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One of the newer players in the social media space, Pinterest has fast become a powerhouse. Driven by visual content–including images and video–Pinterest is a great place for authors to post favorite book covers (including your own), posters or screen captures from favorite movies, photos related to your research, or even share quotes. (Well, quotes that have been typed onto an image.)

You can create boards–these are defined by the categories for the images you upload. For example, you might start a board for “Research” and one for “Actors Who Should Play My Characters” and one for “Beautiful Locations Where My Books Are Set.” This a chance to build a relationship with your audience through visual content. What kind of images best represent your brand? What kind of images will engage your target reader? What images will build a bridge between you and that reader?

Pinterest Board


Article written by Chuck Sambuchino

No one reads more prospective novel beginnings than literary agents.

They’re the ones on the front lines, sifting through inboxes and slush piles. And they’re the ones who can tell us which Chapter One approaches are overused and cliché, as well as which techniques just plain don’t work.

Below find a smattering of feedback from experienced literary agents on what they hate to see the first pages of a writer’s submission. Avoid these problems and tighten your submission!

False beginnings

“I don’t like it when the main character dies at the end of Chapter One. Why did I just spend all this time with this character? I feel cheated.”
Cricket Freeman, The August Agency

“I dislike opening scenes that you think are real, then the protagonist wakes up. It makes me feel cheated.”
Laurie McLean, Foreword Literary

In science fiction

“A sci-fi novel that spends the first two pages describing the strange landscape.”
Chip MacGregor, MacGregor Literary


“I’m not a fan of prologues, preferring to find myself in the midst of a moving plot on page one rather than being kept outside of it, or eased into it.”
Michelle Andelman, Regal Literary

“Most agents hate prologues. Just make the first chapter relevant and well written.”
Andrea Brown, Andrea Brown Literary Agency

“Prologues are usually a lazy way to give back-story chunks to the reader and can be handled with more finesse throughout the story. Damn the prologue, full speed ahead!”
Laurie McLean, Foreword Literary


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J.K. Rowling’s been in the media recently after releasing a new Harry Potter short story in July and when she wrote a letter from Dumbledore to the 15-year-old survivor of the Texas shooting (is she amazing or what?). And since she’d one of my favorite authors, I thought it’d be nice to learn a little more about this incredible imaginative mind and how she started the writing career that led to the Harry Potter series.


Pseudonym(s): Robert Galbraith

Best Known For: The Harry Potter Series

Bio: Joanne “Jo” Rowling, is a British novelist best known as the author of the Harry Potter fantasy series. Born in Yate, Gloucestershire, Rowling was working as a researcher and bilingual secretary for Amnesty International when she conceived the idea for the Harry Potter series on a delayed train from Manchester to London in 1990. The seven-year period that followed saw the death of her mother, divorce from her first husband and relative poverty until Rowling finished the first novel in the series, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in 1997. There were six sequels, the last, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in 2007. Since then, Rowling has written three books for adult readers, The Casual Vacancy (2012) and—under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith—the crime fiction novels The Cuckoo’s Calling (2013) and The Silkworm (2014).


“It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all, in which case you have failed by default.”

“The most important thing is to read as much as you can, like I did. It will give you an understanding of what makes good writing and it will enlarge your vocabulary.”

“Secretly we’re all a little more absurd than we make ourselves out to be.”

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You’re writing books, and you want to become a bestselling author. How do you do it? Most writers believe it’s just a matter of luck, but it can be a matter of a strategy too. I’ve heard of writers using what Hugh Howey calls the Liliana Nirvana Technique, but I don’t know whether I’d have the patience to apply it as-is.

Here’s what the strategy/ technique boils down to: you write several ebooks, and you publish them together – all on the same day. This gets you Amazon’s help to make more sales. Here’s how Hugh explains it:

Why does this work? I think it has to do with “impressions,” or the number of times people see a product before they decide to take a chance on it. (In this case, the product is your name.) It also has to do with recommendation algorithms and how new works are treated on various online bestseller lists.

Become a Bestselling Author With an Explosion of Titles

As Hugh says, this strategy – which Liliana calls her “5 down and 1 in the hole” technique apes what happens when traditionally published authors get control of their backlist, and shovel their titles onto Amazon:

They didn’t gain a massive following until after they regained rights to their backlists and self-published. When they did get those rights, they secured works that were already written and edited. They could do some minor tweaks, update cover art, and release those works in rapid order.

Fast releases seem to lead to fast sales and – providing that the books are good, of course – that can lead to bestsellerdom.

I love the idea of the strategy, because it uses Amazon’s database to gain traction. The more books you have for sale, the more Amazon can promote you, automatically.

Wonderful as the strategy is however, it depends on an author having an enormous amount of patience. Not to mention, the ability to write six books quickly. If it takes you six months to write a book, you’ll need to be patient for the next three years, and a lot can change in that time.

A Modification of the Strategy: Three Months to Release

If you’re anything like me, and your reaction to this strategy is, “not in this lifetime”, you can modify the strategy. No one suggests that you need six full-length novels. Why not five short stories (to act as teasers), and a novel, or novella, to act as your “1 in the hole”?

I’m considering creating a pen name to write a series of mysteries later this year, and I’m planning to use “5 down and 1 in the hole” using short stories and a novel. Short stories are quick. The novel will take longer. I should be able to get all six books ready to roll within three months. It’s a way of kicking off the pen name with a bang, so to speak.

Another Modification to Become a Bestselling Author

You can modify Liliana’s strategy in any way you choose. Release two novellas, and have a novel ready to release a month later. You can tinker with the strategy in any way which makes sense to you.

If you have the patience to write six full-length novels, to use the strategy as-is, more power to you. With great books, you’ll get the exposure, and you may indeed become a bestselling author.

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Let’s clear up a source of a lot of confusion for authors new to the publishing industry: What is a “publisher” versus a “publishing services company”.

An author is the one who comes up with the intellectual property in manuscript form. The publisher is the one who adds the money and expertise to leverage the intellectual property into a successful book by providing a great title, cover, interior, setting the price and then cost-effectively printing the book and getting distribution for it into the bookstore market.

By this definition, so many of the entities calling themselves “publishers” are instead, “publishing services” or “author services” companies.


Publishers make investments. If the author is both making the investment and bringing in the intellectual property, then that is not a publishing deal. What you are doing is buying publishing services.

There is nothing wrong with that if you know what you are paying for and what you are getting. I hear so many people tell me what their “publisher” said, only to find out they aren’t working with a publisher at all.

If you are thinking of doing business with a publishing services company, (sometimes called a POD publisher) – a company that calls itself a publisher but charges you a fee up front – make sure they are right for you.

You have a right to know what to expect, so you need to have a contract to document the agreement. The services provider should provide you with the contract and you would expect to see provisions regarding who does what, what the flow of money is, in and out, termination provisions, and what liability each party is assuming.

But beyond the standard, there are some provisions that are especially important in publishing services contracts. We’ve developed a eight-point checklist of these essential points. If they can say “yes” to each of these, then you’ve found a great company to work with. If there are any “no” answers, please think twice!

1. Author retains all intellectual property rights – if you have to pay up front, there is absolutely no reason you should be selling your rights to your intellectual property in the bargain. You are licensing your rights to print, perhaps exclusively, for only a designated period of time.

2. Author benefits from book profits (isn’t just paid royalties or a commission) – again, if you have to pay the full cost of producing the book up front, the publishing services firm might get a percentage of what you sell, but you should retain the lion’s share. If they only want a percentage from the books they are able to sell, that would be a reasonable exchange. If they are able to generate bookstore orders (unlikely, but not impossible), then they should take a percentage from those sales. Otherwise, the profits from the book sales, minus the costs to print, should be yours.

3. Author has the right to terminate the publishing services contract, preferably in 30 days, but no more than 60 days – if you get a great offer from an established commercial publisher, you will be kicking yourself if you can’t take it because you are stuck with a bad contract you can’t get out of.

4. Timeline the author can live with – many publishing services companies do not specify how quickly they will publish your book. There is no reason they cannot create the cover and interior and have the book printed within 90 days of when they receive the manuscript. Anything much outside of that time frame is unacceptable and you should only sign a contract that gives you a full refund if they do not have books in your hands within 90 days, unless you specifically agree otherwise for some reason.

5. Professional quality cover, interior and printing – I have seen way too many books with completely unprofessional covers and a book binding that is falling apart. A professionally-designed cover is easy to spot a mile away and if you aren’t sure of what you are getting, call in a professional to take a look for you. Many of the publishing services firms outsource their printing to (just another reason for you to go direct), but if they do, at least you can be sure that the quality of the printing and binding will be good.

6. Author is given cover and interior design files if contract is terminated – if you have had to pay to have your book cover designed and the interior typeset, then you want the right to get the design files back (not just a PDF) if you terminate the contract. Most POD publishers do not allow this as a way to keep you tied to them.

7. Reasonable prices for books – if part of your contract is for the publishing services firm to print your books on-demand, then you want no more than a 25% mark-up to cover their administrative costs than if you took your book to your own printer. The on-demand printer you would be smart to use is (for more reasons than I can detail here). The formula Lightning Source uses to determine the price of printing a book is $.90 x .015 x the number of pages in the book. So for instance, if your book were 183 page, the price per book would be 183 x $.015 = $2.75 + $.90, which equals $3.65 per book. Again, using this example, if the price quoted to you by the POD publisher were more than $4.56 per book, you are paying too much.

Too many publishing services companies charge a percentage of retail for you to buy your own book; for instance, 50% of a $20 book, or $10 a book. This is how established commercial publishers work, but they do it because you haven’t paid for publishing up front – that is a whole different story.

Don’t ever sign a contract that requires you buy a minimum number of books. Regardless of what the POD publisher tells you, they are printing on demand, which means they don’t have to buy a certain quantity from their printer, so you should not have to either.

8. Reasonable prices for other services – many of the publishing services companies want you to buy marketing or other services and they will offer you a menu that you feel like you need to be successful. Much better to interview qualified professionals and choose your own after talking to other authors and others in the industry. Don’t sign a contract that requires you to buy any additional services.

The bottom line is this: You can easily self publish without a POD publisher, but if you decide you want someone to handle all the details, be sure you get what you are paying for. There are hundreds, if not thousands of POD publishers so you have plenty to choose from. As in all other things, make sure and read the contract and get the terms that work for you and your book.


Having a website is essential for authors to connect with their readers, keep them up to date on their latest book news and appearances, and to get readers to sign up to be part of your database.  So what are the essential elements that should be included on an author’s website?  Here’s what every author’s website should have:

  • Home Page
  • Place to Buy Your Books– include an easy way to buy your book either directly from your site or by linking to the Amazon or other eCommerce site for your book
  • Mailing List Sign-Up- entice readers to be added to your database by offering a free “gimme” (a free short story or other fun giveaway) to get them to sign up for your mailing list
  • Testimonials & Reviews– if you get a great review by a fellow author in your genre, be sure to add it to your website.  You might just gain some of that author’s readers too!
  • Author Events & News- use this to promote signing events, book tours, release dates and other interviews and events you have planned
  • Author Bio & Contact Info
  • Blog- share author news, writing tips, contests, and fun anecdotes here to further connect with your readers
  • Book Excerpt- be sure to include Table of Contents!

I take literacy for granted.  I love to read, always have, always will, but I rarely stop to think about how lucky I am to even be able to read.  It doesn’t seem like in this modern, technology-driven age that literacy should be an issue but this is just ignorance.  Here are some sobering facts that the Buns & Roses Tea for Literacy organization shared on their website:

  1. Two-thirds of students who cannot read proficiently by the end of 4th grade will end up in jail or on welfare. Over 70 percent of America’s inmates cannot read above a 4th grade level.
  2. 1 in 4 children in America grow up without learning how to read.
  3. As of 2011, America was the only free-market OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) country where the current generation was less well educated than the previous.
  4. Literacy is a learned skill. Illiteracy is passed down from parents who can neither read nor write.
  5. Nearly 85 percent of the juveniles who face trial in the juvenile court system are functionally illiterate, proving that there is a close relationship between illiteracy and crime. More than 60 percent of all inmates are functionally illiterate.
  6. 53 percent of 4th graders admitted to reading recreationally “almost every day,” while only 20 percent of 8th graders could say the same. (2009 study)
  7. 75 percent of Americans who receive food stamps perform at the lowest 2 levels of literacy, and 90 percent of high school dropouts are on welfare.
  8. Teenage girls ages 16 to 19 who live at or below the poverty level and have below average literacy skills are 6 times more likely to have children out of wedlock than the girls their age who can read proficiently.
  9. Reports show that low literacy directly costs the healthcare industry over $70 million every year.
  10. In 2013, Washington, D.C. was ranked the most literate American city for the third year in a row, with Seattle and Minneapolis close behind.
  11. Long Beach, CA was ranked the country’s most illiterate city, followed by Mesa, AZ, and Aurora, CO.

Just a quick Google search will bring up tons of local and national literacy organizations that could use your help and support.  Don’t take reading for granted.  Let’s share the gift of reading with everyone!

Sometimes it’s hard to come up with creative blog post ideas to promote your next book.  Here’s what NY Times Bestselling Author Christina Dodd did to promote her Paranormal Romance Series: she “interviewed” the two main characters in this hilarious blog post…

Christina Dodd Interviews Jasha and Rurik Wilder from Darkness Chosen

Christina Dodd: Today we have with us Jasha and Rurik Wilder, the brothers featured in the first two books of the Darkness Chosen series by Christina Dodd (that’s me.) I’ve asked them here to talk about the 1000-year-old deal with the devil and their family’s part in it. So, which one of you men would like to start?

Rurik: Let Jasha start. He’s the oldest in the family, and he loves to hear himself talk.Christina_Dodd_Scent_of_Darkness_Jasha

Jasha: That’s because I’m the only one who’s smart enough to walk and chew gum at the same.

Rurik: No, it’s because you’re pompous and boring.

CD: All right, I’m glad we got that settled. Jasha?

Jasha: Our ancestor, Konstantine Varinski, roamed the Russian steppes, and he was nothing more than a gangster. He beat people up for fun and profit, burned villages, threw widows and children out in the snow to freeze, and ravished maidens. He made quite a reputation for himself, and the devil recognized a great opportunity. He came to Konstantine and offered a deal — Konstantine and all his descendents would have the power to change at will into an animal predator capable of tracking their enemies, and in exchange, the devil would get their souls.

Rurik: Konstantine agreed and killed his own mother to seal the deal.

CD: Great guy.

Christina_Dodd_TOUCH_OF_DARKNESS_RurikRurik (sarcastically): Makes me proud to be his descendent. Trust me, there’s no villainy the Varinskis haven’t excelled at. Ever since the original Konstantine, they’ve been mercenaries willing to track and kill for a price. They’ve been a horrible legend, feared all over Russia. They used unwilling women and had only sons, never daughters. They never married, never fell in love.

CD: So what changed?

Jasha: My father met my mother.

Rurik: They fell in love. They are still stupid in love with each other, and they’ve been married since the earth’s crust cooled.

CD: That’s how long my husband and I have been married! And we’re stupid in love, too!

The Wilder Brothers: Congratulations! (High fives all around.)

Jasha: So my father and mother immigrated to the US, to Washington state, changed their last name to Wilder, and had us three boys one year after another.

CD: Three boys?

Rurik: We have a brother. Adrik … he disappeared when he was seventeen.Christina_Dodd_INTO_THE_SHADOW_Adrik

CD: That’s a sore subject.

The brothers nod solemnly.

Jasha: Ten years later, our sister was born.

CD: I thought the family didn’t have girls.

Christina_Dodd_Into_the_Flame_FirebirdRurik: Never in a thousand years. Firebird is our miracle.

CD: You guys are big, buff men. You’re saying you can change into an animal whenever you want? You can turn into an adorable bunny-rabbit or a fluffy little kitty-cat?

Jasha: Predators. We can only change into predators. When I decide I want to run with the pack, I turn into a wolf.

Rurik: And when I wish to soar through the skies, I become a hawk.

CD: Cool!

Jasha: Yes, but the pleasures of turning into a predator — the freedom, the sense of being better than normal people —deliver a man right into the hands of the devil. And since our mother had her vision, we have to be very, very careful not to fall prey to temptation because — don’t laugh — the Wilders have been chosen to break the deal with the devil.


CD: Wait. Your mother had a vision? You’ve been chosen to break the deal with the devil?

Rurik: With the help of the women we love.

CD: Who are the women you love?

Rurik (scornfully): Ha! The most interesting if you want to read about some guy who needs a flea bath and eats dog treats.Jasha: You’ll have to read the books to find out. My story’s SCENT OF DARKNESS, and of course, themost interesting.

Jasha (icily): At least I don’t snack on mice.

Christina Dodd TOUCH OF DARKNESS Rurik (ignoring him): My story is TOUCH OF DARKNESS, and it’s the second installment in the Darkness Chosen series.

Jasha (winking at me): We hope you’ll be bold enough to take a walk on the wild side with us and share our romantic adventures.

Rurik: (his voice deepening as he leans forward to gaze deep into my eyes): If you are, I promise you won’t regret it.

Christina Dodd: (fanning herself with forgotten interview script): So when do we leave?

Read more about Jasha, Rurik, and the whole Darkness Chosen cast! 

Read about the Darkness Chosen legend!

Read about how the idea for Darkness Chosen was born!

Enjoy all four Darkness Chosen books!

And don’t forget — Aleksandr’s story, WILDER, is the last book in the Chosen Ones, Christina’s second paranormal series, and finishes the Darkness Chosen series as well.

clockwork-angel1Title: Clockwork Angel, Book 1 in The Infernal Devices Trilogy
Author: Cassandra Clare
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Fantasy

Book Description:
When sixteen-year-old Tessa Gray crosses the ocean to find her brother (her destination is England, the time is the reign of Queen Victoria) something terrifying is waiting for her in London’s Downworld, where vampires, warlocks and other supernatural folk stalk the gaslit streets. Only the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the world of demons, keep order amidst the chaos.

Kidnapped by the mysterious Dark Sisters, members of a secret organization called The Pandemonium Club, Tessa soon learns that she herself is a Downworlder with a rare ability: the power to transform, at will, into another person. What’s more, the Magister, the shadowy figure who runs the Club, will stop at nothing to claim Tessa’s power for his own.

Friendless and hunted, Tessa takes refuge with the Shadowhunters of the London Institute, who swear to find her brother if she will use her power to help them. She soon finds herself fascinated by—and torn between—two best friends: James, whose fragile beauty hides a deadly secret, and blue-eyed Will, whose caustic wit and volatile moods keep everyone in his life at arm’s length . . . everyone, that is, but Tessa. As their search draws them deep into the heart of an arcane plot that threatens to destroy the Shadowhunters, Tessa realizes that she may need to choose between saving her brother and helping her new friends save the world. . . and that love may be the most dangerous magic of all.

The Good:
If you read and loved Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series but were worried that this prequel series wouldn’t live up to those books (I know, Jace Wayland is not in them but it’s going to be okay, I promise) your worries are for naught. I really enjoyed this series—not more, but nearly as much as TMI—and I was pleasantly surprised at how many characters from Mortal Instruments made appearances in Clockwork Angel (believe me, it’s more than you think!).

If you haven’t read Mortal Instruments, Clockwork Angel is still a great story of good versus evil, sexy Shadowhunters (half human/half angel warriors) and hilarious characters, though I recommend you read Mortal Instruments first to get a better idea of the context for this book.

The Bad:
My main issue with the book was that it started off slow. There’s a lot that happens to Tessa before she meets the Shadowhunters and the plot really takes off and it’s not the most exciting stuff which makes the book hard to get into. Stick with it, though!

I give it: 4 out of 5 stars.

What are you reading right now?



Born on January 1, 1919, in New York, J.D. Salinger was a literary giant despite his slim body of work and reclusive lifestyle. His landmark novel, The Catcher in the Rye, set a new course for literature in post-WWII America and vaulted Salinger to the heights of literary fame. In 1953, Salinger moved from New York City and led a secluded life, only publishing one new story before his death.

Best Known For: The Catcher in the Rye


“I don’t know what I mean by that, but I mean it.”

“I’m sick of just liking people. I wish to God I could meet somebody I could respect.”

“The fact is always obvious much too late, but the most singular difference between happiness and joy is that happiness is a solid and joy a liquid.”

“I’m a kind of paranoiac in reverse. I suspect people of plotting to make me happy.”