January 31, 2012

For the Love of Oscar

by Gary Fearon, Creative Director

This past week the Academy Award nominees for Best Picture were announced. They are, in no particular order:

  • The Descendants
  • Hugo
  • Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
  • The Artist
  • Midnight in Paris
  • Moneyball
  • The Help
  • War Horse
  • The Tree of Life

In looking over this year’s nominees, a think I spotted a few trends:

Oscar loves Paris
Midnight in Paris and Hugo both take place in France, as does part of War Horse. The Artist is a French movie.

Oscar loves the past
Only one of these movies – The Descendants – takes place completely in modern day, although an important plot point has to do with ancestry. Midnight in Paris begins in the current era but harkens back. The Tree of Life is particularly all over the place in time: past, present and future.

Oscar loves novels
Hugo, The Help, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, The Descendants, Moneyball and War Horse all had their origins in a book.

Oscar loves Brad Pitt
Mr P stars in both Moneyball and The Tree of Life. Oscar is perennially fond of Meryl Streep too, but who isn’t. 

Oscar loves wars
Films that take place during wartime are a recurring Academy favorite. Last year’s winner The King’s Speech had the backdrop of World War II. The previous year The Hurt Locker took home top honors. In this year’s Oscar race will War Horse win by a nose?

Oscar loves social commentary
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close: 9/11. 
The Help: racial equality.
The Tree of Life: I don’t know, but something.

Oscar loves Hollywood and the creative arts
The Artist takes us back to the glory days of silent films. Hugo pays homage to classic movies as well. Midnight is Paris features a Hollywood screenwriter who encounters great writers from the past.

Oscar loves underdogs
Just about all of the movies feature a lead character who life has thrown a curveball. A couple of them are especially slumdoggy.

Oscar loves secret keys
At least two of the movies (I won’t spoil by saying which ones) include a mystery surrounding a key.

We could get off into additional tributaries, such as the fact that almost half the movies include “The” in the title, but that’s just obsessive.

Each year the faces may change but the cinema we flock to stays much the same: stories about overcoming obstacles and making dreams come true. All we require is a two-hour escape, and Hollywood continues to deliver.

When they announce the Best Picture winner on Sunday, February 26 we’ll know who Oscar really loves in this lineup. In the meantime, Suite T will be giving you nothing but love as guest bloggers weigh in all during February about love and the love of writing. Be one of them! Visit our Blog Love submission page now.

Until we meet again, I’ll be working on my new novel, The Parisian Orphan. During wartime, a young artist finds a key to a time machine shaped like a horse. I’m hoping Brad Pitt will be interested.

January 30, 2012


by Doyne Phillips, Managing Editor

Do you want to be on the Bestseller list? Sure you do! But which list. Yes there are several. We have the Top 150 Bestsellers According to USA Today, Barnes and Noble Top 100, Product Best Seller of the USA, Publisher’s Weekly Bestseller List, Top 100 and of course the New York Times Best Seller List. There are many more that relate to the digital world of books. But this is enough to get your attention. Of course you want to be on a bestseller list no matter which one it is, but how do you do it? How is it determined that a book is a best seller?

The designation “bestseller” is an identity coveted by any author. It designates a book as extremely popular and a top seller. But there are not only many lists but among those lists many categories and subcategories. In our local Sunday paper we see fiction, nonfiction and miscellaneous. These three categories are again broken down into hardback and paperback categories. There are many other subcategories such as children’s books, Christian books, cookbooks and the list goes on and on.

But how many do you need to sell to make it on these lists? Well that is according to where you may be. In the UK it could be anywhere from 4,000 to 25,000 books per week to meet the sales needed to be a bestseller. In Canada 5,000 copies may be what is needed. In the United States it can be determined by number of sales within a specified period of time. It also may be according to who is reporting. can easily determine their count by orders made online. The New York Times list is determined by sales numbers and information from publishers and retailers. Some lists don’t include large chains such as Target, Sam’s Club, Costco, Wal-Mart and the like. A lot of books can be sold and not reported on certain list. These numbers can also be manipulated by getting large groups to place orders on a certain day or as one company did some years ago order 10,000 of their own book to meet the numbers needed to get in the top 10. As a side note it was reported that one list moved Harry Potter books from the fiction list to the children’s book list to free up the number 1, 2 and 3 spot which they had locked up for over a year.

All of this tells us it is not an exact science. In many cases books are there because they are a great read and worthy of being there. Those that stay on the list for weeks, months or longer have indeed proved themselves. No matter how a book gets there two things occur because of this. The first is being noted as a popular top-selling book is a money-making marketing tool. This notoriety alone will drive further sales. The second and probably most important to writers is this not only allows us the opportunity to feed our ego but to be financially able continue with what we love to do, “WRITE”. So no matter the list “Bestseller” is a great place to be. When you get on one your friends at Southern Writers Magazine will be celebrating with you. So let us know!

Do you need help building your platform as an author? Subscribe to Southern Writers Magazine today and find out how.

January 27, 2012

Pay It Forward

by Shannon Milholland, Social Media Director

Trevor McKinney knew too much. The son of an absentee abusive father and an alcoholic mother, this twelve year old boy cared too much for himself and as a byproduct the world. The course of this boy's life was radically altered when his curmudgeonous Social Studies teacher, Eugene Simonet, gave a class assignment. 

Trevor proposed a new social system under which a single person performed three acts of extraordinary kindness for three complete strangers. As repayment, the recipient would be asked to "pay it forward" and do an act of extreme compassion for someone else. He believed that if people kept paying kindness forward that eventually the course of the world would be altered.

Trevor McKinney existed only as a character in a movie but I wonder how it would impact the effectiveness of a social media strategy if one began to pay it forward. Could we for example:

  • Ask the next person who's Facebook page we like, to visit the page of a friend instead of our own
  • Blog about an acquaintance's upcoming book release
  • Encourage the person we just retweeted to retweet a quote by someone we admire
Trevor McKinney passed away the same year he initiated his experiment. He died believing his project to be a failure. In reality the movement changed innumerable lives and not just those written into the fictional story line. Today a non-fictional foundation exists to promulgate this boy's dreams into reality. 

Do you like me have big dreams you want to see become a reality? Pay it forward. Perhaps the person who ultimately gets paid is you. 

January 26, 2012

Platform Now!

by Tom Blubaugh

My publishing story is different, from most. I was busy writing a story for myself. A therapy session since both my grandfathers died before I was born. I was fascinated by the fact that one was a Cossack soldier in Russia. I took the few facts I had and began researching and writing.

I was nearly finished when a friend contacted me to help him with a website for a publishing company he was starting. Long story short, during the process they uncovered the fact that I was writing a story. They read the manuscript and asked if they could publish my story. I had not planned on this. I agreed and we signed the contracts.

“I have a platform”, I told my publisher. I believed I was telling the truth—I really thought I did. After all, I had been on the internet doing business as Grampa Tom’s Timeless Treasures since 1998. Even though I sold the site in 2005, Grampa Tom still shows up in search engine searches on over 85,000 pages. Problem: No one knows my real name.

I did business as a financial planner from 1973 through 1995. I met thousands of people. Problem: I sold the business in 1995 and turned all my client records over to the new owner—no names.

I have been a public speaker for forty years. Problem: where are all those people? How do I get in touch with them? Press releases were a possibility, but when my publisher tried to get one in my hometown newspaper, they did not respond. I did not feel very hopeful.

I have a website that has been online since 2004 to help those who are victims of abuse. Should I advertise my book on this site? I decided I did not want to mix the two.

I had less than 200 friends on Facebook. I knew not all of them would buy my novel. My platform turned out to be less than I had thought.

I think this happens to many writers. They write a great manuscript. They succeed in finding a publisher. Then the big questions, “Do you have a platform?” “How are you going to sell your book if we publish it?”

I have surmised that the time to start building a platform is before beginning to write a story. Work on both the manuscript and the platform as a two-part project. Develop a marketing/business plan up front. I have been working hard at building a platform for nearly ten months. I am just arriving at the point where I have a large following. The book reviews on have pushed Night of theCossack into the top thirty in two fiction categories. This is not sales. Night of the Cossack is still around 250,000 in sales ranking, but it is a start. My monthly sales on are in double digits. I am speaking and doing book signings. I am finally, in some measure, a successful writer.

Tom Blubaugh is a freelance writer living in Southwest Missouri with Barbara, his wife. They have six children and fourteen grandchildren. Tom has written non-fiction most of his adult life, but has recently written a historical fiction titled Night of the Cossack, published by Bound by Faith Publishers. This is Tom’s first novel. He co-wrote a devotional journal in 2009 for Barbour Publishing titled The Great Adventure. His other writings include articles for a denominational magazine and an insurance publication. He also self-published a book, Behind the Scenes of the Bus Ministry in 1974.

Tom started writing poetry at the age of fourteen. His vision of turning them into lyrics for rock and roll songs for popular artists didn’t develop. He considers writing to be a God-given talent and feels led to develop it. His first novel was published at his age of 69. Tom says it’s never too late. He is now writing a sequel.

Tom spent twelve years as an insurance agent and eleven years as a financial planner. He is the past president of Jericho Commission, Inc., and still serves on the board of directors. 

January 25, 2012

Beyond the Bubble

Today our Editor-in-Chief shares her Wisdom Wednesday column with Managing Editor, Doyne Phillips. Welcome to Wednesdays, Doyne!

by Doyne Phillips, Managing Editor

Whale watching has always been an attraction for us when we travel. We have taken boats out of Boston, Hawaii and Vancouver and seen whales. We are always amazed at the size and agility of these great creatures.

One of the things about the whales that fascinated me is how they work together to feed off the schools of fish. The pod will circle the school of fish from below letting out bubbles which form a wall around the school. To the fish this appears as an obstruction which they cannot swim through. While the fish are trapped within the wall of bubbles the whales will dive and from below rise to the surface with their mouths wide open catching all the fish they can. It is site of wonderment.

The fish are confused and trapped by an illusion which brings about their demise. The reality is the fish could at any time swim through the bubbles but don’t. Though the obstruction is not real, it is real enough in their minds to hold them in harm's way.   

Each of us has our wall of bubbles. We may feel trapped by an obstruction which is an illusion. Many times this illusion will freeze us in our tracks leaving us in a place where we cannot progress; leaving us not necessarily in harm’s way but in an unproductive state of mind.

What is the wall of bubbles before you? What is holding you back? Take a closer look and know that it could be an illusion. It could be something you can get through. If you don’t determine this now you may later find you had before you an opportunity and not an obstruction. Don’t fear the bubbles. Life's best lies beyond the bubble. 

January 24, 2012

Get Out of My Head

by Gary Fearon, Creative Director

You’ve probably heard the saying that “relationships are mirrors”, which I think is fascinating. There’s something reassuring in the concept that the people around us are put there to teach us things about ourselves. 

When we’re with people we admire or enjoy, we recognize the positive traits we want to cultivate within ourselves. Perhaps we gain even more by taking note of things we don’t appreciate in other people, making a conscious effort not to “be like that”.

In some respects, we are human sponges. When we spend a lot of time in the company of an acquaintance, we often absorb some of their characteristics. We find ourselves picking up on their traits, sharing inside jokes, and repeating some of their pet expressions. In life, that has a certain charm to it, being a bonding experience between two people. 

But in writing, pet phrases are something to be careful with. The audience expects characters to have well-defined, separate personalities, and failing to monitor that is a writing mistake too easily and too often made. To explain:

In a scene from a recent hit movie, one of the characters made the sarcastic comment, “I can’t wait.” A few scenes later, a totally different character, in totally different circumstances, made the sarcastic comment, “I can’t wait.” The second time around it was a little distracting. (Not that two people can’t say the same thing on the same day, but it did seem a tad coincidental. For now, we’ll give them the benefit of the doubt.)

This past week on a popular TV comedy, a main character made reference to an object as having a “vibe” to it. Not ten seconds later in the next scene, an unrelated character said dialogue that included the expression “vibe”. That seemed a little too coincidental, and the impression one gets is that someone wasn’t paying a lot of attention to making these characters distinct from one another. You’re suddenly brought back to reality (and out of the story) by the realization that a writer wrote these words and they must have been fond of a particular phrase that day.

While it’s within the realm of backstory possibility that these characters “knew” each other and therefore could have absorbed each other’s vibe (sorry), it’s highly unlikely the writer thought that way, and we sure don’t. Even though he was best friends with Fred Flintstone, you’d never hear Barney Rubble exclaim “Yabba-Dabba-Doo”. Therefore, the “sponge” factor has no place in fiction, and we must take care to expunge the sponge from our own writing.

At the same time, intentional mirroring of phrases can be a powerful tool. Anyone who’s seen The Princess Bride will recall the brilliant, touching use of “As you wish.”

Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but characters saying the same things is sincerely confusing. Let each line of dialogue speak for itself and you can spare your characters some unnecessary identity crises.

Do you want to know how to build a platform as a writer and get attention from agents and publishers? Subscribe to Southern Writers Magazine today!

January 23, 2012

Book Publishing is Broken

Doyne is taking a break today to welcome Rob Eagar of WildFire Marketing. If your booking isn't selling as fast as you'd like, Rob has the expertise your message needs to have it spread like wildfire!

by Rob Eagar

This week's focus:
Last week, I read an interesting interview with Ellen Archer, CEO of Hyperion (ABC/Disney's book division) entitled "The Book Publishing Business Model is Broken." If you're an author, pay close attention to her comments:

"2012 is going to be about finding new business models...We've been able to provide advances to authors, and unfortunately most of those [advances] don't drive revenue...What are the new ways of making these deals with authors so that it's fair to all of us?...The one pattern that I have seen is that while there is still big money being thrown around for certain books, there is an awareness that we [publishers] can't continue to overpay. Advances are already lowering."

"I've been looking closely at pre-orders and pre-order strategy and how that aligns with authors that we acquire and publish that have active blog sites and followers. We've got a number of authors who are really good with social media and when we acquire their books, three months ahead of time, they'll do something really interesting for their audience, like a cover-reveal, and all of the sudden, you'll see the pre-orders build. Then you take that information to retailers and that can impact their interest in ordering more copies...The core fans buy the book, and then they start talking about it and sharing it with all their friends, and then you begin to see the results of it all paying off."

When asked about authors who aren't skilled in marketing their books, Archer states,"That's going to be a problem. That's always been a problem...If they're [authors] not promotable, then it makes selling their book challenging...I will look to acquire media-genic authors and properties."

"Change is hard for people. Some people think they're changing because they're making a little shift in what they're doing and what they need to do is make a radical shift in what they're doing."

My thoughts:
If you're an author who reads my newsletters or blog posts, recognize what Ms. Archer is implying. Her comments show how publishing at all levels is undergoing major changes, such as lower advances, stronger attention to pre-orders, and a premium placed on authors who are adept with social media and offer a "media-genic" personality.

Are you positioning yourself to succeed in this new era of publishing? Are you learning how to be a better marketer of your books? Are you building a distinct author brand and learning new skills to engage the media? Are you building a growing platform? Are you investing in your overall development for the future?

Now is the time to embrace change, rather than resist it. Industry executives like Ellen Archer are publicly announcing that the old ways of publishing are dead. The industry is broken, and it's about to be rebuilt. Are you prepared to thrive in the new era of publishing? Don't say fair warning wasn't given.

To receive Rob's Monday Morning Marketing Tips directly in your email inbox,
click here

January 20, 2012

5 Reasons Southern Writers is Your Best Investment

by Shannon Milholland, Social Media Director

As the calendar turned from 2011, I debated where I would spend my money in 2012. I could spend hundreds or even thousands attending just one writing conference. Hundreds would be required to acquire professional editing services. Another available option was to employ a writing coach, a significant investment.

One of the many reasons I am proud to be a part of the Southern Writers team is because our magazine offers a writer the opportunity invest in their future at a minimal cost. With an annual online subscription as low as $29.99 and a print option available for just $49.99, Southern Writers is a bargain.

There are five reasons every writer needs to invest in an annual subscription to Southern Writers:

1) We provide step by step instructions on all aspects of becoming a successful author.

2) We help you build name recognition.

3) We teach you how to be noticed by agents and publishers.

4) We provide the voracity of a writer's conference at a fraction of the cost.

5) We train you how to sell books.

If you haven't subscribed yet, take a moment and give yourself the best New Year's present possible - a bright future lit with success.

January 19, 2012

Ten Things A New Author Should Do

by Aileen Stewart

1. Write Stellar Material.
Today everyone has a story to tell, but only those stories of the highest quality will sell well. This means you must pay attention to spelling, typos, grammar, punctuation, and details.

2. Get A Critique.
Having family and friends proofing is fine, but having a professional critiquing your work can make all the difference. A professional will tell you where your story is weak and what you need to do to polish it. I guarantee a publisher will be more attracted to a polished manuscript!

3. Be Determined and Persistent.
An author has to have true grit because with roughly 800,000 new books per year released, the competition is stiff. You will hear “no” frequently which is not a negative; it simply means you haven't spoken to the correct person yet. This is your dream, don't let it die!

4. Market Before You Are Published.
It is never too early to let people know what you are working on. Movies are always advertised well in advance, whetting the appetite of potential viewers. So why not books?

5. Have a Website.
People are curious; use this to your advantage by having a website. Make it entertaining but not solely about your book. Offer potential fans value. For example, if you write Westerns have links for dude ranches. If you write Romance, have a section with "Romantic Poetry". On my website Fun With Aileen I include recipes, crafts, and poems.

6. Have Business Cards.
Business cards are a great and inexpensive way to promote the business of writing. Hand them out everywhere: restaurants, hair salons, grocery stores, libraries, and gas stations. I've even included them in my bill envelopes.

7. Form Relationships With Others.
Recently I read that being published was a community effort. No one person has all the ideas, contacts, reach, or tools needed to become a success; so join forces. Offer reviews and interviews and your efforts will be reciprocated.

8. Be Proactive.
Don't wait for opportunities because this is not "A Field of Dreams". If you write it, they will not come. People can't buy what they don't know about. Look for contests, book lists, book fairs, craft fairs, radio shows, and opportunities of every kind.

9. Don't Be Afraid Of New Things.
If you haven’t blogged, don't worry. Everyone is a novice at some point. If you are nervous about public speaking, start with a pre-recorded radio interview. If you have recording capabilities, record yourself reading from your book. If you don't have a book trailer, make one. There are several easy to use sites that walk you through the process. I am fond of One True Media.

10. Have Fun. 
Of all the possibilities a new author can and should be pursuing, this is the most important. If you aren't having fun, what is the purpose of being an author? Neither writing nor getting published is easy and marketing is even more difficult; but it doesn't have to be dreary. With effort you can feel confident and can become an authority in your genre.

Aileen Stewart is a wife, a SAHM, and the author of Fern Valley-A Collection of Short Stories. She holds a degree in Business Management and Sales/Marketing which she finds new uses for daily. She loves cooking and somehow can’t seem to keep mentions of food out of her work. She also loves amateur photography, crafting, bird watching, flower gardening, and jig-saw puzzles.

Connect with Aileen online: 

Website ~ Fun With Aileen
Fan Page ~ Fern Valley

January 18, 2012

Because I Said So...

by Susan Reichert, Editor-in-Chief

A friend and I were talking at lunch today about how important it is not just to tell people how to do something but to tell them why they need to do it.
I remember in high school, my Latin teacher told meafter I informed her I didn’t care for Latinthat I had to take it, so I might as well like it. Well, I suppose on one hand you could say her remark was a good lesson in attitude. Not!
As a high school student, I truly wanted out of Latin. No, they did not let me skip Latin and it was time spent doing something I did not like, so I barely squeaked through the lessons to make decent grades. I do remember emo, emere, emi (first, second and third person) meaning to buy, pay for, take gain, etc. And that’s about it.
By the same token, my History teacher (who was an excellent teacher despite one you could not help being just a little scared of) told our class why we needed to take history. I remember one of the things she said was, “History repeats itself.” She went on to tell us several reasons why it was important to take history and always added, “Learn History and you learn from History.”
Between the two classes, I can honestly say I poured effort into studying History, while I flitted through Latin. History became important to me and to this day, I still love reading history. I understood there was a reason for it that would help me then and in the future. We humans are funny creatures; we really need to know why we need to do something, and we need to know that the something we are doing will make things better for us.
There are many things to learn about writing. Most of us make the effort to learn all we can. Once our manuscripts are ready for publishing, then we enter into a different arena. We already know things are changing fast in the marketing and publishing area for writers. Now we have to learn how to market our books, how to become a whiz in social media, building name recognition and our images as authors. We have to bring attention to ourselves and sell our books. All these areas have become the writer’s responsibility. Now the publishers and agents are on the sidelines waiting to see which authors are making names for themselves, which ones are creating a following in the social media, how many pre-orders we are selling, and how many books we have sold before they give us serious consideration.
We need not despair though. We as authors can come together and help one another with recognition, building social media and selling our books. At Southern Writers we never cease to be amazed at the graciousness of the best-selling authors who fill each issue, willing to share their experience and expertise with other writers. They are successful authors today because they took to heart long ago the reasons "why" you market yourself and build your reputation every way you can. And they enjoy doing it.
Don't waste unenthusiastic effort blogging, tweeting and marketing because you're told you have to. Recognize the true value of it, and learn to love it. Because when we truly believe in what we're doing, we're much better equipped to carpe diem.
I guess I remembered more than I thought.

January 17, 2012

I Am A Writer. Are You?

Gary is honored to relinquish today’s Tune-In Tuesday to a brilliant Southern writer and good friend of the magazine, guest poster Barbara Ragsdale. 

by Barbara Ragsdale

I listened to the speaker open his workshop about how to get published.  He laughed, cajoled, and then suddenly brought the group up short.  “Repeat after me, I am a writer.”  We stared in shock before making a timid reply that couldn’t be heard beyond our feet. 

Not satisfied, he asked again and again until the noise level rang with confidence.  “I am a writer,” I thought proudly.  Suddenly, a melody by Mendelssohn popped into my head, “O, rest in the Lord, wait patiently for Him, and He shall give thee thy hearts desires.”

There it was—an action plan that didn’t require anything but “patient waiting and ultimate trust.”  I could do that … at least the waiting.  A little short on ultimate trust; it’s a work in progress.  Wait and trust, what a goal.   

Whoa, Nellie!  Who’s going to do the writing?   The last time I remembered the Lord doing any writing was the stone tablets with all the “Thou Shalt Not’s”. I was left with a big responsibility.  With time and experience I’ve discovered the secrets to making this collaboration work:

  • Be prepared.  Ideas can be spontaneous and fleeting.  If you’re not ready, then the chance of remembering that moment of inspiration gets lost among the grocery items on the shopping list.

  • Wait patiently, but write.  What an opportunity to procrastinate.  The excuses are numerous. The most compelling is obvious—it won’t be perfect. News Flash!  Mistakes are the way to learn.  Sentences become paragraphs, paragraphs equal a whole story.  Story development needs both thinking and writing.

  • Writing is rewriting.  Revisions help make the writing tighter, more coherent.  Be ready to capture that flash of completeness with pen and paper close by.

  • Do it rather than dream it.  It’s like any goal.  The reality begins with the effort.  Negative voices have to be ignored. Inner faith provides the energy.  Learn the difference between when a story needs work to be better and someone else’s criticism that it will never be good enough.  All writers have the same tools—words. The creative voice comes from how each writer arranges them.

Therefore, I rest in the Lord, but keep my pen and paper handy. Maybe you should too!

Barbara Ragsdale is a writer, editor and aerobics instructor, whose published works include the upcoming Chicken Soup for the Soul: Family Caregivers.

January 16, 2012

Face It: Your Book Needs Facebook

by Doyne Phillips, Managing Editor

It has been said Facebook now has over 800 Million followers. Although most of us are familiar with Facebook, I doubt any of us fully realize what a force it is today. This week Steve Harrison reposted an article from his paid printed newsletter Book Marketing Update. His newsletter is available to the members of his Million Dollar Author Club which you find out more about at his website.

Harrison revisited his article and some of his stronger points. He recommends the use of Facebook and its tools to add Friends. The prompts Facebook gives you for Friends are based on your profile. Be sure your profile is updated to reach the people that would be interested in your book. But he feels you shouldn’t add friends or join groups blindly. Harrison states it is good to have a lot of Facebook friends but they should be quality Facebook friends. 

Harrison also recommends you join groups that have shared interest in your book’s topics. If you have written about pets, join a group that has an interest in pets. These groups can be found by simply entering a subject like pets then click on the Groups tab of the results page.

Harrison tells us not to be a broken record. None of us like friends that do nothing but ask us to buy something. Your every status update should not be asking for someone to buy something. If this is done people will quickly learn to ignore you or even unfriend you. Share something of value in your post like new ideas, interesting websites, commentaries, downloads and discounts. Be interesting.

In light of Harrison’s article being a repost I feel we should add the obvious. Facebook changes made within recent months. The new setup for groups, timeline and other changes can be confusing and may cause us to miss an opportunity to share important information with friends. Take the time to understand the new format and take advantage of all the additional tools. Facebook is indeed a great tool and the price is right. Put it to good use and share with us how you are using it.  

Do you want to learn how to sell more books? Visit Southern Writers Magazine and subscribe today!

January 13, 2012

A Kindergartner's Rules for Social Media

by Shannon Milholland, Social Media Director

As each of my kids made their way through elementary school, I often noticed teachers who had the classroom rules posted on the wall. "Share", "Respect Others", and "Don't Run With Sharp Objects." If only the world of Social Media were that easy. I often wish someone would tack up the rules for all to see so today I give you the Kindergartner's Rule Book to Social Media.

1) Share - Share others successes on your social media outlets. It is far more fun to talk about someone else's success than your own. Congratulate your friend whose book was just released. Give a virtual high five to another whose blog was nominated for an award. 

2) Respect Others - You don't have to agree with someone to be respectful. I try to find something positive to say about anyone no matter how greatly our views diverge. Perhaps their comment was well written or their argument well thought out. Giving others respect is the fastest way to get it yourself.

3) Don't Run With Sharp Objects - If something in the back of your mind is whispering stop, listen. Don't run with sharp objects like criticism and lack of tact. Usually scissors are safest when left in the drawer.

Sometimes I make life more complicated than it has to be. Today as I navigate the murky waters of Social Media, I'll think of my kids and ask, "What would a kindergartner do?" There is great wisdom in heeding the answer.

January 12, 2012

Falling Down the Stairs to Success?

by Sandy Stevener

Yesterday I fell down some stairs. For those who know me this does not surprise you. When my husband asked me what happened I said “I really don’t know. One minute I was taking a step the next I was sprawled on the floor covered in coffee.” 

I got to thinking that sometimes life is like that: I find myself in an unusual place, physically, emotionally, spiritually or metaphorically, and ask myself What happened?  I really can’t remember.

It has been even more apparent since I let God direct my steps. With the exception of the stairs, I’m pretty sure that was just my clumsiness; or maybe He was trying to tell me to slow down and pay attention. Either way, when He’s in charge, life becomes a great adventure.  Stepping out in faith and finding yourself in places you never dreamed of being.

The fact that we are missionaries is one of those How the heck did I end up here? occasions. We were just coasting along in life when the Lord stepped in and drastically changed our direction.  I still look back at times and think Wow, how did that happen?

As an aspiring writer I can imagine myself sitting at a table, poised to autograph my debut fiction novel. There will be a long line of admiring fans waiting. I will gaze out into the crowd and think How the heck did I get here? I’ll think that because often when we reach some of these special moments the wonder seems to drown out all the pain and heartache that was required get here. Or maybe we block it out because it’s too painful to remember, like all those rejection letters.

When I asked myself What can I learn from this? my answer was to enjoy the moments I have, keep plugging along the path where I think He is directing me, and be prepared for an adventure.  Because you never know what is just around the corner...or at the bottom of the stairs.

January 11, 2012

YOU are Creative

by Susan Reichert, Editor-in-Chief

Sometimes you will hear people say "I am not creative". What they associate with being creative is painting, drawing and writing. However, being creative is much more than that. Being creative is finding another way to do something. You can be creative in anything you do.

Everyone has creativity; however, some people don’t realize it and some just don’t use it.

For authors it takes more than creativity to write a book. It takes imagination. We loosen the reins on our imaginations. We take the limits off and allow ourselves to explore all the ideas and thoughts that enter into our minds.

The funny thing about imagination is anyone can use it in any occupation. They just have to recognize it and harness it.

As authors, let's make sure we take these two primary brain functions and use them to soar through worlds yet explored. Our destination waits.

January 10, 2012

In the Groove

by Gary Fearon, Creative Director

I guess Sunday was Elvis Presley’s birthday. It would have escaped my awareness were it not for the newscasts mentioning the thousands of fans who continue to make their annual pilgrimage to Graceland. It makes me wonder whether more Elvis devotees flock to Memphis for his birthday or for the anniversary of his death every August. That’d be a good question for George Klein.

As for today, January 10th, it’s also a day that goes down in music history. For Elvis fans, it was on this day he recorded “Heartbreak Hotel”.  For Beatles buffs like me, this was the day their first album, Introducing the Beatles was released in America. 

But perhaps most importantly of all, today is the anniversary of the 45.

Around since the late 40s (and introduced almost simultaneously with the vinyl LP), this 7-inch wonder was the most popular means for teens to bring their musical idols home with them. Anyone younger than thirty has probably never owned stacks of wax, nor have any idea what the oddly-shaped yellow plastic in the picture was for. This adapter – used for centering 45s on a turntable spindle – was officially called a “spider” (though, wisely, I don’t think they were ever marketed by that name).

Every music store carried 45s during the 50s and 60s, and it was their most popular section. But look how frequently things have changed since then:

By the late 60s 8-track tapes became the top portable music medium. Prone to malfunction, however, they would not survive long.

Next, hoping to save the day, were cassettes.  By the 70s, these little pocket-sized tapes were king. 

Then 1982 brought the CD, and nothing’s been the same since.  It nailed the coffin on all vinyl medium – and eventually tapes – with technology so universally accepted that it begat DVDs.  Now, even the CD and DVD are being threatened with eventual extinction by MP3s and streaming video.

Buyers have always been attracted to the most convenient medium for their entertainment, and in this mobile society we like being able to take it with us. The prevalence of e-books and e-readers speaks to that.

Fortunately for traditional publishers, books have always been and always will be sufficiently portable. The trade-off, perhaps, is that you can store countless books in a single digital reader. But for many who’ve compared the two, e-readers are the microwave version of a restaurant meal. It’s quick and does the trick but once in a while you gotta have the real thing. 

There will be room for both for a very long time, and the publishing world’s acceptance of the two allows them to support each other and play nice together.

So unlike the 45, the 8-track, the cassette, and possibly the CD, the digital age isn’t about to replace the printed page, which has been around since the 1400s, because we just plain love ink on paper. For that, I say to Gutenberg: Thank you, thank you very much.  

January 9, 2012

Broaden Your Base

by Doyne Phillips, Managing Editor

While watching a sci fi movie my grandsons came to mind. I thought my 12 and 5 year old grandsons would like this great space travel adventure. But then I thought back to a couple of scenes and some profanity and thought again. No I am afraid their Mom’s would object. I too would object to them seeing and hearing this. Allowing this would validate those objectionable portions which would open the door to other objectionable things in their life.

But what if those profanities were removed or replaced with another word, just as strong but not profanity. Or that one insignificant scene, no doubt placed there for shock, was removed or replaced with another scene not so objectionable. Would that not open the door for an audience their age? An audience that age would consist of some 70 plus million people. For that I would have to think about making the changes.

This very point we must think about when we write. As we write we must be true to our characters. That I understand. As we write we should be aware we are involved not only in our emotional and creative release of writing but in a very competitive industry, an industry that can reward us handsomely for our creativeness. If people enjoy our work, if enough people seek us out, we can be truly blessed.
I am fortunate to have grandchildren that introduce their grandparents to their current movies. If not for them we would probably miss some of the best movies out today. Yes they are G rated and do not have adult themes but they are great movies. They are also money makers. 

Baby Boomers today number some 77 million. Shadow boomers, their children, are a few million less. The generation of today’s children, my grandsons ages, will outnumber each generation living today. So the question is; as you write can you or are you willing to make those few changes that may be necessary to broaden your base of readers. Would you consider a minor change here or there that could open the door to additional millions of readers? Be ready to make this decision when the time comes. It may be the deciding factor on the sale of an additional million books. 

January 6, 2012

What I Learned From Fred Flintstone About Social Media

by Shannon Milholland, Social Media Director

I'm not sure if it was his ability to consume a whole rack of brontosaurus ribs or his effusing ways but I was a big Fred Flintstone fan growing up. I would plan my week around when the little stone television would appear on mine. I even considered the name Bam Bam for a son (no wonder I was only given daughters.)

Now you might think of Fred as dense and surly with a negligible emotional IQ but I think he has a thing or two to teach about social media. Here are his lessons:

  1. Sometimes you need a little foot power.  Fred maneuvered his car all over town and didn't let the fact he had to use his feet deter his progress. Social Media is all about using your feet. It takes time to walk on the streets of Facebook or stroll about Twitter. You might even get a few callouses on your feet because you have to invest time to implement a legitimate social media strategy.
  2. Sometimes you need help from your fellow Water Buffaloes. Fred and Barney would slip away from the girls at regular intervals to attend those oh-so-important water buffalo meetings. Sometimes there would be a coup, a contest or a controversy among the brothers but in the end the Water Buffaloes stuck together no matter what. Every person utilizing social media needs a band of water buffalo brothers or sisters. You need people on social giving the buffalo call on your behalf and telling others how great you are. Assemble a group around you and watch your social media effectiveness increase (water buffalo hats optional.)
  3. Sometimes you need to go to the quarry. Day in, day out Fred and Barney faithfully returned to their jobs at the quarry. The work wasn't glamorous. They got few accolades but through consistency they made a living. This same principle is needed in your approach to social media. Visit Facebook, Google+, Twitter and your other social media sites every day. We need to faithfully return day after day to reap the long-term benefit.
If Fred Flintstone can do it, all of us can be successful in social media. So open up your closet, let that bowling ball drop down on your head and be grateful we don't have to use a stone tablet to write our next blog post.

The quarry bird is calling quitin' time so Yabba Dabba Doo to all of you. I'm off to foot pedal my way to a successful social media presence. Won't you join me at the quarry or in the water buffalo lodge?

January 5, 2012

Divide the Work; Multiply the Joy!

by Betsy Duffey and Laurie Myers

Have you ever thought it might be nice to just write half of a book? Have you ever had occasion to celebrate a writing success and wanted to share the joy?  Collaboration might be for you. As sisters and collaborators we have completed five books together and continue working as a team.

Our first collaboration included our mother and the two of us.  We were used to writing individually and wondered how to make it work.  Our different voices would make a traditional novel disjointed, and a round robin novel seemed problematic. (We each like to have the last word, and it would never end!)  Finally an idea surfaced that was perfect for collaboration, MY DOG, MY HERO.  Each chapter would be told from a different point of view.  This meant our different voices would be an advantage rather than a problem.
We worked individually on our chapters and then met together, sitting around Mom’s kitchen table where we wrote the first and last chapters to tie the book together.  This worked well for us and we did three more books the same way. When our mother stopped writing we continued collaborating as sisters and have enjoyed the benefits of sharing the work.

Have you ever been “stuck” with no clue how to proceed with a story? One of the best parts of collaborating is that you have someone else to help work out those gnarly problems. We often say to each other, “Would you work on Chapter Six, I’ve done all I can do for now?” or “Chapter One needs to be stronger, will you take a look?” It is a relief to share the challenges with someone else.
Brainstorming with your collaborator is fun.We meet one day a week at a coffee shop in a town halfway between us. There is nothing quite so stimulating as sitting with our coffee and scones talking about stories and possibilities. There is always excitement and laughter.
The downside of collaboration comes from unclear expectations and boundaries.This can be avoided by being intentional about defining the relationship. Ask the questions up front. How will royalties be split? Who will correspond with agents and editors? How will we deal with disagreements? In the beginning we both decided we would not proceed on the writing or publishing until both of us were in total agreement. This decision has served us well in the writing and in decisions about submissions.

Collaboration only works when we come to each other with respect and trust. There is no room in the relationship for being territorial, defensive or resistant to change. We both wrote for fifteen years before we ever collaborated and this has helped. We were accustomed to change and revision from having editors and critique groups give input to our work.

The pitfalls of collaboration can be avoided with good planning and open communication. Then the benefits can be realized: sharing the load and experiencing the joy together.

Writing Sisters, Laurie Myers and Betsy Duffey, have been writing for children for over twenty years, publishing with Viking, Clarion, Simon & Schuster, Henry Holt and Harper Collins.  They have published over thirty-five chapter books for children and have had books on master lists in over twenty states.  Laurie and Betsy are now focused on writing Bible stories in fresh ways for the chapter book audience.

Visit them on Facebook, Twitter, their website or  their blog.