies of your most recently published work.   On some level, however, you have it in you to create something wonderful from your writing.

Keep a journal. Write in it every day.  Sketching is a plus.  Then go back and read what you have written in a year or two or even the next week.  Sometimes you can surprise yourself. At times you will find wisdom for the days ahead in what lies in your past.
If for no other reason, your journal can revive some memories that would be lost forever if they were not documented.

If you are a writer or an aspiring writer, this journal of your thoughts, fears, ambitions and creative ideas will serve you well in your future endeavors.

Artists keep their sketch books.  These are another kind of journal of the everyday and the sometimes unique images that generate new ideas from older ones.

Every note, every sketch has value.  Not only is it part of you as a writer or an artist, but it is a valuable tool in your future. 

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Released soon: Carla's Cloud Catastrophe

by Vivian Zabel   

          Carla's Cloud Catastrophe by Beth Bence Reinke and illustrated by Ginger Nielson will be released by July 1. Let's enjoy watching and listening to the book trailer created by Ginger.

          The Children's and Teens' Book Connection posted a review of the delightful book:
 An imaginative, fun story is what you’ll find in Carla’s Cloud Catastrophe by Beth Bence Reinke.
While walking home from the bakery with her father and her sister, Anna, Carla sees clouds falling from the sky. They cover everything: the ground, traffic lights, the grass, even Papa. Carla is afraid she’ll be late for her own birthday party. Papa is the Director of Transportation, so he is called into a meeting on how to handle the cloud situation. All the adults start tossing around ideas on what to do with the clouds. Could Carla have a better solution? Will she make it to her birthday party on time?

My girls and I loved this book. Its unique storyline drew us in right away. Having read Reinke’s A Wish and A Prayer and In My Bath, I knew this would be a wonderful book; but this story is definitely my favorite. Here is a young girl trying to get home from the bakery with her birthday cake, and clouds start falling from the sky. Carla is sure she won’t make it to her party on time. She travels through her neighborhood, finding fallen clouds everywhere. Then she has to follow her dad into an important meeting on how to handle the situation. I would be freaking out if I were Carla. :) 

Ginger Neilson’s beautiful artwork brings this story to life. From the puffy clouds falling on Papa to the fluffy mess at the public library, and from the splatters of clouds coming off the merry-go-round to the clouds stuck to the church’s steeple, every page is filled with wonderful illustrations to make this story come alive.  

Every youngster will want a copy of Carla’s Cloud Catastrophe!
Rating:  :) :) :) :) :)
Publisher:  4RV Publishing
ISBN: 978-0-9828346-0-2

          The book is available through the 4RV Publishing Catalog.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Is Your Online Portfolio Overwhelming?

by Aidana WillowRaven

Back in art school (I won't be going into how long ago THAT was ... lol), it was repeatedly drilled into our impressionable minds to keep our portfolio neat, clean, and ready to show off at a moment's notice. We were taught that too many images, especially if we worked in various genres and mediums, vs. a set 'look' or style, could confuse the viewer. And the last thing you want to do, when showing your work to a prospective employer or client, is to confuse them. You want them to know, without a doubt, that you are the artist that they just have to have doing their project.

The trick is enticing them with enough to convince them without going overboard. So where do you draw the line?

Well, in the olden days ... we used a physical portfolio. The came in various sizes and had the option of holding anywhere from 6 to 100 pages. We were coached to keep portfolios between 12-24 images of any one genre or style, and to also consider having different folios for different styles. That way, if the potential client is a clothing designer, you don't waste her time and yours by flipping through children's book illustrations, but you show her a full portfolio of your best fashion illustrations.

With the accessibility of the internet, the opportunities for artists have skyrocketed. We no longer need to mail in our portfolios, requiring that we have several copies on hand of each. We no longer need to request our work to be hopefully returned after review, and pray they use our prepaid postage and honorably send it back. An artist without an online portfolio these days does not really want to have his/her work seen. Having an online portfolio is essential.

But we run into a new dilemma. It's so easy to upload images when there is no consideration of space or consciousness of physical 'pages,' to over 'fill' a portfolio.

I recently noticed I had fallen into that trap. I had a gallery page on my site that held almost all of my professional work. Almost everything I had in print. 

Problem ... I've got over 100 books, not counting magazines and websites, with my work in them in print.

I am one of those artists who works in several genres, in several styles, and in several mediums. I pride myself in my diversity. But when I started getting comments like 'You're such a prolific artist,' and 'Wow, I don't know where to start,' I knew I had to go old school and tidy up my portfolio ... my online portfolio. I had to look at my work objectively and select only key pieces -- not all of them -- regardless of how much I had a personal attachment to them. Check out how my gallery page used to look:

I only should showcase my best work (we all have those old works where we go, 'Boy, I've improved' ... lol) and the styles I want my potential clients to see, not everything I've done.  If you notice, the left column was kid's books and illos, the second column was originals and promo pieces, the third column was novels, and the right column was logos and banners. All on one page. What you don't see is how long this stretched on ... lol. I just kept adding to the top of the pile. Here's the link so you can get the real idea of just how congested this got (I kept the link active just for ya'll to see):

I also had to evaluate who would be looking at what. Since I work in so many genres, am I wasting someone's time or misleading them into thinking I can't deliver what they want, because they are overwhelmed with children's art when they are seeking high fantasy or graphic art? I had to compartmentalize my portfolio. Effectively create several folios, just like back in the day, but on my website. That way, when clients pop in, they know just where to go for the type of genre they may want to hire me to do. 

Here's a screen shot of my new main page:

 My old main page was full of quotes, links, a video folio, and widgets ( I moved my 'follow me' widgets and other non-art stuff to the bottom and kept the page minimal and neat. It's not what I want people to see first. The art had to come first. You see above that there are five clear categories, or portfolios, to choose from. That's it. I deliberately made myself stick to as few a number as possible. I had to really evaluate 'what I do.'

I made each image that represents a portfolio a link to the pages that hold that genre. I also included the links in the drop down menu for those pages. As one follows to the genre of choice, he will find either small to medium sized examples of the work, with links to full sized examples, or find a subcategory page (let's look at the Children's - YA Illustration page, where you'd find such a page):

As you can see, I sub-divided this category into three parts. That way, if the client or publisher is looking for a picture book artist, they know where to look and are not distracted by my middle grade line art. This also allows me to show 24-24 images of just that type of art, rather than trying to show 12-24 images of all three types together.

Say we choose to go to the Tween - Young Adult page and we see:

Right now, I only have eight images, but they are solid works, and the viewer isn't distracted by everything else I've done. I still end up showing off a lot of my work this way. But now it's much more targeted to the audience.

The sub pages and enlarged example pages are not listed in the navigation bar. Again, I don't want to overwhelm the viewer with choices. I want to herd them, gently, to the areas I want them to travel. As I've often seen editors tell authors, less is more.

Lastly, I wanted to create a sense of my work, as a whole, and wanted something to introduce people to my art, a welcome page of sorts. So, I linked my URL, to a 'portal' page, which I have opening up with my latest piece.

So in conclusion ...

Your online portfolio needs to be treated like your physical portfolio. You don't want too little, too much, or work that just isn't up to your current standard. You don't want to muddy the waters with too many quotes, link, or bells and whistles. Make sure your audience know how and where to reach you, and can be able to communicate their wants by your showing them what you have to offer in the best possible way.

For those that wish to check out the new site in action, follow my link:

Art Director & VP of Operations
4RV Publishing

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Editors Want to Know Your Story's Premise

Editors Want To Know Your Story's Premise by Joan Y. Edwards

Editors ask: What is your story's emotional premise? What is your story about in three to six words?

Before you write your story, while you are writing your story, or after your story is finished you must know what your premise or theme is. You must know what your story is about. What are you proving about life with the characters and the situations in your story. Are you proving that poverty plus distrust leads to crime? Are you proving that faith versus fear leads to success? Are you proving that ambition plus jealousy leads to failure?

Bill Johnson said a good story revolves around human needs in his article: Premise -- Foundation of Storytelling (2000)

William Foster-Harris says premise is a solved illustration of a problem of moral arithmetic, such as pride + love = happiness in his book: The Basic Formulas of Fiction (1944).

According to James N. Frey, author of How to Write Damn Good Novel, “to find your premise, you start with a character or a situation, give the protagonist a dilemma, and then say what if such and such happened.” In his book, The Key, Frey adds that premise has to have character, conflict, conclusion, and conviction of the author.

James N. Frey, Emily McKay, and Debra Dixon agree that every character in your story must have a (GMC) goal, motivation, and conflict. However, the goal, motivation, and conflict of your protagonist is the one upon which the proof of your story’s premise should be based.

A premise is what you, the author, set out to prove in your story. With your premise, you are saying to your readers, given these characters and this situation, human nature is such that it will end up this way. It is a very short emotional summary of your story that says this human emotion, quality, or condition struggling against an extremely negative emotion, quality, or human condition leads to a final changed human condition at the end of your story. It doesn’t always have to happen that way in real life. However, it’s that way in your story.

Your premise is a message for your readers that when two particular human emotions, qualities, or conditions are pitted together, you come up with a concluding emotion, quality, or condition.

The same premise can be used for different stories. A premise is universal.

Joan’s Emotional Premises for Movies

Blind Side (2009) Premise: trust plus compassion leads to family.

Saying, proverb, cliche: One person can make a difference.

Love Story (1970) Premise: courage versus illness leads to unselfish love

Saying: Perfect love means unselfishness.

Confessions of a Shopaholic (2009) Premise: addiction plus respect leads to love.

Saying: Practice What You Preach

Fatal Attraction (1987) Premise: love versus obsessive jealousy leads to death

Saying: What Goes Around, Comes Around

Liar Liar (1997) Premise: lies plus love leads to divorce; truth plus forgiveness leads to reunification

Saying: Lies Catch Up with You in the End

Make your main character with one of these, struggle for or against one of these, and end up with one of these emotions, traits, vices, virtues, qualities, or conditions of his/her body, soul, and mind.

Emotions, Traits, Vices, Virtues, Qualities, and/or Conditions of the Body, Soul, or Mind

abundance, acceptance, accusation, addiction, admiration, affection, alienation, ambition, anger, annihilation, anxiety, apathy, approval, attention, authority, awareness, awe, beauty, belief, belonging, betrayal, blame, brutality, challenge, chaos, cheerfulness, choices, coming of age, competition, compassion, commitment, confidence, contempt, cooperation, corruption, courage, cowardice, creativity, crime, curiosity, death, debt, deception, dedication, desire, despair, destitution, destruction, dignity, disillusionment, disapproval, disaster, disbelief, discomfort, disgust, dishonesty, disrespect, distress, distrust, divorce, doubt, dream, education, enlightenment, enthusiasm, envy, equality, experience, etiquette, evil, excitement, failure, faith, faithfulness, fate, fear, forbidden, forgiveness, freedom, friendship, fun, fury, future, gain, generosity, genius, good, gratitude, greed, grief, guilt, handicap, happiness, hatred, honesty, honor, hope, humility, humor, hunger, identity, independence, indignation, individuality, initiation, injustice, innocence, insanity, intelligence, interest, isolation, jealousy, joy, justice, judgment, kindness, knowledge, lack, legal, lies, life, loneliness, loyalty, marriage, materialism, money, morality, murder, nature, nobility, order, obsession, oppression, pain, panic, passion, past, patience, peace, pity, power, peace, persecution, perseverance, pleasure, possibilities, poverty, principles, prejudice, pride, problems, protection, punishment, rage, rebelling, rebirth, redemption, rejection, relationship, religion, respect, responsibility, revenge, reverence, reward, romance, ruin, rules, sacrifice, sadness, satisfaction, security, selfishness, self-doubt, sex, shame, shelter, sickness, sinfulness, sorrow, spirit, starvation, stinginess, stubborn, success, suffering, suicide, surprise, survival, talent, taxes, tenderness, terror, thankfulness, thirst, time, tragedy, trapped, triumph, trust, truth, understanding, unfairness, ungratefulness, valor, vengeance, violence, vulnerability, war, wisdom, wealth, wonder, work, and wrongdoing.

Use the Practice Chart below and put what you think would happen with the two traits I’ve chosen. Make your own chart listing the premise for each of the stories you have written. Write a premise for ten of your favorite movies. Write a premise for ten of your favorite novels.

Joan’s Practice Chart for Writing a Premise

Your Character with what trait?

+ Dilemma Conflict Struggle

Has to Fight Against What Trait?

Leads to What Result?

Extreme Positive or Negative Emotion, Quality, or Condition

Conflict with, struggle against or fight for powerful, emotion, quality, or condition

Leads to Different Extreme Positive or Negative Emotion, Quality or Condition

1. extreme love

extreme disgust

leads to what?

2. extreme respect

extreme fear

leads to what?

3. extreme peace

extreme hate

leads to what?

4. extreme perseverance

extreme greed

leads to what?

5. extreme loyalty

extreme envy

leads to what?

6. extreme curiosity

extreme cowardice

leads to what?

7. extreme humility

extreme grief

leads to what?

8. extreme courage

extreme lust

leads to what?

9. extreme faith

extreme suffering

leads to what?

10. extreme hope

extreme hunger

leads to what?

I have heard people call this a theme, rather than a premise. Regardless, you have to have it, you have to know it, you have to believe it 100%. After you have your premise, you can write your pitch and the events of your story from the beginning, middle, and the end. Your premise will be proved by your story. Universal emotions and conditions that are understood by all human beings is transferred to your reader, and you will have a best seller.

Books That Discuss Premise

Art Of Dramatic Writing (1946,1960) by Lajos Egri free download of Chapter 1

How to Write a D... Good Novel (1987) by James N. Frey

How to Write a D... Good Novel, II (1994) by James N. Frey

How to Write a D... Good Mystery (2004) by James N. Frey

Goal, Motivation, and Conflict by Debra Dixon

The Key: How to Write a Damn Good Fiction Using the Power of Myth (2000) by James N. Frey

Online Articles That Discuss Premise

Basics of Screenwriting, Session I, one of the contributors is Amy Dunkleberger

Definition of Premises

Everything I Ever Needed to Know about Writing by Emily McKay

Premise--Foundation of Storytelling (2000) by Bill Johnson:

Story Premise (1998) by Kim Kay:

Start with a Solid Premise,

Theme and Premise by Jeanne Vincent:

Theme vs. Premise by Joel Haber

Understanding Theme and Premise by Susan J. Letham

Online Articles That Discuss Emotions and Human Needs

1. Fundamental Human Needs

2. What Are the Universal Themes

3. List of feeling words:

4. List of negative feeling words:

5. List of general emotions:

6. Basic Emotions by

7. Robert Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions

8. Robert Plutchik’s Eight Primary Emotions and How to Use Them, Part 1 and Part 2 by Daniel Benjamin Smith and

9. Nine Emotions from Sedona Method by Hale Dwoskin

10. Nine States of Emotional Empowerment by Swati Chopra

11. Paul Ekman’s Big Six Emotions:

12. Character Helps for Writing from SFF.Net, Julie West

13. Character Helps for Writing with Intense Feelings from SFF.Net, Julie West

14. Feelings Clip Art:

15. Great pictures matched with emotions:

16. Good description and pictures of emotions:

17. Lists of emotions:

Thank you for reading this article. I am honored. I hope my explanation of premise helps you latch onto it and make your stories stronger, more meaningful, and highly marketable. I appreciate James N. Frey reading over this article to make sure that I didn't lead you astray.

Do something good for you.
Never Give Up

Joan Y. Edwards
"Joan's Elder Care Guide:" Release Date, June 2015 4RV Publishing