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Website of author and professional editor Rachelle M. N. Shaw. Find information about her books, her editing services, and her blog, From Mind to Paper: On Writing and Editing.


From Mind to Paper: On Writing and Editing

From Mind to Paper is a blog for writers, editors, and those interested in the English language. It covers a multitude of writing topics, from punctuation and grammar to plot development, character development, and world building. In addition to in-depth articles about various writing topics, this blog also has a number of series posts, which are currently being transformed into a nonfiction series on writing.

Filtering by Category: Publishing Advice

Top 5 Reasons Authors Need a Mailing List

Rachelle M. N. Shaw

If you’re reading this post, you’ve probably read other marketing articles about the topic of building mailing lists. Maybe you’ve agreed with those articles, and maybe you haven’t. Or maybe you’re on the fence, perhaps even wondering why it matters for those who don’t have anything published yet.

In my guest blog on the 10 Minute Novelist site, I talked about how important it is to build an author platform and what you can do to tackle the daunting amount of social media involved in doing so. This time I’d like to cover why you should spend your time tackling the potentially more daunting task of building a mailing list. That advice is slung around in a vast number of areas in the publishing world. So it’s no surprise that when many new authors follow that advice, they get discouraged after struggling to achieve high numbers early on. I’ve been there myself, and it can be incredibly disheartening at times. But if you are a new author who’s just starting a newsletter, don’t give up! Even if you have only three subscribers on your list (and believe me, I’ve been there), that list will prove to be a critical foundation to reaching readers, and here’s why.

1. You control the content.

This advice is similar to the that of posting blogs on your own website rather than posting it on a social media site: having a mailing list allows you to have ultimate control around the content, design, and who it reaches. That last element is key to focus on. Think about it: if you post your beautiful words, be it an article, a tweet, a status update, or even an excerpt of your work, to any social media site on the planet, what happens? If you’re lucky, you’ll get some views. If you’re really fortunate, you’ll get some responses and start building a relationship with those followers. So why the fuss about an email list? Well, for starters, the people on that list have signed up for it, so they already expect and want to hear what you have to say, saving you from having to hunt them down. Yes, building a list takes time. Yes, sending out regular newsletters takes a lot of work. But bestselling authors many times over have recommended this approach, and it’s no secret why. When you dictate what content goes out to your readers and when, you gain a strong connection with those readers, and you have access to them in a way that social media can’t provide.

2. It encourages personal interaction.

Though social media is a great way to converse with potential readers and to build relationships, there is something much more personal about newsletters. Though they’re being sent out to multiple people, each email reaches someone who willingly signed up for it and wants to know more about your writing. In other words, it’s not only reaching your target audience, it’s reaching your loyal fans, those who are the most interested in reading what you write. The key here is to share content that gives back to your readers. Trust is a two-way street, and if all your readers hear is “buy my book!” they aren’t going to stick around to hear what you have to offer. Give them content that is genuinely you—high-quality material that proves you will deliver on what you say, something that represents your brand and you as an author. Doing so will ensure subscribers that they’ll enjoy your future work, making them more likely to listen to you when you have a pitch to make for your next book.

3. Having a mailing list is like having a giant group of marketing professionals at your disposal.

Now, before you go throwing any tomatoes at me, hear me out. Not everybody on your mailing list will have experience in marketing. In fact, a lot of them probably will have no clue about it. But by sharing personal content with your audience and getting genuine feedback from them, you’re automatically gaining insight into how to cater to you readers and deliver exactly the type of content they want from you. You’ll see what’s working and what isn’t just by the stats delivered from each campaign. And if you have readers respond to your emails, that result is even better. To me, that’s worth way more than a whole group of marketing professionals put together. Bottom line, if you focus on your readers and engage with them, they’ll engage with you.

4. You don’t need to be published to have one.

Whether you traditionally publish or self-publishing, being an author is a LOT of work, and it comes with an insurmountable pile of challenges. But there is one area where we get a break, a free pass into the world of publishing, and that’s with a newsletter. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard writers say that they haven’t started a newsletter because they don’t have anything published—maybe you’re one of those writers. But think about it this way. Have you ever seen a trailer for a movie that you’ve never heard of yet you still thought, “I have to see that!” Chances are you have, and for one very good reason: the content of that trailer was compelling, and it forged a connection with you. Books work very similarly. It doesn’t matter if they’re at the top of the bestselling charts or if you have an agent managing them. It doesn’t even matter if your book has been officially published yet. If you have stories to share and are willing to take the time to build personal connections with readers, YOU HAVE AN AUDIENCE. And if you can get their attention, they’ll listen!

5. It doesn’t cost a penny.

If ever there was an effective way to advertise without spending a fortune, it’s through a mailing list. There are loads of services out there that allow you to send professional-quality emails to a mass number of subscribers, but my personal favorite is Mailchimp. You can see each of your subscribers, categorize them by group and subgroup, and you can see how they’re interacting with each of your campaigns, letting you know which items were of the most value to your readers. That will help you fine-tune your emails to reach even more subscribers in the future. A huge perk with their service is that it’s totally free until you reach 2,000 subscribers, which is really awesome for those of us starting out.

If you’re on the fence about starting a newsletter, don’t be afraid to make that jump. Though it can be a slow-going process at first, it’s definitely a worthwhile one and can help you reach more readers out there just dying to get their hands on what you have to write.

Speaking of mailing lists…if you enjoyed this article, feel free to venture onto the signup page for my FMTP newsletter: It’s full of posts like this one, plus it has extra tips and updates for my nonfiction projects geared toward helping writers in all stages of the craft.

Why I Wrote a Second Edition

Rachelle M. N. Shaw

Most writers don’t get stuff right on the first try. They know it takes practice, determination, patience, and sacrifice in some form or another. But I think a lot of us forget that it’s okay to make mistakes—and to admit to them—even after we’ve published.

I’ve spent the majority of my life writing, and I’ve been fortunate enough to have a few publications. I’ve also worked as a technical writer, a graphic designer, an editor, and I have some experience in self-publishing. By now, I’ve learned how to avoid most mistakes. But that doesn’t mean I don’t make them. Even those of us with years of experience can mess up sometimes. It’s not an easy thing for me to admit to, but that’s exactly what happened with the original version of my e-book The Eyes That Moved, a short story that was released on Amazon in May of last year. And it wasn’t like it was a complete failure; I had a modest amount of success with it, and as a whole, I was pretty happy with the piece. But I had a nagging sensation that wouldn’t go away. Something wasn’t quite right with it, and I couldn’t let that go.

Change of Plans

When I first wrote and published the e-book, I intended it to be a standalone piece with no alternate endings or further storyline. However, after it was published, I received a ton of encouragement from readers to make it a series. Though I was thrilled to have so much interest from others in the characters and storyline, I had to make sure transforming it into a series was the right move for this piece, so I experimented.

After only a few days of brainstorming, the answer struck me. This piece was evolving rapidly—which was awesome—but that also meant I’d have to rethink the initial storyline. I attempted to weave in a few more details for a minor change to the story to tie it into something bigger, and while that worked well enough, there were other things to consider.


Initial reviews for the original version were very positive. In fact, The Eyes That Moved still holds a good rating on both Amazon and Goodreads, something I’m very thankful for. But some critical feedback eventually trickled in, feedback that stuck with me. Readers were right; it still needed some improvement. I had spent several years on the piece, but that didn’t mean it was ready. Readers argued (and quite reasonably I might add) that though the storyline was decent, it could have been planned out better. I also had comments about not showing enough (something I think we all struggle with at times, even when we think we have it nailed), the ending being too obvious, and a few readers not being able to connect with the characters. That last one was probably the hardest to endure, but I know it was the truth, and it definitely was a problem that needed resolved. However, that’s still not what convinced me to write the second edition.

Growing As a Writer

The deciding factor came when I sat down and did some quiet, internal reflecting on the piece. I didn’t just want to improve this piece for readers; I wanted to improve it for myself. I could do better, and I had to prove that to my inner critic who was taunting me with lies about never being successful. I wanted to tighten up the writing, the loose ends, the plot holes—I wanted to fix everything that had gone wrong in the first edition. But was it really worth it? Maybe I really didn’t have to tweak it; maybe this was all overkill. After all, it’d already gone through minor updates and a cover tweak. And maybe I could make the whole series thing work anyway.

But that was nonsense. My inner muse told me so. A writer always knows whether or not a piece is finished, and I knew I wasn’t done with this one yet. So I worked my tail off and got feedback from some of the most honest critics I know: my family. My family is my greatest support group, and that’s what makes them my toughest critics. They not only love me and encourage me in all my writing endeavors, but they aren’t afraid to be completely honest with me—and sometimes painfully so. I can always count on them to be up front if something doesn’t work, but they also do it in a way that ignites a passion for improvement. They know how to tell me what works and what doesn’t without ever batting an eye, but they also gush about the parts they love.

If you want to grow as a writer, those are the types of critics you need in your life. Whether it’s family, friends, or a group of beta readers who have no qualms telling you what you’re doing wrong (and right), you need them to make your piece top notch. Without their input, your WIP might fall flatter than you realize.

That advice might be tough to swallow, and I don’t mean to be a downer for those of you who love to write. In fact, I want to encourage you to keep at it—even when you don’t feel like it and when what you write is complete drivel. Because someday, you will get it right, and all your time and effort will have paid off. To me, there’s only one thing better in the world than growing as a writer, and that’s witnessing other writers growing in their craft.


Kendra Merrick has a knack for spotting unusual trinkets and treasures, and she isn’t afraid of using unconventional—or illegal—methods to obtain them. When she meets Adam, a fellow sleuth and collector, they embark on their biggest adventure yet: the Whitson house. The house is a marvel, and its secrets are even stranger than Kendra imagined.

Kendra stumbles upon the find of a lifetime. But she may have signed on for more than she bargained. There’s a darkness in the house that wasn’t there before, a pair of eyes in every corner, watching, waiting. And Adam isn’t at all who he claimed to be.

If you’re interested in seeing the efforts of all my fussing and fretting, the second edition of The Eyes That Moved (part one of The Porcelain Souls series) is available on Amazon and Smashwords—and you choose the price on Smashwords.

If that's not enough, here are some more opportunities to get a free copy:

From now until April 15th, you can enter the giveaway on Amazon ( to win a copy of the e-book for your Kindle. For those of you not eligible for the giveaway, you can still receive a free copy—SIGNED—by subscribing to my author newsletter.

Last but not least, if you have a copy of the first edition and would like to receive the second edition for free, don’t hesitate to contact me via the envelope icon at the top of this site. I’ll be happy to send it to you just for being a loyal reader.


Rachelle M. N. Shaw

For those of you who are unfamiliar with this event, #PitMad has been filling the feeds of Twitter today! It’s an event where authors get the chance to pitch their book to agents and publishers and get instant feedback. Fellow Twitter users are able to retweet their favorite pitches that authors post, and publishers and agents will favorite any pitch they like, giving the author an instant “in” for submitting their manuscript! Pretty cool if you’re a new author who doesn’t have many connections in the way of the publishing.

If you haven’t gotten the chance to check it out yet, just do a quick search for the hastag #pitmad on Twitter, and you’ll get to see a bunch of cool pitches by other writers. The event will be wrapping up soon, but those of you who want to participate but missed this one will get another chance soon. The event is held quarterly every year; the next one takes place in September, and the last one this year will be in December. For more details and an explanation to all the various subtags, check out this site:

5 Reasons a Literary Magazine Will Reject You

Rachelle M. N. Shaw

Striving to get a piece accepted by a literary magazine is a great way to get your foot in the door as an author. It helps get you recognized and gives you credibility. During the time I worked with the online literary magazine The Corner Club Press, I got the chance to see what it was like on the other side. I saw just how overwhelming all the submissions could be, and I was able to experience firsthand what it takes to put an issue together. I was lucky enough to work with some amazingly talented folks, and I can honestly say we saw some pretty bizarre submissions at times. So I wanted to share with you guys the biggest mistakes you can make when submitting to a literary magazine. These won’t just earn you a few negative points; they’ll likely get your piece thrown out!

1. You don’t follow the guidelines. This is by far the biggest issue I saw with submissions while working for the magazine. Most literary magazines receive hundreds—and sometimes thousands—of submissions. They don’t have time to read each and every piece they receive the full way through, and they definitely don’t have time to sift through your email or attachment to find your name, the title of the piece, and other information they might need. So guess which are the first to go? If you don’t follow the guidelines for submissions, you’re likely to be out of the running pretty quickly. If you want your piece to outshine the others, start with the basics and follow the submission guidelines. It’s that simple.

2. Your introduction doesn’t hook the staff. The submission process is pretty much like an interview. You need to be polished and present your work well to be considered for hire. The same is true for a magazine. If you don’t have a captivating cover letter for your piece and your email isn’t well constructed, your submission will blend in with the others. Your story may be the greatest work of all time, but if you don’t present it professionally, it could be passed up for someone else’s.

3. Your piece hasn’t been edited or has numerous punctuation errors. There’s nothing that irritates me more than a potentially good story that looks like a third grader wrote it. I’m not saying it has to be totally flawless (though you want to get as close as possible before submitting anything for publication), but if your story looks more like a draft than a final work of fiction (or nonfiction), it’s time to take a step back and patch it up. Magazines are looking for pieces that are publication ready. They typically undergo light editing only. Unless you come across an exceptionally kind and generous staff willing to guide you through a more rigorous editing process, your work with likely be passed up for something a little more polished.

4. Your story has too intricate of a plot. All stories are not created equal. That is especially true when it comes to writing a short story vs. writing a novel. The biggest difference is that short stories are tales that can easily be wrapped up in 5,000 words or fewer. They generally revolve around one or two main characters and one event or short sequence of events. The direction of the outcome is clear in the end, and that outcome usually involves a change in one or more of the main characters. Think everyday circumstances that have potentially monumental results. If your story’s ideas are too vast or complicated to be captured in a just a few pages, they probably don’t fit the frame of a short story.

5. You don’t respond to an acceptance email. This one is the hardest slipup to swallow. I’ve seen some incredibly awesome stories that were accepted but not published simply because the author never responded to the acceptance email—or because they responded outside of the required time frame. Without the author’s final consent on edits and permission for their piece to be published, magazines have little choice but to reject the piece and replace it with another one. It takes time to format an issue and finalize it for publication; magazines can’t wait for weeks on end for a reply.

Added bonus: To really make your piece stand out, give it some extra touches to improve your chances. Address the editor directly, talk about the magazine and how you came across it, and mention specific pieces that you’ve enjoyed in past issues. If you show that you’ve gone that extra mile and really done your homework before submitting, the staff will be thrilled. Your story might even get bumped up to the top of the slush pile because of it!

Here is also a helpful article on constructing a great cover letter:

(Edited from original post to update and correct point number two.)

Building Your Career As an Author

Rachelle M. N. Shaw

Establishing an online presence isn't just preferred if you want to be a successful writer; it's absolutely necessary. As the primary form of marketing, it's important to make yourself and your work known long before you get your first agent and contract. Publishers want authors that stand out from the rest: ones who not only have good writing skills but are marketable as well. And while the traditional forms of marketing and publication still lie with the publishers and agencies, it's up to the author to connect with others outside of the publication world and establish a name for themselves.

Smwright has an awesome post regarding the subject that I strongly encourage aspiring authors to check out:

It talks about ways in which you can further your online presence and the key factors in doing so, including a website, professional email address, and various social media sites.

The biggest part of selling your work is to first market yourself!