We have interviews with Carolyn Howard-Johnson, whose third edition of The Frugal Book Promoter came out recently with C. Hope Clark, whose latest book is Edisto Tidings is a tale for all seasons, and with Carol Smallwood, whose book reviews you have read in many earlier issues of Writer Advice.
Enjoy these inside looks into the writing lives of three skilled, accessible writers.
Own It One Thousand Percent
Police chief Callie Morgan came to Edisto Island seeking a second chance. Even though she couldn’t shake old guilt and shame, she was determined to serve her new community. Callie does a convincing and heartfelt job of keeping the citizens safe, despite being haunted by memories of previous failures. How she would hate the word “heartfelt.” She’s a tough police chief, but beneath that she’s a lonely woman with two interested men seeking her attention.
Readers will admire Callie’s tenacity as she searches the community to find a killer, a secret Santa gone rogue, and a possible connection between them. With the help of a previous supervisor, a new restaurant owner, and the town’s leading Marine turned real estate mogul, she’s able to track down leads despite unexpected twists and accept help she never sought out.
In C. Hope Clark’s capable hands, this cozy mystery is part high stakes adventure and part feel-good Christmas mystery. This is a well-told, carefully plotted mystery that’s perfect for the holiday season. I’ve followed C. Hope Clark’s career since the early days of her e-zine, Funds for Writers, and know she is a smart, pragmatic, skilled author worth following.
Though this is the sixth book in the series and even though I have not read the previous five, I know Callie grows with each crime she solves. By the time the series ends, I hope she’ll have put the past behind her and be able to relax as much as any sheriff can.
In the interview below, she talks about her journey as a writer and the importance of cultivating relationships with readers.
BLG: How did you get started as a writer and how have your goals changed as your career progressed?
CHC: Surprisingly, it took being offered a bribe in my career with the US Department of Agriculture to make me write seriously. I’d married the agent who investigated the bribery offer, a scandal in itself, but kept thinking there had to be a story there. You know, like anyone else who thinks their life is worth a book. Wrote it, and when it wouldn’t sell, I threw in dead bodies and turned it into a mystery, and while I solicited agents, I turned it into the Carolina Slade Series. The story is a longer one than we can tell here, but I left the day job to write fulltime because it fulfilled me so. And my goals are simple: keep writing my stories until I can’t, and show respect and thanks to every reader. My wish list, however, hopes for my books on the screen.
BLG: In a mystery series, what patterns remain the same and what differs from book to book?
CHC: The protagonist remains the same, of course, and her steady sidekicks. Not every sidekick has to be in every book, however, which I proved in my second series, The Edisto Island Mysteries, but the players have to become familiar. In my Slade series, the setting takes place in South Carolina. The Edisto Island Mysteries, of course, occur on that island. But the crime has to change. Even if murder occurs, the circumstances and methods must differ. But the characters, in my opinion, have to grow. The balance with readers is to change enough to intrigue them, but remain familiar enough to make them want to return home to friends they’ve come to know.
BLG: Why do you think you are drawn to mysteries?
CHC: The challenge. Mystery is the only genre that pits author against reader. The reader enters vowing to predict the outcome; the author writes vowing to best the reader, making the ending unpredictable.
BLG: What has Callie changed as the series progressed?
CHC: Callie entered Edisto Island broken and extremely flawed professionally, emotionally, mentally. She’s overcome obstacles in every book. However, she is still finding herself, and each story adds depth and flavor to her character. As an experienced big city detective, she assumed she could police Edisto Island in her sleep. Instead, I’ve taxed her, made her develop a different set of skills in this unique environment and cadre of people. But she remains distrustful of most people.
BLG: What advice would you give emerging writers to help them polish their drafts and make their work stand out from the crowd?
CHC: First time authors should measure their edits in the dozens, and if they haven’t rewritten the entire book once or twice, they still may not have found their voice. If they cannot join a staunch, disciplined critique group, then hire good editors, and yes, that’s more than one. That first book is incredibly important, and it takes many rewrites to establish voice. Read their genre, and even then, only read excellent work in that genre. Readers can afford to read marginal work; writers can’t because what they read takes up residence in their writing.
BLG: When did you start FundsforWriters and how has it helped your career as well as helping others?
CHC: I hadn’t been able to sell the first mystery (it had been written only once back then) and decided to freelance. I was going to write one way or another. When I found resources difficult to find (this was 1999), I created a newsletter based on the recommendation of a journalist friend. FFW was one of three newsletters back then, a unique creature. Apparently it was so helpful that Writer’s Digest awarded it the 101 Best Websites for Writers commendation, and we’ve held that distinction for 19 straight years. FFW has kept me knowledgeable in the industry (as much as that is possible), but also has helped me give back. My readers are intensely loyal, and many have supported me in my novel pursuits from the very beginning.
BLG: How did you find your agent and/or publisher, and what advice do you have about the publishing process?
CHC: I queried 36 agents, then rewrote the book. Landed an agent after 72. Even then, I found my own publisher, ultimately dropping the agent. My advice is to let professionals like agents, editors, publishers, and successful authors help you, but don’t lose yourself in the process. They know the business better, regardless how many writing blogs you read, but their mission is not necessarily yours. Stay savvy. It’s a partnership arrangement, not you putting them in charge. But whether you choose agent-assisted publishing, small press publishing, hybrid, and indie, you must realize there isn’t one right choice. Whichever you pursue, own it a thousand percent. You can make money at any of the publishing choices. It’s all about the flavor you prefer and how hard you work it.
BLG: What else would you like the readers of Writer Advice to know?
CHC: Never underestimate the power of word-of-mouth, which is why you cherish each and every reader. Answer every time they reach out. They remember those moments. You need them more than they need you.
BLG: What are you working on now and where can people learn more about you?
CHC: I’m always writing the next novel. Currently I’m halfway through a Slade book, number five, roughly outlining the 7th Callie/Edisto book, and drafting the first book in a third series I’m wild about. As I said, I’ll write until I can’t.
My website is www.chopeclark.com, but readers learn a lot through my FundsforWriters.com newsletter. However, I’m at my keenest and most active on my Facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/chopeclark
Publicity Tips from an Author Who Knows
Need some nitty-gritty how-tos for getting nearly free publicity? Try Carolyn Howard-Johnson’s The Frugal Book Promoter. The third edition has just come out and it is filled with updates suitable for 2019. Whether you are doing it yourself or partnering with someone, you’ll find tips for promoting your book by doing what you love. By the way, you can learn to love publicizing your book.
Need a sample query letter, media release, or blog entry? This book has them. How about a sample script for a phone pitch? The book includes that too. The Table of Contents will help you find exactly what you need.
This is a valuable guide you will come back to again and again. Along with all her other strategies, Howard-Johnson reminds writers to build relationships and say thank you. No way kindness can do you wrong. Read about her strategies in the interview below.
BLG: Please share your writing background. What did you first have published? What prompted you to write The Frugal Book Promoter?
CHJ: I published a book called This Is the Place (you know it as This Land Divided from a rewrite I entered in your Scintillating Stories contest years after that book was no longer in print. It is available on Amazon’s third party sales stream (that feature isn’t all bad news for writers!) and the rewrite is being handled by my beloved agent, Terrie Wolf at AKALiteraryManagement.
BLG: What prompted you to write a third edition of The Frugal Book Promoter and what’s new?
CHJ: You know how the publishing has been changed by the Internet! Lots. And quickly! So, tons has happened in the way things work, in the advice I give to my clients, and the information in my books since the first edition was published way back in 2004!
This lovely third edition is published traditionally by Modern History Press for one thing. It is updated in many ways—everything from my copyright suggestions to adding a new reference section because my publisher says libraries look for those. Sometimes backmatter like this can be a convincer for them to carry a specific book. The Frugal Book Promoter is also published as a hard copy for the first time!
BLG: What’s the biggest change in your writing and promotion skills since the first edition?
CHJ: I figured out there is no one-way-fits all for a specific title to be published. It took me a while to explore the new possibilities with my own work and I don’t suggest anything in The Frugal Book Promoter I haven’t tried myself. One of my reviewers, Karen Cioffi Ventrice, was amazed that I even share of some my major booboos. After all, it’s been proven that we all learn better from our mistakes than our successes.
BLG: How has teaching affected your writing, publicity, and outlook? Do you still teach?
CHJ: These days I teach through my writing, speaking, and workshops. I taught at UCLA Extension Writers’ Program for nearly a decade, which is probably why you mention it. I loved teaching on campus but so much is done online these days. I already spend too much time sitting in front of a computer!
BLG: I love the way you phrase that. I reach out on Facebook and Twitter all the time. What are some off-line ways to promote a memoir, Never Too Late: From Wannabe to Wife at 62, which has been out 18 months? (It’s fine to tell me which chapters in the book cover this.)
CHJ: see lots that you do online so you are doing lots right. It is never too late to keep a book alive or begin to make it into a classic. I love Twitter because they don’t discourage marketing like some social networks do. Have you checked out AskDavid.com for very frugal tweeting that helps you go viral and find new publishing and marketing friends. reaps you retweeting contacts. It’s impossible to trace “sales” but that should never be the goal. Think “exposure.” Think “branding.” I can trace benefits like an invitation to present at Bookbaby’s first conference in Philadelphia to Twitter.
BLG: Most poets don’t promote their work effectively. Any idea why you are different?
CHJ: I’m not afraid of it. Fears can be deadly. I cover the fears authors face in one of the first chapters in The Frugal Book Promoter. Fear of failure. Fear of success. Fear of marketing. The latter is often caused by the misguided belief that “selling” is somehow beneath an artist or writer. The truth is, a book isn’t truly published unless it’s marketed and publishers don’t have the budgets for marketing as they once did.
BLG: How did you find your publisher?
CHJ: I knew him from a podcast we worked on ages ago. He is living proof of the advantages of networking mentioned earlier. He said yes. No arm twisting. I’ve learned from him and—I hope—he’s learned some good stuff from me.
BLG: Where can people subscribe to your newsletter and learn more about you?
CHJ: Easy. Put “Subscribe” in the window of an email and send it to me at HoJoNews@aol.com. Just a tip, though. No e-mail should ever be sent without text in the window of the email. Having a voice and using it for the good of your book can’t be overestimated!
My website is https://HowToDoItFrugally.com and is being reworked. It still has lots of helpful things on it. I just urge a little patience.
BLG: Is there anything else you’d like readers to know?
CHJ: OK. I’m going to market, here! Writing brings me so much joy, but It makes me sad when authors reach out to me too late for me to save them tons of money, time, and mistakes. It is the reason I started my HowToDoItFrugally Series.
If you hate to read, contact me using the contact feature on my website and I’ll spend an hour saving you from publishing with someone who charges you for stuff you can do yourself, stuff that will hinder your acceptance in bookstores, libraries, airports and other places. If you’ve already made those mistakes, my books will help you get out of them. That’s the frugal way. My consultation service will, too. That’s the fast and personal way.
Think of it as finding the people who need your books, not “selling.” I know you already do that. Even Coke doesn’t “sell” their product. We have come to think of it as “The Real Thing.” And lots of us love it!
BLG: Speaking of selling books, do you know of any person or organization that might like a copy of Never Too Late: From Wannabe to Wife at 62?
CHJ: I try to help authors at no charge. On my website. And with my free blog, http://thenewbookreview.blogspot.com. Submission guidelines are in a tab at the top of the home page.
Also, when you tweet things that will interest my publishing industry followers, include @frugalbookpromo. I’ll try to retweet to my 39,000 plus hand-picked publishing industry peeps every time!
If you have any questions, please write back. I hope we can help you sell books.
MORE ABOUT CAROLYN HOWARD-JOHNSON:
Carolyn Howard-Johnson brings her experience as a publicist, journalist, marketer, and retailer to the advice she gives in her HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers and the many classes she taught for nearly a decade as instructor for UCLA Extension’s world-renown Writers’ Program. The books in her HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers have won multiple awards. That series includes both the first and second editions of The Frugal Book Promoter and The Frugal Editor which won awards from USA Book News, Readers’ Views Literary Award, the marketing award from Next Generation Indie Books and others including the coveted Irwin award. How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically launched to rave reviews from Jim Cox, Editor-in-Chief of Midwest Book Reviews and others:
“How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically [and other books in the series] could well serve as a textbook for a college Writing/Publishing curriculum.”
Howard-Johnson is the recipient of the California Legislature’s Woman of the Year in Arts and Entertainment Award, and her community’s Character and Ethics award for her work promoting tolerance with her writing. She was also named to Pasadena Weekly’s list of “Fourteen San Gabriel Valley women who make life happen” and was given her community’s Diamond Award for Achievement in the Arts.
The author loves to travel. She has visited eighty-nine countries and has studied writing at Cambridge University in the United Kingdom; Herzen University in St. Petersburg, Russia; and Charles University, Prague. She admits to carrying a pen and journal wherever she goes. Her website is www.howtodoitfrugally.com.
MORE ABOUT THE INTERVIEWER:
Lynn Goodwin is Managing Editor of www.writeradvice.com and the author of Talent, a young adult novel, You Want Me to Do WHAT? Journaling for Caregivers and Never Too Late: From Wannabe to Wife at 62 , honored by National Indie Excellence, Human Relations Indie Book Awards, Next Generation Indie Book Awards & Best Book Awards and NABE Pinnacle Book Achievement Award Winner.
Poetry of Interest
An interview with Carol Smallwood by Evan Mantyk
EM: What is different about your newest book?
CS: Chronicles in Passing is a collection of formal and free verse poems about the incredible, enduring power of the written word to capture and preserve thoughts, emotions, and events. The word chronicles, associated with being a factual written account of history and record keeping, is used for contrast with classroom early reader words like “see Spot run,” yet both reflect the times they were written. We remember encountering Beowulf, Canterbury Tales, and Hamlet–struggling to understand the strange words and culture and can but wonder what those following us will think about us. Chronicles are written by a select group (usually the winners), so caution is advised; individuals do not see things the same (remember the fable about each of the blind men describing an elephant)? And women were left out in the earliest days from the realm of scribes involved with keeping track of commerce of the Sumerians around 3200 BC and are still involved in catching up.
EM: How long have you written for? How did you start writing? How have you evolved as a poet?
CS: I began writing as a child for a children’s magazine and faithfully kept a diary. It just felt natural to write after learning to read which was such a memorable happening.
Most of my books are nonfiction for librarians after they asked me for classroom materials. I started finding them and found so many it was an incentive to do books and ended up with around four dozen. Then after retirement, I went back to school and took creative writing classes and wrote fiction and finally went to poetry because it was the most challenging.
I eventually found writing in formal style very enjoyable and now view them like presenting a box wrapped in special paper with a bow: giving readers something extra. I am very grateful for finding the Society of Classical Poets which has encouraged my writing over a dozen collections.
EM: Where do you draw most of your inspiration from? Why?
CS: “Creativity is just connecting things” observed Steve Jobs in his very concise definition of creativity.He hit on its essence. My latest poem is about having a tree cut by my driveway because it was in the way of the recycling truck. When it was cut it was wrapped in vines that held it up and investigated: that such an attractive bittersweet vine from another country kills and how it does it is full of juxtaposition.
EM: Socrates said painting that depicting good and honest things gives the painter the most pleasure. Does the same apply to poetry? Why or why not?
CS: Poetry should reflect life whether it is good, bad, honest, dishonest and what that means to the reader has a wide field depending on their background and ability as a reader.
EM: How do you think more people could learn to appreciate poetry?
CS: If they can relate to the poem with some previous experience, a level of recognition, then there is interest. I believe in: “No man can revel to you aught but that which already lies half asleep in the dawning of your knowledge.” Kahlil Gibran
The interviewer is Evan Mantyk, who is the President of The Society of Classical Poets in Mount Hope, New York. You can find out more at Classicalpoets.org.
ABOUT THE BOOK’S AUTHOR:
Carol Smallwood edited several books for the American Library Asociation and is a National Federation of State Poetry Societies and Franklin-Christoph Poetry Contest Winner. Among her over five dozen books, Women and Poetry: Tips on Writing, Teaching and Publishing by Successful Women Poets (Foreword by Molly Peacock) appears on the list of “Best Books for Writers” by Poets & Writers Magazine.She has many other honors to her name.