How not to ask for a review

I thought this piece in today's New York Times magazine, in The Ethicist section by Kwame Anthony Appiah, is something all of us authors should think about. My husband pointed it out to me, and I totally agree. The Question More and more of my friends are self-publishing books; some I purchase just to support their writers. In this new situation, a dear old friend wants me to give him a five-star review on Amazon and post it on Facebook. I’ve seen a few pages of his book, and it’s a piece of self-indulgent drivel. I don’t want to hurt my friend’s feelings, but I don’t want to sell out either. What do you suggest? Name Withheld Appiah's Answer If you are such good friends, wouldn’t it be better to give him, gently, your opinion of some of the book’s weaknesses? Possibly without actually using the words “self-indulgent drivel”? Self-published books have taken a long dive since the days of Jane Austen, and the new ease of making them, in the digital era, has turned a river of putrefact … [Read more...]

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What’s a platform anyway?

A few weeks ago I was a panel member at a writer’s conference workshop. The subject was building a platform. Today, I’d like to share a few points that we made at the workshop. But first, here’s my go-to person for all things writer-ly, Jane Friedman, who tells us what platforms are and are not: "What editors and agents typically mean by platform They’re looking for someone with visibility and authority who has proven reach to a target audience. Let’s break this down further. Visibility. Who knows you? Who is aware of your work? Where does your work regularly appear? How many people see it? How does it spread? Where does it spread? What communities are you a part of? Who do you influence? Where do you make waves? Authority. What’s your credibility? What are your credentials? (This is particularly important for nonfiction writers; it is less important for fiction writers, though it can play a role. Just take a look at any graduate of the Iowa MFA program.) Prov … [Read more...]

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How I got my book published

Now that this piece was rejected for inclusion into the Authors Publish anthology, I'm free to post it here. Hopefully my experience and perseverance and will to get my book published will inspire other authors to keep sending their work out. Please don't give up. It's worth it in the long run. How I Got My Book Published By Madeline Sharples Two years and sixty-eight queries later I finally got a book contract with a small press – the now defunct, Lucky Press. I found Lucky Press through the the firstwriter.com Publishers Instant Alert Service, and followed the submittal instructions so carefully that in her response, the publisher told me my query letter was perfect. (The instructions said: Send query by email with cover letter, short bio, how you can help with marketing, 300-500 word synopsis, and first chapter, all pasted into the body of the email. No attachments. Write "Manuscript Query" in the subject line.) With that and her request to send her my manuscript, I thought … [Read more...]

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Great writing advice from David Berner

I can relate. It took 68 queries before I got the "yes I'd like to publish your memoir." And like David Berner, author of There's a Hamster in the Dashboard, I kept submitting. I persevered. I believed I'd find a home for my book—even though the subject matter is mental illness and suicide. So, here's my plea to all writers: David has given you great advice. Read it, believe it, and keep writing and submitting - always with the positive attitude that your "yes" will come in time. Please welcome David as he tours his new book with WOW! Women On Writing. The Best Way to Submit Your Creative Nonfiction to Small Publications and Literary Journals By David W. Berner I received more than 30 rejections to the manuscript for my second book, Any Road Will Take You There. Thirty. Each one of them arrived as an email, one after the other in a steady beat for about two years. “But these are good rejections. They like the story,” said my agent. The editors did like the story, but m … [Read more...]

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A special to honor the Out Of Darkness walk

The Boston Out of Darkness overnight walk for suicide prevention and awareness is the night of June 27 – less than two weeks away. And I’ve been very aggressively training for it. I’ll need to walk 16 to 18 miles that night, so I want to be well prepared. Yesterday I walked almost 10 miles, so I think I’m right on track to be able to complete this personal challenge. I'll be posting photos of my team S.O.L.E.S. and me in this hat. In case you’re wondering why the walk is at night, here are my thoughts – it’s to bring the suicide word out of the darkness. We need to speak that word so we can help prevent it. If people will talk about their suicidal thoughts maybe others can help prevent those at risk from acting upon their thoughts. I wish my son had talked to my husband or me. I still think after almost sixteen years that maybe I could have changed his mind had he only told me what he was thinking. Here's one of the S.O.L.E.S. team captains, Deborah Lee Rose, wearing the&n … [Read more...]

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Leaving the Hall Light On has legs!

This month has ended with the 124th five-star review of my book, Leaving the Hall Light On: A Mother's Memoir of Living with Her Son's Bipolar Disorder and Surviving His Suicide. Published four years ago, this makes me  feel my memoir still has long legs, that there are many others who can relate to the story I tell about our son's bipolar disorder and suicide, and of how they affected the lives of my husband, our surviving son, and myself.  The book ends on a high note - the marriage of our surviving son, but don't get me wrong. The grief will never end, I still miss our son desperately, and my memories of him are alive and active, but I've been able to move on and live a full life without him. We all have. Here's what the latest reviewer on Amazon had to say: Amazing story of a mother and her family's journey through the wilderness of suicide grief. This painfully honest memoir, parallels the experience I recently have had with my son's 3 year battle with schizophrenia and hi … [Read more...]

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Saying thank you to a reviewer pays off

After three years since its launch, my book, Leaving the Hall Light On: A Mother's Memoir of Living with Her Son's Bipolar Disorder and Surviving His Suicide, is still getting some wonderful reviews on Amazon. I can't help sharing this latest one: Incredible Book! This memoir is simultaneously heart-wrenching and incredibly hopeful. Madeline's story is a true triumph of the human spirit's ability to endure even the most nightmarish of scenarios. I recommend this book to anyone and everyone - whether you live with mental illness, have a loved one who does, have lost someone to suicide, or just looking for a beautiful story illuminating the human condition, you should read this book. Exquisite. This review touched me so much that I was moved to thank the reviewer. In doing so I found out more about her and her family: Oh wow, it's an honor to have you read my review and reply back to me! Your book has had such an impact on my life, being diagnosed with bipolar disorder m … [Read more...]

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The importance of book reviews

I'm a firm believer that book reviews are important to authors and readers alike. Since writing and publishing my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On, I'm forever asking my readers to please post a review on Amazon and Goodreads. Here's the link to the post I wrote about reviews last January. Sydney Avey, my guest today, writes why she thinks book reviews are important, and generously gives a few pointers to those of you who have never written a review before. Sydney is the author of the just released literary fiction book, The Lyre and the Lambs. I thank her so much for stopping by Choices on her WOW! Women on Writing book tour. The Importance of Book Reviews By Sydney Avey The Third Tuesday at Three Book Club in Angels Camp, California invited me to attend their September discussion of my debut novel, The Sheep Walker’s Daughter. We traded thoughts on the reader and the author experience, and I shared my feeling that a book is a collaborative effort between writer and reader. Boo … [Read more...]

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Short Fiction Break

While I'm awaiting feedback on my novel, I've been dabbling in other writing. Of course I'm always writing poems, but I'm now ensconced in editing some of the poems I wrote during our trip to Africa with the goal of putting together a book of images with poems. I've also written a couple of pieces of short fiction, inspired by an article I read in "The New Yorker" a few weeks ago about Lydia Davis, a short story master. According to her Amazon page: "Lydia Davis is the author of one novel and seven story collections, the most recent of which was a finalist for the 2007 National Book Award. She is the acclaimed translator of a new edition of Swann's Way and is at work on a new translation of Madame Bovary." I immediately bought a copy of The Collected Short Stories of Lydia Davis.  What intrigues me is that she writes stories of varying lengths - some only a short paragraph or a line or two long. I like writing short poems -- Haiku and Twitter-140-character poems -- so I like the i … [Read more...]

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Keeping Paul’s music alive

After Paul died on the morning of September 23, 1999 we found a rectangular-shaped  black canvas bag that contained cassette tapes of all his recorded music. We picked out a few and played them during his memorial service four days later. One of his long time friends, Martin Borsanyi, who used to compose and play jazz music with Paul during their high school days, came over to our house many times in the next year or so. He made an inventory of Paul’s musical instruments (except his piano, which we still have) and other electronic sound and recording equipment that we gave away to the Crossroads High School jazz ensemble where he and Martin played. Martin also transferred the music from cassette onto CDs, working in our home because I was afraid to let the tapes out of my sight for fear of losing them. Once I got into the age of iTunes, I also transferred all of Paul’s music there as well. I also created a memorial page on my blog here at Choices where people can stop by to list … [Read more...]

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A book of inspiration for teens and young women, edited by Linda Neas

[I use Grammarly's english grammar check online because if you think using good grammar was only important for your school term papers, you’ve got another think coming.]   In keeping with the quotes and storied included in Reverend Linda Rhinehart Neas’ inspirational anthology, Returning to the Circle: Inspirational Wisdom from Women for Women, Linda has shared with us here at Choices her important advice to teens and young women about breast cancer awareness. But first, more about this lovely anthology and how thrilled I am to have a piece about my journaling experience included. I jumped at the chance to participate when Linda told me of her plan to edit a book containing quotes and affirmations by famous women and true stories by real women, who have faced difficulties, obstacles and pain. These are stories of your mother, aunt, grandmother, sister, or friend. As Linda suggests: “Learn from their experiences. Trust their judgment. Believe in their wisdom.” Over a year ago, … [Read more...]

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Guest author Donald R. Dempsey: review of Betty’s Child, Q&A, and giveaway

I am honored to host author Donald R. Dempsey during his WOW-Women On Writing blog tour. His memoir, Betty’s Child (Dream of Things, March 2013) is the story of one young man’s ordeals with poverty, religion, physical and mental abuse, maternal insanity, and the dire need for confidence and direction as he attempts to come of age. Here’s what three noted reviewers had to say. “Heartrending and humorous. In scene after vivid scene, Dempsey presents his inspiring true story with accomplished style. Dempsey’s discipline as a writer lends the real-life tale the feel of a fictional page-turner.” Kirkus Reviews ”Honest and raw, yet full of humor, pathos, and no-holds-barred dialogue. Fasten your seat belt and get ready for a roller coaster ride. Highly recommended.” Dr. Alan Gettis, Ph.D., clinical psychologist and author of The Happiness Solution ”This memoir is for everyone who has ever known someone abandoned, someone unloved, someone with barriers that seem impenetrable. With wit … [Read more...]

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Support your local bookstore

I'm so in love with my local bookstore Pages: a bookstore, I support it whenever I can. And it has supported me as well. I've had three readings there. I hope you will do the same to make sure we keep our bookstores alive. In view of that here is a post I just came across from the Book Marketing Expert, reprinted with his permission. Let's work hard to prevent bookstores from going away. Reprinted from "The Book Marketing Expert newsletter," a free ezine offering book promotion and publicity tips and techniques. http://www.amarketingexpert.com What Happens if Bookstores Go Away? ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ That sentence alone is enough to send chills down my spine. No bookstores? I can't imagine a world without them. Yet the fact of the matter is, that's likely where we are headed. I don't often share this, but you know that term "bucket list"? One of my bucket list items is to get locked in a bookstore overnight - with a fully-functioning Starbucks … [Read more...]

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Kindle giveaway – ends tonight

My publisher, Mike O’Mary of Dream of Things put Leaving the Hall Light On back in the Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) Select program. He has also decided to give the Kindle version away for two days – yesterday and today, hopefully to kick start sales again. As of today – the second morning – it looks like the giveaway is going well though I won’t know the actual count of books downloaded for free until tomorrow morning. Other book sales are going on too.It looks like I sold a few paperbacksin the last couple of days, and surprise, surprise, a hardback sold through my Amazon seller’s account yesterday as well. Go there is you want a signed first edition. Of course the question still is: does a giveaway promote more sales once the giveaway is over? The last giveaways my publisher held did. According the webinar I heard yesterday by Howard VanEs through SheWrites on the subject of Cashing in with Kindle Books, a book giveaway should show up positively in the ranks for a few days … [Read more...]

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Quinn’s Cookie Exchange

To celebrate the soon to be released Chaste by my friend, author and poet Angela Felsted, I’m participating in Quinn’s Cookie Exchange, named after the main character in the book, a teenage boy who knows how to cook. Even though Hanukkah is over for this year, I think you’ll find this recipe delicious any time. All the grease spots on my original recipe card attest to that. Hanukkah Cookie Pinwheels (Draidle or spinning top cookies) Bake at 350 deg for 15 minutes Makes about 5 dozen Pastry: 1 cup (2 sticks) butter 1 8-oz pack cream cheese ¼ cup dairy sour cream 2-1/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour ½ teas salt Filling: 2 cups finely ground walnuts ½ cup sugar 1 teas ground cinnamon 1 egg 1 teas grated orange rind Prepare pastry: Beat butter and cream cheese in large bowl with electric mixer until creamy. Beat in sour cream. Stir in flour and salt until a firm dough forms, adding more flour if necessary. Form into a ball, wrap. Chill overnight. Prepare fill … [Read more...]

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Mike O’Mary’s thoughts about book promotion

I couldn't leave my wonderful Dream of Things publisher, Mike O'Mary, out of my guest lineup. He has brought a whole new life to my book. His ideas for promotion have been priceless. I never would have known about most of this stuff had I gone on to self-publish after my first publisher went out of business. Please welcome Mike O'Mary and take lots of notes. Time and Commitment are Keys to Book Promotion by Mike O'Mary, My Dream of Things Publisher As the publisher of the trade paperback and e-book editions of Madeline Sharples’ Leaving the Hall LightOn, I’ve had the pleasure of working with someone who really “gets it” when it comes to what an author needs to do afterthe book is written. In fact, I’ve already told other authors about Madeline and encouraged them to follow her and learn from her example.When Madeline first contacted me about becoming her publisher, I was intrigued. The hard cover edition of her book had good reviews, but then her publisher went out of business. … [Read more...]

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Anybody else get a damaging and useless Amazon review?

I just have to write about this. I can’t help myself. Two days ago someone posted a 1-star review of my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On up on Amazon. Here is what he or she said: “I stopped reading after 36 pages I really wanted to like this book. The premise was interesting, "A Mother's Memoir of Living with Her Son's Bipolar Disorder and Surviving His Suicide." But the author's discussion of bipolar disorder seemed more personal opinion than actual facts and not much was actually SAID in the first 36 pages despite countless little "stories" and two poems...Honestly it was a struggle to even get as far as I did.” Why would Amazon even allow this review to post? How could a review of 36 pages be valid and useful? I would think Amazon would want to interest people in buying their products rather than dissuading them. In allowing this review they do their company a huge disservice and of course make this author very angry. One of the people who commented on this review said: … [Read more...]

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My blog tour starts today

Angela Felsted officially kicked off my blog tour today by posting her wonderful review of Leaving the Hall Light On. Please find it at her blog site, My Poetry and Prose Place, or on the Leaving the Hall Light On Amazon page. Thank you, Angela, for your kind words about my book. Thirty-seven of thirty-eight readers found your review helpful. My tour will continue through the months of October, November, and December - But so not to give you the idea that I'll be working at it constantly during that time, not every day is taken. Also, the posts will vary between book reviews, questions and answers, a blog post my me, and a giveaway. So I hope you'll stop by often. The rest of the October agenda is: October 9 - Linda Hoye at A Slice of Life Writing October 10 - Jessica Bell at The Alliterative Allomorph October 17 - Amanda Lebron at All Between the Lines October 22 - Kathy Pooler at Memoir Writer's Journey. I'll let you know what's in store for November at the end of the … [Read more...]

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Introducing Sonia Marsh

I met face to face with Sonia Marsh for the first time yesterday after a long virtual friendship and a lot of win-win networking. She is the author of the newly released memoir Freeways to Flip-Flops (available at Amazon.com in both paperback and Kindle, as well as Barnes and Noble) and the Gutsy Livingblog. I posted my gutsy story there in June, and I’m pleased to say, I won for the gutsiest story of the month. Please go over to Gutsy Livingto receive a special gift. Just scroll down and look for the red starfish. So Sonia and I talked nonstop – mostly about how to go about the business of selling a book. We shared websites, conference information, how to get on panel discussions, what organizations we belong to. I urged her to join our Greater Los Angeles Writers Society. Although Sonia lives in Orange County, GLAWS has members who come to meetings and events all the way from Arizona. Yesterday’s highlight was meeting with one of the proprietors of my local indie book … [Read more...]

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Another book launch – oh my!

I now have a paperback edition of my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On, in my hands. It just arrived. Getting it to this point has taken just short of three months, but well worth the time and effort. The edition looks great. I decided to keep the same cover design because it has been my brand for the last year. I felt changing it could be confusing to my followers and even to me. Plus I love the front cover photo, taken by my young girl friend, Madison Poulter, whom I’ve known since she was eighteen months old. Can’t believe she’s off to Lewis and Clark College in the fall. So both my publisher, Mike O’Mary at Dream of Things and I have been doing a lot of planning to get ready for the launch. Mike made an excel spreadsheet with activities to accomplish between now and January. Here are some of the things we’re doing right now: I’ve communicated with friends and family about the launch and asked them to write a review and post it on Amazon if they’ve already read the … [Read more...]

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