Categorizing Your Title in a Literary Awards Contest

Susan Violante Managing Editor

Susan Violante
Managing Editor

With the autumn season approaching, the deadline for our annual literary awards gets closer and closer.  As the submissions roll in, I thought it would be the perfect time to share some awards wisdom with our authors!

•         Each literary awards contest has different guidelines, categories, and submission requirements. When submitting to various contests, it is always a good idea to keep a log that not only keeps track of when you sent each one but also shows the guidelines, fees, categories submitted to, etc. Doing this will help to keep track of the current submissions, and it will also create a chart with information about each contest, which will be helpful for your next books.

·         The genre of the title should be the main category to enter in the contest. Does this mean that it must be the only one? The answer is no. A literary novel, for example, could also be historical fiction, mystery, thriller, or all of the above! Consider submitting the title in a few categories, or even submitting the title in different categories for different contests to improve the chances of scoring an award!

·         Choosing which category to enter in an awards contest is important mostly because the category selected will determine the judge who will read the book. If the author chooses to enter their Christian fiction title in the general fiction category, it will be reviewed by a judge who prefers to read general fiction. A better fit for the title would be the judge that reads Christian fiction titles. It is essential to choose the category that is the best fit for the book’s topic.

·         As some categories are more generalized, they will have more submissions than the more specific ones. In other words, the fewer the number of titles in a category, and the number of categories entered improves the chances of being picked as finalist or winner.

In the end, all authors want their title to make a good show. When shooting to win, competitors need to make sure they give their submission the best possible chance. In my opinion, the key is to categorize the book correctly, and even submitting in different categories applicable to the book’s topic. Keeping all this information straight and organized will also help when strategizing submissions and make the process easier for your next title. For more information about the Reader Views Literary Awards, click here.

Positive Review but Missing the Point - What to Do?

Susan Violante Managing Editor

Susan Violante
Managing Editor

Through the years helping authors get their books reviewed we find that sometimes even though the reviewer liked the book, the author didn’t like the review! Of course, all reviews have gray areas. Sometimes, the story is amazing but lacks editing. Other times, the book is perfect technically, but the plot is weak. On occasion, however, the review comes back positive, yet it’s evident to the author that the reviewer got it all wrong! Dealing with these cases is tricky because although as authors we put a big effort on communicating a specific message through our writing skills, we have no way to guarantee that all readers will get it because the author can’t be next to every reader and explain as they read. Furthermore, even though they didn’t get it, they liked the book! Here are some tips on how to handle positive reviews that are totally missing the point:

·         Do not assume that the reviewer didn’t read the book. Reviewers love to read, that is why they take the time out of their lives, work, and any other thing they have going on. They love to read. They gain nothing by writing a review, yet they do it because they get books to read, and they get to talk about them!

·         Just because the reviewer is an avid reader or is knowledgeable of the topic of your book, doesn’t mean that they can’t make a mistake writing the review or miss the point, or even get facts wrong. They are as human as authors!

·         The first thing an author needs to do after acknowledging the first two points above is determine exactly what is wrong. Are any of the characters’ names wrong? Location? If a non-fiction book, are any of the facts mentioned on the review wrong? Wrong does not mean how they wrote the review, or how they expressed themselves.

·         Be nice. The reviewer is not out to sabotage the author’s success. The author should ask questions like if there was anything in the writing that lead them to miss their point. If it was an error on the review, simply point it out and ask them to correct it. Being nice and taking the opportunity to connect with the reviewer as a reader can be helpful to your writing as well as to your PR as many reviewers are also bloggers.

Finally, remember that there will always be readers that won’t get it, and if, unfortunately, that one ended up being a reviewer, just have another reviewer check your book out, and ask them to look into the aspects of the book that the other one didn’t get…maybe they had a point after all and something can be done quickly to correct the problem; or there is nothing wrong, and now you have a better review! For more information on how we help authors visit us at


Narrative Slayers

Sheri Hoyte Managing Editor

Sheri Hoyte
Managing Editor

Be honest with me, if I had called this week's editorial, “Qualifiers, Indefinite Modifiers, and Intensifiers” would you have even clicked on the article? But that’s just what they are – narrative slayers, and they are out to sabotage writing everywhere.

I recently finished reading Natalie Goldberg’s “Writing Down the Bones,” a wealth of information for writers of every level. In one of the chapters, she discusses an article she had read about a study that was done in the 70s on women and language.  This study found women often added qualifiers and indefinite modifiers to their statements, both oral and written.

NOTE: This is not an article about the writing styles of men vs. women. There are endless studies on this subject for those so inclined to learn more, and both genders do this to some extent. Instead, let’s focus on the narrative destroyers and practice eliminating them from our writing.

I’m sure all the writers out there know what qualifiers and indefinite modifiers are, but humor me as I do a quick review:

“I liked that book, didn’t you?” “Didn’t you” is the qualifier in the sentence.  This statement, in essence, says, “I have an opinion, but I need validation.” Ouch. Don’t write from this place. Be assertive. A clear, definitive statement drops the question, becoming, “I liked that book.”

 “Perhaps this is a good reason to write every day.” “Perhaps” is the culprit in this sentence, an indefinite modifier.  Is it a good reason or not?  Be decisive and confident in your writing and your sentence becomes, “This is a good reason to write every day.”

 Okay, lesson over.  Go ahead.  Take a look at some of your recent material.  What did you find? Curious, I pulled up some of the book reviews I’ve written lately.  Uh-oh.  Guilty.  Not only do I seem to love a good qualifier and indefinite modifier, but I absolutely adore using intensifiers and all the drama and flair they add to the text.

There are more than a handful of us that need to brush up on our skills in this area, don’t you think? But how?

  • Practice being assertive – Use definitive statements and trust yourself. You’ve heard the expression, “When you walk into a room, act like you own it.”  Do the same thing with your writing. You DO own it.  Stand behind it!
  • There is no need to eliminate these words completely. Instead, practice moderation.  An incredibly impressive intensifier is needed every now and then, but perhaps not in this sentence.


  • Remove qualifiers, intensifiers and indefinite modifiers AFTER you finish your writing session. There is a time and a place for everything, and the best way to block your creativity is to worry about writing perfect sentences in the first draft. There will be plenty of time to hone your masterpiece later.

And yes, I jest throughout this article, sometimes on purpose, sometimes, perhaps not. As with all aspects of writing though, the key is practice. It won’t happen overnight but just being aware helps in the implementation of change.  Happy writing!


What Are Other Authors Selling? Why Should I Know…

Susan Violante Managing Editor

Susan Violante
Managing Editor

Last week I spoke about the benefits of going to the library. As I mentioned I have committed to visit the library once a week, so I did! This time I focused on checking out what other authors have written about on my topic in the age group I write for. The experience was enlightening and inspiring, to say the least, even though this was not the first time I had done research on what other authors were doing. What made this experience different was my focus. My goal was not to find a niche in my genre to target but to learn from what worked for other authors by looking at their writing styles, vocabulary, illustrations, format, and any other detail that called my attention. Below are some things to consider when looking at books that are published and successful, to learn from them and to create an applicable guide to follow with your own project:

·         Publishing Information. The first thing I did was to collect information from the books I liked that were within my marketing target and made a list of the titles and the aspects I liked about them. I also compiled information about the publisher, illustrator, etc. in case I decide to consider pitching my book instead of self-publishing.

·          I looked at the main characters. Were they boys, girls, animals? What was unique about them? How did they relate to the target reader? Was it the character that made the book successful or was it the story? How different or similar were they from my main character?

·         I looked also at the story, message, and other characters, and compared them to my own project to determine how different it is to what’s out there, and whether or not I can apply anything I learned to my own project to make it more current, relatable to the reader, captivating and marketable.

·         Pay attention to any new idea that might pop up into your mind while checking out other books within your genre and write them down. You never know, maybe one of these ideas will be your new best-seller!

In the end, we authors have a passion for writing, feel that we have something to say, are committed to sharing a message, love books and want to be able to make a living writing and reading them. So, what better way to be successful than learning from each other? For more information on how we help authors visit

Feeding your Writing and Library Field Trips

Susan Violante Managing Editor

Susan Violante
Managing Editor

Recently, I decided to visit our new Central Library downtown in Austin. It had been a while since I had been to one since I spend most of my time in my home office or should I say ‘Cave.’  But after spending half a day in the library something clicked within, in such a way that I can no longer live as a recluse. Since then I have committed to work from a library at least once a week. Here are some benefits of breaking away from the home office desk and venturing into a library to write.

·         Creative Juices Recharge – The only way to describe what happened to my brain when I explored the shelves is to imagine sleeping beauty waking up from years of sleeping! I could not write fast enough all of the new ideas and directions I could apply to my own projects whether directly to my manuscripts or their marketing! By being reclusive I was missing out on the benefit of other brains to the point of having my brain on a constant loop revisiting the same old ideas.

·         Energy Recharge – By being always within the walls of my writing cave I was also missing out on others’ energy. Just by sitting among other minds at work I felt motivated to work on my projects, was energized as my passion levels for my story boomed and for the first time in a long time, I lost track of time!

·         Routine Enrichment – Having a weekly field trip to the library scheduled has given me something to look forward to in my routine. It has been surprising to me how much it has increased my motivation and productivity as I strive to get things done to make sure I can work on research, writing or any other task for my own projects; or simply explore the shelves for new reads.

Contrary to the myth of being glamorous, the life of a writer is an isolating and lonely one…especially now as we do more promotional work and platform building on the internet. So as authors we sometime fall into the reclusion trap and find ourselves in a looping plateau. By working in the library some of the time, we can connect to the literary world and feed from it. What are you waiting for? Feed your writing!

Awards Programs and Other Contests - Benefits of Early Submission

Susan Violante Managing Editor

Susan Violante
Managing Editor

Granted, sometimes books come out right before the submission deadlines for some awards programs chosen by authors, so early submissions are no longer an option. Yet with advanced planning, a book launching can always be synchronized to contests deadlines, literary magazine guidelines, and important marketing calendar dates. If it is too late for the current book in production, creating a synchronized publishing calendar, program, and plan for the next title in the works will definitely give the best chance possible for the title to make good sales, especially if it can get to the hands of awards judges early.  Following are a few benefits of submitting early:

·         An early submission gets to judges with a blank slate on what the standard curve of the contest will be.  Remember, books are graded by judges as they are read, so it makes sense to try to get a book to them before they have read a hundred submissions in the same category, in my opinion, in hopes of being judged before other strong competitors raise the bar.

·         If the contest offers a book review with it, sometimes the review gets posted on their page shortly after it is produced. This not only gives the author a view of what the judge might think about it, it also gives the author a tool to use to get followers, buyers and to create anticipation with their fans. From the marketing point of view, all of this interaction brings new visitors to the author page, improving opportunity for sales.

·         By sending submissions early, the author can focus on all other aspects of the title’s launch, events and other publicity efforts.

·         Many awards programs offer early entry discounts, which always helps the budget.

All that said, clarification is needed on entering a contest early. By no means should ARC’s be sent to a contest, even if sending early.  The books sent should be the final product, as they are subject to judging with the intent to score a placement. Although advanced copies are great to send to reviewers, they are not the best idea when sending to a literary awards program. For more information on how we help authors visit To enter the Reader Views Literary Awards Click Here.

Does Size Matter When It Comes to Books?

Susan Violante Managing Editor

Susan Violante
Managing Editor

I think it does, but let’s consider all the angles.

As a passionate reader myself, when it comes to books I’d rather read in installments. Let me explain myself. I take books with me everywhere, on my e-Reader and printed books as well, so big heavy books don’t often make it on my book shopping sprees.  Granted, there are long stories that are epic works of art, yet, I bet most of the libraries of regular readers have only a few of them! Also, I find myself skipping from one genre to another one as after reading one genre for a length of time, I just need a break from it. This is easier for me to do with regular length books up to about 300 pages or so. Thus, as I check out new books to read I tend to pick that size of book over larger ones that also called my attention. I don’t know if there are many readers like me, but I tend to believe that I am not alone on this.

As an author and publisher, I can tell you I’d lean toward breaking long epic stories into multiple smaller books rather than publish just one big one for the following reasons:

·         Bigger books are more expensive to produce and more difficult to sell unless you are a celebrity author.

·         By breaking the story into a trilogy or a series, new authors can build their platform with each installment growing a larger and long-lasting fan base. This guarantees an advantage to any new story the author produces afterwards.

·         The electronic age has transformed the attention span of human beings. We now absorb information quicker, but on the same token our attention focuses less amount of time on one thing. This fact tells me as a marketer that the new audiences coming up want it short and sweet.

So, yes size does matter but it is my opinion that shorter is better! I guess that it is at least something to think about when deciding how to publish your story.  

Finding Time to Write

Susan Violante Managing Editor

Susan Violante
Managing Editor

Many people have great ideas for books. But most people never actually write their books. The most common reason people use as their inability to write is time. But it’s not the lack of time that holds people back from writing; it is their idea of time.

“I will write a book when I retire”

How often have we heard that, or even said it ourselves? The truth is that writing is extremely isolating and time-consuming. Beyond just getting words down on paper, we have to revise and polish our work.  The time and effort involved can seem so overwhelming that we might think we can’t do it unless we are retired. I don’t know about you, but my idea of retirement includes traveling, going out with friends, meeting new people, join a knitting club, reading all the books I can never get to, spending time with my family…etc., so the reality is that I will probably have time issues as well after I retire!

First of all, most of us don’t have a lot of free time. Secondly, not having “enough” time is a complete myth. We all have enough time to write a book. It’s not so much about time as it is about discipline, and discipline doesn’t mean chaining yourself to the computer seven nights a week. It means seizing the opportunities when they present themselves. So here are some tips on how to write a book while living your life.

  • Determine how much time you spend doing things that don’t really matter in terms of the big picture? I’m not talking about things you have to do like the dishes, working at your job, or taking care of your children. I mean things like watching TV. At the end of your life would you rather be able to say “I’ve seen every episode of Game of Thrones three times,” or “I wrote and published a book?”
  • Writing does not require a disciplined schedule. It doesn’t require the latest, finest computer on the planet. It doesn’t even require a fancy pen. Writing just requires a few minutes of thought here and there, and then later tying those thoughts together. Get a pen or pencil and some paper, or a laptop—whatever is comfortable for you. Go ahead and sit down in front of the TV, and when the commercials comes on - write. I actually do this for real!
  • The point is to break the big things down into small tasks. Rather than chaining yourself to a desk for three hours give yourself three-minute writing spurts. Challenge yourself not to fill several pages, but just a small piece of paper. If you’re using the computer, it’s great if you can turn on the word count so you can watch it increase. Write 100 words. Then 500 or 1,000 words. Each evening, try to break the previous day’s record. Make it into a game and be persistent. If you are consistent, the words and the pages will add up. Do the numbers, 100 words a day equals 700 hundred words a week, and so on. As you get used to writing, and the number of words you put down increase, you will be closer and closer to finishing your first draft. But if you look at the total words your novel should be, compared to how many you actually have at the time, you will be discouraged and stop all together. Enjoy the writing process and see your work grow.
  • Don’t edit yourself while you write. Just focus on putting the story down on paper and completing the number of words you set as your goal for the day. No book was ever written in a day—not one worth reading at least. Patience and determination will get the book done. If your goal is to write 500 words a day and those 500 words are poorly written, at least you got them on paper. You can always fix them later. The main thing is to write them so they can be fixed. Ernest Hemingway said he wrote one good page for every one hundred bad pages. Bad writing is no big deal if you fix it before publishing. Not writing is a big deal.
  • Time exists all around us if we just take advantage of the moments as they come up. I truly believe anyone who puts his or her mind to it can write a book. It just takes discipline—fifteen minutes a day is sufficient. Whether you use them during lunch in your office, when you wake up in the morning, right before you go to sleep, when you are riding the bus or in front of the TV, pick up that pen!