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Big Changes Coming to Perry Elisabeth Design

On April 1, 2016 Tyler and I took Perry Elisabeth Design from a part-time side gig to a full-time business and the main source of income for our growing family. Since then we’ve worked with countless amazing clients and created and launched our successful WriteMind Planner. It has also allowed Tyler to study for a career in IT and networking.

The big news is… he recently accepted an IT job! This will allow me to focus on being mom to our 4 little boys which means some big changes for our business.

As of June 1, 2017…

  • We will no longer be offering formatting, web design, or other graphic design services.
  • We will not be taking new cover design clients or new projects from existing clients… mostly. The exception to this is people who have a series with us (we don’t want to make anyone switch designers and cost in the middle of a series!).
  • The other exception? I will occasionally accept other cover design projects, but the price will be significantly higher than what we’ve charged so far. (Don’t worry… I still love all you budget authors and will be putting together a list of recommended resources for inexpensive cover design and formatting!)
  • There will be absolutely NO changes to the availability and shipping times of WriteMind products, plus we have some other amazing ways we’ll continue help you all out!


Questions about any of this? Leave a comment!

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A Subscription Box for Writers?! A Review of the Meraki Box

I just love things created by writers for writers. Why? Because they just get it. In this case, author Alicia A. Willis gets it that writers LOVE writing paraphernalia.

You know what I’m talking about! We’re notebook junkies, writing utensil collectors, and generally into office supplies. (As I told Tyler before Christmas, “As far as I’m concerned you can’t go wrong with me and office supplies.”) So of course I was thrilled when Alicia asked me if I’d like to review her new literary subscription box!



What is this Meraki Box thing?

From Alicia:

Meraki means to do something with soul, with creativity; to put something of yourself into your work. There could not be a better description of what writers, authors, and editors do. Every word is written with love, with passion, with hope. Our boxes are designed to encourage and inspire literary artists.

Every Meraki Box© contains several (4-5) literary treats. Whether it’s pens, pencils, stationery, planners, paper, desk accessories or pretties, you will receive an assortment of the goodies that makes every writer’s heart bound. The products you will receive will be a mystery until their arrival.

With those items, you will also receive one treat to refresh and inspire you (unless you opt out of all food items.) You have the ability to choose with category your box will fall under.”


My Review

My box arrived quite quickly and before I even opened it I could tell the contents were going to be ever so cute and put together. The outside of the box looked great: the address tags were on cute scrapbook paper, there was a very professional “Meraki Box” sticker and—super nice touch!—the boring packing tape was covered with gold sparkly tape. Overall a great presentation!

Gold tape!!

Inside was a layer of gold tissue paper… so classy!

And then the goodies!

Meraki Boxes can be ordered with customization: you can choose what kind of treat will be included. There’s a Chocolate Lovers Box, a Coffee Lovers Box, a Tea Lovers Box, a Mystery Lovers Box, and a “No Food Please” Box (the one I received).

My box included:

  • an Inspire bottle (tiny glass bottle with a line of literary brilliance, see picture below)
  • a gold pencil
  • a mini Secret Garden notebook (adorable!!!)
  • a magnetic bookmark (never seen one of these before; very clever!)
  • a “Writer” paperweight (LOVE it. Will look super great on my desk)
  • a pack of desk essentials: color-coordinating paperclips and binder clip


Alicia is running this subscription service so straightforwardly; they’re affordable, you’re not locked into any sort of contract (buy them a month or three at a time!), and they can even be gifted!

I’m super impressed with my Meraki Box and encourage you to check them out for yourself!

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6 Tips to Avoid Being Scammed by a Publisher

Guest post by N.R. Tupper

In this day and age where self-publishing is as easy as a click of a button, a new wave of scamublishers have popped up. That’s not a real word, I’m just using it because I can.

Did you know ANYONE can start a ‘publishing’ company? It’s not difficult at ALL. But how do you tell if a publisher is legitimate or if they’re just some person in their living room trying to cash in on your hard work?

Here are a couple of ways to research a publisher before you sign on the dotted line!


If their website is focused ENTIRELY on you, the author, it’s probably a scam. Legitimate publishers focus their websites on SELLING BOOKS, not drawing in authors. Just visit one of the Big 5 websites and you’ll see that trying to figure out HOW to submit your manuscript is a challenge unto itself because, and rightly so, their websites are focused entirely on readers, not writers.


If they are asking YOU to PAY them to publish your novel AND asking for 40% royalties on TOP OF THAT, they’re not worth your time. Move on. You should NEVER pay a publisher. Pay an editor, pay a cover designer if you’re going it alone but NEVER pay a publisher. It’s a bad deal. Period.


Go through their catalogue of released books, if they even HAVE any released books and if they don’t run away! What do their covers look like? Does it look like someone just learning Paint threw the cover together or does it genuinely look like a cover you’d find on a bookshelf in a bookstore? If the covers don’t look professional, chances are the publisher isn’t professional either.


If their website, adverts or emails are riddled with spelling and grammatical mistakes, run the other way. If they don’t take proper care with their OWN product, why would they be careful with yours?


Run their name through Writer’s Beware. Heck, just run their name in google with the word writer’s beware after it. If there are absolutely no hits, that’s good. If there ARE hits, read every single complaint carefully. If you see a common theme in those complaints, it’s probably true.


Legitimate publishers will only VERY RARELY come to YOU. If you’re getting PMs from a company that hasn’t read your work or if you have a self published novel out that has sold less than 10K copies, be suspicious of ANY publisher that contacts you without you initiating that contact. 9 times out of 10 they’re just trying to scam you for that royalty so they can get something for nothing.

None of the above on their own will absolutely weed out bad publishers, BUT if a publisher passes all of the above tests they’re probably okay. Whatever you do, whoever you sign with, be CAREFUL. Remember that just because it bears the name PUBLISHING in the title, doesn’t mean it’s professional.

In this day and age where we authors have the power to take things into our own hands we need to ask: What can this publisher offer me that I can’t do myself?

If they aren’t offering you extensive exposure, if they aren’t offering you editing, cover design and professional help, they aren’t worth it.

Good luck!

Happy Writing!

About N.R. Tupper: You know what I hate more than stories that don’t involve dragons, explosions, ridiculousness, humor, romance and/or aliens? Biographies.

I was born.

I learned how to write.

I write.

The end.

Find her website here.

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10 Tips from NaNoWriMo Veterans

10-nano-tipsMy Nano tip is to wrap your mind around the fact that you WILL finish no matter what. The last three years, because I’m always behind by about 30k words, I’ve barely participated in the Thanksgiving festivities in order to ensure that I reach my goal. Three years in a row and going for my fourth win, although this year I’ll stay ahead of the word count.

Audrey Rich


You don’t have to write 1,666 words all at one time each day. Break it up into spurts of writing if that is more manageable. Ten minutes here, twenty minutes there–it all adds up. Write even if you don’t feel like it, you can make sense of the nonsense later.

— Dyanne Gordon Green


I was an utter failure at NaNo! Here’s my tip: Look ahead at your schedule in the month of November. Instead of attempting to write the same number of words each day, plan low-word days and high-word days that average out to equal your goal number of words.

— Tamie Dearen


Just keep writing. Write in any spare second you find. If you get stuck, skip ahead (or behind) and fill in the details later. I found out you can get 50,000+ words even while working part-time, celebrating three family birthdays, Thanksgiving holiday with family, and a book release.

Faith Blum


Find a writing partner or group to check in with a few times during each week. You can meet in person at the coffee shop/diner, library, etc. or online, doesn’t matter. You’ll need someone to cheer you on and hold you accountable for those daily goals.

Dawn Malone


Just keep writing every day, even if you’re under the daily word quota. The best thing about NaNo is it gets you into a routine, and that’s how you finish your book, even if it’s not within the month.

— L.M. Merrington


Everybody else is going to talk about word count and getting ahead, all good advice. My advice is to get up and walk around about every half hour, even if it is just around your chair. Save your progress, take a walk. You will be able to work longer and write better. The only person who may be disappointed will be your chiropractor.

— Alex McGilvery


It’s about quantity, not quality. I’ve had characters burst into song whenever I couldn’t think of what they could say.

— Marvelle


My best tip for NaNoWriMo, I’d say, is to plan ahead! I know some people are pansters, but I’ve found that if I start doing NaNo without some sort of outline ready, or if I start with an empty plot… I’ll find myself a few days in and have ran out of things to write! So, definitely plan ahead. And if you do find yourself stuck…writing prompts are lifesavers!

— Lianna Grace


If we pantsers jot down the key plot points & black moment details on index card/Post-It Notes…it will keep us on track without losing spontaneity.

Jenna Victoria

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8 Ways to Excite Kids about Writing This November

(c) Can Stock Photo / lenm

Guest post by Kate Willis

For most of us, November means turkey, pumpkins, and coming winter; but for a small portion of the population it spells National Novel Writing Month (fondly shortened to NaNoWriMo). These certifiably artistic people commit to writing 50,000 words in 30 days.

Hats off to them! This year I’m in an auxiliary role with three younger siblings signed up for the Young Writers Program.

This offshoot of the regular NaNoWriMo event is specifically geared towards writers aged 17 and under. How does it differ from the 50k phenomenon?

  1. Writers set their own challenging goal. Whether that be 30 words or thirty thousand words, it’s up to you!
  2. Kid-friendly site. All forums are monitored with children in mind, and the layout and graphics are perfect for young computer users.

In my family the word count goals and writing skills vary with age but excitement and drive are very high. Here are just a few ideas to help you and your mini-novelist get ready…

  1. Set up an easy username/password. If your young writer is going to be signing themselves in and out at least once a day, this should be memorable and easy to type. Make it fun! Include a variant of their name or favorite thing to make it personalized.
  2. Brainstorm together! This is as simple as looking at pictures and imagining what is happening in them. Older young writers may enjoy creating an inspiration board for their story on Pinterest (though pictures should not be used outside of the site due to copyright concerns).
  3. With my youngest writers, I asked them simple questions such as “what is the character’s problem?” and “how will they solve it?” to help them plan out the story. Encourage slightly older ones to learn from good materials including Writer to Writer: From Think to Ink by Gail Carson Levine, 5 Secrets of Story Structure by K.M. Weiland, and the blog Helping Writers Become Authors.
  4. When they are ready to announce their “novel”, make a special cover by uploading a free Pixabay image or by ordering a free mockup cover from Perry Elisabeth Design.
  5. Next decorate a notebook together with happy scrapbooking paper and amazing stickers to make the daily writing/planning grind more interesting. You can find instructions to make your own on my blog.
  6. Set up a whiteboard or chalkboard in their special “writing spot” to set daily writing goals and record triumphs. Another option is Perry Elisabeth Design’s free word-tracking calendar.
  7. Spur them on with special snacks (popcorn, anyone?) and cool prizes whenever they hit a goal. The YWP website also awards them with adorable badges, which I think is pretty awesome.
  8. When November ends and the writing is done, celebrate by publishing the “book”. One copy for your budding author to keep and another for Grammy and Grandpa’s Christmas present. You can always print and staple or even publish a “real” copy through Createspace.

The memories are worth the time and effort, and who knows—maybe you’ve just discovered the next Charles Dickens or Suzanne Collins.

screenshot-2016-10-28-09-52-41Kate Willis has never fallen down the rabbit hole, her wardrobe only holds clothes, and tickets to Neverland are too expensive; but she is on an adventure. She lives with her artistic family and writes about the love of God and ordinary adventures. She would love to grow up someday and have a family of her own, but for now you’ll find her writing more books with chai tea in hand. Connect with her on her blog, read her short stories, follow what she’s reading and reviewing on Goodreads, and see her inspiration and sense of humor on Pinterest.

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Free Covers for NaNoWriMo 2016 Participants


This year, we’ve decided to offer a limited number of free, custom cover designs to NaNoWriMo 2016 participants! This is going to be so much fun and we can’t wait to get started. If you’re not doing NaNo this year, be sure to share this free offer with someone who is!

We can’t wait to hear more about your book, but first, here are some important details about what this offer includes…

1. This is a 1-off mockup cover, meaning: we use details provided here and create one (1) custom front cover design for you. No revisions are included in this free offer (except in the case of a misspelling).

2. You will receive a low-resolution JPG file, large enough to be used on NaNoWriMo, but not large enough to be used if you intend to publish.

3. If you’d like a larger copy of the design and/or want to make revisions, you are welcome to purchase the full version from Perry Elisabeth Design (typically $44 or $64).

4. All images used will be licensed appropriately by Perry Elisabeth Design, but may not be used in excess of 500,000 copies or on Print-On-Demand merchandise from sites such as (but not limited to) CafePress and Zazzle. Copyright is still held by the original artist/photographer.

5. We will not work on projects for the erotica or horror genres, or anything depicting adult content.

6. We reserve the right to refuse and/or cancel any project at our discretion.

7. Space is limited. You will be notified by email if your book has been selected for this free offer.

Offer ends November 30, 2016.

Questions? Contact us!






You need this! The only customizable planner designed by an author for authors!

Sketchbooks and notebooks available, too.


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15 Simple Things to Help You Survive NaNoWriMo

15-nano-survivalWhen people first hear about NaNoWriMo, they usually display the face that says, “Really? You’re going to try to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days?! You do realize that’s crazy, right?”

I think most of us realize it’s at least a little crazy, but that’s kind of the point. Pushing ourselves into survival mode to make words HAPPEN.

But, of course, we probably all privately wonder if we’ll be able to survive survival mode.

Here are a few things to consider adding to your NaNoWriMo survival kit to give yourself the very best chances of winning.

(Please note, this post contains affiliate links. This means if you click one and make a purchase, we’ll earn a small commission.)

    1. WriteMind Planner – this planner is actually designed specifically for authors. Most planners have a calendar, right? Well, the calendar in this baby is a wordcount tracking calendar with spaces for you to track goals by day, week and month. That’s just one of the many handy organizational features of this planner (designed by Yours Truly!). Plotter? Pantser? Somewhere in between? You can customize the planner’s modules to suit your writing style!
    2. Post-It® Notes – You know you need these! Bits of ideas running around in your head? Jot ’em down! Stick them all over your computer. Around the window. To your forehead if needed. (You know, handy reminders for other people in your life: “Remind author to eat.”)
    3. Corkboard – for even more note-taking! Let’s face it: sticky notes might not still be sticking by the end of November. But if you PIN them up they’ll still be where you can see them easily. I love the unusual frame on this one! If you need more space, this burlap one is 2′ x 3′ and looks great!
    4. Coffee, Tea, or… BodyArmor? – Pick your comforting drink of choice! The legions of writers (and crazed NaNo writers, especially) claiming to be fueled–not just by their muse but also by coffee–are strong. There is another bunch dedicated to the slightly more unusual tea-preference. (Have you ever had Good Earth Original? Yum!) But who says it has to be one of those two?! Why not BodyArmor sports drink? (Yes, I’m a desert southwest dweller.) Tyler and I highly recommend the Strawberry Banana flavor!
    5. Writer’s Mug – There’s just something about putting your CDoC (Comforting Drink of Choice, see above) in a very writerly mug. It’s inspiration. Humor. Yum. All in one ceramic package! This one is definitely big on the inspiration! If you’re looking for a humorous way to remind people you’re busy… give them the “look” over the rim of this mug. And if you’re heading to a NaNoWriMo Come Write In, or if you’re afraid of spilling on your work this is probably the mug to use.
    6. Water Bottle – Having a good supply of your CDoC is important to make it through November, but always have even more good, old-fashioned water on hand. I find when I’m afraid I’ll spill water on my laptop, I tend to set my glass on another surface nearby… and then forget to get up and drink it. I’ve taken to using a water bottle so the spill-risk is lowered and I can keep it right on my desk. HydroFlasks are awesome because they’ll keep a drink hot or cold for hours (I’m seriously into ice water even in winter… again, desert-dweller, I know). Mine has a screw-on lid, though, and I’ve found I drink less when I have to take the time to unscrew the thing and then screw it back on! Seriously. I think I might turn into the laziest person alive when I’m focused on something. Anyway, I’ve been eyeballing these flip-top replacement caps to solve that problem. In the meantime, I’m using my glass water bottle.
    7. Snacks – You know your favorites, but be sure you have a good variety. Sugary snacks may be great initially, but after a little while they will actually leave you feeling sleepy and dull… not exactly the greatest place to be when you still have 600 words to write that day. Good alternatives are: protein snacks like jerky or nuts; fruit (think: apples with peanut butter, grapes, melon pieces); cheese and lunch meat with crackers; or popcorn. (If you’ve never had G.H. Cretors Chicago Mix, well, you’re really missing out. Pro tip: Costco carries it in a seriously wrong MASSIVE size.)
    8. Lip Balm – Seriously. Sometimes with a project this size in front of you, the little comforts can make a hug difference. I personally like Burt’s Bees lip balm, and they have so many varieties! Original, flavored, “Ultra Conditioning,” and (for us ladies who don’t want to feel like the crazed writer we might actually be) rose-tinted.
    9. Music – Whether you write to music, brainstorm to music, or relax and reset to music, include music in your NaNoWriMo survival plan! Over the course of a whole month, you are going to want variety and new songs if you’re anything like me. If you’re an Amazon Prime member, you can freely stream a TON of music. It’s all tidily organized so you can play specific artists, albums, or songs. I’m really enjoying their playlists and stations, though. (Variety, remember?)
      Don’t have Amazon Prime? Well, I have good news… Amazon offers a free, 30-day trial. Also, the month of November is 30 days in length. Catch my drift…?apple-products-1165364_1280
    10. Earbuds – Gotta have a way to listen to all that awesome music! I was just looking at earbuds since mine have all died tragic deaths at this point. (The little people at my house like to pop those cool rubbery tips off them!) Someone once had me try out the Apple EarPods, and they’re most awesome. That’s saying a lot, because I typically find earbuds totally annoying and uncomfortable (small person, small ear canals. What can I say…). For me, they fit in my ears, stayed put, and were comfortable despite not having any delightful-to-pull-off rubber components. These are going right on my wish list now that I’ve remember them!
    11. Stress Ball or… Cupcake? – A way to deal with a busy brain and maybe even help turn daydreaming into brilliant brainstorming! Go for something serious or get yourself a cupcake. No, really. It’s a stress ball shaped like a cupcake.
    12. Actual Writing Tools! – Planning to write by hand? Have you tried my favorite pens and pencils yet? And 50,000 words in a month might call for this. (I’d really love to try one of these some day!)
      Are you like me and write better when typing? Keyboard perfection and portability was a goal for me when picking out my computer. From my research, Macbook keyboards are the best… and now that I’ve been using a refurbished Macbook Air for a couple years now, I have to agree they are super nice for lots of speedy typing (if on the expensive side). I personally went for a 13-inch screen since I’m also using it for our graphic design work, but this little 11″ cutie would be so awesome for portable writing!
      Really love your mobile device? Consider a bluetooth keyboard to  level up your wordcount. (Unless you thumb-type faster than you keyboard type. In which case… wow.)
      Highly distracted by notifications and availability of Facebook? Try taking a small step backward with the incredible AlphaSmart Neo2. Writers everywhere are gushing about these lightweight, tough, focus-friendly devices with super long battery lives. (And they’re really affordable since you can usually get one for around $30-ish.) I couldn’t take it anymore and had to get one. They are truly very cool and definitely force me to write. And only write.
    13. Idea Books – Let’s face it. You’re going to get stuck at some point. “No Plot? No Problem!”  by Chris Baty, founder of National Novel Writing Month, looks like a good help! I personally own “642 Things to Write About” in all of its overwhelming glory. With that many things to write about, there’s sure to be something in there to kickstart the creative juices again!
    14. Reference Books – You won’t have a lot of time to get bogged down in details (one of the benefits of this crazy business!), but having a few of these on hand might help get you out of a bind. Try this baby name book I’ve used before (yes, for naming kids and characters), and maybe the popular “Emotion Thesaurus” by Angela Ackerman and/or its FREE-for-Kindle companion guide, “Emotion Amplifiers.”friends-1013882_640
    15. Your Favorite Person – When you need to bounce an idea off someone, when you need someone else to get excited about the story with you, when you need someone to tell you it’s going to be okay and even if you do lose your mind at least you’ll have a novel to show for it… you’ll want your favorite person. I highly recommend informing them ahead of time that they’re officially on-duty for the month of November. And then…Dedicate. The. Book. To. Them.


Think you can do it? You absolutely can, especially with some of these survival kit ideas on hand.

Did we miss something helpful? Leave a comment here or on the Facebook post and share your wisdom with other writers!

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Introducing Custom-Drawn World Maps, Free Consultation Calls, Illustrations and More!

Where to start? With free stuff, of course!

We’re now offering a limited number of free 30-min consultation calls to help you answer the question: “What next?” It’s one of the questions we get most frequently: “Um… a book just sort of happened… what next?” Sign up for a call and we’ll get in touch if you make the schedule. Preference will be given to first-time authors (this includes anyone who’s never self-published before, even if they’ve been traditionally published), but even if you’ve self-published before feel free to sign up for a chance to get your questions answered!

Speaking of frequently asked questions… we’ve started answering the week’s most frequently-asked questions in LIVE video on our Facebook page each weekend. It’s candid and informative and another great time to ask a question and have it answered real-time! If you’ve liked our page, you’ll get a notification when we go live. If there’s a question you’d like to hear answered in our next video, reply to this newsletter and ask it. We’ll give you a shout-out and an answer this weekend!

I guess that was “free information opportunities” more than it was “free stuff” but… IT’S FREE! (We like “free” around here if you can’t tell…)


We’ve bought on a talented, eagle-eyed proofreader to help you rid you’re book of speling, punctuation and other error? Pricing based off word count. Contact for a quote.
By teaming up with talented illustrators, we’re now able to offer full-service book illustration. Whether you need a full-color children’s book, vignette sketches for a chapter book, or a custom illustrated cover, we’ve got you…covered (in multiple styles)! Contact for a quote.
(Illustration from “Wobbly Woo” by Lisa Staley)
We are now working with an incredible artist to offer custom maps of your book’s world. Basic maps from $40 and more complex ones from $60. Questions? Just ask! (World in above map ©Ryan Batla.



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Contest Winners

Today’s the day, folks: we’re here to announce the winners of our short story contest!

We’d like to thank everyone who entered–you all are great for putting your work out there! If you haven’t won, we strongly encourage you to do something with your story anyway–put it up on your own blog or site or publish it as an ebook short story.

And we’d like to thank our amazing judges: Katy, Kate, and Rebekah. These ladies are each authors in their own right and they did a fabulous job judging the submitted stories!


So with no further ado, here is the winning story for each cover…

Last Wish by Valerie Howard


Thin wisps of smoke wafted into the air, clouding my view of the party guests. Superficial smiles anchored below sad eyes told me what everyone there was thinking. My mother’s tight lips and glistening irises echoed the sentiment.

Eighteen candles. Eighteen little wax sticks so easily snuffed out.

Story of my life.

As the slices of cake made their rounds, coupled with a generous scoop of strawberry ice cream– my favorite– everyone took the obligatory plate. No one waved the dessert away, citing a diet or an over-full stomach. Not this time.

“Miranda, what did you wish for?” My youngest cousin tugged on my loose shirtsleeve and looked up at me with innocent blue eyes.

An awkward silence dampened the room’s mood further. My friends and family studied the brightly colored frosting smeared on their plastic forks. My acquaintances looked away. Someone pretended to cough. They thought they knew the answer. They thought I’d wished for a cure. For more time.

They were wrong.  Read the rest…



Faith is the Victory by Faith Blum

The setting couldn’t have been more perfect. An abandoned shed in the middle of nowhere. The house nearby looked more dilapidated than the shed, the grass was overgrown, and the trees were rotting away. Yes, this spot would be perfect. But could I do it? What would happen if I changed my mind and it was too late?

My breath caught in my chest and I struggled to breathe as my hands shook uncontrollably on the steering wheel of my truck. With sudden vengeance, I stomped my foot on the gas pedal and peeled out of the overgrown gravel driveway. Not today. I couldn’t do it today.  Read the rest…