.

.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Can you really produce a decent print book with Microsoft Word?


  • Book expert and self-described curmudgeon Dick Margulis said, “Word is not a page layout program. It is a word processing program. . . . it is best suited to preparing a manuscript, not laying out pages.”
  • Graphic designer Michael Dyer agrees: “Don’t use Microsoft Word to lay out your book! . . .  the results just don’t measure up. . . . Word’s ability to handle text for print does not compare with any of the page layout applications and it shows in the final product. . . . If you want your book to look professional you need to use professional tools. . . . Some might not notice the quality of your book design and typesetting, but many people in the industry will. Do you really want to put your project at that kind of disadvantage? Either hire a professional to lay out your book or buy the software and learn how to do it correctly yourself.”
  • Printer/designer/author/advisor Pete Masterson advises: “Microsoft Word is not an appropriate program to lay out a professional quality book. Word, and other word processing programs do not have the correct features or programming to produce food quality typesetting with good letterspacing or wordspacing.”
  • SelfPublishing.com provides Word templates for its customers, but warns: “The Do-it-Yourself method is not recommended if you are thinking of printing more than a couple hundred books. It is not that expensive (in most cases $250) to have your text professionally formatted. Homemade is fine for small print runs. It will probably not, however, work in the mainstream publishing world. You are kidding yourself to think otherwise.”
On the other side is Zoe Winters, an excellent author and a Facebook friend of mine. In Becoming an Indie Author, she says: “Typesetters will probably notice if you use Word or Open Office. . . . Your audience is not professional typesetters. . . . If you can make your interior layout professional and non-distracting to your actual readers, then you have done your job. Anyone else who wants to say anything about it can say it, then go back to picking their nose and nay-saying. It’s pointless to try to impress people you don’t even like and who are not part of your demographic. You need to pull a Rhett Butler and be selective about whose opinion you give a damn about.”


Book designer/author/blogger Joel Friedlander has a compromise position, and hope: “Typesetting with a word processor is never going to give you the smooth color, sophisticated hyphenation, and fine control over your type that you can get with a professional-level program. But by picking the right typeface at the beginning, you’ll ensure that your book can be readable and conform to long-standing book publishing practices. And that’s no small thing.” He also said, “. . . the books we see that look bad, only look that way because the author couldn’t work out how to make it look the way it ought to. . . . It isn’t because of the tool that was used the create them.”

I've used Word to make more than 40 books. They probably don’t look too much worse than books that were composed with Adobe InDesign or Quark Express, which are used by traditional publishers and some self-publishers.

Ironically, some of the ugliest books I've ever seen were formatted with InDesign (and some of the ugliest were formatted with Word). Knowing how to use ‘professional’ software doesn’t mean someone recognizes or is capable of good design.

(left-click to enlarge)

The page above was formatted with InDesign and is from a book about using InDesign. The multiple typefaces, mixture of margins, lack of hyphens, distracting squiggle and light bulb icon make it a chore to read.

(left-click to enlarge)
For contrast, the page above is from The FOB Bible, designed by Moriah Jovan with Word 2000. Some of the wordspacing seems oversize, but overall, the page is beautiful
Many self-publishing companies endorse the use of Word. 48Hr Books says, “We now have Free Templates for Microsoft Word, Word Perfect, Open Office, Pages or just about any other word processor.” Bookstand Publishing and CreateSpace provide similar templates—but if you can use Word, you shouldn’t need a template.
The ‘adult’ software can cost as much as $849 and can take a long time to learn how to use properly. I’ve done some test pages with InDesign and have been planning to try it for a future book — but I’ve been planning that for two years and still have not used it. I am happy enough with Word.  I could probably write a book and format it in Word in the time it would take to learn how to use InDesign properly.
Additionally, much (or maybe even all) of the advantage of using professional formatting software is lost when producing e-books, which are becoming increasingly important in the publishing business — especially for independent publishers.

And finally, most writers already own Word and know how to use it. They can quickly learn how to use some of its often-untapped power to produce a manuscript that’s nearly ready to become a book.


Both time and money are usually limited for independent authors. If you have an unlimited supply of both, sure, go ahead and buy InDesign and learn how to use it. If you do have limits, my new book (below) will tell you how to make better use of the software you already own.
                            
                             The weaknesses of Word
  1. Word often makes mistakes with hyphens. See this blog post for some horrifying and funny examples.
  2. Although Word can make numbered lists automatically, the lists may be ugly, inconsistent and unstable. I’ve seen some ghastly spacing after two-digit numbers in a list. It’s sometimes better to insert numbers manually from the Symbol section.
  3. Word often puts too much space between letters. The “loose” text will make a book look much worse than one designed with ‘real’ publishing software.
  4. Word sometimes seems to have a mind of its own — and it’s ignorant, confused, obstinate and sadistic. Text within headers and footers will shift just to piss you off, and horizontal lines may appear, shift and refuse to go away.
  5. Word 2010/2013 will stretch out a document that originated in Word 2007.
  6. ISPITA: If you go from Word 2007 to 2010/2013, some spaces between words may disappear. The document may also become unstable, with frequent crashes.
  7. Sometimes Word refuses to let you click on spaces that you want to modify.
  8. Word — like many computer programs — will stall or save just when you want it to do something.

(left-click to enlarge)

The test page above was composed with Word using 16-point Constantia type, with no modifications.

(left-click to enlarge)


This page was composed with Adobe InDesign CS6 using 16-point Constantia, with no modifications. The second line is tighter than the same line produced with Word and looks better. The second paragraph is too loose. Without modifications, neither page is perfect, but it is possible to produce an attractive page with Word, without incurring the high cost of InDesign or taking a long time to learn how to use it.

(This blog post is adapted from my upcoming e-book, Typography for Independent Publishers.)


Thursday, October 29, 2015

How can you tell a book cover is gay? Can type be butch?

[above] Some book covers leave no doubt about the sexuality of their intended audiences.


[above] The intended audience of some books may be less obvious. Book cover typefaces may have implications you’ve never thought about. Here are two book covers showing men in frilly shirts. If not for the typefaces, could you tell that one book is intended for straight women and the other for gay men?

Either illustration could appeal to people of either gender and orientation but the type makes the difference. The Cross Bones type could be used on a book for straight men, but not with a guy in a frilly shirt.


[above] Here are two cowboy romance books. The huge letters used for Linda Lael Miller’s name and the curlicues and script typeface used for “Country” indicate its for women. The simpler typeface on the book at the right hints that it’s for men.


[left] Both of these books are in the lesbian romance genre, but the title type styles are entirely different Could one be femme and the other butch?

 

[above] And, finally, books written by a lesbian woman and a homosexual man -- with asexual typography.


(Adapted from my The Look of a Book: what makes a book cover good or bad and how to design a good one)




Wednesday, October 28, 2015

How long will it take you to write and publish a book?



I got an email from a company telling me that, with its help, I could write and publish a book in 48 hours.

You’ll probably encounter books, courses and seminars that allegedly teach you 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's 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.

Books from traditional publishing companies typically take a year or two to go on sale -- after the author submits a manuscript. Independent authors, suspecting inefficiency and bloated bureaucracy, assume they can publish in a small fraction of that time.

That may be so, but apparently 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. Maybe.

...

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Book pages need human intervention. Software is not enough.



When I started my publishing company in 2008, I had a lot to learn so I bought about 40 books about publishing.

Many of the books about self-publishing were self-published and many of them were extremely ugly.

They had terrible typography.

The worst sin was bad justification.


(above) Type is said to be "justified" (or "full justified" or fully justified") when all of the lines of type in a paragraph (except for an indented first line and a short last line) are the same width, and extend from the left margin to the right margin.

The lines of type in this blog are like most blogs and websites, a growing number of magazines and some books. The type is flush left/ragged right. "Rag-right" is much easier to produce, and many people accept it. 

Justified type has a more formal, polished look. Ragged is obviously less formal. People can rightfully claim that justified type is abnormal and artificial, and ragged right is normal and natural. Text from typewriters (remember them) is normally rag-right. Some typewriters can justify, but the result is usually ugly.

A lot of very ugly justified type gets printed, particularly in newspapers with narrow columns (below). This old newspaper clipping shows lowercased "avenue" and "street." Apparently it was deliberate, not accidental, and was the official 'style' for the paper.



The problem exists in narrow book columns, too (below). Sometimes the only way to improve the word spacing is to switch to rag-right, or make the column wider. You can also experiment with changing some words. This can take a long time, may be futile and may not be an option. The paragraph in the sample has nothing to do with today's topic, but may be interesting.



Below is a bad example of justified full-width text from Release Your Writing by Helen Gallagher. Helen's pages are just five inches wide, and that size leads to pages that are often uglier than the six-inch pages used for most "how-to" paperbacks. It would be better to have wider pages or go rag-right.


Despite lots of recent changes in publishing, justified type is still the dominant format for book printing. It can look beautiful, but takes more time and money to do right. The block of text shown below is from one of my books. I won't assert that it's beautiful, but it's better than a lot of text from self-publishers -- and it's easy to produce with Microsoft Word. If I can do this, so can almost anyone.



Some self-publishers are content to merely dump words onto pages and rely on their software to arrange the words properly.

That's not enough.

A book needs a human touch.

You must carefully examine each line in each paragraph on each page so you can improve justification by changing words, spacing and hyphenation.

It's a lot of work and takes a lot of time to do it right -- but it's the right way to produce a book. (See exception at bottom.) There's no easy way. There's no shortcut. You must invest the time to go line-by-line, over and over again, or your book will look like crap.

Compromises are often necessary and every book I've seen has some problems with justification. Self-publishers seem to have many more problems with justification than professionals do -- and the self-pubbers may not even know that they goofed.

I purchased U-Publish.com 5.0, co-authored by Dan Poynter. This book has no hyphens, and the word spacing (below) is atrocious.



Dan boasts that he is “the father of self-publishing,” “the leading authority on how to write, publish and promote books,” and is “on the leading edge of book publishing.” I don’t claim to be the leading authority on anything, but I could have made the paragraph much nicer:


A self-publisher has an extra burden to produce a high-quality product. Self-pubbed books are initially suspect and must prove their legitimacy, and a bad self-pubbed book reflects badly on other self-publishers. Ironically, the ugliest and worst-written book I’ve ever seen tries to give advice to self-publishers. It was apparently never edited, or checked by a human being at its publisher.

The limitations of the Internet create the need for typographic compromises. As people get used to typographic abominations online, those abominations may become more acceptable in print. However, just because you can get away with ugliness, it doesn’t mean you should.

IMPORTANT EXCEPTION: Most ebooks allow the person reading to manipulate the text, so there is probably no point in trying to achieve nice justification.
 Ebooks designed for reflowable text and user-selectable type size can produce some terrible-looking pages. Shown below is part of Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson, from a Kindle edition.



TIP: Be careful if you are justifying a book that was already completed with ragged-right type. Most lines will expand to the right margin, and sometimes words that used to fit on one page will "creep" onto another page. You may have to change the page numbering for chapter beginnings, or cut words or make illustrations smaller to get what you want.

TIP: Sometimes the spaces between words will look lousy, and you'll have to experiment with hyphenation, and sometimes switch to shorter or longer words, or add or subtract words, to make things look right.

TIP: Be very careful to check the last line in a paragraph (as shown up at the top). Sometimes even two or three words will be spread out full-width, and they'll look very stupid. You can just select the line and re-do it as flush-left, or (in MS Word) tap the Enter key after the last word in the line.

A while ago I got flamed in a discussion about book design by someone I'll label as ignorant, egomaniacal and belligerent. He insisted that pages of text that are full-justified are harder to read than text that is ragged-right. He also insisted that it's proper to have two spaces -- not one space -- between sentences (an obsolete artifact of ancient typewriters).

At one point he tried to bolster his argument for the extra space between sentences by pointing out that he had typed his flames with the extra space, which made them easier to read. Despite his vast (half-vast?) experience, he did not know that web browsers ignore the extra spaces which he deliberately inserts.

He backed up his minority position by citing his alleged 30 years' experience writing and editing. I saw no point in continuing to argue, and bailed out. With great restraint I resisted the urge to encourage him to perform an act of self-copulation.

I found a good comment about justification by Shannon Yarbrough in "10 Things You Should Know About Self-Publishing" published on The LL Book Review: "I have never, never, NEVER seen a traditionally published book that lacked right margin justification and I’m tired of self-published authors telling me that they did it that way because it’s easier to read. No, you didn’t follow the rules because you didn’t do your homework, or you don’t know how. I know that’s harsh, but it’s the truth and it’s one reason I will turn down a book for review right away." 

I could not have said it better. Thanks, Shannon.

More about typography in my upcoming Typography for Independent Publishers.

Monday, October 26, 2015

What language do they speak at Mickey Dee's?



I was at The Inn of the Golden Arches (Mickey Dee's) recently. The dollar menu featured a "Grilled Onion Cheddar Burger" which sounded really good because I like grilled onions, cheddar and burgers.

However, since I don't like the pickles, mustard or ketchup that are plopped onto normal McBurgers, I asked what I foolishly thought was a simple question: "what comes on the Grilled Onion Cheddar Burger?"

The cashier looked at me with puzzlement. I repeated my question. She then said something that I assumed to be "what you mean?" in an accent that could have been a mixture of Hmong, Chilean, Jamaican and Klingon.

I repeated my question. She repeated her question.

Finally, a manager who had overheard the semi-conversation, rescued me and explained that there was nothing on the burger but cheese and onions.

The burgers (I ordered two) were fine, but the overall experience was not. People who are hired to deal with English-speaking customers need basic competency in English.

It was easier for me to order a meal at McDonald's in French-speaking Quebec than in allegedly English-speaking Connecticut.


http://www.mcdonalds.com/us/en/food/product_nutrition.sandwiches.1019.grilled-onion-cheddar.html

Friday, October 23, 2015

Why do authors who use self-publishing companies often get no respect?


Comedian Rodney Dangerfield (1921 – 2004) built his comic persona on the phrase “I don’t get no respect!” Many author/customers of self-publishing companies have the same problem but don’t make nearly as much money as Rodney did.
  • The requirements for acceptance by a self-publishing company are not writing talent and an interesting subject. Usually all you’ll need are blood pressure and a credit card. Except for books that appear to be obscene or libelous, a self-publishing company will probably publish anything.
  • Some publishers will automatically send an author a letter of praise for a submitted manuscript even without reading the submission. There have been experiments where intentionally horrible manuscripts were said to have high sales potential, and a book allegedly written by a dog was accepted.
  • Literary agents—who often function as gatekeepers on the road to traditional publishers—typically reject 99% of the book proposals and manuscripts they receive. Self-publishing companies, since they make most of their money by selling services to writers rather than by selling books to readers, probably accept 99% (or even 100%) of their submitted manuscripts.
The lack of selectivity is a major cause of self-publishing’s bad reputation. Even though traditional publishers make many bad guesses (they frequently reject books that become successful with other publishers and accept books that quickly become failures), their selectivity and financial commitment do provide a powerful endorsement for the writers and books they choose to accept.


Some publishers will produce books with little or no literary merit to cash in on a celebrity author or subject. A starlet’s name can sell tons of diet books. I Was Lindsay Lohan’s Proctologist would likely be a bestseller.

Some books will never be acceptable to mainstream publishers merely because of limited appeal, regardless of their literary merit. A company that wants to sell tens of thousands of copies of each title will not be interested in a family history, unless it’s a very famous family like Obama or Kennedy.

While the book publishing business is going through some radical changes, there is still some prejudice against self-published books. To rise above the prejudice, it is vital that your book be as good as it possibly can be. If you care about the reaction of the public and book reviewers, you must have a professional editor and cover designer. If you are writing just for fun—or just for family—you can skip the experts.



Read the next paragraph at least twice:
 
If you are not knowledgeable and attentive to details, you may end up with an ugly, error-ridden book which will embarrass you and that few people will review or buy. If you don’t know what you’re doing, don’t do it. Get qualified help. Beware of bargains and “free” services. In publishing—as with most things—you get what you pay for.
 

Who cares who published your book?
  • Zoe Winters is an author and blogger. She says, “The average reader doesn’t care how a book gets to market. If the book is good, it doesn't matter if your Chihuahua published it.”
  • Author/blogger S.G. Royle wrote, “People don't buy books from publishers. They buy them from authors.”
  • Edward Uhlan founded Exposition Press—an early and important pay-to-publish company—in 1936. He said, “Most people can’t tell the difference between a vanity book and a trade book anyway. A book is a book.” 
  • On the other hand, many booksellers and book reviewers can tell the difference and do care—and may reject a book solely because of its publishing company. If I see that a book was published by Outskirts Press, America Star Books or any of the brands of Author Solutions (Xlibris, iUniverse, etc.), I assume it's crappy.
----
From my How to not get Screwed by a Self-Publishing Company.

..

You can avoid the stigma of having the name and logo of a self-publishing company on your books if you form your own little publishing company. It's not difficult. You'll probably make more money, have more fun and publish faster, too. 

My book, YOU can have your own book publishing company will help.




Thursday, October 22, 2015

"I read it on the Internet so it must be true."


When words appear as text (on paper or online) they have apparent authority and truthfulness that is not implied when the same words are merely spoken.

The Internet and self-publishing have made it possible for anyone to say anything about anything to anyone or everyone. If the packaging is realistic, blatant bullshit can seem like gospel (assuming that you believe the gospel). If the phony message is powerful and gains supporters, it can spread like the gospel.

  • The false "news" published by The Onion is done so well that several websites report on the people who believe the baloney. Onion suckers include folks on Facebook as well as journalists and politicians
There is a big difference, however, between deliberate inaccuracy disseminated for humor or to make a point, and accidental inaccuracies disseminated because of ignorance.

Regular readers of this blog know that I frequently target people who provide bad advice or inaccurate information about publishing.

I read an elaborate comparison of three on-demand book printers.

Author Nick Thacker told us that Lightning Source is "the printer of most of the material you’ll find [in] a bookstore at least here in the States." That's absolutely untrue.

Nick is also wrong in interpreting "LSI" to mean "Lightning Source International." The company uses "International" for its operations outside the USA. Inside the USA, the "I" is understood to mean "Incorporated."


I strongly disagree with Nick's description of Lightning's setup process as "frustratingly difficult" and "close to the worst thing in the world." I've used Lightning for multiple books with no trouble, and my IQ is several points below the genius level.



And, as long as in a critical mood, I'll point out that while Nick says his first novel is "professionally-designed," having the phrase "written by" above the author's name is absolutely not professional.

Those words may be tolerated on a fourth-grader's report about Abraham Lincoln, but do not belong on a real book. The phrase is unnecessary. S
omehow people just assume that a name on the bottom of a book probably belongs to the author. Nick's phrase is like the silly signs on stores that say "Help Wanted. Inquire Within." What the hell would people do if the signs did not say "inquire within?"

Still being picky, I'll also point out that Nick's cover states that the book is "a novel." I HATE THAT PHRASE. Dickens and Hemingway didn't need to point out that A Tale of Two Cities and The Son Also Rises were novels.

Sadly, Nick Thacker is not alone in publishing bad information about Lightning Source.

I had the misfortune to discover an online article titled "SELF PUBLISH/PRINT-ON-DEMAND: What They Don’t Tell You" by Alana Cash. Alana said she "taught writing at the Univ. of Texas and Jung Institute in Austin, Texas."


While Alana may be qualified to teach writing, she is NOT qualified to teach about self-publishing. She wrote that "Lightning (Barnes & Noble’s POD division) has a written agreement." Lightning Source is part of Ingram Industries. LS supplies books to B&N, but is not a division of B&N.

Another self-styled publishing expert wrote that Lightning is owned by Amazon.com. Ain't so, either.

I readily confess to personal imperfection. I don't know everything, but I know more about publishing than some other people who want to give you or sell you advice.

---------
Image from http://www.know-christ.com/online-bible. Thanks.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

How do you pronounce "the?" Could you be wrong?


"The" (known by grammarians as the definite article) is one of the shortest and most common words in the English language. It may even be the most common word.

It can be pronounced as either "thee" or "thuh" (forgetting, for the purpose of this blog post, such aberrations as "duh").


I'm 69 years old, but until a couple of years ago I didn't realize that there is a thee/thuh rule.

I assumed that the choice was purely personal.

I've never thought much about the choice and assumed that most English-speakers simply knew which sounds better.

Maybe I was taught the rule 60 years ago -- or maybe I was out sick when a teacher taught that particular lesson. I don't remember either parent correcting me for mispronouncing "the."


But, there is a rule (quoted here from Grammar Girl):
  • If the word following "the" starts with a consonant sound, you pronounce "the" as "thuh."
  • If the word following "the" starts with a vowel sound, you pronounce "the" as "thee."
So, you can give "thuh" bagel to "thee" elephant, but don't give "thee" bagel" to "thuh" elephant, or  "thee" pizza to "thuh" eagle.

Now for an exception: Sometime even if "thuh" is the officially correct pronunciation, you can say "thee" for emphasis, as in "
It may even be the most common word," which I typed up above.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

You're not stuck with stock photos, or with any photos.




Stock photos from such sources as Fotolia, ShutterStock and iStockPhoto are an excellent alternative to expensive custom photography for book covers and interior pages.

Millions of photos and illustrations are available from skilled pros and amateurs for a tiny fraction of the cost of hiring a photographer and models and renting a shooting location and paying for travel and food.

Prices range from a few cents to about a hundred bucks, depending on size, resolution, and what the photographer feels like charging. I paid $60 for one cover shot, but most of my pix cost $4 or $6 each. I'd have to sell many more books to pay for a $1,000 photo than a $6 photo.

Some $1,000 photos don't turn out as expected. Also, sometimes a title or design
concept may change and it's easier to abandon a $6 photo than a $1,000 photo.

Unlike some "stock photo house" policies aimed at periodicals rather than books, you are buying a license for nearly unlimited use. You don't pay more money based on the readership/viewership of your media, or the purpose of your project. All the files  I've used are royalty-free, meaning they can be used with no limits on time, number of copies, or geographical location.

Most of them were absolutely perfect, and could not have been more perfect if they were shot just for my books.

Since they're not mine exclusively, I check to see if any competing or related books have the same or similar illustrations. There is no guarantee that one won't go on sale in the future (there's also no guarantee that another book won't have the same title as mine), but I'm willing to take the risk.

About the only limitations are that you can't put any person in a photo in a bad light or in porn or a violent situation, or use a photo to support a political party or religious organization.

One other possible limitation is that despite a nearly endless selection from Fotolia and its competitors, you may not find a photo that's exactly right for you. Read the contract, but you are probably allowed to modify a stock photo to make it 'more custom' (and more perfect) by flipping, cropping, changing lighting, removing or adding background, etc. (BE CAREFUL when you flip.)

That's where someone skilled with Adobe Photoshop can remake a stock photo into a custom photo.

The photo in the book cover at the top was nearly perfect, except for a generation gap. I needed a picture of a father speaking to a child, but the original man (in inset on the right) was obviously old enough to be a grandfather, or even a great grandfather. He reminds me of Bernie Sanders.

Carina, my ace cover artist, gave him a hair transplant, eliminating the effect of decades.

In the second row, Carina doctored my 1971 wedding picture, to remove my wife and remove a reddish cast from the photo.

In the bottom photo, Carina removed a cluttered background, straightened out my tilted head, and removed my right hand that looked like the deformed appendage of a Thalidomide baby.

WARNING: some collections of stock photos and "clip art" are not supposed to be used for commercial purposes -- like books -- so read the fine print carefully.

OTHER WARNING: Stock photos are often purchased with "credits" that you buy in batches using a credit card or Paypal. Credits don't last forever, and can expire before you have a chance to use them. Be careful. BigStockPhoto has a "pay as you go" plan that allows you to buy what you need when you need it and not risk having credits expire.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Authors: Plant book seeds long in advance if you want to harvest the publicity crop later



On the day I approved one book for printing, it had 669 search links on Google, 66 on Bing, 79 on Yahoo, and 10 on Excite. Those links were in place, waiting for my book to exist.

Authors, if you don’t start marketing until your books go on sale, you’ve waited much too long. Start marketing as soon as you have a subject and a tentative title. Even a year in advance is not too soon!

Some people think it’s bad luck to announce a pregnancy before the baby is born. Others start blabbing and buying baby clothes on the day after conception. There is similar disagreement about announcing a book long in advance.

You may think that you should keep your book secret so nobody copies your idea. But the loss of advance publicity and the delay in moving up through search engine rankings is probably worse than helping a competitor.
  • If you write a blog or have a website in a field that’s related to your book topic, show a mock-up of the cover and tell a bit about the book. As you get closer to the publication date and your ideas about the book get more concrete, you can say more about it.
  • This blog shows covers of some of my works in progress. The books won't be published until some time in the future, but each book shows up in searches for relevant key words and phrases -- and some are high in the rankings. 
  • If you respond to posts on others' blogs and websites, and on Facebook, mention your future book in the text or in your "signature."
  • Write guest blog posts, magazine articles and letters to the editor -- and mention the future book in your bio.
  • Send out press releases.
  • If you've written other books and have an author page on Amazon or elsewhere, mention your future books.
  • For nonfiction, assert your expertise. Respond to requests for help in Help A Reporter Out.
Here are some news items that mentioned books that did not exist yet:
  1. New York Times: "author of the forthcoming novel “Maya’s Notebook” 
  2. Business Week: “This is the lesson Costco teaches,” says Doug Stephens, founder of the consulting firm Retail Prophet and author of the forthcoming The Retail Revival." 
  3. Huffington Post: "Helena Andrews, author of the upcoming book Bitch Is the New Black"
  4. Christian News WireDr. Andrew Jackson, author of the forthcoming Mormonism Explained: What Latter-Day Saints Teach and Practice"
  5. Examiner.com: "Fred Bals, author of upcoming Theme Time Radio Hour' book - Part one"
  6. Financial Content: "coauthor of upcoming e-book, But I'm Hungry!, to be launched on September 15"
  7. Quill & Quire: "Author of forthcoming book about Sarah Palin rents home … next to Sarah Palin"
  8. Princeton University Press Blog: "Noah Horowitz, author of forthcoming ART OF THE DEAL"
  9. Blog Talk Radio: "Arthur Wylie is the author of the upcoming (and great book) Only the Crazy and Fearless Win Big." 
  10. Media Matters: "Author Of Forthcoming Fox Expose Says He Received Threat Following Latest Breitbart.com Attack Piece"

You can do it, too. Get started NOW.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Legibility is much more important than looking cool/hip/exciting etc.


The plain old basic black-on-white is obviously much easier to read than black or red on royal blue.

I'll never understand why people who put great effort into their words make it so hard for people to read them. This happens with books, websites, magazine articles, advertising, store signs, menus, catalogs, maps, graffiti. . . any appearance of text.

People shouldn't have to squint, magnify, adjust, or solve a puzzle to read what you wrote.

If you have an unstoppable urge to use reverse type (light text on a dark background) limit it to a small block of type, such as a headline, but NEVER put an entire page in reverse. And if you do use a dark background, provide a lot of contrast. White on black or yellow on navy blue are OK. Red on purple sucks. A web page or book cover is NOT a Day-Glo concert poster.


And don't use a decorative typeface that looks like it was attacked by bacteria, or those annoying distorted letter sequences you have to retype to prove that you're a human being and not a robot in order to subscribe to a blog.

And choose a type size that's big enough to be read without a microscope. A book or a website has more space than the back of a credit card. I have several books that I just can't read. This is a frustrating and unnecessary waste of money.

Don't let your medium hide, harm or destroy your message.

Eschew obfuscation and espouse elucidation, in content AND in form.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

These books may have the worst indexes in the world


I previously declared that the world's worst index was in Best in Self-Publishing & Print-On-Demand by David Rising, a charter member of the Self-Publishing Hall of Shame.

The index was apparently assembled by a robot and never checked by a homo sapiens. A smart orangutan or lemur might have made a better index.

(above) In the index, before the “A” topics, we have topics beginning with $, 3 and 7. The index typography is a strange mix of standard, boldface and underlined text, has no system for capitalization and uses different typefaces. Even email addresses appear in the index. There are terms that no one would ever look for, like "hobby" and "private." Some terms are listed twice. Do we really need 72 DPI as well as 72 DPI. with a period after it? (Both are on the same page, BTW.)

Expected terms and names are left out. The front cover screams, “How to Get Published Free.” The word “free” is not indexed, and I couldn’t find anything about free book publishing inside the book.


Helen Gallagher wrote an ugly, sloppy, padded, inaccurate and poorly edited book titled Release Your Writing: Book Publishing, Your Way!


(above) Helen produced the second-worst index I've ever seen. Readers really don't need separate listings for both "distributors" and "Distributors," or "marketing" and "Marketing," or "publishers" and "Publishers," or "small press," "small presses" and "Small Presses."

Most nonfiction pbooks need an index. Microsoft Word can produce an index, but it will be ugly and confusing without proper setup -- and intervention.

Some important tips:
  1. Remove duplicate listings. The same word shown in both roman and italic type, or with and without Initial Uppercase Letters, or in singular and plural form does not deserve two listings.
  2. Don't include any terms that nobody would look for.
  3. If you add or remove pages, update the index so page numbers will be accurate.
  4. Make sure that you include important terms, especially if they are on your cover or in your promotional material.
  5. Names should be listed under the last name.
  6. Check spelling.
Even some good books have bad indexes. All books don't need indexes. If you are sure you need to have an index, be prepared to invest a lot of time in it (when you might rather be doing something else) or maybe invest money to have someone else do it. There are professional indexers in the UK and in the USA who can do quality work without complaining.

I now have the distinct displeasure to announce a tie for "World's Worst Index," in The Great Black Hope by Constance Kluesener Gorman.



The book is a confusing mix of sports and spirituality. The author claims to be a Christian Mystic "favored with the gifts of prophecy, healing, miracles and private revelation from God."  It would be better if she had the gift of proper indexing.

On an online authors' forum she complained about poor sales despite extensive publicity.

There are many reasons why a book may not sell well. It's important to keep in mind that nothing kills a bad product faster than good advertising

Book previews on websites plus downloadable free samples can make potential purchasers aware of problems which keep them from buying the book.

The author's website, Amazon description and book badly need editing. Obvious errors in grammar and typography scream AMATEUR.

The index should be severely edited, or just deleted.

Who is going to try to find a page about "birthday" or "Mike?" Why does Lawrence Taylor have one citation under "LT" but eleven without the "LT?" Why is Mentor in boldface and  gunfire in italics? There seems to be no system for uppercasing, italicizing and boldfacing. The index lists both depression and Depression. Levi Jones is listed twice. People are listed under first names, not last. "Kroger's.," should be "Kroger,"

Did anyone look at this stinking mess before I did?