Friday, April 24, 2020

4RV Release: Stepping into a New Role: Stories from Stepmoms

Shawn Simon

Shawn Simon

            4RV Publishing's newest release is the nonfiction book Stepping into a New Role: Stories from Stepmoms by Shawn Simon. 

            Anyone who thinks becoming a stepmom would be easy has a surprise waiting for her, the same surprise the author did.  

Author Shawn Siimon thought being a stepmom would be easy until her stepdaughter spit on her dog. Then, she decided to make it her mission to meet other stepmoms and hear their stories. Once she did, she felt supported and no longer alone. Sharing those stories became a stepmom support group in writing.

This book, a collection of stories from stepmoms, contains tales of inspiration, triumph, tribulations, and joys of being a stepmom.

As Craig Shoemaker (Comedian of the Year from the American Comedy Awards, ABC, and two-time Emmy Winner, NATAS) states: The world of step-parenting is rarely explored. It must be similar to maiden voyages by explorers in the 1400’s. It’s scary, treacherous, and sometimes painful. But if we have a guide book, such as the one Shawn wrote, the new world can be bright and beautiful. Thank you for being our Step-Navigator!

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Marketing -- a Must Part of Publishing

            Most people don't recognize marketing as a part of publishing, but it is. Once a publisher accepts a manuscript or an author decides to self-published, marketing on the part of an author (and an illustrator) needs to begin.

         Somehow someway, the rumor that an author's job ends once a manuscript goes to press spread throughout the world. However, nothing could be farther from the truth. Remember, authors and illustrators are the best promoters of their books. If an author like James Patterson has to promote his books, those of us not as well known or as popular must promote even more.

         Below is a list of ideas whose sole purpose is to assist authors and illustrators in their marketing efforts. No one needs to try all the ideas but should try several. If some don't work, try something else. However, a few are needed, such as numbers 1, 8, 9, and 12.

1. Promote on Facebook and other on-line social media. (Contracts state authors should have a blog, a website, and be at least on Facebook.) Get that website up and running -- before the book is released.

2. Send handwritten notes, cards, or greeting cards to inform friends or the public of your new book or existing books as well as any appearances you are making.

3. Use handwritten fonts as an alternative to actually handwriting cards.

4. Use or a similar medium as a way to contact others.

5. Search out and enter contests. Researching online is one way to find contests. OWFI has a writing competition every year (

6. Join the Chamber of Commerce and use its networking opportunities.

7. Promote your book on radio, t.v. spots, and/or talk shows.

8. Talk to your librarians about purchasing your book for their shelves or fill out a book request. The library will often purchase that book after the request. Also, have friends and relatives request your book at their local libraries.

9. Have a giveaway once in a while. There are different ways to do this. Be creative. B.J. Daniels gives away special bookmarks, magnets, aprons, and other mementos of her books. Personally, I prefer not to give away a current book, but if you have previous books, you might give away one or more of them to build an interest in your new book.

10. Set up a booth in art, crafts, street, or book festivals. Sell your books directly. Authors and illustrators usually make more by buying their books at a discount, selling at retail (or slightly lower), and pocketing the profit.

11. Donate a copy of your book to one or more local schools and get media coverage, even if in a small local paper.

12. Write a very short story about one or two of your book characters and post it on your blog or other places as a FREE item, a lead-in, or attention-getter for your book.

13. Build your name's brand, or that of your book, by giving away pencils or pens with your name and email address on them, bottles of water, bookmarks, postcards, etc. Always have business cards to give away.

14. You should provide information (links) on social media and on handouts such as fliers and postcards so that people know where to find your book or books.

15. Prepare postcard-sized inserts with your autograph to place in each book: On the card, have your photo, brief info about books, and a polite request for the reader to place a rating and brief review on Amazon if book pleased reader.

16. Prepare and keep an event diary for annual events in which you are interested in participating. In that digital or hard-copy diary, keep a compilation of press releases, press clippings, email blasts, photos, marketing materials, a monthly to-do lists, and anything else that would be helpful for you to plan the next year's attendance or that would be helpful for the next year's publicity person. For example, OWFI has a conference annually. If you attend, speak at that conference, and/or have your book or books in their conference bookstore, then have an event diary for that event.

17. Don't write just one press release. Customize the release for each specific media. A different slant is needed for media out of town than for local media.

18. Promote your book at least 3-4 months before it's released officially. This idea may not work or be wanted for every book, but it will help for some books.

19. Find local places to host a book signing for you and/or to carry your book(s). For example, a book about sports might grab the interest of a sporting goods store; a book about dolls might interest a toy store; a book about a dog or cat or other pet might interest a pet store.

20. Have a guest book for people stopping by your booth at an event. Be sure visitors write their emails so you can send messages (with a way for the recipients to "opt-out" of receiving more emails) go share writing tips and information about upcoming events or books.

21. Be aware of opportunities to promote your book.
For example, one 4RV author carries a copy of her book and another book to read with her. While waiting for an appointment or for a friend, she reads the extra book and looks around to see if anyone else is reading. When she sees a person reading, she asks the person the title of the book. She tells the person she is an author and is interested in what people like to read. That short conversation provides an opportunity for her to talk about her books. She doesn’t always sell a book, but she can give the person a business card and flier about her books.

         Finally, search for other ideas to promote your book. Be creative, but don't be afraid to "borrow" ideas from others. You are the best person to promote your book because you know it better than anyone else. Be proud of your "baby" and present it to the world. You may not be a James Patterson, yet, but you can promote as hard as he does.

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Turning Busy Time into Productive Time

You all know the busy bee. No matter what day you ask, she’s busy.  If you ask how she’s doing, she’ll provide a laundry list of things left undone that she’s working on. 

Problem is: next week her laundry list will probably be the same … or worse. 

Why?  Because she’s busy, not productive.

Just because we have a lot to accomplish, doesn’t mean we are approaching our to-do list in a productive manner. In order to be productive, you have to make progress. Busy bees don’t. They flit around in all directions until they feel so overwhelmed they procrastinate. 

How can you stop the busy bee syndrome?  Here are some great ways to get you started.

Set S.M.A.R.T. Goals

Setting S.M.A.R.T. goals is the first step toward turning busy time into productive time. S.M.A.R.T. goals are ones that are: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely.  For more information on setting S.M.A.R.T. goals, you can view this video.

The reason goal setting is so important to productivity is that you need to focus on what you need to accomplish. Without a plan, you’re like a driver trying to maneuver a car without a steering wheel; you have no control over where the car is going and eventually you will crash. 

Prioritize Your Goals

Just like you wouldn’t put slacks on before your underwear, you shouldn’t try to attack your goals without prioritizing them first. 

Review your goals and consider which ones you need to work on first. Deadlines help you prioritize goals, but when you accept a new project with a closer deadline, you need to consider if this is a new or repeat client and what the future impact might be on your career when accepting this new project if it impacts other deadlines. 

If you are working on a project without a solid deadline, create measurable and timely tasks to keep you on track.

Write a To-do List

You’ve set your goals and prioritized them. Now, you need to break them down into monthly or weekly to-do lists. 

The first thing a to-do list does is give you a way to focus on smaller tasks so that the larger goal doesn’t seem so daunting. A to-do list also allows you to feel a sense of accomplishment when you check off a completed item — which is a huge source of motivation. 

After using to-do lists for several weeks or months, you’ll also be able to better gauge how much you can truly accomplish during a specific time period. While it might vary depending upon the size and complexity of the projects you are working on, it will still give you a good overall picture of whether your writing schedule is working. 

Create a Writing Schedule That Works for You

Speaking of writing schedules, you need to create one that works best for you. If you’re more productive in the morning, then that’s when you should be writing. I realize my most productive hours are after 9 pm, so when my girls were younger I would wait until they went to bed to sit down to work.

For those who can’t write during their ideal time frame because of other commitments, use lunch hours and wait times before doctor appointments to increase productivity.

Track Your Time

Allowing distractions like email, your phone, and the Internet to steal your writing time will leave you feeling overwhelmed when faced with a deadline. Letting family and friends invade the time you’ve put aside for writing will also keep you busier than normal. On the reverse side, taking time dedicated to family and using it to catch up on writing projects can leave your family feeling resentful of your career. 

Take out a pen and pad or create a spreadsheet to track your time for the next five days. This will help identify exactly how much time you spend on each task and where time is wasted. Identifying what distractions and interruptions keep you from obtaining your goals will help you eliminate them. 

Keep a careful eye on how much time you spend working on projects where you just couldn’t say, “no.” Volunteering in your community and taking on special assignments can often make you feel good, but if you commit to more than you can realistically handle, you’ll soon feel the pressure and  procrastinate. 

Setting S.M.A.R.T. goals and prioritizing them, maintaining to-do lists, creating a writing schedule that works best for you, and tracking your time will help you be productive rather than chronically busy.

Cheryl C. Malandrinos is a freelance writer and editor. She is the author of four children’s books including, A Christmas Kindness, released by 4RV Publishing. A blogger and book reviewer, she lives in Massachusetts with her husband and two daughters. She also has a son who is married. Visit Cheryl online at and her children’s book blog at

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Children’s Writing and Information Dump

Contributed by Karen Cioffi

As a ghostwriter and editor, occasionally I get clients who give me a draft of a story that has information dump within the first few spreads of a picture book.

This is a no-no.

Information dump is when an author literally dumps a chunk of information or backstory for the reader to absorb.

Granted most new writers may not realize they’re hitting the reader with these big chunks of information. Or, the author may want to tell the reader what she thinks the reader should know, but doesn’t know how to weave the information into the story.

I think the problem is the ‘author’ wants to make sure the reader understands what’s going on. For example:

Billy and Joe had been best friends since Kindergarten. They played together every day and even had sleep overs. They were also on the same football team. Then Billy insulted Joe last year. After that, Joe didn’t want to be friends with Billy anymore. Now, it’s a new school year.

While this example isn’t too long, there are some info dumps that are paragraphs long, pages long, or in the case of picture books, spreads long.

Another possible reason for information dumping.

Another possibility is that the ‘author’ is writing the story for himself. He’s writing to see what he wants to see in the book. He’s not thinking about what a seven year old or a ten year old will want . . . even expect in a book.

Whatever the reason, information dump at the beginning of a story leads to a very boring beginning. And, it delays the initial problem that the protagonist must overcome.

While this has touched on the beginning of a story so far, it’s not a good idea to dump clumps of information elsewhere within the story either.

Why information dumping isn’t a good idea.

Children, even adults, have short attention spans. Being told what went on is boring for the reader. She wants to see or hear what’s going on through action and dialogue. Information or backstory must be weaved into the story in tidbits here and there.

For example, going back to Billy and Joe. Instead of telling the reader flat out in the beginning of the story why they’re not friends, bring it in through dialogue.

It was the first day of the new school year. Joe walked past Billy in the yard without looking at him or saying a word.

“Okay, enough already. I insulted you last year. Get over it already,” chided Billy.

This lets the reader know what’s happening without knocking him over the head or dumping clumps of information. It brings the reader into the action and conversation. It’s effective writing.

While you may not be able to get every bit of information into the story that you think should be there, it doesn’t matter. Your reader will read between the lines.

So, think twice before dumping that information on your reader.


Karen Cioffi is an award-winning children’s author, successful children’s ghostwriter, and online platform instructor with WOW! Women on Writing. Check out her middle-grade book, WALKING THROUGH WALLS.

You can connect with Karen at: