Category Archives for Author Q&A

A Journey through Writing Competitions

Are you looking for a way to jump-start your written words? Earning recognition in a writing contest is one way to create buzz for your book or credibility for your brand. A winning entry will give you a sense of accomplishment and a needed boost of motivation for the next project on your list. It may even open some marketing doors for you.

The Contest Landscape

Contests come in all shapes and sizes—some without entry fees, some aimed at book promotion, others designed to attract content for the sponsor. Some competitions even provide feedback to entrants or prize money for winners. Niche contests may specialize in e-books, short stories, poetry, novels, or literary fiction. Whatever material you offer, a contest awaits your submission.

More than cost alone, your goals should help determine the right program to enter. A contest with a category that matches your content will increase your chances of winning. You can assess various contests by comparing their websites. If you’re a self-published author seeking national exposure, this article from Publishers Weekly includes a list of leads to get you started.

Writing competitions will cost you time and money. Therefore, consider whether your marketing budget has better opportunities elsewhere before entering. After all, your work may not win. Even if your flawless piece will impress most readers, a contest judge may not like it. As writers, we know that our content will not appeal to everyone, regardless of its quality.

Our Story of Traversing the Landscape

Shortly after publication in 2016, my wife, Debbie, and I entered our book Wheels of Wisdom in a few contests. We’ve cycled thousands of miles throughout America and lived to tell about it. The book is very personal to us because it carries a unique message of hope and encouragement based on God’s work in our lives. It had come through the publication process with what felt like divine favor.

Contributors, endorsers, and early reviewers had encouraged us greatly. Among those contributors was Erin Casey of My Writers Connection, whose direction early on helped focus the content and improve the writing substantially. We came to believe strongly in our project and wondered if it might have broad appeal. Consequently, we were willing to invest in a couple of contests to see if it would place. When the National Indie Excellence Awards selected it as the winner in their Inspiration category, we decided to enter it into more contests—after we got over the shock, that is.

Each time the book placed in a contest, we had another opportunity to renew promotion for it. In effect, the accolades extended the launch time frame. We had news to share with media. I prepared a news release at selected intervals to create buzz for the book. Some media outlets responded favorably and chose to run an article or an interview.

In our case, the awards have been a stimulus, creating promotional opportunities, strengthening our brand, and encouraging us to push forward with more projects. Despite the honors, however, book sales to date have been hard to come by. Nevertheless, we’ve received intangible benefits from these awards that have justified the investment.

Taking the Trip Yourself

If your entry wins a contest, don’t expect a spike in sales or agents to come pounding at your door. While the recognition can enhance discoverability, an increase in sales may or may not follow. Before proceeding, I’d encourage you to read The Truth about Book Awards to manage your expectations.

Successful placement in writing competitions can invigorate your writing career and persuade you that your creativity has value. Unless you’ve already landed in the small pool of authors who have achieved success and notoriety through sheer skill, hard work, and persistence, you’ll find the recognition from an award to be of infinite value as you tell the world your story. God has appointed certain readers for it. You are responsible not only to write the story with excellence but also to help connect it to the select few. Writing competitions are one more tool to help you find them.


At age 52, Tim Bishop left a successful career as a corporate treasurer, married his dream girl, and embarked with her to parts unknown—on bicycles. Tim and Debbie have since coauthored four books about their midlife bicycling adventures. Their latest, Wheels of Wisdom, has won eight book awards, including four 1st-place finishes. Publishers Weekly dubbed the book “a roadmap for life.” The Bishops bring a strong Christian foundation to their inspirational, self-help books.

In addition to his writing and publishing endeavors, Tim volunteers as a “HopeCoach” on TheHopeLine, a help service for young people who are struggling with life issues. Tim is a three-time Maine chess champion, a CPA, and a consultant for small businesses. In 2014, he penned and published a business book, Hedging Commodity Price Risk. He is still out to prove that the writing contest he won as a college freshman was not a fluke. The Bishops blog at

Author Q&A with Denis Sheeran

sheeranDenis Sheeran is currently the Supervisor of Mathematics, grades K – 12 in Chatham, NJ and adjunct mathematics professor at the County College of Morris in Randolph, NJ.  Denis has a B.A. in Mathematics Education, a Master’s in Educational Leadership, and is a Level 2 Google Certified Educator.

Prior to moving back to NJ, he taught high school mathematics for 13 years in Lake Forest, IL. Denis has provided professional development to schools and conferences across the country.

Thanks, Denis, for sharing your thoughts with us!

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Author Q&A with Jen Forsthoff

I love all my authors. Truly.  I love that they are brave and generous enough to share their wisdom, experience, passion, knowledge, hopes, and imagination with the world. And each time a client becomes a brand-new author, I feel a little like a proud momma at graduation.

Jen Forsthoff makes me especially proud. Aside from being a joy to work with, Jen’s desire to help others is evident in every chapter of her new book, Chosen for Charlie. So imagine my delight when I received a text with a picture of her and sweet little Charlie holding the first copy of their book. Continue reading

Tea and Takeaways from Bestselling Author Nora Roberts

Prolific. What else would you call an author who publishes four to six novels annually?

I suppose you could also call Nora Roberts wealthy since her books consistently and almost instantly hit the New York Times bestsellers lists.


Tea at Ashford Castle in Cong is as beautiful as it is tasty.

I got to meet Nora (she called me Erin, so I guess we’re on a first-name basis) at Ashford Castle in Cong, Ireland, and was oddly star-struck. Odd because, although I’ve met quite a few celebrity-status authors, I felt absolutely giddy to have the opportunity to have afternoon tea with Nora…and a couple hundred other people. I was so excited, in fact, that my friend and I arrived early and snagged a seat at the front table. (Early is a big deal for me; just ask my husband.)

Afterwards, when her UK editor at Little Brown told me that Nora (aka J.D. Robb) publishes at least four books a year (she’s releasing a total of five in 2014), I almost choked. That’s a LOT of writing and a massive amount of discipline. There’s another descriptor to attribute to this impressive and totally approachable author. Continue reading

Author Q&A with Andrew Gilmore

Andrew-GilmoreI recently read Do No Work by Andrew Gilmore and loved it. Well-written and professionally presented, this self-published ebook provides an excellent example of sharing one’s message in a thoughtful, credible way. (I’m already looking forward to his next book.) Andrew says he wrote the book to “help Christians beat down stress and draw nearer to God through the study and proper application of the Sabbath commandment.” And it’s clear  through the book that he learned a great deal about the subject in the research and writing process.

Thanks, Andrew, for sharing your insights and experiences as a writer.

Q. What events, places or other writers have influenced your work?

A. Too many to list! But without Ernest Hemingway, I’m not sure if I’d be answering these questions today. After reading The Sun Also Rises for the first time, I knew I had to be a writer.

Other writers who have impacted me are Ravi Zacharias and Jon Acuff.

Q.  What books are you currently reading?

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Author Q&A with Kristen Eckstein

Kristen Eckstein, the “Book Ninja,” spends the bulk of her time helping people get their books in print through Ghost Publishing–a term she coined to define her exclusive done-for-you independent publishing program, “I am Published!” When she isn’t working with her publishing clients, she loves to read, write and share her experience with others. She is two time best-selling author and award-winning international speaker, and someone we consider a dear friend.

Thanks, Kristen, for sharing your thoughts with us! Continue reading

Author Q&A with Jen McDonough

Jen McDonough is a motivational speaker, mom, wife and author. Her inspirational books share personal stories of challenge and triumph. In her new book, Living Beyond Awesome, Jen offers a glimpse into her life as a self-described “couch potato mom” who decided to participate in an Ironman Triathlon. Certainly, experiencing that adventure firsthand isn’t something everyone wants to do, but regardless of their athletic inclination (or lack thereof) her readers learn valuable life lessons that apply to every area of success. Jen offers the encouragement: If I can do it, you can, too. We think that message applies to writing as well athletics!

Thanks, Jen, for being our guest on!

Q. What events, places or other writers have influenced your work? Continue reading