Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Save Your Words

by Natalie Bright
A wise, multi-published author once told me, “NEVER delete anything.” I’ve made it a habit to save every idea and story. Cut and paste deleted scenes, dialogue, and chapters, and move them into a separate file. Give it a clever name on your computer, like “My Junk” or “Brilliant Ideas”. Keep an idea file folder for those story sparks that you’ve written on restaurant napkins, scraps of paper, or sticky notes. Never let an idea pass through your brain that you don’t write down. Keep an idea journal and jot down everything when it comes to you, whether it’s a setting, a character, or a bit of dialogue. Those sparks will never come again, and believe me, you might think you’ll recall it when you get to a pen and paper, but I’ve never been able to remember. Not even once. Thank goodness there have been a few times I made the effort to save a story.
Natalie Bright Photos
Many, many years ago during college, I spent time at a friend’s ranch. Their ranch foreman was an old cowboy that had a story or two to tell. Wise and weather worn from spending a life-time punching cows, I remember he had the most brilliant blue eyes and he was one of the most laid-back, happiest people I’d ever met. He loved his life. Even though his wife had died many years ago and he never had children, he wouldn’t have lived anywhere else and done anything different. He was content with his world of cows, horses, and days spent in the saddle. A spark of an idea turned into a story about that man many more years later for a writing class assignment. I never thought about it again, but thank goodness I kept it in my class notes.

Fast forward another ten years, a callout popped up into my inbox asking for stories for a Christmas collection with a West Texas theme. That cowboy and his life immediately came to mind. I reworked it that very day, and within 30 minutes of my submission, I got confirmation back that it was accepted.

Have faith in the words you create. You never know where and when they find a home.

You can read my story “A Cowboy’s Christmas Blessing” in this anthology West Texas Christmas Stories of more than 30 heart-warming and humorous Christmas stories—all set in West Texas or by West Texas writers.

Natalie Bright  is a Chicken Soup author, freelance writer, and her book, Gone, Never Forgotten, is about the loss of an infant son. She blogs at and Prairie Purview. Her literary Agent is currently shopping a picture book and two kid lit novels set in the old west. 

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Libraries and Authors

 by Doris Baker
 If you have visited a public library lately, you have noticed that libraries are changing and expanding offerings. This year my local library system in El Paso County, Colorado, loaned free state park passes to patrons, and when a new branch opened in 2014, public access 3-D printers were part of the services. In spite of startling innovations and new approaches, printed books and e-books remain the core of library collections. In 2012, public libraries spent $1.22 billion bolstering collections. Sixty-three percent of that was spent on print materials and 16.7 percent on e-books and e-serials.

You can help librarians learn about your book (and choose to purchase it). Starting at the beginning of this broad discussion, the first step is remembering how public libraries work. As public, tax-supported entities, libraries are obligated to meet the diverse needs of their communities. Libraries operate under ‘collection development policies’ that guide their purchases and sometimes specify which vendors are used for purchases. 
Quality is important in all elements of your books from a professional cover design to the binding. E-books must also meet standards and be available through a vendor such as Over Drive.
Reviews drive purchasing decisions and librarians rely mainly, but not exclusively, on a small number of review sources: Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, School Library Journal, Kirkus, and The Horn Book. Paid review sources should be discussed with your publisher. You can read pros and cons of buying reviews and find resources by googling ‘paid book reviews.’
A review or press attention in local papers or magazines helps. Librarians are very attuned to matters of local interest. 

Direct mail is very effective if used to point out your success as an author, especially if your book is on a local best-seller list or has been chosen for inclusion in a ‘Best of …’ list by a notable organization or publication.
Trade show participation at library conferences also helps librarians discover your work. State library organizations hold annual conferences, as do regional associations such as the Pacific Northwest Library Association. The American Library Association holds several annual conferences. The two largest are the ALA and the PLA (Public Library Association). As a benefit to members, WWW has reserved a booth at the April 2016 PLA convention in Denver. ALA in 2015 had 22,600 participants, and PLA attendance in 2014 was only slightly less. PLA is a biennial event primarily attended by acquisitions librarians—the people you need to reach. 

This opportunity, unique in the history of WWW, will open for registration in January. Your contact for information is Cynthia Becker, a past-president of WWW and the chair of the 2016 WWW@PLA committee. 
Full information will come in the January membership mailing, but essential information is now available on the WWW members-only page. Participating in WWW@PLA is a great way to increase your library exposure on a national level. 
There is so much more to be said about authors and libraries. I hope this blog posting is the beginning of a rich discussion.

Doris Baker is publisher at Filter Press, LLC, a regional book publishing company in Colorado. She currently serves WWW as president.