The Ericksons

Category Archives: Writing

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Amazon Author Page

Today I will be exploring Amazon Author Central. What is it? How do you set up an Amazon Author Page? What can it do for you and your audience?

Let’s start with Amazon Author Central. What is it?

Amazon Author Central is your go-to place as an author who is selling books on the world’s largest online bookstore. There, you can find links to tools you can use as an author to write your books and sell them on Amazon. You can find the reviews people have left for your books as well as your sales statistics. I think the most interesting and useful thing on Amazon Author Central is your Amazon Author page. Here is an overview of what you and your readers can find on your Amazon Author Page.

Readers will find:

  • Your profile, including your profile picture and your website address(es). You can also include video, such as a book trailer if you choose. There is also a follow button so that your readers can get your latest posts and be notified when you publish a new book.
  • Your books and their prices. These are found at the top for quick reference.
  • Your Blog Feed. Yes! Your posts (or at least the first couple of sentences and a link to the post on your site) will automatically appear on your Amazon Author Page, within 24 hours of posting on your site. It’s a great way to connect readers to your website(s).
  • Your book details. These include the formats your book is available in, their prices, and how many stars reviewers are giving each book (on average).

Here is a screenshot of my Amazon Author Page to give you an idea of what it looks like, overall. You can also go there to see it for yourself.

Amazon Author Page

How do you set up your Amazon Author Page?

It’s actually quite simple. Amazon does a great job of walking you through the process. And, if you have any problems, they respond to email questions within 24 hours. I am going to give you a super simple overview of where things are on your Amazon Author Page dashboard, to make the process even easier.

Here is a screenshot of my Amazon Author Page dashboard. I’ve circled some things to pay extra-special attention to.

Your Amazon Author Page dashboard

Starting at the very top of the dashboard is a link to your actual page (sorry, I didn’t circle that). This is handy because your page will look different from your dashboard.

Under that is your Biography. This will show up under your profile picture on your Author Page. I’ve circled the link you can click to either edit your bio or delete it completely.

Directly under your Biography is where you can list your blog(s). This allows your feed to show up on your Amazon Author Page within 24 hours of it being posted.

To the right of your Biography, is your Amazon Author Page URL. You can share the URL with your readers by using the social sharing links or copy/pasting the link wherever you like.

Under the URL is your Profile Photo. This is what readers will see when they come to your Amazon Author Page. It will also show up directly on your book’s sales page (which incidentally includes a link to your Author Page).

Finally, In the bottom right of your dashboard is where you can upload video.

Adding Books to your Amazon Author Page

Now that your page is set up, You will want to add your book(s) to your page. Doing this is usually straightforward. Go back to your Amazon Author Central Dashboard. Not your Page dashboard. If you can’t recall how to get there, just click this link, and log in.

Next, click on the tab at the top that says “Books.” You can see in the screenshot below that “Books” is underlined in orange.

Add Books to your Amazon Author Page

Once you’ve gotten to the page where your books will be, you will see a message asking if there are books missing from your page. Click the orange button that says, “Add more books.”

Next, type the title, author name, or ISBN into the search box to automatically find the listing on Amazon.com.

It will pop up like my book did, here.

Adding books to your Amazon Author Page

When you see your correct book, click the orange button beneath it that says, “This is my book.” You will immediately see the following:

“Your book was successfully added. Please note that it may take up to 24 hours for the book to appear in your bibliography.”

Some important things to note

Once you add a book to your page, it can’t be removed without an act of Congress. So, if you aren’t sure you want your book on your page, wait to add it. This policy is in place in case someone want’s to get an old/used copy. That being said, you can make an appeal to Amazon, and if you have a good reason, they will remove it.

I hope you’ve found this informative. Amazon has fantastic tools available to authors. The Author Page is one of my favorites. Yet, many authors don’t set theirs up. It takes very little time and can lead readers to find other books you’ve written or will write in the future.

  • Do you have an Amazon Author Page? Feel free to add it in the comments (I will check my spam folder to make sure none get lost).
  • If you don’t have one set up, what’s stopped you from doing so?
  • If you aren’t an author, have you ever looked at an author’s page on Amazon.com?

What are YOUR thoughts?

I’d love to hear in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!

About Heather Erickson

I am an author, writer, and speaker and homeschooling mom of 3. Since doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan with stage IV lung cancer in 2012, I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace. My books are available at Amazon.com:

The Memory Maker’s Journal 

Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer

Facing Cancer as a Parent: Helping Your Children Cope with Your Cancer

I also blog about living with cancer at Facing Cancer with Grace.


It’s the 1st Wednesday of the month again. That’s when I take part in Alex J. Cavanaugh’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group. I encourage you to check out their website and even sign up for the IWSG Newsletter. Today I’m going to explore my writing goals, past, present, and future as I answer the #IWSG question for July.

What are your ultimate writing goals, and how have they changed over time (if at all)?

When I was young

I wrote a lot of poetry.

My writing goals were very romantic.

I can’t imagine writing a poem now.

Perhaps I’ve grown too jaded, too defensive;

Throwing up walls to protect my heart.

I may still be a poet on the inside,

But, on the outside, it’s, “Just the facts ma’am.

 

It was 1993

I graduated from the Minnesota Center for Arts Education. I knew that I wanted to write, and journalism seemed like the practical route to take. I had no idea of the politics I would encounter in that area of study. And, like most journalists, I couldn’t keep what I thought to myself. That alienated me from the people I needed to know to get ahead and achieve my writing goals.  I was young, foolish. I gave birth to my first daughter. Two years later I married her father. I spent my energy walking on eggshells in an abusive marriage. Journalism was not to be.

Dear God,

When I journaled, I wrote letters to God. I was a new Christian, and this was my new way of getting all of my feelings out and onto paper. It helped me to be as honest as possible in my writing, even though it would be kept between me and the Lord. The Lord was the only one I could go to with my troubles. So, journaling was the only one of my writing goals I continued to spend time on. It was an emotional outlet. My real goal was emotional survival. This goal was achieved.

I journaled in many ways. I complained, set goals, and even had a gratitude journal. That was the one in which I only wrote about the positive things in life. Things had gotten so bad that I had to find a way to dig the good out of each day and pour it onto paper to remind me that there was hope. It helped me keep my priorities straight. Those priorities were my three little girls.

The Wish List

When my ex-husband left, I had a friend who told me to write down a list of everything I ever wanted in a husband and send it to the Lord. So I did. And, He answered.

I met Dan at Sunday school. We kept running into one another and eventually he introduced himself to me. It truly was love at first sight. We danced around for months before we began writing one another. Then, eventually we spoke on the phone and a while later went for coffee. It was as if God searched for everything on my wishlist and plopped all of those characteristics into Dan. I knew this was the man I would marry, and in October on 2009, I did. Another of my writing goals achieved!

my writing goals

A week before my wedding

I sat down and read all of the journals I’d kept in the previous decade. I could see very clearly where I had made mistakes and wrong turns. The good thing about that was I could tell I was healthier, now, and wouldn’t make those same mistakes. I had chosen well in my husband to be. I would have burned those journals if I had a safe way to do it, but since I didn’t, I threw all of my journals away in a dumpster.  I was starting fresh and didn’t want to hang on to those memories any longer. My writing goals had never included emotional healing, but I got it, anyway.

I married that wonderful man and stopped journaling for the most part. I was too busy loving my life. And that was okay.

But I tinkered

I even wrote some pieces for a Christian magazine. As our children grew older, I found myself envying these younger writers who still had their craft at the top of their priorities list. Then I realized that I had every opportunity in the world to write and it was my fault for not grabbing ahold of them.

When I first began writing again after so many years

I thought I would write fiction. I began with a cozy mystery (which I’m still working on). I got sidetracked by cancer. My husband was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer in 2012. As an effort to help people understand what patients and their caregivers want, in terms of support, I wrote, Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone who has Cancer.

Everything I read said that I needed a blog in order to market my book.

So I began Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker. I intended for it to be about my writing, in general. After all, I was working on my mystery novel. It wasn’t all going to be about cancer. I never wanted to write about cancer, but soon, I was writing about it all the time. People wanted to read about it and we did have a story to tell. Soon, I was writing another book about cancer, just recently released, called Facing Cancer as a Parent: Helping Your Children Cope with Your Cancer.

I needed to do something about the blog issue. The blog issue was that I had a domain name that I wasn’t using: Facing Cancer with Grace. So I made the bold move of separating my blogs. It felt like separating conjoined twins. The procedure went well, though. Now, cancer posts are on Facing Cancer with Grace, and writing posts are on Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker.

In the beginning, I dreaded blogging

It seemed so personal. And it was such a commitment. I had a hard time getting posts up on a regular basis. I had bought into the idea that I needed a muse of sorts to inspire my writing. It also felt like my blogs were competing with my other writing projects. If I had to work on a book, the blogging seemed to stagnate.

Then, I figured out how to have harmony in my writing life.

My writing goals changedFacing Cancer as a Parent

I made peace with writing about living with cancer. It’s not something I’m going to do forever, but it is what I know. Writing as a caregiver is somewhat unique. People want to hear from patients, themselves, but caregivers have something to add to the conversation. They have their own insights, needs, and perspectives.

I have also made peace with blogging. It’s my platform and an art in and of itself.

My love will always be writing books. The publishing side of this is still something I am struggling with. It’s difficult. I suppose my newest writing goal is to become traditionally published so that I can focus on writing and leave all of the other pieces of publishing to the publishing experts. Speaking of goals…

Facing Cancer as a Parent is now available!

Buy it today on Amazon!

How have your goals changed over the years?

 

What are YOUR thoughts?

I’d love to hear in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!

About Heather Erickson

I am an author, writer, and speaker and homeschooling mom of 3. Since doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan with stage IV lung cancer in 2012, I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace.

My books The Memory Maker’s Journal and Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer, are available at Amazon.com.

I also blog about living with cancer at, Facing Cancer with Grace.

 


Putting Your Best Font Forward

In today’s post, I will be giving you a behind-the-scenes look at me putting together my next book, Facing Cancer as a Parent: Helping Your Children Cope with your Cancer. Today, it’s all about making your book look good with the right formatting.

Making Your Book Look Good starts with no formatting at all

I’ve found this to be incredibly important. To help you see the transformations process that happens when you are making your book look good I have taken some screenshots of my manuscript along with some hints.

formatting: making Your Book Look Good

Putting Your Best Font Forward

With print projects, I often forget about the importance of font until it’s time to publish. Then I scramble to make it more visually appealing. Originally the paragraph font was Courier New, 12 pt. with the lines at 1.5. The chapter headings were 20 pt.

It was boring and screamed, “self-published!” So, I decided to play around with it. I recommend looking at other professionally published books in your genre to see what they are using.

  • After a little trial and error, I decided that Cambria was the font to go with for my non-fiction book. This change, alone, made a big difference.
  • I then decided to change the font to 11 pt. and chapter headings to 18 pt. in the print copy of my book.
  • I reduced the line spacing from 1.5 to 1.2.  Seeing the proof copy confirmed that this was a good decision.
  • Still, something else was missing. It needed a little pizzazz. The subheadings needed to stand out without being obnoxious. I decided to simply go bold. I used these headings sparingly.
  • The chapter headings were 18 pt. bold and italicized.

Getting everything in the right (or left) place

One matter of convention (though it really is personal preference) is what goes on the left and what goes on the right. When you open a book, the page on the right-hand side of the book is called recto. The page on the left-hand side is called verso. I believe making your book look good includes keeping (most) front matter pages as well as starting all chapters on the right hand (recto) side of your book.

I put the copyright page on the backside or the verso of the half-title page. I have seen it both ways and for some reason, I like it this way. Likewise, I center it for no good reason other than I like it that way. You can also left-align it if you like.

Center the dedication page. This is important.

Choose how far down the page you will have chapter title or numbers. This is also personal preference. I chose to start mine 2 inches down. and then the content down an inch further. If my chapter title was 2 lines, the content was pushed yet a half an inch lower.

Your paragraphs should be “justified” rather that “ragged.” Ragged edges are fine for online content such as this blog post, but the smooth justified text that matched up along the margins looks far better in your book.

Wait to add page numbers to your table of contents until the very end when you know exactly what page each chapter/section will begin on. Until then, just list the chapter titles. I began my table of contents 1 inch down rather than 2 so that I could fit all of the contents on 2 pages.

Formatting Making your book look good

Easy as 1-2-3…or Not

If there was one thing that drove me out of my mind when formatting my book for print, it was page numbers. Getting them right is a huge part of making your book look good. I finally got them (mostly) right.

Some basic rules for making your book look good while formatting your page numbers are as follows:

Front matter pages should be left blank, but you still count your pages so that you know which page number you will be on when you do start to put the numbers on the pages.

You will begin actually numbering when you are on the Foreword or Introduction (if your book has these). If you have these sections (as well as the prologue, acknowledgments, and other sections of this type) you will number them with roman numerals. My forward started on the 9th page of the book so I numbered it ix.

formatting: Making your book look good

Any blank pages should be left blank (no page numbers). Like the front matter, count the pages so that the next section has the correct numeral in it. This is where I failed miserably, though not for lack of trying. If anyone can figure this out, I would love for you to write a guest post on this topic, for me. I got the front matter numberless, but after that, it was all downhill.

The pages in the body of your book will be numbered with Arabic numerals.

formatting: Making your book look good

Don’t Forget

Facing Cancer as a ParentIt’s important to consider your headers and footnotes, as well. Their font doesn’t automatically change with the rest of the document.

Also, use care when deciding whether or not to use bullet points. They are a benefit to web-based work such as blog posts. They can also look good in print books. E books are another matter entirely. Readers can change font styles and sizes on their devices. When they do, bullet points get thrown all out of whack. Therefore, you should never use bullet points in an e book. What I do is create my print copy first. Then I make the needed changes to create a good e book.

When your work is stylistically and visually consistent, it will look more professional and will give your readers a better reading experience.

*Incidentally, as a rule, I spell numbers out except on web-based media where numerals are more eye-catching.

Coming soon!

Facing Cancer as a Parent:

Helping Your Child Cope with Your Cancer —->>>

 

I’ll be out of town this week and my internet might be unreliable. I would still love to hear your comments on your experience in formatting books, blogs and anything else you can write. I will definitely respond as soon as I return!

What are YOUR thoughts?

I’d love to hear in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!

About Heather Erickson

I am an author, writer, and speaker and homeschooling mom of 3. Since doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan with stage IV lung cancer in 2012, I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace. My books are available at Amazon.com:

The Memory Maker’s Journal 

Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer

Facing Cancer as a Parent: Helping Your Children Cope with Your Cancer

I also blog about living with cancer at Facing Cancer with Grace.

My Family
The Erickson Family, Photo by Everbranch Photography

outlining your non-fiction book

I am big on using an outline in my writing process. Since (for now) I would like to avoid the whole pantsers vs. plotters debate, I will focus this post on outlining your non-fiction book. There are several reasons I recommend outlining your non-fiction book …

Outlining your non-fiction book will help you come up with ideas

Think of it as a method of brainstorming. You are getting all the ideas that have been swirling around in your head, out and onto paper. Some of these ideas will work and will be worth exploring deeper. Others will seem disconnected from the group. Maybe you can use them for another project, but they really don’t belong in this particular book. You can identify these easily because they don’t fit anywhere on your outline.

During this process, you can see what decisions you need to make

For example, in Facing Cancer as a Parent, I included a section called Ages and Stages. In it I cover how children from 0 to 26 years old react to, and cope with, a parent’s cancer. That’s a big span of ages! So, I broke them down into brackets: Infants, Toddlers and Preschoolers, School Age, Preteens and Teens, and Young Adults.

Outlining your non-fiction book will help you organize your thoughts.

As you plan your book, you will see patterns emerge from your outline. By identifying these patterns and developing them, your book will go from a bunch of disconnected thoughts with a common theme to organized ideas that naturally flow from one to the next. Outlining your non-fiction book is the most efficient and practical way to achieve that.

You will have your Table of Contents

You will want to pretty your outline up with clever chapter titles and page numbers, but after outlining your non-fiction book you will have a basic table of contents.

How to do it?

No, I won’t bore you with the same outlining rules you learned in the 4th grade. In fact, you don’t even need to remember your Roman numerals. Instead, we will look at form and function.

  1. Remember when I said that outlining was a lot like brainstorming? That’s the first thing you’re going to do. Write down your main idea and then all of the things you would like to say to your readers about that idea. You might do this in the form of a list or as a mind map. Use whatever method you like best.
  2. Look for the patterns in your ideas. Start to rearrange your ideas in a logical way.
  3. Decide if you will have chapters grouped into larger sections or if you will simply have chapters follow one another in succession. Either way, they will need to flow, logically.
  4. When you are ready to create your table of contents, you can write clever section/chapter titles. Wait until your book is ready to publish before you add page numbers. If you make any changes to your book the numbers can get thrown all out of whack.

See? No Roman numerals necessary. Do you have a different way of organizing your books or blog posts? I would love to hear about it in the comments below!

What are YOUR thoughts?

I’d love to hear in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!

About Heather Erickson

I am an author, writer, and speaker and homeschooling mom of 3. Since doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan with stage IV lung cancer in 2012, I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace.

My books The Memory Maker’s Journal and Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer, are available at Amazon.com.

I also blog about living with cancer at, Facing Cancer with Grace.

My Family
The Erickson Family, Photo by Everbranch Photography

It’s the 1st Wednesday of the month again. That’s when I take part in Alex J. Cavanaugh’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group. I encourage you to check out their website and even sign up for the IWSG Newsletter. Today I’m going to explore character names as I answer the #IWSG question for June:

Which is harder for you to come up with, book titles or character names?

I have a much harder time coming up with a book title than I do good character names. While a book title needs to be catchy and clever, there are some good guidelines and tools available to help name characters. What are some of them?

The root of character names

Many names have an underlying meaning. “Delilah” means desired or seductive. A character with this name will surely evoke thoughts of Samson’s downfall. Maybe you want this. If not, consider something else; perhaps “Deborah,” the mighty warrior and prophetess, judge of Israel, in the Bible.

Consider Ethnicity

How you use ethnicity in naming your character can go a long way toward helping you with characterization. An Asian American could just as easily have the given name “David,” as he would, “Yuan.” But the former will signal to the reader that he is assimilated into American culture. “Yuan” is more likely traditional. Either way, you will want to have a last name like “Tsui” or “Lu” if you don’t want to give a specific description of your character’s ethnicity. This goes a long way toward following the rule of “Show. Don’t tell.”

One of my favorite online tools to help with this process is a Fake Name Generator. The great thing about this particular name generator is that under its advanced settings you can specify the character’s ethnicity (right down to the region) as well as their gender and age.

Speaking of age and nicknames…

When’s the last time you heard a 3-year-old called “Richard?” He would more likely be called “Ricky.” Decide whether or not your character will have a nickname, and under what circumstances it will be used. Just like a given name, a nickname will have to match aspects of the character such as personality, appearance, hobbies, etc.

Some nicknames are ironic, like the 400 lb. bus driver whom everyone calls, “Tiny.” Others might be descriptive like the basketball player called “Stretch,” or the daredevil whose friends call him, “Crash.”

I recently read a wonderful book called, “The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell.” It was about a little boy named Sam Hill, who was born with ocular albinism, making the pupils of his eyes red. For that, he gained the nickname, Sam Hell (along with other names like the Devil. This had a profound effect on Sam.

Character Names

Names by Gender

You’ve probably noticed that I am using mostly males as examples. That’s because non-traditional nicknames are used more often by males than females, but there are certainly plenty of female nicknames to go around, including unisex names that will give your readers the impression that a female named “Michaela” who goes by “Mickie” might be a tomboy. If you do use a Unisex name, be sure to let your readers know immediately whether your character is male or female so they don’t struggle to form a mental picture of who you are writing about.

Avoid these Names

Avoid iconic names like Adolf (unless you are writing historical fiction set in the early 20th century Germany or Austria). Likewise, Cher, Madonna, and Elvis will get in the way of your readers separating your character from their namesake. Also, avoid character names which are difficult to pronounce in the language in which your book will be published. Most people who have read the Old Testament of the Bible have glossed over some of the more difficult to pronounce names. You don’t want your readers to do that with your book.

One tricky rule

Names that start with the same letter or have a similar sound, for example, “Brett” and “Bart,” will be difficult for your readers to keep straight. I am currently reading a fantastic book by John Grisham called, “The Last Juror.” In it are two characters named, “Wiley and Willy.” I’m nearly done with the book and I still have to remind myself who’s who.

Before the internet became part of our daily lives, Moms relied on baby name books to help them name their unborn children. Now, you can use online name generators. I highly recommend giving a lot of thought to your characters’ names. They can make a big difference in how other characters, and your readers, see them.

About Heather Erickson

I am an author, writer, and speaker and homeschooling mom of 3. Since doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan with stage IV lung cancer in 2012, I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace.

My books The Memory Maker’s Journal and Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer, are available at Amazon.com.

I also blog about living with cancer at, Facing Cancer with Grace.

My Family
The Erickson Family, Photo by Everbranch Photography

 


Book Proposal

According to one survey, 81% of people believe they have a book in them.  Unfortunately, most people don’t[i].  They might have a story in them, but a book is another thing, entirely. A book is written for an audience. In the past, publishers have asked the questions that ensured whether or not a book would likely sell. Writers answer these questions in the form of a book proposal. With the ability to self-publish, no one is asking these questions.

Today, most writers:

  • Don’t know what sells
  • Overestimate the demand for their book idea in an already saturated market
  • Overestimate their ability as a writer
  • Don’t realize how much time it takes to write, edit, format, publish, and market their book
  • Are often too satisfied with a low-quality book

How can you know whether or not your idea for a book is worth pursuing?

Start where traditionally published writers do, with a book proposal.

When someone is attempting to traditionally publish, they don’t invest the time and energy into writing a book until they know someone wants to publish it for them. So they write a book proposal to answer two questions a publisher will ask:

  • Why should I publish this book?
  • Why are you the person to write it?

As a writer attempting to self-publish, you need to answer these same questions. You do this in your book proposal. This guide is meant as a starting point for self-published writers to assess the viability of their book in much the same way that a publisher does. And it only makes sense to do this. After all, you are the publisher!

If you are trying to traditionally publish, you will want to be more precise and professional in its layout.

Start with an introduction.

  • What is your book about?

This should hook your audience enough that they will see there’s a compelling reason to consider your book.

  • What is its genre/category?

A great way to determine this is to go to your local library. Find a book that is very similar to what you want to write and see how it is categorized. You might need to tweak it to find the best fit, but this is a good starting point. Amazon.com can be used in a similar manner. Unfortunately, many self-published authors miscategorize their books so make sure you aren’t following someone down the wrong path.

If you happen to be writing a novel, the best resource I know of is the Story Grid by Shawn Coyne. He does an excellent job of explaining genre and how to decide which genre your book falls under. It’s much more complex than it sounds, but he gives step by step guidance to help you sort it out.

Include an estimated length as well as the number of photos and/or illustrations. Pages with images are often more expensive and will need to be figured into the publishing cost.

What about the competition?

Like the three bears, it’s important that you have some competition, but that the market isn’t overly saturated. What about that book that no one has thought of yet? You know… the really original idea.

“There are somewhere between 600,000 and 1,000,000 books published every year in the US alone, depending on which stats you believe. Many of those – perhaps as many as half or even more – are self-published. On average, they sell less than 250 copies each.”[ii]

With that many books being published each year, if no one has thought to write about something, then no one is thinking about reading it, either. So some competition is good. But, you also need to stand out from the crowd. The perfect example of this is the cancer book market. I can speak to this since I am a part of this over-saturated market.

Before writing my book, “Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone who has Cancer,” I spoke with David Henry Sterry of The Book Doctors. He explained that traditional publishers are very leery of publishing books about cancer because everyone who has ever been diagnosed with cancer has decided to write a memoir about it and they just haven’t sold well. He was also quick to point out that there is still a market for books in this category…

But you need to stand out from the crowd

I chose to do this by focusing more on the practical advice people need when facing cancer, rather than our story. My goal was to stand out from the more sterile “about cancer” books written by professionals, by making my books very readable from the voice of experience, while focusing on the reader.

Find comparable books. It’s helpful to know what books have the same style and feeling as the book you are writing. You can use this information in your book description on its sales page, as well. “If you like “Such and Such,” you’re going to love…” Also, know what is missing from each of those books, and how your book fills the void.

Book Proposal

Who is your book’s audience?

Narrow down who your audience is, as much as possible. It is common for writers to write their book in a generalized manner in an attempt to please everyone. Unfortunately, when you do this, you connect with no one. Drilling down to a specific audience in your book proposal results in your readers feeling like the book was written just for them. And in a sense, it was! How is your book going to benefit this audience?

Is it part of a series?

Will there be sequels? This is a huge factor in marketability. As I talked to David Henry Sterry about a mystery series I was starting, I said I planned on writing 3 books. It took place in a small town and you can only have so many murders in a small town before people start checking the water. Sterry laughed and said, “No way. Think about Murder She Wrote. There’s a murder every week in Cabot Cove.”  That’s how an expert marketer thinks. Possibilities!

Who are you?

In your book proposal, consider what makes you the ideal person to write this book. You are selling yourself as much as your book. What is your platform? This is the place from which you will market your book and yourself.  It includes your website, your social media accounts, and your mailing list. All of these connect you to your audience in a more personal way. Publishers demand a well-established platform. You will need them to get your book in front of your audience. Consider all the ways you can publicise your book and include those ideas here so that when you are marketing, you already have the beginning of a plan.

Are you consulting an expert if your subject is a specialized one?

For my book, Facing Cancer as a Parent, I consulted a child-life specialist who specializes in children who have a parent with cancer. As a parent of children whose dad has cancer, I have a level of expertise that was earned the hard way, through experience. But, when you are dealing with something as important as the well-being of children, you want to ensure the information you are publishing is technically correct, as well. Consulting an expert adds to your book’s credibility.

An Outline

I know there are die-hard “pantsers” out there, writers who fly by the seat of their pants and see where their muse takes them. The truth is until you are established as an author, a publisher wants to know where you’re going with your book. What’s going to be in it? Even though this book proposal is for your benefit as a self-published writer, you will want to plan out your book in outline form.

Start by listing your chapters and then under each chapter heading, list the subheadings, or what you will detail in each chapter. This will help you to get the flow of your book planned.

Sample Chapter

Even as a self-published writer, including a sample chapter in your book proposal, will help you to set the tone and get the formatting straight. We will talk more about formatting in a future post.

What are YOUR thoughts?

I’d love to hear in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!

About Heather Erickson

I am an author, writer, and speaker and homeschooling mom of 3. Since doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan with stage IV lung cancer in 2012, I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace.

My books The Memory Maker’s Journal and Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer, are available at Amazon.com.

I also blog about living with cancer at Facing Cancer with Grace.

Footnotes:

[i] Joseph Epstein, New York Times, September 28, 2002, “Think You Have a Book in You? Think Again”

[ii] Forbes, Jan. 8, 2013. Nick Welsh, Contributor. “Thinking of Self-Publishing Your Book in 2013? Here’s What You Need to Know.”

 


Writing Facing Cancer as a Parent

In preparation for my upcoming book launch, I’ve been gathering questions my readers have about the process of writing Facing Cancer as a Parent: How to help your Child Cope with Your Cancer and getting it ready to publish. The release date for Facing Cancer as a Parent is coming up, soon. I am formatting the book for print right now. Some formatting issues have put me behind schedule. My goal is to have it out by July 4th. In the meantime, here are some Q and A about writing Facing Cancer as a Parent.

Facing Cancer series seem to be part how-to and part anecdotal stories. Why the blend?

I love telling stories, especially to my family about my family, our history, and memories. It seems like daily I try to tell my kids a story and before I even begin, they groan and tell me the story as proof that they’ve heard it before. Apparently, I have told them these stories one too many times. I’m a storyteller. That’s part of being a writer. I also believe that most people are wired for story. Stories help them retain the information and know how to apply it to their own lives.

Is it difficult sharing such personal stories in your books?

I’m actually a very private person. Whenever I read a memoir, I wonder how the friends and family feel having their dirty laundry aired so publicly. So I’m sensitive to that and I’m careful to share things that are genuine, but at the same time don’t embarrass my family. That’s respect.

When I write a story about someone, whether they are a family member or a friend, I like to have them give me the okay.  If I write about someone I can’t get ahold of because we’ve lost touch, I change names and identifying details. Most people, including my kids, are pretty cool with it. I’ve never had anyone say no. But then, I don’t share everything.

Sometimes there are things that you might want to write about in the hope that it could help someone else in a similar situation, but you can’t do that if it’s going to embarrass your kid. Your kid has to come first. And you can’t make assumptions. Kids are unique and often sensitive to the spotlight. There might be something you don’t think is a big deal to share, but they might be mortified to see it in print. Ask first.

What is your favorite part of the writing process?

I think the editing process is my favorite. Not the whole grammar/punctuation aspect, but crafting the words. For a project like this, one of my goals is making the reader comfortable. I want the words to be easily digested so there’s no interference between me and the reader. So, I don’t want to throw overly-complex information at them or try to prove my intellect with a bunch of fifty-cent words. My readers are dealing with enough in their lives. I want to make life easier for them. That’s not always how I write, but it’s my philosophy when crafting my books about cancer.

Facing Cancer as a ParentWhat was the hardest part of writing Facing Cancer as a Parent?

By far the hardest part of writing Facing Cancer as a Parent was the end. There’s a section that deals with helping children through the death of a parent. I often found myself avoiding it and coming up with other things to do rather than finish the book. I didn’t want to think about it because that’s the reality that our family continues to face. Many people who have cancer are treated and cured and go on to live long lives. But there are people like my husband who have a diagnosis that doesn’t have a cure. We can put it off, but the day will come. So, that was an incredibly difficult section to write.

What’s it like working with Create Space to publish your book?

There are things about it that I love, like the ability to control your content, from the interior to cover choices, to how it will be marketed. There are also things I hate, like doing my own formatting. I could certainly hire a formatter, but I haven’t quite given up trying to save money in that area. I keep thinking, I’ve done this before. Why is it so hard? I will likely write about this in the future because it was such a difficult obstical to hurdle.

What characteristics from Facing Cancer as a Friend did you use writing Facing Cancer as a Parent?

I continue to write about things that the book’s audience is dealing with every day. In Facing Cancer as a Friend, that was the question of how to support someone you care about who is now diagnosed with cancer. In writing Facing Cancer as a Parent, I confronted the question of how to still parent even when your mind is constantly on your (or your spouse’s) cancer diagnosis. I researched the topic, extensively, getting the help of child life specialists, including Melissa Turgeon who at the time was working for the Angel Foundation, an organization that supports families facing cancer in Minnesota.

I’ve also lived this. For over 5 years, my husband has been fighting stage IV lung cancer. We have seen a lot of ups and downs. Our 3 daughters have lived for over 5 years, with the reality that their dad is sick and that his life is on the line. Our goal has been to help them adjust to this and face the future with strength and resilience. So, I share a lot of short stories from our lives.

How is Facing Cancer as a Parent going to be different from Facing Cancer as a Friend?

I learned so much, writing Facing Cancer as a Friend, including some things I wish I could redo (and plan to, at some point). There are some things that are stylistically more professional in Facing Cancer as a Parent. I am much happier with the cover and the formatting style of Facing Cancer as a Parent. When I have the time, I plan to rerelease Facing Cancer as a Friend with these same formatting changes.

What was your main goal while writing Facing Cancer as a Parent?

I want to offer a starting point for parents going through this difficult time. There are questions every parent asks and I hope to give them some answers and a direction in which they can go to help their kids. It won’t solve every problem they encounter, but it will help them feel more like they are on solid footing.

While you’re here, sign up for my email list to get a periodic email newsletter to encourage your creativity.

What are YOUR thoughts?

I’d love to hear in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!

About Heather Erickson

I am an author, writer, and speaker and homeschooling mom of 3. Since doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan with stage IV lung cancer in 2012, I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace.

My books The Memory Maker’s Journal and Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer, are available at Amazon.com.

I also blog about living with cancer at, Facing Cancer with Grace.


How the spring season inspires me to write

It’s spring! It’s the 1st Wednesday of the month again. That’s when I take part in Alex J. Cavanaugh’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group. I encourage you to check out their website and even sign up for the IWSG Newsletter. Even though it seemed like it would never arrive, spring is here! Today I will explore whether the season inspires me to write, or not, as I answer this month’s IWSG Day question:

It’s spring! Does this season inspire you to write more than other seasons, or not?

The Short Answer

No.  I always want to write.

But…

But each season inspires me to write in a different way.

I believe strongly that there is a natural rhythm throughout the calendar year, which can help us in everything we do, whether it’s celebrating seasons and holidays with family and friends, worshiping God, learning or working. Marketing gurus figured this out, long ago. Why not allow our creative endeavors to be assisted by the calendar?

How each season inspires me to write

How the summer season inspires me to write

Let’s start with how the spring season inspires me to write

Beginning in 2017, I started participating in the A to Z Blogging Challenge. It’s a wonderful way to start out the year because if for some reason, I don’t get any more blog posts written the rest of the year, I still have content to share (even if it means reposting and A to Z post in November when I’m swamped with holiday preparations).  In order to accomplish this, I write and edit like crazy, beginning in Late February, in preparation for the April challenge.

When A to Z is over, I breathe a sigh of relief and pick up the pieces of whatever book I happen to be writing. Currently, I am getting, “Facing Cancer as a Parent: Helping Your Kids Cope with Your Cancer,” ready for publication. I happen to be in the phase of the final edits and formatting.

How the summer season inspires me to write

For our family, summer means big family get-togethers like a week at the cabin. It also means road trips and vacations. I write more in my journal during the summer months because it’s more portable.  I also tend to choose a fresh project to work on at the cabin. Some people might wonder why I work while I’m on vacation. If I go more than a day or two without writing, I can really get into a slump. Writing at least a little bit each day keeps the pump primed.

Strange things happen in the summer that inspires me to write in ways I often don’t. For example, last year there was a power outage that left us using candles to light our house and, of course, no computer to write with. I grabbed a book of story starters and began to write a short story idea involving a power outage. It was an idea I would never have had on a regular day.

How the summer season inspires me to write

How the autumn season inspires me to write

The summer fun is winding down and the new routine of the school year invites new ideas and goals I typically turn in my journal for a schedule and my laptop. I help my focus along by listening to instrumental music through my earbuds so the squabbling of my homeschooled kids doesn’t drive me crazy. They do their work in the living room on their own laptops, or with notebooks and pencils.

I usually have some concrete goals that I try to achieve in the fall. One year, I participated in NaNoWriMo and finished my first draft in a month. I still haven’t finished revising it.  As a middle-aged woman with a lot of irons in the fire, I opted out last year.  I do have an idea for a future book, though.

How the winter season inspires me to write

I live in Minnesota, so when winter arrives I hunker down and avoid going outside at all costs. This gives me a great 5-month opportunity to write.  I try to finish any projects that I can before the end of the year. I begin thinking about my goals for the next year and what it will take to accomplish them. I also get as much of my content calendar written as possible, so I always have plenty of ideas simmering on the back burner.

Each season inspires me to write in different ways from the others, and spring is no exception. But, it seems my actual output is pretty steady throughout the year.

How the winter season inspires me to write.

How do the seasons affect your life?

What are YOUR thoughts?

I’d love to hear in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!

About Heather Erickson

I am an author, writer, and speaker and homeschooling mom of 3. Since doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan with stage IV lung cancer in 2012, I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace.

My books The Memory Maker’s Journal and Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer, are available at Amazon.com.

I also blog about living with cancer at, Facing Cancer with Grace.

 

My Family
The Erickson Family, Photo by Everbranch Photography

Addictions

I’m doing double duty this month during the A to Z Blogging Challenge. Here at Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker, I will share ways to increase your creativity. I’ll also be doing the challenge at Facing Cancer with Grace, where I will share posts that focus on caregiving. I hope you’ll visit me at both sites. While you’re here, sign up for my email list. Today’s post is Y for Your Addictions Have to Go.

Many people think of novelists (of all writers, really) as deep thinking older men who find their muse in the bottom of a bottle of bourbon. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Any addiction, whether alcohol, drugs, gambling, or pornography, will hamper your creativity. It doesn’t mean you can’t write great stuff while living with an addiction, but it will make the process a lot harder—not to mention the other problems addictions will bring into your life. To be the best writer you can be, your addictions have to go.

But what about those famous writers who’ve had addictions?

In his book entitled, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, Stephen King, a recovering addict himself, has a lot to say about this1. He lays responsibility for the myth of the addicted writer at the feet of 4 specific examples of literary angst and despair: Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Sherwood Anderson, and the poet, Dylan Thomas. King’s opinion (and mine, as well) is that substance abusing writers are just substance abusers—plain and simple. While creative people may be more prone to addiction than the general public, they don’t need to be drunk, stoned, or otherwise tuned up to write. Any claim to the contrary is a lie.

How Alcohol and Drugs Affect the Brain

The brain is the most complex organ in the human body. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “drugs can alter important brain areas that are necessary for life-sustaining functions and can drive the compulsive drug abuse that marks addiction.” Drugs tap into, and interfere with, the brains communication system, leading to abnormal messages being sent. Drugs target the brain’s reward system, flooding it with dopamine, a neurotransmitter that regulates movement, emotion, rewards, and feelings of pleasure. This causes the drug user to want to continue to use drugs. They are the only way to make the brain get those “reward” messages at those levels. When the drug is taken away, the person no longer responds to the things that normally would give them pleasure. This leads to feelings of depression. It becomes a vicious cycle.

Addictions

Addiction and Creativity

While many creative people have addictions, those addictions don’t add to or benefit their creativity. Creative people may, however, be more prone to addictions. One drug treatment center’s website postulates that there are many similarities between the creative personality and the addictive personality. Many of these characteristics make one prone to addiction, including a tendency to act impulsively and an enjoyment of risk-taking.

It is well documented that drugs, alcohol, and other addictive substances and activities do not enhance one’s creativity. The myth of the addiction as the artist’s muse is born of the fact that many creative people happen to become addicted people. They were always creative, and likely more productive prior to becoming addicted. The very definition of addiction is to put what you are addicted to before anything and everything else in life, including your art.

What to do about your addiction

There really isn’t a self-help guide to breaking an addiction. The best thing you can do is to seek professional help. The best addiction treatment center I know of is Teen Challenge. Teen Challenge serves men, women, and teens. They have centers all over the United States (and the world) and often accept people regardless of ability to pay. Contact the Teen Challenge center near you to find out how they can help you.

While you’re here, sign up for my email list to get a periodic email newsletter to encourage your creativity.

What are YOUR thoughts?

I’d love to hear in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!

About Heather Erickson

I am an author, writer, and speaker and homeschooling mom of 3. Since doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan with stage IV lung cancer in 2012, I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace.

My books The Memory Maker’s Journal and Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer, are available at Amazon.com.

I also blog about living with cancer at, Facing Cancer with Grace.

Footnotes:

1 I highly recommend On Writing. It’s one of the best books on writing there is. Part memoir, part craft, it is sure to encourage and inform you. As a bonus, if you’ve ever read any of his books, hearing what went on behind the scenes as he wrote them will be especially enjoyable.


eliminate expections

I’m doing double duty this month during the A to Z Blogging Challenge. Here at Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker, I will share ways to increase your creativity. I’ll also be doing the challenge at Facing Cancer with Grace, where I will share posts that focus on caregiving. I hope you’ll visit me at both sites. While you’re here, sign up for my email list. Today’s post is X for Eliminate eXpectations.

Expectations are a good thing, though…right? Well, sometimes. But usually, when you eliminate expectations you are also removing psychological roadblocks in the way of your creativity. What do I mean by that? Here’s an example.

Would you believe square A is the exact same shade of gray as square B?

 

Copyrighted free use, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=59829

But what does an optical illusion have to do with creative expectations?

When we compare our work to the work of others, it changes how we see it.

When I was in the 8th grade, we had a teacher who liked to tell us, “Blowing out someone else’s candle won’t make yours burn brighter.”  It wasn’t original to him but it stayed with me all of these years. We aren’t in a competition. Yet we often end up blowing out our own candle!

“I wish I could write like that.”
“I’ll never be as good as her.”

Whenever you compare your work to someone else’s, you will run into issues related to expectations. This can be really difficult to combat when you consider how much media we take in every day, often related to your area of creative expertise. As a reader, I read all the time, and I learn from it. But I have to be careful not to judge my writing by comparing it to someone else’s. They have their voice and I have mine. There’s room enough in this world for both.

Eliminate expectations of what your writing (or any creative project) should be like. Instead, work on it as if it is in a vacuum, completely independent of anyone else’s.

Don’t limit yourself to someone else’s expectations

Whether those expectations are high or low, this can be a problem. Trying to live up to someone’s high expectations can leave you feeling discouraged when you miss the mark. And when someone makes it clear that they have low expectations, you can feel just as bad—if not worse.

Instead, be open to possibilities. Block out the noise when other people make remarks about how they anticipate you will do as a writer or artist.

When I was younger, I was a talented artist, able to draw very realistic pictures of anything I saw. I was particularity good at portraits. Then, one day my dad asked me why I never did any “real art.” Everything I did was realistic, not “creative.” This wounded me terribly. I stopped making the art I loved and tried more fantasy based art that meant nothing to me. I was just trying to win his approval. And I got it, but I lost my love of drawing and painting because what I was doing no longer meant anything to me. Ultimately, I quit.

That was an immature response to what I’m sure my dad meant as encouragement. But even now, it hurts to think about what I lost.

Eliminate expectations of your work being like your past work

You might stop short of your work being the best it can be because it is better than something you’ve done in the past. So you are satisfied. But what if it could have been even better? While you can learn from work you’ve done in the past, don’t unintentionally be limited by it.

Stop reciting should haves, could haves, and would haves from your vocabulary in relationship to your creativity. They only make you feel like you’ve missed the mark. Instead, look for opportunities to turn lemons into lemonade.

You can still use “mistakes” from past work in the future

Maybe you messed up on something and you’re ready to throw it in the trash because it doesn’t meet the expectations you had when you first set out to work on the project. It might not be what you ultimately need, but it could be something completely different. Many writers, including myself, never throw out their mistakes. Often when I am editing, I eliminate whole chapters because they don’t fit in with the book well enough to stay there. I can always use them as a basis for something in the future.  So, I keep a file of documents on my computer with ideas, characters, and whole chapters of non-fiction work that I can use in the future.

When you eliminate expectations from your creative life, you get a purer perspective.

While you’re here, sign up for my email list to get a periodic email newsletter to encourage your creativity.

What are YOUR thoughts?

I’d love to hear in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!

About Heather Erickson

I am an author, writer, and speaker and homeschooling mom of 3. Since doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan with stage IV lung cancer in 2012, I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace.

My books The Memory Maker’s Journal and Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer, are available at Amazon.com.

I also blog about living with cancer at, Facing Cancer with Grace.

Buy Facing Cancer as a Friend Today!

 

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