The 2015 Frasier Contest is OPEN!

Are you wanting to up your writing game in 2015?  Entering a writing contest is a GREAT way to get feedback, get noticed by editors and agents, and build your writing skills!

And our MBT Frasier Contest is designed to help you Get Published, and Stay Published!

Check out these words from 2013 Finalist, and 2014 WINNER Jeanne Takenaka!

Find all the Frasier Contest Deets HERE!

You CAN write something brilliant!

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Conversations with a Writing Coach

Hey Awesome Writers!

I’m on the road this week – so I asked my friend Phyllis Wheeler, who runs a publishing start-up if she’d step in with a blog to sort through how to choose between traditional publishing and self-publishing.  Hope it’s helpful!

PS – Ever want to sit down and talk through your writing journey with a writing coach?  JUST launched a new book that does just that!  Follow the journey of an aspiring writer (and learn along with her!) in Conversations with a Writing Coach.  $4.99 Available only on KINDLE!

Take it away, Phyllis!



Should you self-publish?

Self-publishing has changed over the years. There are now some high-quality self-published books out there, and the authors are reaping 100 percent of the  profit. Should you join them?


What goes into self-publishing a book?

  • Editing. You need a quality editor or editors to apply more pairs of eyes and brains to the story.
  • Cover art. You need to hire someone qualified and give that person plenty of direction. Decide what constitutes a great cover for a book in your genre. You’ll be placing the order and approving the result.
  • Print book production. You need to hire someone or learn to create PDFs for your print book using special software like InDesign.
  • Ebook production. You need to hire someone or learn to create multiple types of computer files of your ebook.
  • Sales. Online venues are not difficult or expensive to set up. But if you want to get your book into bookstores, you’ll need distribution, and that costs many thousands of dollars (to print the books, pay the distributor, and take the returns).
  • Marketing. Most publishers leave the responsibility this up to the author, at least to some degree. You would miss out on whatever tips and assistance a publisher may provide.


Reasons to self-publish:

  • Instead of taking a year in the works (or more), you can produce your book in a month or two. (But what are you giving up? Publishers Weekly and Library Journal won’t review it unless they have it in hand four months BEFORE publication.)
  • If you are a published author with a following, ride the tide of your previous  success and get 100 percent of the  profit.
  • There’s help out there. You can learn the skills you need. I highly recommend the Independent Book Publishers Association, IBPA, which has an annual teaching conference called Pub U.


Reason not to self-publish:

The only way to hit mega book sales is with a major publisher. Independents do well to sell books in the hundreds, not tens of thousands. Even authors who had unusually successful self-publishing ventures, like the writers of The Shack, eventually went to the big publishers, who are good at what they do.


But major publishing companies are consolidating. They are promoting fewer and fewer new authors, and it’s very hard to get their attention.  You  must have an agent first, for example. And your book has to be in a genre that appeals to those who frequent bookstores. (Romance? Yes. Fantasy? No.)


Small press?

If you’re not up for all the bother involved in self-publishing, there are various small presses. Find one that fits your genre and offers a profit-sharing arrangement. Steer clear of anyone who wants to collect money from you.


How do you find the right small press? Take a look at the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) approved-publisher list? Unfortunately, the ACFW isn’t very helpful these days. It’s recently decided to limit its approved publisher list to those who sell $5,000 each from two books within a year. This pretty much cuts out the undercapitalized indie presses, which can’t afford to put books in bookstores. I expect that the indie presses now on the ACFW list will be going off it as the next year goes by and they have to prove their receipts.


Use Google, Twitter, and word of mouth to find possible presses. Examine some of their books. Are they well edited? Good cover art? Contact the author. Is he or she happy with the publisher? Does the publisher send pre-publication copies to Publishers Weekly and other respected reviewers? Can you get your rights back after sales drop off?


Remember, it’s great to have all these publishing options. You’re a lot better off than a prospective author fifteen years ago who had no small press options and no respectable self-publishing options.

Phyllis Wheeler (an MBT enthusiast) is a co-founder of Castle Gate Press, a small press that started in 2013 with a vision to help launch new Christian writers. Phyllis and her cofounder Suzanne Hartmann have gathered some volunteer editors who share their vision.

They’re releasing a time-travel mystery in the fall, and they’re on the lookout for quality manuscripts of any genre that contain at least a touch of the fantastic.  Be sure to let your writer friends know about Castle Gate Press! For helpful writing and marketing tips, sign up to get their blog posts at .




The self-publishing journey of a MBT author

Yesterday we posted part one of an interview with a self-published author that MBT had the priviledge of coaching this past year.  Read that post here:

Today is part two of the journey.

SMW:  Dennis, you’ve written a delightful Christmas novella, South Pole Santa! Can you take us through the history of this story and help us understand how you went from idea to finished product?

Dennis: The first draft was a really rough draft. Bear in mind it was already December and I was only starting to write the story. So I really hurried to get the first draft done and I completed it on December 7 and it was about 10,000 words. You and I discussed did a couple of days later and I’ll never forget that first phone call about this story and how enthusiastic you were about it and in particular you really liked the elf character who is that point was named Marvin and had only a very minor role in the story. You really liked the idea of an elf who wanted people to be on the naughty list, and by the time I finished the first edition he had become of course one of the two main characters in the story. I uploaded the first edition around December 15 under the name “Reverse Santa Claus.” By then it was about 15,000 words and I was very pleased with it especially considering the quick turnaround times. I charged $.99 for the story But I didn’t do much with it besides that.

Sometime after the holidays, I think it was sometime in February, I found myself continuing to think about my story, and feeling that there was a lot more that I could do with it. So I came back to you and you said yes we could do a lot more if I were willing to put the time in but it would probably take a few months. So I asked you for a roadmap which you gave me and we got to work, and we finished the draft of the second edition I think in about mid-July. By the time we finished the second edition all of the main ideas were in the story, though of course I still had to go through the copy editing process. I had also hired an illustrator who had created six full-color illustrations. I think the story at that time was just under 30,000 words, and it was still titled Reverse Santa Claus. My intention was to create a Kindle edition and the paperback edition using CreateSpace.

After you and I finished the story editing process I started the process with CreateSpace of creating a paperback book. My idea in using CreateSpace to create a full-color paperback version was really just to get something that I could use for promotional purposes to send out to people and if I ever did get on television I knew I would have to have something to show. So it was never my intention to drive a lot of sales with the paperback version. I think that process cost about $300 and it turned out to be extremely worthwhile because it really solved one of the problems that’s inherent with the Kindle for authors. With the Kindle, it’s extremely easy to modify the text so you’re never really finished writing the book. That’s not true with the print version so I found myself going over the book again and again and again, using the writing skills you had taught me over the several months we had worked together, with the idea that once it got in print it would be written and finished forever. The word count came down to about 25,000, I took out a lot of passages that slowed the story down, I took a lot of stuff out of narration and put it into dialogue and I added a few little things that I believe makes the book a lot more fun. I also retitled the story “South Pole Santa – Back to Christmas” which I think is more appealing especially to kids who might be apprehensive about the idea of a Reverse Santa Claus.

Next I did the audio version (which I will go into more detail in the next question) and then the book’s Facebook page and website. As I write this I am just at the point of beginning to promote the book.

SMW: Yes, let’s talk about the Audio Version. You did something very creative and added an audio recording to your product list.  How did you do this?

Dennis: That was a late development. It came about because in about early October I thought about the fact that I personally never read books, I always listen to them. And I wondered if I could get my book up on So I started researching it and I found that there were any number of firms who produce audiobooks. I also learned that will itself produce audiobooks through its Audible Creation Exchange (ACX). ACX really is an exchange were authors post their book online and solicit auditions from narrators. Authors can offer either to split the revenue with the narrator, or they can pay the narrator a fee per finished hour (pfh). Typical pfh fees are $200-$400. One finished hour is usually equivalent to about 10,000 words, so my book would be about 2.5 finished hours.

I posted my book and listened to about 30 auditions. I couldn’t find exactly what I was looking for so I went to and listened to everyone who had narrated A Christmas Carol and found the version of that story that I like the best. By sheer luck the narrator that I like the best – Simon Vance – was available through ACX. He’s one of’s most popular narrators, and he agreed to do my story, which I guess means he liked it. The producer finished the story, I paid him (since I went the pfh route), they uploaded the files to ACX and about two weeks later, yesterday afternoon (November 17 2012), the book became available for purchase on

The audio version is my favorite version of the story. Simon Vance dies a really great job of bringing the characters to life. As I mentioned above It’s also the version that most easily lends itself to families enjoying the story together.

SMW: I loved working on this book! But, for people who haven’t had a book coach before, can you tell us how MBT assisted you in the process?

Susie, this book just would not exist without My Book Therapy. I am so glad I brought the story to you! I remember thinking when I sent you my first draft of the story that I had really gotten just about everything out of it that I could. When I compare the first draft of 10,000 words that I sent you last December 7, with the final draft of 25,000 words, they are almost 2 completely different stories, and the second one is orders of magnitude better than the first.

At a high level, you recognized Marmel’s potential as a character, and because of your suggestions I had so much fun with him and he really does make the story. Anyone who reads the story will see that. You also gave me ideas for a number of scenes that really filled out the story and of course every time we talked about the story you stressed “storyworld! Storyworld! Storyworld!” You found a lot of places where I could help the reader see how I envisioned the story’s setting.

So My Book Therapy is a crucial part of whatever success I have with this book.

SMW: Aw.  Thanks.  YAY!  So, what advice would you give to aspiring authors who might want to consider self-publishing?

First of all, don’t try to do it without a professional editor. You can get good ideas from friends and family, but they can’t do for you what a professional editor can do. If you have a good idea for a story get a professional editor to make sure that you get the most out of your idea.

As you can see from my answer to the above question, I recommend My Book Therapy wholeheartedly.

Also recognize that getting a book from the point where you have the idea to the point where it is really ready for the market is a long and time-consuming process. You’re really going to have to work hard at it. Think of it almost like taking on at least a part-time job.

SMW: It’s taken about a year from start to finish  – I’ll be you’re excited to see it hit the shelves!  How does someone buy South Pole Santa? as a Kindle e-book at this link: as a paperback at this link: as an audiobook at this link:


Also, my website is:


My Facebook page is:!/SouthPoleSantaStory?fref=ts


SMW: Awesome.  Go out and get the book – I definitely recommend the audio version, but if you would love to just snuggle up and read to your family, then pick up the book.  The cover is delightful – (Matt Jones does fabulous work) and the illustrations really add a keepsake element to the story.  It’s a keeper.

Have a fabulous Thanksgiving weekend!

Susie May

P.S.  To check out our book coaching services, click here: