Interview with Carolyn Howard Johnson

Interview with Carolyn Howard Johnson

What genre do you write and why?
I write fiction, novels, short stories, and poetry. I write because I love it, but that love has benefited my nonfiction HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers because the information I use offer writers in them comes directly from my years of experience promoting them. And, of course, from my earlier careers in journalism, publicity, and retailing. It also works the other way around. Those careers in journalism and marketing benefit my writing—both the traditionally published books and the self- and partner- published ones!

Interview with Carolyn Howard Johnson
Tell us about your latest book.
My latest book is How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically. I chose it for the third in the series because in my consulting and teaching (I spent nearly a decade teaching for UCLA’s world-renowned Writer’s Program) I learned from my students. What I learned is the aspects of writing that cause them the most trouble are not writers’ block or talent or any of those things. It’s the fear of and lack of knowledge about marketing. (The first in the series is The Frugal Book Promoter.) It’s shabby editing so they don’t come off as professionals as they search for agents, publishers, or publish their own work. (The second book in the series is TheFrugal Editor.) And then there are reviews. Reviews trip authors up because they want them so bad they are sitting ducks for scam artists. I also learned from the school of hard knocks that there is so much about reviewing (both the giving of them and the getting of them!) that authors can use to further their careers. And no one ever seems to tell them everything they need. They read a dribble there. A droplet here. And so much of it is misinformation!

What marketing methods are you using to promote your book? 
Ha! Funny you should ask. I share all those things—the good, the bad, and the stressful—in The Frugal Book Promoter. Not just the whats and hows, but also the things authors can do to make the marketing they do more successful. And—you guessed it—I have been concentrating on reviews. I’m doing that because my husband fell from our roof and broke his back and some of the other marketing I have always done outside of my office aren’t available to me. Reviews are a wonderful way for shy authors to promote. They can do most of what they need to do sitting in front of their computers. My other favorites are speaking and teaching. The three of them are not only my favorites, but tend to produce the best results.

What formats is the book available in?
I believe that one should offer their books in every format possible. I haven’t done Audible yet, but I will. I was fully convinced as a retailer that one gives a customer what she needs and lets her pay for it any old way she wants. Isn’t it nice that Amazon has streamlined the confusing world of e-book for us. Our readers can now go to Kindle and get an e-book in any format they want. There is no need to for a self-published author to worry about the hundreds of platforms. It simplifies e-publishing for us.

Who are your favourite authors?
I read voraciously. Not only to learn more about writing and computers. I read magazines like Time, Smithsonian, Archaeology, AARP, Consumer Reports. Even junk mail. I read the excellent journals available like The Missouri Review, Agni, Glimmer Train. I learn not just from the content and technique of their contributors, but from watching their interior design, formatting, how they use frontmatter and backmatter—everything. Oh, yes. Books, too.

What advice do you have for other writers?
The old ones. Follow your dream. Persist. But also support our industry. If we don’t read the books of others, how can we expect them to read ours? Buy them for yourself. Buy them for gifts. Short of that, borrow from Amazon’s Lending Library or your local library. Ask them to order the ones they don’t have on their shelves.

Interview with Carolyn Howard Johnson
What's your favourite quote about writing/for writers?
My own motto. It’s about writing careers. It’s also about life. Are you ready?

“Careers that are not fed die as readily as any living organism given no sustenance.” ~CHJ

What's the best thing about being a writer?
I think writers and teachers have something in common. We love to share with others. For me it’s feeling good about that—about doing some good. And about what I just might leave behind for others.

Where can people find out more about you and your writing?
This is what I use for an e-mail signature along with cover images of my multi award-winning how-to books. E-mail signatures are another easy way to promote and they aren’t all about us as writers—they are a courtesy to those who receive our e-mails. No one wants to have to search for the information we need; we’re all busy people. (-:
Carolyn Howard-Johnson
Instructor for nearly a decade at the renowned UCLA Extension Writers' Program
Author of the multi award-winning series of HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers 
Amazon Profile:
The Frugal Book Promoter:
The Frugal Editor:
How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically
You pin one of my book covers, and I'll pin one of yours

And, yeah. I do something similar for my creative writing, too.

Who designed the cover?
Don’t you just love my covers? They produce so much attention and are an integral part of my branding. They’re by Chaz DeSimone:

Thank you for this interview, Jo. You know how I love working with you. Your help with the writers’ workshop I did in Rome will forever remain one of my most pleasant memories.

I loved presenting at writers' retreat you organised here :)


  1. I am so glad that you are helping me convince others – – especially new authors – – about the three biggest dangers for the health of authors' books. I know your thousands of fans trust you and I hope they take this to heart and arm themselves with all the tools they can to combat those dangers. I am thrilled to be able to help them do just that with my books, as well as all the freebies I offer on my website and blogs, etc.


I love to hear from you. So feel free to comment, but keep in mind the basics of blog etiquette — no spam, no profanity, no slander, etc.

Thanks for being an active part of the Writers and Authors community.