5 Huge Mistakes I Made Marketing My First Book (And What I Wish I Would Have Done Instead)

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The #1 question I’ve gotten over the years during my time as marketing director at Wise Ink Creative Publishing (and as a working author myself), is this one:

What are the biggest marketing mistakes you made with your first book, and what do you wish you would have done differently?

Luckily for everyone who asks me this question, I love talking about the “wrong turns” I made in publishing and marketing my books, because without these mistakes, I wouldn’t have learned as much as I know now about book marketing.

Here are five of my most glaring mistakes, and what you can learn from them:

1. Hiring a publicist without giving them a clear direction on what I wanted them to do

The thought of pitching myself to magazines, newspapers, and TV shows was overwhelming to me as a first-time author, so I did what a lot of people do: I hired a publicist to do it for me.

What I didn’t know was that a publicist is only as effective as your ability to direct them. I ended up paying her to research on my behalf, which is something I easily could have done myself.

I could have saved a lot of money and probably gotten much more exposure had I done the research part on my own, then given her the task of doing the actual pitching when I had my list of potential candidates.

2. Having a huge launch event at a bookstore

I had an awesome launch event at a huge indie bookstore in my city because I felt I needed the backing of a bookstore to feel “legit.”

Though the event was awesome, it wasn’t until I got home and did the math that I realized I could have made much more money on book sales if I’d had the event at a different location.

Even though the bookstore told me upfront that they would keep 40 percent of the profits from my sales, it really became clear how much that 40 percent really cost me once I added everything up from the event.

Don’t get me wrong—I LOVE bookstores and love supporting them! But I wish I had done my launch event somewhere else, somewhere where I would have been able to keep 100 percent of my profits.

3. Not doing a snail mail marketing campaign

This is the social media age, right? No one mails anything anymore, right?

WRONG.

If I could go back in time, I would have found 25-30 key influencers in my genre and popped a book in the mail to them, along with a personal note. A personal touch goes such a long way in marketing—especially in the book selling business!

I consider this to be one of the most under-utilized marketing tactics used by authors, and really encourage authors to incorporate this into their book marketing strategy as soon as they’ve published.

4. Not using social media wisely

I felt like I needed to be anywhere and everywhere when I first published. I needed a blog, a Facebook page, a Twitter account, a Tumblr . . . and on and on.

It was all so overwhelming that I ended up burning out quickly.

If I could go back, I would focus on ONE platform, probably Facebook, and narrow my efforts there. Then, once I had established myself on one platform, I would maybe move to another one and repeat the process.

Trying to be everywhere is a game you’ll always end up losing. I became way more successful on social media when I quit using it all the platforms and just focused on one I genuinely enjoyed spending time on.

One more related thing I would have done differently is creating a content calendar and scheduling out my posts to avoid feeling like I had to be chained to social media all the time.

Since I started using a content calendar for my social media, I’ve been able to grow an engaged following of readers much quicker and with much less stress.

P.S. If you’d like to learn how to use a content calendar to simplify your social media, check out my new course: Bestseller Bootcamp: How to Create a Powerhouse Book Marketing Campaign Without Hiring a Publicist. I’ll walk you through step-by-step exactly how to avoid all the mistakes I made when I first launched, and grow your audience in the easiest and most effective way possible!

5. Taking out print ads

Again, this was something I felt I “had” to do. After all, I kept getting emails about “special deals” for print ads in magazines that seemed credible!

While print advertising can be effective for some authors in very specific genres, it certainly wasn’t for me. I wish I’d used that money for more targeted advertising on platforms like Amazon or Facebook instead.

The truth is, book marketing work is all about taking calculated risks. You will make mistakes along the way, just like anything in life.

But as much as I made plenty of mistakes when publishing my first book, I wouldn’t change a thing about it now.

I’ve learned so much about book marketing over the years from my personal experience and from working with hundreds of authors on their own book marketing campaigns, but the most important thing I’ve learned is this:

Choose one marketing effort to focus on. Learn how to do it well. Then do it.

It really is that simple.

Roseanne Cheng is the former marketing director at Wise Ink Creative Publishing and co-founder of Evergreen Authors, an online learning community that helps authors successfully launch their book and build a thriving business. To see the book marketing courses Roseanne teaches, go here.

Cristina O'Connell on Building Children's Self-Esteem

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Cristina O’Connell always knew that she wanted to work with children. She loved their honesty and their innate goodness. She also knew that she was an entrepreneur and a goal-setter. A dancer for most of her life, Cristina opened two dance studios: On Pointe and On Pointe Too. Shortly after, she started a children’s party company. Now, she’s kept the momentum going and published a children’s book: The Everyday Adventures of Savvy & Ry: My First Day at Ballet, illustrated by Kevin Cannon.

 

Cristina wrote this book in response to something she noticed in her dance classes. “Sometimes little girls are timid in class, and they almost let it ruin their experience,” she says. “I want them to know that it’s okay to be scared. If you don’t give up, you can succeed at whatever you do.”

 

The Everyday Adventures of Savvy & Ry: My First Day at Ballet is about a little girl named Savvy who is terrified of going to her first dance class. With the support of her mom, her brother Ry, and her dance teacher, Savvy begins to feel safe. She overcomes her fear, connects with the other kids, and ends up having a great time in dance class. 

 

Just like Savvy, there are many kids who struggle with fear of judgement, meeting new people, and trying new things. Cristina has observed that “on some level, kids have all the same insecurities as adults. You have to meet kids where they’re at. Remove their fear of the unknown by setting the stage for what they’re going to do.” To get kids to open up, it is crucial to create a positive environment where they know they are welcome, and where they know what is going to happen.

 

As children carry many of their childhood experiences into adulthood, Cristina knows that making kids feel safe to explore their passions is vital. Self-esteem is a key to success, and Cristina knows that kids will identify with how you treat them and what you tell them. She too was a timid child. She had to conquer her fears to become the entrepreneur she is today. “I was fortunate to have supportive parents,” she says. They helped her establish healthy patterns for goal-setting and exploring her passions, and she hopes to help other children do the same.

 

Cristina’s drive to help children achieve their goals compelled her to write her book. At first, she didn’t know where to start. She only knew that she wanted to publish independently because it would give her the most creative freedom and control over distribution. After she wrote her manuscript, she began to search for an illustrator. She found Kevin Cannon, and immediately connected with his illustration style. Kevin recommended that she work with Wise Ink, who coincidentally has also published Andy Frisella’s children’s book series, an entrepreneur that Cristina admires. The stars seemed to align, and Cristina was on her way to becoming a published author.

 

The thing that surprised Cristina most about publishing was the in-depth nature of the process. As someone who is used to working quickly in business, book publishing taught her that good books take time. She learned to trust everyone on the team to work to their strengths, and to trust that everything would happen in the right way at the right time.

 

As a businessowner, Cristina is using her connections to get her book out into the world. She’s reached out to local children’s boutiques, dance studios, and other businesses in her community to make sure that her work connects with the people who need it most. She also plans to use her book as a tool for parents and children to be able to connect around the child’s sense of self-esteem and safety.

 

Cristina is looking forward to writing her next book in the series, which will focus on Savvy’s brother, Ry, and his journey in dance class. She wants little boys to know that strong boys dance. She wants to empower everyone to feel comfortable exploring their interests with nonjudgement. She says that “with courage and hard work, you can conquer your fears and achieve your goals.”

 

Working with children has taught Cristina that there is an inner child in every one of us. She encourages all adults to listen to that child’s voice, trust their own sense of right and wrong, and trust their intuition. Don’t be scared to follow your dreams.

 

And to any author who is thinking about publishing, Cristina says, “Go for it!”

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The Everyday Adventures of Savvy & Ry: My First Day at Ballet will launch on November 24th, 2019 at the Mission Inn Hotel in Riverside, CA. You can preorder her book here.

A Look Back at Banned Books (Infographic)

Of course you know that The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has stirred up controversy over the years. You might even know that the Harry Potter series has the most commonly challenged books of the 21st century. 

But did you realize that Charlotte's Web was banned in Kansas just 10 years ago? Or that Green Eggs & Ham was banned for its portrayal of Marxism?

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The good people over at PrinterInks have put out this handy infographic to show some of the most prominent and/or ridiculous bannings of all time.

Selling Books on Etsy

Today’s guest post come from Fantasy Fiction author Melissa Herold, whose new series is launching this fall. She is an expert on all things Etsy with her business, Nightblooming, so we asked her to share with all she knows about selling books on that platform. We are totally inspired to use Etsy more, thanks to her!

And in case you’re interested in her fiction, don’t miss her incredible book trailer, here!

Etsy is a fantastic marketplace where its customers believe in supporting independent artists--this makes it a great fit for self and indie published authors. The key thing to keep in mind when selling books on Etsy is that it is not a book marketplace, it is a gift-purchasing and self-indulgence marketplace, which means that you can reach buyers you never might have otherwise, but it also means you need to come to market differently.

Optimizing your Listing

This, more than anything, means killer photos because when an Etsy buyer is scrolling through search results, that’s what’s going to get them to stop on your book. Look at pictures of books on Etsy and Pinterest, evaluate which ones you stop on, and try to recreate what is effective.

Etsy gives you up to 10 photos, so once you get a few good ones of your book, use the remaining ones to promote your brand and your story as an independent author.

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Tags and Categories

Etsy SEO is its own monster, but the easiest way to get started is to think of search phrases that you can use for your book. “Coworker gift” “Mother’s Day Gift” “Retro Hardcover Book” “Geek gift” These phrases become your tags, and you should repeat the most important ones in the body text of your listing.

Using Ads Strategically

There are three ad types you can utilize right from Etsy: Facebook ads, Google Shopping ads, and Promoted listings. By far, I see the best returns from Promoted Listings.

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Promoted listings are the first line of returned search results on Etsy. You can set a daily promotional limit and a CPC (cost per click) limit and, in turn, get to make sure that your book is seen at the top of Etsy’s search results.

Package like Etsy Buyers Expect

Focus on the idea that your book is a gift, even if the person bought it for themselves. Etsy buyers appreciate (and some expect) their book to be packaged in a thoughtful, artistic way.

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Consider inexpensive, beautiful elements to make your buyer smile when they open their package, and don’t pass up on this opportunity to include printed inserts further promoting your books and your brand!

Save Your Sanity on Logistics

The great news is that Etsy makes dealing with order fulfillment super-simple. Box up a sample of your book and weigh it, and Etsy will use this to automatically both bill the customer for shipping AND generate a printable shipping label for you.

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But don’t rush to fill every order as it comes in. Batch-processing all your orders once a day, or a couple times a week, will reduce the overall time you spend on it.

Pricing Your Products Well

The great news is that you’ll likely make more per book on Etsy than on other marketplaces, but make sure you’re rolling the cost of all those pretty packaging extra, Etsy fees, etc. into your pricing. Some authors may choose to keep their pricing consistent across all sites, while others may keep the same profit margin per book, and adjust their prices based on what that means in each marketplace.

That’s a pretty good start! The cost of giving Etsy a spin is really low (just 20 cents for one listing that lasts 4 months), so it’s worth exploring to see if it’s a good marketplace for your book!



5 Dos and Don'ts For Your Book's Crowdfunding Campaign

Today’s blog post comes from Wise Ink author Erin Twamley, who’s latest book Everyday Superheroes: Women in STEM Careers, came out this past spring and is a result of an outstanding Kickstarter campaign! We asked her to share some of her tips for how to hold a great crowdfunding campaign with our Wise Ink audience, and she did not disappoint. For more about Erin and her amazing vision, visit www.erinedu.org.

As an author and educator I have used Kickstarter to support other projects, but this was my first time creating my own Kickstarter to help offset some of the book creation costs. The hidden secret of authorship and publishers is that creating a book is a large investment! Not just all of our time and energy, but a monetary one to ensure we have the best team and final printed copy of our new book! Here are some tips about our successful Kickstarter for Everyday Superheroes: Women in STEM Careers that we launched in March 2019 that earned $8,087 of our $6,500 goal!

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Don’t overspend on your video, but it is important!

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A video is important and is less than 90 seconds, but don’t overspend. Think of it like an interactive tool to use even after your Kickstarter ends. There are tools like PowToons to create your own or tons of video animators on places like Fiverr and 99Designs. But our success came from our community, a family member of a college friend! He not only was detailed and diligent but because he supported the cause gave us a huge discount and great video.

Besides a video animator, your script is SO important. Our children’s book, Everyday Superheroes: Women in STEM Careers, is non-fiction! We are explicitly trying to tackle a problem (stereotypes in STEM) that is well documented! We wanted to connect the research to our book. We also had numerous people review and edit our script, including ourselves! We had teachers, friends, librarians and marketing gurus take a look! Don’t forget to use the awesome Wise Ink team! Your video is key -- in fact we had nearly every pledge supporter watch our video and at least double that number watch it.

Do use social media advertisements strategically

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Most of our sales were from our 1st network -- AKA people we know. We made a list of over 1,000+ from family, friends, business contacts and education contacts. A little bit of spend on Twitter, Facebook or GoFundMe Ads is not going to get you pledges! What we saw is a large number of clicks, we went from 1,000 to 8,000 clicks, but our pledges didn’t really move at all. If you want to spend the funds on advertisements, make sure you identify where most of your traffic is coming from. We found most of our traffic was through Facebook so we capitalized on posts and ads there -- our biggest advice -- now, in the middle of the KS campaign, is not the time to learn a new social media.


It’s all about your 1st network sharing with their communities

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I have a co-author, Joshua Sneideman and together we have both large communities that are interconnected and separated. What we learned is that it is important to use BOTH communities and make sure that the Kickstarter project is clear that you are CO-AUTHORS! Because Kickstarter has usually 1 project creator, my name appeared first (I am also first author of the book). What this meant was if you looked at a snapshot of our Kickstarter project or page, you saw my name and his was a little more challenging to find. This in the end worked against us, because some contacts of his weren’t clear on his role in the project and we lost a few backers this way! (They told us so, upon meeting in person).

We did discover the following best strategies for expanding from your 1st network:

  • Our families, although often our number one supporters can make all the difference and sometimes forget to do the basics like fund our project or share it on social media. Make sure you send a personal note to family members asking for their initial pre-order of the book from your Kickstarter. They might not know that this is a critical step.

  • Use your book reviewers, your initial number one fans, to share the Kickstarter project with their communities. Get specific, ask them to forward an email or share a link to the Kickstarter project on their social media!

  • LinkedIn Posts may not gain initial attraction, but over time posting your project in a relevant group like “STEM Education Resources” will reach others in your like minded communities.


Go for a bigger goal or a stretch goal!

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Everyone, from our WiseInk team to people who have used KS to run a book launch before advised us to go big! That meant be ambitious for our funding goal. We were nervous! Kickstarter requires that you meet your goal to get ANY funding. We talked with successful book KS project creators to help figure out how to calculate costs, expenses and funding needs. What we underestimated was the compilation of the following:

  • Marketing Material Creation Expenses for the Kickstarter

  • Advertising Expenses for the Kickstarter

  • Kickstarter Fee

Bottom line for a book, it seems your KS creation and launch expenses + kickstarter fees means you lose about $2K right out of the gate!

To ensure you get your calculations right here are some tips:

  • Calculate your book creation costs vs. book printing costs separately.

    • You have to print your book, this is an investment. If you use the Kickstarter to “pay back” your book creation costs you will feel successful! No matter what you have to print and store books (unless you do Print on Demand) so this is an inevitable cost that KS probably won’t touch, you will have to wait for your massive book sales.

  • Identify the MSRP price for after Kickstarter.

  • The Kickstarter book price should be your MSRP + the value you are adding, like a signature or a bookmark.

  • For shipping, don’t forget packaging costs. We estimated our shipping just about right, but forgot all about that packaging cost!

  • Have a stretch goal AHEAD of time. If we would have been ready to say Our Print Books are funded, now fund our ebook -- I think we could have kept our momentum! We didn’t think of this until the middle of the campaign and by that time we were honestly well, tired.

In the end, because we EXCEEDED our goal, we were able to take our initial goal home which nearly covered our book creation costs! The challenge with exceeding your goal is that potential new backers may not back because you made your goal! We made our goal with nearly 10 days left -- had we had a higher goal we could have used that last 10 days for a big push. Once your goal is met, it is hard to get backers -- at least in our experience. We have seen and heard with other products this is not the case!

Is it worth it? YES!

To be honest, I was always hesitant of running a Kickstarter. I had read so much about the time and effort to creating a Kickstarter, yes it is intensive! People had shared stories about losing more money or the expenses of shipping. Let’s get real, in shipping books they are heavy and can have weird dimensions! All in all, it took about 3 weeks to package up all the Rewards and products, we spent time creating labels and doing an assembly line, but we actually also got to touch each book with an inscription and signature. In the end, I think our KS was worth it. We learned a lot about marketing the book, what works and doesn’t work that we have continued to apply to our marketing today! In the end, we got paid back nearly all the book creation expenses, identified new great partners and found that our message of Tackling the Stereotypes in STEM resonates.

5 Books (Not About Writing) That Every Author Should Read

Writers often begin their relationship with storytelling as readers and then graduate into producing their own literary works. While writing, it can often be beneficial to step back into your role as a reader to remind yourself of what initially drew your attention to the craft. Apart from being an entertaining pastime, reading can also teach authors important tools of the trade. We’ve compiled a list of five general interest books that are enjoyable reads and whose writing also offers valuable examples of good writing craft.

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1. Jane, Unlimited by Kristin Cashore is a fun genre-bending read that acknowledges and then subverts genre tropes. The novel follows a young girl named Jane who is making good on a promise to her recently deceased aunt by exploring the island of an eccentric, rich family. Within her first day on the island, abundant mysteries emerge, and Jane endeavors to track down answers to her many questions. As the reader selects which question they want answered, the are also selecting between five different genres, ranging from fantasy to thriller to sci-fi. Besides from being a quick read full of quirky, memorable characters, this book is a study in knowing the craft. Cashore demonstrates her masterful skill as she moves her characters between genres and storylines. She gives authors a great example of what it means to use the traditional writing tools in a way that ultimately creates something entirely new.

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2. the sun and her flowers by Rupi Kaur is a collection of poetry and art that took the world by storm. The autobiographical collection speaks to Kaur’s experiences with immigration, family, self-love, body positivity, and love. The poems are elegant and powerful and are paired with line drawings done by the poet herself. These poems are significant because Kaur writes for a broad audience in a way that still speaks an honest, personal truth. Kaur found an audience in a global market that doesn’t always honor poetry, and she did this because of her skill of making often-marginalized groups’ voices universally relatable.

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3. Rez Life by David Treuer is a complex examination of Native American life on the reservation. Weaving together historical documents, legislation, tradition, and personal anecdotes, this novel constructs a complex narrative that challenges assumptions about a culture. This book is significant in its storytelling. Treuer tells a story that’s been part of our cultural consciousness for centuries but does it in a way that provides a new angle to the story and encourages readers to come at the subject from a new angle. This book is a good reminder that no story has been told too often and that there are always new voices to bring to the table.

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4. What Editors Do by Peter Ginna is a collection of essays written by various people in the publishing industry. The collection works its way through the entire publishing process (from agents, to acquisitions, through copyediting and marketing). The essays are written by a powerhouse collective of industry professionals and give a real, honest glimpse into the profession. This is a great read for authors who are seeking a peak behind the curtain. It will help you understand the details of the entire publishing process, and hopefully add clarity and understanding to your future interactions with others who are part of the publishing process.

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5. The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien weaves stories of a Vietnam veteran through his experiences during the war and his life decades later while he’s trying to acclimate to civilian life in the U.S. Blurring the line between being a novel and a collection of short stories, between being fiction and nonfiction, this work tasks the reader and the author both with holding the weight of collective trauma. It challenges the idea of truth in storytelling, asking us to balance our regard for emotional truth and factual truth.O’Brien broaches a heavy subject in a way that feels authentic to his topic. He’s an example of breaking convention when the convention doesn’t suit your topic, and using convention when it does.

Celebrating our 2019 Award Winning Authors!

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Wise Ink authors took the award season by storm this past year, with nearly a dozen titles winning medals or landing as finalists in some of the top independent book award ceremonies of 2019. Wise Ink published many amazing books this past year and we are thrilled to highlight the accomplishments of some of the projects below. Coming from a large pool of diverse and thematically-varied writers, these stories run the subject gamut, spanning from topics like true crime and small-town mystery to journeys of self-discovery and healing.


Three primary award ceremonies took center stage in Wise Ink’s book awards: the IBPA Ben Franklin Awards, the Independent Publisher Book Awards (IPPY Awards for short), and the Midwest Book Awards.


The Ben Franklin Awards are regarded as one of the highest national honors for independent publishers, include over fifty categories that recognize excellence in editorial quality and design.

The IPPY Awards were the first awards that were open exclusively to independents, and winners are chosen from around the world. Winners are featured in articles on the Independent Publisher website and promoted in press releases, among other rewards.

And with a local focus, the Midwest Book Awards recognize exceptional quality from independent Midwest writers – a demographic that the Midwest Independent Publishing Association strives to serve through education, networking, and peer recognition.

Without further ado, here are the details about the awardees!

Amy Pendino’s debut novel The Witness Tree, a thrilling mystery that takes place in rural Iowa and centers around the removal of an ominous double-headed tree, was a Silver Winner in The Ben Franklin Awards’ Best New Voice: Fiction category. The Witness Tree also won the gold medal for the IPPY Awards’ Midwest - Best Regional Fiction category and was a finalist in the Midwest Book Awards’ Fiction - Literary/Contemporary/Historical category.

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In a similar vein, Michael Brodkorb and Allison Mann’s true crime page-turner The Girls Are Gone covers the real-life events of 2013 that surrounded the disappearance of Samantha and Gianna Rucki, two sisters who vanished in the midst of their parents’ divorce. The Girls Are Gone took home the gold medal in the IPPY Awards’ True Crime category.

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Another title that nabbed the gold medal was Running to Graceland by John Slayton, a contemplative novel about a group of freshly-graduated friends who go on a road trip filled with choice, consequence, and self-discovery; it won in IPPY Awards’ Popular Fiction category.

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Turning to the introspective side of things, Susan Hannifin-MacNab’s A to Z Healing Toolbox, which guides readers through active and intentional healing after experiencing trauma, was the Gold Winner of The Ben Franklin Awards’ Psychology category.

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German Awakening, a skillfully-woven story about author Amy Hallberg’s retreat from a small town in the U.S. to West Germany through an exchange program, received the bronze medal in the IPPY Awards’ Midwest – Best Regional Nonfiction category.

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Author Jenney Egertson’s Before I Leave is the culmination of a fifteen-year-long journey to recount the stories and wisdom of a diverse group of women over the age of 80. Filled with lessons about integrity, resilience, and forgiveness, Before I Leave took the silver medal in the IPPY Awards’ Aging/Death & Dying category.

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Humorist Kim Kane tackles the “taboo” topic of the female aging process in Sparkle On: Women Aging in Gratitude, a witty book that covers every imaginable base as it encourages women of “a certain age” to continue living with grace and gratitude. Sparkle On was the bronze medalist in the IPPY Awards’ Women’s Issues category.

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To round it all off, there were also several winners with stunning visuals that accompanied the writing. With a beautiful collection of accompanying photography, Charles R. Stinson’s Connections explores his architectural process and the stories of the people behind his designs; the book was a Silver Winner in the Ben Franklin Awards’ Coffee Table Book category.

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And last but not least, When I Fly With Papa was the gold medal awardee for the Midwest Book Awards’ Religion/Philosophy category. When I Fly With Papa is Dr. Claudia May’s three-movement poem brought to life in the richly-illustrated pages of a children’s book, which explores how the reader’s relationship with Papa as God can be experienced in a variety of different ways.

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Congratulations again to these authors - it is incredibly exciting to see such talent being recognized and awarded. Wise Ink looks forward to this next publishing year and the bountiful stories it will bring.