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How To Pick a Topic and Narrow Down Your Audience Before You Write

Perhaps the two most important steps in the book-writing process come before you even sit down to type your manuscript. These steps are narrowing down your audience and choosing the topic of your book. There are so many topics and audiences to choose from - how do you pick just one of each?

Start by carrying a pad of paper and a pen with you, wherever you go. Make a list consisting of anything and everything that you might want to write about. Pay extra-close attention to the problems facing those around you and try to find out what topics people are most interested in reading about. Also list things that you are passionate about and any topics in which you hold considerable expertise.

Add to your list groups of people that you would like to reach through your book. Think about different age groups, different groups in the workforce, people with special interests, etc., and write down topics that might interest them.

Start narrowing down your list. Choose the topics and audiences that are most important to you and that you know the most about. Remember that the topic needs to be something that pertains to your audience; it must be one that the audience will be interested in if you want your book to be successful.

When you start writing your book, be sure to keep your audience in mind the entire time, and do not stray off topic. You must stay focused and use language that your audience is sure to understand. These things are essential if you want to keep readers interested in your book.

==>Amanda Free is a Communication Major at University of Louisville.


Traditional vs. Self-Publishing. Is One Better Than the Other?

Everyone knows about traditional publishing. That is where a publishing company offers you a contract, pays you an advance and publishes your book for you. In the past, traditional publishers would accept around 2-3% of all the manuscripts sent to them, either unsolicited or via an agent. Unfortunately, nowadays, due to numerous different factors, many publishers are not even looking at unsolicited manuscripts and only publishing less than 1% of the books they see from agents.  

If you were not in the lucky 1-3% accepted by traditional publishing houses, and if you wanted to publish your work, you needed to somehow get your book out there by self-publishing whatever way you could. So, for publishing purposes, anything other than traditional publishing fell under a “self-published” umbrella. 

Although there have always been very successful self-published authors (e.g., Willa Cather, e.e. cummings, T.S. Eliot, Benjamin Franklin, Zane Grey, Ernest Hemingway, Stephen King, Rudyard Kipling, Louis L'Amour, D.H. Lawrence, Beatrix Potter, Anis Nin, Gertrude Stein, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Henry David Thoreau, Leo Tolstoi, Mark Twain, Walt Whitman, and Virginia Woolf just to name a few), self-publishing has always been under a “not as good as traditional publishing” stigma. However, with recent technological advances, various different methods of self-publishing have come into their own in the recent years and self-publishing has taken on a more respectable label. 

There are still the “vanity press” houses which will publish anything that comes their way (hence the name “vanity press- i.e., publishing houses which court the vain people who want to see their name in print). These vanity publishing houses do not do justice to the self-publishing industry by allowing poorly written, and poorly edited works to be published. 

However, there are many and varied kinds of self-publishing houses out there that do care what they publish and these companies are slowly eroding the self-publishing stigma. They provide all editing services for an author and want to see a good book getting out into the market. 

The bottom line for authors that do not have a contract with a traditional publishing house is to do their homework and find a self-publishing company that will enhance their writing experience and produce a work that they can be proud of. Self-publishing can be a viable way to get your masterpiece out into the public.


4 Reasons You Need an Editor

We are very pleased today to have for Our Little Books Guest Post Wednesday, Marla Markman, head spell-checker at Markman Editorial Services. You will enjoy her post because she knows what she talks about! Make sure you check out her company, especially if you need editorial services for your manuscript.

You’ve broken through the dreaded writer’s block, you’ve heeded the “4 Tips to Good Self-Editing,” and your book or article has made the rounds to friends and associates. It’s ready for public consumption.

Not so fast! You should have another set of eyes look at it—and that’s what a good editor is all about. Following are four reasons why you need an editor:

  1. A fresh, objective viewpoint:  After spending a lot of time writing your masterpiece, poring over it, and rewriting it countless times, you’re too close to your work to look at it objectively. You can’t tell if what you’ve written is effective, makes sense, or in some cases, is even factually correct. An editor will look at your work with a fresh viewpoint and make sure you’re saying what you think you’re saying.
  2. Grammar, punctuation and spelling expertise:  I’ll always remember when I worked in the copy editing room of a magazine, and the CEO introduced us to a VIP as “the people who spell.” Although it was simplistic, he was correct. Editors live to find the wrong usage of “effect,” correct dangling participles, and other entertaining gaffes. The surest way for a writer to look like an amateur to turn in a book or post an article riddled with errors.
  3. Structure, tone and readability perspective:  In addition to focusing on details, such as spelling and punctuation, an editor can be a “big picture person.” Does the story or article flow well, or does it need to be rearranged in a more logical order? How’s the tone? Does it speak to your intended audience? And finally, does it read well, or is it clunky and awkward? An editor can address and repair all these issues.
  4. In short, someone to make you look good!  The best reason to hire an editor is because we help you shine by letting you focus on what you do best, whether that’s story-telling, marketing, sales, or whatever your expertise may be. Let us do our job—making your writing the best it can be—so you can excel at yours.

Marla Markman is head spell-checker at Markman Editorial Services, which supplies editing, design, content creation and project management services to businesses, nonprofits, websites and publishers. For more information, visit


How To Best Ways of Promoting Your Book


You’re book has grown from an idea into a reality. You’ve targeted your audience, written the manuscript, and found a publisher (or published it yourself). The next step is promotion, but unless you have prior experience in the field of public relations, you probably have no idea how to go about promoting you book. There are public relations agencies to do the work for you, but if you’re like most authors nowadays, doing it yourself would be much more affordable. It’s very important to remember that each book is different and needs its own special approach to promotion, but here you will find a few tips that will work for almost any book. 

First, make sure that your promotion plan is built specifically to target your audience. You’ve already worked hard to gear your book toward a specific group of people, and you need to make sure that your book is promoted in a way that is visible to them. Find out what kind of periodicals your audience pays the most attention to. For example, if your book is aimed at a very specific group, such as outdoorsmen, make sure to hit up wildlife periodicals like Backpacker Magazine. Once you’ve figured out what your audience pays attention to, prepare a press release and contact the editor who reviews books for that periodical. Send that person your press release and ask them to write a book review. Be sure to find the right person - do not contact just any editor, because if your press release is sent to the wrong person it will likely be discarded.

Next, you should create a website for your book. Don’t just add a promotion for your book to an already existing site - giving your work its own website will guarantee that it gets much more attention. Print the address for your site in the hard copies of your book so that your readers will know how to access it.

Be sure to contact local television stations. Find out who arranges author interviews and offer them a copy of your book and the opportunity to interview you. If the topic of your book is one often covered by news stations, such as politics or business, it would also be beneficial to contact the reporter who covers the subject you’ve written about, and offer him or her an interview. Starting with your local stations will improve your chances of getting coverage.

Next, send your press release to local newspapers and radio stations and ask them to call you for an interview or a book to review. If someone asks for a copy of your book, contact your publisher and ask them to ship the book. Publishers will typically pay to ship the book, saving you some money.

Once you’ve built your book up on a local level, go ahead and send a press release to national periodicals, as well as national news stations and talk shows. When contacting these sources, just send a press release to the general producer of the show. He or she will then pass it on to the appropriate person.

It’s also important to start an e-zine or e-newsletter for your book. Email it to your friends and family and ask them to pass it along. Include essential information about your book, such as the title, topic, website address, release date, and where it can be found. It would also be beneficial to promote your book through your personal blog. Ask any regular readers to check out your book.

Need more information on how to promote your book? Subscribe to weekly marketing tips, and look for more advice to come!

==>Amanda Free is a Communication Major at University of Louisville.


Two Tips on Dealing with Common English Language Errors 

The English language is extremely complicated. As writers, we all have to work with the complexities within the English language. Since people judge you on the way you write, you want your first impression to wow them, not turn them away. So, making sure you are aware some two very common English mistakes, will go a long way toward your writing making a good impression on your readers.

  • Its and It's

This is probably one of the most common mistakes made by writers, and unfortunately, it is counter-intuitive. There is only one time you use the apostrophe in its and that is when it is a contraction for it is or it has. "It's (it is) for John that the bell tolls" or "It's (it has) been so long since I’ve heard the bell toll for John."

Its, without the apostrophe, is a possessive pronoun, meaning belonging to. "The bird drank from its water” and never has an apostrophe (although most people want to put one in). 

The counter intuitiveness of the its without the apostrophe is because when you normally use a possessive noun, you use an apostrophe. "The bird’s water was dry". Because of the use of an apostrophe in a possessive noun, writers tend to automatically insert the apostrophe when they are replacing the noun with the "it" pronoun. However, "It's water was dry" is incorrect and should correctly read "Its water was dry." 

  • i.e., and e.g.,

i.e., and e.g., two Latin abbreviations which mean different things are not interchangeable. They should be used in the appropriate manner.

e.g., (in Latin, "exempli gratia") means "for example" and you would use it when you want to give examples. "Her grocery list included several types of dairy products, e.g., (for example) milk, butter, cheese and yoghurt.

i.e., (in Latin "id est") on the other hand, stands for "that is" and basically means, "in other words". "All dairy products, i.e., (in other words) milk, butter, cheese and yoghurt, have high levels of calcium".

(Additional tip:  you always use lower case letters for both i.e., and e.g., even if they are at the beginning of a sentence. Also, you should always include a period between the letters, followed by a comma.)

If you catch these errors, your work will be cleaner, correctly reflecting your professionalism and will help form a good first impression on your readers.