Monday, March 27, 2017

Why the Standard Author Platform Doesn’t Work

I'd like to welcome guest blogger, A.P. Fuchs, back to Operation Awesome!


All right, let’s talk straight. Specifically, let’s talk author platforms. You’ve read the articles. You’ve been told how important they are. You’ve been given a list of what to include. Heck, you’ve even taken all that information to heart and acted upon it.

And the book sales aren’t happening.

So you keep at it, hoping one day it’ll all pay off. Day in and day out you bust your tail on social media and the Web only to keep missing your goal sales-wise. Or, perhaps, you hit it some months and others you wonder what it’s all for. Frustration sets in and you don’t know what’s going on. You did what Author A said. You got your Facebook page, your Twitter account, your blog, your Instagram and all the others—yet still you’re just another author voice shouting into the storm.

Here’s the issue: you’re following someone else’s advice. Worse, you’re following it to the letter and in the game of publishing, following the author platform advice to a T is a death sentence.

This is why:

▪ Publishing is a giant crapshoot. There is no sure-fire way to do anything. Anyone who tells you otherwise is either lying or trying to sell you something. While true there are basics and groundwork you can lay, that’s all those things are. Yes, your standard author platform recipe should be part of your game plan. That’s no different than saying you want to sell your book but you know you can’t sell your manuscript as is. You need to make it pretty and put it between two covers before you can do so. That’s a given. The basics.

▪ The standard author platform isn’t working for you is because you aren’t making it yours. You’re making it like someone else’s or, simply, following the basic recipe without adding the personal tender loving touch that makes your cookies taste better than the other guy’s.

This is how to fix the issue, written step-by-step, but don’t treat it like an instruction manual. Customization, you know?

Step one:

Lay down the standard recipe. All good baking has a fairly consistent base across the board. Have your Facebook page, your Twitter, blog, Instagram and all that. Customize each page and make it about you and your books then commit to a Web plan where you’re active on each on a regular basis.

Step two:

Start adding the TLC. Don’t make your Facebook page like Joe Famous’s. Make it like yours.

I hate the word “brand” when it comes to this author stuff. It turns us into a product and, frankly, art is never about product. It can become a product, but should never be a product. See the difference? This world is sickly loaded with consumerism and people pushing products non-stop twenty-four hours a day. Most of us have tuned out the racket. But what draws us and captures our attention? Unique items and unique people. This so-called “brand” you’re supposed to become? How about voice? After all, your voice is what makes your art what it is to begin with. Why turn that off when sharing it with people?

So . . .

Format and design your pages to reflect you and your books. Don’t be all authorish. Don’t be all bookish. Don’t make people feel like they’re in a stuffy library when they visit you on the Web. In other words, don’t be so professional you come off as cold. Cold people suck.

Into baking or crafts? Build that into your page designs and content.

Into superheroes and comics? Put up some indie superhero character art as part of your banner and pictures.

Into sci-fi and tech? Give your page(s) a mechanical flare and make the electro-junkies squee on the inside when they visit you.

Into horror? Spook it up, man.

Get the idea?

Step three:

With your on-line base of operations already established, leave it alone for a bit and start playing around with other marketing ideas.

Some items . . .

▪ Set up book signings. Table at conventions. Hook up with some craft shows and flea markets. Arrange a book tour, say, local at first then, depending on success, look at traveling out-of-province/state, even country.

▪ Set yourself up as a unique property at these events. Don’t just have a plain table. Add some posters and signage. Add some props. Display your books in a pyramid-like tower. Stand out. Fool around. Don’t be the lonely author who sits there with a handful of books laid out boring and flat in front of them, longingly gazing at the passersby, your eyes pleading, “Please come talk to me. Please come buy my book.” I mean, you took all this time to personalize your on-line presence, why wouldn’t you do the same for your off-line one?

▪ Casually bring up you’re an author into everyday conversations. You can subtly work your pitch into whatever you’re talking about with someone—choose appropriately, of course—and at a bare minimum leave them with a business card. But have books on-hand or in your car in case a sale is to be made. Trust me, it happens.

▪ Go to open mic nights and share story excerpts or poetry. This is your chance to pimp your work, network and perhaps get hired for new projects.

▪ Do workshops.

And a thousand other things. These examples are to make this point: lay your groundwork—that author platform—then play around with other marketing avenues. You’ll be surprised what works. You’ll also be surprised at what doesn’t because what works for Author A doesn’t always work for Author B.

Book marketing is all about customization. It’s about finding what works for you and putting energy into those things while discarding the things that don’t after you’ve given them a fair chance (i.e. six months to a year or something). And you know what? Even that thing you did that didn’t work for your first novel might be the goldmine that works for your second one. Each book is different. Even each book in a series is different.

Authors want the easy way out. “I just want to write,” they say. Well, if that were really true, you wouldn’t be publishing as well, right?

Or they want to be told what to do: that standard author platform recipe. Come on. How can you be so creative in fiction then totally useless outside of it? Don’t you know your life is a story and so is your book career? That creative flare that you put on the page can be used off of it, too. Stop thinking inside of your book and start thinking outside of it.

After this article is drafted, my plan for the day is to revisit my platform, one that I’ve already customized to me over the years—self-publishing since 2004—and take inventory on what’s working and what isn’t. I’m going to make some changes and try new things. Going to add my own TLC instead of relying on the standard Author Platform recipe.

I’m eager to see how these cookies turn out. I already know my zombie chocolate chip ones are dead ringers for a win and my Axiom-man cookies are super.

Screw the standard author platform. It’s boring and useless. But your own? The one with your personal touch?

That’s something special.

Get to it.


About the Author: An independent writer and cartoonist, A.P. Fuchs has been part of the underground publishing scene for twelve years. He is the author of more than forty books, loads of comics, short stories and poetry, and has a weekly newsletter called The Canister X Transmission, in which he currently discusses publishing and marketing tips, past work, indie creator spotlights and whatever’s on his mind that week. Heck, he’s so passionate about writing and publishing he even wrote several books on the subject, one a collection of the first year of his weekly newsletter, another called Getting Down and Digital: How to Self-publish Your Book. Plus a few others. Sign up for his newsletter at and get a free thriller e-novelette out of the deal, and be sure to visit him on-line at his main hub at

March Pass Or Pages Entry #1

It's feedback reveal time! We hope everyone reading can find something helpful as they work on writing their own query letters. Many, many thanks to the members of our agent panel for taking the time to critique these entries, and major props to the authors for putting themselves out their in the name of improvement. We salute you!

Entry #1: SUMMER


Hammond’s a programmer, an if/then warrior, with commitment issues. Then he meets an attractive woman at a Memorial Day Party who enjoys sketching, has no visible means of support, lacks any sense of propriety, loves waffles, and who might be a witch. So what's an affirmed bachelor to do?

He falls in love for the first time of course. Figures. [L1]

But Hammond can’t help himself. June helps him see things he wouldn’t have dreamed were possible, truths he didn’t know existed. Even facing his greatest fear – the mother of his girlfriend – can’t dampen his feelings for her. Only the accidental discovery of a hidden, magical world called Summer calls into question his sanity.[H1]

Now June is gone[H2] and her mother says she’s been forced to return to Summer to complete her part in an ancient pact. June is to be chosen as Dawn Goddess, and she must marry the Lord of Winter to renew Summer’s magic. Without that magic, Summer will die. And Hammond’s learns his own world is connected to Summer, and will die along with it. [L2]

Love is love, though, and Hammond wants her back. To do so, he must travel back into Summer and race to find her before the ceremony has been completed. But there’s always a catch. Mel and Fran want to come with him.[H3] And it’s not long before they’ve been separated and Hammond has been taken prisoner, leaving Fran and Mel to fend for themselves and find their way across a strange land. [L3] Can the three friends succeed in Summer, where powerful forces face each other bent on forcing June to marry the Lord and save the realm… or kill her and steal the magic?

Can Hammond save June, his friends, and his heart without destroying two worlds?[H4] [L4]

SUMMER is a fantasy novel that is complete at 135,000 words. [L5] 

Lisa's Notes:
[L1] I would caution on using this “voice” in the query. It doesn’t work for me.
[L2] You need to get here sooner. 
[L3] Overall, this is sounding more like a book summary than a pitch to hook me.  The query has gotten confusing, especially with these added characters, so I’m not sure what I’d be getting. I suggest tightening and restructuring so it reads more like a pitch, or an invitation to read, than a summary or synopsis of the book. Focus on the main theme or plot and what is driving the story and the main character(s).
[L4] I advise against using questions in your pitch.
[L5] The max word count for Adult fantasy is 120k. This one is a bit long, especially if this is a debut. I wouldn’t pass on that alone, but it is a red flag for me. Also, I’d suggest including two comparable titles, successful ones that have been released within the last 4-5 years.

Hannah's Notes: 
[H1] Whoa! The whole lead up to this point felt like a romance.  Let us know as early as possible that we’re looking at a fantasy – otherwise, the reader will be surprised, like I was, by the revelation.
[H2] What happened? This feels like a huge event to gloss over.
[H3] Who and why? 
[H4] Half of this query is about Hammond falling in love with June. We don’t get any sense of what the inciting incident actually is, who his friends are (even though they seem to be integral to his adventure), why they go with him, what Summer is, etc etc. Additionally, there’s a lot of worldbuilding not in this query that might help me what you’re setting up.

First 250:

Of course we met at one of Ernesto’s legendary parties.[H1] Where else do two twenty-something people meet these days other than parties and dating sites? The produce aisle of the grocery store is filled with older divorcees with poor fashion sense and bad comb-overs, and the beach scene is really for teenagers who don’t have the responsibilities of adulthood yet and can sit and sun and serenade each other with awkward pickup lines like, “so, if there’s a party in my pants and you’re invited, would you come?” And then there’s Tinder. Don’t get me started on Tinder.

Ernesto’s parties were the talk of our group for months, and sometimes years. The Ides of March party in 2014 was the biggest incident of drunken debauchery I had ever had the pleasure of attending, with more naked bodies than a porn shoot. But it was his Medieval Mariachi event the previous summer that we discussed ad nauseam through the long, dreary fall that followed. Even his regular New Year’s Eve bash didn’t wash out the bright memory of everyone in colorful tunics and robes, the host in his plate armor, and the near drowning that took place when the jousting went badly and Sir Edward of Chamomile—Eddie Fenton, who was a manager at the local Any-Mart chain store—ended up at the bottom of the pool still strapped into his shopping cart, his chainmail weighing him down. Bill, Melissa and Rufus all dove to the bottom to drag him out. [L1]

Lisa's Notes:
[L1] I’m passing on this entry.  I didn’t feel grounded in any actual scene (not sure what’s the present action) and wasn’t able to connect with the narrator or other characters. 

Hannah's Notes:
[H1] He says “we” here but never mentions a “we” again in the next 250 pages. I’m not entirely sure why the story begins here. There is no action – even if it’s minor, placing your character somewhere, performing even the tiniest action while contemplating these parties would help me immensely.

Lisa Abellera: PASS
Hannah Fergesen: PASS

Friday, March 24, 2017

A Book Launch Party!

My critique partner, Beth Ellyn, is getting ready to celebrate the release of her debut novel, AT FIRST BLUSH. She has a party on Facebook planned for April 3rd. There will be guest authors and chances to win prizes! If this sounds like something up your alley, then I highly encourage you to join here. The more, the merrier!

Here are some teasers from AT FIRST BLUSH, which is a highly enjoyable contemporary (if I do say so myself!):


And not to be forgotten, Beth Ellyn has a preorder offer happening right now!

Finding the perfect lip gloss? Easy. 
Finding your way in the world? A whole lot harder . . .

Who would have thought that a teenager could have a successful career creating makeup tutorial videos on YouTube? For Lacey Robbins, this dream has been her reality. An up-and-coming YouTuber, she has thousands of fans and can't wait for the day when her subscriber count reaches the one million mark. And when she is offered a high school internship at On Trend Magazine, she figures that this could be the make it or break it moment.

But sometimes your dream job isn't all that it seems. Her editor is only interested in promoting junk products, and her boss in the Hair and Makeup department introduces her to the larger world of makeup artistry, making her wonder if making tutorials online is all she is meant to do. To top it all off, when the magazine's feature subject, musician Tyler Lance, turns his broodingly handsome smile her way, falling for him could mean losing her fans, forcing her to make a decision: her YouTube life or her real life?

Fans of Zoella's Girl Online will fall right into the world of this YA The Devil Wears Prada and stay hooked from the first blush to the last glossy kiss.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Synopsis Critique #6 - Adult Fantasy

And now, it's time for this week's synopsis critique! The author of DARK AND LIGHT, an 85,000-word Adult Fantasy, submitted this synopsis. My in-line comments are [blue and in brackets], and I'll include a summary at the end. Feel free to comment below!

If you'd like a primer on how to write a synopsis, see my posts here and here. And if you want your synopsis critiqued on this website, fill out the form here, or email your 1-2 page synopsis to me at, and I'll post one critique per week (NOTE: I'll email my critique to the author as soon as I'm done, so the author won't have to wait to see his/her synopsis on the site). Thanks for participating!


Draca is the largest island in the Thalassian Archipelago, an ancient kingdom where people live in fear of Possession - being taken in the silver carriage to the Castle of Eternity and an unknown fate. [This is a nice way to establish the setting. Because there are a lot of names coming, I'd suggest deleting the reference to the Thalassian Archipelago and abbreviating that sentence to something like, "Draca is an ancient island kingdom where people..." Then you can combine that sentence with the next paragraph so you introduce the main character (I'm assuming Jubi is the main character) right away.] Nineteen-year-old Jubi’s life is upended when she arrives home from the market to discover that her father has been taken in the silver carriage. Years ago her brother had been Possessed. Grief drove her mother to kill herself. Since then Jubi has had no family but her father. Determined to rescue him, she journeys to the faraway city-state of Sammalore to seek help from Miiya, the greatest living witch. [Great paragraph. Gives us the inciting incident, the main character's goal, and what she's doing to work toward that goal.] Witches, mages and priests have coexisted in Sammalore for centuries. Asteri, the charismatic head of a new priestly order, the Custodians of Purity, wants to end this Balance and turn Sammalore into a hieratic city [I don't know what 'hieratic city' means, and I'm not sure you need that terminology here. Can you just say 'turn Sammalore into a city dedicated to the Twin God (though the Twin God isn't mentioned again, so you might be able to omit this name too)..." Or, if hieratic city means religious, maybe say 'turn Sammalore into a religious city ruled by his priest" or something like that?], dedicated to the Twin God and ruled by his priests. At first Sammalore’s elites don’t take him seriously. By the time they do, he has become the most popular leader in the city, a man who can summon a mob with a few words. Asteri forces the hereditary prince of the city to hold a plebiscite [what is this?] to decide Sammalore’s fate. Witches and mages fight back, but they cannot match Asteri’s cunning or his fiery commitment. At the plebiscite, a majority of Sammalorians vote for Asteri and his plan to outlaw magic. Witches and mages are given a choice - abjure their powers [what does it mean to abjure their powers? A lot of the terms in this paragraph seem to be specific to fantasy worlds. That's fine, but consider explaining or simplifying them to make sure any reader will understand] or go into exile. Miiya has been a witch of Sammalore for one and a half centuries. For her abjuration is impossible and exile inconceivable, not least because a witch’s power is rooted in the soil of her homeland. When a sister-witch is murdered, Miiya, overcome by anger, almost incinerates a mob. That incident makes her realize that she might push her beloved city into an internecine war [what does this mean?]. Horrified, she decides to end her life, but is interrupted by the arrival of Jubi, accompanied by Cillo, a priest who is opposed to Asteri. [I'd suggest leaving Cillo out of the synopsis. You've got a lot of character and place names already, and Cillo doesn't do much in the rest of the synopsis other than get killed. If you expand this to a longer synopsis, then you can definitely add him/her back in.] On her way to Sammalore, Jubi has been abducted by slavers and forced to endure months of brutalization in a slave colony. [I'm a little confused. In the preceding paragraph, you say Jubi has arrived in Sammalore, but here, she's been kidnapped en route. How/where does she meet Miiya?] Miiya’s initial resentment [why is she resentful?] turns into pity when she inadvertently catches a glimpse of Jubi’s memories. Moved by pity she agrees to help Jubi. Miiya, Jubi and Cillo journey to Draca. [How is Jubi released from slavery? Why do they go back to Draca?] During the weeks on the road, their necessary alliance develops into deep bonds of affection. [It's starting to feel like Miiya is actually the main character, and not Jubi. Are they both viewpoint characters? If not, and Jubi is the main character, make sure you're tracking her viewpoint throughout the synopsis. If they're both viewpoint characters, then you probably need to introduce both of them upfront, describing their stakes and what they do to achieve their goals. Maybe the first paragraph about Jubi and the second about Miiya?] Once in Draca, Miiya manages to visit the castle and uncover its secrets. Many decades ago, an illness deprived King Iretsa of Draca [just say 'the King of Draca' here without naming him] of the ability to beget a living child. He wants to stay alive until he has an heir. His solution is to kill the Possessed ritualistically and drain their spirits. The spiritless-bodies are used to create an army of non-human killers. [How does that keep him alive?] Jubi’s father is not dead. He has become a courtier. He is also the prime mover behind an impending alliance between Iretsa [the King of Draca] and Asteri. Jubi doesn’t want to accept the truth about her father. She thinks she can persuade him to leave the castle. Disobeying Miiya’s injunction she tries to enter the castle and is taken prisoner. Cillo who accompanies her is killed. [If you're deleting Cillo, take out this sentence] Miiya has no choice but to use her waning powers to enter the castle. She finds Jubi trying in vain to persuade her father to leave. But he is addicted to the idea of immortality and has arranged for Jubi to become Iretsa’s [the King of Draca's] latest wife. Miiya manages to rescue Jubi, with the help of Karila, a long time human servant of the king who has grown disillusioned with her role and horrified by the crimes she had been a part of. [I would end this senence after '...manages to rescue Jubi.' Karila doesn't recur in the synopsis, so it adds another character name that isn't necessary to the main plot description] Miiya’s only daughter, Saro, had been born without the gift of witchery. As a result, the relationship between the mother and the daughter had been fraught with disappointment and resentment. In the end, Saro, feeling betrayed by her mother had run away and died. [I would delete all three of these sentences. Since this is our first mention of Saro, you can revise the following sentence to say 'For Miiya, Jubi has replaced her dead daughter, who ran away when her mother's disappointment at her being born without the gift of witchery became too much for her to bear' or something like that.] For Miiya, Jubi has replaced the dead Saro. Jubi managed to survive the horrors she experienced by clinging to the hope of saving her father. Miiya knows that if that hope is taken away, Jubi won’t survive. Against her better judgment [is this referring to Jubi or Miiya?], she makes one last visit to the Castle, but is forced to admit that Jubi’s father is irredeemable. Miiya marshals every bit of her remaining powers and summons a tidal wave, destroying the Castle and all its inhabitants. Jubi discovers a dying Miiya and begs her forgiveness. Once Miiya is dead, Jubi realizes that it is by living that she can pay the debts she owes Miiya and Cillo. [Is this where the story ends? What does Jubi specifically do (or plan to do) to pay those debts?]


This synopsis is nicely written and the reader gets a good feel for the kind of fantasy world you've created. Here are my overall comments:

1) I've suggested places you can eliminate character/place names. Especially in fantasy, where many of the names are unfamiliar to readers, too many names too quickly becomes confusing. Further, you use some terms I suspect are specific to fantasy writing. Assume your reader isn't familiar with those terms (agents may rep fantasy along with many other genres) and use more familiar terms or explain the terms.

2) At the beginning of the synopsis, I thought Jubi was the main character, then it seemed like Miiya was the main character, and then I wasn't sure. If you only have one main (viewpoint) character, revise the synopsis with that in mind - every paragraph should have the main character acting, reacting, thinking, planning, or doing something, even if there are other things going on with other characters (subplots, etc.). If both women are viewpoint characters, then introduce the reader to the first viewpoint character (along with her inciting incident, goal, and plan) in the first paragraph, do the same for the second viewpoint character in the second paragraph, then interweave their stories as much as possible throughout the rest of the synopsis, tying both of them to the main plot. That way, without overtly stating the novel is written from two viewpoints, the reader will get that sense anyway.

Thanks for submitting and best of luck with this manuscript!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Flash Fiction Contest Winner #28

Big thanks to everyone who participated! As always, lots of good entries, and it made the decision quite hard. But in the end, I had to go with... Tabitha Bird! It was a very lyrical piece, as you can read below. Congrats, Tabitha!


You came to the patch of dirt with encouragement from the weeds, where stray dandelions puffed their heads of seeds and you sent wishes to the sky. You came for the bark and sticks, the wind and the blue above. But you really came to escape the insides of your house. The yelling and crying. The mother who wouldn’t leave. The father who knew she’d stay. You came because it was the only stance you could take, the only way to be free in the middle of their storms.

“Nothing much here grows,” they said.
But you knew that wasn’t true. For here in the garden grew you. A little girl. Poetry and ideas. Things bigger than the little girl herself. With water from a glass jar you mixed mud soup. Fairy guests fluttered in your mind and you fed them on stories and make believe, on four leaf clovers and gum nuts.

Until the days you didn’t come. The garden left behind. You grew older with the passing days. No more stories. Too much lost and hurt within you for dreams to grow.

Then one day it happens.
Your own little boy and his own little garden. Rocks, mud pies, and sand cakes sprinkled with grass. And of course four leaf clovers.
“Play with me, Mamma? Feed the fairies?”
You stammer. “I can’t. I don’t remember how.”
His face. It falls like a star from the worlds above. And he turns away.
But you do remember. You remember all too well.
“Wait. Fairies?”
He nods. Eyes hopeful. “Let me see. Yes, they like sand cakes, but also mud soup. Do you know how to make mud soup?”
And the afternoon grows longer, the skies the color of pink lemonade. Once more you send wishes to the skies.

Waiting to Process Feedback

I don't know about you, but often when I receive feedback on my writing I immediately want to jump in and start making revisions. I've heard that "you should always wait before making changes" or "give it time to really sink in," but I didn't realize the wisdom behind that advice until recently. I had a valuable learning experience with feedback that I thought I'd share with you all.

First of all, I believe that you should wait before processing or trying to implement feedback, but you should not wait a single second to thank the person who gave you the feedback. I often send emails to my CPs the minute I receive their feedback that look like this: "Thank you so much for getting back to me with your notes! I can't wait to dive in!"

If someone takes the time to read your work and try to help you improve it, you should thank them regardless of whether you agree with all, any, or none of their feedback. Full stop.

On to my experience. I had an agent reject me back in January with some feedback that I thought was valuable. I was working on a revision plan to address that feedback when I got a full request from another agent. Not wanting to make the 2nd agent wait an unreasonable amount of time, I let her know I'd need a week to make a revision. I quickly finished my plan, took scenes out, added new scenes in, and sent it to the agent. I also sent it to one of my CPs who hadn't read the book yet to see what she thought.

A few weeks later my CP got back to me, and the short version is: she did not think that the changes I made addressed the issues brought up by the 1st agent. I was devastated. I felt like I had ruined my book, and worse yet, that maybe it wasn't worth saving. I knew that I had rushed my revision plan, and not sent Agent 2 the best version of my book. Lesson 1: Don't rush the implementation of feedback.

Going back over my CP's notes a week later, however, I started to get excited about her ideas. Instead of feeling depressed at the amount of work I needed to do, I felt confident that I could make changes and improve the book. Lesson 2: If the feedback upsets you, give it some time, then come back to it. It's amazing how much difference even a week can make in your attitudes.

What lessons have you learned about receiving and using feedback?

Monday, March 20, 2017

A Little Reminder: Take Care of Yourself

This is a short little blog post to remind you to take care of yourself. Get enough sleep, eat healthy stuff, get some exercise. The writers’ life is pretty sedentary, and while writing keeps your brain acute, it doesn’t do much for the rest of the body. In Winnipeg, we’re still waiting for spring to arrive, so we can get out and enjoy the real world, but for those of you who already have some warmer weather and sunshine, get out and enjoy. Work up a sweat, drink lots of water and, for goodness’ sake, lay off the sugar. I'm talking to myself as much as anyone else. I'm ready to shake off winter and my extra layer of insulation. Wishing you all a spring time full of good health and great stories!

Melinda Marshall Friesen writes novels for teens and when it's time to get off her duff, she enjoys running, biking and tennis. She's not fast or good at any of them but finds them fun.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

The #AtoZChallenge 2017 Theme at Operation Awesome is the Publishing Journey

#AtoZchallenge 2017 Operation Awesome Theme Reveal

As our THEME for #AtoZChallenge 2017, Operation Awesome is taking you through the Publishing Journey.

From writing your story to getting it out in the world, the OA team is ready to blow your mind with great information and tips.

This April we will cover:

Agents- How to Create the Perfect List of Who to Query
Build a Following for Your Author Brand
Confidence! How to Write Big, Bold, and With Authority
Debut Authors - Why We Love Them (And You Should, Too!)
Eye-Catching Covers That Will Boost Book Sales
Falling in Love With Your Manuscript - Why an Emotional Connection is Vital
Good Books (Kara's Reading Roundup)
Healthy Minds and Healthy Writers
Ideas to Spark Your Next Story #WritingPrompt
Jump Start Your Editing
Key Steps to Writing Your Online Book Description
Letting Your Characters Listen
New Tools Every Author Should Be Using
Own Your Next Writing Session
Prioritizing the Writer’s Life via a Business Plan
Quiz! Are You're Cut Out For Self Publishing?
Reactive vs Proactive (7 Habits of Highly Effective Writers part 1)
Selecting an Agent When You Receive Multiple Offers
Think like a Book Marketer
Ultimate Cheat Sheet On Query Letters
Valuable Gifts for Writers and Readers (Pens for Paws Auction)
Want to Be a Great Critique Partner?
Xenogeneic-like Ways to Use Other Genres To Improve Your Story
Yes, You Can Run an Effective Book Blog Tour
Zzz Into Zowie with These Query Tips

The #AtoZChallenge 2017 Theme at Operation Awesome is the Publishing Journey.

#AtoZchallenge 2017 Operation Awesome Theme Reveal

Friday, March 17, 2017

Flash Fiction Contest #28

Are you wearing green today? If not, beware pinching fingers! ;) For this #OAFlash fiction contest, write 300 words using the prompt four leaf clover. Your entry doesn't have to be centered around it, but does need to have a reference to the lucky little thing in there somewhere. Have your entry in by noon on Sunday, EST. Winner will be announced later that evening. Rules here.

Good luck!  

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Synopsis Critique #5 - MG Contemporary

And now, it's time for this week's synopsis critique! The author of THE LAST DOUBLOON, a 36,000-word MG Contemporary, submitted this synopsis. My in-line comments are [blue and in brackets], and I'll include a summary at the end. Feel free to comment below!

If you'd like a primer on how to write a synopsis, see my posts here and here. And if you want your synopsis critiqued on this website, fill out the form here, or email your 1-2 page synopsis to me at, and I'll post one critique per week (NOTE: I'll email my critique to the author as soon as I'm done, so the author won't have to wait to see his/her synopsis on the site). Thanks for participating!


The day before twelve-year-old ANTONIO MORA flies from Spain to Florida [this set-up is a little confusing. Is he going by himself? Is it just to visit? Is he moving there permanently? A tiny bit more detail here would help], his mom shows him an old silver coin she found on her parents’ property in Florida, and a letter belonging to old neighbors. It takes Antonio only two minutes to realize that finding more valuable coins could help his unemployed dad. It could even get his recently separated parents together again. But Antonio’s dad has his own plan and takes off to Melilla [is this a city in Spain?] in search of work the same day Antonio leaves for Florida. [This is a good start. Antonio's mom giving him the coin seems to be the inciting incident, and Antonio is making a plan based on it. Just a little clarity with why and for how long Antonio is going to Spain will help orient the reader here.] Once in Clara Springs [Is this in FL?], Antonio bumps into two kids MOLLIE and TATE who happen to be new neighbors and in Antonio’s mind, potential witnesses of his treasure search. [What does it mean to be a 'witness' of a treasure search? Do you mean they're his helpers? Or are they hindering his search?] Antonio is happy to enlist his old friend, JULIANNE MENDES, in his search, but she is now friends with Mollie who Antonio doesn’t trust. [Why doesn't Antonio trust Mollie?] The last thing Antonio needs is the news of a tropical storm approaching Florida, cutting his digging time short. [Has he already started digging? How does he know where to dig? Where does he start? Perhaps lead with a sentence explaining how he's putting his plan into action, then introduce us to the other kids] After several failed attempts at finding coins, Antonio grows frustrated. When he learns of the sinkholes that opened during the winter, he suspects they could have sucked in the coins, and feels puzzled and discouraged. Then he starts reading the old letter [this is the letter his mother gave him, right? If so, add that here to remind the reader] about the 1715 Spanish treasure fleet that shipwrecked off the coast of Sebastian Inlet. According to it [the letter], some of the surviving sailors stole coins and riches, and Antonio believes his coin was part of the stolen bounty, but finds no clues in the letter about a buried treasure. Instead, he finds and [an] old picture belonging to his mom showing her friendship with Mollie’s dad. Antonio realizes Mollie and Tate aren’t exactly new neighbors but the old ones his mom had talked about. [Why is this significant? Does it show that Mollie and Tate might be looking for the treasure too?] [Who is Antonio living with while he's in FL? Is he with his mom? If so, wouldn't he talk to her about the letter, the coin, and his search?] When Antonio confides with Julianne about his dad, she tells him that her papa is at the hospital, and her family can barely afford the hospital bills. Antonio realizes that her family is in a worse situation than his, and she’d benefit from finding the coins, too. Before the hurricane makes landfall, Antonio talks to his mom and he finds out his dad has settled down in Melilla. Seeing his dad in the future is going to be really hard. [So did Antonio move to FL permanently? Or is Melilla far from where Antonio and his mother live in Spain?] At the library, they find more information about the fleet, but Antonio also figures that his coin, a silver real, it’s not the valuable coin he had dreamed of. [Why does he think this? Does something in the library give him the impression his coin isn't valuable after all?] He wonders if he’ll be able to help his dad at all, let alone share with Julianne if he finds anything. The hurricane makes landfall on the Florida coast, but spares Clara Springs. Unfortunately, two tornadoes cause havoc in the county and partially destroy Antonio’s and Julianne’s properties, including her chicken coop, built by her papa. By an uprooted tree Antonio spots a rotten box with a bunch of coins and crystals inside. The crystals happen to be emeralds, and since they were on the property line, Antonio splits them to help pay for Julianne’s hospital bills. [So did it turn out the silver coin wasn't important after all? Does he ever find out who the box belonged to or why it was buried?] Antonio figures the letter had belonged to Mollie’s dad. Since he passed away, Antonio returns it to Mollie, considering if some of the coins and gems may belong to her. [Does he give some of them to her? Earlier, you mention that Antonio is suspicious of Mollie and Tate, but it isn't really mentioned again. It's worth a sentence or two explaining what happened to Mollie and Tate and their relationship to Antonio.] Finally, Antonio hears news from his dad, and feels hopeful about seeing each other soon at the end of the summer break.


This synopsis is well-written and takes us through the main plot nicely, with a true beginning, middle, and end. Antonio has a clear goal, and a plan to achieve it. As it's a short synopsis, if you're trying to keep it to one page, you won't have a lot of room for revisions. However, I did have some questions I believe merit answering for reader clarity:

1) Why is Antonio going to FL, for how long, and who is he living with while there?

2) What does Antonio specifically do once he decides to become a treasure hunter? For example, does he buy maps, shovels, other supplies? Does he make a plan for when and where to dig? Is he digging on the beach, around people's houses, etc.? How much time does he spend digging? Does Julianne help him?

3) Why doesn't Antonio ask his mom, who gave him the coin and the letter, for more information about the coin and the letter? Are his grandparents in the story? They might know more than Antonio's mom.

4) What's the deal with Mollie and Tate? Antonio seems suspicious of them at first, and it turns out they're the family that originally had the letter, but there's no real clarification of what happens with this subplot. Honestly, you may consider leaving them out of this one-page synopsis altogether unless you have the space to tie them a little closer to the main plot.

For a one-page synopsis, you've got a nice summary of the main plot. If you expand to two or more pages, you'll have more space for Mollie and Tate, and explaining more about their relationship with Antonio, history with the treasure, etc.

Overall, this sounds like a really fun story. Best of luck with the manuscript!

Monday, March 13, 2017

The Dirtiest Word in the Writing World

The dirtiest word in the writing world is plagiarism. Over the past couple of years, I've encountered multiple instances of plagiarism. From a friend whose novel idea was stolen by another writer to someone in my writing community having their work copied word for word and marketed under the offenders name. When I released my first book, I did a blog tour and one of the bloggers copied another blogger's review. This is every writer's fear. Someone steals a car--you can get a different one. A stolen idea is one of a kind and cannot be replaced. It's a huge violation. defines plagiarism as "an act or instance of using or closely imitating the language and thought of another author without authorization and the representation of the author's work as one's own, as by not crediting the original author."

Recently, I had a reader leave a question in the comments on Wattpad that she suspected me of copying another's work. I had never read the work in question, but had heard of the book because it belonged to a local author. I'd written this particular piece five years ago, so well before the release of the other book. I was taken aback. Any resemblance would be coincidence, but if they really were that similar, my reputation was at stake since the other book hit the public eye before mine. I knew the other author's editor and brought the matter to him. He told me that my story and the other were very different. So, I assured the reader there had been no misconduct and encouraged them to read further and see the differences for themselves.

I appreciated how gracious and polite the reader was about the whole matter. I also thanked the reader for asking the question for couple of reasons. Firstly, if I was plagiarising another's work, I should be called on it. Secondly, I'm glad the reader asked rather than making the assumption that I stole another's work. I believe this reader did the right thing and I hope in a similar situation, others would do the same.

Let's look out for each other. If you suspect plagiarism, bring it to the attention of the author. But always be very careful about hurling accusations.

Melinda Marshall Friesen writes YA and adult science fiction. She lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada with her children. When she's not writing, she's devising ways to avoid venturing out into the bitter cold.

Pass Or Pages March 2017 Entry Form

We are now accepting entries for Pass Or Pages! Before you enter, be sure to check out the rules. This month's round of Pass Or Pages is for Adult Sci-fi and Fantasy novels. The entry window closes at 6pm Eastern time on Wednesday March 15th. Good luck!

Thursday, March 9, 2017


Like all of you readers, I get terribly excited about upcoming book releases. But I don't think I've ever been as thrilled for a book release as I have been for AMERICA'S NEXT REALITY STAR, by Laura Heffernan. Laura is one of the hosts of the Query Kombat contest, a Pitch Wars mentor, one of my CPs, and a good friend on top of all that. I'm happy to host her today on Operation Awesome. Before you read her guest post, though, let me tell you about her book!

In AMERICA’S NEXT REALITY STAR, Jen is cast on a reality show after she loses her job, her boyfriend, and her home. She hopes to win the cash prize but finds she also wants to win the heart of fellow contestant Justin. Fans of Sophie Kinsella's Confessions of a Shopaholic won't want to miss this charming, witty read published by Kensington’s Lyrical Shine.

Twenty-four-year-old Jen Reid had her life in good shape: an okay job, a tiny-cute Seattle apartment, and a great boyfriend almost ready to get serious. In a flash it all came apart. Single, unemployed, and holding an eviction notice, who has time to remember trying out for a reality show? Then the call comes, and Jen sees her chance to start over—by spending her summer on national TV. 

Luckily The Fishbowl is all about puzzles and games, the kind of thing Jen would love even if she wasn’t desperate. The cast checks all the boxes: cheerful, quirky Birdie speaks in hashtags; vicious Ariana knows just how to pout for the cameras; and corn-fed “J-dawg” plays the cartoon villain of the house. Then there’s Justin, the green-eyed law student who always seems a breath away from kissing her. Is their attraction real, or a trick to get him closer to the $250,000 grand prize? Romance or showmance, suddenly Jen has a lot more to lose than a summer . . .

And now, let's hear from Laura herself!
Why You Should Write What You Love

When I was a kid, I loved doing puzzles. I spent thousands of hours putting pieces together while watching baseball games with Grandma or listening to adults who assumed a child’s ears didn’t work while her eyes were occupied. At school, I devoured mysteries. Each day in the winter, I’d pick up a Nancy Drew or Bobbsey Twins book from the library, read it after school, then return it the next day. I ran out of books long before we ran out of school year. I’d borrow puzzles from a next door neighbor, constantly looking for a new challenge. And when we had nothing else to work on, my best friend and I would put the same three puzzles together constantly: the movie posters for Wizard of Oz and Gone with the Wind, and a poster showing all the then-existing maps of the world. (I can thank that puzzle for being able to name every country, in alphabetical order, when I was twelve – a skill never once useful in the sixth grade.)

Over the years, my love for puzzles deepened. I bought books of logic problems. I devoured Sudoku. I raced for the mailbox every week to get to the TV Guide crossword as soon as the book arrived. (Did I mention I’m kind of a nerd? I am. Also a geek, a genius, and a pole dancer. I’m a bit of a puzzle myself. And I’m okay with that. I like me.) In college, I got a job working for a bank, and I soon became the person everyone would call to figure out what had gone wrong with customer accounts. Now I do research, each new problem presenting itself to me like a puzzle to be solved. I’m also a fan of escape rooms, ropes challenge courses, rock climbing, and mazes. Anything that I have to stop and think to figure out, I want to do.

So when I decided to write a novel, people who knew me weren’t shocked to see that a large component of the book involved puzzles and games. Creating the physical challenges that make up The Fishbowl, my fictitious reality show, was the most fun part of writing. I wanted to give my characters something interesting to do while they dealt with all the reality show drama.

Writing the fun parts helped me when I got stuck on the emotional parts or particularly sticky plot issues. Even though much of my original puzzles and games got reduced before the final draft, it helped significantly to have those moments so I could meet my daily word goals and feel like I was accomplishing something. Publishing can be a long, frustrating journey: if the writing itself isn’t enjoyable, I don’t know why anyone would put themselves through it.

They say to write what you know, and that’s all well and good. But write what you love. Write the book you want to read. Think of things you find interesting, and find a way to spread them around in your books. If it’s interesting to you, It’ll be interesting to readers. (Well, probably. I’m pretty sure there’s still no market for my “Sitting Around Quoting Buffy and Singing Show Tunes Badly” idea.) I’ve learned a lot from books, about topics I might not have otherwise explored, simply because the authors made them interesting.

Also, editing is a lengthy process. You will read that manuscript a couple dozen times, at least. If you don’t find the book interesting, you’ll hate yourself by about the sixth read (if not sooner). Don’t do that to yourself. Write a book that’s a pleasure for you to read.

Be yourself. Find what you love. Think of a way to share that with your readers, and make them love it, too. If I could turn solving puzzles into a three book deal, anyone can.
Laura Heffernan is living proof that watching too much TV can pay off. When not watching total strangers participate in arranged marriages, drag racing queens, or cooking competitions, Laura enjoys travel, baking, board games, helping with writing contests, and seeking new experiences. She lives in the Northeast with her amazing husband and two furry little beasts.

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