What do Judges Look for When Scoring Literary Awards Titles?


The 2016-2017 Reader Views Literary Awards are here, and that means lots and lots of books to read!  I am a fan of all genres but tend to gravitate toward my favorites throughout most of the year.  This is the time of year, however, that I get to broaden my horizon and dip my toes into all areas of literature.  Reading with my judge’s hat on is little different than reading for leisure, however.  I need to be able to evaluate the work through specific aspects of the book and thus must be on the lookout for, and pay attention to those details. Following are the guidelines I use when judging a book:

·         Content.  Content, of course, is critical.  Does the author’s voice convey a distinct and consistent style throughout?  Does the flow of the book draw the reader in at an appropriate pace?  Does the reader have a clear understanding of who the characters are in the story? 

·         Presentation and Design.  I’ve said this before; there is nothing more distracting to a great story than editing and proofreading errors.  This is the easiest thing to fix or prevent in the first place.  I can tell within the first few pages whether or not a professional editor has been used.  An occasional typo won’t make or break the book, but consistent use of poor grammar will cause me to close the book for good.

·         Production Quality.   Is the cover attractive and appropriate for the genre and the story?  Yes, I know the cliché, but a dull and drab cover, or a noisy cover with hidden titles and too much information can be a turn-off.  Does the binding fall apart when opening the book?  Is the paper quality adequate or just so-so?  I have a hard time concentrating on a story when the book I’m reading is falling apart or the pages are tearing because the paper is so thin. 

·         Innovation. It’s no surprise there is a lot of competition out there in the writing world, now so more than ever.   To stand out in any genre, innovation is the key.  Is the subject matter original?  Does the author bring a fresh voice to the genre?   Are writing elements being used in interesting and creative ways?

·          Social Relevance and Enjoyment.  For fiction books: Is the book impactful on the community of the genre?  Is it reflective of important social issues? Is it highly entertaining and completely engrossing?  Would I re-read this book?  Was I left wanting more? 

·         Resourcefulness.   For self-help, business, how-to, etc. type of books: Is the book easy to follow, clear and concise? Are credible sources noted? Does the author have credibility in the subject matter?

When I read a book, whether for pure enjoyment, to learn a new skill, expand my knowledge, or for a literary contest, I want to feel a connection to that book.  Be it fiction or non-fiction, humorous or biographical, when I’ve finished a book and it lingers in my mind for days – that is the sign of greatness.  For more information on the 2016-2017 Reader Views Literary Awards visit www.readerviews.com.

2016-2017 Literary Awards – Don't Miss The Early Entry Opportunity

Is it really mid-October already? Once again, I am amazed by how quickly the year passes. Autumn marks my favorite time of year because the weather is changing, the holidays are just around the corner, and the Reader Views Literary Awards program is in full swing! As usual, we have received so many inspiring books that it looks like this will be another tight competition!

The end of October marks the deadline to receive the discounted submission fee, so if you were planning to enter, this would be a great time to do so! The final entry deadline is December, but I encourage authors to take advantage of the early entry offer to beat the rush and allow more time for judging. With so many intriguing titles submitted in all categories, the anticipation is already building!

For more information about the 2016-2017 Literary Awards and guidelines click here.

Kid Writers - Authors of Tomorrow? Why not Today’s!

If there is one thing I love most about my job, it is reading children's book reviews written by kids. There is a transparent factor in their writing which I believe most of us lost as a consequence of growing up. We do get it back in our old age, but ‘til then it is refreshing to see it in kids writing. Thanks to the internet, some kids have the opportunity to self-publish through their parents, teachers or mentors support. These works are treasures of humanity in my opinion, whether blogs, short stories, essays, or poems, as they reflect our consciousness evolution.

I have been teaching and mentoring one of our kids’ reviewers in writing. She amazes each time we meet with her unique and profound points of view and creativity. My time with her reminds me how important it is for us as authors and role models, to not only encourage our kids to read, but also create writing opportunities for them. Within the next few months, I plan to act upon this thought by creating a Reader Views Kids blog to facilitate a writing opportunity for kids of all ages. So stay tuned for more information in our newsletter! In the meantime here are some tips to encourage your kids to write!

·         Read to them from the moment they can hear your voice! Nothing can substitute a good story when it comes to enriching and stimulating young minds. So read with them, let them ask questions, but also ask them what they think about the story, characters, pictures. This will not only help them to learn to express themselves it will also open a parent-child communication channel crucial to their development.

·         Research and look for book clubs, reading circles, and publications whether online or local, where kids can network and find other kids involved in reading and writing.

Furthermore, help them to get gratification from reading and writing by looking for publishing opportunities. There are plenty of places out there that publish kids works, such as HighLights.com, creativewithwords.tripod.com, storymonsters.com, and even their school's newsletter!

Finally, sign them up as a kids’ book reviewer at www.readerviewskids.com!

Local Book Events Tips for Authors

Many authors are writers first and marketers second, and although it takes writing the book to have something to market, without a marketing plan in place, the book won’t get to readers! It is a vicious cycle, but somewhere in it all, the author can find the perfect timing and come up with a balanced formula that will work for them. Here are some tips:

·         Although online stores are an awesome way to get books out there, the author should also think local to get a jump-start on sales through book events planning.

·         The best time to plan local events is 3-6 months before the book is out. The author should come up with a list of possible bookstores that might be interested in hosting a book launch, signing, or speaking event.

·         Visiting the store and establishing a positive relationship with the sales staff and management before approaching them with a book pitch is not only wise, it is necessary. So, the author needs to allocate that time to build up these relationships before the book is in production. Mentioning their upcoming book is OK, as long as it sounds like sharing a comment and not like a pitch.

·          When the time comes, and there are galleys available, the author should then present the pitch by following their regular process and not expecting special treatment.

·         The author should always remember that he or she is not the only one trying to get their book into the store and that in the end, by creating a positive impression, having a good rapport with and being known by the staff, along with being nice and professional can go a long way.

In the end, we are all human, and given the choice, a bookstore will always go with the product that they think will sell. But they will also prefer to work with the author they already know to be nice, easy to work with, and that can have their back by being available to fill in gaps on their events calendar. For more information on how we can help authors visit us at www.readerviews.com.

Unknown Facts About First Chapter Plus

Back in 2010, the idea of an interactive e-catalog was a revolutionary one. After all these years, it has proven to be a useful tool for authors, especially Indies! So much so, that we can find many e-catalog services in different shapes and forms in the virtual world. There are many advantages to the First Chapter Plus catalog, though. Following are some facts about our catalog:

1) It was one of the first e-catalogs (if not the only one) launched in 2009 – 2010 in which listing prices have remained almost intact over the years, keeping affordable options open to Indies.

2) The first chapter of the book stays on the website for years, meaning it can be found by readers through search engines for years!

3) It is one of the most interactive and user-friendly e-catalogs out there, which allows the reader to explore not only the book but also the author's website.

4) October is the largest issue of the year, and goes out as the "Holiday Issue" to its audience, offering all titles just in time for the holiday shopping rush.

5) It includes many promotional offers to its subscribed authors, often offering free months throughout the year.

To check out the catalog, visit www.firstchapterplus.com!


Marketing through Photos and Images

Images can be key tools when promoting and marketing your books. Here are a few tips on how to make the most of your book images.

Some books have at least a couple of images connected with them—the cover and the author photograph. Other books have numerous interior pictures, illustrations, and/or other types of images and artwork. All of these images can help to promote your book. The idea is to identify which images are great to use for marketing before the book is published and put in place a marketing plan using the images.

Make Sure You Have the Right Types of Images

It is important to have the right image specs. Make sure your artist, photographer or illustrator provide you with high and low-resolution jpeg format on all artwork. This will guarantee quick availability for use on the internet, or on printed marketing materials when your campaign is in place. Sometimes images will be given to you in tiff format, which is better in some cases. However, jpeg format works with most, if not all different systems. Graphics, if designed or produced by someone other than you, will have certain rights that might limit their use. Make sure you understand what you are allowed to do or not with them to avoid future problems. The best thing to do, even if it’s a little more expensive, is to obtain unlimited use rights or specify the production of marketing and other products that might bring income, such as t-shirts…etc, this way you won’t have to go back to get permission to use and edit on each marketing project you might want to launch.

Another wise thing to do is take a quick class or You-Tube how to use Photoshop or any other photo-editing software. This will save you time and money when designing promotional and marketing tools. Depending on what your plans are and which online system you plan to use, the graphics might need different requirements, so it is always useful to know how to edit them quickly.

Ideas to Market Your Book Images

Websites: The first thing an author will need to create and build their platform is a website, and yet, many Indie authors skip the website altogether! Having a website not only creates a place where readers can find out more about your books and your events, it also creates your brand as an author. First-time authors starting out with their first website must make sure the website resembles their book cover or reflects the book’s content. Talk to your website designer so the best use of the cover and other images can be made. Use those images as a preview so people will want to buy the book. This is one way to use the book’s images to promote the book.

Blog: A website with no activity will not do the trick. Authors need to make sure the website connects them with their fans, so it needs to be interactive. This is the benefit of adding a blog. When you are creating your brand, you want the images and color themes to identify with your products. You may want your blog to reflect the theme and content of your book and your author persona as well. The author picture from the book will identify you and connect you directly to your product, so why use a different one? You can use your other images to post on your blog, a couple at a time. This one place you will want to make sure you have many jpeg images available. If you are going to post a daily blog or even just a couple of times a week, make sure your images are all readily available to you, and already cropped and sized as needed, to save you from spending a lot of time with them. 

Online Photo Albums: In the age of social networking, people love to look at each other’s photos. So much so, that most postings on Facebook are done through an image nowadays. Whether you’re on Facebook, Instagram, your website, or another site that allows you to upload photos or images to an album, a photo album for your book, events, or even about the main topic of the book, creating a photo album is always a great idea. People will be more interested in your book if they can see some of the images. And don’t be afraid to alternate some of these images for your profile photo as well.

Book Preview Videos: There is no better way to make the story in your book come alive than seeing it on a book video. Having a video made of your book can be tricky, and should be done by a professional to obtain an effective tool that will hook the reader and convince them to check out the book. There are several professional book promotion companies, and yes Reader Views is one of them. When picking one, do not go by just their prices, also check out samples of their work, and options offered. Make sure they allow you to use your own pictures as well as stock pics. Getting the books graphics in the video is vital. You may want to include a voiceover script or have one made for you that will help you match up the words said with the proper images to use, as this will give it movie flair. Even if your book doesn’t have a lot of images, here is a reason to find additional images, provided you pay for them or use royalty-free images that will help you promote the book. A good book video producer will help you find additional images and even animations that will go with your book.

 Postcards and Other Marketing Pieces: Bookmarks and book cover business cards are not the only way to create handouts. Let’s face it printing handouts can get expensive, so why not make an income from them? For example, if you’ve written a history or travel book, why not turn your images into your own postcard line. If the tourists are likely to buy your book, they’ll buy your postcards also, and because postcards are generally low-cost items, you may be likely to sell a large quantity of them. You can do the same with your book marketing pieces—pick five or six of your best images and make t-shirts, tote bags, notepads, bookmarker series—for children’s books you could have a bookmarker for each character in the book or children’s trading cards! Even if you don’t mention your book on all of these items, you can earn additional income from your images, and you can sell these products on your website in addition to your book, and even on Amazon.

The local gift shop might not sell books, but they might be able to sell calendars or t-shirts. Don’t limit yourself. Market and sell your images, with or without your book.  

People love to look at pictures, and images are attention grabbers. Use images to get attention and promote your book in every way possible. Being creative with those images can generate additional income for the author as well! For more information on how Reader Views can help authors click here.

Full Disclosure - That is What Authors Want!

When it comes to services for Indies, the internet is the one place most of us go shopping. Yet, finding what we need is not a simple thing. Our first stop will always be a search engine, but as we go through the list of companies, and begin the click-through process, we realize quickly that we not only don’t know what we are looking for, in many cases the websites we are checking out don't even specify the costs clearly. That and the justified fear of scams is enough to paralyze new authors on the spot when it comes to searching for services that might work for them. In my opinion, we should all be able to shop for services the same way we shop for groceries and clothes. In all honesty, the 'full disclosure' policy should also be applied to people, and thus my new profile pic, showing all my shades of gray! Following are some things to consider when searching for publicity and promotional help through the internet:

  • The first thing to do is to sort out the websites that offer services a la carte and those who do not disclose services or prices.
  • Then tackle all the places that show details. Make a selection of a couple that call your attention, not just on prices but also on the detail of services described, as well as any additional information about the staff, and the company's mission statement. Don't shy away from contacting them to get a feel for them, and ask questions. 
  •  Once you have an idea of what publicity services look like, check out the ones that pique your interest and compare those companies to make an educated choice.

In the end, there is no wrong or right, just what works for each one of us, but we can’t figure it out if we don't have the necessary information! For more on how we help authors visit readerviews.com.

Why Authors Should Blog


Many authors start a blog as a way to build a platform, a place to post their events, start a conversation with their audience, and as a marketing tool for their titles; but very few use their blogs to the fullest potential. Blogging is first and foremost, a publishing tool, which can be utilized when creating new projects. Below are some ways writers can make their blogs work for them during the creative process:

•    What to write – Many times a new story is born through a current or historical event, an interesting person we met, a dream, or even a specific life experience; yet thinking and writing a story doesn’t make it sellable. So, if the purpose of writing the story is to sell it, the author should think about the feasibility that the story would have an audience. This is where blogging comes in. By writing and posting articles, short stories or essays, and marketing such content in a way that it will not only bring traffic to the website but will also generate a response from such traffic; the author can get audience feedback on story ideas. This will allow authors to be conscious of what is worth developing into a book and what isn’t, which in turn gives the book a better chance to succeed.

•    Provide an outlet for multiple ideas – Many authors (if not all) have more than one nagging story idea in their minds. This makes it very difficult to focus on one project at a time. Through blogging short stories or articles about the ideas that pop up, and realizing the level of interest of the audience, the author can purge ideas that are only taking space in their brains and put the effort where the market is.

•    Accessible Ideas Archive and Record Keeping – Blogs can also serve as the author’s idea archive, which can be revisited multiple times for new writing material. The fact that a story doesn’t have a market today doesn’t mean that it won’t have a market tomorrow. Authors can not only read through their old entries and find something that applies to the audience a couple of years down the road; they can also read the feedback it generated for comparison and to determine a better angle to market the story as a new project. The blog can also provide a verifiable record on when the author generated that idea for copyrights issues as well!

Creativity is a gift that authors sometimes do not use to their fullest by limiting it to only creating stories. Being creative when using the tools provided by technology will, in fact, make the difference on all writing projects. For more information on how Reader Views can help authors, visit www.readerviews.com.