Chicken Soup for the Soul is the best-selling trade paperback series of all time, with more than 250 books published and over 500 million copies sold. It even made its way into the Guinness Book of World Records in 1999 for having the most books on the New York Times Best-Sellers List at one time.
Yet even more important than the series' sales figures and accolades is the impact these books have had on the people who've read them.
A Chicken Soup for the Soul story can touch your heart or make you laugh. It can help you feel that you're not alone in whatever difficulty you may be facing or inspire you to reach for your dreams. These true stories of perseverance and triumph, delightful surprises and lessons learned, magical moments and awe-inspiring experiences have the power to change people's lives.
Since Chicken Soup for the Soul receives thousands of story submissions for every volume of 101 stories that they publish, I asked Amy Newmark, Chicken Soup for the Soul's Publisher and Editor-in-Chief, to share her best story writing tips with us.
Here they are:
These are the current story topics Chicken Soup for the Soul is looking for.
My Conversation with Amy Newmark
I recently had the privilege of being interviewed by Amy Newmark on her Chicken Soup for the Soul daily podcast, which was a lot of fun. Inspired by a suggestion that Amy made in an interview she gave, I read several Chicken Soup for the Soul stories every day for 101 days, calling it my 101 Days of Positivity Project.
Amy and I talked about the power these stories have to change people's lives, about the courage and generosity of the authors who've shared the intimate details of their lives in Chicken Soup for the Soul stories, and about some specific stories that had a huge impact on our own lives. It was an AMAZING conversation!
(These book promotion tips are the secret sauce that successful authors use to create significant and ongoing book sales. It was an honor to be included in this list of extraordinary authors and promotional experts. Join the conversation and let us know what works for you in the comment section, below. -- Julie Isaac, WritingSpirit.com)
There’s no shortage of advice out there about how to best market your independently published book to new readers. Indeed, it sometimes seems like almost everyone has something to say on the subject.
So who do you believe? Who do you pay the closest attention to? And who, at the end of the day, really has it right?
With those same questions on my mind, I asked 18 of the internet’s biggest names in book marketing for their very best advice, and the results were surprising.
What I wound up with was true gold — the best of the best advice about making an indie book really take off, regardless of its genre. The cream of the crop.
Below, you’ll find advice from bestselling authors, writing coaches, marketing gurus, as well as more than a few in-demand thought-leaders and super-popular bloggers. As you might expect, no two pieces of advice are the same, yet each is a nugget of marketing genius you shouldn’t think of going without.
Read on — your book sales will thank you.
So let’s talk about fans, or better: Super Fans because the two aren’t the same and are often misunderstood.
Right now there are approximately 4,500 books published each day in the US. This means that every day there are over 4,000 new books competing for shelf space, reviewer attention, etc. Even if they have nothing to do with your book, they are still clogging the pipeline. Because of this, it’s becoming increasingly more evident that engaging with readers on a very basic level is not only important to a successful book launch, it’s mandatory.
But what does “engagement” really mean? Well it means nurturing and growing your fans until they become so engaged and so wildly enthused that they’re doing your marketing for you.
Let me give you an example.
We worked with this author for her book release: The Publicist. When the second part to this book came out we bundled book one and two and did a promo giveaway. We gave away 61,000 copies, from that number she ended up going from 19 reviews to over 200 in less than a week. She also got in excess of 200 letters from readers on top of the promotion (so within the promotion window which was two days) and these letters have increased as time has gone on.
So more readers writing. More fans to engage with. She wrote back to each one of the fans individually. Yes, one at a time. Thanking them for writing, for their review, etc. That was step one in turning them into Super Fans. Then she engaged with them on social media, by mailing them character trading cards (which they loved) and doing other promotions around the book that were exclusive to these fans. So step two, she made them feel really important. They mattered and she wanted them to know.
There’s a great book I read that I really recommend it’s called The Curve by Nicholas Lovell. In this book he discusses Super Fans and how they are wildly engaged, huge, huge fans of everything you do. He also cites a study that shows that you only need 1,000 Super Fans to hit a major bestseller list (in the book he says the NYT Bestseller list but I would imagine it works for USA Today and others, too). Why is this? Because a Super Fan is someone who is not only engaged with you but will tell a dozen or more of their friends about this amazing book. They will help you market, they will review the book, share it on their social media.
In other words, Super Fans are crucial to the success of any author.
Penny Sansevieri, Author Marketing Experts
Once you’ve finished your book, don’t be in a rush to get it into print. Spend some time thinking about your potential readers, and why your book might appeal to them. Does it cover subjects no one else is talking about? Introduce a new idea, an innovation, a new concept? Are there potential links between your content and events going on in the world?
Go out and find where your ideal readers hang out, where they have conversations. That’s where you want to be. And remember, when it does come time to publish the book that it’s much easier, more fulfilling and more fun to have a group—no matter how big or small—who are eagerly awaiting the publication.
So put some energy into building that community of readers first, then create a book that’s squarely aimed at what those readers want and expect, something that will really surprise and please them. You’ll be way ahead of the game if you do.”
Joel Friedlander, The Book Designer
As early in the process as possible – ideally while you’re still writing your first book – work with a webmaster to create a website with a blog. As you continue to write your book, venture onto those social media networks that make sense for your genre. In other words, go where your readers are. I think every writer needs to be on Twitter but beyond that, don’t waste your time on social media networks if your readers aren’t there. For example, if you are writing Young Adult or New Adult novels, you need to be on Tumblr. If you write romance novels, you need to have a Facebook page and a Pinterest business account.
Once you have accounts on social media, begin to involve your readers as much as possible in the book you are writing. For example, let your readers help you select a book cover or even a name a few characters. Create milestones on your Facebook page for the day you began writing your book, the day it goes to an editor, your publishing day and your first book reading.
Above all, remember that social media is a social experience. Never use social media as advertising. People come to social media to have fun, connect, and as readers, to get to know the writers. Don’t fall into the trap of trying to accumulate high numbers of followers or Facebook likes. The Holy Grail of social media is engagement and the more engaged you are with your readers, the more books you will eventually sell.
Frances Caballo, Social Media Just for Writers
Words can be a springboard for change, and authors can be movement makers.
Find a passion or purpose beyond your book and make specific goals around that purpose.Your goals should have nothing to do with the number of books you plan to sell or a dollar amount you will get back in sales—the goals should be about what you want your book to do in the world.
Take those goals into every decision you make in publishing. Creating goals based on purpose and passion keeps you focused on real tactics that will connect with readers; if you focus too much on the numbers, you’ll miss the point (and ultimately, the success).
Amy Quale, Wise Ink
For a new non-fiction author there is little else more effective at breaking through obscurity than having a foreword written by a famous celebrity or someone well known in their niche.
In the world of unfettered connectivity in which we live, all the filters and gatekeepers to your heroes are gone; you can now message them in a myriad of ways and actually get responses. I have seen many first time authors take advantage of this fact and end up with forewords written by recognizable names like Donald Trump and Stan Lee.
Once you get a foreword from someone with household name recognition, everything else becomes much easier. When new readers select books, they are much more likely to make a purchase if they recognize the foreword writer. This is a technique with long-lasting effects. When you do a press release, media outlets are more likely to view you as an expert and run a story if you have a well known name attached to your book.
To get a foreword writer that can boost your name recognition value you have to be persistent. You will get rejected by some, but in the long run it will sell books and increase your own name recognition.
CJ McDaniel, Adazing Book Marketing
Think Like a Reader
Kristine Kathryn Rusch
I wrote an entire book on how writers can ensure that readers find books. The book, Discoverability, is geared toward writers with more than 10 books published. Because if you start any kind of promotion before you have a backlist, you’re wasting your time.
What the reader wants at the end of the first book of yours they read is to know where to find the next book. If there is no next book, you’ve failed.
And note that I said “the first book of yours that they read” not “your first book.” It’s very rare that readers start with a writer’s first book. Readers find a book that looks interesting, then read and love it, and look for more by that writer.
Think like a reader, writers. How many times have you bought a book because someone told you to on Facebook or because you saw an ad? Once? Twice? How many times have you bought a book because you liked the previous book? Too many to count, I’ll bet.
My advice for promotion for new writers: write the next book. And the next. And the next. Start thinking about promotion long about book 5. Trust me. Writing the next book works best.
Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Kris Writes
My number one, two, and three top pieces of advice are the same: write the next book! Make it so great that readers of book #1 will leap in delight and want to tell all their friends…which means targeting it to the same readers as book #1.
(I know we’re all impatient, but I’d even counsel new authors to have 2-3 books professionally edited and ready to publish so they can do a staggered release of all three and grow their readership faster. Almost no one listens to that advice, but it truly does work!)
Number four would be to start your mailing list while you’re polishing your books and getting them ready to release. Build it via a clean, functional, engaging website and other social media that you’re comfortable with (people can tell when you’re not having fun and simply “working” them, so play to your strengths). Start sending out newsletters–keep them genuine as if you’re writing to the one person who most loves your writing and truly wants to know what is going on with your life and your books.
And lastly–repeat after me–write the next book!
Here’s the magic formula: write a great book, give your readers time to find it and enjoy it and tell their friends, repeat.It’s truly that simple and that hard.
If a new writer approached me about marketing and promotion advice, if I was in a blunt and honest mood, I’d tell them to not bother with it for a first or even second book except for a few Facebook and Twitter posts to let family and friends know the book is there.
Even if the writer can get a reader to pick up their book, and the reader buys it and reads it, what will the reader read next? The writer will have nothing else, so the promotion is wasted.
So I believe a new writer should get their work out in whatever way they believe is right for their career and then focus on writing the next book.
Dean Wesley Smith, DeanWesleySmith.com
Marketing is about personality. It’s about getting your personality—your books—your brand—to as many people as possible.
That starts with a platform, and the foundation for that platform is your home on the web. Start building an email list as soon as you can, since this will be your only assured direct route to dedicated readers. Give them content they care about to keep their attention: drawings, freebies, special deals, glimpses into your life.
Craft your book launches with care, since Amazon’s sales algorithms will treat you right if you can prove early on that you can generate sales. And most of all—have fun! Don’t let marketing be a chore; embrace it as a challenge. Your audience will sense that attitude and respond to it.
K. M. Weiland, Helping Writers Become Authors
There’s no doubt about it, social media has revolutionized book promotion. You can now connect with your book’s audience instantly and for free. Unfortunately, I see far too many authors get stuck there.
To maximize your book’s success, it’s important to have a promotional plan that includes offline as well as online promotion, traditional media as well as social media.
The good news is, the two flow together seamlessly. The articles and excerpts you’re pitching as guest blog posts can also be pitched to regional newspapers and magazines. The interview questions or presentations you’ve prepared for webinars and teleseminars will work just as well for radio shows and book store appearances.
The more you expand your PR horizons (where and how you meet your Potential Readers), the better chance your book will have for real and lasting success.
Julie Isaac, Writing Spirit
One of the best ways to create a strong advantage for your professional career development is to be thought of as a credible, top level expert in your field. Appearing as the contributing guest or expert on TV shows and other major online, newspaper or magazine media is a great way to build up your reputation, power and influence.
But how do authors, experts and speakers start building up to a top level expert status that brings them new opportunities and respect in their industry? The best way is to get booked as the guest commentator on radio talk shows in big city markets and on national radio shows. An example of an impressive radio show is one that is considered the flagship station in a major city and is at least 50,000 watts in signal coverage.
Appearing as the guest on radio talk shows is one of the best ways to blanket the country with your message, obtain valuable media credentials and promote your book, website and business.
Annie Jennings PR is a prestigious publicity firm that offers authors, experts and speakers the #1 most powerful radio talk show campaign their money can buy. The radio campaign includes a guarantee of performance, unlimited media training and the unparalleled opportunity to work with media professionals who understand how the media works and positions you according to your best advantage.
Annie Jennings, Annie Jennings PR
A lot of people will tell you that the best way to market your book is just to write more books. After almost 20 years of working with independent authors, however, I’ve found that it’s the people who begin marketing their work before it’s even been published that are inevitably the most successful.
Which isn’t to say that it’s too late for your already-published work that’s maybe been kinda-sorta marketed to succeed. Not at all.
When used as part of a larger marketing and PR strategy, learning how to write a press release that captures the attention of the local and national media is one of the best things you can do for the health and longevity of your book sales.
Mickie Kennedy, eReleases
For new nonfiction writers, the best use of your energy is to create a good, solid blog devoted to the subject matter of your book. Drive traffic by commenting on as many blogs in your field as you can and make friends with the other experts. Never treat them as rivals but as allies. Then ask to guest blog for them.
Guest blogging is one of the most powerful sales tools for all authors, but especially if you write nonfiction.
For novelists and memoirists with one book, the best advice I can give is to write another one. While you’re writing, slowly build platform and network with people in your target demographic (or their parents and librarians). Almost all the best indie marketing tools require more than one book. So I advise “soft-launching” the first few books while you blog, network, and gather reviews. Then I recommend 3 things:
1) Start running 99c sales or countdowns and advertise them in ebook bargain newsletters
2) Get into anthologies or multi-author boxed sets and promos
3) Line up some guest spots on blogs that cater to your genre
Anne R. Allen, Anne R Allen’s Blog … with Ruth Harris
Don’t forget the power of visual marketing for your book! The combination of compelling words plus a powerful image gets viewers to stop and take notice. And, image quotes are among the most re-shared social media posts.
How can you make these viral images? Start by pulling a couple dozen sound bites from your book. Shorter is better – 6 to 12 words each. Create ONE simple background that coordinates with your book cover. Add the book’s name and website URL small at the bottom of the image. Place each of the quotes atop the background and save as individual files. Visit my site to learn specifics on how to easily do this yourself, with free software!
Louise Myers, How-To Graphics
Visibility on online retailers, especially Amazon, is key to success. This visibility is dependent on a number of factors, but one of them appears to be reviews.
Instead of asking family and friends to write reviews of our books, we should consider courting real reviews by running special promotions. Short $.99 sales or free promos (where Amazon price-matches Smashwords or other sites) are good ways for readers to discover us. Expect to wait a few weeks before reviews start coming in.
Writing more books is also vital for discoverability. The more online real estate we own with our book titles, the better our visibility on retail sites. And all the while we should have a form on our sites for readers to subscribe to our email newsletter—which is one of the best, most personal ways to market our books.
Elizabeth Spann Craig, ElizabethSpannCraig.com
Start by making your book the best it can be. Have it professionally edited before submitting to publishers or publishing it yourself. If you are self-publishing, a professionally designed cover is a must.
While you are selling this book, think ahead to future books. Build an email list, so you can stay in touch with your fans and let them know about upcoming events, new releases and other news.
Do something every day to promote your book and build your author reputation. Use both new media and traditional marketing methods: blog, send press releases, be active on Facebook and other social media, speak to local groups, do radio interviews, and take advantage of every opportunity you can to get in front of potential readers.
Cathy Stucker, Selling Books
The best marketing for a book is good word-of-mouth, and you won’t benefit from that unless you write an excellent book that looks and reads like it has been traditionally published.
Even the least discriminating reader can spot a self-published book quickly and will move past it to one the reader knows has gone through the editing process that’s guaranteed by a traditional publisher. So... write a great book (and get that confirmed by objective beta readers) and spend money on editing and packaging.
Simultaneously, learn as much as you can about who is most likely to love your book. That’s your target audience. When you know that person well, it will be easier to get your book title in front of people just like her through publicity, social media, and other means.
You want to make sure that the people who will benefit the most from your book know that it’s out there ready and waiting to entertain, enlighten, or inform them.
Sandra Beckwith, Build Book Buzz
When it comes to marketing, the absolute worst thing authors can do is NOTHING. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and not know where to start, but all you have to do is break down big tasks into smaller ones.
Start by figuring out who your target reader is, then find out where those readers hang out online — what blogs, websites and social media platforms do they use? Then all you have to do is jump into the conversation and start connecting with your readers. We recommend getting started with the “Bowflex” method — dedicate 20 minutes, three times a week to marketing. Knock out the little things first and you will build toward a broader marketing plan in no time.
As long as you’re doing SOMETHING you will be making progress and meeting new readers!
Shannon O’Neil, DuoLit
Book publishers can increase their revenue and profits with large-quantity, non-returnable sales to buyers in corporations, associations, schools, government agencies and the armed services.
These people purchase books directly from publishers for use as premiums, incentives, sales promotions, for educational purposes, and sometimes for resale. The factor differentiating this segment from bookstores and other retailers is that you sell directly to buyers in these organizations.
Content is king in this sector. Buyers want to use your content as a tool to increase their sales, introduce new products, educate students or motivate members or employees.
Join in the conversation!
What's your best piece of book promotion advice? Let us know in the comment section, below.
You're an author, which means that writing and promotion are always in the #1 and #2 positions on your daily “to do” list. They’re as inseparable as the two sides of a hundred dollar bill. So it’s time to let go of any resistance, fear, or judgment you may have about promotion, and make peace with it. Life's too short to be stressed out by something so essential to your writing success!
Here’s something that can help. I'm going to tell you a little secret, and you're probably not going to believe me, at first. That's okay. I can take it.
I believe in dreaming big and reaching for whatever lights your heart on fire. None of us knows what the end result will be, so our real job is to make the journey joyful and find meaning along the way. Writing, like life, happens one step at a time.
Yet when you have a big dream, the steps you take are often bigger and bolder, and have the potential to yield magical results. That's why it's important to set your sights high, even as you take the next logical step, and the next, no matter how big or how small a step it may be.
Here Are SOME of the Ways Promotion Can Be Fun
Whether you're promoting your book, your blog, your services, or yourself (perhaps you're flexing your visibility muscles in order to add a few planks to your platform), there's a real potential for fun as you participate in promotional activities.
Think about it.
To create effective promotion takes inspiration, imagination, innovation, and loads of creativity--everything that makes writing exciting, energizing, delicious, and joyful.
1. Creating Promotional Content
One of the hottest promotional trends, today, is "content marketing." So, if promotion isn't one of your favorite things, you'll be happy to learn that sharing helpful content is considered a key marketing strategy, and the more ways you can deliver your content, the better!
You can have fun, TODAY, turning ideas that would normally become an article or blog post into multi-media content by playing with the video camera in your smart phone, talking into a voice recorder, or creating powerful and compelling graphics. Once you get past the technological learning curve, this really revs up your creative juices.
When I started studying internet marketing to promote my own writing and coaching career, back in 2005, my identity was so wrapped up in being a writer that I couldn't see beyond blogging and ebooks. All those other product creation and promotional formats that the marketing gurus were always talking about were for other people, not me. Until it began to dawn on me that each of these technological formats:
…opens up a new avenue of creativity for writers. There are so many different ways we can share our words and ideas—our knowledge and wisdom—with the world, and each one of them unlocks a different facet of our creativity. The more of these formats we play with and explore the more creative we are, which enhances our writing rather than inhibits it.
If you want to share a large amount of information quickly, create an audio product. If you want to show someone how to do something, create a screen capture video. If you want to walk someone step-by-step through a process over time, create a membership site.
These can all stand on their own as valuable content, or they can deepen and expand the information you share in your book.
2. Creating Promotional Strategies
As you’re preparing to launch a new ebook (or give an older book new life), there’s nothing more exciting than focusing in on who your ideal readers are, and how to get your book into their hands.
Brainstorming ROCKS! When you start throwing out ideas and making connections, suddenly this dreaded promotional chore becomes exciting and fun. Invite some of your writer friends over, order some pizza, and take turns brainstorming promotional ideas for each of you. Together you’ll come up with some amazing ideas, energize each other, and end up with a list of great promotional strategies that you can start implementing immediately.
Here are some promotional ideas to loosen you up and get you started brainstorming. Don’t worry that there are a million others out there promoting their own books and products, because there's only ONE you, and you bring your unique vision and voice to everything you do.
Promotional Strategies to Build Your Platform
Promotional Strategies to Use INSIDE Your Book
Promotional Strategies to Sell Your Book
When you’re brainstorming, write every idea down. Nothing is too wild or crazy. After generating a ton of ideas, take a deep breath, sit back for a moment, and see which ideas start to catch fire. It’s rarely the ones you’d expect. Inspiration loves to drop you into uncharted territory, yet it never forgets where you’re going. Right when you feel on the brink of promotional chaos and overwhelm, your perception shifts, and you see the big picture. You understand how all the pieces fit together, and it starts getting exciting.
You have a promotional plan.
This is when marketing really starts becoming fun, when you “get it” that your promotional effort’s raison d'être--its reason for existence--is to be of service to both your writing and your readers.
I recently wrote a promotional plan for a client's book proposal. Because we knew her agent was going to shop the proposal to all the top publishing houses, I really dug deep. The audience and promotional plan sections, combined, were over 30 pages, and spanned the time period from three months prior to the book's launch to one year after publication… and beyond.
Working on her book proposal really stretched my mind about what's possible for a promotional plan, and brought home how important it is to include both what's worked in the past, or for others, as well as innovations based on the unique meeting points where you and your book's subject, perspective, and audience intersect.
3. Coordinating a Big Book Launch
Whether your book is being published by one of the Big 6 publishing houses, a small press, your own imprint, or directly to Kindle, putting together a big launch (whatever big means to you), is an exciting proposition.
It takes a lot of work, but on launch day it all becomes worthwhile. Simply knowing that your book is going to be seen and considered by thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of people through your launch promotion is awe-inspiring. Then, as you watch your book sprint up the Amazon charts, hopefully snagging the top spot for a particular category or two, it's an amazing feeling.
Yes, you're right. Being an Amazon bestseller is not the same as being on the New York Times Bestseller List, but so what! I could probably come up with at least 10 major benefits of running an Amazon book launch campaign, including how it helps you sell more books long after the bestseller campaign is over, to getting approached by foreign publishers looking to do editions of your book in other languages (this has happened to several indie authors I know, after they hit the bestseller lists on Amazon).
4. Watching the Sales Roll In
Come on... admit it. Selling your book is fun. It is!
Whether it's a $0.99 ebook, a $19.95 paperback, or a $47 infoproduct, making a sale is fun. It not only has the ka-ching factor going for it, which is great (don't pretend that it's not), especially if it allows you to write full time, but it also comes with that special feeling you get when you realize that someone new, someone that you probably don't even know, is going to be reading your book.
Whether it makes them laugh or cry, learn or grow, your words and ideas are going to be touching other people's hearts, minds, and lives!
5. Experiencing the Impact Your Book Has On Your Readers
Promotion is all about connecting with your readers. Once you connect, it becomes a two way street. It's not just that your words touch their lives; their response touches your heart. When you've moved someone, or helped them in some way, it changes both of you.
When a complete stranger writes a glowing 5 star review of your book on Amazon, it's an amazing feeling. When someone emails you to tell you that your writing has helped them, or changed their life... WOW! Now that's what I call fun.
Yes, there's a lot to learn about the many avenues you can choose to promote yourself and your book. Luckily, on any given day, there are a variety of platform building, marketing, and book promotion conference calls, webinars, and telesummits.
Almost every week, I listen to a few interviews, or watch a webinar or two. If I get even one useful idea from a call that I'm on that becomes a permanent part of my promotional repertoire, I’m happy.It was an hour well spent.
As you brainstorm and implement your own promotional plan, remember: When you have a mind to, you can find the fun in anything.
So relax, let promotion ignite your creativity, and have some fun with it!
When it comes to self-promotion I used to be shy, but not anymore. I'll step up, speak out, and put myself out there. I've even taught a five-week class called, From Shy Writer to FearLESS promoter.
If you'd like some help making peace with promotion, finding the fun in it, or brainstorming some new promotional avenues, I can help.
We can focus on:
There are more details on my coaching page.
If you have any questions, you can write to me at Julie@WritingSpiritCoaching.com
You're an author, which means that writing and promotion are always in the #1 and #2 positions on your daily “to do” list. They’re as inseparable as the two sides of a hundred dollar bill. So it’s time to let go of any resistance, fear, or judgment you may have about promotion, and make peace with it. Life's too short to be stressed out by something that's so essential to your writing success!
Here’s something that can help. I'm going to tell you a little secret, and you're probably not going to believe me, at first. That's okay. I can take it.
Your true stories may be in demand by Chicken Soul For the Soul.
Even if you've never been published before, submit a story. According to Ken & Dahlynn McKowen, co-authors of four Chicken Soup For the Soul books, including Chicken Soup for the Entrepreneur’s Soul, “approximately 40% of the stories accepted by Chicken Soup are from unpublished writers.”
If your story is accepted you'll be paid $200, plus 10 copies of the book you're in.
Here are some STORY WRITING TIPS to help you get started, from Chicken Soup for the Soul's own Publisher and Editor-in-Chief, Amy Newmark.
I recently had the privilege of being interviewed by Amy for her Chicken Soup for the Soul daily podcast and we talked about the transformative power of both writing and reading these stories:
These are the topics Chicken Soup for the Soul is currently accepting stories for (from their Possible Book Topics page) arranged by submission deadline date:
* Step Outside Your Comfort Zone
We all have a tendency to get in a rut. We start to say no to new things, and that can only lead to a narrower and narrower life. When we try new things, we end up feeling energized and pleased with ourselves. There is tremendous power in saying “yes” to new things, new places, and new experiences. It makes you feel more dynamic, younger, and more of a participant in the world. You’re not distancing yourself from change any more. Start now!
Mark Twain said: “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than the ones you did do.”
Tell us your own stories about stepping outside your comfort zone and how that changed your life. We know you’ll think of many more topics, but here are some suggestions to get your creative juices flowing:
• Meeting new people
• Wearing different kinds of clothing
• Traveling to new places
• Trying a new sport or activity
• Eating a food you didn’t think you would like
• Doing something that you were afraid of
• Convincing a friend or family member to do something that made them step outside their own comfort zone
• Advice on how to get yourself to step outside your comfort zone
• How doing something new made you feel
• What new things/places/foods/activities you are planning for the future
• What it was like to stay stuck in a rut and not try new things
• Epiphanies and prompts – what caused you to try new things
• Switching careers
• Trying a new volunteer activity
• Watching television channels you never saw before
• Going to a different kind of movie
• Picking up a different kind of book
• Shopping at a different grocery store
• Trying new things on your computer or phone and on the Internet
• Trying new technology/appliances
• How trying new things affected your marriage/your relationship with your children or other family members
• Trying a new church or other place of worship/joining a new congregation
• Overcoming agoraphobia or other fears
The deadline for story and poem submissions is March 31, 2017.
My Kind (of) America
101 Stories about the Land of the Free
It’s time to make America kind again. We have always been known as a country filled with good people who volunteer in our communities, help people who need help, and pride ourselves on doing the right thing. Our huge and varied country is known for tolerance, energy, and spirit. We are proud of our inclusive and welcoming attitude, no matter our color, our country of origin, our sexual identity, or our religion.
This is not a book about politics. This is a book about people — one at a time — doing what we do best. Tell us your positive and uplifting experiences about living in a kind America — the kind of America we know to be the true America.
We know you will think of many more topics, but here are a few possibilities to get you thinking:
• Volunteering at church, at school, and in your community
• How it feels to help other people
• Talk about being the doer of good deeds and also the recipient of good deeds
• When and how did your family come to America? Were you an immigrant? Were your ancestors? Did your ancestors come to America voluntarily or were they slaves?
• How have you benefited from tolerance in America?
• How have you shown tolerance and acceptance of differences of all kinds?
• What is your “kind America?” How do you define it?
• Do you serve our country in the armed services? Do you have a family member who does so? How does that make you feel? What kinds of sacrifices do you make?
• Have you welcomed new immigrants to America?
• Have you helped someone who was a victim of intolerance of some kind?
• Tell us stories that demonstrate the kind America that we all love.
• If you are a teacher or an influencer, how have you used your power to keep American kind?
• What does the American flag mean to you?
The deadline for story and poem submissions is March 31, 2107.
* Positively Happy!
101 Stories about Positive Thinking and Living a Happy Life
Being happy is a state of mind. We can all find happiness in our lives and, even though we may have to look for it, we know that each day brings something to be grateful for. We want to hear your stories about finding your path to contentment. These success stories can be serious or funny and should inspire our readers to focus on hope, strength, and optimism. How did you think positive and find happiness? Was it something as simple as an attitude adjustment? Did you make a major change in the handling of your daily life? How did you find purpose, passion, and joy in your life and how do you stay positive? How do you use gratitude to be happier?
The deadline date for story and poem submissions is May 31, 2017.
* My Crazy Family!
We do love our families but they can also drive us crazy! It’s fun to read about all those wacky relatives and compare them to our own. These true stories, either serious or hilarious, will touch your heart or make you laugh… or both. They will make you see that other families are not that different from your own, and that when push comes to shove, we all need our crazy families. Please submit using your real name. We will let you use a pen name if necessary when it comes time to publish your story.
The deadline date for story and poem submissions is June 30, 2017.
* Stories of Redemption
Redemption stories can be amazing. What starts out as a negative force can be turned positive and can change the world of ordinary people. There are countless stories of redemption and we want to hear yours. How did you use the negative in your life to move onto a more positive path? What did you do to make up for the wrongs in your past? We are looking for true stories of redemption that will inspire us, restore us, heal us, and make a positive difference to lead a better, more rewarding life because of the example they set.
The deadline date for story and poem submissions is August 31, 2017.
* Miracles and More
When Good Things Happen to Good People
All of us have experienced events in our lives that are completely unexplainable: the strange premonition that made you take a different route home only, causing you to miss an accident; the eerie feeling that you should call home… now, saving someone’s life; the mysterious communication from a loved one who has passed on. Angels, divine timing, miraculous coincidences, answered prayers, premonitions that come true. Good things do happen to good people. Please share your unbelievable and amazing stories about the unexplainable events that have occurred to you. Share the awe, the faith, and the wonder with our readers.
The deadline date for story and poem submissions is August 31, 2017.
* Christmas and Holliday Collection - 2018
Our next holiday collection will not be released until 2018 but we are already collecting stories for it. People love reading about the winter holidays – from Thanksgiving all the way through New Year’s Day. We want to hear about your traditions and how they came to be. We want to hear about your holiday memories and the rituals that create the foundation of your life. We love to hear about the funny things too: the ugly holiday sweaters, the gingerbread house that kept falling down, the re-gifting embarrassments and the fruit cake disasters. Please be sure your stories are “Santa safe” so we don’t spoil the magic for any precocious young readers.
The deadline date for story and poem submissions is October 31, 2017.
Hooked on Hockey
If you love hockey, if you play hockey, if you are a hockey fan, we are looking for stories from you! We are looking for stories for this book written by and for hockey fans and families. The book will include stories from everyday hockey players and fans like you, as well as revealing personal stories from some of your favorite NHLers and hockey insiders. The deadline for story and poems submissions is January 30, 2012.
Recently, I wrote a post about how to begin a book project by performing a competitive analysis. Writers typically make this type of an evaluation as part of a book’s business plan. Doing this in the conception phase of a project, however, helps develop a unique and necessary book idea or story, which means one that is highly marketable. After reading the post, someone commented that the best way to write a book that sells involves writing with authenticity as well as creativity. That’s true, but it isn’t always enough. And, in truth, you can do both: write a creative book that takes a business approach.
If you tend to write when you are inspired, or from a sense of soul purpose, or simply because the creative urge takes over, the idea of creating a business plan for your book, and doing so before you even begin writing, probably feels like a huge turn off to you. Yet, I bet you want to produce a successful book—one that sells a lot of copies or becomes a bestseller. To do that, you must take into consideration that publishing is a business, the business of producing, distributing and selling books, including that book you want to write and publish. And success in the publishing industry is, indeed, gauged by book sales—above average book sales.
Your Book is a Product for Sale
No matter how you decide to publish, your book, ultimately, ends up a product in the marketplace—a product for sale. Yes, your creativity, authenticity and even inspiration make it stand out from the pack. However, often, more than these things, a bestseller is created by your ability to:
Not only that, your own ability to sell that book makes it successful. That means you need:
You Need a Business Plan
To ensure you and your book have all these elements, you need to create a business plan for your book—the moment inspiration hits. That’s right. Do not just sit down and begin writing. (Okay, you can get the first really juicy stuff down on paper if you must!) Sit down and begin planning out the most marketable “product” you can produce. Why? To give your book the highest potential of succeeding once it hits that marketplace. You don’t want to spend months, maybe years, working on a book that sells the average 300 copies or so (or less). That’s heartbreaking.
To create a business plan for your book, start with the industry standard—no matter how you plan to publish: a book proposal. This IS a business plan for a book. (If you plan to self-publish you need a business plan for your book, especially since you will be a start-up publishing company. Use the book proposal as a template for your business plan.)
A business plan, or proposal, really just asks you eight questions. Answer them, and then evaluate your answers. It’s the evaluation that provides the tool for producing a marketable book, or viable product. So don’t just answer the questions. Evaluate the answers!
Here are the questions with follow-ups to help in your evaluation:
Adding the Soul Back In
Once you’ve accumulated all the information necessary for a business plan, or proposal, and you’ve evaluated the material, you can use this material to tweak your idea and make it as marketable as possible. This may still feel like “all business.” Some say it takes all the fun, as well as the creativity, out of the process. It doesn’t have to.
Think of it this way: Creating the most marketable book possible is a creative process. You retool, rework, remold your initial idea. You put your creativity to use in the most effective manner. You still end up writing your original idea—just with some new angles, additions, or approaches.
And you make these changes prior to beginning on your manuscript. That means when you do sit down to write, invite your muse to join you, tap into your Higher Self, and connect to your soul purpose, you can write with the confidence that allows you to do so freely and easily. Your writing can still be authentic and creative, because your idea is still yours. Now, you know you will turn out a manuscript targeted to your ideal reader or market and that you feel certain will improve on anything published in its category to date. That means you will produce a book that is creative as well as marketable, a book that will touch many lives because it will sell many copies.
About the Author
Nina Amir, author of How to Blog a Book: Write, Publish, and Promote Your Work One Post at a Time and The Author Training Manual: Develop Marketable Ideas, Craft Books That Sell, Become the Author Publishers Want, and Self-Publish Effectively, transforms writers into inspired, successful authors, authorpreneurs and blogpreneurs. Known as the Inspiration to Creation Coach, she moves her clients from ideas to finished books as well as to careers as authors by helping them combine their passion and purpose so they create products that positively and meaningfully impact the world. A sought-after author, book, blog-to-book, and results coach, some of Nina’s clients have sold 300,000+ copies of their books, landed deals with major publishing houses and created thriving businesses around their books. She writes four blogs, self-published 12 books and founded National Nonfiction Writing Month, aka the Write Nonfiction in November Challenge.
Here’s a universal fact: Most writers tend to be resistant toward editing, whether it’s out of fear, anxiety, lack of confidence, or a protective stance toward their work. Let’s say you’ve spent months, possibly a year or more, writing your manuscript. Perhaps you’ve spent four hours every Thursday morning crafting your book, putting everything you have into it, sacrificing free time and time with your friends and family. You think your book is pretty darn good, and you’re sure your editor will think so, too.
Then you get the manuscript back from your editor.
As you look through the pages, you see your manuscript seemingly butchered in red ink or electronic marks. You then read her detailed e-mail, including some shocking feedback: “Chapters one, two, three, five, six, and seven are very strong...but chapter four seems a bit off topic. You might consider cutting it.” Suddenly, your beloved writing pen becomes a shield, your nostrils flare, and you find yourself breathing fire. Your mind reeling, you think, But, but, but...I spent weeks on that chapter!
This might happen. The editing process is going to feel frustrating at times. As a writer, you are going to be as naturally protective of your work as a parent would be of her child. Having a good attitude toward editing can be difficult, especially when authors are tied to the traditional notion of editing as just fixing errors. If you can view editing as an integral part of the writing process—an extension of it—then you’re well on your way toward adopting a more collaborative approach to editing. Douse the fire breathing: Your editor really does have your best interest at heart. Keep an open mind, and be willing to change your work.
My favorite quote on keeping an open mind to editing comes from Stephen King’s On Writing: “...kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.” If you need to, write this quote on a piece of paper and tape it to your desk or somewhere in your writing space where you’ll see it regularly. And always be ready to kill your darlings.
Here are a few tips for adopting a good editing attitude:
Remember that manuscripts are organic. When you started your manuscript, it was just a blank piece of paper. Just because you added words to it, that doesn’t mean it’s done; it’s an ever-growing, ever-evolving document that can always become something better.
Don’t be afraid to kill your darlings. It’s okay to let go of something that’s not working, whether it’s a few words or an entire section. Maybe that deleted section or chapter can be repurposed into a blog post or an article...but it just doesn’t belong in your book. Learn how to let it go. In the article “Let us now praise editors,” Gary Kamiya puts it this way: “You have to let go of your attachment to the specific words you’ve written and open yourself to what you were aiming for. You need enough confidence in yourself to accept constructive criticism, some of which can feel like your internal organs are being more or less gently moved around.”
Don’t take edits and feedback personally. James C. Wilson, Ph.D., professor of English and journalism and the author of six books, says, “My advice to authors: Be adults. Editing will improve your product. So grow up.” Your editor isn’t hired to be your friend; his job is to make your manuscript better. A heavily marked-up manuscript doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a bad writer. An editor’s job is to take into account a lot more than your writing skill, and he is also considering other factors, such as the intended audience and purpose of the manuscript.
Allot time for the critical phase of editing and rewriting. I once had an author request extensive editing just weeks before the book was supposed to go to design. While his book eventually turned out fine, thanks to several 12-hour days on my part and a lot of work on his part, we both agreed his book could have been stronger with more editing time. Don’t make the mistake of doing rush editing at the end; give yourself enough time to properly revise.
(Excerpted from the book The Editor’s Eye: A Practical Guide to Transforming Your Book from Good to Great by Stacy Ennis. Copyright © 2013 by Stacy Ennis. Reprinted with permission of Night Owls Press.)
Stacy Ennis is a book and magazine editor, writer, book coach, and speaker, as well as the author of The Editor’s Eye: A Practical Guide to Transforming Your Book from Good to Great. Her greatest joy is helping people achieve their book-writing dreams, and she has had the opportunity to work with a diverse group of authors in varied genres, editing several chart-toppers.
Stacy was the founding managing editor of a lifestyle magazine. Later, she became the executive editor of Healthy Living Made Simple, a Sam’s Club magazine reaching over 8 million readers. She now works with a wide range of clients, from celebrities and corporate clients to independent authors and small book presses.
For more tips on editing, check out:
Three Types of Editing that Save Books and Lives
For the story of how this fabulous infographic, by Andreea Ayers, got over 50,000 repins on Pinterest, scroll down to the bottom of this post.
I recently had the pleasure of spending three full days at a virtual publicity workshop on CreativeLive.com given by the author of this infographic, Andreea Ayers. As an author and blogger, I found her story quite inspiring. Although she didn't say how long it took her to write the original blog post this infographic was based upon, she did share that it took her two hours to transform that information into this infographic at piktochart.com.
After completing it, she asked a couple of her friends to post this on their websites. She also decided to use as many of the "30 Ways" that she'd written about to promote the blog post on her own website that contained this infographic. It soon began to take off, and she used its success as the subject of several guest posts on other people's blogs.
Over the last year 30 Ways to Promote Your Blog Posts has been repinned on Pinterest over 50,000 times!!!
One of the most important realizations I came away with from Andreea's workshop is that publicity is not the Holy Grail. Getting quoted in an article, guest blogging, being interviewed on the radio or television, winning an award--all of those things are wonderful and can definitely generate web traffic and sales (although usually not as much as you'd imagined or hoped it would). Their real and lasting value comes from how well you leverage them.
So publicity isn't the end of promotion, it's the beginning. Get the news out about your publicity in every way you can--on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and Google+, as well as your blog, newsletter, press page, and anywhere else and in any other way you can think of.
I'd like to leave you with two thoughts:
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Start 2014 off WRITE!
It's January 1st and a new year is HERE! As you look back on your 2013 goals, celebrate your accomplishments and learn from both what worked for you and what didn't. NOW, looking forward, what daily writing goal are you willing to commit to starting on January 1st (or on any day you choose to begin) for the next 100 days?
Your writing goal can be:
Consistency is the key to success when pursuing a long term goal. Don't be afraid to experiment with the amount of time, or content, that you're committing to in order to discover the amount that challenges and stretches you, without putting you into overwhelm
I've designed a 100 Day Writing Challenge tracking sheet that you can use for this, or any 100 Day Writing Challenge. I've printed my sheet on card stock so it will last 100 days.
You can also use the 100 Day Challenge to build your author's platform or promote your book. Your promotional goal can be:
Depending on what your writing or promotional commitment is, you can put a check mark in the day's box; the number of hours, words, or pages you've written; or the number of promotional tasks you've done. Since my commitment is to work an hour a day on an ebook I'm writing, I'm going to put a check mark in the box for an hour's writing, and the number of hours I wrote if I went longer.
The 100 Day Writing Challenge
There are three ways you can do a 100 Day Writing Challenge. Pick the one that feels both inspiring and fun to you, or create your own challenge.
The Positive Reinforcement Method
In this writing challenge, you only keep track of the days you write. Every day you meet your goal, put a check mark in one of the boxes. If you miss a day, it's not recorded on the sheet in any way. In other words, if you wrote seven of the first ten days then the first seven boxes would have a check mark in them, and then whenever you wrote next you'd put a check mark in day eight. So the challenge sheet would keep track of 100 writing days, no matter how many days it took you to achieve this.
PROS: Since you're only keeping track of your successes--of the days that you write--this method gives you a powerful dose of positive reinforcement. If you can't write every day, let's say your commitment is to write three days a week, then this can give you a sense of accomplishment over time. You'll see how those three days add up over the weeks and months that you're working on a project.
CONS: Since you're not keeping track of how many days you missed in-between writing days, it could have been one day, or it could have been five days. You want to be careful to stay consistent and make an effort to write every day (or however many days you're committed to) so that you don't lose momentum.
The Box a Day Method
In this writing challenge, you fill in a box every day whether it's with a check mark to show that you wrote, or an X to show that you didn't write. So your 100 Day Writing Challenge will take 100 days, no matter how many of those days you actually write.
PROS: By keeping track of how many days you write, and how many you don't, you get a real sense of your writing habits. You also have a visual incentive to get you (and keep you) writing. If you see that you've missed two days in a row, you're more likely to write on that third day than if you weren't keeping track.
CONS: If you see that you've missed more days than you feel comfortable with, it could have the effect of discouraging you. If this should happen, throw the tracking sheet away!
The 100 Days or Bust Method
To complete this challenge, you must write for 100 days straight. This means that if you miss a day, no matter how far along in the challenge you may be, you have to start all over again at day one.
PROS: This will kick you into gear! I've done it. Once you've had to start over a couple of times you will do ANYTHING to complete your commitment for the day. If you're not feeling well, you'll do it. If you have company, you'll do it. If you get into bed and then realize you haven't written, yet, you'll get out of bed and do it. It's an amazing learning experience, and habit builder.
CONS: The larger your commitment, the less this works. There will often be days when you're about to go to sleep and realize you haven't written, yet. On those days, you may be able to push through and write for half an hour, or even an hour, but I doubt you could push through and write for three hours. And yet... this challenge might be just the incentive you need to get you to start writing earlier in the day. As always, do whatever works for you.
It's important that you find a writing practice that works for you. Whenever you try something new, look at it as an experiment. After playing with it for awhile, ask yourself: "Is it helping and inspiring me, getting in my way, or not having much effect at all?" Be honest about what doesn't work for you, and be willing to let it go in order to find what does work.
How are you going to celebrate your accomplishment?
The last thing to consider in a 100 Day Writing Challenge is the word that sits alone at the bottom of the challenge tracking sheet--Celebrate!
Before thinking about how you'll celebrate the completion of the challenge, think about what you'll be celebrating. Yes, you'll be celebrating:
But what does this mean to you? How will it make you feel? How will it change how you see yourself? How will it change how others see you? How will it change your business?
Take the 2 or 3 strongest results from the questions above, and list them to the left of the word, "Celebrate," on the bottom of your tracking sheet. Then, to the right of the word, list how you would like to celebrate the completion of the challenge--and make it a celebration or reward worthy of your accomplishment. Make it something you want and are looking forward to, something worth writing for.
Download the Download 100 day writing challenge 2014.
What writing goal are you willing to commit to for the next 100 days?
Leave a comment, below, and let us know what you're commiting to, and then check in every once in a while and let us know how you're doing with it.
If you'd like day-by-day support, use the hashtag #100DayWriter on twitter, and join us in our quest to write our way to the end of the year.