"Required reading" for today's smart writer.

"Required reading" for today's smart writer.
As featured on: Pro Blogger, Men With Pens, Write to Done, Tiny Buddha, LifeHack, Technorati, Date My Pet, South 85 Literary Journal and other award-winning sites.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

How Being "Self-aware" Increases Success as a Writer!

Welcome back, readers!
It's great to return from my break. I hope you've enjoyed your summer so far.
Today's post provides tips to enhance your writing career that won't require a great deal of mental muscle or money.
As always, I welcome your comments, questions and suggestions.
If you're on board, let's get busy.

  "What you don't know can’t hurt you,” states a popular adage.

Perhaps in some aspects of life this may ring true: the secrets to your mom’s meatloaf recipe; your “real” current weight; the hidden mysteries to what your future holds--being in the dark about these things definitely won’t doom you.

But, when it comes to writing survival and success, “Knowledge is power.”
That's right. Self-awareness can serve like a compass to navigate your writer’s journey with fewer detours, offer less road blocks, and help you truly go the distance.

Additionally, the more you learn the more you’ll earn.
Let’s examine how self-awareness can enhance your creative career and your bottom line:


  • Establish your U.S.P. and maintain a competitive edge
  • Align your projects with your goals, passions and values
  • Become more purposeful
  • Save time and money due to “false starts”
  • Become more focused and strategic; thereby increasing your productivity
  • Make more informed decisions
  • Exercise greater objectivity
  • Partner with the best people

Here are a few examples of how self-awareness shows up in my writing life and makes me more successful and prolific, as opposed to just operating randomly (and blindly).

Some people thrive under pressure. I'm not one of them. Though I can handle "heat" I prefer not to. With this in mind, in order to produce at my best level and avoid unnecessary stress, I always work in advance of clients’ and editors’ deadlines.
Since I don’t like to spend a lot of time interacting on social media, (I consider myself more intellectual than social), I place XTRA effort on creating quality content on my blog. This in an effort to work smarter, not harder. How? As a result, fans and followers of my blog share my content in their vast “circles” and serve as “publicists” for my brand, in the absence of my own social media efforts. (By the way, thanks so much to those of you that do.You rock!)

Choosing the right clients and editors to work with can go a long way in terms of productivity, peace of mind, and profitability. Based upon past experience and previous projects, I recognize exactly which personality traits and work styles offer the most compatibility and the best prospects for collaborative success. Knowing this allows me to have less trial and error and greater client retention.
DON’T OPERATE IN THE DARK…Sadly, I witness so many passionate writers and bloggers that are clueless as to their true strengths and weaknesses and how to use this information to their advantage (surprisingly, even writers who have been writing for many years).

Blogs with little or no growth
Blogs with few or no comments
Goals unmet
Their refusal to take classes or read books that can increase
their creative I.Q.
Not hiring an editor before publishing their books
Focusing on the wrong genre

Don’t let this be you. To realize your full writing potential, below are 8 key areas you should know like the back of your hand (in no particular order):
    1. Your physiology and your most productive times (Are you an owl or lark?)
    2. Your stressors
    3. Your limiting beliefs and fears
    4. Your target audience (and their pain points)
    5. Your motivators
    6. Your competition
    7. Your creative “super powers”
    8. Your needed areas of improvement

    With this is mind, here are a few timely tips to help you know more, grow more, and operate from a place of greater wisdom and clarity:

Keep a journal.

Journals are great for documenting experiences, lessons learned, creative challenges, and future goals. Study it over time. Reflect. Assess. Observe patterns. Discover what has worked in the past and what didn‘t. Revisit. Revise.

 Get a second opinion.

Many times we lack objectivity in evaluating our own work. That’s why it’s smart to have a critique group, an editor, or a writer you admire to provide creative input. Even the Bible states: “The wise seek counsel.”

 Pay attention to what editors pay attention to.
Do they comment on your punctuation? Your grammar? Your flow? Do they praise your prose?
Is there commonality in their comments? Start here.

Here's how world-renowned writer, Warren Adler (War of the Roses author) views the role of self-awareness in his career: "When my self-awareness tells me I cannot fulfill my aspirations, I will quit cold."

In conclusion---

Don't let your ego get in the way of your excellence. You're better than that.
If your goal is to be "known" by  larger audiences, it's crucial that you get to know yourself better first---to offer them the best of you.

Thoughts here? Agree or disagree?
How has self-knowledge guided or influenced your career?  

Image credits: Pixabay.com

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

The Day Warren Adler Gave me a Needed "Nod" ...


The Power of Blogging


Blogging does more than build a writer’s platform; it constructs beautiful bridges that bond and connect people of all different races, classes, cultures, ideologies and intersections of life, like never before.

Although it doesn’t provide “Pulitzer” winning recognition, it can truly broaden one’s horizons, amplify a writer’s voice, and get you noticed in unexpected and significant ways.

Like the time I had the opportunity to “meet” world-renowned author, Warren Adler: best known for his block-buster movie, “War of the Roses.” Incidentally, a movie which I have loved over the years-- for its humor, candor, approach, and “moral of the story” factor.

At first, I thought it was a fluke. The email read: “Famous author seeks to guest post at your blog.” Yeah, right, I thought to myself. Convinced that this was one of those online scams, or possibly an early April Fool’s joke from one of my incorrigible friends with too much time on his hands.

Skeptical, I did what any good writer does. I researched it.

I called the number reflected within the email, totally expecting to encounter a disconnected number, fast food joint, or customer service representative for the Psychic Hotline.

Instead, the person on the other end of the phone immediately answered, “Warren Adler’s office, Steven speaking.” Once I picked my jaw off the floor and gained my composure, I said to him, “This may seem like a weird phone call, but my name is Jennifer Brown Banks, and I’m trying to verify the authenticity of an email I received from this office.”

Steven, it turns out, was Adler’s communications director, and was nicely able to solve the mystery and confirm things within five minutes. I was tickled pink that an author whose work I had long admired was aware of my work as well, and wanted to share his wisdom with my followers. Imagine that! “Of all the blog joints in town, he walks into mine...”


We emailed back and forth for a few days afterwards, which resulted in Adler making a “cameo appearance” at my blog in August of 2014, in a personal interview I conducted with him. Needless to say, it was definitely a pivotal point in my blogging career; something that I’ll treasure for years to come.


Through our connection, I learned many inspiring things that will ultimately serve me well, as I aspire to reach greater literary heights in the future. Like how it took Mr. Adler twenty five years to get his first novel published, and that he‘s very disciplined; writing from five to ten every morning.

How he even opted to self-publish some of his works, so that he would have greater creative control over the direction of his projects.

I also learned, that size DOESN’T always matter.

That even those of us with small social media followings or a short blogging career can attract a nod or a wink from some “big shots” and influential folks, if we are passionate about our art and write from our heart. If we truly have the courage to confront and express our own personal truths.
You just never know who's reading and paying attention. Hello?

Though I can’t say for certain, I envision, ( some time in the near future) rubbing elbows with influential authors and celebrities at an intimate dinner at Adler’s exclusive mansion. Snapping “selfies,” sipping on Dom Perignon and eating Grey Poupon.

As I eagerly await the day when his people call mine…

Hey, a girl can dream, can’t she?




Reminder note: Pen & Prosper will be on a summer hiatus from June 28th-August 28th. Have a great, safe summer.
See you soon!

Image: https://Pixabay.com



Saturday, June 24, 2017

Q & A With Author, Artist and Poet-Henry Jones

I'm happy to welcome to Pen & Prosper visual artist, author & Poet, Henry Jones. 
Our paths crossed over a decade ago, when we met and connected over our mutual love of poetry and the arts.
He's a super talented guy, who wears many creative hats well.
I had the opportunity to catch up with Henry recently, and am excited to share what I discovered via our interview.
Please make him feel welcome with your questions and comments, readers.

Hi, Henry. Thanks for joining us today.

Hi, Jennifer. Thank you for inviting me.

Q. Can you tell readers a little about who you are and your creative background?

Well, I’m an artist and a writer. I juggle both those worlds. I’ve been creating art and writing professionally for over 30 years. As a writer, I’ve published several books. My most recent one is a book of poetry, Run into Blackness: Feeling My Poetic Gumbo. Also, I’ve published many articles in magazines and newspapers. I stopped writing articles for about seven or more years. In April of this year, I published an article in NOU Magazine. I guess I’m back somewhat. I had to write that article because it was about a cancer survivor. That disease killed several of my family members and friends. My editorial background includes: PREVAIL Magazine, The Stethoscope, Purpose Magazine, N4ART Newsletter, Blacks n Asia Magazine, and a few others. My art past includes exhibitions, book covers, some sculpture, commercial art graphics, set designs and other visual projects. I tend to keep busy with anything related to art or writing.

Q. Many may not know that you are truly a renaissance man. You have won various awards for poetry, art, etc. what is your favorite form of artistic expression? And why?

This interview was going well until you asked that question! J I don’t have a favorite. I look at artistic expression almost like our children. My wife and I have three children. We don’t have a favorite. We love them each, because they are each unique individuals. Even their views and approaches to things are different. They are extensions of us, but their own. Do you see what I mean? My art and words are like siblings who argue sometimes but are both from the same love. I love them both but sometimes I must write instead of paint or vice versa. So, as a creative person, my function is to share my expression the best that I can AND to improve on those expressions so they may have a possible impact on others lives. I want people to feel and remember.
Interesting explanation, Henry. I can dig it.

Describe a typical day.

That doesn’t exist. My days involve many episodes of creative chaos. I’m a list maker which helps. If I see what I must do, it will get done. There are usually various projects to complete or deadlines to reach. It’s nothing like the Hollywood image of being an artist or a writer. It’s hard to do what you love and make some money doing it. Hard, but not impossible. I want to be a laid back creative type but there are priorities to be done. So, if there’s anything typical or regular it’s my brew.

Q. How about your caffeine addiction…Coffee or tea?

Yes, I’m an addict of caffeine and coffee is my source. I drink tea, but not too often. I believe I was 12 years old when I had my first cup of java. Now, starting my day with a strong cup of coffee is a daily ritual to meditate about the day and decisions.

Henry Jones @ Book signing

Q. What inspires your muse?

I’m inspired by people and society. After a child figures out how to move fingers, hands, legs and head, thinking begins. A child begins to wonder about the objects in the world. Humans and other creatures must question and understand what’s food and nonfood. So, you hear these children ask questions such as What is that? Why is that? Where did so-in-so come from? We give them answers the best we can and eventually those children become adults and believe they know themselves and the world. I’m still very stupid...well, I’m ignorant. I want to know and understand but look for sources. So, my creative mind digs and digs until some insight emerges. It may come from my personal experiences, from others who I’ve known or met, or historical or cultural events. I don’t do anything generic. If you ask me to paint a flower, I can and will but that isn’t my journey. So, my ultimate inspiration is to find the answers to the many questions I have. I hope to never silence that inner child because he still finds life and our world exciting.

Q. What’s your proudest accomplishment to date?

I guess the best way to answer that is to say the last project I completed. I’m proud of what was done. Recently, I participated in a program funded by A THRIVE grant from the Nashville Arts Commission. This program was the idea of Lydia Cook, a poet, who coordinated the program called Beautiful Brown Faces (BBF). I love Cook’s poetry it’s intense and reaching deeply. I understand and feel it. I must admit when she explained to me the idea for her program I was a little confused. So, at first I didn’t see her vision. In the program, I was a visiting artist and poet sharing and teaching a group of teenagers. They got into my material I brought. It’s difficult to grab and keep teens’ attention sometimes. I was one of several poets and others who brought elements of the bring the arts in BBF. The teens appreciated the program. Lydia’s idea worked. An anthology was published which contained art and poetry from the program. That book solidified a lot of what was taught and experienced in BBF. I’m proud I was able to reach those young minds and of the contributions of all of us creative folks in it.

Q. How can other creative artists survive the “feast or famine” cycles associated with this line of work? Any suggestions here?

It’s difficult to find work BUT not impossible. Persistence is very important. You must have faith. Also, gratitude is essential. Send a sincere “thank you” card. Such little things go a long way. And believe in yourself because there will be many people and situations to discourage you. You’ll get tired, discouraged and broke. You must have a powerful way to rise above that. With that in mind, it’s very important to surround yourself with people who believe in what you’re doing. People who say, “Writing isn’t a real job” or “Go get a real job,” aren’t the types of people to have near.

Creative work, that intellectual and emotional pursuit, has value. Some people will value your work as long as it’s free. That’s so disrespectful and arrogant. What they do is more important and should be paid but as a writer or an artist, we should get a side gig until that BIG break. There is no BIG BREAK. There’s only work and you should get paid as long as you do the job. That’s universal for any job. If you ask people in other professions to do something for “exposure” they’ll think the idea is nuts. They want to be paid. But writers, artists and other creative people do this and some think it’s okay. It’s not. They should say politely, “Hell no.” Then, add something like “I can do that for…” and request a reasonable amount of money. It’s hard but not impossible.

In the arts, things are done without payment a lot. I do this for certain projects and programs that I know want to help communities, but it’s MY choice. There is no famine if you’re paid something.

I believe it’s important to share creativity but not be someone’s creative flunky. We have value and worth. There’s no need to get off on a few applauds and smiles.

Q. Is there a message behind your art? If so, what is it?

Yes. In most of my creative work there’s a message-- a story. I’m not really into the purely decorative part of art. I’ve done decorative projects. They’re important. But, when I create art to exhibit or write a creative work, I definitely have a message. What is it? Attend one of my exhibits or read my work. It’s for you to find after I put it out there as a storyteller.

Q. How can we learn more about your projects or products?

Where can people find me? I’m on the Internet. I’m not everywhere, but I put notices and updates on social media. People can find me on sites such as Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and others. I try to get the word out as often as I can. That’s the world we live in for communicating with people.

Q. What’s your take on social media? Necessary or nuisance?

Necessary, but remember what its purpose is. The bottom line is social media is to provide news and entertain. Now, if you want to reach people you must use these platforms. I see the social media sites as rooms. If you’re in that room and have something to say, the people standing in that room will hear you. If you refuse to go inside and want people to come to you, you’re being stubborn and a little arrogant.

I’m talking about communicating. Even before the Internet and those sites, there were newspapers and magazines and word-of-mouth. Now, let’s say you decided to use cup and string to talk to people. It would be silly. You know the toy with two cups and a string in which you talk to each other. My brother Fred and I used to do that.

My point is you have to know the best way to reach people. I do the traditional AND social media. I don’t want people to be left out. Then, when they attend my event or one I’m participating, I ask, “How did you hear about this event?” If most say Twitter, I know to use more Twitter. If many say in the newspaper...ah, which can be either print or online, then it’s best to use the newspaper.

Keeping in mind, what works for one person may NOT work as well for you. You have to find your best source to get the word out to people and obtain results. Social media isn’t bad if it helps to reach people well.

Q. Anything else you’d like to add?

Yes, the arts are very important for society. We, artists of all kinds, must not let people steal our work. We see the impact of people downloading AKA stealing musicians’ work. It’s wrong. It’s up to us to change that. It starts with the artist.

Thanks, Henry.

Thank you Jennifer. I enjoyed the interview. Now, I hope to see you at one of my art exhibitions or literary events in the future!

Noted, friend. Wishing you much continued success!

Here's a link to one of Henry's exhibits:


Henry L. Jones is an award winning artist and writer who resides in Tennessee.
His art and writing explores (and creates awareness of) social issues. His latest book of poetry was RUN INTO BLACKNESS: Feeling My Poetic Gumbo (Pneuma Publishing International, Inc.).








Monday, June 19, 2017

3R's Series Brings More Sizzle With Great Resources!

Greetings, Readers!
My 3R's series returns just in time to provide you with hot reads and leads for a cool summer.
Whether you'll be spending time at a cottage, your local coffee shop, or in the confines of your corner office at home, there is something here for you to explore, enjoy and expand your creative horizons.

So let's get started.


7 Ways Writing is Good for You


5 Ways to Make Nice With Your Muse & Increase Productivity


Where to Find More Freelance Writing Jobs


Killer Content for Your Blog


The Accidental Entrepreneur: How my Blog Became a Business & Yours Can Too


Sell Your Short Stories





The 2017 Guide to Manuscript Publishers



Grants & Awards for Minority Writers


How to Use Emotional Intelligence in a Technological World! (My new Ebook)


Coffeehouse for Writers Provides Online Summer Writing Classes for all Levels 



Many of my readers have created and maintained Blogs through the Blogger.com platform for years. If you're one of them, you'll be excited about the news I'm about to share here.

Have you visited your settings and layout lately? Blogger has launched some customizable beautiful new themes and templates to update your site, that rival the popular ones offered through WordPress.

I discovered this recently while giving one of my other sites a "make-over" a few months ago.

To check them out, log into your dashboard and click on "theme."

Choose from Contempo, Soho, Emporio or Notable.

Remember, just as you would "remodel" and freshen your brick and mortar home, your "virtual spot" benefits from the same attention periodically, too.

That's it for this week, folks. Thanks for reading.

Please note: Pen and Prosper will be on a summer break starting June 28 through August 28th, as I work on some new projects, revisit some old ones, and rest in between.
I hope you'll join me upon return; I'll have a few surprises, more resources and more writers' reads to advance and enhance you!

See you next week.

Comments? Thoughts?

Will you be taking a summer break? Do tell.

Image Credits: https://Pixabay.com/

Thursday, June 15, 2017

"Ask the Expert" With Author and Editor C.S. Lakin

Today I have the pleasure of sharing with you a recent interview conducted with novelist, copyeditor, author and coach, C.S. Lakin. Many of you may remember her from her inspiring guest post contribution some time ago, on the blessings of discouragement. For my new followers, you can read that popular post again here.
Please make her feel welcome with your questions or comments.

Q. Can you tell readers a little about who you are and your creative background?

I've been writing novels for more than thirty years, and after doing a lot of learning and practical application, I began editing and critiquing for authors. I was raised by a TV screenwriter/producer and had a director for a step-father, so my childhood was entrenched in Hollywood, which influenced my story structure. I have two grown daughters, a hardworking husband, a black lab, and three cats. I divide my time mostly between writing books and editing.

Q. Which do you consider more difficult to write--fiction or nonfiction? Why?

I can only speak for myself, personally. I find both are challenging, but neither is harder than the other. They both require thought, organization, creativity, imagination, and purpose.

Q. Describe your brand. What does it entail?

I don't have one. I write in numerous genres and have three pen names. It's difficult to brand each one and it takes time, but it must be done. With my nonfiction, of course, my brand is tied in with me being a blogger, writing instructor, editor, and novelist. I'm all about helping writers write great books.

Q. As an editor who reviews approx 200 manuscripts a year, what are some of the most common mistakes you observe writers making?

I'd say the biggest issues are lack of study (of craft and genre) and resultant skill and an impatience in becoming a proficient writer--meaning, most throw together a novel or nonfiction book without taking the time to learn how to write well and structure their book. It seems a waste of time, effort, and money to write a book without first taking the time to learn how to do it well. It's kind of like trying to bake a five-tier fancy wedding cake without ever having cooked a thing, without reading a cookbook, and just throwing ingredients into bowls and cooking the mess, hoping somehow it will come out of the oven a picture-perfect cake.


Q. I see that your blog accepts guest post submissions. How many do you receive monthly? How can writers increase the odds of getting their work published at Live, Write, Thrive?

I get a steady stream of guest post requests. Most I turn down--because the writer hasn't read my guidelines (which are clearly stated on my blog) and often want to post something completely off topic. The other problem I see a lot are queries from people who can hardly write a clear sentence. If their query shows that much of a lack of a firm grasp of the English language, I know the post will be a disaster. Read my blog, know who my audience is, then write a unique and fresh (and personal) post that will benefit my readers, in typical blog structure.

Q. Based on your publishing track record, you seem pretty prolific. What tips can you share with us on dealing with writer's block?

I don't believe in writer's block. There is only lack of preparation and procrastination. I give lots of great advice on how to be super productive in my latest release Crank It Out!

Q. What would it surprise others to know about you?

Not sure. I used to have a commercial pygmy goat farm, and once upon a time I played in a rock band. Most people seem very surprised that I'm both a devout follower of Jesus and a die-hard liberal who believes in helping the poor and oppressed. For some reason, a lot of people seem to think those two things are mutually exclusive, while I believe they are mutually inclusive. But we're not here to talk faith or politics, though those two issues are ones I'm very passionate about.

Q. What advice can you give us on how to use social media with greater savvy?
I'm slowly drawing away from social media (though I have a lot of tweets regularly running). I spend about two minutes a day on Facebook. I believe more in building a mailing list of fans and giving away free books. I see that authors who do that see the most success.

Q. You've garnered several blogging awards over the years. To what do you attribute your success?
I provide a lot of helpful free content and work my butt off to do so.

...Anything else you'd like to add?

If you're a novelist and need help with your writing, subscribe to my blog and join my Fast Track email group (no participation required). You'll get a lot of free books and PDFs and advice--all to help you fast track to success. Sign up here: https://cslakin.lpages.co/writing-the-heart-of-your-story-opt-in/


C. S. Lakin is the author of twelve novels, including the seven-book fantasy series “The Gates of Heaven.” She also writes contemporary psychological mysteries, including her Zondervan contest winner Someone to Blame. She works as a professional copyeditor and writing coach and loves to teach the craft of writing. Her websites are dedicated to critiquing fiction and building community to help survive and thrive in your writing life: www.LiveWriteThrive.com and www.CritiqueMyManuscript.com. Come join in! You can read more about her and her books at www.cslakin.com.
Follow @cslakin and @livewritethrive. Facebook: C. S. Lakin, Author, Editor.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

June is National Audio Books Month

Did you know that June is designated as National Audio Books Month?
It's a great time to become more "widely read" and expand your literary horizons.
And here's a bonus: with Father's Day right around the corner, it makes a thoughtful gift, too.

According to Goodereader.com, "Over the course of the past three years, the highest growing segment of publishing are audiobooks."

Here are some other interesting stats that GoodeReader provides on audio books:

  • The global audiobook industry is currently said to be at 3.5 billion dollars. 
  • The U.S. is reported to be the largest singular market with 1.8 billion dollars in audio sales in 2016.
  • The most popular genres? Mystery, thriller, fantasy, science fiction and romance.
Read more stats and trends about audio books at Good reader.com :


Beyond the stats, here are 3 reasons that I have been a fan of this particular reading format for many years:

  • Audio books give a lot of bang for your buck. You can listen to them and multi-task with simple things...like driving to work, folding laundry, or washing dishes.
  • They are easy to transport; they're small and compact enough to fit into a purse or a pocket.
  • They are relatively inexpensive.

Here are a few titles I recommend from my own personal collection:

  3. CHOCOLATE FOR A WOMAN'S SOUL--KAY ALLENBAUGH (I am a contributor to this popular Simon & Schuster series).
If you'd like to start or expand your audio book collection this month, here are a few places to buy or checkout various titles:


I also recommend that you check out famous author Warren Adler's series of interviews on audio book narrators:


When it comes to "hot reads" for summer, don't overlook audio books!

Your turn.
Any audio book fans out there? Thoughts?

Image credit headphones: Https://Pixabay.com/

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

10 Tips to a Successful Book Signing for Authors

Michael Priebe,  Author

A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of conducting my first signing event for The Lovely Grind, my new book of “spiritual inspiration for workdays” (it’s like a devotional book aimed at stress relief and spiritual growth). Leading up to my book’s online release (June 6th), I worked with some local retailers (local for me being WI) to get advance copies into their coffee, gift, and art shops. Some people said “No” or brushed me off by saying “E-mail me later,” but other shop owners were extremely receptive and said “Yes, sounds good. And by the way, how about doing a book signing at the store?”

When the prospect of conducting a book signing was first mentioned, I was flattered and excited, of course, but I was also a little nervous, especially since I really hadn’t anticipated that sort of thing until a little later in the book’s (or my career’s) trajectory. 

But if you think about it, it makes sense. A book signing isn’t just good for new (or any) authors, it’s also good for the stores. It gives the store owners an event to advertise that might bring in new customers, and it also helps them to sell some of those books of yours that they just bought.
So yes, I was a bit nervous at the prospect of doing that first book signing, but the event went really well, and here’s what I can report back to those of you who are about to conduct a book signing of your own or are even just imagining one (because it’s never too early to get yourself ready).
 1. Bring plenty of copies of your book.

The store owner for my first signing event had ordered twelve copies of The Lovely Grind for the “Paper Art & Soul” book section of her mercantile shop, but if I’d only brought those twelve copies, I would have quickly run out. Since this event was near my hometown, I’d invited friends and family, and the turnout was good. Also, the store’s owner wanted to set aside several extra for copies for a friend, and before the day was over, she added additional copies of my book to her initial order. Bottom line: err on the side of optimism when deciding how many copies of your book to bring. Having extra in the car or in a tote bag beside you will never hurt.

2. Bring plenty of bottled water (and some pain relievers).

As I said before, I was a bit nervous going into my first book signing, and sure enough, as soon as the first customer asked me “What’s your book about?” I felt a headache and dry throat coming on. Thankfully, I’d brought Advil Liquid Gels and a bunch of bottled water (and the store’s owner had water for me as well), so the next couple of hours weren’t spent in discomfort. You’ll have to do some talking and mingling during the event, so don’t let a headache or parched throat slow you down or damper your mood.

3. Practice your signature beforehand.

During the week leading up to my event, I formulated a more or less standard “autograph” signature so that every book I signed wouldn’t look as if a different person had scribbled something on it. I also practiced my cursive and I practiced writing deliberately, because I’m aware that my handwriting can be more erratic and illegible than that of a hungover doctor who’s writing while riding a unicycle over potholes in a hurricane. Bottom line: have some fun crafting your “Hollywood” signature.

4. Have a few catchphrases ready to put before your name.

Signatures for my book ended up looking something like this: “To Carla, Make Your Grind ‘Lovely,’ Michael Priebe” or “To Scott, Thanks for the Support, Michael Priebe.” First, decide which page of the book you will sign (I signed the half-title page at the front), and then have a few phrases ready to place before your signature. Have phrases ready for people you know and for those you don’t, and orient some of the phrases around your book’s title and/or content. Given my book’s title, some of my phrases revolved around the term “lovely.”

5. Be ready to summarize/talk about your book.

As people walk by your table, they will inevitably ask “What is your book about?” Have a couple of stock answers ready; they don’t have to be lengthy. Jot those answers down on notecards and look back to them every once in a while, or read the back cover of your book to get your mind in the mood to answer that “What is it about?” question. You’ve certainly summarized your project dozens of times already, just boil those summaries down to a couple of sentences or paragraphs for the event.

6. Have copies of your book sitting out on the table.

Sitting behind a stack (or stacks) of your own books lets the world know that you are The Author. Having an artistically arranged landscape of books on your signing table will not only help to “set the mood” for the event, but people will want to flip through your book while talking to you, so nearby copies are a necessity. By the way, you might want to designate one or two specific copies as “flip-through” copies (they could be proof copies), so that a bunch of books don’t get damaged from repeated handling.

7. Bring a couple of promotional items to set up on or around your table.

A few days before the book signing event, my wife and I went to Office Depot and had a few poster boards made up that advertised the cover of my book and also one of my websites. It really was amazing what the store could do for a reasonable price and an almost twenty-four-hour turnaround. All you need is a digital file of your book cover or whatever image you want to have made into a poster or poster board (the store even scanned a flyer-like card I gave them and it turned out very readable). They will take the image you give them and turn it into a custom-sized advertisement for you. Not only do these items look impressive on your table, but they also give customers who are waiting in line something to look at that introduces your book to them before you even say a word.

8. Bring a sheet of paper for mailing list sign-up.

Using Word or Excel or similar format, you can quickly draft a sign-up sheet to get more people onto your mailing list. Signing events are a perfect opportunity for this sort of e-mail gathering, and even if people don’t buy a copy of your book right away (and not everyone you talk to will), this is a way to keep them connected until they hopefully change their minds and buy a copy later on Amazon or through your website.

9. Take photos for your website and social media pages (and just for your own reminiscing).

During my event, I asked my wife to take pictures. I asked friends and relatives to take pictures. I even asked the store owner to take pictures. Trust me, you’ll want these remembrances when the dust clears on the day. You can look back on them when you are having a celebratory drink later that evening, and you’ll also want to put a few images onto your website and/or social media pages.      
And last, but not least...don't forget to enjoy it all! 

This is key. As stated before, I experienced a few jitters going into my first book signing, but I also knew that it was something to be “in-the-moment” about. I knew that it was something that would stand in my mind forever, because it was something that took a lot of hard work and determination on my part to achieve. As a writer, even if your future never ends up holding New York Times’ bestseller lists or stints on Oprah’s couch, you will always have some writing-related moments and accomplishments that you will be able to cherish in your heart forever. 

For me, that first book signing was one of those “forever” moments, and I’m glad that I remembered to enjoy it all as best as I could. I’m also glad that I got pictures; maybe I’ll look at them the next time I’m feeling stuck or unmotivated, or maybe I’ll just look at a few of them today, just for the fun of it, as I visualize future stardom.

Michael Priebe is an avid writer, reader, movie-watcher, and runner. His new book, The Lovely Grind: Spiritual Inspiration for Workdays, is on sale now at Amazon.com and other locations. In addition to working on book projects, he blogs at his websites, www.lovelygrind.com and www.michaelpriebewriter.com. He invites you to check out his book and sign-up for the mailing list at Lovelygrind.com to stay connected.