Category Archives: Platform/Marketing

6 Ways to Use Twitter to Promote Your New Book

When it comes to writing styles, Twitter and book writing are about as far apart as an author can get.However, Twitter can be a very natural way to promote a book. Not only is the
Twitter audience a reading-friendly one, unlike, for example, YouTube,
but many of Twitter’s features naturally lend themselves to promoting a
book.So, if you’re interested in promoting your book or eBook on Twitter, here
are a few tips that can help get you started expanding your readership
140 characters at a time. Short Username, Short Book Title

One of the defining characteristics about tweets is that there isn’t a lot
of room. Since you know you’re going to want to include your book’s
title and retweets/mentions will include your name, you need to keep
those as short as possible to leave more room for the message.

Short one-word book titles work best, but any title that can be abridged to
under 10 characters is a good start. The same goes for your Twitter
username, which should be short, but clearly representative of you.

Find Others and Engage With Them

It’s important to note that Twitter is not a purely promotional medium.
While you can easily promote on it, since others get to choose what
messages they want to hear on Twitter, you have to make sure that you
are engaging with other users as you are promoting.

Use the Twitter search function to find people who are tweeting about
topics related to your book an engage with them. Follow the, @reply them
and generally interact with them. Build a solid follower base and
continue to engage them even as you promote your work.

Being a marketing-only channel is a great way to ensure no one listens to what you have to say. Some suggest following a 20-to-1 rule for tweeting to avoid being viewed as a spammer.

Use Hashtags to Build Community

Hashtags, which are keywords prefaced by the “#” symbol (EX: #ebooktitle), are
short terms used to “tag” a tweet. They are instantly linked to the
search results for that hashtag, making them an easy way to build a
connected series of tweets.

When promoting a book, your title might make a great hashtag if it is short
enough. Failing that, you can abridge your title in a way that is easily
understood. The idea is to find a tag that is unique to your book and
that those who talk about it can easily find others who are talking
about it and further participate in the conversation.

Find Tweetable Content

Odds are your book has quotes and short phrases that, on their own, are
provocative, interesting or discussion-worthy. Tweet those quotes out
along with your hashtag and a shortened link to your book’s landing

The idea isn’t so much to turn your tweets into advertisements for the
book, but to get others talking and thinking about what it has to say.
That will help spread your book’s message, along with its link, all over
Twitter and encourage your audience to promote your work for you, even
if they don’t realize they’re doing it.

  Hold a Contest or Promotion

Contests and promotions, generally, do very well on Twitter and are a great way
to get retweets of your posts and spread your message to a new audience.
All you need is a good reward, a tweet for others to share (retweet)
and a way to determine the winner or have others redeem their reward.

If you’re promoting your book, you can easily give away an autographed
copy of your book or something related to your book such as an hour of
free consulting or a free DVD.

Alternatively, you can also offer a discount to anyone who retweets your post, for
example, 15% off a copy of the book for those who send out a notice to
all of their friends.

The better the prize or the better the discount, the more people who will participate. Just be sure to follow Twitter’s guidelines for holding a contest to be sure you aren’t shut down.

Track and Monitor Results

Finally, as with any promotion, it’s important to track and monitor results.
This means setting up a landing page just for your Twitter efforts,
tracking visits to that page and sales from it.

This will enable you to understand how your efforts are going and how you
can adjust them moving forward, enabling you to continue to improve as
time goes on.

In the end, Twitter can be a tough environment for a marketer as it
involves a lot more than merely blasting a message out to the masses.

However, with a little bit of effort, some planning and some creativity, you can
find a very receptive audience on Twitter that may be more than happy
to buy your book.

This post was written by Lior Levin, a marketing adviser for a cancer center that specializes in  targeted cancer therapies, and who also works for the international MA in political science department at the Tel Aviv University.

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5 prompt Friday

         Here we go again…

  1. The empty feeling in my stomach spread to my chest and head, threatening to pull me inside out.
  2. How do I say this to you?
  3. On her wrist was a bracelet made from multi-colored paperclips.
  4. His voice crackled through the walkie-talkie, “The Eagle Has Landed.”
  5. Are you ready to do this?

Have a story or prompt to share? Post it here : ) Happy writing!


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Margaret Norton, Author of “When Ties Break” Guest Posts

Margaret NortonAuthor Margaret Norton, guest posts today to share the importance and art of MARKETING for writers.  

Leave a  comment or question TODAY to be entered in the book giveaway: a PDF copy of When Ties Break. Margaret will be answering all comments! 


Writing and Marketing a Memoir is not for Sissies 


By Margaret Norton, Author of When Ties Break,  

             Five years ago, after the deaths of eight people I knew, I started writing to deal with my pain. I shared my journal with a few friends, and their response was, “That’s good. You should write a book.” Up to then, my writing experience was limited to church newsletters, job training materials, and Christmas letters. I felt that my story was interesting as well as inspirational, and I blindly plunged into writing my first book.  

Win this Book (pdf)


            The initial manuscript was completed in about six months, but the revision process took about a year. Initially, I included everything. I dumped all my feelings onto paper. At the beginning of this journey I had one main question – why didn’t my brother and I get along? As I pondered this question, I went all the way back to childhood. The end result was a book covering over fifty years – much longer than most memoirs and in some ways more like a biography.  I found that my book, much like my life, didn’t necessarily fit into a neat, predictable package. The end product was a streamlined version of the first manuscript.  

             While writing, I collected ideas on how to promote my book. Everything I read said this would be very difficult. I read that, but I didn’t believe it. My BS is in marketing; I have sales experience and know a lot of people. This will be the fun part, I thought. Maybe not easy, but certainly something that I can do. My book, When Ties Break, was released on August 3, 2010, and these are a few of the things I’ve learned since then:  

  • Independent book stores are more approachable than the large chains.
  • Not many people attend book signings for new authors. Don’t be disappointed. Take them as an opportunity to get out and meet new people. You have to talk to people.
  • You don’t make much money at book sales, but you make connections.
  • Connect your reviews to your Amazon book page by signing up for an author page.
  • Create side businesses to help promote your book. I have a speaking and a life coach business.
  • Contact book clubs to see if they would read your book one month, and offer to come either in person, by phone, or using Skype.
  • Utilize the Internet, especially social media sites. Use them to promote events like book signings and to connect with readers and other writers.
  • Writers support other writers. Accept their help. In return, remember to help others.
  • Book blogs are an easy way to promote your book. Offer to give a free book or pdf.
  • Sign up for Google Alerts with your name & your book. See what others say about you.
  • Remember, it’s one book at a time. Initial sales will probably be low. Create a demand for your book by working hard to market it.
  • Your publisher and others may help, but the ultimate job is yours.
  • Take pictures of your events, and put them on your website or blog. Have fun. Write and blog about your experiences. It’s okay to brag.
  • Connect with & talk to your readers. They give you ideas and encouragement.


            Finally, be thankful. With the high rate of rejection, you are fortunate to be published. It is very hard work promoting your book, but it is fun and rewarding. 

Bio:  Margaret Norton has always pushed the envelope – never totally accepting the status quo. A people person, her greatest joy comes from helping others. Stopping abuse is her passion. Writing When Ties Break helped her uncover and deal with her deepest hurts. She believes that by sharing her story with others she can break the cycle of abuse – one person at a time.  As a personal life coach, Margaret founded Life Transitions to help individuals deal with change. In addition, she is a trained Stephen Minister and a Dale Carnegie Coach. This training, along with her personal life experiences, makes her a caring and compassionate coach. Her stories have appeared in A Light along the Way, The Upper Room, various local newspapers, and online. Margaret is a member of the North Carolina Writers’ Network, the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance, WOW! Women on Writing’s Premium Green network, Story Circle Network, The Guilford Nonprofit Consortium, the Editorial Freelance Association, the National Association of Professional Women, and The UNC-W Alumni Association. 


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Celebrate Good Times, C’mon On!!

“There’s a party goin’ on right here, a celebration to last throughout the year…”

Actually, the PARTY is here. Christina Katz showcases the PROUDEST moments from 40 writing mamas! Read for  inspiration, laughter, tears and motivation. Continue the party on your own blog! What is your proudest writing moment so far? Raise your beverage of choice and cheer!

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2010: The Year of Clarity

At the end of each year, I like to look forward: forward to the days and months ahead and how I will best enjoy, work, play and reach for my goals.

So, 2010 will be dubbed The Year of Clarity. My mission is to refocus my talents and align my true passions with what brings me most joy: writing & submitting fiction and personal essays, teaching my young writer classes, and hosting authors on my blog. Everything else can fall to the wayside and the world will not actually implode. Fascinating.

Cool thing I discovered, is that when you focus on something, The Law of Attraction brings people and opportunities and other instances into your line of vision.  Example: yesterday I received Chris Brogan’s monthly e-newsletter which had a similar theme  to clarity: ecosystems

“Translating that, “ecosystems” means that for every project I take on, I’ll ask whether it fits any of my existing platforms, whether it’s something that can grow beyond a standalone project, whether it’s something that helps grow my existing ecosystems, etc. The point being that everything has to match up, and I can’t keep saying yes to things that come along, just because they’re awesome.”

Are you a “yes” person? Are you overwhelmed? Think there’s a connection there?

I love Chris Brogan’s idea of ecosystems, building upon an existing platform.

As part of my Clarity for 2010:

  • I’ll be purging paper: many, many issues of magazines, print outs of articles and writers’ guidelines (I can find everything on-line, after all) – look for giveaways on my blog next year!
  • Restructuring my young writers’ classes so that my lesson plans can grow with me – not be recreated for each teaching session.
  • I will also discipline myself to workout in the morning whether Pilates, yoga or toning (Because there is ALWAYS a reason not to do it midday) and I feel so cruddy if days of sloth have gone by.
  • (Biting my lip I say this) I will not join or otherwise commit to any more projects/organizations/volunteer groups/invitations to write for free (that hurt a little)
  • Find balance between teaching/helping other writers and focusing on my own writing: i.e. during my teaching sessions just focus on my lesson plans and student work with journaling for myself. Work on my own drafts and submitting in between teaching gigs.
  • Continue my use of lists, but be more realistic and forgiving (give myself a lot less to do until I can master one or two things – instead of being spread way too thin)
  • Scale back on the mass amounts of research/reading about writing and refocus on the actual writing. I’ll do this by canceling many of my google alerts and free email subscriptions. There is such a thing as too much information! ; )
  • And most importantly, Have assigned writing days/time slots to work (without too much internet use -I’m very easily distracted.) Outside of these set writing times, I need to learn to let it go and focus on the people in my life, including myself.

So, what are you guys going to focus on in 2010? Write it down. Make it happen. Let’s keep each other accountable, shall we?


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Events for Writers in NY & MI states

Because we all need to push away from our desks and venture out to mingle in the writing arena, here are some events scheduled this month:

Event: PITCH: Brooklyn, NY

“”Pitch your story or book face-to-face with the Flatmancrooked editorial team.””

What: Business Meeting

Host: Flatmancrooked

Start Time: Sunday, September 27 at 11:00am

End Time: Sunday, September 27 at 2:00pm

Where: Brooklyn Library – Park Slope Branch

To see more details and RSVP, follow the link below:


Fall Writers’ Workshop With Heather Sellers

Learn a terrific new focusing technique that

will allow you to dream forth the most amazing

scenes. Get out of your head and into

your senses; invent fantastic, compelling

scenes that will leave your readers


Heather Sellers will share techniques acquired

from Robert Olen Butler and Lynda

Barry. Topics include How To Focus, Stop

Drafting, What To Write, Revision That Actually

Works, and Tips and Tricks to Keep Writing.

For more information, contact the store

Literary Life Bookstore (616.458.8418 or

email at



Fall Writers’ Workshop with Heather Sellers:

Fabulous Images in Fiction and Memoir


Monday, September 14

Two-Session Workshop will be held onAND

Monday, September 21


758 Wealthy Street SE

Literary Life Bookstore


7pm – 9pm


Each session is $25 (save $5 if both sessions

are paid for in advance). Space is limited

to 10 writers, and spots will be reserved

upon receipt of payment.


I’d love to drive to MI and attend this one and the price can’t be beat, but alas, I have  a day job to attend. So, do me  a favor, OK?  Go there – take great notes and come back here to share your knowledge with the rest of us!  Do It!


Filed under books, Education, Platform/Marketing, teaching, writers

Just Be

Ever receive something in your inbox that just makes total sense for your life at that moment? Happened to me this morning and I thought I’d share it with you:

“Lose yourself in the moment at hand instead of contemplating the moment to come. When you play a game with a child, don’t think about what you need to do after the game. Instead, jump into the game, absorb it, laugh, be fully present. When having a conversation with someone, listen with your heart and mind versus thinking about what is around the corner or what will be said next. Becoming more attentive, moment to moment, is one of the quickest ways to a more joyful heart and rich life.”


This was taken from Brook Noel’s Good Morning message. sign up for her dailies – you’ll be lifted each morning.

With this direction in mind, I’m off to relax and explore in nature with my husband and two sons this weekend. Happy Writing, all!


some links from what I learned this week:


From Teaching Authors blog:  3) AYouTube-available video of A School Visit by best-selling Author/Illustrator Jarrett J. Krosoczka.
Sit yourself down in the school auditorium, surround yourself with kiddos, and listen and learn how and why Jarrett makes books.


HelpAReporterOut (HARO) mktg/platform tip


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Exclusive Interview & Book Giveaway: Arnie Bernstein, author of Bath Massacre: America’s First School Bombing

Arnie_109Today, I have the honor of hosting Arnie Bernstein, author of Bath Massacre: America’s First School Bombing.  In his interview, Arnie describes his passion behind this book, explains how to conduct interviews on a delicate subject and the responsibility of portraying accurate details in a true-life story to honor the living and the lost.

Arnie Bernstein is a nonfiction writer based in Chicago. He is the author of three books on Chicago history, which won praise from the late United Stated Senator Paul Simon (D-Illinois) and Roger Ebert.  In his introduction to Bernstein’s book “The Movies Are” Carl Sandburg’s Film Reviews & Essays, Ebert wrote:

 “Arnie Bernstein has performed an extraordinary accomplishment in bringing this book into being….(He) adds great knowledge and insight…providing background, orientation, historical information, helpful footnotes.  This is a book that reopens a chapter of journalism and history that might have remained closed forever.”

Bernstein has been interviewed by many media outlets, including The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, National Public Radio, BBC Radio, television, documentaries and webcasts. He was honored for his work by the Illinois State Library, and won grants and awards from The Puffin Foundation and Warner Brothers Studios.  Bernstein is a board member of The Society of Midland Authors, one of the nation’s oldest writer’s associations which was founded by Harriet Monroe and Carl Sandburg.  He is also a member of The Author’s Guild.

Speaking engagements include presentations at DePaul University, the University of Chicago, Columbia College-Chicago, and many others.  He has given speeches and served on panel discussions at the Chicago History Museum, the Illinois State Library, the Gene Siskel Film Center, as well as numerous public and private libraries.

Bernstein is represented by Barbara Braun Associates, Inc.  Contact him at Visit his site:


On May 18, 1927, in a horrific conflagration of dynamite and blood, a madman forever changed a small Michigan town. Bath Massacretakes readers back more than eighty years to that fateful day, when Andrew Kehoe set off a cache of explosives concealed in the basement of the local school, killing thirty-eight children and six adults. Among the dead was Kehoe, who literally blew himself to bits by setting off a concealed dynamite charge in his car. The next day, on Kehoe’s farm, his wife’s remains—burned beyond recognition after Kehoeset his property and buildings ablaze—were found tied to a hand cart, the skull crushed and objects placed with macabre ritualism next to her body.


With the horror of Oklahoma City and 9/11 still fresh in Americans’ minds, the seemingly endless stories of school violence epitomized by the Columbine shooting, and suicide bombers around the globe, Bath Massacre resonates powerfully for modern readers and reminds us that terrorism and murder on a large scale are sadly not just a product of our times.

Bolstered by cooperation with survivors and their descendants, the book includes exclusive interviews with the people who lived through that terrible day in 1927.

Some illustrations in the book have not been seen in over 80 years.  Now published for the first time, you will find many of these exclusive pictures here along withother photos of the bombing and its aftermath.

As we mark the tenth year since the Columbine killings of April 20, 1999, there is no better time to learn and remember the incredible impact that such an act of violence can have on a community

Arnie will be stopping in throughout the day to reply to your questions and comments. One lucky commenter will be selected to win a copy of Bath Massacre.

So, grab a hot cuppa joe and settle in for a treat!

Interview by: Mary Jo Campbell

 1.      How did you decide on writing this book? Were you trying to find the story of  “America’s first school bombing?”


I wanted to write about a “forgotten story” in history. I felt this would be a real challenge as a writer.  How do you take something that fell through the cracks of time, and then make it come alive so it’s compelling and relevant to today’s readers?  That was my initial goal so I started poking around the Internet, finding things here and there but nothing that really grabbed my attention.  I stumbled onto the Bath story in May of 2005 on a history web site and knew immediately I found what I was looking for.  It had everything I wanted: a great story arc, a compelling cast of characters, and resonance for modern audiences (particularly in the wake of Virginia Tech, Columbine and other school murders). The Bath School bombing grabbed me from the start.  It was that “eureka!” moment; it was something I hadto write about.  (Rather than recount the story here, readers should check out the synopsis on my web site:


2.      During your reading at Columbia College in 2007, you spoke of the survivors you interviewed for this book.  How did you find these people to interview and more importantly, how did you handle probing for details with such a delicate subject?


 “Delicate subject” is a perfect description.  I knew I’d have to get the cooperation from the people in Bath in order to get the book done.  Keep in mind I didn’t have an agent or publisher at this point.  There is an excellent web site run by a great-nephew of one of the victims.  This site listed the address for the “town historian,” whom I contacted.  Essentially, the town historian was a resident who put together a scrapbook on the tragedy.  The Bath Middle School houses a museum about the bombing and this man sent me to a couple of their board members.  I called to introduce myself and explain what I was doing.  We agreed to meet and I drove up to Bath (outside of Lansing, MI and I live in Chicago, about a 3 ½ hour drive).  I did a presentation for the assembled board, explaining who I was and why I wanted to do the book.  That was one of the scariest days of my life!  I knew they would look at me as some kind of outsider coming to tell their story—and rightfully so—hence I had to tread lightly but firmly. 


I explained what I was doing, what my approach would be and that under no intention was I going to exploit their tragedy for personal gain. I pledged that I would give a percentage of any royalties I might earn to the school museum. It was also important to me that I do this.  Let’s face it; a generation of Bath’s children was murdered.  If I didn’t give something back to the town, then I would be making blood money.  Obviously I had no interest in doing that!  


I couldn’t really tell how I was doing in this meeting, but they took what I had to say and asked good questions about my background and my goals with this book.  While they agreed to cooperate, they also asked me not to talk with any survivors, since they didn’t want these people—their friends and relatives, people in their late 80s/early 90s —disturbed by a stranger.  I agreed, although inside I was frantic!  How could I get to the heart of the tragedy without talking to survivors?


When the book came out this past spring, I learned that many people had come to the committee before with ideas on telling the story, but had received no cooperation because of various attitudes, mostly a lack of concern for the community.  Among those who’d been turned down was Michael Moore, who wanted to include some stuff on the Bath School bombing in Bowling for Columbine.  Apparently he and his people were rude—quite rude! 


But one person, whose late father was a survivor, told me something that really made an impact on me.  I was speaking to Bath high school kids about my book and the tragedy; after my speech I asked this man, “What did you think when I first came to town?”  His words floored me: “After you left,” he said, “we knew we had finally found the right guy.” 


Of course, I didn’t know this at the time!  I continued working on the book, doing research, making trip after trip to Bath, talking to the townspeople and working on building trust.  After about a year one of them said that perhaps I should talk to her father.  He was in the school that day and his brother was one of the children killed in the explosion.  The man was now in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.  I sat with him and his daughter and we talked.  I was very careful, as you can imagine, because I didn’t want to upset the man and yet I wanted his stories.  His daughter and I went back and forth, gradually drawing stuff out of him.  Although it was clear his mind was not all there, you knew his memory was keen when he talked about that day.  I think we spent three hours talking.  He did repeat a few things over and over but I just rolled with it, figuring he might come up with something fresh each time he recalled the events.  In some cases that did happen.  In fact, he gave me one of the most compelling moments of the book, the last confrontation between Andrew Kehoe and Superintendent Emory Huyck.


Once this woman saw me in action with her father, I knew I’d made a major breakthrough.  I felt in my gut I’d finally proved that I could be trusted not to push survivors into painful emotional areas.  I was right; the floodgates opened and I was given the contact information for several people.  Ultimately, I interviewed four of the six or seven survivors left.  And the woman who sat down with me and her father became my best contact, providing me with plenty of information, answering the most obscure questions about the town, and many other things.  We’ve grown very close over the years; today I consider her to be one of my best friends.


I guess the bottom line for any of your readers who want to take on a difficult emotional project is take your time, be patient, be sincere, be sensitive, and give your all.


3.      (A question borrowed from your website’s Reading Group Questions List) Bath Massacre uses techniques normally found in fiction. In what ways is the book like a novel? How does this help draw readers into the story? How did you build suspense even though the readers know what is coming?


My two biggest influences on this book were a pair of creative nonfiction masterpieces: In Cold Blood by Truman Capote and The Executioner’s Song by Norman Mailer.  Though Capote and Mailer were far apart stylistically (to say nothing of their alleged feud and begrudging respect for one another), I think both of these books worked well in developing a dramatic and sometimes suspenseful narrative although the reader already knows how each respective story will end: with executions of the criminals.  Those books were my models; in fact, when I reread Bath Massacre after it was published, I could see exactly how much of In Cold Blood I’d absorbed and reworked into my own style as far as lengthier prose and The Executioner’s Song when it came to the shorter paragraph bursts. 


Knowing the outcome of the crime actually helps, I think.  It gives the reader a reference point, one full of dread and yet inevitable. Throughout the book, leading up to the bombing, you get to know not only Kehoe and his increasingly erratic behavior but also the people of Bath.  Some of them are going to die, mostly children.  You don’t want it to happen, but you know it will and it is going to be devastating.  The morning of the bombing, I fill the chapter with short scenes of children going off to school, classroom scenes, and other typical, normal, mundane activities.  Knowing what’s coming, knowing that these lives are going to be shattered in so many different ways counterbalanced by Kehoe’s actions in the final days and hours before the bombing builds the suspense.  Although Kehoeis behaving in a cold, calculating way, he doesn’t appear to be on the surface.  We know what is coming but his victims and the people he has interactions with obviously don’t have a clue.  These two worlds are about to collide in epic and inexplicable tragedy.  And that’s where the suspense comes from. 


I hope I’m not coming off as unfeeling here!  Obviously these are real events that devastated a community.  Through creative nonfiction techniques you’re drawn deeper into the action rather than you would be with straightforward police procedural or something written with histrionic language like you see in a lot of cheap true crime paperbacks.  Those kinds of books are designed to provide vicarious thrills to the audience.  I wanted readers involved and sympathetic, not simply stirred up.


4.      The varying processes of published authors always fascinate me. Can you share your research and writing process and timeline for this book?


My research was conducted on several fronts.  I relied on newspaper accounts of the tragedy; a transcript of an inquest conducted a few days after the bombing to determine the whats and hows of May 18, 1927; two previous books and other accounts of the tragedy, all of which were self published; and interviews with survivors.


Because I’m working in nonfiction, I like to immerse myself in as much material as I can on a topic so I know the story backwards and forwards and can cover all of its nuances.  Fortunately, there was a wealth of eyewitness accounts as chronicled in newspapers of the day: obvious choices like New York Times and the Chicago Tribune provided great information, but the meat of these stories came from the Lansing State Journal.  They had people on the scene first and hit all aspects of tragedy: rescues, heartbreak, fundraising, and events in the days after the bombing.  These accounts—particularly the Lansing State Journal—were invaluable resources.  They were filled with scenes that informed the overall story.  I also used newspaper accounts marking various commemorations of the bombing (I dislike the word “anniversary” to describe the date), such as the 75th year marking the tragedy.  A piece from the Detroit Free Press on how Bath offered lessons to the post-9/11 world was also very useful.


Next was the transcript of the inquest conducted by local law officials on the Monday and Tuesday after the bombing.  The official goal of this inquest was to investigate the circumstances behind the murder of Emory E. Huyckbut the real job was to provide an account of what led up to the bombing and what happened on May 18, 1927.  This document was nearly 300 pages and was packed witheyewitness testimony.  It was filled withscenes, withdialog, with the interior mindset of so many townspeople, eyewitnesses, rescuers, and victims. 


There were a few self-published books on the tragedy.  One was produced by a Bathresident about a monthor so after the bombing to honor the dead and chronicle what happened that day.  Another was a self-published history written about 20 years ago.  The design of this latter book was terrible and the writing was even worse, but the research was great and provided me with a lot of good information, particularly in the school board events that showed the growing tension between Huyck and Kehoe.  There’s nothing more boring than reading accounts of school board meetings and I had to wade through page after page of that stuff!  Despite the tedium, the book did do a nice job of setting the stage and also gave some good history on Kehoe’s early years.  The town historian also produced a pair of spiral bound books that collated a lot of articles and personal accounts and there was also a lengthy history of Bath written in 1976.  All very useful stuff.


Finally there were the survivors. The bombing was 80 years ago, yet to them it was yesterday.  Their memories, their words were far more eloquent than anything found in newspapers or books. One woman told me some particularly gruesome details about the scene and a family member who was killed.  As the stories grew bloodier and more personal, I was afraid of upsetting her and said, “You don’t have to tell me this stuff if you don’t want to.”  She said, no, she wanted to tell me.  She wanted people to know what happened and it was her duty to bear witness.  And that’s an awesome task to translate such personal stuff into a book.  The survivors emboldened my resolve to do this book right. I wanted to create the definitive account and hence had to tell it properly.



What I did was go through this stuff over and over until I felt like I’d really absorbed it.  Now comes the work! I write an outline and throw myself into the writing.  Having all that stuff surrounding me physically as well as stored in my head infuses my process.  I turn into a machine and churn out the material.  I don’t pay attention to things like style; I just write.  Then I go back and edit mercilessly.  Did I leave anything out?  Can I move stuff around?  What really belongs and what can be deleted?  How can I smooth out the work so it reads seamlessly?  Again, I don’t worry about style but getting the story told right and told to the best of my abilities. 


What I didn’t realize when I was writing was how violent and graphic the story was.  I just wrote!  In the editing phase, as I played with the material, I periodically would have to put down the manuscript; it got to be too much for me to handle emotionally.  It never occurred to me how hardcore I was getting in the writing.  Like I say, I turned into a machine, taking the research I absorbed and translated it to the page. Regardless, I knew during the editing that if I was this deeply affected, I was on the right track.  Odds were with me that the reader would see and feel the tragedy exactly as I did.



5.      As writers, we are told to have a readership in mind, especially when pitching an agent or publisher. Did you have a publisher in mind while you were writing this book? Can you tell us about your publishing experience?


I can’t say I had a readership in mind; all I knew was that I had a compelling story.  If it grabbed me, surely it would grab others!


As for pitching it, I was told at the beginning by one person to “dream big.”  To be honest, I had Devil in the White Citydreams about bestsellerdom, but agents and publishers had other ideas.  I had no agent when I started, but I wrote a damn good proposal (and I used a wonderful book by Elizabeth Lyon, Nonfiction Book Proposals That Anyone Can Write to guide me in this phase; I highly recommend it).  Next I scoured the Internet for potential agents and sent out query after query.  I got plenty of rejections with the occasional nibble for the proposal.  However, the majority of people said the story was “too regional.”  In other words, because the story didn’t take place on the East Coast or the West Coast, it wasn’t significant!  But after 40 or so submissions, I got a wonderful agent who really believed in the material.  It took me only three months to find an agent, a much shorter time period than I anticipated. 


She sent out the proposal to publishers but again we ran into the “too regional” roadblock.  We both found this frustrating because in the post-Columbine world you’d think that the first mass school murder—particularly one with as many twists and turns as the Bath story has—would be a juicy plum for any publisher.  Finally University of Michigan Press picked it up.  Because the story took place in Michigan they were a natural choice and UMP is one of the most respected university presses in the country.  I asked a couple of author friends who had published with university presses what they thought, and they encouraged me to take the deal.  I’m glad I listened to everyone. I’ve been very happy with UMP; they’ve done a great job as far as production, editing, book design and promotion.  They’ve worked hard on my behalf and that inspires me to hustle in my own marketing efforts.  We’re now in our fourth printing.


Ironically, the Virginia Tech tragedy happened about six weeks after we sold the book.  I said to my agent that we probably could get a big name publisher if the book was still being pitched at that point since the subject would have been more “topical,” something people were looking at anew.  She agreed and she knows the business.  It’s a sick little racket, the publishing game!




6.      What would you like readers to take away after reading Bath Massacre?


Overall, I want readers to feel the depth of the tragedy in very human terms.  I’m often asked if the book has any lessons in light of modern school violence and I can’t say it does; the only thing it really shows is that these sort of tragedies are nothing new and realistically there’s nothing we can do to stop determined psychopaths.  I point that out towards the end of the book with a lengthy list of modern school killings.  It’s not a hopeful message, but it’s a realistic one and that’s something I couldn’t avoid.  But the final scene, of the 94 year old woman visiting her baby brother’s grave on the 80th anniversary of the bombing does—I hope—show the reader the importance of memory, of keeping the dead close to heart, of how connections of love are not diminished by the years, of how goodness and decency can emerge from unthinkable violence.



7.      Please share your upcoming events and readings of Bath Massacre.


On Saturday, August 1 I’ll be at the Bourbonnais (IL) Public Library Author Fair. Later in the fall I’m going to be in Grand Rapids, MI for a book festival on Saturday, October 17.  Other events are being scheduled as we speak.  The best bet is for readers interested in attending a reading is to check in on the “events” section of my website and/or become a “fan” of the book on Facebook.


I do participate in book club readings and discussions; there’s a readers guide people can download from my website.  Depending on location, I can meet with your group in person, or via telephone, webcast or Skype.  If readers want to use Bath Massacre for their book clubs I’ll provide them with copies (signed, if they want!) at a group discount.


8.      What is next for Arnie Bernstein? (Events/readings/classes/projects, etc)


I’m teaching basic college composition at Triton College in River Grove, IL.  I love teaching 101; that nuts and bolts stuff and the enthusiasm of my students really helps my own work.  If you can’t do the basics, you can’t write and teaching introductory stuff helps keep my own work fresh.


I’m currently researching a new “forgotten history” story that also has contemporary repercussions.  And that’s all I’m going to say about that!


Overall, this book has been a great experience.  Thanks for giving me this opportunity to talk with your readers.  I’d love to hear from people if they have any questions or comments.


One last thing: the best advice I can give Writers Inspired readers is that if you have a great story you believe in, keep fighting for it.  You will succeed in getting the work out there.

Please remember to leave a question or comment for Arnie for a chance to win a copy of Bath Massacre.  Comments must be posted before 12 midnight, CENTRAL, today, July 29.


Filed under Advice, Author Interviews, books, Non Fiction, Platform/Marketing

What I learned this week

Double-Friday Feature!

Each week I post what I learned in writing, teaching, marketing and life! Because last week got away from me, today is Double Feature Friday!


  • Guess what? I can write in the midst of my kids! This week, pressed to get some words, any words, on the page, I took my laptop into my boys’ room and sat at Sam’s art table. While he rummaged through a Tupperware of craft beads, picking out the heart-shapes for me, I wrote a very rough draft of a guest post on teaching young writers. I also answered, with many misspellings and fragmented sentences, a 10-question interview for another author’s blog. Yes, it was frustrating having my thoughts interrupted after every other word, but I have some good raw material to revise later. So, no excuses for you mamas and papas (and that means pet-owners, too!) Go here for more tips on prioritizing your writing time.
  • Another great tip I probably mentioned before but actually used this week was the on-line egg timer. Curse you Twitter and Facebook and other realms of the internet distraction world. Now I can time my time writing: 30 minutes to craft interview questions for an author blog tour: go! 20 minutes to write a press release for my young writers summer studio: go! Try it, you’ll like it! (Mikey did!) Go here for tips on breaking bad writing habits!


  • The age group I teach creative writing to is middle grade.  Where are these young writers? Twitter, not likely. Bloggy land, maybe. Facebook, bingo!  So, I created a Facebook group to target the ages I’m trying to reach. Come on over and join the discussions! Here are instructions to create your own Facebook group. While there, become a “fan” of UpWrite Press – they give away free business-writing books!
  • Also searching for my young writer market, I came across some cool young adult and teen blogs:  BloggingYA, Blackeyedsusans and teen fiction cafe. Check them out, share the love!
  • As a writing teacher, I’m feeling pressured (from myself) to become more familiar with The Classics. So, this week, I’m reading The Sound and the Furyby William Faulker (via audiobook, which is the best invention since sliced bread!)


  • I’m a huge advocate for being involved in my community within my platform.  Hence, I’ve been keeping in contact with the coordinator of a local youth enrichment program, FRoG (Friends of the Gifted and Talented). My efforts paid off when an announcement on my young writing studio was sent via email newsletter to the entire mailing list of FRoG, which I understand spans multiple local school districts. In one week, I had about 8 emails from inquisitive parents, followed up with 5 newly registered students! Get out there and CONNECT! Here’s a site offering Free advertising of your upcoming events
  • Here is a great article on how writers should (and should not) use social medias!
  • Want to get more exposure on Twitter, but don’t want to fall in a manhole by texting and Tweeting on the street? Click here to find out how to bulk-write and then schedule your Tweets.
  • And, last but not least, here is the link to the free ebook, Work At Home Marketing That Doesn’t Suck,by Tina McAllister. Some handy little gems in there!


  • Most of the day’s stresses are melted by watching a few episodes of Seinfield and enjoying a sweet treat at night!
  • Be friendly and social: you never know who you’ll bump into, say, in the grocery store parking lot or waiting to rent a movie. I’ve bumped into several of my students’ parents just being out and about in the neighborhood.
  • Play! This week feeling frazzled and sluggish by deadlines and eating unhealthy, I snapped my laptop closed, grabbed the boys and their bikes and went riding. They rode, I walked/ran to catch up. We found a steeply sloped sidewalk and rode back and forth, then spun in circles in the grassy field and collapsed on the ground in giggles. Felt fantastic!

So…what did you learn this week?


Filed under Advice, Believe, books, Education, Perseverance, Platform/Marketing, Rest

What I learned this week

…in writing, marketing, teaching, and life!



  • Found on Twitter (I signed up for TweetBeep: alerts when someone mentions you, your handle, your links, etc. also tracks ReTweet’s)  This is all a part of the social networking etiquette. If someone mentions me, I will know and can reciprocate (or at least tweet a “thanks!”)
  • Used Mr Tweet to find relevant suggestions /recc’s for those to follow on Twitter (provides lists who follows them, who has RT’d or mentioned them in tweets.) This is helpful, because I will see tweets that relate to my industry, learn about news,contest, etc; find links and possibly buddies!
  • Linked to a great site for Public Relations help. Tips on writing and tweaking your own Press Releases and there is even a Press Release formatting guideline



  • Ha! Always learning in this category. I’m a control freak. Yes, I’ve said it before and it bears repeating. Control freaks have a phobia about asking for help, but I’m slowly overcoming that fear. This week, I needed to reach out for help on things beyond my experience. Car problems, babysitting schedules and in the writing realm: I am asking parents and students of mine for their testimonials and help in publicizing my Young Writers Summer Studio. I also requested and received help from one of my mentors, Christina Katz, with my local platform development.
  • I also learned to slow down, a little. Baby steps, ya know? I scaled back on my responsibilities with Capitol City Young Writers, the nonprofit organization I volunteer with.  I will be phasing out the job of creating, editing and sending the quarterly newsletter and picking up the task of managing their new young writers blog.
  • Hugs! You can never give or receive too many…

What have you learned this week?


Filed under Advice, Organization, Platform/Marketing, Rest, writers, writing inspiration