Wednesday, July 31, 2013

A book's press release is NOT an advertisement

The press release -- sometimes called a "news release" or "media release" -- is a vital part of book promotion. It is used to attract the attention of writers, editors and book reviewers who may become allies in creating publicity which can sell books.

Remember: the mere publication of your book is not usually sufficiently newsworthy to impress anyone. Only the most desperate small-town weekly would publish an article with the headline: “Local Woman Writes Book.” Your news release needs a news hook. The hook is the main point of your release. It can be a theme, statement, trend or event on which you “hang” your news release. It’s also a hook with delicious bait on it that you hope will attract the attention of writers, reporters and editors.

  • To grab the attention of newspeople, you have to think and act like one of them.
  • You need to be a partner, not just a salesperson.
  • Authors -- like news media -- make money by attracting readers.
  • Your press release must provide important or useful information, or entertainment.
  • Think like a news writer, not a book writer. If you were reporting news or providing entertainment, what would interest you and your readers?
  • A press release should be newsworthy and read like a news story -- not an advertisement.
  • It should adhere to fundamental journalistic standards, using the five W’s and one H (Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How).
  • Write something that you’d like to read about your book if someone else wrote it.
  • Many websites automatically redistribute press releases.
  • Some “reviewers” are too busy or too lazy to actually read your book, and will merely rewrite or reprint your release. Make it as effective as possible.
  • Your release must be accurate, both in terms of its content, and in grammar and spelling. Don't embarrass a newsperson or reviewer who attaches her name to it.

The release that follows is a gushing advertisement, not news, and apparently has not been "picked up" by any online media.  (My "pregnant" news was picked up.) The release also has some silly errors. The book is also terribly overpriced -- $29.95 for the hardcover, $21.95 for the paperback.

For Immediate Release

“Confessions of a Disco Queen…30 some years ago”
Marries Fashion with Passion

Set in the tumultuous time of the 1970's, “Confessions of a Disco Queen…30 some years ago” dares to ask provocative questions about race, culture, and the human need to connect.

Sensual and heart breaking in turns, author Veronica Page takes readers through the true story of her desire to succeed in the fashion industry amid the hot box of racial struggle in New York City. Told in the tune of disco against the sweeping backdrop of elaborate fashion shows, “Confessions of a Disco Queen…30 some years ago” immerses the reader in the day to day hardships of living as a black woman in a world that balks at both her gender and race.

Page weaves narrative with her own published newspaper articles, lush fashion descriptions with steamy romance, and cruel reality with laugh out loud honesty to create a novel that brims over with life.

Deidre Berry, author of The Next Best Thing and All About Eva, says, "Pazge [sic] has lived a life worth reading about. Hold on to your seats as she takes you on a thrilling ride through New York City during the decadent disco era."

To arrange a book signing, radio and print interviews, please contact Managing Partner, Talib Tauhid at or call (480) 208-5510. Or to purchase the book, visit the website or or


To learn more about press releases for books, spend a buck on The One-Buck Author's Press Release Book.


Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Proofread your books in multiple media. Even ebooks should be checked on paper.

While you'll spot many errors in a book manuscript when it's displayed on a computer screen, you'll probably detect even more when it's printed on paper -- like a real book.

In  2008, when I started in self-publishing, POD printer Lightning Source charged $30 for each generation of a proof that I submitted. The fee included next-day shipping (after about three days of their working and waiting), and seemed fair. The Lightning Source website mentioned that a $40 fee could be applied for each file revision, but I was never charged the $40 in those days.

My books typically required about six revisions, and I was glad to be paying $30 each, not $70.

In 2009 one my books went through THIRTEEN generations of proofs, and I was shocked to be charged $30 for the first plus $70 for the next 12. I'd have to sell a lot of books to make up the additional $480 in revision fees. That's equal to the profit on about 60 books!

(I think that Lightning has lowered the price for printed proofs since the last time I used the service.)

I got smarter for my Get the Most out of a Self-Publishing Company. The book has 366 six-by-nine pages, and I paid just $11.82 for printing (much too high for normal books but OK for a proof) and $16.99 for "expedited" shipping. (Other shipping options range in price from $3.99 to $36.99, so if I was not in a hurry, I could've gotten a proof printed and delivered for just $15.81.)

CreateSpace will provide proofs for about $20, delivered. If you are planning to have CS print your books, you may as well let them provide proofs.

One day, after three brain-numbing read-throughs of a second-generation Lulu proof, I figured I was ready to upload my PDF files to Lightning so could start selling books.

I realized that it was destined to have as-yet-undiscovered errors, but I had not yet seen a proof with my "real" cover (l let Lulu print the proofs with a quick-and-dirty temporary cover) and was willing to make the investment to see a more-finished book.

Then I had a thought.

If I could get a printout on paper, I could give it one more read-through and make corrections over the weekend, and then upload the PDFs on Monday or Tuesday and still get a pretty proof from Lightning Source by the end of the week.

I was vaguely aware that some of the copy-and-ship franchised stores could print from a thumb drive. I did some checking online and was both surprised and thrilled to learn that UPS Stores (formerly Mailboxes Etc.)  could accept files as online uploads, and that there was a UPS store just seven  minutes from me.

I quickly established a UPS account online and uploaded the file. This was around noon, and I was informed that my print job would be ready by 4 p.m. The price was just $27.31, including three-hole punching and sales tax and file storage. At a little after 2 p.m. I received an email notifying me that the work was ready for me to pick up. $27.31 was more than the minimum $15.81 that I could have paid Lulu, but I received the "book" in hours--not ten days. It was less expensive--and faster--than the proof from Lightning.

Unlike a Lightning, Lulu or CreateSpace proof, the UPS proof didn't include a coated and colorful bound-on book cover. However, I quickly discovered that the three-hole-punched format is MUCH BETTER for proofing.

When put into a binder, the pages stay flat for reading and marking. And since my pages are formatted for 6 x 9 but UPS used 8.5 x 11-inch paper, there was plenty of extra space for my proofreader's marks and even for copy revisions. I really liked being able to insert tabbed dividers, and quickly started to use the pocket in the front cover to hold my red Sarasa editing pen, Post-Its, bookmarks and a small pad.

I had to go out of town the next day and knew I'd spend some time in my car waiting for my wife to shop. I took the binder with my proof, propped it up on the steering wheel, and got to work. It would have been much more difficult to do this with a normal bound book.

By page 173 I found at least 200 things to fix which I had not noticed on my monitor or in the Lulu proofs. 

It's very important to check your books in multiple media: on-screen as a word-processing file and as a PDF, printed on plain paper, and as a bound volume. Each medium will reveal different errors. Even if you plan to publish only ebooks, paper proofs will help you get a bit closer to perfection.

No matter how many time you check your manuscript, there WILL be errors in your final pbook or ebook.

  • One problem that's almost invisible on PC monitors but can be seen in a printed book are sentences or paragraphs that are gray instead of black. Look closely.
  • And watch out for straight apostrophes and quote marks that really should be curly. This is a common problem when you copy and paste from text that was intended for Web use, where curlies are seldom used. The difference may be hard to spot on a PC screen, so ZOOOOOM up to 120 - 180% of normal size to make the errors stand out.
  • It's easy to accidentally copy-and-paste wrong typefaces from the web or other documents. Look very closely.
  • Also watch out for unintentional hyphens that may move from the end of a line to the middle of a line. This generally won't happen with automatic hyphenating. But if you manually insert a hyphen, and then shift text around, possibly by changing the size or position of a graphic element, hyphens can wander around the page.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Mood music, mood lighting, writing moods, writing muses

"I'm in the mood for love" has been used as an album title used by everyone from Frank Sinatra to John Lee Hooker. There are also recordings specifically intended to enhance love-making. Scented candles are supposed to help. Maybe alcohol and marijuana will do it. And chocolate. However, If someone is "moody," she or he may not be in the mood for love.

I'm not sure what kind of mood a lava lamp enhances, but it seems that lots of companies and people think that moods can be enhanced, and maybe even provoked. Muzak has done extensive research to determine what music increases worker productivity.

I don't require any specific lighting for writing. Classical music "feels" good, but I'm not sure if it actually helps me to write. Sometimes I start typing to match the beat. Music with lyrics is distracting.

I have to be in the right mood to write books in general, and even specific books.

In the last six months of 2012 I churned out about a dozen books. And then I just got out of the mood. I have not even been in the mood to make some minor corrections in books I've already published. I know that's ridiculous, but that's the way it is.

I never stopped writing for the web, but I did stop writing books. I'm always reading at least six books, and I come up with ideas for books to write every few weeks.

I think I'm getting back in the authoring mood.

The book shown above was supposed to be published in July of 2011 (or maybe 2010). It should be out in September.

In ancient Greek mythology, the muses were goddesses or spirits who inspired the creation of literature and art. There were originally three muses, but the group later grew to nine.

In Renaissance and Neoclassical art, the muses were equipped with specific props to help identify them.

Calliope (epic poetry) carries a writing tablet; Clio (history) carries a scroll and books; Erato (lyrical poetry) has a lyre and a crown of roses; Euterpe (music) carries a flute; Melpomene (tragedy) has a tragic mask; Polyhymnia (sacred poetry) often has a pensive expression; Terpsichore (dance) is often portrayed dancing and carrying a lyre; Thalia (comedy) is usually portrayed with a comic mask; and Urania (astronomy) carries a pair of compasses and the celestial globe.

The word "muse" is used in modern English to refer to an inspiration, but also exists in "amuse", "museum" (from muselon -- a temple where the muses were worshipped), "music", and "musing upon."

Traditionally, muses have been beautiful goddesses. So far I've had three muses, and they are all women.

I don't know if women writers, artists and musicians have male muses. Would Fabio be amusing to J. K. Rowling or Yoko Ono?

Sometimes a live muse may provide active encouragement, but sometimes a muse may just be lurking in the background of the mind. Sometimes a muse will be hovering above, always observing, visible and inspiring.

Creativity often includes an innate desire to please, perhaps going back to infancy and childhood when we want to make mommy happy so we get fed.

There can be a courtship aspect to bemusement -- perhaps not planned or thought about. Even if there is no feedback, a writer can be stimulated to do better and better, to win the heart of the goddess (or god). A writer may even imagine having sex with the muse, and words become a subconscious gift, like flowers or candy or jewelry while dating or trying to seduce. Elton John wrote, "My gift is my song and this one's for you." I'm not sure who the song was written for.

For most of my writing career I wrote about things and about how people related to things. Around 2005 I became comfortable writing about people without the things, and writing fiction as well as non-fiction. This coincided with my reconnecting by email with "D," a girlfriend from college whom I thought would become my wife.

After a while she lost interest in communicating with me, and I stopped writing the book she inspired me to start. I later reconnected with "P," one of the first females I was attracted to. I shared my cookies with her in second grade. Her presence helped me finish the book.

In 2008 I finally became comfortable writing about emotions.

This important evolutionary development coincided with my reconnecting with "R." She was a very important girlfriend from high school, and the first woman I thought about marrying. She became my most powerful muse and is responsible for what I consider to be my completion as a writer.

However -- I've been married to Marilyn for over 41 years, but I never thought my wife was my muse. Perhaps because I did win her heart and we did marry and are still together, there’s less urge to please her. Perhaps her daily physical presence weakens the more spiritual connection necessary for musing. I don’t know. Maybe she really has been one of my muses but I just didn’t realize it.

(some info from Wikipedia)

Friday, July 26, 2013

A good story doesn't compensate for sloppy writing

Writers seeking readers should be very careful.

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

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

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

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

photo from Microsoft clipart

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Would you like some tombolo on your pizza?

Words can be fun, and even funny. I've previously written about flongs, dingbats, pilcrows and other strange publishing terms. Today, I'd like to introduce you to the TOMBOLO.

Although the word came to English from Italian, it's definitely not something you'd enjoy on top of your pizza or inside a calzone.

A tombolo is similar to a sandbar, but it is perpendicular to the shore, not parallel to it, and connects an island to the mainland.

Here in Milford, CT, we have a famous tombolo (but everyone calls it a sandbar). At low tide, it connects Silver Sands Beach with Charles Island -- which may contain buried pirate treasure. At high tide, it's submerged.

Charles Island was allegedly cursed three times.

(1) The first curse was brought in the 17th century by a Native American chief, whose tribe fought for the island which they regarded as sacred. After white settlers defeated the tribe, the chief said, "Any shelter will crumble to the Earth." No building on the island has lasted more than a few years.

(2) The second curse was supposedly brought by Captain Kidd in 1699 when he buried his treasure there. Captain Kidd cursed with death anyone who attempted to dig it up.

(3) The third curse was supposedly brought in 1721 by five sailors who stole Mexican emperor Guatmozin's treasure. Guatmozin put a curse on the stolen treasure. After four of the five sailors suffered tragic deaths, the last sailor hid the treasure in the basement of a Milford tavern. When it was discovered by a drunk searching for beer, the fifth sailor transported it to Charles Island, moving the third curse with it.

Legend says treasure hunters discovered an iron chest in 1850. As they attempted to open it, a "screeching, flaming skeleton descended from the sky. It lurched into the pit where the chest was, sending forth a shower of blue flames." The treasure hunters dropped their tools and fled from Charles Island. They returned the next day and their tools were gone and the digging site had been smoothed over, as if they'd never been there.


I named my publishing company after Silver Sands Beach.

(photo by Randal Ferret)

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Sorry, novelists. You'll make no money from me.

This book was featured on NPR. I was all set to buy it and then I realized it was a novel.

If my memory is correct, I've only read about 10% of one novel in over 45 years since I finished college. I find reality very entertaining. I buy two or three books each week, but all are nonfiction. For fiction, I use TV and movies, not books. That's just the way I am 

Apparently, at age 67, I have the patience of a two-year-old.

I've been conditioned by years of watching "Law & Order," "Bones," "Crossing Jordan," "The Closer," "The Mentalist," "Criminal Minds," "NCIS" and "CSI" -- where we often see a corpse before the first commercial; and James Bond movies with dozens of corpses and at least one gorgeous woman before the title comes on screen.
  • When I'm reading nonfiction, a leisurely narrative is just fine.
  • But when I'm in the fiction mode, my brain automatically craves ACTION -- and there are few car crashes or murders in the first few pages of most novels.
I have a problem with movies, too. It takes a lot of action to attract and maintain my attention. Sadly, when I go to a movie, it usually turns out out to be a $12 nap (or $24 with popcorn).

I inherited my mother's love of reading, but not her drive to read every bestselling novel. My father read a lot too, but mostly newspapers. I guess I inherited his need for information, not my mother's need for escape.

I've always been an avid reader -- even when I wasn't supposed to be reading.
  • As a young child I read books under the blanket with a flashlight after my official "lights out" time.
  • By around age eight, I employed more advanced technology. I tied a string to the pull-chain that controlled the light in my closet. I attached the other end to a tennis ball with a hole poked through it. I could read with the closet light, and when I heard one of my parents walking down the hallway towards my room, I'd pull on the string to extinguish the light, and then toss the ball and string into the closet to hide the evidence before mom or dad opened my door to check on me.
(That was a long time ago. I wonder if modern parents care how late their kids stay up -- especially if they're reading.)

As a pre-teen, I did not bother with the Hardy Boys series that interested many of my friends. Instead, I eagerly devoured each new book in the Tom Swift, Jr., series. Books like Tom Swift and His Flying Lab, Tom Swift and His Giant Robot and Tom Swift and His Diving Seacopter provided my ideal combination of adventure and technology.

My favorite magazine of the period was Popular Electronics. Although the mag included construction projects (amplifiers and short-wave receivers) and technical discussions (i.e., VOM vs. VTVM?), each issue included a short story seemingly written just for me. Like the Swift series, John T. Frye's Carl and Jerry stories combined technology and adventure, and sometimes the young geeks used electronics to catch bad guys and impress girls.

I remember one story where Carl and Jerry were on a small boat and its outboard motor conked out. The boys used the boat's battery and parts of the motor to build a primitive "spark gap transmitter" and transmitted Morse Code to get help. This was long before MacGyver used his Swiss Army knife to make a nuclear reactor from a vacuum cleaner, a sponge, a pair of snow shoes and a pound of shrimp.

I did most of the assigned reading in public school, but I sometimes cheated and wrote book reports based on the "Classics Illustrated Comics" version of the books. On the other hand, in my senior year in high school, to fulfill an informal bet with with my English teacher Frances Leighton, I did read and report on a book each day for several months.

I've written more than 30 books. One was half-fiction. One was about 10% fiction. I have no desire to write The Great American novel. Or read it.

As Sgt. Joe Friday said on the ancient "Dragnet" TV series, "All we want are the facts, ma'am"

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

A very weird blog mentioned my publishing company. Why?

Posts on this blog have a strange mix of intelligence, gibberish, English and foreign languages. I can't tell if it's all "written" by a robot that harvests bits of text from all over the web, or by a robot with human help, or by a human with robotic help.

Other blogs and websites that are filled with similar gibberish have tried to attract search engines and expose searchers to advertising. This blog has no ads. There is a tiny, unobtrusive link to a page advertising the blog host with links to other gibberish blogs. Blog hosting is free, so I can't figure out who makes money with this silliness. 

"I have the room, and it would be nice having him around. About silver sands books is a small, independent publisher concentrating on helpful books which make technical subjects easy to understand. the problem for entertainers is they have to decide if they want to entertain all the people or if its worth offending the other half of the country. the milk river near glasgow montana has about a 90 percent chance of exceeding the major flood stage of 27 feet. if she were anyone else, you Thomas Gibson wouldnt care."

Monday, July 22, 2013

Authors: keep your ego off your book covers until you are famous

Unless you are known for writing, 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.

More about book covers, The Look of a Book: what makes a book cover good or bad and how to design a good one 

Friday, July 19, 2013

You can shun the N-word and F-word, but should understand the important P-words in Publishing

Unless your eyes and ears have been closed, you are probably aware of the "N-word" and the "F-word" (sometimes referred to as the "F-bomb") and maybe even the "C-word."  

Book publishing involves several related and sometimes confusing or nearly synonymous “p” words.

Someone does promotion (which often includes public relations) to achieve publicity for a product.

  • Publicity is lots of people knowing about your book and hopefully buying copies and/or urging others to buy.
  • Promotion is all of the efforts intended to achieve publicity.
  • Although publicity is the end result of promotion, many people call themselves book publicists and relatively few call themselves book promoters. (Publicists used to be called "press agents").
  • The public must be receptive to and stimulated by promotion in order to be convinced to buy your books.

A publicist or promoter can guarantee to provide promotion, or public relations, but cannot guarantee that you or your book will achieve publicity. For book promotion to work, the promotion must stand out among many simultaneous promotions for other books (as well as movies, foods, vacations, sports teams, software, smartphones, stores, cars, banks, restaurants, cosmetics, websites, candidates, countries and maybe even wars). 

Despite its name, public relations is not directly concerned with relations with the public.

Media are intermediaries. Writers and their publicists hope to attract the attention of media people by sending out press releases, or by contacting journalists, editors, bloggers, talk show hosts, TV producers and movie makers.

Promotion includes more than public relations. It may include public appearances, publicity stunts and platform building.

Platform is a major buzzword in current publishing. It’s not the same as a political party’s platform. Think of it as a metaphor for a structure that will boost you up and make you visible to potential readers, sources of publicity 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 want to learn more about press releases, this inexpensive ebook will help:  

The One Buck Author's Press Release Book

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Today I take an unpopular stand, defending freedom of the press

There has been a lot of online outrage because Rolling Stone magazine is publishing a cover story on Dzhokar Tsarnayev written by Contributing Editor Janet Reitman.

People are saying they are canceling their subscriptions, will never buy another issue and want to boycott advertisers. Some retail stores refuse to sell the issue. The mayor of Boston is furious. At least six instant "Boycott Rolling Stone" Facebook pages had nearly 150,000 likes on Thursday morning.

I think Dzhokar Tsarnayev is an evil piece of shit. I wish he and his brother Tamerlin had never been born.

I have the utmost sympathy for their victims, dead and alive. I have the utmost admiration for severely injured Boston Marathon runners and watchers who are struggling to rebuild their lives. I am amazed by the courage shown by first responders and civilians who rushed toward the flames and smoke to help the victims.

HOWEVER, I think it's perfectly OK for Rolling Stone or any other publication to put the bomber's face, or any other newsworthy face, on the front cover.

I don't recall similar outrage when photos of the Boston Strangler, Adam Lanza, Son of Sam, OJ Simpson or Osama Bin Laden were on the covers of magazines and newspapers or the subject of books and movies.

But now, outraged citizens complain that Rolling Stone is honoring a mass murderer as if he is a rock star or hero. Tsarnayev is not being honored. Why don't people understand this? 

Commenters sound like members of a crazed lynch mob. Some decided what the article says even before the magazine went on sale. Some think that Rolling Stone regards Tsarnayev as a hero, or needs Tsarnayev to boost circulation.
  • "We all need a list of all the advertisers and boycott them."
  • "Boycott the stores that sell this rag. I'm going shopping today, if I see this rag being sold in my grocery store, I will walk out but Not before I express my dissatisfaction."
  • "It would be interesting if they went bankrupt over this and I think they would deserve to."
  • "F U Rolling Stone. I hope you never, NEVER sell another magazine again. You make this terrorist look hip? Are you out of your F'ing minds? Each and EVERY person involved in this story and decision should be fired and banned from this line of work. America, I beg you to not buy this #$%$ ever again. Let them sink with this severely poor decision and with their glorified hero."
  • "Shame on Rolling Stone and anyone who would keep their subscription to Rolling Stone. You never give a murderer the satisfaction of being famous. Ever. I'd really like to know who owns this magazine and what their agenda is behind glorifying a terrorist."
  • I thought Rolling Stone was a music/trade magazine with rock reviews of music. Why are they doing politics?
  • Time to stop buying Rolling Stone. Also time to stop buying products advertised in Rolling Stone. It is disgusting that they are trying to make this disgusting pos into a "folk hero".
  • "Subscriptions must be waaaaay down for them to do something so sleazy. They gain attention from the initial shock value but I suspect in the long run, they'll be worse off than they are now. Possibly even to the point of folding in the next year or so. Couldn't happen to a nicer bunch of leftists."
People and things get front-page treatment because they are important, not necessarily because they are good. There is a significant difference. Why don't people understand this? 

In many years Time magazine gets shit-upon by people who don't understand that the magazine's "Person of the Year" is the person who "for better or worse, has most influenced events in the preceding year."

That's not like an Oscar, Emmy, Grammy, Nobel or Pulitzer.

Time has named Hitler, Stalin, Kruschev and Khomeni as men or persons of the year. The H-bomb has also been on the cover. So was the destruction caused by the 911 terrorists. Evil was analyzed and condemned by Time -- not honored.

On this blog and elsewhere
 I write about many things I don't like. Publicizing is not praising. 

So it is with Rolling Stone and the Boston bomber.  

Rolling Stone said, "Our hearts go out to the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing, and our thoughts are always with them and their families. The cover story we are publishing this week falls within the traditions of journalism and Rolling Stone’s long-standing commitment to serious and thoughtful coverage of the most important political and cultural issues of our day. The fact that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is young, and in the same age group as many of our readers, makes it all the more important for us to examine the complexities of this issue and gain a more complete understanding of how a tragedy like this happens."

Some have complained that Rolling Stone should stick to music. Politics has always been an important part of 'Stone -- going back at least to 1972 when Hunter Thomson wrote "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas." Thirty-seven years later, in 2009, Matt Taibbi was widely praised for his reporting on the financial meltdown. That's not an interview with Lady Gaga.

No one has to read the Tsarnayev article, but if the article is well done, perhaps we will get a better understanding of how a seemingly normal kid becomes a terrorist, so maybe similar tragedies can be avoided in the future. That's important.
  • It's appropriate to hate Tsarnayev -- but not Rolling Stone.
  • Nothing useful will be achieved by cancelling subscriptions or boycotting advertisers.
  • Don't shoot the messenger because you don't like the message.
  • Don't bomb TV studios or chop heads off reporters because you don't like the news. The USA is not Syria, Afghanistan or Pakistan.
Monday night a reporter and cameraman for CBS television were assaulted while covering a Los Angeles demonstration protesting the George Zimmerman acquittal.
  • Beating up news people will not bring Trayvon Martin back to life.
  • Boycotting advertisers and canceling subscriptions will not undo the Boston massacre.
In the early 1970s I was an editor (not _the_ editor) at Rolling Stone. I have no relationship with the mag now. I read it about once every three years.

Last night, MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell (whom I usually trust) said that the article did not reveal anything useful. He also said that 'Stone is "running scared" and canceled an author interview with O'Donnell after the eruption of outrage. 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Finding seven mistakes in a book is better than finding just one mikstake

(OOPS -- not ready for prime time.)

A while back I received a fifth-generation proof of my then-newest book, Independent Self-Publishing: the complete Guide.

I'd already gone through it dozens of times, and was reasonably sure that the latest proof would be good enough to approve for printing and selling. It was already a few weeks late -- which is normal.

As soon as Bill, our UPS driver, delivered the box from Lightning Source, my printer, I gave it to Dave. He's my youngest employee and has better vision than I have. He also has good artistic judgment and his mother owned a bookstore. Hawkeyed Dave studied each page, and spotted one line of text that was not indented properly in a paragraph with a "hanging indent."

The error (above) was annoying, but not terrible, and one error in 520 pages was not sufficient for me to "stop the presses."

When Dave finished his page flipping, it was my turn.

I was horrified to find a page with ghastly wordspacing:

In the book, I point out that it's difficult to achieve good wordspacing in a narrow piece of justified text, and I offer some suggestions for solving the problem. I was amazed to see that I had missed this ugly page (which is actually no worse than is printed in most newspapers and in some books I've seen -- but is unacceptable in a book that preaches the importance of producing good-looking books).

I quickly decided that I could not let the book reach the public in its present form, and read on.

I ultimately found seven pages that could be improved. Other than the page with the bad word spacing, none of the seven would have been bad enough for me to delay publication by a week, but taken together, I had good reasons not to approve the book.

And... as long as I was fixing up the interior of the book, I asked my artist to make some little fixes on the cover. There were three little bits that had bugged me. I doubt that anyone else would have noticed them. But as long as I was going to delay publication to fix the inside of the book, I may as well use the opportunity to fix the outside, too.

No book is perfect -- not even books produced by the big guys in Manhattan -- but it's important for my books (and all books) to be as close to perfect as possible.

When do you stop checking a book for errors? When you can examine every page and not find anything to fix.

Self-publishers have an extra burden to turn out good work, because each sloppy self-published book reflects badly on the others.

_ _ _ _

OK, it's time for an old but appropriate joke:

Q: What's worse than biting into an apple and seeing a worm?

A: Biting into an apple and seeing half a worm.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Be careful naming your publishing company

Most brand name are neutral, like Ford or General Foods. Some names are chosen to enhance a product, like MasterCard or OfficeMax. Some gain status over the years, like Apple or Rolls-Royce.

Some choices are silly, puzzling or even negative.

I don't eat frogs. "Frog Delight" doesn't put me in the mood to buy bean sprouts.

Some people eat rabbit, but I don't. I also don't like blue food. "Blue Bunny" makes fine ice cream, but the brand name is unappetizing.

"Skin Apple" seems like a strange choice for a shower head.

Shakespeare's Juliet told Romeo, "That which we call a rose by any other word would smell as sweet." Juliet's admonition is bad for publishing.
  • Don't give your publishing company a name that stinks!
Independent authors have to make many choices. One of the most important choices -- which is often ignored -- is whether to have the name of a self-publishing company on their books, or a name that makes it seem like the book was not published by one of those companies.

Booksellers, readers and reviewers may have strong opinions about publishers. I confess that if I see that a book was published by Outskirts Press, PublishAmerica and some others I assume that the book is crap.

Some self-publishing companies allow authors to use a different brand name and logo on their books. Do it.

Fortune 500 companies often spend hundreds of thousands of dollars and many months to develop names for household products, cars and websites. It's possible to do it in less time and at little or no cost, but be careful. Here are some tips:

(1) Pick a name that sounds substantial. If your name is Joe Smith, don't use "Joe's Book Company." "Smith Publishing" sounds a little bit better, but I recommend not using you own name in the company name. When you write a letter on your new letterhead, it's better if the name in the logo at the top is not the same as the name in the signature on the bottom. Let people at least think that there might be more than one person on your staff.

Obviously not a big company

Too small to have a name?
(2) Don't use a name that's too limiting. You may think you'll publish books only about car repair, ballet or vegetable-growing, but a too-specific name will hurt your chances to expand if you change your mind later. It may be tough to market a sci-fi book if your company name is "Ballerina Books" and your logo is a tutu or ballet slippers.

(3) Don't pick a name that's already in use. You probably don't have to pay a lawyer to do a trademark search, but at least do a web search with several search engines, and check Writer's Market to make sure that no other publisher is already using your proposed name.

It's not a good idea to grab the name
of another company in a similar field.

(4) Don't pick a name that sounds like another publisher. Calling your new company "Random Home" or "Random Books" will invite a lawsuit from Random House. I don't know if Esquire Publications (above) has been sued by Esquire Magazine. Be cautious about using the name of another company even in an unrelated field. Although Cadillac pet food and Cadillac cars coexisted for years, the Toyota Motor Company sued the company that intended to market Toyota recording tape. You could go broke defending a lawsuit.

(5) Pick a name that works with a logo. It could be an actual photo or drawing, or just interesting typography. It's nice to have more than a name to put on your books, business cards, letterhead and website.

(6) Unless your specialty is grunge or mayhem. Try for a name that sounds pleasant. I named my company "Silver Sands Books," after a local beach.

(7) Try for a short name. It will be tough to fit "Xylophone Publications Internationale of Philadelphia" on the spine of a thin book. Also, the longer a name is, the more likely it is to be spelled wrong in emails and web searches.

(8) Register the name in the local municipal office that registers names, often the town clerk's office. You will get an “assumed name” certificate or a DBA (Doing Business As) certificate. Even if you are not incorporating as "ABC Books, Inc." you should get a legal document to prove that you have the right to use the "ABC Books" name. You'll need that paper to open a bank account in your new business name. You should also consider registering your business name and logo as a trademark with the Feds. Ask an attorney about it.

(9) Start using the name. Even if your first book is six months away, establish a website immediately to announce your planned books and talk about your company. Send out a press release to announce the new business. Order business cards. These simple and inexpensive activities will help establish "prior use" if another company later wants to grab your name. Within a few weeks of registering your name, you'll probably start to receive letters from local insurance companies and accountants and the Chamber of Commerce who pay your local government to receive lists of new businesses. Even if you have no plans to use their services, the letters addressed to your business may help to establish legitimacy later on.

(10) Get a business-like email address. "" is more impressive than

(11) For your website and email address, avoid hyphenations and top-level domains other than "dot com." The more unusual your company name is, the more likely you are to get a dot com web address. I have  

(Cadillac photo from Thanks.)

Monday, July 15, 2013

Outskirts Press employee knows more about publishing than her boss does

Boss Brent & Employee Wendy

Brent Sampson is the often inept and deceptive president and CEO of Outskirts Press. Wendy Stetina is the Outskirts director of author services, and sometimes provides content for the the Outskirts Press blog, "Self-Publishing Advisor."

Brent once announced that he’s available for hire as a public speaker. He listed “Independent self-publishing vs. print on demand. What’s the difference?” as one of his topics. I’d love to hear him explain that—but I wouldn’t pay to hear it.

I’m an independent self-publisher and I use print on demand. They’re not incompatible or opposites. They often go together. Brent’s silly topic is like asking “What’s the difference between farming and a tractor?” They often go together. 

Brent wanted to charge money to answer a question that should not be asked.

In a blog post, Wendy discussed the much more sensible "Traditional printing vs. print on demand. What is the difference?" It's an important question, and Wendy's explanation was accurate.

Boss Brent, on the other hand, once wrote the wrong name for the publisher of Roget's Thesaurus, confused a foreword with a preface, and has made many other errors.

Maybe Wendy should boss her boss.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Hooking up with "the beep line"

Long before AOL, MySpace, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and even long before the Internet, college kids were connecting through chat rooms accidentally provided by their local phone companies.

I don’t know who discovered it, but when several people reached a busy phone number, they were connected together in a conference call, on a “beep line;” and people could speak between the beeps.

When I was a student at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania in the late 1960s, young men at Lehigh used the beep line to try to get dates with young ladies from Cedar Crest College in neighboring Allentown, or even with "townies" who worked at Bethlehem Steel.

Around 8 p.m. on Saturday, a desperate, dateless Lehigh guy would call his own busy phone number to reach the beep line, hoping a similarly dateless girl would have done the same thing.

The conversation might go like this:

"Hi BEEP I’m BEEP Steve BEEP a BEEP football BEEP player BEEP at BEEP Lehigh. BEEP. Does BEEP anyone BEEP want BEEP to BEEP go BEEP to BEEP a BEEP party? BEEP."

"Hi BEEP Steve BEEP I’m BEEP Cindy BEEP a BEEP hot BEEP freshman BEEP cheer BEEP leader BEEP at BEEP Cedar BEEP Crest. BEEP. I BEEP can BEEP be BEEP ready BEEP at BEEP nine BEEP. Call BEEP me BEEP at BEEP 86 BEEP 75 BEEP 55 BEEP 5 BEEP."

"OK BEEP Cindy BEEP hang BEEP up BEEP and BEEP I’ll BEEP call BEEP you. BEEP Do BEEP you BEEP have BEEP a BEEP car? BEEP. What BEEP kind BEEP of BEEP beer BEEP do BEEP you BEEP like? BEEP. Are BEEP you BEEP on BEEP the BEEP pill? BEEP."

I can’t tell you how many of the dates actually happened, or how many of them resulted in romance. As in today’s chat rooms, there was lots of lying. Many of the alleged football heroes weren't; and the allegedly beautiful-and-willing blond 18-year-old college girl might turn out to be a 14-year-old junior-high-school student -- and might not even be a girl.

Eventually, Bell’s central office equipment was "improved," and the beep line disappeared.

-- from my Stories I'd Tell My Children (but maybe not until they're adults) -- available as hardcover, paperback and ebook.