Lessons I’ve Learned from “Shark Tank”

Lessons I’ve Learned from Shark Tank

by Katrina Shawver

shark tank cast

I can watch Shark Tank again and again. This business-themed reality television show allows entrepreneurs to pitch their business plan to a panel of five self-made titans in various industries in hopes of gaining a strategic partner (the Shark) and a crucial financial investment in their company. After watching dozens of episodes, I have gleaned several key analogies between Shark Tank and launching and marketing a book.

Know your pitch and keep it short. Rehearse every word. Less is more. As the entrepreneurs walk into the room, the announcer gives a one-sentence introduction. The entrepreneurs then have one to two minutes to present their product with sufficient credibility to interest the potential Sharks. Similarly, I have a synopsis in multiple lengths: one-sentence, 50 words, 100 words, and 250 words, and have employed all of them for different scenarios. They are the core answer to: “What is your book about and why should I care?” The elevator pitch still rules, and first impressions do count.

Research the Sharks before you enter the Tank. Determine in advance who will be your most strategic partner(s). Closing a deal with a Shark is about more than the financial investment. It is about partnering with the best match for you and your business. Do they have a personality you can work with? Do they have the business experience and personal connections to match your genre and target market? If a Shark makes you an offer, there is usually very little time to make a decision. Waver too much and they may withdraw the offer. Similarly, before I sent queries for my book to agents and publishers, I thoroughly researched who they were, who their other clients were, which genres they represented, and then targeted specific ones. For me, a deal with the wrong publisher would have been worse than waiting for the right deal.

Know what you are willing to give up to get the deal. Negotiations have to include the WIIFM (What’s in it for me?) for the other party. The Sharks only offer deals they will profit from and believe in. Similarly, most publishers, agents, and bookstores considering hosting an event for an author need reasonable assurance they will sell enough copies of your book that it is worth their time and effort to partner with you. On the darker side of negotiation, be careful about which rights you’re willing to give up in order to get the deal, and be sure you can walk away if you do not benefit from the deal. On the show, some Sharks often demand fifty-one percent of the company to assume control. Essentially the entrepreneur would no longer be the primary owner and decisionmaker. This can be a deal-breaker for some, but I’ve seen others readily take the deal. Forty-nine percent of a $2 million business is far more than 100 percent of a $100,000 business.

Be professional and do not argue with the Sharks. This rule should seem obvious, but I have watched many entrepreneurs argue with Sharks, become defensive, or even speak while the Shark is talking. Listen to what the Sharks are saying. It is one thing to make a reasonable counteroffer, and often Sharks admire that, unless the Shark clearly makes a take-it-or-leave-it-decide-now offer. Just as when a Shark says “I’m out,” if a publisher or agent turns you down, say thank you graciously and consider any other deals still on the table. The sharks watch to see how the entrepreneur will act in a high-stakes business negotiation. Arguing with potential investors or customers will gain you nothing. Publishing, like many businesses, is a small world. People will spread the word about authors who are difficult to deal with.

I continue to learn the business of publishing and marketing a book, and I am still fascinated by watching the decision process of self-made millionaires and billionaires when making a deal. While I am passionate about my story, I know publishing is also about the numbers. For bookstores, publishers, and agents to want to work with me, they must believe I have a quality product that matches their customer base, and that I am willing to expend the effort to sell enough books to make it worth their time and money to invest in me.

Katrina ShawverKatrina Shawver is the author of Henry, A Polish Swimmer’s True Story of Friendship from Auschwitz to America, officially released on November 1, 2017. The book is published through Koehler Books and is available in hardback, paperback, and ebook formats on most book sites worldwide. Visit KatrinaShawver.comwhere she blogs regularly.

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Comma Kathy talks Common Comma Error

Comma Kathy talks Common Comma Error: Conjunction ‘and’ Doesn’t Always Need One

peanuts - commas.jpg

Early in my career as an independent business writer, I produced hundreds of newsletters. They provided reliable, predictable income – ideal for someone operating as a freelancer. At one time I had 12 newsletter clients, creating an I’m Dancing as Fast as I Can scenario, just like the title of the 1982 movie.

In the early ’90s, many people used computers for little more than email. I was an early fan of desktop publishing; after planning newsletter content with the client, conducting interviews, and writing stories, I created newsletter layouts with PageMaker. Commercial printers produced the number of issues a client needed.

One printshop owner developed a nickname for me: Comma Kathy. He showed great patience with my propensity to review a proof and make tiny tweaks – often no more than a word choice or punctuation change. (My ruthless editor roots run deep.)

Although I perceived his intention for the moniker as friendly teasing – or was it his way of showing frustration with my perfectionism? – I considered it a compliment. Which brings me to this post’s topic: commas. I more often see commas where they are not needed than missing commas where they are needed.

Independent vs. Dependent Clauses

When you have two complete sentences – also called independent clauses – and you connect them with a conjunction (and, but, or, for, nor, yet, so, for example), you need to insert a comma before the conjunction.

But if the second clause that makes up the sentence is a dependent clause (lacks a subject), no comma is necessary.

These are complete sentences / independent clauses that can stand alone. Each has a subject and verb:

Tad plays guitar.

Rachel dances.

Toby teaches at a charter school.

These are not complete sentences, so they cannot stand alone. Each lacks a subject; it depends on a preceding clause to help it make sense:

and gives lessons to beginners

and will perform this weekend

and has grown fond of his students

In the examples that follow, the words in [brackets] are complete sentences / independent clauses. The words that are underlined are incomplete sentences / dependent clauses.

Do not use a comma with a dependent clause.

[Tad plays guitar] and gives lessons to beginners.

[Rachel dances] and will perform this weekend.

[Toby teaches at a charter school] and has grown fond of his students.

Do use a comma with an independent clause.

[Tad plays guitar], and [he gives lessons to beginners].

[Rachel dances], and [she will perform this weekend].

[Toby teaches at a charter school], and [he has grown fond of his students].

Exercise: Compare Independent and Dependent Clauses
The following examples from reading I’ve done show the wrong (no) and then the right (yes) way to include a comma. Note that simply adding a subject to the second clause makes comma use correct.

no: [The ads are backed by significant statewide buys], and will run through the rest of July.
yes: [The ads are backed by significant statewide buys], and [they will run through and the rest of July].

no: [He doesn’t drive a sports car], and says he doesn’t intend to anytime soon.
yes: [He doesn’t drive a sports car], and [he says he doesn’t intend to anytime soon].

no: [Many members of today’s working class no longer are employed in factories], and never will be again.
yes: [Many members of today’s working class no longer are employed in factories], and [they never will be again].

Because commas serve so many purposes, I have devoted five chapters to their use my book, Grammar for People Who Hate Rules: Killer Tips from the Ruthless Editor.

slow animals

Chapter 29: Commas With Latin Abbreviations
Chapter 30: Commas With Academic Degrees
Chapter 41: When Does a Sentence Need a Comma?
Chapter 42: When Does But Need a Comma?
Chapter 43: Multiple Adjectives Don’t Always Need Multiple Commas

I fondly recall my Comma Kathy days. How fortunate I was to step into the world of writing and publishing as computer technology and the internet were emerging. All writers now have the ability to make corrections and revisions easily and quickly; cut and paste paragraphs or entire chapters; count words, whether by paragraph, by chapter, or by entire manuscript; and electronically search for word overuse or redundancies.

Oh … and we can easily add or delete commas.

Kathleen Watson has nearly three decades of experience as an independent business writer, serving clients in both corporate and academic settings. Her weekly blog, Killer Tips from The Ruthless Editor, offers practical word and punctuation tips, as does her recently published book Grammar For People Who Hate Rules: Killer Tips From The Ruthless Editor. Contact her at: Kathy@RuthlessEditor.com.

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Abnormal Paranormal (or Ghosts and Cowboys)

Abnormal Paranormal (or Ghosts and Cowboys)

by Patricia Grady Cox

I’m currently writing my third novel, set in a fictional town loosely (very loosely) based on the Pioneer Arizona Living History Museum, located northeast of Phoenix. The story centers around the Ashurst Cabin – one of the buildings at the museum actually moved there from its original location.

Since some of my characters live in my fictional Territorial town, certain scenes take place after dark. So when I saw a post on Facebook about a Full Moon Ghost Tour at the museum, offered by the Phoenix Arizona Paranormal Society, I immediately signed up.

Our leader, Jaime, had a case full of ghost-buster equipment: gadgets to measure changes in energy or electrical waves or temperature; a handheld device that picked up sounds (lots of static, once in a while a noise that could be construed as a voice); one that interpreted noises into words; something that threw off green laser dots to enhance any ghostly shadow. He told us about spirits previously encountered at the museum, showed us photos of strange light formations, and so on.

Green laser dots

The Society’s mission, according its webpage, is to “capture both video and audio signatures of a paranormal activity simultaneously to prove the existence of life after death.” Learn more about them here: http://www.phoenix-arizona-paranormal-society.com/home.html

Rocking cradle

We went into several buildings from the 1800s, which the museum had moved from their original locations. I had hoped to go inside the Ashurst Cabin, located at the far southern edge of the grounds, but the museum employee told us a pack of wolves, or wolf-like creatures, lived in that vicinity, so it wasn’t safe for us to go down there. Huh?

Victorian House Parlor

No chance to sneak away, as the leaders of the three groups kept a close eye on us. But while everyone else was paying attention to the guide, the technological ghost-hunting equipment, and stories about previous sightings, I was busily thumbing notes into my phone:

  • Overcast diffuse light from the moon
  • Gazebo’s white paint glows in the moonlight
  • Noise from the interstate nonstop – louder at night
  • Moonlight casts pattern onto boardwalk through the latticework of porch roof shingles
  • Mesquite porch poles
  • White church also seems to glow in the moonlight
  • Roof looks black against the gray moonlit sky
  • Gothic style windows
  • Moon shining into Northern House cabin through roof shingles is bright as a spotlight


Nope, we didn’t see any ghosts. But I sure would have liked to see those wolf-like creatures! Especially since it was a full-moon night.

What crazy thing have you done for the sake of writing authenticity?

Patricia Grady Cox is a member of Western Writers of America and Women Writing Trish Coxthe West. Her nonfiction work has appeared in magazines, newspapers, and ghost-written memoirs. Patricia has volunteered at the Pioneer Arizona Living History Museum where she experienced, first-hand, the realities of life in the 1800s. Her love of the Southwest – the landscape, the history, the culture – infuses her work with authenticity. Originally from Rhode Island, she moved to Arizona 24 years ago and currently lives in Phoenix. Her novel, Chasm Creek, is available on Amazon or through her website. Patricia blogs weekly at Patricia Grady Cox, WriterHer second novel, HELLGATE, will be released by Five Star Publishing on April 15, 2018, and is available for pre-order.

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Steampunk Desperado, a Progress Report

Steampunk Desperado, a Progress Report

by Vaughn Treude


In November, I wrote about my new blog, Steampunk Desperado, and promised to report back on my progress. So far it’s gone well. I’ve been posting consistently and have greatly increased the number of page views on my site. The effort hasn’t yet translated into a lot of sales, though I’m hoping it will eventually have an effect.

First of all, I succeeded in my goal to post every day through the end of the year. As I write this, I’ve  published 84 articles in just under three months. It really helped to have more than 40 of them prepared in advance. I edited many of them for clarity and brevity, but it was much easier than starting from scratch. I wrote a few new ones as well, concerning our book promotions, reviews of works of steampunk fiction, and historical articles about notable events in and around the Victorian Era.

Secondly, I made sure each post had an image. Many were from our collection of steampunk-related photographs and illustrations. Others were public domain or “fair use” images from Wikipedia and government websites. When using photographs from those sources, I added a creative touch by adding captions or assembling them in collages.

I was very consistent in my posting of excerpts from and links to these articles on social media platforms. I made daily use of Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Gab, and Tumblr. I also reposted some of my better articles in their entirety on Medium.com, a blogging platform associated with Twitter.

A few weeks ago, my wife Arlys persuaded me to add Instagram to my list of social media sites, as it seems to be very popular at the moment. She has her own Instagram account called “Interstellar Fashion,” where she posts photographs of a space-alien statue which she dresses in various outfits. This whimsical channel currently has more than 70 followers.

Instagram is different than the other social media sites. It allows you to view posts on a computer but restricts posting to be done only by phone. It’s intended to be a snapshot sharing site, but my photos are often highly edited and include decades-old scanned photos from my childhood. My workaround is to upload photos from my PC to my Dropbox account and export them from Dropbox to Instagram on my phone. Manually adding captions from the phone’s keyboard is a chore, but I get some of the text by opening my blog on the browser and doing a copy-paste from there.


As you can see by the graph from my hosting service, my page-views greatly increased in October when I moved my blog to Steampunk Desperado. Though it’s not obvious from the bars, visitors to my site increased significantly in December, after I started posting to Instagram. By the way, I currently have more than 50 followers on that site, compared to less than half that number, acquired over a much longer time, on Twitter and Gab. I should add that at Arlys’ urging, I’ve put a lot of effort into Instagram, subscribing to more than 100 steampunk and sci-fi-related channels and liking and commenting on posts whenever I have time.

To summarize, I’ve succeeded in posting daily for nearly three months, and as a result, page views and visits to my site have greatly increased. Visits increased further since I started posting to Instagram. I have not yet seen any improved sales numbers, besides those associated with specific book promotions. I’m hoping that the added visibility of the site will eventually lead to more sales.



Vaughn Treude grew up on a farm in North Dakota where the isolation of his home made books a welcome escape. He has been reading sci-fi as long as he can remember. In 2012, he published his first novel, Centrifugal Force. Since then he has concentrated on steampunk, writing Fidelio’s Automata and coauthoring the “Ione D.” series with Arlys Holloway. See Vaughn’s blog at steampunkdesperado.com.

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Thank You, Phoenix Fire 27

Thank You, Phoenix Fire 27

My name is Fidget. My Hooman family adopted me from The Arizona Humane Fidget 1Society in August, 2017. My Hooman Mom told me that for years you came to pick up my Hooman Dad when he fell and could not get up. He had a bad heart and he was a big guy!

I got my name because one of the toys my new family gave to me was a Fidget Spinner. I learned how to bat it with my paw to make it spin! I saw what happened when it was spinning and I stopped it with my paw. I was proud of myself!

I was the first catperson to develop a new sport, which my Hooman Mom (for short, I call her my HooMom) called “towel tunneling.” I was just the right size to climb up the inside of the towels that hung over the clothes hamper. I still love to find a tunnel (covers on the bed?) and race into it! I like to think that I race into a tunnel like firemens race into a fire!

You firemens (and fireladies, too) used to come to my Hooman family’s home and lift my HooDad when he fell down. You had to come a lot, even before I joined my family. I know because my HooMom told me so. I like to make Hoomans laugh, and so I do silly things to make my Hoomans feel better.


Once, my HooMom put me in the front bedroom so I wouldn’t bother you when you had to help my HooDad. I pushed my toy mouse under the door just as a firemans was going by. Then I grabbed it back before he could play with it!

So I want to thank you for helping my HooDad.

There is another reason I am writing to thank you: My paperwork from The Arizona Humane Society says that I was a “fire rescue”: a firemans took me to the Humane Society after I was found in a burning house. I was so little that I don’t remember it, but I sure am glad a firemans like you saved me!

I wish you a Happy Holiday. I thank you for helping my HooDad, and for saving me!

Fidget and the family of Elliot Levy
cat paw prints

Beth Kozan
is the author of the book Adoption: More Than by Chance and the forthcoming Beth KozanHelping the Birth Mother You Know. Beth worked in adoption for 35 years and retired to write. She has many more books than these titles to write and will emphasize and explore the concept of community in her additional books. “Growing up in a close agriculture-based, rural community in Texas, I felt the comfort and bonds of caring for others which is often missing in our busy lives today. Exploring and building communities for today is my writer’s goal.” Follow Beth on Facebook or visit her website, where she reviews books and films featuring adoption.

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The Effective Author: The Tapestry of Realities in Your Writing

The Effective Author: The Tapestry of Realities in Your Writing

© 2018 Kebba Buckley Button, MS, OM. World Rights Reserved. Kebba.com

1950s St Therese Hospital-larger-in Beaumont TX

Different levels of “reality” are perceived as “real” by different people. Atheists and Christians, literalists and metaphysicians, flat-world adherents and solar system fans, Earth Supreme and students of Ancient Aliens: all could be your readers. As we consider levels of reality, think about who your ideal readers may be and on what levels you want to write in order to draw and serve them.

As a child, I was taught that what we see is what is real. If you could tap on it, like a piece of furniture or a rock, it was real. At the same time, my Episcopalian mother believed deeply in God and the activity of God. In my years on this planet, I have since seen and experienced many layers of reality. Perhaps part of our human journey is to learn about the many layers of existence, and to learn to accept that we simply do exist on multiple levels, and that there is much the physical eye cannot (yet?) see.

In a simple example, when you “catch a cold,” is that a physical, emotional, mental, or partly metaphysical experience? Did germs or weather exposure cause your cold? Did sadness cause it? Did your lack of vigilance toward your stress-thoughts cause it? Did you attract it because you really needed several days’ change of pace? Or do colds “just happen”? And when you are deciding what to do about the discomforts of having a cold, do you take something for it, ponder your emotional balance, consider how you attracted this experience, and/or pray? In the layers of life and livingness, I work on my (rare) colds on all those levels. I ask Guidance what is needed and then work to bring the needs into balance.

On the level of the meaning/s of life, I have increasingly experienced the Tapestry Effect: the interwoven levels of “reality” meeting each other, over the years. If you weave the Tapestry of your fiction or even nonfiction narratives as richly as reality has been proceeding, you will attract readers who are looking for a deep and meaningful read. Here are a few interlayered examples of reality from my life:

  • I was born at St. Therese (Catholic) Hospital in Beaumont, Texas, near Houston. A compassionate nun brought infant Kebba back from the nursery to my young mom, in the middle of the night, because my young mom was crying.
  • The sight of nuns in habits has always been very comforting to me. I feel deeply relaxed just thinking of cloisters.
  • I knew by age 11 that my life was for God. I thought, for a time, that would mean becoming a nun, but there are no Episcopal nuns. As an adult, I pursue what I am called to do.
  • The hospital where I was born was replaced in 1962 with a more modern facility, the St. Elizabeth Hospital. I was unable to find the name of the original hospital, which had been leveled, until I “accidentally” met a minister from Beaumont, who gave me the name as “Saint Teresa’s.” Rev. David Ault became one of the inspirational colleagues of my career and life.
  • Friends happened to offer me an autobiography of St. Teresa of Avila, which greatly inspired me.
  • I had years of dealing with strong head pain, due to head injuries. I discovered St. Teresa of Avila was the patron saint of head pain. Today, I smile whenever I hear her name. My head pain is cleared. Was the head pain a gift, to guide me into natural pain relief and healing as a profession?
  • From the single photo I have found of St. Therese Hospital, the front steps are red brick or tile. Although we left the area before I turned 2 years old, I have persistent vivid memories of looking down at steps just like that.
  • One of my most meaningful professional associations today is with a Catholic retreat center, the Franciscan Renewal Center, where I teach the Biospirituality of Peace Within and serve on the Season for Nonviolence Council.

As you read my list, did you think of parallels from your own life? Make notes to use later. Reality is not always neat and clear, nor does it always show up in orderly sequence. Perhaps you have had experiences that provided a lesson and you thought, “Hey, I could have used that when I was 20!” But reality and realizations don’t always unfold according to earthly chronology.

Our writing can reflect the great, rich depth of the Tapestry of Life, if we take the time to weave it. As you write, you can either weave the interlayered stories and characters, and then see who the readers might be, or select the reader base and weave your work to help them receive what you are sharing. That’s you: The Effective AuthorSM!

Kebba Buckley Button is an ordained minister whose passion is helping people find their Kebba books 2017Peace Within. She is also a stress management expert with a natural healing practice. Her next class at the Franciscan Renewal Center is on Saturday, February 10th. Contact her office for details. Kebba is the author of the award-winning book, Discover The Secret Energized You, available on Amazon, plus Sacred Meditation: Embracing the Divine, available through her office. Her newest book is Inspirations for Peace Within: Quotes and Images to Uplift and Inspire. It is available on Amazon in full-color glossy format. For the full-color PDF versions, contact the office. For an appointment or to ask Kebba to speak for your group: calendar@kebba.com

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The Two-toed Sloth

The Two-toed Sloth

by Rita Goldner

One of my favorite activities is sketching animals, especially from life. While I have plenty of subjects among friends’ pets, I much prefer exotic animals, so you’ll find me frequently sitting on a folding camp chair, sketching at the zoo. My orangutan sketches morphed into a children’s picture book, Orangutan:  a Day in the Rainforest Canopy, and since one of my current work-in-progress books is about a rhinoceros, I’ve been stalking that habitat lately, too.

I was thrilled to learn a few weeks ago that the Phoenix Zoo had added a two-toed sloth, named Fernando, to its collection. Sloths are classified into either two-toed or Two toed slotthree-toed. Both have three toes on their hind legs, but the two-toed variety has two on each front leg. Any zoo resident sloths you’ll see are likely two-toed, as the three toed ones don’t do well in captivity. Sloths move so slowly that algae grow on their fur. Their birth rate is low anyway, usually one a year, sometimes hampered even further by the fact that the slow females may take longer than that to find a mate.

Although I’ve gotten used to quick gesture and character studies of his more fleet-footed neighbors, Fernando’s lethargic lifestyle will be more conducive to some detailed drawings. However, I can’t foresee writing an interesting picture book story about him, since he does nothing but sit in a tree branch all day long.

As I frequently do in these monthly blogs, I try to use the animal behavior of whatever muse I’m obsessed with at the moment in an analogy with some facet of writing, illustrating, marketing, story research, etc. Tough assignment this month, since as I may have mentioned, he’s sitting there doing absolutely nothing. Wait! There’s my segue after all!

After a holiday season of frazzled nerves, overeating, angst about what didn’t get done or done right, and running around with the grandkids, I’ve done some recent sitting around staring at a blank piece of paper with a pencil in my hand. I have dozens of New Years’ resolutions spiraling around in my mind, but actual movement, like Fernando, is limited to slowly scratching my head.

Perhaps I’ll learn something from my analogy. My usual tactic is coming up with a jumble of resolutions both for personal and professional growth. Then I dive in with equal enthusiasm for all, and within a few weeks they all fizzle out. How about if I come up with timetables, measureable increments, lists of resources and determined baby steps?

My first resolution is to polish my writing skills. I tend to focus more on illustration because it’s more fun, but in the coming months, I’m going to write a picture book in verse.

My second goal is to expand my marketing acumen, specifically to learn how to run a book launch and how to write good ads for Facebook.

My third is to get serious about consistency in my newsletter. Every two weeks, come hell or high water.

And that’s enough; slow and steady wins the race.



PS If you want to sign up for my consistent newsletter, Orangutans and More, and receive a free kids’ activity every two weeks, visit http://bit.ly/OrangutansAndMore.

Rita Goldner
is the author and illustrator of the children’s picture book, Orangutan: A Rita Goldner2Day in the Rainforest Canopy. Rita has also written and illustrated two eBooks, Jackson’s History Adventure and Jackson’s Aviation Adventure, in the Jackson’s Adventure series.For orangutan facts and images and to purchase the book (also available as an ebook), visit OrangutanDay.com. Or by the Kindle version here. Rita’s newest book, Making Marks on the World: A Storybook for Left- and Right-Handed Coloring, is available for purchase here. Works in progress: H2O Rides the Water CycleThe Flying Artist, and Rose ColoredTo view additional illustrations and Rita’s books in progress, visit Rita’s website. Contact Rita here. Follow Rita on Facebook. Subscribe to Rita’s newsletter, Orangutans and More! and receive a free coloring page of today’s illustration.

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