.

.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Write something every day, and save the good stuff.


When I was a journalism major at Lehigh University in the 1960s, a "J" professor suggested that we write a daily column of about 500 words -- about anything, and not necessarily for publication. It could be a reaction to news, some advice, an essay, an interview, a sports report, history, a review, anything.

He said that if we expected to get jobs at newspapers (and that was the likely career choice) we had to be able to write on command -- quickly, professionally and about anything.

While most of my journalism has been practiced at magazines, not newspapers, that experience and discipline has been valuable while writing for a wide range of media plus advertising, PR and books.

Today I seldom write for publication on paper, but I publish multiple blogs, and post a lot on Facebook. Some of the blogs and FB posts later evolve into books.

I recently started to collect some of my daily posts on my personal website, http://www.MichaelMarc.us. It's a convenient place for me to view my own words, and for others to see what I'm all about. Every author should have at least one website, but it can do more than try to sell books.



Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Humor is important to me but I learned two important reasons to not use 'funny' spelling in a title


Most people who know me (except for those who hate me) probably think I'm a pretty funny guy.

My wife often complains that I have a reckless sense of humor and I “go too far.” She’s afraid that I’m going to get into trouble like Lenny Bruce and George Carlin. I think artistic expression outranks domestic tranquility. In my domicile, we have much more expression than tranquility.

Like Penn and Teller, Bart Simpson (above) and the folks on Jackass, I’ll do almost anything for a joke.

Some people have occasionally described my humor as sick, tasteless or black humor. That’s because I can find humor almost anywhere and anytime -- and that can make people uncomfortable.

I designed and wore the shirt shown up above when I went to the hospital to be treated for a kidney stone. It made people laugh and laughter is the best medicine. Most people are too serious most of the time b
ut I’m frequently able to find humor when others can’t, like when I'm awaiting surgery.

Sure, humor can hurt. Just ask the victims of laughing bullies in school, or those in nightclub audiences singled out by comedians like Don Rickles (at left).

Authors and publishers I've criticized in this blog may not have laughed at what I wrote about them. Too bad.

As it says up at the top/left, "
If you present work to the public, you may be criticized. If your feelings get hurt easily, keep your work private. When you seek praise, you risk derision. Either produce pro-quality work by yourself or get help from qualified professionals."

Some literary critics use sophisticated scholastic analysis in their book reviews. I prefer to go for laughs. A few victims and observers of my criticism say I should be nicer. If you want nice, buy a puppy; don't write or publish crappy books.

Sometimes humor can backfire and hurt the joker. I recently contemplated that possibility and slightly changed the titles and covers of two books. My efforts at humor could limit my books' sales and my income, so I decided that it would be better for me to be more serious than I had planned. 

Both titles had intentional spelling errors. I initially assumed that every potential reader would realize that. But maybe they won't. Maybe some super-serious (or stupid?) people would think I accidentally made the errors and didn't catch them and fix them.
  • Maybe some people would think I'm guilty of the same shortcomings that I criticize in others. (Heaven forbid!)
  • Another reason to not have deliberate misspellings in a book's title is that search engines like Google don't understand jokes (at least, not yet). They will index the misspelled term, and anyone looking for links to the properly spelled phrase will not find my books. That's not good.
Old and New, #1
Old and New, #2

Of course, just because I made these books more serious doesn't mean that I'll stop laughing, even at myself.



Thursday, September 22, 2016

Authors: if you don't care about your books, why should readers?



This is probably the least-interesting cover design of all time. Maybe the poetry in the ebook is more stimulating than the cover. Will anyone find out?

Sadly, I found out. The typing, spelling and grammar inside the book are probably the worst I’ve ever seen. YIPES!







The book has a four-star review on Lulu -- posted by the poet himself!


Gerard wants us to know that this is his finest work. That's not encouraging. Neither is the sloppy typing in the review itself.

Here's what the pathetic egomaniac put on GoodReads: "wonderful collection of poetry by Irish author ,this is a flowing melodic poetry of raw honesty, this ebook will delight tantalise and frustrate you for sure"

This is the garbage he wrote about another book: "
The word's paint pictures , like an artist lovingly applies paint to a canvas , the heart and mind as one, the story between the lines , as revealing, as the tears of a broken hearted lover"

If Gerard didn't care enough to produce a quality book and proper promotion, why should a reader care enough to invest time and money?

If you produce crap, maybe the only people you'll attract are snarkers like me.

UPDATE: since the first time I wrote about Gerard, he produced a new cover. It's better -- but incredibly dull. The pages inside the book have not been improved.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

WTF?! The interrobang is an alternative to ?!?!?!?! What about the rhet?


I -- and maybe you -- frequently type a string of alternating question marks and exclamation points to indicate disbelief and surprise.

There is a neater and underused alternative.

According to Google, American Martin K. Speckter conceptualized the interrobang in 1962. As the head of an advertising agency, Speckter believed that advertisements would look better if copywriters conveyed surprised rhetorical questions using a single mark. He proposed the concept of a single punctuation mark in an article in the magazine TYPEtalks. Speckter solicited possible names for the new character from readers. Contenders included rhet, exclarotive, and exclamaquest, but he settled on interrobang. He chose the name to reference the punctuation marks that inspired it: interrogatio is Latin for "a rhetorical question" or "cross-examination"; bang is printers' slang for the exclamation mark. Graphic treatments for the new mark were also submitted in response to the article.

In 1966, Richard Isbell of American Type Founders issued the Americana typeface and included the interrobang as one of the characters. In 1968, an interrobang key was available on some Remington typewriters. During the 1970s, it was possible to buy replacement interrobang keycaps and typefaces for some Smith-Corona typewriters. The interrobang was in vogue for much of the 1960s, with the word interrobang appearing in some dictionaries and the mark itself being featured in magazine and newspaper articles.

The interrobang failed to amount to much more than a fad, however. It has not become a standard punctuation mark. Although most fonts do not include the interrobang, it has not disappeared: Microsoft provides several versions of the interrobang character as part of the Wingdings 2 character set (on the right bracket and tilde keys) available with Microsoft Office. It was accepted into Unicode and is present in several fonts, including Lucida Sans Unicode, Arial Unicode MS, and Calibri, the default font in the Office 2007 suite.<<


However, most people prefer to express outrage with ?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!

Friday, September 16, 2016

Sometimes I wish that book titles could be copyrighted



Last month I read one of the three similarly titled books shown above. This month I'm reading another one. I'm so confused that I can't tell you which one I'm reading now, but so far I like it better than last month's book about the same subject. If someone asks me to recommend a book about this subject I'd have to do some research before replying.

 
[below]
I recently noticed some online promotion for a 2015 ebook short story called "Internet Hell" by Trisha M. Wilson. I was surprised to see it because Internet Hell is the name of an ebook I published in late 2012. The pbook version has just gone on sale.



While book titles can't be copyrighted, it's both unprofessional and confusing to copy the title of another recent book. 
When I challenged Trisha, she blocked me from viewing her Tweets.    
To hell with her.
Since it's so easy to determine if a book title is already in use, the only reasons for copycatting a recent book title are ignorance, stupidity, laziness or evil. Maybe Trisha is guilty of all four.

Trisha's story is interesting, but poorly edited by the two named editors: Colby Trax and A. J. Wallace. The
third paragraph says "regiment" instead of "regimen." Many paragraphs are choppy, with too many unnecessary pauses. The stop-start-stop-start rhythm made reading it tiring. I also think her cover is amateurish, made with cliché clip art and just one dull typeface. I previously complained that some letters were lost against the background but the cover was modified.

A while ago I noticed a nice review posted online for The Chosen by John G. Hartness. It seems like a good title. Apparently others think so, too, because the title has been used for about six books.

At least one, Chaim Potok's The Chosen, is quite famous. It was nominated for the National Book Award and was on the NY Times bestseller list for six months. More than a million copies were sold, and the novel was made into a movie and a Broadway musical. Hartness could have found it with a few seconds of research.








It's understandable that a new book may duplicate the title of an older, obscure book, but it's just plain unforgivable, and pathetic, and maybe a bit dishonest to copy the title of a well-known bestseller.

Every book needs a title. Many book titles are cliché phrases which seem to be absolutely perfect for a particular book. Unfortunately, many cliché phrases are absolutely perfect for lots of books, and, again, the title of a book can’t be copyrighted. Any writer considering possible titles should check for previous uses.
  • Both Danielle Steel and Queen Noor of Jordan wrote books called Leap of Faith.
  • At least five books are titled Fatal Voyage.
  • At least four books, two songs and a movie are named Continental Drift.
  • At least 24 books are titled Unfinished Business. You can write books with that title, too. 
  • I recently published Do As I Say, Not As I Did. I knew that the title had been used by another book, but the books are very different and the other one was published nearly ten years before mine.
  • More than a dozen different books are titled Caught in the Middle. If you like the title, you can use it, too. You can even use it for several different books.


An identifying term in a book series can be trademarked. If you publish The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Harry Potter, you’ll probably be sued by two publishing companies, and lose twice.

If your name is Harold Gordon, you could write and publish The Autobiography of Harold Gordon. There is nothing to stop an unknown author -- or Danielle Steel -- from writing a book with the same title. Danielle could also write The Autobiography of Barack Obama.

If you want to call your next masterpiece Holy Bible, Hamlet, War and Peace, From Russia with Love or The Da Vinci Code, you can. You might get sued. You might win, but it won’t be a pleasant experience. You’ll probably also confuse and annoy a lot of people -- so try to come up with something original.

And, as long as I'm preaching about originality, don't be an obvious thief of another book's design.

It’s smart to study other books and to seek inspiration from successful authors and designers -- but it's stupid to be a copycat. It's embarrassing when you get caught.

The book on the left has sold millions of copies since 2004. It provides guidance for solving personal and professional problems.

The book on the right, which copied the cover design, typefaces and title style of the bestseller, is a promotional piece from evil/inept Outskirts Press.

I saw four five-star reviews for the Outskirts book on Amazon.com. Two were written by Outskirts authors featured in the book, and one was written by an Outskirts employee. That seems a bit sleazy -- just like the cover, and just like Outskirts Press.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

An absurdly overpriced & overhyped book has a ghastly cover

As one who frequently reviews books and writes about the book business, I get lots of press releases trying to get my support.

This morning I received a release with such a hyped-up headline, it was nearly panicky. Of course, there was no "shocking revelation" and no "dirty little secret."

I invested a few precious minutes and discovered more bullshit, stupidity and reasons to doubt the value of the book:

(1) The book is allegedly "
critically-acclaimed." I searched and found no acclamation from any critics.
(2) The small (170 pages) book is GROSSLY overpriced at $39. Many similar books are available for much less money. I've written several.
(3) Strangely, this book about publishing Kindle books on Amazon is not available on Amazon.
(4) The book will teach you to "
Publish and sell a Kindle e-book without writing a single word by repackaging “public domain” content" -- a major source of literary pollution.
(5) Author Kim Stacey has no books available on Amazon. I wonder if Kim is a real person.
(6) The promotional material says, "
In the good old days, becoming a published book author was exceedingly difficult." That's a lie.
(7) The cover is abysmal. The upper-right corner has a box that is illegible in the size shown in the press release and in other online promotion. The typography of "e-Books" is strange, and not used in the promotional material. It's extremely unprofessional to state "written by" before the author's name. It's extremely unusual to have editor names on a book cover. The cover is nearly monochrome, and easily ignored.
(8) Ironically the ugly book provides "
5 proven tips for designing an attractive Kindle e-book cover." I would be very reluctant to use those tips.

 

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

I hereby pledge to never watch the San Francisco 49ers play football again.


This announcement has nothing to do with outrage over Colin Kaepernick and the National Anthem.

In truth, I have never watched the 49ers play in the past, so I won't sacrifice much by not watching them in the future.

The last football game I watched was between Lehigh University and Lafayette College in the fall of 1964. It was boring, like every football game.

Like most sports, football is a silly substitute for warfare, and the human race is long overdue to evolve beyond it.

Team loyalty is a mystery to me.

Why the hell would someone who never attended college be a fan of Notre Dame or Florida State?

I moved from The Bronx to New Haven when I was in first grade. I was beaten up because I was presumed to be a fan of the Yankees, not the Red Sox. In truth, I had no interest in baseball.

If San Francisco "defeats" Los Angeles, are LA Rams fans expected to move north to show allegiance to their new masters?

Football is only slightly less boring than watching lettuce wilt.

Hockey and basketball have nearly non-stop action and are not boring. I enjoyed two basketball games and one hockey game in the 60s, but have not felt any compulsion to watch more.

I've watched three live baseball games in my life. The first two, when I was five years old, were boring torture. The third, when I was about 55, was interesting, but too long.

I'm impressed by some of the super-human feats shown in the Olympics, but I don't care which countries win the most medals.

Also, getting gold instead of silver because of a difference of a few hundredths of a second is silly.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Try looking at your book without reading it



After you've read your new masterpiece 70 or 183 times, sit a bit farther back from your screen and LOOK at the pages -- don't read them.

You'll probably be amazed at all of the errors you detect when you are not concerned with content, meaning and story-telling artistry.


I aim my eyes at the three-o'clock position and maker a clockwise scan on each page, but do what works best for you.

Check your book for these bloopers:
  1. Wrong typefaces or wrong fonts, (not necessarily the same thing) particularly when text is pasted-in from another source
  2. Commas that should be periods -- and vice-versa
  3. Straight punctuation that should be curly "typographers' marks"
  4. Curlies that curl in the wrong direction
  5. Missing spaces between paragraphs or sections
  6. Bad justification in the last line of a page
  7. Chopped-off descenders where you decreased line spacing or if the bottom of a text box is too close to the text
  8. Wrong-size bullets
  9. Rivers
  10. Too-big word spacing
  11. Normal letters that should be ligatures (more for large type than in body text).
  12. Accidental spaces after bullets
  13. Improper hyphenation
  14. Roman text that should be italic, and vice versa
  15. Ignoring highlighted warnings in MS Word
  16. Automatically accepting MS Word suggestions
  17. Gray text that should be black
  18. Insufficient space adjacent to images
  19. Images or text boxes that floated over the margin
  20. Images or text boxes that "slid' down and covered up footers
  21. Missing periods at sentence ends
  22. Missing opening or closing quote marks.
  23. Periods that should be inside a closing parentheses -- or outside.
  24. Repeated words caught by the software
  25. Wrong headers, missing headers, switched verso and recto headers
  26. Subheads that are too close to the text above and too far from the text below
  27. Too much space between lines in a multi-line title, chapter name or subhead
  28. Pages with numbers that should not show nunbers ("blind folios")
  29. Words that shifted from the bottom of one page to the top of the next page
  30. And one that does require reading: chapter names in the table of contents that don't reflect a change made in the actual chapter name
  31. And another: a topic not in the index because you added something after completing the index

More in my 1001 Powerful Pieces of Author Advice: Learn to plan, write, title, edit, format, cover, copyright, publicize, publish and sell your pbooks and ebooks

Monday, August 29, 2016

When responding to readers--who may be reviewers--an author's attitude makes a big difference


I read lots of books. I particularly read lots of books about publishing, both to learn and to check on possible competition for my own books about publishing.

In one week I read two unsatisfying books which try to instruct self-publishers. They both have useful information, but the presentations are badly flawed. Typography, cover design and editing are deficient. Both books have factual errors, reveal bad decisions (and ignorance), and include inappropriate material.

I often email authors with questions, comments and corrections. I don't identify myself as a blogger, writer, publisher or reviewer--but I don't hide my identity, either. Any author could instantly find out about me with Google or Bing.

My communication with "TM" was as unpleasant as reading her book. She made ridiculous attempts to justify bad decisions, ignored some questions, and seemed downright resentful ("Why are you asking these questions?"). Her snotty attitude killed any chance of getting a positive review from me.

The response from "JV" was completely different. He was appreciative of my comments, said that he knew about some of the errors and regretted them, and tried to courteously justify the decisions I disagreed with. He even said he might thank me publicly in the next edition of his book.

I was not looking for public gratitude or ass-kissing, and I did not like his book any better after the email--but I did like the author much better. And that will affect my review.

Attitude means a lot.

(smileys from http://robwall.ca/2009/05/22/smileys-in-online-courses/)

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Gatekeeper Press's first statement is a lie. There's no need to read any more


Publishing has been unrestricted for centuries. Since the late 20th century, publishing has been easy, quick and inexpensive.

Deceptive Gatekeeper Press has not justified its existence.

Don't reward or encourage liars. Stay away.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Before you give advice about publishing, please learn how to write

Text copied from http://www.aaymca.com.



Borat's English is better.

Almost everyone who write any books or even ebook are need a copyright. Moreover, you’ll recommended to obtained an ISBN as soon as possible. If you have considered all your choices and have decided that “self-publishing” makes the most fit for you. Please get ISBN to your as soon as possible. You may know that there is an extra in the need to “self-market” your eBook or books, but you must know that it’s also have correlation to boost your profits.

Do you Know about ISBN ?
Yeah..!! ISBN is stands for: “International Standard Book Number”. Most people aren’t know and understand what is an ISBN. ISBN is a number (commonly 10 digit)that would helps to recognize your book, ebook or even brand. The ISBN is commonly placed on the back of the book or product. This is look like a bar-code in a supermarket, wholesale and retail store. It’s capable to identify any products. It’s typically used to identify a book by the author or publisher. It’s so useful for any instance like booksellers, universities, libraries, wholesalers and many more as it’s capable to identify book or products easily and rapidly. Furthermore, it’s also applied on internet, I have seen ISBN search on valorebooks.com. That’s means you’re enabled to get books and any product rapidly and simply online.

Is it Important For Me ?
The answer of this question is depending on your needed. You would really really need ISBN if you are wanna sell or distribute your products like ebook or even book on major websites. However, it would be useless if you just purposed to distribute your ebook or books on your own sites. In a few case, this is needed to be one point of products qualification, some retailers and store won’t accept any products that doesn’t contain an ISBN. So, do you know whether or not it’s important for you ?

How To Obtaining an ISBN Number?
If you decide you’ll like to get an ISBN for your eBook or books, you could easily get it. There are various ISBN agencies in the worldwide that could aid you to joining your ebook or books to ISBN. If you’re published your book by a book publishing deal, you’ll most likely obtain the ISBN. You could also get the ISBN by self publishing agency especially through internet, if you wanna sale book yourself. Typically ISBN already provided for the publisher.

The cost
The price to buy an ISBN may seem to expensive for most people. The cost of getting an ISBN is about $80 to $ 500 or even more, it’s depending on the amount that you’ll purchase. In the worldwide, there are plenty resellers that provide and sell a single ISBN for about $50 to $ 65. Other way for the buy of an ISBN is by your book printer. The printing company usually give this as a service to the customers because they understand that you may not require a lot of ISBN numbers.

Self-publishing may looked so daunting, but if you know and understand about the strategies needed, it’s potentially could be successfully done. Furthermore, an ISBN is needed, you’ll also require to manage copyright issues.

In other words, you actually need to get an ISBN if you have a goal to market and sell your eBook on major sites, in store and many more. But, if you just wanna sell books on your sites, you could ignore this on your consideration. Firstly on your publishing, please ensure that you have already deciding your goal, so that you could prioritize the budgets for your publishing like the budget for getting ISBN.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Whistle while you work -- or have a device that whistles, hums or sings to you

Music can make life -- even work -- more pleasant.

I thought that "Whistle While You Work" came from the 1946 Disney movie Song of the South, but it was actually part of the 1937 animated Disney movie Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The song shows Snow White and a bunch of cute animals happily whistling while cleaning house.

This song even generated an anti-Nazi parody:

Whistle while you work.
Hitler was a jerk.
Mussolini kicked him in the peenie.
Now it doesn't work.


Snow White is the source of another popular work song. "Hi-ho, hi-ho, it's off to work I go" is sung by the seven dwarfs.

When I was a kid, we sang this parody:

Hi-ho, hi-ho
It's off to school I go.
I heard the bell
And ran like hell.
Hi-ho, hi-ho.


In 1957, The Bridge on the River Kwai, showed Allied POWs whistling the "Colonel Bogey March" to maintain morale and dignity while building a bridge for their Japanese captors under horrid conditions. That song was written in 1914, but it, too, was the source of an anti-Nazi parody in the Second World War.

Göring has only got one ball
Hitler's [are] so very small
Himmler's so very similar
And Goebbels has no balls at all


Slaves may have sung since ancient times to mitigate their misery. In the 1974 Mel Brooks comedy Blazing Saddles, Lyle (played by Burton Gilliam) taunted the mostly black railroad workers: "When you was slaves, you sang like birds. Come on! Let's hear a good, old nigger work song!"


Around 1980, I was writing about 20 hours a day to complete a book with a very tight deadline. I discovered an NPR radio show hosted by Ed Bradley of 60 Minutes. Ed played great jazz after midnight, and the music kept me awake enough to keep writing.

Although I enjoy many kinds of music, and my home is filled with radios and recordings and the equipment to play them, I somehow got out of the habit of playing music while I write. I recently rearranged my home office, and rediscovered the great Tivoli radio that had been on my desk for over a decade. While I'm in the car, I love talk radio, but when I'm writing I find that voiceless music is less distracting, very comforting, and sometimes even stimulating.

So, turn on some music -- or whistle while you work. It was good for Snow White and the prisoners.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Keep these two meaningless words off your book covers and websites





I recently encountered the website of author, artist, athlete and entrepreneur Angela Lam Turpin. The title of the site, strangely, is "The official website of Angela Lam Turpin." If this is the official site, I have to wonder if there are unofficial Angela Lam Turpin websites.

Angela is a wonderful, accomplished person worthy of admiration; but is Angela important enough to inspire fakers to produce websites not certified by Angela?

I think not.

Bing shows
one-hundred-and-sixty-five-million links for the term "official website." Google lags, with under forty-million links for the term.

This is ridiculous and pathetic.

  • Some O-sites, appropriately, are government-sanctioned websites -- but this trend has grown ridiculously. Does the Missouri Lottery really need an "official" website? Does the Vatican? Bureaucrats (some called "officials") love the word "official." 
  • Many O-sites belong to movies like Spider-Man 2, teams like the Atlanta Falcons and performers such as KISS, Madonna and Cher -- who apparently don't want fans to think that websites published by other fans are actually sanctioned. 
  • But, does The Association, now nearly 50 years old, still merit an official site? Are there pretenders?
  • Is Angela Lam Turpin as big a star as Madonna? I think not.
  •  
  • Many O-sites belong to egomaniacal businesses. Does AT&T really need an "official" website? Does Louis Vuitton? Do Orkin Pest Control and its rival Terminix? Does Greenwich Pizza, in the Philippines, really need an O-site?
  • In some cases where the actual website doesn't scream "OFFICIAL," the paid online ads for the sites do use the O-word.
  • Of course, even an unofficial site can claim to be official.

Most things that claim to be 'official something' are not official anything. Use of the label is evidence of unchecked ego, or maybe just ignorance.
  • Amazon.com shows nearly 145,000 links to books with "official" in the title or subtitle.That total is about 5,000 more than 18 months ago. The virus is spreading.

Some O-books, such as a book for diabetics produced by the American Diabetes Association, can logically claim to be "official." Others, like a book of instructions for speaking Spanish like a Costa Rican, is official nothing.

Unless your book, blog or website is officially blessed by some important person or institution, restrain your ego and don't claim that your work is official.

If you are important enough to attract copycats, then you can claim your work to be officially yours -- but copycats can claim that you approved their work too. Fame is not all fun.

"SECRET" is another extremely popular word. It's an exciting and meaningless word. Keep it o
ff your book covers.

Apparently, lots of authors and publishers think that lots of readers want to know secrets, especially "dirty little secrets."

Amazon.com (which pays for an ad for its "official" site) lists more than 217,000 books with "secret" in the title (up from a mere 150,000 or so about three years ago). Some are fiction, and many are nonfiction. "Secrets of success" is a very popular book title cliche. Thousands of books use the phrase in their titles.

Here's a dirty little secret: none of the books promising secrets actually reveal secrets because no secrets are secret after even one person reads the secret.

The author of Secrets of Self Publishing 2 is so proud of his secrecy that he put the title TWICE on the cover of the horrible book. The slim volume is badly written, badly formatted and apparently unedited. I found exactly one alleged secret in the book: "The secrets of self-publishing are the same as the secrets of success. One must be willing to research all outlets, and find a method which fits your program."
 

That's not much of a secret.

Find some way to attract readers to your book without putting "SECRETS" in the title. Avoid "OFFICIAL," too.

Monday, August 8, 2016

When should an author's face go on the front book cover?


A while ago I was speaking to a "book shepherd," a woman who guides wannabe authors through the publishing process. She works with writers with a wide range of ability, experience, expectation and ego. She said that many writers have such strong egos that they expect their portraits to be on their front covers. 

Some authors deserve this super-star treatment but not many, and certainly not many newbies.
  • If you are writing your first novel or a book of poems, it's highly likely that very few people have ever heard of you and that neither your portrait nor your name will provide a good reason for anyone to invest money and time in reading your precious words. It's much more important to have a great title and cover design.
  • If you're writing nonfiction, whether about the Korean War, cooking pizza or climbing mountains, unless you are famous for achievements in the subject you are writing about, neither your name nor face are likely to convince anyone to invest money and time in reading your precious words. It's much more important to have a great title and cover design.

(above) If you are as famous as Martha Stewart or Suze Orman, and an expert in the field you are writing about, by all means put your portrait on the cover.


(above) If you're famous mainly for being famous, it's critical that your smiling face be on the cover of your books.


(above) If you have a lot of fame or a bit of fame and your physical image will enhance the mood of the book, put your pic on the cover.


(above) If you're famous for your written or spoken words, your face belongs on your book covers -- even if you're dead.


(above) If you're well-known for politics, your image gets to smile at book shoppers.


(above) Everyone who wants to be president of the USA -- or to be remembered for what was accomplished while president -- is assumed to be a professional writer. Fortunately ghostwriters are readily available to aid the inept. The photo on the cover shows the politician, not the actual writer, and sometimes serves as a campaign poster.


(above) Sometimes, not often, books by presidential hopefuls do not have faces facing readers.


(above) If your main claim to fame is that you impregnated a relative of a politician, sure, put your photo on the cover.


(above) If you're not famous, but your appearance adds credibility and implies expertise, sure, put yourself on the cover.


(above) If you're not famous and the presumed audience for your memoir consists of people you know, your portrait certainly won't hurt sales. This is a very interesting book, by the way. I recommend it.

If you're not famous and your face does not closely relate to your book's topic or genre, keep it off the front cover until your third book, or sixth.



(above) Unfortunately, many authors use amateur photos with bad poses, bad lighting, bad focus and distracting backgrounds -- on a bad hair day. The book shown above may be the worst book ever published, so the horrid author photo is sadly appropriate.


(above) Even a well-done photo may be inappropriate if the person has no known connection to the subject of the book. This cover has another, bigger problem -- the text is extremely difficult to read. Also, the circular necklace ornament right in the center is distracting.


(left) My recent book shows my highly modified face on the front cover. It's a very personal book, so it's appropriate for my face to be there. If I was writing about Richard Nixon, chocolate cake or the Peloponnesian Wars, my face would be on the back.

Here's some advice from Hobie Hobart of Bowker (the ISBN and book research company): Many authors think that putting their picture on the front cover will make them famous. This is not necessarily so. Unless you are well known in the media, bookstore buyers will not accept your book which pictures you on the front cover. However, if you are selling exclusively to a tight niche where you are well known, or your intention is to start branding yourself to a specific market, your photo on the front cover or the spine can be an advantage.