Friday, July 20, 2018

The Truth about Book Awards

By Tim Bishop

Would you rather write a best-selling book or an award-winning one?

Two years ago, a business partner urged my wife, Debbie, and me to enter Wheels of Wisdom in some book contests. “If you win,” he said, “it will help your book stand out.” So, we did as he suggested.

With Wheels of Wisdom recently garnering more awards, I can no longer stay silent. Fellow authors, there’s something you need to know about book awards.

How they work

Book contests are pay-to-play marketing opportunities. On average, you can expect to pay $75 to enter your book in one genre in one competition. Programs are run either by marketing firms who are trying to make money or by non-profit literary advocates. Organizers rarely disclose the judging criteria and seldom provide feedback to entrants on their titles.

Many contests sell overpriced seals, certificates, and medals to winners. Some even offer awards ceremonies alongside industry tradeshows to provide photo opportunities. Those “perks” can add credibility to a book and help get the word out about it. But make no mistake, winners pay coming and going.

Managing expectations

Don’t get me wrong. Winning a book contest can help grab the attention of readers in your genre. The accolades feel good and attest to the quality of your work. Furthermore, a medaling book is newsworthy.

Depending on your budget, contests may be a worthwhile component of your marketing plan. Our book awards have helped land interviews, speaking engagements, media exposure, and conversations with potential buyers.

To date, however, our awards have done astonishingly little to boost lagging sales. We’ve discovered that an award-winning book is no more guaranteed to become a bestseller than a best-selling book is certain to win an award. A book award suggests the author and the publisher have done an outstanding job producing a book, but it doesn’t mean there’s an audience on standby who can’t wait to devour the content.

Despite years of history, publishing experts can only surmise that a popular figure whose name appears as author is likely to sell more books than an obscure writer. Content and quality have little bearing on that trend. Ultimately, readers buy a book because it interests them, not because it won an award. Therefore, authors should view their awards as merely one facet of their selling efforts.

Debbie and I periodically remind ourselves that sharing with excellence the hope and encouragement God has given us is what He called us to do. More book sales would also be affirming, but we realize that God can do with our content and marketing as He sees fit. Our prayer is that He touches some lives with this book regardless of how well it sells.

Would I enter these contests again? Absolutely! We are grateful for the honors and the encouragement. Next time, though, my expectations for book sales will remain guarded. There’s a big difference between an award-winning book and a bestseller.
Tim Bishop left a successful career as a corporate treasurer, married his dream girl, and embarked with her to parts unknown – on bicycles! Tim and Debbie have since coauthored four books about their midlife bicycling adventures. Wheels of Wisdom has won three first-place book awards (in Inspiration, Devotional, and Christian Nonfiction). It also earned a bronze medal for Devotional in the Illumination Awards behind books by New York Times best-selling authors Sarah Young and Christine Caine. Publishers Weekly dubbed the book “a roadmap for life.”A three-time Maine chess champion, a CPA, and a consultant for small businesses, Tim has also written a business book, Hedging Commodity Price Risk. He is still out to prove that the writing contest he won as a college freshman was not a fluke. Learn more at Social Media links:

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Are You Ready For Your Book Release?

By Annette Cole Mastron, Communications Director for Southern Writers Magazine 

Here’s the question, are you ready for a successful book launch? This is not the time to be a “seat of your pants” person. 

You need a plan. 

You need to work the plan. 

You need a plan “B.”


Well, let me just say, 2018 Amazon Prime day. You would think a corporation that made billions (with a"B") last year on “Prime Day” would have all the bugs worked out. Not the case. 

On this week’s “Amazon Prime Day,” instead of shopping deals, cute adoptable dogs appeared on Amazon's storefront was down. Oh no! As people do, they took to social media. All those venders with cyber deals bigger than “black Friday” are the real losers. The dollars lost may never be recovered. Talk about unfortunate timing for a site crash.

The lesson for authors is if your book release is approaching, make you plan and prepare for a backup if technology glitches. 

Writer’s Digest has a good article on having a successful book launch including the timeline. 
Here are some of the ideas from their article; ”Join a writing community. Finding your tribe means having people in your corner supporting your launch...Develop an author platform... Join forces with others authors...Coordinate with your publisher...Work with your illustrator (or author) if you have a picture book...Build buzz. [One of the best ways is offering guest author blog post to other author blogs and of course to Southern Writers Magazine’s blog, Suite T.] Develop a media kit.”

On those days you're not writing your next book, make your book release plan. Have a plan “B,” keeping 2018 Amazon Prime Day in your mind. Dogs are cute but not on your big day. 

What do y’all think?

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Writing with the Bible

By Rebecca J. Wetzler

People don’t know me very long before they realize I have a strong faith in the Lord.  It’s not from my witnessing per se, I’m not that bold, instead it’s just a part of my normal conversation.  I will say things like ‘the Lord helped me with…’ or ‘I’m not sure how the Lord is going to work this out…,’ so I make statements about the Lord being at work in my life.  I am also an avid reader, including dreams of someday writing my own books.  An integral part of these dreams has been the Holy Spirit’s prompting to share my spiritual walk through the shadowy melancholy that has plagued my quality of life and threatened my necessary daily functioning since childhood, and colored how I cope with physical, mental and emotional health issues.  How does one conquer deepening internal blackness?  For me, it has only been through faith in the Lord that my soul is able to challenge the untruths forecast by the darkness.  No matter how black the darkness gets, there is always the Holy Spirit’s steady glow to lead me out again (John 8:12).

I believe the Bible, even though some scripture is difficult to understand.  Inspired by a Thanksgiving gift from my grandmother decades ago, a recipe box with 3 x 5 cards to record blessings upon, I decided instead to collect my favorite scriptures and write prayers based on each one.  Eventually it dawned on me this could be my book, a daily devotional.  Now, how could I express the Bible’s relevance for today’s world? 

1)      I chose scriptures which especially resonated with me in the depth of my solitary experiences.
2)      I not only considered the chosen scripture, but also the context in which it was used. 
3)      I used key words from each scripture also in my prayer, which illustrated application to my problem.
4)      I organized my collection in progressive order. 
a.       Progressive in the sense of determining quarterly themes that grew in encouragement over time – ‘Broken Pieces’ begins using scripture to journey through brokenness, ‘Bread of Life’ shows accepting spiritual bread to heal brokenness, ‘Believe in the Blessing’ tells of faith, hope and trust despite brokenness, and ‘Bowing before Him’ ends by acknowledging His sovereignty and worshipping Him regardless of brokenness.
b.      Progressive also in the order of the scriptures, meaning each quarter starts with my favorites, the Psalms, and then the chapters follow biblical order.

Thus Bread Box for the Broken’ was written over decades of finding scriptures that helped me with my life long struggles with loneliness, self-esteem, depression, and chronic pain from migraines and a permanently injured neck, and, recently added to the mix, unexplained heart failure.  So I know it’s true the Word of God gives strength today to continue the race when we feel broken by life and it humbles us to give thanks for all the daily blessings along the way that often go unnoticed because we are overly distracted by trials and tribulations.
Rebecca J.Wetzler, originally a California girl, has lived in Alaska since she was eight years old. An avid reader, her favorite school subject was English writing assignments. To support her two children, she completed an accounting degree. She has been a believer from her earliest memories as a small child in Sunday School asking Jesus into her heart. Rebecca has realized her faith gives her a steady spiritual regrounding to weather the drama of real life, and she wants to share the spiritual truths with others so they may also follow God’s light past the world’s darkness. Bread Box for the Broken is her first book, and she has ideas for more devotionals, some Bible studies, maybe Christian romance fiction with mystery and suspense. It is important for her to share that faith in Christ is her foundation for challenging and purposefully overcoming life-long struggles with loneliness, self-esteem, depression, chronic pain from migraines and a permanently injured neck, and finally unexplained heart failure. Forced to early retire, she really doesn’t know what the future holds, but she knows Who holds her future. Rebecca J Wetzler book purchase site Holy Spirit Dove blog

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

The Wrong Mindset Blocks Books Sales

By Susan Reichert, Editor-in-Chief, Southern Writers Magazine

Bryan Tracy said, “From the time you get up in the morning until the time you go to bed at night, you are continually negotiating, communicating, persuading, influencing and trying to get people to cooperate with you to do the things that you want them to do.”

When I read this, I realized he is 100% right. Think about it.  If we have children at home we are constantly communicating to them what they need to do, what we want them to do. We wind up either negotiating with them to cooperate with us or persuading them to do what we want them to do. 

It continues throughout the day.

Same with our spouses, only most of the time we are a little more direct with them, but we still use those skills.

At our places of employment, we are doing the same things…using these skills.

So why is it, that as writers, we are uncomfortable in using these skills to market and sell our books?

Perhaps it is our mindset of sales. We don’t like being sold to. You know the stereo types: the car salesperson following you around as you look at cars pushing information. You tell him you are just looking but he’s like a dog with a bone. Or the person standing at your door trying to convince you to buy while you are trying to get rid of them and close the door. And then my favorite, the salesperson at the furniture store following you around while trying to look at furniture.

This is the definition stuck in our brains as the “salesperson”. Thus, we aren’t crazy about trying to sell our books. This is bad selling.

Fortunately, authors have websites and draw people to the websites where they read about the author, see the books. Once they get to our website, it should be enticing enough to solicit sales. (Be sure and check your website, if you came to your website, would you like what you see and want to sign up for a newsletter if offered? Would you want to buy a book?)

What can we put on our websites to help our sales? Offer something free. Think about when you go to Costco or Sam’s; they offer free samples. This entices us to buy what we are sampling. Maybe you could let them sample a chapter…then put a button to buy the book.

Or perhaps you might think about a gift with their purchase. Maybe your fourth book in your series just released. You could gift a copy of your first book in the series if they buy your new release. You could do this for a set time like the first week of the month, or the first three days of a month or even run it for the first ten people who sign up.

The point is, being able to give something helps you sell. You can go in large department stores, you will see the perfume/makeup counters, they always are giving away something if you buy what they want you to buy. (This is one of the best ways to get people to buy.)

Another thing you can do is combine your efforts with another author and help each other sell their book using the methods above.

Think about some things you can do to entice along these lines. It gives the right mindset for selling.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Choosing the Right Point of View for Your Story -Part Two

By Caron Kamps Widden

In Part One, I gave a quick synopsis on point of view, but now, let’s go deeper.

 First Person (I or We)

First person is used when the writer wants the reader to have a personal experience with the narrator.  Everything is seen through the narrator’s eyes and is limited to a single point of view.  Most of the time the narrator is the main character, but some authors use first person for a character watching the story unfold along with the reader.  For instance, in The Lovely Bones, author, Alice Sebold chose to tell the story from the first person ‘omniscient’ point of view of 14-year-old Susie Salmon who was murdered and is now in heaven.  Often used in mystery writing, the Sherlock Holmes Books by Arthur Conan Doyle were narrated by Dr. Watson.  Using first person across genres creates a more intimate experience for the reader.  A writer can use dual first person characters if done well.  For instance, not within a single paragraph, which can be jarring, even confusing for the reader.  Instead, dual first person functions better within separate paragraphs or chapters.  Getting inside the narrator’s head and seeing things from their point of view can help the writer build an emotionally driven, powerful experience for the reader.

Second Person (You)

Writing in second person is not often used in fiction.  More often this point of view is used in advertising, technical writing, academic writing, or for speeches.  Second person is often utilized as a tool to pull the reader into the action.  For instance, notice how the following sentence speaks ‘for’ you:  You landed safe after a bumpy ride and exit the plane as soon as you can, drained and exhausted from the experience.  Using second person can limit the development of characters and make it difficult to sustain a work of broad prose in fiction.  But second person is often the perfect choice for non-fiction and opinion pieces such as blogging.

Third Person (He, She, or It)  

Unlike first person, where readers experience the story told through a focused, singular point of view, with third person, an author uses a narrator to relay the heart and mind of the character.  Within third person, authors can use omniscient or limited.  Using omniscient reveals the thoughts and feelings of all the characters through the ‘all-knowing’ narrator.  If not done well, the reader can feel overwhelmed by jumps between characters.  Two great examples of third person omniscient are Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy and The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne.  More often, authors choose to use third person limited.  The narrator reveals the story through the eyes of one character allowing the author to create a broader picture.  An example of third person limited can be found in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.  Although, multiple character’s points of view are possible using third person limited.  The narrator will need to keep the reader inside one head at a time by using character breaks or even better, one chapter for each point of view.

Happy Writing.
Caron Kamps Widden is the author of RESTORATION, a novel (2006 Hilliard & Harris) and THE LIES WE KEEP, a suspense novel (2015 Hilliard & Harris).  She is currently at work on her third novel and lives in the Baltimore area. You can find Caron online at:,,,,,


Friday, July 13, 2018

Choosing the Right Point of View for Your Story-Part One

By Caron Kamps Widden

I can already hear the groans from emerging writers who are confused about which point of view to use for their story.  Rest assured, even seasoned authors have a difficult time deciding.  In choosing the right point of view, the author sets in motion the vantage point from which the story will be told.  Here are the different points of view an author can use:

·         First Person – “I” or “We” (told from one character’s perspective)

·         Second Person – “You” (rarely used in fiction, from an onlooker’s perspective writing about you -- often used in advertising and speeches)

·         Third Person – “He,” “She,” “It” or “They” (the narrator tells the story through one character’s point of view -- or if carefully divided by paragraphs and/or chapters -- one or more or even several character’s points of view) 

Writers must settle on the best point of view for their story and be consistent throughout the manuscript in order to create a rich experience for the reader.  Many authors swear by first person, writing emotionally charged scenes allowing the reader to get deep inside the psyche of the character.  More often, novels are written in third person, freeing the author to expand the plotline while still delving into the heart and soul of the characters.  In part two, I’ll share more details about each point of view.

Happy Writing.
Caron Kamps Widden is the author of RESTORATION, a novel (2006 Hilliard & Harris) and THE LIES WE KEEP, a suspense novel (2015 Hilliard & Harris).  She is currently at work on her third novel and lives in the Baltimore area. You can find Caron online at:,,,,,

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Layer by Layer

By Chris Pepple, Writer-At-Large for Southern Writers Magazine

When I speak to writing groups, our conversations often turn to character development. How do we let our readers get to know our characters? If you are writing a short story, your readers need to know the intimate details of your characters fairly quickly, so they can love them (or dislike the antagonists) before the ending. You must introduce the characters through conversations and actions early in the story, so your readers can relate to them.

If you are writing a novel, however, you can add depth to your characters by letting the readers get to know them in stages. You can reveal their personalities layer by layer. I have an exercise I use in my seminars that reminds us that what we first see in a person is not always indicative of what the person is actually feeling or thinking. For example, a person suffering from depression often appears very happy at first glance. An introvert may be labeled as shy even though they are quite confident around others and enjoy group social settings. They may just need some quite time alone to recharge later.  

For this exercise, draw a square in the center of a blank piece of paper (make the square large enough to write in). Draw a larger square around that one, leaving room to write between the two squares. Draw another square around that one, still leaving room to write inside the lines. In the first inside square, write a description that reveals the innermost traits of the character you are developing at the moment. Write things that only the character knows about herself: hidden fears, deep worries, hidden depression or social anxiety, secret crushes, easily tired, secretly hates the family’s famous dessert recipe, insomnia.

Just outside of that box and inside the lines of the second one, write what close friends and family members would think about that character: loyal, responsible, easily tired, workaholic, messy, funny, charming, etc. Use the lines between the second and third box to write what co-workers and acquaintances see when they run into the character in a social setting. 

Would they see the character as a nice dresser, dependable, always late, willing to speak up in a meeting, someone they can ask advice about a project? Around the outside of the last box, write the physical description of the person that everyone in public can see. Describe the hair color, eye color, height, and build of the character. Does that character use a cane or a wheelchair?

These boxes remind you of the many layers of your character. When you are writing your novel, reveal your characters to your readers in stages the way we get to know people in our lives. Let readers get to know your characters layer by layer as the plot develops.