Cherry Blossoms & Bombers: An Interesting Parallel

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

I just finished reading the wonderful new book, The Last Cherry Blossom by Kathleen Burkinshaw, a middle-grade Historical fiction based on the author’s mother’s experience growing up in Hiroshima, Japan during WWII. Kathleen’s mother, Toshiko Ishikawa Hilliker, (Yuriko in the book) was twelve years old when the Atom bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, August 6, 1945.

The Last Cherry Blossom opens with twelve-year old Yuriko in a classroom concerned about an assignment she’s handed in on family history, when air raid sirens go off sending students under their desks. It was 1944 and the war between the United States and Japan had raged since the bombing of Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941.

Through Yuriko, we get a glimpse of the day-to-day life of Japanese school children during the war; their obligations and fears and patriotism for their Emperor and their country. As I read, I couldn’t help thinking about American children and how similar their lives must have been. They too were preparing for attacks not just from Japan, but Germany as well. They too were being coached to climb under their desks at school. A catchy jingle had been written called “Duck & Cover,” so they wouldn’t forget. They too had to be terrified of the unknown, this horrible thing called, War.  

In the book, We Bought A WWII Bomber, we learn of the wartime rationing of food, clothing, and gasoline, the same things that were scarce in Yuriko’s Hiroshima. Children in both countries participated in collecting paper, metals of all kinds, clothing and rubber. They made gardens to grow food for their families. They rolled bandages and did whatever they could. And in America, when one school was challenged to participate in the “Buy a Bomber” program, they worked hard initiating sales of over $375,000 in U.S. War Bonds and War Loan Stamps and bought a B-17 bomber to help end the war. 

In Japan middle school and high school students were sent to work in the factories while in America, some high school students chose to leave school to work in them. Patriotism was high among the children on both sides of the war. They revered their leaders, loved their respective countries and felt it was their duty to help in the war effort to bring their fathers, brothers, uncles and cousins home safely.   

While We Bought A WWII Bomber, enlightens readers to the amazing patriotism that permeated the United States of America during WWII, especially among American children, The Last Cherry Blossom, forces us to think differently about the Japanese as people, far different from their brutal leaders, who, from an American perspective, had been a terrifying enemy during WWII.

Both of these books, one a historical fiction based on the true life experiences of a 12-year old child who survived the bombing of Hiroshima and the other a non-fiction based on the extraordinary tale of the achievement of school aged children, remind us all that even though our political thoughts and beliefs may vary, at the core of humanity we are one.  

Both Books Available on Amazon: 

The Last Cherry Blossom
We Bought A WWII Bomber

Writing Non-Fiction: Unexpected Adventures

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

In my wildest dreams, I never imagined where the writing of my last book would take me.

We Bought A WWII Bomber, is a story I felt compelled to write for the folks still alive who had lived it; folks who had achieved something quite remarkable and years later suffered a great disappointment. New information proved they had nothing to be disappointed about and I needed to tell them.

The story began in 1943 with junior and senior high students’ involvement in the “Buy a Bomber” program, a funding campaign initiated by the U.S. Treasury Department to encourage U.S. citizens to buy U.S. War Bonds and Defense Loan Stamps to help pay for WWII. The program promised any group, organization, church, city, county, business or school, if they could show proof of War Bond or Defense Loan Stamp sales of $375,000, they could buy a bomber, name it and have a dedication ceremony in their town. Remarkably, the students at South High School in Grand Rapids, Michigan, accomplished the task, in nine weeks’ time and bought a B-17 Flying Fortress Bomber.  “The Spirit of South High School,” was dedicated on April 6, 1943 and flew off never to be heard from again. In 1990, alumni from that ‘40’s class learned, much to their disappointment, their bomber had been used for training and never saw battle. The story ended there until 2013, when new information, in the form of a military crash report, came to light.

In 2015, I began to write the story. When word got out, alumni came forward contributing over $1200 towards the purchase of the rights to the many photographs and news articles in the book and to help pay publishing costs. For them I am truly grateful.

The adventure began when I called the historical society in the small town where the bomber crashed. Folks at the historical society had no knowledge of a WWII bomber crash in their town on October 1, 1944. For reasons no one can explain, residents from
the time never talked about it. There were no records anywhere of the event. And yet, I had a military report telling me the farmer’s field where the bomber crashed and the names of local residents who came to the aid of the crew.

What was I to do? A radio interview helped as well as well-placed pleas in local newspapers. People came out of the woodwork to share their memories.

The second adventure began when I was informed that the property on which the bomber crashed was sold to the National Park system shortly after WWII for, The Blue Ridge Parkway, at the site of what is considered to be the most photographed spot on the parkway, Mabry’s Mill. Calls to their historian brought forth the same answer as before; what crash? Several months later National Park authorities verified it was indeed their property and classified it as an archaeological site.

The surprises and adventures continued.

From a reliable source I was informed that my little book is believed to be the only one written about the “Buy a Bomber” program, so it is being widely accepted historically as symbolic of the patriotism permeating home front America during that Great War. Publisher’s Weekly/Book Life honored it with a positive review; it received an endorsement from a World War II expert and a Finalist nod at the 2016 Next Generation Indie Book Awards. 

This little story has taken me to Florida to meet one of the pilots, now one hundred-years old; to Virginia to hear tales of the day a B-17 bomber fell out of the sky from then 6, 8 and 11-year olds, currently in their late ‘80’s and 90’s; to a WW2 Club in  Florida whose leader is a renowned WWII expert; to the Yankee Air Museum in Michigan to meet pilots and aviation enthusiasts; to classes of Civil Air Patrol Cadets, young patriotic teens who renewed my faith in the youth of today; to historical societies, libraries, museums, bookstores, senior communities and even a donut shop. And everywhere I go, people tell me wonderful stories of a time when American citizens worked together and sacrificed to help preserve our freedom.

But the greatest adventure is still to come. Several weeks ago I received a letter informing me that a Historical Marker will be placed at the crash site at Mabry’s Mill on The Blue Ridge Parkway to honor the pre-history of the bomber that crashed there during World War II. South High alumni are already planning a bus tour in anticipation of the dedication ceremony to take place sometime next year. And, as so many years ago, South High School alumni have stepped forward to raise the $2000 needed to pay for the marker.

Did I mention South High school closed in 1968? That undefinable “SPIRIT” of South High lives on.

This story was written to honor the alumni who attended South High School in 1943. In my wildest dreams I could never have predicted how it would resonate far beyond those alumni with Americans of all ages and result in the placement of a historical marker on The Blue Ridge Parkway. 

Writing this non-fiction story has afforded me adventures beyond my wildest dreams.

And yes, I’m from South High School and couldn’t be prouder!

Leave a comment and I'll put your name in a hat to win an autographed copy of the book. 

To have Sandra Warren visit your school or organization, visit the Contact page on her website: or or email: 


Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Non-fiction authors understand the frustration of doing tons of research for a book and then having to whittle it down for publication, often leaving awesome facts and photos on the cutting room floor. This happened to me recently after finishing the book, We Bought A WWII Bomber. I kept thinking there must be something I can do with all this wonderful extraneous material.

Then it hit me. Do a photobook!

After the book came out new facts and photographs came to light. Where could I put all this new information so it wouldn't get lost? Where could I put it so it would be handy to share at presentations?

Do a photobook!

Folks kept asking me things like, where I got the idea for this story? Where I looked for information? How did I know where to look? Others were curious about my research and writing process.

It hit me again. Do a photobook!

There's nothing that says a photobook is just for photos. You can explain your writing process through the pages of a photobook.

And then there are photos taken at my Book Launch, signings, presentations and other events, not to mention awesome reviews and even a national award. Should they get filed away in a box or lost on my computer?

They could but why not put them in a photobook?

Photos not in book 
Ring made from Bomber Part
 to me at a book signing

Photos of bomber crash given to me
at a presentation after publication
What is a photo book? Traditionally, it's exactly as it sounds; a book full of photos. But it doesn't have to be. All photobook software offers options for backgrounds and borders. You can even put picture frames around the photos. Included is a texting tool to add photo captions. You can fill the page with words if you prefer. You choose the size, number of pages, cover design, hardback or paperback. The final outcome is determined by your pocketbook and your vision.

Multiple online companies provide the service for reasonable prices. Once listed on their website you will receive discount coupons for various shapes and sizes. You create the book online after downloading company software. Once you plug in your photos and text and push SEND, the book will arrive on your doorstep most often within 10 days.

Three of the most popular companies are, and The latter is the one I like best, probably because I've used it the most.

If you'd like to try a photobook from, I was recently sent a coupon code to pass on to my friends. (I do not work for nor will I benefit from sharing this offer.) From now until the end of 2016, you can receive 60% off on a photobook of your choice by plugging in the following:

 Code: PBLOVE2908TG14 Voucher expires 31st December 2016 

Check on the photobook website of your choice for additional coupons. There maybe a better offer especially around a holiday. 

I'm thrilled with the photobook I titled, The Story After The Story. In it I've collected all the things mentioned above. And yes, it was like rewriting the initial manuscript again, but it was worth it. Now the story of my journey to publication is not only preserved for my family, it's also a wonderful way for me to relive, all in one place, my fun-filled journey writing, publishing and promoting, We Bought A WWII Bomber: The Untold Story of A Michigan High School, a B-17 Bomber & The Blue Ridge Parkway.

One other tip: At every presentation, folks tell me the most amazing stories related to WWII. To preserve those stories and share them with readers, I've added a Stories Beyond The Book link to my website.

I'd love the hear how you've preserved your excess research and photos. Please share, or, if you have questions about my process, leave a comment and I'll do my best to find the answers if I don't know them off-hand. 

Sandra is always willing to answer questions you might have about her blogs or her books. She can be contacted at any of the following: 

Social Media Extraordinaire: Joan Y. Edwards

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

In an era when a writer's ability to get published is dependent upon not only having a great manuscript but also their presence on Social Media, one author stands head and shoulders above the rest. Joan Y. Edwards. In a mere seven years time she has managed to rack up over 340,000 reads on her blog and over 1400 followers on Twitter!

How did she do it? She did it by following the Cardinal Rule: HELP OTHERS.  

One needs only to click open her blog to find all sorts of helpful tidbits; inspirational thoughts, practical "how to" information for writers, book reviews and author interviews, each blog followed by impressive lists of resources. Click on a tab called SubPub to join a group of writers who commit to submitting a manuscript the third Friday of every month ; a Joan inspired idea. Additional tabs prompt organizational strategies leading writers through the writing process from preparing a manuscript to submission. Check out a yahoo group and Facebook page she created called, To Market To Market, a place for authors to share book release, book launch and sales information; a place to legitimately promote their work.  

While building her multi-faceted blog, Joan generously responded and continues to respond to every comment and question, often doing research to help or reply to a social media query she received. Her generosity is evident throughout the blog and Facebook pages she has created. 

When other wannabe authors sat back waiting for that first publication credit before starting a blog, Joan jumped in with both feet. She built her blog with only one book publishing credit to her name, a children's book that she self-published. And right now, as I create this tribute, her second book, an adult non-fiction called Joan's Elder Care Guide, is being released. Joan is living proof of what can be accomplished while building publication credits. 

So who is Joan Y. Edwards? What makes her tick? Why is she so generous with her time? I decided to find out. 

1. Through your blog you continue to inspire and support writers of all experiences with your positive views on life. Where does your effervescence for life and helping others come from?

At one time in my life, I was depressed and didn't want to go on living. My parish priest told me to go for counseling...that they had it for whatever I could pay. If I couldn't pay anything, it would be free. It helped me to have a different outlook on life and to realize that I was a worthwhile person. I asked the priest what I could do to repay God for helping to save me. He said, "Joan, just continue what you've been doing ever since I've known you. When someone comes into your path who needs help, you try to help them. Just continue doing that. Continue being you."

2. If I had had you in my classroom when you were a child, would I have been able to recognize that giving spirit in a young Joan Edwards?

When I was about 5 years old, I bought my Mother a compact, lipstick, and powder. Out of my five dollars, I had only 3 pennies left. I cried. Mother asked me what was wrong. I said, "I wanted you to have these things for your birthday. But now I don't have any money left."

That was my first feeling of not enough. What Mother told me, set things straight in my mind. She said, "Always save some for yourself when you're giving to someone else."

At a later time in my life, I realize that she could have meant, "Think in abundance." Once you think in abundance, you're not worried about not having enough. Your focus is saying I'll have enough. Say: “God will provide me with an abundance of all I need.” When you have an abundance, you have enough to meet your needs and leftovers to share with others.

My childhood friends and high school friends say I shared with them on a personal level. I was shy in class. We always invited children to play at our house. We shared peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, hot dogs, and bologna with them. One time we shared so much our cupboard went almost empty. We got in trouble for doing that. To me, things seem to be more fun when I share them with someone.

3. Dr. Phil and others in psychology say we as humans are defined by a few significant events in our past. Would you be willing to share one event in your life that shaped you into the Joan Edwards we know?

My first online experience shaped my courage for trying other online ideas. I taught Children's Liturgy at our church for nineteen years. After Mother broke her hip and wasn't able to get out much, I realized there might be children who couldn't get to church. These children might enjoy reading devotionals and working puzzles related to the Gospel stories in the Bible. I asked the pastor if I could put the devotionals and puzzles on the church's website. He said, "Yes."

Therefore, I did the devotionals and puzzles for the next Sunday and sent them to the man who took care of our church website. Oh my goodness! Oh my goodness! It was a wonderful success. People from all over the United States and other parts of the world (England, Trinidad, Philippines, Scotland, Australia) wrote me. They asked if I could do them two weeks ahead. I kept producing and sending things faster than the man at our church could upload them to the church site.

This encouraged me to learn how to create a website of my own. I took an online course at Central Piedmont Community College. I created my own website in July 2002 - I sent those who requested a link when I uploaded new devotionals and puzzles. I even added skits. This early success encouraged me in other online endeavors. It led me to a writing contract for Liturgical Publications for 3 years writing devotionals and being an editor of creative things for children's liturgy.

4. Each blog post you do contains lists of resources. Where do you find the time to not only write interesting blogs but also compile the resources?

Once I've decided a topic on which to write, I use Google search to find out what others say about the subject. When I'm watching television with my husband, I copy and paste the links into Notes or send them in an email to myself. Then I copy and paste them into my draft blog post. I read through the links and decide which are the best ones to leave in the post. I delete the ones that don't seem helpful. Sometimes I write the post and then look up resources to backup my opinions.

5. How much time do you set aside for researching and writing your blog posts? What does your average schedule look like? Day? Week?

It takes me from three to four hours to write a post (including the search for helpful links). Sometimes, I work on three different posts during a month. I post the one that I finish first. The other two came close behind.

6. I see that you write adult books as well as children's. Which do you prefer and what should we expect from you in the future? 

I love telling and writing stories for children. I wrote and illustrated the picture book, Flip Flap Floodle in 2004. I'm working on illustrations for a chapter book, Larry, the Terrifying Turkey.
I've written two screenplays: one for teens and one for adults. I've written a young adult novel called Immigrant Heart. After I finish my illustrations for Larry, the Terrifying Turkey, I'll focus on getting Immigrant Heart ready to submit again. I enjoy writing for adults and children. I'll read over my children's books, young adult books, and screenplays. Then, I'll decide where my heart leads me. Blog writing for adults will continue! I love interacting with readers!

Flip Flap Floodle available Amazon:

I enjoy reading self-help books. While I was caring for Mother, there were no elder care books. Mother's situation kept changing. I discovered that if I left plans for her care, things went better. These plans were very detailed, much like lesson plans that I left for substitute teachers during the 35 years I taught elementary school. Caregivers who came kept telling me that my plans helped them. I thought writing a book with things I learned might help others caring for their elders. My focus was to help the caregiver take care of her needs as well as the needs of the elderly.

Guide, Paperback:

8. When I asked Joan about the intriguing cover of her new, Joan's Elder Care Guide book she sent me this quote from it's creator, talented artist Aidana WillowRaven: 

"This particular cover is a digital compilation sketch and painting using a couple photographs of Joan's mother, making it a personal tribute for her, as well as an encouragingly informative guide and handbook. I include a B/W sketch on the title page, too."  

9. Does Joan Edwards ever sleep?

I admit that if a project is on my mind, I work on it until it's finished, even into the wee hours of the morning. Other times I might work late because I'm in the creative zone...not realizing there is anything else going on. I'm completely in the story with the characters, or completely in the blog post. I also love to begin a book and keep reading until I finish it.

Thank you Joan for sharing this personal glimpse into what makes you tick. Thousands of  blog readers are grateful for your continued contributions. 

If you would like to share in the accolades and/or suggest future blog subjects for Joan to research, feel free to leave a comment or contact her through one of the links below.

Sandra Warren is the author of Arlie the Alligator, We Bought A WWII Bomber and other books for children and adults!

Tag Team Marketing - Authors Helping Authors

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

One of the biggest myths about being a published author is that the publisher will do the marketing for you. That certainly won't happen beyond a blip in a catalog or maybe an online mention, unless you're a popular, well-known, New York Times best selling author, which most of us are not. The reality is, marketing your book is your responsibility!

Marketing is difficult. Marketing ones own book is even harder. Promoting without being pompous is extremely challenging. Some authors are natural marketeers but most can't do it without a little help from our friends.

When I first moved to NC, I heard about a group of authors, four I believe, who were touring several libraries and independent bookstores together. I was surprised to learn that they had arranged the tour themselves traveling to each of the areas where they lived, sharing rides and overnight accommodations when necessary. What a great idea! I was very impressed.

Recently, I read a blog from Blog Wizard, Joan Edwards, titled, “12 Ways to Publicize, Promote, Market, and Sell Your Book.” If you're unfamiliar with Joan's blog, you can find it at

As I read through Joan's blog, it occurred to me that I had things to contribute, information that I had gathered from being a published author for over thirty years. And if I had information to share, perhaps others do also! The concept of  Tag Team Marketing - Authors Helping Authors, popped into my head.

So right now, I'm going to tag onto Joan's excellent blog and add my two cents to some of her 12 Ways to Publicize, Promote, Market and Sell Your Book." I'll not comment on all of them, just a few where I feel I can contribute.

Re: #1. Swap interviews with an author of a similar book. These would be blog interviews or postings to other online venues. I would add to move beyond the interviews--you interview them and they interview you-- to swapping ideas, concerns, strategies, solutions and experiences.

You might think your knowledge is too basic, to amateurish to help anyone, but what you've learned through experience might be the very thing, the last piece of a puzzle that helps another struggling writer.

Re: #10 – Contacting local bookstores – Barnes & Noble has an online form for both requesting a book signing event as well as getting your book placed in their stores (if you’ve self-published.) The link is: (Click FOR AUTHORS, then GETTING YOUR BOOK IN BARNES & NOBLE. There will be a link on that page for suggesting an event a.k.a book signing.)

The form requests a great deal of information including your promotional plan, trade reviews and reasons why they should carry your book as well as all the basics; ISBN, binding, format, price, how it stacks up to it’s competitors, etc. etc. (I spent the greater part of a day gathering all my information to send to them.) Then, after about six weeks you will receive a YAY or NAY in written form. If it’s a YAY, your book will be added to their Small Press Department for distribution throughout their system, online and in stores.

When contracting to do a book signing, insist on being allowed to do a reading or a presentation. Even if there are other authors present, prearrange to do a presentation. People are more apt to purchase a book they've learned about, especially if they've met the author.

Re: #11 – Contact Retail Stores. Add to that, gift shops in theaters, museums, amusement parks, sports stores, restaurants, any place where you can find a connection to your books story or theme.

I once sold more books ($1500 worth) in a donut shop, in three hours time, than in any other venue large or small. Think outside the box or in this case, the book!

Also: it has been my experience that most retail stores (the ones I’ve dealt with) do not ask for a 60/40% split. It’s usually the other way around….they want a 40% discount which means I/you keep the 60%. The only venues I’m aware of that ask for a 60% discount are the fulfillment companies; Baker & Taylor and Ingram, etc. In fact, most stores even the bookstores I’ve dealt with on consignment are willing to take anywhere from a 25% to a 40% discount. Recently, a manager asked what kind of discount I was willing to give. When asked that, I respond by asking what they normally get from others? It’s almost always under 40%.

Oh, and one more thing about retail stores, they usually pay upfront unlike bookstores where you might wait 3 or 4 months and have to make multiple phone calls, for payment.

Re: #12 – Contact local organizations & groups. When speaking to a groups, especially non-profits, you can always offer to give back a percentage of sales or if not a percentage, then a donation of some kind. That’s assuming they allow you to sell your books following your presentation.

If the organization meets in a church, consider giving a small donation to help pay for the venue. It helps if book sales have been good.

Ask to partner with them on a project that you believe in. Remember the old adage: What goes around comes around! Years ago, a friend who wrote a car accident book partnered with an insurance agency who gave a copy of his book to all their car accident clients. 

Some additional thoughts: 

Hold a raffle and give away a book at the event. Audiences love give-a-ways.  I'm going to do that at my next presentation to help fix a mistake. You see, months ago I received a request for a book autographed to William. So, ahead of time, I autographed it. Big mistake! The sale fell through and I've been carrying around a book autographed to William hoping someone by that name would come by. No such luck. So, at my next presentation, I'm going to ask if there is a William in the crowd. If so, he's going home with an FREE autographed book! 

If any of the above ideas prompted thoughts of things you can share, I'd love to have you join this Tag Team Marketing blog. Authors Helping Authors! Just jot down your marketing ideas in your next blog post and include links to Joan's blog and mine as well.  Let's see how far this can go! 

Once again, here's Joan's blog: 12 Ways to Publicize, Promote, Market, and Sell Your Book. Find it at

Check out Sandra's latest book, We Bought a WWII Bomber: The Untold Story of a Michigan High School, a B-17 Bomber & The Blue Ridge Parkway! 

Suck It Up And SMILE!

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

It happened again. Great venue. Tons of publicity and lots of empty chairs. It was last weekend in a neighboring town. 

Ironically, the book involved is selling like gang-busters, the best of the twelve other publications I have had on the market. 

Most authors won't admit this but empty chairs are the reality of doing author presentations, unless, of course, your book made it to the New York Times Best Selling list, you have amassed a huge following or this is your first book and all your family and friends gather to cheer you on. It doesn't happen all the time but when it does, it can throw you for a loop and make you wonder is it your book or you or something else? 

But don't sweat the small crowds because different opportunities come from a more intimate group. You'll get to inspire readers in a way you wouldn't have in a large group. People will feel freer to ask questions and make comments. And you never know if one of the three or four or five in the audience might have the connections that may result in future speaking engagements and opportunities far beyond anything you could imagine. 

Before becoming an author, you see long lines at book talks and signings and assume that's the way it will be for you. It might be some of the time, but I'm willing to bet that even well-known authors can remember events when the unfilled chairs out-numbered those filled. 

When the time comes and you find yourself staring out at those empty chairs, push back the tears and thoughts that no one cares, and focus on the seats that are filled. 

When the empty chair syndrome happens to you, what do you do? 

You suck it up and smile! 

And then give the same dynamite presentation you prepared for a crowd, to the few sitting before you. They showed up! They care! They want to hear what you have to say. You owe it to them to deliver what they came for--a dynamic peak into the pages of your latest work. 

Have you attended a book signing and been one of a couple in the audience? Has it happened to you? I'd like to hear your thoughts. 

Where The Writing Leads

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Congratulations to Kathleen Burkinshaw! You won a book of your choice from my last blog, Your Book is Out...Scary Words. Just go to, select a book and send me an


When the writing bug hit me, I had in mind writing for children; books to inspire and entertain. Never in my wildest dreams did I think about writing for adults; parents, teachers, general audiences. It wasn't on my agenda. I never gave it a thought.

And then one day my telephone range. It was a woman, an Army Reservist, a stranger just returned from the Persian Gulf War. She wanted me to write her memoirs, her life-changing experience serving in Iraq. She had to talk me into it. I was a children's author, after all.

Another time I met an editor for a Home Improvement magazine who asked me to write an article about radon. Radon? Really? "You want this non-science minded writer to pen an article about radon?" Crazy as I am, I said "yes." I found experts in the field, talked to folks who had to mitigate radon from their homes, and wrote the article.

A good friend who is also a writer, wrote a story about a school and then was approached to write a book about fly-fishing. She knew nothing about fly-fishing but she said, "yes." Months after the book came out, she was asked to write an article for a trout magazine.

As writers, we need to be open to whatever opportunities come our way. We never know where the writing will lead.

Have you been asked to write something that surprised you? Something you knew nothing about? Did you say, "yes?"


Your Book Is Out...Scary Words

Monday, January 18, 2016

It’s happened, finally, the moment you’ve dreamed of. No going back now. Your book is out, delivered, on the market. Now you wait, with baited breath, hoping, no, praying that others will get what you were trying to say, relate to your characters and love what you’ve written. Maybe like would be enough. Yes, that would be excellent if everyone who reads your book likes it.

The reality is you have no control over how your book is and will be perceived. Every reader will see something different in your words; infer your intentions from their own experience, their own point-of-view. Most opinions will delight and encourage you to continue writing. The negative you may never know because readers are incredibly generous, especially friends and family. Some readers will see things in your work you never intended; things that will surprise and delight you. It’s these things, the latter, I’d like to address here.

My first book, If I Were A Road, a story book followed by questions and classroom activities, led to a series of two others, all designed to enhance creative thinking in young students. The advanced vocabulary and higher level thinking questions inside were aimed at students ready to give more than the typical, who, what, where and why answers demanded by most educational products; questions most students would find too difficult to handle.

  So imagine my surprise when Title 1 teachers began using the books for middle school students who had difficulty reading. The advanced vocabulary given in short sentences in picture book format didn’t overwhelm or talk down to the older struggling reader, I was told.

The open-ended, story-song picture book, CD and DVD, Arlie the Alligator, written for the kindergarten through third grade student became a hit with preschoolers. One mother wrote to tell me “Arlie” was her son’s first word. Another said her three year old memorized all the text and song lyrics on the word-for-word CD and demanded she play the CD every time they got into the car.

In the story, Arlie the Alligator tries to talk to children on the beach but bellows and scares them away. He vows to someday figure out how to talk to the children. During a whole school assembly in a public school, a little boy, probably a first grader waved his hand madly as I spoke. When I acknowledged him, the little boy shouted, “I know what Arlie can do. He can praise the Lord!” Talk about an unexpected surprise.  

My newest book, We Bought A WWII Bomber, about an incident that took place on the home front during the war, is impacting veterans, especially WWII veterans, in ways I never anticipated. In the few short months it’s been on the market, I’ve heard from several readers who shared it with their ninety plus year old parents and grandparents with the following results; veterans, who never spoke of their war experiences, began speaking of them for the first time. One acquaintance shared that he and his brother sat mesmerized for over two hours as his ninety-five year old father began talking about his WWII experiences. The acquaintance said neither he nor his brother had any idea what their father had lived through. 

It never occurred to me that one of my books would help another writer better define the actions of her characters. A writer colleague mentioned in a recent blog - - that, “I knew that Kate and Lillie, the protagonists in my book, Half-Truths, would have been in elementary school during World War II. Reading this book made the time period come alive for me and helped me think more deeply about how those shortages affected them."

An idea hits you. It twists and turns in your brain until the story begins to emerge. You write and write some more. Then, after multiple revisions and edits, you send it off hoping for publication, believing all along that it’s worthy of a contract. The contract comes. The word comes. The book is finally out, delivered, on the market.

It’s not yours anymore. You’ve given it to the world. No reason to fear. Let the real adventures, the surprises begin.

Have you been surprised by someone’s reaction to one of your books or an article you may have written? Something totally unexpected? Something you never imagined in a million years? I’d love to hear about it. 


Share your experience by February 1st and WIN a book of your choice from Sandra Warren's website. 

Book Trailers Made Easy

Saturday, January 2, 2016

The word is out—books with book trailers, like movies with movie trailers, get more attention than those without. So how do you go about getting one made? Where do you start? It's not as hard as you may think. 

When the concept of using book trailers to market books first came about several years ago, I created one for my children’s picture book, Arlie the Alligator. It’s still on my website but it’s full of errors, the number one being, it's way too long. (An updated version is in process.) 

I am no expert, but I thought the process I went through to create a book trailer for my latest book, We Bought A WWII Bomber, might help those thinking about making one.  

Begin by clicking the link below. If you like what you see, if it holds your interest and tweaks your curiosity, continue reading. 

Here are the things I’ve learned about making a book trailer:

Do your homework! The size of your wallet will not necessarily determine the quality of the end product. Knowledge will.

Research book trailers and you will find the full gamut in length and format;  a simple book cover with text super-imposed to music, to full productions featuring actors performing on elaborate sets with music and sound effects. Don’t be intimidated.

Take a webinar on the subject. When you Google “book trailer webinars” you’ll find multiple choices. Many experts will whet your appetite with a FREE session which almost always is followed by a pitch for more in-depth sessions for a fee. The FREE sessions, however, usually contain great basic information.

Google “book trailers” to find multiple links designed to help you create your own. Most folks will hire a production company but for those who are tech savvy, directions for how to do them yourself are also available. I hired a production company called, PhotosInMotion.  

Study basic information and various opinions on what to include and what to avoid.

Here is a link I found particularly helpful:  


It, not only gives rational for having a book trailer, the basics about them and how educators can use them in the classroom, it also includes multiple examples to view. Take a look at the book trailers for The Spider and The Fly and Where The Wild Things Are, given at the end of the above link.  

1. Study the use of illustrations/photographs/setting
2. Study the use of camera angle and motion
3. Study the use of voice over or mix of text and voice
4. Study the use of music and sound effects
5. Study their length
7. Study the use of text: scrolling in from one side or another, boxed on its own, or superimposed           over illustrations
8. Study the text itself. Did it come directly from the book? Was it more like a pitch? Did it reveal too     much of the story or just enough to entice? Did it ask a question? Did it hold your interest? Did it       make you want to read the book?

Analyze the above items and make note of techniques you like. Also analyze other book trailers with the above items in mind. Try to figure out why the book trailers you like hold your interest and why others fall short?  

Preparing to make your book trailer:

Have a clear vision or concept of what you want your book trailer to look like but be open to suggestions. A good producer will be able to take your basic information and weave it into something to be proud of. For the above book trailer about the bomber book, I gave the producer a jpg of the book cover, 10 photographs and 14 lines of text. He did the rest.  

Time is money. The more detailed your concept, visuals and script, the easier, faster and cheaper it will be to produce.  

Gather visuals to enhance your trailer. They might be illustrations from the book or photographs of people, places or things or an object related to your story. Text will dictate the visuals. For my 1 minute 12 second book trailer, I sent 10 photographs taken from the book and the book cover. My producer, Doug, from PhotosInMotion, added 5 more graphics.

Instead of illustrations or photographs, you may prefer to use locations and actors. If so, you’ll need to know who, what, where and when?

Writing the text – tell about your book in as few words as possible! Use the one sentence pitch idea. Ask a question. Write out what you want to say and then cut, cut, cut into couple second sound bites.

I started with this synopsis: This is the story of students in 1943 who during WWII  raised $375,000 by selling US War Bonds and War Loan Stamps and bought a B-17 Bomber. It was flown into their home town where they had a dedication ceremony after naming it The Spirit of South High and watched as it flew off to war never to be seen again. Seventy-two years later they found it had crashed in Meadows of Dan, Virginia. Now the rest of the story can be told.

I ended up with this:
1. Can a group of students change the course of history?
2. They could and did in 1943 during WWII.
3. They sold US War Bonds & War Loan stamps
4. $375,000 worth
5. And bought a B-17 bomber
6. Etc., etc.

Fourteen (14) very short sentences or partial sentences, equal to approximately 45 seconds spoken, were used in the book trailer. According to The Writer's Digest Guide to Manuscript Formats, 130 words of text will take approximately 60 seconds spoken.  The exact word count for the bomber book trailer is 93 words, equal to approximately 45 seconds spoken. The remainder of the 72 seconds (1 minute 12 seconds) is filled with book cover images, purchase information and company identification. 

The type of font selected can detract or enhance your book trailer. Does your story dictate a swirly romantic font or something more formal? Will the font look better regular, bolded or italicized? A consistent font throughout is best. My producer presented four fonts embedded within the sample trailer so I could actually see which ones I preferred. Make sure the font used enhances your book, matches the flavor of the story and what you want to say?
How will text be used? Will it scroll across each page or frame, be spoken or both? If you want the text spoken, you will need to either hire someone or do the voice-over yourself. Make sure the person who does the voice-over understands the concept of the “smile.” You can hear a smile. If the voice-over person speaks without smiling, the dialogue or spoken text will sound flat.

Before hiring a voice-over person, I was shown a book trailer where the text slid smoothly across each frame backed by music and powerful images. The movement of the text forced me to interact with what I was watching as it captured my attention. Reading the text myself was so powerful, I knew that’s what I wanted my audience to feel as they watched my book trailer. 

I had no idea what music to use. I left that up to my producer. The company, PhotosInMotion, as would most production companies, owns the rights to hundreds of royalty free music samples in any style and tempo. My producer edited four different pieces of music into four versions of the trailer and let me choose which I liked best. The particular piece in the final bomber book trailer was the only one of the four that crescendos to the end.

The production company you hire doesn’t have to be in your town. Most if not all of your communication can and will be done electronically. PhotosInMotion, the company I used, is in Michigan. I live in North Carolina.  

If you're wondering how to approach a production company, what to say, what to ask (?) read on: What follows is a list of questions to get you started.

1. What does your basic cost cover for a 1 minute book trailer?
2. What information do you need before you can begin?
3. Do you have royalty free music to use? If so, will you give me options to choose from?
4. Do you have someone who does voice-overs?
5. Is voice-over talent included in your basic cost? If not, how much extra will it cost?
6. What additional hidden costs are likely to occur?
7. Once I hand in all the requested information, how long will it take?
8. Do you require a down payment?
9. What is my recourse if I’m unsatisfied with the final product?

The above information was compiled from my personal experience. I in no way claim to be an expert on this topic.

I hope this post tweaked your interest in making a book trailer.

Have you done a book trailer? How does my experience compare to yours? What else would you recommend? I’d love to hear from you.

Sandra Warren is the author of Arlie the Alligator and other books for children and adults.

We Bought a WWII Bomber: The Untold Story of a Michigan High School, a B-17 Bomber & The Blue Ridge Parkway!  "This bit of local history is a reminder of unheralded resolve and determination by students during WWII" Publishers Weekly/BookLife 
Available: - – Ingram - Road Park Books, Charlotte

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About Me

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Hi! I’m Sandra Warren, a writer with very eclectic writing tastes. I’ve been fortunate to have publications in multiple genres including children’s, gifted education, parenting, how to, poetry, journal, educational activity guides and biography as well as audio and video production. I'm a city gal recently transplanted to the mountains of NC where glorious mountain vistas inspire latest renderings.

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