Author’s Guide for Goodreads

5-23-16 The Author's Guide to Goodreads by Frances CaballoI read a great post last week by Sabrina Ricci on her Digital Pubbing blog that analyzed bestsellers in varying genres.

What made the four books so successful? As Sabrina explained:

  • The books were widely available.
  • They were each of the highest quality.
  • The authors and publishers used giveaways.
  • The authors connected with readers in meaningful ways.
  • Multiple strategies were used.

And in the case of The Girl on the Train, the publisher invested time and money in Goodreads.

Yes, Goodreads!

[clickToTweet tweet=”‘Do yourself a favor and get this book’ @Jason_Matthews” quote=”‘Do yourself a favor and get this book,’ Jason Matthews”]

[Read more…]

Do Writers Really Have to Learn All That (Yucky) Grammar?

Say What? by Susanne LakinIn a word, yes. In two words: absolutely yes.

I hear groans. I hear protests. You hated English Comp in school? Old, crotchety Mrs. Snigglegrass made you dissect sentences and name the parts of speech? You got a what as your final grade?

I feel your pain. Who ever makes grammar fun and easy? Learning grammar, to some people, is as much fun as getting a tooth pulled. Or having to memorize the multiplication tables or the capitals of all the countries in the world (remember when they never changed?). Terms like dangling modifiers, predicates, participial phrases, and subjunctive mood give some people the chills. Did you have to conjugate verbs back in junior high? Do you know the difference between the past progressive tense and the past perfect? No? Do you care? More than likely, you don’t.

Every Vocation Requires a Knowledge of Tools

But how in the world will you be a proficient handler of the English language if you don’t know anything about the tools of your trade? What would you think if you brought your ailing car to a mechanic and he didn’t have any tools in the shop? Or he had a box full of tools but hadn’t a clue how to use any of them correctly.

For some reason, many writers feel they should get to “pass go” and proceed to “the bank” without having to do the hard work of learning to write well and become a master (or mistress) at handling language. I often wonder about the logic of that.

I work on about two hundred manuscripts a year—critiquing and editing—and I’m astonished at how poorly written some are. I’m not talking about novel structure, which is difficult and tricky to learn. I’m talking about very basic grammatical issues—punctuation, spelling, sentence structure. Granted, many writers send me a rough draft to work on, so I don’t expect them to have edited it to perfection. But what I see a lot is a lack of understanding regarding so many of the basics of good writing.

A Time to Gush and a Time to Polish

Some of this is just sloppy or lazy writing due to hurrying to slap thoughts on the page, and I get that. I encourage writers to gush and let their prose flow in their first draft. But I would expect they would then follow through by rereading at some future date and cleaning up the mess. And more importantly, knowing how to.

I’m not saying every writer must have super editing chops and spend months memorizing the Chicago Manual of Style. Just as we don’t expect all doctors to memorize Gray’s Anatomy. (Should we? Do they?)

I’m afraid, though, that many writers haven’t a clue how to clean up their messy manuscripts. And even worse, many don’t really care. They think it’s their editor’s job to transform the mess into perfect prose. And we editors often do that; maybe you think I should be grateful for the job security. But, speaking for myself, I would rather work on a draft that’s been carefully edited and shows the writer not only cares about what she’s written but has a respect for the English language (or whatever language she writes in). The way some writers mutilate language makes me wonder if they have a love-hate relationship with writing.

A mechanic or building contractor will take good care of his or her tools, learning to wield them correctly, and will choose the best tool for the specific task at hand. Words are the writer’s tools. Shouldn’t writers treat words similarly? We expect that anyone wanting to become a teacher, nurse, commercial truck driver, or plumber has to hit the books and learn their vocation. So why do so many people feel that being a writer exempts from having to take the time to learn proper grammar? Who started that lie anyway?

Proficiency Leads to Competency and Confidence

One morning I asked my surgeon/author friend to describe how he prepared for each surgery. He went on to explain how he filled out a “menu” of the surgical instruments he would need, which varied depending on the type of surgery he was about to perform. He would put a check mark next to numerous scalpels and other items (which I wouldn’t know what to call) and then turn in his menu. When he entered the operating room, he’d find his requested instruments and accessories neatly lined up waiting for him. With those specific tools, he could perform his surgery efficiently, competently, and confidently.

Well, no one is going to die if I don’t have the exact grammar tools or know all the rules when I sit down to write my novel, right? (you may be arguing). True, although I’ll be daring enough to say if you are lacking a lot of those proper tools, the patient (read: your novel, story, article, or post) may die a slow (or quite fast) and painful death. Which could have an adverse effect on your career as a writer.

You want your writing to shine. You want to show the world you are a terrific writer. Well then, Physician, know thy tools. Then you can perform your writing “operations” efficiently, competently, and confidently. And let me just add this: when you have the right tools and know how to use them, it always makes a job so much easier than if you don’t.

The fun thing about being grown-ups is we can decide how, when, and what we want to learn. The challenge is to erase the bad associations we have with certain subjects we suffered through in school (such as English Comp?) and find a new joy in the learning. It may sound trite, but it truly is a matter of attitude. Make the decision to adopt a healthy attitude about learning grammar. Set aside some time each day or week to dig into books or websites that can teach you what some of those yucky things are all about. Who knows, you may even learn to love those dang(ling) participles or misplaced modifiers!

Susanne LakinAbout the Author: C. S. Lakin is a multipublished novelist and writing coach. She works full-time as a copyeditor and critiques about two hundred manuscripts a year. She teaches writing workshops and gives instruction on her award-winning blog Live Write Thrive. Her new book—Say What? The Fiction Writer’s Handy Guide to Grammar, Punctuation, and Word Usage—is designed to help writers get a painless grasp on grammar. You can buy it in print here or as an ebook here. Connect with her on Twitter and Facebook.

“Good, concise, and easily accessible reference books on grammar and usage is hard to find. I mean, are hard to find. This is one of them.”

—James Scott Bell, bestselling novelist, writing coach, and author of Revision and Self-Editing


Avoid Social Media Time Suck by Frances Caballo



Frances Caballo is a social media manager for writers and author of  Avoid Social Media Time Suck: A Blueprint for Writers to Create Online Buzz for Their Books and Still Have Time to Write, Social Media Just for Writers: The Best Online Marketing Tips for Selling Your Books and Blogging Just for Writers. Presently, she is the Social Media Manager for the Women’s National Book Association-SF Chapter, the San Francisco Writers Conference, and the Bay Area Independent Publishers Association. You can find her on FacebookTwitterLinkedInPinterest, and Google+. 

Practical Tips for Marketing Your Books on the Social Web


Don’t Miss This Year’s San Francisco Writers Conference

2-3-14 Golden GateLast year I was an exhibitor at the San Francisco Writers Conference and it was quite an experience. I met and briefly spoke with a number of presenters including Guy Kawasaki, Nina Amir and Susanne Lakin. I didn’t have time to attend any of the sessions but friends who did said they were wonderful.

If you haven’t signed up for the West Coast’s premiere writing conference, don’t delay. Literary agent Michael Larsen, one of the founders of this event with his wife (and literary agent) Elizabeth Pomada, promises that this year’s conference will be the best one yet.

I’ll be exhibiting again and I’ll be a presenter and panelist. I’m excited about that! Even if you don’t sign up for the entire conference, you can still attend the pre- and post-conference workshops. Here’s a list of them.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

9 am to noon

  1. WRITING IN THE ZONE: 5 Steps to Inspired Flow. Lisa Tener.  $99
  2. WHAT’S THE BIG—OR LITTLE IDEA? Creating a Concept that Will Succeed. Matthew Frederick. $99
  3. 3 STEPS TO A WINNING PROPOSAL: What You Need to Know to Sell or Publish a Nonfiction Book. Mike Larsen, Jody Rein. $99
  4. PITCHCRAFT: How to Make The Perfect Pitch. Katharine Sands. $125
  5. BEING AN AUTHOR FOR THE LONG HAUL: How to Balance Marketing & Writing. Anne Hill. $99

 6:30 to 9:30 p.m.

  1. BLOOD MONEY: The Essential Elements of Bestselling Crime Fiction. Sheldon Siegel. $125
  2. THE TRUTH ABOUT FICTION: Finding Your Story and Understanding How to Tell It. Chuck Adams. $12
  4. SUCCESS IN THE AGE OF MICROMEDIA: How to Think Like a Media Outlet to Grow Your Platform and Get More Publicity. Rusty Shelton. $125
  5. PREPPING YOUR IDEA AND YOURSELF FOR SUCCESS: 9 Steps for Developing a Winning Business Plan for Your Book. Nina Amir. $99

Monday, February 17, 2014 

9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

  1. SELF-PUBLISHING BOOT CAMP:  Going Step-by-Step to Publish, Promote, and Sell Your Books in Print and Every Popular E-book Format. This day-long boot camp with a team of experts is packed with how-to information on formatting, publishing, promoting, and selling your book in print and every popular e-book format. You will leave with the print version of the Self-Publishing Boot Camp Guide for Authors, freebies, discounts, and a clear vision of how to publishing your book. Carla King. $198

 9 a.m. to noon

  1. HOW TO GET PUBLISHED SUCCESSFULLY. Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry. $125
  3. UNLOCKING THE KEY TO YOUR MEMOIR: Finding Your Voice. Adair Lara. $125

 2 to 5 p.m.

  1. TERSE, TENSE & TIGHT: Taming Books into Screenplays and Teleplays. Marilyn R. Atlas. $125
  3. HOW TO MANAGE SOCIAL MEDIA IN 30 MINUTES A DAY: 4 Steps for Saving Time While Meeting Your Goals. Frances Caballo. $99
  4. WORDPRESS BLOGS FOR NON-TECHIES: Bring Your Laptop, Leave with a Blog. Linda Lee. $99

Everyone who attends my conference will receive a free copy of my book Social Media Just for Writers: The best online marketing tips for selling your books. I’ll also have my new book available for sale, Avoid Social Media Time Suck: A Blueprint for Writers Who Want to Create Online Buzz for Their Books and Still Have Time to Write. Join us. This conference has something to offer every writer in every genre!

photo credit for the Golden Gate Bridge image: Christian Arballo via photopin cc 


Social Media Time Suck Final for WritersAbout the Author: Frances Caballo is a social media manager for writers and author of  Avoid Social Media Time Suck: A Blueprint for Writers to Create Online Buzz for Their Books and Still Have Time to Write, Social Media Just for Writers: The Best Online Marketing Tips for Selling Your Books and Blogging Just for Writers. Presently, she is the Social Media Manager for the Women’s National Book Association-SF Chapter, the San Francisco Writers Conference, and the Bay Area Independent Publishers Association. You can find her on FacebookTwitterLinkedInPinterest, and Google+. 

Practical Tips for Marketing Your Books on the Social Web


Self-Publishing, Social Media Trends and a Twitter Tip for Writers

12-27-13 380What recently dominated the self-publishing blogosphere was a post Susanne Lakin (aka CS Lakin) wr0te titled Genre versus Author Platform. Which Matters More? In the post, Susanne described her endeavor to write a genre novel under a pen name to test whether genre sold more books than an author platform would. To really appreciate the argument she poses, you need to read the post. That article was wildly popular and went viral among the writing circles. It even triggered a post in response by Jane Friedman, which is included below. The last post is my Kristen Lamb and is an important one for self-published authors to read. As always, this week’s roundup includes some social media tips as well. I hope you enjoy the selection below.

Indie Publishing: The Week’s Best Posts

The Future of Indie Publishing by Russell Blake: Prices have never been lower. Even big name new releases are being deeply discounted for the holidays, creating an environment for many authors where it’s a choice between the new Grisham, or their novel – not a tough one for readers, really.

14 Social Media Trends for 2014 by PR Daily, Adam Vincenzin: The importance of content in the constantly evolving era of social media will be the major social media push of 2014. This presentation captures the 14 of the trends resulting from this bigger movement.

How To Optimize Your Images For Twitter’s In-Stream Photo Preview [INFOGRAPHIC] by MediaBistro: Twitter’s a much more visual place these days, thanks to the new in-stream image preview that expands photos in tweets without users having to click on them.

How Much Does Author Platform Impact Sales? by Jane Friedman: As most authors know by now, there is a continuing debate over the importance and impact of one’s platform on book sales. In one of the more interesting experiments I’ve seen, author C.S. Lakin (@cslakin) decided to publish a genre novel (in a very particular genre, with a very particular formula) and release it under a pen name, to test whether a first-time author—one ostensibly without any platform—could sell a meaningful number of copies. Read her full post about it. Editor’s Note: Authors who choose self-publishing will find this post especially interesting.

To Plan or to Plunge? A New Way of Looking at the Outlining Debate by Writer’s Digest: Few questions inherent to the writing process spark as much passionate back and forth among writers as this: To outline, or not to outline? In my years as editor of Writer’s Digest magazine, I’ve had a front-row seat as equally brilliant writers on opposite sides of the field have gone head to head (perhaps most memorably in the joint WD Interview I conducted with legendary thriller authors David Morrell, who likes to let his stories lead him, and Ken Follett, who writes the most detailed outlines I’ve ever heard of).

Five Mistakes KILLING Self-Published Authors by Kristen Lamb: When I began writing I was SO SURE agents would be fighting over my manuscript. Yeah. But after almost thirteen years in the industry, a lot of bloody noses, and even more lessons in humility, I hope that these tips will help you. Self-publishing is AWESOME, and it’s a better fit for certain personalities and even content (um, social media?), but we must be educated before we publish.



Social Media Just for WritersAbout the Author: Frances Caballo is a social media manager for writers and author of Social Media Just for Writers: The Best Online Marketing Tips for Selling Your Books and Blogging Just for Writers. Presently, she is the Social Media Manager for the Women’s National Book Association-SF Chapter, the San Francisco Writers Conference, and the Bay Area Independent Publishers Association. You can find her on FacebookTwitterLinkedInPinterest, and Google+. 

Practical Tips for Marketing Your Books on the Social Web


Share a Little Piece of Freedom

12-16-13 freedom

How would you feel if you lived in a country that arrested a young woman for wearing a skirt that showed her knees? That’s what happened recently to a young writer client of mine. Not only was she arrested, she was humiliated, thrown into a dirty jail, interrogated, and had her clothing stripped and taken from her. Here is a bit of what she wrote:

Guys, imagine yourselves in my shoes. You’re walking on the street with your friend and your cousin, going home from work after a long busy day, exhausted, when suddenly some guy stops you. You turn around, you see him and three other guys plus two ladies in chador running toward you, and you just freeze. 

They force me into the van with eight other ladies, ranging from the age 13 to 45 or so, all looking decent but somehow defeated. They sit sad, angry, unable to do anything but sigh, cry, or talk loudly with the . . . I won’t call them cops. Cops are supposed to make you feel safe. These creatures only make you feel insecure.

I see the guy who stopped me and he’s laughing with the woman who’s apparently in charge. “Good job, I didn’t see that one, nice catch.”

Yeah, you think, you caught the savage murderer, right?

Now, I’m 24, and I’m not scared but angry, and I control myself, but I feel so darn horrible for that little girl, or that mom, or that other girl who’s about my age and says she just arrived to Tehran to buy something and leave.

We ask to contact our families, but they refuse to let us use our phones, threaten us when we try, but we hide your phones and texts our families to let them know where we are. We try to sound relaxed. “Mom, don’t panic please, all right? I’m totally okay. Just grab your ID card and a some of your own clothes and head for the police station down at . . .” and so on.

The girl on the left is thirteen. She’s crying. She’s scared. She’s not allowed to contact anyone, but I encourage her to send a text while I try to draw the attention to myself by speaking loudly. “Where the hell are you taking us? I should contact my family. This is kidnapping. Literally.”

They keep us in the hot van for an hour to watch other ladies cry, yell at the creatures, and ask to go to their families. One of them could be my mom. “I have two children, and my father’s in the hospital . . . This is outrageous; look at me!”

They finally take us to the station after two hours. We are allowed to make one phone call. “And you must tell a family member to bring you clothes with ‘better hijab.’”

There are maybe fifty ladies there, so very different from one another. Different ages, different looks. Some are laughing as if this isn’t their first time, and I join them, but this is the first time someone’s insulted me in this . . . special sort of way. I try to comfort the younger ones, the ones who are shaking with tears, and calm the older ones, who are shaking with rage.

The police then take pictures of me. Not the professional regular mugshot but pictures of my body and uniform from all angles. I feel subjected to some indecent act. But I smile. I smile so wide in the pictures that the girl who’s taking the picture with that old completely unprofessional camera is completely bemused or even annoyed. I’m supposed to be crying and begging them to let me go, you see. I should be scared.

And I smile. I try to see it as a story in which I’m the hero who’s been arrested for . . . nothing.

They file my information, and then I sit there waiting for my new outfit for an hour or two, watching the faces of those who have forced me here. There’s that thirteen-year-old girl, who is forced to open the buttons of her uniform just because the one who arrested her realizes it’s ridiculous to bring her here and there’s nothing wrong with her her outfit. And that woman doesn’t want to get into trouble, so instead of letting the girl go and admitting her mistake, she’s creating trouble for the girl, who’s crying.

After two hours of being  judged and humiliated, I change into the clothes they give me and they take my own clothes by force. They keep the “bad, indecent” clothes for themselves.

No, I’m not gonna call them cops. Thieves, maybe? A girl says her jeans are worth a lot to her, and when they refuse to give them back, she tears the jeans into pieces so they can’t have them either.

With a lot of trouble, they finally let us go. And now I have a record.

If you can walk on the streets in the country you live in and not worry about getting arrested for your clothes, then be happy about it. You have something a lot of people don’t.

Would You Help Share a Piece of Freedom?

It’s been in my heart from the moment I connected with this amazing young Iranian woman, who taught herself to read and write English just so she could write novels to share with the outside world, to bring her to America to attend the San Francisco Writers’ Conference in February. She has never been out of her country, and has watched those she loved die from brutality. Her dream is to become a writer who is free to write what is in her heart.

If you have it in your heart to share a piece of freedom this holiday season, please take one minute to do so. What will it cost you? About the price of a latte and scone at Starbuck’s. Are you willing to miss one quick coffee break to make a dream come true for a writer who dreams? Here is what she says:

“Iran is a complicated place. So complicated, that if I lived outside of my country even for a few years, I would slowly stop understanding it. From outside it’s a dark place. You walk inside, and you’re surprised it doesn’t seem so bad. Then you stay here for a few months, and you start understanding why people can’t dream here.”

She concludes: “It isn’t only because dreams are forbidden. It’s more because you slowly forget how to dream at all.”

How You Can Help

I’ve never solicited funds for anyone, or tried to push or promote my own books on my blog. But I feel sometimes we just need to stop and remember our blessings. To borrow from my client’s words above: “If you write what you want and do not fear for your life, then be happy about it.” Maybe helping just one writer won’t make a huge dent in the world or stop the injustices and oppression in other countries. But helping one person is helping light one candle to dispel the darkness.

So can you afford $10?

  • If so, please go to PayPal here and copy and paste this e-mail into the window when you click on Send Money: [email protected].
  • In the box asking the purpose, put “freedom.” Be sure to choose “I’m sending money to family and friends.”

If you’d like to donate more or less, any amount is greatly appreciated. I am responsible for coming up with funds for her transportation here in the states, as well as all her food, lodging, hotel, and travel (she has no money for any of this). She plans to stay two weeks and meet many people in the SF Iranian community.

Michael Larsen and Elizabeth Pomada, the literary agents who put on this spectacular conference every year, have graciously offered to give her a scholarship to the conference and have invited her to speak. Let’s all help make this a great experience for her, sharing some hope and a piece of freedom so she can go back and write and be a light to this world!

Have a heart. Share a piece of yours. Appreciate your freedom this holiday season. Pray for peace and for world leaders to get a heart for their people.

God bless.

C.S.-Lakin-150x150About the author of this post: C. S. Lakin (from Live Write Thrive) is a novelist, copyeditor and writing coach. She teaches workshops on the writing craft at writers’ conferences and retreats. If your writers’ group would like to have her visit your group, drop her a line. You can find her here: and at Here are links to two other articles by her: Questions and FAQs about editing and Why you need a critique




photo credit: SonOfJordan via photopin cc