Monday, March 18, 2019

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

After you've read your new masterpiece 183 times, sit a bit farther back from your screen and LOOK at the pages—don't read them.

You'll probably be amazed at all of the errors you detect when you are not concerned with content, meaning and story-telling artistry.

I aim my eyes at the three-o'clock position and maker a clockwise scan on each page, but do what works best for you.

Check your book for these bloopers:
  1. Wrong typefaces or wrong fonts, (not necessarily the same thing) particularly when text is pasted-in from another source
  2. Commas that should be periods -- and vice-versa
  3. Straight punctuation that should be curly "typographers' marks"
  4. Curlies that curl in the wrong direction
  5. Missing spaces between paragraphs or sections
  6. Bad justification in the last line of a page
  7. Chopped-off descenders where you decreased line spacing or if the bottom of a text box is too close to the text
  8. Wrong-size bullets
  9. Rivers
  10. Too-big word spacing
  11. Normal letters that should be ligatures (more for large type than in body text).
  12. Accidental spaces after bullets
  13. Improper hyphenation
  14. Roman text that should be italic, and vice versa
  15. Ignoring highlighted warnings in MS Word
  16. Automatically accepting MS Word suggestions
  17. Gray text that should be black
  18. Insufficient space adjacent to images
  19. Images or text boxes that floated over the margin
  20. Images or text boxes that "slid' down and covered up footers
  21. Missing periods at sentence ends
  22. Missing opening or closing quote marks.
  23. Periods that should be inside a closing parentheses -- or outside.
  24. Repeated words caught by the software
  25. Wrong headers, missing headers, switched verso and recto headers
  26. Subheads that are too close to the text above and too far from the text below
  27. Too much space between lines in a multi-line title, chapter name or subhead
  28. Pages with numbers that should not show numbers ("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

Friday, March 15, 2019

If authors don't care about their books, why should readers?

This is probably the least-interesting cover design of all time. Maybe the poetry in the ebook is more stimulating than the cover. Will anyone find out?

Sadly, I found out. The typing, spelling and grammar inside the book are probably the worst I’ve ever seen. YIPES!

The book has a four-star review on Goodreads -- posted by the poet himself

Gerard wants us to know that this is his finest work. That's not encouraging. Neither is the sloppy typing in the review itself.

Here's what the pathetic egomaniac put on Goodreads: "wonderful collection of poetry by Irish author ,this is a flowing melodic poetry of raw honesty, this ebook will delight tantalise and frustrate you for sure"

If Gerard didn't care enough to produce a quality book and proper promotion, why should a reader care enough to invest time and money?
  • If you produce crap, maybe the only people you'll attract are critics like me.
  • It's extremely difficult to make money selling poetry books.
  • If you want to have a chance, do it right. 
  • If you can't produce a proper book yourself, hire qualified people to do it for you.
UPDATE: since the first time I wrote about Gerard, he produced a new cover. It's better—but incredibly dull. The pages inside the book have not been improved.

Another book,
Snatches Of The Mind, has better interior typing, but bad grammar and different titles on the cover and title page. Oops.

Here's the abominable promotional text: "The word's paint pictures , like an artist lovingly applies paint to a canvas , the heart and mind as one, the story between the lines , as revealing, as the tears of a broken hearted lover"

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Lessons from previous jobs help me as author & publisher

My first job after college was assistant editor of a magazine that went to hi-fi dealers. As a "trade magazine" entirely financed by advertisers, we sometimes delayed an issue by a day or two or three to bring in more ads. Readers got their subscriptions for free so almost no one complained if a magazine was late. If someone did complain, we always blamed the Post Office. 

After that, I was an editor in Rolling Stone's Manhattan office, in an era when headquarters was in San Francisco. Deadlines were inflexible. We had no fax machines, email or FedEx in 1971 and I sometimes drove to Laguardia airport to have a column air-freighted cross-country.

After that I was an "award-winning Madison Avenue copywriter." Ad production schedules were rigid with several people monitoring progress of various departments. If an ad did not reach a print publication on time, or a commercial did not reach a TV network or radio station on time, the agency lost income and might lose a client. 

Production schedule charts were on walls where everyone involved could keep track of what had to be done, when. If we had to work through lunch, or until 3 AM or on weekends, well, it's the nature of the business.

Since 2008 I have operated my own tiny Silver Sands Books (more than 40 books so far). I have no one supervising me, but I do keep a big production chart on the wall. It's not a rigid schedule. In fact, it's more of a wish list to keep me aware of what should be done approximately when, and what has slipped back because of my own changing priorities or outside factors beyond my control.

Even thought I am the boss, the chart has a powerful presence and is not easily ignored. I ultimately get to decide if I am going to devote time, energy and money to a new book rather than revise an old one or finish an overdue one—but I have to answer to the almighty chart.

(It also helps me keep track of the ISBNs I've assigned or not used.)

One recent book: Do As I Say, Not As I Did.

Friday, March 8, 2019

Authors need platforms. Do you know what a platform is? Do you have one?

“Platform” is a major buzzword in current publishing.

It’s not the same as a political party’s platform, or a supporting structure for an oil well, lighthouse or lecturer.

Think of it as a metaphor for a structure that will boost you up and make you visible to potential readers, sources of publicity, agents, publishers and bookstore buyers.

Components in your platform include websites, blogs, business connections, social media, radio and TV appearances, quotes in media, online mentions, speeches, articles, friends, neighbors, etc. Your first book is part of your platform and should help sell your later books.

  • If you are considering self-publishing, your platform is critical for converting people into readers. You have no publishing company to spend money on making you visible. Listings on booksellers' websites and search engine links are not sufficient to generate sales and reviews. You must have a way to stand out and engage potential readers.
  • If you hope to get a contract from a traditional publisher, be aware that they want to know about the platforms of new authors. If your platform is unimpressive, your book—no matter how wonderful—may not be sufficient to do a deal. 
(photo from

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Writers: who cares who published your books? Probably nobody

I was at a local social event a few years ago to meet some friends I knew only through Facebook. I had taken a few copies of my newest book to give to them. We were seated in a huge room with hundreds of people and we talked to the strangers who were sitting near us. 

When I took the books out and signed them for the FB friends, the strangers immediately asked if they could see the books. They flipped through the books and smiled (a good sign). 

One said, "I never met an author before." Another asked where she could buy the book. A third asked how long it takes to write a book. Someone asked if I find it hard to write a book. Another asked how I decide what to write about and what other books I'd written. 

One question that nobody asked is "what company published the book?". 

From what I've observed, a publisher's name on a book is very different from a brand name on a bottle of wine or a pair of shoes. It's more like the name of a TV channel—almost completely irrelevant.

Readers are interested in a book's content and maybe the author's reputation—not the name of the company that delivered the content. 

  • Zoe Winters writes quirky and sometimes dark paranormal romance and fantasy. 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 Simon 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.” 
Concentrate on producing top-quality books.

If you are forming your own tiny publishing company,
choose a good name for it. Don't for a minute fret that readers will reject you because the logo on your books doesn't belong to Penguin or Simon & Schuster. Few potential readers will notice or care.

WARNING: If you are using the services of a "self-publishing company," be aware that some of them—such has Outskirts Press, Publish America, and the various brands from Author Solutions—have such terrible reputations that knowledgeable readers and reviewers may reject your book without reading it.

Shoe pic from Mario Blahnik, dog pic from Google Images

Monday, March 4, 2019

Writers: here's a tip that 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 MS 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.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Authors, make sure your price is right. How much is your book worth to readers?

I've previously written about the low profit for an author caused when a self-publishing company dictates a book's retail price based on the number of pages in a book without considering prices of competing books or the perceived value of the new book.
  • Unfortunately, authors who have the freedom to set book prices can cause even worse trouble for themselves: very low sales.
It's important that authors write books they can be proud of, and that authors be proud of their books. Unfortunately, some authors seem to have too much pride. They have an unjustifiably high opinion of their work and their position in the marketplace. The authors set prices that are so absurdly high that sales will be hurt.
  • Sometimes the high price is not caused by author's pride, but by the need to make a profit. Some pay-to-publish companies charge so much to produce books that an author must choose between noncompetitive retail pricing and losing money. That's not much of a choice. Some of these companies dictate noncompetitive prices. They don't care about selling books because they make their money by selling services and supplies to authors.

For a mere $7.95, readers seeking WW2 love stories can purchase the hardcover Love Stories of World War II, compiled by Larry King. Or, for $37.95, they can buy the hardcover Every Thought of You, compiled by Paula Berryann.

Readers who like epic fantasy tales can purchase the hardcover Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J. K. Rowling for just $13.67. Or, they can buy the hardcover A Chronicle of Endylmyr by Charles Hill for $27.95.

Study your competition before you decide to put a high price on your book. Will your book be perceived as several times as good as a book from an established pro like Rowling or King?

Probably not.

Hmmm. Is it a coincidence that both of the overpriced books were published by inept Outskirts Press?

Friday, February 22, 2019

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

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

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

Some negative reviews are written by people who are clueless, vindictive or have not even read the book they are condemning.

If you write a book, it's important that you regularly check for reviews. Good reviews can be used to promote your book. Unjustified bad reviews should be dealt with.

A while ago I discovered a strange review of one of my books on Amazon. It gave me the minimum one-star ranking and said my book must be terrible because it did not have a "Search inside the book" feature (as if I was hiding something). 

There were a few other meaningless complaints which revealed that the reviewer had never read the book. I assume the review was from a writer I slammed on this blog. (I don't put negative reviews on Amazon, to minimize the chance of a flame war or pissing match.)

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

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

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

A few weeks ago an anti-Trump book I wrote received a vicious negative review, which included a personal insult. It was apparent that the 'reviewer' never read the book, but merely disagreed with my politics. I complained to Amazon and the review was quickly. Deleted.

I don't know if it cost me any sales, but it demonstrates the importance of regularly reading reviews.

In addition to checking booksellers' websites, you should set up Google alerts for your name and your book titles. You'll get automatic notifications so you'll know what's being said about you so you can respond appropriately.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Roses or tomatoes? Think about your book's margins

I previously discussed white space, also known as negative space or air.

The most obvious kind of white space in a book is its margins.

A margin
 is the space between your text or illustrations and the edges of the paper (or virtual paper in an ebook). I mentioned my rule of thumb: a margin at the side of a page should be big enough to fit an adult human thumb without covering any text or illustration.

Each page has four margins, and they can be the same or different. It’s common for vertical margins to be larger than horizontal margins, and sometimes the top and bottom margins are not the same size. This is where the book's formatter gets to make an aesthetic judgment. Small margins make a book look lousy and hard to read. New designers and cheapskates often maximize the number of words on a page, so fewer pages will be needed and a book can be printed for less money. (A printed page costs about a penny, e-pages cost nothing.)

White space demonstrates extravagance and implies wealth. When I was a child I was advised to eat everything on my plate. When I was a teenager I dated a wealthy girl who had been taught to always leave some uneaten food on her plate so no one would think she actually needed the meal. White space is part of the paper you choose not to print on. If your primary consideration is to get the most for your money, you would leave as little white space as possible.
Ample white space implies that you own the entire page but don’t need to consume it—you can use it for aesthetics rather than for practical purposes. It’s like having rosesnot tomatoesin your garden.
Because of its uniform line length, justified text lacks some of the negative space that flush-left text provides. Experiment with other ways to add negative space to a page. Larger margins can help. Extra space between paragraphs adds negative space which makes a page more attractive, but also makes each paragraph look more independent rather than part of a unified “whole.”

Your publisher or printer can tell you the minimum margins for the page size you’re planning to use. A common minimum size is ½ inch on all sides. You can choose to have bigger margins than the minimum, but not smaller.

[above] The medium affects the margins—and the gutter
If you have either large pages or a spiral binding it’s good to have smaller margins on the inside of a page (the gutter) than on the outer edge. This can make the three vertical white strips (left, center and right) look approximately the same.
In thick books the inside gutter margins often dissipate as they curve into the binding With the common 6-by-9,so I like to use the same-width margins on left and right.
When a printed book has more than about 500 pages, it’s a good idea to provide additional gutter width to compensate for the white space that dissipates into the binding. Your printer or publisher can advise you.
If your book is going to be e-only, you don’t have to think about gutters.

A printed book with large pages simply has more room for white space than does a book with smaller pages. In newspapers where space is fought over by editorial and advertising departments, text gets less air than in books. 

[below] Some good advice from 1907.

[below] Without sufficient negative space, a page seems overstuffed and it repels -- rather than attracts—readers.

[below]  Compare how the same text appears with larger margins.

[below] Compare how it looks with larger margins, indented paragraphs and more leading (space between lines of type).

[below] When leading is too large, the negative space dominates the text.

[below] If your text is set as flush-left/ragged-right, particularly with no hyphenation and in multiple columns, pages can develop oversize and ugly blotches of negative space. Don’t let it happen.

[below] Here’s a much nicer version, with full justification and hyphenation.

[below] If the white space that separates columns of text on one page is too narrow, readers may skip over the space and start reading the next column, instead of moving down through the first column. 

[below] Negative space can be used as an alternative to horizontal lines (rules) to separate sections of text.

[below] Placing more white space above and below a subhead (also known as a breaker head) makes it more dramatic and important. If it introduces a new section, put more space above it than below it so it is more strongly associated with the text that follows.

[below] Placing more white space above the opening of a chapter makes it much more dramatic. Compare these pages from two of my books:

[below] When a graphic element is inserted within text, make sure to provide adequate white space around it. Compare the upper and lower photos in the page shown. The amount of white should be proportionate to the size of the graphic, but there is no specific rule. The more space you provide around a photograph, the more important it will seem to be. The default spacing in Microsoft Word is .13 inch. You probably should not go below .1, but if a photo includes its own white or light border you can get closer without crowding.

This post is adapted from my wonderful new book, Typography for Independent Publishers.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Authors: keep ego off book covers until you are famous or have written ten books

Unless you are known for writing, murder, politics, con­ning people out of billions, or winning Olympic medals, keep your name and portrait a lot smaller than the book’s title.

Later on, if you become famous, you can revise the covers of your earlier books.

[above] This is my approximate 35th book, and it's very personal, so it's fine for my face to grace the cover.
More about book covers, The Look of a Book: what makes a book cover good or bad and how to design a good one 

Monday, February 11, 2019

Writers can learn something important from colleges they won't attend: GET FAMOUS

When I was in high school in New Haven, Connecticut, and it was time to apply to colleges (early 1964), those of us who had dreams of attending "good" colleges, were also advised to apply to one or more "safety schools."

A safety school is a college with relatively low entrance requirements, where almost anyone would be admitted. They provide little or no status, but they can provide a bachelor's degree. (In actuality, a safety school can provide an excellent education, and many grads will attest to that. If you attended one, please don't complain about my classification.)

For kids in Connecticut, our major state school, The University of Connecticut ("UConn")—located in a nowheresville called Storrs—pretty much had to accept any high school graduate who lived in the state. Within Connecticut, the school was largely known as a school for farmers, and a place to get good low-priced milkshakes at the store on the experimental dairy farm.

Outside Connecticut, UConn was often confused with "Yukon." The athletic teams—called the "Huskies"added to the confusion, and many Americans assumed the college was located in the frigid 49th statenot in one of the 13 original colonies.

Sports forever and significantly changed the visibility and image of UConn. By becoming frequent champions in both women's and men's basketball, UConn is probably known to most American high school studentsand the number of applicants grows and grows. Along with visibility, and status, UConn has attracted a better faculty, and is now much more than a safety school. Sports coaches are sometimes paid more than college presidents, and they may be worth it.

A few miles north of New Haven is the suburban town of Hamden. It's home to a smaller, onetime safety school: Quinnipiac College.

In 1964, "Quinnie" was considered even less desirable than UConn, because most students would continue to live at home, just like in high school. Being a student at Quinnipiac seemed like thirteenth grade, whereas UConn had dormsjust like a 'real' college.

Today Quinnipiac College is now the highly respected and widely known Quinnipiac University. Its visibility and subsequent increased status and academic ranking were boosted not by basketball, but by gathering and analyzing statistics. Hardly a week goes by without major media mentions of the latest Quinnipiac University Poll.
  • Staples probably sells more staples, paper and computers because of the visibility of Staples Center in Los Angeles. It is the home of four professional sports teams, and has won several "arena of the year awards." I buy a lot at Staples. Even staples.
  • Every Saturday morning I listen to "Wait, wait, don't tell me" on NPR, and I am frequently reminded that it is being broadcast from the Chase Bank Auditorium in Chicago. I've had multiple accounts at Chase Bank. Actually, too many
  • The New York Mets play at Citi Field. I don't care about the Mets, but I have had several Citibank credit cards. 
  • Kodak camera film and sales were boosted by the Oscar presentations at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood. I have several Kodak cameras. So do millions of others. Kodak went bankrupt and lost its naming right and the venue is now the Dolby Theatre.
  • Online dating site Ashley Madison reportedly made an offer to rename New Jersey's  Meadowlands Stadium " Stadium." I have no interest in cheating on my wife, so I don't use Ashley Madison.
While some companies have millions to spend on "naming rights," fame doesn't have to be expensive.
  • The basketball players who first made UConn famous did not go there because the school was already famous and had big-buck coaches. They may not have had athletic scholarships.
  • The early Quinnipiac polls were student projects, announced with inexpensive or free press releases.
  • Unless you win Olympic gold or kill someone important, fame doesn't come quickly. It can be built gradually, and inexpensively.
Think about what you can do to establish yourself as an expert on something, to get your name inextricably linked to some subject you want to be associated with.
  1. Write blogs.
  2. Constantly post on Facebook, online forums and newsgroups.
  3. Tweet.
  4. Publish websites.
  5. Get listed on LinkedIn and other social websites.
  6. Join associations. 
  7. Write book reviews.
  8. Write blurbs for books.
  9. Send out press releases.
  10. Participate in panels at trade shows and conventions.
  11. Write letters to editors.
  12. Get interviewed. 
  13. Do something, everyday.
Google shows over 10,000 links for my name. A few are for a shrink who shares my name, but most are mine. Amanda Hocking has nearly 800,000 links. Ernest Hemingway has nearly 7 million.

The idiots at Outskirt Press describe Monica Bouvie as a "self publishing success story." Her last name is really Bouvier. It ends with an "r"like Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis and Marge Bouvier Simpson and sisters Patty and Selmabut Outskirts can't be expected to get anything right, even on its home page.

Despite being affiliated with an inept publisher, Monica does have more than 3,000 Google links.

How many do you have?