Occupation Thesaurus Entry: Pilot

Jobs are as important for our characters as they are for real people. A character’s career might be their dream job or one they’ve chosen due to necessity. In your story, they might be trying to get that job or are already working in the field. Whatever the situation, as with any defining aspect for your character, you’ll need to do the proper research to be able to write that career knowledgeably.

Enter the Occupation Thesaurus. Here, you’ll find important background information on a variety of career options for your character. In addition to the basics, we’ll also be covering related info that relates to character arc and story planning, such as sources of conflict (internal and external) and how the job might impact basic human needs, thereby affecting the character’s goals. It’s our hope that this thesaurus will share some of your research burden while also giving you ideas about your character’s occupation that you might not have considered before.

The Occupation Thesaurus can help you choose the perfect careers for your characters

Occupation: Pilot

Overview: There are many kinds of pilots, but only a few can be paid for their services—meaning your character would need to be an airline pilot, a commercial pilot, or a pilot in the military. As the name suggests, airline pilots fly commercial airliners. Commercial pilots may work for a private company or own their own business transporting passengers and cargo, running rescue missions, or doing aerial photography. Military pilots obviously fly within the military; they may be career pilots or could be fulfilling a tour of duty as a means of gaining flight training and experience. Pilots in the military often have no trouble  transitioning to a civilian pilot’s career once their time is up.

Airline pilots don’t tend to have the typical 9-to-5 work schedule; instead they work a series of days followed by a number of days off. A commercial pilot’s workweek may be more regulated, depending on what they’re doing. The former must be 23 years old while the latter can begin working earlier, at 18.

Necessary Training: Pilots will need a certification that consists of a combination of ground school (any training done on the ground) and flight training. Training can take place at a flight school, through a collegiate program, or with a private instructor. A medical certificate is also required (first class for aviation pilots, second class for commercial pilots).

Beyond certification, most commercial jobs require that a pilot have a certain number of flight hours under their belt. Many times, their flight training doesn’t provide the required hours; in this case, pilots will need to gain flying experience before applying with their desired company.

Military training is obviously a different animal, with varying requirements depending on the country and branch of service involved.

Useful Skills, Talents, or Abilities: Exceptional memory, mechanically inclined, multitasking, predicting the weather

Helpful Character Traits:

POSITIVE: Adaptable, adventurous, alert, confident, cooperative, decisive, disciplined, focused,meticulous, responsible, studious

NEGATIVE: Perfectionist

Sources of Friction: working with a difficult or lazy co-pilot, flying a plane with mechanical difficulties, flying in difficult weather, having to conduct an emergency landing, romantic entanglements with members of the flight crew, failing a drug test, a terrorist or hijacking situation, missing an important event (a child’s birthday party, a vital marital counseling session) due to a delayed flight, having to take less-desired flights due to other pilots having seniority, being stationed in a place where one doesn’t want to live, medical issues that threaten one’s career as a pilot, difficulties at home that make it difficult to be gone for long stretches (a serious medical diagnosis, a spouse’s promotion that require them to travel too, etc.)

People They Might Interact With: co-pilots, air traffic controllers, flight attendants, airport personnel, union officials, passengers, hotel personnel

How This Occupation Might Impact One’s Basic Needs:

  • Self-Actualization: A pilot who is unable to obtain his desired certification may be stuck doing jobs that are unsatisfying. This could also happen if the pilot’s personal circumstances required him to take a job with more flexibility and traditional hours.
  • Love and Belonging: This need could be impacted if the pilot’s work hours and time away from home become a problem.
  • Safety and Security: Despite the best training and experience, flying is still a dangerous endeavor. If a pilot encounters a life-threatening situation, it may haunt them, hindering their flying attempts in the future.

Common Work-Related Settings: Airplane, airport, hotel room, military base, military helicopter

Twisting the Fictional Stereotype:

  • Gender-wise, pilots are largely male, so making yours female can provide a seldom-seen twist.
  • Pilots are typically portrayed as either highly adventurous adrenaline junkies or straight-laced, by-the-book types. When you’re building your pilot’s personality, consider uncommon traits that aren’t usually associated with this career, such as flirtatious, sentimental, philosophical, sleazy, verbose, or morbid.

Visit the other Occupations in our collection HERE.

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Five Ways to Prepare for an Encore Career as a Writer

It’s a daunting proposition…nearing retirement and trying to make the call if we’re ready to jump into a new career as a writer, especially knowing the tremendous work ahead to become a powerful storyteller. And yet, many courageous people do just this.

Author Barbara Stark-Nemon is one of them and has some great advice on how to make the transition. Read on!

I already thought I was the luckiest person in the working world.  I had a thirty-year career as a teacher and speech and language therapist, and believed I’d made a real contribution to the students I worked with.  The gratitude I feel for being able to write those sentences now extends to my second career as a writer and author which has brought immense satisfaction and creative energy into my life.  For those of you wishing or preparing to make a transition to an encore career writing, I can offer five strategies that I believe helped me make that change successfully.

1. Plan Ahead. Four years before I wanted to switch to writing full time, I prepared by researching and making adjustments in these areas. Look at your…

  • Retirement: Maximize contributions to any retirement program. This might include increasing work hours, changing deductions, increasing contributions to a 401k, or buying other types of retirement credits or investments dedicated to future income.
  • Family Finances: Know what you will need to contribute, both in salary and benefits, after the switch to a primary career as a writer.
  • Future Work Opportunities: If full retirement is not possible, explore whether reduced or flexible work hours, or a job that would be more writing related are options.

2. Create a Transition. I knew I couldn’t work full time, participate in my family life and summon the focus to write a novel—lots of people can do this, but I couldn’t! I did work toward my writing career while still teaching full time. These are transitional activities to consider:

  • Research/Reading: My first novel was European WWII historical fiction, so I read every historical novel I could find in that genre. Other essential research activities include travel to important settings, searching in archives for letters and relevant documents, interviewing people and gathering factual information.
  • Improve craft: I attended a week-long writing conference as a retirement gift to myself. It was the best way to launch writing my first book. Here are two lists  of top-rated writer’s conferences in North America if you’d like to find one yourself: ONE & TWO
  • A transitional work opportunity: It can be hard to move from one career to another abruptly. I was fortunate to teach a small English class two days a week in the school year following my retirement. I was writing, and my students were writing.  I began to feel more like a writer. What writing-related options might be available to you as you move toward writing full time?

3. Find others who share your interest. The change of identity that goes with career change can be unsettling, and joining others in moving toward a new “brand” is a positive way to cope. I joined a critique group, which has been critical to my developing sense of myself as a writer and editor, and has certainly made my books better.  I also got involved in She Writes, an online writing community where other writers share their experiences, and expertise. This cooperative, collaborative community has continued to provide invaluable support and helpful resources for all the myriad tasks and skills that are required to publish a book.

There are many other such sites including those suggested at The Write Life’s list of 100 best websites for writers.

 4. Keep your expectations reasonable. It takes time to learn new skills, time to adjust from a former schedule, and most importantly, time to figure out who you want to be in your new role as a writer. Do you have one book in you or five? Will you add teaching or editing to your work writing your own books? I retired thinking it would take at most a year to write my first book.  It took four.  I focused on writing the best manuscript I could.  I taught myself about book editing, worked over my manuscript several times— and then hired a professional.  It took another two years to educate myself about the business side of bringing a book to publication, publicizing, and marketing.

5. Before you seek to publish, research. Consulting the many resources, such as those available at the websites listed above (including this very wonderful website and the books available here!) will save time, money and heartache in the publishing process. Understand the paths to publication (Brooke Warner’s Greenlight Your Book has a great discussion of publication and marketing issues.) Be systematic and organized in your approach. (Yes, I did learn how to use a spreadsheet!)

People often ask me if I regret not having started my writing career earlier. 

I have no regrets. This time in my life provides the space, the time to educate myself, and the perspective to write. I’ve loved rising to the challenge, despite the steep learning curve.  This brings me to my bonus piece of advice: Keep front and center why you wanted to be a writer in the first place.

Follow the joy—you deserve it!

BARBARA STARK-NEMON is the author of the award-winning first novel, Even in Darkness. She lives, writes, cycles, swims, does fiber art, and gardens in Ann Arbor and Northport, Michigan. Find her on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and her Website.

Hard Cider: Abbie Rose Stone believes she has navigated the shoals of her long marriage and complicated family and is eager to realize her dream of producing hard apple cider along the Michigan lakeshore she loves—but when a lovely young stranger exposes a long-held secret, Abbie’s plans, loyalties, and definition of family are severely tested.

Add this book to my Goodreads

Check out reviews on Amazon

Posted in Focus, Guest Post, Publishing and Self Publishing, Time Management, Uncategorized, Writer's Attitude, Writing Time | 7 Comments

Critiques 4 U

You guys! The apples are ripe! My family and I did our annual apple picking thing yesterday. The kids were less enthusiastic than I was. Sure, they don’t want to pick the apples, but they’re happy to snarf down the muffins, applesauce, pie, crumble, and whatever else I can find to cram fruit into. Reminds me of a certain children’s story…

On the other hand, I know y’all are always enthusiastic about our monthly critique contest, so let’s do that.



If you’re working on a first page (in any genre except erotica) and would like some objective feedback, please leave a comment. Any comment :). As long as the email address associated with your WordPress account/comment profile is up-to-date, I’ll be able to contact you if your first page is chosen. Just please know that if I’m unable to get in touch with you through that address, you’ll have to forfeit your win.

Two caveats:

▪    Please be sure your first page is ready to go so I can critique it before next month’s contest rolls around. If it needs some work and you won’t be able to get it to me right away, let me ask that you plan on entering the next contest, once any necessary tweaking has been taken care of.

▪    I’d like to be able to use portions of winning submissions as illustrations in an upcoming presentation I’m creating on first pages. By entering the Critiques 4 U contest, you’ll be granting permission for me to use small writing samples only (no author names or book titles).

Three commenters’ names will be randomly drawn and posted tomorrow. If you win, you can email me your first page and I’ll offer my feedback. Best of luck!


Posted in Uncategorized | 36 Comments

Occupation Thesaurus Entry: Small Business Owner

Jobs are as important for our characters as they are for real people. A character’s career might be their dream job or one they’ve chosen due to necessity. In your story, they might be trying to get that job or are already working in the field. Whatever the situation, as with any defining aspect for your character, you’ll need to do the proper research to be able to write that career knowledgeably.

Enter the Occupation Thesaurus. Here, you’ll find important background information on a variety of career options for your character. In addition to the basics, we’ll also be covering related info that relates to character arc and story planning, such as sources of conflict (internal and external) and how the job might impact basic human needs, thereby affecting the character’s goals. It’s our hope that this thesaurus will share some of your research burden while also giving you ideas about your character’s occupation that you might not have considered before.

Is your character a small business owner? Find out how to describe them in the story!

Occupation: Small Business Owner

Overview: A character who is a small business owner may choose a number of structures (Sole Proprietorship, C Corp or S Corp, Limited Liability Company, etc.) and concentrate in any number of areas. Businesses are product or service-focused, and may target individual consumers (a convenience store, a bakery, a mechanic’s shop, a pottery studio, a fast food franchise, etc.) or corporations (a safety training company servicing oil companies, an art supplier, a canning company, etc.), or both.

Small business owners wear many hats and need to excel at managing all aspects of the business, or be able to afford qualified help (outsourcing to other companies or hiring employees). Aside from ensuring the highest standards of the product or service the company specializes in, the owner must concentrate on business development, customer retention (through excellent service, quality products, and competitive pricing), be able to navigate market changes, gain financing, understand and navigate any legal aspects (securing sensitive information appropriately, obtain insurance, keep certificates, licenses, and permits up-to-date, adhere to any codes and regulations in one’s industry, ensure employees have required training, and pay one’s taxes to name a few). They also need to pay bills, do payroll and other accounting tasks, manage their cash flow, understand their assets, investments, and make decisions on reinvestment (things like buying new equipment, hiring more employees, moving to a better location, updating one’s branding or doing a website overhaul). Owners also concentrate on building good relationships with suppliers and other local businesses, they need to be proficient at marketing (and maintain a website and social media presence), and create and follow a business plan. Over the long term, owners must master scaling up to grow, and if they are struggling, scale down as needed to stay afloat.

Small business owners, although time- and cash-stretched, often give back to the community through personal involvement, sponsorship of events, charitable donations, or a mix of these.

Necessary Training: Training will vary depending on the type of business, the expertise needed, and the appropriate certifications one may need to operate. Generally speaking, having a background in business management, marketing, and/or accounting will greatly help a small business owner better understand how to run a business successfully, and navigate the many challenges that come with market fluctuation, and changes to regulations that can affect one’s operations. Another beneficial background to have is past experience in the area of one’s business. Working for someone else (perhaps as an apprentice) and understand the business from the inside will help one start and manage a company successfully, or even having managerial experience (payroll duties, scheduling, balancing books, ordering, shipping, etc.) at a different sort of business will give one a leg up when it comes to administrative duties.

Useful Skills, Talents, or Abilities: A knack for languages, a knack for making money, charm, empathy, ESP (clairvoyance), exceptional memory, gaining the trust of others, haggling, hospitality, making people laugh, mechanically inclined,  multitasking, promotion, reading people, repurposing, strategic thinking, writing

Helpful Character Traits:

POSITIVE: Adaptable, ambitious, analytical, bold, calm, confident, cooperative, courteous, creative, decisive, diplomatic, disciplined, efficient, focused, friendly, funny, honest, honorable, hospitable, humble, idealistic, imaginative, independent, industrious, intelligent, loyal, meticulous, observant, optimistic, organized, passionate, patient, persistent, persuasive, proactive, professional, protective, resourceful, responsible, sensible, simple, supportive, talented, thrifty, wise

NEGATIVE: controlling, obsessive, perfectionist, stubborn, workaholic

Sources of Friction: changes in the market (or new regulations, higher transport costs, escalating taxes, or other factors that make it more expensive to do business), high maintenance employees, money going missing from the till, money being skimmed (by the accountant, a business partner, a spouse who has access etc.), robberies, an expensive insurance claim (after a fire, vandalism, theft, sewers backing up, an electrical issue, etc.), being “shaken down” by local thugs demanding protection payments, new competition entering the marketplace, enemies in a position of power using their influence or power to make life miserable (in order to push one out of the market, force a business deal to go through, kill a business deal, ruin a reputation, etc.), having difficulty paying bills and employees, skirting bankruptcy, a divorce that requires one to sell the company, harassment complaints from employees against someone in the company, never being able to take time off work, problems at home due to long hours and work stress, being asked to contribute by the community when one can barely stay afloat or one has no time, a sudden injury or illness that takes one out of commission, problems obtaining product (due to strikes at a factory, a distributor going out of business, etc.)

People They Might Interact With: customers, accountants, delivery drivers, reporters, other business owners, inspectors, product reps, employees, bank employees, couriers, non-profit representatives or community organizers looking for corporate sponsorship, candidates dropping off resumes or coming in for interviews, tradespeople (electricians, plumbers, construction workers)

How This Occupation Might Impact One’s Basic Needs:

  • Self-Actualization: Being a small business owner may not be one’s first choice, especially in the case of a family-run business. A character working out of duty may feel they are giving up a dream or a chance to take their life in a new direction in favor of keeping with tradition.
  • Esteem and Recognition: A character who fails to see the level of growth they always dreamed of when they first started the business may start to feel that they don’t have what it takes, resulting in lower self-worth.
  • Love and Belonging: Long hours and situations where often the business comes first can easily create rocky relationships, both in one’s marriage and with one’s children.
  • Safety and Security: Having a business in a high crime area of a city can increase the chance of robberies and break-ins, endangering the character and the people who work there.

Common Work-Related Settings: airplane, airport, alley,  bank, basement, big city street, boardroom, break room, coffeehouse, custodial supply room, elevator, office cubicle, parking garage, parking lot, small town street, taxi, trade show

Visit the other Occupations in our collection HERE.

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

And…Action! Applying TV Lessons to Chapter Hooks

jami-goldWe’ve probably all heard the advice to end our scenes and chapters on a hook. At the end of every scene or chapter, readers might put down our book and decide against picking it up again, so it’s important to know how we can keep readers interested. Hooks can ensure readers desperately want to stick around to see what happens next.

In that post I linked to above, I shared how we can make the last sentence of every scene stronger. Today, I want to build on those ideas and see what we can learn for our writing by looking at how TV shows build hooks into the end of every act.

How Is TV Writing like Novel Writing?

Just as readers might put down a book at the end of every scene, every commercial break in a TV show can prompt viewers to change the channel. So TV writers structure their stories into acts, one between each commercial break.

TV acts are different from novel acts, which are usually a simple beginning, middle, and end three-act structure. TV-style acts are closer to how we write scenes. (In fact, ad-free shows often still feel like they should have commercial breaks because of this structure.)

Whether for TV or written stories, hooks are an opportunity to make our readers sit up and take notice. While not every scene should end with a “dun dun dun” twist, we should make sure we have enough hooks throughout our story to strengthen the narrative drive, increase the pace, and keep readers engaged.

What Hooks Do TV Acts Use?

Let’s take a look at the types of hooks found in TV shows—some that are commonly used in novels and some that aren’t—and see if they give us ideas for our stories:

  • Appearance of Imminent Failure: Hooks that leave the characters facing an immediate threat of failure: knocked unconscious, notification of another serial killer victim, etc.
    These are one of the most dramatic types of hooks, so we want to save them for when our story deserves it—such as the major beats, especially the Black Moment or Climax—or else our writing can veer too close to melodrama.
  • Reveal that Changes Perception: Hooks that change everything the characters (or audience) thought they knew: mistaken identity, surprise answer, etc.
    These are also very dramatic hooks that we don’t want to overdo. They’re especially good to use when we want to drastically change the direction of our story.
  • Vow to Move Forward: Hooks that show the moment after the “imminent failure” sense of doom or the “reveal that changes everything,” when characters throw caution to the wind because they have no other choice: ignoring orders, taking a risk, etc.
    These hooks are great to use when we think showing characters bonding or making sacrifices will be more emotionally resonant to readers than the “dun dun dun” of the moment before.
  • Reminder of Stakes: Hooks that focus on the consequences lying in wait for the characters: someone needs rescuing or they’ll die, find the bad guy or be attacked, etc.
    The “ticking clock” aspect of these hooks helps escalate the stakes and increase the pace with less of a risk of melodrama (usually).
  • Jump to Another Point of View: Hooks that are the literary equivalent of zooming out to show the killer stalking the characters.
    Transitioning to another point of view wouldn’t help us end a scene, but this style of hook can be used like a cliffhanger at the end of a chapter, with just a snippet after the end of the main scene.
  • Hint of an Epiphany: Hooks that show a character’s had an epiphany but doesn’t yet show what they’ve discovered: answer to the mystery, figured out their feelings, etc.
    These hooks are good when a story question is about to be answered, but we want to drag it out through one more chapter break. These are typically a no-more-than-once-a-story type of hook, however, as they can feel “cheap.”

For each of those different hook categories, we can also change up the style, depending on our focus, such as:

  • Emotional: the hook leaves them reeling, distraught, worried, determined, etc.
  • Countdown: the hook escalates the tension, worry, dread, etc.
  • Opposites: the hook plays out opposite from expected—can also be played for humor: a vow of “I won’t do X,” and jump to them doing X, etc.
  • Bling: the hook is written in a flashy (often fragment and punctuation-heavy) style: “She wouldn’t let it happen. Not. A. Chance.”

While TV writing is different from novel writing, we might be able to find inspiration for our stories from the TV side. Next time you watch a TV show, pay attention to how each act ends and see if it helps you with ideas. *smile*

Do you have any questions about hooks—or have other TV-style hooks to share?

jami-picture-200-x-300_framedAfter muttering writing advice in tongues, Jami decided to put her talent for making up stuff to good use. Fueled by chocolate, she creates writing resources and writes award-winning paranormal romance stories where normal need not apply. Just ask her family—and zombie cat.

Find out more about Jami here, hang out with her on social media, or visit her website and Goodreads profile.
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Posted in Characters, Conflict, Experiments, Fear, Flashbacks, High Stakes, Resident Writing Coach, Series, Story Structure, Writing Craft, Writing Lessons | 8 Comments

Occupation Thesaurus Entry: Referee + Emotion Thesaurus Kindle Deal

Jobs are as important for our characters as they are for real people. A character’s career might be their dream job or one they’ve chosen due to necessity. In your story, they might be trying to get that job or are already working in the field. Whatever the situation, as with any defining aspect for your character, you’ll need to do the proper research to be able to write that career knowledgeably.

Enter the Occupation Thesaurus. Here, you’ll find important background information on a variety of career options for your character. In addition to the basics, we’ll also be covering related info that relates to character arc and story planning, such as sources of conflict (internal and external) and how the job might impact basic human needs, thereby affecting the character’s goals. It’s our hope that this thesaurus will share some of your research burden while also giving you ideas about your character’s occupation that you might not have considered before.

Looking for the perfect occupation for your main character, antagonist, or other cast member? Check out the Occupation Thesaurus.Occupation: Referee

Overview: Referees oversee sporting events to ensure the rules are being followed, good sportsmanship is upheld, and the players are kept safe. Officials are needed at various levels, from professional sports to college to high school and intramurals. Those refereeing intramural sports and community games for kids may be relatively untrained—high school or college students with knowledge of the particular sport—making this a viable job option not only for adults but for young people as well.

Necessary Training: A high-school diploma or equivalent is required to ref in most official capacities. Specific training is also necessary and might be offered through a college or sports organization. Certain registrations and certifications often have to be met as well. Candidates tend to start out at the lower level—overseeing high school or minor league sporting events, for instance, before moving upward.

Useful Skills, Talents, or Abilities: Enhanced hearing, exceptional memory, multitasking, predicting the weather, swift-footedness

Helpful Character Traits:

POSITIVE: Alert, calm, cooperative, decisive, disciplined, honest, honorable, just, objective, observant, professional, responsible

NEGATIVE: Confrontational, humorless, perfectionist

Sources of Friction: Being injured on the job, making a mistake that determines the outcome of a game, being threatened or stalked by an angry fan, working the field with an incompetent referee, difficulty remembering certain rules or consequences, not staying up-to-date on new rules and regulations, personal bias that leads to prejudicial decisions, losing one’s cool with a perturbed player, difficult work hours that make it hard to develop romantic relationship, frequent travel taking one away from family, getting used to calling the shots at work and struggling to turn that off at home, a diagnosis of chronic illness or pain that makes it difficult to work, loving one’s job but struggling financially, being unable to move upward and reach one’s preferred level, lacking discipline and losing the physical fitness necessary to do the job well

People They Might Interact With: players, coaches, other referees, facilities personnel (groundskeepers, maintenance people, stadium managers, janitorial staff), parents (at the lower levels)

How This Occupation Might Impact One’s Basic Needs:

  • Self-Actualization: This need might take a hit for a referee who is unable to coach their desired sport or at the level they would like.
  • Esteem and Recognition: Refs are typically pursuing a passion, which makes the job worthwhile despite the lower compensation. But those for whom financial status is important may struggle with their esteem when they compare themselves with others.
  • Love and Belonging: Refs work evenings and weekends, and many of them travel to do so. This kind of schedule can put a strain on one’s closest relationships, making it difficult to find love and belonging.
  • Safety and Security: Referees get hit in contact sports all the time, making it a career where injuries are more likely to happen. If an incident makes it impossible for the referee to work and provide for himself and his family, this need may become compromised.
  • Physiological Needs: Sports fans are some of the most passionate people out there. If one of them believes that the official threw a game or was the cause of their team’s loss and comes after him or her, their very life could be endangered.

Common Work-Related Settings: Airplane, airport, community center, dorm room, fitness center, gymnasium, hotel room, sporting event stands

Twisting the Fictional Stereotype: 

  • This career is definitely male-centric; while women are making their way slowly into the field, they’re very rare. A female ref could provide the twist you’re looking for.
  • Refs also tend to be straight-laced and by-the-book. One who was flamboyant, mischievous, or overly nervous would stand out.
  • Instead of falling back on the traditionally popular sports for your ref, consider one with less visibility, such as rugby, lacrosse, roller derby, or wrestling.

Visit the other Occupations in our collection HERE.

PSST! Are you a Canadian Writer?

If so, Amazon has a kindle deal on right now where you can scoop up The Emotion Thesaurus for $3.99. Go Canada!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Five Ways To Maintain Book Buzz While Writing and Managing Post-Pub Life

All writers know it’s a challenge to keep our book in the spotlight after the rush of a book launch has passed. Author Lizbeth Meredith passes on 5 suggestions to focus on as you work on your next book.

For ninety days following my memoir’s release, I had the fierce support of my PR team. They had pumped me full of positivity, put me front and center on big book lists, nominated me for awards, and made it seem that despite the near million books released that year, mine was the only one that mattered.

need marketing help to keep your book buzz going? Give these tips a try!

 And then it ended. I felt like a toddler thrown into the deep end of the swimming pool.

But I’m a dog-paddler. I’ve always needed a life-preserver.

Like most writers, I have a day job and other commitments. My struggle was not unique.

How would I maintain the buzz about my book?  How do we writers learn to become our own marketing maestros after the launch is over?

At first, I froze. But through trial and error, I found a system that’s fit neatly into my life. Here are five tips to help you grow your audience after your book has launched.

1) Actively engage in social media.

I interact on two social media channels (Twitter and Facebook) and post at least four times a week about my writing life. On Twitter, I also try to retweet other authors’ work and often they return the favor, introducing my work to new readers. As I build relationships, I may be asked to do blog interviews by them.

On my Facebook author page, I post events, accomplishments, and writing tools and resources. Now and then, I’ll share a picture of a character in my book or something else of interest to my specific readers. Membership in a few private author Facebook groups has resulted in new friendships, support, and a fountain of ideas and advice.  We Love Memoirs and Women Writers, Women’s Books have been a good fit for me.

To find the right groups for you and your genre, do a few keyword searches, and make a point of engaging with the group rather than simply boasting about your work or posting your blogs. You can do some of that, but it shouldn’t be the only reason why you join a group.

2) Join HARO (Help a Reporter Out).

This free subscription sends 3 emails a day out from journalists looking for sources on all topics, including subjects which tie into your book. You could be that source!

It may take a while to find the right gig to pitch, but keep trying. It will come. It took a year before I’d mastered pitching to source opportunities. Now, I skim their emails on work breaks, looking for topics related to my book like domestic violence or post-traumatic stress disorder. I later expanded my searches and answered requests for sources on women over 50 with a side hustle and single parenting advice, topics covered in my upcoming books. Some of the places I’ve been mentioned are Reader’s Digest and Tonic (Canada), Deseret News, Mamapedia, and Thriveworks. Often, my full name is mentioned in the article with a link to my book or author website. And each time I’m a source, I post the interview link to social media and add it to my website’s news link and about page.

3) Publish essays on diverse topics in a variety of places.  

Conventional wisdom is to write essays about themes in your published book to introduce the right sort of readers to your writing and draw them to your website. And while my memoir is a work I’m proud of, my life now has more dimension than being a survivor of domestic violence and international child abduction, so while I tackle those topics, I also craft essays about writing, publishing, and parenting adult kids. Each time one’s been published, I’m contacted by new readers and sometimes see a spike in my sales. And how do I celebrate this? By mentioning it on social media and adding it to my website, of course!

4) Blog.

I began blogging years before my book was published. Because I have a busy day job, I am only able to post about twice a month, and one of those posts is often an author interview that will fit my reader’s interests. Knowing my target audience–people who enjoy stories about an underdog that prevails–helps me decide who in my author peer group I ought to host.

Interviews are great for the author, nice for the reader, and will draw new readers to my own work as my guests will publicize the post through their own social media channels. Doing this successfully also landed me my own interview through HARO about attracting guest bloggers to my website.

5) Listen to podcasts for continuing education.

The year before my book released my publisher, She Writes Press, insisted their authors participate in monthly author calls about every aspect of publishing. This was very helpful. I’ve continued to swap ideas with author friends on private Facebook groups post-publication, and rely on the podcasts for help with writing techniques, changes in the publishing world, and opportunities for creative marketing. Here are a few of the excellent ones I follow:

  1. The Author Biz
  2. The Creative Penn
  3. The Taylor Stevens Show
  4. Smarty Pants Book Marketing Podcast

And when it’s a particularly valuable podcast, I pass on that link to others.

My memoir will turn two soon and my efforts have paid off. Sales have remained steady and the promotion process has opened doors for new opportunities for writing and speaking events.

In today’s flooded market, getting attention for your book is more challenging than ever. I hope these tips help you as they have helped me, allowing time to both grow my platform and work toward my next book’s release.

What tricks have you learned to keep the buzz alive about your book(s)?

Lizbeth Meredith‘s memoir, Pieces of Me: Rescuing My Kidnapped Daughters, has won the silver medal for memoir in the 2018 Reader’s Favorites Book Award and is now available as an audiobook. Her work has appeared in Feminine Collective, Author’s Publish, and in Jane Friedman’s blog. You can find her at her website, on Twitter (@LizbethMeredith,) and on Facebook.

Pieces of Me: Rescuing My Kidnapped Daughters recounts the author’s two year struggle to bring home her internationally abducted daughters from Greece to Alaska. It’s the story of a 29 year-old woman whose life was marked by domestic violence and childhood kidnapping who faced a $100,000 problem on a $10 an hour budget.

More than simply a missing children’s story, Pieces of Me is also the story of the generous community in Anchorage, Alaska and a growing support system in Greece who joined Lizbeth’s efforts to make the impossible a reality.

For further help with marketing, we recommend:

Build Book Buzz (an excellent site full of marketing tips)

How Authors Can Find Their Ideal Reading Audience  (Jane Friedman’s blog)

How to Find and Reach Influencers to Help Promote Your Book  (Jane Friedman’s blog)

Need Online Exposure? Asking Bloggers For Help (Writers Helping Writers)

Posted in Guest Post, Marketing, Platform, Promotion, Publishing and Self Publishing, Social Networking, The Business of Writing, Time Management | 13 Comments

Where’s Your Edge?


Some of my most enjoyable teaching experiences were with my friends Donald Maass and Christopher Vogler doing Story Masters, a four-day immersion in the craft of fiction.

For my day of instruction, I started off showing a clip from the amusing Albert Brooks film, The Muse. It’s the story of a middle-aged screenwriter facing a career crisis (which, in Hollywood, is almost redundant). Early on, Brooks is having lunch with a studio honcho who is about fifteen years his junior. Brooks has submitted an action script and wants feedback. The exchange goes like this:

Honcho: Let me put this in a form that’s not insulting, because I tend to be too direct. All my friends tell me that. The script’s no good.

Brooks: That’s the form that’s not insulting? What would the insulting form be?

Honcho: What’s wrong with the script … is you. You’ve lost your edge.

*Insert Brooks’ practically trademarked existential-angst expression*

Honcho: Oh, and the studio needs you to vacate your office so Brian De Palma can have it.

Brooks: You can’t give Brian De Palma my office!.

Honcho: It’s not really your office. We’re all just using space here. I’m where Lucille Ball used to be.

Brooks: Too bad you’re not where she is now.

In short, the lunch does not go well.

After the clip, I told the class part of the reason they were at Story Masters was to avoid ever being subjected to a conversation like that. How? By finding and keeping their edge. Which every writer has, by the way. The challenge is to dig it out and give if form on the page.

Just what is the edge? It’s you. It’s what sets you apart from every other writer. You are a unique human being, a package of singular experiences, passions, joys … not to mention DNA. The trick to this edge business is marrying your distinctiveness with craft mastery and an overall strategy for your novel.

Yeah, that’s all.

I then showed the students a quote from a former acquisitions editor at Penguin, Marian Lizzi. She was writing about the things that cause a house to say no to a manuscript. One of these is that the book is not “remarkable/surprising/unputdownable enough”:

This one is the most difficult to articulate – and yet in many ways it’s the most important hurdle to clear. Does the proposal get people excited? Will sales reps and buyers be eager to read it – and then eager to talk it up themselves? As my first boss used to warn us green editorial assistants two decades ago, the type of submission that’s the toughest to spot – and the most essential to avoid — is the one that is “skillful, competent, literate, and ultimately forgettable.” 

These words are more important now than ever. We all know about the “tsunami of content” competing for attention and repeat business, even though so much of it is (how do I put this in a form that’s not insulting?) no good.

However, a lot of it is good. Over the last nearly quarter-century of teaching the craft, I’ve seen the level of competent fiction rise significantly. With all of the teaching and critique-grouping and editor/agent-paneling and craft books and blogs out there, anyone with a minimal amount of talent—and a whole lot of grit—can learn to write competent fiction.

Which means we have to be more than good to stand out from the morass. The edge is critical to getting us there.

An old preacher once told his ministerial students that a sermon is no good unless it makes the congregation sad, mad, or glad. There is much truth in that. So try this exercise:

Write down three things that make you sad, three that make you mad, and three that make you glad. (Note: just for variety, try skipping anything political this time around!)

Next, take each of these nine items and write one page about why you feel this way. Go deep. Use your life experiences, how you were raised, what you’ve observed, specific scenes from your past. You never have to show these pages to anyone, so rant and rave and cry all you want. Hot tears forge sharp edges.

You now have nine pages of emotional information, unique to you.

When you develop your main characters, give them a set of sad, mad, and glad responses. They don’t have to overlap yours, but certainly may. Now create backstory to justify each feeling, keeping at it until you feel it too.

Your edge will emerge. Follow it, put it in the sinew of your characters and the tension of your scenes. If you do that, there will be no need for an uncomfortable lunch.

You can finish your book instead.

What are some of the things you do to push your writing past the merely competent?


Jim is the author of the #1 bestseller for writers, Plot & Structure, and numerous thrillers, including, Romeo’s Rules, Try Dying and Don’t Leave Me. His popular books on fiction craft can be found here. His thrillers have been called “heart-whamming” (Publishers Weekly) and can be browsed here. Find out more about Jim on our Resident Writing Coach page, and connect with him online.



Posted in Resident Writing Coach, Uncategorized, Voice, Writing Craft, Writing Lessons | 2 Comments

Occupation Thesaurus Entry: Recruiter

Jobs are as important for our characters as they are for real people. A character’s career might be their dream job or one they’ve chosen due to necessity. In your story, they might be trying to get that job or are already working in the field. Whatever the situation, as with any defining aspect for your character, you’ll need to do the proper research to be able to write that career knowledgeably.

Enter the Occupation Thesaurus. Here, you’ll find important background information on a variety of career options for your character. In addition to the basics, we’ll also be covering related info that relates to character arc and story planning, such as sources of conflict (internal and external) and how the job might impact basic human needs, thereby affecting the character’s goals. It’s our hope that this thesaurus will share some of your research burden while also giving you ideas about your character’s occupation that you might not have considered before.

Occupation: Recruiter

Overview: A recruiter is a human resource specialist who seeks out, vets, and interviews potential job candidates for the management to consider for a specific position before referring them onward. They may be a recruiter within their own company (an internal recruiter) who looks to fill positions that come up, or they may be hired as a third party by a firm, tasked to look for potential matches for a particular job placement (an external recruiter). These individuals tend to be well-connected and tech-savvy, using Linked In, social media and special databases they have access to when they search for potential job candidates. If one is found they then will reach out to see if the person is interested in the position (regardless if they are currently employed or not). This type of recruiter is also known as a headhunter.

People might recruit for a business, a big project (like a new condo or office building high rise build), do executive searches for a CEO, CIO or another high-level executive position, recruit athletes for a sports agency or university, seek enlistees for the military, or many other areas.

People looking for work may also seek out a headhunter in hopes of finding employment quicker. They do not pay for this service as the headhunter will be paid by the business they are contracted to should there be a suitable match.

Necessary Training: To become a recruiter most require a bachelor’s degree in human resources or business administration. There may be certification programs that one must finish prior to being hired as a recruiter.

Recruiters must be extremely detail-oriented, observant, and learn the art of influence. Because recruiters can succeed or fail on reputation, being honest and building trust with their business clients and prospective candidates is key. They should be determined to find the best match possible every time, not just fill positions with whomever has a passing fit. Depending on their resources, they may invest time and money “wooing” a particular client to secure a contract with that company.

Paying attention to the little things, and being an expert in the ability to perform well in an interview room, a recruiter will use their skills to help a candidate. For example, should they know what a prospective employer is passionate about aside from work, they may, upon discovering a candidate has the same interest, suggest this might be beneficial to bring up during the meeting as a way to form a bond in the interview room. However, this must be done authentically and in the right situation, not as a way to encourage an employer to overlook the faults and shortcomings of a mediocre match.

Useful Skills, Talents, or Abilities: A knack for languages, a knack for making money, charm, empathy, enhanced hearing, ESP (clairvoyance), exceptional memory, gaining the trust of others, good listening skills, haggling, hospitality, making people laugh, multitasking, promotion, reading people, writing

Helpful Character Traits:

POSITIVE: Adaptable, ambitious, analytical, charming, confident, cooperative, courteous, diplomatic, discreet, easygoing, efficient, extroverted, friendly, honest, honorable, hospitable, industrious, intelligent, loyal, observant, organized, patient, perceptive, persuasive, proactive, professional, resourceful

NEGATIVE: obsessive, perfectionist, workaholic

Sources of Friction: a prospective job candidate that lies about their qualifications (and only discovering this after they have been placed with a company), a job candidate who has an impressive resume but does sub par work (or is lazy, entitled, or is high maintenance in some way, etc.), being asked to loosen one’s standards or fast track sourcing in order to gain the fee (perhaps because the recruitment firm is struggling financially), placing a candidate with a company only to discover later discovering some unethical meddling was involved to encourage the candidate to switch companies, one’s reputation being damaged because other recruiters working within the same company are lazy or unethical with their placements

People They Might Interact With: CEOs, CIOs, COOs and other executives at different companies, prospective candidates being interviewed, social media managers, technology specialists, delivery people, other recruiters

How This Occupation Might Impact One’s Basic Needs:

  • Esteem and Recognition: constantly placing others in industries that constitute one’s “dream job” might cause a recruiter character to question their own path and make them feel like they settled in their career, leading to lower self-worth
  • Safety and Security: If a character becomes embroiled in an ethics review due to poor hiring practices in their recruitment firm, this could cause them to lose their job or struggle to move to another firm because their reputation is stained, regardless if they were involved or not

Common Work-Related Settings: boardroom

Twisting the Fictional Stereotype: Recruiters in fiction can be portrayed as not being ethical or being willing to do anything to secure a commission, but in an industry where reputation is everything, mistreating clients or letting them down by providing candidates who look good on paper but who are not great fits for the job will only hurt the recruiter’s practice. A recruiter who is good at what they do will take the time to really get to know a clients needs and strive to bring them exactly what they need, time after time.

Visit the other Occupations in our collection HERE.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Distribution: Should You Go Wide or Narrow?

How should I distribute my books? Do I stick with one marketplace and possibly limit my options, or do I diversify and risk spreading myself too thin? These are questions every author struggles with. Dave Chesson is here to discuss the pros and cons of both options.

When it comes to your book distribution, what are the benefits of going narrow or wide?

One of the most controversial ongoing debates in the writer world is the decision of whether to go wide or narrow. Going wide refers to placing one’s books in multiple stores, while staying narrow means focusing on a single platform. Some authors are passionate advocates of one stance or the other.

Personally, I believe either approach can work, if carried out in the right way. Today, I’d like to share with you the main arguments for staying narrow, the pros of going wide, and how to make the right decision for your situation. It’s a decision with important consequences for your book sales, so please approach it with care.

Arguments For Focusing On A Single Market

By choosing to place your books for sale in one marketplace only, you can enjoy the following benefits:

  • Access to exclusive programs, such as Kindle Unlimited, that you can’t access if you choose to go wide
  • You save time. A single market means only one set of sales reports to check, one place to monitor your book’s rankings, and one in-marketplace author platform to maintain.
  • Only one set of competitors to monitor
  • You can focus all efforts on getting reviews at the time of launch in a single place

If you’re an English language author, you might consider Amazon for your choice of single platform. According to an Author Earnings report from February of 2017, Amazon accounts for more than 80% of English-language ebook purchases, Apple another 10%, Kobo 2%, and Nook 3%. Amazon also has the advantage of being in the physical ereader space itself.

Perhaps the main reason for focusing on a single market is the opportunity to master it rather than simply dabbling in it. As Chandler Bolt said while sharing his thoughts on writing a book:

“But you can’t simply publish your book and expect people to find it. Instead, you need to dedicate some time to mastering the publishing and marketing processes. This is the only way to make sure that your book makes its way into the hands of the people who will benefit from reading your words.”

Seeing as the publishing and marketing process described above differs for every book marketplace out there, going wide increases the learning curve you will experience. Being able to learn the ins and outs of a single market is one of the best arguments for staying narrow.

Arguments For Going Wide

Now that we’ve looked at the reasons you may wish to focus on a single market, let’s consider the other perspective and examine the arguments for going wide. By placing your books for sale in more than one online marketplace, you benefit from

  • Diversifying your risk. Sometimes, authors find their accounts are banned from particular marketplaces. By having your books in multiple locations, you protect against suddenly losing all your revenue if something happened to your account.
  • Protecting your stability. If you leave yourself at the mercy of a single marketplace, you are powerless if they change their royalty rates or other terms. Diversifying your marketplaces protects against fluctuation due to changing terms. (As an example of how payment rates can fluctuate over time, check out this excellent post at Rogerpacker.com—particularly that first graphic.) By limiting your book to an exclusive program, you have to be prepared to experience this type of change.
  • Accessing a greater number of potential readers. Some people will only use one marketplace or another, so limiting yourself to a single market ensures there are some readers you will never reach.
  • Discovering which marketplaces work best. Some of your books will naturally do better from in different places a different times. By offering your books on multiple platforms, you give yourself the freedom to invest more of your time and attention into the marketplace which is performing best at any given time.

Be aware that going wide requires you to invest more of your time and to juggle more balls at once than staying narrow. However, this can be mitigated by using the Draft2Digital or Smashwords distribution services, both of which handle the hassle of going wide in exchange for a percentage of your royalties.

Author David Kudler presents his experience and those of his fellow authors after going wide in the following quantified way:

“Most “wide” indie and self-publishers report that sales on Amazon represent 60%–85% of their ebook revenue. Myself, last year, I earned 62% of my ebook royalties through Kindle sales. In my most Amazon-slanted years I’ve earned about 80% of my ebook income from Jeff Bezos’s company.”

How To Make The Right Decision

There’s no single right answer when it comes to choosing whether or not to go wide. However, answering the following questions will help you find the right decision for your present situation.

  • What is the initial time investment I will need to spend getting set up on a single platform? How does this compare to getting set up on all the platforms I’m potentially interested in?
  • How much time will it take each week to monitor and maintain all the marketplaces I’m interested in? How does this compare with my available time?
  • What are the royalty rates offered by each market? What proportion of my sales would I expect to achieve from each market?
  • Are there any exclusive programs, such as Kindle Unlimited, I lose access to by going wide? How much money would I expect to make from these programs vs. the extra money of going wide?
  • What are other authors in my network currently doing? What kind of results are they getting?

Ultimately, you must decide if the extra revenue generated by going wide would outweigh the extra time and energy you’d need to invest.

Some authors suggest the method of going narrow with some titles and wide with others. You might find the answer changes at different points in your author career. You may wish to test one way vs. the other by keeping one book narrow and another wide. See the differences in performance and use these to inform your wider decision.

Key Takeaways

Thanks for checking out my thoughts on whether to go narrow or wide. Here are my three takeaways:

  • Staying narrow can allow you to focus, achieve mastery, and save time.
  • Going wide can give you extra revenue in exchange for extra effort.
  • There’s no single right answer, and you must weigh the pros and cons.

If you’ve got an experience of going wide or staying narrow, I’d love to hear from you in the comments!


Dave Chesson runs Kindlepreneur.com where he provides tools and information for authors, such as his book title generators and recent review of Grammarly. His free time is spent immersing himself in nerd and indie author culture.

Posted in Guest Post, Marketing, Promotion, The Business of Writing, Uncategorized | 6 Comments