Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Ideas to help you find a great-looking and affordable website

By: Sharon Joel

Websites are key for any online business or store. If you don't have advanced training on how to design websites or even write for online content, you might thing you're in a bind. Getting a great looking website on a budget is not that hard nowadays. With all of the websites offering freelance writers, graphic designers, and programmers, you can make your website shine for a fraction of what it would have cost a couple of years ago. So where do you find these people? The answer is very simple.

There are several websites that will allow you to place your work on display so people can bid on the job. With these freelance websites you will be able to review each writer, graphic designer, or program based on their portfolio and their bid. You can come out of this experience with a very well trained person who can handle all your needs at once, or you can divide the jobs up to get a better rate. If you're going to outsource your website to somebody else, make sure they have a proven track record and ask to see other sites they have designed.

If you want to go even cheaper, head over to your local college or university and put a flier up in their School Of Design. This is a great way to help a student get their work on the net and build their portfolio. This is also a great way for you to be able to tell them in person what you are looking for an what changes need to be done on the final project they present.

If you need a website fast, you can always search for pre-made websites online. Thousands of companies will have templates and how to guidebooks on what you need to do in order to get your website up and running within a couple of days.

Getting a website that looks great and is inviting to your customers is essential for any business. If you use these three methods you will surely come out on top with a great site and more money in your wallet. 

Written by Sharon Joel of Ratelines, a place to find great money market rates.

Reviewer's Tip - Stories from our Reviewers

This week, we thought we'd share some stories about various book layout blunders from our reviewers.  Enjoy and don't try these on your books!!!

>>In one book, a dot leader in the ToC ran to the right margin, then there was half a dot leader under that, and the half a dot leader led to the page number. Which was the wrong page.

>>Another book: on several pages, the illustration (maybe 1 1/2" wide x 2 or 3" tall) was set in the middle of the page. In the middle of sentences. Which meant that the reader's eye had to make that 1 1/2" leap in every sentence a dozen times or more. Extremely hard to read. And the publisher used cheap paper. You could see through it. And when I mentioned this in my review, the author got so mad at me that she hasn't spoken to me in a dozen years. True!

>>I had one recently that had "its" as "it's" nearly every time, plus other errors of gooder English on every single page, plus the page numbers were in the gutter and someone decided that a paragraph could not be divided between pages, so the bottom margin varied from an inch and a half to half an inch.

>>One spelled "foreword" as "forward."

>>One I declined to review had a Forward and an Afterwards.

>>(Not bad layout, but interesting) When I was working on my Ph.D. dissertation back in the days of microfilm and microfiche, I spent many a day with my head in a film or fiche reader. One of the plays I was examining was extant only on microfiche. It had originally (in 1658 or thereabouts) been printed on vellum and used old lettering. So I was reading 17th-century English (with the funny long S's) and seeing both sides of the page at the same time. That was fun.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

National Poetry Month

In celebration of National Poetry Month in April, Poetry Everywhere with Garrison Keillor ( returns to public television and the Web with new poems and unique voices. The project offers 32 short poetry films during unexpected moments in the public television broadcast schedule. Through television and the Internet, viewers will have an exclusive, front-row seat at the world’s greatest poetry festival.

Poetry Everywhere offers something for everyone. 
Robert Frost reads his classic, Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening in an archival clip; former U.S. poet laureate Billy Collins reads The Lanyard, a poem marked by his characteristic mix of poignancy and humor; Mary Louise-Parker, Tony Kushner, and Wynton Marsalis share their favorite poems; an Emily Dickinson poem is rendered in an animation. There are poems by Pulitzer Prize-winner Yusef Koumanyaka, National Book Award-winner Adrienne Rich, former U.S. Poet Laureate Stanley Kunitz, the great 13th-century Persian poet Rumi, Nobel Prize-winner W.B. Yeats, and many more, including a number of contemporary poets filmed at The Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival, North America’s largest poetry festival.

New to the project this season is the Poetry Everywhere iPhone App. The App continues the project’s ongoing mission of bringing poetry to people through new channels and provides poetry lovers and audiences with a new way of experiencing great poems.

The Poetry Everywhere channel on You Tube for embeddable poems from the project : Examples include Billy Collins reading The Lanyard and playwright Tony Kushner reading a poem by Walt Whitman

Teaser Tuesday

Time for another great adventure on Tuesday - here are today's teasers, hope you enjoy them.

"Eventually we will pay it down...if we keep making our monthly payments, we will pay it down."  "Yes, eventually you will...but do you want to know how far out eventually is?"

"And when I locked eyes with Todd, I saw that he was furious and sheepish at the same time, like my defense had hurt his pride.  What had happened, or what was happening between us?"

"Both benches emptied and small pockets of shoving matches and full-fledged fights began to break out around the diamond.  Sox started Bill Lee, who arrived at home plate to aid Fisk, began throwing haymakers of his own, but he was punched in the back of the head by Mickey Rivers and he fell on the pile."

And Some Finds From Our Children's Book Reviews Too

"Maggie marveled over Scamp's scutes. Then she realized the other eggs were hatching too. 'Mom come quick!' she yelled."

"He put each flat circle on the griddle, and turned it over and over until it was fully cooked. Soon he had a big basket filled with fresh tortillas."

"Bluebird lights and eats his fill. That busy-busy bird sings a happy trill."

Monday, March 29, 2010

Time is running out... try your luck by entering our monthly book giveaway contest.  This month we're offering two copies of the memoir, Gonville by Peter Birkenhead.  Read the review here and then head on over to our contest page to enter.

Book Fairs

Here's a great suggestion, reprinted with permission from The Economical Guide to Self-Publishing by Linda F. Radke, of Five Star Publications.

Book Fairs

The U.S. government maintains an excellent site for locating book fairs around the country. You can access that wealth of information by visiting Offer your services as
a guest speaker or find out how to obtain booth space. These can also be good places to use co-op techniques.

Learn trade secrets to profitably self-publish books from The Economical Guide to Self-Publishing, second edition, by veteran publisher Linda Radke of Five Star Publications, an award-winning book producer. Get the nuts and bolts of publishing; an invaluable arsenal of marketing, promoting and publicizing strategies; and advice from other published authors.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Friday Finds

Welcome again to FQ's Friday Finds! Here are some of our books we're reviewing this week:

And Some Finds From Our Children's Book Reviews Too

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Reviewer's Tip - Don't Brag About It On Your Back Cover

If you self-publish, and have sold lots of books, you're to be congratulated.  It's quite an accomplishment.  However, do you really want to advertise the fact that you are self-published right on the back cover of your book???  We've seen a few books that do just that - as though the fact that the book is self-published is a selling point.  It's not.  

People who read "self-published book" on the back cover are quite likely to put the book down.  Wait until you've made it big, you're on Oprah or are negotiating the movie rights.  Then, sure, go ahead and brag about how you got your start as a self-published author.  Please just don't do it on your first book.  It won't help you sell books.

New Reviews at Feathered Quill

Here's the latest batch of reviews.  Lots of good reading here, particularly for youngsters:

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Preparing a "Book Business Plan"

Today's guest post comes from Gail Martin, author of  The Thrifty Author’s Guide to Launching Your Book Without Losing Your Mind.  Please be sure to check out Gail's bio at the end of today's article and learn more about having a great book launch.  Enjoy! 

A “book business plan” isn’t the same as you’d use to get a loan for a company. It’s a shorter version that is especially helpful to use as a springboard for an on-target marketing plan. Think about which of the above scenarios comes closest to your reason for writing your book. Next, on a blank sheet of paper, do your best to answer these questions.

1) What is the transformative value of your book? How does it solve a problem for the reader, or provide value (entertainment, enlightenment, ideas, etc.)?

2) Describe your primary target audience in detail (age, gender, education, location, income, key concerns, hobbies, aspirations, etc.).

3) Justify why this is your primary audience.

4) Now, identify your secondary audience and justify its position.

5) Next, identify your tertiary audience and justify its position.

6) Do a SWOT Analysis. Your SWOT analysis should make clear your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. Your business plan should have a goal or action that addresses each SWOT aspect.
  • What are your book’s STRENGTHS and features that differentiate it from other books on the same topic?
  • What are the WEAKNESSES of you or your book? (Examples could range from lacking a distributor for your book, to having less career success in your topic than competing authors.)
  • What OPPORTUNITIES currently exist in the marketplace for books such as yours? (For example, during an economic downturn, books on budgeting and saving money soar in popularity.)
  • What are the biggest THREATS you see to the book’s success? (This could range from you suddenly getting too busy with family, health or work issues to suitably promote the book; to having a crisis occur that makes your topic out of favor)
7) Do a “competitive analysis.” What research or data gathering have you done to understand who your competition is? What threat do they pose? How do their services/audience/service areas overlap with yours, and how might you turn weak competitors into strong collaborative partners?

8) Determine your annual marketing budget in dollars. How did you arrive at that figure?             

9) Determine your annual marketing budget in time. How did you arrive at that figure?

Once you have thought through these items, your book business plan should get clearer.

If you are writing in order to promote other products or services, or to promote yourself as a speaker and/or consultant, then your goals will focus on reaching an audience of good prospects for your other products. If you are writing for the love of the story, you have a goal of selling enough books to make it commercially attractive for you to write more books (either to a publisher, or to yourself, if you are self-published). If it’s the love of the topic that draws you, then you’ll need a clear understanding of where there are gaps in available materials on that subject so that you can make an authoritative statement. And, if you want to change the world, you’ll need to get a sense of how fresh and well-substantiated your approach is, so you can make a splash and fend off detractors.

Excerpted from The Thrifty Author’s Guide to Launching Your Book Without Losing Your Mind by Gail Z. Martin. Available on and other online retailers, and in select bookstores.

Bio: Gail Z. Martin is an author, entrepreneur and international speaker. She owns DreamSpinner Communications and is the “Get Results Resource” for marketing strategies that work. Gail is the author of The Thrifty Author’s Guide to Launching Your Book (March 2010, Comfort Publishing) and Social Media Marketing for Small Business: The 30 Day Guide (Fall 2010, Career Press).

She hosts the Shared Dreams Marketing Podcast and the Ghost in the Machine Author Podcast. You can find her online at http://www.gailmartinmarketing/, and on

Gail has just launched the Solopreneur Survival Guide home study course and resource kits at

In addition to her marketing career, Gail is the author of the bestselling Chronicles of the Necromancer fantasy adventure series (The Summoner, The Blood King, Dark Haven, and Dark Lady’s Chosen (coming in 2010) published by Solaris Books and distributed by Simon & Schuster. Her new series, The Fallen Kings Cycle, will be released by Orbit Books in 2011.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Teaser Tuesday - Kiddie Books To Cookbooks & More!

Welcome to this week's Teaser Tuesday!

"Too scared to cross the road, Felina decided to look for a safer place to rest. When she walked past some tall cabbage palms, Felina Couldn't believe her eyes - noisy people were in her forest!"

"We pulled my red wagon to the tree at a run.  Newton and I knew this job would be fun."

"Suddenly the earth began to move again  The two giant pandas huddled close to each other in their secret, safe spot for hours until darkness fell."

"If you were a parrot, you would have a sharp, hooked beak.  To keep your beak in shape, you would have to chew things...pencils, wooden spoons, the legs of hairs, and maybe even the entire telephone directory"

"As they say, Robert put it in God's hands.  Either He was going to come through for him, or He was going to lead him down an unexpected path of failure."

From the cookbook, we have two great teaser recipes - Two-Bean Chili with Zucchini and Ginger-Spiked Sweet Potatoes with Maple Syrup. That second one makes me wanna cook, sounds yummy!

"Nora's presentation at court took place in June.  Dressed and ready to leave for the palace, she adjusted the ankle straps of her silver brocade shoes and fastened little pearl buttons at the wrists of her soft off-white kid gloves."

Monday, March 22, 2010

New Reviews at Feathered Quill

Several new reviews just posted to our site, Feathered Quill Book Reviews:

Waxman's CPSIA Amendment Could Address Publishers', Libraries' Concerns

Reprinted with permission of Publishers Weekly

By Karen Raugust -- Publishers Weekly, 3/18/2010 5:23:00 PM

An attempt to address some of the industry complaints about the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act

Steps are being taken in Congress that could resolve many of publishers', resellers', and libraries' concerns regarding the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act. On March 12, Representative Henry Waxman (D-California) released a draft amendment to the Act that addresses some of the complaints from a variety of industry groups. Of interest to publishers, booksellers and libraries, the proposed amendment would give the Consumer Product Safety Commission more leeway in excluding products that pose minimal risk to children, including most ink-on-paper and ink-on-board books. It also would provide relief to resellers, including vendors of used children's books and, potentially, libraries.

The draft document follows a January report from the CPSC to Congress in which the Commission outlined the problems it perceives with the Act. The report highlighted the concerns of publishers, libraries and resellers, among other constituencies.

"We believe the intention of this [draft amendment] is to fix our situation," says Emily Sheketoff, executive director of the American Library Association's Washington Office, who is awaiting clarification from the CPSC on whether the section in the draft that provides relief to resellers would apply to libraries as well. "If it's not as rock-solid as we want, we'll suggest some clearer language."

The Commission long promised that it would issue guidance specifically addressing libraries, but came to the conclusion that the law as currently written doesn't allow them to do so. Sheketoff notes that if the proposed amendment does confirm that libraries can continue to lend older books, "we will aggressively campaign to get some co-sponsors and help it pass. Getting any legislation through now is difficult, but if we can get a bipartisan group of co-sponsors, it will be easier."

The CPSIA was enacted in August 2008 and, after a year's delay, went into effect in February 2010, despite several unanswered questions about how to comply with its provisions, especially with regard to testing. The Act's intent was to protect children age 15 and under from risks due to lead and phthalates, and was spurred by some large recalls of lead-containing toys. Although the CPSC has said it would not enforce the law for "ordinary" children's books printed after 1985, the publishing industry has fought to be exempted from the Act altogether (with the exception of toy-like novelty and book-plus formats).

Author Interview with Jacqueline Jules

Today we're talking with Jacqueline Jules, author of Zapato Power: Freddie Ramos Takes Off.

FQ: Freddie is such a happy young man - he's a great role model for children. Was it a conscious decision on your part to make your hero a super happy child?

The character of Freddie is a composite of the students I taught when I worked as a school librarian. I taught many wonderful children who had a positive attitude in spite of sometimes difficult home situations. Thank you for saying Freddie is a role model. I do want him to be an example of a child who enjoys life and cares about others. But I also want Freddie to be a tribute to the resilient and courageous children I taught.

FQ: "Zapato" is a fun word to say and as someone who doesn't speak Spanish, I didn't understand the connection at first. Why did you use the Spanish "zapato" in both the title and story? Was it to draw Spanish speaking children to the story? To help educate English speaking children?

For a number of years, I worked in a Title I elementary school with a large population of English Language Learners. Since Freddie Ramos was inspired by my students, it was natural for me to make him an Hispanic child. I made a conscious effort to include enough Spanish in Zapato Power to make an Hispanic child feel at home without excluding non-Spanish speaking children.

Children’s literature does not have enough Hispanic heroes, particularly for beginning readers. We live in a diverse society, and it should be visible in our books for children. As a librarian, I often felt frustrated that there weren’t enough beginning readers or early chapter books which reflected my students’ lives. That motivated me to write Zapato Power. But it was also my motivation for two other books, No English and Duck for Turkey Day. Like any teacher, I want to give my students what they need. And when I didn’t find enough books that met their needs, I sat down at my computer.

FQ: Where did the idea of superpower purple sneakers come from? Why not a super hat or belt?

Little boys like to run. My youngest son loved to race when he was small. Children always enjoy showing off brand new sneakers. Magic shoes seemed like a natural choice.

FQ: So many kids would love to outrun a train. Was it fun to write about the train race?

Actually, that was the part I rewrote the most. It comes in the beginning of the book and authors generally tend to rewrite their first chapters many times. Strong beginnings are essential to the success of any book. In addition, I am not a runner, so I had to do some research into how it feels. I talked to my daughter-in-law, who runs marathons, and read descriptions on the Internet. Finally, I reached back into my own memory as a child. When I was in elementary school, I used to love those warm windy days that came just after and just before a big rain. I loved the way the moist warm air blew across my cheeks and ruffled my hair all around. It smelled, to me, like magic. I used to run into the wind, pretending I was galloping off on a horse that just might, if I ran fast enough, sprout wings and fly like Pegasus. It was a delightful fantasy of freedom. Describing that for Freddie was both a challenge and a joy.

FQ: Mr. Vaslov at first appears to be "just" a maintenance man but by the end of the story, we learn that he's so much more. Is he based on anybody you know? Where did he come from? And we will ever learn about his superpowers (or abilities to make special sneakers)?

I see Mr. Vaslov as a father figure for Freddie, since Freddie’s own father died in military duty. His character is even more prominent in the second book, Freddie Ramos Springs into Action, which is currently with the illustrator and scheduled for next year. In my mind, Mr. Vaslov is a Russian immigrant who was unable to find a job in his field when he came to America. Almost twenty years ago, I volunteered in a program that helped a large group of Soviet Jews who settled in my community. Many of these immigrants were professionals in Russia but became hairdressers and gas station attendants in the United States. I see Mr. Vaslov as a highly educated man who made the choice to leave his native country for political reasons. I also see him as a person who hopes to become rich if he can just perfect his inventions.

FQ: Freddie really, really wants to be a superhero but he learns that brain power works better to help his friends. How have kids reacted to this important lesson?

I think most kids want superpowers. I know I would have liked the ability to fly or see great distances when I was young. But I also wanted to have a regular life, to go to school and have fun like any other kid. Can you be a hero and still go to elementary school? That is Freddie’s dilemma. He wants to use his super speed and help people, but he also wants to have a normal life with his mom and his friends. Freddie lives the dream of having super powers in the real world. That means he has to deal with frustration sometimes and the complications of hiding his super powers. It also means he has to use his head to figure out the best way to deal with situations. Freddie is a hero other kids can be, even if they don’t have super speed.

FQ: You acknowledge your Tuesday Night Writing Group. How important is it for you, as a writer, to have a writing support group?
I worried a little that my dedication sounded too sappy, but I must say that I am indebted to my writing friends and would be “lost without them.” They never let me get away with being lazy. They push me to do my best work. I have been fortunate that I have had a number of books published in the last couple of years. None of that would have happened without my first readers—my writing friends who pointed out weak places and offered ideas. They give me the directions I need to make successful revisions and bolster my faith in myself, giving me the courage to keep trying.

To learn more about Zapato Power: Freddie Ramos Takes Off  please read the review at: Feathered Quill Book Reviews.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Friday Finds

Welcome to this week's Friday Finds!

Up first is a collection of children's books from Sylvan Dell publishing:

We also have some great adult finds too!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

How to be the Perfect Radio Show Guest

How to be the Perfect Radio Show Guest
By: Naomi Giroux (see bio at end of article)

You’ve been invited to be a guest on a radio show. Great!
Now its time to do your homework, not to sit back and see what the host will ask you.

Interviews are great ways to market yourself and your work. Radio interview shows are fun, easy, and expansive, last forever on the net, and don’t take much time. A few pointers and you’re ready to go!

Radio shows tend to follow established patterns: introduction, body (questions and answers), and closing. Different hosts handle these differently, so as you review your host’s shows, listen for the pattern. Some shows take call-in questions and chat room questions. These questions are normally screened, so they are on topic. You may find some hosts ask the questions to limit confusion.

There are two basic types of hosts; your planning should be slightly different for each. Discover what type of host and show by listening to several shows before you’re appearance. Listen for common questions and the flow of the show.

· “My Show Hear Me Speak” Host: The host is the Star, regularly expressing opinions or giving long explanations as they ask questions. This host can be abrasive and try to get discussion through controversy. Often the guests have only short on-air time on this type of show.

These types of shows tend to have political/controversial topics. If you have written a book fitting this description and get invited to be a guest, go informed and prepared.

o As a guest on “My Show, Hear Me Talk,” focus on a couple of key points about your work, yourself, or whatever the topic is. Put these into short media bites you can insert regularly during the show when you invited to talk. Weave them into the answers so your message will get out. Also, at any chance you get, provide your contact information. Best form of contact information is your website especially if it is your name and simple. Plan ahead. Be ready with goals, but remember that this host is the Star. You need to be gracious to thank them for inviting you to be a guest.

· “The Showcase Show,” Host: “The Showcase Show” host guides you to get your information out. He or she will ask questions they expect you to answer and expound upon. You are the star of this show. This type of show is what authors want to encounter.

o To prepare know your key points. Be ready to talk. The worst guest on this type of show is the “one word or sentence” speaker. Be ready to have a conversation. Set yourself up in a comfortable place, relax, and visit with your new friend. Always be sure to get your contact information presented before the show is over either by yourself or the host. Thank host and the listeners. You will discover that the time flies by on a “Showcase Show.”

Some radio show hosts have a production written up for each show. This many be very complete with lists of possible questions and time breaks to repeat the guest’s name and contact information. The guest can ask for this list of possible questions or suggest questions and talking points. Some hosts have only notes they work from. Your suggested questions and talking points will help them know what direction you would like to go.

KEYS: The Keys to successful interviews are:
  • be prepared to talk,
  • relax
  • and have fun.
Naomi Giroux is a published author; co-owner of Stimulating Conversation about your book, an author strategic marketing company and host of three radio shows.

Coffee with an Author for on BlogTalkRadio
Mondays 10AM CST

WriteOn! an authors’ resource roundtable for on BlogTalkRadio
Second Wednesday at 12:00nn CST

Brazos Valley Health on KEOS 89.1 FM in College Station/Bryan TX
Thursdays 6-7 PM CST
Starting the Buzz through Stimulating Conversations

Looking for Donations

I've been asked to pass the following along.  I have no connection to either the facility or chaplain so please feel free to research before making the decision to donate.  - FQ.

I am requesting donations of any Jewish books and/or other resources your organization might be willing to send for our Chapel Library.

New Castle Correctional Facility
Attn: Chaplain Kathy Williams
1000 Van Nuys Road
New Castle, IN 47362

There are approximately 15 Jewish inmates in our facility, although many others would be interested in reading the materials. Whether it is 1 book or 10, any donation will be highly appreciated.

Thank you,
Chaplain Williams
765-593-0111, ext. 4004

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Teaser Tuesday

Welcome to our first edition of Teaser Tuesday, a great weekly activity that helps introduce new books to readers everywhere by posting a two sentence teaser of the books presented.

The Donkey of Tarsus: His Tales about the Apostle Paul By Adele Colvin
"Suddenly, at a turn in the road with no warning at all, a blinding light hit us, and everyone fell to the ground. A voice was heard, which seemed to come from nowhere and yet everywhere.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls By Steve Hockensmith, Jane Austen

"How to fillet a spider!" Master Hawksworth barked, and he leapt aside, arm stretched out toward a fresh-spun cobweb in the corner."

Mistress of Rome By Kate Quinn
"But she still sat on the same couch as the Emperor.  In the place his wife would have occupied had she been there."

An Irish Country Girl: A Novel By Patrick Taylor
'No one at all?' Colin was trying to control his voice, but she heard a little quaver."

The Sweet War Man: A Novel By Paul Barcelo
 "The last subject made the Colonel chuckle. Randolph listened to the breezy chatter, commented on a few things with correct military etiquette but was still stunned with the pre check- flight fright.

Monday, March 15, 2010

New Reviews at Feathered Quill

Here are the latest reviews at Feathered Quill:

Query Don'ts

Today's tip comes from Carol Tice, a frequent contributor to Feathered Quill's blog.  For more great writing advice, be sure to visit Carol's blog at:

Now that I’m looking over many of my mentees’ query letters, I’m finding some of the same mistakes repeated over and over again. So I’ve put together a list of query “don’ts” to help writers avoid basic errors that can be big turnoffs for editors.

• Don’t let your query exceed one page. Even if you’re emailing, don’t run on and on. Remember, most articles commissioned these days are fairly short, so show your editor you know how to be concise.

• Don’t begin with “I want to write an article about…” Of course you do. When you begin by stating the obvious, you tell the editor you are not a very imaginative writer. Begin with the proposed opening paragraph of your article, or with some interesting facts about your topic that draw the editor in and gets them interested in your idea.

• Don’t tell the editor how long your article should be. Often, writers include a sentence such as, “I’d propose writing a 1,200 word feature on this topic.” This is a very bad strategic move. Do you want to not get an assignment because the editor only has freelance budget for 800-word stories? Or be excluded from consideration for a 3,000-word feature? Let the editor decide how much space your idea should have in their publication.

• Don’t say, “I’m sure your readers would be interested in this.” Remember, you are writing to the person who knows the most in the world about what their readers like. Don’t ever presume to know more. Instead, say something that connects the publication’s audience to the idea and shows off your research: “With all the recent coverage of health insurance, I believe this update would be of interest to your small-business audience.”

• Don’t make your bio too long. A couple of sentences at the end is great. You’ll mostly prove you’re right for the assignment with the strength of your query, not your resume. This isn’t a college paper, so don’t put a long bibliography citing past articles. Instead, provide a few links to current clips online. If you don’t have anything online, make PDFs of a few articles so you can put them on your Web site and link to them there.

• Don’t throw in sources without explanation. If you mention sources you’ll use, be sure to connect them to the story – explain their expertise or how they’ll be used. Are they an example business, for instance, or perhaps an industry expert? Say, “I would interview the director of the Boys & Girls Club in Monterey about their years of experience helping the disabled,” not “Interviews would include the director of the Boys & Girls Club in Monterey.”

• Don’t fail to proofread. A single typo spells a quick trip to the trash can for query letters.

• Don’t forget to polish. This little query letter is your writing showcase! If you write a really standout query that shows you know the publication and its audience well, you may get an assignment even if the editor doesn’t like this particular story idea. So buff it to a high shine. It should be so well-done you almost want to frame it instead of mailing or emailing it off.

Are there other query “don’ts” you see a lot out there, editors? Leave a comment and let us know.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Getting Your Books in a Catalog

Do you lack the power behind a larger press?   Does your catalog look lonely next to other book catalogs? Let Five Star add visibility to your titles.
We are in the process of updating our online book catalogs.  Here's the direct link to each: and


Would you like to be included in the 2010-2011 online edition?  The fee is $249 for the first title and $199 for each additional title. The fee for cover placement is $399 and is on a first come, first serve basis. Your listing will include the cover of your book, description, email address and ordering information. You will have the benefit of our traffic and promotional efforts.  Our sites receive over 100,000 hits monthly. We have traffic coming from and a variety of other websites. The new edition will be on our site for one year and then archived. 

We are known for our award-winning publicity efforts. We encourage all visitors and members of the media to visit our online bookstore.

[   ] I would like to have ____ book(s) included in the Five Star Online Catalog.
[   ] I would like to have ____book(s) included in the Spring Online Gift Guide.

The fee mentioned above is for inclusion per catalog.
Receive a 10% discount when including your book(s) in both catalogs.

Advertise in both catalogs and receive a free 12-month listing at

Let us know what works for you.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Friday Finds

Welcome to our first edition of Friday Finds, a great weekly activity that helps introduce new books to readers everywhere by simply showcasing them every Friday on your blog. Each week Feathered Quill will feature a few of our books currently in the review process.

The Donkey of Tarsus: His Tales about the Apostle Paul By Adele Colvin

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls By Steve Hockensmith, Jane Austen

Mistress of Rome By Kate Quinn

An Irish Country Girl: A Novel By Patrick Taylor

The Sweet War Man: A Novel By Paul Barcelo

Thursday, March 11, 2010

New Reviews at Feathered Quill

It's been a busy few days at Feathered Quill.  Here are our latest reviews:

Author Interview with Peter Birkenhead

Today we're talking to Peter Birkenhead, author of Gonville.

FQ: Your memoir is about growing up with a frightening, eccentric, abusive father. As a boy, did you know that your father was different from a lot of other fathers?

The first thing a frightening father teaches you is to pretend he isn’t frightening. But, as I watched my friend’s fathers make good-natured jokes about spilled glasses of soda or unfinished homework, my mouth would start to open in preparation to laugh, and then I’d realize that they weren’t doing wacky send ups of normal people, they were being normal people. The truth about my father finally began to dawn on me in earnest in adulthood, slowly and sporadically, like bits of a remembered dream.

FQ: Did you realize that your childhood was unusual?

The unusualness of my childhood wasn’t something I wanted to think about when I was a kid, but it gradually became unavoidable… I could feel the truth looming in the shadows. I could see it in the eyes of our friends when they saw my Dad’s gun collection, or heard him rant with pitch-black venom about the latest “monster” in his life—a boss or friend or rival he felt threatened by. And there were flat-out, over-the-top moments of intense mortification for me, when my Dad became crazy or violent or abusive in public. He threatened to blow one of my teacher’s heads off because he gave me a bad grade. He threatened to blow lots of people’s heads off. He openly hit on a lot of my female friends. But we were kids and we did our best to believe in the idea that we were living a basically “normal” life, because there’s nothing worse for a kid than being “abnormal.”

FQ: But as bad as experiences like that were, you claim they weren’t even the hardest part about living with your dad. What was?

The hard part was the love. The hard thing was having your Dad throw his arm around your shoulder, kiss you on the cheek, and tell you it’s okay that you struck out in the Little League game. Because that’s the stuff that pulls at you in a vicious tug-of-war with the other stuff, the darker stuff. It keeps you hoping for more, keeps you coming back for another shot. If Dad had been an all-out, black-hat villain, things would have been a lot easier. I found myself wishing, often, for a Dad who was all bad instead of almost good. And so did my brothers and sister.

FQ: Your father is still alive. What is his reaction to the book?

I’ve learned that he is not happy about it, and that he doesn’t plan to read it.

FQ: Do you have a relationship with him now? Do your siblings?

I have no relationship with my father. We stopped speaking years ago. Some of my siblings are still in touch with him and some aren’t. I hesitate to speak for them, but I think it’s safe to say no one has an easy or satisfactory relationship with our father. It’s no longer volatile or tumultuous, but it’s uneasy. My father has never acknowledged any of the things that happened in our house. He’s certainly never apologized for any of it. He’s not really capable of the kind of self awareness that makes real relationships possible.

FQ: Your mother escaped into musical theater and, thus, found release and relief from life with your dad. What happened when she left him?

She left him in 1980, and has pretty much never looked back. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that her work saved her life, that it gave her a newfound purpose and strength, and a way to make sense of and give meaning to the life she left behind. It was very scary for her when she left. On her last day with my father he brutalized her in a pretty grotesque fashion. She escaped from the house naked, her hands still bound together by my father, and fled to a neighbor’s house.

FQ: Was writing the book difficult?

I had a less difficult time writing it than I expected to. That’s not to say it wasn’t painful revisiting all those bad memories. But I don’t think I could have written the book without the perspective on them I have now. I think if I’d written it fifteen years ago it would have been either a boring rant or a boring lie. I did have to go to some places that on most days I’d rather not; I don’t usually wake up and look forward to spending the day thinking about how it really felt when I learned that Dad slept with my girlfriend. But, as weird as it might sound, while I was writing the book I did look forward to it. It was frightening and uncomfortable, but liberating, thrilling, and in the end, a source of comfort and strength, because I was okay. I was sitting here, all these years later, at my desk in the home I share with a woman I am head over heels in love with, and our beautiful baby daughter, and the old fights are over.

FQ: You are frank about the behaviors and instincts you inherited from your father and how they affected your relationships with women. Do you ever find yourself slipping back into those bad habits? Or did writing the book truly free you from the past?

It really was the other way around. Freeing myself from those old mental traps and habits allowed me to write the book. The writing process couldn’t help but be therapeutic to some extent, but most of the important therapy, clinical and otherwise, had already taken place. Once I really understood that I am not my father, nor doomed by his DNA, it was a lot easier to not sometimes behave like him. Not being rage-ful is no longer a struggle for me. My grandfather once said to me: “The best way to not become a monster when you’re fighting a monster is to not believe in monsters.” A difficult paradox about growing up with a Dad like mine is that, while fighting him seems like an imperative, it’s actually the surest way to lose. Because, like I said, the fight isn’t really with him. It’s with the parts of you that want to kill him, and that are afraid of him.

To learn more about Gonville please read the review at: Feathered Quill Book Reviews.

More on Amazon vs. Colorado Sales Tax

Booksellers Urge Colorado Governor to Back Online Sales Tax

Jim Milliot -- repritned with permission of Publishers Weekly

A group of Colorado independent booksellers as well as the ABA and Mountains and Plains Independent Booksellers Association have sent a letter to Colorado governor Bill Ritter urging him to continue to support the new online sales tax that resulted in the decision by Amazon to drop its affiliates program in that state Monday. Amazon's actions "are nothing short of outrageous coming after the state's good faith efforts to fashion a compromise that sought to take into account the affiliates' concerns," the groups wrote in their letter. In a separate statement, ABA CEO Oren Teicher said ABA was using the affiliates to try and change the law. "The fact that Amazon refuses to comply with this law is a clear indication that the retailing giant is only interested in maintaining its significant competitive advantage over the bricks-and-mortar retailers in the state -- and that it is more than willing to use its online affiliates as pawns to do so," said Teicher.

Colorado's law differs from those passed by a number of other states, such as New York, that states that an affiliate network creates the necessary nexus for Amazon to collect sales tax. Rather the Colorado law asks out-of-state retailers that do not collect and remit sales tax to inform residents of the amount of use tax that they owe for online purchases and to provide year-end statements to the Colorado Revenue Department. Amazon said it was not prepared to go down that road, which it said would force it to eventually collect the tax.

In the letter to the governor, the groups stress: "Our argument is not now, nor has it ever been, with online affiliates. If the amended bill had worked to level the playing field for us and had saved online affiliates important sales commissions, then it was win-win, which we would have supported. After the bill's passage, our only request had been that our legislators monitor the situation to determine if use tax revenue was being collected.

"Unfortunately, despite the best intentions of the Senate Finance Committee, Amazon went ahead and fired its affiliates anyway. With its latest salvo, it is manifestly clear that will oppose any efforts to enforce existing sales tax laws and that legislators' efforts to bend over backwards to placate this corporate giant in an effort to shield in-state affiliate businesses are pointless."

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Tweet, Tweet

There are so many ways to socialize online. What's an author to do? I suggest tweeting. I would encourage you to set up your own Twitter account at: It's free. Want to tweet, but don't have time? Let Five Star tweet for you. Contact Linda Radke at for details.
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