Wednesday, January 16, 2019

An author's dilemma: should we hide the truth to avoid embarrassing relatives of evil people?


If you think of New Haven and education, there's a good chance you'll think of Yale University, a superb educational institution and part of the Ivy League. New Haven's public schools, however, frequently did a terrible job educating students.

I was the victim of some terrible teachers in New Haven's schools. Some were merely ignorant or incompetent. Others were absolutely nuts, evil, even sadistic and physically abusive. (Some, however, were OK or even superb).

Back in sixth grade, way back in 1958, I suffered from Julia Quinn, a particularly horrid teacher. I complained to my parents but they insisted that I must respect her because of her position—no matter how evil, incompetent, lazy or deranged she was.



I promised myself that someday I would tell the world what my parents refused to listen to. It took me over 50 years, but I kept the promise with my bestselling memoir, Stories I'd Tell My Children (but maybe not until they're adults).

I can still visualize exactly where I was standing when I made the decision to write about Quinn. If I go to hell I’m going find Quinn and beat the crap out of her. But I may have to wait in line for my turn because so many others suffered because of her. If you think I didn’t like her, you’re underestimating my passion. I hated her fucking guts. And I still do.

Some people, including my ultra-cautious wife, warned me to not use real names in the memoir. I saw no need to disguise or minimize evil. Here's some text from the book:




When I was in high school, another teacher, with the silly rhyming name of Herman Cherman, repeated a silly rumor to the school's disciplinarian—our assistant principal George Kennedy. Herman said that I had traveled to school on a winter day, sitting on the convertible top of my best friend Howie's Triumph.


Not only would it have been very cold up there and hard to keep my balance, but I would probably have broken the top and fallen in on Howie and caused us to crash.


The assistant principal believed Herman, and made a school-wide amplified announcement summoning Howie and me to the detention room.

Fortunately the school cop, Joe Manna, came to our defense. He told Kennedy, “These are good boys; they would never do anything like that.” In the one time he was ever nice to me in three years, Kennedy said, “I wish Cherman would mind his own damn business. I have enough real problems to deal with without him making up fake problems.”

Recently in a Facebook group that deals with New Haven, one of Cherman's kids asked if anyone remembered her father. I responded with the story of my unnecessary embarrassment caused by his lying. The daughter then attacked me, calling me disgusting, evil and a liar. She pointed out that Herman won awards for his teaching.

Her father may indeed have been a wonderful teacher and father—but he was not my teacher or father—and in his only dealing with me, was an evil, lying busybody who caused unnecessary pain to my best friend and me.

I will never know the motivation for his lie. I assume he was trying to win points from Kennedy.

The daughter, in a second generation of embarrassment, publicly called me a liar. But her father was the liar; and she, unlike me, did not witness the incident.

I responded that I had no reason to make up the story and that as Shakespeare and others have pointed out, "
the sins of the father are to be laid upon the children."

She has good memories of her father. I have a bad memory of the same person. That's life. I have no reason to hide the truth to shield anyone.


Wednesday, January 9, 2019

I just bought a printed book. After years of ebooks, it's weird to read it.


Above: my first and most-recent hardcover books, separated by about 70 years

Books have always been extremely important to me. As the photo shows, even as a little kid, I used the bathroom as a library so not a moment of potential reading time was wasted. In 2019, the only piece of furniture I can visualize from the Bronx apartment my parents brought me home to in 1946 is a mahogany bookcase. I share my bed with my wife and usually my iPad or Kindle Fire.

Before TiVo gave me the ability to fast-forward, I always read during TV commercials. I read at most meals—even at restaurants. Some people think it's rude. I think it's efficient.

I've been accused of being addicted to reading. Like other kinds of addicts, I've resorted to sneaking and cheating to satisfy my addiction.
  • When I was in first grade, I had a ridiculous 7:30 PM bed time. I got into bed, pulled the blanket over my head, and read with a flashlight.
  • Later, maybe in third grade, when my technical skills improved, I came up with a better solution. I put a bright light bulb in my bedroom closet and it was bright enough to illuminate a book when I was in bed. I attached a long string to the pull-chain that controlled the light, and put a tennis ball at the end of the string. When I heard my parents approach, I yanked the string to shut off the light, and tossed the tennis ball and string into the closet to hide the evidence, and made believe I was asleep.
  • The ultimate evolution of my scam occurred around sixth grade. I installed a photoelectric cell in the garage, aimed outward. If my parents were out for the evening, and then came home when I was supposed to be asleep, the car's headlights would trigger the photocell which then rang a bell in my bedroom—so I could shut off my light and shut my eyes.
  • Later on, my parents didn't care how late I stayed up, and I often read until midnight, and started again around 4 AM. 
  • In my senior year in high school, my English teacher required us to read and report on one book each month, with a bonus if we could read one book each week. I half-jokingly asked her what would happen if I did one a day. She half-jokingly said she'd give me an "A." I read the books, wrote the (short) reports, and got my "A."
  • When I was in college, I was still building book shelves a week before I was going to move out of my apartment and go to New York to be a magazine editor. (Assistant editor, actually.)
I've always had a strong reverence for books. Maybe it comes from my parents, who were avid readers. As a Jew, I am part of "the people of the book." 

When I see books in the trash, I rescue them. When a friend's older brother and his buddies gathered around a barbecue grill at the end of the school year to burn their school books, I tried to rescue the books, but was blocked by superior force. Assholes!

I seldom think of sin, but if sins do exist, book burning is certainly high on the list.

A few years ago I figured out that my house has nearly 400 linear feet of book shelves, which means I must have (GASP!) nearly 4,000 books. There are also books in cartons, and in drawers and in my car, and on my phone, computers, Kindle Fire and iPad. In the old days there would be books on UPS and USPS trucks heading to me.

I order books from Amazon at least once a week.

I'm a fast reader, but I can't possibly read fast enough to keep up with the inflow. The only obvious solutions were to become a faster reader (unlikely at my age) or buy fewer books.

Instead, I started giving away books, and began buying ebooks only. I save space, and can resume reading anywhere.

A few days ago I was in a dollar store. I couldn't resist looking at the one-buck books. The store had about a dozen titles. Four seemed interesting. One was purchased. I started reading it as soon as I got out to my car, to wait for my wife to finish shopping.

I was able to prop up the book on my steering wheel as in the old days—but I tried "swiping" pages with my fingers to flip the pages. It did not work. I was also unable to highlight text or look-up words, and I had to remember to take the book from the car into my house.

I suppose I have become an e-guy.  

Friday, January 4, 2019

My nominations for the most disgusting bits of literature



Would you want to read any more of Rainbow Gliding Hawk and the Last Stand of the Patriarch by Doug Lambeth after encountering the first page of the first chapter?

The vomit warmth reaches through the shiny leather and as my toes begin to sweat, I pray that rental tuxedo shoes are water/puke proof. I wonder if they’re Gore-tex lined? “It’s just puke,” I say, and to punctuate the point Dirk retches his remaining stomach contents onto my feet.



The next gem is from The Wayward Comrade and the Com­missars, by Yurii Karlovich Olesha.

How pleasant my life is. Ta-ra. Ta-ra. My bowels are elastic. Ra-ta-ta. Ta-ra-ree. My juices flow within me. Ra-tee-ta. Doo-da-da. Con­tract, guts, contract. Tram-ba-ba-boom! (I wrote a book report on this one when I was in junior high school.)

It's probably best to minimize the disgusting stuff unless you're writing for doctors or children.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Authors: consider an "out-of-town" tryout for your book. Don't let it flop on Broadway.



Traditionally, theatrical productions that were headed to New York's Broadway "tried out" out-of-town, often in Boston and New Haven. In those cities the writer, director, composer and producers could observe audience reactions and make changes before the show was presented for the New York audience and critics.

When I was in junior high school in New Haven in the early 1960s, I saw many tryouts at the Shubert Theatre. My friends and I paid $1.20 to sit in the second balcony, and sometimes sneaked down to better seats—even box seats—if no one else claimed them.
  • Self-publishing authors have an advantage over authors who work with traditional publishing houses because they can have an "off-Broadway" tryout, just like a drama or a musical.
With minimal expense, you can get a few dozen copies of your pbook or ebook, and distribute them to friends, relatives, librarians, booksellers, consultants, agents, other writers, teachers, experts—anyone whose opinions you respect.

You'll probably get lots of good advice that will influence your final text and covers, and you might even get compliments that can be used as "blurbs" to help promote the final version of the book.

One of my books had a limited release in late 2008. While I was pleased with it, and it got consistently good reviews, I realized that the title confused some readers (it's a quote from one of my crazy teachers). I also realized that one chapter should be replaced with other material and I should shift some of the front matter to the back so people would reach the "meat" of the book sooner.

I also decided to add some material and I lowered the price. The new book has gotten great reviews and thousands of copies have been sold worldwide as a paperback, hardcover and ebook.

If my "out-of-town" version became my "Broadway" version, the book would likely have been a flop.



(Top illustration from old Shubert program at the University of South Carolina)

Friday, December 21, 2018

More reasons to dislike sleazy Page Publishing

I previously criticized Page Publishing. I now have two more reasons to dislike the company.

This morning I received a pop-up ad that said "Find a Publisher Now."


When I clicked on the arrow I was not taken to a website that helped me to choose possible publishers. I reached the website for one company—Page Publishing.

This reminded me of the deceptive practices of another pay-to-publish company, Author Solutions. The company posted ads that appeared to be from a service that helped writers select publishers.


  
However, any wannabe author who followed the ad in the hope of receiving helpful advice, was presented with limited choices: just the sleazy brands operated by Author Solutions, such as Xlibris

And now, back to Page Publishing. The company brags about its "professional" press releases. The online sample release is anything but professional. It's actually a promotion for Page—that would be paid for by an ignorant, gullible author.

A proper press release from a publisher should plug the book and its author—not the damned company!



Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Authors: Don't assume that a book cover designer can design book pages. The best brain surgeon in the world may not be a good choice for clipping a toenail.



Cathi Stevenson operates Book Cover Express. The company's website says, "Professional book cover design is essential because readers, retailers, and reviewers glance at a book for only a few seconds before they make a choice™. Make sure it’s your book they’re choosing."

That's very good advice, and the company has designed some excellent book covers. 

The site says that Cathi has "a strong background in printing and publishing that goes back to 1981. She also worked as a writer, editor and page designer for many years . . . she can offer sound advice based on practical experience when it comes to designing for print."

  • Sadly, while Cathi can design fine book covers, her experience is apparently inadequate for designing what goes between the covers.

Below is a page from Cathi's own e-book, How to Sell Your Competitor's Book Online. It is a PDF book, so the pages should look just like a printed book.

The page exhibits multiple fundamental errors which should neither be expected nor tolerated from a professional book designer:


  1. The first page of a chapter should NOT have a header (also called a "running head").
  2. Justified text needs hyphens to eliminate the UGHLEE gaps between words.
  3. "Cross-over" is hyphenated on the page, however, because Cathi apparently thinks the hyphen is part of the word. It's not. "Crossover" is not a hyphenated word. Cathi says she is a "writer and editor." She should know better.
  4. The book uses en (-) dashes when longer em (—) dashes should be used.
  5. In books, dashes generally do not get adjacent spaces. (They often do get spaces in newspapers.)
  6. Instead of using curly "typographer's marks," Cathi uses straight quote marks and apostrophes, as produced with an ancient typewriter. This is unforgivable in a book, especially from a pro who points out the danger of a book "self-published by an amateur."
  7. The book identifies the author as "Cat Stevenson," "Cathi Stevenson" and "Catherine A. C. Stevenson." Inconsistency is silly—and bad design.
  8. There's also some bad grammar in the book, such as "The author and publisher, accepts no..." This is not bad design, but should have been noticed and fixed. 
Sadly, Cathi (or Cat or Catherine) does not seem to have taken advantage of her own people. She says that her company "is associated with several wonderful, freelance editors and proofreaders." 

I have no reason to believe that Cathi is selling book interior design services (she recommends Gwen for that), and her company certainly has the skill to design high-quality book covers (and websites and brochures). I am publishing this blog post to make two important points:
  1. If you are hiring a book designer or anyone else—discuss the person's qualifications and experience. The best brain surgeon in the world may not be a good choice for clipping a toenail or removing a wart. The best auto mechanic in the world may not be a good choice if you need a dishwasher repaired or a water heater replaced.
  2. If you are in the design business, everything you design should look good. If you design clothing or cars, you should not live in an ugly house. If you specialize in book exteriors, you should not exhibit a bad interior.
There is no excuse for ugly books!

Monday, December 17, 2018

Minister/book designer Saloff committed sins that hurt her book. Don't hurt yours.




Jamie L. Saloff is a minister, metaphysician, counselor, soul healer, publishing adviser and more.

She has written and published a mostly good book that can guide would-be publishers through the sometimes-arduous process of using Lightning Source for printing and distribution.

There is a lot of good in her book. Sadly there is also much wrong with it.


In Christian theology there are seven "deadly sins"—wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony.
  • Pride (hubris in Greek) is often considered to be the worst sin. Jamie preaches about the danger of not having a book professionally edited, but abundant errors made me assume that this book had no editor. I couldn't find an editor mentioned in the book or in its online data. Jamie needs an editor, and her avoiding an editor is the sin of hubris.
  • Acedia is an ancient sin that somehow dropped off the list of the Big Seven. It's apathy—neglecting to take care of something that needs to be taken care of. Acedia is rampant in this book.
The book is burdened with an absolutely horrid title, Seven Easy Steps to Professionally Self-Publish Your Own Book Using Lightning Source & Print-On-Demand Printing: a quick reference guide for entrepreneurs who want to create 'profitable print products'(tm) to increase their income and visibility while working from home. (The split infinitive is the least of the problems.)

Strangely, the title says "your own book" on Jamie's website and on booksellers' sites, but "own" is not printed on the cover or title page. Also, the printed title begins with "7" but websites use "Seven." In movie and TV production, these inconsistencies are known as a "continuity" errors.
 One big danger of self-editing is that the writer will have words in her head that she thinks are on the page. The converse is also a problem: not seeing what is on the page.




(above) The cover design is as jumbled as the title. The illustration certainly does not imply "easy." A book cover is an advertisement, and any ad must have a focal point. Some part of the cover must have a dominant element that draws the eyes of the viewer.


With Jamie's cover, eyes wander through the wilderness, distracted by multiple, meaningless arrows, seeking something important. The pastel tones are dull, wishy-washy and simply blah. Covers need contrast. The only element on the cover with contrast is the empty-headed guy's black collar.

The visual cues are confusing. 

  • Arrows point up, down and off the page. Why?
  • "Profit" is centered and on a bolder-colored circle than "Visibility" or "Print On Demand"—but they have bigger circles and are not in the center of the cover.
  • "Dynamic" has a big circle, but the word has so many meanings it is nearly meaningless.
  • High-contrast implies importance. Jamie put the contrasty black collar at the bottom—the least important position on the cover.
A book's title is usually very important, but Jamie's long title requires small type which makes it hard to read. The subtitle is an important selling opportunity, but Jamie's subtitle is nearly illegible because of the over-fancy typeface and poor contrast.

(In addition to her other roles and activities, Jamie is a book designer who charges at least $450 for a cover design. $450 is a lot of money for a cover. I've seen better covers produced for $5 by artists on
Fiverr.com.)




(above) In reduced size, even on Jamie's website, the cover contents are barely discernible. Jamie's own name is hard to read on the cover in any size—a major sin for a book designer and author who wants to build her brand. (Compare the readability of the three authors' names on the covers down below with Jamie's name on her cover.)

Jamie says, "What will your cover look like when it is two inches tall? . . . Is the main concept still understandable? Or does the whole thing become a blur?" Her cover becomes multiple blurs.


To balance my bitching about the cover, I will offer a compliment for Jamie's interior design. The oversize pages with larger-than-normal spacing between lines are attractive and easy to read. 


There are multiple minor sins inside the book. Some should have been caught by a copyeditor; some would have required correction by a person with knowledge of the book business. Problems that I found in the review copy Jamie sent me were not corrected in the final version of the book I bought on Amazon. (Yes, I do buy books.)
  • "Forward" should be "foreword." That's a common error for newbies, but an unforgivable sin for a "self-publishing expert."
  • The table of contents lists page numbers for the starts of chapters, but the pages that start chapters are un-numbered "blind folios." That's an ISPITA (Industrial Strength Pain In The Ass).
  • Pages 59 through 65 have no numbers. Traditionally some pages don't get numbers but six consecutive un-numbered pages are very unusual and make it hard for the reader to know where she is.  
  • Page 54 is missing a page number for no good reason.
  • Jamie says that "POD books are published on a high quality, superfast photocopier . . . ." That sentence has two problems: (1) She should have said "printed," not "published." (2) The device that prints POD books is a printer, not a copier. It does not have a built-in scanner as copiers do.
  • She says that many self-publishing companies "hold the rights to your book for a lengthy period of time, preventing you from taking it elsewhere." That may have been common in the ancient days of "vanity presses," but most current self-publishing companies offer non-exclusive contracts. The policy of iUniverse is typical today: "you have the right at any time to grant other entities a similar 'license to publish.' Examples of other entities might include a traditional publisher, another print-on-demand publishing company or an audio book publisher."
  • Jamie warns that Microsoft Word downgrades photographs. I've used MS Word for many books and never had that trouble.
  • "ISBN number" is redundant. The "N" stands for "number."
  • The prepublishing section of the Cost Estimating worksheet includes a line for the cost of "Cataloging in Production Data" (CIP). Self-publishers almost never use CIP.
  • The postpublishing section includes copyright filing (with an incorrect price for manual filing). Books can be copyrighted before publication.
  • That "post" section also includes the LCCN (Library of Congress Control Number). There are two problems: (1) LCCNs are issued prepublication and later Jamie tells us that "you must file for your LCCN before the book is published." (2) An LCCN is free—so it doesn't need a line on a cost worksheet.  
  •  
  • In her section on preparing text using MS Word, Jamie wisely tells readers to minimize underlined words. I disagree with her statement that "underlining causes text to shrink in height in order to make room for the line beneath." (above) In tests of multiple typefaces and several versions of Word, I never encountered this problem.
  • "PDF" stands for Portable Document Format—not Portable Document File.
  • "KISS" stands for "Keep it Simple, Stupid"not "Keep it Simple and Straightforward."
  • "Error free" should be hyphenated.
  • OTOH, "non-fiction" should be one, non-hyphenated word. Ditto for "e-mail" and "e-book." Those words are now so common that they don't need hyphens.
  • The book has bits of bad sentence structure such as lack of parallelism. Some punctuation marks and spaces are missing. There is at least one unneeded ampersand and there are various grammatical errors. Jamie tells us that "I tend to notice things that others don't." She did not notice enough. That's hubris and acedia, again.
  • Jamie criticizes the free USPS mailing envelopes and recommends purchasing mailing boxes from Uline. Uline's boxes are finebut so are the free boxes available from the USPS.
  • Despite having just over 100 pages, the book is padded. For example, it includes warnings about enlarging photos and overpaying attorneys. Those are important warnings, but are not part of the process of having a book printed. Neither is the section about forming a company. Neither is book pricing. Neither is website design. Neither are blogging tips. Neither are marketing tips. Neither is the worksheet for analyzing book-signing costs. Neither is the section on using copyrighted material.
  • There are two or three nearly empty pages before each of the seven steps.
  • The padding makes it hard to find and focus on the "7 easy steps."
  • The book needs a glossary. Newbies may not understand "sidebar." I'm not a newbie but have never heard of "time breaks" in a book.
  •  
  • (above) The text in many places is "full justified" but in the many lists, it's "flush-left/ragged right." The varying justification is disconcerting.
  • The second paragraph above shows that in some cases Jamie places a comma before the final three digits in a number, but not in other cases. A copyeditor should have fixed this.
  •   
  • (above) The script typeface chosen for quotations is hard to read and the swashes are distracting. Fancy type may be OK for a title or other short text block, but is inappropriate for paragraphs. "Cover" does not need to be uppercased. 
  • Jamie chose to use sans serif type for her body text. She is not the only self-pubber to do that, but, in general, serif faces are used in most books' body text and are considered easier to read. I had no trouble reading Jamie's body text.
  • Jamie published quotations from people ranging from Thomas Edison and Steve Martin to "Pro Blogger" Darren Rowse. What the heck is a pro blogger?
  • Jamie says authors will make more money by offering booksellers a 25% discount than a 20% discount. That makes no sense to me. Plenty of author-publishers offer 20%.
  • On the other hand, I do agree with Jamie's warning to avoid paying Lightning Source $60 to have your book in its Advance magazine for booksellers, not to allow returns of unsold books and not to order large quantities of books unless their sale is certain.
Jamie's title has 41 words and more than 260 characters and spaces. There are a couple of intrusive quote marks and a trademark symbol, too. I feel worn out just from typing the title.


(above) The title is so long that it gets chopped off before the last syllable of "entrepreneurs" on Amazon.com and other booksellers' websites! 

It's possible to devise excellent short titles -- and even excellent long titles. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby is a great short title. So is I, Claudius by Robert Graves and Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.

Tom Wolfe’s The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby, Zac Bissonnette’s How to Be Richer, Smarter, and Better-Looking Than Your Parents and Erma Bombeck’s The Grass Is Always Greener over the Septic Tank are great long titles.

However, Jamie's 41 words are excessive and those 41 words are not memorable.

  
If someone is interested enough to ask the title of your book, you should not have to inhale oxygen before reciting it or offer to email the title.

Rev. Saloff has written other books such as The Wisdom of Emotional Healing: Renowned Psychics Andrew Jackson Davis and Phineas P. Quimby Reveal Mind Body Healing Secrets for Clairvoyants, Spiritualists, and Energy Healers.


That's certainly a long one, too, but the main title (before the subtitle) has a comfortable five words. It's important for a title to make sense without a subtitle
—and be easy to pronounce, remember and recite without stopping to take a breath.

Even without the subtitle, Seven Easy Steps to Professionally Self-Publish Your Own Book Using Lightning Source & Print-On-Demand Printing is ridiculously long.

Sure, it's good to get important keywords into the title and subtitle of a nonfiction book, but there is such a thing as TOO DAMNED MUCH. The redundant "print-on-demand printing" is simply silly.


Readers and reviewers (like me) resent "keyword stuffing." 


You may have heard of "preaching to the choir." I preach to the minster. (And I confess to occasional hubris.)


Rev. Jamie Saloff provides a lot of information in this book but much of it is not directly related to the title of the book and the abundant small errors are distracting and reduce her authority as an "expert." 

The book sells for just $8.98 on Amazon, and that's certainly a fair price. With appropriate pruning, however, the book could lose half of its 108 pages, and maybe sell for $3.99but there is no profit in $3.99 POD books. (Jamie tells us that "With most Profitable Print Products, you should be able to earn between five to eight dollars per book.")


-   -   -   -   -
Jamie set out to write about working with Lightning Source but ended up writing a general book about self-publishingand there are a great many other general books about self-publishing, and other good books that deal with Lightning Source.

Before you write a book it's important to analyze the market. Who are your potential readers and what other books are competing for their attention? (The huge number of competing books caused me to stop writing general books about self-publishing.)


 -   -   -   -   -
The following is aimed at Jamie and other authors:

If a life experience is not related to the subject of your book, leave it out.

  • One author of a book for authors tells prospective readers how many kids he has, what his wife's maiden name was and how well he did as a basketball coach.
  • 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.
  • Also, if you have an abbreviated credential that needs explaining, such as Jamie's "CM" (Certified Metaphysician, or maybe Certified Manager or Condition Monitor), explain it or delete it.
(above) I became a minister online for free. If I was willing to pay $32.95 I could be a Dr. of Metaphysics.

Jamie's "Author Prophet" website says she "offers guidance and soul healing to authors, . . . astrologers, tarot readers . . . ." If you're writing a serious book about acne treatment or the War of 1812, would you want to be grouped with carnival entertainers?  

A promotion for one of Jamie's seminars says: "Are you a healer, medium, or spiritual entrepreneur? Is your spiritual/metaphysical business struggling against a tight economy, preventing you from making the money you want to meet your expenses, comfortably take care of your family, and do the things you love most? Are you constantly exhausted from working long hours, frustrated with dated sales methods that don’t work, and stuck with tactics that offer meager results? Imagine instead attracting lucrative clients who want to pay you what you are worth, giving you the opportunity to earn more in less time. Delight in having clients seek you out and recommending [sic] you to all of their friends. Regain the passion of sharing your gifts by gaining clarity around how to effectively promote your business with ease and grace."


Maybe the metaphysical/carnival side of Rev. Saloff should have been separated from the author-instructing side. Maybe a pen name would be appropriate.


                                                       -   -   -   -   -

Jamie knows a lot about publishing and provides good information in this bookbut the errors and extraneous padding are sinful. The book could be, and should be, much better. The errors I found could have been found by someone else and fixed before publication.

- - - - -

Oxygen mask photo from www.iastate.edu.

Tarot cards from www.onlinepsychicfinder.com.  Thanks. 




Friday, December 14, 2018

Writers: it's time to abolish the meaningless term "published author"

I read an introduction from a new member of an online group for authors. The newbie said, "I am a published author."

I wanted to say, "BIG FUCKING DEAL!"

At one time being a published author implied that either:
  • A person wrote something so important or wonderful that a publisher paid to publish the book.
  • A person is so famous (like Levi Johnston, the almost-son-in-law of Sarah Palin) that a publisher paid to publish the book.
  • A person is egotistical and wealthy enough to pay thousands of dollars to a vanity press to publish the book.
Today, it takes almost no skill, time or money to become a published author.
  • If you can click a keyboard and move a mouse, you can be a published author.
  • The cost can be ZERO.
  • You don't need to impress anyone.
  • You can be a terrible writer and still be a published author.
  • It doesn't matter if nobody reads your book.
  • It's easier to become a published author than a licensed driver or a spouse.
Since it's so easy to become a published author, it means nothing to say you are one.

(By the way, it means almost nothing to say you're a bestselling authorbut I'm one.)





Wednesday, December 12, 2018

New authors: how do you start to write a book?



  1. Decide on your primary objective(s): Change the world, entertain the world, educate, inform, preserve memories, personal fulfillment, fun, money, fame, status, revenge, something else.
  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.
  7. Read books for authors. I've written a bunch
  8. Write. How to deal with writer's block 
  9. Oh yeah, if you plan to write poetry, forget about making money.
  10. Think about how your book will 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.
  11. Figure out what help you'll need from artists, designers, formatters, editors, coaches, lawyers, accountants. Find them. 
  12. Decide whether you'll use your real name or a pen name.
  13. Decide when your book will be published (it will likely be late).
  14. Decide what formats you'll publish in (paperback, hardcover, various e formats, spoken word—and tentative prices.
  15. Decide how you'll promote the book to potential purchasers and book reviewers.
  16. Decide on the approximate length of the book. Longer books take longer to write, longer to produce, cost more to produce, and have more errors to correct.
  17. Decide on the software you'll use for writing. I use Microsoft Word, but many writers use Google's free "Docs" version, or software intended for writing, such as Scrivener.
  18. Decide on whether you'll write with a desktop, laptop, tablet, phone or multiple devices. Some people insist that they write better books when they use paper and pen or pencil. I think that's ridiculous.

     

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Hershey's has wonderful chocolate, dreadful typography


For at least the fifth consecutive Christmas season, Hershey's has been running a very pleasant, very effective and very simple animated Christmas commercial featuring its iconic Hershey's Kisses. 


Sadly and inexplicably the company—with sales of more than $7.5 billion, a city named after it and an advertising budget budget of over $500 million—used amateur typography in the commercial.

Instead of a proper curly or slanted apostrophe, the company name at the end of the commercial has an inappropriate straight apostrophe. That's what comes from an old-fashioned typewriter or the primitive software used in a blog like this one, not what can come from word processing or graphics software that produces proper typographers' marks. The text line includes two copyright symbols, so the software certainly could have produced a curly apostrophe. Did the designer fuck up, or was she or he being deliberately incorrect?

Am I the only one who notices and cares about this stuff?


With primitive equipment or software the same straight symbol is used for an apostrophe, a foot, a minute or a quotation.


In packaging, logos, advertising and on books, it's important to use a proper curly apostrophe.


Hershey's has been in business since 1876. Early packaging used traditional curly apostrophes. The typographer did a nice job kerning the apostrophe and "Y."



The Hershey products now use modern, non-curly, slanted apostrophes. That's OK, too.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Authors: 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.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Write-rs: 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:

iP-hone

Ebooks, where word flow is controlled by software—not sentient beings—produce some gems. A while ago I 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.