Revising Your Fiction: Question Everything!

It’s a big day. You’ve finished the first draft of your book. You share the news on Facebook and get so many Likes—which will surely translate into book sales. But the ghosts of English teachers past remind you that a first draft is not a finished piece of writing.

“Fine,” you tell them. “I’ll edit.”

To appease the red pen-wielding apparitions, you add a semicolon here, take out a comma there, do a spellcheck, and now you’re done! Really done!

“Nope,” say the ghosts. “Revise.”

“But I spellchecked! I replaced two commas with em dashes! I even undangled a participle!”

“That’s editing,” they say. “Not revision.”

A lot of us consider these concepts synonymous, but they’re not quite the same thing. Revision is something a little more comprehensive.

The ugly truth is that lots of us don’t quite know where our stories are going until we get there. Sure, you might know the broad strokes, but good writing is all about the details. You discover things about your characters along the way—their motivations, likes, dislikes, loyalties, and more. Going back to make sure you’re as true to these details in your first sentence as you are in your last will make your stories better, your characters more well-rounded, and your readers more satisfied.

Ask yourself the following as you revise:

  • Who are your characters?

Do their actions make sense? Does your meek protagonist suddenly get loud and violent for no reason? Characters can—and arguably should—undergo change, but not on a dime, and not without cause.

  • What’s your setting?

Does the setting fit the story? What does it reinforce about the mood of your story or your characters—or how does it create contrast between your characters and their location? Properly setting your stage also sets the tone of your story.

  • What’s happening?

What happens? Are events properly set-up or do they occur randomly? Sure, life is random; but, in the same way that truth is stranger than fiction, truth is also less orderly. Fiction needs structure to feel believable.

  • Where’s the conflict?

This is the evil twin of plot. Both drive your narrative. What’s happening that generates interest, drama, or change? It can be external (like a ticking time bomb or a tough new boss) or it can be internal (like facing a debilitating fear or the acceptance of a breakup). Even better, include internal and external conflict. Good fiction is like life—complex.

  • Whose point of view is this?

Who’s telling the story? If your narrative is dependent on knowing lots of intimate thoughts and details about your main character, consider writing it in first-person. If the story works better with the reader kept at more of a distance—especially if there are lots of characters to touch on—try third. There’s no right choice, but be consistent—and be true to the voice you create.

In short, question everything about your story or book. It’s no easy task, but if you can’t answer the questions above, your readers will be left with lots of questions of their own—including why they should bother reading anything else you write.

Give your manuscript to a trusted (but picky) reader or two. Ask the above questions to them. The ones that stump them will show you where to start providing answers with a thorough revision. Your work will be better for it—and the ghosts of your English teachers will finally find some rest.

Getting Noticed: The Art of the Description

You wrote a book – congratulations! You’ve achieved something incredible. You wrote it, formatted it, reviewed the copy, self-published it and you are thoroughly satisfied, now all that is left is to put it up for sale and rejoice as readers the world over enjoy your work.

pexels-photoBut – selling a book is no easy task. Particularly in a literary world where self-published books are plentiful. By some UNESCO estimates, more than 800 books are published in the U.S. alone each day.

So, how do you make your book stand out?

Aside from writing a terrific book, the most important thing to do is to write an even better description. In fact, it’s arguably more important to write a great description.

The description is the front line for your book, the entryway to your literary world. It is the most important piece of writing you’ll do in terms of marketing your book and getting it noticed. And getting noticed is key! No one will know how good your book is if they aren’t enticed by the description to pick it up in the first place!

As both a consumer and a writer, there are a few things I’ve noticed that separate a good description from a poor one (and often these items mean the difference between someone buying your book or passing it over):


  • Brevity – The word count should be in the 150 to 250 range. This is a brief description meant to sell a reader on the book, it should not serve as a summary of the book. You are advertising your book, presenting a teaser that will make the reader want to pick up your book and find out what happens.
  • Introductions – Introduce your protagonist, the inciting incident, the setting/place/time – all the basics. Use strong, emotional language, in the third-person (even if the book is first-person). Writing in the third-person is a particularly effective way of removing yourself (the author) from the description.
  • Hook – Some suggest beginning with a hook, some ending with it. Either way, you need to “hook” the reader by evoking the genre and speaking to your intended audience. If your book is a crime thriller, make that clear with language that builds suspense or implies the unknown. If it’s a fantasy, let the reader know that they will be transported to strange new worlds with unique creatures and characters.
  • Raise the Stakes – Once the reader knows your protagonist, the inciting incident and has been hooked by the language, the stakes need to be cranked up to instill tension and motivate them to know more. A good story is steeped in conflict; tell your potential reader, either subtly or flat out, what the conflict is.
  • Write It as the Publisher – You wrote your book as the author—telling a story. An author is not a salesperson. You should write the description as the publisher, the person who wants to sell this book. Or better yet, have someone read the book and write the description for you! Whatever you do, stepping out of the author role is critical to writing an effective description.


While these aren’t the only rules, nor are they hard and fast, they will serve as guidelines when creating your description. The description is your only opportunity to grab your reader and make them want to read your book. Don’t waste this chance—use it to get as many people reading your book as you can!

Publish Your eBook to Amazon Kindle with Lulu

Get Your eBook On the Kindle Store STAT!


Time for a victory dance. You’ve mastered the Interwebs by publishing your eBook on You’re a Level 10 Author! But to rank up to Bestselling Mobile Device Master, you must submit your eBook for distribution. This sends your eBook to online retailers across the globe, including Amazon’s Kindle store.

Kindle is the world’s best selling eReader, made so by the massive reach of Amazon. Even readers who don’t have a Kindle can buy and read your eBook on their smart phone, tablet or computer via the Kindle Cloud Reader.

How to get your masterful eBook from Lulu to the Kindle Store (and everywhere else)

First things first, you’ve:

Now how do you get your eBook into the Kindle store and all other online eBook retailers? Simple; go to the My Projects page, click the Manage distribution icon to the right of the eBook, and choose your eBook distribution options.

Lulu eBook Kindle distribution screenshot

You can opt into the Kindle channel while also having your eBook submitted to the iBookstore, Nook store, Kobo Store and Everything else. Click to Save your choices and your eBook’s journey begins.

Lulu Kindle screenshot

Lulu’s techno-sorcery will even convert the EPUB file you created on Lulu to a MOBI file automatically as part of the process of submitting your eBook to Amazon’s Kindle store. If you are curious how your eBook will look on a Kindle eReader, you can get an idea of what the MOBI version will look like using a free EPUB to MOBI converter. Searching the term “EPUB to MOBI” should list a few.

Greater visibility leads to greater success.

Take for example Andy Weir, a computer programmer who self published the best selling science fiction novel “The Martian.” He initially offered free chapter downloads on his website and listened to his readers’ feedback before compiling the chapters into a completed novel. He saw his eBook downloads skyrocket (ha ha.) after making it available for purchase in the Amazon Kindle store for $0.99. Interestingly, more people downloaded the $0.99 version from the Kindle store than had ever downloaded the free chapters. Go figure.

What did all this visibility get his novel? MORE visibility. (Plus a swanky status with nerdy ladies everywhere, no doubt.) I love nerdsIn fact, you can now watch the movie version of “The Martian” staring Matt Damon.

Happy eBook publishing, you tech-savvy author!

Make sure to share a link of your eBook’s Amazon Kindle listing in the Comments section on the left.

Q&A with Award-Winning Lulu Jr. Author

This summer, Rainbow Resource Center, which is based in Illinois, held a Super Summer Book Writing Contest for children ages 5-17. Using Lulu Jr.’s My Awesome Book, children wrote and illustrated their stories and submitted them for the competition. Avery B. was the grand prize winner and she won $250. We sat down with Avery to learn what inspired her…

Question – Congratulations! How does it feel to be a published author at 13?

Avery B. – Really great! I feel like I’ve grabbed the key that opens a door for future possibilities.

Question – What was the best part of writing your own book?

Avery B. – I had a lot of fun thinking of the silly challenges that Ego and his friends would overcome.

Question – How did your friends in Beep Patrol help inspire you to write the story?

Avery B. – I always liked it when everyone on Beep Patrol, my FLL Robotics team, worked together to come up with great concepts. Core Values are some ideas that guide the teams to gracious gamesmanship. Since I was Core Values leader, I wanted to write a story about how Core Values changed someone’s life for the better.

Question – What was the hardest part of writing Ego?

Avery B. – The hardest thing for me to do was seeing something through. It was super hard for me to keep working at Ego. I was happy after my first draft – that is usually how I leave my work. However, I kept polishing Ego until it was ‘purrrrfect’. I’m really glad I spent a lot of effort in Ego!

Question – What have you learned from this experience?

Avery B. – I learned that if I follow my plans through, great things can happen.

Question – Do you have any plans to continue writing?

Avery B. – I will definitely keep writing. I am writing a novel about superhero kids called Scarlet Eyes and I think it is going to be a super neat story. I also thought of another story called More Than Gold. I’m going to keep working on that too.

Question – Is there anything else that you’d like to share?

Avery B. – This is some advice for aspiring writers: NEVER GIVE UP! Plan a story from the beginning to the end, and then follow it through. That is what I found makes writing a good story possible. And for my fellow Whovians: Don’t blink!”

The team at Lulu Jr. would like to congratulate Avery on the wonderful book that she created and we look forward to seeing the next one!

If you want your child to be a successful author like Avery, then head over to Lulu Jr. to find the perfect kit to turn your child into a published author too. Happy creating!

From Blank Page to the Big Screen

The Man on the Grassy Knoll coverI’ve sold a book to a movie studio!

I can’t believe both my good fortune and sheer luck; although, it must be said that LULU played an awfully big role in the serendipitous events leading to this moment.

A long time ago, (last century to be exact — late 1990) I sold a novel to a major New York publisher. Got a check. Put it in the bank and sat back with a Kentucky bourbon in hand and thought, “I’ve got it made.” Then the editor called and wanted me to make significant changes to the manuscript. Changes I did not agree with. Changes that would take my novel in a totally different direction. I fought. They fought back and finally I returned their check and got my letter of rights back.

I was crushed.

At about the same time a friend of mine was getting a book of poetry published and she had met the powers that be at a company from North Carolina called, I had never heard of them, but I went on line, read about how the author can keep control of his or her book and how easy it is to publish. I was sold.

Fifteen novels later, I am still running strong with my team at LULU.

The other day my phone rang and a voice on the other end asked if I, ”…would sell his partner and him the movie rights to my novel, The Man on the Grassy Knoll?” I couldn’t say yes fast enough. They saw my book at a book fair where self-published authors were being featured. And, as they say, the rest is history.

My books have won awards, been featured on radio talk shows and in college courses (how not to write, more than likely) and now the basis for a motion picture; all because I found a company who knew how to publish a book without all the mystery and hidden agendas of the huge, conglomerate publishing houses. Of course, I speak of LULU. The more I work with them, the more I like them and the more we succeed.

Now I can’t promise you a movie deal or even a best seller. But, if you follow LULU’s lead, if you get on board with their author programs, they are going to help you put out a professional book that you will be proud of and that people should want to buy.

See ya’ at the movies.

JCrawley HeadshotAbout the author:
John Crawley is a writer living in Dallas, Texas who has published 15 novels. His latest, The End, deals with the death with dignity movement. John is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin, is married and has two dogs and a cat. Oh yeah, and three grown children, too. John’s 2013 novel, Letters From Paris, was named Notable Book of the Year by Shelf Unbound Magazine. You can see his work at


Do you have an author success story you would like to share with the world?  If so, send us an email at

Horrified Press: We Are Legion!

Horror Press BioMy name is Nathan J.D.L. Rowark, and I am the editor-in-chief of Horrified Press, a small indie press. Our press is only a few years old, but it has quickly grown attracting thousands of authors, artists, and of course horror fans.

I returned to writing after a 20 year absence and had to work hard to regain my skills and push myself back into the ranks of ‘Published Author’. It was tough and I was astounded at the lack of industry support for experienced authors like myself. Online I found very few literary groups that could offer me the help I needed and small specialty presses seemed to open one year and close the next.

After years of dedication and struggle, I decided to devote myself to smoothing the path to publication for emerging authors. I wanted to create something lasting and self-sustaining – a place for writers to submit their work, where artists could contribute cover art, and editors could work within the horror genre. It would be a place where everyone could explore and share their visions.We-are-legion-GRH_odt_-_OpenOffice_Writer

The result was Horrified Press. The idea was to create an anthology that allowed first time authors to submit content alongside publishing pros. This format would provide support to those authors who needed it and encourage writers unfamiliar with horror to jump on board. My dream was to create a book that would put the bite back into horror! There would be no teenagers and sparkly vamps here, just good old fashioned gore, chills and unending terror.

The response from writers was so good that we ended up publishing two anthologies: Tales of the Undead – Hell Whore and Tales of the Undead – Suffer Eternal.

We created our first books to shock and to innovate. They did both and I am now pleased to say we have 2,000+ authors who regularly submit content, 10 editors who mentor new writers, seven specialty imprints (Rogue Planet Press – science-fiction, Thirteen O’Clock Press – dark tales, Sinister Saints Press – YA horror, Barbwire Butterfly Books – fantasy, sword & sorcery… to name a few), and over 60 books published!

We-are-legion-GRH_odt_-_OpenOffice_WriterIn the early days, the choice for our print-on-demand supplier was very much a trial and error process. We wanted quality and affordability for our fan base. We also wanted reliable global delivery as well as quick and friendly customer service to handle any problems that emerged. We didn’t want much did we? proved to be best in the areas we felt were important to grow our business and to represent our authors properly. The Lulu platform and its ability to reach other markets has been a major part of our small (now not so small) press and its success. Keep up the great work! You’re inspiring many people and helping them create a smart, more entertained (and scared) world.

It’s been a wild ride and I feel that it is just beginning for us. We’ve now published Bram Stoker award winners, and have inspired and nurtured new authors who have gone on to win accolades (P & E Readers Award winners – anthology category 2014, 2015). Beyond representing new and known voices, Horrified Press serves a great calling. We are carrying the torch for the genre itself, for those who love creating horror and those who love to read our terrifying tales.

For great Halloween reading, please visit:
Author site:

You’ll be frightfully welcome!


Maximize Your Lulu Customer Support Experience

Writing is no easy task, but once it’s done the book creation process begins. That’s where Lulu comes in. While our tools are designed to be accessible and user friendly, undoubtedly, questions and technical issue will arise. Lucky for you, dear author, Lulu’s Customer Support Team is here to help you overcome any obstacles you encounter.

To ensure a quick and efficient response, follow the instructions below when submitting your support request. These tips will help our support team better understand your problem and remove those obstacles preventing you from completing your project.

To get started, click on the Support link at the top of the page. Then choose the correct support category. Helpful articles are listed below each category that may answer your question. If not, click the I Still Need Help button to open a support request form. 


1) Project title, Content ID, ISBN, Order # –

These are the most important bits of information to be included when creating a support case. You will also notice three lines that aren’t required, but are helpful: Item ID; Item Name; ISBN. Including this information allows us to more quickly and accurately provide a solution. Remember, the more information you include in your original request, the fewer follow-up questions we will need to ask and the faster we can resolve your problem.


The Content ID, ISBN, and Title information are displayed on the My Projects page:


If your question involves an order that you are waiting to receive or one you have received, but have questions about, it is very important you include the order number in your support request.


The order number is listed on the order confirmation email we send, on the packing slip inside the package, and from within your account (My Orders)


2) Include all important information in your request

Describe the Problem as clearly as possible. A simple description such as “My EPUB won’t convert” or “My order didn’t go through” is often sufficient.

If you are having a specific issue, try to give as much detail as possible such as the step on which you encountered the problem or the error message you received. Screen shots are also very helpful to include.


3) Support Team responses

Emails are sent to you and routed back to us through a single email address ( Since this is a generic email account used by our entire support team, responses may get routed to your spam or junk folder. If you haven’t seen a response to your query, it’s possible our response is in one of those folders!

IMPORTANT: When you respond to an email from our support team, DO NOT change the subject line. The subject will look like this, but with a different case number:


[ ref:_00D406zP6._50070flt3l:ref ] Case 01234567


The information in the subject line ensures your response is filed with your original support request and routed to the correct Customer Support team member. If you add or change anything in the subject line, we may not receive or respond to your email in a timely fashion!


4) Where to find the answers – Knowledge Base and Author Forums

Lulu is a self-publishing company. We want our authors to grow and thrive. As such, we provide several support options.

  • Self Help: In our Knowledge Base you can find the answers to many of the “how do I…?” questions that come along with self-publishing, like formatting a Word file for EPUB conversion or How to Revise a Completed Project
  • Author Community: Post your question in the forums and other self-published authors will share their know-how, 24/7.
  • Support Team: We are happy to provide support for technical issues M-F from 8-5 Eastern US Time.

Believe me, if you can dedicate hours, weeks, and months of your life to telling your story, you can get through the steps of our creation process and make your book a reality. And, when you hit roadblocks, the Customer Support team is here to help!