Southern Authors Ready to Send Books to Libraries Damaged by Sandy

Images from hurricane Sandy are in and they are heartbreaking. Our Northern brothers and sisters have been hit hard. Homes destroyed. Unimaginable loss. Desperation.  It is during these times that we feel helpless asking, “What can I do?”

Photo credit: Reuters/Adreeslatif

We empathize with those who have lost everything and those working hard to restore the area. We understand that compensation from insurance companies will come, but may not cover all the damage.  That is why many churches and schools are hosting food drives, delivering water, food, batteries and love-filled hugs. The Red Cross is boots-on-the- ground as are our military and regular everyday folk who just want to help. For those who can give financially, please do so either to the Red or Because We Care Ministries who arrived in New Jersey days ago.  I mention these three charities because I personally know people who work there and because there have been reports of people with less than noble intentions are already taking advantage of folk. C’mon now. Let’s work together.

Today I write asking  my fellow authors and readers to participate in a book drive. Realizing that times are tight and some people can not write a check; I urge authors, book reviewers, and readers to give what they already have . . . copies of books. Plenty of helpers will rebuild neighborhoods, but who will help the libraries? Prior to this storm, libraries had already experienced deep cuts; they were doing more than ever with limited resources.  That is why I need your help.

If you are an author, please help me send copies of your work to Sandy victims. If you are a reader or book reviewer and have books in PRISTINE condition, you can help also.  I am one woman on a mission to give books to those in need. This little project is not a quick fix. Yes, I realize that people need homes, but they will also need books. I figure if students can send coats, authors and readers can send books. If we all do what we can then every little bit will help. This book drive is my “little bit.” My hope is that every person reading this post will send at least one book. Wouldn’t that be wonderful?

When I mentioned this idea to local booksellers and my NYT author friends, I quickly realized that southern authors and readers were ready to ship tons of books to our friends up North. I have collaborated with George Eberhart, Editor of American Libraries Magazine who kindly helped me locate libraries in need of assistance. If you are inclined to help please send me your information and I will forward the mailing address of the library that is in need. If you’re an author, or library staff, my goal is to build a relationship that benefits readers.

For Librarians and Media Specialists along the coast: North Carolina, New Jersey, Long Island, Delaware.  If  Sandy damaged your library and you would like to add books to your permanent collection, please contact me using the address below.

Authors, readers, and book reviewers: Please follow the instructions and include all information requested  to add your title to the list.

Add your name to the list using the contact information below.

Please email me at: Reneawrites(at)gmail(dot)com.

PLEASE, DO NOT SHIP BOOKS TO ME! Contact me through the above email.

Authors, please include the title, ISBN, CIP, Genre, URL link and, of course, contact information. Readers and reviewers, I just need contact your information.

From my heart to yours, thank you. Remember, every book counts.

Renea Winchester is the award-winning author of In the Garden with Billy: Lessons about Life, Love & Tomatoes.  In 2012, she was named the Atlanta Pen Women Author of the Year.   She is passionate about literacy. When she isn’t writing, she shelves books at the public library. She is currently seeking representation for her third book In the Kitchen with Billy: Farming, Friends & Fried Bologna Sandwiches, and her first novel currently in progress.  Visit her at To learn about Pen Women in your area click here.

Book Launch: The Beginning of Your Journey

Many self-published authors fail to understand the impact a book launch has on future sales. Some may not even know what a book launch is (insert gasp!). So let me rewind just a second. A book launch is perhaps the single most important event in the life of your work, a birthday if you will, a coming out party, where you announce to the beauty of your newborn. Please, do not publish a title without first planning a launch.

What do I need? Every book deserves a book launch (or three). This grand event is one of joy, excitement, and of course…sales. Those who have read Stress-free Marketing: Practical Advice for the Newly Published Author know that it takes approximately two months to plan an adequate launch. You need to reserve a venue, plan for light refreshments, speak to friends who take photos, and —don’t forget—make certain you have enough copies of your work on hand.

Imagine selling 250 copies of your title. That is what happened during my book launch.

Finding a Venue: Since I am a North Carolina native, and also lived in Tennessee for an extended period of time, and currently live in Georgia, my first title: In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes had three separate launches, one for each state. Find a venue that either compliments your character, or the theme of your book. Listen to your characters, they will tell you where to hold their birthday party.

Launching your book doesn’t have to be fancy.

Setting a Budget: Be realistic about sales and set a budget. Notice that the “sign” for the Billy launch is hand-made and attached to his truck. Refreshments were popcorn and lemonade, all perfect for a garden book launch.

Confused?: If all of this seems overwhelming, consider asking an independent bookseller for help. That being said, do not…repeat not contact them two weeks prior to the release demanding that they work with you. Business people need advance notice, and time to acquire your title. If you are self-published you will need to partner with the seller, not try to boss them around (trust me, that happens). Refer to Stress-free Marketing; Practical Advice for tips on how to approach booksellers, and also read these two post about approaching booksellers the wrong way, and approaching them the correct way.

Invitations: Mail post-card size invitations to the list of contacts you have acquired. Include a link to your website, and these important words, copies of the book will be available for purchase.

Standing room only and sell out book launches can happen. I’m living proof.

 Don’t forget: On the day of the event, don’t forget to have change for those who will pay with cash and a way of taking credit card payments unless you have specified on the invitation that payment will be accepted by cash or check.

These are just a few of the things one needs to have a successful launch. Once the day has ended you will also need to use the photos taken at the event to generate publicity to keep the momentum and excitement about your book progressing.

Keep writing dear ones.

Renea Winchester is an award-winning author who is currently working on her third book. When she isn’t writing she volunteers at the local library. Visit her at www.reneawinchester. Or Twitter at: Reneawinchester

Welcome to those New to Facebook Timeline

For the nonconformists who thought they could hide from Facebook and escape the required Timeline let me say, “Welcome. I feel your pain.”

With the old system, you could easily find posts made by your friends, but with Timeline users are given more control over who can see what. This means that you (and your friends) must identify the depth of your relationship in order to receive the latest posts. Failing to do this crucial step means the all-knowing Facebook computer will overlook your posts and bury them below others it views as more important.

Those with Timeline who may have wondered, “where are Renea’s posts?” This is why. All users must tell Facebook’s mother computer the posts they wish to see. To do this visit your friend’s page, hover over the word “Friends”  and click the words “Close Friends.” You can also identify people as an Acquaintance, or other group such as  friends who live nearby.

In order to view posts, you also need to click “Show in News Feed.” An important point is that your friend must also do the same for you. If they do not, your posts will fall behind others the computer systems identifies as having a higher priority. If you have a friend who posts every twelve seconds you might want to designate them as an acquaintance or opt out of showing them in the news feed.

As an author, I meet many people while traveling and conducting workshops, therefore I communicate with a variety of “friends” who –most likely- do not share a common relationship with other Facebook users. Unfortunately, Facebook frowns upon users who send friend requests to people who are outside a circle of friends. (I know, that statement doesn’t even make sense does is?) Apparently some people have so much time on their hands that they randomly try to friend as many people as possible. Now if you meet someone and wish to connect with via Facebook, you should type a message along with your friend request. Failing to do so could result in the system identifying you as a spammer. Also, having unaccepted friendship requests (request that go unanswered) can also label you as a spammer. If that happens, Facebook will block your ability to make new friends for 30 days.

Insert frown.

I think the biggest feature that I miss with the new Timeline is the posts. I feel disconnected now, unable to reach out to as many people as I once did and for that I remain discouraged. Others must feel the same way as I have noticed a dramatic decrease in comments and “likes” to posts.

In the end, aren’t we creatures of habit? Aren’t our eyes programmed to search the same place on the screen for updates? Do we really have time to learn a new system?

I can’t recall what was so spectacular about the new Timeline, and that speaks volumes. So welcome, those who were forced to accept the Timeline. Months after I switched, I am still as confused as ever. Remember to designate me as a “Close Friend” and “Show in News Feed” and I will do the same for you.  At least we can feel lost and confused together.

To learn more about the Timeline features visit Facebook’s blog here.

Renea Winchester is the award-winning author of Stress-free Marketing: Practical Advice for the Newly Published Author and In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes. She travels throughout the South teaching emerging authors how to market their books. She is available for individual and group consultations. Visit her at


Questions About Keeping the Books

Recently a reader in Tennessee asked:

If I am doing a booksigning at a retail place (bookstore or other shop) what percentage of my profit must I share?

Do I have to charge sales tax? Do I have to keep track of the taxes?

First, let me clarify that my advice should never  replace that of a CPA. Consult a professional in your area with your individual concerns. Most Accountants will offer a free consultation. Please know that all income received from book sales are subject to Federal Income Tax, and probably (depending on where you reside) State Income Tax as well.

You didn’t think about that part of being an author?  Oopsie, best call the CPA immediately, if not sooner.

Authors are business professionals. They are operating a business and providing a service. Seek the advice of someone who can explain when you should form an LLC or an INC. In the beginning you can report your earnings without much difficulty when filing annual income taxes. However, if you wish to accept credit cards using those fancy cell-phone scanning devices, you will need a business account in which to deposit the funds. The bank will require an FEIN number. You will also need a business account for PayPal transactions.

As an aside, I do not accept credit card payments, the fees eat into a thin profit margin.

In order to open a business account you will need to visit the local Secretary of State website and open an account. Expect to invest approximately $200.00 for proper documentation, even if you do the paperwork yourself. If you live in the city, you may also need a business license; say goodbye to another $100.00. Each require an annual filing fee which is smaller than the initial investment. A CPA can do this for you, but it will cost you approximately a thousand dollars total. Before you make that investment please send me a personal message through my website for a response based on your individual need.

Question One:What percentage of profit must I share?

If you are traditionally published, your publisher takes care of this by entering into an agreement with book distributors such as Baker & Taylor or Ingram’s. I strongly discourage authors from entering into consignment agreements with business owners because in these economic times a business can be here today and gone tomorrow. If you insist upon placing books in someone else’s store, do so only after both have a signed a written consignment contract. Most stores expect to receive 30 to 50% of the retail price of your book.

I will pause while veteran authors laugh. Go ahead, we’ll wait.

Veteran authors are painfully aware that no one  receives 30-50% of the retail price. As the author you should kindly explain this to those kind enough to shelve your book. The printer gets paid first, then the distributor takes a cut; the publisher takes a cut; the book must be shipped (and possibly returned); and that leaves very little (12-15% if you are lucky) for the author, AND the bookseller.

Sales Tax: When money changes hands a “legal sale”  transpires. You, the author, are responsible for collecting and then reporting this sale (rate and reporting deadline vary depending per state) to the Department of Revenue. Failure to report sales will result in hefty, compounded-daily fees. Educate yourself on this process. Authors require a sales-tax id number and a calendar reminder to report sales each month. Sales must be reported, even if they are zero, every month. In Georgia, failure to report a “zero sale” month results in a $ 50.00 fine.

When a bookstore makes a sale they collect, and report, that sale to the Department of Revenue. No action is required from you regarding sales tax.

When an online distributor sells your book, either hardcopy or electronic copy, they collect sales tax. No action is required from you regarding sales tax.

Federal Tax: Royalty checks both from your publisher or any other seller, do not include a deduction for Federal Income Tax.  If book sales exceed the IRS limit, your publisher, who is acting as your employer, will send a 1099. If not, you will report this income as “miscellaneous.”  If income from book sales is a large amount, it might be wise to report income quarterly and pay Income tax quarterly versus writing a hefty check in April.

Record keeping:Emerging Authors will realize that having an account of every sale and expense is imperative. Most word processing programs include a spreadsheet such as Excel. Here you will log every expense from paper to postage stamps; number of books ordered to packaging supplies. You will also log sales, returns and hopefully royalties.

Thank you for the question. I hope my response helps.

Renea Winchester is an award-winning author. She leads marketing workshops for emerging authors and is available to speak to groups as well as personalized individual consultations. Visit her at


Patience and Perseverance

By Anju Gattani

No one said writing was easy. No one said publishing was any easier. No one said an M.A. or an MFA validates that you are/your work is suitable for publication. No one follows the rules of writing (there are none) in much the same way no one guarantees that you follow the rules (of writing) only to break them. And yet writers continue to write in the hope that they will one day be published. Why?

I thought about this for a long time while rewriting, revising and re-editing (sometimes all at once) the debut novel in my ‘Winds of Fire’ series, DUTY AND DESIRE. However, none of the ambiguity held me back because of the reason that propelled me in the first place – my love for storytelling. As far as I can remember, I’ve always loved to tell stories – tall tales were my favorites. However, after succeeding at writing (and being published internationally) in short fiction, feature, travel and parenting columns I knew the larger challenge lay ahead – writing the fiction novel. What I didn’t know—and am still grateful for—is the 9-journey to follow and the slam of rejections just waiting to sock me. I learned very quickly that rejections were aimed at my work—not me—despite the truth that I had poured my heart, soul and blood (me) in the writing of the story I learned very quickly to laugh at myself, pump a little humor in my writing life and build on friendship with others like myself who couldn’t not write. I learned to navigate the watery abyss of publishing and steer on with the one reason that propelled me in the first place – my love for storytelling.

As far as I can remember I’ve always loved to tell stories – tall tales were my favorites. So I continued to research, work with professionals from various industries (2 of India’s leading fashion designers, a Pilates instructor and doctor from the UK) and fill the story with details. I learned the art and craft of technique, style and honed my writing voice until I could no longer hear myself. I continued to flesh out characters so that they stole the show and moved their story forward. I learned to integrate plot, pacing and weave descriptions so that it all appeared seamless. And all this required patience. Years and years of patience and perseverance. But most of all it required an inner strength and determination to go on and believe in the story. How could I not? I had too many people, including my husband and kids, believing in me.

As far as I can remember I’ve always loved to tell stories – tall tales were my favorites. And now I’ve just told another one. However, this one, I hope, will encourage you to turn the pages of a novel… perhaps one you’ve written or one you have to read or better yet, one that’s a work-in-progress. It doesn’t matter. What does matter are the millions of stories out there that have already been told and millions still waiting to do so. It takes patience to write. It takes patience to read. But more so it takes patience and perseverance to believe.

Anju has lived in Singapore, Australia, India, New Jersey and Connecticut. She now makes her home in Atlanta, Georgia, with her husband and two kids. Anju is a columnist for a multicultural magazine in the USA. She is also an avid guest blogger, who loves to share her experiences in health and fitness, food, self-empowerment and great fiction reads.

Duty and Desire is her first novel.

Visit Anju at

Expressing Yourself!

Recently I attended a workshop where someone asked the question: “How many exclamation marks should my manuscript contain?”

The instructor replied: “Before I answer that question,  tell me how many your manuscript contains.”

“Approximately one hundred and thirty.”

The (multiple-award-winning) instructor’s response: “That’s one hundred twenty-nine too many.”


Recently I edited a chapter in which the words “of course,”  appeared eight times. 

After reading the chapter I wondered, what in the world was this author thinking?

Unfortunately, the author was me!!!!

Don’t you hate it when you read something you have written and then wonder, what in the world was I thinking?

Of course. Upon re-reading the work I realized that the phrase was, of course, completely unnecessary.

So are most exclamation marks! Especially sentences where the author uses multiple marks as a way to really express emotion!!!!!

Our job as the author, and storyteller,  is to choose words that adequately express emotion. While it is grammatically correct to write: “Watch out!” It isn’t necessary to decorate emotional dialogue with punctuation as in the example below:

“No!” I screamed as Angela inched closer to the edge. “Stop!”

While reaching toward her I said, “Take my hand!”

Shaking her head, Angela took another step backward. “Stay away from me!”

“Please!!! Don’t do this! You mean too much to me!”


Be honest, didn’t you get tired of seeing an exclamation mark at the end of every sentence?

Of course you did.

Readers quickly tire of exclamation marks and repeated phrases (which my critique group calls “an echo”).

Using a yellow, orange, pink, and light blue highlighter, re-read your work and mark phrases that repeat and unnecessarily punctuation. Then take a moment to review how much color appears on the pages. You might , of course, wish to remove every single word that doesn’t strengthen your manuscript.

As always, I welcome your comments.

Blessings and bestsellers to you!

Renea Winchester is an award-winning author of the book In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes, (Little Creek Books 2010) and Stress-free Marketing: Practical Advice for the Newly Published Author (Make Your Mark Publishing 2011). Visit Renea’s website at and her other blog at