Tweets Become New Currency for E-Products

You know it's essential these days that authors market their books, and social media is often the most cost-effective way of doing that. Now, Pay with a Tweet lets you utilize the value of your readers' social networks to spread the word about your new books. You create a button for your website or blog  that leads to a free download (say, the first chapter of your new book) that readers get after they Tweet about you or mention you on their Facebook page. So instead of hoping your giveaways create a buzz, now it's guaranteed!


105 Books Later, R.L. Stine Still Gives Readers Goosebumps

Back in the early 1990s I worked part-time at a book package called Parachute Press, which was creating a new horror series called Goosebumps. The series' author, R.L. Stine, had begun his career as a humor writer, then found a wider audience with his YA horror series Fear Street. But no one had ever done a horror series for the middle grade crowd, so Parachute decides to give Stine's series a try.

The rest is publishing history. Goosebumps made Stine the best-selling author of all time for many years. He now occupies the Number 2 spot, right behind J.K. Rowling. There's a Goosebumps attraction at Disney World, Goosebumps TV shows and merchandise, and new Goosebumps titles still coming out every year. Stine's journey is enviable, inspiring and amazing, and you can read about it in this Writer's Digest interview. Here's my favorite quote. When asked about the worst piece of writing advice he's ever heard, Stine said:

“Well, I hate it when authors come into a school and they say to kids, ‘Write from your heart, write from your heart, only write what you know, and write from your heart.’ I hate that because it’s useless. I’ve written over 300 books—not one was written from my heart. Not one. They were all written for an audience, they were all written to entertain a certain audience.”

The problem with such advice, Stine says, is that if you tell people to write from their hearts and to write only something they know, they get blocked totally. Instead, he says, it’s all about the imagination. (Hey, it worked for him.)

Yes it did. Check out this story of an incredibly hard-working writer and a really nice guy.


Check Out the New CBI Clubhouse!

Those of you who are Fightin' Bookworms (members of our CBI Clubhouse online community) know that in the two years since we've launched the site, we've amassed a huge amount of information on writing and publishing children's books. So much information, in fact, that it was getting unwieldy.

So Jon's spent the last two months (days, evenings, weekends, even in his sleep) completely redesigning and improving the site. And as of this week….

The *NEW* CBI Clubhouse is now live at !   

The CBI 1-2-3 System is up and running, bringing you exactly the information you need, exactly when you need it.  No more hunting around through a massive library of information — it's all right there for you.

And, wow, wait until you meet our new Expert Guides!  A Newbery Honoree…multi-million selling authors…a magazine writer with more than 1600 credits….the most famous names in self publishing and book marketing…and on and on.  When we say All-Star, we're not kidding!

And this is just the beginning.  Private critique groups are coming soon. So are advanced and professional levels.  And webinars.  And…   well, we can't give away all our surprises now can we?  :)

OK, then – go check it out:

And please let us know what you think. Your feedback helps us make the Clubhouse even better!


It’s Your Job to Write to Your Audience

Seth Godin, easily the smartest man in publishing today, has once again nailed it with his post Reading Isn't Dead, But It's Changing on his Domino Project blog. His point (and he's talking primarily of young adult books, but this really applies to all ages) is that the job of authors is to write what people want to read, and then they'll read it. It seems obvious, but I can't count how many times I've heard writers bemoan that they'll never get published because kids just aren't reading the kind of books they're writing, the books they should be reading. Kids, they say, have shorter attention spans (not true — just count the number of pages in any Harry Potter book), they prefer plot over lengthy descriptions (who doesn't?), and they reach for books that open their minds to new ideas instead of the lessons adults know are good for them.

Godin pointed out in another post (I'm paraphrasing here) that it's not the job of readers to seek out your books; it's the job of writers and publishers to find their audience and give them the books they want. And what children want is often far better than what many adults initially offer. Yes, writing is hard, but kids deserve books that speak to who they are today.

If you open a restaurant that only serves blue food, and go bankrupt in a month because no one wants your blue meatloaf, whose fault is that? The unenlightened local community? The economy? The restaurant reviewer who gave you one star? No, IT'S THE BLUE FOOD! :)

And so it goes with books.


The Appeal of Fantasy’s Secret World

When I critique middle grade and young adult fantasy manuscripts, I often find myself jotting notes like "Why is this character the one called to this adventure?" and "What's at stake here of monumental consequence?" A cornerstone of successful fantasy is seemingly ordinary teen and tween protagonists who save the world. Without that, you're just writing a novel with quirky characters. Another hallmark is that this usually happens without (or in spite of) any help from adults. Teen heroes, impending doom, absentee parents. What's not to love?

Author Cassandra Clare understands this well, and has written an excellent piece about the secret world teens inhabit in their fantasy novels for The Wall Street Journal. Required reading for any author working on a fantasy, or for a parent with a fantasy-loving teen at home.


Future Reader Rails Against Stereotypes

As the parent of a boy who desperately wanted an Easy Bake Oven when he was five, but couldn't bring himself to walk down the "girl" aisle in the toy store, I completely agree with three-year-old Riley as she rants over gender-specific marketing on this YouTube video. It's a good message for authors and illustrators as well. Why do girls who like superheros have to be "tomboys"? Can't they just be ordinary girls?

Maybe we'll get lucky and Riley will grow up to be a writer.


Give Your Book Word-of-Mouth Potential

We talk about your novel needing a "hook" to sell. We talk about developing characters with whom readers can identify. We talk about combining words and images to create a unique format for your nonfiction project.

Why? So readers will talk about your book.

Word-of-mouth is the most powerful sales tool you have.  In today's cyber world where readers are virtually linked and can share their thoughts with the click of a mouse, it's more important than ever. So make sure your book gives them something to talk about.

In What Makes Word-of-Mouth Work?, Rob Eagar, founder of WildFire Marketing, lists qualities a book must have to generate a buzz. Does your book have at least a few of these attributes? If not, rethink your premise, especially if you're self-publishing. Even the most thoughtful book won't sell if readers have no reason to share it with their friends.


Teen Writing Site Publishes First Book

In another alternative to publishing traditionally or, more recently, with companies like Amazon, the teen writing site Figment has just announced the publication of its first book. Created as an online community where people in their teens and twenties can post writing and get feedback, Figment has expanded into a marketing vehicle for YA publishers to showcase new fiction to a teen audience. Now Figment has released a paperback edition of Blake Nelson’s Dream School, a sequel to his 1994 YA novel Girl, after serializing the book on the online site.The book is distributed to stores through Publishers Group West.

Though Figment doesn't plan on becoming a full-time publisher, this does show the power of building an audience online, then publishing. It also demonstrates how authors are finding more ways to bypass the big publishers and get their work out on their own terms.


Understanding Your Royalty Statement (or: Why Are My Earnings Shrinking?)

So you've sold your children's book to a big publisher, gotten your advance (now you're a real author!) and calculated how many royalty periods it will take to earn the down payment on your dream house. Then you get your statement and see deductions in the earnings column. Confused? You're not alone. First-time picture book author Rhonda Hayter attempts to decipher her royalty statements in Understanding Royalties: From A Kid Lit Author Who Doesn't Get It Herself. Read it to get a slightly better understanding of all those lines on your statement, and why you should always write for love, not money.


Query-Trimming Advice from Top Agent

Normally, I just link to useful articles. But this post is from February 2010, and I didn't want the link to disappear before you could read it. Thanks to Donna Gambale and Frankie Diane Mallis, critique partners who blog at, for distilling uber-agent Janet Reid's talk at the Greater Lehigh Valley Writer's Group. Anything Janet says or writes is worth paying attention to. Just check out her blog if you don't believe me.


Here you go: How to Trim Your Query to 250 Words (or Fewer)

Your ability to write a query that does your novel justice can make or break your chances of landing an agent. Reid recommends spending two months perfecting this 250-word marvel.

Your query encompasses three sections:
1. 100 words answering the question “What is the book about?”
2. A brief summary of your writing credits, if you have them.
3. Miscellaneous information on how you found the agent or why you chose him/her.


Section One:
1. Back story.
2. World building.
3. Character roll call.
4. Telling.
5. A synopsis.

Section Two:
1. Academia – classes, teachers, degrees, dissertations.
2. Conferences you’ve attended.
3. Self-published novels, or traditionally published novels with poor sales.
4. Personal information.

Section Three:
1. Begging, flattery.
2. Arrogance or self-deprecation.
3. Offer of an exclusive.
4. Your marketing plan.
5. Quotes from rejection letters, paid editors, critique groups, your mom.


Section One:
1. Title, genre, word count.
2. The essentials of your novel. (Every time you think you know, ask yourself “So what? And then?” until you’re left with your main character, conflict, and consequences.)

Section Two:
1. Published short stories or novels.
2. Published magazine or newspaper articles.

Section Three:
1. Why you chose this agent.
2. A connection you have from a conference/workshop.

Start from the bare bones and build from there. Infuse each section with your book’s personality. Consider every word. Don’t forget your contact information. And close with “Thank you for your time and consideration.” Now get trimming!

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