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Boot Camp Year-End Report

Book Elves Boot Camp got off to a great start this year in May with a RISE Austin session featuring Thomas Umstattd, Jr. revealing secrets to an amazing author website. Throughout the year we were honored to have such knowledgeable speakers as Stephanie Barko, David Fried, Jenny Magic, Joey McGirr and Lynn Scheurell cover a wide variety of topics to help writers  identify their target reader, navigate the editing process, effectively market their book and much more.

As we look forward to 2014, we have decided to transition from local workshops to online formats such as webinars, podcasts and videos in an effort to expand our reach and provide the wealth of knowledge and insight of our partners to a much larger audience. We are very excited about what lies ahead and can’t wait to get our little hands dirty to make make it all happen for you, our clients and friends.

Be watching for lots of new things in the coming months as we get up to our elfin elbows in a more multimedia approach to bringing you even more knowledge and information about bringing your message to the world.

Subscribe to the Book Elves Newsletter to stay up to date on all the new cool stuff that will be coming from the Elves.

Thank you for a great 2013. Here’s to an even more amazing 2014!

Bio-Logical: What Your Author Bio Should Say About You

“[Your Name Here] did more to change the style of English prose than any other writer in the twentieth century….”

Okay, you’re not Ernest Hemingway. Yet, as a nonfiction author, your bio is essential to connecting with your readership.

Whether it appears on the back cover of your book, your website’s “About” page, or Amazon Author Central, your author bio establishes you as the person uniquely qualified to write your book. It can reveal a glimpse of you as a person—and may even spark a beautiful relationship with your audience, the press, and the influencers you most want to endorse your masterwork.

Marc Miller, who wrote Repurpose Your Career: A Practical Guide for Baby Boomers, says of his author bio, “It shows that I’ve walked the talk. I’ve made so many career transitions myself. It shows I have compassion.”

Cleverly, Miller included a short bio on his book cover and a more fleshed-out version in an “About the Author” page inside.

What goes into your author bio? It depends. If your book is a how-to or thought leadership piece, you’ll want your bio to establish your credentials and expertise. If it’s a memoir, your bio will tell why you are worth reading about.

Regardless of its primary goal, though, your bio should include these essentials:

  • Brief description of your work or life experiences that qualify you to write this book
  • Previously published books
  • Related awards
  • Publications that feature your work
  • Website/blog URL
  • Professionally shot photo
  • Your locale

Literary publicist Stephanie Barko suggests that you keep your bio’s word count low but use other cues to underpin your message. Match the tone of the bio to your personality and your book. Are you a humorous, fun-loving person writing about a light-hearted topic? A breezy bio carries the day. Even your head shot can speak volumes about you. Barko uses a series of animated poses that illustrate her lively, dynamic manner of expression.

Many accomplished writers are stumped when faced with writing their own bios. Barko says, “If you’re really scratching your head, have someone else write your bio.”

Miller concurs, commenting, “Most people are lousy at seeing themselves as others see them. They’re lousy at bragging about themselves, too! Construct a base outline, and hand it over to someone who knows you and writes well. By listening to you, this person can pick up themes and stories you’d never get to on your own.”

Barko observes that readership comes from increasingly varied sources. Help those readers find you by sharing a little bit of who you are through your author bio.



A longtime professional writer with a knack for storytelling, Julie Wickert has been communicating complex concepts to humans for more than 18 years. Julie started her writing career as a stand-up, face-to-face trainer (teaching technical drawing at a community college), so she is exceptionally sensitive to focusing on “what’s in it for me” for a given audience. She has written everything from the story of a family heirloom and its protective power on the battle fronts of four generations, to product briefs about industrial washing machines. A hometown Austin girl, Julie enjoys volunteering for several nonprofits around town (one of which is building an orphanage in Nicaragua), and hanging out with the dogs and men of her household. Visit her at TrueStoryCommuncation.com.

3 Steps to a Great Book Cover Design

We’ve all heard the saying, “Never judge a book by its cover.”  The reality of it is that’s exactly what happens. Your book is and will be judged by its cover.

Now the question is, “Which verdict is your book cover going to get?”

Will the browser be intrigued, render a “not guilty” verdict and make a purchase, or will your book cover be deemed “guilty” and banished forever? So how do you go about presenting a winning book cover that will get you the votes you need? Here are 3 steps to guarantee a great book cover.

1. Have an engaging visual or book title. You can have the visual and the title as a single element or as separate elements. Whichever route you take, it needs to be arresting. Keep in mind the purpose of the visual and/or title is to stop the browser FAST and entice them to read the rest of your copy. The most effective way to accomplish this is to ensure the visual and book title resonate with the reader emotionally.

2. Use a sub-title. When you use a very abstract title, it helps to have a sub-title. Think of the sub-title as the supporter; its role is to further entice the browser and explain the book title.

3. Include reviews, endorsements or testimonials. Research shows that about 60% of shoppers buy because of recommendations, so having a few of them on your cover helps to establish your creditability, making your case much more persuasive.

There are millions of books all competing for attention. Having the extra edge will always give you the advantage, and now you have three steps to give you a good chance of a “not guilty” verdict for your cover.


MamiSerwaa Amoakohene has been called “a visual interpreter,” “a visual problem solver.” Having the artistry to create designs that matches exactly what her clients had envisioned. Her 15 years in design, marketing and advertising has given her a knack for understanding and interpreting her clients needs and producing effective solutions.

As owner of 3Ps Graphical Solutions, a design and brand consulting firm, MamiSerwaa works closely with small to mid-size business and start-ups to help them identify their unique story/brand and assist them in crafting the right marketing and design solution for their specific target market. Her services ranges from print, package design, photography to digital/online marketing. She can be found most often teaching business owners how they can brand themselves.

Contact her at email@mamiserwaa.com or visit her at MamiSerwaa.com.

Beyond Writer’s Block: Three Steps to Pushing Through

By: Trish Lee

Photo Credit: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Anyone who has written has experienced the inevitable “writer’s block”. You are sitting at the computer or have a blank sheet of paper in front of you, desperate to pour forth greatness onto the writer’s version of a blank canvas. Your brain is screaming, “I don’t know what to write!” You are not alone.  It happens to all writers. It happened to me when I sat down to write this article. Whether you are a veteran writer or a novice, fret not. Here are three simple steps you can use to move past the writer’s block and get back on task.

1. Set a time to write and stick to it – It doesn’t have to be a lot of time. Take fifteen minutes in the morning while you drink your coffee. Or wait until the kids have gone to bed. Whenever you feel the most alert. Pick a time and schedule it on a regular basis to sit down and write.

2. Pick the low-hanging fruit – Whether you are writing a memoir, a business report or an instruction manual, the best place to start is the easiest place. What are you most comfortable with? What subject is floating around right there at the top of your brain that you could just skim off the surface and put it down on paper? Choose the easiest topic to write about. This may be difficult for the personality type that eats, sleeps and breathes order, but try it. It will be more productive than working on that outline for the next three weeks.

3. Just do it! – Borrowed from the Nike campaign, but it really works. You have set your time and picked your topic. Now it is time to write. Just sit down and free-write about your subject you have chosen at your chosen time. Don’t think about grammar or context. Just write. Grammar, context and all the other structural aspects of writing can be addressed later during the editing process.

Writer’s block can be admittedly frustrating, but it can be easily overcome. While it may seem “too easy” to follow these three steps, stick with it. You never know when, nestled somewhere amidst the low-hanging fruit, you will find the nugget around which you will craft your next masterpiece.

You have your marching orders! Go write!


NaNoWriMo: Fiction Writers Unite!

For the fiction writer, NaNoWriMo is part conference, part writing frenzy and part fun-fest. November is National Novel Writing Month, but don’t let the name fool you. It is actually an international annual phenomenon where hundreds of thousands of fiction writers from all over the world commit to write 50,000 of their own novel in 30 days.

NaNoWriMo is in its fifteenth year as a 501(c)(3) non-profit group organized to help inspire and encourage novelists of every skill level to write their little hearts out for the entire month of November. Last year, 341,375 writers participated as 648 volunteer Municipal Liaisons guided 586 regions on six continents by hosting/facilitating local workshops and events.

This year, over 500,000 participants from all seven continents are expected to take part. According to the NaNoWriMo website, “National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to creative writing.”

Who Can Participate?
NaNoWriMo participants must be 13 years of age or older. That is the only criteria. Participants include mechanics, out-of-work actors, teachers and people from all walks of life. Every skill level is encouraged to participate.

How Does it Work?
Writers sign up at NaNoWriMo.org and track their progress throughout the month. “Winners” are those who complete the full 50,000 words by the deadline on November 30th. There are no prizes awarded, but bragging rights as a NaNoWriMo winner and the sense of accomplishment for having completed such a task are their own rewards.

Writer Goods
The NaNoWriMo website includes a plethora of tools and resources to help writers stay on track and enjoy the 30-day ride, including:

  • PepTalks: Inspirational letters written by well-known authors delivered to your inbox. This year’s authors include James Patterson, Marie Lu, Lev Grossman, Holly McGhee and others;
  • NaNo Flair: Web graphics to help spread the word about your participation on your website or blog;
  • Sponsor Offers: Free and discounted goodies from 15+ sponsors;
  • Word Count Helpers: Stats and apps to help your word count;
  • Store: NaNo gadgets, gear and goodies.

Also featured on the website are over 50 writer forums to help you connect with other writers and moderators. Forum categories include NaNo Tips & Strategies, Life During NaNo, Resources & Writing Support, Genre Lounges, and NaNo Groups (age groups from teens to seniors, a military lounge, a group for newbies and more).

New for 2013
This year, NaNoWriMo has added several new features, including Twitter Coaches (5 published authors will take over the NaNoWriMo Twitter account as coaches to answer questions and cheer on participants), Come Write In (390 spaces including cafes, libraries and community centers will become local hangouts for creative writing through NaNoWriMo) and 30 Covers, 30 Days (graphic designers are partnered with NaNoWriMo writers to design covers for 30 novels being written during NaNoWriMo).

Austin NaNoWriMo Events
To tap into the local NaNoWriMo flow, visit NaNoWriMo Austin for information on local workshops, regional forums, links to Austin chat rooms and Austin Twitter, and the Austin area Come Write In calendar.

To sign up and get more information, visit NaNoWriMo.org.

Happy writing!

FRIDAY FUN FACT: da Vinci’s Dual Talents

A perhaps little-known fact about Leonardo da Vinci is that he could write with one hand and draw with the other at the same time.

The NaNoWriMo Workshop – October 16th

November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). NaNoWriMo is an annual writing event where authors are challenged to complete a 50,000 word novel between November 1st and November 30th. Writers from around the world participate in this exciting and fast-paced contest.

Three-time NaNoWriMo Winner David Umstattd will be our featured speaker for the October Book Elves Boot Camp on October 16th. David will discuss tips to maximize your participation in NaNoWriMo, including:

  • How to write first drafts
  • How to write quickly
  • How to overcome writer’s block
  • What to do once you’ve finished your novel

David will be joined by his brother, Thomas Umstattd, Jr., CEO of Author Media, an Austin-based company specializing in creating custom websites and online resources for authors.

If you are a fiction writer, even if you do not intend to participate in NaNoWriMo, you do not want to missed this power-packed workshop. You will glean insight and inspiration from these two gifted speakers.

David Umstattd is a 7th generation Austinite who’s been writing fictions since he was eight. He started his writing career in earnest when he was sixteen and in the last nine years has written approximately 800,000 words of fiction, all while earning the rank of Eagle Scout, graduating from high school, and earning a degree in marketing at Baylor University. He’s a three-time NaNoWriMo winner, has written five first drafts, and owns an extensive Lord of the Rings trading card collection.

Thomas Umstattd Jr. built his first website at the age of 13 and taught his first web design class at only 16 years old. He has been helping authors and small businesses use the web ever since. Thomas currently serves as the CEO of Castle Media Group LLC, a company that builds websites for world changers.


Career Pivot Named to Forbes Top 100 List

Nothing thrills us more than seeing our clients and friends succeed. Such is the case with Marc Miller, author of Repurpose Your Career: A Practical Guide for Baby Boomers.

Marc’s website, Career Pivot, was recently named to the Forbes list of The Top 100 Websites For Your Career. The second annual listing compiles websites recommended by over 2,000 readers and includes such names as LinkedIn, Monster, Simply Hired, Salary.com and USAJobs to name only a few.

CareerPivot is a career design firm for Baby Boomers who want a change, but know you can’t just leap from one life to another. They work with you to design a strategy of manageable pivots toward a career you can grow with, one that will fulfill you for decades.

Book Elves congratulates Marc on his well-deserved recognition. We look forward to seeing what is next for this Book Elves client and author. Marc’s book, Repurpose Your Career: A Practical Guide for Baby Boomers, is available on Amazon.com.


How Social Media Can Give You R.E.A.C.H.

By: Joey McGirr

I’m often asked to illustrate the value of online social networks and with so many analogies to pull from it’s hard to find a consistent message for all scenarios. We have created a simple explanation used within our organization that answers our basic questions when working with any client. We have found this works well in all scenarios. Whether you’re an Architect, Realtor or an Author – This acrostic will work for you.

We call it R.E.A.C.H.

R = Reason: What is your REASON for using various online social networks? Your reason is your “WHY”. If your reason is not strong enough for you to keep at it until it eventually works, then you need to stop right here. Nothing you start will ever be perfect right out the gate. That is why we evaluate your Why right from the start.

E = Engage: Once we establish your Why, we move on to the “WHERE”. What is/are the best tool(s)/channel(s) for engaging your specific audience?  From your audience’s perspective, what is attractive and engaging enough about YOU to break through today’s information overload? Each channel is a noisy corridor of information. Be very specific and strategic about where you engage your audience.

A = Audience: Speaking of the audience, or “WHO”, who are you trying to REACH? What are their motives for responding? What is the quality of connection you have with them? Are they influential? Can you leverage your Audience? Will they buy your next book? Can you continue to grow your Audience through effective online networking?

C = Content: “WHAT” will your message be? As a writer, you should have developed a keen understanding of human communication through the written word. However, several Authors have done quite well to communicate through pictures and video. How can you get your audience interested in you through information/education? When will you have the best advantage for your content to be seen? How much of your paid content should be given away for free in an attempt to grow your Audience?

H = HOW: The most critical component is “HOW”. Once you really know why you’re networking online, where and who you’re network is, when to use the best tools and what to say, the only question that should remain (if you don’t already know) is HOW?

We have been testing this material out and it’s proven to be very effective. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Brad Closson for sparking the genius of the R.E.A.C.H. model.  At the end of the day, the real value of online social media networks is the REACH that it gives you.  What practical way can you see yourself using R.E.A.C.H. in your efforts to become everything you were intended to become?


Joey is a Southern California native Austin transplant, who loves helping people and making a difference. He is an entrepreneur. He enjoys getting around people who want to make a difference in the community they live. He has a strong affinity for movers and shakers and tends to stay pretty busy. He’s a personal branding enthusiast. He thinks there are just as many new ideas and perspectives as there are people on the planet and he wants to hear them all. He’s passionate about what makes us all different and how we can use those differences to come back together, larger than the sum of our parts. Learn more about Joey and his many endeavors at JoeyMcGirr.com. He is also the founder and CEO of McGirr Enterprises.

Book Elves Announces New Media Partners

They say, “You are who you associate with,” and at Book Elves, we know full well the value of surrounding ourselves with people who bring a wealth of skill and insight to the table. We have worked hard this past year to put together a solid team of partners who provide a full range of services to our clients in an effort to make the writing and self-publishing process flow as naturally as a mountain stream.

We are pleased to announce the addition of two new author media partners to the Book Elves Partners Team. Book Elves has negotiated special rates with both of these service providers that are available exclusively to our clients. These media packages are designed to provide you with professionally produced results at a significant savings.

AUTHOR VIDEOS by Video Profile Austin

When it comes to speaking about your book…really speaking about your book… no one can do justice to telling your story quite like you can. Video Profile Austin is a video marketing company specializing in producing affordable videos for businesses. They offer a model that features a professional shoot environment, reasonable pricing, and only a 50-minute time commitment. The special Book Elves Author Video Profile includes a one-minute professionally recorded and produced video. Your 50-minute session includes 25 minutes of coaching, hair and makeup and 25 minutes of the actual recording session.

ELECTRONIC MEDIA BOOK SERVICES by Gene Vasconi | Communication Arts Multimedia

Audio and video technology are revolutionizing the self-publishing world. From audiobooks to audio and video book promotion materials, making multimedia a part of your writing and publishing experience is an absolute must. Communication Arts Multimedia is an award-winning electronic/print media producer and has been providing electronic media projects for museums and businesses for over 20 years. Owner Gene Vasconi is a former television producer/director and communications trainer. The following special packages are available to Book Elves clients:

Audiobook Package
This is a single-voice recording of your book content onto digital medium using professional equipment (approximately 100 content pages and up to four one-hour sessions for recording – additional hours are billed separately). It includes basic audio presentation coaching during session(s), mix-down and editing into chapters/tracks for audiobook use and creation of a final audio CD master or creation of streaming content for web delivery.

Audio Promo Package
This package includes a three to five minute promotional segment in your voice. The recording will be written and created by Communication Arts and delivered on MP3 format for web use.

Video Book Trailer
This is a 30-60 second video written and produced by Communication Arts in a professional announcer voice. Music and/or sound effects will be included as needed. The video is graphic-based and delivered as .MOV (high definition) file for web use.

Watch for more details and pricing information on all the new media services coming soon. In the meantime, if you would like to discuss or have any questions about these services, please contact Trish Lee at trish.lee@bookelvespublishing.com. Both Video Profile Austin and Communication Arts Multimedia are scheduled to offer a brief introduction of their services during the September Book Elves Boot Camp on September 18th, where special guest speaker Joey McGirr of McGirr Enterprises will be presenting How Social Media Can Give You R.E.A.C.H. Click here for registration information.