Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Authors: Write something every day, and save the good stuff.

At hated Hillhouse High School in New Haven I had a demented English teacher, Bertha K. Frehse. Her last name was pronounced "frazy" and she was known by generations of students as "crazy frazy." 

Among other nuttiness, she purred like a cat, made us talk to and wave at a tree, poked pins in students and worshiped Elvis. 

She often ambushed students entering her classroom with such commands as: "write ten beautiful words," “write 200 words about tobogganing,” “explain why striped cats are superior to spotted dogs” or “list 500 reasons why Elvis should be president.” [There's more about the Crazy Cat Woman in my memoir, Stories I'd Tell My Children (But Maybe Not Until They're Adults).]

Later, when I was a journalism major at Lehigh University, a "J" professor suggested that we write a daily column of about 500 words—about anything, and not necessarily for publication. It could be a reaction to news, some advice, an essay, an interview, a sports report, history, a review, anything.

He said that if we expected to get jobs at newspapers (and that was the likely career choice) we had to be able to write on command—quickly, professionally and about anything.

While most of my journalism has been practiced at magazines, not newspapers, that experience and discipline has been valuable while writing for a wide range of media plus advertising, PR and books. 

In my first days after college I lived in a YMCA in Manhattan while working as a low-paid magazine editor. I was able to get a rent reduction at the "Y" in exchange for writing a convincing fundraising letter. Later I became an advertising copywriter. My specialty was hi-fi, but I also wrote ads for food, cars, floor covering and even women's bathing suits.

Today I seldom write advertising or magazine articles, but I publish multiple blogs, and post a lot on Facebook. Some of the blogs and FB posts later evolve into books.

I recently started to collect some of my daily posts on my personal website, It's a convenient place for me to view my own words, and for others to see what I'm all about. Every author should have at least one website, but it can do more than try to sell books. It can be a a record, a repository, a virtual library.

Try it.

Monday, October 29, 2018

It's super-easy to become a bestselling author. If you think it's important, read this

Lots of authors you’ve probably never heard of are described as “bestselling authors.” Unlike lists of the winners of Oscars, Emmys, Pulitzers and Nobels, there may be no official registry where you can check the validity of the claims.

Also, there’s an almost endless list of bestseller lists. Unless an author, publisher or promoter provides a detail like “103 weeks on the New York Times Bestseller List,” it’s hard to document or disprove bestseller status.

The Times, of course, is the biggie. Other important lists are provided by USA Today,, IndieBound, Publishers Weekly and Barnes & Noble.

I'm not sure if it's important to be a "bestselling author" or to write a "bestselling book." The label may impress friends, neighbors and relatives; and I assume that a prospective reader who is considering a book purchase will be encouraged to become a buyer.

There is often disagreement among the bestseller lists and it may not be obvious how the lists are calculated. For example, online booksellers and “big box” stores may be excluded.
  • A book about flea removal from pregnant three-legged albino Weimaraners could sell exactly one copy and still be the BESTSELLER IN ITS FIELD. There is no law that requires an explanation on the cover or a footnote inside the book.
  • Anyone can call any book a bestseller (or “best-seller” or “best seller”) and the label may help it to achieve more sales—deserved or not deserved.
  • Keep in mind that even if a book is on a legitimate list, the fact that many were sold does not necessarily mean that it’s a good book, or even that buyers have read what they've bought. Used bookstores are filled with "used" books that have obviously not even been opened. From Wikipedia: Bestsellers have gained such great popularity that it has sometimes become fashionable to purchase them. . . . The rising length of bestsellers may mean that more of them are simply becoming bookshelf decor. In 1985 members of the staff of The New Republic placed coupons redeemable for $5 cash inside 70 books that were selling well, and none of them were sent in.
  • There are even fudged bestseller labels that are more the result of marketing than of statistics, such as “summertime bestseller,” international bestseller” or “underground bestseller.” A widely advertised book on real estate investment is touted as "smash hit selling" (whatever that means). 

[above] This may be the worst book ever published. Its Amazon Bestsellers rank has been nearly 10 million, but it is on the BS list. There is no rule that says how high a book has to be on a BS list to be promoted as a bestseller, but I wouldn't brag about a book unless it was in the top 50 or so. Some people might assume that any book promoted as a "bestseller" achieved number-one status. You don't have to tell them otherwise.

If you care about bestseller status, you can enhance the chance of a book achieving that status by choosing one or more "BISAC" categories where it won't have much competition. Obscurity can lead to great visibility.

[above] If you do achieve bestseller status, don't be bashful about it. Proudly put the "BS" term on book covers, websites, blogs, business cards, press releases, social media, everywhere.

Amazon’s bestseller list has been manipulated by elaborate online campaigns to maximize purchases during a brief time period to temporarily elevate a book to bestseller status.

One day, with no manipulation, my STINKERS! America's worst self-published books was ranked NUMBER EIGHT on one of Amazon's bestseller lists. The next day, it was up to NUMBER TWO. That's pretty amazing, especially since I was still tinkering with the book and had not made an official announcement that it was available. It's on a very specific list (maybe a very obscure list), but now I can legitimately call the book a “bestseller.” My wife is not impressed. If you are impressed, please buy the book. It's important, useful and funny.

(pooch pic from

Friday, October 26, 2018

Authors: 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's 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 news person 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, and I later let my hairs grow back.)

The release below has some silly errors and the book is 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.


Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Authors: can a book have too much advance praise? Sure!

Before a book is published it's common for "Advance Review Copies" to be distributed to famous people with the hope that they'll write short, complimentary "blurbs" that can help sell the book to ordinary people. Sometimes blurbs are written by ordinary people.

Part of the back cover of my Stories I'd Tell My Children (But Maybe Not Until They're Adults) is shown below.

Many blurbs are written for authors by other authors in corrupt "if you kiss my ass I'll kiss your ass" deals.

Blurbs are often labeled "Advance Praise for [title]" and printed on a book's back cover and first page, or pages. 

One or two pages are enough but some authors go much too far.

Michael Hyatt is an egomaniac whom I can't stand for several reasons. Six years ago I bought—but have not yet been motivated to read—his Platform: Get Noticed In A Noisy World. The book has four blurbs in tiny type on its back cover plus SIX FRIGGIN' PAGES with 14 blurbs ahead of the title page.
  • If someone is not convinced to buy a book after reading three or four blurbs, will 14 do the job? Probably not.
I have mixed feelings about Shel Horowitz, author of Grassroots Marketing for Authors and Publishers.

Shel's book has an appropriate three blurbs on the back cover (in an easy-to-read type size), plus three pages with a dozen blurbs ahead of the title page.

I like most of what Shel has to say—but the blurbing bothers me. The book has a blurb from John Harnish, special products director at Infinity Publishing. Harnish praises Shel and says, "...selling more books is what successful marketing is all about..." 
  • However, Harnish is in the business of selling Shel's books, because Infinity has co-published an edition. That’s a conflict of interest, and tacky.
Shel has mini-reviews in the back of his book, plugging books written by some of the blurbers who praise him in the front of his book. Tit-for-tat, even the appearance of tit-for-tat, is tacky.

Shel writes well and he seems to be an expert on book marketing. I don't doubt the truth of the endorsements of him or by him—but his work is marred by the appearance of sleazy deal-making. Mutual ass-kissing may be frugal marketing but I don't think it's ethical, or effective.

Helen Gallagher wrote an ugly, sloppy, padded, inaccurate and poorly edited book titled Release Your Writing: Book Publishing, Your Way!

A Five-Star review on Amazon says the book, "offers fabulous, practical tips for writers. I had the opportunity to meet the author. She is a great advocate for fellow writers. This book is a 'must have' if you want to complete your writing project, launch it, and market your work."

That sounds impressive, but don't be impressed.

The reviewer is Marguerite O'Connor. Marguerite is an author and funeral director and teaches bereavement counseling. Even more depressing than that is the fact that Marguerite's book received a Five-Star review from Helen.

Yes, they kissed each other's asses.

And by the way, Marguerite O'Connor is also the editor of Helen's poorly edited book. Helen is a decent writer, but from the evidence I've seen, Marguerite is a terrible editor. I hope she buries bodies better than she edits books. 

Monday, October 22, 2018

Should all authors be bloggers?

BEFORE I GET STARTED, here are five big blogging sins to avoid:
  1. I know of one blog that has so many guest posts that it's losing its identity and I visit it less often than I used to. Remember—people decide to view late-night TV shows because they like Johnny, Dave, Jay, Conan, Craig, Jimmy or the other Jimmy, not because of the guests. Limit the number and frequency of guest posts. 
  2. The blog of Outskirts Press boss Brent Sampson used to provide good advice for authors. Now it contains mostly puffery about Outskirts, so there is little reason to visit or read. Make your blog useful—not just self-serving.
  3. Some blogs that provide useful and important information have not been updated in so long that I no longer bother with them and may miss something useful or important. Post often and on a regular schedule.
  4. Everything an author writes is a sample, an audition, for books. Write and edit carefully. Don't rush your blog or write while you are sleepy. Don't let potential book buyers think you are stupid or sloppy.
  5. Make sure that the links you publish go where they're supposed to go. Don't send visitors to the wrong place, or to oblivion.

Earlier I discussed websites. Today's subject is the blog (“web log”). A blog is a specialized form of website. It’s somewhat like an online diary or journal, but it’s written for the world to read—not just you and your heirs. If you are an author, you should seriously consider writing a blog, or several blogs. You are now reading one of my blogs. At one time I wrote five daily blogs. Now I write fewer blogs and post less often.

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

I (mostly) like Blogger, which hosts this blog. It's owned by Google, and it's free. The Google connection makes it easy to “monetize” a blog by carrying small "AdSense" ads on it. I like Wordpress, too.

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

You're not stuck with the awkward web address (URL, "Uniform Resource Locator") provided by your hosting company. This blog was originally located at For a few bucks per year I simplified it to 

Create new posts often—at least twice a week. Don’t be reluctant to publish reruns, particularly of popular posts, updated if possible and with a new title. You should be constantly attracting new readers, so don’t assume that someone who sees a post on 11/14/18 also saw it on 3/7/15. Some items may be tied to the calendar and deserve annual or more-frequent publication. 

The blog should show your book cover(s), say something about it or them, and provide a link for ordering. You can also show and describe future books.

It’s common for an author’s blog to include full chapters or shorter book sections as previews to entice readers.

Some blogs deal with specific subjects such as politics, investing, parenting, publishing, food or travel, and others include whatever the blogger feels like writing about. Some are interesting, informative and entertaining—and others are boring and useless.

Any news about your book(s)—such as awards, bestseller status, sales milestones, book signings, etc.—should be touted in your blog. You can also conduct contests to build readership.

Make your blog as accurate and up-to-date as possible. Read, reread and re-reread to remove typing errors. Check your facts and spelling. Take past dates out of your calendar of upcoming events. Wait about an hour before you announce a new post so you can eliminate stupid errors you missed earlier.

Some blogs attract only a handful of visitors each day. Others attract hundreds or even many thousands. The more people who read your blog, the more people who may read your books. Blog traffic builds gradually. Don't expect huge numbers on your first day, or even in your first year. When this blog started in 2007 I had about 120 visitors per day. It eventually reached between 1,500 and 2,000 people on most days. That's not what the New York Times receives, but I'm not complaining. A few times I attracted more than 5,000 readers. I don't know why. The blog was on hiatus for the summer and fall of 2017, and restarted in December. I lost followers during the absence and am now rebuilding my audience. The blog had 666 visitors yesterday and nearly 3 million since it began. That's a nice number.

Blogger (and presumably Wordpress and other hosts) provide analytics that will tell you about your visitors (where they come from, what browsers they use, if they are mobile, etc.). To me, the most important data is the number of readers for each post. If you know which topics are the most popular, you can choose to write more posts about that topic.

Followers can elect to be notified whenever a new post appears. Some bloggers send out notices via Twitter or email to announce new posts. It’s important to build a strong following of regular readers. You can join a “circle” or “network” of bloggers with similar interests. Their blogs may send people to you, and vice-versa. Although I’m a “he,” I am a member of She Writes.

Most blogs are interactive to some degree, allowing reader comments or even interaction between the blogger and readers, and among readers.
  • Some authors’ blogs deal with a book, only. Others deal with the subject of a book or books, or life in general. If you write nonfiction and you are perceived as an expert in some field, or even if you are merely entertaining, you can build a following of readers who may buy books even if your book is not the main focus of your blog. If you write a history book or how-to book about bicycles or electric trains, you probably know a lot about the topics and can churn out regular blog posts day after day, year after year.
  • Anyone searching for topics you’ve blogged about can find links to your blog, find your blog, and see an ad for your book and maybe buy it. Google typically indexes this blog less than an hour after I publish it. A robot thinks I'm important. Wow.
It’s tougher for fiction. Many novelists’ blogs seem to attract only other novelists—not readers. If you are a novelist who specializes in post-apocalyptic gay teenage albino vampire sex, how many blog posts about your novel could you come up with over the years? Three? One? Maybe a better strategy for a novelist would be to blog with news and opinions about something remotely related to the book topic—like teenage sex, vampires or albinos—that might catch searchers who might be interested in reading a related novel.
  • Novelists, poets and memoirists will probably find it’s better to have a website that’s updated a few times a year instead of trying to blog hundreds of times a year. 
  • Unless you write books about writing, don't write about writing. Readers of novels probably won't care about how many words you churned out last night or if your cat dumped coffee on your keyboard.
  • Before you “go public,” publish five or more posts. This way, when you do go public, people who find you will spend more time on your blog, and people who are not interested in a particular topic are more likely to read your other posts than to merely dismiss you and go elsewhere.
  • Build up a backlog of posts (some complete, some almost complete and some that may be just concepts or titles). If you come up “dry” on a particular day, look at your pending post list.
  • Read, read, read and listen, listen, listen. New blog posts won’t always pop magically from your brain. You can publish your reaction (which can be praise, condemnation or amplification) of what you’ve read online or on paper, or a movie or TV show you’ve watched, even a conversation you’ve overheard or food you ate.
  • Periodically change the way your blog looks. You can change a background color, change the title typeface, move the sidebar from one side to the other, change the sequence of items in the sidebar. Don’t let readers think, “same old same old.” This goes for websites as well as blogs.
  • See how your blog looks with different browsers, on a PC and Mac, tablet and smartphone, and make any needed adjustments. Colors may appear differently on different screens. Don't be too garish, or fade into oblivion.
  • Publish early in the day, before 9 a.m. eastern time. The earlier the better. You may be able to automate the posting so you don't have to get up early to do it.
  • In your spare time, check your old posts. Fix what needs fixing and remove anything you don't feel right about.
  • Get known! Announce your blog and your latest post every time you can. Your blog address should be part of the signature you use in book-related email, and online. Put time and effort into Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, and participate in appropriate online groups.
  • Get friendly with other, complementary bloggers. Exchange links or ads and "guest-post" for each other. Limit the frequency of guest posts to maybe one or two a month.

More help in The One Buck Book Marketing Book.  

Friday, October 19, 2018

Authors: before your book has words, it can have a cover

Above: CB Bible, which I co-authored, and was was published by Doubleday in 1977. I had nothing to do with the cover design, and the image of a road disappearing in the distance is a worn-out cliche used on a great many book covers. If you are thinking of using it, please think of something else.)
  • 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/left: This preliminary cover was designed a few years ago. I hadn't started writing the book yet. Above/right: 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 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 principlesthat 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 (updated as needed). If you blog, show your next book(s) on the blog, like I've done. If you're active on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram, 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.

I use to produce images of complete books that don't exist yet. I highly recommend the company.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Authors: should you provide inscriptions and autographs? Do you know the difference? How can you sign an ebook?

I personally have never been an autograph collector, but I do have a few autographed books on my shelves which I got by accident. 

Lots of people like autographs, apparently to prove or imply that they were once in the same place as a famous person. If readers put you in the same category as Mickey Mantle, Marilyn Monroe or John Lennon, play along with it—no matter how much your wrist hurts. It's part of being an author.

If you are selling your books from your own website, competing with other booksellers that underprice you, you may be able to justify your price by including your signature and maybe an inscription.

Autographs (just your name) and inscriptions (a comment plus your name) can go on the flyleaf (a thicker-than-normal blank right page just inside the front cover in a hardcover book) or on the half title ("bastard title") or title page; so always leave adequate “white space” up front. Below is the title page from one of my books.

Some have said that book collectors put more value on books with plain autographs than on books with personalized inscriptions, unless an inscription is written to somebody important. I'm not a collector and have no opinion on the subject. I am not trying to create "collectors' items" when I sign books.

I've never done a formal signing, but I do sell (and sometimes give) books with inscriptions. I try to write something that relates to the book and/or the recipient. For my books on telecommunications, I often write "I hope you never get a wrong number." When a humorous book goes to a doctor, I write "laughter is the best medicine." When my memoir goes to people I know nothing about, I often write "It's never too late to have a happy childhood." Long inscriptions are probably wrong if you have 200 people lined up in a bookstore, but are fine if you are sending out one or two copies with no time pressure.

Several systems have been suggested for signing ebooks. Here's one. And another.

Here's some good advice about book signings from publishing expert Dick Margulis:
  1. Find a black-ink pen that you really like to write with. It should not be such a fine point that you risk snagging on the surface of the paper and ripping it. It should not be an ink that bleeds through the page. It should allow for a smooth, fluid, comfortable motion with little pressure. Buy a box of them. (Note from Michael: I like Sarasa 0.7 and Pilot Precise V7 pens.)
  2. You do not need to use your real, legal signature. Devise a brief, casual signature (just your first name is usually fine, and legibility is not necessary) that you can turn out consistently and quickly while looking at the person for whom you are signing (rather than at the page). Bigger is better than smaller. Practice until it's comfortable.
  3. Keep your wrist straight (to prevent injury). Move your arm from your shoulder, not from your elbow (larger muscles in your upper arm than in your forearm).
  4. Warm up beforehand. Stand up. Do whatever stretches and rotations you would normally do to relax your neck and shoulders. Let your arms hang loosely for your shoulders and wiggle them, paying particular attention to keeping your hands loose.
  5. Take breaks. Stand up and shake out your arms again.
  6. After the session, go to your hotel room and ice your elbow and shoulder for twenty minutes before you agree to meet anyone for dinner.
  7. If only five people show up, ignore everything above, because it's overkill in that situation.
(Back to Michael:) any time you sign or send a book, stick in three to six business cards that show the book cover and "at Amazon and B&N" or your website address if you prefer to sell directly. Make it easy for happy customers to recommend the book to others. While some of the cards may be used as bookmarks, crumb sweepers or be thrown away, I assume that some will be passed on to potential purchasers.

I get my cards from VistaPrint, a major maker of business cards and other printed products for businesses which I've been buying from for many years. For the card shown here, I uploaded a TIF image copied from the PDF of my cover. The book is 6 x 9 inches, and fits fine on the business card with a little white space above and below the cover image for promotional copy.

The price was just $25 for 1500 cards—less than two cents each with rush shipping. If you spend a little more, you can have VistaPrint use the space on the back to print some blurbs from readers or reviewers who like the book.

My wife and I carry the cards around to give to possible "customers." Marilyn has turned out to be an excellent salesperson. She motivated our dentist to order a copy from Amazon and I signed it for him when I had my teeth cleaned. My podiatrist, however, asked for a freebie. I gave it to him and he displays it in his office. So does my urologist. Nice.

(Gingrich photo from Thanks.)

Monday, October 15, 2018

Self-proclaimed publishing queens can kiss my royal behind

Years ago, "Queen for a Day" was a popular radio and TV game show, where ordinary women competed to be treated royally.

Today, there is no need to impress a studio audience, or be the daughter or bride of genuine royalty. If you want to be a queen, just proclaim it and so be it.
  • Kylee Legge (now Kylee Ellis) calls herself "The Publishing Queen" and lies that she "has been involved in writing and publishing books since the day she was born." She thinks she can teach people how to write a book in just seven days. She's an extreme egomaniac and an extremely sloppy writer and editor.
  • Heather Covington beats Kylee in the Queening competition, two-to-one! She has TWO realms, as both "Print-On-Demand Queen" and "The Queen of Murderotica Suspense." She also brags that she is a "YouTube marketing expert, editor-in-chief and publisher." Her Egomaniacal Highness has also claimed to be "Literary Diva," "The Literary Heat" and "Babe Charisse Worthington." This queen wants us to know that she is an entertainment journalist, author, motivational speaker, awards official and promoter. Like Queen Kylee, Queen Heather is an extremely sloppy writer and editor.
  • Queen Elizabeth II became queen the old-fashioned way—she was born into royalty, as the first daughter of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth I. This Queen is Head of State of the United Kingdom and 15 other Commonwealth countries including Australia, Canada, Tuvalu and Jamaica. Her son and grandson are scheduled to become kings. Liz seems to have her ego under control, and I don't know anything about her writing or editing ability.

  • Queen Heather lives in the Bronx, New York. I was born in the Bronx, in the ROYAL HOSPITAL, and lived in the Bronx from 1946 to 1952, and then again from 1970 to 1975.

    I am therefore even more royal than Heather Covington, and I hereby proclaim myself to be Publishing King.

    Bow down, Kylee and Heather, and prepare to kiss one of my royal butt cheeks.


Friday, October 12, 2018

Some authors get no respect. What about you?

Comedian Rodney Dangerfield (1921 – 2004) built his comic persona on the phrase “I don’t get no respect!” Many self-published authors have the same problem but don’t make nearly as much money as Rodney did.

The requirements for acceptance by a self-publishing company (often derisively labeled a "vanity press") are not writing talent and an interesting subject. Usually, all you’ll need are blood pressure and a credit card. Except for books that appear to be obscene or libelous, a self-publishing company will probably publish anything.

Some of these companies will automatically send an author a letter of praise for a submitted manuscript even without reading the submission.

  • There have been experiments where intentionally horrible manuscripts were said to have high sales potential.
  • A book allegedly written by a dog was accepted.
Literary agents—who often function as gatekeepers on the road to traditional publishers—typically reject 99% of the book proposals and manuscripts they receive. Self-publishing companies, since they make most of their money by selling services and promotional trinkets to writers rather than by selling books to readers, probably accept 99% (or even 100%) of their submitted manuscripts.

The lack of selectivity is a major cause of self-publishing’s bad reputation. Even though traditional publishers make many bad guesses (they frequently reject books that become successful with other publishers and accept books that quickly become failures), their selectivity and financial commitment do provide a powerful endorsement for the writers and books they choose to accept.

Some publishers will produce books with little or no literary merit to cash in on a celebrity author or subject. A starlet’s name can sell tons of diet books. I Taught Kim Kardashian how to Kook Kale or I Was Lindsay Lohan’s Proctologist would likely be a bestseller.

Some books will never be acceptable to mainstream publishers merely because of limited appeal, regardless of their literary merit. A company that wants to sell tens of thousands of copies of each title will not be interested in a relative's biography or a family history, unless it’s a very famous family like Trump, Obama or Kennedy.

While the book publishing business is going through some radical changes, there is still some prejudice against self-published books. To rise above the prejudice, it is vital that your book be as good as it possibly can be. If you care about the reaction of the public and book reviewers, you must have a professional editor and cover designer.

  • If you are writing just for fun—or just for family—you can skip the experts.
  • The low potential profit from inexpensive ebooks leaves little or no budget for professional help, so do your very best.
Read the next paragraph at least twice:
If you are not knowledgeable and attentive to details, you may end up with an ugly, error-ridden book which will embarrass you and that few people will review or buy. If you don’t know what you’re doing, don’t do it. Get qualified help. Beware of bargains and “free” services. In publishing—as with most things—you get what you pay for.

Who cares who published your book?
Zoe Winters is an author and blogger. 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/blogger S.G. 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.”

On the other hand, many booksellers and book reviewers can tell the difference and do care—and may reject a book solely because of its publishing company. If you hope for respect, profit and decent books, DO NOT do business with Xlibris (or other Author Solutions brands) or Outskirts Press.

America Star Books, formerly PublishAmerica, was probably the worst of the worst. It has apparently closed, but may resurface with a new name. 

From my How to not get Screwed by a Self-Publishing Company.

[Kardashian photo from Thanks]

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Don't be discouraged if gatekeepers say "no"—but don't self-publish lousy books

Many writers turn to self-publishing companies or independent self-publishing or even stop writing after being rejected by literary agents or traditional publishers.

(Some writers—like me—have not been rejected but prefer the control, speed and income of independent publishing.)

While rejection can be depressing and discouraging, the failure to be approved by the media gatekeepers is not necessarily an indication of bad writing or an uninteresting idea.
  • Books are rejected for many reasons (not only bad quality)
  • Books are usually accepted for one reason: because someone thinks they will make money.
Sarah Palin's Going Rogue and the endless stream of celebrities' addiction/abuse/confession/recipes/weight-loss books are not published in anticipation of glorifying the publisher by winning Pulitzer prizes. They are published in anticipation of making money.

Professional judgment is imperfect!

Many books that are rejected by one publisher—or by many publishers—are later accepted by another publisher.

Joanne Rowling's first Harry Potter book was rejected by TWELVE publishing companies. More than 400 million Potter books have been sold, and the Potter movies have been seen by many millions.

I wonder if any of the publishing executives who rejected that first book were fired for bad judgment.

Most books published by traditional publishing companies with highly paid experts having years of experience, do not sell well. After a few months failed p-books are doomed to be sold on the buck-a-book tables or recycled into the raw materials for more books.

My taste in books apparently puts me in the minority of book buyers. Often I eagerly buy a new book as soon as it is released. As expected, I love the book. Alas, few others care about the subject, and the book is soon available for almost nothing at Barnes & Noble or Dollar Tree.

This has become a running joke in my family, and my wife would strongly prefer that I wait a while and pay just one dollar instead of $25 for a p-book or $15 for an ebook. But I won't wait.
  • There may be many people like me who are waiting for what you are writing. Find a way to reach us.
If you can't get a contract from a publisher, self-publish... on paper, online or in ebooks. Don't be stopped. Don't be silenced. Don't skip professional editing and design. Don't publish crap. Readers are ready. Get to work.

(gate photo from