Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Literary Tems to Know

Literary agent hypothesis: Bookworms with a postmodern bent will find the literary agent hypothesis fascinating. It posits that authors of fiction serve as "literary agents" to real events, changing around the reality to make for a more compelling narrative. Like the philosophy from which it stems, this critique style enjoys playing around with the nature of the known and unknown world.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Concise Writing: The Truth, the Whole Truth, and Nothing But the Truth

Concise Writing: The Truth, the Whole Truth, and Nothing But the Truth

When writing, it is important to keep your messages concise. What does concise mean? To the point. As a reader, I don’t need to have to wade through a four line sentence in order to figure out what you mean.

Concise writing is respectful of the reader’s time. If you want me to meet you for lunch, send me an e-mail that says, “Mary, would you like to meet me for lunch today at noon?

Do not send me an e-mail that says, “Mary, I am getting hungry. I was wondering if you were hungry too. When people are hungry, that is a sign that they need to eat. Since we might both be hungry, I was perhaps wondering if you might care to join me for a meal in the near future?

The first example tells me exactly what the writer wants, and I don’t have to request further clarification to answer the request.

The second example is long and hard to follow. I refer to this as a blah, blah, blah message. The writer doesn’t just come out and ask the question. Additionally, the writer doesn’t make his or her inquiry clearly. Assuming that I bother to read this entire message, I will have to seek further clarification in order to answer.

When you write an e-mail request, stop and read it before you press send. Ask yourself the following questions:

Is my request direct and to the point?

Are there extra words in the request?

Is there a more direct way to phrase the request?

Is the reader likely to be annoyed before getting to the heart of the request?

Can the reader answer the question without having to request clarification?

Friday, September 6, 2013


More than 300 titles are published each day. There is no way anyone can know and rank them. That is why the book industry relies so heavily on blurbs.

A blurb is a short sales pitch or review of a book usually printed on the jacket or in an advertisement. The word was coined by Gelett Burgess, a Boston-born humorist and author [1866-1951).

Testimonials, endorsements and quotations or “blurbs” sell books because word-of-mouth is one of the most powerful forces in marketing. Anything you say about your book is self-serving but words from another person are not. In fact, when readers see the quotation marks, it shifts their attitude and they become more receptive.

Harvey Mackay placed 44 testimonials in the front matter of Swim with the Sharks; he had endorsements from everyone from Billy Graham to Robert Redford. Did these luminaries buy a book and write unsolicited testimonials? Of course not. Mackay asked for the words of praise.


Your mission is to get the highest-placed, most influential opinion molders in your field talking about your book. You have more control than you think over whom you quote, what they say and how you use their words. The easiest and most logical time to gather blurbs is following peer review of the manuscript. Testimonials are not difficult to get if you follow this two-step process.

Most testimonials are superficial, teach the reader nothing and lack credibility. —Ron Richards, President, Venture Network.

Step #1. Send parts of your book out for peer review. Smart nonfiction authors take each chapter of their nearly complete manuscript and send it off to at least four experts on that chapter’s subject.

Step #2. Approach your peer reviewers for a testimonial. Now the target is softened up. You are not surprising them by asking for a blurb for a book they haven’t even seen. In fact, since you matched the chapter to their individual interest, they have already bought into the project and become familiar with your work.

Now, draft the (suggested) testimonial yourself. In order to get what you need and in order to control the blurb, draft a suggested testimonial. Then include a cover letter like this: I know you are a busy person. Considering your position and the direction this book takes, I need a testimonial something like this: . . .

Drafting a testimonial is a creative act; it takes time and careful thought. Editing is easier than creating. Your endorser does not even know how long the blurb should be. So, provide help. Some 80% will just sign off on your words, 10% will add some superlatives and 5% will get the idea and come up with something much better.

Forewords are approached in the same manner as endorsements. What you get back from the writer is just longer. Gather testimonials by putting words in their mouths.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

7 Essay Writing Tips To Ace Your Next Exam

7 Essay Writing Tips To Ace Your Next Exam
by Stephen Holliday

Despite students’ wildest hope of avoiding the dreaded essay exam—one that requires either short or long essay answers rather than multiple choice answers—most find themselves taking such an exam, particularly for subjects like history, philosophy, literature, sociology, political science and others. This type of exam, however, can be successfully managed if you follow a few guidelines outlined here:

1. After the initial panic passes, read through all the questions before you begin to answer any of them, underlining key words and phrases that will help guide you in your answer. In many cases, instructors will incorporate key words and phrases from their lectures in the exam question, so make sure that you focus on these elements in your answer.

2. Based on your comfort level (or lack thereof) with particular questions, after you have reviewed all questions, decide approximately how much time you have for questions that are relatively easy for you to answer and, conversely, which questions will require more time to answer correctly and thoroughly. This is a very important step because it will help you organize your time and effort.

3. Think of each essay answer as a mini-essay in itself, and approach each answer with a shortened version of the process that you’ve been taught to use when writing full essays. If you are used to brainstorming or clustering when preparing to write an essay, go through the same, but greatly shortened, process for an essay answer. The time spent in some form of outlining will save time and effort as you answer the questions.

4. Given the time constraints of most essay exams, you can’t afford to write and re-write answers. From an instructor’s perspective, if a student’s answer contains a great deal of cross outs and perhaps whole paragraph deletions, the instructor will probably conclude that the student is not well prepared. It is critical, therefore, to outline the answer before you begin writing and to follow the outline as you write. Marginal notes of an outline or brainstorming process will probably impress the instructor.

5. The “rhetorical mode” for an answer may be determined by your instructor. For example, you may be asked to analyze, define, compare/contrast, evaluate, illustrate, or synthesize the subject of the question, and you need to focus on answering the question with an analysis, a definition and so on in order to respond to the question appropriately.

6. Just as you do when you draft an essay, try to begin the answer with one or two sentences that answer the question directly and succinctly. In other words, think of the first two sentences as a thesis statement of an essay, and after you’ve stated the answer’s “thesis,” support that thesis with specific examples in the body of the answer.

7. Lastly, one of the most important steps you can take is to proofread your answers and make any necessary corrections neatly and legibly.


Friday, June 28, 2013

Book Cover Design - Part Two - Designing Your Books Back Cover, Parts Explained by Kareen Ross

The concept of the back cover design is to sell and present more information. Once your cover design has caught the attention of your perspective reader we figure they will turn the book around to the back. You now have the opportunity to give them more information about what's inside and who wrote it. The back cover will also benefit from breaking up the items on the back for easier reading, so be sure to allow for white space and short to the point paragraph statements.

Here are the expanded definitions of the eight points in the outline I mentioned in Part One.

1. Category and price. This is usually the first line on the back cover. The category designates where you want your book to end up in catalogs, libraries, book stores and in peoples minds. You'll need to determine where your audience will go looking for your book and/or what audience do you want to read your book and where will they look for it? There is a big difference between new age and self improvement and the audience that will be looking in those categories so be sure to go to a book store and check out the exact category that represents your subject matter.


Price: This has several places on the back where it can be positioned, I prefer the top right but have placed it on the bottom above the barcode as well. I feel it needs to be easily found. It's a good idea to have the price one other place be sides in the barcode.

2. Headline: Here is where you present the main benefit your readers will get out of your book. It can be in the form of a a question or a to-the-point statement? This usually is, but not always, a continuation of the cover title and sub-title, yet takes the reader one step further into their thoughts and relatedness to how they will benefit from the book.

3. First paragraph: is usually a descriptive short summary that pulls together the facts, stories, examples you wish the reader to connect to.

4. Sub heading and Bulleted list: the sub heading leads you into the features, the bullet points. The sub plays off either the headline or the first paragraph and usually states... In this book you'll find... or something along that line of inviting or making a point.

5. The closing paragraph: back covers don't hold a lot of copy so you need to be creative here, one or two sentences to sum it up and call to action.

6. Author Bio: if there is room a short intro to the author or their company helps the reader get into the know, like and trust factor and want to learn more.

7. Testimonial: if you can secure one, best from someone who is considered an expert in your field of study or prominent celebrity who can help bring a feeling of trust and value to what you are presenting.

8. Signature: company name and contact info, website and location if you want. Usually on the bottom left.

9. Barcode: usually positioned on the bottom right although there is no standard, however, check with your distributor or retailers to be sure they don't have a preference that would prevent them from picking your book up or cause need for a label down the road. The barcode is called EAN and it's made from your ISBN which can be purchased from I suggest when you purchase the ISBN numbers you don't get a barcode at the same time, that you hold off until you actually assign the ISBN to a project and know the price..

Now you see how the back cover design is full of content that will bring the prospective reader in to your world and help the to know, like and trust you and your subject matter. You being the author will relate to how this is as important in words as the front cover is visual.

Friday, May 24, 2013

The Writing Process

by Ali Hale

Whether you know it or not, there’s a process to writing – which many writers follow naturally. If you’re just getting started as a writer, though, or if you always find it a struggle to produce an essay, short story or blog, following the writing process will help.

I’m going to explain what each stage of the writing process involves, and I’ll offer some tips for each section that will help out if you’re still feeling stuck!

1. Prewriting

Have you ever sat staring at a blank piece of paper or a blank document on your computer screen? You might have skipped the vital first stage of the writing process: prewriting. This covers everything you do before starting your rough draft. As a minimum, prewriting means coming up with an idea!

Ideas and Inspiration

Ideas are all around you. If you want to write but you don’t have any ideas, try:

·         Using a writing prompt to get you started.

·         Writing about incidents from your daily life, or childhood.

·         Keeping a notebook of ideas – jotting down those thoughts that occur throughout the day.

·         Creating a vivid character, and then writing about him/her.

Tip: Once you have an idea, you need to expand on it. Don’t make the mistake of jumping straight into your writing – you’ll end up with a badly structured piece.

Building on Your Idea

These are a couple of popular methods you can use to add flesh to the bones of your idea:

·         Free writing: Open a new document or start a new page, and write everything that comes into your head about your chosen topic. Don’t stop to edit, even if you make mistakes.

·         Brainstorming: Write the idea or topic in the center of your page. Jot down ideas that arise from it – sub-topics or directions you could take with the article.

Once you’ve done one or both of these, you need to select what’s going into your first draft.

Planning and Structure

Some pieces of writing will require more planning than others. Typically, longer pieces and academic papers need a lot of thought at this stage.

First, decide which ideas you’ll use. During your free writing and brainstorming, you’ll have come up with lots of thoughts. Some belong in this piece of writing: others can be kept for another time.

Then, decide how to order those ideas. Try to have a logical progression. Sometimes, your topic will make this easy: in this article, for instance, it made sense to take each step of the writing process in order. For a short story, try the eight-point story arc.

2. Writing

Sit down with your plan beside you, and start your first draft (also known as the rough draft or rough copy). At this stage, don’t think about word-count, grammar, spelling and punctuation. Don’t worry if you’ve gone off-topic, or if some sections of your plan don’t fit too well. Just keep writing!

If you’re a new writer, you might be surprised that professional authors go through multiple drafts before they’re happy with their work. This is a normal part of the writing process – no-one gets it right first time.

Some things that many writers find helpful when working on the first draft include:

·         Setting aside at least thirty minutes to concentrate: it’s hard to establish a writing flow if you’re just snatching a few minutes here and there.

·         Going somewhere without interruptions: a library or coffee shop can work well, if you don’t have anywhere quiet to write at home.

·         Switching off distracting programs: if you write your first draft onto a computer, you might find that turning off your Internet connection does wonders for your concentration levels! When I’m writing fiction, I like to use the free program Dark Room (you can find more about it on our collection of writing software).

You might write several drafts, especially if you’re working on fiction. Your subsequent drafts will probably merge elements of the writing stage and the revising stage.

Tip: Writing requires concentration and energy. If you’re a new writer, don’t try to write for hours without stopping. Instead, give yourself a time limit (like thirty minutes) to really focus – without checking your email!

3. Revising

Revising your work is about making “big picture” changes. You might remove whole sections, rewrite entire paragraphs, and add in information which you’ve realized the reader will need. Everyone needs to revise – even talented writers.

The revision stage is sometimes summed up with the A.R.R.R. (Adding, Rearranging, Removing, Replacing) approach:


What else does the reader need to know? If you haven’t met the required word-count, what areas could you expand on? This is a good point to go back to your prewriting notes – look for ideas which you didn’t use.


Even when you’ve planned your piece, sections may need rearranging. Perhaps as you wrote your essay, you found that the argument would flow better if you reordered your paragraphs. Maybe you’ve written a short story that drags in the middle but packs in too much at the end.


Sometimes, one of your ideas doesn’t work out. Perhaps you’ve gone over the word count, and you need to take out a few paragraphs. Maybe that funny story doesn’t really fit with the rest of your article.


Would more vivid details help bring your piece to life? Do you need to look for stronger examples and quotations to support your argument? If a particular paragraph isn’t working, try rewriting it.

Tip: If you’re not sure what’s working and what isn’t, show your writing to someone else. This might be a writers’ circle, or just a friend who’s good with words. Ask them for feedback. It’s best if you can show your work to several people, so that you can get more than one opinion.

4. Editing

The editing stage is distinct from revision, and needs to be done after revising. Editing involves the close-up view of individual sentences and words. It needs to be done after you’ve made revisions on a big scale: or else you could agonize over a perfect sentence, only to end up cutting that whole paragraph from your piece.

When editing, go through your piece line by line, and make sure that each sentence, phrase and word is as strong as possible. Some things to check for are:

·         Have you used the same word too many times in one sentence or paragraph? Use a thesaurus to find alternatives.

·         Are any of your sentences hard to understand? Rewrite them to make your thoughts clear.

·         Which words could you cut to make a sentence stronger? Words like “just” “quite”, “very”, “really” and “generally” can often be removed.

·         Are your sentences grammatically correct? Keep a careful look out for problems like subject-verb agreement and staying consistent in your use of the past, present or future tense.

·         Is everything spelt correctly? Don’t trust your spell-checker – it won’t pick up every mistake. Proofread as many times as necessary.

·         Have you used punctuation marks correctly? Commas often cause difficulties. You might want to check out the Daily Writing Tips articles on punctuation.

Tip: Print out your work and edit on paper. Many writers find it easier to spot mistakes this way.

5. Publishing

The final step of the writing process is publishing. This means different things depending on the piece you’re working on.

Bloggers need to upload, format and post their piece of completed work.

Students need to produce a final copy of their work, in the correct format. This often means adding a bibliography, ensuring that citations are correct, and adding details such as your student reference number.

Journalists need to submit their piece (usually called “copy”) to an editor. Again, there will be a certain format for this.

Fiction writers may be sending their story to a magazine or competition. Check guidelines carefully, and make sure you follow them. If you’ve written a novel, look for an agent who represents your genre. (There are books like Writer’s Market, published each year, which can help you with this.)

Tip: Your piece of writing might never be published. That’s okay – many bestselling authors wrote lots of stories or articles before they got their first piece published. Nothing that you write is wasted, because it all contributes to your growth as a writer.


The five stages of the writing process are a framework for writing well and easily. You might want to bookmark this post so that you can come back to it each time you start on a new article, blog post, essay or story: use it as a checklist to help you.

If you have any tips about the writing process, or if you want to share your experiences, tell us in the comments!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Choose Book Titles Based on Metaphors to Sell More Books and Find More Readers

 by Roger C. Parker

Book titles that find more readers and sell more books are often based on metaphors. Adding metaphors to your book titles helps the title immediately communicate the essence of your book.

Because of the power of metaphor-based titles, they often form the basis of publishing empires. In these cases, the original title becomes the basis of an entire series of books, as we'll see below. These can grow to become world-wide brands, catapulting the authors to success with dozens--even hundreds--of different titles based on the same metaphor.

Advantages of Metaphors

  • Immediate recognition. A metaphor communicates at a glance. A well-chosen metaphor needs no explanation. It's message immediately hits home.
  • Storytelling power. Metaphors tap into the power of stories to engage readers on an emotional, as opposed to a "factual" basis. They engage your readers' hearts as well as their brains. They strike chords within your readers.
  • Multiple levels. A single metaphor can communicate numerous attributes and emotions. When your title includes an appropriate metaphor, your title taps into numerous nuances and details associated with the metaphor.
  • Comfort and familiarity. Titles with metaphors immediately establish a comfort and familiarity. They're also easier to remember and--hence--easier to recommend to co-workers and friends.

Types of metaphor titles

There are as many different types of metaphors as there are emotions and different ways to describe multiple aspects of a topic. Here are a few of the different types of metaphors that have become the basis of successful book titles:

  • Comfort. At some points in our lives, we all need to be comforted. We may have lost our jobs, our spouses, our friends, or our pets. We need to connect with others who may have experienced the same loss, or are currently experiencing the same loss. Sometimes our need for comfort can be very narrowly defined, such as "wives with husbands overseas in the military,"
  • Philosophy, attitude, and resources. Metaphor-based titles can also instantly paint a picture of the challenges and resources of our intended readers. At a glance, an appropriate metaphor can target selected types of readers in a way that immediately resonates with them.
  • Complexity. A metaphor-based title can identify a book's intended market as well as describe both the approach, and the level of information contained in the book. Without using "obvious" words like "beginner" or "newcomer," a metaphor can communicate that the book is intended for entry-level readers.
  • Style. Finally, the particular metaphor chosen can not target the intended reader, but can communicate that the author speaks the reader's language, and really understands where the reader is coming from.

A series based on a comfort metaphor

One of the most successful book series in the world is Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen's Chicken Soup series. The first title in the series, Chicken Soup for the Soul, was published on June 28, 1993.

The authors already had the materials in hand--101 story submissions, but they lacked a title. They each agreed to meditate on the topic for one hour. During one of his meditation sessions, Jack Canfield remembered his grandmother telling him that "chicken soup can cure anything!" Since the original title was designed to inspire the soul, not the body, the obvious title was Chicken Soup for the Soul.

By December, the book was a strong seller. By September of 1994, Chicken Soup for the Soul was on every bestseller list in the United States and Canada.

Today, there are over 200 titles in the series, and over 112 million copies have been sold. The title has been translated into more than 40 languages.

More important, according to Harris Polls, 88.7 percent of the public not only recognizes the Chicken Soup for the Soul brand, but knows what it is.

It's impossible to conceive of success on this order if the original Chicken Soup for the Soul title had been replaced with "conventional" title like:

  • How to Cheer Yourself Up
  • 101 Inspirational Stories
  • How Others Have Overcome Obstacles

The power of the Chicken Soup brand is based on the near universal recognition, and accompanying emotional response, to feeling sick and needing to be cared for by someone who loves you.

Attitude, Resources, and Philosophy

Jay Conrad Levinson's Guerrilla Marketing series is the world's best-selling marketing book series. There are over 40 million Guerrilla Marketing books in print around the world. The series has created a market for Jay's speaking and consulting on every continent; as this is being written, Jay Conrad Levinson is speaking in Poland, Latvia, and Croatia.

The Guerrilla Marketing brand's strength is based on the immediate recognition the title provides. Guerrilla Marketing resonates with business owners who lack the unlimited budgets and resources of major corporations. Guerrilla Marketers succeed by making the most of whatever resources they have.

"Guerrilla" communicates the philosophy, "Marketing" communicates the topic. Together, the two words tell the whole story.


One of the most successful series of books in the writing and publishing field is Rick Frishman and Robyn Freedman Spizman's Author 101 series. There are several titles in the series:

  • Author 101: Bestselling Secrets from Top Agents
  • Author 101: Bestselling Book Proposal
  • Author 101: Bestselling Nonfiction
  • Author 101: Bestselling Book Publicity

The "Author 101" unites the titles under an immediately understood umbrella. Traditionally, college freshmen level classes are associated with "101" level identification numbers, with advanced courses beginning in the 2 series. Thus, anyone who has been to college can immediately recognize that these books are for new authors who want to write a book.

Author style and target market

A book title based on a metaphor can communicate the author's style as well as target the intended market. For example, Peter Bowerman launched a series of books using The Well-Fed Writer title. This was quickly followed by The Well-Fed Self-Publisher and The Well-Fed Writer: Back for Seconds. Consider what you already know about these titles even before you glance at their back covers or their table of contents:

  • Are these serious, or academic, books? Of course not. The title communicates that the books are colloquial and informal.
  • Are successful writers the target market? No, again; the market is writers who want to become successful.     


It's fascinating just how much you can tell about a book from its title, especially if it's a metaphor-based title. When a book title is based on a recognized metaphor, the title--itself--can sell the book. By instantly communicating comfort, philosophy, complexity, or style, metaphor-based titles can sell more books and find more readers by creating an immediate resonance with them on a deep emotional level.

Ask yourself: How effectively does my proposed book title use the power of metaphor to find more readers and sell more books by communicating on an emotional level?

Saturday, March 2, 2013

The Dummy Subject

Writers, especially beginning writers, are often cautioned against using passive voice in their writing because its use slows down the pace.

Another construction that can make your writing plod is the dummy subject.
When we use the words it and there to begin a sentence without a referent (a noun the pronoun is referring to), we’re using a dummy subject.

In this pair of sentences:

I went to see Fantastic Four 2 over the weekend. It was fun, but mostly forgettable.

“It” refers to the movie Fantastic Four 2. The pronoun has a referent.

In this sentence, however:

It is apparent that oil reserves will be exhausted by 2050.

“It” has no referent, and is therefore a dummy subject.

The same thing happens frequently with there:

There are several ways in which you could begin.

There are five stages of grief.

Dummy subjects are just one of many problems that weaken your writing by making it vague, fuzzy, and indefinite. The sentences above can be reconstructed with stronger, more definite subjects:

Some experts warn that our oil reserves will be exhausted by 2050.

You could begin in one of the following ways: (followed by a list).

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross identified five stages of grief in her book On Death and Dying.

In general, unless you don’t know who is performing an action, or you want to emphasize the action of the sentence for some reason, you should avoid dummy subjects.