Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Some self-congratulations, and some tips about blogging

I started writing this blog in September, 2008. Since then I have posted more than 2,100 times and the blog has had more than 1,000,000 "page views." I wish I could have charged the viewers a dollar each, or a dime, or a penny.

My blog traffic has had ups and downs but has gradually increased from the original one page view (mine) to more than 3,000 on most recent days.

That's nothing compared to Huffington Post (which has gazillions of readers and more than 9,000 people doing the writing). However, there are apparently more than 150 million blogs online, some get hundreds of daily visitors, many get dozens and some get none -- so I am quite pleased with 3,391, or even half that number.

I have no secrets to divulge but I will pass on some tips:
  • Write regularly. Three or more times per week. Five is best. You want your blog to become a daily habit with your readers. Some blogs get new posts just once or twice a year. Why bother?
  • Publish in the morning. As early as possible.
  • Don't bother posting more than once a day. If you feel the need to spout more frequently, use Facebook or Twitter.
  • Have a reason to blog: Do you want to sell something, entertain people, change the world, satisfy yourself? For me it's "all of the above."
  • If you're a writer -- and many of my readers are writers -- be aware that writers of nonfiction will probably find it much easier to blog than will novelists or poets. There is just not much to say five times a week about lesbian cannibals from Venus, or your poems about daffodils. If you have a very specific, artsy genre, a website is proper better than a blog.
  • It's nice to publish guest posts but don't let guests replace your own unique voice. One blogger I used to like a lot but now often ignore has become more of a publisher than a writer because he publishes so much material that he does not write. A blog should have a personality, not dozens of personalities.
  • Promote your blog on other media -- websites, Facebook, etc.
  • Mention your blog in anything you control, including books, comments on other blogs and websites, business cards, letterheads, etc.
  • Cover a variety of topics, even if not closely related to your blog's title or premise. Up at the top I say that I discuss "writing, editing, design, publishing, language, culture, politics and other things." Other things allows me to write about anything I feel like without violating my "charter."
  • Variety allows the blogger to preach about world events or personal emotions, and maybe grab readers who don't care about the main topic. Most of my readers come here via Google. They may be searching for topics I discuss (eyeglasses, food, politics), and not necessarily searching for me or my books.
  • Don't be afraid to publish reruns. You should be attracting new readers every day, and someone who reads your blog today may not have read the same material three months or three years earlier.
  • If you do publish a rerun, update it if necessary (this post is an updated rerun). Add, correct, provide new illustrations, change the title. Pick reruns of popular postings, not ones that attracted few readers.
  • Once a year or so change the look of your blog. You can use a different template, change colors, shift things around.
  • Allow readers to comment and respond to the comments promptly. Comments should be moderated so jerks don't spout obscene or libelous material before you can reject it.
  • Blog spam is a BIG problem. Some blogs automatically distribute the spam to all email subscribers before the blogger has a chance to kill it.
  • Write about things that interest you. If you're disinterested -- if blogging becomes a chore -- readers can tell and will turn away.
  • Few things are bigger turn-offs than an abandoned news blog. I've started and stopped several blogs but they were not presenting news and they can stand as completed works, almost like books. Brent Sampson, boss of Outskirts Press, skipped posting on his blog for more than six months. A Book's Mind is a strangely named competitor of Outskirts. It started and stopped publishing a blog. Did Outskirts win?

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Authors: Every word you write is an audition. Don't let readers think you're an idiot.

Every word a writer writes must be considered to be an audition, a tryout, part of a competition, the equivalent of a performance on America's Got Talent, American Idol, etc.

It would be a shame to turn off prospective readers and lose book sales because of silly, easily corrected errors. Read, re-read, and re-re-read everything you write.

Yesterday I read a thoughtful and useful guest posting about the importance of editing by Shayla Eaton on a popular blog about publishing. Ben Lunt, an alleged writer (and a nasty SOB and immature egomaniac) posted a response including the word "sight" instead of the proper "site." When challenged, Ben said his comments were a "spontaneous and unedited rant" and that he "never even looked through this before posting."

That's not good enough, especially for someone like Ben who brags that his writing is better than the work of others. His later comments are filled with sloppy errors and childlike insults. A writer must have pride in her or his craft -- regardless of the venue -- and respect for readers.

A while ago I read a writer's blog.
  • The writer said that someone "range" [rang] the doorbell, wore "sheek" [chic] clothing and that something is "cheep" [cheap].
  • This person also wrote "nation-wide" [nationwide], "main stream" [mainstream], "self published" [self-published] and more.
  • This person mentioned "the hard work of revising and polishing" a book.
The blog deserved similar hard work. (Confession: I am not perfect, but I try to be. Some people, like Ben Lunt, don't try.)

It's important that those of us who have writing careers never go "off-duty." We must produce professional-caliber work all of the time, even if it's just a 20-word Tweet or a three-word reply to an email. Never excuse your own sloppiness. Never say, "It's only an email," "it's only Facebook" or "it's only a blog."

Words intended to promote your books deserve and require extra attention to spelling and grammar. Search for improper punctuation or wrong words. Insert words and punctuation marks that may be in your mind but not on the screen. Make sure everything makes sense. Delete material that may be juvenile, unprofessional, irrelevant or distracting.

Here are some online comments I recently read from authors:
  1. I am interesting in your opinion of my new book.
  2. my new book shall be available soon a true story I am a first time writer who went for the self publishing road e book and pod I am looking forward to the launch date shall be announce soon.I shall keep you all posted. many thanks for reading this article for an extract from my book go to my blog page
  3. It's about a girl, Julien, that's trying to adjust to life in a new place after her parents divorced. Just as she is starting to settle in, an "attack" by a Breaker, a person who can enter a persons mind and control thoughts and actions, shakes the town. Before she knows it, her life takes a difficult turn and it could be more than she can handle. Again, you reading it would be super kick ass
  4. For a short period of time the ebook addition will be on sale for only 99 cents.
  5. It seems no one will ever run out of questions about ISBN's - least of all me!
    When you fill in your short & long descriptions on your
    ISBN numbers
  6. I've published an analogy
  7. My first novel, Darkness Forbidden, was published in December on Kindle the paperback should be released shortly.
  8. In the early 90s, Sheila and I selling my art at malls and arts & craft shows, decided to create a few in-demand original titles 
  9. they should have went with Vantage
  10. I need some good honest and reallistic advice. I used AuthorHouse to publish my historical fiction and was very unhappy with their work. I want to format the book myself and then find a link to a POD arrangement bor printing.
  11. Author presently resides in Easton, Pennsylvania and remains in close contact with his family members. Who cares? Is this a reason to buy the book?
  12. The writers adventures as both a military officer and quality professional add greatly to the writings contained in this epic tail of adventure.
  13. My book and movie is going to catch the world on fire! 
  14. Myself and two other authors in the same genre are thinking of . . . 

- - - - -

Even alleged publishing 'pros' make stupid mistakes for the world to see:
  1. Outskirts Press founder Brent Sampson wrote that Roget's Thesaurus was published by Peter Mark (actually, Peter Roget published it), confused a foreword with a preface, and misspelled "offset." Brent advises that "Errors in your writing cause readers to question your credibility."  He's right about that.
  2. Lulu founder Bob Young misspelled "misspell" and confused "less" and "fewer." A publisher should know better. 

keyboard photo is Microsoft clip art

Monday, October 20, 2014

InstantPublisher lies about a lot -- including being a publisher

InstantPublisher.com brags: "You write the book -- we'll do the rest."

That's bullshit.

Actually, authors do almost everything.

InstantPublisher doesn't do important things you might expect a book publisher to do:
  1. It doesn't edit books.
  2. Its doesn't format pages for printed books.
  3. It doesn't distribute printed books to booksellers.
  4. It doesn't distribute ebooks to Barnes & Noble.
  5. It doesn't provide marketing (other than selling DIY material). 
According to its website, "InstantPublisher.com is the short run book publisher division of Fundcraft Publishing Company, the world's largest personalized cookbook publisher. Fundcraft started as a small publishing house in eastern Kansas in the early 30's specializing in short-run custom cookbooks for groups and organizations across the country. Today, Fundcraft ships millions of personalized cookbooks each year to every state."

InstantPublisher.com ("IP") is one of many pay-to-publish companies that demonstrate very few reasons to do business with them. IP is overpriced, inept, boastful and dishonest. 

The page above makes some ridiculous claims:
  • InstantPublisher says it is everyone's favorite book publishing company. It is not my favorite book publishing company. Maybe it's not yours, either. Maybe it's not the favorite of millions of other people. The statement is absurd.
  • InstantPublisher says it is "nationally recognized." By which people, in which nation, for doing what?
  • InstantPublisher says it is "quickly becoming the #1 Book Publishing Service." I'm not sure how IP defines "#1," but since most of its competitors are privately held companies, IP does not have their sales figures or other statistics and can't back up the claim.
  • This page, like others, has errors in English that should not be committed by a publishing company. "10-years" should not be hyphenated. Other terms that the company uses, like "cost effective," need hyphens.
IP tells us that "As a self-publisher, you can receive 50% to 200% profit, when self publishing."
  • That short statement is redundant -- and demonstrates very bad math. It's impossible to receive 200% profit. Profit on book sales is usually somewhere in the 20% to 60% range. If you are able to get a book printed for a dollar and sell it for ten bucks, your (gross) profit is 90%. If you can get a book printed for nothing, and sell it for a penny -- or a dollar, ten bucks or a million bucks -- your profit is 100%. It can never be more than 100%.

The company says that "InstantPublisher simply cannot be beat in the short run book printing industry." 
  • IP gives us an example of "250 copies of a 150 page book, which is 5-½ x 8-½ inches perfect bound with a color cover, your cost would be $3.17 per book." The price from CreateSpace ("CS") is just $2.65 per book (even if I order just one copy), with me providing my own cover design (for which IP charges 25 cents extra per copy).
  • The IP chart above shows a total price of $410.72 for 25 books. That is MANY TIMES the price from other printers, and probably eliminates the chance of making any profit.
  • CS provides distribution to Amazon, B&N and other booksellers, but IP has NO distribution.
  • IP requires customers to buy at least 25 copies. CS has no minimum.
  • IP charges $50 for an unbound proof. I can get a bound proof from CS for $2.65 plus postage.
  • The cover templates are abysmal.
The company says that "any person who writes a book can design the cover and text pages in any Microsoft Windows or Mac based program." The text samples below from IP's own promotional publication, show that the alleged professionals at "one of the top book publishing companies" have a lot to learn about formatting pages. IP's "high quality" work is as bad as I have seen from some first-timers who know nothing about typography. Apparently no one at IP even knows how to hyphenate. A publication that is intended to impress printing customers should not be ugly.

IP says, "InstantPublisher.com does not . . . distribute your books, except for free listings on our web site."
  • Other companies, including CS and Lightning Source, provide worldwide distribution to booksellers -- and charge less. The value of a listing on the IP site is approximately zero. IP expects its authors to become booksellers. Other companies do not.
The IP website provides information on its authors' books -- but does not allow prospective readers to order the books.
  • Competitors such as CS, Lulu and Outskirts do sell books for their authors. 
IP says, "With an extra $0.25/book cost, you can optionally select plastic lamination for your cover finishing."
  • Other companies provide laminated covers at no additional charge.
IP says, "If you already have an ISBN number, Instantpublisher.com . . . can create the barcode for $15.00 during the order process.
  • Other companies will provide the barcode for free.
IP says it "offers two different ISBN options. The first ISBN option retails for $75. This number will list Instantpublisher as the publisher of record and we will be listed as the main contact for your book."
  • CreateSpace and other companies can provide an ISBN for free.
IP says, "By accessing, using or browsing this SITE, you (the "USER") are deemed to have read, understood and agreed to each of the terms, conditions, and notices set forth in this AGREEMENT. In addition, when using any particular content or service on this SITE, USER shall also be subject to and deemed to have read, understood and agreed to any posted guidelines or rules applicable to such content and services that may contain terms and conditions in addition to the terms, conditions and notices set forth in this AGREEMENT.
  • Amazing. If I read anything on the website, IP assumes that I agree to all of its terms, even if I did not see or read the terms.
IP says that "Black and white books will be printed on 8 1/2 x 11 inch paper. Color book proofs will be trimmed to size. If you do want a proof copy of your book before printing, there will be a flat charge of $50.00 for any color book order and any black & white book order that is under 200 copies. For black & white book order that is over 200 copies, the proof copy cost is $30.00. With the proof copy option, you will be mailed an unbound proof of your book and cover."
  • I can get a bound proof (with proper color cover and proper-size pages) from CS for about three bucks plus postage.
In conclusion, there seems to be little or no reason to use Instantpublisher.com. I sent IP an email asking, "Do you have some advantage that I did not see?" I did not receive a response.

Friday, October 17, 2014

After 80 years, the book business is still being depressed by the Great Depression

Book returnability is a destructive artifact of the Great Depression (roughly 1930 to 1940).

Sales of books, like most non-necessities, had fallen off greatly. In an effort to get bookstores to take in new books, the publishers offered guaranteed sales. Stores received the books “on consignment,” and, after several months, the money for the books that had been sold would be paid to the publishers. Unsold books would go back. This arrangement kept inventory on the bookstore shelves and helped create exposure for books on obscure topics or by unknown authors -- but the logistics and waste added substantially to the cost of publishing.

When books are bought on consignment, bookstore owners don’t have to care if they order slow-sellers or outright flops because almost all unsold books can be returned to the publisher, or even be destroyed, and still generate a refund or credit from the publisher. This adds to the cost of publishing (increasing the prices of books) and wastes natural resources.
  • There have been accusations that major book chains arrange to send back books — and reorder the same titles at the same time — so the stores always have inventory with no concern about paying for them.
Few if any other retail products are sold that way. Except for special circumstances, a Honda dealer can’t return unsold cars to Honda. A Sony dealer can’t return unsold TVs to Sony. A Nike dealer can’t return unsold sneakers to Nike.

Selling on consignment may have been a good solution in 1929, but 80-plus years later it has become very expensive and wasteful. Book publishers and bookstores are in trouble.

If a bookstore operator knows that sales are guaranteed, and if a publisher’s salesperson is sufficiently pushy, and if money is offered for promotion, little thought may go into making a purchase. The store may “overbuy” and inflate the initial sales of a book, but the day of reckoning comes a few months later. If most of the copies of a new title are still sitting on the shelves, they get sent back to the publisher, where they are either remaindered and redistributed for the buck-a-book tables or shredded and pulped to become raw material for new books.
  • Sarah Palin’s second book sold poorly, and many thousands were returned to the publisher. The cost of the waste was partially covered by the profit made on her first book, a bestseller.
The urgency that store operators feel to return books before they have to be paid for shortens the time available for a book to build a market.

The system hurts authors. And readers.

It takes time for book promotion to have an effect and for word-of-mouth to build for a new author or niche subject. Nobody knows how many books which might have been successful with another month or two or three on display in the stores, are considered flops.

Only now, in the 21st century, is there some slight movement away from the burdensome, wasteful process that was an important innovation that kept books available in the 1930s.

HarperStudio was an imprint (brand) of HarperCollins, launched in 2008. It started an experimental program to sell books to booksellers in a one-way transaction, in exchange for providing additional gross profit. The experiment failed and HarperStudio was shut down after two years.

Bookstores are also shutting down. Remember Borders? 

Of course, with ebooks there are no books to return, mark down, shred or pulp.

And no need for physical bookstores.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Avoid archaic terminology when writing about the web

I have previously complained about using 1940s-era terminology (e.g., tennis shoes or gym shoes for sneakers, radio car for police car, dungarees for jeans).

It's now 2:33 in the morning and I just heard two dumbass radio commercials that so enraged me that I got out of bed to blog.

One commercial urged listeners to "log onto" a website. Logging on (or in) means to identify yourself to a website or computer or a piece of software, generally by typing a user name and a password.

That is NOT the same thing as merely visiting a website. Most websites, including mine, do NOT require logging.

The other web phrase I particularly hate is "point your browser at . . . ." Browsers don't get pointed. To visit a website, you either point and click your mouse, point and press a finger, or type.

"Aim your browser at . . ." is a stupid variation. DO NOT type it or say it. Browsers don't get aimed.

"Surf on over to . . ." is not as bad as the other phrases, but it is silly, childish, archaic and unnecessary.

The following section is not about an ancient phrase, just an improper one -- and it's not specifically about the web.

"Cut and paste" is probably misused more often than it is properly used.
  • If you cut and paste something (usually a picture or some text), you REMOVE it from its current location, and put it somewhere else.
  • If you will merely copy (i.e., not remove) the item, you will "copy and paste."
The illustration up at the top of today's blog was copied from Wikipedia, and pasted into my computer so it could appear on my blog. The illustration is still on Wikipedia. Therefore, I copied and pasted -- but did not cut.

I'll probably think of some more later, but I'm going back to bed. My wife and dog miss me.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

New Olympic event? Outskirts Press author/reviewer kissed her own ass

Sally Shields loves a book Sally Shields wrote about Sally Shields.

In the past I complained about mutual ass-kissing in the publishing business, where authors write complimentary blurbs for each other.

I also complained about a book that uses a blurb from an executive at its publishing company, and contains glowing reviews for authors who supplied blurbs.

And I criticized an author whose Amazon page includes a review from her editor.

But just when I thought I'd seen the lowest depth of literary corruption hell, I discovered something from even farther down. Not surprisingly, it involves dishonest and inept Outskirts Press.

Outskirts published the Highly Effective Habits of 5 Successful Authors (with Sally Shields identified as one author). Its subtitle is: "How They Beat the Self-Publishing Odds, and How You Can, Too (and How to Publish a Book and Excel at Book Marketing)."

The skimpy 100-page paperback with the absurdly long subtitle sells for $9.87.  An ebook version is priced at 99 cents. The book is intended to help Outskirts sell publishing contracts to writers.

Not only did Sally write part of the book, she is a featured character within the book!

(left-click to enlarge for easier reading)

Depending on your outlook on such things, the title is either an homage to -- or a ripoff of -- The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, a self-help book by Stephen R. Covey.

The Outskirts book had a five star review on Amazon.com from Sally Shields. The review was apparently dumped by Amazon since I originally complained.

Sally says, "This book is really inspiring for anyone that has a book in their heart! Although getting published may seem like an insurmountable obstacle at the beginning, this book profiles 5 people who overcame any objections and created a book and followed their dreams! Learn what these 5 authors did - all in their own styles, to get their messages out into the world. You will laugh and cry reading about how both having a passion for your topic and a sincere desire to help others can propel one towards your own dream of authorship. This book is a reminder that we can all do it - by simply doing the little seemingly insignificant things each day that can eventually bloom into a pond that is filled with beautiful water-lilies - that will eventually be your book, and more importantly, your message to the world, and even, your legacy! "

There are three problems with the review:
  1. Sally's writing sucks. Based on this abysmal sample, it is no surprise that her book was published by Outskirts, a pay-to-publish company with NO LITERARY STANDARDS. Sally wrote, "The biggest hurtle [sic] is not writing a book." For Sally, the biggest hurdle may be learning to write properly.
  2. Sally-the-reviewer is one of the five people profiled in the book she is trying to convince us to buy! She even "contributed to" the section about herself in the book.
  3. Sally was too stupid to use a fake name in her review so people would not realize that she was kissing her own ass.
Sally wants people to buy her home-study course: "Sally's Publicity Secrets Revealed." It appears that one of Sally's special secrets is to write positive reviews about books that tell about how wonderful she is.

Both the title and the cover design of the Outskirts book were copied from the Covey book. Some lawyers should be very busy.


UPDATE: Ronnie Lee, one of the other Outskirts authors included in the book, wrote an Amazon five-star review for a book he wrote. Is there a pattern here? Is the Outskirts sleaze infectious?

(Ass kiss photo from stanleyrumm.com. Thanks) 

Monday, October 13, 2014

District of WHAT? United States of WHICH?

In the United States of America, today is a holiday, "Columbus Day."
  • It's a day when many people sleep late, drink too much, eat pizza, watch or march in parades and shop for Christmas gifts in honor of an Italian man who used Spanish money to find a western route to India.
Instead he bumped into the western hemisphere and eventually increased awareness of the west by Europeans who eventually dominated the Americas.

Chris (a.k.a. "Cristoforo Colombo" in Italian and "Cristóbal Colón" in Spanish) made four transatlantic crossings, but never reached India.

After crossing the Atlantic, he first set foot on an island in the Bahamas -- not in Columbia, Mayland or Columbus, Ohio or even Columbus Circle in Manhattan or Colombia (not "Columbia") in South America.

Despite what many children are taught in school, Christopher Columbus did not "discover" America in 1492.

Other Europeans (Vikings in the 11th century) were in North America before Chris. Many thousands of years earlier, Asians apparently migrated from what is now Siberia to what is now Alaska, and gradually moved south and evolved into the "Indians" who were encountered by Chris and his crew.

There are also theories that South America was visited by Pacific islanders and Africans.

Many places, Columbia University, CBS (originally the Columbia Broadcasting System), spacecraft and boats and ships were named to honor Columbus.

Columbus named the island he landed on "San Salvador" (Saint Savior), not Columbus or Colombo. The local folks called it "Guanahani." Today, it is not known exactly which island he landed on first, but an Island in the Bahamas is called both San Salvador and Watling Island.

When what is now the USA was being formed, some folks favored naming the new country after Columbus, and if they dominated the debate we could be living in the United States of Columbus.

Instead, we got the A-word, to honor another Italian explorer, Amerigo Vespucci, who explored what is now South America in several voyages between 1499 and 1502. He traveled on ships financed by Portugal, and Brazil became a Portuguese colony.

Although Amerigo (Americus in Latin) never reached North America, he did provide the name for the U.S. of A.

I have no idea why German map maker Martin Waldseemüller named the western hemisphere "America" instead of "Vespucci" in 1507.

If Waldseemüller preferred Amerigo's last name, we could be living in the United States of Vespucci. If the mapmaker had more ego, we could be living in the United States of Waldseemüller.

After our new nation got its new name, it needed a name for its capital city. This, too, was the subject of debate, and we ended up with the cumbersome "Washington, District of Columbia," which honors both the father of our country and the guy who thought he found "Indians."

In its website, the capital calls itself the "District of Columbia," even though most citizens of the USA refer to the city as "Washington." When I last checked, the home page had many references to "DC," but I could not find even one "Washington."

And today, in honor of Chris I will clean my garage (I anticipate some amazing discoveries) and then go to Petco and then eat pizza for lunch.

- - - - -
In fourteen hundred ninety-two
Columbus sailed the ocean blue .
He had three ships and left from Spain;
He sailed through sunshine, wind and rain .
He sailed by night; he sailed by day;
He used the stars to find his way .
A compass also helped him know
How to find the way to go .
Ninety sailors were on board;
Some men worked while others snored .
Then the workers went to sleep;
And others watched the ocean deep .
Day after day they looked for land;
They dreamed of trees and rocks and sand .
October 12 their dream came true,
You never saw a happier crew !
“Indians! Indians!” Columbus cried;
His heart was filled with joyful pride .
But “India” the land was not;
It was the Bahamas, and it was hot .
The Arakawa natives were very nice;
They gave the sailors food and spice .
Columbus sailed on to find some gold
To bring back home, as he’d been told .
He made the trip again and again,
Trading gold to bring to Spain .
The first American? No, not quite.
But Columbus was brave, and he was bright .


Friday, October 10, 2014

Some hopefully useful advice about book marketing

On a Linkedin forum for writers, B.C.B. said, "I just need help deciding where and how to advertise online."

My response (slightly modified):

For a nonfiction book, Google's AdWords can be effective and efficient, appealing to potential customers searching for such topics as "Thomas Jefferson" or "beer brewing."  You want to appeal to people interested in a topic, even if they're not necessarily shoppping for a book.

OTOH, advertising fiction would probably be extremely ineffective and inefficient if you try topic-based ads for "novel," "crime novel" or "teenage vampire sex."

Google's AdSense is more expensive than AdWords, but can put bigger ads in front of bigger audiences. It places ads on many websites, but not on the Google search site. It can display ads: (1) related to the content of a page, (2) based on the demographics, market segment, geographic location or URL, (3) based on the website's users' interests and previous interactions with an advertiser.

Facebook ads can be inexpensive, can be expensive, can be useful and can be useless and a waste of money. Ads can be targeted by broad demographics, part of day, etc., but not specific traits such as history buffs, beer drinkers or auto mechanics. I wasted $150 on my experiment. Facebook advertising might be useful if you have a book with extremely wide appeal and a large budget. Otherwise, forget it.

You can also negotiate to pay for ads on specific websites and blogs which are likely to attract potential customers for your book. If you have your own website or a blog or forum related to your book subject, naturally they should advertise your books. I do this with my books about telecommunications.

Book ads that are inserted on webpages without being inserted because of searching or site visits or some other characteristic (i.e., not AdSense or similar ads) could quickly bankrupt you. Big companies with a wide variety of customers can advertise on lots of websites. Citibank advertises on the Time magazine site, but you probably can't afford to. You probably can't advertise on the MTV site like Chevrolet does, either.

Concentrate on press releases, reviews and online media. Get your name and book into comments on lots of blogs and news websites. Even if you are commenting on an article about Obama or pizza on the N.Y. Times website, your "signature" should mention and briefly describe your book. E.g., "author of Failed Ford -- the story of the Edsel."

You can create a press release or an online comment to help you "hitchhike" on a popular author's book or a related topic, so people searching for "Sarah Palin" or "senior prom" may find you.

The web has robots that search for key words and phrases and may provide added exposure for you and your book. One of my books was mentioned in "Japan Diaper News" because a reviewer said it is so funny that it will make you pee in your pants. Another robotic website specializing in Cuban politics mentioned one of my books because of a casual mention of the Bay of Pigs in something I wrote.  Even irrelevant websites can improve your visibility and the ranking of your own website or blog.

Word-of-mouth is very important. Sometimes it seems like I sell one book at a time, but that one sale can lead to many more (for a good book).

Be prepared to give away at least several dozen books -- both at the beginning and over the life of the book. These are not just for book reviewers, but for INFLUENCERS with whom you share some bond either personally or because of the book, and who might recommend your book online or on radio or TV.

If you can't motivate a talk radio superstar or his or her producer, try pitching the second banana or call screener who may influence the boss.

Look for reasons to promote your book based on the calendar or appropriate news events such as a war, anniversary, holiday, divorce or death.

Mention your book in everything you write online, and to anyone you meet in "real life" who might become a reader -- even people on a supermarket line near you or next to you on an airplane. Listen to other people's conversations or notice what they are carrying or buying to provide a reason to talk. If there is no clue, you can always start with the weather. A smile will help.

Write reviews of books that appeal to your audience -- and mention your book.

Always have business cards with you that show your book's cover and tell where it's available. I insert about six cards in every book I send out. I get them from VistaPrint.com. I also insert cards in packages that my phone equipment company sends out.

An author can't afford to be timid. If you're reluctant to toot your own horn, you'll have to hire someone to toot for you -- and hired tooters may not understand your book or share your passion.

My Stories I'd Tell My Children (but maybe not until they're adults)  has sold thousands of copies. That's pretty amazing for a memoir by a non-celebrity, but it takes a lot of work to sell that many.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

I'd rather be depressed than dead. What about you?

Cymbalta is an antidepressant made by Lilly. It has been approved by the American FDA, and health authorities in Canada and Europe.

Lilly wants you to know that:
  • Cymbalta may cause suicidal thought and behavior
  • Cymbalta may cause severe liver problems, sometimes fatal
  • Cymbalta may cause life-threatening skin reactions
  • Cymbalta may cause falls, possibly resulting in serious injuries
  • Cymbalta may worsen diabetes
  • Cymbalta may cause nausea
  • Cymbalta may cause dry mouth
  • Cymbalta may cause sleepiness
  • Cymbalta may cause fatigue
  • Cymbalta may cause constipation
  • Cymbalta may cause dizziness
  • Cymbalta may cause decreased appetite
  • Cymbalta may cause increased sweating
  • Cymbalta may cause increased blood pressure
  • Cymbalta may cause low sodium levels
  • Cymbalta may cause bleeding
  • Cymbalta may worsen glaucoma
  • Cymbalta may cause problems with urine flow
  • Cymbalta may cause headaches
  • Cymbalta may cause weakness
  • Cymbalta may cause confusion
  • Cymbalta may cause problems concentrating
  • Cymbalta may cause memory problems
WARNING: Reading the list of side effects may cause depression.

More at Wikipedia

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Is a bigger book a better book? Maybe not

The bigger the book, the longer it takes to finish writing, editing and formatting it, the more it costs to produce and purchase, the more errors it will have, and maybe the fewer people who will buy it.

I almost never go to movies that are longer than two hours, because I know the movie will become a $12 nap. I am similarly reluctant to buy books with more than about 350 pages, because I doubt they will keep me interested.

In an online forum for authors, a newbie recently discussed his debut novel -- which will have more than 800 pages.
  • It will be extremely difficult to persuade people to buy a huge and expensive book written by someone they've never heard of.
Maybe that book should become three books, or should be drastically cut. Almost any page can sacrifice a sentence or two without suffering. Most sentences can shed a word or two, and no reader will miss them.

The maxi­­mum number of pages for a book is determined by print­ing and binding equip­ment (if the book is printed) and what people are willing to pay, carry and read..

Most printers can produce books with as many as 800 to
1,000 pages, but books with more than 500 pages are unusual. With nonfiction, you need to have enough pages to cover your topic adequately. Don’t skimp, or pad.
  • The book should not be so big that it will be priced a lot higher than its competitors or seem like “too much to read.”
  • It should not be so short that it seems incomplete, or doesn’t offer value for its cost.

The form of a book affects the acceptability of its size. A printed book with 600 pages could be heavy to carry and difficult to lay flat (and expensive to print and ship). 

The cost of each additional page printed is insignificant. The cost of each e-page is zero. There is a prejudice against very thin books, so try for a minimum of about 120 pages. Thin books just don’t seem like real books, and the printing on the book’s spine will be tiny.

Novels can be much longer than nonfiction. Tolstoy’s War and Peace is about 1,300 pages long, and some of Rowling’s Harry Potter books have over 700 pages.

A book’s page count is not final until it is ready to be printed. Many factors determine how many words fit on a page, including page size, type size, line spacing, margins, headers, number and size of illustrations, front and back matter, etc.

An 8.5-by-11-inch manuscript page holds about twice as many words as a common 6-by-9-inch book page. A 200-page manuscript can yield a 400-page book (with no graphics), and have about 100,000 words.

Most ebooks don’t have real pages. I know of one ebook with just nine “pages” and one with 1,594 -- unless the person reading makes an adjustment which changes the total.

  • With most ebooks, the readers can adjust typeface, type size and vertical/horizontal orientation. That changes the number of apparent pages. A hundred people could read a particular ebook, but they’re not necessarily reading the same book.
Publishers Weekly analyzed data from Amazon.com and declared that the median average "word count" for books is 64,531 words, which translates to about 290 paper pages. While a mean average might be more useful than the median (half of the books have more words, half have fewer), the number from PW is still useful. It’s probably best for new writers not to stray too far from the average.

It’s normal for writers to love their words -- but readers may not share the love. Some writers who love their words recognize that there are just too many words. I voluntarily cut a book I wrote from 518 pages to 432 pages, and it’s better because of the cuts. It may have been even better at 396.