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.

Monday, December 3, 2018

How is an ebook like Pizza Hut pizza?



Maybe an ebook is to a pbook as Pizza Hut is to pizza

I live and write in Milford, Connecticut. Milford is in New Haven County, an area known for—and proud of—excellent Neapolitan pizza. (Many of our traditional pizzerias spell pizza as "apizza" and pronounce it "ah-beetz.")

According to a "study" published by USA Today three of the nation's best pizza joints are located on one street (Wooster Street) in the city of New Haven's "Little Italy."


Some of our local pizzerias have been owned by the same families for two or three generations, and new ones seem to open every few weeks. Because of the loyalty of the locals, it has been hard for the national chains, which have been so successful elsewhere, to build business here.

Everyone in this part of Connecticut has one or two favorite pizzerias. We are experts, fans, aficionados and snobs. People here are less likely to switch pizza sources than to switch cola or jeans brands.

By Mafia decree (or maybe because of simple collusion) most local pizzerias are closed on Mondays so the pizza makers can spend time with their families.

Apparently Pizza Hut and Domino's have dispensations from the Pope or from il Capo di Tutti Capi ("boss of all bosses" in the Mafia), and are open seven days a week. This means that locals who must have something vaguely pizza-like on the first workday of the week, will go to the Hut or Dom's on that day—but probably not on other days.

On all days, the pizza chains serve customers who have recently immigrated from places like Kentucky or Utah and don't know what real pizza is supposed to look and taste like.



(above) Vaguely round, sloppy and delicious traditional New Haven "ah-beetz" from Frank Pepe, and perfectly round and bland pizza from a national chain's factory

And now, about Hut-like books:

I hate the bad typography and laughable hyphenation common to ebooks. But ebooks have made ugly books seem normal, and they are apparently acceptable to a great many readers.

I faced a personal dilemma with ebooks:
  • Some years ago I published a few ebooks as PDFs which maintain the page formatting of my pbooks. I was reluctant to release the books in the more popular—and uglier—ebook formats used by Amazon and other booksellers.
  • Because of my elitist attitude I missed readers and income, but I just don't like ugly books.
  • I ultimately gave in, and now make much more money each month from ebooks than from more expensive pbooks. Readers have not complained.
I really enjoy the convenience of reading ebooks. I recently had a great time reading 
Voices in the Ocean: A Journey into the Wild and Haunting World of Dolphins on three PCs, my Kindle Fire, my iPad and my phone. I hate the improper hyphenation, but love that Jeff Bezos keeps track of my reading progress and "opens" the ebook to the right page—no matter which device I use to read it with.

I suppose at some point I will stop comparing ebooks to pbooks and will come to accept a Kindle page as normal. Maybe it's part of a parallel universe of publishing.

My cousin Dave Marcus is a pizza maven (enthusiastic expert) with very high standards—but he will sometimes tolerate chain pizza. Rather than dismiss Pizza Hut's mass-produced products as substandard pizza, Dave says, "It's not pizza. It's pizza HUT."

Maybe I should say, "It's not a book. It's a HUT BOOK."

(photos from http://www.foodgps.com/ and Domino's)

Friday, November 30, 2018

Writers: This tip may help you avoid embarrassment and lawsuits

I once decided to change a real name to a fake name in a book I was writing to avoid embarrassing someone who might not want to be written about. I also thought I might get sued for what I said about her.

I used Microsoft Word’s "Find and Replace" feature—which quickly made about a dozen substitutions in one chapter.

But when I read through the chapter I was surprised to find a few instances of the old name which had escaped the Find function.

It’s important to do a manual verification because Word might not notice hyphenated words or words with apostrophes or in their plural form as targets for replacement.


Don’t lose a friend or risk a lawsuit by publishing a wrong name or word.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Authors: you'll be horrifed 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—but don't read them.

You'll probably be amazed, and maybe even horrified, at all of the errors you detect when you are not concerned with content, meaning, grammar, spelling, punctuation 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
  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

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Writers: The year is almost over, but it's not too late to reduce your income tax


CLICK to order

It's still November, but April 15th is getting closer every second. 

What you do today—and every day—will affect what you pay and what you keep next spring.

There's a lot to misunderstand about income taxes. However, my birthday is April 15th, so I am particularly qualified to give tax advice. I don't know everything, however. If you need help in setting up bank accounts in Switzerland or the Cayman Islands, ask Mitt Romney.

Years ago, when I lived in New York City, I had a simple formula that worked very well (i.e., no audits ever, and refunds every year):
  1. No more than 10% for the feds.
  2. No more than 5% for the state.
  3. No more than 1% for the city.
For 17 years I've lived in Milford, Connecticut. There are no city income taxes, but life is more complicated. In most years I paid my accountant about $400 for a few hours work necessary to produce my annual business and personal federal and state returns. After much scientific number crunching, he still comes up with approximately the same percentages I established 40 years ago. Recently, the accountant was replaced by less-expensive software I can operate myself.

I'll pass on a tip for a deduction I developed while working as an advertising copywriter and have continued to use as a webmaster, writer and publisher.

EVERY piece of media you consume should be deducted in the range of 25% to 100%. Deduct movies, CDs, games, concerts, artwork, vacations, MP3 players, big TVs, books, magazines, newspapers, iPad, smart phone, museum visits... all that stuff that helps you stay aware of trends in culture.


Years ago my father owned a chain of clothing stores. He once considered deducting his subscription to Playboy (which did provide news and advice about men's fashions among the airbrushed large-breasted babes). Alas, he was afraid to list a skin mag on his tax return, so he sent too much money to the IRS.  I have no such reluctance—and may have bigger cojones.


With proper classifications, you can probably get Uncle Sam to subsidize porn, booze and hallucinogens.

Here's some more advice of uncertain value:
  1. A successful small business is one that breaks even each year, with a slightly higher gross income.
  2. Big profits are nice if you're trying to sell the business, but not when you're filing your income tax return.
  3. Write about stuff you like, whether it's wine, sports cars, clothes, travel, cameras, horse racing or sex. Then you can deduct everything you spend on fun—if you classify it as "research."
  4. There's almost nothing that's too crappy to donate to Goodwill Industries or the Salvation Army and claim an appropriate deduction for. Bill Clinton was criticized for claiming a deduction for donating used underwear. I'm not the president and don't care what Sean Hannity or Rush Limbaugh will say about me. I lost a lot of weight a few years ago, and I donated lots of oversized underwear. Washed, of course.
  5. If you are bad about saving money for a rainy day, it’s tempting to let Uncle Sam save money for you. I did that for years, and even earned interest on the money that was due me. Now there is a limit to how long you can let your money sit in Fort Knox (or wherever they keep the surplus) and the IRS may assess a penalty just for filing late, even if you don't owe anything, so check with a pro. Also: your state tax people may be tougher than the IRS.
I am  not a professional tax adviser  I'm more of a professional wiseass (who usually gets away with his wiseassing).

I put a lot of what I've learned into an ebook. It can save you many times its low cost. 

Writers Can Get Away With Apparently Absurd Tax Deductions That Ordinary People Can't

Monday, November 19, 2018

Can you tell if a book cover is gay or straight?



"Gaydar" is the ability to instantly determine if a stranger is gay or straight. My father had it for people. I have gaydar for book covers.

[above] A book cover's typeface 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 typeface 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 and exposed chest. Verdict: gay book.


[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.


[above] 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? I don't know. I'm not a lesbian (but I have kissed a few).


[above] This is a "Male/Male" fantasy about a gay demon spawn. I could not detect the sexuality from the cover. My gaydar is imperfect.
 

[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)




Friday, November 16, 2018

Book promo postcards usually make no sense, except for the companies selling the cards



As I've pointed out many times, since self-publishing companies sell few books to readers, the companies must make their money by selling services and paraphernalia to writers

As shown below from the Outskirts Press website, the promotional postcard is a common piece of paraphernalia that writers can buy.


Price is much higher now!

The frequently inept and dishonest Outskirts says: "Postcards are the most effective direct mail piece" and sells 500 for $329, raised from the previous $249. The new price is the equivalent of 66 cents each. YIKES.

(below) Sleazy AuthorHouse offered an even worse deal, selling twice the quantity (1,000) for $535 (53.5 cents each) but prices are not now on the website. Is the company embarrassed?


The self-pub websites are generally vague about where the cards should be sent. However, "Christian" self-pubco Xulon press says, "Now you can mail a full-color postcard about your book to family, friends, bookstores, and more!"—but doesn't provide pricing online.

Sending postcards to bookstores is probably a waste of money, as is sending them to your friends, former landladies and distant cousins, or ordering postcards to push a novel or poetry book.

However, if you publish a useful and interesting nonfiction book, and can get a good mailing list, then the campaign might work.
  • If you’ve written a book about Shelby Mustangs and can get a mailing list of Mustang fans, your postcards could sell some books. Make sure the card tells where books can be ordered. Consider making a special offer such as free shipping or an autograph or 10% off for orders placed within ten days.
I’ve use VistaPrint for cards (not for cards touting books, however). VistaPrint will sell you very nice color cards for just 20 cents each even in quantities as small as 100. In larger quantities, the price can drop to less than a nickel per card!

Keep in mind that the response rate to direct mail pieces is usually less than 5%, often much less. And, you'll have to pay 35 cents to mail each card—even the 98% that don't sell books.

If you do the math, there's a good chance that you'll find that it makes little or no sense to spend money on a postcard campaign. Would you spend $535 for 1,000 cards plus $350 for postage and $1,300 for a mailing list rental (total $2168) to sell 25 books on which you'll make maybe four bucks each? You can send out more cards if you want to lose more money, or buy the cards direct from the printer to lose a bit less money.

If you are convinced that cards can be useful, they must be part of a multifaceted marketing campaign, and ideally should arrive while other strong publicity is going on.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Author: does your face belong on the front cover of your books? Probably not


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

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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



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


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


(left) My recent book shows my highly modified face on the front cover. It's a very personal book, so it's appropriate for my face to be there. If I was writing about Richard Nixon, chocolate cake or the Peloponnesian Wars, my face would be on the back. Also, I previously wrote dozens of other books that did not have my face on the front, and I've become more famous over the years.

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

I've previously posted about the importance of having a pro-quality author portrait. JCPenney is offering 40% off photos now (if you can find a JCPenney that is still open). 

Monday, November 12, 2018

Don't pick crappy/creepy names for your company or its products


Whenever I read "Moleskine," I think MOLE SKIN and visualize dirt-digging furry critters with extra thumbs, or the zits on the faces of Cindy Crawford and Barack Obama—not expensive notebooks.

If you are considering names for a company or product, do your best to make sure the name's pronunciation is unambiguous in the countries where it will appear and that the name does not have incorrect or unpleasant connotations.
  • Mr. Toyoda decided that "Toyota" sounded better than the family name.
  • "Bich" can be pronounced "beesh" in France but when the company decided to market its lighters and pens in the USA it chose the "Bic" name which would probably not be pronounced "bitch." 
  • At its American debut, Korea-based Hyundai announced that in the USA the company name rhymes with "Sunday."
  • Mr. Morita thought that "Sony" would be easier to pronounce than "Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo." He was right. However, I dated a young woman in New York who insisted on pronouncing the name "Saw-nee." I cringed whenever she said it and the relationship was short-lived. Sony once ran an ad campaign with the tag line "Sony. No Baloney." This was too late to save my relationship.

  • International meanings can be as problematic as pronunciation is. The Chevy Nova caused snickering in Spanish-speaking countries where "no vaya" means "no go."
HERE's some advice on choosing a name for a publishing company.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Every author's portrait is important. Don't look ugly. Don't pay $1,000.



Every author needs a portrait—for books, websites, blogs, Twitter, press kits, posters, etc. and to go on their books. Maybe for business cards.

Famous authors like Suze Orman have their faces on the front covers of their books. Pretentious but not-famous authors like Eliyzabeth Yanne Strong-Anderson also display themselves on the front. Not-famous and not-pretentious authors usually show their faces on the backs of their books. I'm only slightly famous and slightly pretentious.


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

Unfortunately, many authors use amateur photos with bad lighting, bad focus and distracting backgrounds. The price of a portrait shot in a professional photographer’s studio can easily be in the $300-$1,000 range, which is too steep for many writers who don’t have a big publisher to pick up the check.

Fortunately, there are good, low-cost alternatives which few authors think of—the photo studios inside retail stores such as JCPenney and Walmart  (not Target or Sears anymore). Some shopping malls have portrait studios, too. While most of their business involves babies and family Christmas cards, those studios will take pictures of solitary adults, often at ridiculously low prices (typically $7.99-$65).

The photographer will be thrilled to have a subject who doesn’t vomit or require funny faces to elicit a smile.

If you’re getting one picture, choose a plain white background which can later be altered using Photoshop. Get a CD-ROM, not a bunch of wallet-sized prints.

(below) An author photo should be of the author—only. No kids or pets unless they are important to a particular book.

(below) An author photo should not have any distracting elements.

If you had a portrait produced several years ago, take a look at it and make sure that it reflects the way you look now. Is the hair style, color and amount still current? Are you shown wearing ancient eyeglasses or out-of-fashioned clothes? Have you lost or gained a lot of weight? There are many reasons why a photo might need to be replaced. Look closely.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Every author needs a website. Or two. Or maybe seven.

Writing may be a hobby, but authoring is a business.

And, just as potential customers of restaurants and clothing brands expect them to have websites, so do potential readers of your books.


It’s extremely important to have a website—or even multiple websites—to provide information about you and your books. If you don’t have at least one website, you are missing a major opportunity to impress and interact with potential readers.
  • Readers expect authors to have websites. Don’t disappoint them.
It’s neither difficult nor expensive to build and maintain a website. You can easily produce your own site, or you can pay someone to do it for you, or use the services of your publishing company.

Authors' websites (and blogs) follow several formulas, and you can have one or more.
  1. You can have a website to promote one book.
  2. You can have a website to promote a series of books.
  3. You can have a website to promote a cause you support, and also promote a book.
  4. You can have a website to promote your publishing company.
  5. You can have a website to promote you as an author.
  6. You can have a website to promote you as a person.
  7. You can have a website to promote the subject of a book.
  8. You can have a website that promotes an organization or location related to your book, and also promotes the book.
  9. You can have a website that deals with a subject unrelated to your book, but also promotes the book.
With websites, the more the merrier. The more sites you have, the more likely it is that people will find you, and the more opportunities you will have to sell books. Your site or sites should have information that will be useful and interesting to potential readers, as well as to members of the media, and booksellers.
  • Many potential customers don't know that your book exists, and don't care. While some people will find your site(s) by searching for the book title or your personal name, it's likely that many more will search for a subject—such as the JFK assassination, movie monsters or Italian food—that your book deals with.
  • If your book is not nonfiction, but is a novel or poetry, it will be much more difficult to attract customers with web searches. Some genres such as dystopian fiction or romantic poetry include so many thousands of books that it will be very difficult for your work to stand out.
  • If you have a website for one of your books, it should also help to sell your other books!
Website, blog, or both? A blog ("web log") is a specialized kind of website. It’s somewhat like an online diary or journal, but it’s written for the world to read—not just you and your heirs. If you are an author, you should seriously consider writing a blog, or several blogs. You are now reading one of my blogs. At one time I wrote five daily blogs. Now I write fewer blogs and post less often.

A blog usually consists of some introductory text plus multiple entries (“posts” or “postings”) displayed with the newest post on top, followed by older posts. The main page of a blog typically displays three to ten posts, and there are links to older posts that may be grouped by year, topic or both.

I (mostly) like Blogger, which hosts this blog. It's owned by Google, and it's free. I pay extra for my BookMakingBlog.com address. The Google connection makes it easy to “monetize” a blog by carrying small "AdSense" ads on it. I like Wordpress, too. Many authors use it.

A blog can be "free-standing" or it can be a section of a website.

  • Anyone searching for topics you’ve blogged about can find links to your blog, find your blog, and see an ad for your book and maybe buy it. Google typically indexes this blog less than an hour after I publish it. A robot thinks I'm important. Wow.
  • It’s tougher for fiction. Many novelists’ blogs seem to attract only other novelists—not readers. If you are a novelist who specializes in post-apocalyptic gay teenage albino vampire sex, how many blog posts about your novel could you come up with over the years? Three? One? Maybe a better strategy for a novelist would be to blog with news and opinions about something remotely related to the book topic—like teenage sex, vampires or albinos—that might catch searchers who might be interested in reading a related novel.
You also need to be on social media. I have Facebook pages for me as a person, me as an author, for my publishing company, and for various groups—some related to books. I sometimes use Twitter and LinkedIn, but have not yet tried Instagram, which some authors rave about.

[below] Website for Bette Isacoff and her book Star Crossed

[Below] Website for Barbara Barth and her book, The Unfaithful Widow


[below] Website for my book, Do As I Say, No As I Did (no longer online)


[below] Website that provides help for victims of internet harassment, and promotes my book, Internet Hell (no longer online)


[Below] Website for my publishing company, Silver Sands Books


[Below] Website for my books about publishing, Create Better Books (no longer online)

[Below] My personal website, MichaelMarc.us



Fortune magazine once said that a website would take six months to develop and cost $500,000. A well-known book marketing expert wrote that a writer’s website could cost as much as $6,000 to set up. Both costs are very wrong and could needlessly scare off writers who would benefit from having websites.

Today you can develop a website for zero dollars and no cents in less than an hour, and pay less than $10 per month to a “hosting company” to make the site available to the world. I use Wix for my recent sites as well as Network Solutions and previously used Yahoo

Free hosting is available from several companies, but is generally not a good idea because you’ll get a long, clumsy, ugly, amateur-sounding URL (“Uniform Resource Locator” or web address) like http://billsbook. nrk44.freehost123.us instead of www.billsbook.com.

Try not to get a URL with a hyphen in it (unless it’s a product name or term that is already hyphenated). If the name or term is hyphenated, your website should work both with and without the hyphen. The Coke website can be reached by typing Coca-Cola.com or Cocacola.com. Or Coke.com

Short URLs are better than long ones.

While URLs can end in a variety of ways, including the ubiquitous dot-com, as well as dot-net, dot-USA, dot-CA, dot-TV and others, it’s generally best to use dot-com. If your website is DavidsBook.net, many people will go to DavidsBook.com. They may find nothing—or a competitor. I use a dot-xyz for one site and don't think it hurt me.

Resist the temptation to use the dot-net version of a URL that’s already in use as a dot-com.

There are probably more than 330 million URLs in use! While it’s been said that all of the good URLs have been taken, your book name may be unique, so you have a pretty good chance of getting it as a URL. If you want a URL with your personal name in it, you may face some competition unless your name is unique.

Pay a few bucks so you will own similar URLs to capture bad spellers and to lock out potential competitors. Direct bad spellers to your site. You can register the alternate “phantom” URLs at NetworkSolutions and have traffic forwarded to the real website address.

Many book websites include an “online press kit” that replaces the once-common cardboard portfolio. At a minimum, the kit (which is really a page or a section of a website) should include a news release (“press release”) about the book, plus photos of the cover and the author and a brief author’s biography.

Some book websites sell books. Mine don’t. They have links to Amazon and Barnes & Noble which sell my books. I want to write and promote books, not operate a warehouse and shipping department. I make money when someone follows a link to a bookseller and buys a book. It’s easy money. If your website does not allow people to order books, include links to your books on bookselling sites. Don’t just mention that the book is “available at Amazon.com.”

Obviously, your website should inform people what your book is about and try to convince them why it is vital that they buy it. The site is a good place to post reviews and comments from readers, reviewers and previewers, and to note awards the book has won. You can also show your table of contents and some excerpts to get people interested.

(above) There was nothing on Kevin Dorival's website that explains how to get a free copy of his book. The name of the publisher is probably not "Self-Publishing."

Make sure your website is well-written, complete, accurate and has no dead links, wrong links or template artifacts (below).


There's more in The One-Buck Author's Website Book