Food in Your Setting

Food is a large part of most cultures and one of the main guests at any celebration. A lot of our memories of growing up involve food: the smell of a roast on a Sunday afternoon, barbecues in the summer, and special cookies made at Christmas. Food and life are tightly interwoven.

Food in Your Setting

Food can serve any setting well. The ideal thing about food as a part of your setting is that it can engage the five senses. We all know how onions smell frying in the pan. We recall the sizzling sound of eggs and bacon. We do not like the feeling of sugar under our feet. We like our food well presented on a plate. And most of all we know how food tastes.

The use of food is so subtle in setting, that you do not realize that it is employed at all to create an atmosphere. When we were young, we watched the condensation form on the windows as the dinner boiled on the stove on a cold winter afternoon. We knew New Year’s meant corks popping and champagne bubbles. Thanksgiving was about turkey and the following food coma afterwards.

One of the ways we learn about other cultures through reading is about the foods that are eaten. Unfamiliar and mysterious, they make the setting seem exotic.

Incorporating food in setting can help create feelings. We read about a family around the Christmas tree drinking hot chocolate and we feel warm and cozy. Young women sunning themselves drinking drinks with umbrellas in them and we can almost feel the sun on our own faces. We understand the warmth of the nip of whiskey from a flask on a bitter cold night.

The lack of food in writing serves a purpose too. The birthday of the little boy where there is no cake. The overwhelmed mother of six who has one moldy loaf of bread left.

Food is an underrated part of a book’s setting. Try to think about the sights, smells, and sounds of food and what it means to you: good or bad. Keep a mini journal of the food you eat this week and make notes from all five senses after each meal. Then use it as the quiet, very welcome guest in the background of your writing.

About Michele Brouder

After living for seven years in Ireland, former Buffalonian, Michele Brouder now calls Florida home. Her first book, a YA paranormal, is due to be published sometime in 2014 for Harlequin E, Harlequin’s new digital format. Learn more from her contributor page.

Reading Like a Writer

“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” ~ Stephen King

I begin with those words as a reminder that if we want to be serious writers, we must first be serious readers.

Improve your writing skills by reading like a writer.There is reading for enjoyment, reading for analytical purposes, and reading like a writer. With required reading in school, we quickly learn the difference between reading for enjoyment and reading for analytical purposes. We learned how to analyze texts for themes, give detailed character analysis, and discuss symbols and motifs. Reading like a writer was something I did not understand until I was an adult. It was not until I read Francine Prose‘s Reading Like a Writer and took classes at NYC’s The Writers Studio that I truly began to understand how to approach my reading. I will impart some of what I have learned to you.

Grab a few of your favorite novels/short stories and follow this two-step process:

Study the Structure

How is the story told? Is it in chronological order or does the middle/end come first? Outline the story. In what order do the key events in the story unfold? In what order do they actually happen?

Once you have a solid idea of how the story is structured, start asking yourself why. Why did the author choose to tell the story the way he/she did? What effect did that have? Did it build suspense? Try to push yourself to answer these questions and in doing so, you will understand why authors take certain approaches to telling a story.

Study the Narrator

There is the first-, second-, and third- person narrator. Within those narrators, the first and third offer mobility. When I first started writing, it took me awhile to realize that the “I” narrating the story was not “me”. Not only was it not “me”, but the “I” could vary. I studied Susan Straight’s story Mines to understand how to create a mobile first-person narrator, J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye to understand how to create an unreliable first-person narrator, and ZZ Packer’s Brownies to understand how to create a peripheral first-person narrator.

Third person can be limited, omniscient, or somewhere in between. When I first read Neil Gaïmen’s American Gods, I asked myself why most of the book was a limited third-person narrator (instead of first). I realized that the protagonist was not bright enough to articulate what was happening around him and that this narrator was the perfect filter for the events occurring in the story. Once again, asking and answering the “why” question provides clarity.

Those were the two main aspects I wanted to highlight. Some other elements of a story to pay attention to: dialogue, scene, and descriptions.

Enjoy the story first but then reread. While you reread, you must continually pause and ask: “Why did he/she make this choice?” and “What affect does this have?”

Questioning the decisions authors have made allows you to understand how those decisions work and, ultimately, help you decide how to make those decisions in your own writing.

About Sakinah Hofler

Sakinah Hofler is a writer of fiction, screenplays, and poetry. She is an MFA candidate at Florida State University where she serves as the Assistant Online Editor for the Southeast Review. Her work has appeared in Euonia Review and Counterexample Poetics. Learn more from her contributor page.

Traditional vs. Self-Publishing

The Pros and Cons of Traditional vs. Self-Publishing

The Process Time:

Traditional publishing is not called traditional because they are old fogies. Traditional publishing is basically “always been done this way.” In other words, an author writes; an illustrator draws; an editor and an art director suggest revisions (often several times); a copy editor proofs the entire work; it goes to the printer. This process from signed contract to print averages two years.

Book cover for Sandy Carlson's self published book The Town that Disappeared.There are times when a traditional press can offer a contract, but then a story gets put aside for a while for any number of reasons. If your editor leaves your publishing house, your story belongs to that original publishing house. There it remains for a different editor to “love it”, which may or may not happen.

Self-published books, after being critiqued and revised a few dozen times, can be uploaded electronically by the author. From the time of upload to hard-copy of the finished work in the author’s mailbox can be as soon as a couple of weeks.


The reputation of the editors and the publishing houses are at stake with the stories they pick. They are certain to make it the very best it can be.

With self-publishing, sometimes the writer is not aware of changes in the market; sometimes the writer does not have beta readers other than family members; sometimes the storyline, characterization and language of the story are lacking.

Readers can trust traditionally published books. Readers do not know what to expect with self-published books, and there is not consistency in quality.

The End Product:

Again, traditional houses stake their reputations on their choices. They want it to be the best it can be.

Self-published authors also want their stories the best they can be, but usually do not have the huge funds, resources, or contacts available, and sometimes not the patience, to create a traditionally published, polished work of literary art.

Publicizing, Marketing, & Promotion:

Granted, traditional houses have tailored back in this area over the years, but generally, of the many books they publish each year, only a few are given the “love light”. These few are the ones the editorial group has agreed gets extra love (i.e., more money than the others in order to market and promote). The rest are worthy, just not as worthy.

Self-publishers have to do it all: write the story; edit it; find a competitive illustrator; research the self-publishing companies and weigh the options; let bookstores and businesses know about the book; nearly drown in social media outlets to announce its arrival; and hit the road to promote it, making all the contacts by him/herself. Plus, all of this is funded by the author, who during the marketing process is also working on the next work-in-progress).

Which is best for you, traditional or self-pub? Only you can decide.

About Sandy Carlson

After decades of pursuing traditional book publication, and being published in many magazines and newspapers and anthologies, this year Sandy self-published three middle grade books, available on Amazon and Kindle. Look for: The Town that Disappeared, Tales of the Lost Schooner, and Star Opening.

Three Ways to Prepare an e-Book

Trying to format a draft for publication as an e-book can make you reach for the aspirin.

Since the introduction of Amazon’s Kindle and Apple’s iPad, e-book sales have grown rapidly. This year Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Kobo expect e-books to provide up to half their revenue in the United States and Canada.

Popular Reading Devices

Kindle ReaderPopular devices for reading e-books include the Kindle, iPad, Nook by Barnes and Noble, Kobo’s eReader, and the Sony Reader. Software applications for reading e-books on other devices include WordPlayer for the Android, iBooks for iPhones (and Macs later this year), Playbook for Blackberry, and plug-ins for most web browsers.

These devices and applications allow the reader to choose fonts and sizes, portrait or landscape orientation, and background colors and styles. So, the way the final draft appears on the writer’s computer will be nothing like it will look in the various devices and e-reading applications.

eBook Format Management

Computer software like Calibre (free at can manage e-book collections and export e-books to approximate the most popular formats: .azw for the Kindle, .epub for most other e-readers, and .pdf for a static view of the text. Calibre cannot export to Apple’s proprietary .ibooks format. Popular software for writers and word processors provide ways to export text in .epub and other formats. Scrivener, WriteWay Pro, NewNovelist, Storyist, Microsoft Word, and Apple Pages can all create .epub files.

However, opening these .epub files to read in devices and applications can reveal problems. Each device or application can display different formatting errors (centering, spacing, indentation, word-wrap).

Correcting Display Issues

To avoid such display errors, writers currently have only three choices:

1. Repeatedly edit the text and export it to .epub format until it looks right in the most popular e-readers and applications. Many writers have done this with success.

2. Use one of the professional e-book publishing services like Amazon, Apple iBooks, Barnes and Noble, Lulu, or Smashwords. Each has its own submission requirements to ensure correct formatting and offers a variety of publicity programs and channels of distribution.

3. Create the text within an application designed exclusively for producing .epub format documents. Currently only one such application is available: Playwrite (by Wundr, 30-day free trial). This may become an effective option in the future.

Playwrite, available only for the Mac, has templates for the parts and sections required in published e-books. It allows the writer to select font and style, to include tables, media, tip boxes, and more, and offers immediate preview and publishing by Wundr. Playwrite tries to give the writer what-you-see-is-what-you-get ease in creating an e-book. In my tests the exported .epub file may look fine on one e-reader but can have formatting errors on others. Playwrite is worth watching, but it has yet to live up to its potential.

About Don Cram

Don Cram and his wife, Carol, live in a suburb of Albuquerque, New Mexico near their four adult children and the grandchildren. Don and Carol teach in neighborhood schools where they are known as educational innovators, Carol with iPad use in the classroom and Don with multimedia iBooks for his students to use. Don has written articles for education journals and has been a popular speaker. He is currently writing a series of fiction books based on the adventures of three sisters: the oldest in Romantic Adventures, the middle sister in Paranormal Romance, and the youngest in Young Adult Speculative Fiction. Don has degrees in science, theology, and education.

5 Questions to Ask Your Characters

Many writing workshops start their sessions on character development with a sheet detailing the hero’s name, age, eye color and hair color. They then move onto his job, his hobbies, and his family background. Next they might add a picture from the Internet or a magazine which looks a little like the hero, and perhaps an image of his home or workplace. This is all useful information, and great for keeping track of details so you do not find them changing as you write. However, these are not always the most important questions. The questions that matter most are often the ones that allow you to delve into the character’s psyche.

Questions to ask your characters.These questions can be answered in different ways. You may like to conduct written, or even tape-recorded, interviews with your characters. You can also take these questions as prompts and write a scene or two to flesh out your understanding of your characters. At the very least, this provides background information to help understand how a character will act in different circumstances, and at times the information uncovered through this preparation work can become a crucial part of the story.

The best questions to ask about your characters are ones that will take you away from the predictable paths of family, schooling and employment, so that when you return to their everyday world, you find it enriched by the knowledge you have gained. Here are five of my favorites to ask:

  1. What keeps your protagonist awake at night?
  2. What is in their purse, wallet or desk drawer?
  3. What is their biggest fear and, crucially, why?
  4. What did they dream last night?
  5. What is their favorite food and what is the one thing they would starve rather than touch?

If you find prompts like these helpful, Peter Elbow has a very extensive list in his guide Writing With Power. Kate Walker also has an excellent selection in her Twelve Point Guide to Writing Romance.

However, there is no need to turn to expensive writing guides. You can easily collect a wealth of questions in everyday life, from sources like TV chat shows and celebrity interviews in newspapers and magazines. While you are at it, why not imagine how your hero or heroine’s story would be presented on Jeremy Kyle or Oprah? Thinking of their responses to the host’s questions will provide an insight into your character’s reactions to a challenging situation, while considering how the show would headline the interview highlights the aspects of their story likely to intrigue your readers the most.

About Stephanie Cage

Stephanie Cage is a British romance writer with books published by The Wild Rose Press and Crimson Romance. She loves dance and musical theatre, and her first full-length novel, Perfect Partners, has a dancing theme. Learn more from her contributor page.

How to Get the Most Out of Your Library Visit

The importance of libraries, even in this digital age, cannot be underestimated. If you need to do research for your current work-in-progress (WIP), the library may be a good place to start. With trained staff and a wealth of resources (reliable ones) at their fingertips, a library and a librarian are a researcher’s best friend. However, there are a few things you can do prior to your visit to maximize your success. Man sitting on a stack of library books.

  • Make an appointment with a librarian. Some libraries will let you do this online. In the main library system, you can usually walk in off the street and have a librarian at your side, but with your smaller local library, that may not be the case, especially if there is only one person manning the desk. Making an appointment literally guarantees having an assistant for an hour.
  • Be prepared. Know ahead of time exactly what it is you are researching. Going in blindly with a vague, nebulous idea will be just an exercise in frustration and a big waste of time for both you and the librarian. Be as specific as possible about the topic that you want to research. At the same time, be open-minded; one topic might go off into a topic that you had not considered.
  • Use the main library of your county, if you possibly can. Their volume of resource is much greater. If not, your local library can get whatever you need on inter-library loan; you might just have to wait a few days for it.
  • Make a note of all references used. For two reasons, to give credit where credit is due and in case you have to go back and look at the original source again.
  • Try to go during an off-peak time if possible. Tuesday morning might be better than say a weekend or an evening.
  • Plan for more than one visit if the need arises.

However you decide to use the library, rest assured that it will not only be a treasure trove of facts for your WIP but will add credence to the edict: write what you know.

About Michele Brouder

After living for seven years in Ireland, former Buffalonian, Michele Brouder now calls Florida home. Her first book, a YA paranormal, is due to be published sometime in 2014 for Harlequin E, Harlequin’s new digital format. Learn more from her contributor page.

The Spectrum of Speculative Fiction

Once upon a time, fantasy (FY) was (to most people) fairy tales, and science fiction (SF) was some weird geeky stuff about rocket ships and robots and aliens like giant mobile boogers. Neither, most of your parents and grandparents thought, was for grownups. You could go your whole life (well, decades on end) and never watch SF or FY in movies, on television, or read it in print. It was marginalized. Scientist looking at Alien

These days, specfi is mainstreamed, and it is big time entertainment. The Hunger Games? Classic science fiction. Twilight? Dark fantasy. Super heroes? Depends on how they play them, if they are science fiction or fantasy.

I was literally raised on this stuff and do not have to think about it. Daddy read me I, Robot for bedtime stories, and my first ever book report was on Heinlein’s Star Beast.

Science fiction and fantasy can be collected these days as speculative fiction (since the 1970s, a term coined by Alexei Panshin) but I do not agree with those who shoehorn in horror: it is categorized today as supernatural thrillers and reads like thrillers. SF/FY is literally read by different methods than most other fiction (see James Gunn on that).

Now, you should remember that the niche (or ghetto) of “science fiction” was created by Hugo Gernsback (for whom the Hugo award is named) back in the 1920s. Before then, for a century from the early 1800s there was simply imaginative fiction (Shelley’s Frankenstein or The Last Man, Bulwer-Lytton’s The Coming Race). It was for Jules Verne in the second half of the century that the term “scientific romance” was coined, but let me tell you the level of science was often what we call science fantasy — fantasy with science fiction trimmings. There was also the consciously medievalesque work of William Morris, which was not always fantasy.

Let me give you the standard defining differences in the genres. But always remember, every genre shades into other ones. There is no tight pigeonholes.

Science fiction is supposed to be a story with a technological or pseudo-tech speculation. The culture may not change an iota, especially when it is set in the present or past, or the speculation item fails / is destroyed / is hidden by the end of the story. Classic examples would be H.G. Wells’ The Invisible Man or Mary Shelley’s The Immortal Englishman. All science, or at least scientistic words flung around.

The dirty secret of SF is that 80% of what is common, really is not possible and everyone knows it, but we are not giving up starships and anti-grav and self-mobile nanobots.

Of course, SF can fail as a story and turn into:

  • The Electric Chicken-Plucker Prospectus (talk about an invention overwhelms a slight or non-existent plot)(many Verne stories),
  • The Tourist Guide to Mars (talk about the setting overwhelms &c)(Verne’s “Off on a Comet”),
  • Soc666, the Course of the Beast (showing off the sociological change overwhelms etc.)(“Looking Backward” and a zillion other lectures thinly disguised as fiction).

Fantasy is different because the SF people do not want it around (they prefer to forget that they are a subset of fantasy, especially when they invoke FTL travel, time-travel, telepathy, &c). Fantasy dates back to BC. All constructed (rather than believed) fairy tales, imaginary voyages (The Odyssey), and such were fantasy.

Fantasy is said to be speculative fiction that relies on irrational speculative elements, because, really, there is no magic, there are no dragons, Middle Earth never existed.

The snag here is that fantasy is expected to still be written with rational world-building. You are supposed to figure out how your dragons fly and what powers and limits your magic. Also, some people live on different Earths than the hardcore SF folks: to them, telepathy is real and there is no reason that on another world something like a dragon cannot evolve. It is not irrational to them. (Check any of the very science fiction dragons of Anne McCaffrey’s Pern novels.)

Many stories of “magic” call it psionic talents and are then categorized as SF.

Basically FY has come to mean more romanticized stories that do not try to invoke techno-jargon, that are more fully invented by the authors rather than based on a scientific (or sociological or political) speculation, or that purposely work folktale motifs like werewolves, elves, etc. (There is a lot of “etc” in this topic!)

There i an old saying: “Science fiction is what I point to when I say ‘that’s science fiction.'” The same goes for fantasy. The real overlap zones are science fantasy and so-called “hard fantasy” where the speculation is entirely the creation of a new world but with no irrational elements. To me, that is just science fiction with the spec in sociology or polisci, not in physics or chemistry. It does not have to have ray-guns or big machines that blink to be SF.

On the other hand, talking about nanobots and travelling through black holes does not make it science fiction. Many a great story has been science fantasy, where the author does what they want for a rattling good tale, that if dressed in turbans would use magic rings and djinni. Instead, they have blasters and teleporters and psionics, but an honest physicist would have a hard time calling it science. We call it science fantasy, and the classic examples are Edgar Rice Burroughs’ John Carter of Mars series and the Star Wars franchise.

If you want to know more about the various sub-genres of specfi, I suggest a trip to Other Worlds and clicking on the Genres link. It is there to help people figure if this is the right workshop for them (no horror, no erotica, no f/f/p romance).

Now, some of you have asked, is steampunk science fiction or fantasy?

Both and neither.

Steampunk is a setting and an attitude, what might be called retro-futurism. That is, you are either stepping back to the Steam Age and inserting other tech, or imagining the future as the people of the past might have. There is steampunk fantasy and steampunk SF, but the science is often so slight and replaced by known pseudo-science that the division is a line of smoke. It has been called “Victorian, twisted” or “the future the Victorians imagined would happen”.

Steampunk books (from before the term was invented) include Michael Moorcock’s Nomad of the Time Stream, Eismann’s Sherlock Holmes vs.
Dracula, and Philip Jose Farmer’s The Other Log of Phileas Fogg. Movies that are: the newest version of Around the World in 80 Days (Jackie Chan), any post-WW1 version of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, either Time Machine movie, Sleepy Hollow with Johnny Depp, and, of course, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. The key is Victorianism, or enough knowledge of early SF to be able to extrapolate like them. (I spent all 2008 reading almost nothing but pre-Great War specfi.)

As fashion, steampunk is replacing goth as goth gets commercialized and mass-marketed. It also lets you wear brown and green and garnet instead of black. An awful lot of fashion steampunkers are refugees from the narrowing of goth (so that you could not be “goth” without tattoos and piercings and bondage wear: get out of here if you are not — hey, fetish shows were where the money was for bars and clubs; these folks used to be the subset called fetish goths, as opposed to histogoths, cowgoths, glamgoths, and the rest).

One of the problems for some people to realize is that the term has nothing to do with punk music or its fans. First there was cyberpunk in the 1980s, and then some authors kidding around referred to Victorian-set scifi as “steampunk” (Derek Jeter’s fault, really).

There is also dieselpunk or radiopunk, that follows the steampunk era. Think of Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow or the Captain America movie. There is medievalesque and Renaissance-ish clockpunk, ancient-set stonepunk, and the whole realm of mannerpunk, which is like Austen or The Three Musketeers on other planets or with elves or magic thrown in.

Definitely no “punk” in that! No, in specfi, “-punk” has simply come to mean “a kind of setting”. So you can have mannerpunk science fiction, and mannerpunk fantasy.

About Holly Ingraham

Holly Ingraham writes reference books (People's Names, McFarland) and novels in Hawai'i, with the help of her husband, Patrick, and cat, Gala.

The Basic Rules

Grammar and Punctuation

Recently, while sending out my current work-in–progress (WIP) to the round of agents, I came across an agent’s blog that was downright scary. The spelling and punctuation were atrocious. She even violated a basic rule of using a plural verb form with a singular noun. It was quite annoying; after all, are we not told ad nauseum that a query full of punctuation and grammatical errors is sure to result in a rejection?

geek scratching headI passed on this agent feeling that if she could not even be bothered to proof read her own writing, then how could I be sure she’d go over my own manuscript with a fine-toothed comb? Also, I thought it was high time that I reviewed my own knowledge of punctuation and grammar rules.

There are two things in relation to grammar and punctuation that I am certain of:

1) “I” before “e” except after “c” (that is branded on my brain) and
2) I am pretty sure I was sick the day the teacher went over the whole lay/lie thing.

Like the new math that is part of the curriculum these days (isn’t 2 + 2 still 4?), there seems to be a slightly different approach to punctuation and grammar.

Semi-colons, a personal favorite of mine, are just about vilified among some writers and I noticed that they are shying away from calling a “period” a “period.” Now it is a “full stop.” My boys are learning it as a “full stop” in primary school and when I called it a “period” they looked at me like I had just grown a second head.

There is a joke circling the internet about how a comma (or lack of one) can be deadly:

“Let’s eat Grandma.
Let’s eat, Grandma.”

Twenty years ago when my sister and her then boyfriend used to fight (which was often), they would exchange notes. My sister and I would then go over his notes, correcting his grammar and circling his misspellings with a red pen, (I am sure he loved that) which reminds me of another quote I have seen floating around the internet:

“If you’re losing an argument, start correcting their grammar.”

Correct grammar and punctuation are essential for if your manuscript is riddled with misspellings and basic grammar mistakes, it will detract from even the greatest of stories.

To brush up on who/whom, of/have, between/among, than/then, who/that/which, and a lot of other good rules, check out For rules on punctuation, I found really helpful.

About Michele Brouder

After living for seven years in Ireland, former Buffalonian, Michele Brouder now calls Florida home. Her first book, a YA paranormal, is due to be published sometime in 2014 for Harlequin E, Harlequin’s new digital format. Learn more from her contributor page.

Publishing Trends

At any given time, there are certain trends in publishing. In the ’80’s, there was the explosion of the female sleuth thanks to such trailblazers as Sue Grafton and Sara Paretsky, among others. In the late ’90’s, Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones’s Diary spawned a whole new sub-genre in women’s fiction; namely chick-lit. By the looks of the shelves of the book stores here in Ireland, chick-lit is still popular. During the Noughties, a ferocious paranormal trend developed fueled by the success of the Harry Potter Series and Twilight. A book in any given genre can go viral and the resulting fallout is a huge boom for the entire genre from which it came from.

bookstore window displayHowever, trends, like the boom years of Ireland, are not really meant to last. Trends are as uncertain as they are unpredictable. When I started submitting my chick-lit manuscript four years ago, I received a staggering 44 rejections. At that time, I read of a New York agent saying that merely labeling your work chick lit was for certain a death knell. How fast the bloom fades off the rose! Currently, I am submitting my young adult (YA) novel and the rejections are rolling in and the word on the other side of the Atlantic is that U.S. editors are no longer interested in paranormal. Apparently there is an epidemic of vampire fatigue as well as angel fatigue and werewolf fatigue.

Luckily the UK follows the trends of the US by a couple of years, so there is still some breathing room on this side of the pond.

Right now, I detect a slight whiff in the air as to the next trend. Erotica. All everyone seems to be talking about is the viral hit Fifty Shades of Grey and for about 30 seconds, I thought, “Oh, I can write that!” Then I remembered two very important things: my mother is still alive and I was schooled by nuns for twelve years. The idea of me being the next Anais Nin is as realistic as teaching an elephant to fly.

Looking back, I do not think I was consciously following trends at the time although it appears that way. (I would have also written a female sleuth manuscript in the mid ’90’s). I always tend to write what I am currently reading if that makes any sense.

Do not let the current trends dictate what you write (although like fashions every thing seems to come back into favor eventually). By the time you write it, sub it and get it published, they have moved onto the next trend and you are left with enough rejections to wallpaper a room. It is best to write what you know and more importantly what you love and write from the heart. Chances are if you love it, someone out there will be sure to love it as well, regardless of what the trend is.

About Michele Brouder

After living for seven years in Ireland, former Buffalonian, Michele Brouder now calls Florida home. Her first book, a YA paranormal, is due to be published sometime in 2014 for Harlequin E, Harlequin’s new digital format. Learn more from her contributor page.

Five Places to Self Promote

Without Being Annoying

When we think of advertising we often think of banners and fliers and postcards but in the age of the internet, personal advertising or self-promotion has grown into many mediums. Here are a five socially acceptable ways that are taken for granted or often over looked when it comes to leaving a lasting impression.

women sharing ideas1. The email signature line. It appears at the end of every message you send in an email. All email programs have a section set aside specifically for signature line but they are often ignored or people just do not know they are there. Setting up your email program to include your signature line is a simple form of advertising that only takes a few minutes and you never have to worry about repeatedly signing your emails with a new tagline or bio line again. This is especially important if you have a few email accounts as you can have a different signature line for each. Explore this further by looking under tools and account settings in your email programs. Important tip: keep it brief — your name, a tag line, and a URL.

2. Write an article or guest blog and include a bio at the end. Do not write an article in which all you talk about or describe is yourself and your new book. It annoys people. Offer real information to earn respect their respect and then they will follow through in learning more about you and what you do. Readers want to learn who you are from your bio so always include a line or two about yourself (third person) and a link to your website, blog, or publisher. Keep it to one link, preferably a central one that will lead to all the projects you are working on.

3. Post in forums where people in the age group of your book hang out. Do not post things like “read my book” or “read my short story!” Participate in real back and forth conversations. Forums like emails always have a section for signature lines. Some allow links and some only allow text. If people like you they will search for what you have written. Use a witty quote, mention the title of your book, put in your website URL, i.e. “Find me at”. You really don’t have to devote a lot of time to this. Find a place you like and post once or twice a day. It adds up over the long run and open forums are always getting traffic, even on old topics.

4. Do not hang out with only other writers, hang out with readers too. would be a good example. For Artists — On you can find all kinds of people with a world of interests and you get to set up a nice landing page that links back to your website.

5. Create a blog and post in it every day even if it is just to say, “I’m up and I’m alive”. Do not set up a blog if you are not going to post for weeks on end. You are just clogging up the internet. Think of it as a writing exercise and post a minimum of three times a week, say Monday, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Have Monday’s post be about something writing related. Wednesday’s post be about something reading related and Friday’s post be about something personal (just in time for the weekend). This adds variety to your blog and will attract a variety of readers. Be sure to add the URL to your signature lines! Do not get frustrated by the lack of comments — comments does not mean your blog is not getting interested visitors. Even the blogs out there with lots of comments get way more visitors than those that comment. Set up a Feedburner account and add an RSS subscription and email subscription to your blog page. This allows visitors to subscribe and receive updates every time you post. You can also access the Feedburner website to see the traffic your posts are producing and from where. If the blogging does not work out for you — delete the blog. If someone does a search for your name you do not want them finding a blog that you do not update.

Do not expect overnight results with these free advertising methods. When people begin advertising in these ways on the internet they often expect an immediate rush of people. That almost never happens on the internet. What is important is staying true and on course. You may notice results a few months down the road but most likely it will take at least a year. But in the end it will be worth it.

Topic Links
* Basic Web Speak – Short forms for social networking

About Maureen Wood

M. E. Wood lives in Eastern Ontario with her husband of fifteen years. She has been moderating BIW for over nine years and works on the Internet. You can learn more about her projects on her official website.