On Writing:

July 28, 2015

Marketing and Promotion (Part 2)


Marketing and promoting your book(s) and yourself can be very expensive. I’ve spent hundreds (probably thousands) of dollars on:

  1. traveling expenses related to speaking engagements and kids’ events
  2. vendors’ fees
  3. buying a cowgirl outfit and “horsie” gifts to give away at book signings
  4. giving away free books.

However, there are a few simple, inexpensive ways to market books that have proved somewhat successful for me. I must have done something right because the first book in my juvenile fiction Keystone Stables Series, A HORSE TO LOVE, is a best seller with about 40,000 copies in print (if you add the first and second editions together). In juvenile fiction, 20,000 copies is the goal to attain if you want to be a best seller. In adult fiction, the magic number is 100,000.

Counting all eight Keystone Stables books, there are well over 100,000 sold. To all my fans, I say a heartfelt thank you.

But how did this all happen? Well, besides Zondervan doing some marketing in catalogs and online and my own marketing online with a blog and other social media like Facebook and Twitter, let’s discuss just one marketing technique I use that really doesn’t require much legwork nor the Internet:

Buy some desktop publishing supplies like business card stock and a graphics program like The Print Shop. (Your computer might already have a program installed).

Design your own business card. Make sure you put your website AND your blog site on that card as well as your phone number. Add an attractive graphic, like the cover of your book or your own portrait shot, and print your own business cards.

Now, what do you do with all these dozens and dozens of business cards besides handing them out to everyone you know in church or at the club?

  1. Christmas is a great time of the year to start this marketing plan. Christmas means Christmas cards! Put a business card in every Christmas card you send.
  2. Put a business card in all the bills you pay through the mail (All the time, not just at Christmas).
  3. Put a business card with every tip you leave at a restaurant.
  4. If your books are sold in any stores, ask the store manager if you can place some business cards at the check-out counter, or sometimes the store will have a community bulletin board where you can post some cards.
  5. Of course, when you are selling your books at book signings or at vending affairs, a nice pile of cards should be on your table for folks to take at will.

Short of dropping thousands of these little advertisements out of a plane flying over a football stadium, you can explore other ways to get your name out there using business cards. It’s an inexpensive but effective way to let folks know that you’ve arrived as an author. And it really doesn’t cost that much. So plan some strategy and get started.

Look for more marketing tips to come in future blogs. Maybe I can help you with that dreaded part of writing/publishing that most of us authors hate as much as an abscessed tooth.

(And now a word from our sponsor: shameless promotion straight ahead!)

Christian foster girl Skye Nicholson has her hands full when wild Tanya Bell, another foster girl at Keystone Stables, wants nothing to do with her or the horses.

But then, a mare dies giving birth to a filly, and Tanya’s perspective on life starts to change.

Keystone Stables Book 3


July 20, 2015

A Word about Marketing and Promotion


If you’ve gotten a book published, then you’ve probably experienced the ins and outs, and ups and downs, of marketing your own work.

Book signings? I hate them. In another blog, I’ll tell you why.

Most writers hate all kinds of promotion and marketing because they take us away from valuable writing time; yet, they are a necessary evil to get our names out there in the public eye.

If you haven’t a big name that might pop up on a talk show or on syndicated radio programs (which WILL sell thousands of books), then you have to devise a plan to promote your work and yourself.

We’re going to post a few blogs about this topic because there’s SO much to know about marketing a book. Even if you are just in the process of writing your manuscript, you need to promote yourself, and one of the biggies these days is social media online.

So, today’s writing tip is a short one: start a website and a blog site. That’s one way to start getting the exposure you need to sell books. Then post on your blog regularly, at least once or twice a week to build up your following.

“But my book isn’t even out yet,” you might say.

Nevertheless, you can start drawing a fan base by writing either short excerpts of your book or writing about topics or themes similar to that of your book. I have two active blogs at the moment. The one, www.horsefactsbymarshahubler.wordpress.com is all about horses and is targeted at kids who are horse fans and would want to read my Keystone Stables books. My other blog, www.marshahubler.wordpress.com, targets writers and is primarily a service blog to help other writers with all facets of the writing/publishing business.

It takes years to build up a fan base, so devise a plan and get to it. Choose a theme or topics of interest that will draw folks to your sites. Get your name floating out there in cyberspace so when your book comes out, folks will, first of all, know who you are and will know about you and your book through your social media. Secondly, they’ll be eager to buy a book with an author with whom they’ve had direct contact.

Whether you’re planning to be published, have the contract in your hand, or already have your book out, get started today!



Skye Nicholson is a hateful foster kid, but when she meets Christian foster parents and a gorgeous horse named Champ, her life is changed.

Keystone Stables Book 1


July 13, 2015

Passive vs. Active Verbs

“Am, are, is, was, were, be, been!”

I don’t know how many times throughout my teaching career I had kids in my English classes recite those “BEING VERBS” so they would know NOT to use them in their writing assignments so often. I dare say thousands of times. So, the list has been ingrained in my thick brain as much as I hoped it was ingrained in my students’ mushy minds.

But, you know, after all the years I’ve taught English and all the years I’ve been writing for publication, I still catch myself overusing these words when I’m expounding. Using these words seems to come as natural as breathing, not only for beginning writers but for seasoned vets as well.

These nasty little three-and-four-letter words are like pesky little gnats in your eyes and the foundation to what we call the “passive voice,” a voice you should try to avoid 90% of the time. Why?

The passive voice makes your writing dull, lifeless, and uninteresting. These little nasties take the punch right out of any really good story you’re trying to write.

Let’s look at a few examples of passive voice verbs vs. active voice:

Passive: Joe was walking his dog Barney last night. (Ho hum.)

Active: Joe walked his dog Barney last night.


Passive: Martha was listening to her brother’s phone conversation.

Active: Martha listened to her brother’s phone conversation.


Passive: Trigger, a handsome Palomino, was ridden by Roy Rogers.

Active: Roy Rogers rode Trigger, a handsome Palomino.


Passive: Sally’s baby boy is loving his new toy.

Active: Sally’s baby boy loves his new toy.


Passive: The Jones’ kids have been going to camp every summer for years.

Active: The Jones’ kids have gone to camp every summer for years.

So, in a nutshell, there you have a quick survey of one aspect of the passive versus active voice. Take the time to evaluate some of your latest writings. Use a highlighter and see how many times these little nasties pop up. You’ll probably be surprised.

Just working on this one facet of your writing will improve your manuscripts far beyond what you can imagine. Work on sentence structure. Throw out the little nasties and make stronger sentences with more of a punch. Your readers will be glad you did, and they’ll be eager to turn the page in your book to see what’s coming next.






July 19th-24th


Four Major Morning Continuing Classes

40 Afternoon Workshops

Fellowship with Other Authors, Agents, and Editors


July 6, 2015

You Should Tell, Not Show?

In my last blog, I focused on “showing,” not “telling” in narration, and I gave you an example of lousy narration versus that which will catch the eye of the beholder.

Let’s continue with the premise that good narration can be “telling,” not “showing” if handled properly. If you do need to “expound” about details that you simply can’t include in dialogue, then I suggest following the next few steps to good “telling:”

  1. “Paint” a picture with your words that includes as many of the senses as you can. (Remember my waterfall scene in the last blog?) Think of your reader as one of the characters so he/she experiences the same thing your characters are experiencing.
  2. If you are going to open your book (or each chapter, for that matter) with narration and not dialogue, hook your reader. That all important first paragraph of your novel will either inspire your reader to go on or cause him to yawn and put your book down. Check the opening paragraphs of best-selling authors and analyze how they grab your attention in that first paragraph.
  3. Even though you’re probably writing your novel in one predominant character’s voice, good narration often establishes an omniscient voice, one that is authoritative and sets the general mood of the novel. The earlier you accomplish this, the better. (Again, study the beginning chapters of some great novels. What voice does the writer present in the narration?)
  4. Do not expound for pages and pages of narration. That’s a sure-way to lose your reader. Condense and summarize if nothing exciting is happening to your character. Remember our literature AND our readers today in our fast-moving society are both a far cry from the novels or fans of that style or writing from decades ago.
  5. Dialogue is not always the way to go with back story. If details are not that important in a character’s past life, you can work it in to the manuscript so that your character is reflecting into the past. Don’t bore your reader with unimportant details!
  6. Shorten your narration to a few sentences if you’re describing secondary characters. You can’t always show every single action, dialogue, or mood of all your characters. It isn’t necessary. There are times when you will want to economize your method and just plain “tell” the reader what happened. But as a skillful storyTELLER, you can refine your writing style and keep your reader on the edge of his seat, even if you are “telling,” not “showing.”

So there you have it. Telling is not always bad. It depends entirely on the skill you incorporate to hook that reader and keep his attention through your spurts of narration.






Becky and Jim Fahringer

(Directors of the Montrose Bible Conference Center)

July 19th-24th


Four Major Morning Continuing Classes

40 Afternoon Workshops

Paid Professional Critiques with Award-Winning Authors and Editors

Fellowship with Other Authors, Agents, and Editors


Award-winning Eva Marie Everson

will present Foundations of Fiction through Film

(6 sessions)

June 22, 2015

Make Those Characters Jump Off the Page


I recently read the first few dozen pages of a manuscript for a YA novel, which the author had decided to submit to a publishing company for consideration. Unfortunately, it didn’t take but about five pages before I realized the writing was “flat.” One of the characteristics of “flatness” is the lack of character development. The author failed to include hardly any physical features or any sense of the emotional or mental state, (i.e. their likes and dislikes, virtues and vices, qualities that make them human, not cardboard) of all the characters except the main protagonist, and those descriptions were scanty. I felt the author needed to do a study on character development, start his manuscript over again, and make his characters come alive.

So, how do you make your characters come alive in that next great American novel you’re writing? Let’s look at ten characteristics that will make those characters jump off that page:

  1. Make each character uniquely different with different names. A few years ago, a friend critiqued the first four chapters of the Amish fiction I wrote, and she caught a big mistake. I had two characters named “Joe.” Yikes!
  2. Give each character his own distinctive voice. After a few chapters, your reader should be able to tell who’s speaking without even looking at the tag.
  3. Have your characters working jobs or going to school or doing “something” relevant to the plot. If you’re writing a murder mystery, your main character probably shouldn’t be babysitting puppies for a living.
  4. When you name your characters, give them names that fit their personality, body type, nationality, etc. Now picture this: your character is a 220-pound Italian hunk, built like Superman and he’s a policeman, then you give him the name “Wilbur.”
  5. If you’re writing fiction with different viewpoints, only get inside the head of your main characters…and only one P.O.V. per scene. Over the years, I’ve read books by one of the leading writers of Amish fiction in the country, but I had much trouble following her because of the multiple P.O.V.s. In one book, there were 16 P.O.V.s. I was so confused, I had to start over and write down everyone’s name, who they were, and how important they were to the story. After about 75 pages, I gave up on the book. This author has a big name, but because I don’t care to try to unscramble all those P.O.V.s, she’s not one of my favorites.
  6. Build your characters a little at a time as you write the novel. The plot should “thicken” at the same time you start to describe your characters more vividly and get them totally involved in the action.
  7. Even though you’re writing fiction, make your characters authentic. Interview policeman, veterinarians, computer geeks, or whomever so you have a thorough understanding of their job descriptions. In book seven of my Keystone Stables horse series, I developed a scene with a barn fire. Before doing so, I went to the local firemen and interviewed them to get the details of how the fire company would handle a barn fire in a countryside setting. I asked what kind of equipment they needed, what certain names of the trucks were, and how they’d tackle the task. The account in my book is accurate and detailed, even though the book is fiction.
  8. Start each characters’ names with different letters. How confusing would this be? Sam told Susie that Stella was going to be with Savannah the night of the social. Sheesh! Who’s who in that maze of words?
  9. For at least your main characters, give them some depth by including some history about them. They didn’t just hatch from eggs the day you started writing about them. (Or did they?) Build character sketches for each of them. I know some writers who give their characters full families, birthdays, college degrees, bank accounts in Sweden, and so on to “flesh them out” all before the book manuscript is even started! Details DO matter when you’re writing about people. Write so that your reader thinks he/she can almost hear your characters breathe.
  10. Have your characters less than perfect. Develop flaws in their appearances or personalities, which they must overcome or accept as the plot unfolds. No one likes to read about a character, who seems too good to be true. In the long run, that character will be too good to be true, and he/she will turn your reader right off.

So there you have it. Flesh out your characters, and you’ll have a best-seller on your hands and on the shelves of book stores across the land.






Don’t miss meeting new writer friends,

gleaning from the experts,

and enjoying the special events!

July 19th-24th


Four Major Morning Continuing Classes

40 Afternoon Workshops

Fellowship with Other Authors, Agents, and Editors

June 15, 2015

“Write Tight!”

How often have you heard conference speakers, i.e. authors, agents, and editors, say to be a successful, published author, you need to write “tight”?

So in pen laymen’s terms, what in the world does “writing tight” mean? Could it mean you should wear skinny Spandex clothes while you’re in your creative mode? Or how about drinking 10 cups of coffee so that you are wired to the max and look like a scared porcupine?

Let’s take a look at eight qualities that define a piece of literature whether fiction or nonfiction as “tight” or stripped to its cleanest components:

  1. Use specific nouns: Not: The bird flew over. Rather: The raven flew over the barn.
  2. Pitch out as many adverbs as you can: Not: He spoke loudly and angrily. Rather: He yelled!
  3. Be positive in sentence inflection: Not: He didn’t show any respect. Rather: He showed no respect.
  4. Use active not passive voice with your verbs: Not: Bowser, the dog, was walked by Joe. Rather: Joe walked his dog, Bowser.
  5. Get rid of sentences that start with “There” or “There were:” Not: There was a lot of snow last month. Rather: Last month’s snow total broke records.
  6. Show, don’t tell; in other words, describe your action clearly: Not: Billy was really angry. Rather: Billy pounded his fist on the table.
  7. Watch for redundant phrases: Not: Millie blushed with embarrassment. Rather: Millie’s face turned bright red.
  8. Use down-to-earth language and throw out eloquent pedantic phrases and euphemisms that no one will know what the heck you’re talking about: Not: Mona’s face showed lines of agony and remorse while streams of tears flooded her poor anguished soul. Rather: Mona cried as though her heart was broken.

So, there you have it. We’ve listed only eight, but very important, tidbits on how to become a best-selling author, and your readers will be begging for more.





July 19th-24th


Four Major Morning Continuing Classes

40 Afternoon Workshops

Fellowship with Other Authors, Agents, and Editors


June 8, 2015

How to Turn Off Your Readers

You’re writing that great American novel. You’ve read tons of “how to write” books, studied your high school English books to the last dangling participle, and now you’re ready to start pecking away at the keyboard.

There are a few basic principles of writing good fiction to keep your reader engaged that must be remembered or your book will go flying out your reader’s window. Worse yet, while it’s being reviewed at the publishing company, the editor will send your manuscript back so fast, you’re characters’ heads will be spinning. Your story will never see the light of published day.

So, if you want to turn off your reader, or your editor, here’s what you do:

  1. Start your book by waxing eloquent. Describe beautiful settings, introduce action, and throw in a few pages of dialogue of minor characters. But don’t introduce your main protagonist until page 10.
  2. Write 20 pages of backstory with vivid descriptions and details of your protagonist’s past life. Tell every nitty, gritty little detail about him that doesn’t mean beans to the main story line.
  3. Have your plot direction the mystery of mysteries. “What the heck is going on here?” will run through your reader’s mind every time he turns the page and starts a new chapter.
  4. Develop a main protagonist that is offensive and says really outrageous or stupid things that aren’t justified. For example, women readers are very sensitive to male attitudes toward them. (The author’s attitudes will come shining through in the protagonist’s actions and words.)


  1. Make your main protagonist such a “cutsie” or upstanding citizen that your readers get turned off by his/her perfect life. Let’s face it. No one’s perfect except Jesus. Your hero/heroine has to have some faults, which endears him/her to the reader and cheers him/her on to win at the end of the story. No reader in his right mind would want to embrace a character who is so heavenly minded, he’s no earthly good.
  2. If you’re writing Christian fiction, preach it, brother! Fill your pages with scripture verses and holier-than-thou principles of goody-two-shoes living. Write a book that reads more like a Bible study than a novel. Yes, you want to embed biblical principles in your writing, but do it subtly through the eyes and heart of your main character, and your readers will get the hint.

So, there you have it. If you’ve decided you don’t want to ever be published, there’s what you do. Master these six steps, and you’ll definitely turn off any reader who’s brave enough to attempt to tackle your “eloquence.”




July 19th-24th




Four Major Morning Continuing Classes

40 Afternoon Workshops

Fellowship with Other Authors, Agents, and Editors



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