Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Authors: don't clutter your bio with irrelevant crap

It's common to have an "about the author" section on the back cover and/or inside a book, as well as on booksellers' and publishers' websites.
  • For a nonfiction book, the primary purpose of the "about" is to convince prospective purchasers that the author has appropriate experience and knowledge so the book can be relied on.
  • For fiction or nonfiction, the section may reveal a bit about the personal life of the author. It may even be entertaining if entertainment is appropriate to the mood of the book.
  • The section may also list awards the author has won.
(left-click to enlarge)
The back cover excerpted above is from Confessions of a Disco Queen...30 Some Years Ago by Veronica Page. 
  • Is the fact that Veronica now lives (or previously lived) in Phoenix an important reason to buy a book about what happened in New York City four decades earlier?
  • Should potential readers care that she graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology and the Wilfred Academy of Hair and Beauty Culture?
  • Does her "Certificate of Completion in Independent Filmmaker and Producer's Diploma from Dov S-S Simens" mean she is a good writer?
  • Should we care that she has been in Los Angeles and Brussels?
  • Does her ownership of two hair salons imply writing talent?
  • Should we ignore the sloppy writing in the bio?

Eunice Owusu wrote the awkwardly named, physically ugly, poorly written and unedited The Truth and the Corruption of the American System. The 95-page hardcover sells for (OMG!) $24.99. The author has some important things to say but her message is diluted and distorted by bad presentation, and lack of help from publisher Xlibris. Sales are apparently infinitesimal. 

Eunice tells us on the back cover, and inside the book and on multiple websites: "I was born in Ghana and came to America about twenty-five years ago. I was married for twenty years and now separated with one child, who is seventeen years old. He lives with me in Houston, Texas. I attended Northern Virginia Community College and graduated in the year 2002 with Associate Degree in Legal Assisting. I transferred to George Mason University in Virginia, Texas Southern University in Texas, and now I am in my final year at the University of Houston in Texas, major in Political Science and eventually transfer to Law School." 
  • Does any of this provide a reason to buy a book about what's wrong with America?
  • Do we care about her bad marriage?
  • Do we care about her bad writing?
  • Are we impressed by Northern Virginia Community College?
  • Do we care about the age of the author's son?
  • Do we know or care how old he is now, or that at one point he lived in Houston?
  • Should we have to do research to determine if the author graduated from the University of Houston and actually went to law school?


Jamie A. Saloff wrote the useful-but-sloppy book shown above. The title is so long (more than 260 characters and spaces), I don't feel like typing or even pasting it in here.
  • Jamie tells us that she is a graduate of the Fellowships of the Spirit. That's not the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, Yale University School of Art or the Rhode Island School of Design. Does that information convince you that Jamie knows about preparing a book for printing on demand?
  • Also, if you have an abbreviated credential that needs explaining, such as Jamie's "CM" (Certified Metaphysician, or maybe Certified Manager or Condition Monitor), either explain it or delete it.


The websites of businesses, including publishing companies, frequently include bios of executives. The "Meet the Executives" section of the Morgan James Publishing site provides the following useless information:
  • Cindy attended Elim Bible College in Lima, New York . . .  Cindy and her husband, David, live in the Hampton Roads area in Virginia.
  • Rick and his wife Robbi live in Long Island, New York with their two Havanese puppies, Cody and Cooper. They have three children: Adam, Rachel, and Stephanie.
  • He has appeared on stage with notables such as Sir Richard Branson, The Dalai Lama, T. Harv Eker, Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Tony Hsieh, David Bach, Brian Tracy, Zig Ziglar and Brendon Burchard.

If a life experience is not related to the subject of your book, leave it out (or make it the last part of your bio).

Avoid the presentation of stale news. Maybe you were a student at the Vermont Academy of Veterinary Dentistry when your book was written, but if someone reads your bio a decade later your situation will probably have changed.

Monday, December 11, 2017

What can go wrong with a book? Lots of stuff.


I once received what I honestly thought would be the last proof of an upcoming book.

The book has been gone through dozens (hundreds?) of times by yours truly and my editor and a picky nitpicker.

I'd carefully examined the MS Word doc, multiple generations of PDFs, and paper proofs printed by my local UPS store and by Lightning Source, which prints the "real books."

I know that no book can be perfect, but each time I read I find things that need to be fixed, that somehow had previously eluded six eagle eyes.

Here are some of the bloopers that plagued this book, and may be in yours. Many won't be noticed by readers, and one error per hundred pages seems to be an acceptable standard for major "trade" publishers. However, those of us who self-publish have an extra burden to make our books as good as possible because one bad book reflects badly on all self-pubbed books. I, of course have an extra extra burden, because I frequently criticize other books.

So, here's some of the stuff to watch out for, in no particular order:
  1. Sections of text that print in gray -- not black. This is generally invisible on a computer screen, but is noticeable on paper.
  2. Repeated words. Microsoft conveniently flags the repeats in red, but maybe the red should flash to attract my attention. A loud BEEP would be good, too.
  3. Right edges of text blocks that are ragged instead of flush.
  4. Words that are in my head but not printed on the page.
  5. Wrong fonts -- a particular problem when text is copied from the web or another document.
  6. Inconsistent style, such as 8PM on one page and 9:15 p.m. on another page. (I'm usually not guilty of this sin.)
  7. Oversize word spacing -- especially in justified narrow columns.
  8. Headers that should be bold or normal black, but are gray.
  9. Repetition of a phrase or thought a few pages after it first appears.
  10. Widows and orphans (generally not a problem for me).
  11. Drop caps in the wrong typeface, wrong size, or wrong position. (I caught these earlier, I think.)
  12. Improper hyphenation.
  13. Inaccurate referrals, such as saying that something is on page 324 but it was moved to 326 -- or even deleted. (I caught these earlier, I think.)
  14. Inaccurate index or table of contents, caused by moving or removing. (I did this in a previous book, but I hope not in this one).
  15. Flopped photos -- It's common to do a left-right reversal for aesthetic reasons, but don't let a clock, license plate or name necklace reads backwards. Also watch out for unconventional product appearances, such as a phone with a handset on the right side, or an old TV with knobs on the left. (I've never done this, but I've seen this).
  16. Tables and text boxes that slip out of position.
  17. Final lines of text that disappear from text boxes.
  18. Words that should have been deleted when a paragraph was rewritten -- but are still there.
I could go on, but the list could turn into a book. Actually, some of this is in an upcoming book:




I hope it doesn't have too many misteaks. Or mistakes.

Friday, December 8, 2017

BIG SECRET REVEALED NOW! There are no secrets in books. Find another way to attract readers.


"Secrets" are exciting. Starting in childhood, everyone wants to learn some special, restricted bit of information. The American government has a Secret Service and the United Kingdom has an Official Secrets Act. Lots of very smart people spend their careers trying to uncover or protect secrets—especially "top secrets."


"I've Got a Secret" was an extremely popular TV show that originally aired from 1952 until 1967. It was revived for brief sessions in 1972-'73 and in 1976 and from 2000-'03. There was even an at-home game based on the show.


In Animal House, Delta Tau Chi fraternity was put on "Double Secret Probation" by Faber College Dean Wormer who wanted to find a way to ban the fraternity for bad behavior and bad grades.  



Do you want to know a secret? was an extremely popular Beatles song from the 1963 album Please Please Me, sung by George Harrison.The single reached #2 on the Billboard chart in 1964 and the #1 position in 1981.

Apparently, lots of people want to know secrets, especially "dirty little secrets." When i last checked, Amazon.com listed more than 360,000 books with "secret" in the title. Some are fiction, and many are nonfiction. The term is a very popular book title cliche. A huge number of books use "secrets of success" 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 book. The slim book 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.

I questioned the author about the apparent lack of secrets. He wrote to me: "In regards to your question (statement). It kind of reminds me of a many centuries old question millions of Christians and Muslims have about life. They read their holy books, go to services weekly. Yet beyond the parables have not been able to extract the simplicity of life that one does not need a book, treatise, big words or to be around others to understand. They go out into the world, and when they're out of their religious houses they're not good people at all. Yet life is very simple, all things are interconnected. All you have to do is Respect all life. This understanding is Love at its highest form. Both books display this. Yet the people don't see b/c its not spelled out to them. In regards to The Secrets of Self Publishing, self publishing as outlined can be done many ways. A business period in order to be a success needs to be built around the individuals personality and initiatives. Self Publishing is no different, the (book)work speaks about stepping outside of the box and developing a program based around the author/publishers abilities. This is so even though authors and publishers run around following and stealing programs and ideas from others. Some find success, most don't, and some of the ones who find early success will run into problems in the longrun. A copy is nothing like the original.  In so many words the work advises people to learn the basics of self publishing, then develop their own program. In this is the Secret. Be Blessed."

It's nice to be blessed, but I'd rather learn some secrets.

E-Book Publishing Secrets has 24-pages and sells for $15! When I checked, it had almost no sales. I’m not surprised. Who would pay more than sixty cents per page for a book? (The subtitle has several grammatical errors—bad for a book about publishing.) Of course, there are no secrets in the book. Strangely, the author likes to refer to himself as "Mr." John Wallace Hayes.

Please find some way to attract readers to your book without putting "SECRETS" in the title.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Some unpleasant facts of life for authors considering self-publishing


  1. You’ll probably see ads proclaiming “FREE PUBLISHING” and you’ll also encounter publishing packages priced under $200. Here’s the truth: (1) No self-publishing company will print and deliver a book for free. (2) Unless you are prepared to spend $1,000 or more ($3,000 or more would be better), you probably won’t get a high-quality book and will not be able to tell many potential readers that the book exists and convince them to buy it.
  2. Writing your book is just your first assignment as an author. Unless you are prepared to make a major effort to publicize your book, few people will know about it or read it.
  3. Most books lose money—even those published by media giants with huge staffs of highly paid and experienced experts. Million-sellers are very rare in the book business. In self-publishing, thousand-sellers are very rare.
  4. Most writers love to write but few people get rich from writing (or from poker, painting or singing). Learn as much as you can about writing and publishing, and work as hard as you can to produce a fine book. But don’t quit your day job and don’t remortgage your house to finance your publishing.
  5. Although a first book can be profitable, don’t assume that your first will be profitable. Write your first book for the joy of it, or to impress your friends and family, or to change some minds, or as a learning experience or a business builder. Over months and years, as you improve your writing skills and learn more about the publishing business, the profits may come. If writing is not either fun or profitable or both—stop writing.
  6. There’s nothing wrong with publishing for pleasure. The cost of publishing a book may be much less than the cost of a boat, a vacation or even a pool tableand nobody expects them to show a profit. If you can afford to publish for fun, do it. If you can make money while having fun, that’s even better.

Monday, December 4, 2017

How do you begin to write a book?

  1. Decide on your primary objective(s): Change the world, entertain the world, educate, inform, preserve memories, achieve personal fulfillment, have fun, make money, become famous, achieve higher status, get revenge, something else. Multiple objectives are fine—but not conflicting objectives. 
  2. Decide on your target audience. If your audience is 'everyone,' it will be very expensive to reach them. If your target is too small, you may not sell enough books to make money. Your mother may be wonderful, but your potential sales of a book about her may be seven books. Or two. More on choosing a topic 
  3. Check out the competition. Does the world really need another barbecue cookbook, JFK bio or post-apocalypse teenage vampire sex novel? More about competition
  4. Come up with about ten possible titles, then cut back to three, and then one. More about choosing a title
  5. Even if you have no artistic talent, make some rough cover designs. More about covers
  6. Write a one-paragraph book description that could go on the back of the book cover and on booksellers' websites, and should keep you focused. This is like the "elevator pitch" that you could use to describe your book to someone you meet for a short ride on an elevator.
  7. Cut that down to one sentence so you have a quick, comprehendable answer to "what's your book about?"
  8. Read books for authors. I've written a bunch.
  9. Write. How to deal with writer's block 
  10. Oh yeah, if you plan to write poetry, forget about making money.
  11. Think about how it's going to be published: (A) traditional royalty-paying publisher (difficult for a first-time author), (B) self-publishing company, (C) your own little publishing company. If you are considering A, this book will help. If you are considering B or C, this book will help
  12.  
    --- Start button from vcu.edu

Friday, June 30, 2017

Hyp-hen Hil-a-ri-ty UPDA-TED


I take a perverse joy in discovering stupid hyphenations produced by Microsoft Word. One recent discovery is "bin-aural," instead of "bi-naural." It's not as good as "the-rapist," "of-fline" "fi-ne" and "proo-freader," but is worth including in my li-st.

Microsoft, however, is not the only offender. A few years ago The New York Daily News presented us with a powerful piece of innovative typography: iP-hone.

Today's Daily News entry is equally scary: Fa-cebook. 

Ebooks, where word flow is controlled by software—not sentient beings—produce some gems. The Kindle edition of The Brothers Emanuel, by Ezekiel J. "Zeke" Emanuel, presented me with "swit-ching." Is it related to the I Ching?



Automatic hyphenation by ebook readers is both funny and sad. I’ve seen “booksto-re,” “disappoin-ting, “depen-ding” and “increa-sing”—within a few pages in the same book.

Usually the first fragment of a hyphenated word provides a hint of what is ahead on the next line, but not always. Yesterday I encountered min-dreading in the excellent bio of Walt Disney written by Neal Gabler. It must be the absolutely best awful hyphenation.


Microsoft Word often seems to guess or to follow a rule based on recognizable patterns rather than consult an internal dictionary. It sometimes makes bad guesses. Word 2010 is a little bit better than 2007. 


[above] Strangely, hyphenation is debatable. Microsoft Word and Dictionary.com accept “eve-ryone.” Merriam-Webster does not. Neither do I. My own rule for hyphenation is that the first part of a hyphenated word should not be pronounced differently by itself than when it’s part of a larger word. I think most people expect “eve” to be pronounced “eev”—not “ev” or ev-uh.” The “eve” in “eve-ning” is not pronounced like the “eve” in “eve-ryone.”

Word’s hyphenation system sometimes makes bad guesses and you’ll have to overrule its decisions. Proofread very carefully and never have complete faith in robots.

“The-rapist” is my favorite abomination sanctioned by Microsoft. I also really like “of-fline” “who-lesaler,” “Fa-cebook,” “books-tore,” “upl-oad,” “wastel-and,” “proo-freading,” “apo-strophe,” “li-mited,” “identic-al,” “firs-thand,” “fru-strating,” “whe-never,” “foo-ter,” “miles-tone,” “grays-cale,” “distri-bute,” “percen-tage,” “prin-ter,” “fami-liarity,” “misunders-tanding,” “mi-nimize,” “sa-les,” “me-thod,” “libra-rian,” “mi-spronounced,” “alt-hough” and “bet-ween.”

Word often assumes that the letter “e” indicates the end of a syllable as in “be-come” and causes errors like “Ste-ve,” “the-se,” “cre-dit” and “se-tup.”

Word recognizes that “par” is a common syllable, 

which leads to “par-chment.” Maybe Bill Gates retired too soon.  Someone has to fix this stuff.

You may want to override Word’s hyphenation decision with “heteronyms” -- words that are spelled the same way but have two meanings and are pronounced in two ways. Word gives you “min-ute” when you want “mi-nute” and rec-ord even if you want “re-cord.” The automatic hyphenation “inva-lid” makes it seem like you are writing about someone who is ailing, not an “in-valid” contract. Word 2007 and 2010 won’t hyphenate either “Po-lish” or “pol-ish.”

Word’s automatic hyphenation can give weird results with proper names, such as “Fe-dex,” “Publi-shAmerica” and “Pa-nasonic.”

The free “Writer” software from Open Office has problems, too. It produced “unders-tanding.”

I once read a book that advised, “If you do not use a professional your manuscript will not be perfect. Do not proofread it yourself and declare it perfect.” The professional approved “loo-ked,” “winso-me” and “proo-freader.” Ouch.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Are you ready for Prime Time? What's the main difference between an amateur writer and a professional author?



A while ago I copyedited a book written by a woman who is an excellent storyteller—but was not quite ready to be a professional author.

The book required so much editing that my hands ached from typing and mousing. I charged the woman much more than I would have if the text was prepared
better for me.

I'm sure the writer
and perhaps her friends and relativesread the manuscript dozens of times. I'm sure they loved it. I did not.

The biggest single problem was lack of consistency.


The AP book is a reference book you can actually read for fun.

You can adhere to the rules of such style manuals or combine elements of several. It's less important to rigidly follow one book than to be consistent within your text -- but don't be consistently foolish.

Don't have “3 a.m.” on one page and “5PM” 100 pages later. Don't have "41" and "forty-one." Use "chairman" and "Chairman" in the proper places. 

Sometimes the style books agree with each other. Sometimes they don’t. For example, "Chicago" (which was first published in 1891) favors the serial comma, but the AP and the Times books oppose it. Their attitude may be based on the need to save space in crowded newspapers. "Chicago" style is more often used by book publishers.

The Chicago Manual of Style tells us that french fries and swiss cheese need no uppercase letters. The AP book says we should capitalize Swiss cheese.

The AP book was first produced as a 60-page booklet in 1953. Over the years, this “Bible of the Newspaper Industry” grew considerably in both size and scope. The 2007 version that I use is still a rulebook -- but it’s also a dictionary, an encyclopedia and a textbook. The AP updates annually. I'm still using the 2010 edition. The Chicago and Times books update less frequently. I have the 2002 version of the Times book. My 15th edition of the Chicago book was published in 2003.

The Oxford University Press and the Chicago Manual of Style insist that an em dash should be attached to the letters before and after it, like—this, with almost no visible space. On the other side, the New York Times likes to put a space before and after each em dash. I’ve gone back and forth on this issue, with different styles in different books. As long as I publish my own books, I control my em dashes. You control yours.

While a self-publisher can choose (or create) her or his style, if you get a contract from another publisher—or even if you freelance for a magazine, newspaper or website—you may encounter "house style." Doubleday may have different preferences than Simon & Schuster, and the New York Times may disagree with Esquire.

On the web Slate, Salon and Huffington Post may have different standards.

Just as language does not stand still, neither do the official styles. The AP recently switched from "web site" to "website" and endorsed "email" over "e-mail," "handheld" over "hand-held" and "cellphone" over "cell phone." I made those changes years ago.


Other amateurisms:
  • Rampant use of ampersand instead of "and"
  • Use of numerals instead of spelling low numbers
  • Bad spelling
  • Factual errors
  • Repeated words and phrases
  • Omitted words
  • Omitted hyphens
  • Unnecessary hyphens
  • Omitted spaces
  • Unnecessary spaces
  • Wrong words (e.g., "house" instead of "horse")
  • Lowercasing proper nouns, such as "protestant"
  • Unnecessary uppercasing, such as "Church"
  • Not explaining esoteric terminology
  • Excessive informality outside of dialog (e.g., "my mom" instead of "my mother"
  • Not knowing when to use quote marks and italics
  • Over-long sentences and paragraphs
  • Improper dashes
  • Too many em dashes
  • Not verifying spelling of names (it's the Philips company, but a phillips screw)
  • RUSHING
Control yourself.

All writers have quirks that need to be controlled by their editors or by the writers. Sometimes an editor who is paid by a writer will be inclined to not make a correction ("heck, it's his personal style") that an editor paid by a publisher would correct. That's why it's important for a self-pubber to recognize personal quirks and foibles and try hard to keep the undesirable, unnecessary and weird off the printed page.
 

Just as your style sheet specifies the type font for breaker heads and whether you capitalize the "W" in "web," it's good to have a listat least in your headof screw-ups to avoid.

One of my perpetual problems is giving too many examples. It's partly pedantry, which I inherited from my father. It may also be a bit of egomania, to show off how much I know.

My natural impulse is to write something like, "British automobile manufacturers -- such as Jaguar, Rover, MG, Triumph, Vauxhall, Austin and Morris -- had reputations for unreliable electrical systems."

Under my self-imposed limit, I am allowed ONLY THREE EXAMPLES," so I'd probably ditch Triumph, Vauxhall, Austin and Morris. I'd still make my point, and save some bytes and trees.




More advice in my Self-Editing for Self-Publishers (What to do before the real editor starts editing-or if you're the only editor)

I am available for editing. Email me.

---

Top illustration from http://www.123rf.com. MG photo from Brett Weinstein. Thanks.

Monday, June 19, 2017

When responding to readers' comments, 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 "#1" was as unpleasant as reading her book. She made ridiculous attempts to justify bad decisions, ignored some questions, and seemed downright resentful (e.g., "Why are you asking these questions?"). Her snotty attitude killed any chance of getting a positive review from me.

The response from "#2" 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 affected my review.

Attitude means a lot.

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

Thursday, June 8, 2017

I used to get laid because I was a writer. I no longer do. But that's OK.


I majored in journalism in college. I've written many hundreds of articles for newspapers and magazines. I was an award-winning advertising copywriter. I've written more than 40 books.

For a while I kept a "clip file" of all of my published articles, and had a portfolio of my ads that I could use to impress a prospective employer. But, after nearly 50 years making money by tapping a keyboard, I no longer think that writing is a big deal.


In the early 70s, I loved getting fan mail and phone calls from people who liked my articles and reviews in Rolling Stone. Free records and free passes to movies and concerts often enhanced my relationships with young ladies.

Later, there was lots of satisfaction when I was told how many dollars my ads and websites generated. It was cool seeing people wearing T-shirts I had designed. In more recent years, I've enjoyed reading the mostly good reviews of my books.

I won't say it isn't fun anymore. One fundamental Marcus maxim is, "If it isn't fun, don't do it." If writing wasn't fun, I wouldn't still be doing it.

I still love to tweak, adjust, manipulate and rework blogs, websites and book pages so they sound and look just right.

But writing a good book in 2017 just does not generate the same smiles and internal giggles as the first big cover story I wrote for High Fidelity Trade News in 1969, or getting into movies and concerts for free when I showed my Rolling Stone press ID in 1971, or getting laid after giving a girl a stack of records I had gotten for free when I worked for Stone.

Maybe the problem—if it is a problem—is that writing is much easier than it used to be, so I don't feel I am overcoming a challenge. I was fired from my job at High Fidelity Trade News when I had a two-week dry spell, but it's been decades since I've suffered with a severe case of "writer's block."

Maybe simply getting olderand accumulating more experiencesmakes it easier to write. (But harder to type accurately.) 

At age 71, I can write about almost anything.

I had a demented high school English teacher [she's in Stories I'd Tell My Children (but maybe not until they're adults)] who made 'surprise attacks' on our class. One day she commanded us to "write 500 words about tobogganing." Another time she wanted 500 words about "How Capri pants are the downfall of western civilization."

I hated the evil idiot, but she provided good preparation for later on when my paycheck depended on my being able to write about things I knew absolutely nothing about (ads for women's bathing suits and the Metropolitan Opera, and a fundraising letter for the YMCA, for example).

Getting published is infinitely easier now than when I was younger. Years ago, if I had a brilliant idea for an article or book, I had to query editors and publishers to try to ignite their enthusiasm and open their checkbooks.

Today, if I have something to say, I write a book and publish it myself, or post something on one of my blogs or on Facebook or Twitter, or comment on someone else's blog, or start a new blog or website. It's infinitely easier than pitching an article to an editor or convincing investors to put money into a new magazine.

Those of us in the book biz know how easy it is to publish now. But many “civilians” are still in awe of authors.

I was reminded of this a few years ago when I was at a brunch meeting of about 25 members of a "burial society" that I’ve inherited membership in.

Although I’ve theoretically been a member since birth, this was the first time that a meeting was held near enough for me to conveniently attend. I was surrounded by relatives I am scheduled to spend eternity with, but I had never met any of them before.

During the meeting, someone spoke about a milestone in family history that occurred about 100 years earlier. I casually mentioned that I had written about the incident in one of my books.

I was surprised by the response. Some people were in awe! Someone said, “Oh, you wrote a book!” and there was at least one “Wow.” People asked the name, the subject and where they could buy it.

I answered the questions quickly and politely. I didn’t want to hijack the meeting and turn it into a book promo event.

My extended family (mostly 'sophisticated New Yorkers') thought that meeting a writer is unusual.

I certainly don’t think writing is unusual or that writers are unusual (well, maybe a little unusual). I spend a lot of my online and offline time communicating with writers, editors, designers and publishers. My close relatives and neighbors and employees know that I write and publish and they are not impressed. (Well, actually, a few are.)

I know how easy it is to get published; but to the group of strangers at the meetingwho share some of my genes, and will share a final addressit was a big deal. I’m certainly not a celebrity like Elvis, JFK or Shakespeare, but some of these folks seemed to be a bit excited to be related to an author and maybe even to be buried near one.

It made me feel good. Not as good as getting laid because I was an editor at Rolling Stonebut nevertheless, good.

Magicians don’t explain their best tricks. Maybe we shouldn’t reveal how easy it has become to publish books and have them sold by Amazon and B&N. Maybe I should not publicize this blog post. Oh well.

Monday, May 29, 2017

War Story



TV coverage of Memorial Weekend has been full of BIG numbers: the hundreds of thousands lost in our wars from the Revolution to Afghanistan.

(Did you know about the Sheepeater Indian War of 1879? One American soldier died. The deadliest war, so far, was WW2, with nearly 300,000 American combat deaths. Nearly 2,000 GIs have died so far in Afghanistan combat. How high will we allow that total to go? If we quit at 5,000 or 50,000 will the hell-hole be any better after our troops come home? I doubt it. The country may be not worth saving and not savable. Did we "save" Iraq? Sometimes I think we should rescue Afghani women and children, kill the adult men and turn the country into a giant parking lot, opium farm and ski resort.)

But war is much more than losses of thousands, it's the loss of ones.

By telling stories of individual, personal losses, maybe we can minimize future wars.

I graduated from high school in '64 and eagerly looked to our first reunion, strangely in '71.

I was really looking forward to hanging out with a good friend, but he wasn't there.

I learned that "B" was killed in Viet Nam. I blame his death on LBJ, not the Viet Cong. This was a kid I expected to—and wanted to—grow old with. I was cheated. His family was cheated. The country was cheated. Most of all, he was cheated.

We are long past the time to stop extending wrongful, hopeless wars with the pathetic desire to prove that Captain Sue or Sargent Steve "didn't die in vain." They probably did—and that's a tragedy that continues.

I'm not saying the following to demean anyone who served in the military: most of our dead and wounded warriors are victims, not heroes. Their deaths and injuries do not become heroic or justified because of the harm that befalls others after them.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Authors: a book's press release is NOT an advertisement


The press release—sometimes called a "news release" or "media release"—is a vital part of book promotion. It's used to attract the attention of writers, editors and book reviewers who may become allies in creating publicity which can sell books.

Remember: the mere publication of your book is not usually sufficiently newsworthy to impress anyone. Only the most desperate small-town weekly would publish an article with the headline: “Local Woman Writes Book.” Your news release needs a news hook. The hook is the main point of your release. It can be a theme, statement, trend or event on which you “hang” your news release. It’s also a hook with delicious bait on it that you hope will attract the attention of writers, reporters and editors.
  • To grab the attention of newspeople, you have to think and act like one of them.
  • You need to be a partner, not just a salesperson.
  • Authors—like news media—make money by attracting readers.
  • Your press release must provide important or useful information, or entertainment.
  • Think like a news writer, not a book writer. If you were reporting news or providing entertainment, what would interest you and your readers?
  • A press release should be newsworthy and read like a news story—not an advertisement.
  • It should adhere to fundamental journalistic standards, using the five W’s and one H (Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How).
  • Write something that you’d like to read about your book if someone else wrote it.
  • Many websites automatically redistribute press releases.
  • Some “reviewers” are too busy or too lazy to actually read your book, and will merely rewrite or reprint your release. Make it as effective as possible.
  • Your release must be accurate, both in terms of its content, and in grammar and spelling. Don't embarrass a newsperson or reviewer who attaches her name to it.

The release that follows is a gushing advertisement, not news, and apparently has not been "picked up" by any online media.  (My "pregnant" news was picked up.) The release also has some silly errors. The book is also terribly overpriced—$29.95 for the hardcover, $21.95 for the paperback.

For Immediate Release


“Confessions of a Disco Queen…30 some years ago”
Marries Fashion with Passion


Set in the tumultuous time of the 1970's, “Confessions of a Disco Queen…30 some years ago” dares to ask provocative questions about race, culture, and the human need to connect.

Sensual and heart breaking in turns, author Veronica Page takes readers through the true story of her desire to succeed in the fashion industry amid the hot box of racial struggle in New York City. Told in the tune of disco against the sweeping backdrop of elaborate fashion shows, “Confessions of a Disco Queen…30 some years ago” immerses the reader in the day to day hardships of living as a black woman in a world that balks at both her gender and race.

Page weaves narrative with her own published newspaper articles, lush fashion descriptions with steamy romance, and cruel reality with laugh out loud honesty to create a novel that brims over with life.

Deidre Berry, author of The Next Best Thing and All About Eva, says, "Pazge [sic] has lived a life worth reading about. Hold on to your seats as she takes you on a thrilling ride through New York City during the decadent disco era."

To arrange a book signing, radio and print interviews, please contact Managing Partner, Talib Tauhid at ccgbiz@yahoo.com or call (480) 208-5510. Or to purchase the book, visit the website or Amazon.com or BN.com

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To learn more about press releases for books, spend a buck on The One-Buck Author's Press Release Book.




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Friday, April 21, 2017

"Dingbat" is not always an insult. Build your publishing vocabulary, and smile a bit



Blad:  (Book Layout and Design) A blad is a small sample of a book used by salespeople to sell the book.  It probably will have the near-final cover design and some typical interior pages, perhaps even complete chapters with images.

Dingbat: Printers’ slang for small, icon-like drawings of hearts, snowflakes, and other shapes and items that can be used to dress up a document. Also, what Archie Bunker frequently called wife Edith on All in the Family.


Fleuron: A flower-like decoration used to enhance a book or to divide sections.


Flong: One of my favorite words! A flong was originally a dry, papier-mâché mold made from type text which could be curved to fit the cylinder of a rotary press. Later flongs were wet, and made of plastic or rubber.

Gerund: A part of speech frequently used, but seldom thought about after third grade. It’s a noun made from a verb, like “thinking,” “eating,” and “writing.”

Kern: That’s the way some people born in Brooklyn pronounce “coin.” In typography, “to kern” means to adjust the spacing between two adjacent letters. It can also mean to squish two letters together so they overlap to avoid awkward white spaces. WA is one common use of kerning, and the two letters fit together unusually well. A kern is also a part of one letter that reaches into another letter’s personal space.


Lede: The first sentence or two in a news story, with the most important information. It’s pronounced “leed”, but spelled “lede” to avoid confusion with another typographic term, “lead,” which rhymes with “bread.”

PITA: Pain In the Ass (not limited to publishing). An ISPITA in an Industrial Strength PITA.

Slush pile: Unsolicited manuscripts received by an agent or a publisher and often piled up on a desk, a shelf, or the floor, awaiting evaluation. These are also described as “over the transom” manuscripts. The phrase refers to the horizontal bar above a door and below a hinged window provided for ventilation in an office without air conditioning. Writers allegedly tossed their manuscripts over the transom of a publisher’s office and hoped for the best.

Swash: An extra bit of decoration added to a printed letter, often an extended or exaggerated serif on the first letter in a paragraph. It's not the same as Nike's swoosh.

TK: In the graphic arts, it’s shorthand for “To Come,” a notation made on a layout to indicate that an element (such as a photograph or chart) will be provided later and space should be provided for it.

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Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Other people may see the world, and your books, differently than you do


I had a cataract removed from my left eye about seven years ago, and an artificial lens implanted. I was terrified about the surgery, but it was no big deal. The improvement in my vision was amazing. Not only was the world sharper, but colors were truer. I could now see white walls that had seemed off-white or almost beige. I could appreciate the Hi-Def TVs in my home, and movies looked much better.

I was told that I would need similar surgery in my right eyeprobably in two or three years.

But my right eye suddenly got much worseand I had the second surgery and implant just one year later.

During the time between the surgeries, my two eyes saw very differently when used individually, and when used together they distorted reality, which is BAD for designing books.

My "improved" left eye (which no longer needed a corrective eyeglass lens) was optimized for distance vision, like TV and driving. My right eye (with a corrective lens) was optimized for things like books and computer screens.
  • My ophthalmologist explained that I would develop monocular vision. Each eye had a specialty, and the brain selects the input from the proper source.
Most of the time I was not conscious of this weirdness, and I seemed to see pretty well. But my distorted view of the world presented a problem with publishingand that's why I am writing this blog post to warn others.


After my first eye repair I revised one of my books to use Adobe Garamond Pro ("AGP") type instead of my former Constantia. I think that AGP is prettier, with thinner, more delicate strokeswhich I could not appreciate with my 'old' vision.

It took me a while to get used to it on my computer screen, and even longer to get used to it in print. Eventually, I started using AGP in most of my print books.

As is common for fiction and memoirs and other non-techie book, the Stories I'd Tell My Children book was printed on cream (or "crème") paper, instead of pure white. Cream is said to be easier on the eyes.

Unfortunately, with my messed-up eyesight, the cream seemed too dark, as if the pages had yellowed with age. And the thin strokes of the Garamond seemed to have inadequate contrast to show up against the dark paper.

I was all set to arrange to switch the book to use white paper, when I decided to ask for opinions from people whom I knew to have excellent eyes. The verdict: "It's fine. Leave it alone."

So, I stuck with cream and I thought I had done the right thing.

The next year, after my second eye was repaired and my vision now "normal", I decided that I still didn't like cream, and I switched the pages to white.

There's an important lesson here for book design and life in general: don't assume that others see things the same way you do.

And another lesson, it's important that you like your books.