Thursday, February 27, 2020

Dear O'Abby: Can I write reviews if I'm an aspiring author?

Dear O’Abby,

I’ve been getting conflicting advice about whether or not to review books as an aspiring author. Some people tell me I shouldn’t do it because if I give a bad review to a book represented by a publisher or agent I might wish to query, they may have already put a black mark by my name. Others say I should write reviews because it helps to identify things wrong with stories and writing that I can then apply to my own work.

Do you have an opinion on this?



Dear Confused,

I’ve heard that story about why writers shouldn’t write reviews too, but I’ve never taken it too seriously. Agents and publishers should be mature enough to understand that not every book is going to appeal to every reader and that well-written reviews can be valuable to the author even if they aren’t 100% positive.

As a writer, it’s important to read critically and reviewing books is one way to force yourself to do so. If you like a book, reviewing it will help you figure out why you enjoyed it. Was it the story? The characters? The way the words are strung together?

And if you didn’t like the book, what was it you didn’t like? Did you feel the characters acted inconsistently? Was the writing pedestrian? Did the plot fall flat?

By identifying what you do and don’t like about the books you read, you will find yourself growing more critical of your own writing and you may save yourself a lot of grief by fixing issues long before you send the manuscript off to agents or publishers.

If being blacklisted by agents or publishers for writing negative reviews is a real concern, there are a number of ways you can get around it.

Firstly, only publish reviews of things you like. Write the negative ones because they’re often more helpful to you as a writer than the positive ones, but don’t publish them. I did this for a while, calling the review section on my blog ‘books I’ve loved’ and only reviewing things I really liked. I ended up stopping this though, because there just weren’t enough books I loved to write a positive review every week.

Another way to get around it is to review under a pseudonym or write under a pen name so your reviews aren’t linked to your author name.

The key thing to remember when writing reviews is to be constructive. Don’t just pile on with a negative rant. Nothing is 100% bad, so even a negative review can mention a few positives to balance out the negativity. Personally, I like to start with something I liked and finish with another thing I liked with all the critique in the middle. Always read what you have written before you publish and think about how it would make you feel if this review was for your own book.

I would also suggest you don’t tag the author when you publish the review. Not all writers like to read their reviews and if they accidentally click onto a link in a tweet or something and find themselves confronted with a negative review, it could be very upsetting for them.

So that’s my opinion on whether writers should write reviews. I know other people have different opinions, but if you want to write reviews and if you find the process helps your own writing, why not?

If you want more information about this topic, Operation Awesome's J Lenni  Dorner has written a very helpful book, Writing Book Reviews As An Author which gives much more in-depth guidance about how to effectively review books as an author. Some of the advice in there may contradict my own, but it's still a valuable resource, even if you are not a writer and want to write reviews.

Happy reviewing!

X O’Abby

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Operation Awesome #20Questions in #2020 of #NewBook Debut Author Cat Walker

Operation Awesome #20Questions in #2020 of #NewBook Debut Author posted by @JLenniDorner of @OpAwesome6

The Scoop by Cat Walker

What comes up when you search for "Cat Walker" and "The Scoop"? On my first attempt, it was indeed kitty litter. But now, at last, Amazon ranks the book as the first suggestion! Let's give a warm welcome to today's spotlight guest.

1- February 26, 2020 is Pink T Shirt Day in the US. Which of your characters is most likely to wear pink to symbolize not tolerating bullying?

Casey, a grown up tomboy, would hate to wear pink, thinking it far too girly, although she might do it for such a good cause (for one day!). I can just imagine 12 year old Ari’s response if you asked him to wear pink… :-0 I actually think wayward Danny would be the most likely to wear a pink t-shirt, good cause or not, as he’s the most comfortable in his skin, his sexuality and his opinions. And he’d rock it too!

2- Would you please, in 160 characters or less, give a #WriteTip ?

Never give up! Seriously, it took me (lucky) 13 years to get published, so hang in there. Oh, and keep listening to readers’ comments and revising your WIP.

3- What is the best piece of writing advice you've received?

The best writing advice I was ever given was to join a writing group. I spent years believing that my very first draft of The Scoop was word perfect, literally, that I didn’t have to change a single comma. Then I wondered why I wasn’t getting anywhere with it. It might have stayed “an undiscovered masterpiece” in the back of a drawer if I hadn’t been encouraged to seek out some constructive criticism from other writers. After swallowing my pride I learned to weather the inevitable criticism which was aimed at making me write better. I completely reworked the first draft, keeping only the storyline and the very best bits of prose. I paid particular attention to the beginning as that’s where your readers decide whether or not to stick. In future I definitely wouldn’t waste so much time being precious about my first draft.

4- What have you learned about copyright permissions when using quotes in a book?

Ha! I’m glad you asked this. I think I’m probably a world expert in this subject now, having come up against it recently in preparing the manuscript of The Scoop for publication. I wanted to have evocative quotes at the head of each chapter to set the scene – it’s a little foible of mine to love quotes – and I’d spent years choosing just the right ones. When it came to publishing, however, it was my job to try to obtain copyright permission for each of these. I will summarise my learnings from this process here:
a.“Fair use” means nothing when it comes to fiction! There’s a commonly-held assumption that you can use a certain number of words of anything without infringing copyright – this doesn’t hold any water for a published work of fiction.
b.Every country around the world has different copyright laws, so in order to comply with everyone everywhere it’s safest to go for the highest threshold for copyright (which is generally ‘death of the author plus 70 years’).
c.Don’t, however, take ‘death plus 70’ as the rule without checking first that the copyright hasn’t been extended by the family of the author or another entity.
d.Research every quote to check its source and accuracy. I was astonished to find that so many popular quotes are actually apocryphal, misattributed or just plain made up. That seems especially to be the case with quotes by Ralph Waldo Emerson for some strange reason.
e.Use free resources to check your quotes and permissions, such as the excellent PLS clear and Project Gutenberg.
f.Just don’t use quotes, it’s too much hassle! While I did end up sourcing some excellent out of copyright quotes for The Scoop it was a lot of extra work that I hadn’t planned on and it nearly derailed the publication timetable.

5- Would you share a picture with us of your book somewhere awesome?

I actually don’t have physical copies of the book yet (due next week) so I’ve sent some pictures of the cover and author pics and a couple of my travels (which inspired the book).
Operation Awesome #20Questions in #2020 of #NewBook Debut Author Cat Walker
Operation Awesome #20Questions in #2020 of #NewBook Debut Author Cat Walker
Operation Awesome #20Questions in #2020 of #NewBook Debut Author Cat Walker
Operation Awesome #20Questions in #2020 of #NewBook Debut Author Cat Walker

6- What inspired you to write The Scoop?

The idea for the novel came about when I went travelling in my thirties in South East Asia. You could say that I was having a bit of a mid-life crisis and needed some space to figure out what life wanted from me and what I wanted from life. I wrote a blog as I went, which I sent back home to family and friends. Several people commented that I should write a book about it. So I did. But I knew that I didn’t want to write a travelogue or a memoir, because I felt that a novel would be a more powerful way of exploring the big ideas I wanted to bottom out about the meaning of life.
I wrote the first draft of the book while I was living in Australia and Ireland, and used the local libraries wherever I was to research the countries I hadn’t been to, and all the historical, cultural and philosophical background I wanted to feature. The characters and their stories came from lots of different people I met while travelling and in my own life back home (although none is based on anyone in particular of course!)
Thirteen years later I had re-written and re-edited the book a hundred times and eventually sent it out to two last publishers. One said no… but the very last one said yes!

7- What's your Twitter handle, and do you have two or three writer friends on there to shout-out to for #WriterWednesday ?

You can find me on Twitter here: @CatWalkerAuthor Please do stop by and have a chat!
I’d like to give a shout out to my local author friends @LouiseTondeur , @eleanor_wood and @helentrevorrow

8- What’s your favourite book to movie adaptation?

I generally don’t think that movie adaptations hit the mark as they can never plumb the depths of the nuances in a book, but the movie of Umberto Eco’s ‘The Name of the Rose’, featuring Sean Connery, has to rate quite highly for me. I can’t wait for the adaptation of The Scoop…! 😉

9- What most motivates you to read a new book?

I don’t have enough time as I would like to read, as I run my business and have a toddler! So I often rely on book recommendations from friends or people on social media. I hate to admit it (because I’d rather not be ‘told’ what to read by the powers that be) but I often also look to Booker Prize winners as there have been some awesome winners in the past.

10- It's our tenth anniversary! How far has your writing come in the past ten years and where do you see your writing career ten years from now?

Happy 10th Anniversary! That’s quite a landmark. In some ways my own writing has come a long way in the last ten years, from dreamy first drafts to a finished novel about to be published. I’ve also self-published a book of poetry ( and co-written and directed a successful amateur musical (‘Honeybees: The Musical’ - the world’s first lesbian field hockey musical) which sold out performances in Brighton, Eastbourne and the legendary RADA Studios (formerly the Drill Hall) off the West End of London. These days my ‘mainstream life’ is very busy though, with work and parenting taking up a LOT of hours, so in an ideal world in ten years time, I will somehow have carved out enough time to write full time and have a few bestsellers under my belt allowing me to travel the world guesting at book festivals (that’s every writer’s dream, right?)! 😉

11- What is your favorite book by someone else, what's the author's Twitter handle, and what do you love most about that book? #FridayReads book recommendation time!

Being honest, my all time favourite books are by authors who are either dead or don’t take to Twitter. In particular The Scoop owes a debt of gratitude to ‘Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance’ by Robert M. Pirsig, ‘Notes from a Small Island’ and others by Bill Bryson, and ‘Sophie's World’ by Jostein Gaarder. But if I had to choose a recent novel that I loved by someone who is on Twitter it would be this one:
Author name: @helentrevorrow
Title: In The Wake
Love because: It’s a gripping psychological thriller full of dark humour and strong female characters. And we need more books with gay lead characters to normalise such diversity.

12- What emotions do you hope your book will evoke for the reader?

Ooh, great question. Firstly I really hope that The Scoop makes people think as well as feel. It’s basically a book about life’s big questions: Why are we here? What is the meaning of life? What can we learn from others? How do we live a good life? But it’s couched in the stories of three very different characters and describes their personal journeys from uncertainty to… well, let’s just say, less uncertainty, with a lot of humour! So I hope that readers will recognise something of themselves in the characters and their endeavours as well as, occasionally, thinking: “Oh, I never knew that”.

13- What kind of impact do you hope your book will have?

Above all I hope that The Scoop will give its readers some further hope that life is what you make it and that every life is worthwhile. It sometimes seems that we live in a very dark and scary world, and I think that we need to be reminded to listen to the lessons of history and what other cultures and religions have to teach us about life and about being nicer, better people.

14- What is the best writing tool, program, or reference book you've ever bought?

I loved Stephen King’s ‘On Writing’ memoir which kept me passionate about writing as a way of life. I also benefitted from Louise Tondeur’s excellent little guidebooks: How to Write a Novel and Get It Published: A Small Steps Guide; and Find Time to Write. And of course Julia Cameron’s amazing: The Artist's Way: A Course in Discovering and Recovering Your Creative Self

15- In what ways are the main characters in your book diverse? #WeNeedDiverseBooks

Casey, the narrator in The Scoop, is a gay woman. I would argue that this fact is not pivotal to the book – it’s not a ‘gay book’ per se – it is just what it is. And that’s what’s important in diversity I think, not that we randomly place diverse characters in there for the sake of it, but that it’s reflective of the real diversity of life around us.

16- Who is your favorite book review blogger?

I’m new to the world of book blogging so don’t yet know who to follow – some suggestions would be gratefully received. The Scoop’s blog tour starts mid-March and that will be a totally new experience for me. I can’t wait!
Please allow me to recommend the Blogging from A to Z Challenge, which has a great many of book review bloggers every year.

17- What was the deciding factor in your publication route?

I spent thirteen years trying to get The Scoop published. I had previously self-published a book of poetry but I’d decided after that that I really wanted a traditional publisher for my novel. I felt at that time that this route would give me a bigger audience. But it wasn’t easy! Thirteen years later I had sent it out to every publisher and agent I could think of. I had tried large and small publishers in the UK, the US and Canada. Eventually I came across the idea of hybrid models of publishing – where the author and the publisher both bear part of the risk (and the cost). It seemed like the perfect solution – I would get the publishing expertise and knowledge I needed but still maintain a large amount of control over how my novel was handled and marketed. Trepidatiously I sent out my manuscript to more publishers. I still got some rejection slips (hybrid publishers don’t say yes to everyone) but eventually the amazing and brilliant and revolutionary @RedDoorBooks said yes!

18- Which author, past or present, do you feel most resembles your work?

If The Scoop is seen as resembling, in the smallest way, Robert M. Pirsig’s ‘Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance’, or anything by Bill Bryson, or Paulo Coelho or Jostein Gaarder, then I would be thrilled beyond belief.

19- Would you please ask our audience a question to answer in the comments?

What is the meaning of life? (Just kidding. Although if you do know then please do tell!)
Alternatively: As I never have enough time to read as I’d like, I’m curious about how many pages will you generally read past the point at which your enthusiasm starts to flag?

20- Anything else you would care to share about your book and yourself?
Operation Awesome #20Questions in #2020 of #NewBook Debut Author Cat Walker

The Scoop: A wonderful tale of journeys, both geographical and emotional, that will keep you entertained at every turn... Cat Walker is a brilliant storyteller Zoe Lyons
Casey Jones's life is a mess. Her job bores her, her parents confuse her, and she has repeated nightmares about her ex-girlfriend. In a moment of madness she packs in her job and plans an adventure with her schoolfriend, long-time lad Danny. What she didn't plan for was an extra passenger, in the shape of Danny's estranged twelve-year-old son, Ari, who has problems of his own.
The three of them are thrown together for an intense rollercoaster ride in Alice a converted bright pink ice cream van through some of the most beautiful and dangerous places in the world, from Tulse Hill to Tibet.

About the Author
Cat Walker was born and raised in the sunny seaside town of Scarborough in North Yorkshire. She is a grown up eternal student, with many and various jobs under her belt, and a passion for travel which has seen her wandering the globe in search of the truth.
Operation Awesome #20Questions in #2020 of #NewBook Debut Author Cat Walker
The Scoop is her debut novel. Cat currently lives in Brighton with her wife and baby son.
Cat Walker is not having a mid-life crisis!

Amazon UK pre-order:
RedDoor Press pre-order:
Author Website:
Twitter Link: @CatWalkerAuthor
Instagram Link:

The Scoop by Cat Walker

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

March Pass or Pages Genre Reveal!

The genre for the March 2020 Pass or Pages is...

Adult Suspense/Thriller!

Here are the important dates for this round:

March 3rd: Agent panel announcement
March 9th to 13th: Entry window (via a form here on our blog)
March 23rd to 27th: Feedback reveals!

For a recap of the rules and links to previous rounds, click here. Stay tuned for our agent panel reveal next week!

Monday, February 24, 2020

First Page Critique!

Writing Implements 1879
We received a First Page Critique entry.  In other words, a brave soul needs our help! It's up to all of us [including YOU] to provide that help.  Please offer your thoughts in the comments section.

Reminder: Be nice, but be honest. [Comments that are not polite/respectful will be deleted.] What would YOU like to know if this was YOUR first page? Do you think it has a good opening line? Does it have a hook? Does it pull you into the story? Do you want to read more? Why or why not? Be specific, so your critique helps the person who wrote the entry.

Genre:  Mystery/Police Procedural

Fevered Fuse
Chapter 1 – Speed Kills

Speed is my addiction, intoxicating and lethal, driving away the frustration over my lime-green Ninja motorcycle.

But my tad says speed’s another killer he must curb - it’s his job.

I soar around a bend, then open the throttle down the last straight towards Tremadog. The distinctive blue and yellow markings lurking behind a stone wall warn me and I slow. Heddlu – Police.

I can’t have Sergeant Marc Anwyl’s traffic police colleagues at North Wales Police reporting his daughter Sparkle for speeding on her new bike. Must evade that first offence. Imperative.

The town is busy, although not heaving like nearby Porthmadog which draws the tourists now the warmth of summer has banished the rain – for a few days. Reason to avoid going that way and getting held up. I have a better way to save time. No marks for getting to college late.

The main road north is busy, and I wait my chance to dive across the roundabout to cut through to the coastal road along the Llyn Peninsula.

Control the speed. Other adrenaline boosts will come. Time to negotiate traffic.

The shadow of the railway bridge looms. An object dislodges as I slow for the roundabout beyond.

It falls. I swerve – into the ditch.

Instinct causes me to smash my bike. Tumbling. Alive.

A second object. Duck.

Pain and darkness envelop me.

Friday, February 21, 2020

Flash Fiction Friday Contest 45 #flashfiction

Flash Fiction Friday Contest 45 #flashfiction Creative Romance

Prompt: Creative Romance
Length: under 200 words
Deadline: February 24, 2020, 2am Central Standard Time

February is National Creative Romance Month. Romance is a positive mystery, excitement, and pleasure of love. For the creative part of this prompt, I want to you to write a flash fiction piece with romance that isn't focused on attraction or "mating aspirations."

Leave your entry in the comments, please. As always, the winner will get a badge and bragging rights.

Thursday, February 20, 2020


This week we will continue talking about publicity and marketing, this time focusing on reviews and how to get them. If you are a regular reader of this blog, you may have seen some of this before because some of the content here comes from a blog post I wrote in response to an O'Abby question late last year.  I've added to it though, because like everyone else, I'm always learning...

Reviews are incredibly important to getting your book seen and building the audience for it. Readers are inundated with content and reviews help them decide if your book is more worth reading than the other ones vying for their attention. Good reviews validate your book and you can use them to help spread positive word-of-mouth that will help boost sales. 

But how do you get them?

There are services that offer to help find reviewers for you, but be careful of these and do your due diligence before dropping any cash. It is against Amazon’s rules for you to pay for reviews and some of these services are pay-to-play and you may end up spending a lot of money for reviews that Amazon will remove right after they’re posted. This includes offering any kind of gift or incentive in exchange for reviews, even offering a review to another author in return.

Personally, I have used two different review-finding services, one of which was excellent value for money, the other, less expensive, but also less effective. Predictably, the next time I wanted to use the excellent service, they were booked up over a year in advance, so were not available at the time my book was being released.  If you have control over your own release date, or know it well in advance, you will be in a better position to book ahead of time and get a slot with an in-demand service.

There are also a number of free sites where you can offer your book for reviewers. I have had zero success with any of these, but they’re free, so even if they don’t generate any reviews, at least it’s not costing me anything other than the time to fill in the online form.  Some genres are easier than others to get reviews for.  I have found that getting reviews for YA books is much more difficult than getting reviews for Adult Romance, for example.

I have read that targeting the top Amazon reviewers who review similar books to your own is an effective way to generate reviews, but have not tried this myself. I had a look, but so few of the top reviewers had contact information available, it felt like something that would be more time consuming that it was worth. If anyone has tried this, I would be interested to know if it paid off…

Another thing I’ve heard about is adding a page at the end of your book urging readers to leave a review if they enjoyed the book. I’m not self-pubbed, so can’t do this, but if you are, this could be something that helps remind readers to leave a review.

You should also remind your fans to do so. If you have a mailing list (and you should), you will send out regular newsletters to people who have signed up because they already like your work. These people are your strongest allies and it’s important you use them effectively. Offering free review copies to these people is not effective because as your fans, they are likely to buy your new book anyway. But they are the people who will talk about your book and raise awareness of it. Use them to create advance buzz and be your street team in letting people know your book is coming, and that you’re looking for reviews.

Keep track of who reviews your latest book so you can reach out to them again for your next one. Some reviewers state in their guidelines they are not open to reviewing unless they’ve worked with an author previously, so these relationships are important. So are the relationships you build with other writers. You can ask your beta readers and critique partners to review your book when it is finally published. You can ask your editor and copy editor. You can ask your cover designer.

Long story short, getting reviews is hard. It’s time consuming and there are really no short cuts. You just have to do the work, reach out to as many people as possible, and nurture the relationships you build this way.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Operation Awesome #20Questions in #2020 of #NewBook Debut Author L. C. Barlow

Operation Awesome #20Questions in #2020 of #NewBook Debut Author posted by @JLenniDorner of @OpAwesome6

Pivot by L. C. Barlow

1- You have a dark horror speculative fiction novel but, given the title, how often do people ask you if "Pivot" is a reference to Ross from the show Friends moving a couch?

Hahaha! I love this question! I have so many people reference that Ross/pivot scene all the time. Whenever I was advertising the book on @CreepyCabin ’s and @HomeSweetHell ’s Instagram accounts, one of the comments would regularly be, “I can’t help but think of Ross from Friends.”

I’ll add that I’m a huge Friends fan (I grew up with the show), and I’ll leave it on late at night while I’m grading papers. The name of the book has nothing to do with the show; however, for a Christmas gift, my best friend gave me a dark blue sweatshirt with “Pivot. PIVOT! PIVAAAHHT!” written in the lettering from Friends. This was the first Christmas after Pivot had been published, and it was just such a perfect gift.

2- Would you please, in 160 characters or less, give a #WriteTip ?

You do not need to insert figurative items into your story to feel better or “redeem it.” Trust the reader to follow you. Otherwise, you make more work for yourself when revising.

3- What is the best piece of writing advice you've received?

I’ll provide three pieces of advice that were all equally important.

You can only enter a room for the first time once. That’s why it’s important that you get your work to as optimum of a level as possible before submitting it to an agent or editor. Once they “enter the room” (read your work) for the first time, they can’t see it nearly as objectively after. Your own objectiveness is compromised because you’ve been with the work for so long. That’s why you need workshoppers you can trust (and who know how to get you to emphasize things and back off things without being cruel or mean).

Keep in mind the Hemingway Theory – that 10% of the story is what the author lets the audience see, and 90% is hidden. It’s very much like a glacier – the top 10% is visible, and the bottom 90% is below water. The amount of work you put into a novel is the 90%. When I wrote Pivot, I wrote about five times the amount that the book ended up being. The book is around 280 pages. I definitely wrote over 1,000 pages while constructing it.

Read Save the Cat! by Blake Snyder and The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler. These were books that Nancy Holder (a prolific author and one of my professors) recommended to all of her students in my MFA program. Both books have beat sheets in terms of how a story should move. When I read them, I was so incredibly impressed. Before my MFA, I had written my first novel without any plot guidance. I retroactively compared it with Snyder’s 15-point beat sheet. To my surprise, I found that 13/15 elements in my manuscript aligned. That was the Aha! moment of, “Oh, this is why it worked. I know what I did, so now I know what to do.” I regularly return to these books and always learn something new.

4- Pivot is a Readers’ Favorite book award finalist in the horror genre. How did you find out about the Readers’ Favorite book award?

I am going to give you the long answer to this.

When I originally wrote Pivot, I self-published it without querying any agents because I had always been given the impression that getting published traditionally was impossible. When I self-published the novel, I received quite a bit of interest with, what turned out to be, over 65,000 downloads of the book (I made the book perma-free on Amazon and purchased two BookBub ads for it). In the midst of getting these downloads, I was reading people’s reviews, and quite a few of them complained about the cover. Thus, I scouted for book cover designers and settled on Bookfly Design. James T. Egan created a gorgeous cover for the self-published version of Pivot, and I do believe that is one of the things that greatly helped me receive so many downloads. One of the things that Kira Rubenthaler at Bookfly Design recommended to me was submitting my book to Indie book awards – which I did not know existed – and I did what she suggested. Ultimately, Pivot was a finalist for the Next Generation Indie Awards in eBook Fiction, a Winner of the Indie Reader Discovery Awards in Horror, and a Winner of the eLit Awards in Horror. Pivot made IndieReader's Best Books of 2014. Additionally, though, Pivot was one of the first self-published horror novels to be on the preliminary ballot for the Bram Stoker Awards.

Pivot did not make the final ballot for the Stokers, so it was not technically a nominee, but I read up on the Horror Writers Association and became intrigued. I went to the World Horror Convention in Portland, Oregon in 2014, where I met a wide array of authors and, fortuitously, an entertainment lawyer who was interested in my book. That eventually led to my getting an agent and then, ultimately, a publisher.

As a result, I knew how important it was to submit a book to award competitions, and upon the traditional publication of the revised Pivot, I made sure to Google awards to submit the book to. Fortunately, there is an even wider array of awards for traditionally published books (albeit, these are potentially more competitive). The Readers’ Favorite Book award intrigued me because it is a level playing field for both Indie authors and traditionally published authors. Anyone can enter.

5- Would you share a picture with us of your book with Smaug and Dusty?

Of course!
Book Cats! Operation Awesome #20Questions in #2020 of #NewBook Debut Author L. C. Barlow

6- What's the best part of living in Dallas, Texas?

My favorite parts about living in Dallas are the following: I regularly visit the Bishop Arts District in Oak Cliff, which is a fantastic little arts area that a friend actually compared to New Orleans (and I can sort of see why). In the BA District, there’s the Wild Detectives coffeehouse/bookstore/bar, a delicious pie place called Emporium Pies that a younger woman (who is such an inspiration) built from the ground up until it exploded in popularity, a jazz club, a sushi place, live music every weekend, Dude Sweet Chocolate where you can get “chocolate salami” and “R2D2 marshmallows” among other things, a comic book store, a Batgirl mural, a pizza place called Eno’s that feels like a Denver, Colorado cabin inside, etc.

Dallas also has a fantastic art museum – the Dallas Museum of Art – that houses Yayoi Kusama’s “All the Eternal Love I Have for Pumpkins,” among other amazing pieces.

Finally, as Dallas is mainly known for shopping and dining, I want to mention Rise No. 1 as one of the best restaurants to visit. Whiskey Cake, Baboush, and Cloud Nine at Reunion Tower are also worth visiting.

7- What's your Twitter handle, and do you have two or three writer friends on there to shout-out to for #WriterWednesday ?

My Twitter handle is @LCBarlowAuthor . I’d love to give a shout out to @JoshMalerman , @nancyholder , and @westonochse .

8- Do you have a favorite #bookstagram image or account/ profile?

My favorite #bookstagram account profile is probably @foldedpagesdistillery or @bookbento . Both accounts make absolutely gorgeous photographs to advertise books, and I love drinking them in.

9- What most motivates you to read a new book?

Book recommendations from friends really motivate me to read a new book. In addition, I’m very motivated to read books by my friends and/or professors. Often times, if I’ve read a book by an author and loved it, I will search for more books by the same author to sort of chase the high. Lastly, if there’s a book out there in the same vein as a book I’m writing (same genre, similar idea, etc.), I will often check it out.

10- It's our tenth anniversary! How far has your writing come in the past ten years and where do you see your writing career ten years from now?

Congratulations on your tenth anniversary!
In the past ten years, my writing has made much amazing headway. My first professionally published fiction piece was in 2008, and it was flash fiction in a journal that no longer exists (Oak Bend Review). In 2011, I had an academic article published in the peer-reviewed Popular Culture Review. In 2013, I self-published Pivot, which ultimately received over 65,000 downloads and multiple awards. At the World Horror Con, I met individuals who were willing to help me revise my work and query agents. I was fortunate to find a wonderful agent in and around 2016 and land a book deal with California Coldblood Books by 2018. I signed a contract with Brilliance audio in 2018, as well, and Emma Galvin – the amazing voice actor who voiced Winter’s Bone and the Divergent Series – voiced Pivot. This blew me away. Both Josh Malerman and Weston Ochse wrote wonderful blurbs for the book. So, too, did Publishers Weekly and ALA Booklist. Finally, I received my MA in 2013 and MFA in 2019.

11- What is your favorite book by someone else, what's the author's Twitter handle, and what do you love most about that book? #FridayReads book recommendation time!

Author name: Anne Rice @AnneRiceAuthor
Title: Blackwood Farm
Love because: It is atmospheric, gripping, intense, and beautiful. It is my favorite of the Anne Rice novels, and Tarquin Blackwood is probably as equally my favorite as Lestat.

12- What emotions do you hope your book will evoke for the reader?

I hope to combine/convey beauty, horror, and intelligence to leave the reader in awe. I suppose awe is the emotion I’m after. When I was writing the book, though, the process very much reminded me of the grinding of a mortar and pestle. So, perhaps gravitas should be added to that mixture.

13- What kind of impact do you hope your book will have?

I hope the book gives readers what they didn’t know they wanted. A very kind reviewer said that in his review of Pivot, and it meant a lot to me.

14- What is the best writing tool, program, or reference book you've ever bought?

One set of reference books I highly recommend are Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglish’s The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression, The Urban Setting Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to City Spaces, and The Rural Setting Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Personal and Natural Places.

Below is a craft book recommendation (two craft books, actually) and the story of why I recommend them.

Pivot was originally self-published, and when I wrote the novel, I didn’t really know anything about writing. I wrote the chapters alternating between past and present, with two plot lines that complemented one another. When I finally met up with several people who were willing to help me produce a more professional, publishable version of the novel, they helped me to significantly change, enhance, and build those different plotlines. When an agent took on the novel, he wanted me to separate the book into two books. At first, I declined, but as time went on, I realized that the book needed to be separated into two, that my agent was right, and I did so, taking the time to build the first one up and knowing the second one would be the second of the trilogy and that it needed to be built up like the first one.

The thing, though, was that I had really kind of built that first book through trial-and-error. I had written over 1,000 single-spaced pages to produce a 250-page single-spaced novel, and even though I had managed to make it work, I wasn’t exactly sure how.

At this time, I had started an MFA program because I had anticipated this problem. Nancy Holder—an amazing writer, woman, author, person in general—was my professor for two semesters and two residencies, and she told her classes about two books that she uses to help plot books: Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat! and Christopher Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey. I immediately purchased these books and read them. Subsequently, I compared Pivot to see how much its plot points lined up with the 15-point beat sheet in Save the Cat! As it turned out, 13 out of 15 points lined up. Thus, I was able to see how I had made the book work and move onward to the next novel. I used the same beat sheet to help finish the second of the trilogy, and I, like Nancy, will most likely use the two beat sheets from these books for every novel in the future. Writing requires so much problem solving, and these books improve my ability to address those problems before seeking outside help. They help me produce things that I didn’t know I could produce, and I learn something new every time I read them.

That being said, after learning how to more effectively plot, I also learned that plotting isn’t everything. There’s just something about letting the novel develop organically that is so important. Really, if you sit down and say exactly what you wanted to say when writing, you’ve kind of failed. It’s only by writing something beyond what you knew to write that you have succeeded – when you write more than you thought you knew. So, when I do pre-emptively plot with the above books as my guides, I do so while taking it with a grain of salt, and often times the plot shifts dramatically three or four times as I go back and revise.

15- In what ways are the main characters in your book diverse? #WeNeedDiverseBooks

The Pivot-verse has a major character that is a person of color. Roland James is essentially the second (better, kinder, essential) father figure to the protagonist as she progresses through the novel. He is the angel to Cyrus’s devil, as his heart turns for the better a quarter of the way through the book. He is simply trapped with Cyrus like everyone else is, as Cyrus has a red box that can kill individuals as soon as they take the first step to leave or turn against him. I don’t want to give too much away, but Roland and Jack work together to become better individuals and attempt to escape.

16- Who is your favorite book review blogger?

I’m a big fan of Tim Waggoner’s blog, Writing in the Dark, and Weston Ochse’s blog, Living Dangerously. In terms of a book reviewer, I enjoy Marvin P. Vernon’s book reviews; however, he does not have a blog.

17- What was the deciding factor in your publication route?

I have taken part in both self-publishing and traditional publishing, and there are really advantages and disadvantages to both. In fact, I dedicated my final MFA project to interviewing successful self-publishers (Andy Weir, Michael Sullivan, David Chilton, Christopher Paolini, and others) and creating a presentation to help educate fellow students on those advantages and disadvantages. You can access my presentation, if you would like, at this link:

As of right now, it’s really difficult for me to state which route is best for me, and it is possible that in the future I, like many other authors, will have a career that is an amalgam of both traditional and self-publishing. I will just have to see.

18- Which author, past or present, do you feel most resembles your work?

This is tough. If I were forced to gauge my work in terms of other authors, I might say that it’s a combination of Anne Rice, Poppy Z. Brite, Chuck Pahlaniuk, and maybe Stephen King. At the same time, I am highly aware those authors blow me out of the water.

19- Would you please ask our audience a question to answer in the comments?

What is your favorite genre and why? Alternatively, what makes you lean into a novel? What makes you lean out?

20- Anything else you would care to share about your book and yourself?

“Impressive and arresting prose drives this vivid debut. (…) Barlow’s gorgeous writing will easily propel readers through the rest of the series.”
—Publishers Weekly

“Beyond good and evil, Pivot juggles archetypes until you’re not sure which ball is airborne and which is still in the author’s hand. A story about cracking free of your intended role in life, as plot and depth travel at the same exceptional speed.”
—Josh Malerman, NYT Bestselling Author of Bird Box

“Pivot is perhaps one of the best first novels I have ever read. Tight. Clean. Imaginative. It’s rare for a first-time author to create a homicidal protagonist who you want to follow. I’m eager to read more of these characters, because in Pivot, Barlow creates a universe of cruel.”
—Weston Ochse, Award Winning Author of Burning Sky

“A brilliant blend of mystery and horror. (…) Pivot is well plotted and the author introduces twists that readers won’t see coming. L.C. Barlow takes readers on a perilous journey, crafting scenes that are emotionally charged and focused and creating characters that are both complex and real.”
—Readers’ Favorite Book reviews (Five Stars)

Amazon Link:
Audible Link:
Target Link:
Barnes&Noble Link:
Walmart Link:
Publishers Weekly Review:
Readers' Favorite Review:
Book Trailer:
Author Website:
Twitter Link: @LCBarlowAuthor
Instagram Link:

Pivot by L. C. Barlow

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

The Query Outline

I was recently chatting with a writer friend about their query package, and lemme tell you, putting a query package together is such a bother. It's difficult - nearly impossible sometimes, even - to get good feedback on it. You certainly don't get any from the agents you query. And everywhere you look, there's conflicting advice.

So I'm going to dish out some more.

When I was querying, one of my biggest struggles was figuring out how much of the plot to include. I knew I'd be explaining it all in the synopsis, which is more of an emotionless summary of the book's events, and the query is supposed to read like the book jacket blurb. I tried reading some blurbs to generate ideas, but they all seemed too dramatic - more on the side of a lengthy Twitter pitch event tweet than a brief summary. Trying to read other people's query letters wasn't much help either. Some people wrote lengthy page-long dealios, and other people barely had ten sentences. I was tearing my hair out. I just wanted a happy medium, darnit!

I ended up settling somewhere in the middle, landing on two paragraphs of plot and two paragraphs of other query content. Here's my basic outline:

  1. Summary paragraph 1: This paragraph sets up the world, the stakes, and the inciting incident. It ends around the end of Act One, when the MC makes some specific choice that defines the rest of the story.
  2. Summary paragraph 2: The paragraph summarizes the consequences of the choice the MC makes at the end of Act One. It ends approximately where Act Two ends, when the MC has to give up on their previous want and adjust, or continue to struggle toward something they will never achieve. It should end on a cliffhanger. 
  3. Metadata: This paragraph contains all the info about my manuscript - the title, length, genre, and relevant hashtags (#OwnVoices, #BlackGirlMagic, etc.) along with comp titles. Comp titles are in ALL CAPS, and I also like to mention why I'm using them ("the political intrigue of SHADOWCASTER meets the love triangle of LIKE A LOVE STORY"). It's also worth mentioning why I'm querying this agent in particular ("your bio mentioned an interest in books like the TV show REIGN"). 
  4. Bio: All about me! My background, my education, why I'm qualified to write this, why I'm passionate about this story. 
All in all, my query was about three-quarters of a page, give or take, including my introduction and sign-off. A query should definitely not be more than a page, and I'd say limit your summary to three paragraphs. Any longer than that and you're venturing into synopsis territory, and we know how territorial they can be.

Now go forth and storm the query trenches!

Monday, February 17, 2020

First Page Critique

Get fresh eyes on your first page!
The first Pass or Pages event for 2020 begins in less than a month!  Genre reveal is next week and we'll announce the agent panel the following week.  So – now's a great time to get fresh eyes on your first page, especially if you're hoping to submit your entry for Pass or Pages.

We are accepting entries this week for First 50/100/250 Critiques, your first 250 words or fewer, any genre.  For a description of how this works, go here.

If you want to submit your First 50/100/250 words for critique before Pass or Pages begins, here's how.  [NOTE: to avoid confusion, this is NOT entry for Pass or Pages.  It IS entry to First 50/100/250 Critique.  Pass or Pages entry period begins March 9.]  Send us an email formatted as follows:

[Subject:] First Page Critique

The following 50/100/250 words are my own work and I give OA permission to post it on the OA blog for the life of the blog.

I commented on OA blog posts on DATE and DATE as [your online ID].

My first 50/100/250 words:

[Copy/paste your entry here.]

Entry period opens now and closes at the end of the day on Friday February 21, 2020. All entries will receive a confirmation email from us by Sunday February 23, 2020 that acknowledges receipt of your entry and, if you've complied with all requirements, lets you know the date your entry will be included on the blog for critique. If you do NOT receive a confirming email, send us a DM on Twitter and we'll give you alternative instructions for sending us your entry.

Happy writing!

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Marketing and Publicty part 2

Following on from last week's post, I thought we'd continue with marketing and publicity since it's such a massive topic.

There are a huge number of services out there who will try to convince you that, for a fee, they will sell your book.  Most of these services are ridiculously expensive and don't offer value for money, so do your due diligence before making a commitment to spend.

This week I want to focus on some essential things you should have in order to successfully sell your book.

Firstly, you need your book to be well-edited and polished.  Readers are quick to find typos and grammatical errors and one really quick way to get a lot of negative reviews is to publish a book that isn't well edited.  This is especially important if you are self-publishing.  If you have a publisher working with you, you will work with an editor, but depending on the size of the press, the number of rounds of edits and the time you get to complete them may not be substantial.  Always do your own final pass before sending back to your editor or pressing publish on your e-book. And then, maybe do another one just in case... I find changing the font and the font size each time I do a pass helps me to find errors I may not have seen otherwise. 

Another essential is eye-catching cover art that suits your genre.  Make sure your title is in a readable font and that you can read it even if the cover is thumbnail-sized.  Some covers look amazing when you look at them on your computer monitor in full-screen, but are illegible when shrunk down to the size it's displayed on a website and looked at on a mobile phone.  Your cover is among your most important assets so it's worth paying for a good one if you're doing it yourself.  If you're working with a publisher, you may not get a lot of input into the design, but it's important you're happy with it.  You're going to be looking at it a lot!

The blurb for your book is also important even if you are planning only an e-book release.  Make sure it tells your readers what the book is about without giving away too much of the plot.  You want readers to be intrigued enough to want to read it.  I find that a good guide is to allow your blurb to tease only the first third of the book.  That way you're introducing the main characters, giving away the inciting incident and then teasing the reader with the possible consequences if the characters don't (or do) take action.  You may want to write a few different versions and try them out on different people to see which gets the most positive response from readers.

A website is also an important tool.  Make sure it's kept up-to-date and that there is a way for people to contact you.  Include the most important information about yourself and your book(s), including things like the blurb, all sales links (don't just direct people to Amazon) and an author photo.  You may also want to include a form so people can sign up to your newsletter (if you have one - and you should).

Social media is also a valuable tool for engaging with your readers and the wider writing community. Set up separate accounts for your author-self so your fans won't end up embroiled in the messy day-to-day stuff that happens on your personal social media pages.  Curate what you post on your author pages so what you post will be of interest to your readers.  And if you're not a keen social media user, pick whichever platform you like the most and only use that.  There's no point having multiple accounts with little to no activity; better to do one thing well.

An author newsletter is another thing you really should have, and bulking up the number of subscribers should be a priority.  To do this, you may want to offer something free to people who visit your website and sign up. A short story, maybe, set in the same world as your book, or something of that ilk.  Just make sure it's not something your readers can find elsewhere -  it needs to be exclusive to be enticing.

In terms of physical things you need, there aren't a lot that I would consider essential.  Bookmarks with your cover design, website and social media addresses are a nice-to-have and relatively cheap to get printed. You can hand these out at events and leave them inside library books of a similar genre at your local library.

And once again, I think that's all we have time for this week.  Next week, maybe we should talk a little about reviews and how to get them since reviews are pretty crucial for getting people to read your beautifully edited book with its gorgeous cover!

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Operation Awesome #20Questions in #2020 of #NewBook Debut Author Kitty Felde

Operation Awesome #20Questions in #2020 of #NewBook Debut Author posted by @JLenniDorner of @OpAwesome6

Welcome to Washington, Fina Mendoza by Kitty Felde

1- What was your favorite experience as a journalist?

I won’t say the OJ trial, though that was the most surreal reporting experience. My favorite interviewee was Colin Firth. I loved covering the State of the Union address, Bosnian war crimes, and earthquakes.

2- Would you please, in 160 characters or less, give a #WriteTip ?

Morning pages. Three pages of drek. Everyday.

3- What is the best piece of writing advice you've received?

Don’t doubt yourself. You have a voice and a story that is uniquely yours.

4- How has the podcast impacted your marketing efforts?

Creating THE FINA MENDOZA MYSTERIES podcast gave me another way to brag about the book with a different kind of audience.

Doing BOOK CLUB FOR KIDS made me realize how difficult it is for authors to find a place that puts a spotlight on middle grade novels. It gave me a fat email list and a platform to brag about both the book and THE FINA MENDOZA MYSTERIES podcast.

5- Would you share a picture with us of your book in a fun setting?

Yes! I’ve attached several.
Operation Awesome #20Questions in #2020 of #NewBook Debut Author Kitty Felde Operation Awesome #20Questions in #2020 of #NewBook Debut Author Kitty Felde Operation Awesome #20Questions in #2020 of #NewBook Debut Author Kitty Felde Operation Awesome #20Questions in #2020 of #NewBook Debut Author Kitty Felde Operation Awesome #20Questions in #2020 of #NewBook Debut Author Kitty Felde

6- How did you get involved in Book Club for Kids podcast and what could you tell us about the program?

Book Club for Kids is a free, 20-minute show where a trio of young readers discuss a middle grade novel, interview the author, and hear a page from the book read by a celebrity. We’ve produced more than 100 episodes, won the DC Mayor’s Award for Excellence in the Humanities and the California Library Association’s Technology Award, and The Times of London named us one of the top 10 podcasts for kids in the world.

I started the show when I was at the LA Times Festival of Books, talking to fans of my daily public radio talk show on KPCC (Southern California Public Radio) Talk of the City. These folks dragged their kids along with them and they told me they had to listen to the show, too because they were in mom’s carpool. Since there was nothing of interest for them on the show, I asked them what they would be interested in: they said books. The show was born, first on my show, then on cable TV, then in 2015, a podcast.

7- What's your Twitter handle, and do you have two or three writer friends on there to shout-out to for #WriterWednesday ?

@kittyfelde. @LauraStegman, @JanetMcCreery, @DanaKMiddleton

8- Do you have a favorite #bookstagram image or account/ profile?


9- What most motivates you to read a new book?

When I already adore the author from previous books.

10- It's our tenth anniversary! How far has your writing come in the past ten years and where do you see your writing career ten years from now?

Wow. Ten years ago, I was writing plays and radio stories. I didn’t have the guts to write prose. Now, it’s all I can think about.
Ten years from now, I plan to have a shelf full of books with my name on them and invitations to Book Festivals around the world.

11- What is your favorite book by someone else, what's the author's Twitter handle, and what do you love most about that book? #FridayReads book recommendation time!

Author name: @Sherri_L_Smith
Title: Flygirl
Love because: Sherri never writes the same kind of book twice. You’re always surprised. “Flygirl” is the ultimate female empowerment novel: an African-American girl who dreams of flying passes as white to join the WASP corps during World War II.

12- What emotions do you hope your book will evoke for the reader?

One young reader told me it “wasn’t too scary.” Good. I hope it will evoke love of family, humor about our current political situation, and courage that we can all try something a bit out of our comfort zone.

13- What kind of impact do you hope your book will have?

I hope “Welcome to Washington, Fina Mendoza” will inspire the next generation to consider public service as a career. The current political climate is so toxic, it’s easy for us to become cynical and discouraged. Kids are our hope for the future.

14- What is the best writing tool, program, or reference book you've ever bought?

I like Twyla Tharp’s “The Creative Habit” and a real oldie “Writing for Children & Teenagers” by Lee Wyndham.

15- In what ways are the main characters in your book diverse? #WeNeedDiverseBooks

My book is about a Latino family from Los Angeles - first, second, and third generations. That second generation is the father in my book, Congressman Arturo Mendoza. My main character is third generation, Fina Mendoza.

16- Who is your favorite book review blogger?

17- What was the deciding factor in your publication route?

The MS got me a New York agent at a prestigious house, but he reported that no one wanted to touch a book with a Latina main character by an author named Felde. I felt the book would strike a chord with a western publisher from a place with a large Latino population like California or Texas. I was right. I received interest from indie publishers in California, Arizona, and Texas and ultimately went with Black Rose Writing.

18- Which author, past or present, do you feel most resembles your work?

L.M. Montgomery

19- Would you please ask our audience a question to answer in the comments?

What’s the one thing in a middle grade novel that drives you crazy?

20- Anything else you would care to share about your book and yourself?

Link to a 2 minute trailer for THE FINA MENDOZA MYSTERIES podcast:

Instagram: bookclubforkids
Instagram: finamendozamysteries
Operation Awesome #20Questions in #2020 of #NewBook Debut Author Kitty Felde


Kitty Felde hosts the award-winning Book Club for Kids podcast – named one of the top 10 kidcasts in the world by “The Times of London.” She also writes plays that are performed worldwide. She fell in love with literature for young readers when she was a young reader, working at her local public library. Kitty looked for the Demon Cat while covering Congress for public radio. She found the paw prints, but not the cat.


Fina Mendoza is the kind of bright, lively, curious, loving little girl you want for a best friend forever. The book is a marvelous introduction to the workings of government, and of a young lady of spunk and smarts.
– Susan Stamberg, NPR
A fun read disguised as a book for grade schoolers, it gives keen insight into the everyday workings of the U. S. Capitol and its inhabitants.
– U.S. Congressman David Dreier, former Chair Rules Committee
A beautiful story told through the eyes of a gutsy Latina protagonist, it introduces children to the daily hum of life in our nation’s capital. Told with unerring accuracy, my son and I recognized the perfect descriptions of the Capitol and Fina’s rich cultural traditions.
– U.S. Congresswoman Linda Sanchez
Readers like me, old and young, will love learning about the customs and eccentricities in the halls of power that are interwoven into a moving comedy/drama of two sisters adjusting to the loss of their mother, of a congressman coping as a single parent, and of an abuelita protecting her grandchildren. And they’ll laugh out loud at the antics of the goofy orange dog, Senator Something. This patriotic and nonpartisan whodunit is both timely and welcome!
– Gail Carson Levine, author of “Ella Enchanted

Welcome to Washington, Fina Mendoza by Kitty Felde

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Delete Your Dining Scenes

Hot take: Dining scenes are overdone.

No pun intended.

In all seriousness, it’s time we examine the utility of dining scenes. You know the type: a bunch of characters have been assembled so you can Share the Important Information to everyone all in one go. Whether it’s breakfast, lunch, or dinner, these moments are everywhere, and oftentimes, they’re a hallmark of lazy writing. Dining scenes are like putting your characters on an elevator to get from floor one to floor fifty: they’re in close proximity, which provides tension; leaving early causes a problem; and there are likely spectators, people whose presence complicates conversation.

The thing is, these types of scenes are a crutch. They’re an easy way to get a group of characters together in a setting that’s dramatic to leave. How many scenes have you read where someone angrily storms away from a dining table? Or take another example, the family dinner where The Announcement is made (“we’re moving,” “I’m pregnant,” “we’re getting married”). And let’s not forget the proposal dinner. Dining scenes signal to the reader what’s about to happen, which makes that reveal so much less meaningful.

I always encourage fellow writers to make their work unique, whether it’s setting, characters, phrasing, etc. But like beginning a scene with a character waking up, there’s nothing unique about a dinner. Everybody has to eat. So ask yourself, is there another setting I can use that is specific to my story? Maybe your characters are musicians and you can stick them into a practice room. Maybe they’re feuding royals and they end up on a hunting trip together. Maybe they’re space explorers and they get stuck cleaning the escape pod. Whatever it is, pick something that will set your setting apart and make it meaningful. Just please, get away from the dinner table.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Dear O'Abby: What should I know about marketing before self-publishing my book?

Dear O'Abby,

I've decided to self-publish my novel and while I'm super-excited about it, I'm also really nervous because I've never done any marketing.  Are there any essential things I need to know about marketing and publicity before I start making plans?



Dear Clueless,

You've gone and opened a can of worms with this one.  It's not a small topic and I probably can't answer it in full in a single post.

But let's look at the basics.

Marketing and publicity are actually two different things, but they do go hand in hand.  Marketing is about how you reach your potential customers, while publicity is about how you raise awareness of your product to the public.

So the first thing you need to do is identify who your market is.  Not every person likes every book, so you need to break down the population to find the people who are most likely to love it.  Anyone who presents a marketing plan saying their book will appeal to men and women between nine and 90 is deluded.

Demographics are one way to do this.  For example, if your main character is an older woman, your first target demographic might be women 40 or 50+.  Then you need to break down that large demographic even further.  If your book is a murder mystery, you add murder mystery-readers to your breakdown.  And maybe your book is set in a rural town, so you can then add rural-town dwellers/lovers to your list.

Eventually you will find exactly who your primary audience is.  And probably, along the way, a few subsets you can define as your secondary and tertiary audiences.

One thing you need to have very clear in your mind before you start any kind of publicity or marketing is why someone should pick your book over any other book.  What makes your story unique?  What makes it special?  Why will it stand out from other books in its genre or category?

To figure this out, you will need to be familiar with other books in your genre.  It's useful to be able to compare your book with other recent titles.  And by recent I mean books published in the last two or three years.  There is no point comparing your story to something published 10 or 100 years ago because trends change, and what worked in 1990 or even 2015, may not work in today's climate.

Another thing you need to have clear in your own head before you start is the core ideas and themes in your book.  This is not what happens in the book, or details of the characters, but the broader ideas and themes on which the story is built.  There should not be more than three or four things in this list, so you will need to drill deep to find these.  Your campaigns will be built on these underlying themes and ideas as the people who respond to them will be your core readers.

That's about all we have time for this week and is probably enough to get your head around to begin with anyway!

Next week I'll follow up with some of the essential materials you need to have to create a successful marketing campaign.

If anyone has questions, please post them in the comments and I will endeavor to answer them either there, or in a future post if they are more complex.

X O'Abby