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Back To Literature, Past
A Literary & Poetry Column
By Carolyn Howard-Johnson


Carolyn on Giving A Frugal Gift to Authors and Readers

In my how-to book on marketing for writers, I suggest that they make thank you notes an important part of their marketing campaign. Strange as that may seem, especially to readers, there are many others who recommend thank you notes for a variety of reasons, including—probably—your mother. It’s about…well, you’ll see. Keep reading.

Rhonda Byrne, author of The Secret, says that Mother Theresa, upon being asked if she would support an anti-war rally said something like, “When you have a PRO-peace rally, let me know.” She probably sensed that energy affects the world and that we gather around us energy similar to what we give out. Byrne recently made the underlying theory Mother Theresa was espousing a popular theory, and sold so many books one would have to live in a box without books or newspapers not to have heard of her.

At first I had my doubts. Her theory—though I loved her Mother Theresa anecdote—seemed a little far out. But the more I learned about particle physics and quantum mechanics (I’ve become a sort of science buff!) the more truth I found in much of what I’d originally thought of as hocus pocus. And, I was glad to change my mind. It seems that a positive attitude has always worked in my life.

Make that usually rather than always. I recently received an anonymously posted e-mail that invaded my comfort zone. I reprinted it under Letters to the Editor in the last issue of my SharingwithWriters newsletter, even though I decry anything anonymous. Anonymity may offer some value in feeling safe enough to say things one might not otherwise say, but that same insulation often encourages people to offer their opinion in destructive ways.

When I first started using the Web, the word “flaming” was used quite frequently. It seems that term is being used less frequently and that people have come to view the Web as a place where decency, sharing and critiquing in a positive way, and the use of etiquette—all those good things that hold the threads of culture together—have been and can be marginalized. Maybe they have been influenced by Rhonda Byrne’s Secret. Maybe more thank you notes are making the rounds and spreading their good energy wherever they go.
Anyway, those of you who have actually read The Frugal Book Promoter rather than using it as a reference when important events are at hand know that there are lots of ways for writers and their readers to send thank yous, or what amounts to good energy spreaders.

1. If you like a book, review it, but only if you like it. When critiquing someone else’s work, one tries to do it in a way that will help them write or publish better in the future and—if one is tempted to slash and burn—they might avoid writing that review at all. We never know what spirit or what talent we might end up destroying. There are all kinds of places to review books these days. On Amazon, B&, on one’s own blog, and on my Readers’ opinions are welcome and submission guidelines are in the left column.

2. If you read a book you don’t understand, has a typo or two, or is flawed in some way, give it some time to sink in before spreading the bad word. Books can be like tea. They often get better if we let them steep. And even if they don’t, we might find something to love in them, something the universe wants us to know. It is much better to offer something positive along with a constructive criticism. Flower in Bambi, said something like, “Don’t say anything unless you can say something nice… .” I don’t think that’s as important as learning how to correct or suggest with love.

3. Go to the Author’s Amazon page and “Like” their book. You’ll be sending good vibrations out into the world (read that energy!), that can only come back to you in a positive way. Or subscribe to their fan page on Facebook. There are more social networking ways than ever to let appreciation be seen.

4. Blog about the author or his or her book. In fact, if you can reach the author, ask if you might get an interview for your blog. Truly. Most authors will say yes and all will appreciate that you cared enough to ask.

5. Send thank you notes. In a word, it’s about being grateful for others’ help and for our own successes, which are always influenced by the good will of others. Paper is nice. But e-mail will do. Most authors have a “contact” tab on their Web site these days.

Anyway, the writer of this e-mail I received, didn’t agree with my take on a writers’ organization. Actually, we didn’t disagree at all, but he hadn’t read the article carefully enough to know that. Once started, he just kept going—and going—and going. But even that—when allowed to steep—made me realize I should have included an extra bit of advice along with my recommendation in the Frugal Book Promoter to write notes. When you are really ticked off, it’s fine to let off steam. We’re all human and writing is great therapy. But I’m not the only one who thinks we shouldn’t send a venomous letter. Sleep on it, too. Rewrite it if you think there is something of value someone might learn something from it. If not, burn it. Send it in bright red cinders to heaven where it can do no harm.

Tips and Tidbits

(Each month in this box, Carolyn lists a Tidbit that will help authors write or promote better. She will also include a Tip to help readers find a treasure among long-neglected books or a sapphire among the newly-published.)

A Tip for Writers: :

Writers of all patterns and stripes will enjoy the quick tips and questions and answers format of my blog, The Frugal, Smart and Tuned-In Editor Guidelines for submitting questions are in the left column of the blog. It is inspired by The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success which won USA Book News Best Book 2007 Award, Reader Views Literary Award and was a finalist in the New Generations Indie Award. It is also available for Kindle,

A Tip for Readers' Tip:

A poetry chapbook that I coauthored with Magdalena Ball was a popular Christmas gift for many. Those who missed someone special on their list and would still like to remember them might find the $6.95 price tag of Blooming Red: Christmas Poems for the Rational just right. It is part of our award-winning Celebration Series of chapbooks.

2012 Past Columns


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