Friday, September 4, 2015

Self-publishing companies don't have to publish crappy books, but most are perfectly happy to do so

Self-publishing companies (formerly known as vanity publishers, subsidy publishers, author mills and book whores) make most of their money by selling services and products to authors -- not by selling books to readers.

Because of this, they're generally perfectly happy to publish any book submitted (unless it is obscene or libelous). If they refuse to publish a book -- because it is obscene, libelous or merely terrible -- they make no money.

Therefore, they publish many crappy books.

With most of these companies, editing is an extra-cost option usually costing $300 to $1,000, which many ignorant, egomaniacal or impoverished authors decide to skip.

I previously blogged about the problem created by Xlibris's not insisting on editing.

Xlibris says, "One of our founding principles, dating back to when we were newly incorporated and making books out of a basement office, is that authors should have control over their work."

That's not necessarily a good thing. If an author has bad ideas for a book's design, or is simply a bad writer, shit gets published. The "proficient team" and "best editors" don't control the quality of what gets published with an Xlibris label on it.

One of the best examples (i.e., one of the worst books) that shows the failure of Xlibris is the awkwardly named, physically ugly, poorly written, unedited and overpriced The Truth and the Corruption of the American System by Eunice Owusu.

The author has some important things to say, but her message is diluted and distorted by bad presentation, and lack of help from Xlibris. The company wanted to collect money for the publishing package they sold her, but made no effort to improve the book.

I've preached that companies like Xlibris need to stop behaving like crack whores who will provide service to anyone who can pay the price. I also said that self-publishing companies need to develop some pride, and to grow some balls. They need to be able to say, "I'm sorry, but your manuscript is just not good enough to be published unless it gets professional editing."

Sadly, even if an author does pay for editing, the book may still turn out badly. One author told me she paid $999 for the most expensive "Diamond" publishing package from stupid, sloppy and sleazy Outskirts Press, plus extra-cost options including nearly $1,000 for "professional" editing.

She said, "I have had some scathing reviews due to the errors that were left in my book after I paid a small fortune for editing with the Outskirts editing team. I was so excited when my book was first released, but after a few family members pointed out the mistakes left behind, I can't describe the restraint it took for me not to explode. I tried to reason with my so-called marketing representative, but she simply hid behind the "fine print" they give you after they receive payment from you. It would have cost me another small fortune to revise the book, and I am still in debt from publishing it in the first place. The marketing representative simply would not assume any responsibility for mistakes that Outskirts made. Outskirts made me feel paranoid about not getting their editing service, but when I did it was as if I had no editing at all."

A while ago I had the misfortune to flip through a horribly produced book from Outskirts Press, Stupid In Montana As America by Robert E. Milliken.

Virtually everything about the book is either inept or wacky.
  1. It had two reviews on Amazon, and one was written by the author. That was removed and the remaining review is terribly written.
  2. It's overpriced.
  3. The title makes no sense.
  4. The description on Amazon misuses the noun "dupe." It is not a synonym for "stupid person." Some dupes are smart people, like clients of Bernard Madoff.
  5. The author's promotion in an authors' online group is filled with religious nonsense, and nonwords such as "accurd" (occurred) and "maltible" (multiple).
  6. There are abundant errors inside the book. Some are silly and tiny, such as "bit" for "bitten." But there is major garbage which should never have been printed, e.g., "Fme fishing and hunting are my two faveretfavorite things to do, but I gotta tell yayou, that theirsthere are more and more people doing it."
  7. The first sentence in the first chapter says: "I may have a deferent different view point than of the local’s who live there." I've read a great many books, but I can't recall any short sequence of words with as many errors as this one. Like Owusu, Milliken has some important things to say, but his message is horribly weakened by the unprofessional publishing provided by Outskirts Press.

Sadly, this book about stupidity is a great example of stupidity. It is really stupid to publish an unedited book.

Companies that willingly (and gladly) publish shit are contributing to the downfall of literature, culture, civilization and maybe even life on Earth. I wish they would merely go out of business.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Get some low-budget silent salesmen. Authors need business cards

Books are often sold one-at-a-time, and each happy purchaser can tell someone else, and each of those can tell others, and so on.

Authors -- whether self-published or traditionally published -- can't afford to be meek. You must get comfortable talking to strangers in elevators, at conventions, on airplanes or on a line at the supermarket. If you're afraid to toot your own horn, you'll have to hire someone to toot for you.

A business card is an important accessory to your tooting. It's a powerful and inexpensive 'souvenir' of a meeting that can lead to business.

  • You can have cards that promote specific books, and cards that identify yourself as an author, as a publisher, an editor or provider of other services.
  • Always have several cards of each type with you.
  • If you are going to a trade show, convention, networking session or other business event, take lots of cards.
  • Separate them so you can quickly grab the right one.
    Below are some of mine.

Any time you sign or send a book, stick in three to six business cards that show the book cover and maybe "at Amazon and B&N" or your website address if you prefer to sell directly. Make it easy for happy customers to recommend the book to others. While some of the cards may be used as bookmarks, crumb sweepers or be thrown away, I assume that some will be passed on to potential purchasers.

I get my cards from VistaPrint, a major maker of business cards and other printed products for businesses which I've been buying from for many years. For the cards shown here, I uploaded a TIF image copied from the PDF of my covers. The paperback books measure 6 x 9 inches, and fit fine on the business card with a little white space above and below the cover image for promotional copy.

The price was just $25 for 1500 cards -- less than two cents each with rush shipping. If you spend a little more, you can have VistaPrint use the space on the back to print some blurbs from readers or reviewers who like the book.

My wife and I carry the cards around to give to possible "customers." Marilyn has turned out to be an excellent salesperson. She motivated our dentist to order a copy from Amazon and I signed it for him when I had my teeth cleaned. My podiatrist, however, asked for a freebie. I gave it to him and he displays it in his office. So does my urologist. Nice.

Promotional bookmarks are much less useful than they used to be. They don't work with ebooks and don't easily fit into wallets.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Here's a negative review for a book I've owned for more than five years but have not read

Back in February 2010 I bought a copy of Wingnuts: how the lunatic fringe is hijacking America. Written by John Avlon, it deals with the wackos on the far-right and far-left wings of politics, such as the 9/11 "truthers," the "birthers" who insist that President Obama was born in Kenya, and those who accept Palin's "death panel" paranoid fantasy.
  • This is the debut publication from Beast Books, a joint venture between the Perseus Book Group and The Daily Beast, a website dealing with politics and pop culture.
Tina Brown is co-founder and editor-in-chief of the Beast. She's an author, talk show host, and an award-winning editor. She edited Vanity Fair and The New Yorker, created Talk magazine and is in the Magazine Editors Hall of Fame.

Although she is apparently not a trained designer, she is credited with redesigning The New Yorker and hiring Richard Avedon as staff photographer. So, Tina should know something about publishing production values. She cares enough about her own work to have claimed a copyright for the foreword she wrote for Avlon's book -- an extremely uncommon practice.

So why am I pissed-off about a book I have not read?

It looks like crap, feels like sandpaper, and costs too much.
  • The designer, Jane Raese, chose a compressed, bold sans serif typeface for the chapter titles, headers and other spots. The words are both ugly and hard to read. With the huge selection of available typefaces, both sins are unforgivable.
  • The pages are rough, pulpy semi-sandpaper, of a low grade I have not had the misfortune to touch since I bought 35-cent Signet paperbacks more than a half-century ago. I almost felt the need to wear thick work gloves to protect my fingers from splinters. This book has a cover price of $15.95 -- not 35 cents -- so the budget could certainly have covered a nicer, smoother grade of paper. I'm just an amateur publisher, but my own $15.95 books have paper that's as smooth as a baby's ass. I would not insult my readers by using cheap paper that might be found in a hotel room john in a third-world country that just made the transition from wiping with tree leaves.
  • The book has 284 pages and measures just 5 by 7-3/4 inches. That size is commonly used for the "mass market paperbacks" which sell for less than $10 and are displayed near the cash register at supermarkets and Walmart. Wingnuts is not vital for college or business. It's basically entertainment, and not important enough to warrant an inflated price. Other entertaining books often sell for $2.99 or less.
According to The New York Times, "Perseus is paying The Daily Beast a five-figure management advance to cover the costs of editing and designing the books."

Based on what I've seen and felt, Perseus grossly overpaid.

An author's words are important, but so is the package that contains them. Be aware and be careful.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Authors: it's important to review your books' reviews

Every author likes to get good reviews, and hates to get bad reviews.

Most published reviews are positive, and that's nice.

Some negative reviews are written by people who are clueless, vindictive or have not even read the book they are condemning. If you write a book, it's important that you regularly check for reviews. Good reviews can be used to promote your book. Unjustified bad reviews have to be dealt with.

A while ago I discovered a review of one of my books on Amazon. It gave me the minimum one-star ranking and said my book must be terrible because it did not have a "Search inside the book" feature (as if I was hiding something). There were a few other meaningless complaints which revealed that the reviewer had never read the book. I assume the review was from a writer I slammed on this blog. (I don't put negative reviews on Amazon to minimize the chance of a flame war or pissing match.)

I complained to Amazon, and the review was deleted within a few minutes.

Another time I was criticized because the typeface I used was allegedly too big. I responded that the 12-pt type I used is the size specified by the U.S. Supreme Court to insure readability of court documents.

And another time one of my books was criticized for being out-of-date. I responded that the reviewer bought the wrong book, and should have bought the replacement book. I even offered to provide a freebie.

Set up Google alerts for your name and your book titles. You'll get automatic notifications so you'll know what's being said about you so you can respond appropriately. WARNING: be restrained when responding to negative reviews. Don't get into online pissing matches that may alienate potential readers.

Monday, August 31, 2015

How to become a freelance writer

I am the administrator of a Facebook group for writers. One member recently asked, "How do I become a free lance writer?" Here's my reply (slightly edited):

First of all, "freelance" is one word.

The term comes from medieval times, when a mercenary warrior would provide himself and his lance to a lord who would pay for his services, rather than to a lord he had a long-term relationship with.

I freelanced for dozens of magazines, newspapers and advertising agencies back in the 1970s. I had majored in journalism in college and then moved to NYC and got a job as ass't editor of a magazine. I used my contacts gained at that magazine, plus samples of what I had written, to sell work to other publications as well as ad agencies.

The specific paths may vary, but three vital ingredients are 

(1) experience that generates published writing samples,
(2) knowledge of potential media clients,
(3) story ideas. (In journalism, an article is called a "story" or a "piece.")

It will probably be tough to sell your first article if you have no experience. Many writers start writing for low-paying (or even no-paying) community newspapers. If you can write very well about even dull news events, such as school board meetings, Little League or high school sports, or community bake sales, your published samples should help you to move up to more interesting assignments at better-paying media.

It's important to become familiar with publications, broadcast stations and online media that might publish your work. My first job was at a "trade" magazine that went to hi-fi dealers. My knowledge of hi-fi equipment got me work writing for Rolling Stone, Crawdaddy and Country Music magazines. My experience there helped me make the transition to more mainstream magazines such as Esquire as well as newspapers, ad agencies and PR agencies.

  • It's much easier to get freelance work if you have a specialty, or multiple specialties, hopefully with little competition.
If you are one of just three people in the world who know all about left-handed nuclear reactors, and an editor needs a story about that subject, it will be easier to get the assignment than if you are one of a million people who like to write about cars, decorating kids' rooms or cooking turkey.
  • You should constantly be sending out "pitch letters" (which can be emails), suggesting stories to appropriate media. Even if you don't sell the pieces you suggest, once you become known to editors, they'll probably contact you when they need a story in a field you are qualified to write about.
You have to learn the appropriate contacts at the media you are interested in. That info can be gleaned by reading the staff listings in the publications, and through directories. In general, publishers are concerned with finance, not writing, so don't contact them. At a small publication, contact the editor. If there are multiple editors, contact those who are in charge of departments that are appropriate for your work.

Don't pitch an article about do-it-yourself bicycle repair to a cooking magazine or a website for funeral directors.

  • While specialization makes it easier to get work, it's important to be able to write about anything. Even if you normally write about fashions or funerals, if you are first-on-scene at a train crash, particularly if it is not covered by others, try to sell the news report.
One other path to publication is blogging. With a blog you just have to make readers happy, not impress an editor. Over the years I've written blogs that specialized in multiple subjects, and some of them led to freelance writing gigs.
  • Be aware that there are probably as many writers looking for work as there are unemployed actors and singers. The oversupply reduces the money that publications will pay, except for the top tier of writers.
Freelancers can be paid by the word, by the "column inch" (in newspapers) by the number of pages published (in a magazine), or by other systems. In the early 70s I was paid from a dime to a dollar per word. I was shocked to discover that some current publications pay as little as two cents per word.

Writers Market is an excellent directory of possible buyers of your words and should be on your shelf. In addition to its directory function, it has lots of helpful advice on the business of writing.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Some ligatures are used to murder people. Other ligatures improve books.

On TV cop shows, a ligature is a wire, necklace, shoelace, rope or cord used to strangle a “vic.” The photo above shows a "ligature mark," frequently analyzed by the coroner, medical examiner or forensic pathologist.

(Leslie Hendrix played Assistant Chief Medical Examiner Elizabeth Rodgers, the longest-running recurring character in Law & Order and one of only five characters who appeared in all four Law & Order TV shows set in New York.)

[above] In typography, a ligature is seldom deadly. It's several letters joined together to save a little space and improve appearance. Some fonts include more ligatures than others. In Microsoft Word, you can select ligatures from the symbols section, or apply ligatures in the Open Type section of the Font dialog box. It’s much more important to use ligatures in the large type on book covers and title pages and perhaps on chapter openings, than in normal text.

[below] Some ligatures are much less common than others, and some are downright mysterious. The “i-j” ligature looks like  a “y” with two dots over it. The “s-t” combo doesn’t seem to save any space. The “a-e” and “o-e” are too similar to figure out without the rest of the word, and the “f-s” is hard to decipher without a cheat-sheet. It could be a “j-3.” 

[below] The ampersand is the most common ligature, but most people don’t think of it as a ligature because it is so common. It is probably the only ligature commonly drawn by hand, and is on most keyboards.

In most typefaces it’s hard to tell which letters have been combined to make the ampersand. The two letters are “E” and “t,” which spell “et” — the Latin word for “and.” In English it is pronounced “and,” not “et,” except in the rare case of  “&c,” which is pronounced “et cetera.”  In the examples above, only the last one (Trebuchet MS) clearly reveals the original “E” and “t.”

Although the ampersand is often used in business names and logos such as A&P, AT&T, Barnes & Noble, Bain & Company and Simon & Schuster, it is inappropriate in normal text. Ampersands are sometimes used in book titles to save space on covers. I spent a lot of time looking for a book cover with an ampersand. After I gave up, on a Saturday morning FedEx brought me this excellent book — about typography — with an ampersand on the cover.

This blog post is adapted from my upcoming Typography for Independent Publishers

Top photo from www.DocumentingReality.com. Hendrix photo from NBC. Thanks.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

There are at least 50 ways to mess up your book

Paul Simon sang about the 50 ways to leave your lover. I've found 50 ways to mess up my own books. How about you?

  1. Factual errors
  2. Spelling errors
  3. Grammar errors
  4. Words or dates you meant to fill in "later" but didn't
  5. Wrong typefaces, particularly when text is pasted-in from another source
  6. Commas that should be periods -- and vice versa
  7. Straight punctuation that should be curly "typographers' marks"
  8. Curlies that curl in the wrong direction
  9. Missing spaces between paragraphs or sections 
  10. Flush-left justification that should be full justification
  11. Bad justification in the last line of a page
  12. Chopped-off descenders where you decreased line spacing (leading) or if the bottom of a text box is too close to the text
  13. Wrong-size bullets
  14. Text not aligned at tops of pages. (Professional page formatters try to align tops and bottoms.)
  15. Rivers
  16. Too-big word spacing
  17. Normal letters that should be ligatures (more for large type than in body text).
  18. Accidental spaces after bullets
  19. Improper hyphenation
  20. Misaligned numbers in a list
  21. Roman text that should be italic, and vice versa
  22. Normal text that should be boldface, and vice versa 
  23. Ignoring highlighted warnings in MS Word.
  24. Automatically accepting MS Word suggestions 
  25. Gray text that should be black.
  26. Insufficient space adjacent to images
  27. Images or text boxes that floated over the margin.
  28. Images or text boxes that 'slid' down and covered up footers
  29. Missing periods at sentence ends 
  30. Missing opening or closing quote marks.
  31. Missing page numbers
  32. Pages with numbers that should not show numbers (blind folios)
  33. Periods that should be inside a closing parentheses -- or outside
  34. Repeated words 
  35. Wrong headers, missing headers, switched verso and recto headers
  36. Subheads that are too close to the text above and too far from the text below
  37. Too much space between lines in a multi-line title, chapter name or subhead
  38. Inconsistencies such as 3pm on one page and 3 P.M. on another.
  39. Inaccurate internal referrals such as "see comments on page 164" 
  40. Words that shifted from the bottom of one page to the top of the next page
  41. Chapter names and page numbers in the table of contents that don't reflect a change made in the actual chapter name or the first page of the chapter
  42. Chapters missing from the TOC.
  43. A topic not in the index because you added something after completing the index
  44. Words that should have been deleted but were not
  45. Names that were changed in some places but not in all places
  46. Paragraphs that accidentally merged
  47. Missing photo or illustration credits 
  48. Credits for deleted photos or illustrations.
  49. Photos or illustrations accidentally flipped left-to-right
  50. Wrong ISBN or other information on the copyright page 

Here are some sad rules of life in book publishing: 

(1) The bigger the book, the more errors it will have.
(2) Every time you try to correct an error, you risk creating more errors.
(3) If you strive for perfection, you will never complete the book.
(4) No book is perfect.
(5) Errors will be caught by readers, reviewers and nitpickers like me.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Hyp-he-na-ti-on c-an b-e h-ila-rio-us. B-e ca-ref-ul

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.

Here's some classic hy-phen humor from Saturday Night Live.

Microsoft, however, is not the only offender. The New York Daily News has presented us with a powerful piece of innovative typography:


Ebooks, where word flow is controlled by software -- not sentient beings -- produce some gems. I recently savored a wonderful memoir, the Kindle edition of The Brothers Emanuel, by Ezekiel J. "Zeke" Emanuel. On one page I encountered "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.

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.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

FUCK YOU, Henry Holt & Co.
DROP DEAD, Nation Books.
High book prices hurt both readers and authors

On Sunday I heard an interview with author Carl Safina and decided to buy his new book about animal communications. I went to Amazon.com to place my order and I was horrified. 

As an author, publisher, reader and animal lover, this book really pisses me off.

The hardcover costs a reasonable $17.96, but I'm trying to stop buying printed books. My bookshelves are overwhelmed with over 3,000 pbooks. I expect to move to a smaller house next year. I love the convenience of e-reading on multiple devices.

The ebook costs a ridiculous $16.99.

With no expense for paper, cardboard, cloth, printing, storage, packing, shipping or returns, the price difference between p and e should be much more than 97 cents.

For now I will refuse to buy the book. I feel deprived and enraged. I offer an apologetic I'm sorry to the author and a disgusted FUCK YOU to publisher Henry Holt and Co.

I could certainly afford $16.99 for a book I want to read, or even $50, but I don't like feeling ripped off. No ebook should cost more than $9.99. Even at that price there should be plenty of money for the author and the publishing company.

I had a similar problem on Monday.

I heard about a book about post-Katrina New Orleans written by
Roberta Brandes Gratz and went to Amazon.com to buy it.

The hardcover has a very reasonable price: $17.88.

The Kindle ebook shows contempt for readers with a price of $15.39.

I hereby send a disgusted FUCK YOU to publisher Nation Books, and an apologetic I'm Sorry to the author.

As an author and publisher I certainly know that words have value and that books should provide a profit. I detest the trend to sell ebooks for 99 cents, or zero cents. However, high prices are as destructive and counter-productive as low-low prices.

Back in early 2010 I wrote about the ebook pricing problem:
Just what ebooks are worth is a matter of debate. Publishers argue that printing and distribution represents a small proportion of the total cost of making a book.

“There are people who don’t always understand what goes into an author writing and an editor editing and a publishing house with hundreds of men and women working on these books,” said Mark Gompertz, executive vice president of digital publishing at Simon & Schuster. “If you want something that has no quality to it, fine, but we’re out to bring out things of quality, regardless of what type of book it is.”

To consumers who do not pay much attention to the economics of publishing, though, such arguments are trumped by the fact that ebooks have been available for $9.99 for more than a year.

One reason consumers may be sensitive to pricing is that they have so many other types of entertainment to occupy their time. (Next sentence added today) The same $15 or more that can pay for a book can pay for a movie, videogame, sports event, train ticket, a visit to a museum or a zoo, or a meal.

Walmart, Costco, Amazon, Vizio and Hyundai have proven that when prices come down, sales go up.

It seems highly likely that many more copies of a book can be sold at $9.99 than at $17.96, and the higher sales volume means MORE MONEY for author, bookseller and publisher -- with NO ADDITIONAL EFFORT OR COST.

It seems obvious that the only reason that publishers don't want to have $9.99 ebooks is because they don't want to hurt sales of more expensive pbooks -- not because they can't make enough money on the ebooks.

AFTERTHOUGHT:  If pbooks could be sold without the archaic and wasteful unlimited returns by booksellers, the price of pbooks could come down, too. Maybe we could get either p or e for $9.99.

Monday, August 24, 2015

A writer who doesn't know right from left should not give advice about publishing

"Self Publishing a Book explained in one minute"

From Lull Mengesha:
  1. Register for a copyright.
  2. Get ISBN and Barcode.
  3. Find Print on Demand Publisher.
These are just the things that took me a LONG time to figure out that really shouldn’t have been so difficult. 


From Michael N. Marcus:
  1. The first thing you do is NOT to register for a copyright. That’s one of the last things you do, and you can do it months after the book is published.
  2. NO NO NO. You can get the ISBN and bar code from a publisher, or after you find a publisher, or after you become a publisher -- because it connects a specific version of a book to a specific publisher!
  3. It’s also a bad idea to produce a promotional video that shows your book with a left-right reversal.
Lull has a lot to learn before he starts giving advice, and he needs an editor, or a better editor, for the book.

And, of course, it's not possible to explain self-publishing in one minute. My first book about self-publishing has 432 pages, and probably takes a few days to read.

Friday, August 21, 2015

You'll be amazed at the errors you'll find if you look at your book without reading it

After you've read your new masterpiece 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


glasses: Ed Hardy Gold EHO-732 Women's Designer Eyeglasses - Tortois Gold

Thursday, August 20, 2015

A good story can't compensate for sloppy writing

Writers seeking readers should be very careful.

On an online forum for writers, editors and publishers, someone was trying to attract attention to a new book and get advice for promoting it. He wrote, "My first novel . . . . will soon be relaesed to Amazon, B&N and ebooks."

That typing error is not a big deal, but it stands out like a sore thumb and could have been easily fixed before the world saw it. Also, a book is not released "to" ebooks.

Sadly, these errors are part of a pattern of carelessness limiting the effectiveness of this new novelist who is trying to sell books in a very crowded field.
  • Some of the errors in one short blog post include "bias" instead of "biased," "wonderous" instead of "wondrous," "existance" instead of "existence," "Capitalism" instead of "capitalism," "was" instead of "were," "socio-economic" instead of "socioeconomic" and "hell bent" instead of "hell-bent."
  • In just a few paragraphs of his online book sample, he wrote "marines" instead of "Marines," "cake walk" instead of "cakewalk," "whaopping" instead of "whopping," "coffee-table" instead of "coffee table," "main-room" instead of "main room," "oak, dining table" instead of "oak dining table" and "table-lamp" instead of "table lamp." There is also improper punctuation.
The author is a good storyteller, but he's a careless author. His book was supposed to go on sale a few days later. Based on the online sample, the book -- like the cast of "Saturday Night Live" -- was not ready for prime time.

The publisher's website says, "Quality is our top concern." In an online forum, a representative of the publisher made multiple errors in English. That's not a good sign. I am not confident in the prospects for this book. I hope a good editor was eventually hired to work on it.

photo from Microsoft clipart

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

How long will it take you to write a book?

You’ll probably encounter books, courses and seminars that allegedly teach you how to write a book in an absurdly short length of time. Since it’s possible for a book to have just three words in it, it is actually possible to write a book in less than ten seconds!

However, most writers of “real” books take from three months to a year or more to write. And then the book requires more time for revising, editing, designing and marketing.

Very few self-published books come out “on time.” Everything takes longer than you think it will. If you rush, you will make mistakes that will take additional time to correct. It’s much more important to be good than to be fast or first.

The book shown below was supposed to go on sale in July of 2010. It should be ready in a month or two. Or three.


Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Menu-makers and writers can use my cheat sheet


Mickey pic from Disney.
Bullwinkle pic from
Mouse photo from I don't remember
Marina photo from sunriseresortandmarina.com
Mesclun photo from scarboroughfarms.com
Hamburg photo from Daniel Schwen
Big Mac photo from Mickey Dee's