How an Author Inspired Me

Throughout the month of May, our contributors will be sharing their inspirational stories of times when an author inspired them. Sometimes, all it takes is a smile and a word of encouragement. Other times, it may be a recommendation, or a good review. In some way, the author offered encouragement to keep writing, keep trying for an open door into the publishing realm.

For the most part, I’ve found authors to be very helpful and giving. They know how hard it is to write and have your work pored over by readers, editors, and agents. Sometimes the whole process seems to chip away at your confidence. For some reason, I had a sudden vision of a pigeon atop a statue. You know what pigeons do to statues. Yes, sometimes, it is very like that.

Especially when you send a portion of your work through an online critique loop. It’s like hitting send and launching a piece of your heart into the great void. Will it make the journey? Will it be torn apart by frenzied critiquers? Will they laugh uproariously, though it’s not a funny manuscript?

Several years back, a very hopeful younger version of myself joined ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers), took the preparatory course on critiquing, then joined the huge online critique loop. I had a completed historical manuscript to send through chapter-by-chapter, and I was ready to begin my journey. I composed my first email, attached my first chapter, and hit send with a trembling index finger.

And then I waited. And waited. And waited. Finally, I got a couple of crits. One was very helpful and nice, though there were a lot of suggestions. A LOT.  The second one was from a dear lady who must have been “up there” in age, because she said she remembered those days (the 1920s). She went on to say that no young lady would ever put on a pair of dungarees (which my character had done before climbing out a window and down a tree). I had a photograph of my grandma in a pair of dungarees. The picture was taken in 1924, the year I had chosen to begin my story.

She said a lot of other things, like how she laughed uproariously at some of my mistakes, and maybe I should do a more thorough research before I sent the rest of the story through. Of course, I was greatly offended. After crying over it for a while, I put it away. When enough time had passed, I compared her assessment with the few other critiques I received, and made some changes. I also made changes to the second chapter and sent it through, only to receive another scathing review from that dear lady.

I know you’re wondering why I’m writing about this in an article about authors who inspire other authors. Well, I’m getting to that. After having my feelings completely trounced several times, I contacted the critique group coordinator. That was my first interaction with Fay Lamb. She assured me this was not the typical critique, and I shouldn’t take it personally. She also suggested I not read anymore offerings from this person, and in the meantime, she would contact the lady and make a few suggestions of her own.

Not only that, but Fay Lamb read my chapters and was very helpful. She was kind, but honest. I needed to up my game. I did that, and she encouraged me to keep moving forward. She also encouraged me to leave the big loop and opt for a smaller group, instead. I worked with one or two other writers for a while, then joined a second small group.

When my first book made it through the critique process, I looked for an editor I could pay to help me whip it into shape. I knew Fay was working as a freelance editor, so I hired her. She held my hand through the process, and we ended up with a completed novel.

Then she suggested I send it to a small press publisher. A little over a year later, the book was published by Write Integrity Press.

I might have given up along the way, except for Fay’s encouragement. “You’re a good writer. Keep working on it.” Her example kept me moving forward through some very dark times. I wanted to quit. She wouldn’t let me.

Betty & Fay

Fay and I became friends and discovered we had so much in common, it was uncanny. In fact, we’ve found so many weird connections, we may possibly be twins separated at birth. We finally met in person at a Christian writers conference in Atlanta. You’ll find her name on the acknowledgment page of most of my published novels.

I am not the only writer she has helped. I know many others can tell similar stories with Fay Lamb as the star. Well, except for being her twin. That may be unique.

Thank you, Fay, for being there for me, and helping me through the tough times—the inevitable deep lows that come to all who profess to be writers.

Writing Prompt: [Finish this thought with a complete sentence:] The most helpful suggestion ever made to me by another author is…

Click to Tweet: Sometimes the whole (writing) process seems to chip away at your confidence. I’ve found #authors to be very helpful and giving. They know how hard it is to write and have your work pored over by readers, editors, and agents.

How to Market with Attitude

Attitude: A predisposition or a tendency to respond positively or negatively towards a certain idea, object, person, or situation. Attitude influences an individual’s choice of action, and responses to challenges, incentives, and rewards (together called stimuli).

Four major components of attitude are (1) Affective: emotions or feelings. (2) Cognitive: belief or opinions held consciously. (3) Conative: inclination for action. (4) Evaluative: positive or negative response to stimuli. Read more:

(1) Affective – How will a reader feel when she looks at my book? Will the cover create a positive or a negative reaction? Will the blurb I’ve written bore the reader? Repel them? Or, will it draw them in to the story?

Of course, I want the latter to be the case, so I do my best to create a compelling blurb. A cover artist uses easy-to-read, eye-catching fonts on the cover, combined with an inviting image with colors that draw the eye. If I will be my own cover artist, I study the craft before beginning, because the cover is often the most effective way to sell a book.

Book cover, blurb, and advertising that touches a reader emotionally, will sell books. This is affective advertising.

(2) Conative and evaluative are behavioral responses.

Our words, advertising, memes, pictures, themes, and titles are all tools we use to stimulate and persuade readers to pick up our stories and read them. We not only want the reader’s positive response to the cover, we want them to buy the book, take it home, and READ it. Then pass it on, or give it an honored spot on their personal bookshelves, and tell others what a wonderful book it is.

We want to develop a following. Give our readers a reason to return when another book is released. We want them to care about our hand-crafted item. This outcome is a gold medal for the writer—an accomplishment that brings a collective sigh among a writer’s closest friends, street team, agent, and publisher.

(3) Cognitive

Can I persuade you to take a chance on me, a writer you’ve never heard of? A writer whose books have garnished few reviews, and those were possibly close friends and family? [I’m not talking about me, just using this an example!]

Cognitive marketing is the art of figuring out how to persuade a person to buy my product. It may seem overwhelming (and often does), but it is not impossible. By far, my best chance at this is face-to-face at book signings, conferences, and other functions where marketing can be very personal. At the least, I can give away bookmarks, brochures, or business cards that will keep my name in front of them.

So, I create my best product. I work every day to improve my craft. I do my homework to find out what readers like and want. I’m preparing myself both mentally and physically, figuring out how to touch my readers with the promise of a good story.

I’m also crafting memes and tweets and Facebook posts, short articles for blogs, all with a positive theme. All with an eye-catching design. Using prose, I skillfully form sentences to draw the reader in and persuade her that she really wants and needs to read what I’ve written.

Create marketing with attitude. All my life, I’ve struggled with attitude. I was an introvert who’d just as soon crawl under a rock or hide behind a door than face a buyer. I’m the daughter of a successful insurance salesman, but sales is the last thing I ever wanted to do. I don’t like salespeople who get in my face and try to talk me into something I don’t want. Thankfully, Dad wasn’t that kind of salesman. He was a good ole boy who never met a stranger, and made friends of all his clients.

See? That’s the goal—to make friends. To change my attitude from one of hard-sell to how-can-I-help-you. Touch hearts with my message. Persuade with a smile and let them know I’m happy to make their acquaintance, even if they don’t want or need what I have to sell. Invite them to follow me on social media. Give them something valuable in content on my marketing sites, offer occasional free gifts. Be a servant.

In my opinion, that, my friends, is marketing with attitude.

Click to Tweet: I’m preparing myself both mentally and physically, figuring out how to touch my readers with the promise of a good story. #marketing #amwriting 

Writing Prompt: You’ve written a book about an elderly lady who raises prize-winning roses. One day, she goes out to find her newest creation has been stolen. Write a short sentence to hook your readers.

What’s in Your Media Kit?

by Tracy Ruckman

One of the first tasks authors should tackle when their first book is scheduled for release is build a media kit. This task applies to both traditionally published and self-published authors. Assembling the kit before the book is released will save hours and frustration later and having a media kit could provide you with more opportunities for outreach.

Purpose of a Media Kit

The main purpose of the media kit is convenience – you want to make it easy for anyone wanting to promote or interview you about your book to get information quickly. Before the internet, media kits were physical packets assembled and mailed out to publicists and editors of newspapers and magazines. Today, the media kit is usually a dedicated page on your website where publicists, editors, bloggers, media outlets, and others can grab your information instantly.

You can provide the information two ways (and providing it both ways is a huge plus): as individual elements that can be downloaded or copied/pasted by whoever needs it; and as a single downloadable pdf. The pdf would include all the elements listed below.

What to Include in Your Media Kit

  • Headshots – provide two to four different types of headshots, with various poses from casual to formal and in different color clothing. Use professional quality shots and provide them in high resolution formats, in jpeg format. The variety will allow each outlet to decide which image best fits for their readers and their format, and the high resolution will give them the best quality so they can make the photo any size they need. (If you provide a low resolution image, your picture will be grainy and pixelated, so it might not get used.)
  • Book cover image – provide the front cover image of your book, also with high resolution.
  • Back cover blurb
  • Your bios – Please provide two bios, one long and one short, and identify them as such. The short bio should be around 100 words, the long bio 200-250 words. Write them in 3rd person. Some markets may allow or want longer bios, while others can only use the short ones.
  • Press releases – Press releases are optional, but they’re handy to have on hand. If you don’t know how to write one, you’ll need to learn. Press releases follow a specific format and layout, so if you make them available in your media kit, you’ll need to do it correctly.
  • List of links to your website/blog, links to your book, links to your top social media pages
  • Media – If you are a speaker or teacher, or if you’ve already conducted some radio interviews or podcasts, include video and/or audio clips of some of those in your media kit. These samples will let media see and hear your personality to know how you’ll best fit their own programs.
  • List of Topics/Themes – Including a list of speaking topics and/or themes in your book serves different purposes. The list provides media with talking points, especially as they are relevant in today’s headlines, while also providing event organizers ideas for how to use you in their programs. The list also serves as keywords for SEO purposes, so your website/blog can be found under searches for those themes, which could bring you new readers or opportunities.
  • Events – If you already have experience as a speaker or workshop presenter, list those events with dates, locations, topics presented.


In today’s world, we must take safety precautions, and this includes within your media kit. Press releases must contain contact information but use caution in sharing your home address or phone number. I always recommend that my clients leave out both of those in their online kits, but be sure to provide other options, like a business e-mail address (or two) and social media contacts. If you have a dedicated phone line for your business that’s listed publicly, you may list it, but remember that the information in your media kit will now be accessible by anyone worldwide.

Media kits are great marketing tools. Review your media kit once or twice a year, adding updates and deleting older information. Remember to keep it professional and put your best self in the spotlight.

One of the best ways to learn is to look at what others are doing. Here are a few excellent media kits I found online:

Lori Roeleveld:
Elizabeth Noyes:
Rachel Hauck:
Edie Melson:
Matt Patterson:

Writing Prompt: Choose one of the bulleted items above and create it as a promotional tool for your latest release.

Click to Tweet: A #media kit makes it easy for anyone wanting to #promote or interview you about your book to get information quickly. What’s in Your Media Kit @TracyRuckman @InspiredPrompt

Tracy Ruckman is an entrepreneur, writer, and photographer. As a book publisher, she’s published over 100 books, and is current publisher at TMP Books. She logs her journey as artist, writer, and screenwriter at The Thriving Artist on Patreon, and interviews artists and entrepreneurs on her Tracy Ruckman blog. Her artwork is available in her Zazzle store.

Julie B. Cosgrove’s The Bunco Biddies Keep Sleuthing


By Shimer College (1942 yearbook of Shimer College) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Have you ever gathered around a group of elderly ladies who have known each other for years? My mother had a “crowd” who called themselves The Bridge Club. Back during WWII, they would gather to play cards once a week to help keep each other sane while the hubbies were off to battle. I was not born yet, but my siblings tell me that they gathered during the day while the older ones were in school and younger ones napped on the cool floor of the kitchen.

By the time I came along, the activities had grown to include barbecues and shared vacations at the beach with the husbands and kids. Yet, the ladies still played Bridge weekly…for decades! No one could pull any punches with the others. They knew each other way too well. It was a hoot to eavesdrop on some of their conversations. “Now, Mary, you always react that way…” “When did you ever like her, dear?” “Honey, you and I both know….” They were so different in social backgrounds, lifestyles and financial security, yet loved each other intensely, bound by years of companionship.

Although all are now deceased save one, growing up around these amazing women became the inspiration for my Bunco Biddies Mysteries, twelve active senior citizens living in a retirement community. They play Bunco every Thursday while sharing recipes and mild gossip. When crime begins to encroach their small town of Alamoville, Janie, the widow of a renown Austin detective, decides they can help the struggling police department solve crimes—much to the chagrin of her son-in-law, Blake, who has recently become Chief Detective.

Threes, Sixes, & Thieves is the third one in the series. It released last December and is actually based on an experience I had as a church secretary. We were on lockdown for six hours as swarms of police conducted a manhunt for a person who’d shot a patrol officer. Our church became their command center. Of course I had to write about it!

When thieves begin to burgle residences with only three and sixes in the address, Janie detects a pattern and enlists the Bunco Biddies to stake out the one she thinks may be next. They call it in, and after a scuffle of gunshots, one escapes. The manhunt begins. When no one can locate the arresting officer later, she suspects something dicey.

The first, Dumpster Dicing, won Best Cozy 2017 by the Texas Association of Authors, and is about the newest resident, a grouchy old man who didn’t get along with anyone, ending up dead in the community dumpster. Did he unpack too much of his dicey past?

The second, Baby Bunco, involves an abandoned newborn in a vacant condo’s bathtub. Since no one has heard from the Lord that they will have children in their old age like Sarai, the Biddies suspect this could be the birth of a new crime wave.

The fourth one, Til Dice Do Us Part, releases later this summer, if all goes well with the publishing house, Pelican Book Group.

I am also under contract with Write Integrity Press for a new mystery series called The Relatively Seeking Mysteries. Don’t you love that title? The Editor in Chief’s teenage daughter came up with it. The three books will revolve around three thirty year old friends who begin to delve into genealogies and discover a few skeletons others want kept in the ancestral closets. The first, One Leaf Too Many, is scheduled to launch in November, 2018.

Besides writing mysteries, I am also a digital missionary. That means I write, and mostly edit, devotional and inspirational articles for the internet branch of Campus Crusades. The two websites, (faith-based) and, (more secularized because we believe Jesus meets us in the middle of our messes), generated over 14 million clicks in 2017 alone. Over 550,000 worldwide internet viewers were exposed to the Gospel. Many persecuted Christians use the sites as their main contact with other believers.  IIF is now being translated into Spanish, French, Hindi and Arabic, and our prayer is to add seven more languages in the next five years. Working with translators, we are also seeking mentors in those languages, as well as English, to communicate online with people who read our articles and want to find out more about the Christian life. My own blog, Where Did You Find God Today, has readership in over fifty countries.

Julie Cosgrove

When I am not editing or writing, I cozy up on my sofa with my two housecats and read, watch clean mysteries on TV, or play word games with friends. I also conduct women’s and writers’ workshops.

For more information on my books and my ministry, go to

My books, including my romance novellas, suspense, and contemporary women’s novels are available on Amazon.