Interview: Stephanie Barko, Literary Publicist


Stephanie Barko, Literary Publicist

“Interview: Stephanie Barko, Literary Publicist” by Joan Y. Edwards

Thank you for being a guest on my blog today, Stephanie. Your life, your tips, your book publicist services, and your DIY Book Platform app will inspire authors and help them decide the best way to publicize their books.

You’re welcome. It’s my pleasure to be here and to share book publicity ideas with authors.

Let’s begin.

  • Where were you born?

    In Houston, and I have the lungs to prove it. (Houston has the worst air quality in the US.)

  • What qualities of your parents do you admire the most?

    My dad lost his dad when he was three and had to commit his mom to a mental institution when he was 10, so he was effectively an orphan raised by his brothers. He was the only one of five brothers to go to college, which he did on a football scholarship. My mom was a swimmer who went to Olympic trials and missed getting in by one-tenth of a second. Her shoebox full of medals blows my mind. The year I was born, my parents started a business that is still going today–sales, service and rental of industrial equipment.  My people are a little OCD, but we’re driven to achieve. Failure is not an option.

  • If you go to an amusement park, which ride do you head to first?


  • Which ride do you avoid at all costs?

Roller coaster or anything that sends my neck into the chiropractor.

  • How did you do in English in high school?

Splendidly, despite being a slow reader.

  • What were three books you loved when you were a child?

The Cat in the Hat, The Velveteen Rabbit, Alice in Wonderland

  • What are three of your favorite books to read today?

Anything by Anne Lamott

  • Where is your favorite place to visit? Why?

Alaska because it’s the way the planet would look without us around to mess it up, although it started melting after my last visit.

  • Who or what has been the most help and inspiration to you in your life?

My middle school English teacher whose motto was “Take initiative!” which dovetailed with the entrepreneurial spirit in my household. And my mom’s best friend, who is 96 this year, a naturalized American from Versailles.

  • From my meeting you and seeing you at the Oklahoma Writers’ Federation Inc (OWFI) conference in May, 2016, it seems that you enjoy being with people. You are very friendly and outgoing. This is a great quality. Do you require a lot of alone time? How do you get it when your job as a publicist may require a lot of interacting with others?

On Myers-Briggs I am 50/50 introvert/extrovert, so as much as I put out, I spend putting back in. I am a mole in a hole on my laptop, just like a writer, until I go to a conference.

  • How do you keep yourself physically fit?

These days I walk or go to PT.

  • Do you set dates to meet your goals? Do you celebrate when you reach them?

I set goals every year, either in November or January and then I revisit them in June to see where I am. I usually nail the physical goals (I’m a minor health nut), and have mixed results in the other categories. Celebration for me usually involves a gluten-free menu on a white tablecloth with an adult beverage.

  • Who do you go to when you’re feeling low and about to give up?

I learned a long time ago that my pen and my friends are my family, so I either hit my journal or the phone.

Stephane Barko's logo

  • When did you decide to become a literary publicist? Why?

I began this career in 2006 after an editor noticed me marketing other writers in our writing circle. Before that I marketed semiconductors, so it only took me a short while between careers to figure out that once a marketer, always a marketer. During 2005, I was simply changing products.


Stephanie Barko, Literary Publicist

  • What has been your most exhilarating moment as a publicist?

Presenting in front of my peers in Denver at 2014 Author U Extravaganza. I never worked so hard on slides in my life!

  • What kind of research is necessary to develop a publicity plan for a client?

With ten years of experience, it’s the most fun thing I do, but I’m not going to give that away.

  • What are 3 tips you can give writers/authors?

1. It’s never too early to create your platform. 2. Agents look for craft first, so get it right and get it edited. 3. Know your audience and already have them identified before you query your manuscript.

  • What are three things that an author needs online?

1. Website 2. Blog 3. Social Suite

  • Wow! What a great number of clients you have with big publishers and small publishers and self-published authors! What three qualities helped you be a successful publicist?

To do the work I do, you have to be organized and persistent. I hear “no” as one step closer to the “yes” I’m going for. And you’ve got to be able to ask for what you want. I’m always amazed how long it takes women to articulate what they want. If you can ask for what you want, you’ll find that you get it about 75% of the time. Men just take what they want–they don’t even ask.

  • On February 9, 2016, Brian Jud stated in Inside Publishing Marketing & Publicity that successful book publishers market their books using an assorted mix of promotional media. The four parts to an assorted communication mix are publicity, advertising, sales promotion and personal selling. What are the essential ingredients of a good publicity campaign? Does it include advertising and sales promotion, as well as publicity? Do you do personal selling? Or is that for the author to do?

Some authors are good at hand selling. I promote. I never sell anything. I don’t believe in advertising novels, but I think advertising is okay for some nonfiction. A good PR campaign is specific to the subgenre and the author’s background. I don’t find it to be formulaic.

  • What are three books you would highly recommend to authors to help them learn how to market and sell their books successfully?

You can’t go wrong with John Kremer. If you write YA, I recommend Cynthia Leitich Smith’s website. I think it’s critically important for all authors to understand the impact Google has on us, so anything you can learn about their algorithm changes, about SEO, optimization and integration is important. I watch that more than I watch what Amazon is up to.

sb Logo high res

  • How do you recommend writers go about finding a good publicist for their book?

You want one who routinely handles your subgenre, has no law suits against her or black marks on Preditors & Editors, and someone who has the connections you’re wanting to make. The level of vetting I recommend is somewhere between how you would investigate a surgeon vs. a housekeeper—you want to see both skill and integrity.

  • When is the best time to hire a publicist?

4-6 months PRIOR TO release date. Most authors approach me too late.

  • Could you give me a ballpark figure for the cost of having a publicist?

A full campaign runs $5K – $20K, depending on whether there’s media training, social media maintenance, or advertising rates rolled into the contract. Most of my contracts run $5K-$8K for 3-4 months of specific deliverables.

DIY Book Platform 300 x 300

  • What is DIY Book Platform?

DIY Book Platform is an app I created for authors of genres I don’t take and for authors who can’t afford a publicist. Purchase a 45-day pass to use it. Download it from

  • It’s interesting that publicists have different genres they work with, similar to how agents choose different genres to represent. How did you decide that non-fiction adult books was your preference?

I like reality. I read nonfiction. Historical fiction is the other genre I take, and to me, that’s just reality redone as entertainment.

  • Do you do book reviews for nonfiction books?

Sometimes I will rate books on GoodReads that I read in my Austin book group.

  • What qualities does a nonfiction book need for you to consider representing its author as a publicist?

It needs to be well edited, well designed, with a goal of being published in more than one format.

  • How do you plan events for your authors?

I give advice on which events are worth their time.

  • How should authors/publishers contact you to ask if you’d represent them as a publicist?

Via email, stephanie (at) stephaniebarko (dot) com.

  • What is your website? Blog?,, and,

  • How can others connect with you on social media?


Links for DIY Platform (Stephanie Barko’s App for authors who can’t afford a publicist or who write in the genres she doesn’t serve)
Download DIY Platform app:
Facebook Page

Stephanie Barko’s award-winning clients include traditional publishers and their authors, small presses, and independently published writers. She promotes nonfiction & historical fiction exclusively, including how-to, history, career, business, biography, self-help, and memoir.  Debut authors and spiritual nonfiction are especially welcome.

Ms. Barko was invited into the publishing industry after many years in high tech marketing. She has presented on book marketing & publicity at Historical Novel Society North American Conference, Oklahoma Writers FederationDFW Writers, and Women Writing the West. Her articles and book reviews have been published in Western American LiteratureRoundup MagazineSouthern Writers MagazineSan Francisco Book Review, and the Texas Book Marketing Directory. She has been quoted in Writer’s Digest and was selected to Mentor at 2017 SXSW Interactive.

She was a Finalist in More Magazine’s Reinvention Story Competition, nominated by her peers as Book Publicist of the Year, and voted Preditors & Editors Best Book Promotion Service.  Stephanie has served as a Recommended Associate at Author U, an Industry Expert at Author Learning Center, and an Instructor for the Writers’ League of Texas. This year her agency was voted Best Resource in the Small Business Book Awards.

Development was completed in 2015 on DIY Book Platform, a web-based app that Stephanie conceived to serve authors who could not afford a publicist.

In 2014, Stephanie was profiled by both Environmental Defense Fund and National Audubon Society for her commitment to the earth. Since 2005, she has moderated a nonfiction book group that has hosted such nationally known authors as journaling expert Janet Conner (Writing Down Your Soul), genocide survivor and professional athlete Gilbert Tuhabony(This Voice In My Heart), and Paul Woodruff (Reverence), a TV guest of Bill Moyers.  Stephanie has degrees in Business & Sociology and is based in Austin.

Thank you again for being a guest on my blog today, Stephanie. You are a very talented, helpful, and energetic lady.

Thank you for reading my interview with Stephanie Barko. I hope you’ll leave her a little note. Feel free to ask a question. To comment, click below and scroll down to the very bottom.


Never Give Up
Joan Y. Edwards
Copyright  © 2017 Joan Y. Edwards


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Interview with Becoming Hero’s Author, Jen Finelli

Becoming Hero by Jen Fenelli

Becoming Hero by Jen Fenelli

“Interview with Becoming Hero’s Author, Jen Finelli” (Giveaway details below)

Today, I am delighted to interview Jen Finelli, author of soon to be released Becoming Hero

Hi, Jen. So good to have you as our honored guest today. I know our readers are going to enjoy learning about you. You are clever and fun. I’ve rolled out the red carpet for you.

Thank you, Joan for having me here. Let’s get going.

  1. Where were you born?
    Washington, DC!
  1. Where was your favorite place to live as a child? Why?
    Germany was wonderful, but my heart’s in Paraguay. You know how some folks have that Grandma’s house out in the country or something they went to over the summer? My “summer” place was Paraguay…the verdant home to thousands of undiscovered bird species, the largest waterfall in the world, and people who will offer you tea and next thing you know is that you’re part of their family. That’s where I’m going to live when I grow up: I’m spending the next ten years saving up money to build a clinic in the jungle there.
  1. Did you have a favorite place to read a book as a child? Where and why?
    What’s comfier than a bed, am I right?
  1. Where is your favorite place to read now? Why?
    Ha, I don’t grow up. That’s why on Twitter they call me Petr3Pan! I’m still in the same place.
  1. How do you keep yourself physically fit?
    I cry a lot, and that doesn’t seem to be working. It’s great, I stay the same size all the time! I’m big enough for my husband to write words on and hide them in the folds. In all seriousness, there are some awesome apps people should check out if they want to get fit. I’m trying to do this 100 push-ups app, and learn Bellydancing. Zombies Run looks awesome. I used to be a black belt who ran three miles every morning, taught martial arts classes, AND swam competitively, so I do like exercise. It just doesn’t like me.
  1. If you go to an amusement park, which ride do you go to first? Which ride do you ignore at all costs?
    Not a huge fan of spinning things. Love the Apollo’s Chariot at Bush Gardens, Williamsburg, Va. I want to fly, so anything that makes me feel like I’m flying is a go.
  2. What is your favorite genre? Why?
    Sci-Fi! Because it’s the best one! You can say anything about the future, the past, the now, and you can explore the edges of human innovation and maybe even influence some real scientists. Nothing’s better than that!
  1. What’s your favorite book that you’ve ever read? Why?
    Either Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie or The Space Trilogy by C.S. Lewis. The Space Trilogy is a great example of anthropological philosophy, and he spends a lot of time thinking about what cultures might be like on other planets in a very mystical, beautiful way. Much more lit than his Narnia trilogy.
  1. Where is your favorite place to visit? Why?
    Wherever my husband is.
  1. When did you decide to become a writer?
    Six year old me: grubby, shower-less little kid who exclusively spoke in words she’d read in the dictionary. Hated writing, but I wrote an essay about a salmon that included the sentence “she swam far far far far far far far far far far far far” and it won an award, so my fate was sealed. I might still hate writing, who knows.

But the fact is I’m good at written storytelling, and as my writing career began to build (despite my attempts to do other things like medicine) I realized I was born for this. I quit a pharmacy tech position and began writing full-time. I—no joke—heard God telling me it’s my calling to write.

*Ding ding ding crazy!* I know you’re all thinking it, so it’s okay, I’ll go ahead and say it. But you know, I’m a multiple published Codex member now with over a hundred pieces over my belt, so I don’t think I’m one of these people who says God told them to write and then sends you the scary manifesto they wrote in blood on toilet paper.

I’m more like one of those people who says God told them to write and sends you a frikkin’ awesome zombie story in a popular anthology. (I’m saving my bloody toilet paper manifesto for when Vermin Supreme becomes president = P)

  1. Who or what has inspired you the most to write?
    I have no idea! When I was nine I loved something by Lynne Reid Banks so much I decided to write my own magical world about an Easter Egg. I always wanted to be the next C.S. Lewis. If I can learn to be the best me, that would be a good start.
  1. What has been the most exhilarating moment as a writer?
    When I stopped thinking I knew how to write, and started taking advice. That’s when my career took off. I threw away a 500,000 word novel, people.
  1. What are your top ten tips for writers to help them in writing a best seller?
  • Don’t be lazy.
  • Be patient.
  • Realize your work isn’t perfect, that’s not a personal flaw, and you can take steps to get better. You don’t have to kill all your Darlings, but you do have to kill your ego.

These three things will help you deal with rejection and improve your writing more than anything else will. You also need to avoid the use of “was,” use strong words instead of adverbs, stop being pretentious and writerly (stop saying utilize instead of use), and read both Grammar Girl and Strunk and White. (I need to do those things, too) Ten tips is more than I’m qualified to give in one post, but I do have a place on my site where I drop writing tips I’ve learned from others. I believe you’ll think it’s worth checking out.

  1. How did you find the illustrator for your comic book?
    That’s a bit of a secret, since we have a big reveal coming up, but suffice it to say: online! People who are looking for artists should follow them on Twitter, go to ComicCons, hang out on DeviantArt, and generally try to think like artists.

Paying money helps, which is why I ran this awesome campaign to pay my artist AND give my fans cool inexpensive pre-orders! At the $1 level peeps get a $17 audiobook!

  1. What are three things that you do to entice readers to read to the very last page of your book?
    Pray. Eat. Love. Or something like that. No, for real! Prayer helps get my mind focused, I need to eat or I can’t write, and if you don’t love your readers they can feel it. That’s something Dale Carnegie said once.

On a more practical note, keep secrets (but don’t lie to your readers, they hate that)—every character should have one secret trait you never tell your readers, and one secret that affects the book in some way. Cock Chekhov’s gun: let readers see the rifle lying in the room before it becomes important. Just kind of mention it, and then later when it’s important they’re like OH SNAP I REMEMBER THAT THERE WAS A GUN IN THE ROOM!

And finally, have an outline that flows.

  1. As I understand it, when you were writing a cartoon, you had one of your characters rebel against the situations you put him in? How do you feel about this?
    Well it’s not actually me that Skye’s shooting—he’s inside a comic book INSIDE the novel, so his author lives in the novel, and I’m his author’s author. Like his grand-author. Thankfully, he doesn’t know I exist.

In all seriousness, writing something this meta can mess with your head a little bit. I’m writing about tropes I think comic authors should stop using, and about how ridiculous it gets when major franchises get dragged on and on and on…and I’m employing the same tropes I’m talking about because otherwise it’s tell not show. So like…if Skye were real somewhere…am I a huge jerk, or am I doing this because I’m trying to make a hero out of him? Would he hate me, or thank me for bringing him to become the person he’s meant to be?

I try to write all my characters, even the bad guys, as if I love them very much. I want to see them shine, so each one needs to have his moment, and each one needs a deep reason for why he does what he does. But who knows…Skye might still find me worthy of a bullet in the brain.

  1. This question is for Skye, the main character in your new book, Becoming Hero.
    Hello, Skye from Becoming Hero. Why are you so upset?
Becoming Hero by Jen Fenelli

Becoming Hero by Jen Finelli

Skye speaking:

“To quote Batman: how many girlfriends died in your hands?

You know what’s really sad about it? They’re fading in my head, ’til they’re almost not people anymore—just plot points, meant to drive me on, and I can feel that drive, that spiked wheel turning in my rib cage and churning all the meat in there like a blender, I feel how it’s supposed to warp me and turn me in to a dark and cool mysterious brooding guy with a past, and I don’t want it, I don’t, that’s not who I am.

Before you know it, well, here I am. Dark and brooding guy with a past. I even use guns now. I’ve got nothing but Natasha’s name on my lips and her ring around my neck, because her personality, her well-rounded human self disappeared every time she stepped into a panel and became “the girlfriend.” Because I’m the main character, everyone exists around me. Which means everyone around me has to suffer, but I can never, never die.

This is what the SAT calls egomania. This is what the author in the comic is doing to me.

You know it’s the worst thing ever when you know what’s happening to you, and you can’t stop it?

If there were one person in your life who was responsible for all the suffering of everyone you loved—your parents, your best friend, that special person who makes you blush like a dummy—would you take it lying down?

Or would you take them out?”

For more information about me, Skye from Jen Finelli’s new book, Becoming Hero, check out the website:

Thanks for taking the time to answer my question, Skye.



Jen Fenelli, Author of Becoming Hero

Jen Fenelli, Author of Becoming Hero

Jen Finelli’s Short Bio

If you’re looking for sentient cockroaches, angry superheroes, zombies or fairies, offensive gods, and anything else just plain different, Jen Finelli probably writes what you want. She’s a world-traveling sci-fi writer with a knack for making people feel things. (Rage, mostly, but that’s a feeling, right?) So far she’s gotten locked in a German nunnery, fired by a secret news organization, lost in an underground tunnel network, and wind-whipped in a tropical monsoon while riding a motorcycle, so she thinks she’s doing something right. Her comic book character wants to kill his author in Becoming Hero, coming in 2017.

Jen invites you to go here to get a $17 audiobook for $1, watch a silly movie (cool video with Jen telling about her book), and get an early Valentine’s Day gift for you loved one!

Jen’s websites: (I live here) (Free nightmares and ponies here) (I make comics here) (I wrote a movie!)

Connect with Jen Finelli on Social Media: 

Google Plus:
Stumbleupon: (please like/stumble my things!)

Thank you, Jen for a fun interview. I wish you the best of luck with your launch of Becoming Hero.

Pre-order now!

Thank you for reading my blog. I am very blessed to see you here.

Winner of the Giveaway Contest. I appreciate the three people who were kind enough to leave a comment on this blog post between January 19th and midnight, January 28, 2017.

  1. Linda Andersen
  2. Kathleen Burkinshaw
  3. Cat Michaels

I had choose the winner. The lucky winner of Jen Finelli’s short story, Minnie: The Curse of Sentience is Linda Andersen. Congratulations, Linda. I hope you enjoy it. I’ll send it to you by email.

To leave a comment please click below and scroll down to the bottom:


Never Give Up
Live with Enthusiasm
Celebrate Each Step You Take

Joan Y. Edwards
Copyright © 2017 Joan Y. Edwards


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Pat Rullo’s Interview of Joan Y. Edwards on Speak Up Talk Radio

Pat Rullo

Pat Rullo, Speak Up Talk Radio

Oh my goodness. Pat Rullo emailed and asked me if she could interview me for Speak Up Talk Radio! I am very honored that she singled me out to ask for an interview. She’s taking care of her mother, so my book, Joan’s Elder Care Guide, was of special interest to her. I hope you’ll listen. Please listen to it and tell me what you think in the comment area for this post.

Here’s a link to Pat’s interview with me on Speak Up Radio:

As Heard On SUTRN

I hope you enjoy it. Pat asked me very good questions. She fell in love with my book, Flip Flap Floodle, too. After talking with Pat, I feel like I’ve found a new friend.

In case you’d like to have Pat Rullo interview you, here’s information to help you.

Each person who has an interview gives a donation which to fund the Sewport pillowcase project. They send handmade one-of-a-kind pillowcases to veteran shelters, women and children’s domestic abuse homes and animal shelters with each participant name as the donor. I think this is a great project. That’s one of the reasons I decided to do the interview.

If you would like Pat Rullo to interview you to highlight your product, service, talent, book or simply have something to say – Speak Up Talk radio will feature you on the Network for a full 52 weeks for $1.00 per week. You can also air your interview on iTunes, Stitcher (available in over 4 million cars) as well as on mobile apps iOS, Android, Nook, and Kindle Fire. Extra promotions on iHeart Radio available, too. What are you waiting for? SPEAK UP! Enjoy one of those few opportunities you have to talk about yourself to a very interested audience! contact


Never Give Up
Live with Enthusiasm
Celebrate Each Step You Take

Joan Y. Edwards
Copyright © 2016 Joan Y. Edwards


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Sarah Maury Swan’s “An Interview of the Amazing Joan Y. Edwards”

Joan Y. Edwards AE9Z7443
Sarah Maury Swan, Author of “Terror’s Identity,” honored me and I bow humbly because she did a blog interview of me. She said I was very encouraging. I’m glad because I do like to encourage people to Never Give Up. She even tackled this with a new computer and included pictures, too. Hurray for Sarah and her new computer. I hope you’ll drop by and read it and share your thoughts and similar experiences with us on her blog. Thanks.

Sarah has followed my blog for a long time and was one of the first people to join the Pub Subbers Yahoo group. Thanks again, Sarah.


Never Give Up
Live with Enthusiasm
Celebrate Each Step You Take

Joan Y. Edwards
Copyright © 2016 Joan Y. Edwards


Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join over 360 Valued Subscribers and receive entertaining, encouraging posts PLUS 3 free gifts:

1. Never Give Up image
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Interview and Top Ten Social Media Tips with Holly Jahangiri

Holly Johangiri profile-backyard-instagram2-100315sm

Holly Jahangiri, Author and Social Media Guru

“Interview and Top Ten Social Media Tips with Holly Jahangiri” by Joan Y. Edwards

Today I am very excited to share Holly Jahangiri’s Top Ten Social Media Tips. I met her at the Oklahoma Writers  Federation Incorporated conference in May, 2016 where I celebrated the release of Joan’s Elder Care Guide. She is also a published author with 4RV Publishing. She presented a workshop on Social Media. I was amazed at her clever ways of using Social Media and asked if she would be a guest on my blog.

Thank you, Holly for being a guest on my blog. My readers are going to be amazed!

You’re welcome, Joan. It’s wonderful to be here. I’m ready for your questions. Let’s get started.

By the way, Holly is giving away an autographed copy of A New Leaf for Lyle for one lucky person. GIVEAWAY CONTEST Details on how to win at the end.

About Holly Jahangiri

  1. Where were you born?

I was born across the street from the Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida. You see? I come by my “lead foot” naturally!

  1. Where was your favorite place to live as a child? Why?

Silver Lake, Ohio. It was the town my mom grew up in, and she knew it was a great place to raise a child. Many of her friends had stayed or moved back, and had children my age. We lived right around the corner – or two back yards and a couple of hedges – away from the elementary school. There was a little lake with a tiny island where we could swim in summer and ice skate in winter. There were no fences; good manners were the only fences we needed as we played in the neighbors’ yards, careful not to trample their flower beds or break their hedges or peer into their windows. Only one or two older people in the whole neighborhood were the “Get off my lawn!” types. The rest looked out for us and called our parents if we got into trouble or did something they considered dangerous.

  1. Where is your favorite place to live now? Why?

Right now, I call Houston, Texas, home. And it’s a very good place to live and work and raise a family. It’s cosmopolitan and diverse, with top-notch schools and universities, parks, theaters, a symphony, a ballet, an opera house – and it’s very near the Johnson Space Center and Galveston Beach. The most surprising thing to people who visit Houston for the first time is that it isn’t dry, brown, and full of tumbleweeds. Houston is in the tropics – we have seven-story-tall pine trees next to magnolias and palm trees and hibiscus. It’s hot, but it’s also quite humid. You may have heard we had some flooding, a while back? I now understand what my grandmother meant when she’d say things like, “See you next year, God willin’ an’ the creek don’t rise.”

  1. Did you ever want to hide when you were a child?

From what? Seriously, my favorite game was “Hide and Seek.” I was a master at it. My favorite places were the closets under the stairs, the top of my grandparents’ “Climbing Tree” (who ever thinks to look UP during a game of “Hide and Seek”?), and the third attic in my grandparents’ house. You got to it through a walk-in closet. Along one wall of the closet, there was a bookshelf, and behind that, a hidden door. Enter the door, then turn around – to the left of that door, there was another door. Their house was just made for hiding!

  1. What are your 3 favorite places to read a book?

In a tree. On a window seat. In bed. But really, a book transports me to so many places – by the time I’m immersed in reading one, I can imagine that I am anywhere I want to be.

  1. What is your favorite ride at an amusement park? Why?

The roller-coaster! Why? Like life, it has its ups and downs. There’s the delicious anticipation – that sense of adventure mixed with excitement and dread in almost equal measure – that moment as the car crests the first incline, when you think to yourself, “Oh, dear God, what have I done?” followed by that sense of joyful flying as it races downhill and turns sideways or rises for a loop-de-loop. It’s over too fast, but you can always do it again!

  1. What ride do you avoid at all costs?

The Viking Ship. Nothing is more guaranteed to make me toss my cookies than The Viking Ship or its variations, especially if it’s a hot day. I used to love rides like The Octopus, but there came a point where that was more nausea- and headache-inducing than it was fun. When I was a kid, I loved all rides – the wilder, the better. I may have been the only child disappointed in Disney World, because it was more “theme” than ride. Cedar Point rules! I haven’t been there since I was a tween, but I can still remember being turned loose with the all-you-can-ride wristband, a watch, and a list of times and places to “check in” with the grown-ups. Those were the days!

  1. What’s the funniest thing that has ever happened to you?

Gosh, I don’t remember – so many funny things have happened to me, but no big one stands out!

  1. How did you do in English in high school?

Wonderfully well! English was my favorite class – an easy A.

  1. When and why did you decide to become an author?

I think it was in 5th or 6th grade. We were learning to write essays. I got mine back – I think the grade was an A, but what I remember was all the comments in red pen up the margins. Reactions to something I wrote, plus suggestions for improvement.And that started my love of the red pen. Others see it as criticism; I see it as, “Oh! Someone really read what I wrote and thought about it!” It was the start of a conversation. I wrote more essays – unassigned, and looking back, probably dreaded by the teacher. But she read them all, and she filled them all with red ink and thoughtful suggestions for improvement. Mrs. T. created a monster.

  1. What got you interested in social media?

Boredom and curiosity. Isn’t that something all writers have in common? We all write to entertain ourselves, eventually, when we run out of books we want to read. But I’ve never written “just for me.” It was that conversation – started with my English teacher, back in middle school – that had me hooked on writing. Writing is a meeting of the minds, but blogging and social media makes it a two-way street. I’m more comfortable communicating through my writing than I am in speaking – though I did enjoy speaking at the 2016 OWFI Conference! Social media gives me a chance to read what others are thinking and to have those two-way exchanges of ideas that so hooked me on writing in the first place.

  1. Do you do “work for hire?”

I don’t. I have a full-time job and too little time for my own writing, these days, as it is! But thanks!

Holly’s Top Ten Tips for Social Media

  1. Always be aware that the Internet is forever. What you say now will still be there – to haunt you or to do you proud – in twenty years. Assume that nothing you post is truly private; it could be shared by the original recipient or it could be one server admin’s “oops!” away from being public.
  2. Claim your social media space before someone else does, and tell your story better than anyone else can. Make sure that you are the online authority on you. If you have a blog, cross-link it to and from all your social media profiles.
  3. If it’s not fun, and it’s not absolutely necessary, don’t do it. I think this applies to more than social media, doesn’t it? We tend to do well what we enjoy doing. When we try to do things we think are a chore, others can tell we’re just “phoning it in.” What’s the point? Someone says, “You have to have a Facebook Page!” and your first reaction is “Why?” then ask. Make them convince you of its value and worth to you. Set a limit for how much time you spend on social media – don’t let it keep you from living, work, and your own writing.
  4. If you try out a social media site and decide it’s not for you, close your account. Don’t leave abandoned sites all over the Internet. Someone’s likely to find them, some day, and conclude that you died five years ago when you stopped updating them.
  5. People generally prefer sincerity over whatever façade we think we have to show the world. This, of course, assumes that you are not a malicious, hateful troll.
  6. If there are two ways to interpret how something is said, assume the other person meant it the nicer way. Not everyone is a masterful communicator. Some people aren’t very good at recognizing sarcasm in writing. Sometimes, people are dealing with difficult things offline, and they take out their own hurt and frustration on the nameless, faceless “Internet.” Respond with compassion, and you may make a friend instead of an enemy.
  7. If someone harasses you, stalks you, threatens or cyberbullies you – don’t engage. You’ll often hear the advice, “Don’t feed the trolls.” We all have a little troll inside us, just itching to come out and play, some days. But there are a few – blessedly, very few – real trolls, and they can be quite malicious. Keep a careful record of it (use screenshots, document times and dates), and call the police. The motive is almost always to unsettle, intimidate, and upset you emotionally. Why give anyone that satisfaction?
  8. Record your username and password for each site in a safe place (offline, preferably in a password-protected OneNote file on your PC, or in a hardcopy notebook). Use different passwords for each site. For any accounts that link to banking, domain ownership, or that have the ability to request password resets, use very strong passwords and dual-authentication. If you write these things down, lock up the notebook or encode the information in a way that only you can read it. It’s a pain, when you forget your own password, but it makes it much harder for thieves to access your important accounts or for scam artists and identity thieves to impersonate you. Phrases like this are easier for you to remember, and are also quite “strong” passwords: I<3turnips+COFFEE!
  9. Look at your own profile the way others see it. Log out of the social media site completely, then visit your link. If you were a stranger to you, what would your first impression be?
  10. Don’t be afraid to jump in and try new things. Experiment. Have fun. The world will not explode if you press the wrong key, I promise.


Social Media Tips

for Those with Published Books!

  • Blog. Your blog should be the hub of all your social media activities. Link from your blog, outward, to all your active social media profiles. Link inward, from all your active social media profiles, to your blog.
  • Follow the 90/10 rule: 90% of what you post should be for others – entertaining, informative, fun, and engaging. 10-20% can be “shamelessly self-promotional.” After all, people appreciate your making it easy for them to find and buy your books, once you’ve given them a reason to be interested. But 100 tweets of your book cover with the words “buy my book!” won’t accomplish anything good! See #9, above – look at your own profiles, all of them, the way a stranger would.
  • Read this post for more:


Social Media Tips

for Those Hoping to Get a Book Contract!

Your blog and your social media profiles serve two important purposes:

  • They are an online portfolio – a sample of your writing.
  • They serve as “social proof” and give a publisher an idea of whether you will be an active and engaging participant in any marketing activities for your books.

Keeping that in mind, you want to carefully proofread your posts and build a solid network of followers – not 10,000 followers for just $14.97, but real people. Readers, librarians, indie bookstore owners, friends, fellow authors, experts in the field you’re writing about (if you’re writing non-fiction), and interesting people who are actively engaging with other interesting people in social media. That takes a bit of time and effort, so it’s never too early to start. I’d suggest building the blog and the social media profiles first – make sure there’s some interesting content there that makes clear who you are and why anyone might want to follow you – then start finding followers.


Vanity Surfing – Google Alerts and TalkWalker Alerts

You should search for your own name – and all its variants – periodically, to see what the first three to five pages of search results contain. Most people never really look past the first three pages of results, but you want to be sure those three are a good reflection of you and what you’re all about. It’s also a good idea to set up alerts on Google and on Talkwalker – think of this as the lazy man’s way of vanity surfing.

First, go to

In the box where it says “Create an alert about” type your name in quotation marks. You can also type something like this:

“ann smith” OR “anne smith” OR “anne w. smith” OR “anne wilson smith” OR “annie the cat whisperer” – listing all common permutations of your name and pseudonyms.

Click Show options.

Choose how often you want to receive alerts; from which sources (hold CTRL while clicking to select multiple sources, or choose Automatic for all); language; region; all or “only the best”; and enter the email address to send them to.

Click Create Alert.

Next, go to Fill in the blanks as described above (they are essentially the same as Google Alerts). Preview and Create Alert.

The results are similar, but there are some differences between the two and it may be worth monitoring both. Create alerts for your book titles, as well.

Social media should be fun. It can also be an excellent marketing tool for writers. If you follow my tips, you can avoid headaches, heartaches, and undue stress. You’ll find more tips on my blog: It’s All a Matter of Perspective. I also wrote a number of posts specifically on social media strategy for writers. Come on over and don’t be shy – I love comments!

For more, read:



Holly Jahangiri is the author of Trockle; A Puppy, Not a Guppy; and A New Leaf for Lyle. She draws inspiration from her family, from her own childhood adventures (some of which only happened in her overactive imagination), and from readers both young and young at heart. She lives in Houston, Texas, with her husband, J.J., whose love and encouragement make writing books twice the fun.

More about Holly:

Where to Connect with her online:

Buy Trockle:

Buy A Puppy, Not a Guppy:


Buy A New Leaf for Lyle:

Where to buy her books

  1. Amazon Smile where a portion of sales goes to charity:
  2. Amazon

Thank you for sharing your tips about social media and about your life, Holly. 

If you’d like to ask Holly a question or leave a message for her, please click comment below and scroll to the bottom of the page.

GIVEAWAY CONTEST: Everyone who leaves a comment between now and midnight on Monday, August 15, 2016 will have his/her name put in a hat. will choose the winner. I will announce the winner in a new post that day.


Never Give Up
Live with Enthusiasm
Celebrate Each Step You Take

Joan Y. Edwards
Copyright © 2016 Joan Y. Edwards


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“Characters Must Show Growth and Change:” Interview with Sarah Maury Swan, Author and Reviewer

Sarah Maury Swan, Author and Reviewer

Sarah Maury Swan, Author and Reviewer

“Characters Must Show Growth and Change:” Interview with Sarah Maury Swan, Author and Reviewer – by Joan Y. Edwards

This is the second in a series of blog posts on Book Reviewers and Book Reviews. My goal is to discover what makes book reviewers tick and learn the skills that writers need to keep reviewers reading until the end.

Thank you, Sarah Maury Swan for agreeing to let me interview you.  What an honor it is to have you with me on my blog!

You’re welcome. Let’s begin.

1. Where were you born?

I was born on May 29th, 1941, in the base hospital at Ft. Lewis, Washington. That was supposed to be the day my father left for duty on Bataan, Philippines, but the army gave him two extra days. I was due in June after my mother moved us all to Los Angeles, CA. But, instead of being nine months pregnant and the mother of three other children, Mother had to move four of us, all under the age of six. I think it helped that all four of us had flame-red hair and that Mother was a beautiful natural platinum blonde because we evidently had lots of people helping us along the way.

2. Where was your favorite place to live as a child?

Garrett Park, Maryland. Although I liked where we lived in L.A., we were only there six years. So most of my life was spent in Maryland. Garrett Park is a charming little town nestled in amongst much more bustling places, such as Bethesda and Rockville, Maryland.

It’s on the Baltimore & Ohio (B&O) railroad line to Washington, D.C. We kids took the train to D.C. and spent the day wandering around the city. Trips to the Smithsonian were great fun, or tramping around the Mall could always provide adventure.

Garrett Park is an incorporated town, one of the first in the state, with its own post office/general store. Walking there from my house took about 20 minutes, if we didn’t dawdle. It was a daily occurrence to pick up the mail. I liked being there early to watch Mr. Chamberlin catch the mail sacks as the train hustled by.

The streets are shaded by large oak and poplar trees and there were open fields in which to play. It’s still a quiet little enclave that many people have driven through for years and never even realized what a gem it is. The older houses are mostly Victorians, but there are smaller houses which are part of American architectural history. They’re single story houses, with a small attic and a basement. And the promise was that if you bought the smaller house, you got a Chevy to go with it. So they were called Chevy Houses.

As kids, we walked pretty much everywhere, which is a good way to stay in shape. The beginnings of Rock Creek ran along the eastern border of the town and we would mess around in the creek paddling boats the boys made and roasting hot dogs along the sandy shores. Dogs and kids all played together. Rock Creek, by the way, flows into D.C. and in the city there is a beautiful park that protects the creek as it flows from the DC/Maryland border and dumps into the Potomac.

This was a time when all parents kept watch over the children, which meant we had much more freedom. It was a great place to grow up. Later, we had our very own community swimming pool.

3. Did you have a favorite place to read a book as a child?

In the summer, I read on the screen porch because it was cooler. I shared a room with my sister, so privacy was a precious commodity. In nice weather, I climbed out our bedroom window and sat on the porch roof. My grandmother was head librarian at Garrett Park’s library. so we had constant access to books. Plus, Mother bought books for us. She read to us or we read to her. I remember reading poetry to her and on snowy days, we acted out parts of Shakespeare plays. I learned how to read with emotion and inflection because of that.

4. Where is your favorite place to read now?

I like to have plenty of light when I read and I like to be comfortable. So, in the winter, my favorite place is the living room sofa with the fireplace on. Because it’s just the two of us, the house is generally quiet. Dale plays music in his office/music room which adds to the serenity of our house. In the spring and summer, I like to read in our Carolina Room which has lots of natural light streaming in and a close up view of our bird feeders. Sometimes I like to read in our bedroom where we have an ancient chocolate brown recliner by the front windows. And, if the weather is cooperating, I like to sit out on the deck to read.

5. What is your favorite genre to write?

I especially like to write picture books because they challenge me to write succinctly and that skill makes my writing tighter no matter what genre I’m writing.

6. Tell us about your new book.

Terror's Identity by Sarah Maury Swan

Terror’s Identity by Sarah Maury Swan

My published book is Terror’s Identity. It is about a sixteen year old boy who has to go into witness protection with his mother and sister because his father is investigating a group of terrorists who are causing problems in the U.S. The terrorists target his family.

The book is selling quite well and getting very good reviews. I’m discussing doing a second printing run with the publisher. It is available from the publisher,, Amazon, and from me at dale4sarah at suddenlink dot net.

7. How do you keep yourself physically fit?

Who says I’m physically fit? I do try to get to the gym several times a week, but some weeks that works out better than others. I also try not to eat junk food or too many cookies. My downfall is ice cream. I also play golf and kayak in nice weather. I have to be careful about too much exposure to sunlight since I’m so fair skinned.

8. If you go to an amusement park, which ride do you go to first?

I’m not a big fan of amusement parks. They’re loud and crowded. If I go, I’d prefer to ride the Merry-go-Round. Which ride do you ignore at all costs? When I was 11 or 12, I went with my sister and first cousin to Glen Echo amusement park and the three of us scrunched into one car on the roller coaster ride. My sister and cousin each weighed about 160 pounds and I weighed about 80 pounds. They put me in the middle, so every time the car headed down a hill, their thighs spread out and popped me right out of the seat. Never liked roller coasters since!

9. Do you love the beach or the mountains best?

I lean slightly toward the mountains because I like the majesty and wonder of them, along with the serenity of the wind whispering through trees. Riding a horse in the mountains is a thing of joy. But on the other hand, walking along the seashore and being lulled to sleep by the sound of breakers thumping onto the shore and shushing out to sea again is very soothing.

10. What genres do you prefer not to read or review?

I’m very tired of reading dystopian fantasy. I’m not fond of reviewing girly-girly snarky fashion stories or heavy-handed teen angst.

11. What are three of your favorite books?

Oh my, only 3? When I was growing up, I’d pick Wuthering Heights and books by Jack London and Mark Twain. I liked horse stories, especially those by C.W. Anderson.

Of the modern books I’ve reviewed, I’d choose: Forever Changes, Want to Go Private? and One Silver Summer because they are well written with compelling characters and set in easy to picture settings.

I have a couple of interesting personal anecdotes about Jack London and Mark Twain. My paternal grandmother, Grandmaury, had an intense dislike for Jack London personally, though she did admire his writing. She felt he was leading my grandfather astray when they were friends in San Francisco. My maternal grandmother, Granny, did not like Mark Twain personally because when Twain got in trouble during his travels in Europe, my great grandfather, Naval Attaché to Kaiser Wilhelm, had to go bail Twain out. Granny did like Twain’s writing.

12. Where is your favorite place to visit?

I especially like visiting Scotland because part of my heritage is there, but I also like visiting places in the U.S. The Shenandoah Valley in Virginia is beautiful. Dale and I tend not to like cities, though a three day trip to the Big Apple is always fun. I don’t like crowds and lots of noise.

13. When did you decide to become a book reviewer?

It seemed like a good way to see what editors and publishers were buying in the way of children’s books. I enjoy the mix of styles I get. Generally Emily Griffin from The Children’s Literature Comprehensive Database (,will send me two or three picture books and a middle-grade and YA selection. I do get frustrated by the number of writers who have no understanding of American-English grammar and I don’t like stories that have to do with self-centered “Valley Girl” types. There are so many talented writers who struggle to be noticed and who have original stories that go unread. Probably, it’s jealousy on my part.

14. Where can we find your reviews?

The books are sent to me by Emily Griffin at The Children’s Literature Comprehensive Database five books at a time. I have a month to read and review them. Emily is always looking for new reviewers ( I get to keep the books and do with them as I please. After the reviews are posted on CLCD, I may post them anywhere. The best place to see my reviews is on my blog,

15. Do you charge for your reviews?

I haven’t set up a system of doing reviews for authors other than those whose books are sent to me by CLCD. But, now that you mention it, maybe I should start reviewing other people’s books.

16. Who or what has inspired you the most?

My mother and my grandmothers inspired me a great deal. My mother, in particular, since she was widowed during WWII, and also lost her father and one brother. But she didn’t let that stop her. During the war, she worked at Lockheed and was promoted to Tool and Dye Designer. She was the first woman to have that position and since she was also beautiful and a war widow she was used as a “Rosie the Riveter” type on the posters and other promotional activities to encourage people to help with the “War Effort.” When the war ended Lockheed fired her, so “a man coming home from the war could support his family.” Never mind that she needed to support her family. Anyway, she showed a lot of grit during her life. She loved to read and sew and act in little theater productions. After she retired, she took up painting and sculpting. She was also very bright, having gotten her B.S. from M.I.T. because her father was stationed in the Boston area. She was one of three women in the whole school. Her degree was in physical chemistry.

17. What has been the most exhilarating moment as a reviewer and as a writer?

That’s easy. When I get a book that I can’t put down, that tells a story so provoking I can’t get it out of my heart. As for exhilarating moments as a writer, when a character pops into my head and starts telling her or his story.

18. What are five main ingredients of a good book review?

As with a good critique partner, a reviewer should start and end with something positive to say about the book. Sometimes that’s easy to do, but sometimes I have to think about it and use my diplomatic skills. There is always a nugget or grain of good in any book. Each reviewer goes about the review differently, but it is important to give the gist of the story and a feeling for the characters. I like to let the tone of the book set the tone of my review. If it is a humorous picture book, use humor in how you describe it. If it is written in rhyme, try to keep that rhythm going. For an older audience, try not to be judgmental about what the characters are doing. For the CLCD, if possible, I must give an idea of how the teacher or librarian could find teachable moments in the book. For instance, in Swim that Rock, I learned a great deal about commercial clamming and about quahogs in particular. So I made note of the commercial fishing information at the end of my review so teachers could use that information for classroom discussion.

19. How can authors get reviews for their books?

If a trade publisher is putting your book out, that marketing department will send out copies to reviewers and The Children’s Literature Comprehensive Database(CLCD), or some other such organization. If you’re going it alone, there are lists of freelance reviewers who might review your book. Some charge a fee, but others get a fee from whomever publishes the review. For children’s book writers, check out the SCBWI website and you’ll find a list of freelance reviewers.

20. What are three things that a book must do to entice readers to read to the very end?

For me, I must have sympathy/empathy for the main character and a feel for where the story is taking place and a feel for the atmosphere of the story. The character must show growth and change. Books that come to mind, other than the ones I mentioned earlier, are National Velvet, Of Mice and Men, Sometimes a Great Notion, The Book Thief and the one I’m reading at the moment, The Nightingale.

21. As a reviewer, does research play a part in your reviews?

Seldom, but if the story doesn’t ring true for the area or time period, I might do a little research. My sister stopped reading Charles Frasier’s Cold Mountain because one of the characters ate an apple variety that hadn’t been developed yet.

22. What kind of books are you interested in reviewing?

I have only reviewed children’s books because that’s my own writing interest, but I could probably review grown-up books as well. I do review non-fiction because I write some.

23. How should authors or publishers contact you if they would like for you to consider doing a book review for them?

Please contact me at

24. How do you decide which books you’ll review?

Since I’ve only reviewed books that are sent to me by Emily Griffin with The Children’s Literature Comprehensive Database. I have to review each book she sends whether I like it or not. If I were to review other books, my criteria would be that the grammar be good; that the book be professionally edited by someone other than the author’s family; that the book look as if the author took the time and/or money to have a professional looking cover produced; and that the first 5 pages grab my attention.

25. Do you post your reviews on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Goodreads as well as on your blog?

I just joined Goodreads and intend to post my reviews there. I do review books that I’ve bought through Amazon, but I’ve never done reviews through Barnes and Noble.

26. Do you have any advice for people who may be interested in “self-publishing?”

For anyone interested in “self-publishing” a book, be sure to check out the publishers on sites such as “Preditors and Editors” at  I highly recommend my publisher,

27. How can others connect with you on social media?

I have a Facebook page and at LinkedIn page.


Sarah Maury Swan’s articles and letters have appeared in many magazines, newspaper and literary journals. The first chapter of Terror’s Identity was published in the 2014 Shoal, after placing first in the fiction category of the Carteret Writers contest. She is also the editor of Carteret Writer’s Write Stuff newsletter.

Recent transplants to lovely New Bern, N.C., Sarah and her handsome devil husband generally enjoy retirement by playing golf, kayaking, and giving house concerts featuring well known folk/blues singers. They do miss the horses and dogs they nurtured in Maryland, but Kilroy, the cat, gets as much attention as he wants. Their children come to visit when they can get away from work.

Published books:

Terror's Identity by Sarah Maury Swan

Terror’s Identity by Sarah Maury Swan

Terror’s Identity At sixteen life is hard enough, but for Aidan Knox add the extra problem of becoming a different person in an unfamiliar city. How will he remember his new persona, cope with the danger his family is in, and find someone he can trust?

Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to interview you, Sarah. 

Thank you for reading this interview. Sarah and I would love to hear from you.



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What Makes a Book Reviewer Tick? Interview with Page Inman

Page Inman, Book Reviewer

Page Inman, Book Reviewer

“What Makes a Book Reviewer Tick? Interview with Page Inman” by Joan Y. Edwards

This is the first in a series of blog posts about what makes a book reviewer tick and how writers can entice reviewers to read to the very end.

Thank you Joan for this opportunity to introduce myself and my blog As The Page Turns.

You’re very welcome. It’s my pleasure to share ideas from the mind of a book reviewer! You provide a wonderful service for readers, authors, and publishers.

Thank you very much. I’ll tell you a little about myself.

I am a retired librarian who lives in NC and I started the blog in 2010 to share my love of reading with others. I was born in Georgia, but have lived in NC most of my life. I am the fur mama of 4 cats. I love reading and have been an avid reader since childhood. My parents are readers and nurtured that as I was growing up. I always wanted to be a librarian since the age of 13 and was lucky enough to do it for over 25 years. I believe that reading can take you anywhere you want to go for little or no cost. I get a lot of my books at the library or at used bookstores.

What genres do you like to read?

I like to read thrillers, suspense, fantasy, sci fi, historical, non-fiction, and some romance.

Who are your favorite authors?

I have too many authors to pick just one favorite. I like Margaret Atwood, Steve Berry, Nevada Barr, Terry Pratchett, Paul Christopher, just to name a few.

Where can people find your reviews? 

You can find my reviews at I don’t do advertising on the blog because I just want to highlight the books and to keep things simple. I don’t have a system for which books I review. I only review those I want to share. I like to highlight indie authors.

Do you do digital book reviews?

I don’t do digital books, as I like the smell and feel of a real book.

Do you charge to do a book review?

I do not charge to review your book. I may not review all the books I receive because I didn’t like the book, or I didn’t finish the book. I don’t do negative reviews because I only want to be positive. If I don’t like the book for some reason, I’ll contact the author and explain it to them without embarrassment.

Here are three of your reviews that I liked:

  1. Sunshine Beach
  2. American Dermish
  3. Violins of Venice

How can authors and publishers contact you to see if you’ll do a book review for them?

You can visit my blog to see how to contact me. I hope you visit my blog and share your reads with me and my readers.

Happy Reading!

I hope you’ll leave a comment for Page Inman. 


Believe in You
Never Give Up
Joan Y. Edwards
Copyright © 2016 Joan Y. Edwards 


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