Friday, November 28, 2014

What's more important: content or appearance?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 27, 2014

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.

The frequently inept and dishonest Outskirts says: "Postcards are the most effective direct mail piece" and sells them for the equivalent of 50 cents each.

(below) AuthorHouse offers an even worse deal, selling twice the quantity -- 1,000 -- for $535 (53.5 cents each)

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 without a user name and password.

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 as little as a DIME EACH, even in quantities as small as 100.

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 34 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 $340 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 26, 2014

Tomorrow is not "Macy's Day," dammit!

I hope I live long enough to witness a Thanksgiving Day when no dopey newscaster for a New York TV or radio station refers to the "Macy's Day Parade" instead of "Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade."

[above] HOLY TURKEY SHIT! It's worse than I thought. I like Macy's. I'm a third-generation Macy's customer, but this is ridiculous. 

The selling of "naming rights" like "Citi (Bank) Field" and "Staples Center" is common for buildings -- but are holidays next? Will we see "Disney July Fourth," "Manischewitz Passover" or "Bud Lite News Year?"

[above] While I'm at it, I'd like to throw some mud at the media dimwits and ordinary New Yorkers who refer to the "Port of Authority" (really the "Port Authority of New York and New Jersey").

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Important point for authors to ponder: how long will your writing be readable?

Writers who produce ebooks only should think about future readability.

JERUSALEM (AP) - Archaeologists say a newly discovered clay fragment from the 14th century B.C. is the oldest example of writing ever found in antiquity-rich Jerusalem.

Dig director Eilat Mazar of Hebrew University says the 2-centimeter (0.8-inch) long fragment bears an ancient form of writing known as Akkadian wedge script.

The fragment includes a partial text including the words "you," "them," and "later."

It predates the next-oldest example of writing found in Jerusalem by 600 years, and dates roughly four centuries before the Bible says King David ruled a Jewish kingdom from the city.

Mazar said Monday that the fragment likely came from a royal court and suggested more could be found in the most ancient part of Jerusalem, located in the city's predominantly Palestinian eastern sector.

If there are still people on the planet 3,500 years from now, will they be able to read your ebook?

What about 350 years, or 35 years?

Have you tried to find a device to play Laserdiscs (approx. 1978 - 2002), Elcasets (approx. 1976 - 1980) or quadraphonic 8-track tapes (approx. 1970 - 1975)?

Monday, November 24, 2014

Be careful when you mix numbers with your words

There are several standards for printing numbers ("figures"). One calls for spelling out one through nine, another says you should spell out one through ten. In “serious” literary books you may even see “ninety-three” or “four thousand.”

Select a system and stick to it. One book in the For Dummies series has “10” and “ten” in the same paragraph!

An article in the Wall Street Journal says: "And the bombs blew up within 3 miles of six level-one trauma units."
  • One of my personal rules is to use the same style when numbers are nearby: “eight to twelve” or “8 to 12”—not “eight to 12.”
  • However, to avoid confusion and misreading, I write “four 10-lb bags, not “4 10-lb bags.”
  • I don’t spell out numbers in addresses or prices, except for low numbers like “One Main Street” or “five bucks.”
  • When numbers are approximate and used to present a mood rather than data, I usually spell the number, as in: “The chairman was surprised when more than fifty people showed up for the meeting.”
  • "A million years ago" is assumed to be an approximation. If you type "1,000,000 years," people will slow down and notice the digits and may assume that the number is precise.
  • Never say something like "about 486 people were arrested." If you have an approximate number, round it off and say something like "nearly 500 people . . . . "

(from my upcoming No More Ugly Books!: design help for writers who don't hire artists

Friday, November 21, 2014

Why Latin is sometimes called Greek, and why Latin is important to graphic designers and writers of English

While you are experimenting with different possible layouts for book pages or covers (or ads, catalogs, brochures or packages), it’s good to have real words to play with, even if  the text that will ultimately be used doesn't exist yet. Temporary text will help you to select type faces and size, page margins, headers and other "style" items.

To make a real-looking "dummy" cover or interior page, copy and paste-in what’s known as Greek text or Greeking (although it’s really semi-sensible Latin). Do a web search for “lorem ipsum” or go to and copy and paste.

Here’s what it looks like: Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Nulla dapibus elementum dui sit amet hendrerit. Fusce varius odio at nisi rhoncus ut tempor justo imperdiet. Mauris neque turpis, fringilla quis consequat scelerisque, egestas eu felis. Pellentesque ut turpis non metus pellentesque tempus a at erat. Praesent id libero ac ligula ultrices facilisis eu id est. Integer vel quam enim. Phasellus luctus porttitor augue, eget aliquet velit consequat quis. Nam massa lectus, accumsan sed iaculis id, sollicitudin sit amet odio. Duis id sem eu orci rhoncus semper. Mauris tortor enim, faucibus vitae commodo ac, lacinia quis libero.

  • In addition to its temporary stand-in function, Lorem Ipsum makes it easier to judge a graphic design because, unless they understand Latin, viewers won’t be distracted by reading the content. I had two years of Latin in high school and am a language "buff," so I get distracted. Maybe the book designers in Vatican City use Vietnamese text so they don't get distracted. I have no idea what Greek designers call "Greeking."

Former-Governator Ah-Nold starred in a shitty satan movie that used inverted Hebrew text intended to look diabolical. It didn't fool me.

Here's an important Little Latin Lesson:

Two short abbreviations for Latin phrases are often confused by people writing English. I.e. stands for id est and means approximately “that is.” E.g. stands for exempli gratia, and means approximately “for example.”

Don’t italicize them, but do put a comma after the final period. Here’s a mnemonic device (memory aid):
  • I.e., which starts with I means “In other words,”
  • E.g., which starts with e, means “for Example.”
  • Or, you could think that i.e. means “in effect” and that e.g. means “example given.”
Of course, those of us who studied Latin, don’t need mnemonic devices. Optima dies prima fugit. Cave canem. Caveat emptor. Nos morituri te salutamus. Sic transit gloria mundi. SPQR. INRI. Alter ego. E pluribus unum. Post hoc ergo propter hoc. Persona non grata. Ave Caesar. Corpus delecti. Corpus Christi. Bona fide. Carpe diem. Status quo. Bogus. Bonus. Status. Flatus. Doofus (just kidding). Curiculum Vitae. Alumnus. Cannabis. Vagina. Roma. Dictum. Modus operandi. Et cetera. Et cetera. Et Cetera.

Sic is the Latin word for “thus.” It’s used to indicate that the preceding error or unusual wording or punctuation was in the source, and not copied incorrectly. The word should be italicized and within square brackets like this: [sic]. “Sic transit gloria mundi” has nothing to do with ailing trains or buses. Look it up.

- - - - -
Top photo shows statue of Roman Emperor Julius Caesar, who said, “Et tu, Brute?” (“And you too, Brutus?”) when his buddy Brutus stabbed him. Those words were supposedly Caesar’s last words, on the Ides of March (March 15th) in 44 BCE. March 15th was the original income tax day in the United States.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Make literary history. Invent a word as Willie and I did.

William Shakespeare's birthday was celebrated on April 23. Since it was his 450th birthday but he died when he was just 52, he was not present to blow out all those candles.
The Oxford English Dictionary ("OED") shows more than 2,000 entries where a quotation from Shakespeare is the earliest source available. That doesn't mean that Willie invented those words, but he certainly popularized and legitimized them.

It's been said that the celebrated "bard of Avon" introduced somewhere between 8,000 and 15,000 words into English literature -- far more than other writers.

Here's a list of some of the words Willie is credited with inventing.


I, on the other hand, claim to have invented just one word: answerer. I will now present my claim to fame. Maybe the OED will pick this up and add to my immortality.
In 1969 and '70, on my first job after college, I was assistant editor of High Fidelity Trade News -- a magazine that went to hi-fi dealers. In addition to audio components such as speakers, turntables and receivers, we also covered other electronic products that could be sold in hi-fi stores.

Part of my job was to edit press releases into brief new product announcements. The format included a one-line headline with the brand and type of product, plus a photo and a brief description with suggested retail price.

Unfortunately, our magazine columns were just 2-1/4 inches wide. That was big enough for "Harman-Kardon: Receiver." But there was no way to fit "Crowne: Telephone Answering Machine" into that narrow space.

So, with the approval of editor Bryan, I decided to call the device a phone "answerer," and no readers complained that they did not understand the term.

In later years recording tapes, motors and other mechanical guts were replaced with digital circuitry. Newer terms such as "Telephone Answering Device" ("TAD"), "Digital Answering Device" ("DAD") and "Answering System" came along.

Although dictionaries still define "answerer" as a person who answers, General Electric uses the word my way. Amazon has picked it up, too. As with Shakespeare, my word may outlive me. I am proud to have contributed one small bit to the English language.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

A negative review for a book I have not read in the nearly five years I've owned it

Back in February 2010 I bought a copy of Wingnuts: how the lunatic fringe is hijacking America. Written by John Avlon, it deals with the wackos on the far-right and far-left wings of politics, such as the 9/11 "truthers," the "birthers" who insist that President Obama was born in Kenya, and those who accept MooseMama Palin's "death panel" paranoid fantasy.
  • This is the debut publication from Beast Books, a joint venture between the Perseus Book Group and The Daily Beast, a website dealing with politics and pop culture.
Tina Brown is co-founder and editor-in-chief of the Beast. She's an author, talk show host, and an award-winning editor. She edited Vanity Fair and The New Yorker, created Talk magazine and is in the Magazine Editors Hall of Fame.

Although she is apparently not a trained designer, she is credited with redesigning The New Yorker and hiring Richard Avedon as staff photographer. So, Tina should know something about publishing production values. She cares enough about her own work to have claimed a copyright for the foreword she wrote for Avlon's book -- an extremely uncommon practice.

So why am I pissed-off about a book I have not read yet?

It looks like crap, feels like sandpaper, and costs too much.
  • The designer, Jane Raese, chose a compressed, bold sans serif typeface for the chapter titles, headers and other spots. The words are both ugly and hard to read. With the huge selection of available typefaces, both sins are unforgivable.
  • The pages are rough, pulpy semi-sandpaper, of a low grade I have not had the misfortune to touch since I bought 35-cent Signet paperbacks more than a half-century ago. I almost felt the need to wear thick work gloves to protect my fingers from splinters. This book has a cover price of $15.95 -- not 35 cents -- so the budget could certainly have covered a nicer, smoother grade of paper. I'm just an amateur publisher, but my own $15.95 books have paper that's as smooth as a baby's ass. I would not insult my readers by using  cheap paper that might be found in a hotel room john in a third-world country that just made the transition from wiping with tree leaves.
  • The book has 284 pages and measures just 5 by 7-3/4 inches. That size is commonly used for the "mass market paperbacks" which sell for less than $10 and are displayed near the cash register at supermarkets and Walmart. Wingnuts is not vital for college or business. It's basically entertainment, and not important enough to warrant an inflated price. Other entertaining books often sell for $2.99 or less.
According to The New York Times, "Perseus is paying The Daily Beast a five-figure management advance to cover the costs of editing and designing the books."

Based on what I've seen and felt, Perseus grossly overpaid.

An author's words are important, but so is the package that contains them. Be aware and be careful.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Nike is right. So was my father. Just do it. Start writing that book NOW. (updated on 11.1.18)

When I was 24 years old, I discussed a business idea with my father. I asked him if he thought I should try it. He said he didn’t know if I’d succeed, but he did know that if I didn’t try it, for the rest of my life I’d wonder what would have happened if I did try it.

If you wonder what will happen if you write and publish a book—try it! The risk is low and the potential benefit is huge.

Words are toys for me. As a writer, I get paid to have fun. Writing books and blogs is probably the second best way for a man to make money. I'm 72 years old, so I have little chance of employment as a gigolo. (Anyway, wife Marilyn has an exclusive contract for my intimate services.)

If I can publish books, so can others. (And, of course, my books can help you.)

There's no reason to wait until next year, next week or tomorrow to start a book. Just do it—NOW.
  • Be innovative.
  • Be productive.
  • Be useful.
  • Change the world.
  • Let off steam.
  • Have fun.
  • Fill empty hours.
  • Make people laugh.
  • Make people cry.
  • Make people think.
  • Make money.
  • Get famous. Maybe get laid more often. Maybe get better tables in restaurants or free upgrades to first class when you fly.
  • Don't be afraid to piss people off. What you think of yourself is more important than what others think of you. Write to please yourself.
  • It's nice if your words cause others to smile, say "thanks" and pay money; but self-satisfaction is more important. Not everyone has to "get" you. Even a small, happy audience can be satisfying. One good review can make your day.
  • Don't leave the keyboard until you're satisfied with what you've written, because you never know which words will be your last words.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Isn't a name enough? Why do so many people need nicknames?

The 2012 GOP presidential primary season included two Ricks, a Ron, a Fred, a Buddy, an Andy, a Mitt and a Newt. 

Some past presidents have insisted on using their nicknames. William Jefferson Clinton was just plain Bill, or Bubba. Enemies called him Slick Willie. James Earl Carter was Jimmy (or Jimmah).

On a campaign button, Ike fits much better that Dwight, Ditto for TR, LBJ and FDR.

But, President William Henry Harrison was known as Tippecanoe. That's much longer than Bill. He served for just 30 days (a record).

Ike's veep -- and later a president -- Richard M. Nixon became Dick and Tricky Dicky.

Jimmy takes up about the same space as James (Carter), but sounds much friendlier.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy was called Jack, but "JFK" fit much better in newspaper headlines. I don't know if the current president has a nickname, but the New York Daily News frequently prints "Bam."


  • Some really wussyful names like Melvin, give us manly names like Mel.
  • Les is more (not less) manly than Leslie or Lester.
  • Sly Stallone could kick Sylvester's ass.

Tony Soprano sounds much more macho than Anthony. Anthony Anastasio was Tough Tony, the younger brother of Albert "Mad Hatter" Anastasia. Machine Gun Kelly, Muscles and Sammy the Bull invoke much more fear and trembling than George Kelly Barnes, George Futterman or Salvatore Gravano. Crazy Joey Gallo is not someone to mess around with. Neither is Scarface (Al Capone, above). Baby Face, Skinny Joey, Fat Dominic, Hymie, Louie Ha-Ha, Louie Lump Lump and Little Nicky are much less intimidating than Kid Blast, Killer Twist or Grim Reaper. Click for more mobster names.

Why do some names (e.g., Richard) spawn so many nicknames, (Rich, Rick, Dick).

  • And some nicknames even have nicknames (Richie, Ricky, Dickie).
Why do some names that invoke ugly people (Gwendolyn) lead to nicknames that evoke cute faces (Gwen)?

Why so some nicknames like Peggy sound nothing like their full names, like Margaret? My father was called Bud or Buddy, but his legal name was Bertram. No one who knew him called him Bert. Sy (not See) is a commone nickname for Seymour, and for Simon.

Why do some nicknames, like Josh, Luke and Matt, sound contemporary, even though the full names (Joshua, Lucas and Matthew) goes back thousands of years? Isaac and Izzy both sound old-fashioned.

Why do some people never outgrow their childish names, like Sammy Davis and Stevie Wonder?

Sometimes a nickname for one person becomes a full name for others. Alexandra has given us Alex, Alix, Alexa, Allie, Ali, Lexy, Sandra, Sandy. Elizabeth has a long long of spinoffs: Betty, Bettie, Bet, Bett, Bette, Betta, Betsy, Betsey, Betsi, Beth, Bess, Bessie, Bessy, Bettina, Elsie, Elisa, Elsa, Eliza, Ellie, Elly, Ilse, Liz, Lizzy, Lizzie, Liza, Lisa, Lise, Lisette, Lizette, Lisbet, Lizbeth, Libby. 

I know a man who was born Charlie (not Charles) and a Jake who is not really a Jacob.

Some nicknames cross the gender barrier. Jacky(ie) can be a nickname for Jacqueline or John. Chris goes with Christopher and Christina (who may also be Tina). Stevie Nicks is a female, born Stephanie. I dated Rosemary, known as Ricky.

Some names like Gregory, Oliver, Frederick, Allison, Charles, Leonard and Timothy are most often said by parents and teachers -- but friends say Greg, Ollie, Fred, Freddy, Al, Alli, Charlie, Chuck, Len, Lenny, Tim and Timmy.
  • If someone calls my office and asks to speak to "Mike Marcus," I know he never met me and is probably trying to sell me Wall Street stock or printer toner. I think only one person who actually knew me called me Mike. That was my father, so I didn't correct him. NOBODY calls me Mickey or Mick.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Advances in book technology do not justify ugh-liness

  • The increasing use of cellphones and VoIP is leading to the acceptance of telephone calls with noise that would not have been tolerated in 1950!
  • The increasing use of the Internet (where the appearance of a website is affected by the web browser and PC of the person viewing the site), and the increasing use of ebooks (where the appearance of a book page is controlled by the reading device, and the person who is reading) is leading to the acceptance of UGH-LEE printed books.
It doesn't have to be that way. We should not have to read ugh-lee printed books.

I AM GETTING PARTICULARLY FED UP WITH PEOPLE WHO TRY TO TEACH PUBLISHING, BUT MAKE FUNDAMENTAL ERRORS IN THEIR OWN BOOKS. Avoiding hyphens leads to unnecessary big gaps between words in "justified" text, as in the two book bits shown below.


There seem to be three reasons for not hyphenating words in a printed book:
  1. Ignorance
  2. Laziness
  3. Stupidity
A reason is not an excuse. There is no excuse for making an ugh-lee printed book. Ugh-lee books show contempt for the reader and should not be printed or tolerated.

Not every book can be beautiful, but no book should be ugh-lee.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Don't trust your eyes or your monitor

While fixing up a scan of an old photograph for use in a book, I used a graphics program to simply paint some black over various white spots and streaks in the otherwise solid-black background.

Later on, I printed a couple of pages on a color laser printer simply to compare a few different type fonts.

I was horrified to see that the photo that had looked perfect on my LCD monitor, had dark black blotches against a grayer background.

It was a scary and valuable lesson, and I'm glad I learned it before the book was printed. Apparently most LCD monitors just don't have the ability to display the full range of colors that can be printed -- or even the colors that can be displayed by an ancient CRT monitor.

I re-did my retouching.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

A silly error that can make indie authors feel good

I've often pointed out that self-published books are suspect -- often assumed to be substandard even before their front covers are flipped open.

To counter this prejudice self-publishing authors should make their books as good as books produced by the professional editors, typesetters and designers employed by the major "traditional" publishers.

Sadly, sometimes the work of the pros should not be emulated.

Car Guys vs. Bean Counters was published by Portfolio, an “imprint” of Random Penguin. That's the informal name for the merged Random House and Penguin Book Group. Penguin (even without Random) is one of the largest book publishers in the world and started in 1935.

A publisher with vast size and long experience should know what it’s doing, but it doesn’t always do the right thing.

A few years ago, Penguin's Riverside imprint published a phony autobiography, Love and Consequences. Before the hoax was revealed and the book was recalled, it received an excellent review in The New York Times.

Bob Lutz’s “Car Guys” book exhibits a much smaller sin -- a silly typesetting error which should have been noticed by one of Penguin’s experts before printing. It’s mostly a good book, otherwise.

In this case, "professional quality" is not good enough. Amateurs should do better.


Monday, November 10, 2014

Would you eat a tombolo, play a tombolo in a band, walk on a tombolo, or drive a tombolo?

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 like a sandbar, but it is perpendicular to the shore, not parallel to it.

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.

Charles Island was allegedly cursed three times.

(1) The first curse was brought in the 17th century by an Indian chief, whose tribe fought for the island which they felt was sacred ground. After settlers defeated the Indians, 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.


(photo by Randal Ferret)

Friday, November 7, 2014

The critical missing ingredient in most wannabe bestsellers is PASSION

The Internet is filled with advice on creating bestselling books. Most of it involves finding the most popular online search topics.

According to many of the 'experts' (most of whom want to sell you something), if millions of people are interested in Oprah, Wells Fargo or Obama, you can easily sell millions of books about Oprah, Wells Fargo or Obama and make millions of dollars.
  • It doesn't matter if you're a shitty writer, know nothing about the subject and don't think professional editing and design are necessary.
Some 'experts' tell you that instead of actually writing a book you can just copy words from the web and paste them together, use any available software to create a cover and soon untold riches and fame will be yours.

(above) Sadly, many of the ugliest and least-useful books are written to help others publish books.

There is no certainty about selling anything. There are many things a writer -- even a very good writer -- cannot control.
Research, testing and advance publicity might be useful, but trying to tailor a book to perceived reader interest can lead to yet another redundant barbecue cookbook, stop-smoking guide or celebrity confession.

Market research is no substitute for PASSION for the subject of the book and strong PROMOTION for the book.
  • Without passion, writers are factory laborers.
  • Without effective promotion, potential readers won't know the book exists.
Also, if you delay publication so you can engage in extensive research and test marketing, interest in the subject may pass by the time your book goes on sale and competitive books may beat you to the marketplace.
  • If an author is aiming at traditional publishing, a year of advance research before the search for an agent and publisher can be an eternity.
  • Self-publishing greatly reduces the time-to-market compared to traditional publishing. A book can be published in a few weeks or months.
Over a dozen of my books have been bestsellers with ZERO market research. Steve Jobs developed amazing Apple products based on his own passion, not on market research.

My latest book, Do As I Say, Not As I Did quickly became a bestseller without my checking to find out what people were searching for on Google or Bing. I wrote about what I know about and have passion for.


Thursday, November 6, 2014

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

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

When I was in junior high school in New Haven in the early 1960s, I saw many tryouts at the Shubert Theatre. My friends and I paid $1.20 to sit in the second balcony, and sometimes sneaked down to better seats -- even box seats -- if no one else claimed them.

Self-publishing authors have an advantage over authors that work with traditional publishing houses in that they can have an "off-Broadway" tryout, just like a drama or a musical.

With minimal expense, you can get a few dozen copies of your pbook or ebook, and distribute them to friends, relatives, librarians, booksellers, consultants, agents, other writers, teachers, experts -- anyone whose opinions you respect. You'll probably get lots of good advice that will influence your final text and covers, and you might even get compliments that can be used as "blurbs" to help promote the final version of the book.

One of my books had a limited release in late 2008. While I was pleased with it, and got consistently good reviews, I realized that the title confused some readers, and one chapter should be replaced with other material, and I should shift some of the front matter to the back so people would reach the "meat" of the book sooner. I also decided to add some material, and I lowered the price. The new book has gotten great reviews and thousands of copies have been sold worldwide as a paperback, hardcover and ebook.

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

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

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

It looks kind of like English, but . . .

Question: I have created a book upon diploma instrumentation. we wish to tell a book out of my own but a assistance of any edition association or any agents. Can i do it?Will u greatfully assistance me? we am an Indian national.

Answer: Go to It’s a undiluted place for you. All a instructions have been upon a site. You can tell your book with them. They’ll put it upon their site, as well as any a single who wants to buy it afterwards simply orders it online. That includes yourself. So it costs we zero to have them do a book, though if we wish copies we buy them from lulu. It functions similar to a charm. I’ve finished a single book there already. There have been no catches. You set a kingship we wish to consequence upon a book, as well as lulu will afterwards compensate these royalties to you. Of march there’s a simple assign for them to imitation a book, though it’s not excessive. Anything over that (which we stipulate) is for yourself. Check them out.

By a way, do not go for any of a alternative “print-on-demand” or “self-publishing” or whatever places. They’re all in it for a money, as well as they’ll slice we off.

(from  "Welcome to the online Book Publishers Association. Here you will find tips and information on how to publish your own book, how to publish your photo book, Christan Book, Mystery book and more. Full of tips, information and resources, Books Publishers Association is the place to be. Subscribe today!")

Monday, November 3, 2014

Before your book has words, it can have a cover

(My first book, published by Doubleday in 1977)
If you write a book that gets published by a traditional publisher, it can take three years to find an agent and for the agent to find a publisher who will accept you and produce the book. In this long process, one of the last things that gets done is cover design. The author may have some input, but the publisher has the final say on the design -- and even on the title of the book -- which can certainly influence the way the cover looks.
  • If you are working with a self-publishing company, the time between writing and printing is compressed from years to months, but the cover still comes after the writing.
  • But in independent self-publishing (which I do), I've found that it can be very useful to have a cover design even before the first word is written.

Above: This preliminary cover was designed a few years ago. I hadn't started writing the book yet. The cover design and the title changed later on as the book evolved.

Above: early and final versions, separated by about two years
You don't have to have a final design (in fact, you shouldn't) but even a "rough layout" will help solidify the project in your mind. The more real the book is to you, the more likely you are to keep typing. If you have front and back covers, and a financial investment in what you've paid your designer to produce, it's natural to want to fill the space between the covers and start selling some books.

  • Living with a cover design over a period of months while you write can be very useful. There can be, and should be, an interaction between the exterior and interior of the book. Exterior and interior will evolve together.
The back cover of the book should have a strong indication of what's in the book -- a reason for book-store shoppers to to carry it from the shelf to the cash register and for online shoppers to click to buy. It could be your last opportunity to make a sale, so make it a strong sales pitch!

The back of the book will also be very useful to you while you're writing. It's a summary -- maybe a statement of principles -- that should help to keep you focused and remind you of what you had in mind when you first conceived the book.
  • It's normal for the words on the cover to change as you write words for the inside. Sometimes the title may change. Sometimes you just have a "working title" and the final title emerges from deep inside the book. Sometimes you'll come up with a new subtitle, or even swap title and subtitle.
From a strictly business standpoint, having a preliminary title and cover allows you to start promotion to build awareness and desire in advance. If you have an "author's website," your future covers should be shown there, along with brief descriptions and approximate publication dates. If you blog, show your next book(s) on the blog, like I've done. If you're active on Facebook and Twitter, you can display future books there, too.

At the top/left below is the latest version of the former 'Mona Lisa' cover. It has a new title and is now part of a series of books with comic-book style covers.:

The books shown below have covers, but nothing inside the covers. The designs and titles will likely change before publication. Maybe some won't get published.