Prepare for National Poetry Month this April

Did you know that the month of April is, among other things, National Poetry Month? This makes April the perfect month to publish that book of poems you’ve been thinking about for a while, and not just because this month provides some great marketing opportunities; it’s also the perfect month to think about the reasons why we write, and the ways in which we put words together on the page. It’s a month to re-envision our craft as wordsmiths!

First, I might point you to the experience of Mirtha Michelle Castro Marmol, whose first book of poems, Letters, to the Men I Have Loved, did more than moderately well … it did so exceptionally well as to remain on Amazon’s bestseller lists for months! Mirtha Michelle Castro Marmol published through Outskirts Press, and in our interview with her on our blog, she said that the most rewarding part of being published “is and will always be” the ability her book had “to touch people.” Said Ms. Castro Marmol, “It’s crazy because I didn’t think people really read books anymore. But for me, having these girls go and buy my book, and spend their twenty dollars or so on Letters … it’s amazing, that someone believes in things still.” Readers have been snapping up copies of her books, both in physical and digital forms, at such a rate as to firmly prove that people still “really read books” … including poetry!

So how do successful poets do it?

Success as a self-publishing poet is all about consistency, commitment, and personal development. To help you become the best poet you can be, here are three ways to improve your writing as well as self-publishing your work.

  1. Read, Read, Read! Any time you want to improve your skills and become more successful, reading can help. Read poetry! Read books and articles about writing and publishing poetry! Read information about self-publishing! Read anything that inspires you to write and become the best poet you can be, but don’t limit yourself to poetry and industry-related books. Read fiction, non-fiction, magazines, newspapers, blogs, and advertisements. Read everything and anything you can get a hold of. You never know what will inspire you!
  2. Stay Committed: If you want to be successful, you need to commit yourself to your craft. Make time to write every day. Look for ways to continue to learn and grow. Figure out what motivates you and include those motivations in your daily life. Share your goals with others so they can help you accountable. Never give up on dreams.
  3. Be Consistent: Whether you are writing, editing, or marketing, be consistent. Work on your poetry every day. Set a schedule for when you will write, edit, or market your work. Set goals for yourself, and make a plan to achieve them. Successful writers don’t write sporadically; they work on their craft in some way every single day.

Supposing that these three suggestions have provided you with the motivation you need, what next? Well, turn this list on its head and consider it a starting point … and a list of tips for starting your next book! The path to publication may not always be smooth, but there are ways to make sure it is well-lit and passable. And that’s why we’re here to provide you with the services and resources you need to move from a grand idea for your next book to a finished, published book of poems for the next generation.

Not sure what you need to get started publishing your poetry? Visit us online at to chat with a Publishing Consultant or call us at 1-888-672-6657 to find out how to finish your manuscript and get it ready for publication. To see our staff picks of amazing poetry books from many of our authors, visit our Pinterest page by clicking here.

Write, Submit, Win!

Writing contests have long been a staple of the publishing community, but what about for self-publishing authors? Do they have a place in writing contests? The short answer is absolutely, yes they do! In fact, the average writing contest is the perfect place to showcase your talents and maybe even receive a small cash reward or a boatload of free publicity if you win. This is because writing contests are the province of the up-and-comers, a discoverability vehicle for readers, reviewers, and other experts in an industry which rewards grit and persistence.

The possible financial incentives to a writing award are self-explanatory, but what about the intangible benefits? Only one person can place first in any given awards category, so what other reasons might there be to submit, especially if you’re new to the scene? In many ways, the benefits boil down to credit, mental space, and deadlines. Which is to say, many of the most well-known awards contests publish both their longlists and their shortlists online or in print, and this is a great way to grab some free publicity. They also force you to take some time away from your work, as many contests forbid simultaneous submissions to more than one contest at once. If your work doesn’t win, you’re guaranteed to come back to it with fresh eyes and a fresh mind, with a better sense for what you’d like to improve. And lastly, submitting to awards contests requires you to meet deadlines, and for many of us that little bit of extra external structure provides the necessary encouragement to finish one project and move on to another.

Whatever your reasons for entering, whether it’s self-encouragement or the desire for a cash bonus, there’s little to lose apart from an entry fee (and then only for certain contests), and a lot to gain!

So, where are the best places to submit? All you have to do is run a search through Google to discover there are hundreds if not thousands of possibilities when it comes to writing contests. We recommend you do a bit of research and find the ones which will suit you best, but in the meantime, here are five of our favorites, each of which caters to a different genre or publishing category!

    1. Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel Competition: This contest is for writers 18 and older who have never had a novel published (in any genre). It is awarded to an original book-length manuscript featuring “murder or another serious crime or crimes […] at the heart of the story.” Winners receive a publication contract with Minotaur Books and a $10,000 advance against future royalties. Deadlines fall in the last quarter of the year.
    2. New Voices Award: Facilitated by the award-winning children’s book publisher Lee & Low Books, this is awarded to a previously unpublished children’s picture book manuscript of 1,500 words or fewer. The manuscript must be written by an author of color as the award is designed to celebrate and further diversity in children’s literature. Winners receive $1,000 in cash and a standard publication contract. Submissions are due by the end of September.
    3. Prose: Looking for a fun and fresh way to combat writer’s block? Prose’s unique format centers on weekly challenges designed to smash ruts and cultivate curiosity. Some come with prizes attached, usually between $100 and $200, but the prompts are brief and the submissions equally so: most of Prose’s contests are looking for submissions between 150 and 500 words. Quality over quantity, right? But the best news of all is that there are plenty of opportunities to win, and the prompts are designed to hone your skills.
    4. Words & Brushes: Here’s a contest for the visually-minded among you! The Words & Brushes short story contest is designed to foster collaborations between artists and writers. Authors select a piece of artwork from their gallery and submit short stories inspired by them. Prize monies are as high as $350, but the publicity is equally if not more valuable: winners gain spots in a future art book showcasing their collaborations. The deadline for this contest is usually in February.
    5. Writer’s Digest Annual Writing Competition: While this contest does charge an entry fee, it is also one of the highest-rated competitions by self-publishing authors who have participated in the past. It is also among the longest-running writing competitions out there. With a number of submission categories, including Memoirs and Genre Short Story, this is a friendly contest to many self-publishing authors! The Grand Prize winner receives $5,000, a feature in Writer’s Digest magazine, a paid trip to a writing conference, and lots of free promotion. Runners-up also have a chance at prizes. earn prizes in first through tenth places. This annual contest closes in May each year.

We hope you’ve found at least one contest here to keep your eye on as you continue to follow the path to publication! And if you find yourself needing a little help navigating your options and choosing the best ones for you, speak with one of our Publishing Consultants to get exactly what you need – and get the most out of it! There are three convenient ways to connect:

      1. Call us at 1-888-672-6657 (OP-BOOKS)
      2. Live-chat with us via our website
      3. Go online to schedule an appointment

8 Reasons to Self-Publish a Children’s Book in 2018

It’s early 2018, which means it’s time to take on all of those projects which you’ve told yourself you would. Some of you will have committed to writing a book this year, and of those, some will have committed to writing a children’s book. Others remain undecided. What might it take to push you off the front porch and onto the path toward writing that book? Here are eight good reasons to take that all-important first step.

ONE: The children’s book world really rolls out the red carpet. By which we mean: when it comes to self-publishing, some markets are more welcoming than others, and the world of children’s books knows how to make a new author feel welcome. Ever heard of Gramma Darling? This sweet children’s picture book won a slew of awards when it premiered in 2016, and won accolades from coast to coast for debut author Lissa Schroeder. To be new isn’t to be ruled out by the children’s book community, and we think that’s beautiful.

TWO: It’s not all fun and games, but it is certainly fun. Children’s books are the perfect vehicle for stories of real merit and emotional weight, but they’re also free to crack jokes and pull off goofy lines and illustrations. One should never underestimate the ability for authors of children’s books to incorporate both good humor and render art out of deep pathos in their work, and the world certainly needs more of both in 2018.

THREE: Children make the best audience. You know it’s true! When was the last time you heard a child giggle one of those truly unhinged, delightful little giggles that adults somehow forget how to make as they grow up? Chances are good you heard it in a library, or from the corner of the living room where family gathers to read on slow afternoons. Children are unscrupulously honest and make for excellent beta readers, but they also make for the most enthusiastic supporters and listeners, if you give them a good story.

FOUR: Their parents and caregivers make the best financial backers. It is a truth universally acknowledged that children make the best audience but it is their parents who either pull out the pocketbook or … don’t. Just like you, however, they make for an enthusiastic audience, not least when they suspect that they can replicate that delighted giggle by bringing home the book which inspired it. Parents love making their children happy, and if your book helps accomplish that for them, well … let’s just say they are the best and most invested kind of support system an aspiring author could want. After all, they’re motivated by love!

FIVE: Children read (and buy, or convince others to buy) more books than adults. It’s true! Year after year, the largest growth sectors in the publishing industry are in the children and young adult categories. And while many readers might turn to their local public or school libraries to satisfy their reading needs, reports also suggest that avid library users actually purchase more books than the national average. Which is to say, no matter how many books young library users can acquire for free, they are always hungry for more. This makes for a win-win situation for you, an author looking to publish a children’s book (or three).

SIX: There’s a practical side. After all, many children’s book authors actually make good money off of their work. There are children’s book authors who are entirely self-sufficient off of the royalties they receive, both within traditional publishing houses and the self-publishing industry. Sure, it requires a whole lot of elbow grease to turn out that many books, but it’s not at all out of the realm of possibility that your book might just turn out to be an investment worth cultivating. After all, children read more books than adults, remember?

SEVEN: There’s a need. The market may be crowded, but there’s a deep-seated need for quality children’s books … books with a message, books with something to say and the visual appeal to back that message up. There’s a need for a whole range of children’s books, in fact, from fiction to nonfiction, sweet and inspiring narratives as well as profound and compelling works which reflect the world we live in. And as we mentioned before, 2018 is a year we ought to light up the lives of those we care for with a good book (or three).

EIGHT: The tools are in place to make it happen. From custom illustrations, to professional copyediting and professionally designed custom covers, self-publishing is a veteran industry replete with experts and services which have weathered two decades of hard work and improvement. The tools exist to self-publish your book exactly the way you want it, and without sacrificing quality in order to retain your rights and privileges. It’s time to take advantage.

Supposing that these eight reasons have provided you with the motivation you need, what next? Well, turn this list on its head and consider it a starting point … and a list of tips for starting your next book. The path to publication may not always be smooth, but there are ways to make sure it is well-lit and passable. And that’s why we’re here to provide you with the services and resources you need to move from a grand idea for your next book to a finished, published book for the next generation.

Not sure what you need to get started publishing your children’s book? Visit us online at to chat with a Publishing Consultant or call us at 1-888-672-6657 to find out how to finish your manuscript and get it ready for publication.

Get Published

Reading as Seduction: Writing Romance Novels

If you’re interested in writing a romance novel, that’s thrilling news! Romance is making serious waves in the publishing industry right now, and as the Washington Post calls it, romance has proven to be a “uniquely successful genre” in that it is one of the top performers in sales, across the board. What better time could there be to write that romance you’ve been thinking about? Simply put, there isn’t a better time! Stuck for ideas? We’re here with a few suggestions to help you put pen to paper (or pixels to screen) and bring your ravish read into the world, one step at a time.

STEP ONE: Center the book’s emotional crux.

By which we mean … from the very first page, you have to know what you want the heart of your book to be, and what kind of arc your characters need to have in order to evoke that heart from your novel’s first line to its last dot of punctuation. Readers love the romance genre because they want to be moved, and romances are the perfect vehicle for navigating deep and complex questions of love, relationships, identity, and hardship without leaving readers in doubt as to the final conclusion. Romance is, at its core, life-affirming! Readers know that misunderstandings will be resolved, tragedies overcome, and that love will triumph … most of the time, anyway. Even if there isn’t a perfectly happy ending, romance as a genre reaffirms that there’s more to life than just the mundane, and that change is the only thing we can count on. So, what is the point of your book? What emotion do you want your readers to feel or what emotional point do you want to bring home at the end? Write that down and stick it to the top of your laptop, or set yourself a reminder on your phone every morning when you sit down to write. This is what your book is about, and everything builds toward it … or detracts from your book’s efficacy.

STEP TWO: Center the action.

It’s no understatement to say that romance is a physical genre. And we’re not just talking about the sensual kind! No, romance is a genre which is underpinned by the characters’ ability to do things, and to move through the world in new and interesting ways. And remember that feeling, as we’ve mentioned in step one, is a physical sensation as much as it is a mental one. The quickest way to kill the forward momentum of your book is to stay always in your characters’ heads, describing how they think about various things. Instead of letting the dynamic tension bleed out of your text, follow what your characters do, and focus on building sensible action that builds to your emotional crux and its resolution. We’re not talking about packing in pointless action, because pointless is pointless is pointless, but rather about focusing on your characters as real and embodied people who inhabit real spaces and times, and who have conversations, go to work, battle each other with swords, or know how to bake a mean chocolate cake.

STEP THREE: Consider the formula.

Yes, there’s a formula. It can be rebelled against, reinvented, or responded to, but it can’t simply be dismissed. What’s the formula? Readers expect very specific things from the genre, namely:

  • A hero or heroine the reader can love and sympathizes with
  • A love interest the reader can respect and admire
  • A realistic conflict … something to keep the lovebirds at a perfectly tense distance. This conflict can’t be mindless, pointless, or easily overcome. It has to feel real and significant, something that can’t be dismissed after a couple of pages of rational conversation.
  • A satisfying resolution. This doesn’t have to look like any one thing (a marriage or an engagement, for example) but it does need to provide a path forward for the two main characters, either together or separately. But preferably, together. Statistics seem to indicate that romance readers really do love a happily-ever-after!

Once you have plotted out what you want for each of these points, the rest is … well, it’s the book! And it’s your book, one that we dearly hope you will publish so that we can read all about it. Following these steps may not always be easy, but we hope that they’ll provide that little extra motivation or inspiration to keep going as you write your next romance novel!

Not sure what you need to get started publishing your romance novel? Visit us online at to chat with a Publishing Consultant or call us at 1-888-672-6657 to find out how to finish your manuscript and get it ready for publication.

Get Published

Live Well, Write Well, & Publish Well…ness Related Books!

When it comes to writing and publishing a health and fitness or otherwise wellness-related book, much of the standard jargon and advice doesn’t apply. Some of it does, of course, but many readers and buyers of these books don’t tend to cross categories and buy, say, action and adventure or science fiction or romance books in the same way as those who walk into a bookstore looking another fiction or non-fiction genre. And yet, health and fitness books are HUGE right now. All you have to do is walk into the closest bookstore or library to be convinced of this fact; Misty Copeland, Tina Fey, Reese Witherspoon, and Cameron Diaz routinely grace some of the most prominent displays. But your readers are not the same as other authors’ readers … so how do you write and publish a book that will move them?

We have a couple of ideas!

The first step to writing a successful health and fitness book is to know your competition, and to know your competition you’ll need to read widely in the genre. What kind of health and fitness books appeal to you? A celebrity lifestyle book, like those mentioned above, tends to read as equal parts memoir and dietary regimen. That’s great … but there are lots of other models! There’s an entire subgenre dedicated to lifestyle books written by doctors (actual practicing medical doctors, that is) and they are entirely different. So too are the more topical, exploratory works that blend creative non-fiction with self-help elements. Run your hand along a library display or the health and fitness shelf at your local bookstore, and you’ll find dozens of models you might consider for your own book. Find one that feels right, and start taking notes on how it’s structured, on its tone and style, and how it treats graphics and pictures.

Next, you have to consider how to plan for the long haul. After all, health and fitness is a lifelong pursuit, and it is fitting for the genre that writing one of these books will take a while. Gather your information, put it into practice, and live the experience you’re writing to endorse. Your readers will find your book compelling and authentic if they feel convinced that you’re not simply posturing but embracing the lifestyle you advocate that they too should choose! As much as or more than any other genre, health and fitness books require the reader to believe that what they’re seeing on the page belongs in their life, and can be achieved by tenable, easy-to-replicate steps. Once you know how the strategies you’re writing about feel from the inside, a process which is bound to take a while, you’re in the perfect position to write about them!

This is a niche genre and in order to reach your audience, you’ll need to know exactly who they are. You can’t rely on general feelings of affinity (“I love all fiction!” “I love all romance books!”) to sell a health and fitness book, as picking one of these up and trying it on is less like buying and trying on new clothes and a lot more like completely changing everything you eat or think and do. Most people who love science fiction are perfectly happy to buy twenty or thirty books in the genre a year, but people don’t tend to experiment with their lifestyle with remotely the same frequency. They do, however, tend to give other people health and fitness-related books as gifts on a regular basis. Knowing this is half of the battle later on down the road when it comes to marketing, but in the short term it’s helpful for determining what does and does not make it into your book. What would you want out of a gift? Something purely functional, or something with bright and glossy images to catch the eye?

Lastly, find a publisher who knows how to market and sell health and fitness-related books. We mean specifically, not just as yet another generic addition to their non-fiction publications. Take a look at their online catalogues or bookstores (ours is at!) and check for a variety of non-fiction subgenres, including health and fitness, cookbooks, memoirs, and more. The more subgenres are represented, the more likely it is that this publisher knows how to appeal to those small, targeted audiences and can help you along the way!

To see our staff picks of amazing health and fitness books from many of our authors, visit our Pinterest page by clicking here.

Not sure what you need to get started publishing your health and fitness book? Visit us online at to chat with a Publishing Consultant or call us at 1-888-672-6657 to find out how to finish your manuscript and get it ready for publication.

Learn More

Make Some New Plans for Your Book in the New Year!

Even though a small part of us cringes at the thought of yet another to-do list, we can’t help but recognize that the recoil is somewhat a consequence of semantics: we may not have had much success giving up sweets or processed foods or otherwise accomplishing resolutions of years past, but we fully acknowledge the fact that structured and manageable goals are important and sometimes even necessary. They’re especially necessary to moving a book from ideation to final publication. If we divorce the word “resolve” from its holiday baggage, there’s no denying its powerful potential for instigating personal transformation. Just think of its straightforward and simple definition:

noun | re-solve |
: firmness of purpose : DETERMINATION

With a firmness of purpose firmly instilled in our hearts and minds, here are fourteen resolutions we propose to start off your New Year’s resolutions list. But don’t panic! While most of them are fully self-explanatory, a few do require a little more explanation, which you’ll find immediately after the list. So here it is!

The first four resolutions are designed to enrich yourself first. After all, you have to be in a good place if you want to publish a good book, right?

1. Set goals.
2. Facilitate goals.
3. Make writing a priority, and
4. Read, read, read.

The next seven resolutions have to do with your relationship to the outside world. How do you relate to it so as to make a strongly-rooted, deeply affecting book? Part of the answer may lie in being a strongly-rooted, deeply relational human being.

5. Master at least the basics of social media.
6. Research deeply.
7. Connect with other authors.
8. Embrace a good critique.
9. Learn to love rewrites.
10. Try something new, and
11. Stop comparing your achievements with others. (It’s just not life-affirming.)

And the last three resolutions? They have to do moving your book forward from manuscript to the printed (or pixeled) page. These are some of our favorite resolutions, too!

12. Seek help! Get that writing consultation.
13. Learn about self-publishing, and
14. Embrace your style!

We’re going to pull out the brass tacks and take a closer look at those final three points.

What is a writing consultation, and how can it help me? Have you ever been stuck in a rut? Is the dreaded “Writer’s Block” a regular or even constant companion of yours? There are untold untapped resources out there to help jump-start or fine-tune your writing and get your book back on track, such as the writing consultation service from Outskirts Press. A number of other indie, hybrid, and self-publishing companies offer similar services, and there are all kinds of free websites dedicated to the same thing — and the only downside to these free services is the fact that they can be hard to navigate. When you have thousands upon thousands of web pages to filter through for relevant bits of information, where do you get started? Herein lies the benefit of an actual, honest-to-goodness sit-down session with a live human being and professional: a consultation session gives you time with a skilled writer who is also an industry expert in order to address any writing issues you are experiencing. You should also emerge with a great deal of valuable advice and a plan of action for moving forward.

And what’s this about learning about self-publishing? Simply put, the more you know about the self-publishing industry and the options available to you, the author, the easier it is to find your way forward. You can’t afford to not know what you’re getting into, and if you find yourself overwhelmed, don’t hesitate to get in touch with the self-publishing community through web forums or even the experts that your prospective self-publishing platform keeps on hand for just such a moment. They’re there to help! And while we can’t speak for all experienced indie authors, the ones we have had the pleasure to meet and work with are unfailingly kind and generous with their time, advice, and feedback. So: do your research and learn what you’re getting into. Odds are it’s not nearly as scary a process as you may imagine.

Finally, embrace your style! As a writer, you may do things a little differently from the next writer at the imaginary conference table, but that’s what makes you so special … and it is also what sets you apart and what will help you sell books later on. Never give up. Never surrender to self-doubt. Your style and your choices as an author are valid. Not only are they valid, but they’re your greatest strengths and your greatest selling points. And selling points have everything to do with your success as a self-publishing author! If you’re doing things your own way and you feel like you’re writing the book you want to write, then we guarantee you that you’re writing a superior book. A book we can’t wait to help you publish!

For more information, call a Publishing Consultant at 1-888-672-6657 (OP BOOKS), or chat with us using the live chat option on our website (

Learn More

Write, Finish, Edit: A Writer’s Guide to Moving Forward and Finishing

We’ve all pictured the cloistered writer hunched in solitude over a notepad or laptop, furiously scratching out word after glorious word well into the wee hours. The brilliance flows faster than he can capture it on paper until the day he triumphantly types “The End” …

Well, that’s how we imagine it, but it rarely goes so smoothly! Writing a book is a big project and a long process, and the direction is not always obvious or easy. It’s common — even normal — for an author to hit roadblocks. Call it writer’s block, brain cramps or something else, but it gets us all at one time or another.

Let’s face it: We need more than an imagination and determination to get to the finish line. Sometimes we need outside intervention, and it comes in many forms. Here are some writer’s block-breakers you can seek out next time the creative juice stop flowing:

  • Inspiration. It can be as simple as a walk or a favorite song, or as stimulating as a brainstorming session with another writer. Enlist someone you trust to motivate you to think about your story in a different light.
  • Advice. Sometimes the inspiration is there but you just need specific, practical guidance to iron out the wrinkles in your plot, character development or story arc.
  • Unbiased feedback. Enthusiastic cheerleading feels good, but it’s not always what you need. If you’re relying on friends and family for feedback, you’re better off with brutal honesty … but how many people you know are willing to provide it?
  • Editing. Leave this one to a professional. While it’s fine to lean on friends, family and fans for the final proofread for typos, hire or trade services with a professional editor to do the heavy lifting. They’ll not only whip your grammar, syntax, punctuation and spelling into shape, but will also make sure your story is organized optimally for clarity and enjoyment.
  • Help finishing. There’s no shame in handing off your “baby” to another writer. Ghostwriters are a poorly kept secret in the literary world and extremely common. Odds are some of your favorite bestsellers were penned — either wholly or in part — by a ghostwriter. A talented ghostwriter is adept at adapting to your voice and creating a finished work that is everything you envisioned, or even better than you pictured!

When writer’s get stuck, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. Writing consultants, editors, Publishing Consultants, proofreaders and ghostwriters all fulfill different needs, so figure out how extensive your manuscript issues are before deciding on a path to getting it back on track.

Not sure what you need to get over that writing hump? Visit us online at to chat with a Publishing Consultant or call us at 1-888-672-6657 to find out how to finish your manuscript and get it ready for publication.

Learn More