March Writers' Forum

March Writers' Forum: Boundaries, Beta Readers, Biography & MoreIn my journey through the steps of independent publishing, refining my writing skills, and most recently completing a successful agent search, I’ve come across some excellent information, tips, tools, and shortcuts that I think would be beneficial to any writer. Once a month, I’ll share the “best of” information and news from the publishing industry as well as feature other authors and writing instructors with tips to share. I am incredibly thankful for the assistance and advice given to me from writing and publishing professionals and am happy pay that forward.

Book News

If you are one of the many adults who has never read a book from the young adult or YA genre, you are missing out on some very fine stories. (I’m not just saying this to be self-serving as a YA novelist.) There’s an energy in this market that is presenting us with some of the best new books of the year. If you think that all you’ll read is angsty teen drama, let me assure you that you have choices across the board from science fiction and fantasy to adventure and (yes) romance . . . and sometimes quite nifty combinations of all of these! To get you started, check out this list of the Best 16 Young Adult Books in March or the Top Ten Most Anticipated Young Adult Books of March.

Featured Article: Embrace Your Boundaries by Dan Blank

I know that I have talked about Dan Blank before but possibly not here on the forum. He helps writers and other creative types share their stories and connect with their audiences. I appreciate his weekly newsletter and find that he is spot on with his advice, which often translates for any career or endeavors and not just those related to writing. (You can subscribe to his weekly newsletter here.)

Most recently, he talked about how embracing boundaries can help you achieve your goals. Great advice!! I remember when I first started working from home that I had a hard time setting boundaries to protect my worktime. I wish I would have had this advice then. So if you are trying to carve out the time in your day to meet any personal or professional goal the article at this link is worth a read. Embrace Your Boundaries by Dan Blank 

Pre-Publication Information

The Grammar Police

A pet peeve of mine is how numbers are handled in writing, often finding within the same story or manuscript an inconsistent treatment of numerals. The quick rule I had always learned was that numbers up to nine should be spelled out, according to the AP Style Manual that was my bible throughout journalism school. There are some exceptions and consistent treatment throughout the same article or manuscript is key. An article from Pop Editing helps you sort this all out. 

Use your beta readers wisely!Making the Most of Beta Readers

If you’ve never heard this phrase, let me explain. A Beta reader is an early reader of your manuscript who gives you honest feedback. Key words here: Honest Feedback. You need to make sure you have a broad enough group of readers so you don’t make the mistake of only receiving gushing praise from friends and family. Ideally, this would be others in your writing and reading community and depending on your subject, professionals who are familiar with your topic. Make sure these are folks who will not be afraid to tell you the truth about your writing. If organizing a group of readers seems insurmountable in your never-ending list on your path to publication, Publishers Weekly has some great advice on how to make the most of this important resource.  

Don’t Neglect Your Biography or Book Description!

Your book is edited and ready to go. Your front cover image is gorgeous and eye catching. Now it’s time to write the book blurb for your back cover. Simple, right? I thought it would be but ended up spending a couple of weeks agonizing over subtle differences. I am not even sure how many different variations I had of my first book blurb, but it certainly was a lot. If you are at this point, here are some great tips on mistakes not to make from Book Baby and a really detailed list to walk you through the process from Bookworks. If you’re stuck, I’m happy to help edit book blurbs . . . send me an email!

At the same time as you’re writing your book blurb, you’ll probably be getting your biography ready. Whether it is going to be on the back cover or in the end matter of your book (the pages after the story) or on your website and author pages, you must make sure it is engaging. Anne Allen offers great tips to help you write an engaging biography. Trust me . . . there are some things she talks about that you might not have thought of.

Post-Publication Information

Teens & Social Media UseTeens and Social Media Use

Whether you write for teens or are a parent to teens or pre-teens, you know that it is hard to keep up in the world of social media. I find this article helpful from a marketing perspective that tells me where I can find my potential readers on social media. These statistics on which social media teens are using most might surprise you. Check it out here. (Reaching your book buying audience through social media is a very broad topic and one I will delve into in greater detail in a future Writers' Forum.) 


While all authors certainly would like to have a lot of reviews, we don't often have an organized effort to seek these out. Most of us encourage our readers to be kind enough to leave a review, but we've never actively requested reviews from bloggers or professional reviewers in our genre. If you do plan to ask professional reviewers to take a look at your latest title, following these tips from TLC Graphics might make all the difference in catching the attention of these sought-after, busy readers. 

Happy Writing, Valerie  

Upcoming Events

April 1 – Author Fair New Berlin Library 10 am - 1 pm   Featuring authors Sandy Brehl, Barbara M. Britton, Kerry Crowley, Pat Hall, and Jane Kelley.

April 6 - Margaret George visits Mystery to Me Bookstore in Madison at 7 pm to discuss her latest book "The Confessions of a Young Nero"

April 11 - 7 pm Mystery to Me Bookstore in Madison welcomes authors Lori Rader-Day, Susanna Calkins, and Patricia Skalka to discuss their books. 

Mystery to Me has many more events scheduled for April. If you live in the Madison area or are visiting, check out the complete schedule here

April 15 – Madtown Author Daze 11 am – 4 pm at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art (in the Overture Center) Madison, Wi. Learn more

April 28-30, 2017:  Green Bay “UntitledTown” Book and Author Festival. This will be Green Bay’s first-ever Book Festival, with readings, panels, craft lectures, and live storytelling. 

May 12-13 -- The Lakefly Writers Conference, Oshkosh, WI. Learn more. 



Very nice post indeed!

Wonderful post, as usual. Thanks for all the helpful links!

You're welcome! It's always amazing to me how much information there is to sift through each month to keep up with this rapidly changing industry!

You're welcome! It's always amazing to me how much information there is to sift through each month to keep up with this rapidly changing industry!

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